Paul Murphy: The Heat Is On

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From top: Citizens’ Assembly chairperson Justice Mary Laffoy (left) and assembly secretary Sharon Finegan during a presentation on climate change by Dr Connor Murphy (right) in the Grand Hotel, Malahide on September 30, 2017; P{aul Murphy TD

Yesterday, the Joint Committee on Climate Action began public hearings and an examination of the Citizens’ Assembly Report: How the State can make Ireland a Leader in tackling Climate Change

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy is a member of the committee.

Paul writes:.

After the first meeting of the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee, one thing is glaringly obvious. The public, as reflected in the Citizens’ Assembly, are miles ahead of the politicians.

Decisive majorities came out in favour of radical action to deal with climate change: One hundred percent voted for the State to take a lead in tackling climate change; 97% voted for the establishment of a new independent body to ensure that climate change is at the centre of policy-making; and 92% voted that the State should prioritise investment in public transport over road infrastructure.

These and other proposals stand in contrast to the record and policies of the political establishment, including those politicians who spoke at the Committee about the need to ‘educate the public’ – implying that it is a backward public which holds politicians back from taking the action which is needed.

Enda Kenny infamously gave the game away when at the Paris climate talks he declared that climate change simply wasn’t a ‘priority’ for the Irish government.

Under Varadkar, Fine Gael got a new shiny veneer of green. However, the reality remains unchanged, with Ireland second worst in the EU on climate action.

The Science is Clear

There are three essential elements of climate change science. The earth is warming at an unprecedented rate. Human activity is the primary cause of this rise in temperature. The consequences for human society and the natural world will be devastating, unless radical measures of mitigation and adaptation are taken.

The debate on these facts has concluded. We can see this changed reality in the storms, floods, and heatwaves increasing in intensity each year.

However, this reality is denied by the most powerful political figure in the world, Donald Trump, and by a number of TDs.

One of the Committee members, Senator Ian Marshall, seemed to accept that climate change exists, but not that it will have a devastating impact on us all.

He stated that climate change will present “opportunities” for some countries because the melting of polar ice caps would mean an increase in arable land. His conclusion? Ireland didn’t need to try to be a leader in tackling climate change.

It is therefore welcome that the Committee in private session agreed to alter the original work programme to include a session on ‘The Science of Climate Change’. Perhaps Senator Marshall and others might learn something.

Tackling the emitters

Even for those who claim to accept the science of climate change, it doesn’t mean that they are willing to take the action necessary to mitigate it. Doing so means interfering with the right to profit of extremely powerful capitalist interests.

On a global scale, that means taking on the 90 companies responsible for 63% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Ireland, with agriculture as the economic sector with the highest emissions, agri-business is particularly fearful of a serious approach to tackling climate change. How their interests and the interests of Big Oil will be protected was already clear from the first Committee meeting.

Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin was echoed by many others in emphasising an urban – rural divide, suggesting that investment in public transport is all very well, but would not assist rural dwellers who need cars, and arguing that Ireland reducing its beef export would simply mean increased exports from elsewhere.

This is fundamentally a recipe for inaction. It closely echoes the position of establishment parties on Ireland’s role as a corporate tax haven.

In theory, they agree it’s bad, but nonetheless they emphasise that Ireland cannot tackle it alone and instead point to an international agreement in the dim and distant future as an alternative. In the case of climate change, an international (though inadequate) agreement already exists. The issue is implementation.

Climate change simply cannot wait until all countries act simultaneously. For Ireland to do its part we need to slash emissions from transport and agriculture, the two biggest contributors to our overall greenhouse gas emissions.

That means massively investing in public transport to make it free, accessible, and convenient for the vast majority. and shifting to a sustainable model of agriculture.

Those requirements alone point towards the need of breaking out of the framework of neo-liberal capitalism where profit is king, and instead placing people and the environment at the centre of economic planning

But, fundamentally we can’t control what we don’t own. So public ownership of the major sectors of the economy is key to success.

Minimal change or radical eco-socialist change?

Unfortunately, the approach of the political establishment is to accept the logic of capitalism, in effect taking minimal action and accepting some climate change (some destruction, some deaths) is inevitable to ensure the system’s maintenance.

This was seen in the evidence presented by Justice Mary Laffoy, who chaired the Citizens’ Assembly and Professor Alan Barrett of the ESRI.

A revealing admission about the procedure of the Citizens’ Assembly was made by Ms Laffoy.

The Citizens’ Assembly final report says the following about the wording of a particular question for the Assembly

“A number of suggestions were received from Members …. expressing a view that all future renewable energy projects should be publicly State owned, in light of concerns about Ireland’s energy security into the future and a desire to retain ownership of our renewable energy assets.

The Chairperson explained that this could involve complex areas of European Union law including issues such as state aid rules. …[and] deemed inappropriate that the Assembly should vote on this.” [italics added]

Given that the entire report is a set of recommendations, the majority of which require some change of law, I questioned Ms Laffoy’s decision to block the vote on public ownership.

