Content warning: antisemitism, neo-Nazism, climate anxiety.
This month, world leaders gathered in Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). One of the goals of this conference was to secure net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Reaching this goal would help prevent global average temperatures rising over 1.5°C, mitigating the worst effects of climate change.
While both the Liberal and National Parties have agreed to make plans to reach this target, not all of their members are convinced. In the lead-up to COP26, Liberal Senator, Alex Antic labelled net zero as “nothing more than a slogan created by global bureaucrats and crony capitalists”. I have seen this quote posted throughout social media, promoting a caricature of what this goal is about.
Aside from dismissal of climate change mitigation, I am also deeply concerned by his comment’s consequences on wider Australian society.
Firstly, the phrase ‘global bureaucrats’ has connotations to the antisemitic world domination canard. This conspiracy was popularised by the fabricated document ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, published in the Russian Empire. The text claimed to contain the supposed meeting minutes of Jewish leaders planning world domination. This idea of ‘Jewish global bureaucrats’ controlling the world was used to justify marginalisation, racial segregation, violence, torture, and genocide against Jewish people throughout the 20th century. Despite being a forgery, the text is still popular among far-right and ultranationalist groups throughout the world.
That 1903 propaganda piece has influenced, and led to the development of, many far-right conspiracies. One of these being that the United Nations is controlled by Jewish leaders, with the goal of eradicating fair-skinned people of European ancestry and controlling the world’s wealth. Given this context, many neo-Nazis and other far-right groups use words like ‘global bureaucrats’, ‘globalists’, and ‘global capitalists’ as dog-whistles to express hate. This was not his intention, but neo-Nazis are likely to listen to Senator Antic’s statement and assume he agrees with this antisemitic conspiracy. This has the potential to lead to violence against Australia’s Jewish communities.
Secondly, Senator Antic is correct in asserting that capitalists (i.e., those whose primary income comes from ownership of financial capital) have been involved in climate change discourse. For example, British Petroleum spent over $200 million in advertising to divert attention away from their unsustainable business practises towards individual carbon footprints. The idea of the ‘carbon footprint’ places the blame of greenhouse gas emissions on individuals, rather than on multinational corporations.
Crony capitalism refers to capitalism that involves collusion between business and political classes. Effective climate change mitigation will reduce trillions of dollars in profit for many fossil-fuel companies. It is in their interest to avoid profit declines. When politicians reject effective climate change mitigation, it directly favours these companies’ interests. In this sense, rejecting net zero is engaging in crony capitalism.
There are consequences of spreading misinformation. The majority of Australians work at least 35 hours a week to support themselves and their families. Balancing full-time employment alongside meeting household requirements means that many Australians may not have the free time necessary to scrutinise the words of politicians. When people hear statements like this, many of them will believe it.
The net zero strategy has many flaws, and it will not protect us from all the effects of climate change. However, considering Australia’s inaction in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, committing to it is better than the status quo of climate denial.
There are over 1000 peer-reviewed journal articles supporting that climate change is human-induced.
Opposing climate change mitigation rejects this reality.
We know what to do to mitigate climate change, the science is clear.
After this COP26 summit, I implore Australia’s politicians not to prioritise ideology over science.
Image by UNclimatechange via Flickr.