Time to stop pretending on emissions reduction

So the final model of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme — Australia cap-and-trade system — has been released. It’s byline is ‘Australia’s ever-so-slightly-maybe Lower Pollution Future‘. Sorry, now I’m just being cynical.

There’s been plenty written about it over the subsequent 24 hours, including some comments from me here, here, here and here. I also hammered some points out in a few radio slots yesterday, but I’m not sure if the message is really getting through. A bunch of short but incisive comments from other scientists and economists is also available at the Australian Science Media Centre. They’re worth reading for (i) the diversity of issues raised and (ii) for the near unanimity of criticism of the targets and general model set forth.

The final scheme clearly rewards big polluters by handing them a swag of free permits, right up to 2020. The poor hard-done-by coal-fired power generators get the majority of these; $4 billion in the first 5 years alone — naturally (I’ll let you go figure that one out). It rightly provides significant compensation to low and middle income households, but sadly directs ~3% of the income generated into research and development on low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency. It sets a reduction target of 5% of 2000 levels by 2020, unless ‘all the major emitters come on board’, in which case the government says they’ll increase the cuts to 15%. In other words, Australia is only willing to move with the pack (actually, somewhere in the middle of the pack – you know, for extra safety). Global leaders? Forget it.

But in my opinion, the biggest problem is the sheer dishonesty about the science. If targets greater than 5% are impossible to implement on political grounds, then that’s the current reality. The government should be honest about this, and say:

This is as large a cut as we feel the community will accept, even though the science of climate change clearly show that we require much more. Accepting this current reality, our job, as government, is to now better inform you, the general public, of the seriousness of this issue, the short time frames for action, and the need for deeper cuts“.

But no. Instead we get artful political spin and greenwash, with the claim that Australia is doing something meaningful to avoid dangerous climate change and that the targets will miraculously allow us to go no higher than 450 ppm CO2. As the calculations in the Garnaut Review pointed out, this is simply false. It’s a shame the government has chosen to ignore a large swathe of the recommendations of that review, modest as they were.

I’ve opined on this further in a little piece I wrote for the Adelaide Advertiser. I’m not sure it if will end up appearing in the paper or not, but at least BNC readers can get to look at it.

With the Poznan climate conference now over, the Australian Government has announced its aim to cut greenhouse gas emission by up to 14% compared to 1990 levels by the year 2020 and 60% by 2050.

This is the centrepiece of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which is another name for a cap-and-trade system for limiting Australia’s future carbon emissions, from 2010 onwards.

In many respects 14% seems sensible. After all, it represents a 41% reduction on a per person basis. It’s in line with goals set by other developed nations such as the UK, US and European Union.

Such a target seems to walk the political middle ground.

Not too steep a cut as to anger industry who are concerned about the economic risks of action. But enough to show Australia’s doing our part in reducing the impact of climate change. Enough to avoid 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, by limiting carbon dioxide to 450 parts per million (ppm).

That, at least, is the simple political message that is being sold. Trouble is, it’s simply not true.

First, it misrepresents what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007. This work shows that to have a decent chance of avoiding warming 2 to 2.4C, the world must cut emissions by up to 80% by 2050. That’s a 98% cut for Australia, per person.

Second, it pretends that more recent relevant science doesn’t exist.

Work published in 2007 and 2008–after the IPCC closed its review books–shows that global carbon emissions growth is greater than had been previously anticipated. To add despair to this despondency,  recent observations also indicate that the climate system is more sensitive to additional greenhouse gases than we’d suspected.

This means 450 ppm is could commit us to 4C or more of warming. A dangerous prospect indeed, which risks appallingly severe impacts which were described in the Garnaut review earlier this year, on the economic and environmental costs of action (or inaction) on climate change.

Now even getting to a 41% per capita emissions reduction by 2020 will be tough. Really tough.

It will require strong policy intervention to increase the adoption of energy efficiency and conservation and build-out renewable energy such as wind, solar, wave and geothermal on a massive scale. No new coal fired power stations that do not capture the carbon dioxide. And so on.

