Feb 27, 2014

Can we solve climate change for under $1 billion?

The government's Climate Change Authority has today released a major report which says Australia should do much more on climate change -- a 19% cut in emissions by 2020. But Tony Abbott is unlikely to listen.

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Solve climate change for under a billion dollars? It sounds like such a bargain that even Prime Minister Tony Abbott might pay attention.


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19 thoughts on “Can we solve climate change for under $1 billion?

  1. Roger Clifton

    There’s that weasel word “reduction” again. Let’s not hide from it: we cannot reverse climate change. CO2 level is accelerating upward without bounds, (see graph). There is far too much of the stuff to sequester forever and any partial “reduction” in emissions is just greenwash.

    Yes, we could stop the acceleration, but we would have to either solve the problem of storage for wind/solar or go nuclear.

  2. Interrobanging On

    Firstly, there is no target any more, just a charade. Abbott has fixed the price and if 5% is not met will not increase the spending. The 5% has been getting easier due to falls in electricity emissions (not in sectors with no carbon price), but this should be reason to aim higher, not artificially fix the target at a paltry level that will, as noted, make action after 2020 much harder.

    They are double deniers in being climate change deniers, but denying they are deniers.

    And the inadequate 5% base should be history as other countries are doing more, as the CCA says. Increased action continues to be denied by deniers, but there is an irony: the line for the do-nothing mob that other countries are not acting, especially China and India, is echoed by Abbott/Hunt.

    But Australia is chairing the G20 (what a mistake the majority must now be thinking that is on this and the cringing embarrassment in Davos!). Far from using the forum to push towards some agreement as is claimed is needed, including China and India, Abbott is leaving off the issue as ‘clutter’.

    The ‘no overseas’ permits spin is a kind of xenophobia. It doesn’t make sense not to use *good* projects overseas, because the money goes so much further. Capping landfill and trapping the methane for use rather than fugitive emission in India is the same as doing it in Australia – a tested process. This is why shirts are made in China/Bangladesh/Cambodia etc, and few in Australia – it is cheaper.

    Quoting critics of CDM etc is fine, as the whole business isn’t close to perfect. But realise that a lot of those critics are malicious. Just like Hunt/Abbott/Hockey attacking the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in Australia. That body is successful to date, so there has to be a campaign of denigration to justify its destruction.

  3. Scott

    “Just like Hunt/Abbott/Hockey attacking the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in Australia. That body is successful to date, so there has to be a campaign of denigration to justify its destruction”

    The CEFC only started investing money 8 months ago! Check the 2013 Annual Report; it made a grand total of $147,000 from its investments at the record date and cost the Government $12 million in operating costs, hardly any money invested (around $500 million, 75% in BB rated debt, which is below Qantas at BB+). Very early days to say it has been successful. I’d like to see the 2014 figures…if it lasts that long.

  4. Bo Gainsbourg

    Can’t agree with the overseas permits option. Its a furphy. Even if we could buy substantial permits we are effectively locking in a sclerotised economic structure domestically and simply deferring hard decisions till a later date, when they will have to be done even more rapidly, thus providing even bigger upheaval for the economy and enormous in-built political resistance from the industries that have not begun to implement change. On top of that its all academic if we continue to export coal at the rate we are. So have reductions overseas by all means. But don’t imagine it actually makes it easier for Australia. It just defers an even harder crunch.

  5. Interrobanging On

    Scott, yes ‘to date’ as I said is early days and the wishful thinking of those who want the CEFC to fail may have proven correct. It was a top of the head example of cynical denigration (‘slush fund’, ‘risky hedge fund’, ‘for the white shoe brigade’ etc). As you say, we may never know. The people of WA, plus Madigan and Xenophon might intervene…

    Bo, fair points, especially about putting action off in Australia. Little action now means more action later, as 2020 is an artificial deadline. This is an inherent problem in a fixed term ERF approach, too.

    I was arguing along the lines of “if” one is to trade, then sticking to Australia is false economy. Plus CO2 et al. do not respect national boundaries. Thinking about it, though, perhaps sticking only in Australia gives better net benefit, even if the price is high in Australia, as other countries/companies take advantage of cheaper options internationally….I don’t know!

  6. AR

    There is no hope, for the next century or three of reducing AGW – even if all combustion ceased tomorrow or yesterday or last year. The amount of CO2 already blanketting the atmosphere will, in the next(very) years, finally initiate the thawing of the Canadian & Siberia permafrost which will release all the methane stored since the Cretaceous.
    All we can do now is be glad that we live in Oz, all our own food, (scant) water, land and educated (some might say semi sentient), relateively small population.
    This is going to be one of the better palces to be in the 22ndC. Not t’rrfic but orders of magnitude better than elsewhere.
    So glad that I’m no longer young.

  7. Cathy Alexander

    Interrobanging On, yup you are right. The CDM has its critics, but it has its advocates – and it seems that the system (especially verification and additionality) is getting better. In the early years there were clear problems, as often happens with new schemes of any type.

    I’ll have to look into the CEFC now that it is up and running. Theoretically it does not cost the government much and its money doesn’t come out of the budget. But if its return is much below 3% then its not meeting its objectives. I wrote a profile on CEFC CEO Oliver Yates. HE is a really interesting guy and one to watch

  8. Cathy Alexander

    AR and Roger Clifton, you raise a really interesting ethical point that is little debated. Australia has a relatively “aged” population, with plenty of voters 65-plus (and as a proportion of voters, that’s set to increase as the population ages).

    If we consider that many voters of all ages vote with a fair whack of self-interest, and we see climate change as a threat that is going to get worse and worse (with effects due to be increasing severe with each passing decade), why would older voters prioritise reducing emissions as much as younger ones?

    Yes, some older voters worry very much about the future and about their grandchildren etc. But if you look at the polls, older voters are much less exercised about climate change than younger ones.

    Here’s a proposal. Should we weight a person’s vote depending on how long they are likely to remain alive?

  9. Roger Clifton

    In traditional societies, authority is granted in proportion to how long the speaker has already lived. Speaking for the collective interest, concern by the old for the young is a characteristic of our species. One explanation for the menopause, unique to Homo sapiens, is that we have evolved a “grandmother” role, to oversee the cultural development of children (of naive young women). And from our long experience we alone know the difference between climate and weather.

    One lesson I can draw from my past is the effectiveness of the anti-Vietnam movement, a youth movement that tapped the wisdom of our elders. But I hear no youngsters marching in the street. They seem as complacent of their future as a frog in a saucepan on the stove.

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