Remember just a few years ago when we were told that we needed to be “energy agnostic”. Well, all that’s out the window. Apparently we now have to build a church to gas because the private operators have decided that they’d rather invest in something profitable.
Why do I call it “a church”? That’s because – like a church – it will be large and unused for much of the time and in future generations people will look at it and go, “Wow, what a large structure. I wonder why they spent so much money and something with no practical purpose. They must have really believed that someone would reward them in the next life!” (In the case of the Coalition, that’s Life After Politics!)
It’s very tempting to point out that once we took it for granted that governments would be responsible for building the infrastructure that enabled us to generate energy, but we were told by the Liberal Party that private industry was a lot better at it and market forces would make the whole thing a lot more efficient. Now we’re being told that the market has failed because the market relies on making a profit and nobody in private industry is keen to build a gas-fired power station for the simple reason that it’s not economically viable.
Of course, I shouldn’t criticise the Liberals for changing their mind and completely repudiating their free market principles and totally embracing socialism. After all, it’s only the intelligent who can change their minds. At least I think that’s true…
Whatever, the Liberals are certainly good at changing their minds. Sometimes they’ll even do it from one interview to the next.
Remember when they told us that people don’t need the government making decisions for them and that individuals were best placed to decide what to spend their money on… Of course, this was before they realised that once they got the Indue card out and accepted, they could eventually roll it out to pensioners and then the rest of us and we could only shop at approved Liberal donor stores.
Remember when Scotty was all about opening up the borders but then he saw how successful various state premiers were with their border closures. Now he’s determined to keep Australia’s borders closed until… well, it’s not like he intends to set a date because targets are for the accountable. We can’t say when borders will be open again, even with the majority vaccinated. As he put it: “Even in that circumstance, you’re talking about many Australians, millions of Australians, who wouldn’t have been vaccinated. Because A, they’re children or B, they’ve chosen not to be [vaccinated].” Unvaccinated children a concern? Is this different from “Schools are safe, I can’t be any clearer than that!” Too right it is, which just shows the intelligence of the man because he’s apparently changed his mind.
Remember when they labelled that ad about the vaccines with the Liberal Party logo? Well there’s another example of them changing their mind. Now they want bipartisan support for the rollout. Surely, Labor have to take part responsibility. Why? Well, they said that the logo shouldn’t be there because it was the government who were providing the vaccines and aren’t Labor an alternative government?
And then we have the NDIS which just a couple of Budgets ago was so awash with funds that Josh Frydenberg could take $4.7 billion from it to put us into surplus. While at $4.7 billion, those “Back In Black” coffee seemed overpriced, that’s nothing compared to the unsustainable nature of the NDIS now. We need to stop those “empathetic public servants” from giving wheelchairs to people. Everyone needs to stand on their own two feet even if they have no legs. Yes, social media was very cruel and mocked Linda Reynolds about her heart condition, but even she agrees that’s better than being awash with empathy like those public servants who fail to push those on the NDIS to get better. Our PM does believe in miracles, as we all know.
And Scotty’s changed his mind on debt and deficit too. We’re going to have deficits for the next ten years according to #Scottyfromannouncements. Yes, ok, Hockey said that the Liberals would deliver a surplus in their first year of government and every year thereafter but they changed their mind about that, as well as Hockey being Treasurer. And about having a stable government who didn’t change Prime Ministers. Of course it would be unfair to bring up how the Liberals changed their minds about Abbott’s rolled gold maternity leave, because that’s so many Prime Ministers ago.
Some of you will be expecting that I’ll also be pointing out the PM’s changing his mind on electric vehicles, but apparently he hasn’t. He told us that he never mocked EVs in the lead up to the 2019 election. No, no, he was complaining about Bill Shorten ruining the weekend by simply being PM and that would have ruined the weekend of everyone who mattered so EVs had nothing to do with it.
Yes, I can certainly recommend that you vote for Scott Morrison in the upcoming election which he assures won’t be held until next year, so I’d expect it in about three months. Even if you don’t like his policies and what he announces, there’s a better than fifty percent chance that they’ll never be implemented and that he’ll change them before the month is out. You can be content knowing that if you don’t like, for example, his intention to build a gas-fired power station, that once they’ve bought the land from the Liberal donor, and once they’ve spent a few million on consultants, they’ll change their mind and sell the land to a firm who wants to make electric vehicles or develop it for social housing.
I suppose you’ve noticed that lately, Mr Morrison seems to have a booklet in hands every time he appears in the media. Perhaps he’s working on the next slogan. “Liberals: We Have A Plan AND a Pamphlet.”
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The answer, of course, is that one is a prop and shouldn’t have been taken into the Parliament, while the other can be burned to provide heat – apart from that it’s useless…
Well, so am I! We have a Treasurer who took a lump of coal into Parliament. Just so you know, it’s against the rules to use props in Parliament. Ok, some of you are thinking, everybody knows that, but clearly Scott Morrison didn’t. I mean he wouldn’t deliberately ignore the rules, would he? That’s not a very good example to set our country.
Still, I guess when you’re dealing with those boring old number things as Treasurer day after day, you might need the odd creative outlet. Joe’s was dancing after the Budget, but unfortunately, not in the dark. Costello’s was creating fiction; he used to tell people that he’d be a great PM and one day soon, he’d challenge John Howard. Scott must have spied a lump of coal and been hit with an idea. Once inspired, you do tend to take liberties. That’s what artists are like, they sometimes feel that the rules don’t apply to them because they have a message to get out to the world.
I can picture it now, Mr Morrison and his lump of coal in his office. He calls in his staff. “I have this great idea,” he tells them.
“What is it?” they ask, fearful that it will involve incredible amounts of work “fixing the Budget”, or at the very least coming up with reasons why Labor owing $287 billion was the end of civilisation, but raising the debt ceiling above half a trillion isn’t worth talking about.
“I’m going to take this lump of coal to Parliament,” Scott tells them.
The staff nod approvingly, figuring that if they can perfect their nodding, they may get a safe seat where they can stand behind the PM and nod approvingly, but Scottie doesn’t notice. He’s on fire… (no, not literally!)
“And I’m going to say ‘This is coal,’ and I’m going to tell the Opposition not to be afraid of it! Brilliant, eh?”
His staff keep nodding as though there’s more, so Scott improvises.
“Um… then I’m going to suggest that the Opposition are suffering from coalophobia.”
When told that there’s no such word, Scott says that he’ll be remembered for creating it, like that guy who invented the word “selfie”.
“I’ll admit that I’m making up the word and tell them that it’s this ideological malady that stops them from allowing coal to create jobs and growth. And it’s an illness and they need help… Brilliant, eh?”
The staff nod more approvingly because nobody wants to upset the Treasurer when he seems in a good mood. Lately he’s been so down, thinking of how Cory has left and that’s one less vote for him when the spill happens. Not even the idea of some families losing Family Tax Benefits has caused him to smile. Even when told that some asylum seekers are being forcibly removed from Manus and sent back to possible torture and death, his spirits barely lifted.
