Who sits the carbon throne?

Time to vote! Which Game of Thrones character best represents carbon pricing in Australia?

There are few subjects that have been as politically divisive in recent Australian history as climate policy, and especially the concept of putting a price on carbon.

The theory is bland enough: start charging for something previously free and people will use less of it. Yet on this one issue governments have risen and fallen; alliances have been forged and shattered; Prime Ministers and Opposition Leaders have been successively knifed, reanimated and defenestrated. The whole saga resembles nothing so much as the famously bloody television show Game of Thrones (arguably also about climate change).

That comparison might inspire overseas observers to wonder how Australians became so divided over so boringly technocratic an issue. By contrast, the comparison should inspire Australians to divide ourselves over a new question:

Which Game of Thrones character best represents carbon pricing in Australia?

Your options are below. Each encapsulates a different policy paradigm or view of political history – and what will happen next. Scroll down beneath the candidates to lodge your vote now in our entirely unscientific poll!

Spoiler warning! Shock-ruining major spoilers follow for seasons 1 through 5 of GoT (and books 1 through 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire). For non-fans – the point should come across anyway.

Continued below the poll

This character represents carbon pricing in Australia because they are…

ned_stark138x188Ned Stark
Noble, right and dead.

Robb Stark - Game of ThronesRobb Stark
Noble, never really up to the job, and dead.

Robert Baratheon - Game of ThronesRobert Baratheon
Oafishly inept, fiscally incontinent, and in hindsight pretty terrific compared to what came after. Also dead.

Joffrey BaratheonJoffrey Baratheon
Illegitimate, disastrous, and thankfully dead.

Jon Snow - Game of ThronesJon Snow
Dead – but clearly coming back.

Danaerys Targaryen
Alive and well and very busy – overseas.

The Night's King - Game of ThronesThe Night’s King
A life-hating monstrosity, once defeated by fallen heroes, which threatens to return and end the world.

This poll has closed.

See poll results

Think we’ve seen the last of carbon pricing, for good or ill? Then nominate one of the dead. Think it might not quite be over, for good or ill? Then pick the living one, the undead one, or the surely-only-mostly-dead-how-could-they-possibly-kill-him-off one.

There are arguments for each of these views. For instance, the Jon Snow Theory received a boost recently with the Grattan Institute’s evocatively titled “Climate Phoenix” paper outlining how the Coalition’s Direct Action policy could evolve into a new kind of carbon price. Meanwhile, the evidence for the Danaerys Targaryen Theory is explored in this other post on Ai Group’s Blog.

There is another respect in which the carbon price debate and Game of Thrones resemble each other, of course: the longer the fight goes on, the less good it seems to do anybody. Years of conflict, upheaval and startling reversals have left many scarred warriors, burned resources and frozen opportunities while time runs out. And Westeros isn’t looking so good, either.

Beyond the coming Federal election, the major parties are going to have to come together to support workable, durable policies that can deliver our challenging long-term targets while preserving industry’s competitiveness.

It will probably make for very boring television. But that’s why we have Game of Thrones.

Watch out for our poll results in next week’s Industry newsletter!

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Tennant is Principal National Adviser – Public Policy at Ai Group. He has worked heavily on climate and energy issues, advising Ai Group’s Leaders’ Group on Energy and Climate Policy and developing reports on natural gas supply, energy prices and energy efficiency. He also works on a range of issues related to manufacturing and innovation. Previously he was an adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, working on fiscal policy, stimulus and infrastructure.


  1. Peter Callil

    Carbon pricing and it’s justification – climate change/global warming/cooling, seems to be a mixture of these characters, because it’s represented by the whole spectrum of criminals, ranging from the well-intentioned fool to the criminally insane in various proportions. The well-intentioned fool category is definitely the largest though. There are only a few who know enough about the real game to fall into the criminally insane category, unfortunately our PM is one of them.

    1. Tennant Reed (Post author)

      Thanks for the comment Peter,
      There are a lot of different views on climate change and climate policy; over the years I have rarely seen anyone who was insincere, whatever position they took. As in Game of Thrones, even the people who look like villains are the heroes of their own story. Even the appalling Ramsay Bolton!: http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Ramsay_Bolton

  2. Greg Zeuschner

    To your second-last paragraph, I must ask: Why? Why spend billions of dollars (probably trillions worlwide)on a program that will have absolutely no effect on the climate. There is never enough money available to properly fund essential programs (health, education etc.), let alone pay back our mountain of debt, so lets not fritter it away on a wild goose chase.

    1. Tennant Reed (Post author)

      Thanks Greg,
      Everyone will make their own judgment on the seriousness of the climate problem. But a lot of scientists, businesses and governments have done so and concluded there is a major risk to manage. Even on that view, it’s important to act as cost-effectively as possible – as you say, there are a lot of important priorities. In Game of Thrones terms, the threat of the White Walkers seems far off and fantastical to someone in King’s Landing with a vast and destructive civil war to win. But sending a few swords and men to the Night’s Watch is still a good investment. Except for that Janos Slynt – http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Janos_Slynt – what a useless man!


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