By Stephen Fitzgerald
Updated 26th September 2020
When zero equals everything
Thirty countries have pledged to achieve climate neutrality. Australia is not one of them. Australia and the United States are among the world's largest polluting countries that have not committed to reaching net-zero emissions. Suggesting that the powerful fossil fuel industry controls these countries political class. And I thought the polies worked for the people who elected them, pay their wages, put food on their tables and educate their children?
If you think long and hard about the climate crisis, you may (a) get depressed (b) agree with some activists who see the solution as overthrowing capitalism (c) spend more time at the holiday house on Jupiter and (d) do something even more impossible and install a government we can trust...
Or, Instead of the old world “four horsemen of the apocalypse” lets make a case for the new world “four horsemen of the optimist”: capitalism, technological progress, public awareness and responsive government.
We can’t deny the problems of environmental degradation and growing inequality or the harms caused in the past by colonialism but, we need to acknowledge they have come about because we’ve let one of these modern day horsemen overpower the others. It is in capitalism’s nature to increase inequality and it is a responsive government’s job to reign in that excess. As pointed out in a Bloomberg article by Akshat Rathi.
Similarly, capitalists are incentivised to shape regulations to maximize their profits, but it is the job of a responsible government to ensure a fair playing field for all. Ultimately the system we have today shouldn’t be replaced, but it can be made better. Capitalism is running wild because capitalists have hobbled democracy in their favour. Overcoming those challenges is going to require big changes, but perhaps not the extremes suggested by some who want to overthrow the system and start with something new—especially when the clock is running out on how quickly the world needs to cut Co2 emissions.
Conservative governments represent the financial elite who are all about money, power and control for themselves at any cost to society, to the environment and to democracy. For a powerful minority to control a country you need subversion, vetted state media, conflict, social oppression and a low level of trust in the system apparent in the U.S. under the mother of all sociopaths, Donald Trump.
The alternative is a strong government move, such as that proposed in the Green New Deal by the progressive arm of the U.S. Democratic Party, to begin the process of rebuilding trust. The aspiration is to lead the world in support of cutting green house gas emissions, creating better jobs, enabling social justice and reduce economic inequality, but the end goal is restoring the lost faith in government.
I look at the long term and, to strengthen society, to protect our two party preferred political system, to save the natural world and the future for our children, above all else, we need to install a government we can trust. As an indicator, we need a government aiming for net zero carbon emissions and any government doing less than that is telegraphing to the world that they’re in it for themselves, sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, and are worth nothing more than net zero in terms of trust.
With the same ideology and corporate backing, Scott Morrison has aligned himself with Donald Trump and, to set Australia on a more progressive path, into the future, we can only hope and pray that the Democrats and Joe Biden win the U.S. elections this November. That will then pressure Morrison and the LNP to take affirmative action on the climate crisis or risk fading into oblivion and let someone with a conscience take responsibility for our beautiful nation.
Go to the next article: The Beast Among Us