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Carbon Price & Climate Change Action Fact Sheet for leading per capita greenhouse gas polluter Australia

by : Dr Gideon Polya
Monday March 14, 2011 - 06:31

Australia is a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution but is also a world leader in climate change inaction. The Australian Labor Government has set up an advisory Climate Commission that is funded with $5.6 million over 4 years. I am a 5 -decade career scientist (biological chemistry) with a big teaching role at a very good Australian university. I have carefully researched and documented the following Fact Sheet pro bono publico to assist public education in the interests of Humanity and the Biosphere which are acutely threatened by man-made climate change. This Fact Sheet is being sent to media, politicians, government advisers and climate activists. I would urge decent folk around the world to use this Fact Sheet as a resource to aid their submissions for urgent climate change action. We are running out of time.

Carbon Price, & Climate Change Action Fact Sheet for leading per capita greenhouse gas polluter, Australia.

The Gillard Labor Government of Australia has proposed to establish a Carbon Price and has advanced the notion of a Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) scheme for “tackling climate change”, noting that the previous Australian Labor PM Kevin Rudd has variously stated that “climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our generation”. There are serious concerns that CTETSIA is a smokescreen for climate change inaction. [1].

The Gillard Labor Government has set up a Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC) on climate pricing to be informed by a Climate Commission (CC) (headed by a scientist Professor Tim Flannery as Commissioner and with 3 of its 6 members being research scientists) that in turn is informed by a Science Advisory Committee (SAC) (composed of 8 research scientists including 6 professors). The Climate Commission has an ambivalent role of “educating” and “advising” while being ostensibly politically neutral and will be touring Australia to this end. [2].

A 5-decade career biological scientist, I have long been concerned about the huge gulf between expert scientific consensus and general public perception of reality in all kinds of areas, most notably when expert scientific opinion endangers corporate vested interests in Lobbyocracy and Murdochracy Australia and in other Western Lobbyocracies and Murdochracies.

This gap between scientific perception and public perception is a starkly illustrated by current massive climate sceptic obfuscation of climate science and greed-driven effective inaction by society in relation to man-made climate change, with attendant massive biodiversity loss and the general problems of population, limits to growth and man’s impact on our finite environment.

Yet as a scientist I was well aware of the threat of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) 25 years ago (as were the global Bureaux of Meteorology who, via the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and together with the UN Environment Program (UNEP), set up the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988) [3]; I was alarmed by species extinction from the start of my scientific career 50 years ago after reading Rachel Carson’s ”Silent Spring” [4] (the species extinction rate is now 100-1,000 times greater than normal) [5]; and I was made aware of limits to growth, and in particular population growth, about 40 years ago through the Club of Rome’s “The Limits to Growth” [6] and Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” [7] (the world’s population was 3 billion in 1960, is currently 7.0 billion and is projected by the UN Population Division to be 7.7 billion by 2020). [8].

In the public interest I have set out below a detailed and documented summary of key matters in relation to Carbon Price and how to “tackle climate change” that unfortunately are almost completely ignored in the current “debate” in look-the-other-way, Business-As-Usual (BAU), Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy Australia (as indeed are so many other critical matters). I am sending this documented Fact Sheet to the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC), Climate Commission (CC), Science Advisory Committee (SAC), MPs, NGOs and Australian and overseas media in the public interest. Will the Silence be Deafening?

A. Carbon Deaths, Climate Genocide, Carbon Price.

1. People, politicians, corporations and countries are clearly responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and its consequences and also for non-reportage of the realities, ignoring the realities and climate change inaction. World-leading bioethicist Peter Singer has stated “We are responsible not only for what we do but also for what we could have prevented…We should consider the consequences both of what we do and what we decide not to do.” [9].

2. It can be estimated from government-commissioned epidemiological studies in New Zealand [10] and Ontario, Canada [11] that about 10,000 Australians die each year from the effects of pollutants from carbon burning (excluding bushfires) . Estimated annual Australian deaths from the effects of pollutants (notably carbon particulates) from vehicles, coal burning for electricity and other carbon burning total about 2,200, 4,600 and 2,800, respectively. [12].

3. Estimates of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas pollution in 2008 range from 576 million tonnes CO2-equivalent) (Mt CO2-e) [13] to 627 Mt CO2-e [14]. The molecular weight of carbon dioxide (CO2) is 44 and the atomic weight of carbon (C ) is 12 and thus estimates range from 576/3.7 = 156 million tonnes carbon (MtC) to 627/3.7 = 169 MtC.

4. At a "value of a statistical life" (VOSL) of $7.6 million per person ($73 billion pa for 9,646 Australian carbon burning-related deaths) the minimum Carbon Price to cover carbon burning-derived deaths is $73,000 million/169 million tonnes C = $432 per tonne of carbon ($432/tC) - as compared to the best firm political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon ($20/tC). [12].

5. In addition to the huge Carbon Subsidy from carbon burning-related deaths, there is a huge legislated Carbon Subsidy for fossil fuel burning that is in the range of $9-10 billion annually (Dr Chris Riedy, UTS, Sydney) [15, 16] to $12 billion annually (Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) [17]. The most recent estimate corresponds to a Carbon Subsidy of $12,000 million/169 million tonnes C = $71/tC - as compared to the best firm political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon ($20/tC).

6. The total annual Carbon Subsidy from carbon burning-related deaths and legislated subsidies for fossil fuel and other carbonaceous fuel burning is $432/tC + $71/tC = $503/tC - as compared to the best firm political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon ($20/tC). Any Australian Carbon Tax will have to be over $503/tC in order to exceed the current huge Carbon Subsidy in Australia.