Given this requirement for transformational change to even match middle-of-the road targets, why not commit to going ‘all the way’?  Actually fully solve the crisis before it happens, rather than merely half-fixing it, with adjustment pain anyway, and yet only delay the inevitable crunch.

But such full commitment would mean decision makers have to stop pretending that their emissions reduction targets match the latest scientific evidence. Right now, they don’t. So if nothing else, let’s at least be honest with the Australian public about that.

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51 Comments

  1. And here’s what I wrote for a temporary blog on the Adelaide Advertiser (with an elephant analogy, of course — overused?):

    I suppose most sensible people will be happy with the upper-end emissions reduction targets outlined today by the Australian Government in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) white paper – a 14% reduction by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, which equates to a per capita drop of 41%. These are ambitious and deeply challenging goals, and equal to or better than the per capita targets proposed by other developed nations such as the EU, UK and US. Australia’s 2050 target of 60% is unmoved from past policy, but it is the short-term targets that matter right now.

    To achieve these sort of cuts, there will need to be nothing short of a revolution in the way we generate and conserve energy – sharply turning around, in a mere 12 years, decades of rampant growth in carbon emissions and energy supply from fossil fuel industries. Whether the CPRS plan is sufficiently revolutionary and robust to realise this goal, even in combination with the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), is a matter that will be debated thoroughly over the next year.

    But of course there is a rather large elephant in the room that every political decision makers is still pretending isn’t there. It’s an African bull elephant that’s already breaking chairs in the sitting room and is about to burst into the dining area and start smashing all the crockery with increasing rage.

    That’s the scientific reality of the physics, chemistry and biology of climate change and climate feedbacks, a process which cares nothing for these bold ambitions or how hard we might be trying.

    The laws of nature cannot be bargained away and they do not compromise. So we either muster a rouseabout team, lasso the elephant, and drag it from the house, or we attempt to placate it, in the vain expectation that we may be able to rescue a few pieces of our finest porcelain. Our only hope is to do the former, but it seems we’re resigned to accept that only the latter is possible.

    Put more directly, the 14% cut in our total emissions by 2020 announced today is such a pitifully inadequate attempt to stop dangerous climate change that we may as well wave the white flag now.

    That’s because such a goal – even if fully achieved (and it will take some mighty effort) – will still commit to global temperature rises of 3 or more degrees Celsius, setting in motion a slew of climate feedbacks that take the planet to a state unfit for humanity for all future generations, and for most species.

    The science tells us we need at least 40% by 2020, 90% by 2030 and zero emissions as soon as possible thereafter; with the real aim of restoring CO2 levels to what they were in the early 1950s.

    The CPRS targets will not achieve 450 ppm CO2, as the government hopes, and even 450 ppm has a little chance of avoiding 2C warming, will not restore the polar ice, and will not stop sea level rise.

    It’s going to take a truly revolutionary set of policies and strong political will to rapidly wean ourselves off carbon-based energy. Yet from both a fossil-fuel supply (peak oil, gas and coal) and a climate perspective, this is exactly what must be done. Even to achieve the cuts announced by the government today, we must implement radical improvements in our energy efficiency and develop a whole new infrastructure of energy supply.

    So one has to ask the obvious question – why not commit to going ‘all the way’ and actually solve the crisis before it has time to happen, rather than merely half-solve it, such that the best we can do is delay the inevitable crunch?

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  2. The 4th and 5th paras (how the govt should have phrased it to be honest about the science) are absolutely spot on.

    In the blog piece (#1) Personally I think it took you too long to say “the 14% cut in our total emissions by 2020 announced today is such a pitifully inadequate attempt to stop dangerous climate change that we may as well wave the white flag now.”

    as many people will just read “I suppose most sensible people will be happy with the upper-end emissions reduction targets outlined today by the Australian Government in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) white paper – a 14% reduction by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, which equates to a per capita drop of 41%. These are ambitious and deeply challenging goals, and equal to or better than the per capita targets proposed by other developed nations such as the EU, UK and US. ” and think the CPRS will save the day.

