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Tag Archives: ETS

Still being lied to

So it seems that Bill Shorten will be taking a proposal for a 50% renewable target by 2030 to Labor’s national conference in Melbourne this weekend. Accordingly, climate change is shaping up to be a major battleground for the next election – probably much to Abbott’s chagrin. On this argument, the Coalition starts from behind. Tony Abbott would prefer the discussion to be neutralised and as a result the government is stepping up the rhetoric to attack Labor’s history and position on the climate change front. As a result, the laughably-named Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, has been working the airwaves furiously to poison the national consciousness.

Shorten’s laudable goal, as those who have been watching the development of renewable energy and its increasing prevalence in the energy mix of countries and even Australian States will know, is technically not difficult. Labor describes the proposal as “ambitious”, but the main challenge with achieving this is political. The primary difficulty is that the Australian people are skeptical about the ability of renewable energy to be a practical, economical choice for energy generation, and consecutive conservative governments have sought to play up on that uncertainty at the behest of their backers and overlords, the existing fossil fuel oligarchies. The Australian people have been lied to from the outset.

They’re still being lied to now. Greg Hunt has been given saturation coverage on news media outlets, parroting the Government’s official response to the reports of this labor policy proposal. The detail of Hunt’s interviews and discussions has varied slightly from broadcast to broadcast, but the salient points remain the same. Unfortunately but predictably, the Government’s official stance – and thus Hunt’s answers – is a farrago of lies and mistruths that often pass without challenge. The ABC is not immune to this mistreatment: in several ABC news interviews Hunt has made the same baldfaced statements without being challenged. The ABC can’t be blamed for this. In an already fraught environment with the national broadcaster under continual threat, challenge and attack by our government, it is vital for the ABC to retain an appearance of impartiality for its news arm. Rather, the problem is with our laws and systems that contain absolutely no penalty for a Government Minister to lie to a reporter, and to lie to the Australian people, so long as they can get away with it. A Minister can lie with impunity – as long as their lie goes unchallenged.

This is a problem, as we head into an election year in 2016. Standard practice in news reporting is to describe the news item of the day, interview appropriate persons involved with the policy or proposal or scandal, and drill into the detail to as shallow or deep an extent as time allows. Then, in the interest of “balance”, journalism will often seek a response from the other side. In politics, this brings us to a situation where the Coalition, with the benefit of incumbency, can coast with few policy announcements, leaving Labor few opportunities to respond. Labor’s situation is more challenging. Winning back government from opposition is difficult and requires a constant stream of policy announcements. When the last word in a news report comes from a Coalition minister in response, far too often the sound bite the audience will remember is the government’s position. If that position is in error, the voters have been misled.

A news reporter is not in a position to challenge a statement made. That comes down to us – the concerned public. It is incumbent on us to be informed, and to inform others who might otherwise be taken in by the lies.

Because the Coalition adheres to the concept that repeating a lie often enough will convince people to take it as truth, their talking points in response to Labor’s proposed policy are consistent and we will hear them trotted out regularly over the coming weeks. Each one of them is demonstrably untrue and the best response progressives can make is to have ready clear, concise explanations as to why each Coalition argument is based on a falsehood. With that in mind, what follows is a precis of the Coalition’s talking points on Labor’s proposed renewable energy target and ETS.

The centrepiece of the policy will be a new carbon tax.

“Carbon tax – they’ll call it an emissions trading scheme, but it’s the same thing, with the same effect, the same hit on electricity prices…” In a recent interview, asked several times for clarification, Hunt fell back on the government’s agreed attack line: that an ETS is just a carbon tax by another name. This was not true the first time around and it is certainly not true now. The reason why is very simple.

Under a carbon tax, every emitter pays for their emissions. Every tonne of carbon carries a cost. The incentive is obvious for the business to reduce its carbon emissions and pay less tax. All taxes raised go to the government, for use in whatever way it deems appropriate. The government may choose to return some of the taxes to companies in the form of incentives and subsidies, but to do so is to devalue the impact of the tax. Over time, unless you force changes to the tax rates through parliament, the price of carbon remains the same.

In contrast, under an ETS, businesses are permitted to release carbon emissions up to a cap, without any cost to them. If a business holds sufficient carbon permits, it can emit as much carbon as it likes with no financial cost at all. If it emits less carbon than it holds permits for, it can trade the excess permits on the market, allowing other businesses more latitude to emit carbon. This brings you to the question of how the business gets the permits in the first place.

Under the Gillard government’s ETS, initial permits were allocated for free to relevant industries to shield them from the immediate impact. Other organisations were forced to purchase initial permits. Over time, under an ETS, the number of permits available is regulated to decrease, providing incentive to companies to reduce their carbon emissions over time: as time goes on, carbon permits become more expensive, increasing the benefit to the company if it can trade its excess permits on the market, and increasing the cost of permits if it does not.

Due to compromises with the Greens required to get the legislation through a hostile senate, the price of permits was set for an initial three year period and the permits were not eligible to be traded, thus making the scheme’s initital appearance close enough to a “tax” to make it unworth arguing the semantics of “tax” and “ETS”. This led, in short order, to Labor being lambasted as a high-taxing regime (ironic, coming from the party which would soon implement a much more oppressive tax regime) and Julia Gillard as a liar.

Labor has learned its lesson on this front. It is fair to assume its new ETS will not commence with a set price and untradeable permits. For the government to claim that Labor’s new ETS will be “exactly the same” as a carbon tax is misrepresentation of the highest order. The ETS will be a different thing, with a very different effect, working in a very different way.

Greg Hunt knows this very well. This is the same Greg Hunt who won an award for co-authoring a thesis about implementing an ETS in Australia. Until recently some on the left held a grudging respect for Mr Hunt, being forced to toe the party line against his own documented beliefs, and pity, for being one of the few realists in a cabinet laced with flat-earthers. His recent performances have shown that he is a thorough convert to the Coalition’s paradigm that somehow a market-based scheme is far inferior to direct governmental intervention. As a result, his respect has died, leaving him only with pity.

Regardless of his personal beliefs, however, Greg Hunt knows very well that an ETS is not remotely similar to a carbon tax, and to claim that it is is to deliberately mislead Australian voters.