7. It can be estimated from UN Population Division data that annual avoidable deaths from deprivation in the Developing World (minus China) total 18 million [8, 18, 19]. This global avoidable mortality holocaust is being increasingly impacted by man-made global warming. Both Dr James Lovelock FRS (Gaia hypothesis) and Professor Kevin Anderson ( Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, UK) have recently estimated that fewer than 1 billion people will survive this century due to unaddressed, man-made global warming [20, 21].

8. Noting that the world population is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, the above estimates from Dr James Lovelock and Professor Kevin Anderson translate to a Climate Genocide involving deaths of 10 billion people this century, this including 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis. [22].

9. Rational risk management successively involves (a) accurate data, (b) scientific analysis (this involving the critical testing of potentially falsifiable hypotheses) and (c) informed systemic change to minimize risk. Unfortunately in the Western Lobbyocracies and Murdochracies this is typically replaced by (a) lies, slies (spin-based untruths), censorship, self-censorship and intimidation, (b) anti-science spin (the selective use of asserted facts to support a partisan position) and (c) counterproductive blame and shame that inhibits crucial reportage. Those who subvert rational risk management endanger human safety. Those who fail to speak out are accessories after the fact.

10. Eminent US climate scientist Dr James Hansen has suggested holding CEOs of major fossil fuel burning corporations publicly and legally accountable for the consequences of obfuscating the seriousness of the climate emergency: “Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming. CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.” [23].

B. Australia ignores scientists’ calls for urgent action.

1. Eminent climate scientist Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber CBE (Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research [PIK], Germany and variously associated with the University of Manchester, University of East Anglia and Oxford University) has estimated that for a 67% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise (the EU target; would you board a plane if it had a 33% chance of crashing?) the World has to cease CO2 emissions by 2050. “All men are created equal” means that all human beings must be allotted equal shares of CO2 pollution until 2050. This means that high annual per capita GHG pollution countries such as the US and Australia must reach zero CO2 emissions by 2020 while low per capita emitters (e.g. India and Burkina Faso) can increase their emissions until finally reaching zero emissions by 2050. [24].

2. Other leading climate scientists have reached similar conclusions about the urgency of achieving zero emissions. Thus Dr Vicky Pope (Head of Climate Change Advice, UK Met Office Hadley Centre ): “Latest climate projections from the Met Office Hadley Centre show the possible range of temperature rises, depending on what action is taken to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions. Even with large and early cuts in emissions, the indications are that temperatures are likely to rise to around 2 °C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. If action is delayed or not quick enough, there is a large risk of much bigger increases in temperature, with some severe impacts. In a worst-case scenario, where no action is taken to check the rise in Greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures would most likely rise by more than 5 °C by the end of the century. This would lead to significant risks of severe and irreversible impacts. In the most optimistic scenario, action to reduce emissions would need to start in 2010 and reach a rapid and sustained rate of decline of 3 per cent every year. Even then there would still only be a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature rises below around 2°C. This contrasts sharply with current trends, where the world’s overall emissions are currently increasing at 1 per cent every year.” [25].

3. Similarly, Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr Alice Bows (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK): “According to the analysis conducted in this paper, stabilizing at 450 ppmv [carbon dioxide equivalent = CO2 -e, atmospheric concentration measured in parts per million by volume] requires, at least, global energy related emissions to peak by 2015, rapidly decline at 6-8% per year between 2020 and 2040, and for full decarbonization sometime soon after 2050 …Unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonization (in excess of 6% per year), it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppmv CO2 -e ... Ultimately, the latest scientific understanding of climate change allied with current emissions trends and a commitment to “limiting average global temperature increases to below 4 oC above pre-industrial levels”, demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda, and the economic characterization of contemporary society.” [26].

4. Dr James Hansen, (head, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University) has concluded: “After the ice has gone, would the Earth proceed to the Venus syndrome, a runaway greenhouse effect that would destroy all life on the planet, perhaps permanently? While that is difficult to say based on present information, I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty”. [27].

5. Professor Peter Doherty (Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, 1995; Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1996; Australian of the Year, 1997; Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne; author “A Light History of Hot Air”, Melbourne University Publishing, 2007): “Everything is about hot air. Political and in the atmosphere. We are in real danger. The recent CSIRO report suggests that temperatures could rise as much as five degrees by 2070. The ice is melting much more quickly than anyone expected. The Himalayas are melting very fast. We are now talking about the Arctic being ice-free by 2030.” [28, 29].

6. Professor David De Kretser, AC (eminent medical scientist and Governor of Victoria, Australia) launching “Climate Code Red” at Parliament House, Melbourne: “ Having read this book ...there is no doubt in my mind that this is the greatest problem confronting mankind at this time and that it has reached the level of a state of emergency. ... Education of the public is critical to ensure that they understand the dimensions of the tasks and the consequences of failure. This book helps in that educative process. Please read it.” [30, 31].

