Historical #climate cons –What we can learn from Big Brother and the chocolate rations

“Winston was smoking a Victory Cigarette which he held carefully horizontal. The new ration did not start till tomorrow and he had only four cigarettes left. For the moment he had shut his ears to the remoter noises and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. Parsons swallowed it easily, with the stupidity of an animal. The eyeless creature at the other table swallowed it fanatically, passionately, with a furious desire to track down, denounce, and vaporize anyone who should suggest that last week the ration had been thirty grammes.”
Chapter 5 of 1984 by George Orwell

It’s not just in comedy totalitarian dictatorships that governments cut programmes then big themselves up for soon after “increasing” provision.  In November 1997, shortly before the third annual United Nations climate conference (the infamous Kyoto one), the then Australian Prime Minister John Howard gave a speech in Parliament called “Safeguarding the Future: Australia’s Response to Climate Change,” and claimed it was the “largest and most far-reaching package of measures to address climate change ever undertaken by any Government in Australia.”

Climate commentator Clive Hamilton (2001:81) called it “an eleventh-hour attempt to boost Australia’s negotiating credibility, as it was apparent to everyone at home and abroad that Australia was doing almost nothing to restrain the growth in emissions.”

And, to channel the spirit of Winston Smith, here is what Greens Senator Bob Brown had to say;

A$65 million for renewable energy over five years… does not even retrieve the A$75 million (over five years) lost when the Energy Research and Development Corporation and Renewable Energy Industry Programs were abolished…. The target of an extra 2%of electricity from renewables (making a total of 11% including current large-scale hydro electricity generation) compares miserably with international standards (e.g. Britain’s target of 20% from renewables by 2010)… There are no targets for energy efficiency… There is no move to halt clearing of native vegetation which accounts for 23% of emissions.
(Brown, 1997)

Imagine a carbon footprint, stamping on a human face. Forever.

Brown, R. (1997), PM’s Greenhouse Package – 18% Increase! Media Release, Australian Senate, 20 November 1997 cited in Taplin and Yu, 2000: 104, in Gillespie A. and Burns, W. (eds)  (2000) Climate Change in the South Pacific: Impacts and Responses in Australia, New Zealand, and Small Island States Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers

Hamilton, C. (2001) Running from the Storm : The Development of Climate Change Policy in Australia Sydney: UNSW Press

See also – Taylor, L. 1997. Cabinet to look at new tack on climate change. The Australian Financial Review, 15 September, p. 5.

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