So the staff say nothing.
And Scott appears in Parliament with that ugly lump and hands him the coal when the Speaker tells him to put the prop away. (Someone assured me that a lip-reader confirmed to them that when Joyce was given the coal he stroked it, saying, “My precious, my precious,” over and over.)
Of course, it may not have happened quite like that. Scott may have just wandered in to Parliament and put his hand in his pocket and discovered that he had a piece of coal that he’d forgotten to take out, and when one of the Labor MPs recoiled in horror, he may have quite genuinely thought it necessary to calm their fears.
Solidarity is an idea that is in the foundations of the ALP, writes Tim Curtis, and that means sticking together to fight for the common goals.
This weekend, as did many others I presume, I engaged in some Bill-hating as the ALP conference decided to support a boat-turn-back policy.
As I thought about this I was struck by a question: If I was so concerned with boat-turn-backs, why had I not joined the ALP? And then attended the conference so that my vote, my voice could have made a difference. How could I deservedly be annoyed at a group of people who I had tasked with representing me, when I had taken no direct action beyond writing some letters to make my apparently strongly held view known (contrary to populist belief Facebook and online petitions do not count).
As my self-righteous indignation began to subside I wondered to myself … “I wonder”, I wondered, “is this how Cory Bernadi feels when he doesn’t get his way on abortion?”
It has to be noted that Bernardi, and many others on the lunatic fringe of right-wing politics are rarely seen complaining in public that their particular policy wishes have not been taken on as central party platforms.
Instead he and others fall in line behind the mainstream neo-liberals and conservatives to show a solid front. When there is opportunity, Bernardi flies his freak flag high; but even then there is a definite sense that it is part of a larger design, that the timing of his “outbursts” are to draw away from something else, or to otherwise push the conversation further to where the neo-conservatives want them.
This led to a very uncomfortable thought. The thought that the success of the Right in taking government, and in dictating the terms under which progressive governments operated, and ultimately in controlling the narrative on the economy, immigration, defence and security, came from their unity: The Solidarity of the political Right. It sounds contradictory, and yet when do we see the hard-line neo-liberal voters moaning and complaining that job creators are still being overtaxed in the same way that refugee advocates attack their party of choice on a regular basis? And make no mistake; for the true-blood neo-liberal a completely unshackled market attracts just as much fervour on the Right as social justice does on the Left.
The discomfort does not stop there. At the ALP conference there was strong support for renewable energy and for marriage equality. Why not add refugee advocacy and make it triple-threat?
For the simple reason that it is an election loser.
Right now the ALP has a sure winner in marriage equality. It is also on a winner with renewables; it can co-opt many country and farming votes who feel betrayed by the National party on mining and CSG. It can also pitch action on climate change as means of supporting the expansion of Australia’s renewable energy industry, in turn as a means of rebuilding the shattered manufacturing sector in Australia. This is a pro-job platform that will resonate well in town and country and is sure to be a popular idea amongst all those ex-car industry workers and car-part service businesses and smart manufacturing in general across the nation.
Refugees, or boat people as they are known in the tabloids, have no such sympathies. Gone are the Post-Vietnam days where Australians felt responsible, felt culpable for the dire straits that South-East Asian refugees found themselves in after the fall of Saigon. Refugees from Afghanistan or the Arabian Peninsula, fleeing the mess that we in no small part took a hand in creating, are perhaps not as cuddly. Or maybe Australia has become hardened to the hardships of others because ‘we have our own problems’. Unemployment is up, wages are down, the rich get richer, and our great outdoors seems to be up for grabs to any foreign interest with enough cash to open a politician’s pocket.
Whatever the reasons: If the ALP attempted to go to the next election with a new refugee policy it would lose. There is no one who can honestly look at the untrammelled hysteria in political discourse in Australia and say otherwise.
What the ALP can do is the same thing that Tony Abbott has done: make promises, and then … when in power … change the conversation. Look at what Tony Abbott has achieved with countless NBN and ABC inquiries, Royal commissions, the Commission of Audit, and reviews into anything that can possibly change attitudes and direct the conversation.
Imagine how the public view would change after a parliamentary inquiry into refugee policy and into conditions on Manus Island? Complete hard-nosed analysis of the costs to tax-payers, with heart-warming stories about asylum seekers who have saved country towns from oblivion, and heart-breaking stories about how the Taliban came only hours after the Aussie soldiers had flown away home. These are things that can only happen from inside government.
There are many, including myself, who have had a lesson in realpolitik this weekend. As much as anyone in the ALP wants to change the policies toward Australia’s treatment of refugees, they all know that it is a guaranteed way to lose the next election. And despite what many might be saying about The Greens, it is fairly clear that after the last Federal and State elections, and in particular the election in Liverpool Plains, that The Greens are unlikely to be able to field enough candidates or win enough votes to form government alone, and almost certainly will not be able to win in the areas that the ALP need to win to swing the Liberal-National Coalition out of government.
So where does this leave us?
Sad. Angry. Yes, and more. Though I am more saddened by how quickly the level of conversation in Australia has returned to the bad old days of the Yellow Peril, and I am more angry at myself for being so hopefully naïve that Tony Abbott could lose an election with this issue on the table, when in reality it is likely that it would help him retain office in a sequel to Tampa.
What comes next is possibly even harder. I am still dedicated to changing Australia’s Refugee policy, but I now realise that is going to take time. Time to change the way people think so that tabloid radio, television and newspapers, and more importantly their readers are no longer interested in demonising refugees. And the longer that Tony Abbott and his ilk are in power, the longer it is going to take to drag Australia from the precipice of fear and loathing and back into the light. This means that while I will still hold to my beliefs, while I will still critique, I will also get behind the torches that we do have; marriage equality and action on climate change and do everything I can to get a government that will take action on the big social and economic issues. Because if I do not, then Tony Abbott will likely be re-elected and keep selling off public assets, keep selling out to corporate interests, and keep selling us all up the river with a co-payment for the a paddle.
Solidarity is an idea that is in the foundations of the ALP. Solidarity doesn’t mean that we always agree with each other. Indeed nor should we. What it does mean is that we stick together to fight for the common goals, and to forward our personal or factional goals as much as possible. All the while keeping our eye on the big picture, on the greater goal; of regaining an Australia that is the land of the fair go and where we truly do have boundless plains to share.
“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. As you may remember, the Government went to the last election with a policy of reducing accidental deaths in the workplace by twenty percent. We’re pleased to say that, not only are we on target to achieve this, the current indication is that we should exceed this target by a third. Obviously, this means that we can now announce that safety equipment should be considered optional and no new money should be spent on workplace safety.”