7. Andrew Glikson, (palaeo-climate and earth scientists, ANU): “For some time now, climate scientists warned that melting of subpolar permafrost and warming of the Arctic Sea (up to 4 degrees C during 2005–2008 relative to the 1951–1980) are likely to result in the dissociation of methane hydrates and the release of this powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere (methane: 62 times the infrared warming effect of CO2 over 20 years and 21 times over 100 years) … The amount of carbon stored in Arctic sediments and permafrost is estimated as 500–2500 Gigaton Carbon (GtC), as compared with the world’s total fossil fuel reserves estimated as 5000 GtC. Compare with the 700 GtC of the atmosphere, which regulate CO2 levels in the range of 180–300 parts per million and land temperatures in a range of about – 50 to + 50 degrees C, which allowed the evolution of warm blooded mammals. The continuing use of the atmosphere as an open sewer for industrial pollution has already added some 305 GtC to the atmosphere together with land clearing and animal-emitted methane. This raised CO2 levels to 387 ppm CO2 to date, leading toward conditions which existed on Earth about 3 million years (Ma) ago (mid-Pliocene), when CO2 levels rose to about 400 ppm, temperatures to about 2–3 degrees C and sea levels by about 25 +/- 12 metres. There is little evidence for an extinction at 3 Ma. However, by crossing above a CO2 level of 400 ppm the atmosphere is moving into uncharted territory. At this stage, enhanced methane leaks threaten climate events, such as the massive methane release and fauna extinction of 55 million years ago, which was marked by rise of CO2 to near-1000 ppm.” [32].

8. In an Open Letter 255 members of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences stated that: “We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts… Society has two choices: we can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.” [33].

9. The Synthesis Report of the March 2009 Copenhagen Scientific Climate Change Conference: “5. Inaction is inexcusable – “Society already has many tools and approaches – economic, technological, behavioural, and managerial – to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. If these tools are not widely and vigorously implemented, adaptation to the unavoidable climate change and the social transformation required to decarbonise economies will not be achieved. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to achieve effective and rapid adaptation and mitigation. These include job growth in the sustainable sector; reductions in the health, social, economic and environmental costs of climate change; and the repair of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services". [34, 35].

10. While according to Professor Schellnhuber (see item B1) Australia must reach zero (0) CO2 emissions by 2020, the horrible reality is that on current Australian government policies Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution will actually increase by 2020 to be about 149% of that in 2000. In 2010 the Victorian and Federal Labor Governments approved brown coal exports from Victoria that are expected to reach 20 million tonnes (74 million tonnes CO2) per annum. If this is achieved by 2020 then Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2020 will be 1245.4 + 74 = 1319.4 Mt = 149% of that in 2000. Based on UN Population Division population projections, Australia’s 2020 annual per capita Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is accordingly projected to reach 1319 Mt CO2-e/ 23.4 million people = 56 tonnes CO2-e per person per year, 62 times that of Bangladesh, a densely populated country acutely threatened by inundation from mainly First World-imposed GHG pollution. [36].

C. 100% renewable energy by 2020 for Australia.

1. As analyzed by Professor Schellnhuber (see B1), Australia needs to get to 0% CO2 emissions by about 2020 but it is quite clear that there is bipartisan agreement for a policy of increasing Australia’s domestic plus Exported GHG pollution i.e. 5% off 2000 level by 2020 coupled with a huge increase in coal and LNG exports and in unaddressed agricultural GHG pollution. Australia’s stationary energy production is responsible for about 30% of Australia’s total GHG pollution (however the exact proportion needs to be re-assessed because of recent re-assessments from the World Bank that global livestock production contributes over 51% of total annual global GHG pollution). It is clearly possible for Australia and other countries to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2020 - 2030 as set out below. [36, 37].

2. Professor Mark Z. Jacobson (Stanford University) and Mark A. Delucchi have set out a plan for 100% renewable energy for the world by 2030 using renewables such as wind, concentrated solar thermal, wave, tidal and geothermal energy. [38].

3, Professor David McKay FRS (Physics Department, Cambridge University and energy adviser to the UK Government) has set out a plan for renewable energy for the UK. Unlike Australia, the UK has limited solar energy resources and would have to tighten its belt energy-wise or import solar energy form North Africa. [39].

4. A scheme for 100% renewable energy for Australia has been set out by top electrical engineer Professor Peter Seligman (a major player in development of the bionic ear. Professor Seligman’s scheme involves involving wind, solar thermal, other energy sources, hydrological energy storage (in dams on the Nullabor Plain in Southern Australia), a HV AC and HV DC electricity transmission grid and a cost over 20 years of $253 billion. [40].

5. An important group of science-informed climate activists is Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) that in mid-2010 released an important and much-acclaimed plan for 100% renewable stationary energy for Australia by 2020 (Zero Carbon Australia by 2020, ZCA 2020). The BZE ZCA2020 Plan involves 40% wind energy, 60% concentrated solar thermal (CST) with molten salts energy storage for 24/7 baseload power, biomass and hydroelectric backup (for days of no wind and low sunshine) and a HV DC and HC AC national power grid. The BZE scheme was costed at $370 billion over 10 years, with roughly half spent on CST, one quarter on wind and one quarter on the national electricity grid. [41].

6. Another variant that could notionally give huge renewable energy for Australia by 2020 equivalent to 80% of its predicted 2020 energy needs [42] would be 80% wind energy with hydrological (or other) energy storage and other energy for 24/7 operation, noting that wind power installation is about 3-fold cheaper than solar thermal power installation [43]. Thus ignoring cost-increasing energy storage and transmission grid costs and cost-decreasing economies of scale for a 2- to10-fold size increase, here are 2 similar cost estimates for installation of wind power for 80% of Australia’s projected 325,000 GWh of annual electrical energy by 2020: (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWh/year, $200 billion/10 years (10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan, [44]) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (2-fold scale-up of BZE’s Wind Power proposal [41]).

