20 Nov 2012

Our Role In The Climate Deadlock

By Ben Eltham

A new report by the World Bank predicts global warming of up to four degrees this century. It's time Australia got serious and started limiting fossil fuel exports, writes Ben Eltham

It's time to re-dedicate our body politic to the great challenge of the 21st century: climate change.

The problem posed by climate change is difficult to overstate. It is global. It is endemic. It is devilishly difficult to address.

But address it we must, or our children and grandchildren will inhabit a planet almost unimaginably different from our own: a world of dangerously destabilised climates, devastating natural disasters, flooded cities and dead coral reefs. A world most likely riven by conflict and war. A world in which the global economy struggles against the huge cost of dealing with a preventable global disaster that our generation did little to prevent.

A recent World Bank report into the issue puts it in horrifying perspective. My daughter is two years old. According to the best estimates of climate scientists and the World Bank, by the time she reaches middle age, there is a plausible chance she will live in a world four degrees warmer. That's a world of "extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise." For a father, that's terrifying.

And yet, despite the widely acknowledged risks, not enough is being done. One of the main reasons is politics. That's not good enough.

The time has come for politicians and the leaders of civil society globally to put down the cudgels and recognise the imminent danger the world faces. Climate change is a case study in the power of vested interests to derail sensible and prudent efforts at reform. Progress in dealing with big, complex social problems often occurs slowly and painfully But the consequences of delaying action on climate change are potentially catastrophic. There is a real chance we could be heading towards a six degrees warmer world if nothing is done. That would be a global climate stretching the outer limits of human survival.

I first became aware of global warming as a serious scientific concern as a teenager in 1988, when Scientific American published a major cover story about it. Since that time, the scientific evidence has only got firmer. But the politics has run in the other direction, getting ever more polarised and contested. This has been disastrous for global efforts at mounting a response.

There's no doubt who is chiefly to blame: corporate interests. Big fossil fuel companies have invested hundreds of millions in a sophisticated misinformation campaign to delay action and preserve profits.

But conservative politicians are nearly as culpable. The origin of conservative political thought, as articulated by Edmund Burke among others, is rooted in a belief in prudence and in the preservation of long-lasting institutions. It is quite easy to be both a conservative and an environmentalist; indeed, a modern conservative hero, Ronald Reagan, was one of the key players in the Montreal Convention that banned chlorofluorocarbons. Margaret Thatcher, another giant of the conservative pantheon, was an industrial chemist before entering politics and was an early supporter of preventative action to address global warming. In Australia, Malcolm Turnbull has been among the most consistent of all Australian politicians in his stance on climate change and the need to take sensible precautions.

But, driven by the money power of huge corporations and by an ingrained hatred of the social positions that environmentalists adopt, many conservatives disdain action on climate change, or even dispute the vast body of scientific evidence that demonstrates its need.

This has been an unmitigated tragedy for the world's climate, because conservatives have blocked strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and as a result, the US has not played the leadership role required of it globally. Many have rightly lauded the achievements of the Obama administration in legislating for healthcare in the President's first term. But the defeat of the Waxman-Markey bill to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions — driven by visceral climate denialism from US Republicans and weakness from Senate Democrats — may well turn out to be a more significant milestone.

Affordable health-care will help tens of millions of US citizens. But genuine US action on climate has the potential to help billions, including many not yet born.

In Australia, we too must face up to the inadequacy of our efforts so far. Australia's two major parties are both committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020, and Labor has gone further by implementing a reasonably comprehensive carbon tax.

But the politics of carbon have been brutal. The Opposition's vicious campaign against the carbon tax turned that measure into a highly unpopular one, badly hurting Labor's standing in the electorate. The government is only now starting to claw back support as voters have concluded that the tax is likely to be relatively benign.

But even as the carbon tax slowly goes to work to reduce Australia's domestic carbon emissions, the government is enthusiastically promoting a vast expansion of Australia's coal and gas exports, fossil fuels that will be burnt overseas and contribute to warming the atmosphere and turning the oceans acid.

Despite Australia's wonderful reserves of fossil fuel, a safe climate is not compatible with a growing fossil fuel export market. Something's got to give. Either the world hurtles towards four degrees, or the countries that Australia exports coal and gas to will have to stop burning these dangerous hydrocarbons for energy.

