Climate Cage Match: Christiana Figueres vs. Maurice Newman

While in the U.S. people might not feel overly threatened by a disagreement with someone named Maurice (does he speak of the pompitous of love?), it may well be different in Australia, where Maurice Newman serves as advisor to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Mr. Newman is upset with Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. That’s because part of what she said in an interview with an Australian journalist was “Not overnight but over time there does need to be an economic diversification view that is not going to rely fully on coal but that is actually going to look at what are the other possibilities for an expanded export base over time for Australia.”

To which Maurice helpfully added, “Figueres is on record saying democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model,”

You know, Maurice, in climate change discussions we tend to look down on cherry picking numbers to make our position look better than it really is. The same is (or certainly should be) true of cherry picking quotes.

Let’s get the China thing out of the way so we can rationally discuss the rest of this.

First off, Figueres is right. China as a dictatorship can move more quickly on any policy initiative it deems of primary national interest. China has done so with plans to quickly and dramatically increase the number of dams, nuclear power plants and wind and solar power installations. How many nuclear power plants and dams are being built in Western countries these days?

Second, noting that China can move quickly is not an endorsement of communism or any dictatorship. People forget that when everyone was talking about Mussolini making the trains run on time it was not because they liked Fascism.

Throwing that quote into today’s argument is cheap populism.

Regarding the rest of what Figureres said, I wonder how Maurice could have avoided reading this?

“That’s for Australia to decide what that is going to look like for them.

It’s not for us to put out a number there and put out a level of which any country has to jump.

That is very very much of an internal conversation that is then submitted internationally and all of the other governments then take a look at each other and will be asking each other questions about the depth of the policies and measures behind any commitment as well as to the level of commitment, but that is for governments to do.

JAKE STURMER: Why should Australia take a strong position?

Our emissions only make up around 1.5 per cent of global emissions.

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: It’s 1.3 per cent actually, not even 1.5 so it’s 1.3, but Australia is the 14th largest emitter in the world and among all industrialised countries, it is the highest per capita emitter, the highest per capita emitter.

So that does put a very interesting responsibility on the shoulders of each Australian citizen and that cannot be taken lightly as we look into the future.

Not overnight but over time there does need to be an economic diversification view that is not going to rely fully on coal but that is actually going to look at what are the other possibilities for an expanded export base over time for Australia.

JAKE STURMER: The Prime Minister said coal is good for humanity and that it’s the foundation of Australia’s prosperity and will be for the foreseeable future, so given that, should it be?

CHRISTIANA FIGUERES: It probably was or it definitely was together with the other minerals, our resource base that Australia has and has been blessed with, that’s not the only resource that is underground here in Australia and it definitely was the backbone of growth and of prosperity.

There’s no doubt about that.

And some of the rest of the resource base will continue to be part of that backbone but equally true is that Australia has two other resource bases that still have not been used to their fullest potential and that is sun and wind.

So it is the sunniest continent of the world, it is the windiest continent of the world, and also it doesn’t seem logical or prudent not to use resource base that is there frankly for only the cost of infrastructure but no fuel cost.

It makes a lot of sense to begin to integrate as much as possible those two other resource bases.”

Ms.Figueres in my mind is making perfect sense, speaking very diplomatically and does not deserve being treated in this fashion.

It brings to mind other Australian scenes of conflict.

mad-max-beyond-thunderdome

And we’ve clearly moved beyond a Mad Max view of the world, haven’t we? We can have a civilized discussion between a Central American diplomat and the aide to an Australian Prime Minister, can’t we?

Oh.

Fury road used

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8 responses to “Climate Cage Match: Christiana Figueres vs. Maurice Newman

  1. Don’t skip over the current driving themes of the Mad Max movie brand:
    Climate apocalypse and oil depletion.
    Your fantasy debate sort of skips over a few things, I think. Cherry picking….?

  2. First off, Figueres is right. China as a dictatorship can move more quickly on any policy initiative it deems of primary national interest.

    A political system that can move quickly can also move quickly in the wrong direction. No nation has proved this more true than China.

    Remember the Great Leap Forward? How many million lives were lost?

    Let’s take the loaded term of “communism” out of the discussion. Mao was a nationalist who attempted to jump start industry in China. It was a disaster because there was no political feedback to slow him down or change his course.

    The wisdom of democracy is the wisdom of the crowd. In the United States, our founders deliberately made government inefficient because having served in legislatures, they profoundly understood the dangers of efficiency.

    Ms. Figueres, being a politician, should respect the system she is addressing.

    • AI,
      Great point. The Cultural Revolution probably killed even more, and was triggered by Mao to avoid negative feedback from his failed Great Leap.
      Some have described the Great Leap forward as the Great Leap Forward Off a Cliff.
      The underlying dogma of our progressive friends seems to be that physics and the laws of nature are progressive as well.
      That is dangerous hubris indeed.

  3. People who talked about Mussolini making the trains run on time generally were supportive. It is not realized now just how much support fascism and Nazism had among intellectuals in America, which they were forced to back away from after the Holocaust. H. G. Wells said in 1932 that progressives must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis.”
    Charles Beard “Beyond question, an amazing experiment is being made [in Italy], an experiment in reconciling individualism and socialism.”
    Magazine founder Samuel McClure, “a great step forward and the first new ideal in government since the founding of the American Republic.”
    Herbert Croly, George Bernard Shaw, WEB Dubois, even Will Rogers.

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