7. All kinds of renewable energy mixes can be envisaged for 100% renewable energy by 2020 for Australia using existing commercial technologies coupled with major increases in energy efficiency and in particular renewable energy-based electrification of public and private transport and indeed substantial elimination of private transport [40, 41, 45]. Note that wave, tidal, geothermal and cheaper solar PV technologies are in development [46, 47]. Australia spends $12 billion yearly on Carbon Subsidies (see A5), $20 billion yearly on gambling and $40 billion per year on insurance as compared to the estimated cost of $14-20 billion per year for an 80% wind energy component of our projected energy needs by 2020 (see C6). [41].

8. Unfortunately, the major parties in Australia are committed to coal and gas exports and to the convenient falsehood that a coal burning to gas burning transition would be “cleaner” greenhouse gas-wise – this egregious falsehood is analyzed in the next section [48-51]. The Renewable Energy Target (RET) Bill passed by the Australian Parliament (August 2009) sets a target of “20% renewable energy by 2020” and measures this by allotting 1 Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) per 1 MWh (megawatt hour = million watt hour) of renewable electricity generated and put into the grid. However what can be regarded as renewable energy (clean energy) under the legislation includes a number of clearly non-renewable components, most notoriously “Phantom renewable energy” or “fake accountant’s renewable energy” (whereby 5 RECs are issued for every 1 MWh of solar or wind electricity put into the power grid) and natural gas (methane) e.g. Coal (C ) -, oil ( (CH2)n) - or gas (CH4) -based electricity for electric hot water (clearly non-renewable energy), gas (CH4) -based or other carbon (C)-based electricity for solar hot water (clearly non-renewable energy), methane gas (CH4) from coal seams (clearly non-renewable energy), and methane gas (CH4) from land-fill (clearly non-renewable energy). This is an absurd and indeed counterproductive way to tackle Australia’s world-leading annual per capita greenhouse gas pollution. [48, 49].

D. Gas rush, gas boom, coal to gas transition, gas is dirty energy not “clean energy”.

1. The Australian Government repeatedly states or implies that “gas is clean energy” or that “gas is cleaner energy”. Both statements are false. Gas is clearly dirty energy and combustion yields the greenhouse gas CO2. Indeed on a weight basis combustion of natural gas (mainly methane) yields twice the amount of CO2 as combustion of the same mass of brown coal i.e. “gas is not clean energy” [48, 49]. Further, because methane leaks and is 72 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year time scale, current methane leakage rates mean that gas burning for power is roughly as dirty as coal burning GHG-wise. Specifically, at 3.7% methane leakage the GHG effect of the leaked methane is the same as the GHG effect from converting the 96.3% of methane remaining to CO2. The latest US EPA data indicate that methane leakage in the US is 3.3% . [50, 51].

2. Appallingly, while being apprised of these realities the Australian Labor Government will not retract and continues with these falsehoods and unfortunately the Coalition Opposition, similarly apprised, continues to forgo the opportunity to crucify the Government in Parliament over these egregious falsehoods that “gas is clean energy” or that “gas is cleaner energy”.

3. The fundamental cause of this continuing commitment of the Government to falsehood over gas and of the Opposition to reticence over the Government falsehood is clear to see – the power of the fossil fuel lobby in Lobbyocracy Australia. There is a huge gas rush and gas boom in Australia involving off-shore gas fields and on-shore gas extraction from coal seams, including such extraction by coal seam fracturing (“fracking”). Australia is already a major LNG exporter and Australian Governments are frank in espousing a transition from coal burning to gas burning for power that would be a disaster for Australia by committing huge long-term investments in a technology that is roughly as dirty as coal burning GHG-wise rather than investing in renewable energy. [48-51].

4. Further to point D3, it was recently revealed that the successful Mining Industry campaign against the Mining Tax proposal of PM Kevin Rudd only cost $22 million. Thus Mark Davis in The Age: “How much does it cost to bring down a prime minister? The answer: just a tad over $22 million. That’s how much the mining industry spent in just six weeks last year on its political campaign against Kevin Rudd’s plan for a resource super profit tax.” Yet that is only about $22 million x 100/$200,000 million = 0.01% of the annual earnings of the Mining Industry. [52].

5. Point D4 underscores the perversion of democracy in Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy Australia and a major reason why science is sidelined in public discussion (there are other reasons for this sidelining of scientists, notably censorship and self-censorship) [53, 54]. A further cultural factor was apparent to Voltaire 230 years ago when in his novel “Candide”, he had cynical Venetian nobleman Lord Pococurante observe: “I would be happy with the freedom that inspires the English geniuses if party feeling and party spirit didn’t corrupt everything estimable in that precious freedom”. [53].

6. Gas burning for power while about as dirty as coal burning GHG-wise is indeed cleaner than coal burning in relation to human health. However carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide production from gas burning for power is about 20% of that from coal burning for power and a variety of toxic organometallics and carcinogenic aromatics and polycyclic aromatics derive from gas burning. [51].

7. “Big picture” objections to gas-fired power plant proposals fall into 4 major areas, namely (A) Australia, and Humanity in general, should be urgently decreasing and certainly not increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution; (B) gas (mainly methane) is not clean energy greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise; (C) pollutants from gas leakage and gas burning pose a chemical risk to residents, agriculture and the environment; and (D) man-made climate change is contributing to severe floods and cyclones [55, 56], (and hence sensitivity says don’t build such plants in, for example, the flood-devastated Lockyer Valley, Queensland, as is currently proposed). [51].

8. In addition, the technique of “fracking” depletes and contaminates aquifers as well as despoiling the surface natural and human environment as set out in the movie “Gasland”. Gasland is now a burgeoning, ugly reality in rural Queensland and NSW. [55].

