Vote One Zero Zero against climate inaction

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Cartoon © David Pope/ The Canberra Times.  Reprinted with permission.In Australia's next federal election, I'll vote One, Zero, Zero — Greens 1, Labor 0, Coalition 0. This is the only way I can fulfil my voter duty, while recording protest at the failure of our major parties to offer real policies on the planet's climate crisis. I'm too old to get arrested in direct citizen protests against coalburning — the issue that counts most now.

If enough voters around Australia voted One, Zero, Zero, politicians would get the message. Because such a vote is legally informal, I don't advocate it in electorates where Greens candidates might actually win, as it would be wrong to waste these votes.

Unless Labor and the Greens unexpectedly pull off a compromise emissions trading scheme (ETS) or carbon tax system in the Senate in the next few weeks, Australia will go to the next election with no ETS laws passed. Rudd will blame opposition obstructionism, and fight the election on his preferred ground of health. He will downplay climate policy, while promising that a re-elected Labor government with Senate control would pass an ETS. Don't hold your breath — Labor's record doesn't inspire confidence.

Abbott will promise his brand of 'practical environmentalism': rural soil carbonisation gimmicks, climate voluntarism, no new taxes, no effective regulation of greenhouse emissions. As an avowed climate science denier, he is stroking concerned voters with empty promises.

Rudd's climate crisis denialism is more subtle. He claims to accept the science. But on every practical policy front, Labor betrays our hopes. It shelters coal export and power industries. Industry-scale infrastructure alternatives to carbon-burning are quietly kneecapped (in the case of renewables-based energy) or ideologically condemned (nuclear energy).

Australia white-anted effective international action at Copenhagen, with the 5 per cent ETS target, shameful even before it was corrupted by overseas 'green credits' and special deals for affected industries. There is no progress towards compulsory motor vehicle fuel consumption or emission standards.

Labor throws token conscience-salvers to concerned voters, with its subsidised home solar energy and insulation programs (from which any emissions savings would be swallowed up by a 5 per cent ETS law). Meanwhile we are told by government and industry leaders that Australia 'must' increase its population to 35 million, to take care of our elderly and provide labour for the resources boom.

Under these policies, Australian greenhouse emissions — already the highest in the world per capita — will go on rising in total. Beneath all the greenwash, Australia will remain the most carbon-dependent economy in the world. More and more voters understand this, but major parties don't care. Risk-averse politicians listen to big corporate and trade union stakeholders more than to citizens.

Noisy climate crisis deniers provide a political figleaf for defenders of the profitable energy status quo, creating through intimidation and ersatz-scientific advocacy the illusion of real scientific debate. The media (including the ABC, recently reminded by their climate-sceptic chairman Maurice Newman of their duty to represent all sides of this 'debate') dutifully represent all viewpoints in 'balanced' opinion and correspondence sites. Thus the intellectually bad drowns and drives out the good, further confusing a worried public.

The climate crisis makes me wonder whether democracy can or should survive. Authoritarian China is adopting (within its scale and means) rational and resolute decarbonisation policies, accepting the inescapable policy lessons of climate science. Western democracies seem paralysed into inaction by powerful pro-status quo forces and outdated ideologies on all sides.

On Sunday 14 March, Science Minister Kim Carr jointly released with the chief executives of CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology an eight-page climate data 'snapshot' to debunk climate sceptics. It showed that Australia's manmade climate crisis is happening now, and that mitigation and adaptation are 'important research priorities'. Greg Combet — not the Prime Minister — took a low-key Dorothy Dixer in the House on it. Nobody mentioned decarbonisation. The Fin Review covered the story in a ten-line sidebar story buried on page nine.

Australia's environmental movement is confused, demoralised, divided, and infiltrated by compromised thinking on the importance of staying close to big business and government. Policy agendas are overloaded and weakened by competing second-order issues. The Greens — who know more about climate crisis policy than any other organised group in Australia — are distracted by the business of managing a multiple political party agenda. The overriding decarbonisation objective is blunted.