    (plus the media is 5% and 15%, the 14% will just confuse people).

    Personally I feel like I’ve just found my gal in bed with my worst enemy, having defended her for about a year despite all my mates telling me she could not be trusted.

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  3. I feel let down by this Government that promised so much while in opposition. Fool me once ….

    This was a huge opportunity to drive the restructuring of our economy. I feel so bloody angry that we (taxpayers and customers) will be paying compensation to power generators who have known since 1992 that a price would be being set on carbon.

    Anyway, should I believe that Obama will be driving the brave new world in appointing Steven Chu as Energy Secretary and tasking him with finding alternatives to fossil fuel?!

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  4. Barry, I agree with all of the criticisms you heap on the targets proposed by the Rudd government.

    Amongst the most misleading statements in the White Paper are the references to 450 ppm, when the emissions reductions of 5-15% are consistent with stabilising at 510-550 ppm according to the six senarios set out in the White Paper itself (see the CPRS-5 and CPRS-15 scenarios stated on page 4-11). That’s consistent with accepting a 2.5 to 3C rise in mean global temperatures and the hoast of severe impacts that will be associated with those temperature rises.

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  5. I was just reading a piece by Keith Orchison on Business Spectator website, and one thing is for sure if Keith is happy with the proposal then we’ve been bent over the barrel by the coal industry:)

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  6. Tim Colebatch’s comments on the White Paper in The Age are worth reading to remind yourself just how much of a political sell-out the White Paper really is in terms of the policies that Labor took to the last election: http://www.theage.com.au/national/kevin-07-morphs-into-a-classic-version-of-howard-20081215-6z1m.html

    “AFTER all that, we are more or less back where we started. The Rudd model for tackling climate change now looks remarkably similar to the Howard model from 2007.

    By the time the Coalition has forced further changes in the Senate — as it will — the scheme could end up almost identical to John Howard’s. …”

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  7. Pingback: The sound of failure/It’s dark… Is it always this dark? — Hot Topic

  8. Here’s a little ray of sunshine to brighten an otherwise gloomy day:

    http://www.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/Short-term-mitigation/cleaning-the-air-helps-cool-planet

    There are some useful ways to reduce forcings and buy time in the
    face of global inaction over CO2. Black carbon from cooking fires
    is currently a major killer … about 400,000 people per year, so action on
    solar cookers and the like is a major win-win advance.

    The study behind this is freely available:

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/8/7101/2008/acp-8-7101-2008.html

    The authors point to other short term forcings still to be
    investigated and I’d be sure that agricultural emissions will
    also prove fertile ground. Hansen called for 40% reduction in
    methane to buy time back in 2004 — using an estimate from Shindell.

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  9. I was just poring over the global emissions figures today. It’s hard to believe, but at the projected 3% growth rate Garnaut comes up with in his reference scenario, global emissions will be ~75% higher in 2020 compared to 2000. So even a 5% cut, compared to a 75% rise, would be a mammoth effort for the world as a whole. If we started in 2010 that would require cuts of about 2.5% per year, every year, for the decade 2010-2020. Just to claw back that 5% cut.
    Pretty grim.

    And the biggest problem is, the climate science tells us that’s not enough by a long shot.

    Of course Australia’s problem is that its per capita emissions are about 5 times greater than the global average. So even though our projected reference case growth rate is lower than the world as a whole, a 5% cut for us still puts us so far above the world average on per capita terms it just isn’t funny.

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  10. On climate change obstructionism by the USA…………..

    This response is so predictable, so duplicitous, so pathetic, so immoral, so dunderheaded.

    The current leadership appears to be saying that the environmental ‘strategy’ of delay and denial was as necessary and justifiable as invading Iraq in 2003.