9. Exploitation of gas for power, home use and export flies in the face of science and equity that demand, all men being created equal, that high annual per capita polluter Australia must cease CO2 pollution by 2020.

10. Unfortunately there is science-ignoring, bipartisan support for expansion of gas exploitation in Australia.

E. Carbon Price and Carbon Tax versus Carbon Trading.

1. There has been an extraordinarily limited public discussion in look-the-other-way Australia about the issues of a Carbon Price, a Carbon Tax and Carbon Trading (see points D4 and D5 above).

2. Australian Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has described the latest Australian Government Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) scheme in the following terms: “It’s an emissions trading scheme which all economists recognise is you know, a market mechanism that’s the most efficient way to reduce pollution in our economy” [56]. However, as detailed below, many climate economists, scientists and analysts regard the Cap-and-Trade, Carbon Trading-based Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach as empirically unsuccessful, dangerously counterproductive and inherently fraudulent. Indeed a compendium of over 40 such expert opinions slamming the ETS approach have been emplaced with documentation on the Web by 300.org [57].

3. The Cap-and-Trade ETS approach sets a Cap on GHG pollution and then sets up a system of saleable licences to pollute and a dodgy market-based mechanism of compensation and trading to somehow keep GHG pollution under the Cap. However the Cap denies the Elephant in the Room reality that atmospheric CO2 concentration (currently 392 ppm) is already damagingly too high and many scientists argue that it should be rapidly returned to a safe and sustainable level of about 300 ppm. For a detailed and documented compendium of such expert opinions see 300.org [58]. In short, we should be urgently decreasing and not increasing GHG pollution.

4. Further to point E3, many Western Governments talk of increasing GHG pollution to 450 ppm CO2-equivalent (CO2-e). Professor John Holdren (President Obama’s chief science adviser) has summarized this position thus “How much, how soon? Limiting Tavg to < or equal to 2 degrees C is now considered by many the most prudent target that is still attainable. EU embraced this target in 2002, G-8 in 2006. For 50% chance of Tavg to < or equal to 2 degrees C, sum of human influences (CO2, other GHG, and atmospheric particulate matter) must be stabilized at a level equivalent to 450 ppm CO2 (“450 ppm CO2-e”… Stabilizing at 450 ppmv CO2-e means global CO2 emissions must be at least 7-9 GtC/year below BAU (i.e. a cut of 50% or more below BAU” [59]. Further, Professor Kevin Anderson and Dr Alice Bows (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK) say that “Stabilizing at 450 ppmv [CO2-e] requires, at least, global energy related emissions to peak by 2015, rapidly decline at 6-8% per year between 2020 and 2040, and for full decarbonization sometime soon after 2050” [26] and Professor John Schellnhuber says that for a 67% chance of avoiding a 2C temperature rise the world must reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050 [24]. However interpolation of data in the Synthesis Report of the 2009 Copenhagen Scientific Climate Change Conference indicates a CO2-e concentration of 475 ppm already [34]. In 2009 palaeo-climate and earth scientist Dr Andrew Glikson (ANU) stated “The anthropogenic release of over 300 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere since 1750 has pushed maximum CO2 level by near-40 percent higher than its natural state of 280 parts per million (ppm). When combined with methane (CH4), the current CO2-equivalent level is near -450 ppm” [60]. In short, it is likely that we have already exceeded the EU 450 ppm atmospheric CO2-e concentration cap.

5. Damning comment on the failure of the market mechanism to “tackle climate change” is provided by top climate economics economist and former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern: “"The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay. Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. The evidence on the seriousness of the risks from inaction or delayed action is now overwhelming. We risk damages on a scale larger than the two world wars of the last century. The problem is global and the response must be a collaboration on a global scale" [61].

6. The ETS approach has been empirically unsuccessful. Despite ETS approaches in the EU and elsewhere, global GHG pollution and CO2 pollution continue to inexorably rise e.g. see the data from the US Energy Information Administration [62] and the latest data from the US Mauna Loa CO2-monitoring station in Hawaii indicating a current atmospheric CO2 concentration of 392 ppm which is currently rising at 2.4 ppm CO2 per year (2010) as compared to 0.5 ppm/year in 1960 [63]. European claims of marginal GHG pollution reduction are dodgy because EU countries ignore the huge GHG pollution implicit in imported goods from China.

7. The ETS approach has been succinctly summarized by eminent US climate scientist Dr James Hansen as “astoundingly ineffective” and accordingly this approach (rejected by the US) would be a dangerously counterproductive move in the wrong direction: “Cap and trade with offsets, in contrast, is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto, as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy. Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.” [64].

8. Many commentators have raised legitimate concerns that a carbon trading system would lead to a “market bubble” greater than the “housing bubble” fraud that precipitated the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). [57].

9. The sheer fraudulence of the Australian ETS called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is simply exposed by the reality that under the Australian Government policy and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is expected to increase to 149% of the 2000 value by 2020 (as opposed to assertion of “5% off 2000 value by 2020”). [14, 65].

10. A fundamental fraudulence inherent in the ETS approach is that it involves a government selling something that it does not have the right to sell i.e. the right to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries on earth (including climate change-threatened countries like Bangladesh, Kiribati and Tuvalu).

