Last weekend, Australians reelected their conservative government against all expectations. The race, like many that have taken place in the United States in the last 20 years, illustrated that voters’ concern for the environment doesn’t translate to support for environmentalists.
Yes, everyone wants a clean environment. But that doesn’t mean they will accept the crazed policies of today’s green left, which views the planet’s supposedly imminent demise as a good excuse to impose socialism.
Australia’s Labor Party campaigned heavily on higher taxes and cuts to greenhouse emissions. Their program was typical of such a platform, involving higher energy prices, huge subsidies for unproven and politically favored forms of green power, and inevitable cutbacks in economically sustainable manufacturing and mining that currently sustain many jobs.
Of course, such policies hold forth no promise of reducing global temperatures, and they are certain to destroy the livelihoods of many while enriching a small number of politically connected cronies. But this is how the green left imposes its will and assuages its feelings about an ailing planet.
Labor had held a clear lead in the polls over the incumbent conservatives for three years. And because Australia had a hot summer (it happens from time to time), the media backed up their global warming message with the typical “climate-is-weather” narrative, a fallacy that environmentalists are happy to indulge in when it helps them exaggerate the imminent threat posed by climate change.
But Australian voters, more preoccupied with practical concerns, were having none of it. They instead voted for the party promising to pursue a policy of cheaper energy and to keep a steady hand on Australia’s long-booming economy. And they didn’t just return the supposedly unpopular minority conservative government to power, but they gave them additional seats and a full majority.
One might conclude that Australians have learned the futility of empty feel-good environmentalist policies by watching the example of three larger countries.
The first is the U.S., which from a regulatory and legal perspective has done almost nothing to limit carbon emissions. Its emissions having peaked last decade, the U.S. is leading the world in carbon reduction, thanks almost entirely to its rapid shift from coal to cheaper, cleaner, and more abundant natural gas. Renewables, despite costing American taxpayers and ratepayers billions, have played very little role in this.
The American experience has shown that fracking, the gas production method that environmentalists have tried so hard to ban, has accomplished more in five years to reduce global greenhouse emissions than all the activity of all environmentalists in world history, and without the drawbacks of environmentalist policies.
The second country to look to is France. We refer not to the yellow jacket uprising against its green fuel tax (although that too is relevant), but to the critical moment in 1974 when the French moved three quarters of their electrical generation to nuclear power. It was a prescient decision that today has France generating electricity at very low cost and exporting $3 billion worth to its neighbors annually. France’s carbon footprint is almost nonexistent, and the French enjoy cheap, abundant energy as a result.
During the campaign just concluded, Australian Labor’s operatives and candidates were quick to praise themselves for their supposedly courageous opposition to nuclear power and to criticize the conservative government’s support for it. But any nation serious about eliminating carbon emissions has no serious alternative to nuclear in the long run.
The third country to look to is China, whose 1.4 billion residents emit more on aggregate than the U.S. and the European Union combined. Along with India, China’s carbon footprint will only grow in the next decade and likely in the next two.
In reelecting their conservative government and rejecting an environmentalist scare campaign, Australians did not deny that man-made global warming is real. Rather, they chose against a policy of pointlessly wearing hair shirts to exhibit their anguish about it.
And good for them.
As U.S. voters weigh policies such as the Green New Deal, they would be wise to take a lesson from their friends Down Under.