Australia has nothing useful to contribute now to the world's decarbonisation policy-making. The best thing we can do is stand aside and hope major world powers, led by China (and, I still hope, Obama's USA) set global decarbonisation policy directions that we will perforce have to follow.

Citizens who care — there are many of us — should educate ourselves and our children on the science of the climate crisis, which is not so complicated. Within the boundaries set by the large infrastructural systems on which we depend as workers and consumers, we should try to lead as sustainable lives as we can, while we wait for the penny to drop from climate disasters that must come. It may be too late by then.

Meanwhile, for those of us too old or unfit to paint coal-power station chimneys or lie across coal-train tracks — send a message, vote One, Zero, Zero!


Tony KevinTony Kevin is author of Crunch Time: using and abusing Keynes to fight the twin crises of our era (Scribe 2009).

Topic tags: Vote One, Zero, Zero, climate change, greens, labor, liberal, coalition, emissions trading scheme

 

 

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Great piece!!

Many of us are feeling the frustration.

Some emails to Labor can give them the message that the natives are restless.
Let's bombard them with the message that they are weak and we are worried.
Age prohibits painting slogans on coal trucks but the email is a powerful tool in getting messages across.
GAJ | 19 March 2010


Clearly, accurately & succinctly said Tony Kevin.
DAVID A HICKS | 19 March 2010


Unfortunately in a federal election your vote will only be recorded as informal - complete waste of time as, apart from party scrutineers, no one will know about your protest.

In our electoral system you need to make a choice between Labor and Liberal at some point on your ballot to make a valid vote. So to cast an informal vote when you support even a remotely progressive agenda is a de facto Liberal vote.

There are plenty of productive ways of letting the political parties know what you feel; informal voting is not one of them. Or would you prefer the Abbott option?
chris gow | 19 March 2010


I couldn't agree more, Tony. You are absolutely right. One good thing is that at last the question of population also seems to have got through to the Greens. Bob Brown et al have actually mentioned it publicly in the last two weeks, even talking about it within the context of our obligations to refugees. Not forgetting the brave ALP MHR, Kelvin Thompson who has also spoken out about this issue. Thank you again Tony.
Paul Collins | 19 March 2010


While its not a crime to vote this way it is a crime to advocate it. Albert Langer went to gaol for it in the mid nineties (seehttp://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/HRD/1996/7.html). Our first political prisoner...

Unfortunately the current system at Federal level does turn the Greens into a preference feeding machine but this should give them more leverage as the vote gets higher (not in Hare Clark systems though, which perhaps explains why the Tas polis are getting so dirty and shrill).

I am hoping that this weekend's elections send a strong message to Labor and Coalition - and that next time they don't respond by boasting that they will never work with the Greens as though that means they are more suitable to govern! I wonder if the message might get through that voters would be happier if they are prepared to work cooperatively with other parties if that is the will of the electorate?
deb foskey | 19 March 2010


People died to secure our right to vote. A vote should not be wasted. The Greens will be less able to do anything than either major party.
Laurie Ryan | 19 March 2010


Well said Tony, it's good to hear from someone else with the same thought. And a good slogan too.

Chris Gow - if ten percent of us voted this way, the scrutineers would certainly pick it up and the parties would scramble to regain the lost votes. Labor's been getting a free ride on Green preferences for decades, knowing they only have to stay slightly greener than the Coalition to keep the preferences flowing to them.

Only by cutting off that flow will we get their attention. The Greens could still tout the combined formal-informal vote as a measure of their support.
Geoff Davies | 19 March 2010


Perhaps the reason Kevin Dudd et al make the "right" noises and do nothing is that they do not really believe in the supposed link between carbon emissions and climate. And perhaps they are right. As for the Greens, they can afford to make sanctimonious noises because they are not responsible for doing anything.
Kevin Prendergast | 19 March 2010


Laurie Ryan points out that people died for us to have the right to vote, and that a vote for the Greens is a wasted vote because the Greens won't be able to do anything.

