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avoiding climate change « Previous | |Next »
November 13, 2008

I watched yesterdays Question Time in the Senate last night on ABC television. I wondered if the atmospherics in the Senate was different to the House of Representatives, where the Coalition's attack on Treasury and the argy bargy about the G20 phone call leak, were designed to position the Liberals in the public eye. Attacking Treasury and the Reserve Bank is an explicit political strategy for the Turnbull Liberals.

The atmospherics were different in the Senate. Less theatre more policy. There was a concentrated attack by the Liberals on two fronts ---the public investment in the car industry and the costs of emissions trading scheme on industry. The Senate Liberals gave a clear indication that they are opposed to both.

Spoonercarindustry.jpg Spooner

The line of attack was the costs of emissions trading scheme on industry and it being forced to go offshore with the implication that Australia should not establish an emissions trading scheme. Nowhere did the Liberals mention the costs of not acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Australia. It was depressing.

No mention was ever made of Ross Garnaut's report in which he argued that:

The Australian Government should at an early date say that Australia was prepared to play its full proportionate part in an ambitious global mitigation effort which would require reductions of 25 per cent on 2000 levels and 90 per cent on - 25 per cent reduction on 2000 levels by 2020, 90 per cent by 2050....the Government should say Australia is prepared to play its full proportionate part in a global agreement that adds up to a 450 parts per million outcome.

Secondly, I said that if that is not possible internationally, and what is more likely to be possible internationally would be Australia playing its full proportionate part in a 550 parts per million outcome which would involve a 10 per cent reduction on 2000 levels by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050....It's a long way from a practical agreement to get to 550. And I'd like us to be working as hard as we can to make what currently seems impractical practical.

The goal of 450 parts per million stabilisation target would mean two degrees of global warming with a 50 per cent chance of entering dangerous climate change. The 550 per million stablisation target is dangerous climate change as it would means three degrees of warming.

It is dangerous territory because it would include major impacts on melting of the Greenland ice sheet, substantial sea level rise, condemn the Great Barrier Reef to almost complete destruction in its northern areas, condemn Australia's alpine areas to essentially becoming sub alpine, cause the destruction of the Kakadu wetlands and result in immense damage to the Murray-Darling Basin by restricting inflows even further.

It was obvious from Question Time in the Senate that Liberal Senators had no appreciation of the damage that will be imposed on Australia's environment and Australia's employment opportunities, Australian industries and Australian households by the adverse impacts of climate change. The NSW Government's mini-budget showed that Rees Labor had no understanding either.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:33 AM | | Comments (2)


That means that 25 per cent emission reductions by 2020 or more by 2020, and 90 per cent emission reductions or more by 2050, are the minimum that Australia needs to do in terms of emission reduction if we are to avoid the ecological destruction mentioned above.

yes, but Garnaut doesn't think that it is realistic because it requires international action. On Lateline he said:

Australia is not the only player in this game but if we don't get such an outcome, on a balance of possibilities we will lose substantial parts of those assets. But let's keep in mind... that in the current state of the international discussion, prior to my report which is helping to change the international discussion now, but in the current state of international discussion we're not heading for 550, we're heading for something much further, much higher.

The international discussion is premised on developing countries accepted no constraints. No binding constraints on emissions growth. Now that condemns you not to 550 but to something very much higher than that. That's the current reality. It is delusion to say that you're aiming for something else and not to take head on the realities of where we're headed. That's what I'm saying.

So 550 parts per million would be ambitious compared with the current state of the international discussion. A lot of my report is directed at busting the delusion that underpins the current state of discussion which is heading us for something much higher than that.