Looking at the facts, the International Energy Agency has recently stated that global emissions must peak by 2017, and then rapidly start trending downwards, if the world is to limit warming to "only" two degrees. In its latest World Energy Outlook report, the IEA says that "no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal, unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is widely deployed."

The incompatibility of Australia's domestic and export energy policies could not be more obvious. And yet, neither major party is prepared to draw the obvious conclusion: that Australia's years of easy money from digging up fossil fuels must eventually come to an end.

At this point in any climate change debate, someone normally points out that it doesn't matter what Australia does about climate, because what really counts are the actions of China, India and the rest of the developing world. And that's broadly true: meaningful action on climate can only be international in scope and implementation.

But Australia can play a bigger global role than we are currently by limiting the export of our fossil fuels, which would help to drive up the price of these global commodities. We also need to start saving for the massive task of climate adaptation, which will entail vast engineering projects to protect much of Australia's coastal property from inundation. Rapidly increasing the price of the carbon tax would be an excellent start.

Most importantly, Australia's political conversation about climate needs to mature and consolidate, and fast. As economist Dean Baker argued recently, conservatives are always telling us they are looking out for our grandchildren when they worry about rising government debt levels. Well, conservatives who believe in a future for their children and grandchildren need to start agitating for lower greenhouse gas emissions too.

Climate is too important for partisan point-scoring. Some sort of consensus must somehow be forged. The long-term challenge of natural security confronting us demands nothing less.

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Olivier
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 14:54

Clearly, humans need to reduce our (carbon, methane, etc) emissions.
Clearly, the powerful, democratic European and American nations have done v.v.little since 1988, when NASA warned us.
Clearly, future governments (Liberal Party here and GOP in USA) will attempt to once again do as little as possible, and focus on profits above all else.
May we raise the price of climate pollution, and get enough National political and physical infrastructure in place to make it not worth selling off later.
May small communities & households long have the power to be as sustainable as they can individually.
May a Green New Deal (bring back FDR!) soon be born,
or at least a long-term political system like Monarchy or Communism, if they will replace our systematic ecocide and inequality with viability and harmony.

For now, please raise the price and build the infrastructure.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Accent
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 15:28

Clearly not an issue for News Ltd. This news was not even reported in today's Telegraph (Sydney). At least Fairfax (Sydney Morning Herald) managed to get the World Bank report onto page 5.
I wonder where they put the declaration of war in 1939?
This is surely even more devastating news on a global scale.

Bicycle: the intelligent solution to almost everything.

DonAitkin
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 15:36

Ben,

The trouble with this piece is that the World Bank didn't 'predict' 4 degrees of global warming. It commissioned a study by a German research centre that said, that IF there were a 4 degree warming then THIS is what we might expect as a consequence. And it didn't do any predicting itself, or estimating. It just published what the researchers said. It didn't even explain why it made no apparent effort to balance the scary stuff.

You believe in the AGW story, and that's fine — that's how you see things. My take on it is quite different, and you can read it on my website — www.donaitkin.com

peggylor
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 17:42

What a load of scaremongering rubbish. Kyoto #2 is soon coming up for signing on to and the U.N. world bank, etc are getting their knickers twisted because interest is waning in global warming.

People everywhere are waking up that it is a scam and they need to renew fear and panic in the populace.

The entire E.U. have been carbon trading for the past seven years and it hasn't made one iota of difference to the CO2 figures.

Ten years ago Al Gore said that the sea level would rise by 6 feet by the year 2100. By his figures it should have risen about 7 inches (18 cm) by now since his prediction. It hasn't even risen 1 cm in the past 1 tenth of 100 years.

Worried about your grandchildren ? so you should be. What the U.N has in store for them in the future, they will live in hig-density highrise buildings cut off from all nature. All open spaces,forests, countryside etc will be off-limits to all human activity. All sovereign countries will just be states of the U.N. under the control of the global elite.
They will be told where they can travel, what they can eat, every aspect of their lives will be controlled.

