Australian Politics 2020-09-12 15:47:00
Biden's radical climate change plan could be far reaching
It's just a desperate play for attention and relevance. It would need the co-operation of both houses of Congress to happen so it's just not going to happen. Congress is a notorious lead weight on change of any sort
If he did get some part of it through Congress, its destructive results would soon become obvious and there would be a massive loss for the Donks at the mid-terms, possibly enough to override a presidential veto to corrective legislation
The article below is from a Leftist source. Even they can see the risks
The fire season has just begun in the United States and already it has left the nation staggered by its ferocity. In California alone almost a million hectares have burnt so far, though conflagrations are being fought in 12 other states.
This week the temperature reached an all time record of 49.4 degrees in one Los Angeles suburb and the skies of San Francisco darkened to blood red throughout long hot days. News reports are full of clips of horrified residents saying that they thought they knew the risks of wildfires, but that nothing prepared them for this.
Asked if he had ever witnessed such conditions, the renowned climate scientist Michael Mann said during a radio interview this week: “Yeah, well I was on sabbatical in Sydney during what they now call the Black Summer fires… and it had that same sort of haunting orange hue. And it is the same phenomenon; unprecedented heat and drought last summer gave them unprecedented fires.
“We’re seeing the same thing happen in California, as we warned - as we have long warned - we would see if we continue to warm the planet by polluting the atmosphere with carbon pollution.”
In another time this might have prompted the sort of searing national debate over the need to properly tackle climate change that broke out here in Australia before the rolling catastrophes of 2020 diverted our attention.
But the US is not only battling a pandemic and the consequential economic collapse but relentless civil strife supercharged by a poisonous election campaign.
As a result, Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s adoption of what some consider to be the most ambitious climate change action plan ever put forward by a major party of a major nation has attracted far less attention than it probably deserves.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, one of many on the party's left who had opposed Biden on environmental grounds and who have now embraced his candidacy, described Biden’s plan as visionary.
“This is not a status quo plan,” he told The New York Times in July. “It is comprehensive. This is not some sort of, ‘Let me just throw a bone to those who care about climate change'.”
At the heart of Biden’s climate change package is a determination to decarbonise the nation’s electricity system by 2035 before reaching net-zero carbon emissions for the entire economy by 2050.
To achieve this Biden would spend US$2 trillion on research for new green technology, new clean infrastructure and retrofitting existing buildings across the nation for energy efficiency.
He would direct all government procurement towards green technology, including electronic vehicles, and fund a Civilian Climate Corp similar to the Works Progress Administration established as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal", established to help the nation lift itself out of the Great Depression.
By comparison, after the 2008 financial crisis the Obama administration secured $90 billion for renewable energy in what is so far the largest single piece of climate change legislation passed in the US.
And Biden’s ambitions go beyond US borders. The plan would see him integrate climate policy into US foreign trade and national security strategies. According to policy documents, the US under a Biden presidency would lead an effort to “to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets”.
So significant is the potential for the plan that the global energy research consultancy Wood Mackenzie recently published a paper saying that a Biden loss would end any chance the US has of decarbonising its economy by 2050.
According to its analysis the plan would see “capital investments in renewable energy and energy storage assets top US$2.2 trillion through 2035. Utility-scale solar demand will soar to over 100 GW/yr, while battery storage capacity will surpass 400 GW - nearly 40 per cent of the total installed power generating capacity of the US in 2020. Coal-fired generation will exit the market in its entirety”.
Wood Mackenzie research director Dan Shreve believes the plan is so ambitious that it “teeters between achievable and aspirational but the backing of energy sector giants could tip the balance and once again establish the US as a leader in the fight against climate change”.
Either way, its scope would upend the US energy sector, and players wishing to thrive in it would need to plan for possible partnerships with - and acquisitions of - upstart storage providers, renewable energy developers and green hydrogen technology suppliers, says the Wood Mackenzie paper.
The international implications of the plan are equally significant says Matto Mildenberger, a University of California professor of political science who specialises in climate policy.
He notes that on their own either China, the European Union or the US has the power to drive down technology costs and shift markets through their sheer market size and force. Operating in concert that process accelerates.