11. Many advocate a Revenue-neutral Carbon Tax that involves a direct tax on carbon pollution at source i.e. on fossil fuel producers and importers with the revenue being returned to ordinary taxpayers. Dr James Hansen has articulated this proposal thus: “Is it feasible to phase out coal and avoid use of unconventional fossil fuels? Yes, but only if governments face up to the truth: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, their use will continue and even increase on a global basis. Fossil fuels are cheapest because they are not made to pay for their effects on human health, the environment and future climate. Governments must place a uniform rising price on carbon, collected at the fossil fuel source – the mine or port of entry. The fee should be given to the public in toto, as a uniform dividend, payroll tax deduction or both. Such a tax is progressive – the dividend exceeds added energy costs for 60% of the public. Fee and dividend stimulates the economy, providing the public with the means to adjust lifestyles and energy infrastructure. Fee and dividend can begin with the countries now considering cap and trade. Other countries will either agree to a carbon fee or have duties placed on their products that are made with fossil fuels. As the carbon price rises, most coal, tar sands and oil shale will be left in the ground. The marketplace will determine the roles of energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear power in our clean energy future.” [64].

12. The Australian Labor Government has proposed a Carbon Tax that ignores most of the GHG pollution – it ignores Australian coal and LNG exports and agriculture. Further, the Australian Government scheme involves compensation not just for low income earners but for polluters as well. A reduction ad absurdum would be a Carbon Tax that increased prices by $x billion and a citizen compensation package that enabled them to pay the additional $x billion bill from increased prices. However this futile cycle would have damaging effects on Australian industry not protected from cheaper imports or from unfair competition in exporting.

13. A Revenue-neutral Carbon Tax (see E11) would be attractive to ordinary taxpayers but has effectively been off the public agenda, a measure of corporate vested interest power in Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy Australia.

14. A fundamental principle in an equitable society is making people pay for the consequences of their actions. As Sir Nicholas Stern has stated “The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay” [61]. Accordingly (a) removal of Carbon Subsidies and (b) implementation of a fair Carbon Price are legitimate actions (see section A). Unfortunately the Australian Labor Government will do neither and nor will the Coalition Opposition.

15. Notwithstanding Professor Stern’s declaration that “Climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen” [61], the Australian Government is committed to a Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy that adopts market-based carbon trading mechanism and ignores agriculture that is responsible for over 51% of total annual global GHG pollution [37, 65]. As amplified below, direct action steps are needed for 100% renewable energy, energy efficiency, re-afforestation and massive biochar production coupled with rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth. [66].

F. Australian Labor Government Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) and climate change inaction.

1. The Australian Government has not indicated what the initial Carbon Price will be in its Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan. However this is a crucial omission because there is no point doing anything if the actual effect is counterproductive. The Greens who support the Australian Labor Minority Government have made a firm proposal for a Carbon Price of at least $20/tC but this would merely enable a transition from coal burning to gas burning for power that would be pointless (because of methane leakage gas burning is effectively as dirty GHG-wise as coal burning) (see section D).

2. Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has issued a Carbon Pricing Report that states “There have been many calls from those in the climate change debate for “a rising price on carbon which is high enough to stimulate renewable energy”. This is a flawed strategy. Due to the nature of technology and the electricity market, we would require in excess of $70.tonne even for wind power, the lowest cost renewable, to compete in the electricity market without requiring Renewable Energy Certificates from the LRET. For baseload technologies such as concentrating solar thermal (CST), the game changer we need to replace coal and gas, you would need in excess of $200 /tonne for initial plants… a carbon price which is greater than $25/tonne will ensure a mass rollout of gas-fired power stations, while renewables are left out in the cold”. There is no point introducing a scheme that will scupper science-mandated 100% renewable energy for 2020 for Australia and merely enable a pointless coal burning to gas burning transition [67, 68].

3. Lost in what passes for public debate in Lobbyocracy and Murdochracy Australia is the key issue of agricultural GHG pollution which according to a recent World Bank re-assessment is responsible for over 50% of total annual global GHG pollution [37]. The Australian Labor Government Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan completely ignores Agricultural GHG pollution. [68].

4. Also lost in the public debate (possibly because of the destructively powerful Religion Lobby) is the key issue of population. In 2010, before the Australian Federal and Victorian State elections, Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby promised to cut Victoria’s annual GHG pollution “by at least 20% by 2020 compared to 2000 levels (equivalent to 40% per capita”. What this meant was that Victoria’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution would actually increase from 122 Mt CO2-e in 2008 (and about the same in 2000) to 172 Mt CO2-e in 2020 i.e. it would actually increase 41% by 2020 compared to 2000 level. Importantly this assertion by Premier Brumby also meant a projected doubling of Victoria’s population each 20 years from 4.3 million in 2000 to 8.6 million in 2020 (and accordingly to 68.8 million or nearly 70 million by 2080). Political realities of increasing economic growth, full employment and a stable standard of living mean that the ultimately politically-massaged Carbon Tax and ETS proposals must necessarily mean an increase in GHG pollution by 2020 – in stark contrast to the zero CO2 emissions scenario demanded by top climate scientists. [69, 70].

5. The pro-coal, pro-gas Australian Labor Government has proposed a Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy that means climate change inaction by Australia, a world-leading per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter. This disastrous policy promotes a pointless coal burning to gas burning conversion, institutes pointless increase in prices coupled with obviating compensation, scuppers science-demanded 100% renewable energy by 2020, institutes a counterproductive carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) and ignores agriculture which is responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution. [68].