Laurie seems to not understand democracy, that if enough people vote for the Greens, then they will be able to do something ... unlike the major parties, who have proven signally unable to do anything, irrespective of how many votes they get.
David Arthur | 19 March 2010


The 'One,zero,zero' tactic may make people feel good but a political party needs to win government before it can legislate for reform.

And winning depends on assessing the attitudes of voters. Slow and frustrating perhaps, but it's called democracy - and is better than other systems.
Bob Corcoran | 19 March 2010


Kevin Prendergast proposes that Dudd et al do nothing about climate change because they don't "believe" in climate change, and that perhaps they are correct.

Perhaps Dudd et al share Mr Prendergast's non-cognisance of atmospheric physics.

I refer both parties to Chapter 9 of Maarten Ambaum's forthcoming text "Thermal Physics of the Atmosphere" (http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/~sws97mha/thermal/thbook/chapter9.pdf).
David Arthur | 19 March 2010


I share your frustration Tony, but we should not only vote green (or a credible independent)where they have a chance of winning the seat, but in all seats regardless of the odds. The reason is twofold: we can make a safe seat marginal (there are many precedents) and by doing so, force them to visit our neigbournood and hear our grievences, and force the big parties to take more notice and make at least superficial changes and concessions. Rudd had never heard of global warming five years ago, now he is warming to the idea. Now he is at least prepared to look at the arrangement of the deck chairs.

The second reason is that no vote for green is wasted, they all send a poll to the pollaticians [sic] who react as reactionaries do. There are two ways to squander one's vote. You mention one way, the other is to vote for a big party.

It is the votes they don't have that initiate change Tony, not the votes they have, and certainly not the votes no one has.

David Akenson | 19 March 2010


I love Eureka Street but am browned off at the Jesuits in charge and (as an aside) the Columban Fathers too about global warming. I think too many of your writers have never been out in to the huge back blocks of this lovely country (by road not air) so that they can see how insignificant mankind is compared with the sheer vastness of it all. Just contemplate the area of the Southern Ocean on your doorstep but please stop accepting willy nilly that your local university buffs really know what is the truly scientific position.

At least have the honesty to comment on the position of such people at Doctor Ian Plimer who has looked back millions of years.Another is Bill Bryson (A Short History of almost Everything). There are many more. Yes there is global warming at present. It is suggested by many learned people that this is cyclical - has all happpened before. Carbon Dioxide is a must for plant growth and much more beside. We are short of it.Plimer suggests that from creation to now we have not yet used three per cent of the known energy resources of this planet. If he is shown to be wrong I wish some properly educated people would come out and say where he is wrong. Note how Al Gore and his cohorts have gone to ground. The "hockey stick" concept looked back just 130 years apparently.

I think we all will be much better off if we leave it all to God who after all can wipe us all out in a moment if he is so inclined, live as if today is the last day or we are going to live forever - it doesn't matter which; use our intelligence to discern things properly and get on with life.
Peter Beeson | 19 March 2010


Tony thanks for a generally thoughtful article. If you are hinting that "first past the post" might be better than preferential voting I'd say no no no. Preferential voting ekes just that little bit more information about our political preferences out of us. Too much depends on chance otherwise, and things end up being run by the largest minority. Not particularly democratic. Pref. voting gives a lot of power to party machines only if we cede it to them. We should use our nous all the way down the card. The intentions of the electorate as a whole are much better reflected with the pref. system.