She said this was the “sensible option” and “we can’t change EU law”. In other words, EU law took primacy over the environment even in the Citizens’ Assembly.

The main emphasis of the ESRI presentation was on carbon taxes. As currently implemented, the ESRI accepted that these are regressive – hitting lower income groups harder proportionally than higher income groups. Most importantly, they have a marginal impact at best.

That is because they are focused on improving individuals’ choices, without taking into account that people’s choices aren’t made in a vacuum, but in a capitalist world where the big decisions that shape their lives have already been taken by corporations and governments.

For example, heavy carbon taxes can be imposed, but without the provision of public transport, someone who has to travel to work has no choice but to continue to travel by car.

None of that is to discount the choices that we all need to make to try to help tackle climate change. But it is to emphasise that we also should make the choice to see this problem as a systemic one.

An eco-socialist exit strategy from the nightmare of climate change is needed. My job on the Committee in the next months will be to try to advocate it.

Paul Murphy is Solidarity TD for Dublin South West and member of the Socialist Party. Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulmurphy_TD

Rollingnews

59 thoughts on “Paul Murphy: The Heat Is On

  1. Rob_G

    Paul Murphy wants to stop climate change, but is against carbon taxes because they are ‘regressive’…

    ” Most importantly, they have a marginal impact at best.” – mmm, citation, please.

    Blaming it all on ‘big corporations’ is such a cod – sure, we should all put pressure to on companies ot be more sustainable, but to claim that people are living in an unsustainable manner because capitalism is forcing them to is a handy get-out that allows people to not reflect at all on then fact that their personal choices are destroying the planet.

  2. Leon Down

    Another brainwashed devotee of “the cult of climate change”.

    Notice how he claims “the science is clear” and yet fails to provide any evidence, scientific of otherwise.

    He expects us to take his claims of faith, like a latter day priest sermonising to his flock.

    Notice how he blames emissions and “greenhouse gasses” without any understanding of how the atmosphere works or how he fails to mention the role of the sun in climate.

    https://co2islife.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/who2.png?w=600&zoom=2

    As the above link shows there isn’t even a strong correlation to Global temperature and human CO2 emissions.

    Murphy is not a rational actor here. He is part of a dangerous cult that prides virtue signalling over truth. He will claim taxes change the climate but really – like all good communists – he wants control of the minutiae oi your daily existence.

    Taxes don’t change the climate. Don’t let this liar convince you otherwise.

    So called ‘green-energy’ policies recently brought down the Australian PM because electricity was too expensive and too unreliable.

    The German’s have rejected even more stringent “emissions” targets.

    Trump has led to way in rejecting this false dogma.

    The Paris agreement is on its death bed, and about time too.

    Stop listening to liars on this.

      1. Rob_G

        Amazing, with those two links from a wordpress blog you have overturned the scientific consensus on climate change…

        1. Leon Down

          Amazing how those who claim there is a scientific consensus on man-made climate change never actually produce/show/discuss any of the science they claim is real.

          1. Leon Down

            Boules

            If you have an actual masters then present some science, not a link to discredited globalist IPCC propaganda.

    1. Boules

      @ Leon Down
      You have provided the most idiotic post I have encountered in a very long time.
      Whats more it is dangerous idiocy.

      Climate change due anthropogenic activity is absolutely real and unequivocally happening. Large parts of the planet will become uninhabitable and extreme weather events more severe and more commonplace. In other words people will die, many more will become climate refugees. There will also be mass extinctions.
      So rather than getting your info from one of Trumps tweets you might inform yourself a little and read some scientific reports. You can start with IPCC repots http://www.ipcc.ch/ . These reports are collated from research written by thousands of top scientists from around the world.
      The science is absolutely clear. Study climate modelling. Current climate trends cannot be accounted for without including effects of human activity. That is a fact.
      I have completed a Masters in the subject mater (1.1) and am very well educated on historical and modern climate trends. So please desist from peddling nonsense.
      The fact that you are lauding Trump makes me wonder if you are just a troll. Nevertheless I will ask that you please educate yourself before you comment on subjects that you clearly have no understanding of.

      1. Leon Down

        [OOPS]

        Boules

        If you have an actual masters then present some science, not a link to discredited globalist IPCC propaganda.

        1. Boules

          @ Leon Down

          Did Trump say it was discredited propaganda ? Gosh aren’t we the fools.

          Look you make so little sense I’m not going to waste energy engaging with you.
          But even Trumps beloved NASA recognise that the IPCC reports are correct and unbiased as they are the collation of the findings of hundreds of independent leading scientists from around the world. Put it this way only uneducated idiots do not believe in human induced climate changes.

          In other news the earth is round.

          1. Leon Down

            Hey Boules Mr Masters 1.1, if I were you I’d ask for my money back.

            Did you not learn the scientific method? If the evidence doesn’t support your hypothesis you must abandon your hypothesis.

            Appealing to your own authority fools nobody. Refusing to debate is conceding the debate.

            Good bye.