So will it happen?
Mildenberger notes that Biden would not only have to win the White House, but Democrats would need to take the Senate, and then Biden would need to make climate change action central to his first-term agenda.
Mildenberger believes that the will within the administration might be there, as the climate change package is as much an economic stimulus policy as it is an environmental one.
The echoes of Roosevelt's 'New Deal' are no mistake, and much of the plan has been repurposed from the Green New Deal proposed by left-wing congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Indeed one of that plan’s chief architects, Julian Brave NoiseCat, is one of many on the left now backing Biden as a result.
It appears clear that Biden is seeking to use his climate policy as a vehicle to unite his party before the election and tackle compounding social, environmental and economic crises after it.
“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is ‘hoax',” Biden said in a speech last month. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs'.”
Mildenberger, who has written at length about global and Australian climate politics, believes that a Biden presidency would immediately change the tone of climate diplomacy because Trump’s lack of action has given cover to interest groups and politicians seeking to derail climate policy around the world.
He says Trump has given the Morrison government "cover" to this end just as the Howard government "hid behind" George W. Bush.
This international reset could prove to be critical as the world prepares for next year’s delayed United Nations climate meeting in Glasgow, known as COP26 (the 26th meeting of the UN Conference of Parties). At that meeting nations are expected to reveal more ambitious emissions reduction goals in keeping with scientific advice on the volume of reductions required to keep global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius.
Australia's former top climate diplomat, Howard Bamsey, who led negotiations at a number of COPs, says that Australia would already have been under pressure from the UK, which is determined to host a successful meeting. That pressure will only be increased by a climate activist White House.
But he notes that Australia has proved willing to pay a diplomatic price for its recalcitrance on the issue in the past.
Bamsey, now a professor with the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, says he does not believe that the world would change suddenly for Scott Morrison should Biden win in November, but that pressure for increased Australian ambition would slowly mount over the year leading up to the Glasgow meeting.
Australia would not only feel pressure to increase its ambition from a Biden White House, should he win, says Bamsey, but from the UK which would be determined to host a successful COP meeting.
Perhaps even more significantly, Mildenberger says that should Biden win there is a chance that China and the US could resume co-operation over the issue, a partnership that was crucial to the success of the Paris agreement. (Bamsey is sceptical on this point.)
But even if all that was to fall into place he is no longer convinced that an orderly decarbonisation of the world’s economy is now possible.
“We needed to act 10 years ago for that,” he says. “But the Biden plan offers real hope that we can prevent the worst of climate change.”
Was Australia's crippling lockdown based on a MONUMENTAL stuff-up? How a critical error used to justify shutting down the economy and keeping millions of people at home went unnoticed - until now
Australia was plunged into strict lockdown at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic based on incorrect figures and a massive over-estimation of how many patients would require ICU treatment.
Research by The Peter Doherty Institute had estimated a peak daily demand of 35,000 intensive care beds would be required in the scenario of an uncontrolled outbreak in Australia.
But the modelling had confused ICU admissions with the number of people who would need to be taken to hospital during the pandemic.
As a result, New South Wales hospitals were predicted to be hit with 12,000 ICU patients rather than the 3,000 admissions the modelling had meant to show.
The data was used by the federal government to justify nationwide business shutdowns, border closures and social distancing restrictions when the virus took hold in Australia in March.
Then-Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said at the time the figures forecast an 'horrendous scenario' with a 'daily demand for new intensive care beds of 35,000-plus'.
He said such a demand would be 'completely beyond the realm of any country to create'.
The Doherty Institute's Professor Jodie McVernon said the modelling mistake - which was published in April - was noticed in June and the government was notified, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Disease modelling experts at James Cook University in Queensland noticed the error when they discovered a large discrepancy in predicted ICU admissions between different parts of Australia.
James Cook University infectious diseases physician Emma McBryde claimed her researchers had told the Doherty Institute of the mistake and the organisation said the error would be corrected.
But she claimed no revision had been made three months later. 'Leaving something inaccurate uncorrected on the public record is pretty close to research misconduct,' she said. 'I strongly believe we lock down too hard.'