Yes I know that it's too demanding for most of us, and many of us follow the favoured party's how-to-vote card, which gives power to backroom boys and girls. But at least alliances can form and reform (that's politics!) with preferential voting. Dissidents and independents and smaller parties can stand.
Anyway that is how That's how I read your suggestion. Otherwise your voting recommendation for seats where the greens have no chance makes no sense at all. Do you support them or not? Besides as pointed out, informal votes are subject to no public analysis. Scrutineers know wht's going on, but they are just as likely to interpret your recommendation as political illiteracy.
Sorry. I regard the preferential system we have in Australia as an adornment (even if current Senate practice of above-the-line and below-the-line voting does bastardise it, and give a big fat gift to the party machines.)
Brian Dethridge | 19 March 2010


Kevin, relax! There is no climate change crisis. Climate change happens continually due to natural causes not anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide is plant food not pollution. It is only a minor greenhouse gas in effect and quantity (a mere 0.36% of atmosphere).

Water vapour is much more relevant as a greenhouse gas. In addition there are natural factors such as sun spot and Malinkovich Cycle Earth wobbles that impact on climate.
Listen to the reasoning of old sciences (geology and meteorology) scientists such as Ian Plimer and Bob Carter.
Do not be too easily deluded by the 'moralising' of newgreen 'scientists'!


Gerard Tonks | 19 March 2010


There are many assertions made about climate change and to form a reasonable view the most many of us can probably do is to read the arguments obtainable in scientific sources. Many of us may not have done even this. But in my view, the most important message discernible in the current climate change zeitgeist is that, whatever the facts, jettisoning the traditional pyramidal interpretation of Genesis and adopting a more considerate, and a less exploitative approach to our habitation on this planet would probably be good for both our bodies, and our souls (as in being more reverent and respectful to animals and plants).

Contrary to Peter Beeson, I think Jesuits and Columbans are often to be found at the sharp end of humanity where the results of the rapacity of the powerful are to be found and so those of us in more comfortable situations, are hardly in a position to criticize them.
Stephen Kellett | 20 March 2010


It will be interesting to know how many Christians and especially Catholics support and are prepared to vote "One" for the Australians Greens? Do they know what the greens stand for? the policies of the Greens are 1) Pro-Abortion, 2) Pro-Euthanasia, 3)Pro-Same Sex marriages, 4) Legalize the use of marihuana to any person who wishes to use it. According to the teachings of the Catholic Church is not a crime nor a sin to have different views on climate change. Well, I hope that Tony Kevin vote One,Zero, and Zero then his ballot paper will be recorded informal.
Ron Cini | 20 March 2010


Ron, well said, but since when did the teachings of the Catholic Church matter to many of the writers and posters here unless they match their green agenda? It is the one time that they are happy to cite the authority of the Church hierarchy. The rest of the time it is "beg to differ".
Patrick James | 20 March 2010


I have enjoyed Tony's writings but I think he is way off the mark on this. He would be wasting his vote. Nonsense to say Australia "whiteanted" Copenhagen. It was China. Australian policy had its deficiencies,but they were trying and it could have been amended later on. I think the Opposition (esp Hunt) will come to a reasonable approach on this. Better to keep lobbying the key players.

Whatever our position coal will still be needed - simplistic to think otherwise. And while we go down path of addressing climate change we need to keep checking the science in case the sceptics are right - I don't think they are but the science needs constant checking.
Bill Frilay | 20 March 2010


The problem is that the Greens advocate abortion and I cannot in conscience vote for them even if my vote will not get them elected!
Margot Kerby | 21 March 2010


Bob Corcoran - Kevin's proposal is not about giving up on democracy, it's about a particular rule that limits the way we can vote, a rule that benefits the major parties. And it is about getting results - as I noted above, if Labor loses 10% of its preference flow it will sit up very smartly and change its policies accordingly.

Brian Dethridge - nor is it about going to first past the post. It's about an unduly restrictive form of preferential voting. There's no law of the universe or of voting theory, and certainly no moral requirement, that says I ought to give a preference even to the most despised candidate. It's a contrivance of our system to favour the major parties. True, having it marked informal reduces its force, because it will not count formally for the Greens, but it's a start.


Geoff Davies | 21 March 2010


The Greens are not serious about climate change at all. They never have been. They are an anti-wealth, ultra 'progressive' party operating under the guise of environmentalism.