A higher renewable energy target will increase electricity prices

The talking point that a renewable energy puts upwards pressure on power prices seems an article of faith for the Coalition. This also is demonstrably untrue. ETS or carbon tax aside, all experience in Australia to date disproves the idea that renewable energy competition can push the price of electricity up. All models and analysis, including the government’s own modelling, show clearly that renewable energy puts competition and downwards pressure on energy prices. The only group that this hurts is the big energy generators and distributors, who coincidentally are big benefactors of the Coalition.

An ETS did have the expected outcome of pushing up power prices from carbon-heavy power generators. Gillard’s government allowed for this and overcompensated consumers for the expected price increases.

The one thing likely to place significant upwards pressure on energy prices is the effect of Queensland’s previous, liberal government opening its gas markets to export. The result is that gas, one of the major energy sources for much of Australia’s eastern seaboard, will now be traded at the significantly higher international price rather than the domestic one.

The carbon tax “didn’t work”

Perhaps the most egregious lie of all is the continued insistence by the Government and Greg Hunt as their mouthpiece that the carbon tax was ineffective. It has been claimed that during the carbon price, emissions continued to increase. This is true. What is wilfully ignored in that discussion is that, under the influence of the carbon price, emissions rose less than they would have otherwise done. In fact, the carbon price was restricted to a relatively small part of Australia’s economy. In sectors where the carbon price applied, carbon emissions decreased markedly. (And, unsurprisingly, upon the repeal of the carbon price, carbon emissions in these sectors immediately increased again). Hunt has argued that Australia’s carbon emissions were already falling prior to the introduction of the carbon price and that the ETS had little effect. This also is untrue. In short, the government’s overblown claims about the carbon tax are almost universally deliberately misleading or even entirely untrue. The carbon price, even at a high price per tonne and acting like a tax, had little effect on the overall economy, destroyed no country towns, and was being remarkably successful at reducing Australia’s emissions.

A new ETS could do the same again.

Labor is inconsistent

Greg Hunt foamed that the parliament had “…just voted for stability in the renewable energy sector…”, referring to the recent passing through the parliament of a reduced renewable energy target for Australia. This criticism popped its head up but has now subsided; perhaps the Coalition has decided that talking about “the politics” is a little too fraught to be a certain winner. In any case, the fact that Labor reluctantly supported the government’s cut of the renewable energy target to 33,000 GW does not mean that Labor is inconsistent. Labor was able to forge a compromise position for the sake of settling the argument in the short term and giving certainty to the existing renewable energy market, but it was clear that this figure was not Labor’s preference.

Frankly, it seems amazing that Labor was able to secure any kind of a compromise from this government, after more than a year of the government steadfastly refusing to budge from its original position. As this government has shown, any policy agreed to under one government is not sacrosanct to the next.

The truth shall set you free

Armed with the facts, it becomes easier to counter the government’s wilful misinformation. Not easy, of course: there are none so blind as those who will not see, and for many in the Australian public the prevailing narrative being told by the government is emotionally compelling. But there are some who may be persuaded by actual facts and evidence. It is for these people that we must be prepared to call it out when we see the government deliberately distorting history and building straw men on Labor’s commitments. We must be able to point out that they have been lied to, and they are still being lied to.

 

A Climate Created by The Abbott of Clive

Al Gore and Clive Palmer (image from theguardian.com)

When Clive Palmer stood beside Al Gore (God only knows why Gore did it) in the Great Hall at Parliament House to announce his party’s voting intentions regarding the Carbon Tax, I like many others watched with daunting anticipation. After all he had, in his own typically flamboyant way, created an event (or an illusion) of world importance worthy of a major speech at the UN.

The former Vice President gave the occasion celebrity value. For me it was not just an announcement. It was about a decision vital to my country’s future. What might this man of singular self-importance do?

Then Palmer announced the terms and conditions for his party’s support for dropping the tax, one of which was that it be linked to the implementation of an ETS, albeit without a price. Well that’s what I thought I heard and I said to my wife:

“I think Clive has Tony by his Crown Jewels”.

What I thought I heard was not what I had heard at all after Palmer later clarified his remarks. It was not linked at all. I was somewhat devastated when, after doing some quick intellectual gymnastics, I concluded that Clive had pulled a swifty. Then I angered to write but prudence got the better of me and I decided to canvas some thoughts from those like me who are concerned and opine on serious matters such as this. It was as well I waited because the subject has taken more twists and turns on a daily basis than the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit.

I can guarantee that a read of these articles might tip your sanity over the edge, confuse you, make you more aware, disappoint you, or even infuriate you. But hopefully they might convince you that we are being led by a moron of unbelievable stupidity and myopia. Closely followed by a businessman who only wants two things. Anything that will advance his business interests and revenge against those who wouldn’t give him what he wanted.

But hopefully the last article by the ever astute Peter Martin will put things in perspective for you.

First off the grid was former Gillard Minister, Craig Emerson.

”Lots of carbon-emitting smoke and sideshow alley mirrors were on display yesterday when Clive Palmer and Al Gore announced a major environmental breakthrough. Now that the smoke is cleared and a light is shone on the mirrors, here’s what was actually announced. It confirms what I wrote last night.”

PUP Senators will vote with the Government to repeal the existing Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) law, including the present fixed price and the future floating price. PUP will seek to introduce its own ETS with a zero price. However, it will not insist on the Government voting for its bill. Even if the new ETS bill were to make it through the Senate, it must then go to the House of Representatives where the Government has a majority (that’s how it became the Government). Unless PM Abbott has a massive change of heart, the Government will defeat PUP’s ETS Bill in the House. The bill therefore will not become law.

Palmer is insisting on the Government retaining the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority. He has also announced PUP will vote against the Government’s Direct Action legislation.

As announced, the net result is that Australia’s existing ETS will be scrapped and not replaced with any ETS. Direct Action will be defeated. The Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority will be retained.

While this is better than nothing, it is hardly cause for celebration for anyone who believes an ETS is vital to reducing carbon emissions. Unless Clive Palmer or Tony Abbott change their minds, there will be no ETS and therefore no effective action on climate change.

Mark Kenny in what I think is one of the best pieces on the subject said this:

The understanding here is that Abbott’s real priority is – and only ever has been – the destruction of the carbon ‘‘tax’’. Everything else, including the $2.5 billion direct action plan to pay large polluters to cut emissions, was merely put forward because the Coalition feared that offering nothing was electoral suicide.

