Carbon taxes

Martin C Jones writes: Re. “Is this carbon price a big step sideways” (Friday, item 2) Guy Pearse’s article is a poorly argued piece that critiques the new carbon price proposal based on issues that are either silly or have yet to be decided.

First, Pearse argues that the public expects “that the vast majority of the emission cuts we promise the world are made here in Australia” — I have never seen this particular question being polled, but, more importantly, the climate doesn’t care about the location of emissions (reductions). We could reduce emissions here or in China; they’d both be as good for the environment.

Second, Pearse criticises biosequestration on the grounds that “hiding” emissions behind these credits will never return CO2 concentrations to safe levels. This is simply poorly argued: not only does Pearse presuppose that we are currently at unsafe levels of concentration (which we do not know with certainty, and adds little to the argument), but there is no “hiding” of emissions — if biosequestration does actually permanently remove CO2-e from the air, it’s just as good as any other form of emissions reduction. Now, there are definitely some forms of biosequestration that are NOT permanent or actual reducers of CO2-e, but there are also some that are. You can tell this argument about efficacy is in the back of Pearse’s mind, but it’s just not expressed.

Third, Pearse suggests Australia is responsible for the emissions generated by its exports. I disagree with this moral stance (and that’s what it is), but, more importantly, even if we accept responsibility, it would be still more effective and efficient for Australia to reduce net global emissions by focussing on our production (rather than the production we enable). Let’s not even mention the political impossibility of telling our minerals industry it can’t export anything, any more.

Finally, Pearse criticises the MPCCC proposal for its unconvincing stance on prices and compensation. What are the prices and compensation? They haven’t yet been decided. But sure, let’s criticise them in advance.

I suspect I share Pearse’s attitudes on many aspects of climate change policy, but his article could have been cut down to its summary without significant loss: “In short, it’s unclear yet whether this deal will reduce Australia’s contribution to climate change or whether it’s a political fix that postpones the prickly issue of emissions trading.” Not worthy of a piece running at #2 in Crikey.

Gavin Greenoak writes: Re. “Broken promises and price rises as we plunge back into the green haze” (Friday, item 1) In this time of political foment and governments hung with contention everywhere, should we not ask a few questions regarding some of the apparently knee-jerk practices of governments, such as: “tax it!”? The assumption that the only way to get people to do things or not to do things is by inflicting pain, is inherently cynical and contemptuous, especially when it supposes that the majority of people do not care about their first quality of life which is conferred by their environment.And a huge and obvious problem for the tax pain, is that the governments themselves do not feel it. In other words, the people in government, do not in any way find it incumbent upon them to demonstrate in the age old way, by example, the immediate and obvious benefit to all, of the policies they would implement. If we want a green world, then let’s start with politicians who put our world before their party, and governments who understand that the etymology of the word authority, is to nourish.

Roger Davenport writes: Bob Brown must think he is in seventh heaven now that a carbon tax is on the agenda. Julia Gillard has drawn the battle line in the sand and Tony Abbot will soon find out how strong his support is as a climate sceptic. We as the good citizens of planet earth are being told by the leader of the Greens that this tax will create jobs — what sort of jobs is he talking about?

I can see that it will increase the number of bureaucrats and administrators, a further burden on the taxpayer. Then of course there will be the opportunities for dealers to trade the tax credits. What are the real jobs is he talking about that will create wealth for the country? Has anyone thought about taxing manufacturing and packaging waste? Currently manufacturers produce goods with a limited shelf life, with components that are unrepairable and get tax breaks for long term warranties (in excess of 5 years).

The other area that needs to be addressed is the marketing industry, how often do we find that merchandise comes in a big box or container and when opened we find that the goods could have been packaged in a container half the size? This applies to most supermarket items — cereals, detergents, etc, how much energy is wasted in transporting half filled packaging round the world?

Rundle on Assange

Guy Rundle writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (Friday, item 15) Richard Farmer suggests that when you go to a country, you accept the laws of that country, and that therefore Julian Assange should discontinue all attempts to refuse extradition to Sweden. Farmer hasn’t understood the case, or extradition, at all. The right to refuse extradition is simply an extension of the presumption of innocence and the right to refuse to assist the prosecution, i.e. similar to the right to remain silent.

