Assembling Citizens For Climate Convergence

It’s not that citizen’s assemblies aren’t a good idea, writes Fiona Armstrong, but turning to the community to establish whether climate change is happening is an abdication of government responsibility

The announcement on Friday by the Prime Minister that she will establish a citizen’s assembly to provide advice on climate change was both puzzling and intriguing.

It is not that citizen’s assemblies aren’t a good idea – it is an admirable goal to work with citizens in the development of public policy, and in many policy contexts the involvement of citizens is more than appropriate. Indeed, this is something I have been involved in advocating for in relation to health policy. I am fond of quoting the research on this topic which notes that “the legitimacy and sustainability of any public policy decision depends on the extent to which it reflects the underlying values of the public”. But is this what is being sought by Gillard? There is a very great need to engage the entire community on the issue of climate change but it is not at all clear that there are any plans to do so. Nor is it clear that the tasks being set for the citizen’s assembly are even remotely appropriate.

The notion of a citizen’s assembly being charged with the responsibility of deciding whether or not climate change is happening, and if it should be a national priority, is simply absurd. Shifting responsibility to a community assembly for these decisions is a wilful abdication of responsibility on the part of the government. We don’t set up a citizen’s assembly to help us decide whether to treat cancer or not, or to decide if cancer really exists.

Imagine if governments set up citizen’s assemblies to discuss how to respond during the plague in the 1300s or the Spanish flu pandemic earlier this century? They just got on with the task of leadership – developing regulations to limit people’s movements, fining non-compliers, trying to stop the spread of infection. To suggest that 150 concerned citizens are in a better position to provide advice on the science of climate change than thousands and thousands of learned and experienced and specialised scientists is completely ridiculous.

And in saying this, I am reminded of the Prime Minister’s assertion on the day she assumed the role that she “believes” in climate change. It’s just nonsense to say you “believe” in climate change. It’s like saying you “believe” in gravity. You don’t believe in it; you accept it. It’s a fact.  Beliefs don’t make it occur, or go away, or have any bearing on the matter at all. To have our Prime Minister using that language is both dispiriting and alarming.

More Than Luck is a collection of ideas for citizens who want real change edited by Mark Davis and CPD Executive Director Miriam Lyons. A to-do list for politicians looking to base public policies on the kind of future Australians really want, More Than Luck shows what’s needed to share this country’s good luck amongst all Australians – now and in the future. Click here to find out more. Like what you’ve read? Donate to help make good ideas matter.

Blog Comments

Agreed – scientists decide how urgent the climate crisis is and what level of emissions reductions are necessary. A citizens assembly can be useful in determining how those cuts and transitions are undertaken – it may help ensure they are done in a socially just way.

However, I certainly don’t trust the Labor Party to do it properly – it’s just a stunt.

Thanks Fiona for applying some sanity to a blatantly time-wasting proposition from the Government.

Climate science is as complicated as anything science has to offer and to be putting the national response to climate change in the hands of 150 lay persons is indeed ridiculous. If there is a fire you call a fireman, if you are sick you get a doctor, if you want the weather forecast you get a meterologist… you don’t get Joe Ordinary from the suburbs to solve your problem – you get a specialist. Let’s stop disrespecting the climate scientists who know and understand what they are talking about and get on with the job of decarbonising our economy and to stop being wasteful with our precious planet.

As the details on the Government’s plans for the CA are lacking, I think it is premature to judge whether it will or won’t work for climate change.

Personally, I think given the unprecedented nature of the issue of climate change and the high level of public skepticism still rampant, if done well the CA could provide a novel avenue for public education and generating public support. I don’t agree that taking this option is shifting responsibility from the Government, rather I think the Government has a responsibilty to involve citizens in such major decisions.

Also – it is misleading to compare climate change to the plague or spanish flu pandemic. These events presented an immediate threat to human lives. (More recently you didn’t see the Government convening a CA to deal with swine flu!) Obviously climate change is a huge issue, but the threat to humanity isn’t as pronounced as a contagious disease, which is what makes the passage and acceptance of climate change policy so difficult. It is also the reason why a novel policy approach is needed!

