Climate and informatiom wars

The informationally challenged and the information poor get to vote, and the information deniers do their utmost to influence that vote. It is perhaps why democracy is the worst system of government possible – except all the rest.

The informationally challenged are, usually through no fault of their own, incapable of processing information and coming to solid conclusions. The information poor include all the informationally challenged plus those who could process information but are either preoccupied with other things or too lazy.

The information deniers are people who are capable of processing information and do so, but for exogenous reasons deny the conclusions and try to persuade everyone else to do the same.

These categories are worth looking at in light of the revival of the climate wars in Australia. This is particularly so in the face of decreasing trust in government and the increasing ease of the transmission of unfiltered misinformation on the internet.

As to climate, the information deniers are no longer denying the increase in carbon or that it is human-caused – because that position is no longer politically tenable.

Now they are just denying the science that demands we do as much as possible as quickly as possible to reduce carbon lest we face a less liveable or unliveable world. Instead, the deniers say, we can do everything after 2040 in the form of nuclear power.

The exogenous reasons for denial, however, remain the same – the profits from fossil fuels; the donations from the profiteers to (mainly right-wing) political parties; and to keep positions of political leadership – as a party leader or front-bencher.

The information deniers have increased their cynical exploitation of the information poor to gain votes. Their primary aim of government is to stay in power, not to govern well.

This has been enabled by the rise of the political public-relations industry and the decline of the influence of the Public Service.

The cynicism of the information deniers is that much more hypocritical coming from the Coalition which forever demanded more detail when opposing the Voice at last year’s referendum.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s nuclear option demands much more detail than has been given. That detail should ultimately put paid to the policy. It is not just the detail of the location of the reactors upon which a scare campaign can be mounted.

Indeed, forget the precise locations. It is much better than everyone fears that a reactor might be built near them.

The details required are about costs; reliance of untested mini-reactors; the effect of walking away from interim emission targets on our allies and our international standing; general safety; and how will nuclear reduce power bills and increase reliability until they come online after 2040.

For example, mini-reactors. The best example of working mini-reactors are those on nuclear submarines. Do not imagine such a reactor can be plonked in place of a closing coal power station. They cost about $200 million and would supply at best a town of 1000 households. That is $200,000 per household.

In contrast, the large solar array on our house cost $20,000. We produce more electricity than we use, including all the power for a fully electric car. The one third of households with solar arrays did not put them there just to feel good. They do not buy electric cars for the fun of it. They do it to save thousands of dollars in power bills and fuel.

Moreover, if all vehicles in Australia were electric, we would not have to import $30 billion in fuel every year.

And note, Australia will not be building the nuclear reactors for our new submarines. The Americans will not let us even in the unlikely event we get up to technological speed to do so. So the idea we can build mini-reactors is illusory.

As for large-scale nuclear reactors, the proven costs are way over renewables.

The trouble is convincing the information poor. In this age of demands for instant solutions, it only takes one increased power bill or one blackout and the information poor will fall for Dutton’s nuclear con trick.

And the trick is cynically astute. As Dutton gives up on the environmentally sensitive and entrepreneurial Teal seats, he is looking for support from lower socio-economic groups – those feeling cost-of-living pressures, particularly renters who are mostly shut out of roof-top solar and electric cars.

The demand for instant solutions led Labor to a poorly targeted electricity “relief” plan. Every household will get $750 a year, even those with rooftop solar whose bills are negligible.

The power companies know which households are owner-occupied and they know which have solar panels. Those with panels could have been excluded from the $750 altogether. Those without panels could have had their $750 withheld each year until they got them.

Further, State governments, with incentives from the Federal Government, could change rental laws so that they require landlords to provide a certain amount of electricity to tenants and body corporate law could be changed to encourage solar installation.

People will not be enthused by the benefits (environmental, economic, and existential) of the renewables revolution unless they see that there is something in it for them.

The other element Labor must press is national security. Australia’s industrial base is forever shrinking. Steel-making (critical for ship-building) is in trouble. We are now almost totally dependent on imports for oil. The same will be for ethylene and other vital chemicals and plastics following the decision to shut down Australia’s last manufacturer of ethylene, Qenos.

Australia’s industrial base can expand through the use of cheaper renewable energy. We can produce more things here rather than sending the raw materials overseas. The quicker we can do that, the better it will be for national security.

Forget the environment; saving the planet; and all the trendy leftist stuff with which renewables are associated, Dutton’s nuclear proposal is economically irresponsible; will reduce our national security; and will harm our international standing. And leave aside the lethal examples of the reactor cores melting down at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Getting this message past the information deniers and on to the information poor will be a very difficult political task, but perhaps one the most important this decade.

Crispin Hull is a former editor of The Canberra Times and regular columnist.

One thought on “Climate and informatiom wars”

  1. With climate change we will see the cost of living go up especially for food as regions gradually become unsuitable for the crops they currently grow. We had a preview of this with olive oil prices. Governments are trying to address this by giving handouts but that can only go so far. I suspect future governments will face the backlash as the cost of living goes up. The Arab String Uprising in North Africa was the result of food prices doubling. Future governments will face the choice between addressing climate change or keeping the voters happy by trying to reduce the cost of living. I suspect that will do the latter and abandon any attempt at addressing climate change. They will leave that to future governments by which time it will be too late and we will see a collapse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *