Let’s forget about a carbon tax and concentrate on the environment instead
Since I wrote the Publisher’s Letter entitled “Let’s have no more of this carbon pollution nonsense” in the June 2009 issue of SILICON CHIP, the political climate seems to have changed dramatically – more than I could ever have expected in such a short time. Not only did the Copenhagen climate summit collapse in disarray but there has been a general shift in people’s attitude to climate change.
While most people seem to feel that climate change is happening and that human activity is at least partly to blame, there is no consensus on what to do about it. One thing is certain: the science is no longer “settled”, in spite of the increasingly shrill declamations by those who are certainly not disinterested. And it seems that the number of “climate change deniers” has greatly increased.
The Federal Government’s move to introduce a “carbon tax” next year has not been favourably received and nor does there seem to be any remotely popular alternative strategy. And there is a growing realisation amongst the populace that action by Australia will have a significant cost and will have major employment ramifications. A tiny reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions when they are already virtually insignificant in the total world emissions means the whole process is futile, if not farcical.
All of which means that recent moves by the Greens political party to ramp up the use of renewable energy are worrying. They have a long-term aim of making all energy renewable and hang the consequences, whether it means much higher prices for electricity or lots of job losses – they simply don’t care.
In an ideal world, we should not have coal-fired power stations and I have written along these lines in Publisher’s Letters in years past. My opposition to coal-fired power stations comes not from any concern about carbon dioxide – it is not a pollutant – but with the long-term damage to the landscape and water resources, both by open-cut and underground mining.
However, there does not seem to be any support by the current Federal Labor government for any reduction in coal mining, whether for use in power stations or for export; quite the contrary in fact. With one eye on the union membership of mines and the power industry and with the other eye on ever-growing royalties and taxes, there is no stomach at all for any reduction; they want more coal mining, not less. And they want other forms of coal exploitation as well, in the form of coal-seam gas projects.
Which also means that the current Federal Government’s infatuation with a carbon tax to combat climate change is hypocritical to say the least. We can state that the Greens are consistent in this respect – they want to stop all coal mining. But they pretty much want to stop everything, don’t they?
I am coming around to the view that governments should do nothing to combat climate change, since its causes are extremely complex and still not understood. In any case, all previous moves to “do something” by the present government have been seriously misguided, and that is putting it mildly.
Nor do I think that there is any need to panic. Even if we are experiencing global warming, as opposed to the much more vague term, “climate change”, there is not likely to be any “tipping point” in the foreseeable future. Secondly, as Climate Change Commissioner Tim Flannery has admitted, any action that we do take is likely to take centuries before it has any measurable effect.
Instead, governments should act to promote economic activity while still doing all they can to protect our environment. The two aims are not mutually exclusive. A carbon tax will not have any beneficial effects.