Jonathan Holmes writes at The Age:
Six years ago, Rudd won government, at least in part, by portraying John Howard as yesterday’s man on climate change. Now neither party wants to mention the phrase, because voters have stopped caring.
What’s changed? A lot of things.
The weather. In 2007 we were still in the middle of one of the longest droughts in our recorded history. We were being told that the rains might never return. But they did.
Domestic politics. Abbott’s defeat of Malcolm Turnbull by a single vote signalled the end of political consensus on climate change. Many pundits, back then, thought Abbott’s opposition to an emissions trading scheme would make him unelectable. How wrong they were.
International politics. Just weeks after Abbott became Opposition Leader, the Copenhagen summit failed. If the rest of the world is doing little to combat climate change, he could ask, why should we?
The price of electricity. It has soared: largely to pay for gold-plating the grid after decades of underinvestment, and to meet state and federal renewable energy targets. But those price rises handed Abbott a powerful weapon against Julia Gillard’s ”great big new tax” – and besides, she had ”lied” about it, hadn’t she?
The global economic order. As the European Union’s economy has imploded, its carbon price has shrunk and its clout in the world has weakened. Meanwhile, China and India’s demand for raw materials – in particular, for coal to feed their power stations – has grown more urgent. Australian coal exports more than doubled in value between 2007 and 2008; there are plans for massive further expansion. And the Climate Commission is telling us to leave it in the ground? Get real!
The climate itself hasn’t changed enough: global atmospheric temperatures have remained stubbornly stable for more than a decade and a half. The boffins tell us the excess heat is being stored in the oceans; or that all is explained by long-term temperature cycles in the eastern Pacific. The sceptics have scoffed.
And that scoffing has dominated the non-scientific conversation. Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Chris Smith, Jason Morrison, Piers Akerman, Nick Cater, Janet Albrechtsen, Paul Sheehan, Paul Kelly, Chris Kenny, Tim Blair, Miranda Devine, Howard Sattler, Gary Hardgrave, on and on, in print and on radio. For most of them, climate change is a political issue. Anyone who doesn’t scoff at the science is a left-wing dupe.