Mm, doesn’t sound plausible? What about:
“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. As you may remember, the Government went to the last election with a policy of reducing government waste by twenty percent. We’re pleased to say that, not only are we on target to achieve this, the current indication is that we should exceed this target by a third. Obviously, this means that we must now embark on a spending spree so that we don’t exceed this target. Please send us your suggestions as to how we can spend frivolously to ensure that we only just meet our aim because to exceed it would be silly.”
All right then, so why does the Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane think that it’s fine to reduce the amount of energy produced by renewable energy projects by 2020 from 41,000 gigawatt hours to about 26,000?
“It won’t be a 27 per cent renewable energy target, it will be 20 per cent renewable energy target.”
But we all know that renewable energy costs more, right? Well, it does for the moment but according to the Murdoch Government’s own review, it should be cheaper by 2020, so we don’t want too much of that renewable stuff floating round. I mean, don’t wind farms slow down the wind which’d make the planet hotter? Doesn’t using too much solar risk us having less sunshine in winter? Not to mention those “unsightly wind farms” that so disturb Joe Hockey.
You know, Joe Hockey who assured the British that we have the “cleanest coal in the world”. After all, we have lots of brown coal and that must surely be cleaner than black coal, in spite of what the scientists say. Scientists, as we all know, would say anything if it suited their agenda of turning the world into a place where research was valued as much as the winner of the Melbourne Cup. (Personally, I like Guest of Honour and Side Glance for the Cox Plate, even though they’re both foreign horses!)
The Warburton Review found that this change to renewables would have the effect of redistributing wealth. From the fossil fuel industry to the renewable sector. And it might even lead to lower prices, which would mean that they were paying less tax and that’d mean that there’d be less money to spend on schools, hospitals, jet fighters, Middle Eastern Crusades, public information campaigns, shifting tables to the G20 and paying ASIO to troll the internet and change websites from what people had actually written to what they were actually thinking so that we didn’t have to wait until they’d actually done something before arresting them.
Can’t finish without paying tribute to Gough. It’s all been said, so all can do is add my “Vale Mr Whitlam”.
Of course, Mr Pyne thought it appropriate to mention that the news of the dismissal occurred while he was watching “Adventure Island” and that his mother was crying tears of joy while she was doing the ironing. I guess she was just one those lucky women who got a lot of pleasure out of ironing…
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In the argument for investment in renewable energy in Australia, the existence, or non-existence of climate change is irrelevant, writes Warwick O’Neill.
Like most semi-intelligent Australians I accept that all the scientific evidence provides near definitive proof that things aren’t looking real bright for our future generations, unless we invest in renewal energy technologies now. But us semi-intelligent Australians are no longer the ones who need convincing, are we?
Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and the rest of this chamber of horrors masquerading as a Government are the ones who need convincing. But while I think that deep down the majority of them probably do believe the science, they all believe much more in the money flowing into Liberal Party coffers from the likes of Gina, Rupert, and other esteemed members of the IPA. So do we continue doing things the way that we have been ever since these people stole the election, i.e. pleading to their conscience and their desire to leave a clean and sustainable future for our grand kids? Like that’s ever going to work.
As they say, the epitome of stupidity is to continue doing the same thing, in the same way and expecting a different result. We need to stop trying to bash down the front door. We need to stop appealing to their conscience and instead use their enormous egos and greed against them. Let’s stop trying to convince them that climate change is real, and start talking about the only things they care about; economics and legacy.
These people may be able to stick their head in the sand and deny climate change, but there are two unmistakable and unarguable truths which no amount of sand can cover up.
First undeniable truth – our mining resources will run out eventually. Whether it’s in ten years, fifty years or one hundred years, unless their God can miraculously replenish our stocks, we will run out. This will leave Australia with very little to trade and the rest of the world will be quite happy to say “thank you for your contribution to our future” while they wave us goodbye.
Even a government which passes the one collective brain cell around to whoever needs it most can see that this will be an economic disaster. How to avoid it though? By finding another source of income, something else which we can sell to an eager world. It would be hard to argue that Australia, due to its geography, isn’t ideally placed to take advantage of renewable energy production. Heavy investment in this industry could potentially reap enormous financial benefits to Australia. Yes, I know it would buck the trend to have a government in Australia that actually invests in assets rather than selling them off, but humour me.
We all know that solar is a viable source of energy. If solar panels the size of an average house roof can provide sufficient power to run that house, imagine the power output of a 1000 acre solar panel. A few of these strategically positioned and we go a long way towards providing enough power to keep this country ‘rocking and rolling’. Government investment in training could help alleviate the job losses from the mining sector, and these new solar areas could be the future version of today’s “mining towns”.
The Horizontal Waterfalls (source: tripadviser.com.au)
Our other advantage is our fifty odd thousand kilometres of coastline. Each inch of this coastline is subject to the one of the truly dependable and predictable sources of energy on this planet – tides. Tidal energy doesn’t dissipate under an overcast sky or when the wind stops blowing. Some areas, such as the “Horizontal Waterfalls” near Broome, have such huge tidal flows that you could imagine, with the right technology in place, potentially provide enough electricity generation to supply the entire top end. And this happens twice a day, every day. But is going largely untapped due to lack of investment.
If any Government properly invested in the research and development and then implemented these technologies, then solar and tidal power could see Australia in a position to provide clean energy at least to the South East Asian region. Our scientists (should we have any left) could no doubt devise efficient and environmentally friendly ways of harnessing this power. The sale of the electricity produced, combined with the manufacture and export of our intellectual property could bring billions of overseas dollars into our economy, easily paying off the initial investment and then adding pure profit well into the future.
The second undeniable truth is that no matter how strenuously Tony Abbott fights against renewal energy, most of the rest of the world, even China, is already making great strides in establishing their own sustainable energy industries. This can mean only one thing for the Australian coal industry – a decrease in the price of coal. The less demand there is, the less it is worth. Economics 1 0 1. So long before coal resources run out, they’re going to be worthless anyway. Failure to start investing now will only mean that the rest of the world will be so much further in front of us when the time comes and we have no other option.
That takes care of the economic angle of attack; now let’s stroke their egos by dangling the carrot of legacy in front of them. Two things any politician who strives for the top echelons of government have in common is a massive ego and a desire to be remembered as one of the giants in history.
Point out to Tony Abbott that he could go down in the annuls of history as the visionary who set up Australia’s economic position in the world for centuries to come, and his ego is sure to be soothed. Actually scrap that. As the “suppository of knowledge” he’d probably think that he’ll be going down in the annals of history as the intellectual giant who scrapped the ‘carbon tax’. Sharp as a marble, our Tony.
But pitch the legacy idea to whoever will be the leader of the LNP once they rid themselves of Tony, and I’m sure they’ll show some interest. Maybe the thought of a gilded statue out the front of Parliament House, honouring their greatness would be enough to overcome the natural desire of most pollies to only look as far ahead as the next election.
Take the whole climate change debate out of the renewable energy argument, and all they are left arguing against is a stronger future economy and their place in history. We could very well get what we wanted in the first place, which is investment in sustainable energy and a brighter, cleaner future. Any military strategist will tell you, if your initial frontal assault fails, change your plan and take them in the flank, where they least expect it.
