• Written by David Holmes, Director, Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University
The Greens and independent MPs are pushing for Australia to declare a national 'climate emergency', in line with several other nations. Darren England/AAP

Predictably, both major political parties are resisting calls this week for a parliamentary conscience vote to declare a climate emergency in Australia.

The resistance is unsurprising because both the Coalition and Labor are still captive to the fossil fuel industry. Both fear alienating voters who believe that a mining job is somehow worth far more than a renewables job, though this is perhaps more true for Labor than the LNP.

A majority of Australians accept that climate change is happening, although, like the minister for natural disasters, David Littleproud, a surprising number don’t necessarily believe it is caused by humans. Moreover, when climate change is made an economic issue, many voters are less likely to support tougher action if they perceive this is going to impact on their cost of living.

Despite the fact he lost his own seat in the recent federal election, former PM Tony Abbott said the Coalition’s overall victory made this point abundantly clear.

Where climate change is a moral issue, we Liberals do it tough. But where climate change is an economic issue […] tonight shows we do very, very well.


Read more: The fossil-fuelled political economy of Australian elections


Climate change vs the economy

There is no better illustration of Abbott’s zealous observation than in Queensland during the 2019 election.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown, believing he could turn the controversial Adani coal mine into another Franklin River dam, led a convoy of climate activists through Queensland towns. But pushing climate change as a moral issue became an insult to the coal communities there.

Bob Brown’s anti-Adani protests didn’t play well in some Queensland communities. Rohan Thomson/AAP

Labor also talked tough on climate change, with former leader Bill Shorten declaring in the final week of the May campaign:

It is not the Australian way to avoid and duck the hard fights. We will take this [climate change] emergency seriously.

At the same time, Labor vacillated over Adani. The party’s prevarication over climate led to much confusion, and when the votes were counted, it did not win a seat north of metro Brisbane.


Read more: Interactive: Everything you need to know about Adani – from cost, environmental impact and jobs to its possible future


Fast-forward to today, and the painful loss of the election has ensured that Labor isn’t taking any chances on coal.

In fact, shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong didn’t hesitate last month when she said,

coal remains an important industry for Australia and it remains part of the global energy mix.

And Labor may now be preparing to walk away from its ambitious climate target of cutting emissions by 45% by 2030, in favour of a focus on a net-zero pollution target for 2050.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale accused Labor of “caving in to the coal, oil and gas lobby” if it abandons its 2030 emissions reduction target, and added,

Labor will have lost whatever remaining credibility it has on the climate crisis.

The politics of a national emergency

In many city councils and certain electorates across Australia, declaring a climate emergency has been a clever strategy both for political consumption and to mobilise behavioural change on a local scale.

But on a national scale, where climate change is so heavily politicised, the declaration of a climate change emergency would be an unmitigated disaster for the major parties, and for the cause of effectively communicating climate change.

This is not to say that climate change isn’t anything short of an emergency. It absolutely is.


Read more: Sydney declares a climate emergency – what does that mean in practice?


The monstrous amounts of energy going into the oceans right now guarantees continued global warming that is fast heading towards the equivalent of the climatic violence of the Eemian period of 118,000 years ago.

And among the countless tipping points we are seeing unfold before us, the shock of a premature fire season in NSW and Queensland, with winter barely over, is just one way in which climate change is having an impact at a local level.

In some ways, there is no better time to raise awareness of climate change than during extreme weather events, as people are looking for explanations as to why they are occurring and how they can be so severe.

But to declare a national climate emergency, pushed so strongly by the Greens and independents, is not only politically difficult in Australia at the moment, it is also a hopeless communications strategy.

Communicating a climate emergency

Here are six reasons why declaring a climate emergency is so deeply problematic.

1) Without bipartisan support, which is likely to be the case, it will further entrench the politicisation of climate change in Australia. Australians are already divided on anthropogenic climate change, and are increasingly afflicted by issue fatigue. This is precisely because climate change is thrashed about as a political issue (which turns on opinion) rather than a matter of physics (which turns on facts).

2) If such a conscience vote fails in parliament, it will marginalise any well-intentioned instigators as a partisan minority.