Barry Tucker. Blogger for THE AIMN had this to say:

By voting for abolition of the carbon price (“tax”), Palmer saves millions in future payments for pollution from his mines. He still has to pay for overdue carbon price bills, plus fines and penalties of about $63 million and growing almost exponentially.
He may do another deal to get some relief for that liability. Ultimately, he’s just in politics for his own benefit.

James Clancy a Facebook friend commented on the guaranteed reduction on his power bills:

Well today I received a letter from Energy Australia that Electricity prices will increase from 1st July 2014. The weighted average price increase to Qld customers will be $4.58 per week. So it looks like they are going to charge first and give a little off if the carbon tax is repealed. I seem to recall that Electrical suppliers had written to the Federal Government saying that they will give consumers the savings they make. So we Pay $294.00 extra a year, how much will we get back when the carbon tax is repealed I bet it is not around $550 as Tony Abbott has claimed.

Ross Garnaut

Economist and carbon pricing expert Professor Ross Garnaut says the Palmer United Party’s position to vote to retain the RET and other key climate change bodies will have “important” and positive effects.

Doug Evans another writer for this blog said.

Abbott and his band of hateful sidekicks are a disgrace. Even if they become a one term blot on our political landscape we still have three years of their carnage to endure. On the bright side they are not getting it all their own way. Their first budget is in tatters raising the question of whether or not there will be a second ‘horror’ budget next year, further cementing their unpopularity. The really important elements of the Clean Energy legislation (CEFC, ARENA) look as though they will endure as does the RET. No-one in government or the MSM seems to be able to fully evaluate the meaning of the loss if the price on carbon. Thanks to Labor’s insistence carbon price was always set too low to drive meaningful change and when linked to the global carbon market was going to come much lower (hence the Greens’ insistence on the fixed price period). The carbon price hasn’t been and was never going to be the major element of this legislation driving the clean energy transformation. Axing the tax will have very little effect on the rate of growth of our carbon emissions.

The media with their unshakeable fixation on THE CARBON TAX have taken to repeating that without the (very small) stick of our ETS we are without any mechanism for driving down emissions. Not sure why they ignore the (somewhat larger) carrot that is the combination of RET and CEFC.

For those of you who (like me) love to hate Greg Hunt, Mark Kenny ( a journalist for whom I normally have no respect at all) has written a very interesting speculative piece for Fairfax on who wins and who loses from Palmer’s carbon tax machinations The article bears strongly on assessment of what matters and what doesn’t in the wash up of Abbott’s shock and awe onslaught on our climate policy. It is worth reading and reflecting on, not least because it reveals tensions within the government around this issue.

Similarly I found Lenore Taylor’s piece on the background leading to Palmer’s stunning appearance beside Al Gore pretty interesting also. It also explains why Gore having agreed to appear with Palmer still looked so very uncomfortable about being there.

Lenore Taylor in an interview with Palmer last weekend.

“Our amendment makes it a requirement that people will have to pass on the power cost savings … not a voluntary situation, it doesn’t leave it up to the ACCC to decide at its discretion whether or not it wants to enforce this”.
“But I’m not in business, I’m serving the Australian people, so knowing that I am going to make sure this legislation goes through to protect to protect our pensioners and everyone like that”. “Palmer has given up several directorships but remains the owner of a number of companies, including a nickel refinery, coal leases and an iron ore holding”.

Annabel Crabb in her usual stoic style.

“Direct Action is about as popular within the Coalition as a peanut at a preschool, and not having to make sense of it in practice is something of a lucky break for the government”.

“Anyone building hypothetical future scenarios based on Clive Palmer continuing serenely as the new face of emissions trading might want to exercise caution”.

Michael Pascoe in The Age.

“Clive Palmer is being hailed in several quarters as a jolly green giant saving Australia’s carbon emissions trading scheme, not to mention lauded as a master political strategist. Hold the phone at least on the first part of that”.

“One of the problems with Clive is working out what he’s saying, what he might think he’s saying and what he actually means”.
“They can all be quite different things. For businesses having to plan and invest around carbon policy, that’s not very helpful”.

Bernie Fraser former Governor of the Reserve Bank.

“Policymakers need to look beyond short-term economic considerations in the interests of some of the big companies to longer-term community interests. That’s what governments are supposed to do, but unfortunately it’s not happening at the present time”.

Laurie Oakes in Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

“Palmer himself? It’s only a couple of months since he was proclaiming disbelief in the whole idea that human activity contributes to global warming. Scientists, he claimed, could be paid to say anything.

Now he adopts the stance of an environmental warrior, committed to retention of the Climate Change Authority and opposed to any change in the Renewable Energy Target designed to ensure 20 per cent of Australia’s energy comes from sources such as wind and solar by 2020”.

“The Prime Minister has held every position there is on climate change, from branding the science “absolute crap” to claiming before his recent Washington visit he accepts it, and from supporting an ETS when John Howard embraced it to asserting a price on carbon would destroy the economy”.

And this from Australianpolitics.com

Palmer has demonstrated today that he has a deft and populist political touch, even though his political positions don’t withstand close scrutiny. He has positioned himself to be seen to be sympathetic to climate change policies, although nothing he has proposed will ever come to pass. The carbon tax will be abolished, with a direct financial benefit to Palmer’s companies.

Mark Kenny again.

“Just before the House adjourned on Thursday, there were jubilant scenes on the floor of the House of Representatives as the Coalition passed the carbon tax repeal bills for the second time”.

“Mr Abbott met Mr Palmer on Thursday morning and emerged happy that the minor party’s four upper house votes would support the abolition of the fixed price, subject to just one condition – a guarantee that the package would contain legislated assurances of cheaper electricity for households”.

Mike Carlton in his usual full on journalistic style got right to the point.

“His idiocy would not matter a toss but for the fact that Newman is chairman of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council and, therefore, presumably in Tony Abbott’s shell-like ear. Publicly, Abbott has held more positions on climate change than there are sexual acrobatics in the Kama Sutra but you know that, deep down, he believes it’s “crap”. His word.

Abbott is appalling and will no doubt do plenty of damage but he is not getting all his own way. With any luck this will be the dominant theme of his one term government.

Richard Dennis on the cost of power.