          2. Papi

            And yet, their credibility is head and shoulders above your half baked nonsense. Imagine that, culchie? Or can you?

  3. Cian

    On a global scale, that means taking on the 90 companies responsible for 63% of greenhouse gas emissions.
    …these 90 companies are mostly fossil-fuel extraction companies. So if you chose to drive to work today rather than cycle? Oh – blame BP – because they extracted the oil for you car.

    1. Leon Down

      And yet human produced CO2 is only a tiny proportion of the natural atmospheric carbon cycle:

      “Present human emissions add an equilibrium level of 18 ppm, which is the product of human carbon dioxide inflow of 4.5 ppm per year multiplied by the carbon dioxide residence time of 4 years. Present natural emissions add an equilibrium level of 392 ppm, to get today’s 410 ppm.

      If human emissions continue as at present, these emissions will add no additional carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If all human emissions were stopped, and nature stayed constant, it would remove only 18 ppm. The natural level of 392 ppm would remain.”

      https://edberry.com/blog/climate-physics/agw-hypothesis/human-co2-not-change-climate/

  4. Cian

    Paul is being disingenuous in his opening statement:
    He says “100% of the Members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change” which sounds massive, open ended.

    But what was actually said was different :100% of the Members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, for example, retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings and through adaptation measures including, for example, increasing the resilience of public land and infrastructure. (my emphasis)

    And then he said “and 92% voted that the State should prioritise investment in public transport over road infrastructure.” which isn’t quite what was said either:
    92% of the Members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas. (my emphasis)

  5. Jake38

    Ireland is an irrelevance.

    If we returned to the stone age tomorrow (for instance by entrusting our economy to Murphy and the other Trots) and reduced all emissions to zero it would have precisely no effect on climate change.

    1. Nigel

      Luckily a lot of the things we could do as part of a global effort to mitigate climate change will be locally beneficial as well in terms of the environment, quality of life, and food and energy security.

  6. Leon Down

    Wow.

    You’ve (belatedly) deleted lots of comments.

    Was it because of the threat of physical violence?

    Or was it because the truth of CO2 was discussed?

    Lefties are weird.

  7. McVitty

    The climate is changing but this is not science – when a scientific argument is challenged, you will know a scientist by their flight to thought, not emotion. And if you look into some of the handling of IPCC data, you will find some suspect methodologies.

        1. jusayinlike

          The guy with the honours degree in applied maths, physics including nuclear physics and astronomy with an honours dissertation in optics software actually used by the Hubble telescope coupled with separate honours degrees in pharma technology and gmp and mechanical engineering, but yeah a kids school teacher knows bunk science better, right Nigel..

          Care to list your qualifications?

          1. Nigel

            I read the Foundation Trilogy when I was 13. Later on I read Dune.

            I believe you because you have made quite intelligent comments every now and then when you forget you’re being an edgelord freethinking jerky whatever. I am genuinely impressed that a smart person like you can end up believing so many dumb things

          2. jusayinlike

            “edgelord freethinking jerky whatever..”

            This from the man who just admitted he died know what he’s talking about..

          3. Nigel

            ‘This from the man who just admitted he died know what he’s talking about..’

            All those honours degrees and this is the form of argumentation you employ? Educated guy like yourself could probably even identify your own fallacy. Which implies you do it deliberatey. Which implies a huge gulf between your scientific accomplishments and your beliefs, which is to say you cannot use the rigorous tools of one to argue effectively for the other, instead resorting to the sort of cheap chat-room gutter-fighting techniques that are used to defeat others in online flame wars, not make arguments. No wonder you don’t get the intellectual respect you feel you deserve.

          4. Freedom

            He’s probably just on the spectrum Nigel. You’re teetering on the brink of rationality there yourself

  8. Leon Down

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703939404574567423917025400

    […]

    Many disasters associated with warming are simply normal occurrences whose existence is falsely claimed to be evidence of warming. And all these examples involve phenomena that are dependent on the confluence of many factors.

    Our perceptions of nature are similarly dragged back centuries so that the normal occasional occurrences of open water in summer over the North Pole, droughts, floods, hurricanes, sea-level variations, etc. are all taken as omens, portending doom due to our sinful ways (as epitomized by our carbon footprint). All of these phenomena depend on the confluence of multiple factors as well.

    Consider the following example. Suppose that I leave a box on the floor, and my wife trips on it, falling against my son, who is carrying a carton of eggs, which then fall and break. Our present approach to emissions would be analogous to deciding that the best way to prevent the breakage of eggs would be to outlaw leaving boxes on the floor. The chief difference is that in the case of atmospheric CO2 and climate catastrophe, the chain of inference is longer and less plausible than in my example.

    Mr. Lindzen is professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

      1. Leon Down

        Keep missing the point Nigella; you’re good at that.

        “Our present approach to emissions would be analogous to deciding that the best way to prevent the breakage of eggs would be to outlaw leaving boxes on the floor. The chief difference is that in the case of atmospheric CO2 and climate catastrophe, the chain of inference is longer and less plausible than in my example.”

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