Happy Birthday Rationalbrain! What did I get? A carbon price – at last.

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Yes, this humble blog has turned one.

It was about this time last year, buoyed by the impending Amazing Meeting, that rationalbrain was born, over a cup of tea at lunchtime no less. Rather than write down my thoughts on a blank sheet of paper to let off some steam, I decided to perhaps share the thoughts with others. Sorry.

And so one year later, rationalbrain has a small, but exceedingly high quality following. Thanks go to regular commenters, including:

  • neutralturn (aka pizza)
  • luxinvestor
  • blamer
  • Martin Cleaver (loved the Netherlands Martin!)
  • Rationalfollower
  • MyBrainHurts
  • Elaine
  • Reservoir Dad
  • Thomas Hughes
  • PhysioMP
  • MrBonchapeau
  • Cerebrate, and
  • Marts
And also those subscribers who tend not to comment (come on Tone, give it a go!)
I should also give a shout out to the Elmore-bots, who have tried relentlessly to keep the marketing spin flowing.
One of my objectives has been to demystify some aspects of science for those who wouldn’t normally get into the detail. An early attempt was Climate Change for Dummies, which tried to present a summary of a summary of the science in such a way that an ordinary person could see how basic the stuff is, and therefore why I am so persuaded by it.

Apart from the science however, there has been a raging debate here in Oz for some years, firstly about the reality of climate change, and secondly about what to do about it. I won’t rehash all the politics – suffice to say that much of the commentary was so simplistic and puerile that it was depressing. You know the sort of thing – ‘but we’ve had a cold, wet winter – I don’t see any evidence for climate change“.  Aaargghhh. Not to mention (this is a strange expression really, since I will now go on to mention it…)  “a carbon price is just another tax and it will mean the loss of thousands of jobs and the end of the steel industry“, or, “Australia is so small, we won’t make any difference to the climate, but it will destroy our economy“. Spare me.

And right on cue for the birthday celebrations, yesterday our Senate passed the legislation to enable a price on carbon, with the target being a reduction of 80% on 2000 levels by the year 2050. It’s actually a modest target, but better than nothing. The benefits in my mind are two-fold. Firstly, one lot of crap public debate can be put to rest (to no doubt be replaced by another lot), and, secondly and most importantly, we are finally doing something about climate change.

I am reminded of a story of one of our old-time football coaches, Yabbie Jeans, whose team was trailing badly at 3/4 time in the final. In his address to the players, the coach looked eat each player in the eye and implored him: “for god’s sake, go out there and do something“. In this simple sentence was implied that each player should take the responsibility to make something happen – don’t wait for someone else to do it. So it is with our carbon pricing legislation. Someone has to do something – has to take responsibility for doing something.

So it all went through the Senate. And now we have the ear-piercing, mind-numbing bleating from conservative politicians, commentators, re-hashing the old chestnuts as listed above. But I believe their complaints are completely disingenuous –  they won’t say what they really believe. Deep down, they simply don’t believe or trust the science. If they did, they wouldn’t be complaining. Of course, the right wing media has also whipped up a certain segment of the general public into a frenzy, and they then repeat the cleverly crafted canards.

One of those guilty of whipping up hysteria is one Barnaby Joyce, shadow minister for finance, who thrives on the sound of his own voice, but ultimately has no clue about Finance or Science. Think bible belt of Queensland. The land where daylight savings fades curtains. You get the idea. Here’s an exchange in a recent interview. You decide whether he’s nuts or not:

LYNDAL CURTIS: Isn’t the government doing some of that through its carbon farming initiative?

BARNABY JOYCE: No, what they are doing is bringing in a tax. They are bringing in a tax and if taxes cooled the planet, the place would be an icebox. It is absurd. Using the same logic, every time you increase income tax the place would get colder, every time you reduce income tax it would warm up a little bit.

I mean it is just this absurd analysis. Where they always, and the way they go about it, where they create fear and loathing and moral outrage. You will instantaneously combust if you don’t drown, and people say oh that sounds bad. People will die all round the world, there will be droughts, droughts, fire, flood and famine.

And then people say I feel bad about this, I must do something about this. But then when people ask the logical question, hang on, how does a tax have anything to do with those things you just said then …

LYNDAL CURTIS: Don’t taxes change behaviour?

BARNABY JOYCE: Yes, they do. They make you poorer. They make it so you can’t afford things. That is precisely what this is. Yet they’re now saying, well it doesn’t have that much of an effect. Well, if it doesn’t have that much of an effect, why are you doing it?

But, of course, it does have an effect and you’re dead right. It does make you poorer, it is a pricing mechanism to make you poorer so you can not afford things, you can not buy them and the nasty little pill about this is that the thing that people can’t afford will be their power. And there are people right now Lyndal who can’t afford their power. They don’t need any more motivation to be poor, the government has got them to a poor position quite alright right now.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You say the tax will make people poorer but the government’s also going to be giving some compensation, some tax cuts and pension rises to people. Are you happy going to the next election saying to people we will take those tax cuts and pension rises away?

BARNABY JOYCE: This is an absurdity. They must think we are all fools. They’re saying they are going to take all this money of you and then I am going to give you a little bit of your own money back and you will say thank you to me.

How about we just leave all the money in their pocket, that’s a much better idea. But this idea we can take the money off you, spinning it around a department, for which I hear there are 1,000 people at the moment in the Climate Change Department, I don’t know how they’re going, it was a bit cold this morning, they should have warmed it up this morning. But then the 1,000 people get paid an average of $140,000 per year. Tell that to the lady on the checkout.

Did you get that? Yes, “taxes change behaviour – they make you poorer” ! Barnaby, they don’t think we’re all fools. Just you.

Then while waiting for a coffee this morning, I browsed the ‘letters to the editor’  in the HeraldSun newspaper. For those not from Melbourne, this paper was once the paper for the common man, but has in recent years become a mouthpiece for the conservatives and shock-jocks. And their readership clearly reflects that, giving us the full gamut of inane complaints about carbon pricing. Generally the comments reflect their certainty that the sky would fall in, and that we will be ruined economically, or that l’il ol’ Australia can’t make a jot of difference to global warming. Fairly hysterical stuff. Far more hysterical than the recent news that a new analysis of data has some skeptical scientists (Richard Muller, for example, in this one of many recent articles) changing their mind and now believing in man-made climate change, having confirmed a 1.5C rise in average global temperatures since the 50’s. Far more hysterical than observing that many low-lying bits of land, such as Tuvalu in the Pacific, are literally struggling to keep above the water line.

It’s going to be some ride, and I’ll endeavour to keep you posted.

Now for some of that birthday cake.

And, oh yes, Yabbie’s team got up and won the game.


4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Rationalbrain! What did I get? A carbon price – at last.

    rationalbrain said:
    November 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Happy birthday Rationalbrain – it’s been an enlightening ride!!
    Mrs Rationalbrain

    neutralturn said:
    November 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Hertzlichen Glueckwunsch dir Rationalbrain

    […] November I wrote a piece on the successful passage of the carbon price legislation through the senate here in Australia. […]

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