This is hardly the greatest idea in PR terms. However, Copenhagen and its aftermath taught us a few things. One is that governments can lead all they like, if the people are not completely behind them the wheels can come off. Secondly, the power of the media to channel the climate change debate was underestimated. Murdoch et al are concerned about the legacy they’re leaving their children and grandchildren and it has nothing to do with the environment.

The majority of Australians will need to consent to the major changes that “a big new tax” will have on their lifestyles and pockets. It is time to mobilise the masses and if the community assembly helps, well and good. We’ll probably have to bludgeon the Coalition into accepting some form of ETS or Carbon Tax. The people will have to be the weapon, much as with Work Choices. It’s an unfortunate reality.

Excellent article by Fiona Armstrong.

The post-Coup, pro-coal, anti-science Gillard Government Citizens’ Assembly tactic is simply a blatant, spin-driven delaying tactic, doing what the pre-Coup, pro-coal, anti-science Rudd-Gillard Government did by appointing non-scientist Professor Ross Garnaut to investigate what world climate scientists, economists (especially agricultural economists) and biologists had been investigating and reviewing for 2 decades.

After 30 months the Rudd-Gillard Government decided to effectively do nothing about climate change until 2013, a position reiterated by the Gillard Government after a mere several weeks.

World experts decry delay on man-made global warming. Thus the Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (2,500 delegates) said that “inaction is inexcusable”.

In a 2010 Open Letter 255 top US scientists (all members of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences, 11 of them Nobel Prize winners) said that “delay is not an option”.

As a scientist I have a profound object to the sheer falsity of anti-science Labor assertions about “clean coal” (an oxymoron, unproven commercially ); “gas is clean” (gas burning is dirty energy and , depending upon the rate of gas leakage , can be worse than coal burning in terms of greenhouse gas consequences); and now “delay” and “inaction” when the World’s top scientists and climate scientist are collectively saying that “inaction is inexcusable” and “delay is not an option”.

Anti-science, pro-coal, spin-driven Labor is a major threat to Australia, our children, grandchildren and the Biosphere. I have never ever voted Coalition (I am anti-war) but note that even the Climate Institute (that supports Labor’s ineffective, counterproductive, fraudulent and scientist- and economist-condemned ETS) has rated the Coalition’s domestic climate policies as vastly better than those of the “do nothing” incumbent Labor Government .

I too saw this pitch as an election campaign device, and there are rumours now that it is being abandoned as an idea anyway. But sooner or later a government is going to have to deal with the level of scepticism within the community about the extent to which human activity has caused whatever warming has occurred, and about the plain fact that whatever Australia did would have no discernible effect at all on global temperatures. My guess is that our pragmatic PM is unsure herself, and is trying neither to have her cake nor eat it, but hope that most of the electorate cares more about other issues. Those fixated on apocalypse can only go to the Greens if they don’t like what Labor proposes, and their votes will come back, presumably.

Alastair Crombie

I agree that more details are needed before one can make an informed judgement about the potential benefits of a CA in this context.

More generally, the concept of deliberative democracy needs more vigorous advocacy . Just as Tony Buzan’s ‘mind mapping’ concept was rubbished as ‘noodle nation’ in the attack on an earlier Labor education policy, so the concept of Citizen Assemblies gets trashed by the Coalition as a ‘giant Focus Group’. The claim that we already have a Citizens Assembly, and it is called ‘Parliament’ is perhaps a mark of how poorly the CA concept is understood (eg citizens do not take part at the behest of ‘parties’ which preordain the judgements they will make…….). Who is putting on the record the distinctions between a focus group, representative democracy, and a citizens assembly?

For public education about such complex policy matters the Scandinavians have long used ‘study circles’ – self-managed discussion groups under the auspices of trade unions, the churches, local municipalities and so on – based around specially prepared and authoritative materials which put forward differing sides of the argument. The Swedish government funded production of materials of this sort ahead of national referenda on nuclear power, and entry to the Common Market. The Study Circle Resource Centre in the US has adapted this fine tradition to address a range of public policy issues in the States. In Australia we now have the Australian Study Circles Network, building on the earlier work of Adult Learning Australia. The first national ‘learning circle’ program in Australia focussed on reconciliation.