Don't believe me? just read Agenda 21. It's all published.
From this link: ( but read the full link, see what the U.N has in store for us....with the CAGW believers help of course)
http://whatisagenda21.net/iclei.htm

"The Hard Road to World Order.” Published in the April 1974 issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the world-government-promoting Council on Foreign Relations, Gardner lamented that a single leap into world government, which he preferred, wasn’t attainable. So he urged “an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece.” And he pointedly advocated a “piecemeal” transfer of power to such international organizations as the UN’s International Monetary Fund, the UN’s World Bank, the UN-led World Food Conference, the UN-led Population Conference, even a United Nations military arm. The end sought by these two internationalist heavyweights — and many other likeminded globalists — would result in forced redistribution of the world’s wealth, termination of basic freedoms (religion, speech, publishing, property rights, etc.), and complete regimentation of all human activity right down to the local level. It’s no surprise, therefore, to discover that the “piecemeal” process aiming toward this megalomaniacal goal appears in the UN’s Agenda 21. This enormous document emerged from the highly publicized 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Its 1,100 pages supply a detailed program for social engineering on such a massive scale that it would, if fully implemented, accomplish complete regimentation of all life on the planet during the 21st Century. Hence the name Agenda 21."

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Maggie Roberts
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 17:55

Peggylor, you should go and live on another planet, please. You are selective in your reading and you do the cause of this planet no good I'm with Ben, it has been known for a long time that the globe is warming and we must switch to alternative energies. I have grandchildren too and I hate to think of what their world will be like decades later. We all need to do our bit now!

PeterJF
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 18:15

It is astonishing that denialists read NM and put in comments. Perhaps they just want people to laugh at them.

strewthmate
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 18:18

Ben, you mentioned "meaningful action on climate can only be international in scope and implementation" and I completely agree.

Towards that end readers here may be heartened to know (as I am) that a very feisty and determined Scottish barrister, Polly Higgins, is stirring the possum at the United Nations with her push to have "Ecocide" enshrined as the 5th Crime Against Peace.

Ecocide would rank right up there with Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes of Aggression.

If the truth be known the scandal is that protection of the environment was to be codified into meaningful International Law until 4 nations arced up in the 1990's and "Ecocide" quietly disappeared from further consideration.

Find out more about Polly and the "Wish20" campaign here. www.EradicatingEcocide.com

life is learning, death is graduating

BrianLennon
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 18:25

And back in the real world, Martin Ferguson has his own definitions of proper scientific procedure, where you don't publish results showing large-scale methane and carbon dioxide leakage from a Queensland gas field. He hasn't read the paper but he knows bad scientific procedure when he sees it, or even doesn't see it. The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association agrees with the minister, showing how unbiased he is. He is clearly a great scientific mind. I guess he has the same uncanny genius as Stalin, who knew Lysenkoism was the proper science, not those bad scientists with their Mendelianism and evolution. Stalin had the courage of his convictions too about those evolutionary types, and liquidated them. It is good to see that the ALP has such a scientific genius in such a prominent position, and that its membership is 100% behind him.
http://www.theage.com.au/environment/minister-slams-unscientific-report-...

This user is a New Matilda supporter. DrGideonPolya
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 19:06

Excellent article by Ben Eltham.

The Lib-Labs (Liberal-Laborals, Coalition and Labor) have exactly the same policy of a derisory "5% off 2000 Domestic GHG pollution by 2020" coupled with unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports.

Including the GHG pollution inherent in industrial processing of Australia's burgeoning iron ore exports, the consequent effect on Australia's Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution under Labor's Carbon Tax-ETS is shown below in units of Mt CO2-e (millions of tonnes of CO2-equivalent) (see
Gideon Polya, “Australia threatens Word with unlimited coal, gas and iron ore exports”, Bellaciao, 15 May 2012: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article21922 and "2011 climate change course": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course).

2000: 555 (Domestic) + 505 (coal exports) + 17 (LNG exports) + 105 (iron ore exports) = 1,182.

2009: 600 (Domestic) + 784 (coal exports) + 31 (LNG exports) + 97 (iron ore exports) = 1,512.

2010: 578 (Domestic) + 803 (coal exports) + 34 (LNG exports) + 293 (iron ore exports) = 1,708.

2020: 621 (Domestic) + 1,039 (black coal exports) + 80 (LNG exports) + 59 (brown coal exports) + 772 (iron ore exports) = 2,571.