‘The main reason that electricity has been getting dearer is the over investment in poles and wires, and the fundamental inefficiency in the way that the national electricity market’s working,’ says Richard Denniss, executive director of the Australia Institute”.

Peter Martin

“For six glorious wild and wet days last week, South Australia sourced 67 per cent of its electricity from wind. Needless to say, it’s an Australian record. So fast were the turbines turning from early Monday to early Sunday that the entire national grid sourced an extraordinary 14.5 per cent of its electricity from wind”.

But the last word goes to the Prime Minister in this article from Philip Correy:

“Tony Abbott has sparked a war with the renewable energy sector by claiming their product was driving up power prices “very significantly” and fostering Australia’s reputation as “the unaffordable energy capital of the world”.

Solving the real problems

 

We have a budget problem.

It’s not a budget emergency. Everyone agrees about that… at least, everyone who understands about national finance and economics, which is unfortunately only a minority of the voting public, and none of the current Coalition government to hear them tell it.

By current standards, by any measures you care to name, Australia is currently doing very well compared to every other nation in the G20. Taking all of the various factors together, it’s impossible to deny that Australia is in the best economic state in the world.

The justification for immediate, sweeping, deep cuts to government expenditure is looking pretty shaky.

With that said, it is prudent for us to realise that Australia does face some severe fiscal challenges in the coming decades. Some of these are the result of demographics. Some are historical, and some are being wilfully ignored or exacerbated by the Coalition government’s policies.

As many commentators have argued, the problem with Australia’s economy is not currently on the spending side of the ledger; despite the Coalition’s rhetoric of “profligate spending”, government expenditure increase was slower under Labor than the previous Howard government. Rather, the challenge is with the decline in revenue. This decline is not going to be fixed by a short-term “deficit levy”. The decline is driven by demographic change as the large baby-boomer demographic leaves the ranks of the taxpayers and is replaced by smaller cohorts of Generation Y and Z. Simply put, we’re an ageing population and that leads to declines in tax revenue. Revenue is further driven down by reductions in the terms of trade for coal, iron and other exports, as international economies both encounter financial headwinds of their own, and bring competing sources of these resources online. And depressed spending in the domestic market, particularly in big-ticket areas such as housing, has been driven by the “near-miss” that was the GFC. When the Australian population saves, there is less money in circulation for the government to take in tax.

The future is looking even more bleak. The already declining revenues from coal and fossil fuels, for so long a mainstay of the Australian economy, are likely to collapse with the increasing push towards renewables and international concern about climate disruption. The brand-new 2014 National Climate Assessment in the US is just the most recent in a long succession of dire reports to the world’s largest economy, and the boulder is
slowly but inexorably starting its downhill roll. As climatic disasters continue to reinforce the immediacy of climate disruption, and as economies like America adopt increasingly stringent carbon-abatement policies, the demand for Australia’s coal and gas is likely to dry up. Many fossil fuel oligarchs are likely to go the wall, a fact that will not provoke a lot of tears, but it’s likely to take Australia’s budget position with it.

An ageing population is one with decreasing health, so just as people drop out of the workforce and stop contributing tax, they start requiring more medical attention and putting more weight onto the healthcare system as well as pensions. Multiple reports are clear that on the current trajectory, over the coming decades the share of government expenditure that social security and healthcare will encompass will increase substantially and unsustainably. Left unchecked, this is the budget emergency of tomorrow.

One final brick in the wall up against which is Australia, is the decline of the manufacturing industry. Whether it’s cars or fruit or sneakers, the past decade has seen a constant flow of manufacturing businesses, large and small, leaving Australia for sunnier climes. This is not driven by a lack of capability or resources, which Australia has in plentiful supply, but rather through things that Australians value, such as a decent working wage and appropriate employment conditions including leave and penalty rates. There is only so much that Australian governments can do to reduce administration costs and provide tax breaks to encourage businesses to set up here or remain, and so long as we live in a globalising world with logistics chains that can get goods to the shelves regardless of being produced in Geelong or Kuala Lumpur, all other things being equal companies have little incentive to stay. This contributes to a loss of manufacturing potential and an over-reliance on the mining and minerals sector, and puts Australia at even greater risk. The next two decades will be critical. Employment ministers like to talk up Australia’s other growth area of employment, the services sector, but there’s a limit to how many service jobs an economy can support if there’s nothing being actually manufactured.

To its credit, Labor is aware of the challenges ahead and had productive policies in place over their past two terms of government, and in their election policies in 2013, despite a growing populism and desperation in the face of Tony Abbott’s attacks. Unfortunately Labor has proven to be absolutely inept at message management and communication to the electorate, resulting in the Coalition defining the terms of discussion for every area of policy debate. This resulted, too often, in Labor watering down its message or arguing on the Coalition’s ground, rather than making the case for their own vision.

There are no simple or foolproof solutions to these problems; after all, Australia exists in competition with a myriad of other nation-states who would love nothing better than to see us fail if only to bolster their own chances of success. There are, however, strategies and approaches that can be taken to address the issues, and it is my belief that Labor, at least until the last year of its term of government, had decent and well-considered approaches to these oncoming difficulties. It was just a pity that they were not able to clearly explain their policies in terms of the problems and their intended solutions.

Take for example healthcare. Labor recognised the burgeoning costs of healthcare for an ageing population early on its first term. Kevin Rudd’s grand plan for a revised health compact with the States combined an increase in the role of the Federal government in return for more funding, a new method of costing hospital procedures to standardise and optimise costs and processes, and a range of measures intended to increase pre-clinical healthcare. Throughout its two terms, Labor instituted GP Super Clinics to relieve the pressure from hospital emergency departments and to improve chronic and preventative healthcare. These same super clinics are now under threat from Tony Abbott’s oncoming budget of scalpels.

Improving overall health via preventative care, relieving hospital pressures by increasing the availability and ubiquity of medical care and standardising and optimising costs would not, in and of themselves, solve the healthcare problems Australia faces into the future, but they are a determined approach and a good start. By contrast, the Coalition does not believe in centralisation or group operation, feeling that competition and the holy dollar give the best results. The Coalition does not believe in federal involvement in healthcare beyond what is necessary. The Coalition does not believe in providing government assistance to those in need of healthcare, preferring instead to encourage further involvement of private health in Australia’s healthcare system. This does not address the nation’s healthcare funding problem; it simply shifts the burden onto ordinary people.