    Only a tale told by an idiot could match the one we are seeing played out in this first decade of Century XXI.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176

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  11. Just to add it seems that the rebate is now in the form of getting 5 RECs for every 1kw of cells, instead of 1 REC at present.

    Which means that it only takes 1kw of cells to make 5kw worth of RECS, meaning that the 20% renewables target is diluted. (this is the Greens website interpretation).

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  12. CPRS Vol 1, says that agriculture’s inclusion in the scheme is only “desirable” and that deforestation is definitely out.

    In relation to deforestation, I note the curious statement (p.6-61) “Clearing is also undertaken to provide fodder in times of drought.”

    A little digging into Dept of Climate Change documentation tells me that “fodder harvesting” allows broadscale clearing with a chain. This doesn’t sound like fodder harvesting to me, it sounds like land clearing. Being allowed to do it during a drought means you only
    ever have to wait a couple of years to be able to clear whatever you want and call it “fodder harvesting”. Or am I missing something?

    The bottom line seems to be that Queenland beef effectively owns the Rudd Government.

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  13. MattB @14, do you know if RECs granted vary by insolation? For example, will someone putting 1.5kW on their roof in Alice Springs receive the same RECs as someone doing the same thing on their house in Hobart? I know with solar hot water the differential is substantial, does the same apply to photovoltaics?

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  14. Mark all I have is form the greens website press release… so it may not be 100% accurate… it did see somewhere some reference to a “Melbourne” situation so yes I think it is dependent on location. I should have paid more attention when I (regretfully) sold my RECS but my read is it is the same method of valuing a REC as at present… but I don’t know the full details sorry. but my feeling is that it will be $7500 approx based on the market value of a REC, which may go up or down (they do at present).

    another quirk is that you used to get the $8k on a 1kv system, but now the $7500 is for a 1.5kv system… so your out of pocket expenses are about 2-3k more on a 1kv system… unless of course the $8k used to artificially inflate the price of solar cells but I guess only time will tell on that.

    I’ll try and find an accurate answer to the question though it would be useful to know.

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  15. Here is an interesting article by Fred Pearce on the wash out from the Poznan meeting, which gels well with what I’ve said above – except the same applies internationally as it does to Oz. To quote on relevant snippet:

    The small band of scientists at the event said politicians still didn’t get the seriousness of the problem.

    Minister after minister claimed that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had said dangerous climate change can be stopped by preventing average global temperatures from rising by 2 °C, and that this can be done by reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050. Neither statement is true, said Ciais.

    “We need an 80% cut by 2050, and that would only give a 70% chance of avoiding [a 2 °C rise],” said Martin Parry, co-chair of the last IPCC report on the impacts of climate change.

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  16. Hello,

    I am new to this great blog, so maybe I repeat somebody, but there is relatively new PNAS study by Ramanathan and Feng (2008) on “committed” global warming, that says we are committed to even more warming, than is usually anticipated e.g. by IPCC. The abstract of the study is here: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14245.short (Subs. req.)

    and full text here: http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/Releases/doc/zpq038084771p.pdf

    Ed: Thanks Alexander – yes, I’m going to do a write up on it soon [have been meaning to for ages]

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  17. Experience under the EU ETS shows evidence of the greenhouse gas emissions trading schemes becoming pollution havens: http://iht.com/articles/2008/12/09/business/windfall.php

    The system just announced in Australia has all the hallmarks of an elaborate and complicated farce that will reward the biggest polluters and encourage them to continue based on the belief that governments will never act strongly against them.

    All of this as the evidence of an ice-free Arctic mounts up: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081212.ARCTIC12/TPStory/Environment

    And the shocking NASA map showing massive warming over Siberia this year: http://climateprogress.org/2008/12/17/nasa-another-brutally-hot-year-for-the-siberian-tundra/

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  18. (Barry asked me to post this here after emailing it to some colleagues):

    Reneweable energy now to be counted 6 times

    Today, and this week, our worst nightmares are coming true. We have a 5% target by 2020 that locks in Australia’s contribution to un-adaptable climate change and the emissions trading system by its mechanism, destroy’s the effectiveness of any voluntary action as well. The only offset that could work under the CPRS WhitePaper is to buy permits and throw them in the bin, but because they are over allocated this won’t work either (just like cap, trade and voluntary action work for the River Murray when the system is grossly over allocated).