In the is particular case, the proposed role and purpose of the CA could, and should have been better explained, but it may yet turn out to be a profitable and illuminating process.

“Obviously climate change is a huge issue, but the threat to humanity isn’t as pronounced as a contagious disease”

Naomi, i’m not sure you understand the possible implications of climate change, nor it’s immediacy. Even H5N1 in all but it’s most extreme potential cannot compete for probable impact …

(sorry about Caps but this is something we all really need to hear, or do we have no responsability for this?)

While I’m a professional advocate and designer for good public process, this is an abdication of leadership on climate change. We have to trust the scientists on the facts of climate change – no group of ordinary people will ever be qualified to do so.
But in a citizens’ forum where they might well be provided with facts, they might well decide that the government should have acted at the beginning or the two years it took to set up the forum! This is aside from the problem of finding a group of dispassionate citizens who will be able to make objective judgements. It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find people who won’t have formed a view, and therefore will put aside considerable emotion and not contribute to just another adversarial, parliamentary-style debate.
A citizen’s forum is a noble objective, and one that is a sound and robust method of establishing public buy-in. But it would be far better for Labor to say, we will put a price on carbon now, and a properly composed and conceived citizen’s forum will tell us if and how we need to change it. Alas, too late, it would seem.

I think Fiona Armstrong has missed the point. The task of the Citizen’s Assembly is to promote understanding of Greenhouse Warming and acceptance of the need (and perhaps the measures) to control it. The Assembly’s task is _not_ to decide whether GW is happening, or to assess our scientific understanding of it.

The failure of both Rudd’s carbon trading legislation and the Copenhagen conference in the face of concerted misinformation by various lobby groups, not to mention the disarray of current American efforts to control emissions, have taught us the importance of consensus before legislation.

I think it’s a great pity the idea has not been better communicated. In fact I think communication of most government policies is poor.


Lesley Hardcastle

I agree with others’ comments; the CA is an absurd idea and a scaled down version of the summit organised by the Rudd Government early in Rudd’s term. It is also a trick. You can get an idea of comunity views in a number of ways, for example, opinion surveys and polls, and of course elections, which put representatives into a forum where they are charged with making decisions (i.e., the Parliament!). But once you collect a small number of people into a working group or advisory group, or whatever you might call it, it changes from an uninformed ‘ignorant’ group into an informed group. This happens with the deliberative polling method, where people without expertise and knowledge come together, are informed in various ways, and then the change in their attitudes is measured. Not that I have a problem with having informed people advise the Government. They have been doing so on climate change, and sadly their expertise and advice have not been taken. But it is a dishonest gimmick to suggest that a CA as suggested will represent community opinion. I call on the Government to lead, rather than follow. We know what needs to be done, why wont they just do it. I remain angry with the Greens for blocking the ETS (imperfect though it was) in the first place. At least we would have had a policy to work on, and the Government would have kept faith with the electorate. And I remain angry with the Government for not having the courage to go to a double dissolution on the Bill. At least it would have shown us the the Government had principles and a mission, and integrity. We elected them to lead, not to follow opinion polls.

The debate needs focus and this can be the issues of public health that result from a lack of clean air, clean food and clean water. Thanks for the article….

It has been politics in this country that began to kill our children’s future with its stupidity and routine cow towing to the vested interests of corporate robots. A public administration undermined by political control of policy direction and regulatory review of unsustainable practices. Not just misguided people in the system.

