Liz Minchin reports in today’s Age that the rate of increase in global carbon dioxide emissions between 2000 and 2004 was three times greater than in the 1990s. “That is faster than even the worst-case scenario modeled by the world’s leading scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.”

A well-known way to get rid of unwelcome evidence is to bury it deep. This approach to the problem of global warming — burying the CO2 generated by industrial development (and human breathing, incidentally) — is one of the best on offer.

As well as producing “clean coal” in Australia, this technology holds out massive possibilities for export of technology along with the coal which is the cheapest source of energy and which will therefore be used whatever the costs in terms of damage to the environment.

Henry has been monitoring the research program that underpins this welcome industry initiative, and will keep interested parties updated.

An interested Goldmember, who wondered if “we long-suffering taxpayers will cop it in the neck yet again” asked Henry of the economics of “clean coal”, to which Henry replied:

At the end of the day it is all a matter of what we are prepared to pay. The Oz article I quoted from asserted:

“Initial industry estimates put the cost of power from the proposed Kwinana station at more than $60 a megawatt hour, compared with less than $40/mWh for conventional coal fired operations and under $50/mWh for open cycle gas turbines. At this price a carbon price of $25 to $30 a tonne would be required to subsidise the Kwinana output cost”.

These numbers, and others we will see when the Government’s taskforce reports soon, give us some idea, but there is a long way to go before this debate settles down. I am prepared to pay more for power, electricity and water to provide insurance against the possibility that the world’s climate will soon reach an unpleasant tipping point that has huge consequences for our children and their children.

The Stern report argued that the cost of acting now was far lower than waiting, but Stern’s methodology has been questioned — for example,  because he used a very low rate of interest to discount the future. Ross Garnaut’s report for Australia will give us a far stronger grip on this and related issues.

What needs to be paid might yet become a major issue in the forthcoming federal election, and I hope it does. 

Read more at Henry Thornton.

Peter Fray

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