While Joe Hockey labels Australians as “lifters or leaners”, governments are similarly judged as “laggards or leaders”. In one fell swoop this government has taken us from being a world leader to a despised laggard.
You could be forgiven for not knowing there was a climate change conference in Bonn in June. In fact, I am not even sure if we actually sent anyone. The last I heard, the delegates were standing around at Sydney airport wondering what to do because the PM’s plane had flown off to France full of photographers and businessmen, relegating the delegates to catch commercial flights, but the PM’s office, who control such things, had neglected to give approval for their expenses.
Since I had heard no reports of the conference I looked for myself. This was the first story I came across.
June 10 2014, Bonn – Germany: CAN bestows the first Fossil Award of the Bonn UNFCCC negotiation session to Australia in recognition of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stupendously brazen denial of the catastrophic risks posed by climate change in his effort to form an alliance of “like minded” countries opposed to action on climate change, already dubbed by some as a new “flat earth society.”
News accounts report that the Minister has enjoined Canada in his new coalition and is reaching out to other countries including the UK and India “aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing.”
CAN salutes the Abbott’s commitment and consistency in his willful blindness to the catastrophic economic costs incurred by climate change.
He has also recently announced his intention to keep climate change out of the upcoming G20 talks hosted by Australia arguing that climate change is inappropriate because such talks are primarily about economics.
Prime Minister Abbott must have missed the IPCC memo which spells out that climate change is the economic problem facing our age – it’s already costing us, but it doesn’t cost the earth to save the world.
He is clearly looking for recognition of his visionary approach to climate change, and CAN is proud to be among the first to step out and congratulate his dedication to the fossilized past. [In case you were wondering – no, this isn’t a joke. Abbott has really done this. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.]”
This came on the heels of the report from the conference in Warsaw in November last year.
November 22, 2013
This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!
Some people have described our new Senators as a “breath of fresh air”. What I see is ill-informed naïvity. Clive Palmer has somehow convinced these “ordinary people” that Australia will be better off without a carbon price and a mining tax. Nice going Clive.
Tony Abbott has managed to do the same, telling us that our cost of living will go down, jobs will be created, and investment money will flow….but don’t bet the house on it.
This unholy alliance has sent Australia backwards but they will not prevail. Their actions will be increasingly condemned as the world forces them to take action on the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.
Image by climate-change-guide.com
Abbott will face enormous pressure at the G20 summit later this year, and at the climate change talks in Paris next year, despite his efforts to remove discussion from the agenda. Under pressure from Obama, in a typically immature approach to control the language, Abbott agreed to discuss “energy efficiency”.
A recent poll by the Lowy Institute showed that after six years of declining public concern about climate change, the trend had reversed with 45 per cent of people saying it is a “serious and pressing problem”.
In the meantime, it is worth remembering that smart, decent people are waiting for this temporary nightmare to pass and have viable plans for the direction our future must take.
In July 2012, Beyond Zero Emissions produced a document called “Laggard to Leader – How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity”. The main thrust of the study is:
Australia must stop using the promise of a global treaty that won’t eventuate to duck responsibility for its ballooning coal and gas exports.
A moratorium on coal and gas expansion followed by a phasedown will drive a massive increase in global renewable energy investment.
Australia can lead the world to cheap, abundant renewable energy by deploying off-the-shelf, zero carbon technology that will grow Australia’s prosperity.
The International Energy Agency warned in 2012, “the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close”. To keep the door open, global emissions must peak and begin to decline by 2020 at the absolute latest and then keep declining to zero by between 2040 and 2050. We are in “the critical decade”. Decisions we make today will largely determine the state of the climate system within which all subsequent generations must live.
The world’s nations gathered in Durban in late 2011 to continue long-standing negotiations towards a comprehensive international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The best they could agree was that they would aim to negotiate by 2015 an agreement requiring some countries to start reducing emissions beginning in 2020. These negotiations cannot be relied upon to secure the emissions cuts that are required. “It is clear”, argue the editors of the world’s preeminent scientific journal, Nature, “that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change … now inhabit parallel worlds”.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where the Federal Government and its State Government counterparts are aggressively supporting a massive programme of investment in new mines, wells, pipes and ports. These projects will see Australia export a staggering amount of highly emissions-intensive coal and gas during — and well beyond — the critical decade.
Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s traded coal, and is the fastest growing exporter of liquefied natural gas. The emissions embodied in Australia’s fossil fuel exports already total much more than our “domestic” emissions. Based on data accumulated by Australian Government agencies, Australia’s combined coal and gas exports are projected to more than double between now and 2030.
To allow this to occur would be catastrophic for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change: it would mean Australia would be causing more than 1 in every 10 tonnes of the greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted into the atmosphere in 2030 consistent with a 2°C warming trajectory.
Australia is the steward of its natural resources. They belong to all Australians and we can choose what to do with them. When our exports of coal and gas are burned, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the product of these choices. The fact that these emissions are not counted in Australia’s “carbon accounts” under UN carbon accounting rules has previously been used as an excuse for us to ignore their consequences.
But these rules are based on the idea that all countries will have emissions reduction targets, the achievement of which will “add up” to the global cuts necessary to stay within the 2°C limit. With the UN negotiations deadlocked and no foreseeable prospect of such an international regime emerging in the necessary timeframe, this excuse is not acceptable.
Hoping, against all probability, that the negotiations will reach a breakthrough just in time, while at the same time making the problem they are trying to solve significantly worse is a dangerous, counterintuitive and counterproductive approach for Australia to take.
It is well beyond time to approach the global challenge of preserving a safe climate in a very different way. It is time to put leadership towards zero carbon prosperity at the heart of our response.
The logic of “Cooperative Decarbonisation” is simple. Each country must phase down to zero or very near zero the greenhouse gas emissions associated with every economic and social process over which it has control or influence. Instead of drawing lines at national borders, this approach recognises that, in a globalised economy, countries have shared responsibility for many of the emissions that occur in any one place. As such, countries should use every lever they have to eliminate those emissions within their “sphere of influence”, including the fossil fuels they export and the goods they import.
Clearly, international cooperation will be required — particularly to ensure that the goals of sustainable economic development are achieved and that wealthier countries assist low income countries to make this essential transition. But instead of trying to do it all in one “grand bargain” as they are today, countries should work in smaller groups, focusing their efforts on the individual sectors and processes that cause emissions — working to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the world’s forests and make renewable energy affordable for all.
Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is one of only a small handful of countries that can lead this process. The main reason for this is simple: our sphere of influence over global emissions is immense. Our high domestic emissions make us an important player, on par with nations like France, Spain and South Korea. But it is our ballooning coal and gas exports that make us a truly critical influence on global emissions.