3) If ever such a conscience vote succeeded, it would merely come to serve as a symbolic cover for inaction in the face of steadily rising emissions.

4) Without meaningful decarbonisation policies, such a declaration would become a twisted apologia for such inaction, as long as political parties are able to spin national accounting carbon emissions figures.

5) Recent research by the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub found that the term “climate emergency” didn’t resonate with Australians as much as other phrases, such as climate change, global warming, extreme weather, climate crisis, and complex weather. Only 6.93% of Brisbane respondents and 4.03% of Melbourne respondents preferred “climate emergency” to the other terms.

6) By far the most overwhelming problem with such a declaration is that politicians are the least trusted sources of information on climate change.

To regain trust on climate change, politicians need to lead with genuinely effective policies and decisions, rather than the foil of a hollow sentiment that has no legal or economic status.

In the meantime, there needs to be better public understanding of the science behind climate change, delivered by trusted sources, that allows people to come to terms with the true urgency of the crisis.

David Holmes receives funding from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Panning, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation.

Authors: David Holmes, Director, Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-declaring-a-national-climate-emergency-would-neither-be-realistic-or-effective-123371

A Guide to Buy Home Appliances on Budget

A new home comes up with the need for new appliances, but where should one begin? Check our list that lets you find what you need first. Congratulations on getting your new dream home! If this is you...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Create A Legal Will Online

A will is an essential legal document that clearly states the desires of someone after the person passes away. With a will, you can successfully choose the beneficiaries of your properties and e...

News Company - avatar News Company

Roborock Launches Long Lasting Cordless Stick Vacuum

Leading technology and robotics company Roborock has launched the first cordless vacuum cleaner in the world to use a Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery. Roborock’s H6 uses a lightweight battery w...

Belinda Luby - avatar Belinda Luby

Why It’s A Good Idea to Plan for Your NDIS Meeting

For those wanting to find the supports they need for their disability, the NDIS is an excellent way to receive a tailored plan to help you manage your circumstances in the best way possible. Whe...

News Company - avatar News Company

Why writing down your thoughts is beneficial

In times of sadness, you often wish to write down everything coming in your mind. You think about different things to get out of sadness, like calling your beloved ones or going out. These ideas...

Paresh Patil - avatar Paresh Patil

Digital currency and online trading

First of all, digital currency refers to a currency that is traded as electronic data that does not have banknotes or coins. When it comes to data, you might wonder if you can send Bitcoin as if yo...

Thomas Carey - avatar Thomas Carey

AVOID THESE COMMON MISTAKES WHEN SENDING MONEY ONLINE

What if people saved just a few dollars on each of the thousands of money transactions people make every year? With the ongoing globalisation and widely available internet connection we tend to con...

News Company - avatar News Company

Discount Drug Stores introduce drive thru services for customers

With COVID-19 presenting more challenges than ever for customers needing to access pharmaceutical services, Discount Drug Stores has expanded its drive-thru option at select stores to provide a flex...

Red Havas - avatar Red Havas

Fun beginner hobbies (that need no skill)

When I was in my very early teens, I was convinced I was put on this planet to become the next Bruce Lee. After begging my parents for lessons, I eventually joined no less than four different ma...

Jennifer Martinez - avatar Jennifer Martinez

Viw Magazine

Taking A Look Into The World Of Single Dating

No-one dreams of being alone one day, there isn’t a little girl or boy hoping to never meet someone and living their lives with no-one to share it with. We all want that person we can run to, count on in tough times, and be the first one we t...

News Company - avatar News Company

Free Educational Apps for Students

Before improved technology, smartphones were viewed as bad habits in the lives of the students. No parent nor teachers wished their students to access phones because their education would be severely affected. However, with time, mobile app dev...

Elizabeth Horrell - avatar Elizabeth Horrell

Financial Frustration - 5 Things To Consider Before Touching Your Super After The COVID-19 Crash

Though your main focus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has likely been the health and welfare of your friends, family, and the community at large, you’ve probably also noticed that your super account has taken a hit. Additionally, the govern...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion