Friday, June 07, 2019

Climate Change: National still peddling denial

One of the core ideas underlying the Zero Carbon Act is the idea of policy durability: that in order to be effective, climate change policy has to survive multiple changes of government. As a result, the Bill has been watered down and weakened in an effort to gain the support of the National Party. National is still peddling denial. In a speech to the Federated Farmers Taranaki agm in Stratford on May 24, National's climate change spokesperson Todd Muller made all the expected complaints about methane targets being "ridiculous". But he goes further than that. A lot further:

“The view, expressed particularly from Left of Centre, that somehow climate science is a locked box, and we know what the impacts are, is a complete nonsense.

“I’ve been overseas twice now and sat in audiences where hundreds of scientists have debated the interaction between gases, the other particles in the atmosphere, the ocean and their view of those interactions. If you’re not a scientist, this stuff gets eye-watering very quickly.

“The point is, this stuff is not conclusive.”

In public, National has been pretending that they're on board about climate change, that they recognise that it is an existential threat and that they need to be part of a solution. But in private, to their supporters, they're peddling the same old bullshit they were twenty years ago when they shitcanned the first attempt at an ETS, fifteen years ago when they opposed the carbon tax, a decade ago when they first opposed then gutted the current ETS: that the science isn't settled, that the climate isn't changing, that it's all just a big left lie.

What does this mean for policy durability? Pretty obviously, there can be no meaningful consensus with a party which doesn't even accept the reality of the problem, and which continues to put the interests of its polluting supporters above the survival of humanity. There's no point even talking to such people. Everyone interested in climate change policy learned long ago that engaging with deniers is a waste of time. You just block them and move on.

But its also a mistaken view of "durability" to base it on National's attitudes now. What realisticly matters is the attitude of the National Party in 2023, or 2026. And there's likely to be a lot of change between now and then, both from them and the public. When you look at durable policy in New Zealand, it isn't durable because the major parties sat down and negotiated it from the outset. Instead, the party in government made it durable: they legislated, and carried the public with them to such a degree that the other major party was forced to sign up to it to have any hope of getting elected. The classic example of this is the anti-nuclear policy: hugely controversial, National hated it, but it was so popular with the public that they were forced to promise to retain it, and they didn't dare go back on that even when they had a huge artificial FPP majority by which they could impose their will (and then, 20 years later, even hinting that they wanted to repeal it was pure political poison for them).

On climate change, there's the advantage that reality will win the public for you. The climate crisis is very obviously here, and getting worse by the day. Does anyone really think that the news over even the next three or six years is going to support weaker action? Does anyone really think that with fire and flood and homes washing into the sea, people are going to support a softer line on the fuckers causing it all? Does anyone really think this is all just going to go away?

Which is why worrying about "consensus" with Denier National is unnecessary. Instead, the government should legislate the strongest bill NZ First will allow them to - and dare National to oppose it. If they do, paint them truthfully as the party of denial, delay, and do nothing, and voters will do the rest.