Thursday, August 06, 2015

Climate Change: Human Behaviour and Economic Modelling


Here are two practical and useful lectures about climate change for those of us who take the time to discuss such things with other people.

These talks have given me some incredibly quotable ideas, and I have used the arguments in Carmen Lawrence's talk for five years now to understand this issue.

How to win a fight about the budget: How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate

A public lecture by Richard Denniss, Chief Economist, The Australia Institute

The Federal Budget and much economic discussion is based on economic modelling. People who use economic models want you to think that modelling is boring. The last thing they want you to do is to pay attention. Economic models claim an amazing degree of precision and this is used by the people who commission them to build a case for their preferred policies and projects.

The recent Intergenerational Report (IGR) used modelling to scare the public into accepting that we can never afford to tackle climate change or spend more on health. But this modelling rests on ridiculous assumptions – like that income-tax rates will be cut every year between 2020 and 2055. In this lecture, Dr Richard Denniss discussed how economic modelling has been used and abused on a range of issues.

Essay: Spreadsheets of power: How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate by Richard Denniss in The Monthly

What we need to know about ourselves to deal with climate change

Winthrop Professor Carmen Lawrence, Director, Centre for the Study of Social Change, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia

Scientific evidence indicates that climate change is the result of rising levels of greenhouse gases which are, in turn, due to human behaviours, such as burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. Equally, many of the recommendations to reduce these emissions and to facilitate adaptation to a changed climate depend on people changing their behaviour. From changing our patterns of settlement to modifying our diets, there is no doubt that we need to change - and on a scale that has never before been contemplated.

Yet the scientists who study human behaviour and societies have not been part of the global debate about climate change and how to deal with it. In this lecture, Carmen Lawrence explored why this must be remedied and outline what we know – and need to know - about human psychology (including our occasional irrationality) to make any progress in crafting workable solutions to the problem of climate change.
MORE LECTURES
STEM and the human atom
Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia, gave a lecture on the need for a Scientific Enterprise for Australia to provide leadership in schools, universities, industry and government to encourage and utilize STEM graduates was timely and challenging.

Lyn Beazley, WA Chief Scientist, gave a lecture that was informative, inspiring and grand in scale; it took the concept of vision and mapped out one of many knowledge trajectories from the photoreceptors of human and animal eyes through the advances in Australian bionic eye technology to looking at the stars and talking to Indigenous Australians about the Milky Way.
OTHER THOUGHTS ON AUSTRALIAN POLITICS
It's Time
Australia has three major political parties, each backed by their own training and voting block: the Australian Greens have the Environmental and Activist movements, Labor has the Unions and the Liberal Party has the business sector.

The largest population in Australia without a voice is women; our very urgent needs for parity, safety and leaders are being ignored and wound back, our leadership is locked out of power and as voters we are unable to direct our vote to a party that champions us.

Australian women do, however, have an established and proven mentorship and training ground for female candidates to gain political experience and female voters to gain access to candidates to influence policy; the Country Women's Association.
Not our circus, not our monkeys
So, women of Australia, take thee to the CWA, become involved with all manner of practical local politics, all manner of women as mentors and all manner of consulting to Government, and participate in politics on your terms.

Find your own policies, build your own campaign teams, field your own candidates and vote for the candidates who have the best vision for new politics you can find. You are the only people who can build the future, because the existing systems are dying, and trying to take us all down with them.

And for all of our sakes, be militantly inclusive; as 51% of the Australian population, the women of Australia include Indigenous Australians, refugees/immigrants, the LGBTIQ community and anyone who has additional access and medical requirements. Our new politics must include everyone excluded from the current systems so our votes and candidates count the first time, and into the future.
Fighting Winter with Summer
I credit the 1% with being fully aware of the impending water and energy conflicts, and it is clear from their actions that they are taking the requisite steps to survive while preventing the population from taking the same steps. Unfortunately their pride and entitlement will never allow them to consider the fact that their place in the 1% means nothing to the environment. Water and energy do not obey, and never have obeyed, the forces of nations, economies and capitalism.
Textbook
Anyone who thinks they can argue for 21st Century Climate Aware action with 20th Century Climate Ignorant ideologies is going to be pulled back into historical patterns of conflict and paralysis, which is exactly where the Government and their corporate partners want their population.
Ask for me tomorrow
The current Australian Government makes announcements that destabilise the news cycle, and these announcements come in two forms:

1. An outrageous suggestion designed to let opponents react with scorn and satire, but neither suggestion nor satire achieves anything but noise, and a false sense of protest for those who did not vote for this current Australian Government.

2. A very real threat that opponents cannot ignore, but is sure to be withdrawn or watered down once it has short circuited the news cycle and wasted the time and resources of those who did not vote for this current Australian Government.