We've Got Cred On Carbon


The sky hasn’t crashed to earth, Whyalla isn’t a portal to hell and Clive Palmer can still put cheese on the table. God’s in his heaven, and all’s right with the world. But if you read today’s newspapers or listened to Tony Abbott you’d think the carbon tax was not only introduced yesterday, but is responsible for all Australia’s woes.

On the other hand, here at New Matilda we’ve sought to consistently present the other side of the story: a rational, evidence-based approach to climate change, with occasional dollops of humour and peeks behind the curtain at who’s pushing the nonsense that’s overtaken Australia’s climate debate.

Since we’ve survived the advent of our clean energy future, we thought it prudent to cast an eye back over the last few years of our climate coverage, if only to put a smile on the faces of those currently sobbing over how widespread the doomsaying has become.

But first, the madness.

Over at Fairfax, Phillip Coorey said the carbon tax has faced a sour reception:

"Opposition to the policy rose 3 points to 62 per cent, the highest in 15 months. Despite the billions of dollars in compensation being handed out, about half of voters felt they would be worse off."

One wonders why this might be the case when Coorey is followed up by Ross Peake giving a free kick to employers’ association the Australian Industry Group under the headline "Costs to Soar Under New Tax". He reports their new survey, which you can read for yourself on the AIG website, that states 40 per cent of 600-odd responding businesses plan to increase prices on some (but not all) of their products or services (without stating by how much).

At the barking end, Tony Abbott used his address to the Liberal Party Federal Council to reiterate his pledge in blood: "On day one of a new government, the carbon tax repeal process will begin. On day one of a new parliament, the carbon tax repeal legislation will be introduced."

Yesterday, Alan Jones told protesters at Victorian Parliament ”the notion of global warming is a hoax… This is witchcraft. Commonsense will tell you it’s rubbish; 97 per cent of all carbon dioxide occurs naturally … 3 per cent around the world is created by human beings.”

3AW has splashed an ominous "The Carbon Tax Is Here" banner across the top of their website, and Neil Mitchell was invoking the birthday cake interview when he grilled the Prime Minister on radio this morning:

"We’ve got government ministers pretending relief that Whyalla hasn’t exploded. So in Whyalla they might be genuinely concerned about their future and you’ve got a juvenile stunt like that… Cup of coffee. How much will that go up?"

And Andrew Bolt, speaking with Anthony Albanese on Sunday on his TV spot, pulled out all the stops:

BOLT: Your tax and the $10 billion Clean Energy Fund that you’ve got are meant to cut [Australia’s] emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. By how much will the world’s temperature change as a consequence of Australia’s sacrifice?

ALBANESE: Andrew, you know that’s a nonsense question.

Here at New Matilda, we’ve had climate scientists lay out the case for action, and environmental economists Martin Jones and Sarah Lumely measure whether our carbon tax is really the world’s biggest (it’s not), compare the different policy options for pricing carbon, explain the difference between an emissions trading scheme and a carbon tax and unpack the original clean energy future bills.

National Affairs Correspondent Ben Eltham has been scrutinising the climate debate for years. Eltham tackled the biggest gripe people have with the carbon tax — cost of living — last year:

"Look into the CPI figures and the media hysteria over rising prices seems hard to justify… For every example of a basic necessity rising in price, you can find an example where things have got cheaper."

On electricity prices, Eltham debunked the fossil fuel lobby’s shrill protests:

"Australian electricity prices certainly are going up — but they’re still substantially below those of many of our trading partners. And the reason they’re going up is not because of any uncertainty related to the introduction — or not — of a carbon price… It’s actually because they’re replacing a lot of high-voltage wires and pylons, and passing the costs on — and then some — to you, the consumer."

He’s also written on the black hole in the scheme: international offsets. In order to reach our emissions reduction targets, we’ll need "internationally sourced abatement", which may end up being sketchier than Treasury will admit:

"The decision to include international permits from "credible trading schemes" like the EU and New Zealand may look like the Gillard Government is strictly regulating the matter, but as we’ve seen, many of the projects in developing countries financed by the European ETS are of dubious value in actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, it may well be that carbon credits from Europe that are sourced from fraudulent or misreported emissions reductions sources could flood into the Australian market. We don’t really know."

Other Eltham hits include stories on Ross Garnaut, the paradoxical relationship between our desire to see action on climate change and our lack of willingness to make a sacrifice to achieve it, the politics and policy of renewables and a five-point plan on how to sell the scheme to the public.

Regular contributor and public sector finance expert Ian McAuley debunked the bluster over household bills, and showed how Tony Abbott sold out last year’s Convoy of No Confidence:

"Few of the owner-operators appreciate that the industry is already heavily subsidised — heavy trucking does not pay its share of road costs. If they did realise this, they would not fear a carbon price, because just as these subsidies have passed through to customers without benefit to individual operators, so too will a carbon price pass through to customers without harm to individual operators."

While we’re on protests, Associate Editor Adam Brereton covered that beat last year, attending the major gatherings in Canberra, and in one case sneaking onto a bus full of anti-carbon protestors for a grueling four-hour conspiracy theory joyride:

"People go off the deep end because this rhetoric plays to both of the defining neuroses of the far right persecution complex. First, it reinforces the self-aggrandising, obsessive nature of conspiracy theorists: "We know the truth and nobody else does. Our scientists are the only true scientists. The ABC is out to get us." Second, it strokes the crowd’s self-pity: "Why won’t anyone listen to us? We know the truth! We’re old and our grandchildren hate us!" The combination is both contradictory and self-reinforcing."

And who could forget New Matilda’s favourite son, Ben Pobjie, who had the scheme picked for what it was from the moment the bills left the house:

"Let’s look at just what got passed yesterday. It is a ‘carbon pricing mechanism’. This means that for every ton of carbon emitted by big business (the people who BUILT THIS COUNTRY), the company must pay $5 into Julia Gillard’s Sovereign Stalinist Anthrax Stockpile Fund."

There’s so much more on offer: what uncertainty over the carbon tax is doing to investment in renewable energy, a geothermal alternative for baseload power, the dirty secrets of coal-seam gas lobbying, the ongoing saga with Victorian brown coal

Have a nice carbon tax. We’re following the story.

Ben Eltham is New Matilda's National Affairs Correspondent.