Dr Daniel Bray, lecturer in international relations and teacher of security studies and environmental politics at La Trobe University, Melbourne, gives the following explanation of the politics of the current polarised climate change/carbon tax ‘debate’:
“Against the instincts of the political left, the Labor policy (will) use the state apparatus to incrementally set up an emissions trading scheme..the joint announcement with Greens leader suggests that the basic idea of a market-based mechanism has been accepted by the key players needed to secure the legislation’s passage..
Conservatives are suspicious of climate science because accepting the consensus implies advocating social changes they are inclined to resist.. (especially) when climate change is perceived as a cover for socialist and green agendas..the emphasis is instead placed on technical fixes funded through recurrent government revenue that do not disrupt the existing social and economic order.
What are the prospects of the major parties overcoming these ideological differences and forming a bipartisan position in the national interest?
The answer lies in the development of a conservative argument for climate change action… developed according to the traditional rules and methods of scientific truth-seeking.. policy should be based on the established truths that emerge from these inquires rather than marginal contrarian views or the idealistic dreams of left-wing opponents. It means being risk-averse in times of uncertainty by taking out insurance against the possibility of catastrophic events..
The time has come for both major parties to look beyond their short-term political horizons and begin to forge a bipartisan position in the national interest. Climate change mitigation is simply too important to be left to the daily grind of party politics.”
The Federal Government has set up a range of experts to act independently as The Climate Commission and ‘get the facts out there’.
Unfortunately they are almost invisible in this highly visible age of Twitter and Facebook.
WHERE are they and HOW can they get the facts out there if they don’t do what everyone else is doing?
I heard they spoke very well at Geelong but have been unable to source a podcast of the night’s discussion, destined to explain the facts of the climate change-carbon tax debate.
It seems the world views Australia as laggards and Jill Duggan, adviser to the UK government on emissions trading who now works for the European Commission as a national expert on carbon pricing, says Australia won’t be leading the world.
“500 million people in Europe have had a carbon price since 2005, and since 2008 three other countries have joined the European emissions trading system.
The UK… had a carbon price for some parts of the economy from before that time.”
About a price on carbon leading to cost of living pressures, particularly on petrol, power bills, Jill says:
“One of the purposes of a carbon tax is to increase the price of resources that are high in carbon. But I have to say…it’s not been something that’s had a drastic impact on cost of living.
The impact would be say, in particular years, a quarter of the impact of rising gas and oil prices. So people notice gas and oil prices rising, they notice the impact on their household bills. The carbon price is much, much smaller than that in impact.”
NB NB A sustainability engineer tells me confidently that households can reduce energy use and save on increases in bills – which will largely be due to infrastructure renewal it seems not a carbon tax. Check out Your Home Technical Manual online or buy the manual with redrafted, peer reviewed fact sheets for insulation, insulation installation, lighting and hot water service from the Alternative Technology Association.
Misunderstanding 1: The world is not warming/warming stopped in 1998 (or 2001 or…)
Records of global temperature changes over the last century clearly show a long-term warming trend. Since 1970 each decade has been warmer than the previous one. The decade from 2001 to 2010 was the warmest on record; 1998, 2005 and 2010 are the equal warmest years on record.
Over the course of the 20th century, the surface of the Earth has warmed by about O.74″C.In the last 30 years warming has proceeded at a rate of about 0.17″C per decade. There is no evidence to suggest that this warming trend has stopped.
From a longer term perspective, the temperature is higher now than at any other time during the last 2000 years and probably since the mid-Holocene 6000-8000 years ago. The current climate is significantly warmer than the Medieval Warm Period, which was mainly a northern hemisphere phenomenon.
Scientists are careful to look at trends over 25 – 30 years because natural variability means that short term changes can be misleading. For example, one cooler year is not evidence that the globe is cooling.
Misunderstanding 2: Carbon dioxide is not the problem
Physical principles established more than a century ago tell us that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat and keep the planet warmer than it would otherwise be. Without greenhouse gases the average surface temperature of the Earth would be about thirty degrees colder. Carbon dioxide accounts for about 2O per cent of this natural greenhouse effect.
Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations raises the temperature of the Earth’s surface. Until around 200 years ago, the natural exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere, the oceans and vegetation, was roughly in balance. For the last 200 years, because of human activities, carbon dioxide has been added to the atmosphere at a rate faster than it can be removed through natural processes.
Misunderstanding 3: Climate is always changing and current warming is just part of a natural cycle
Weather varies from day to day, year to year and decade to decade. Climate changes much more slowly and these changes can only be measured by looking at trends over 25 to 30 years and longer.
There is an element of randomness in regional weather, and it can be affected by short term events like volcanic eruptions. But climate doesn’t change on its own; something must cause the changes. For example, the cycle of ice ages and warm inter-glacial periods is due to small variations in the Earth’s orbit which alter patterns of absorbed sunlight.
Changed patterns of sunlight trigger changes in ice sheets and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere that reinforce the original effects (scientists call this a feedback).
The warming of the last 60 years cannot be explained by natural factors such as the earth’s orbit, changes in the sun, sunspots or volcanos. We can only explain this warming if greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are taken into account.
Misunderstanding 4: The ‘Climategate’ emails prove the science was rigged/ climate scientists are just in it for the research grants
The so-called ‘Climategate’ emails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit were scrutinised by three independent investigations, including one conducted by a multi-party committee of the UK Parliament’s House of Commons. All concluded that there was no evidence, of scientific malpractice.
The Climatic Research Unit’s published research is, and has always been, fully reviewed by the relevant journals. It is also only one strand of research underpinning the strong global consensus among climate scientists that human activity is affecting the world’s climate.
Misunderstanding 5: Australia is so small in the scheme of things-other, bigger countries must move before we commit
Australia would not be acting alone. Major emitters, including the European Union, China and the United States, are already acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even India, the poorest major economy, is introducing an energy saving scheme to help its major companies reduce emissions, and a coal tax to fund renewable energy technology.
Australia is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases per person, one of the top 20 highest emitting countries, and well-off compared to many other countries. Developing countries and other middle level emitters expect Australia to play its part.
By acting Australia increases the confidence of others to reduce emissions and the probability of a global agreement in the medium term.
Misunderstanding 6: If China is increasing its emissions and opening a new fossil fuel power station every week (month or…) what is the point of Australia actually reducing its emissions?
As China, India and Brazil improve their living standards their absolute emissions will inevitably grow. It is important that they are encouraged to minimize that growth. China’s five year plan commitments will see an unprecedented reduction in the emissions intensity of the economy. Brazil and India are also acting to reduce their emissions growth.
Misunderstanding 7: There is no point or benefit in introducing a carbon price
Despite our efforts to date, Australia’s emissions in 2020 are still projected to grow to 24 per cent above their levels in the year 2000. Australia has already had a lot of experience with a range of direct investment and regulatory initiatives by state and federal governments. These have been expensive in most cases, and generally haven’t worked well.
There is no cost-free way to achieve the emissions reductions we need, but a carbon price minimises this.
Can The Climate Commission get a conversation going…?