    The Government has now released its Renewable Energy Target Bill and continues a design that consumes all household system efforts as part of the National mandatory target and amazingly, The Australian Government intends to expand a system that double counts renewable energy increase to one that counts 1 MWh of renewable energy six times over. Thats right! – renewable energy from household systems will be counted 6 times over.

    The first and only legal count under the NGERS legislation is that the renewable energy goes to the grid (at small scale this is claimed by the householder that is hard wired to the system). The Renewable Energy Certificates created from such systems do not legally include aspects of use, renewableness or reduced emissions, yet when sold or unwittingly signed accross to system providers, these can be turned into GreenPower products and sold to voluntary customers that believe they are reducing emissions, or be purchased by liable wholesalers and retailers to meet their legal obligations. So when 1 REC was created per deemed MWh of energy generation it typically led to created a double count. This was bad enough (and the Federal Government Officials fully understand this accounting flaw), but to now make things worse by multiplying the REC by 5 times, there is with another massive fraud looming with 1 + 5 counts of renewable energy use and reduced emissions from a single deemed (not measured) MWh.

    The Federal Government should be cleaning up their greenhouse accounting systems, not making things worse. If 1 REC is defined under legislation as being equal to 1 MWh of renewable energy from a renewable energy source, how can this REC be multiplied by 5 with no additional generation? This is nothing less than fraud in a Bill put before Parliament.

    A rebate system like the $8000 Household Solar Rebate could ensure that the renewable energy use and reduced emissions stay with the householder. A RECs trade and payment system however, without propper disclosure, steals or double counts the very properties that the householder has been seeking. The RECs trade approach uses the RECs towards the National RET target displacing other renewables already required. The approach to providing household and small scale incentives with RECs creates zero additional renewable energy above that which s already required by law. Furthermore, this approach undermines any hope of GreenPower being reformed to become meaningful. It creates a sham.

    Because the 5% National Greenhouse Reduction Target will take us no where, we need voluntary mechanisms to continue and to have integrity as well as finding a way to inform society as a whole that 25-40+% reductions by 2020 must be re-instated in advance of negotations in Copenhagen or the sciece suggests that we face a pathway to 3 degrees Celcius plus.

    We now have 6 fold counting of 1 MWh as the Government were never held accountable on double counting associated with their frameworks and programs. Voluntary mechanisms that include renewable energy can be made to work along side the CPRS but only with significant reform and and honest accounting practices that are incorporated into the NGERS framework.

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  19. What to do now though, that’s the biggie. Vote Greens or some climate-oriented minor party, and your preferences still end up flowing to either Labor or the Libs. You just can’t win. Although someone said something kind of clever to me the other day. “Create havoc at the ballot box” they said, “Make sure each and every election from hereon in you vote for the opposite major party you voted for last time, until we get real action”.

    They may have a point.

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  20. Pingback: Beyond peak oil - will black gold turn green? « BraveNewClimate.com

  21. Re #24

    The details on the draft “Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill” are at:

    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/renewabletarget/consultation/ret-scheme.html

    They are seeking comment. Comments should be provided by 13 February 2009 to:
    The Director
    Renewable Electricity Markets Team
    Department of Climate Change
    GPO Box 854
    CANBERRA ACT 2601
    Fax 02 6274 2970
    Email: RET@climatechange.gov.au

    The multiplier of 5 will eventually be reduced to 1 by 2020 (presumably so as not to break an election commitment). There is another problem with the government’s approach:

    As foreshadowed in the Design Options Paper released by the COAG Working Group on Climate Change and Water for consultation in July 2008, the treatment of electricity-intensive, trade-exposed industries under the RET scheme is to be considered separately in the context of decisions around the treatment of emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries under the Carbon Pollution Reduction scheme. The exposure draft Bill includes a note to the effect that contingent on Government decisions on the treatment of electricity-intensive, trade-exposed industries under the RET scheme, provisions to implement these decisions would be included at a later date. The issue will be considered in detail by the COAG Working Group early in 2009 following stakeholder consultations.

