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wishful thinking « Previous | |Next »
December 22, 2004

Climate change is hurting Australia - increased droughts and bushfires, the destruction of our coral reefs. Over the next 50 years there will severe damage to Australia's ecosystems: to Kakadu National Park, extinctions in North Queensland's highland tropical forest and the probable destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

Senator Campbell, the Environment Minister, would know all of this when he went to Buenos Aires last week. He would also know the implications it has for Australia's miracle economy. One would hope that he has been so briefed.

So what is Australia going to do post-Kyoto---after 2012?

So CartoonMoir28.jpg

I'm not certain that Australia has been that courageous in breaking with the US, which increases emissions while pretending to do reduce greenhouse intensity. The US is not going to do very much to reduce to reduce domestic greenhouse emissions, even though it is world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia and the US have previously firmly stood together on their objections to signing the Kyoto protocol on climate warming, which comes into force next year. What Senator Campbell says is that Australia does not agree with the US stance against future greenhouse gas targets, or its claim that economic growth and technology were the answer to reducing heat-trapping emissions.

But Australia is not going to met its Kyoto commitment by joining an international emissions trading markets, which start early 2005. Nor is going to put a price on greenhouse pollution through a revenue neutral carbon levy.

Nor is Australia going to pour billions of dollars into clean energy research to utilize the natural sunlight advantage we have? Australia is not going to support the development of a stronger renewable energy industry through a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 10% by 2010 and 20%.

So what happens when Australia can no longer rely on reductions in land use to buffer its growth in energy-related emissions.

Are not energy production and transport related emissions predicted to rise by over 30 percent by 2012, from 1990 levels? Does that not mean Australian industry will have to invest heavily in order to meet future emissions reduction targets?

There is very little action at this stage.

Is it not strange the way that the gungho free marketeers, such as Alan Oxley writing in the Australian Financial Review, (20 12 2004, p. 47) oppose the use of markets to help reduce greenhouse emissions?

Oxley fogs the issue of governance of the global economy by following the US line that says that the science, which supports the contention that global warming is partly man made, is unravelling. So there is no greenhouse problem. It is about green activists creating state of fear. This is the denial argument.

The insurance companies are not fooled by this kind of faulty reasoning. They know about the rapidly rising payments resulting from more severe and frequent hurricanes, heat waves and flooding. They acknowledge that extreme weather patterns have always existed, but they maintain that their frequency and intensity has been increasing because of global warming.

Oxley backtracks. In the next paragraph to the one above he talks about Australia rightfully following the lead of the US in focusing on "practical policies to reduce emissions and avoid the economically damaging strategy of energy costs". So there is a greenhouse emission/global problem after all.

What is astonishing is that the Australian Financial Review continues to publishes this kind of twaddle. Presumably they hold that anything that hinders or reduces economic growth is bad. By economic growth on this issue they can only mean the profits of the energy intensive industries. That is what is being defended. Energy policy in Australia is currently run to protect the economic interests particular groups of energy industries.

Where then are Australia's practical programs to reduce emissions and avoid raising energy costs?

Is that not a question the AFR should be asking of the Howard government? Is that not a challenge of governance as much as tax cuts and welfare reform?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:39 AM | | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

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» cartoons as critique from Junk for Code
Some commentary on climate change in Australia Steve Bell Thsi is much ruder and more irreverant than the cartoonists working [Read More]



If you have to provide a link for Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" these would be more appropriate:

RealClimate - Michael Crichton's State of Confusion

Big Gav,
Thanks. I mentioned the Chrichton text because it was mentioned by Alan Oxley in his AFR Piece, 'Howard vindicated on Kyoto strategy.' Oxley said:

"While pro-Kyoto groups used stills from the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, to illustrate presentations in Buenos Aries, the US business group gleefully distributed flyers for Michael Crichton's anti-global-warming book, State of Fear, which has just been released."

So it was quick and dirty link done on the run.

Ah - interesting - I'd wondered at the timing of that book release.

I initially thought they'd left it a little late for the Xmas rush (although the pile at Dymocks was large and heavily discounted) - but a release in time for the summit makes much more sense.

I'm still wondering if MC really believes the nonsense he wrote or if its just more astroturfing by Exxon (and a very effective way to do it at that).

Its a shame he used that book title too - there is so much more approriate subject matter it could have been used for...

Big Gav
From what I can gather the United States even blocked efforts to begin more substantive discussions about ways to mitigate climate change after 2012, when the Kyoto agreement expires.

The United States maintained it was too early to take even that step, and initially insisted that "there shall be no written or oral report" from any seminars. In the end, all that could be achieved was an agreement to hold a single workshop next year to "exchange information" on climate change.

The United States now stands virtually alone in challenging the scientific assumptions underlying the Kyoto Protocol.Instead of "climate change," we have "climate variability."

It would have been crazy for Australia to go alone with this given the impact global warming is going to have on this continent.

Yes - there is some editorial on this blocking effort here:

Global Storming

RealClimate has just written a good summary of the scientific consensus on global warming and how it was reached here:

The whole US effort is an example of what happens when a particular industry manages to capture the political branch (the extreme case of "regulatory capture") - government becomes a (very powerful) lobbying group.

The scientific consensus that Big Gav is referring to is spelt out on Real Climate as follows:

" "The consensus that exists is that of the IPCC reports, in particular the working group I report..The IPCC process was supposed to be - and is - a summary of the science (as available at the time). Because they did their job well, it really is a good review/summary/synthesis.

The main points that most would agree on as "the consensus" are:

*The earth is getting warmer (0.6 +/- 0.2 oC in the past century; 0.1 oC/decade over the last 30 years) [ch 2]

*People are causing this [ch 12]

*If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate [ch 9]

*(This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)

I've put those four points in rough order of certainty."

This pretty much rejects Alan Oxley's assertion about the unravelling of science. Oxley can be interpreted as saying that there has been an unravelling of consensus (in the Kuhnian sense).

Real Climate says that the last point is in brackets because whilst many would agree, many others (who agree with 1-3) would not, at least without qualification. Its probably not a part of the core consensus in the way 1-3 are.

Presumably, Oxley could say that though there is a Greenhouse emission problem there is no need to do anything about it.

RealClimate says they are physical scientists, and though they can talk sensibly about past, present and future changes in climate, the potential impacts on ecosystems or human society are out of our field.

In Australia it is CSIRO who undertakes the investigations into the potential impacts on our ecosystems and society.

Oxley would need to contest their reports if he is to argue that there is a Greenhouse emission problem and there is no need to do anything about it.

Of course, he offers no such argument. His op ed piece in the AFR was fluff and spin.