This is particularly so in the Assange case, because the instrument is a European Arrest Warrant, which fast-tracks the extradition process, and requires the decisive assertion of one’s rights. Assange’s team is arguing that Sweden is using the EU-based EAW, while at the same time being in breach of EU-stipulated conditions on open trials (given Sweden’s closed-trial system for s-x crimes). That is a matter more likely to be considered at the Supreme Court and Appeal level than in a first order hearing. He is also within his rights to assert that there are political and other forces behind the prosecution, which would make a fair trial questionable. Sweden may not have third-world style corruption, but it has a tight political establishment, and a great deal of political sleaze. Given the combination of in-camera trials, political appointed judges and no juries, anyone who has been publicly denounced by the Swedish PM might have good reason to assert their rights.

Bring back Mungo

Megan Stoyles writes: Re. “David Williamson: sometimes a mea culpa is in order” (Friday, item 13) Did you replace Mungo with David Williamson as political commentator
as a payback for the nasty review Jason Whittaker did of Don Parties On? I can’t see what other reason there could be for having to put up with Williamson’s now regular maunderings and “I tell you , and Julia, so” sermons about politics.

His comments are uninteresting, not insightful, unanalytical and certainly not funny. These imperfections can’t be due to where he lives, although Noosa is a bit further away than Brunswick Heads from the events and personalities he pontificates about . But while distance gives Mungo perception, it does nothing for David, already burdened with excessive personal distance from the rest of humanity.

Please reinstate Mungo as the Monday regular, and leave David to checking his box office receipts: everyone will be happier.

Comments on comments

Charles Richardson writes: Guy Rundle (comments, Friday) accuses me of trying to “put the US in the centre” of the Arab world’s revolutions. Well, no, of course it is the people themselves who are so bravely standing up against tyranny who are at the centre. But I don’t think that means we can’t look at the role of US policy, which is interesting and relevant. Nor am I convinced by Guy’s argument that the death toll is necessarily less important than the outcome of popular revolt (that reminds me too much of the logic of the Iraq war) — particularly since I have a nagging suspicion that if the outcome is something like a liberal capitalist democracy, Guy won’t count it as a “real” revolution. I agree entirely that the most important thing now is to work out what we can do to assist the revolutionaries. But that’s not a simple task — it’s easy to do the wrong thing — and it’s not just the right that have gone quiet: the hard left, by their habitual assumption that the US is always in the wrong, have equally dealt themselves out of that debate, just as they did on Kosovo.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Seeing as Tim MacKay (comments, Friday) attended both my universities with me and played fullback on my rugby team, he knows full well that my qualifications are in economics and finance, not in climate science. But I do know numbers and I read lots of climate science, so I can say quite confidently that the world has not warmed for 13 years, that the three warming spurts of the last 150 years were the same magnitude and that the world was warmer during the medieval and Roman warm periods — indeed, the world has been warmer for 80% of its 4.5 billion years.

These facts do not support the hypothesis that it’s our gasses that are warming the planet. And I refuse to submit to the cult of credentialisation that insists you need a PhD in climate science to legitimately argue these points. You don’t; It’s a simple hypothesis (the world will warm) and the data is incontrovertible (it hasn’t for 13 years).

To answer Tim’s specific questions: I ascribe a 100% probability to climate change existing. I just think humanity’s 4% share of a trace gas that constitutes only 0.038% of the atmosphere is irrelevant because far greater natural forces are at work. Any risk management actions should be based on adaptation to any warming (or the far greater threat of cooling). Attempting to control the climate, particularly via a tax, is simply insane.

Finally, I think business should take no role in climate change, just as I think business should take no role in Earth’s slowing rotation, the Sun’s fusing of 620 million tons of hydrogen per second or the accelerating expansion of the known universe. There is no possible role for business in these things, so why waste billions pretending?

A political song

Andrew Haughton writes: Poor fella, my country.
There’s Tony ,’Johnny One Note’, Abbott singing his very simple song Climate Change and Everything This Government Does is Crap‘.
Julia who’s been as changeable as a chameleon on a kilt since she knifed Kevin,
Bob who more and more seems to believe in his divine right.
The Independents…well who knows ?
Do we really deserve this lot?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey