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Electoral slaughter in Queensland

The devastating defeat of the Labor Government in Queensland means that Federal Labor cannot win its forthcoming election.  The Labor Party is in desperate straits having lost government in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and now Queensland. But the scale of the Queensland massacre is unprecedented with nearly a 16% swing against Labor – about one traditional Labor voter in 3 abandoned support for Labor.  It seems almost certain now that Kevin Rudd will challenge again for the Federal leadership – standard, myopic Labor thinking is that desperate times require desperate solutions and selecting Rudd would provide a politician popular in Queensland.  The AFR this morning described his corpse as “warming”. This type of selection however would raise such serious questions of credibility that I cannot see it as having any chance of improving Labor’s prospects significantly. Labor is doomed.

BTW as I have made clear in the past I will vote Labor in the forthcoming Federal election because of their climate change policy. My main concern is that Labor’s carbon tax-cum-ETS will not be seen as sustainable given Labor’s nonexistent re-election prospects. This will mean that types of massive investment switches away from carbon-based fuels that make good environmental sense from the viewpoint of addressing climate change are unlikely to occur.  The forces of darkness and stupidity on the right – the conservative side of politics that should support Pigovian charges to rid the globe of a massive externality – have won. My Labor vote will be little more than a wasted protest.

Update 1: Alan Mitchell in today’s AFR (subscription required, p. 62) remains optimistic that Tony Abbott will renege on his opposition to pricing carbon using the excuse (recently mentioned by Barnaby Joyce) that he is prepared to price carbon if the world shifts in the direction of doing just that.  He argues the world – particularly the US – might shift given the need to fund mounting government deficits.  Although a US commitment to use such tax revenues to fund climate friendly investments would seem to bind this could be reconfigured so the interest on such transfers was used for such purposes but the principal used to reduce public indebtedness.  The argument is that the US is constrained to select some form of tax increase because of its budgetary position and this might be the most politically saleable way of doing so.

Update 2: The Victorian Government’s actions in abandoning the state-based 20% carbon-reduction targets on the grounds that the Commonwealth has set 5% reduction targets nationally seems dishonest given that the Liberal Party has stated it will abolish such Commonwealth targets.   The simple fact is that they do not wish to address the issue of climate change because they do not see it as a problem.  State Labor have bravely not committed to restore the 20% targets should they be reelected.

4 comments to Electoral slaughter in Queensland

  • Gosh. Cheer up, Harry. 12 to 18 months is a long, long time in politics, and it’s not as if the Coalition is without its own internal policy issues and conflicts, and a leader who only sometimes manages to be preferred Prime Minister (and has a substantial negative approval rating equivalent to that of the PM.) Truth be told, it is a very strange time in politics, both here and in the States.

  • “to rid the globe of a massive externality”

    I’m curious as to your reasons for thinking that global warming, on the scale suggested by IPCC, produces a massive negative externality. I realize that it’s the conventional wisdom, but I have not yet seen any good reason to believe it.

    The current climate of the world was not designed for us, so there is no a priori reason to expect a climate a few degrees warmer (or colder) to be on net worse. It’s true that there is some presumption against change, since we are currently optimized against current conditions and have born sunk costs in the process. But that’s a very weak presumption when the change is on the order of only a few tenths of a degree per decade, since, with or without climate change, farmers will be changing crop varieties, buildings will be being replaced, people will be moving around.

    The alternative argument consists of adding up externalities. The problem with that approach is that consequences and their costs over a period of a hundred years are very uncertain. If one starts out believing that global warming is a terrible thing, it’s pretty easy to “confirm” that belief by making generous estimates of the negative externalities, conservative estimates of the positive ones, and perhaps leaving a good many of the latter out entirely. Similarly in the other direction if one thinks that global warming is a good thing.

    I’ve discussed the issue on my blog, including a specific example of a calculation of net externalities by Nordhaus that included a negative while entirely omitting the corresponding positive.

    For one simple example of the tradeoff between negative and positive externalities, compare the loss of habitable land due to a sea level rise of a food or two with the gain due to temperature contours in the northern hemisphere, where habitability is limited at the north end by cold, moving north by several hundred miles.

  • hc

    David there is a vast literature on the risks of catastrophe associated with climate change. It was summarised in the 4th assessment report of the IPCC and has been developed in a number of papers by Martin Weitzman among others -for example, a 5% chance of 10 degrees warming is a serious threat.

    Above 3 degrees C warming the consensus is that the net benefits for agriculture will be negative almost everywhere.

    The impact of abrupt climate change on global biodiversity would be enormous.

    I’ve read your claims and you can make them but you need to respond to a sizeable debate that rejects them.

  • Jim Rose

    HC, have you any views of Richard Tol’s wrtings. also, Tom schellings on global warming?

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