The dependence of parties on donation to survive encourages compromise, and the strength of political will is not guided by evidenced returns when spending such gains, condemning our system to permanent dependency. Parties are always confused by the spin of the fossil carbon industries, forgetting that oil and coal are finite and ignoring that CO2 causes global warming.
I open with this introduction to cause you to reflect on who is in charge and where we are coming from to decide about the role of a tax to initiate a change to more sustainable energy sources. Where we go will really depend on the ease at which corporations are able use the tax and pick up the alternative technologies to profit from them.
Fiona and others have related that science should be driving the direction and urgency of change. The Government engaged Professor Ross Garnaut to review the science. There is never only one answer in any substantive review, and he was unable to achieve unequivocal support for the level of change needed. We have already also accepted input from the community by way of an organized gathering at the 2020 Summit. I am not aware of anything from that source that has been adopted by Government either.
Back to facts, the present practical cost of emitting CO2 and other noxious gases across the planet is zero, so there is already a “level playing field” in this commodity. The artificial “voluntary”, “moral”, scarcity value of emissions should be the same all over the world. If it is not, then no local carbon price can be responsibly contemplated without “trade protections”. Notwithstanding those trade protections have not delivered equitable returns for labour input into productivity across the world. That aside, until the WTO accepts a uniform price for carbon, local carbon price systems will not change our world. It will but add spice to markets.
The observation is made that those parts of the world that have produced the most pollution have dramatically changed their ways and are pushing forward with reduction schemes utilizing more efficient and profitable technology to reduce atmospheric disruption. They are succeeding in further capitalizing on consumer culture. I ask why Australia can’t be part of this scene too. Why can’t we put some focus in our environmental protection agencies to review pollution output and process efficiency existing in industry? Because corporations don’t won’t interference in the speed at which they adapt current technologies? Maybe.
I conclude my comment by suggesting our political and economic systems are in desperate need of repair – they are completely unsustainable. The rats have eaten away so much that some major components in our system will have to be replaced and rewired. It is inevitable there will be some inconvenience, but we do need change beyond corporate and party offerings. To date they are prepared to let it collapse to maintain community dependency while realigning their own capacity to capturing energy sources outside of finite fossil preserves. A better way out for us all is to pick up the opportunity of adapting technologies to allow us to be more independent from network system energy sources. After all, with extremes of weather approaching, maintaining such networks will be a horrendous task.

The probability is that the CA would be a complete waste of time. The possibility, however, exists that the CA could be useful, as a catalyst for change. If it is well put together – representative, articulate – then it could come up with a finding that says on balance the science is right, on balance the task is urgent, on balance Australia should move now ahead of others and be prepared to pay via a price on carbon. Relieved, the government could then find courage and promote other consensual steps. The CA need not be dumped on out of hand. Instead public hopes for it should be spelled out loud and clear.

As Fiona Armstrong says, there’s nothing basically wrong with citizen’s assemblies. Under another name, the search conference is a well-established set of techniques for building community agreement about what to do and how to do it. The trouble with this proposal is that it is being set up in the wrong way to answer the wrong question from the wrong perspective.

We are being asked whether climate change is real and what are the threats involved in not acting to counter it. (It’s worth saying in passing that actuaries have had no doubt for at least the last decade that climate change is occurring.) The more relevant questions are brilliantly set out in Moody and O’Grady’s Australian book “The Sixth Wave”. In the simplest terms, it argues that the world is moving into a new major wave of innovation built around sustainability, reduction of waste and efficiency in resource use. One, but only one, of the important drivers of this move is climate change; others such as resource depletion and pollution are also important. There are serious threats involved in failing to move with these changes but, above all, there are huge opportunities to build a strong position in the emerging technological world. If their analysis is accurate, we need to focus on these opportunities and also on how to prepare for and minimise the disruption in employment and aspects of society that inevitably accompany such major technological change (think of the ‘hollowing out’ of American and Australian manufacturing industry over the second half of the 20th century).

The most frustrating aspect of this whole sterile political debate in Australia is the unremitting focus on the negatives. A series of regional citizens’ assemblies (search conferences) could be very useful. The relevant question is not whether climate change is real and caused (at least partly) by human activity. It is whether technological change towards sustainability is occurring (it is), whether governments should be involved in encouraging this move (there are a host of reasons why they should), how each regional community can position itself to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs of the transition and what role regional and national government should play in facilitating the move. The situation will be very different for, say, the Hunter Valley and the Riverland, so we need regional consideration rather than simply a national talk fest.