We can use this position to focus the attention of world leaders on the most important, yet least discussed part of the climate problem: the fact that only one eighth of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves can safely be burned. Australia can help make that which is currently “unthinkable” — a global fossil fuel phase out — a reality.
We need an Australian moratorium on new fossil fuel developments: a bold move from the world’s largest coal exporter that can serve as the centrepiece for a wider call to action. Such a move would maintain the current global price of coal and stop it from falling by an expected 30% this decade. It would be one of the few conceivable ways that any single country could jolt world leaders into action, creating the economic and political momentum to commence immediate global discussion on the best and fairest means to phase-out fossil fuels.
Thankfully, Australia’s global power does not arise only from our ownership of the resources that are fuelling the problem. As the beneficiary of world class solar and wind resources, we also hold the key to the most important solutions.
Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are essential to decarbonising the world’s energy system. Thanks largely to the targeted investments made by Germany and other European countries when these technologies were more expensive, they have sailed down the “cost curve” and are now price-competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets. Germany’s installation of almost 30GW of solar PV brought PV prices down by an incredible 65% over the past six years.
The other crucial technology is concentrating solar thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour energy from the power of the sun. The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan showed that powering the Australian economy using predominantly CST is technically and economically achievable, starting now, in ten years. The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world is to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar PV: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere.
Cheap renewable energy will solve some of the most challenging problems facing humankind this century — from climate change, to oil scarcity, to energy poverty — and allow us to build a global economy on foundations as reliable as the rising sun.
Australia has the power to make it happen. It is up to us to insist that it does.
The security agencies and defense departments of the world’s strongest superpowers do not have the luxury of pretending that climate change is not happening. They’re not able to blithely deny that resource shortages, burgeoning world populations and runaway global warming will have ramifications for their regions and their countries. While their governments and politicians might outwardly deny that climate change is real or that society has any real limits, their militaries and their policy hardheads are quietly planning for the worst.
The reality is that our world economy, the political structures that shape it and the peoples that make up her nations are fragile, susceptible to any number of crises that could bring the system down. The 21st century sees a number of separate but related crises arriving more or less at once, and these crises will undeniably reshape the world around us.
At the root of these crises is oil, and our planet’s industrialisation borne on the back of cheap, plentiful energy. This boon has led to top-heavy societies that are too globalised to survive on their own. The abundance of oil has led to unparalleled prosperity, booming populations and mind-boggling technology, all entirely reliant on the continued availability of the resources that sustained their growth. And it has led inexorably to climate change and the host of disasters that this presents.
Governments and academics around the world are waking up to the geopolitical ramifications of climate change. Indeed, in the past few years we’ve seen the first upheavals whose roots can be attributed to changing climate. If unchecked, climate change will lead to a bleak future of climate refugees and interminable, bloody war. This is not histrionics. This is the considered view of very senior academics and powerful military strategists. The only questions are whether we might be in time to slow climate change through global action, and how first-world countries with resources available will respond as the world sinks into deprivation and conflict. The signs on both fronts, unfortunately, are not good.
By itself, climate change does not have to lead to war and tyranny. Climate change and its effects are, like any other political force, a challenge for governments to overcome. The real danger is in how governments respond to climate change. But the challenges of the future are likely to be too great to ameliorate.
The 21st Century will see a perfect storm of crises upon us. They are already in view.
Climate change – driven by the industrialised world’s dependence on oil for energy – is striking us hardest just when oil is becoming harder to supply. The world depends on cheap oil for energy as well as for agriculture, but we are reaching the limits of our ability to provide this essential resource before we’ve gotten serious about finding alternatives. And the intensive and growing use of oil is leading to global climate change that will have the effect of accelerating collapse and disorder.
So what are some of the national security implications of climate change allied to resource shortages? In terms of security, the outcomes are unrest and revolution, climate refugees and conflict and war.
Instability, unrest and revolution
In just the last few years we have watched from afar as nations across the globe have struggled with upheaval, revolution and internal strife. Many in the comfortable west probably put these conflicts down to tribal politics, racial hatreds or religious intolerance. Whilst these elements are undoubtedly present, religious ideals rarely lead to revolutions in the real world. From the Crusades onwards, people with extreme views on religion and race have taken advantage of conflicts already begun for other purposes. In the modern day we have seen this in Iraq, in Syria, and in Afghanistan, conflicts that began for other reasons but are now entrenched in the narrative of “sectarian warfare”.
At core, however, most or all of these conflicts can be attributed to the perfect storm of resource shortages and climate change. Let’s look at a few of the most current examples.
The core of the conflict in Syria is not, as some would have you believe, islamic militants trying to overthrow a democracy, nor a tyrant attempting to mercilessly crush freedom-fighters. The core of the issue is drought and food shortages.
Drought and agricultural collapse have forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians into the cities where they become dependent upon the government’s support. However, the government’s ability to support these climate refugees has collapsed along with the country’s economy. It doesn’t help that the regime is not sympathetic to the peoples’ needs. This combination of factors has led to a situation where, for many people, simple survival becomes a higher priority than good social behaviour.
If Syria had plentiful monetary resources and the willingness to spend, it could provide food and water for its people. Through purchasing food, desalinating water, irrigating and artificially managing its agriculture, it could deal with the challenges. But it is neither able nor willing to go down this path. The result, as we have seen, is civil war and a country in miserable turmoil. But they’re not alone.
THE ARAB SPRING
The Arab Spring had its roots in a water and food crisis. The series of uprisings across the middle east is held up as a shining example of populations attempting to throw off the shackles of oppressive masters, and to some extent there is some validity to this interpretation. But people will tolerate a lot of tyranny so long as they are comfortable. Freedom is not the panacea the US would have people believe. (This is why the Chinese people, on the whole, are very happy with their situation despite their lack of freedom: they have the comforts they require for daily living.) At the core of the Arab Spring was not a hunger for freedom, but simply hunger. The regimes were not living up to their side of the bargain.
In Thailand, drought and floods combined to hit domestic food supplies and food exports. Recovery from the floods, plus the hit to export revenue caused by the decimation of their food exports, combined with the country’s dependence on foreign oil to eat into the government’s ability to afford to meet the needs of its people now, let alone plan into the future for energy diversification and economic renewal.
This combination of factors has led to high levels of debt for the low-paid workers, high living costs and high unemployment. The eventual and inevitable result has been social unrest. In Thailand’s case this had led to martial law and, currently, to yet another military coup. But the people continue to suffer and while guns on the street may enforce order, they can’t address poverty and starvation.
For a final example, consider Egypt. Egypt also suffers water and food shortages. For decades it has been a net importer of food. When the price of wheat effectively doubled in 2010 and 2011, the result was swift and fateful. Mubarak fell in early 2011. That revolution, so full of hope at the time, has not led to the utopian society Egyptians hoped for, as it does nothing to address the core issues. In truth, the core issues are largely outside the scope of Egypt’s government to contend with.
