Can I really even make a difference?
January 5, 2020 11:18 PM   Subscribe

The number one worry of Australians is climate change, according to the Australia Talks National Survey. On average, people are willing to chip in an extra $200 a year to help prevent climate change - which would add up to just over $4 billion per year. Here's some ideas about how that money could make a difference.

Richard Denniss (Chief Economist for the Australia Institute), Professor Mark Howden (Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Anna Skarbek (CEO of Climate Works Australia) and Kate Mackenzie (Centre for Policy Development) have some fantastic ideas about what could be done with that amount of money - which is already more than double what the Federal Government spends on cutting greenhouse emissions (a futile goal given all the emissions coming from the bushfires).

And while these are just ideas, there is a practical thing you can do to help: invest your super ethically.

For those of you wondering what super is.
posted by Athanassiel (24 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I absolutely hate that they're looking down a road of partnerships with private industry, because my uni already helps Rio Tinto greenwash their brand, but some of the ideas suggested and the ways the information is presented might be useful if people are struggling to imagine how we could begin to reshape our economy.
posted by Acid Communist at 12:49 AM on January 6 [6 favorites]


I should move my super. But I do not want to think about my super, let alone make a decision about it that I might regret. I would pay $200 not to have to think about my super. I would pay much more not to have to worry about climate change.
posted by kjs4 at 1:08 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Speaking of super, we could fund transition to 100% renewable energy with about 7.7% of Australia's currently invested super, according to research ultimately done at the place I used to work, in the interest of disclosure.
posted by Merus at 3:50 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


The number one worry of Australians is climate change, according to the Australia Talks National Survey.

Meh.

In only one election in our history, over a decade ago (2007), did Australian voters strongly support a government prepared to act sanely on climate change. It didn't last, and we have just gone rapidly downhill on it since, electing hard right, hardcore denier governments for the last 3 elections, including in May last year.

I'll believe my fellow Aussies take climate change seriously when they actually start voting for politicians and parties that do accept the science on it and will do something about it.

So don't feel sorry for us, at all. We have failed to even do basic preparation and adaption for climate change, as these catastrophic bushfires have starkly revealed, and we sure as shit have not made any serious attempt at becoming carbon neutral. We have just stuck our heads in the sand and voted Denial.

This is the kick up the arse we need and deserve. Question is will it be enough?

Bet you won't read that story in the Murdoch media.
posted by Pouteria at 4:27 AM on January 6 [28 favorites]


$200/yr LOL, that's $4 a week.

How much per week have rents gone up since 2000? Home prices have risen ~$500/week since 19961!

Australia is a nation of a mere 25 million and thus can do very little behavior change to bend the climate curve down.
India adds a new Australia of people every year!

Biggest thing they could change would be stop selling coal to people. Good luck with that!
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:15 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Or, and hear me out, we could reappropriate that money from the handful of people on Earth who have hundreds of billions of dollars to their names
posted by captain afab at 6:58 AM on January 6 [27 favorites]


Fixed:
The number one worry of Australians ABC viewers/listeners is climate change.
posted by valetta at 7:25 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


We need sin taxes at the demand source of the problem, and not just leave it to sentiments. The revenue subsidizes options, polices and measures the problem, and compensates any direct victims of the tax as it phases out their business.
posted by Brian B. at 7:47 AM on January 6


Or, and hear me out, we could reappropriate that money from the handful of people on Earth who have hundreds of billions of dollars to their names

Yes this! And from any of the 100 corporations who are doing the bulk of poisoning the earth.

I completely get that individual Aussies may feel partly responsible for contributing to this situation, and yeah, we all have a part to play. But it's weird to me how "tax the living hell out of the worlds biggest polluters/nationalise them/shut them down" is so seldom included in the options presented to the general public. I'm tired of the same moneyed interests who control the media pushing this narrative that its "overpopulation" or using plastic straws that got us here. It's almost as if they have profit margins to protect or something.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:09 AM on January 6 [11 favorites]


But it's weird to me how "tax the living hell out of the worlds biggest polluters/nationalise them/shut them down" is so seldom included in the options presented to the general public.

Among the people I know who are climate activists their logic is that were we able to eliminate the worst 100, etc., things would change so dramatically for people that it would be better and easier to get everyone to elect to make some/most of those choices (stop flying altogether, electric/no vehicles, solar, zero waste, etc.) first and just starve those who profit from them.

If we taxed the profitability of fossil fuel production to the point it was revenue neutral, a really large segment of people would support nationalization before supporting elimination.
posted by 99_ at 9:37 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


There are about 35,000 employees of the coal industry in Australia. With $4 billion you could pay all of them more than $100,000 a year just to go on permanent holiday.

Of course that would be sad for coal mine owners.
posted by JackFlash at 11:28 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


"$200/yr LOL, that's $4 a week....Australia is a nation of a mere 25 million and thus can do very little behavior change to bend the climate curve down. India adds a new Australia of people every year!"

But, I mean, that's the entire point of the article... What good could be done even with that (comparatively) small amount of money? Turns out, quite a bit.

I quite enjoyed how the article was presented with all the dots (representing dollars) moving around.

Nice share!
posted by Phreesh at 12:51 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


But it's weird to me how "tax the living hell out of the worlds biggest polluters/nationalise them/shut them down" is so seldom included in the options presented to the general public.