Tracing the dangerous rise and rise of woke warriors
At last comes an attempt to explain the extraordinary origins of the cultural revolution of our times — the onslaught against the liberal order by woke crusaders waging a zero-sum struggle in the cause of racial, sexual, gender, disability and other identities across our institutions.
For many Australians the new culture seems to have erupted from outside their experience — almost from another planet — yet its momentum is immense and it is winning acceptance among leaders, public servants, corporations, schools, not-for-profits and most notably in our universities.
What is the meaning of this cultural revolution? Where did it come from?
Like all revolutions it began with a body of ideas that fermented over decades, but there is no doubting the purpose of these ideas — the dismantling of universal liberalism based on respect for each person regardless of identity. On display in Australia, North America and Britain is a common occurrence in history, where in good faith influential leaders and institutional decision-makers are implementing policies without understanding their origins or ultimate purpose as propounded by their intellectual originators.
This is where Helen Pluckrose, a liberal political and cultural writer living in England, and James A. Lindsay, a mathematician and founder of New Discourses, based in Tennessee, come into the picture. They were two of three authors of the Grievance Studies Hoax from 2017 where they submitted bogus and absurd papers to academic journals and were published.
Their aim was to expose the intellectual bankruptcy underpinning the cultural revolution and how far its woke crusaders had departed from science, reason and genuine scholarship. This now becomes a bigger, more serious project, with their book Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender and Identity — and Why This Harms Everybody, published in the US and released in Australia next week.
“The progressive left has aligned itself not with Modernity but with postmodernism which rejects objective truth as a fantasy dreamed up by naive and/or arrogantly bigoted Enlightenment thinkers,” they argue. “Postmodernism has, depending upon your view, either become or given rise to one of the least tolerant and most authoritarian ideologies that the world has had to deal with since the widespread decline of communism and the collapse of white supremacy and colonialism.”
Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, psychologist and public intellectual, said of the book that it “exposes the surprisingly shallow intellectual roots of the movements that appear to be engulfing our culture”. This book is not for the faint-hearted. It seeks to explain where these ideas came from. It should be read by every institutional leader and executive so they understand the ideological goals that lie beneath the policies they are implementing.
The authors trace the academic origins and evolution of each element in the intellectual revolution: postcolonial theory, queer theory, critical race theory and intersectionality, disability and fat studies, and social justice scholarship and thought. The central organising principle of the revolution assumes that humans are defined by a series of identities and that “every interaction, utterance and cultural artefact” slots into a power dynamic where everybody is the oppressed or an oppressor.
Their thesis is the revolution has its origins in postmodernism from the 1960s that saw the individual as a product of culturally constructed knowledge. From this point, there were two leaps forward — the second phase (roughly 1990 to 2010) when the ideas began to be applied and the decisive third phase (from 2010) when Social Justice Theory was asserted as a body of fundamental truth.
The authors say: “Theory has become increasingly confident and clear about its beliefs and goals. We can see its impact on the world in their attacks on science and reason.” The result is a “complete conviction that knowledge is constructed in the service of power which is rooted in identity”.
They write: “Therefore, in Social Justice scholarship, we continually read that patriarchy, white supremacy, imperialism, cisnormativity, heteronormativity, ableism and fatphobia are literally structuring society and infecting everything. They exist in a state of immanence — present always and everywhere, just beneath a nicer-seeming surface that can’t quite contain them.”
Society is seen as simplistically divided into dominant and marginalised identities. But there is one identity largely missing — economic class. It is barely mentioned unless tied into another identity or “intersectionality”. It is, therefore, the authors say, “no surprise that many working class and poor people often feel profoundly alienated from today’s left”.
The cultural revolution is seen by many old-fashioned Marxists as a bourgeois idea. There is one certainty — the more progressives accept this identity-based revolution driven by upper-middle-class scholars and activists, the more the centre-left of politics will splinter.
The foundation of Social Justice scholarship is concern “with what is said, what is believed, what is assumed, what is taught, what is conveyed and what biases are imported”. This means the lived experiences, the emotions and cultural traditions of minority groups must be recognised as “knowledges” and gain status or superiority over reason and evidence-based knowledge.