Or you can look at manufacturing. Labor’s approach to Australia’s two-speed economy was best encapsulated by the MRRT (Minerals Resource Rent Tax) and its preceding RSPT (Resources Super Profit Tax). Labor intended to marginally increase the amount of tax revenue gained from those resources companies with unfeasibly large profits and pour the resulting funds into support and resources for businesses in other sectors of Australia’s economy. A true case of “all boats will rise”, Labor intended to lower the company tax rate across the board, a move that would have been particularly of benefit to small businesses and retailers across the country. The mining tax would not apply to resource businesses in their normal course of operations; no extra tax would be taken during investment and building of a mine, nor even during moderate production. But when a company got into windfall territory, rapidly depleting a source of minerals and making huge short-term profits, the government felt that the Australian economy should get an extra cut. The philosophical merits of placing an extra tax burden on companies that already paid taxes may be debated; the politics of imposing this ‘levy’, as we now know, turned exceptionally poisonous. (Incidentally, the RSPT and MRRT were intended to replace royalties, so all claims that ‘they already pay royalties to the States’ are furphies.) But it was an attempt, successful or not, to take the benefits of a short term economic boom on the back of mining and use them to strengthen Australia’s performance in other areas of the economy.

Except that the Coalition and the resource oligarchs together conspired to corrupt the public discussion. The average Australian, by the time of the 2013 election, probably thought that the MRRT was going to push prospective mining projects out of Australia and cost thousands of jobs. The truth, of course, is that mining employs a mere fraction of the workforce (and far less than manufacturing and retail), that no companies have realistically been driven from our shores by a tax specifically intended only to be levied when a company was doing excellently, and that the mining companies had won a range of concessions about the methodology of valuing assets that depressed the overall take of the tax in any case. In a world environment where resource prices are declining and the Australian mining boom is largely over, the MRRT has been a disappointment in terms of revenue raised, and whilst it might have been more successful in the latter half of the 2010s as mining companies moved from building phases into full operation, the Coalition is very likely to be able to dismantle the MRRT before it reaches any kind of real success.

Taking even a decent amount of super profits tax from the big miners and using it to reduce operating costs for all businesses across the country would not, in and of itself, solve the problems facing Australia’s manufacturing sector. But it was a good start and a valid approach. The Coalition’s alternative approach of continuing to subsidise and promote Australia’s resource industries will have marginal short term benefits to revenue at the expense of Australia’s ability to transition away from resources into more sustainable and modern forms of production.

On the front of climate disruption, an emissions trading scheme is widely regarded by environmentalists and economists alike to be the best approach to the problem. Labor’s ETS has its detractors, but in this as in so many other areas of Labor policy, the message has been lost in the noise. It is certainly fair to say that even were an ETS to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint to zero it would make minimal impact on the world’s climate. It is definitely true that trading schemes have been gamed in some jurisdictions, that corruption can ensue, and that some people are liable to make a lot of money. It is even fair to say that during the short life of Australia’s ETS, there has been little to no measurable impact on the country’s climate. These objections ignore the bigger picture: that participating in an effective carbon trading scheme would assist Australia to meet its climate commitments and would position Australia to participate in global carbon trading markets without fear of sanctions and tariffs; that the revenues raised from the carbon trading scheme would be ploughed back into successful research and development programs in renewable energy and other carbon-abatement technologies, thus increasing the country’s export markets, renewable energy business and employment, and technological expertise; and that by leading the way for the world, we improved Australia’s standing and encouraged other nations to improve their carbon footprints as well.

By contrast, the Coalition does not appear to believe in climate change/disruption. They are seeking to dismantle a market mechanism to address this global problem, in the process removing Australia’s ability to participate in growing international carbon markets and making us a pariah amongst other nations. They have already dissolved bodies whose remit was to provide impartial and scientific advice on this issue, and are seeking to remove the revenue-generating successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation. In place of these approaches the Coalition is promoting its fig-leaf policy of Direct Action, which has been definitively shown to be incapable of meeting Australia’s stated environment goals, let alone the significantly increased goals that would be required to keep Australia on an even footing with other nations.

Labor’s ETS would not, in and of itself, save the planet from anthropogenic global warming, but it’s the ideal and almost universally respected approach, with many benefits for Australia’s economy and environment, at minimal cost. The best that can be said for the Coalition’s approach is that Direct Action might possibly be of some benefit, but it’s certainly neither the most effective nor efficient method.

On all three of these confronting issues, Labor had successful or worthy policy approaches. Whatever can be said about Labor’s ability to deliver on its policies (either through poor planning or the incapability of the public service), and putting aside the well-publicised leadership contentions, Labor’s main weakness was its inability to get across the message of its approach to these problems. On all three of these issues, judging by policies taken to the election and recent media speculation, our current Coalition government would appear to be taking Australia in exactly the wrong direction. With the Coalition’s first budget mere days away, we will soon see if the government has any valid approaches to these issues beyond the slash-and-burn approach already adopted, but the signs are not looking promising when Tony Abbott and his team will not even be honest about the problems we face. This insistence on a “budget emergency” is a farce and the Coalition’s determined intent to preserve the status quo is not the way to head off the economic emergency that is really oncoming. But of course politics is cyclical, and it’s likely that Labor will be in power by the time these problems become too big to ignore.

A job application to Clive Palmer

Clive Palmer (image by news.com.au)

Clive Palmer (image by news.com.au)

Dear Mr Clive Palmer,

May I call you Mr? It’s not Sir Clive yet is it? I’m sure it will be in the offing should you aspire to a knighthood – it’s Tony’s best reward for pre-eminent people like you.

May I congratulate and commiserate with you on your entry into the sordid world of politics. I have watched your campaign and realised that you are a man who wants to get things done, a trait I admire. You have also said things that echoed with me like being a representative for the little people, the people without a voice. Some other things, not so much, but it would be a bad move for me to begin an application with criticism.

Your Senators now carry a grave responsibility – just ask Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott about that. With the balance of power they need to be familiar with every bill and every amendment. It’s a huge workload. I saw that Tony Abbott refused your request for extra personnel to help with the legislative workload, which is what prompted me to apply to help out. I will work for free for a period and if Tony changes his mind about that, and you find my work valuable, then a small stipend would be most helpful.