In 2009 the WBGU (that advises the German Government on climate change) estimated that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2C temperature rise the World must emit no more than 600 billion tonnes CO2. Australia used up its "fair share" of this terminal GHG pollution budget in 2011 - indeed Australia's resources are so huge that Australia is heading towards exceeding the WHOLE WORLD'S terminal GHG pollution budget by a factor of THREE (3).

We are badly running out of time. I tell everyone, from my second year university students to strangers in the street who query my "300 ppm CO2" badge (what the atmospheric CO2 SHOULD be rather than the 2012 peak of 397 ppm) and "Thank goodness I'm old".

All Arctic summer sea ice will be gone by 2015 (Professor Peter Wadhams, Ocean Physics, Cambridge University); GHG and CO2 pollution is remorselessly increasing; the World Bank predicts +4C with BAU (for like expert opinions see "Are we doomed?": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed )

Labor has no intention of "tacking climate change for a clean energy future" (see numbers above) but is dishonestly claiming otherwise - ergo sensible voters will vote 1 Green and put Labor last (the Coalition proposals are, like Labor's, woefully inadequate but , unlike neoliberal, pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-iron ore and endlessly mendacious Labor, the Coalition has not actually betrayed decent Labor voters).

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

zeroxcliche
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 22:06

The problem with this article is that none of the connections are real, scientific observation and theory is not joined by appropriate analysis. Its not the fault of the journalist per say but is more a sign of an across the board cognitive dissonance between climate change and economic or rather 'corporate' policy. On QandA both Turnbull and Rudd were asked how the policy response to climate change was compatible with the huge expansion of gas and coal - they both ignored the question and spoke about a 5% cut on 2000 levels by 2020 like this was remotely relevant - they are stuck in a meeting that happened 20 years ago. Remember when the base levels for cuts was meant to be 1990 levels. Everybody is fooling themselves. James Hansen was considered an alarmist - he now concedes he underestimated the force of the feedbacks by a significant margin. We are not only heading into a world where we will live in a constant climate flux we are pouring billions into racing neck and neck with the US to be the largest exporter of gas on the planet - all based on 40, 50 + years operation - the largest investment in Australian history underwritten by asset depreciation deductions by the govt won't last twenty years - forget climate change for a moment, your nation is pretty much tipping one of the largest booms in history down a toilet.

Ben Eltham - according to Paul Gliding, Reagan signed the Montreal protocol after Dupont backed it, they were initially against it but one of their scientists found a way to make a change and make a profit from it - the market only had half a dozen major players and dupont led the way, even then Reagan called it a 'miracle'. Thatcher ? was anti coal and pro nuclear so the IPCC was a side project in relation to this. A Krudd & Turnbull CPRS deal was a deeply cynical exercise in creating a hedge against the percieved future carbon pricing of coal etc. In the longer term it was meant as future proofing the fossil fuel industry into the next couple of decades. We have always leveraged our inclusion in Kyoto with good deals for us including our emissions to rise.

To limit ourselves to 2 C we have to race to carbon neutrality, help the rest of the world do it and then invent something to draw down greenhouse. Bill Gates is already talking crazy shit like Geo engineering because he knows the numbers don't add up, look up Bill McKibben "Do the Math". And by the way 2 C is much too much.... every decimal of a degree rise will have an exponential effect so we are going to bump into real costs in this decade. 2 C is going to make for some exciting television - some farming and coastal living is going to be hell and the developing world???? - 2 C means serious challenges that will make the GFC look tame, any illusions regarding "economic growth", whatever that means, will be gone

Michael Rynn
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 00:24

Current Major Party Climate Policies.
Liberal Party - Outright denial - "Climate Change is Crap" - ""Direct action"" ignores fossil fuel emissions entirely, its more of a election marketing scam, so its as indirect as it can get.

Labor Party - Policy actions might as well be acting as pimps for big business - Allows a measly carbon price to appease the greens, to get into power. but still allows Big Biz to double its exports of coal emissions, and allows state governments to go full methane ahead with fracking for Coal Seam Gas. Net results - fuel Chinese manufacturing and cripple Australian industry.