The authors say: “We find ourselves faced with the continuing dismantlement of categories like knowledge and belief, reason and emotion, and men and women, and with increasing pressures to censor our language in accordance with The Truth According to Social Justice.”
Their chapter on race captures the dilemma. Through the work of many academics Critical Race Theory has developed, arising from the idea of “positionality” — that one’s position in society as determined by group identity dictates how one understands the world and is understood by the world. Hence the dictum that “racism is ordinary, not aberrational” and is the “everyday experience of people of colour” and that “racism is present everywhere and always”.
Pluckrose and Lindsay write of the consequences of Critical Race Theory: “We are told that racism is embedded in culture and that we cannot escape it. We hear that white people are inherently racist. We are told that racism is ‘prejudice plus power’, therefore, only white people can be racist. We are informed that only people of colour can talk about racism, that white people need to just listen.
“We hear that not seeing people in terms of their race (being colour-blind) is, in fact, racist and an attempt to ignore the pervasive racism that dominates society and perpetuates white privilege.”
The influential reader Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic says the Theory “tries not only to understand our social situation but to change it”. The scholarship has its mission of social transformation. Racism, of course, does exist. Where it exists, it is a scourge on society.
But to the extent that Critical Race Theory prevails — to the extent that universities, bureaucracies, institutions and decision-makers accept this doctrine — then examples of racism will expand indefinitely since this is what the Theory dictates. The Theory asks not “Did racism occur?” but rather “How did racism manifest in that situation?” Once this becomes the question, then all organisations are vulnerable to racism accusations.
Because racism is everywhere — from football to business to the arts — Theory demands the task is to reveal its endless forms, and a new layer of managers and inclusion officials are appointed to institutions around the country to do just that.
The upshot is obvious: Australia along with other nations is seen as a more racist country. As Critical Race Theory takes hold, this trend will only intensify. Any individual who fights against the Theory is deemed by the Theory to be racist anyway and will be condemned as racist by activists or the diversity police.
Social Justice Theory, therefore, in the contemporary sense has broken decisively from the various human rights and civil rights campaigns of the 1960s whose aim was to remove discrimination and bigotry and seek to enshrine all individuals in the liberal order. It is easy to assert the failure of this goal but equally easy to overlook the progress that has been made.
Central to the authors’ thesis is the pivotal distinction between Social Justice Theory and genuine social justice as a legitimate philosophy seeking a fairer social order. Many well-intentioned people give up resisting Social Justice Theory fearing they will be branded and punished since it is not easy to defend universal liberal respect for all individuals against those pressing identity politics and claiming to represent social justice. Many liberals, having never before faced these arguments, are incapable of resisting the tide.
The authors examine the impact of Kimberle Crenshaw, the prime architect of intersectionality, the idea that people can be marginalised in multiple ways — by gender, race, sex and other dimensions — seeing her 1991 essay Mapping the Margins as a turning point in elevating identity politics over liberal universalism.
Writing nearly 30 years ago, Crenshaw saw identity politics “as a source of strength” for African-Americans, gays and lesbians but recognised it was “in tension with dominant conceptions of social justice”. The authors see intersectionality as “the seed that would germinate as Social Justice scholarship some 20 years later”.
They say it “does the same thing over and over again: look for the power imbalances, bigotry and biases that it assumes must be present” and assumes that, in every situation, some form of theoretical prejudice exists. In this sense liberal individualism — treating people the same regardless of identity — is seen as “at best, a naivety about the reality of a deeply prejudiced society and at worst, a wilful refusal to acknowledge that we live in that kind of society”.
One of the myths the authors tackle is the frequent claim that individuals who lose their jobs or standing because of woke doctrines represent only a minor problem for society. Many people ask: it’s no big deal, why are we getting so excited? The answer, the authors point out, is that while less than 10 per cent of the population probably espouse these theories, such ideas are becoming dominant across institutions. People leave universities as believers in Social Justice Theory and move into the public and private sectors becoming part of the mission statements of institutions pledging to change their organisational culture. Referring to the situation in Britain, the authors say equity, diversity and inclusion officers are spreading nearly everywhere — schools and universities, the police, large private sector companies, the civil service and local authorities. In Britain “more than 50 per cent of universities restrict speech especially certain views of religion and trans identity”.