In Melbourne, for example, they have been very active at local government levels where they continue to oppose all forms of medium and high density property development. Thanks to them, and with some help from Labor, our city has sprawled rapidly outwards, with the environmental consequences being absolutely disastrous.

Ask any member of the Greens about this, though, and they will tell you that it's not their fault. They'll say that if there weren't so many people around, we wouldn't have had urban sprawl. Their solution - abortions, contraception, and euthanasia.

The nihilist ideal, the society that is perfect because it ceases to exist.
John Smith | 21 March 2010


All very well, but the science is NOT yet settled. The latest CSIRO report referred to does not reveal whether the data base used is unadjusted (as it should be) or the same old data from GISS which is increasingly suspect due to unexplained upward adjustments, notably to our own australian data. I, for one, am keeping an open mind, given the enormous cost of the 'solution'.
Ian Duncan | 22 March 2010


Thanks to all correspondents here - a good exchange of views. Who knows, maybe this idea of voting One Zero Zero sgainst climate inaction may reappear elsewhere?

To Ian Duncan, I must respond specifically. Have you actually read/read the CSIRO/BOM Report "State of the Climate", which you so readily dismiss? It is only six pages, and a model of what a public-access information document on climate change facts in Australia should be. I wish it were available to be read (and taken home for parents to read also) in every school and college in Australia. It is on clear jargon-free language. It is readily web-accessible at
http://www.csiro.au/files/files/pvfo.pdf

It is based entirely on Australian official reports and measuring stations. It does not refer to the IPCC. It does not offer forecasts. Except for one chart of global atmospheric CO2 concentrations 1000-2000, and another chart of rising global mean sea level 1870-2000, the other six maps or charts are derived entirely from Australian CSIRO or BOM data, going back 50 years or in one case 35 years.

What is your problem with this report, Ian? Do you question its competence or integrity? What scientific competences do you have that the CSIRO and BOM lack? Are they forging this historical Australian official scientific data?
tony kevi | 22 March 2010


Geoff the above-the-line "facility" that most voters are sucked into using in the Senate is undoubtedly a contrivance of the major parties. But here we are talking about single member electorates for which one is obliged to enter an increasing number against every candidate except one. (The most contemptible if you like.) I still consider this has the potential to maximise the private citizen's influence over all political players. And I suggest it favours mavericks and minority viewpoints.
Vote informal or advocate an informal vote if you like. It's your right. But I don't think it is the best way to make your political voice heard.
Brian Dethridge | 23 March 2010


Thank you Tony. I think the Greens proposed amendments to the CPRS make it far more effective as an instrument of reducing Carbon emissions, but we ALSO need extensive soil management and forest conservation (I dont think soil management is a gimmick- it is a very important part of the solution, and there are some sincere farmers groups -clustering around Peter Andrews, Michael Jeffries etc, that do know how to restore microbial activity and hence Carbon to our soils).

Not only do we need to reduce the rate of emissions growth through rapidly switching our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables, but we need to decrease the concentration of Carbon in the atmosphere full stop from 388 parts per million to around 350 ppm to ensure a safe climate. Unfortunately the federal government only modelled 450ppm as the minimum level, which still gives us a 50% chance of catastrophe- of the climate spiralling out of control. Would any sensible builder build a house with a 50% chance of collapse?
On another note, notice that everyone commenting here apart from Deb Foskey has been male. It's kind of interesting that the main people with an opinion on climate change seem to be men on these forums.
Anne O'Brien | 25 March 2010


Thank you Tony. I think the Greens proposed amendments to the CPRS make it far more effective as an instrument of reducing Carbon emissions, but we ALSO need extensive soil management and forest conservation (I dont think soil management is a gimmick- it is a very important part of the solution, and there are some sincere farmers groups -clustering around Peter Andrews, Michael Jeffries etc, that do know how to restore microbial activity and hence Carbon to our soils).