Yes. The proposition that a citizens jury can take us forward on this issue is absurd. Yes. Citizens juries have a role. Science experts from a wide range of expertise and observations of polar ice, oceans, tree rings, atmosphere and more confirm the relationship between carbon dioxide and global temperatures. Human production of carbon dioxide has altered the balnce in all these media. It is time to lower our outputs of carbon dioxide. Governments must lead. they can lead by encouraging reduction of energy useage, they can lead by encouraging the use of alternaitve sources but above all they must a adress the area of power generation. This requires action now. Cash for clunkers is peripheral, wind and sun are meaningful but base load power must move to real alternatives, gas is interim and there may not be enough of it. Nuclear is our only choice. The sooner governments lead, the sooner we can start to arrest 200 years of damage and approach the future to leave a better future for our descendents

David is getting warmer here (no pun intended).

The fundamental problems any politician has to deal with regarding climate change, or indeed any long-term world-wide issue (habitat loss, species loss, population, peak oil…) are as follows:
– human nature is such that human beings think in timeframes of years at most, rather than centuries
– human beings think of themselves rather than of other people or other species
– as they age, human beings become more reactionary
– most human beings have little concept of the scientific method and are fundamentally irrational (gambling, horoscopes, UFOs…)
– humans make decisions predominantly using emotions rather than facts
– human beings are a gregarious species and tend to follow the herd, particularly perceived leaders of the herd (and I don’t mean politicians)

None of the above is meant to be judgemental, merely factual.

– the electorate has been persuaded (and given the above, allowed itself to be persuaded) by politicians past and present that anything which affects them adversely (eg an increase in taxation) is bad and should not be accepted
– the electorate has been persuaded (ditto) by politicians past and present that life will only get better, and that any possibility of the contrary is bad and should not be accepted

The end result is that many people are quite happy to reject the general scientific consensus on climate change (and many other long-term world-wide issues) on the basis that (a) it won’t affect them – they’ll be pushing up daisies (b) it’s not “scientifically proven” and (c) if they accept the reality and implications of global warming, dealing with the consequences will mean their standard of living may go down, they will have to pay more for their oil and electricity, and they’ll generally be worse off in the foreseeable future.

Given the above, given the fact that the current government had to water down it’s global warming initiatives to remove any possibility of pain for the electorate, and given that even then the Senate rejected the bill, what’s a government (of either persuasion) to do?

The parliamentary options would seem to be:
1. Do nothing, or next to nothing (the coalition approach)
2. Do something, but not enough to be objectionable to the average voter (the Labor approach)
3. Attempt to do something substantial but have the backing of none of the major parties, and hence be unable to do anything in your own right (the state of affairs for the Greens)
4. Obtain control of both the upper and lower houses and do something substantial (the Labor approach [I earnestly hope], and – in their dreams – the Greens approach)

Option 4 is the only feasible parliamentary approach in the near term, and is only really open to the Labor party (it’s open to the coalition too but they’d prefer not to do anything much, particularly under the current leadership and that of the former coalition prime minister). However, obtaining control of both houses of parliament in the next or future elections is by no means a certainty, so a sensible political leader will attempt to use non-parliamentary means as well.

And here is where the Citizens’ Assembly comes in.

The role of the Citizens’ Assembly is not to do scientific research to validate the existing science; they’re not qualified.

It’s not to assess the existing science; they’re not qualified for that either and it’s already been done by the scientific community and the IPCC.

It’s not to be a group of scientists who try to convince the politicians or the community of the science, and of the most appropriate actions to be taken; if your average citizen (or dare I say it, your average politician) isn’t convinced by now, another bunch of ivory-towered eggheads in lab coats isn’t going to persuade you.

No, the role of the Citizens’ Assembly is to BE persuaded, and – taking advantage of that herd behaviour – by proxy, to convince those doubting members of the general public that they should be persuaded too, and thus – using both the herd behaviour and that strong reliance by politicians on “public opinion” (perhaps a variant of herd behaviour) – convince politicians (even the reactionary ones) that parliament should do something substantial, even if they themselves aren’t convinced by the science.

Put another way, if the parliamentary opposition is standing in your way, rouse the people to convince the opposition that they have little choice but to cooperate.