Indeed, once universities open the door to Social Justice scholarship and ethics they “completely displace reliable and rigorous scholarship into issues of social justice by condemning all other approaches as complicit with systemic bigotry and thus unthinkable — or, in practice, unpublishable and punishable”.
In a remark relevant to Australia the authors made the general comment: “It is perhaps not surprising that large corporations have caved in so easily to Social Justice pressure. Their overriding goal is, after all, to make money, not to uphold liberal values.” Since most consumers and voters in Western countries support the general idea of social justice — and don’t know the difference between social justice and Social Justice Theory — submission is the easier route.
Meanwhile social justice activists are astute in targeting cultural opinion leaders, often from the left, seeking their compliance; witness incidents involving Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Hart, Matt Damon, Martina Navratilova and J K Rowling.
The future is already here: jobs being filled on the basis of identity, indeed, even being advertised on the basis of identity; demands that actors play characters only from their own identity group; writers being forbidden to “speak into” the oppression of others; and just this week, from Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts defined content rules for films — story content must reflect and feature under-represented groups based on identity politics — so expect more pressure on books, movies, plays and paintings.
The authors, aware they will face a ferocious backlash, make clear they believe in gender, racial and LGBT equality. Nor do they seek to attack universities and scholarship in general. But they offer a devastating indictment of Social Justice Theory.
Indeed, it is guaranteed to accentuate a backlash from right-wing populists. The Theory is getting traction now when times are tough, when liberalism and democracy seem tired — and there is truth enough in this. The power of Social Justice Theory is that it derives from an interpretation of human nature and a theory of society. Radical new ideas appeal, that’s part of the human condition. They always have, but as the authors say, the perfect is the enemy of the good.
Humans are susceptible to utopianism, a big theory that looks good on paper, even if it is authoritarian, fundamentalist and hostile to human nature. The authors say bad theories look good on paper and terrible in practice, witness communism. Yet the journey to such realisation is often decades long. The authors call Social Justice “a nice-looking Theory that, once put into practice, will fail and which could do tremendous damage in the process”. Their central message shines through the book: “Postmodern Theory and liberalism do not merely exist in tension: they are almost directly at odds with one another.”
How long before this central truth is recognised?
The university degrees that almost guarantee you a job, and the ones where you're wasting your fees
It may not be among the most prominent of our tertiary institutions - but Australian Catholic University has come out top in a new survey measuring how readily graduates find jobs.
The 2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey assessed students who finished their studies in 2017 from 79 different institutions.
The survey, which this year had the highest participation rate since it started in 2016, measures not only which institutions did best, but which degrees.
'Three years after graduation, there has been substantial improvement in full-time employment rates across universities so that all universities have full-time employment rates for undergraduates above 81 per cent,' the study said.
Twelve of the universities full-time employment rates increased by 20 per cent over the three-year period.
The courses with the highest employment rates mid-term are:
Medicine - 97.3 per cent
Engineering - 95.4 per cent
Computing and information systems - 92.9 per cent
The courses with the lowest employment rates short-term are:
Science and mathematics - 61.6 per cent
Agriculture and environment studies - 69.2 per cent
Health services and support - 73 per cent
The Australian Catholic University (ACU) has the best employment rate for undergraduates three years after they finish university with 95.5 per cent of students now in full-time jobs.
Next came Australian National University and the nearby University of Canberra.
As well as graduates, ACU also took out the top spot for those who completed their postgraduate studies in 2017.
On the postgraduate score, ACU was top, followed by Federation University Australia and The University of Notre Dame Australia.
In terms of fields of study, medicine graduates performed best, with 97.3 of those with a medical degree being employed three years after completing their course.
Engineering fared almost as well at 96.3 per cent, while mathematics was the third best degree in terms of medium-term employability.
But it was not all good news for STEM graduates, with short-term employability - classed as those in work a year after graduation - being lowest for biology, science technology and general science and mathematics.
The survey found average pay for graduates had risen only marginally when accounting for inflation, from $67,000 in 2016 to $75,000 in 2020.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here