As for the promised 5% cuts in emissions by 2020 based on year 2000, they were never intended to be real, and they still rely on buying carbon credits, while domestic emissions are rising, exported emissions doubling. So the practical side of the policy is not very different from the Liberal Party. Licks the boots of big fossil fuel biz, not much better than ""direct action"". The appearance of timid futile little actions. Backing the wrong technology, pinning hopes and lots of money on "clean coal", and subsidizing Coal-Gas biz. Renewable energy is already lots cheaper.

The only big program worth mentioning , the Clean Energy Finance Corp, doesn't look like it can fund enough to replace a single coal power station with a concentrated solar energy with storage solution. RET at least still exists despite efforts of Coal-Gas biz. Solar PV subsidies are to be removed, and wind power is actively discouraged by State governments, but these are the only renewable energy technologies so far that have helped reduce electricity demand, or contributed to reduced carbon emissions. The huge public and business uptake of solar panels in Australia, indicates what the public really wants.

Only the Greens have any climate change policies worth mentioning, and all of ALP - Green compromised achievements have been due to the Greens and a few independents and all of the compromises and Coal-Gas business protection have been due to Labor.

The Liberal party stayed right of the climate change / carbon price committee, which indicates serious inability to learn, and cooperate for a common public good. Perhaps they should be kept away from government out-right, until they admit there is a global problem with climate change, and a major problem with their attitudes.

Michael Rynn
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 00:30

I forget to mention I agree with the articles premise. The only problem seems to be that the 4% warming projections are based on the best promises of the current sets of politicians in power. Since these reliably fail, we are will reach 4% warming a bit sooner, and then warm some more again.

Demand more action, elect a set of politicians actually willing to lead on the global warming crisis. Pester the current set of climate retards, and remind them we didn't vote for Coal-gas biz.

zane a
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 00:35

Not a bad article though in all those links you posted I think you could have included one to BZE's Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Energy Plan, or the 'Laggard to Leader' report released this year - which staunchly obliterates the argument that Australia is a 'pissant' little country with no capacity to influence global climate politics.

https://beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-2020
https://beyondzeroemissions.org/laggardtoleader

Talk of 'saving for the massive task of climate adaptation, which will entail vast engineering projects to protect much of Australia’s coastal property from inundation' misses the point big time IMHO.

For a start, adaptation is bigger than just inundation - it is going to involve vast projects to provide medical aid, food, water, and temporary shelter for tens of millions of climate refugees. But ultimately it will all be pissing in the wind. You cant sandbag society against 4,6,8 degrees...

No amount of money will ever be enough and it is supremely ironic that this is the mess that economic 'conservatives' would like to land us in.

I would contend that the *only* 'vast engineering project' which ultimately has *ANY* chance of protecting coastal property from inundation is a crash conversion from coal to renewables, which with a bit of luck might spark a few other key players to get their shit together.

The arctic is close to collapse; once it melts out fully it will then commence doing so on an annual basis. Not only does is this going to have unpredictable and potentially quite dire effects on the ocean thermohaline cycle, it will have very dire consequences indeed for the Greenland ice sheet. As in Greenland will embark on the long journey of melting and raising sea levels by 6-8m.

We are *already* in super dangerous territory, even if we start decarbonising tomorrow.

CO2 warming is to the planet like getting into bed under a cold doona on a wintry night is to a human; it takes a while to heat up - in the planets case, it takes decades for the full warming from co2 to take hold. We aint seen nothing yet from whats *already* in the air (let alone from more emissions).

Part of the way Liberal and Labor avoid serious discussion of renewables is by not engaging in any serious analysis - the more people calling them out on this and forcing them to engage with real world analysis of the actually existing renewables industry the better. I think NM's climate coverage of late is improved - this article included - but it would be good to see you making the link to renewables and dropping some facts and stats in, harlem globetrotter style, in these sort of articles.

In my public debates with establishment politicians I've found this to be a very effective way of exposing their ignorance of things they should by now be very fluent in. I think a heck of alot of state and federal politicians are (wilfully) complete and utter morons when it comes to renewables.

I'm an ecosocialist, I think the climate movement should be aiming for revolution and seeing how close we can get to it, and I carry that perspective when I write about climate issues. But there is plenty of scope for a 'left liberal' to call the duopoly out on the nitty gritty of renewables and highlight what capitalist governments in Europe have been doing to stimulate deployment there. Renew economy does this well and without going too far into the technical nitty gritty I think NM could certainly go a bit further into that realm.

