opinion

KATE EMERY: Nuclear power and climate politics won’t win support from millennials

Kate Emery
The Nightly
I’ve felt it and you’ve felt it too: that sinking certainty that someone is about to tell you a story you’ve heard many times before.
I’ve felt it and you’ve felt it too: that sinking certainty that someone is about to tell you a story you’ve heard many times before. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

I’ve felt it and you’ve felt it too: that sinking certainty that someone is about to tell you a story you’ve heard many times before.

When this happens you have two choices.

1. Immediately butt in politely. “You told me about this — what a hilarious/amazing/utterly traumatising experience that was.” In other words: attempt to derail it.

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2. Say nothing and resign yourself to pretending this is all new information coming at you. In other words: fake it.

Even when you deploy option one there are no guarantees. Sometimes the person talking to you just really wants to tell that story again, either because they think it deserves another airing or, perhaps, because it’s the only story they’ve got.

I felt that sinking certainty this week — perhaps you did too — when Canberra politicians decided to restart the climate wars.

The problem started when Opposition Leader Peter Dutton confirmed he would scrap Labor’s target for a 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030, if elected, in part because he thinks the Federal Government has no chance of hitting it. In something of a heel-turn from his “we need to see the detail” vibes leading up to the Voice referendum, Mr Dutton won’t release the Coalition’s 2030 targets until after the election.

The 2030 target is a pit-stop en route to the target of net zero by 2050: the equivalent of stopping off at the Crooked Carrot to let the kids have a run around on the long drive from Perth to Dunsborough, to put it in the most WA-centric terms possible. Mr Dutton says he remains committed to the 2050 target but, sod it, he’ll strap a nuclear reactor to the top of the Forester and bypass the Crooked Carrot entirely.

The difference between the two isn’t just academic because scientists say emissions cuts are needed now — not in 10-15 years — if we’re to have a hope of hitting the long-term target. It also matters because industry needs certainty so it can make plans.

To torture my metaphor just a little bit more: if the kids don’t get to have their babycino and a runaround, the scale of the backseat disaster means we might not make it to Dunsborough at all.

At stake is — no biggie — the future of the world our kids and grandkids will be living in. The Paris Agreement, which includes legislated 2030 targets, is aimed at keeping the rise in the earth’s average global temperatures at or close to 1.5C to avoid catastrophic consequences.

But this is not a column about why climate change is real and taking action on it matters. Belief in those two things is no longer the province of greenies with a questionable commitment to personal hygiene or leftie voters. Australians may disagree on the best strategy to tackle global warming but belief it is man-made and a risk to future generations’ wellbeing is mainstream: the success of the Teals at the 2022 election is proof of that.

This is a column begging both sides of politics — because Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sure was in a hurry to call a snap press conference bagging out the Coalition’s history on climate change — to please reconsider their apparent enthusiasm to make climate change an election issue. Again.

We’ve heard this all before. We know how it ends.

Making climate change an election issue isn’t just tedious, it’s bad politics.

The teal wave of 2022 hit safe Liberal seats hardest, in part because they put action on climate change front and centre of their campaign (they also had a dump truck of money behind them but that’s another story). A healthy chunk of traditional Liberal voters who were loathe to vote Labor but keen to be able to look their grandkids in the eye voted teal for action on climate change.

Meanwhile, millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the single biggest generation — and voting bloc — in the country. And you know what millennials care about? Climate change.

You know what I think most people, regardless of generation, also want? Not to hear about climate change every damn day.

Get on with the job so we can talk about something else.

Do we really have to sit through this conversation again or is there still time to butt in? Pete, Pete, you’ve actually told this one before. It ends with the teals carving off your votes, mate. Have you got a better story to tell us?

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