Obviously the carbon tax is a big issue that will require your attention in the immediate future. I have taken the opportunity to provide a brief summary for the Senators’ perusal with attached links should they require further reading. I am also happy to answer any questions should you or any of your iron force have one.

CARBON TAX

1. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim called for a price on carbon, requiring companies to disclose their climate risk exposure, and greater investment in green bonds in the fight against climate change.

2. The planet is “perilously close” to a climate change tipping point, and requires urgent cooperation between countries, cities and business, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said. Addressing an audience in London, Lagarde said reducing subsidies for fossil fuels and pricing carbon pollution should be priorities for governments around the world.

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause. We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale. Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.”

3. John Kerry has described the UN’s latest report on the science of climate change as “chilling” and warns of a “potential catastrophe” without urgent action. The US Secretary of State made the remarks at the annual Munich Security Conference held at the weekend, citing terrorism, radical sectarianism, food security, water availability, and climate change as the “great tests of our time.”

Kerry also highlighted the potential financial benefits of moving to a low carbon economy, pointing to the $6 trillion energy market that will gain an extra five billion users by 2050. “It is the mother of all markets, and only a few visionaries are doing what is necessary to reach out and touch it and grab it and command its future,” he said.

Kerry warned of an “absence of collective leadership” from politicians where the environment is concerned. “We have enormous challenges. None of them are unsolvable. “That’s the agony of this moment for all of us. There are answers to all of these things, but there seems to be an absence of will, an absence of collective leadership,” he said.

4. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, said that it was amoral for people to look at climate change from a politically partisan perspective, because of its impact on future generations.

Figueres said that examples of recent extreme weather around the world were a sign climate change was here now. “If you take them individually you can say maybe it’s a fluke. The problem is it’s not a fluke and you can’t take them individually. What it’s doing is giving us a pattern of abnormality that’s becoming the norm. These very strange extreme weather events are going to continue in their frequency and their severity … It’s not that climate change is going to be here in the future, we are experiencing climate change.”

5. The independent Climate Change Authority, which advises on climate change action around the world, called for Australia to lift its emissions reductions goal from 5 per cent to 19 per cent to take into account international moves, Australia’s fair share and the urgency of the climate change threat.

Professor Garnaut believes the ultimate cost to the budget of the Abbott government’s climate policy could be much greater than $4 billion a year, given many countries are committing to more ambitious emissions reduction targets.

6. Senate Committee: Direct Action

Recommendation 1

2.63 The committee recommends that the Australian Government immediately adopt the emissions reduction targets outlined by the Climate Change Authority in its final report released on 27 February 2014. Namely that Australia’s 2020 minimum emissions reduction target be set at 15% below 2000 levels and that Australia’s carryover from the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol be used to raise the 2020 emissions reduction target by 4%, giving a total 2020 target of 19%.

Recommendation 5

3.143 The committee recommends that the transition of the fixed carbon price to a fully flexible price under an emissions trading scheme with the price determined by the market occur on 1 July 2014.

Recommendation 10

5.129 The committee recommends that the Emissions Reduction Fund not be substituted for the carbon pricing mechanism.

7. Growing numbers of investors and now being attracted by three key benefits of wind farms:

•Social Responsibility: Investing in clean renewable energy is socially responsible

•Lower Risk: Now that thousands of wind farms exist globally, construction and operational risks are very low.

•Longevity: Long term demand for renewable energy will increase driven by declining fossil fuel sources and carbon reduction policies.

8. National solar provider Energy Matters has released consumer insights that rank cities for solar viability and also reveal the true investment potential of solar power in comparison to shares, property, gold, global fixed interest or even fine art.

The figures will startle many; with it outperforming all other investment options using current ASX figures and other key organisations that rate investment opportunities.

The consumer insights also revealed Townsville in Queensland was Australia’s top address for solar, giving its residents a healthy return of investment of 21.8% per year. Other mainland capital cities included Brisbane (annual return of investment of 20.2%), Adelaide (19.1%), Sydney (18.9%), Perth 17.8%) and Melbourne (13.2%).

9. The solar PV industry employed about 13,600 as of late 2013, and the number will sink this year to about 12,300 across about 4300 businesses as state-based subsidies are wound back, according to a report for the REC Agents Association, a body representing firms that create and trade in renewable energy certificates.

The solar workforce, though, would dive immediately by 2000 if the government were to end support for the industry by scrapping the RET, with the total number of jobs lost or foregone swelling to 6750 by 2018, analysis of the research by industry group SolarBusinessServices found.

10. China is spending billions to control air pollution, banning imports of low-grade coal, launching carbon-trading markets, exploring shale gas, getting more efficient, and building the crap out of renewables. And remember, it has its own coal mines. They just couldn’t keep up with the boom. Now that things are leveling off, domestic Chinese coal will get cheaper, they’ll buy more of it at home, and there will be less market for imports.

Since China was the main driver, its rapid deceleration will serve as a drag on the whole seaborne coal market. Goldman Sachs analysts “expect average annual growth (in demand) to decline to 1% in 2013-17 from 7% in 2007-12.”

No less an investor than the mighty Warren Buffett has proclaimed that the decline of coal in the U.S. will be gradual but inevitable. Given flat demand for electricity, cheap natural gas, burgeoning renewables, rising efficiency, and future carbon regulations, new coal-fired power plants are a bad bet, which is why they aren’t getting built.

11. Economists are convinced that carbon pricing will yield the greatest environmental bang-for-buck at the lowest economic cost.

Recommendations:

  1. Get rid of your investments in coal and invest in renewable energy

  2. Move to a floating price ETS on July 1 either this year or next (preferably next)

  3. Increase our emission reduction target to 19% and confirm our renewable energy target of 20% by 2020

  4. Under no circumstances allow Tony Abbott to waste taxpayer money on that silly Emissions Reduction Fund bribery to polluters

  5. Give me a job

I hope this has been of use to you and your Senators in getting up to speed on the issue. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future to discuss terms of employment.

Yours faithfully

Kaye Lee

Dame-in-waiting

PS I looked into your idea about reducing natural greenhouse gas emissions but have been unable to think of a way to stop respiration, evaporation, organic rotting, volcanoes or farting, but I will keep working on it. By the by, cutting down trees is not a good start.

