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The Forum > Article Comments > The politics of climate change in Australia > Comments

The politics of climate change in Australia : Comments

By Keith Suter, published 18/12/2009

The climate change issue will not go away. No matter what happens at Copenhagen, environmental problems will remain.

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Dr Suter

Your comments in "Protecting the environment costs jobs" heading.

All Australian governments have failed to make the most of a “green economy” and despite the trumpeting of Australia's leading role in climate change reversal in his electoral rhetoric, Kevin Rudd is at last finding out why.

The abundant sunlight or wind that a country receives is not the deciding factor for it becoming a major solar and wind technology leader. It certainly is an incentive and Australia has produced industries capable of competing in technology and expertise in those fields.

The deciding factor is not about the abundance of the natural resource.

It is the capital cost, and cost per kW of electricity produced. Despite government subsidies, it is still a cost to the consumer.

The world major solar and wind generation manufacturers are working overtime, but at a cost to employment in their home nations.

These industries have followed the rest of the world's manufacturers and relocated manufacture and assembly to China for growing demand there under Kyoto incentives. They also export components and completed systems against to countries like Australia where local industry cannot compete on cost.

The result has been job losses cuts in the European, Asian and the US manufacturers' home bases.

China's low costs are not just the effect of low labour costs. Major contributors to that low cost includes currency manipulation, "dumping", extensive government subsidies, unsafe work places, lack of environmental management systems in factories, and little to no provision for workers insurance and compensation.

Until China addresses these inconsistencies, exploiting Australia's solar and wind resources to create green jobs here will still be political rhetoric and our "green incentives" will still be import reliant on technology and product.

It is a major reason why China is refusing to reduce its carbon emissions and carbon tariffs need serious consideration.

Arthur Thomas
Posted by Arthur T, Friday, 18 December 2009 11:34:30 AM
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Good piece as far as it goes.

I have long argued that we don't need some ivy school debating society. We need a government.
Notwithstanding what do we do, we need more than a ring side history lesson.
Arthur T

Good point.
Posted by examinator, Friday, 18 December 2009 12:10:06 PM
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You conclude: "The Australian climate change debate is not over."

And that is indeed true. In fact, it is arguable that it hasn't even started, at least with respect to the science where the politics of the situation have precluded rational discussion of the issues. I acknowledge that this is not just a Labor/Greens issue. John Howard, some 5 years ago, was being urged to address the science. However, sadly his position was that we accept IPCC advice - the science is settled. I wonder what he is thinking now that the CRU e:mails have exposed the unprincipled advocacy of the IPCC.

The problem is, that many Australian voters think that episodes of drought, or bush fires, are the result of rising CO2 emissions. And this simplistic viewpoint has been encouraged by those eager to win their votes. It is seldom explained, and certainly not by MSM (particularly Fairfax and ABC), that Australia has always had droughts and bush fires, and that if man is having any impact at all, it is far more likely to be due to land-use factors (systematic de-hydration of the landscape and disturbance of natural hydrological cycles mainly, as Peter Andrews explains) than rising CO2 levels.

This is likely true in other countries as well. However, we are told that CO2 is the bad actor. Reduce that, and all our problems will be solved. However, if a CPRS were successfully introduced, we would find that the costs will be enormous, and yet there will be no discernible difference to local climate or global climate.

Please can we start to have a rational discussion on these issues.
Posted by Herbert Stencil, Friday, 18 December 2009 12:15:10 PM
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Dr Suter
What has been happening (all too slowly) is that those who have the scientific background to understand it, have been reading about the "science of climate change" and find the IPCC material unconvincing. The chemical structure of Carbon makes it probably the most important element in the chain is chemicals that allow life to exist. Calling it a polutant immediately makes one suspicious about the motives of those who want to scare the daylights out of people.

Certainly there have been changes in climate but to attribute the cause to increases in the percentage of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere as if there was a "direct" relationship is going too far. Carbon Dioxide does have "warming" properties but they are more "logarithmic" than "direct". That is, the largest impact is at low levels and as the levels increase the "warming" impact decreases markedly.

What has happened is that the political sphere has taken over and because politicians would rather discuss "solutions" than discuss the science people who do not accept the IPCC argument, no matter how scientifically qualified they may be, are labelled as sceptics, deniers, flat earthers, or whatever a derogatory term that can be used in order to push them to one side without having to address the science of their argument. Witness the leaked e-mails within what is called "climategate".

You could be right about this whole issue not going away, only time will tell. But you will not cool the climate one bit by slapping a giant new tax on people in Australia
Posted by Sniggid, Friday, 18 December 2009 12:15:47 PM
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Yes, Keith Suter' the main problem is man destroying the environment to make way not only for human population increase, but using up the forests and such that has made the world so suitable for mankind.

It is so interesting that even as far back as the Industrial Revolution, when steam power soon began to produce juggernauts which could haul down big trees, certain thinkers began to profess fear.

Now of course, we are well past the end of earth's natural life, mankind's reasoning still full of the faith that modern mankind will progress to the point that he will overcome even if our globe is destroyed of plant life.

It is so interesting that John Howard has recently called this morbid reasoning declaring that we must believe in the faith that has dominated our progress.

Yep, that is why John Howard strove to downgrade much of our university subjects, especially those related to what is major problem with our modern world today.

mechanical science destroying the acience which both men and women talked about
Posted by bushbred, Friday, 18 December 2009 12:42:18 PM
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Good article Keith. What is your view on Copenhagen's failure to deliver so far? Can world leaders avert temperature rises that threaten lives and livelihoods across the globe?

Copenhagen points to a grim snapshot of the state of world political negotiations under current UN structures, played more like a poker game than a serious effort at solving the most diabolical scientific problem facing mankind.

If the current offers stand, then even IF all pledges are fully implemented, we will reach 550 ppm by 2050 or 3 degrees warming. If China's pledge stays independently unverifiable, and if rules are not put in place to prevent carbon capture double counting and carbon trading fraud, as exposed in PNG and Europe, then we could be looking at 4 degrees or more.

An unintended consequence of the Copenhagen participants failure may be agitation by 6 billion mere mortals to push for a world governing body, unlike the UN, that has real authority, willingness and aptitude to make the necessary legally binding decisions based on science, equity, accountability, social justice, technological innovation and rollout.

Has Copenhagen fared better than Bali or Kyoto? Will another climate meeting in Mexico next year do any better? We do know, that the longer we delay, the stakes get higher but leaders of key nation states become more guarded at their own duty to save the planet as we know it. 'We'll do no more or no less' than others', sums it up.

As people power gains strength, led by networked communities, then 2010 could shape up as a watershed year in global politics. We have a federal election in 2010 and the differences between parties climate policies couldn't be more stark. Depending who wins, we could see radical Australian climate policies ranging from nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind power plants, to bicycle, all-electric green car incentives and even the refusal of coal export pemits.

What's clear is that as the clock ticks, only radical changes are likely to win public favour. Countries agreement to pass the buck to a competant global body may be the inevitable outcome.
Posted by Quick response, Friday, 18 December 2009 2:03:37 PM
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