Tuesday 25 Sep 2018 | 21:48 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 25 Sep 2018 | 21:48 | SYDNEY

Climate change: Why so gloomy?


Andrew Carr


14 June 2011 09:00

The general mood when it comes to Australia's action on climate change is one of overwhelming gloom:

Australia's own mean and petty dithering over whether one of the richest and most fortunate polities in human history can afford to make a modest (and still inadequate) contribution to reducing global carbon emissions is a typical if particularly depressing instance of the more general failure.

If change is the only constant, the only constant of change is its slowness. Apparent and traditional threats (such as the security threat from Germany and Japan in the 1930s) took Australia years to identify and responded to. More abstract issues, such as the removal of discrimination against women and aboriginals, took generations (and pockets still remain). 

Likewise, the creation of a national income tax took 40 years of debate and a war to be implemented. And the GST over a dozen years. Against these, climate change is a unique, abstract and remote challenge. There will be no Pearl Harbor moment to make the matter concrete and undeniable. 

Yet within a few years of breaking onto the Australian consciousness, a climate policy was endorsed by the three main parties in the 2007 election. In 2009, an Emissions Trading System enjoyed the support of all three parties, though failed at the final hurdle. In 2011 we are now just a few months away from a likely passage of a Carbon Tax. 

We should cheer up. Compared to past challenges, Australia is moving at historically quick speed.