Assaults on democracy

Parliament House - the centre of our democracy (image by holam.com.au)

Parliament House – old and new – the centre of our democracy (image by holman.com.au)

There are at least two fundamental requirements for a functioning democracy. In various ways, in recent years, we have seen political parties in Australia attempting to subvert and limit these requirements. This is an assault on democracy itself. It may not be deliberate – political parties, like business entities, will work within the constraints of the law to achieve their ends, and loopholes and aggressive tactics are a part of the game. But dress it up how you may, attempting to coerce the workings of parliament and the electoral choices of a population is anti-democratic even if done within the limitations of the laws of that democracy.

In the business sphere, there is an overarching structure to act as a check and balance. The courts, and above them the legislature, ensure that eventually businesses that exploit loopholes to the detriment of the community can be brought back into line. Through the testing of legislation in the courts, through the drafting of new laws and regulations, there are means to help ensure that the system is fluid and no entities can subvert the intention of the regulations to which all businesses are subject.

Politics has no such overarching structure. The limits on politics are the various parties themselves – where one party oversteps the bounds, the only bodies that can pull them up on it are other political parties. Some of the time this works. And sometimes it does not.

Given untrammelled power – for instance, control of both houses of Parliament – a government can adjust the goalposts in such a way as to benefit their own interests and continued dominance. When the cycle turns, as eventually it must, an incoming government is then able to either take advantage of the changes the previous government has wrought, or to reverse the changes and implement their own.

The Australian constitution holds various aspects of our democracy sacrosanct and to change these requires a referendum. The basic mechanics of elections and parties and the existence of two houses are not in danger. There are plenty of other ways that a political party can act to extend its own hegemony, and any number of ways that the intent of a democracy can be subverted by the details.

Basic requirements for a healthy democracy include the following.

1. A free press

Or more accurately, even and impartial coverage and analysis of the issues. Fundamentally, Australian democracy is about vision. In a hundred policy areas each government has to balance the requirements of the community and the best interests of the country. In order to effectively judge the promised approach of a candidate government to each of these areas, in order to accurately evaluate the needs of Australia’s present and future, clear and informative reporting is needed.

In Australia, the media environment is skewed. Various reports have pointed to the obvious bias in the large majority of Australia’s news media. Against this bias, only the minority Fairfax and the public broadcaster ABC attempt a more balanced view. Readers of this blog will understand that “more balanced”, to the conservatives, reads as “rabid pinko”. A detailed analysis of the relative bias of the ABC vs News Ltd is outside of the scope of this article. What is not, is that the Coalition is currently openly discussing curtailing the ABC’s power to operate in the news arena.

“He said there was a compelling case to consider breaking the ABC into two entities with the traditional television and radio operations protected to ensure services in the bush and regional Australia, while the online news service could be disposed of.” http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/turnbull-defends-abc-but-colleagues-want-to-preach-it-a-lesson-20131203-2yotw.html#ixzz2mS3lekiz

Of course, the Abbott government has form in the area of suppressing balanced information from the populace. In just a short three months in office, they have disbanded information bodies, restricted the information flow out of government, suppressed information on the grounds of “operational matters” despite said information being available to those not unfortunate enough to live in Australia, and continued the active dissemination of misinformation, half-truths and blatant untruths.

2. Robust representation in the Parliament

In a representative democracy, not every member of Parliament is going to belong to or be sympathetic to the government. Those members and senators elected to represent the opposition and independent parties – even those who do not represent a party at all – are not there to warm chairs. They are not elected to become a part of the government machine and uncritically support any intentions of the government of the day. Instead, they are there to be a dissenting voice, and hopefully through negotiation in the interests of the people they represent, to improve proposed legislation through amendments. The operation of the Parliament and Senate in this regard is a deliberate structure to ensure that all new law is viewed through the lens of more than one stakeholder; to ensure that legislation that benefits one group does not act unfairly to the detriment of others.

Both Labor and the Coalition in recent years – and as recently as the current sitting of Parliament – have taken, and are taking, actions to subvert this function. Such actions include scheduling complicated legislation for debate and passage in unfeasibly short timeframes. For examples of this – on both sides – you need look no further than the carbon “tax”. Labor provided a package of legislation running to over 1000 pages to the Parliament with eight days to read, understand, debate and vote on it. In response, the Coalition has given the repeal of the carbon tax – eleven bills, to be discussed together – just three and a half days of debate. It would be bad enough if it were just the “tax” being debated, but tied up in the repeal are dozens of climate bodies, administrative bodies, funding arrangements, and associated clean energy infrastructure.

Arguably, however, the Coalition has been worse in their abuse of the processes of Parliament. During the previous term of government, they brought few amendments to the house, preferring instead to grandstand, disrupt proceedings with continual calls to suspend standing orders, and in most cases in Question Time to ask not one question relating to their own portfolios. This was not effective representation of their constituents. But the worst was yet to come.

In the current term, in addition to electing a clearly partisan speaker to the chair of the House – Bronwyn Bishop, who remains in the party room and is an integral part of the Coalition’s governing body – they have also taken actions that in one fell swoop ensure the failure of any amendments to legislation and disempower any independent voices. The attempt to vote on all proposed amendments as a block ensures that a flaw in one amendment, or contradictory amendments, or an extreme position on behalf of one proposal will knock out all the amendments at once. As Penny Wong stated in parliament, this is procedurally impossible. She might have added, deliberately so – it is a flagrant breach of the intention of amendments. (I am unable to find references online to this abuse of process. If you can provide a link, please leave it in the comments.)

Understandably, governments want to implement their policies. But subverting debate using procedural methods is as much an assault on democracy as is continual sabotage of proceedings using points of order and interjections.

Does anybody even listen to Parliament any more?

The majority of the Australian people remain minimally aware of the vagaries of Parliament and how it operates, far less the way that it is intended to represent the interests of non-governmental political parties. Tony Abbott and some sections of the news media deliberately play to this disaffection as they talk about a “mandate” for the government to implement its policies and report scant, if any, details of the proceedings of legislation through the parliament. Regardless, the details remain critically important. These are our representatives, this is our government, and any attempt to usurp the proper processes of democracy is an assault on everyone’s rights – whether you support the government of the day or not. Accordingly, those who are politically aware and interested need to draw attention to these abuses wherever they may be found. Only by showing that people are watching, and that we care about the concept of democracy as much as about its outcomes, can we avoid permanent and catastrophic debasement of government in Australia.

