Why not relegate the globalized future of the Earth’s climate to Wall Street? After all, no bunch of lending sharks could possibly do worse than governments, having delayed effective emission caps, climate mitigation and fast-track development of renewable technology by more than 20 years since initial warnings have been issued by leading climate scientists.

Incredibly, faith in the market remains the main cornerstone of Australian government leaders, at least until the recent past, closely following top business organizations.

For example, the report “Strategic Framework for Emission Reduction” by the Business Council of Australia stated (3 April, 2007):

As one of the key principles which could underpin global action on greenhouse gas abatement … Rely largely on market-based approaches, rather than schemes where governments determine the source of abatement, and ensure targets find their way to enterprises.

Echoed by Garnaut Final Climate Change Report (30 September, 2008): “The continuation for long periods of strong Australian mitigation outside a global agreement is likely to corrode the integrity of the Australian market economy”. 

An opportunity to promote Australia as a world leader in green technology is, once again, forfeited. A government elected on the strength of voters concern regarding climate change is now spending big on encouraging consumption, but not nearly enough on the large-scale investments required for renewable energy technologies and non-polluting transport systems.

School children are taught the role of leaders, and all the more so elected governments, is to defend their most vital interest — future survival. History does not provide much faith in such belief.

In his book Collapse Jared Diamond, the renown biologist and anthropologist, refers to Easter Island as the classic case where a society, caught up in material pursuit and the construction of statues by tribal chiefs, perpetrates its own demise by cutting the island’s trees. Another example is the collapse of the Maya civilization, where construction of temples, competition among rulers and deforestation decimated the population.

The link between market and climate collapse is highlighted by George Monbiot:

This (the Wall Street collapse) is nothing. Well, nothing by comparison to what’s coming. The financial crisis for which we must now pay so heavily prefigures the real collapse, when humanity bumps against its ecological limits … The two crises have the same cause. In both cases, those who exploit the resource have demanded impossible rates of return and invoked debts that can never be repaid. In both cases we denied the likely consequences.

The Australian continent, located between an increasingly frequent El-Nino in the north and poleward-receding southwesterly fronts, is threatened by increasing droughts.

The remaining resources of the fast-deteriorating environment need to be diverted into fast-tracked application of renewable energy technology, soil replenishment and reforestation.

The financial crisis can be transformed into a green opportunity.

Peter Fray

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