The composition of the Citizens’ Assembly will be crucial:
– there should be no scientists doing anything related to climate change on the panel – the panel’s role is to BE convinced, not to be the convincers, and certainly not to be “scientific”; those to be persuaded must be persuaded in all their irrationality and herd mentality, so that the irrational and followers-of-the-herd in the general public will feel comfortable being persuaded too
– any scientists on the panel should be respected and trusted public figures first and scientists second; Dr Karl and Adam Spenser would be good choices for the younger people, and some well-known older scientists who are public figures in their own right (Gus Nossal? a famous surgeon?) would be good proxies for more senior people
– there should not be too many young people – younger members of the general public are far less reactionary than older members, so there are fewer of them in the general public to persuade and they need less persuading; middle-aged and older members of the general public need to feel that other middle-aged and older members on the panel are persuaded, and they need to identify with them so they feel comfortable being persuaded
– the panel members need to be good communicators – when they’re convinced, they need to be able to articulate their conviction and convince the general public of their beliefs
– the panel needs to be largely composed of public figures; predominantly not people who are famous for their business acumen or legal skills or some other esoteric accomplishments. No, you need people whom Alexander and Mary-Jane Citizen know and – if not trust – at least recognise and respect. Famous cricketers. Ida Buttrose. Don Burke. That idiot who presents a cooking/house renovation/singing-and-dancing program. You know the one – he’s a bozo with a double-digit IQ, but he has a nice smile and a twinkle in his eye, and if his photo is on the front page of the Woman’s Weekly with his fiancé and new-born child, the circulation doubles. People follow the herd, and these are the herd leaders people will follow.

The process will also be crucial:
– No charts, graphs or figures – people are fundamentally unscientific and that won’t convince them. You need emotive stuff. Penguins on ever-shrinking ice floes. Chimpanzees with no trees to swing in. Whales dying. Bushfires. Deserts. You get the idea. And on the other hand, nice windmills in the fields of happy farmers. Roofs covered in solar panels, and happy home-owners telling the camera that they don’t pay for electricity any more, the electricity company pays THEM. Cool waves washing up on pleasant beaches. Someone driving a Prius telling the camera they pay half as much for petrol as they used to with their old car. You get the drill.
– The panel needs to be able to call on scientists for their evidence, and to be able to query them, in the manner of a public enquiry. The panel has to be seen to be in charge, to be seeking knowledge and to be judging and weighing that knowledge. They have to call the shots, and the scientists are there to provide information and to answer their questions, not to lecture them. It’s not a scientific symposium, it’s a “trial by jury” of the scientific evidence. The general public has to see that Ita Buttrose was able to hear and see the evidence, ask whatever questions she liked, have those questions answered, and freely came to her own conclusions (sensible ones, let’s hope)
– Not too much sustained television coverage of the proceedings, and certainly no minute-by-minute coverage. Persuading people is time-consuming and you’d have to show those pesky scientists talking. No, you need edited highlights of standing ovations, convinced panel members saying “We must do something NOW!” and “Doing nothing is WRONG!”. Some 30-minute documentaries of the process wouldn’t go astray though.

The ultimate outcome one is after is:
– For the panel to be convinced, and in particular, emotionally persuaded
– For the panel to appear convinced and to convey that conviction as widely, directly and convincingly as possible to the general public
– For the general public to thus be convinced, or at the very least, less unconvinced
– For politicians, if not to be convinced, to at least think “The public is persuaded and if I don’t do something substantial and soon, I’ll be out on my ear at the next election”

The political outcome one is thus looking for is:
– Those (whether Labor or coalition) who were convince before but were wary of an adverse public reaction will be more confident in implementing meaningful change, even if it means some short-term pain for the electorate
– Those (whether Labor or coalition) who were not previously convinced but who have changed their mind will be at least cooperative
– Those in the Greens who may previously have seen a political advantage in taking the high ground (on the basis that meaningful change would not get through parliament so they had nothing to lose and much to gain), will be more likely to be pragmatic on the basis that meaningful (but not perfect) change can now get through parliament
– Those in the coalition (or even Labor) who remain climate change sceptics will probably stay silent and not obstruct progress
– The lunatic right (eg Steve Fielding) will become irrelevant to the process of implementing climate change initiatives

They say one gets the politicians one deserves, and unfortunately, we seem in general to deserve politicians who are unwilling to tell us unpleasant truths. That makes life very easy for an opposition (of either persuasion) but very difficult for a government (ditto), particularly in that many truths really are unpleasant. Governments need to be creative in overcoming these difficulties, and if a Citizens’ Assembly is one way of doing so, good for them.