It’s the environment, stupid

climate-change-economy-aurich-lawson-ars-technica

In the aftermath of the 2013 Australian election, I spoke to a variety of my friends and colleagues about the core issues that motivated my voting intention. Chief amongst these was the issue of climate change, and the various parties’ approach to Labor’s ETS or another alternative. I voted below the line and took into account several important areas of policy, to the extent it was known, but the primary consideration for me was climate change.

In many cases during my discussions, I was disheartened to hear that climate change just wasn’t top of mind for these people I valued. For them, other issues took priority: Australia’s budget, its productivity, its two-tiered economy. There were others for whom provision of healthcare, education, housing and social benefits were of higher import. And there were some for whom the key issue was the two parties’ policies on refugees and boat arrivals.

What people perhaps fail to fully understand is that climate change will fundamentally alter every aspect of life and governance in this country and around the world. It is already having adverse effects on health, on productivity, on national economies and on food production. And all the scientists tell us that we are on the cusp of a downward slope, that things will get far worse from here.

Already we can see some of the effects of climate change on the front pages of our daily news. In early 2013, a report was published indicating that the 2012-2013 Sydney summer was the hottest on record. That was before the current summer of bushfires began. When every summer becomes the “hottest ever”, we have to start wondering about where the trend will lead. 2013 has seen climatic extremes across the globe: from floods to blizzards, from droughts to heat waves, from tornadoes to wildfires, all of the linked events are record breaking or without precedent. But climate disasters, even when they directly affect people, are remote in comparison to daily pressures of life. They’re too big to easily comprehend as an immediate and pressing concern.

What seems needed is a connection between the oncoming threat of climate change and the pressing policy areas that do concern people. When the protest is made that money spent on carbon abatement could be better spent on hospitals, real information on the healthcare impacts of climate change is needed. When western Sydney voters are concerned about the tide of boat-borne refugees, a cold-eyed view of the millions of people who will be displaced from our asian neighbours (due more to loss of habitable land and food yields than to rising sea levels, although both are important) might help put the numbers in perspective.

There is one specific objection to prioritising climate change mitigation efforts and carbon abatement policy, and it’s a doozy. Under both Labor and the incoming Coalition government, Australia’s prosperity relies upon a continued efficiency in extracting mineral and fossil fuel wealth from our abundant reserves and selling them overseas. Under the newly elected Coalition, it is likely that this reliance on resource mining will increase, rather than decrease, as the government dismantles Labor’s perfunctory efforts at wealth transfer from the resources sector to high-tech industries and manufacturing. The Coalition’s rabid determination to vilify and destroy the “carbon tax” (more accurately described as an emissions trading scheme) is underpinned by this unspoken need to prop up Australia’s cash cow. Nothing can be allowed to interrupt the gravy train of that lovely, lovely brown coal. If they were to give an inch, to allow the ETS to continue, it wouldn’t be long until greenies were making cogent arguments about Australia’s net carbon export via its sale of coal to China and India. Failing a rational answer to such arguments, and unwilling to be the government under which Australia’s GNP collapsed, the best solution for the Coalition is to keep the fight focused on domestic use of energy.

On the wrong side of history

But the Coalition, as well as Labor and the whole of the nation, are caught up in the march of history. Cutting back on climate change priorities is a false economy. It will hurt us in the long run – not just environmentally, but financially.

Wind-generated power is currently cheaper than coal, and solar is not far behind. A little extra investment and solar power could take care of all Australia’s energy needs. Australia has, or had, some world-leading researchers and companies in the field of renewable energy, and it has wide-open spaces with very few people and plenty of sun and wind. Australia is a prime potential for development of economically viable renewable energy, removing our own need for fossil fuels, but also giving us high-tech energy generation to sell to other countries. Doing so would be costly. But the cost would be borne almost entirely by those energy companies already heavily invested in fossil fuels. Make no mistake: the average Australian would not suffer greatly from an immediate moratorium on coal mining. It is big companies, who hold long-term leases on prime coal-bearing land and whose net company worth is supported almost entirely on the coal still in the ground, which would be most affected. See Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – I’ve linked to this article before but it deserves it.

Just because Australia has access to all this lovely, lovely coal doesn’t mean the rest of the world is standing still. As other nations implement carbon trading schemes, as new energy generation methods become available and economical, and as shale gas and other fossil fuels become increasingly exploited, the demand for coal and oil will decrease. Australia faces a growing risk of becoming the kid in the corner hawking his trading cards when the rest of the school has moved on to He-Man figures.

The long-term argument against coal goes along the following lines: the rapid emergence of shale gas, falling renewable energy costs, air pollution regulations, governance issues, action on climate change, changing social norms and worsening water constraints are putting pressure on coal’s competitiveness. – King Coal running out of luck

This may be partly why the Coalition is desperate to clear regulatory blockages to large-scale shale gas (fracking) projects in this country. The writing is on the wall for coal, and Australia will quickly lose its competitive advantage. Then we really will be the poor white trash of Asia.

What would it take?

For every objection to the prioritisation of climate policy (beyond the frankly unworthy “it’s not happening, not listening, nyah nyah nyah”), it is possible to make a case that climate change will have a dramatic deleterious impact.

Regardless, there remain those for whom climate change is not an immediate priority. The question must be asked, what would make it an immediate priority? Will it require the displacement of millions and a logarithmic increase in climate refugees reaching Australia? At what point does the loss of much of Australia’s food production capacity trigger our concern? We’re already facing annual floods/fires/heatwaves/climate events – how far does it have to go before we see the signs? Will the recognition of a “new normal” of climate events and weather spur us to action, or will it simply move us past action to despair? When the tides are swamping our cities and sucking at our toes, will we perhaps think that climate change may be worth our investment?

By the time these things come about, it will be far too late to change them. It may already be too late. Immediate, desperate, strong action may yet provide us a chance to partially mitigate the damage. But we need to make climate change a priority.

Unfortunately those who don’t want to spend money and opportunity now to combat a remote threat from the future are the same kinds of people who don’t want to invest now to build capacity for the future. They’re the economic rationalists, and they’re in charge of the funhouse.

Co-published on Random Pariah