We can't just criticise the carbon tax as inadequate, we need to articulate and push real alternatives.

I would argue Australian capitalism, enmeshed as it is in the global capitalist economy, is an extractive strain of capitalism and our coal exports are a key plank of that.

I mean less than 2% of the workforce is in mining, but strategically capital wants to keep the coal (and gas and iron ore) flowing. Germany by contrast has a more manufacturing based variety of capital that is less hostile to renewables. Spanish capital has its own geopolitical reasons for getting into renewables; its a sunny place that can sell green power to Europe and in a time of crisis it is last in line to get oil and gas once the rest of Europe have got theirs.

Neither Germany nor Spain's renewable policies are consistent with stopping four degrees (and the current tory Spanish government is whiteanting the previous regimes progressive solar policies to a large extent), but hey they are streets ahead of Australia.

Anyhow I would argue that establishment politicians in this corner of the world will remain hostile to any meaningful embrace of renewables to the bitter end. Lets call it 'the Obeid factor' aka 'the Ferguson factor'.

If we are going to confront the four degrees thing it sure as hell won't be via 'politics as usual'. But to those left liberals agitating for some kind of progressive German style reforms here or something, good on you, I do hope you use the strongest available arguments at your disposal though.

Anyhow I digress. Australia has fuck all renewables compared to Europe, has tremendously better wind and solar resources and relative to Europe has a very small population and industrial base to provide energy to. Little Australia can send a major earthquake through global climate politics by getting off coal and onto renewables in a big way.

We have the wind and the sun and the geographic diversity. Its the perfect recipe for a 100% renewable grid. Its just a simple matter of (politically speaking) mercilessly castrating a furious and noisy fossil fuel mafia that stands in the way. And then stopping them reasserting control. I think it will take a big active climate movement getting up in the entire political establishment's grill to force the issue which sadly there are no shortcuts to.

Anyhows - again with full respect - I've found some of NM's climate commentary a bit lacking in years past.

This piece, along with a few others NM has run of late, comes alot closer to articulating the gaping chasm between (scuse the pun) the 'glacial' pace of mainstream policy to address climate change, and the rapid rebuilding of our energy and transport systems (amongst other things) that is required to give us any chance whatsoever of dodging the 4 degree bullet the world bank alludes to. Which is good to see.

peggylor
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 05:36

Alternative power has been a disaster for Germany's industry. Germany has had to rely on base load power purchased from France (nuclear).
At present Germany is in the process of building 18 new coal-fired power stations.

When the " wind don't blow and the sun don't shine " in Denmark they rely on purchasing baseload power from Norway ( hydro) and Sweden ( nuclear).

Spain has oodles of solar power stations. They also have 8 nuclear reactors for back-up.

kanzen
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 09:17

The conduct of this debate on both sides provides a clear example of how a society should not deal with a major issue. Overblown rhetoric, manipulation of information to boost a case and an apparent lack of capacity on either side to understand what the other side sees as a reality.

Climate change is a serious issue. Let's deal with it seriously. Start a conversation that demonstrates an understanding of both sides of the issue and negotiate an arrangement that achieves an outcome that doesn't destroy either - or the world.

jeremiahwuzza
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 11:16

Nothing anybody can do is going to stop this juggernaut. The Arctic ice will melt, the methane in the Northern Russia permafrost will boil into the atmosphere. The Antarctic ice shelf is breaking up. Extreme weather events will intensify. The damage to the world's environment already done by unsustainable farming and fishing will only get worse as the world population rises another two million by 2050 at current estimates. How will we all live? The answer is we won't. The fragile global economy (based as it is on over-consumption) will collapse. Human society will plunge into a dark age that will last until the population falls to a sustainable level in a post-technological world vastly altered by the massive forces of the ocean and climate system.
To talk about partisan Australian politics and what Labor or the Coalition will do is pathetic. Democracies have no hope of dealing with unpopular issues. All you can do is create a plan for the survival of your family and your friends, and I suggest you start on it soon before everybody else does.

peggylor
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 11:25

In 2009 the cabinet of Maldives donned scuba gear and held an underwater meeting to highlight the threat of global warming to that nation. They also complained that their coral reefs were disappearing.

