Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hot, Flat and Upgefscked



I hope the campaign is successful not just in shaming the coalition into action, but also in waking up our elected representatives; currently making a hash of their only marginally better policy on climate change.

The opposition keep name-calling, hoping that their slinging of the dread word "tax" will stick to Rudd's cap-and-trade policy.

The irony is that a tax would be the best policy of the lot - David Victor, Stanford University Professor and expert on international coal markets:

I think we have vastly oversold the role of the market in the solution to this problem...

As Dr Victor grudgingly admits, ETS schemes are failing and only a tax would be a strong and clear signal - fixed and away from the vagaries of the market, so that Australian clean technology entrepreneurs, as well as all other green innovations and measures are actually economically viable.

Why would you catch a clean green bus, when your car is cheap to run on petrol? Why would you pay much more for an electric vehicle, when your gas guzzler is so cheap to buy and register by comparison?

This is 2010 - the year of the electric car, but we won't see any of them in numbers Australia because our governments are completely failing to create policies to make it attractive to manufacturers to ship them here. In the UK tax on new cars is figured based on their emissions ratings and thus EV's are very attractive there - zero emissions vehicles finally competing on a level playing field. In the USA tax credits are available for zero emissions vehicles - for example resulting in a $7500 saving on the Chevy Volt.

Why are electric vehicle entrepreneurs in Australia struggling to get off the ground?

Because here we just dig stuff out of the ground and ship it over seas. That's what we do, that's our plan for the future.

The Smart State? The lucky country? Nope, we're the Idiocracy. If it wasn't bad enough that we have Senator Fielding, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. Now we have Abbot and his ludicrous non-policy.

The problem for Australia with regards to climate change is that we've completely failed to realize the urgency, and the Abbott's of this nation are just lowering the average climate intelligence quotient right across Australia.

The heatwave conditions in Feb 2009 which filled the morgue in Victoria and spread wildfires were the pre-saging of more to come, according to the Australian Bureau of Meterology, thanks to climate change.

But more heatwaves when they come will not be our biggest problem here in Australia.

I've just read (on pg 80 of) Thomas L Friedman's "Hot, Flat & Crowded" (2009 edition) that the Sigma Xi group, commissioned by the UN to report on climate change, said in their February 2007 document "Confronting Climate Change" that the relatively small increase of 0.8 degrees C since 1750 has been "accompanied by significant increases in the incidence of floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires".

But more fires and droughts when they come will not be our biggest problem here in Australia either.

Our bigger problem is that when the effects of climate change hit the countries most vulnerable to its effects, when their crops fail and disease spreads and generally things are looking like the four horsemen of the apocalypse have moved in for good: where do you think those refugees are going to go?

Here is where they'll go: the lucky country. While we battle bushfires, and raging ignorance, and compete to see how far we can stick our heads in the sand, desperate refugees will be arriving here in force. At the same time, our armed forces will be called on for international relief efforts, much as they were for the tsunami disaster in Banda Aceh in 2004.

While we turn up our air-conditioners, and argue that climate change is bogus because of some emails from East Anglia, the evidence of climate change will be arriving on our doorstep in ever-increasing numbers.

Oh, and Tony, good luck reanimating some the policies of our old dark lords with a return to "turn back the boats" policies - these people will have no country to go back to.

Apart from refugees, the other problem dwarfing fires, drought and heat that climate change will bring for Australia is that if we keep being as backward as we are regarding clean technologies is that soon no-one will want the stuff we're digging out of the ground.

China is investing massively in clean technologies, and indeed some of our top talent in solar technologies have gone there - others to the USA - due to the clear state commitment to controlling climate change with high-tech solutions, especially compared to the dismal picture here.

When these large Chinese plants come on line in the next 5 to 10 years their own local reserves of coal will be more than adequate to meet the needs of their dwindling coal plants.

By then it will be too late for Australia to turn around and beg those scientists to come back and start trying to foster a clean tech industry - we'll be sitting on a pile of worthless black dirt that no-one wants, and lagging so far behind the technology race that we don't have a hope of catching up.

Swamped with refugees and becoming a backward third-world country. That's not what I want for my Australia.

Come on K Rudd - show Abbot what a real forward thinking climate policy looks like, and make us the lucky country once again.