“As energy accounts for over a third of the costs of grain production, high food prices are generally underpinned by high oil prices. Since 2005, world oil production has remained on an undulating plateau that has kept prices high, contributing to surging global food prices. According to the New England Complex Systems Institute, if food prices go over a threshold of 210 on the FAO Food Price Index, the probability of civil unrest is greatly magnified.”
The FAO has been hovering at or above 210 since at least 2010. If climate change reduces global food output, inevitably the price of food will increase. If oil becomes scarcer or more expensive, the price of food will increase. To these issues, under the current system, there is no clear or easy resolution.
Conflict and war
Internal conflict is not the only outcome of resource shortages and climate change. As nations across the world find it harder to keep their populations supplied with the food, water, energy and goods that keep them happy, the pressures will increase to find and secure new sources. Despite the comforting narratives that keep western civilians believing that conflicts in far-flung and uncivilised nations are due to local religious squabbles, modern nations are very aware of the precarious nature of their power, and will be willing to go to great lengths to avoid travelling down the same path.
CONFLICTS OVER OIL
As a result, in the past decades we have seen conflicts in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq explode into worldwide wars with the involvement of great powers. It is hardly a secret that America was not in Iraq primarily because of the sufferings of a few Iraqis, but because Saddam was not friendly to the oil needs of the US. Much of the current situation in Ukraine can also be attributed to Russia’s intent to secure oil reserves.
At the current moment there are territorial disputes across the South China sea: primarily, conflicts between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands, and between China and the Philippines over the Reed Bank. Even Australia is not immune from territorial disputes over oil: witness the dispute between Australia and Timor over the Timor Sea maritime boundary. Whilst all of these disputes are currently diplomatic, there have already been military incidents in some of them, and any of them could blow up into serious conflict. They will not be the last such disputes of this century.
CONFLICTS OVER FOOD AND WATER
Water shortages are arguably the greatest challenge facing the world of the immediate future. According to the UN, “…by 2025, two-thirds of us will experience water shortages, with nearly two billion suffering severe shortfalls.”
China is in perilous state with drought affecting its farmlands: it’s the world’s biggest user of imported water. “Land grabs” in Africa – and Australia – are intended not as assaults on those continents but are an attempt to secure productive land to grow food and ship it back home.
Attempts by China to procure land in Australia may be a false economy; there is a decent chance that Australia may soon be joining China in a need for fresh sources of fresh water and arable land. The oncoming El Nino may be salutary.
Desalination can play a part in providing for the water needs of cities and of agriculture. But desalination is energy-intensive and expensive, and requires a large amount of political capital. Things will need to get worse before the people will realise the need for things to get better.
CONFLICTS OVER TERRITORY
We live in a post-Empire world. In the modern era, nations do not generally invade or annex other nations for the sake of world domination; the world has reached a form of equilibrium and any such attempts would be roundly resisted. International conflicts now are driven by more prosaic concerns, such as the desire to secure energy and mineral resources.
In such a world, any unclaimed or untapped resources take on a greater level of significance. Currently, there are three major fields which may help nations address their ongoing needs, and it is in these fields that we are likely to see expansionist movements and potential conflicts over the next decades. These fields are the open ocean, Antarctica and space.
We are already seeing conflicts over claimed areas of ocean. We can expect to see ongoing exploration in international waters for new resource fields. However, in general, resources are both rarer and harder to extract when they are in international waters. Deep sea trenches were never landmasses, never supported forests and ecosystems, and thus hold little or no oil. Combine this with the fact that at present we find it difficult even to reach the ocean floor across much of the world – witness the fruitless search for MH370 – and drilling for oil or minerals across the ocean becomes a prohibitive challenge.
Similar challenges exist for space. Enormous resources and energy are required just to get there, let alone manage any attempts at extraction. However, even within our own solar system there are greater reserves of resources than our planet contains in its entirety. Space is the battleground of the future. It will not, however, be practically useful to nations in the first half of the 21st century.
Antarctica is protected by the Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits any change in territorial claims. The Madrid Protocol, an addendum to the Treaty, prevents mining within Antarctica. Treaties, as history has shown us, are made to be broken. Many nations have significant interest in the untapped resources of Antarctica and some are already beginning to explore and plan their exploitation of this continent on Australia’s doorstep. It seems likely, if not inevitable, that the next major battleground of the 21st century might be this southernmost continent – particularly as global warming potentially makes the continent more accessible and, eventually, suitable for habitation and agriculture.
Peak oil by any definition
Global social unrest and international warfare might be avoided if the world can continue to provide fresh reserves of oil to support our insatiable need for growth and industry. Unfortunately this is not going to be possible. Many commentators have discussed the concepts of peak oil; for decades the idea has been a looming threat. Official estimates have consistently denied that crisis is imminent, but it now appears that peak oil may be closer than anyone had hoped. The US seems to think so.
That we are at or near ‘peak oil’ is demonstrated by the industry’s continual push to open new resource fields and extraction methods, regardless of the expense and complexity. The end of the world’s access to cheap fossil fuel energy is a threat worthy of an article of its own – or perhaps even its own blog. Suffice it to say here that the price of oil, and the price of food, is not going to stop increasing any time soon.
With resource crises, food shortages, water shortages and increasing climatic disruption caused by hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and floods, not to mention sea level rise over the coming decades which will flood and permanently destroy huge swathes of the world’s low-lying agricultural lands, the 21st century is in the grip of a perfect storm of crises that have the potential to reshape the face of humanity on this planet far more quickly than most Australians realise.
What can Australia learn?
Both Syria and Egypt are finding that their economies are suffering due to a downturn in fossil fuel exports – both due to depletion. Without the revenue from oil exports, these governments have found themselves less able to provide for the needs of their people. Australia needs to heed this example. We are not a heavy exporter of oil; however, our economy is heavily reliant on the export of coal and mineral resources. If these markets collapse, we will find ourselves in a parlous economic situation. The Abbott government is effectively pursuing an austerity budget even whilst the nation is not in economic crisis. As climate change and El Nino drive our farmers off the land and our food production inevitably declines over the rest of this decade, we will see increased demands on government resources. Diversifying our economy is absolutely vital.
The uprisings in the middle east may have been driven by economic and resource woes, but they were enabled by despotic regimes that did not do enough to support the needs of the people. Uprising became the only way out for populations on the edge of starvation.
Australia does not have an autocratic dictatorship in command – although it pains me to have to add the word “arguably”. Despite our inclusive system of politics, already we have seen social unrest with government policies and with the democratic process in general. Already we see protests against governments of both breeds. We’re a long way short of the critical mass of the people who would rebel against their government but the seeds are there. It is hubris to think that Australia could never suffer the kind of uprising that has been witnessed in Thailand or Egypt. It won’t happen in the next ten years; we’re still a prosperous nation. But the decisions made now will have impacts on the society and governance of the 2050s and beyond.
It is more likely, in the immediate term, that we will face the ramifications of unrest from neighboring regions than experience it ourselves. This will manifest as growing pressure to accept climate refugees, combined with an increasing range of domestic crises.
