Review

High & Dry

His argument is compelling; his words powerful.

High & Dry: John Howard, Climate Change and the Selling of Australia's Future

Product details

Product name: High & Dry: John Howard, Climate Change and the Selling of Australia's Future

Reviewer: Rosaleen Love

Author: Guy Pearse

Publisher: Viking

Price: $35.00

Size: 480 pages

G Rating:

5

Strange weather we're having these days.

The scientific evidence for global climate change mounts daily, with water shortages, rising temperatures, extreme weather events and more species facing extinction.

Strange weather, stranger times.

Why is it, Guy Pearse asks in High and Dry, that given the overwhelming scientific evidence, Australia, under John Howard, seems absolutely committed to doing the wrong thing?

Instead of cutting greenhouse emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, as scientists advise, Australia is on track to increase its emissions by 70 per cent.

Who wants this? Polls show the Australian public wants action to curb emissions. Many businesses also urge a major shift towards reduction. Yet, according to Pearse, these voices are not heard in Canberra.

Instead polluters and their lobbyists have captured John Howard's greenhouse agenda to the exclusion of all else.

I read this book in increasing indignation. I remember reporting on the national conference Greenhouse '87, when CSIRO scientists showed climate change was a reality and urged immediate action. Then, the Australian government agreed, and sponsored a huge public awareness campaign, Greenhouse '88.

Pearse shows what went wrong over the ensuing two decades. As a Liberal Party member and former Howard government advisor, Pearse once worked within the political system he dissects.

His research is based on extensive interviews with 56 people prominent in the policy debate. Members of the self-styled "greenhouse mafia" come over as chillingly complacent about their unfettered control of Australia's future as they are ignorant of climate science.

Pearse traces where the money comes from, and where it goes.

Pearse puts forward the view that collectively, the lobbyists have been extraordinarily successful. In 2002, Australia refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol. John Howard's government abandoned the ethical precept that developed countries should initiate emissions reductions. Liberal politicians stopped talking about Australia's emissions, and started talking about global emissions. Rhetoric replaced science.

He unfolds a damning story of power and intrigue, where self-interest masquerades as the public good.

His argument is compelling; his words powerful.

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