There seems to be a correlation between those who are obsessed about greenhouse emissions, and the size of their carbon footprint. The louder the advocacy, the larger the footprint.

The residents of Wentworth and Al Gore’s inconvenient lifestyle pale in comparison with the current talkfest at Bali. While their corrupt hosts preside over massive emissions from the appalling deforestation of their archipelago, the delegates admit they are not even planning to finalise Kyoto 2.

The talkfest is just to work out a “road map”, whatever that may be. For this there will be massive emissions from private jets, and first and business class flights from around the world, as well as the air conditioners needed to compensate for the vast slabs of glass incorporated into the resort’s five star hotels.

Decisions at international conferences are worked out in advance, so meetings are usually just photo opportunities for politicians campaigning for their next elections. There will be no real decisions at Bali but there will be words. They could just as well be churned out by telephone and emails, with the occasional video conference.

In preparation for this non-event, the Australian government did what it could claim a mandate for, it ratified Kyoto 1. It didn’t bother with the cost benefit analysis usually obtained before a treaty is ratified. It didn’t dare. Kyoto 1 cannot possibly have any impact whatsoever on the climate, but may end up costing Australians a fortune as it has others. The Prime Minister says the US should follow him, but he knows that even if President Bush changed his mind, the Senate would never agree.

In the meantime government policy on Kyoto 2 has been remarkably fluid. Last Wednesday the Prime Minster was signalling his support for deep cuts. So our delegation obediently announced Australia “fully supports” developed countries cutting their emissions by a massive 25% to 40% by 2020. The next day the penny dropped and Mr Rudd pulled the rug from under them. Just as well. And this time, no one could blame Peter Garrett.

Then we learned that Mr Rudd had spoken to the Chinese leader. Calling it a “significant coup,” The Australian’s front page anointed the PM as “a bridge between China and the West.” Just as Paul Keating was going to redesign Berlin. One of the qualities of good journalism, as of science, is a healthy degree of scepticism.

Scepticism is of course inappropriate when the facts speak for themselves, as they do for climate change. The climate has never stood still, but manmade emissions could not have been a significant cause until recently. While it is untrue to say there is a consensus among scientists that man-made emissions are the significant cause, let us assume for the sake of argument that they are.

Even if we wound down our economies, there would be no guarantee that climate would not change. Those factors which have always caused climate change for millions of years will obviously not be neutralised by a treaty, however multilateral.

It is of course a good thing to reduce pollution for reasons other than climate change — another reason not to create the enormous footprint the anthropogenic global warming industry is now unleashing at Bali.

It would be the height of stupidity — and electorally unacceptable — for Australia to take on unilateral burdens which will damage our economy. (We have for 2050 — but only the gullible swallowed that.) Even multilateral burdens are suspect; far too many governments do not take treaty obligations seriously. Just look at the signatories to various human rights conventions. The UN, unlike the Commonwealth, not only fails to require members to observe undertakings, it rewards them.

Carbon trading systems are now being put forward as some sort of silver bullet. The carpetbaggers love them of course, and so do celebrities, like Al Gore and some film stars. They see the credits they buy to maintain their massive emissions as modern equivalents of indulgences, giving them time off from some secular green purgatory. The point is carbon trading systems transfer too much money from the poor to the unworthy.

As John Humphreys’ new CIS study Exploring a Carbon Tax for Australia shows, a carbon tax would be more effective and fairer. The carpet baggers and anthropogenic global warming religionists won’t agree, but the best tax would be one which replaces but does not increase the vast amount taxpayers already pay on fuel. There would then be an incentive to use low or no carbon emitting fuels, and an incentive to invention. You would not have to go to Bali to do that. And even if it doesn’t change the climate, it will reduce pollution.

Peter Fray

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