BOOKCASE : Scorcher – The Dirty Politics of Climate Change

• Clive Hamilton • Black Inc Agenda • $35.00

For country that is often cited as one most likely to be affected by climate change, Australia has been one of the slowest and most resistant to attempts to turn its emissions profile around. In Scorcher, Clive Hamilton, the executive director of the Australian Institute (a left-wing policy think tank), offers his version of why.
Hamilton delves into shadowy world of climate change politics, world that is contaminated by vested interests, rapacious and selfish corporate greed, the fossil fuel industry’s unwillingness to accept climate change science, ignorant politicians… the stuff of any half decent non-fiction political thriller.
Hamilton suggests that climate policy in Australia has been unduly influenced and dictated to by “greenhouse mafia”, small but powerful group of lobbyists with representatives from most of the significant fossil fuel related industries. Howard’s close personal connection with most of these industries has ensured the “mafia” high-degree of success in their pursuit of far less stringent climate change policies.
That’s the crux. The question is: does Hamilton’s tome add much to the climate change debate?
The short answer is it depends what you’re in it for. If you want to learn more about climate change fast, then do yourself favour and go see Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth instead. If the policy formation process is your gig and you’ve been wondering just why Australia has allowed its international reputation as good, or at least reasonable environmental citizen, to be shredded then read on.
Hamilton draws on wide range of references and brings passionate voice to the subject. Sadly, he lacks the storytelling skills to effectively deliver with passion.
The writing is clunky, the delivery disjointed. When the author does get on roll he sweeps you along for few pages but the momentum doesn’t last. good editor might have helped.
Hamilton asserts, correctly, that the Australian response to climate change has been dismal. As he shows, for more than decade its government has consistently destabilised the global response to climate change. But how much more compelling this tale might have been had he the ability to find more fluent way of telling us about it.
I can give Scorcher five out of 10 because you can still learn lot from the book even if it’s not the smoothest of rides.

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