Since then The Maldives Government is working to construct 11 new regional airports in 11 regions and work is under way to complete them as soon as possible

The Minister further said the construction work of these airports have been handed to Airports Investment Management Company which is a company established for this project. There will be a 200 bed hotel, a yacht marina and a transit hotel in every airport in order to
make the airport viable and facilitate tourism and travellers.

Disappearing coral reefs ?
Maldivians use the coral reefs as their traditional construction material.

http://doingadvancework.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/maldives-crying-for-clim...

denise
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 16:45

I thought the Carbon Tax was supposed to raise funds for alternative energies (non fossil, renewable/sustainable) and has already reduced our per capita reliance on coal-fired electricity plants by increased prices.
To further put restraints on a global coal and natural gas markets with these commodities going to countries that do not necessarily have our abundance of resources, is counter-productive.
We should not attempt to restrain both the energy sector and developing nations before we have suitable alternatives in place.
All energy comes from the sun and the cheapest thing to do would be to harness this energy as it is radiated, rather than mining fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and gas, which are both costly, dangerous and polluting.
This would mean concentrating more on providing solar panels, which are becoming cheaper, more efficient and work very well on a small scale.
And then there's bio-fuels which can be harvested from many crops and used in just about every industry. This use of crops and their by-products would also help the agricultural sector boost their earnings considerably.
However, crops do fail and so we need to be ready with many alternative fuel sources (other crops) to produce these ethynols (alcohol) that could theoretically power everything.
Once the basic infrastructure (regional production plants) are in place, they can produce vast quantities of these bio-fuels and we could run the entire nation from solar panels and/or bio-fuels.
I'm sure growing crops especially for fuel (or using the by-products of crops) is far more environmentally friendly than disturbing ancient rock formations, water tables and sediments. However, until we have that new technology in place, we (and others who depend on us) have to rely on the disturbing and polluting practices of mining for our main source of fuels and energy production.
There should be a gradual transition into alternative energy sources, over a couple of decades, not a forced push into a trajectory that uses alarmist tactics to frighten people.
Because ultimately the most 'at risk' category, if the temperatures rise as predicted, is not us, but is, as usual, the creatures that cannot speak for themselves.

SolomonFaust
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 19:14

A brilliant, astute, much-needed article. Thanks Ben.

Only line I found problematic was this:

"According to the best estimates of climate scientists and the World Bank, by the time she reaches middle age, there is a plausible chance she will live in a world four degrees warmer."

The World Bank source you linked to pretty clearly uses the 4º figure for 2100, not 2050. Medicine may be advancing, but I wouldn't call a ninety-year-old middle aged. It might sound pedantic, but I urge you to consider correcting the line. I think it's vital that we don't use false hyperbole around this issue for two reasons:

1. The figures are scary enough
2. It gives misinformers like Bolt fodder to cherry-pick and feed to his trolls

We're on the side of truth, it's vital we to stick to it.

Frank from Frankston
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 21:50

It's an amazing day!
"At this point in any climate change debate, someone normally points out that it doesn’t matter what Australia does about climate, because what really counts are the actions of China, India and the rest of the developing world. And that’s broadly true..."

Never thought I'd see the day. A modicum of reality creeping into this tired discussion.

But the problem remains Ben, that voting democracies don't tolerate a diminishing standard of living. They punish those elected to increase or at least maintain their standard of living with the sack - and sometimes riots - if they fail to deliver. Just look to the PIGS of Europe for examples of that!

The PIGS rely on debt to fund their "beyond their own means" living standards.

What do we rely upon?

Same notions really. However, the diminishing percentage of our population engaged in truly internationally competitive, export orientated industries can't carry the whole load of subsidising welfare orientated cities.

No, for that we need to sell off everything. From food sources to our North, to the vast sellout of our mineral and gas resources - again largely to our North (someone please find that map with the Brisbane Line on it. Check the premier's office in WA or the PM's office in Canberra. These guys are using it as a road map)

Ben, if you want Australia to "play a bigger global role than we are currently by limiting the export of our fossil fuels, which would help to drive up the price of these global commodities" - you need to realise that the greater the overwhelming bloat of our largely useless cities, the greater the imperative for creating as much global climate harm as is possible to achieve - will in fact, continue to occur.