    More handouts to polluters!

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  22. How hubris, corruption and greed result in colossal collapse of global economy.

    In a world in which too many politicians are posers; too many economists are deluded; too many business powerbrokers with great wealth are con artists, gamblers and cheats; and too many of their absurdly enriched minions/’talking heads’ in the mainstream media parrot whatsoever serves political convenience and economic expediency, Jim Hansen’s truth about climate change is buried amid cascading disinformation and anti-information developed from a `tool box’ of pernicious rhetorical devices.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on the Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilityscience.org/content.html?contentid=1176

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  23. THE ROAD TO +3 DEGREES C AND +25 METRES SEA LEVEL RISE

    Having abandoned any meaningful attempt at the arrest of accelerating climate change, it is a good question whether the Australian government would follow the news regarding the accelerating melt rates of Arctic Sea ice, which acts as the Earth’s thermostat, and which has already decreased from 8 to 4 million km2 and is projected to vanish within the next 5 years or so.

    Mean temperatures over the Arctic Sea, increased by about 3C and locally by 5C over the last 4 years, compared to the earlier long-term mean, heralds a new climate pattern in the northern hemisphere, including advanced melt of Greenland ice sheet over the next few decades, raising sea levels by several metres.

    According to Julienne Stroeve (US National Snow and Ice Data Center) report to the American Geophysical Union, the process affects the temperature gradient between the Arctic and the equator and precipitation patterns. Oceanic currents and atmospheric circulation extend the effects to the Southern Hemisphere, where the western Antarctica Wilkins ice shelf has undergone mid-winter breakdown.

    Not that this will cut too much ice with the Australian Government, where not everyone accepts the reality of human-triggered global temperature and sea level rise, currently at 0.35 cm/year, near-double late 20th century rates

    A diabolical combination of factors is retarding efforts at controlling escalation of CO2 rise, currently at 2.2 ppm/year, from raising atmospheric energy levels above the 1.6 Watt/m2 already triggered by emission of 305 billion tons of Carbon and by land clearing.

    First, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, the counterintuitive nature of global warming and consequent denial relegate dangerous climate change, in the eyes of most, to the realm of science fiction.

    It is counterintutive, yet proven, that a rise of atmospheric CO2 by about 100 ppm raises mean global temeprature by at least 1 degrees Celsius, plus another 1 to 2 degrees C due to carbon cycle and ice melt feedbacks, pushing the atmosphere to conditions of 3 million years ago (mid-Pliocene) when sea levels rose by 25 metres. It is equally counterintutive, yet demonstrated, that a rise of atmospheric CO2 by several hundred ppm has resulted in a mass extinction about 55 million years ago.

    Second, the powerful effect of vested interests, the fossil fuel companies, exert decisive influence on governments of all political shades, whether Howard’s conservatives or the one described by Paul Kelly as the “green Howard”, stating “Rudd’s emission policy is a work of political genius that would make John Howard proud” (The Australian, 17.12.08).

    In succeeding to achieve an almost perfect balance between political, social and economic forces, Rudd ovelooks the most decisive factor, namely, the increasingly dangerous atmospheric processes can hardly be expected to play ball with the government’s policies (wouldn’t it be nice if they did?).

    By most accounts the government is no longer listening to climate science, as communicated by leading international scientists and science organizations.

    But if the first duty of governments is to protect the people, including the young and future generations, that they don’t get it, or have sold out to vested interests, will not be an excuse when it is too late to attempt to control the worst consequences of their inaction.