Of course, it could merely be a way of delaying doing anything constructive while appearing to be consultative, but one lives in hope (another innately human trait).

Remeber the film “Men in Black”? Tommy Lee Jones accurately described people, individually and collectively, even if in somewhat cynical terms.

The Climate Change debate is moribund, stagnant. It is no longer a topic even worth pursuing. The opponents have trivialized it, the proponents have bastardized it.

I suggest though, that we need to discuss technology change in far more positive and user friendly terms. Energy savings can be gained from developing highly efficient 24 or 48 volt home appliances. Instead of uranium based nuclear power, how about thorium or some other substitute. There is far more accessible thorium in the world than uranium, so I understand.

This is not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

I think as Fiona discussed that a citizens assembly is moving in the wrong direction when we already have an overwhelming amount of proof concerning community consensus. As Ellen Sandal discussed in ABC’s the Drum, ”Last December, over 100…,000 ordinary Australians Walked Against Warming through the streets of all capital cities. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition grew from 5,000 members to over 50,000 members in 2009 alone. A recent Lowy Poll poll showed that 86 per cent of Australians still believe that climate change is an …issue that needs addressing.’ … As well as Samantha Mostyn’s article in todays SMH were she states that, ‘Only last week, the pollster PureProfile found 80 per cent of NSW residents want action on climate change now’……

It astounds me that as the rest of the world moves forward in the technology race for a global low-carbon economy that Australia has a government who doesn’t think we care. The case for caring has already been prooven in my opinion the government just doesn’t want to listen.. because it doesn’t suit a coal focused economy.

The attacks on Labor, now at almost hysterical pitch, are absurd and politically suicidal. Labor took its ETS to the House and negotiated at length with the Opposition, with passion, integrity, commitment and urgency . Malcolm Turnbull and his Opposition party were on the cusp of acceptance when the Liberal climate-denier powerbrokers moved in to get Abbott elected as Leader by one vote. If you watch the TV images on this evenings’ news carefully you’ll see who they are. They’re still driving the agenda.
The elephant in the room is Abbott, and yesterday’s deniers from the Howard era, like Nick Minchin, not Julia Gillard! And the Coalition proposals on climate change action are pathetically weak, ingenuous and tokenistic. Abbott whatever he claims now, whatever he puts in writing, has made it clear he believes climate change is crap!
The 180 degree shift in the Coalition stance was an act of gross political vandalism. It utterly lacked integrity and denied Labor its rightful mandate to act on climate change. It was accompanied by a carefully orchestrated and strident media campaign to validate climate change denial, led by “The Australian”. The public mood shifted as it became clear that putting a cost on carbon was the key and that reducing carbon pollution couldn’t simply be done by “the government”. It was a task for all and would cost all. There would be a “great big new tax”. Horror of all horrors! Everyone wants to save the world but few want to face what that really means when it affects their hip pocket directly, as it must.
Then there’s the Senate and the roles of Xenophon and Fielding, not to mention the “Greens” in joining the Coaliti0n to oppose action. That isn’t going away and unless there is national support, a national consensus powerful enough to drive action on climate change, wishful thinking about “leadership” will achieve nothing. No government can enact legislation without a Senate majority. Until Tony Abbott is toppled that will never be available on the issue of climate change. With Malcolm Turnbull restored to the Liberal leadership there would be a much better chance.
Very little of the massive climate change disinformation campaign of “The Australian” which formed the backdop to Abbott’s “assassination of his leader” (that’s before B.E.R. took over!) was countered by the Rudd government. They seemed simply “too busy” to take the Australian people with them. It was a huge mistake.
Julia Gillard is right to raise awareness of climate science and its evidence. She is right to seek national consensus on climate change. Without it, as governments come and go, so will the best intentions and actions to combat this scourge. To act now without wider and more potent consensus, in spite of what is a very vociferous minority, would be political suicide.

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