As the Liberal’s break into the predictable hysteria about Labor’s climate change policy, demanding to know how much it will cost the economy, Rio Tinto cut its 2019 outlook for iron ore shipments from Australia’s Pilbara region due to production disruption and damage caused by tropical cyclone Veronica.
The damage from the cyclone coupled with a fire at a port facility in January will lead to a loss of about 14 million tonnes of production in 2019, the miner said in a statement.
At today’s iron ore price, that equates to over $1.7 billion dollars lost revenue for one company from one cyclone.
In February, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the state budget is estimated to take a hit of at least $1.5 billion after catastrophic bushfires and floods ravaged Queensland over the summer.
The $1.5 billion damage bill includes repairs to infrastructure such as the rail network and the cost of emergency assistance and grants. This does not include the cost to the Federal government or to insurance companies, businesses and households. Nor does it include the tragedy and heartache and the inevitable health toll.
Tens of millions were spent fighting the bushfires in Tasmania, but an even greater cost is the loss of world heritage listed old growth forests that may never recuperate.
And then there’s the Great Barrier Reef which Deloitte Access valued at $56 billion with an economic contribution of $6.4 billion per year. At the Conversation, they contend that, if you include things like the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs, the reef is actually priceless and irreplaceable and that any policies or projects that may damage the reef simply cannot go ahead.
Today, the ABC are reporting that the Kakadu wetlands are “highly vulnerable to future saltwater inundation because of climate change-induced sea-level rise and concomitant increases in extreme weather events such as storm surges and flooding”, according to the CSIRO Marine and Freshwater Research 2017.
A report by the Commonwealth Bank has put the potential cost of the drought at $12 billion and warned of food price hikes. That view was backed up by Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe who told a parliamentary committee the drought was so significant the RBA board had looked at rainfall charts.
“If things return to normal fairly soon we could expect a rebound, but if it goes on like it did in the drought at the turn of the century then the effects on the economy are significant.”
He said in 2002/03 farm output fell around 25 per cent knocking a full percentage point off Australia’s growth and leading to many rural workers losing their jobs. As well, food prices rose by 4.5 per cent.
The 2018 International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ World Disasters Report found Australia’s damage bill for natural disasters over the past decade came in at $37 billion.
Rising sea levels will put coastal property at risk and rising temperatures, both in the ocean and on land, puts whole ecosystems at risk.
The government has decided to quote modelling by Brian Fisher, who is already well known for his very dodgy modelling in favour of the coal mining industry, to say that Labor’s policy will cost workers $9,000 per year. This is, of course, complete rubbish and totally at odds with modelling by Frontier Economics and research by the ANU.
The question is not how much Labor’s policy will cost. The cost of not taking action is far too great to contemplate.
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