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  24. Andrew @ 29
    In your last two paragraphs you eloquently expressed my despair, and I am sure, that of all the other members of climate change action groups around the World.
    We must not let this defeat us – even if it means civil disobedience.Planning is in hand for a protest at Parliament House in Feb 2009. Climate change groups from around Australia are co-ordinating free buses and billeting for participants from Melbourne and Sydney. I urge you all to attend if you possibly can.

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  25. Hmmm, Perps, I’m not at all sure that Gandhi would agree with you. Remember he was operating in a milieu that was far from democratic.

    Can you ever be sure that you are justified in breaking laws enacted on the basis of the will of the majority of the people? At what point can you decide that that is preferable to trying to change that will? The trouble with the former is the high probability that it will get you further away from achieving the latter.

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  26. Perps

    I respect and admire Gandhi as much as anyone in what he achieved (and how he did it) for the people of India … and for that matter, Pakistan. However, I agree with Mark above.

    In advocating civil disobedience, what laws do you see being broken? Indeed, some of the ‘laws’ you would be campaigning against have not even been passed or enacted yet.

    Both you and I know global warming is real and humanity has been complicit in its severity (notwithstanding you have previously pigeon-holed me in the ‘denialist’ camp). Nevertheless, adapting to climate change, and mitigating against GHG emissions, rests in the hands of politicians and economists.

    Don’t get me wrong, a ground swell of action and support from us mere mortals is important, but it has to be predicated on a rational and coordinated plan. I am sure Barry would have much more to say on this and he may do so, if not now then certainly during the summit.

    Notwithstanding, Rudd is a very astute politician – it makes no sense to antagonise the very people/groups (AGW agnostics, deniers, people who just don’t know or who are just afraid of the consequences, etc) you are trying to get to walk the walk with you. Of course he has to take a “measured” response, particularly in the lead-up to Copenhagen.

    We (the world) can look forward to the day when the Obama Administration comes into office with its proactive policies on climate change, science and technology (Chu, Holdren and Lubchenco appointments are a great start). Indeed, it would not surprise me if China and India comes on board soon after – time will tell.

    In the mean time (and I do empathise with Garnaut) a political strategy is required that would put pressure on the coalition to lay their cards on the table.

    I have much respect for the Greens (the light ones anyway) and hopefully they can have more say in the Senate. However, at the end of the day, it will be either a Labor or Liberal/National government … I know which would have better climate change policies.

    One can only hope that after 2012, the world’s governments will be more willing to make meaningful emission reductions, to the levels expected by you, Rudd and Garnaut alike. Cheers.

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  27. Mark and David – I think you perhaps misunderstand what I am talking about with regard to PASSIVE civil disobedience. I am in agreement with you in many ways. I have no wish to see violent confrontation, however when the ballot box fails what recourse do we have. The swing towards the Labor Party (I am a lifelong supporter) last election was mainly due to the hope most people had that Rudd and his party would act seriously on climate change. This was particularly pronounced among young people I spoke to on the matter. Today’s “Age” has an article which claims 8 out of 10 people believe climate change is real and they want urgent action to address it. The despair I hear around me is because they have let down the people on this issue.There is a sense of impotence on the issue.
    Do you recall, a few years back, when Howard’s government (and the dreadful Peter Reith) tried to break the wharfies by allowing masked men with dogs onto the dock to get the scab labour in? Thousands of ordinary Melburnians of all ages, including retirees and young mothers with children flocked to the docks and sat down in peaceful protest in support of the wharfies. It worked!
    History, if you care to look, is full of similar actions.
    In England, at least, how do you think women finally got the vote? They had to protest against their elected government in a non-violent way. Unfortunately, they weren’t dealt with in the same manner by the police and suffered dreadfully, when imprisoned, by force feeding, being released, re-admitted and tortured many times over, causing some deaths.
    My own grandfather, a coal miner,was told by his employer, because the price of coal went down meaning smaller profits for the owner, that the men would have their meagre wages cut. He joined in a peaceful protest with his fellow unionists and was severely beaten, as were many of his workfellows. When they were supported by the womenfolk, the children and many other local people in day after day of peaceful protest, the owners were shamed before the nation and the wages restored.
    Even gaining the right to join a union was hard won by courageous people putting their physical well-being on the line so future generations would have access to better working conditions and education.
    My generation did not have to suffer the World Wars, but we did have the guts to march in thousands, through the cities of Australia, to demand an end to the Vietnam War. This was against an elected government of the time and we not dealt kindly with by the police.
    Many of the pleasant conditions we work and live with today have only been achieved by a show of disobedience by the people and we should thank our forebears for it.
    Now we, because of global warming, are facing the greatest threat imaginable to peace, health and life itself yet you are not willing to do as much for this and future generations did for us. Shame on you!