6. Astonishingly, major climate activist groups have been seduced by neocon Labor political spin and “gradualist” arguments and are variously supporting the general notion of the Australian Labor Government’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy. Well-intentioned pro-environment groups providing such qualified support for the presently un-detailed Labor Government Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan include the Greens, Get Up, Environment Victoria (EV), the Climate Institute, Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), the Australian World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF). The ACF enunciates the “gradualist” position in support of a “carbon price” that “Whether it’s via a carbon tax, an ETS or a CPRS, the aim is the same – make clean technology cheaper by putting a price tag on pollution” [71]. However while a Carbon Price is legitimate (see E14) the devil is in the detail and a low Carbon Price will favor a counterproductive coal to gas transition that means effective climate change inaction (see F2).

7. Further to F6, the Labor Government Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan can be seen as a second and now much more successful attempt by pro-coal, pro-gas Labor to cripple the pro-environment movement. Thus Labor’s previous ETS (CPRS) proposal was able to garner support from 50% of the Coalition for the PM Kevin Rudd-Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull compromise ETS that permanently excluded Agriculture (i.e. ignored over 50% of the GHG pollution problem for ever). However this disastrous Labor ETS proposal divided the pro-environment movement with the Climate Institute, the ACF and the WWF supporting the ETS and the Greens, Environment Victoria, BZE, Socialist Alliance, Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Climate Emergency Network (CEN) rejecting it as too ineffective. Labor’s latest inexplicit proposal has successfully muddied the waters with an un-detailed Carbon Price-ETS conflation, severely compromising much of the pro-environment movement with Friends of the Earth (FOE), the Socialist Alliance and CEN as a standouts for effective climate change action as amplified below.

8. Friends of the Earth (FOE) “We’re concerned this is a resurrection of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), which was rejected in the Senate and failed to win public support because it was worse than doing nothing. Carbon trading does not work – across the world cap-and-trade has failed to reduce emissions, harmed local communities and delayed real action; whilst delivering huge profits to polluters and financial speculators. The MPCCC framework repeats the mistakes of the CPRS by handing over revenue to big polluters, on top of other loopholes like cheap offsets. We welcome the exclusion of international offsets from the interim carbon price. However, by allowing domestic offsets in the initial phase, expanding to a carbon market riddled with international offsets, polluters will avoid reducing emissions at the expense of communities displaced and affected by damaging offset projects. Today’s agreement foreshadows a low price on carbon – and no political parties are currently committed to a substantial price. With a low price on carbon, Australia’s emissions will continue to rise. Competitiveness and energy security for polluters are clearly the main considerations in setting the price – ignoring the serious impacts of climate change and regulatory action needed to transition away from fossil fuels. We want to see effective and just solutions on the table – solutions that phase out coal-fired power, that stop the expansion of coal mining; that protect our rivers, farmlands, and health from fossil fuels extraction; and drive the rapid growth of renewable energy in Australia. These solutions include direct investment in renewable energy and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.” [72].

9. Ben Courtice has summarized the CEN position on climate change action thus: “The Climate Emergency Network (CEN) in Melbourne has also come up with a set of criteria for a safe climate policy. These criteria imply the tests to which we need to subject the carbon price. CEN suggests that climate policy must ensure “a rapid phase out of all current fossil fuel use (coal, gas and oil) — without allowing new or expanded fossil fuel developments” and “not subsidise fossil fuel exploration, mining, or use, nor provide compensation to industries that profit from unconstrained greenhouse gas pollution”. It must “ensure the rapid deployment and further development of clean renewable energy technology until it supplies 100% of the stationary energy supply, and provides for an electrified public transport system powered by clean renewable energy”. Climate policy also has to be just: it must “ensure that vulnerable individuals and communities suffer no disadvantage from the safe climate transition”, CEN said.It must “not allow trade-offs or offsets — recognising that we need to simultaneously and urgently reduce emissions and increase draw down of greenhouse gases and assist developing nations”. Will a national carbon price achieve these goals? Will it prevent us taking detours such as moving from coal-burning to gas-burning? Or will it promote renewable energy and returning to a safe climate? We have to keep campaigning for all the measures that will take us back to a safe climate. But we also have to ensure that measures like the carbon price do not take us on costly detours, or weigh us down with negative consequences. If we do not exercise our right to criticism we risk giving Abbott a hand up with his hypocritical criticisms of carbon pricing. That will not mobilise more people for a safe climate, but it will damage and confuse the movement. The climate deserves better, and the Greens deserve honest, intelligent and critical feedback on the real merits of their proposal as they undertake difficult negotiations with the Labor government.” [73].