How will we respond?
Most of the current areas of unrest are in the middle east, for a reason. These regions suffer a combination of resource dependence, early effects of disruptive climate change, and despotic or immature regimes with too great a reliance on resources that are now declining.
Australia, for the moment, is buffered by our remote location, delaying the worst impacts of climate change; by our system of government and our existing social contract and social support structures; and by our relatively high standard of living. This gives us time to consider the future and our response to the oncoming challenges – if we choose to recognise them.
We have seen the trajectories of nations where these crises come together. With a little forethought, we can see our own nation’s weaknesses and start to plan wisely for the future.
An obvious and critical answer to all of these challenges is to divest from oil. Renewable energy is not just an answer to climate change; it’s a solution to the energy crisis that will affect us all. With efficient renewable energy, we can manage our water resources better, and this will allow us to secure our domestic food production. If we act now, we may be able to retain our standard of living.
Alternatively, we could dismantle our climate change bodies and our renewable energy institutions. We could defund solar and wind power, while funnelling ever greater subsidies into fossil fuels in an attempt to shore up our revenues for a few more years. We could leave the challenges of the oncoming food, fuel and water crises to future governments and future generations.
The first thing we need to do is get rid of the toxic carbon tax. It is destroying the joint. After all, emissions went up. Ok, I know that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are down about 7.6 per cent since the carbon tax was introduced, or the equivalent of about 14.8 million tonnes, and that demand has dropped as businesses and individuals adopt energy efficiency methods, but emissions from coalmine expansion and new gas plants have been soaring. And that’s what we want! More coal and more gas to make our country better.
And as for renewable energy, competition like that is bad for the country. It puts up prices. I know normally one would consider competition a good thing but not in this case. Have you seen those wind farms? They are U.G.L.Y they ain’t got no alibi they ugly uh huh they ugly. I know there was some talk of 1 million solar roofs before the election. That information was purely a discussion paper that was inadvertently leaked by a junior staffer who has since been counselled.
And that mining tax has to go because it is stopping investment. It may not have raised much money but it has scared off mining companies who will take our resources offshore to develop more cheaply – I’m not sure how, but they will. Don’t you worry about THAT, you people.
It’s a well-known fact that people don’t appreciate something unless they have to pay for it. I don’t mean you people who are fraudulently claiming business usage on your cars – we know you love your BMWs. I mean those lollygagging sick people. We will introduce a luxury tax on doctor’s visits and medications so sick people will truly appreciate the help the doctors and chemists are giving them.
It is also obvious that we can no longer accommodate all those people who are claiming they are old because of some vague family connection in the past. Far too many people have been using their age to claim entitlements that the rest of us don’t receive. To stamp out this reverse discrimination we have changed the definition of old to “too old to work”. Rather than seeking handouts, we will liberate those who were previously known as old to seek work usually given to other age brackets or to retrain for a new career. Training fees will be deducted from their estate.
Our greatest priority is to defend our borders against everyone and everything – asylum seekers, sharks, coral – who knows what deadly menace is around the corner and under a tree. To that end we are amassing squadrons of attack fighter jets, packs of submarines, armadas of orange life rafts, and a whole fleet of fishermen with mates and eskies. They will complement our Navy who patrol our Northern Shores searching for boats that have stopped and our Airforce who patrol the Southern Oceans searching for the Mary Celeste. This will be given an unlimited budget that will go up by whatever the generals ask for each year.
We are conscripting our youth into a homeland defence force known as the Green Army which can be deployed to any mine that may be a possible target for whoever is invading – maybe the crown of thorn starfish who already knows that Greg Hunt means business!
To help the unemployed get jobs, we will make everyone part-time, pay them less, and make them move away from family who could provide accommodation and friends who could help with transport or share the cost of living. Those who choose to commute, we will make them truly appreciate the cost of petrol by increasing the fuel excise so we can build more roads. This will not apply to anyone making over $1 billion a year.
To show that we are all making sacrifices, rich women will only be given $1,923 a week to have babies. Corporate Australia will pay for this through a 1.5% levy on some businesses in conjunction with a 1.5% decrease in company tax for all businesses. That should work….I think.
Any shortfall between government revenue and the subsidies and tax breaks that we give to mining companies, banks, private health insurers, and Gina, will be made up equally by all those who earn over $80,000 who don’t have an accountant. Those of you who do have an accountant may continue negative gearing because you are the rock upon which this nation is built.
The tactic of a bully is to keep their victims living in fear of what could happen so they are grateful when they don’t get beaten or abused. They make their victim believe they are powerless by cutting them off from their support and telling them only the bully can look after them. This is exactly what our own government is doing. It is their tactic of choice in so many areas.
In the past, Australia was a country who willingly offered safe haven to refugees. We recognised their need for a home which complemented our need for population growth. As time passed, the contribution made to our society by those we embraced became obvious and we are the richer for it in so many ways. We are a wealthy multicultural society who used to lend a hand. Those days are gone.
We must spend whatever it takes, and alienate whoever we must, and inflict terrible physical and mental harm, to save the nation from the invading hordes of asylum seekers who will threaten our way of life. They will impose Sharia law, take your jobs, clog up your roads and hospitals, and are just waiting for a chance to kill you. Yes I am sure that’s why they are fleeing their homelands, leaving family and friends, risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels – just so they can come and turn Australia into what they are escaping from.
I do not fear refugees and we can easily accommodate 30,000 a year if not more. We should be welcoming them, assuring them they are safe now, and assisting them to become productive members of our society.
Climate change is real. It is not a conspiracy by bankers for world domination. It is not collusion by scientists to get funding. It is not a fake perpetrated by the IPCC. I refuse to believe the conspiracy theories though I am terrified by the consequences of our inaction. The government has inculcated fear about carbon pricing into the community – Whyalla will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket – none of which happened. They tell us that wind farms are bad for our health and when that didn’t run, they revert to they are ugly?
We were told that the mining tax would hinder investment in Australia with investment and jobs going offshore. This scare campaign was also a lie. We have the resources and a stable economy, the investors are banging on our door. The high Aussie dollar caused by the success of the mining industry is what is hurting jobs and sending industries offshore, but Hockey hastened to reassure the miners that they will not have any of their subsidies cut or tax increased. In ‘fear’ of the miners choosing to rape another country instead, we have gotten rid of our environmental protections and given virtually open slather for the short term cash grab of developing our finite resources.
Our country is not broke. Using great big numbers about possible debt in ten years’ time and inflated deficit figures is purely designed to scare us. Why do that? Don’t you want business and consumer confidence? This scare campaign is purely political to exaggerate the problem, blame it on Labor, and use it as an excuse to implement their corporate agenda and social engineering.
People struggling on the old age and disability pensions are terrified about the recommendations from the Commission of Audit. We can reassure the miners but we cannot reassure the pensioners. They have to wait in fear so when they only have to pay $6 instead of the recommended $15 as a co-payment to the doctor they will feel grateful.