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  28. Specifically to DavidK @ 37
    Rudd may be astute but that won’t get the job done – I agree with what Barry has said in other blogs, that it would be better to do nothing than to pretend to be doing something, which is worse than useless.
    What sort of signal does it give to the world to hang back and “wait for Obama” – we are frightened followers not confident leaders. What wasted opportunities for technological advances in alternative power – but that is Australia for you – that is why our good ideas get taken on by other more farsighted individuals overseas, when finance for projects can’t be raised at home.
    Of course I know the Lib/Nats would be worse – the dilemma for change at the ballot box is that we did change the government but still didn’t get the result we wanted. So what do we do then – wait for what? A change back to the last lot? I hope, like you, that the world’s goverments will make the necessary changes in 2012 in Copenhagen but unless we protest vigorously in Australia, and try to get our Government to do what they were elected to do, how can we expect others to take the lead?

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  29. Yes, definitely yes, some of the darkest of dark days are passing into history……finally. The future is about to begin…….mercifully.

    An unnecessary and unjustifiable war at a cost of three trillion dollars; a crashing economy at a cost of trillions more; a degraded environment, a dissipated Earth…….priceless.

    And people responsible for these nightmares want their 2008 bonuses……predictable.

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  30. Perps

    I must be reading you wrong. In your @30 post, you only mentioned civil disobedience and @34 gave a wiki link wherein law breaking is implicit. You made no reference to passive civil disobedience until @38.

    Yep, I marched the streets of Sydney in protest against the Vietnam war (my mate was killed – he was ‘called up’). Would I have been a ‘conscientious objector’ and broke the law? Probably, but I will never know – I wasn’t called up.

    I will be in Canberra, again protesting and walking the walk – but I can tell you now, I will not be partaking in civil disobedience – passive or aggressive – particularly since the laws I am concerned about have not been enacted. If and when they are, I may change my mind to “passive” civil disobedience.

    But and until such time, I don’t want to inflame the ‘climate change onlookers’ (we need them) and turn them away from what I see as a very ‘soft’ approach to what Australia could do now, but must do much more post Copenhagen 2009.

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  31. DavidK
    Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression by my use of the words “civil disobedience”- that is how it was put to me by the police at the time.
    I think we are basically singing from the same songbook:)
    As it is not against the law to protest peacefully that is what I will be doing. However, I think it becomes classed as breaking the law, and thus “civil disobedience”, if you refuse to move on when asked by the police and, as I will have to be physically moved, then I suppose I will be engaged in “passive civil disobedience” again.
    Anyway, to everyone on the blog- have a very Merry Christmas and let us hope for a happy, carbon reduced, New Year :)

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  32. Pingback: Save a bit here, ship a whole lot there « BraveNewClimate.com

  33. Pingback: Blame perversity for the worst kind of climate change denial « BraveNewClimate.com

  34. Hank, I really hoped that a new administration would be able to get this sort of thing under control but as your comment puts it so perfectly: Sigh.

    Our government over in the UK hasn’t done very well. Setting lofty target to be the best in the EU then planning to build yet another terminal at Heathrow. I did read once that carbon emitted so high in the atmosphere isn’t as bad but this can’t be true can it? I would have thought that dumping it that high up immediately increases the greenhouse effect. Would love to know…

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