Not only do we need to reduce the rate of emissions growth through rapidly switching our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables, but we need to decrease the concentration of Carbon in the atmosphere full stop from 388 parts per million to around 350 ppm to ensure a safe climate. Unfortunately the federal government only modelled 450ppm as the minimum level, which still gives us a 50% chance of catastrophe- of the climate spiralling out of control. Would any sensible builder build a house with a 50% chance of collapse?

On another note, notice that everyone commenting here apart from Deb Foskey has been male. It's kind of interesting that the main people with an opinion on climate change seem to be men on these forums.
Anne O'Brien | 25 March 2010


Thanks for Anne O'Brien's comments. I agree that rural soil carbonisation is potentially valuable and should be encouraged (and we need to learn how better to measure it) . My difficulty is that when a covert climate science denier like Tony Abbott (actually he is not so covert - it's pretty blatant), and who rejects carbon taxes and carbon trading, supports rural soil csrbonisation, it is hard to take him seriously.

On the relative absence of women from climate crisis public discussion, this concerns me too. Not since Rschel Carson in the 1960s have we had many prominent female activists for climate crisis action. But we do hsve Christine Milne thabk goodness, and a lot of grassroots activists are women e.g. in the Youth Climate Coalition, Prue Acton for koala refuges on the NSW South Coast, the women of Safe Climate South Australia, and the Canberra Chorus of Women. I think the point-scoring 'gotcha' culture of much political website discussion puts off women, which is a shame. I am sure that climate chsnge denialism - with a few well-known notorious ideological-warrior excptions in the media - is a male-dominated strand of opinion. Women are too wise to be taken in by it.
tony kevin | 25 March 2010


The argument that humans are causing global warming is thoroughly compromised by climategate, Phil Jones' admissions that there has been no statistical global warming over the past 15 years and the growing list of IPCC "errors" that always support the warming politics until they are exposed. There is no consensus and anthropogenic global warming supporters tend to deny that any other scientific explanation is possible in this very complex field.

Until a rational and open discussion is allowed and the vested interest alarmists like Al Gore and the IPCC are swept out of the way it is lunacy to place fresh burdens on everyone on the globe. If the world is going to fry let's find the real reason why it is happening and then do something about it.
RPH | 26 March 2010


The argument that humans are causing global warming is thoroughly compromised by climategate, Phil Jones' admissions that there has been no statistical global warming over the past 15 years and the growing list of IPCC "errors" that always support the warming politics until they are exposed. There is no consensus and anthropogenic global warming supporters tend to deny that any other scientific explanation is possible in this very complex field. Until a rational and open discussion is allowed and the vested interest alarmists like Al Gore and the IPCC are swept out of the way it is lunacy to place fresh burdens on everyone on the globe. If the world is going to fry let's find the real reason why it is happening and then do something about it.
RPH | 27 March 2010


John Smith: excellent comments in toto.

Could I underline a particular point you have made: how Catholics can listen for more than a second to so-called environmentalists who don't give a fig for the human body and its ecology, so devastated by contraception and abortion, is a mystery to me.
Hugh | 28 March 2010


No! No! No! Informal votes are not the answer. In the House of Representatives, vote 1 Green and then NUMBER ALL THE REMAINING BOXES. In the Senate, vote 1 Green above the line.

Voting One, Zero, Zero will aid the Labor and COALition parties by rendering votes against them informal - and stops public funding getting to the Greens.
James Higgins | 30 March 2010


While I agree with you completely it is silly to suggest that voting informally will be noted. Why not just vote 1 for the Greens and put the major parties last? An informal vote is just that. By voting formally but showing your support for green parties you not only show support for their policies, they also get better funding from the electoral commission. An informal vote is a waste of the little power we have in this democracy.
Lovard | 04 May 2010


vote climate has rated Socialist Alliance's policies on climate as the best. You could vote for them in the senate at least.
mohan | 04 August 2010


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