Abbott’s “direct action” frame and carbon pricing

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Tony Abbott has used his “direct action” plan as the counterpoint to Labor’s carbon price plan.

Apart from the obvious purpose of “direct action” being Abbott’s desire to directly transfer hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds to private hands, his proposal should fail the “common sense” test.

Climate change is like a fire – it is getting out of control and threatens our safety. The Australian Government (and other Governments) are like firefighters. It can take action by putting the fire out promptly before it gets to big and dangerous, or it could waste time until its too late. The Liberal Party and Tony Abbott (and the Republicans in the USA) are like fire fighters who don’t believe that fire exists. They can’t possibly get the fire under control.

The various policy tools being proposed are like fire extinguishers.

The carbon price is very broad, and affects the entire economy. It’s like lots of fire extinguishers aimed at the fire, so it doesn’t matter if you’re very accurate – you just point it at the fire. Lots of the fire gets extinguished and it makes it easier for other efforts (like fire blankets, water hoses – or energy efficiency and renewable energy targets) to work.

Fire extinguisher and climate change

Direct action on the other hand is very narrow. It only affects one part of the fire, so if it’s not aimed at the hottest, most intense part of the fire, or the part of the fire closest to combustible fuels, then it won’t have any affect at all. Direct action means its harder for other measures (like fire blankets or water) to work because it’s too hot and intense to get to the fire.

One fire extinguisher against a large fire doesn't work - direct action and climate change

Direct action won’t work to stop climate change, just like a single fire extinguisher won’t put out a large fire.

Of course, Tony Abbott supports climate change because of his extreme authoritarian conservatism. Direct action is based on the system of rewards and punishments. In the George Lakoff formulation, Tony Abbott is the “strict father figure” who needs to personally act to solve the problem: rewarding businesses who behave and punishing those who don’t.

It’s the role of Government to ensure that we’re safe. By ignoring the fire or proposing measures that won’t put it out, Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party and Republicans are putting us all in danger.

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