The population bloat of Australia creates global warming. This is a key reality that must be accepted by all. The population bloat of Australia creates global warming.

A very basic level of investment to support the infrastructure and services needs of 200k+ people per year would stretch the resources of any nation. This has been going on here for decades!

Nothing other than debt and selling every kind of emission creating, one off commodities as quickly as possible can keep the government's ponzi scheme going.

Population bloat supporters ought to consider whether they'd fall foul of @strewthmate's Polly Higgins ecocide, crime against humanity. Seems obvious to me that they have already and will continue to do so.

And Ben, there's no chance that we will have the vision and maturity to "start saving for the massive task of climate adaptation, which will entail vast engineering projects to protect much of Australia’s coastal property from inundation" No chance at all.

The money recouped will be quickly exhausted by the need to further subsidise something we are not doing for ourselves - in our cities.

No chance Ben.

peggylor
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 06:51

Whether global warming, CO2 and ocean levels rising scares one, all depends on whether you follow the IPCC's climate models or what's really happening to the climate.
This video gives a comparison between what computer modelling predicts and the what is happening in the real world.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmWvV087NKI&feature=youtu.be

Here you can 'connect some dots'

http://www.c3headlines.com/are-corporationsinvestors-global-warming-hypo...
"The insurance industry stands to make billions, if not trillions, on achieving higher policy premiums by pushing the exaggerated fears and hysteria of extreme climate change. For one to understand what is going on, just simply connect the dots...to accomplish this pursuit of greed, Munich Re has realized that it's easier to do so if one buys a seat at the IPCC's "climate science" table ".

If we are to believe sea-levels will rise dramatically, why would anyone purchase a waterfront property? e.g. Kevin Rudd, Greg Combet. Tim Flannery, Al Gore among others.

Warwick Rowell
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 19:24

Warwick Rowell

Hey Frank, you should check out the Brisbane Line a bit: In fact it was a line down the crest of the Great Dividing Range that wended from Brisbane down to Melbourne. The idea was to stretch Japanese supply lines as far as possible, as the Russians did in WW2..

TO debate this issue is no longer productive. Many of us have been making our lives more sustainable, for ourselves and our grandchildren, since first warnings: Try Vol 1 No 1 of The Ecologist Magazine: A Blueprint for Survival. 1972.. Scary that it is now forty years on!
Permaculture networks in many areas provide support and materials for those serious about reducing their impact. AS well as the best permaculture network in the wrld, AUstralia has an older generation who remember how to run kitchen gardens, and many immigrants for Europe who are still doing it.

Producing your own food locally is a great first start.. You know what chemicals (if any) have ben used, you learn (and teach) important skills, you get some exercise. For more, go to warwickrowell.com

Ken Fabos
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 19:48

With every measure of change to our climate - surface temperatures, top of atmosphere radiation to space, glaciers, sea ice, ice sheets, ocean heat content, sea levels, frequency of extreme weather events, shifts in climatic zones - all clearly showing the reality of global warming, it's way past time to act like it's the serious threat to our prosperity and security that every scientific organisation that studies climate has been saying it is for more than 2 decades.

It's looking highly likely the next IPCC report - based on the more recent understanding of our climate system - will include evidence that, if anything, it's past reports have understated the problem and that significant natural variations that has been dampening the effects at ground level are inevitably going to turn around and do some amplifying. Rather than taking advantage of that bit of breathing space and time to act, it's been used to promote denial, doubt and delay.

What's clear is that mainstream politicians - who hold positions of trust on our behalf and have enormous resources for up to date expert advice - are really letting us all down. To do put our future at risk for the sake of projected future incomes from coal and gas mining or their electoral chances with a voting public that they've actively assisting in keeping misinformed and ignorant takes irrational and irresponsible to breathtaking lows. The delay they've engendered for the sake of 'savings' on the shift to low emissions is going to make the costs we have to bear much higher.

Elbert
Posted Saturday, December 1, 2012 - 22:19

jeremiahwuzza is right - as are the others who realise it is not only much too late to stop the rot, because it is impossible for humans to act unless the crisis is actually upon them and affecting them personally.
Prepare for the worst, but even that won't help you and yours when you're starving and thirsty and fending off the hordes escaping worse events.
The nightmare is almost upon us and I hope Peggylor and others of her breed are here to suffer it.