Saturday, October 17, 2015
Saturday Morning Musings - Big ships, Carmichael and environmental processes
To begin with, what do you think of this cruise ship? My reaction was negative, I must say. I didn't want to sail on her! I guess because its so big, so garish, so cumbersome.
On reading this story in the New York Times, my first reaction was that the US had become ungovernable. My second reaction was a feeling of relief that I did not live there.
Meantime, the BBC has joined in on the debate over US Democratic Presidential Bernie Sander's praise of Denmark. This is a debate I plan to join! However, as an opening salvo, were it not for my perception that Australia had become more socially conformist than the Scandinavian countries but without the benefits, I would have argued that I found the Scandinavian pressures towards conformity personally cloying.
The Canadian elections are Monday. In the UK, Mr Cameron's win was unexpected, given the polling. The Canadian polls have been all over the place, showing a three way tie for much of the time. Now the Liberals are in front, the NDP down. Given the UK results, people are asking whether or not the UK experience might be replicated in Canada, giving Conservative leader Stephen Harper an unexpected electoral victory.
In Canada as in the UK, a first past the post system operates in the lower house. This makes the geographic distribution of party support very important. The NDP has moved from front runner to third because of the sudden decline in its support in Quebec.I won't weep tears of blood if Mr Harper loses. He is to much like Tony Abbott for my liking. Interestingly, Australian electoral strategist Lynton Crosby is reported to have ditched Mr Harper.
Carmichael coal mine had received environmental approval is likely to generate another round of legal challenges, It's been interesting watching this one, for it draws out the confusions that abound in this area, the way that those involved in the dispute mix together whatever will support their case at a point.
Mine promoter Ardani may or may not be in financial trouble, the mine may or may not be uneconomic. My feeling is that both are problematic.However, these are commercial questions. I suspect that regardless of commercial uncertainties, Ardani has to push ahead through the approval phases despite the cost to the company. Otherwise, it has no asset and will have to crystalise all costs as losses. Hardly an attractive prospect. In the meantime, those opposed to the mine use the commercial uncertainties to attack the projected benefits used to justify the project.
In the end, arguments here can only be resolved here through practice. If the project is uneconomic, it will fall over. However, to those who want it blocked full stop, this is simply an unacceptable risk. This leads to my next point.
Many of those opposed are opposed to any coal project on what we might call global grounds, the addition of CO2 to the atmosphere. This is a perfectly legitimate position, but it also leads to attacks on projects that actually have little to do with the project itself, that will take and press any point that might defeat or at least delay the project. We can debate the end of coal mining as a major issue, but when this global view is in play one should beware of the project specific arguments used.
Beyond these arguments, we have a variety of more specific and local arguments of varying degrees of validity that are used by and play into debates triggered by the major protagonists. Most of us have no chance of understanding these beyond recognising that all are at risk of special pleading.
The Carmichael case raises a variety of issues that I have tried to address previously about the nature of decision processes, the questions of what things require decisions, how those decisions are made. For the moment, I note that Carmichael is an example of the rise of what is called issues politics, the replacement of decisions guided by general principles with an issue by issue approach.
Finally, and just for reference purposes and later discussion, I thought that you might find this Australian story on the sadness of true believers interesting.