We are told that our health system is unsustainable yet the government didn’t ask the people in the industry how it could be improved. We straight away go to the scare campaign of we can’t afford this so you must pay. The experts have said there are many ways that expenditure could be better spent and areas of waste that could be eliminated but starting with preventative health is patently counter-productive.
The same applies to the old age pension. We have now scared everyone by saying they will have to work to 70 yet once again the experts disagree with the fear campaign being spread. Hockey said the number of people aged 65-84 would quadruple by 2050. The ABS says otherwise. They do three predictions – high, low, and medium – their high range estimate is 2.5 times growth in that age bracket. Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact between 61 and 63 per cent.
The scare campaign about unions is the government’s way of cutting us off from our support. What collective voice do the people have other than the unions? Who offers protection for our workplace rights other than unions? Who can represent individuals other than unions? Reducing the minimum wage or the availability of Newstart is not the best way to tackle unemployment. There are so many better ways like investing in new industries such as renewable energy, and investing in education and supporting research to develop the industries of the future – something we have been amazingly good at in the past.
George Brandis even wants to change the law to protect bigots and bullies. Apparently they have every right to offend and humiliate people. What sort of crazy backward thinking is this, done in the name of freedom? Next, will we be defending the rights of countries to commit human rights abuses? Oh, wait……
We must stand up to this government who consciously, willingly lies to its own citizens to keep them in unnecessary fear. We must point out their crazy priorities where we waste hundreds of billions on fossil fuel subsidies, tax rebates for superannuation and private health insurance, fighter jets, paid parental leave, grants to polluters, Operation Sovereign Borders, lifetime gold passes and entitlements for politicians, political advertising and campaigning and the like, while insisting that our most vulnerable must live in poverty and fear. We must expose their lies about debt, deficit, and the affordability of our health and welfare system.
You are the one who should be afraid Tony – be vewwy afwaid – because I refuse to live in fear and will do everything in my power to make sure the Australian people know the truth so we can protect ourselves from the bully by ending this relationship at the first opportunity.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
Get rid of your investments in coal and invest in renewable energy
Move to a floating price ETS on July 1 either this year or next (preferably next)
Increase our emission reduction target to 19% and confirm our renewable energy target of 20% by 2020
Under no circumstances allow Tony Abbott to waste taxpayer money on that silly Emissions Reduction Fund bribery to polluters
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.
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.
Since the introduction of the carbon price in July 2012, emissions from the National Electricity Market serving eastern Australia have fallen about 8.9 per cent, in part due to less demand from a shrinking manufacturing sector. By 2020, under current projections, wind, hydro and other renewable sources will supply more than 20 per cent , perhaps as high as 27 per cent, of our electricity needs.
So we appear to be on track. But, in what appears to be an increasingly common loathing for anything to do with tracks or Labor or anything green (unless it’s a paper abolishing regulations), Tony looks set to derail us again.
He has announced he will head an energy policy task force that will be “looking at new options to reduce the costs of energy.” He has also renamed the Australian Cleantech Competition – it will now be known as the Australian Technologies Competition.
“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages … what we will be looking at is what we need to do to get power prices down significantly,” the prime minister said.
The Australian Energy Market Commission says the renewable energy target (RET) comprises less than 1 percent of the average household electricity bill. The Queensland Competition Authority notes in its latest finding that the large-scale renewable target (the apparent subject of the new government’s attacks) will cost Queensland households $26 a year, or about 1.3% of their bills — about half the rise in retail bills caused by soaring gas prices.
Climate Institute chief executive Erwin Jackson said
“For a cost of 80 cents a week for the average household, the RET has attracted billions of dollars in investment and cut millions of tons of emissions. That’s a pretty good investment.”
Kane Thornton, deputy chief executive of the Clean Energy Council agrees saying
“Any substantial change to the Renewable Energy Target would obviously have a big impact on the future of the solar industry. The goal makes up a very small proportion of power bills while creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment, much of which flows into regional areas.”
The solar PV industry employed about 13,600 as of late 2013. Research by industry group SolarBusinessServices suggested that 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. A reduction on the goal that resulted in the halving of the price of small-scale renewable energy certificates would lead to about 600 solar jobs going.
With no policy change, 8000 jobs will be generated between 2014-18, assuming a floating carbon price – something the Abbott government has vowed to scrap – and electricity and PV prices would continue to fall, the report said.
Solar panels generated more than 25 per cent of South Australia’s electricity on January 4, 19 and 25 and supplied significant amounts during the state’s recent heatwaves, according to a new service supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency that tracks PV’s contribution to power supply.
In yet another waste of time and money, the Abbott Government has also announced yet another pointless inquiry into the health impacts of windfarms even though the overwhelming scientific consensus is that wind turbines have no health effects on the surrounding populations. Could it be because Tony’s adviser on all things, Maurice Newman, doesn’t want them near his property?
“Even before they threatened my property, I was opposed to wind farms.”
The Abbott government have also cut $435 million funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and deferred $370 million funding announced by Labor in the 2013 budget to the agency, until the next decade.
Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Tony Mohr said:
“The axing of $435 million from ARENA will starve research and development of clean energy in Australia, moving us to the back of the global race for clean tech.”
Australian Solar Council chief John Grimes called on the Parliament to block any attempt to gut the agency.
“The work that ARENA does is an excellent example of direct action,” he said. “This independent agency, with its annual funding prescribed in legislation, back practical programs. This is about real action in the real world.”
In another incomprehensible move, the government has decided to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which was set to invest $10 billion in low-carbon technologies, while achieving up to half the government’s emissions reduction target, and return a profit to the budget.
“The strong positive response from the market has enabled the CEFC to successfully build a total loan portfolio of $536 million funding projects with a value of over $2.2 billion.
Our portfolio represents a diverse mix across the economy, with projects comprising 56 per cent of renewables, 30 per cent in energy efficiency and 14 per cent in low emissions technologies. We have financed projects involving wind, solar, and bioenergy across Australia (both on grid and off grid), as well as energy efficiency and low emissions technology projects in manufacturing, buildings and local government.
The CEFC portfolio of contracted investments is presently expected to earn an average return of approximately 7 per cent, around 4 per cent above our benchmark return of the Government five-year bond rate.
Co-financing is integral to our strategy. Through matched private sector funds of $2.90 for each $1 of CEFC investment, the CEFC has been able to catalyse over $1.55 billion in non-CEFC private capital investment in projects and programs to deploy renewables and to improve energy efficiency.
The response that we have received from the market has remained extremely encouraging and we currently have 179 project proponents in our pipeline for projects to the estimated value of $14.9 billion.”
The march towards renewable energy is inevitable yet we are being held back by Tony’s ties to the fossil fuel industry which is determined to place every impediment in the way to prolong their profit-making at the expense of our jobs, our health and our home.
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.