10. The Socialist Alliance on the Labor CTETSIA plan: “The carbon price framework recently agreed to by the ALP and the Greens is a step in the wrong direction. This is not because, as the Coalition says, the economy — read the profits of big business — cannot afford to cut emissions. It’s because the framework will be counterproductive to real action on climate change. The highest prices now being discussed will simply stimulate a mass rollout of gas, extending Australia’s commitment to fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy. This is because a carbon price is a poor way to promote renewables. As it stands, the carbon price deal will simply act as a support mechanism for the gas industry and the profits of the oil, mining, and coal giants who own it. The framework does not guarantee any phase out of dirty industries, nor investment in alternative industries or the jobs that go along with them. Australia urgently needs a radical shift to a zero emissions economy. In isolation, no carbon tax can ensure this. At best, a carbon tax can be a secondary or additional aspect of the government’s climate policy. Socialist Alliance stands for large-scale public investment in a publicly-owned and run renewable energy sector, a rollout of public transport, a shift to sustainable farming and other carbon abatement programs, as well as government regulation to phase out dirty industries. We stand for making the big corporate polluters and profit-makers pay. That means an end to all subsidies to fossil fuel industries. And while taxation is one measure that could be used on this front, in isolation it could be disastrous. If polluters are allowed to pass the cost of a carbon price on to households, or use it as an excuse to layoff workers or go offshore, this would also be disastrous. Public investment in zero emissions alternatives is essential, and strong regulation is needed. For example, it is not acceptable that people be forced out of their cars due to price increases at the pump. Alternatives are needed, and in this case, that means investment in public transport. Polluters that refuse to cut emissions, evade regulations or try to pass the costs of carbon-abatement onto consumers should be taken into public hands to allow the needed transition to be carried out in an effective and socially just way. The ALP/Greens agreement makes the market the primary driver of Australia’s response to the climate emergency. But a tax cannot substitute for government regulation or direct public investment in carbon abatement projects. Indeed, while not reflected in the agreement, the Greens’ policy is to support a carbon price in tandem with the wind-back of fossil fuel subsidies and industry policies for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The details of the deal are yet to be worked out, but the scheme will be hard-wired to move to a flexible price under an emissions trading scheme. This puts Australia’s climate policy in the hands of international markets and stands in contradiction to the certainty with which we need to act. Furthermore, the ALP is committed to giving out huge subsidies to the big polluters, and the Greens is committed to compensation to trade-exposed industries — countering any financial incentive to cut pollution fast under a carbon tax. Compared to the $11 billion a year state and federal governments give to the fossil fuel industry in subsidies, it is clear that this carbon price deal is greenwash. The government needs to stop fiddling with the market to cut carbon emissions and instead set emissions cuts targets based on the science. It must put carbon abatement projects and regulation in place to meet these targets, while guaranteeing a just transition for workers into new jobs.” [74].

11. Very disappointingly, Beyond Zero Emissions ( BZE), that has presented a much-acclaimed, science- and engineering-informed proposal for 100% renewable energy for Australia by 2020 [41], appears to support the CTETSIA plan and a low Carbon Price with a strange argument that “less is more”: “There have been many calls from those in the climate change debate for “a rising price on carbon which is high enough to stimulate renewable energy”. This is a flawed strategy . Due to the nature of technology and the electricity market, we would require in excess of $70.tonne even for wind power, the lowest cost renewable, to compete in the electricity market without requiring Renewable Energy Certificates from the LRET, For baseload technologies such as concentrating solar thermal (CST), the game changer we need to replace coal and gas, you would need in excess of $200 /tonne for initial plants… A low carbon price of $10-20/tonne is somewhat useful, as it will still create a disincentive to build new coal-fired power stations, and will ensure that coal is more likely to be displaced by renewable than gas. However, a carbon price which is greater than $25/tonne will ensure a mass rollout of gas-fired power stations, while renewables are left out in the cold... BZE’s recommendation on a carbon price is that calling for a high price will inevitably lead to a large switch to gas, with minimal benefits to renewable energy. The focus should be on making the case for a carbon-pricing plus framework that elevates “direct incentives” such as Feed-in-Tariffs in the debate. The carbon price alone is only a complementary measure. The carbon price “debate” has already been won, the next step is to call for policies that work, as opposed to policies that delay.” [1, 67].

12. Labor’s Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan is a travesty and a tragedy. It is a travesty because it pretends to “tackle climate change” but actually entrenches Australia’s world leading per capita fossil fuel burning and exporting. It is a tragedy because it has substantially damaged the pro-environment movement in Australia. Spin and lying by commission and omission have won out over dispassionate scientific advice and have committed a climate criminal Australia to a role of international pariah in the context of a worsening climate catastrophe due to unaddressed man-made climate change that is set to kill 10 billion people this century and devastate the Biosphere.

13. The crippling of pro-environment Australian opposition to Labor’s disastrous Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan largely confines Mainstream political opposition to the pro-coal, pro-gas Coalition Opposition who in this instance, as in their prior opposition to the Labor ETS/CPRS-Ignore Agriculture plan, are right but mostly for the wrong reasons.

14. The climate change threat to the world is so acute that climate change inaction by world-leading per capita GHG polluter Australia risks an international response involving Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs, litigation before the International Court of Justice and international climate criminal prosecutions before the International Criminal Court. Indeed non-scientist Professor Ross Garnaut, Australian Government adviser on climate change, has recently warned that “More fundamentally, any failure of proportionate mitigation effort will invite critical and, in some circumstances, damaging international response” [75].

15. Success in “tackling climate change” is simply measured in terms of decreased GHG pollution. Yet Australian Labor Government rhetoric that they are “tacking climate change” is hollow indeed. Thus Australia’s annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution was 4% higher under Labor in 2009-2010 than under the Coalition in 2006-2007. Under Labor Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution has increased enormously and is set to increase even more [70]. The Australian Climate Change Department has recently warned that by 2020 Australia’s Domestic emissions would, under current policies, rise 24 per cent above levels in 2000 and that global emissions will double between 2005 and 2030 without mitigation efforts or global economic shocks [75]. It is readily estimated that under the bipartisan Australian policy of “5% off 2000 Domestic GHG pollution by 2020” Australia’s Domestic and Exported GHG pollution in 2020 will be about 150% of that in 2000 [36].

G. Climate emergency required actions.

Key things that must be done to actually “tackle climate change” include (1) change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying; (2) urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists; and (3) rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power and have a much lower true price (taking human and environmental costs into account) [76], energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils and oxygen-free repositories (used underground mine sites) [77], coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth. [66].

This has been written in the public interest.

Dr Gideon Polya, Macleod, Melbourne, Victoria 3085, Australia.


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