It’s not weird at all. The industries have spent a large amount of money to buy our government for this very reason.

Well, it’s a large amount of money in political donations terms. In absolute terms it’s pocket change. Our politicians are pissants in every way and have sold themselves for lunch money.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:16 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Thanks for this. We need to stop telling ourselves we can’t do anything about this, or that somebody else should be doing it, and start thinking about what we CAN do, even if it seems small.
posted by rpfields at 2:54 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Some useful stats in this report.

As of 2017-2018, 6% of Australian energy consumption was renewable.

Net fossil fuel exports (primarily LNG & Coal) were appoximately twice the total value in energy of local consumption. The obvious option then is to reduce energy exports as this is 2/3rds of the problem.

Reducing exports isn't going to be easy financially as coal exports are worth 67 billion dollars annually and LNG exports are worth 49 billion dollars annually. Not all of this money will stay in the country due to foreign ownership but the majority will.

To give you an idea of how large an amount of money this is for a country Australia's size the military budget is 34 billion and the entire healthcare industry is approximately 180 billion.

When the public appetite for climate change mitigation isn't even in the same order of magnitude as the costs of real attempts at addressing it you're going to see a lot of window dressing.
posted by zymil at 4:28 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Valetta makes an important edit. ABC viewers are generally lefties. Their polls are interesting but hardly representative. Unfortunately.
posted by kitten magic at 6:48 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


"isn't going to be easy financially"

How much of your country has to be on fire before doing nothing stops being easy financially?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:47 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


How much of your country has to be on fire before doing nothing stops being easy financially?

Apparently more than all of it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:55 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Yes, ABC viewers/listeners are generally lefties and sure, their poll isn't necessarily representative of all Australians even though they presented it as if it were. That isn't actually the point of the article or the post - the point is, that the average amount of money ABC LEFTY TREE HUGGING CHARDONNAY SWILLERS would be willing to donate could still add up to a considerable amount that could make a difference in any number of ways (bearing in mind some of those polled were not willing to donate anything at all - these are possibly the ones who only listen to the ABC when there's a bushfire and they're trying to evacuate).

In times like these when vast swathes of the country are on fire and people are feeling like they need to be able to make a difference, that more needs to be done to fight climate change on both governmental and individual levels, it can be really easy to get discouraged and feel like it is such an enormous problem that there is nowhere to start and thus not bother doing anything. I am as cynical and nihilistic as the best of them, but even so I sometimes get sick to death of the common Australian attitude of cutting down tall poppies, taking the piss out of things and casually dismissing efforts at positive change in favour of taking a cheap swipe at someone's politics. There's a time and place and this is not it. We need to do better. This article suggests some ways that could happen and how much it would cost. Feel free to think of more and actually do something.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:56 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, the amount I said I'd be willing to put forward is way more than the average, I did think there were lots of good ideas but I couldn't read them all as the format of the article is unbearable for my disability. I've voted Greens my entire life, I don't have children because we don't need more people, I don't drive and I wasn't swiping at anyone's politics (they are mine!) but considering the international audience I felt it was a worthwhile thing to note for the broader community. Sorry I didn't respond in the way you feel suitable and thanks for assuming I don't do anything.
posted by kitten magic at 10:23 PM on January 7


Great, good for you! I vote Greens, don't have kids and try to do things toward making the world a better place, especially if it's not terribly difficult for me because a) I'm lazy and b) I have disabilities. But I feel like I need to do more - if only to make up for the people who are happy in the land of denial - and I am pretty sure I am not alone. Given Metafilter also trends left, particularly on the issue of climate change, I'd assume anyone reading this post already does something. And your comment made it pretty clear you are sympathetic to ABC viewers and their politics - so I wasn't actually calling you out, except in as much as I am calling all of us out.

I do think there is a tendency among left-leaning people to get so (understandably) frustrated at making attempt after attempt to make a difference and see it go nowhere, and to consequently become bitter and cynical and stop trying. Ask me how I know. If this hasn't happened to you, more power to you - and please let me in on your secret.

Many of the ideas in the article were interesting to read about, but probably not something anyone can do at an individual level (unless you are incredibly rich). The idea at the end, after all the fancy graphics, about trying to invest your super more ethically, is something anyone can do at an individual level. I am sorry about the fancy graphics making it difficult to read - if you are interested, I am happy to copy the text into a plain doc and send it to you.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:34 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I found this article about how 2020 could be the last election that is not about climate change oddly uplifting.
posted by rpfields at 8:37 AM on January 8


That's very kind of you to offer. I have it book marked and I'll be ok once I'm back at work on the desktop - it's the endless scrolling it required that broke me (hands are a mess with RA)

Unfortunately I don't have the secret. I think I'm more bitter and cynical now it's so talked about than I ever was because it's so galling to have these former smug liberal voters suddenly be all 'omg, things are bad!'. Like no shit Sherlock, all those years you mocked me for being a greenie I did know what I was talking about. And it's their kids who will suffer, not mine. I think my New Years resolution needs to be switching my thinking from 'duh' to 'ok, you're late to the party but yay, you're here!'

The super issue is something I can and will look at asap.
posted by kitten magic at 5:02 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]




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