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February 24, 2011 6:17 PM   Subscribe

The Australian Government has committed to a price on carbon from 1 July 2012, prior to a likely full emissions trading scheme within three to five years. The Opposition are outraged, predicting a people's revolt. This should clearly define the next election.
posted by wilful (102 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The problem is, before the last election The Prime Minister and her treasurer said no carbon tax. Now they say tax. The ALP's polling is not good, the one thing holding them up is Gillard's strong rating and Abbott's weak rating. Now painting Gillard as untrustworthy is very, very easy.

How does the ALP fight people running video of these statements before the last election if Gillard even makes it to lead the ALP at the next election?


KERRY O’BRIEN: Very briefly, address Joe Hockey’s question about a carbon tax. You would say an ETS.

WAYNE SWAN: Kerry, We’ve made our position absolutely clear. I know they’re running a scare campaign that a carbon tax is coming because I saw their ads in North Queensland when I was there last night.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Okay. Now, brief response Mr Hockey.

JOE HOCKEY: What was that? Was that yes or no? That was just… The fundamental question is, are you going to rule out a carbon tax in the next term of the Government – yes or no?

WAYNE SWAN: We have made our position very clear. We have ruled it out. We have to go back to the community and work out a way in which we can put a cap on carbon pollution.

7:30 report

Julia Gillard
posted by sien at 6:28 PM on February 24, 2011


I'm still basing my vote on the Internet filter. Climate change will effect me after I'm dead.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crikey's editorial, with me even re-inserting all the links (gosh I'm good to you):

Prime Minister Gillard's To Do list:

* sell a carbon tax to a public whose goodwill on the issue fell off a cliff along with Rudd's ETS last year.
* communicate the complexities of the scheme to the public above the din of Abbott's people's revolt, including cost of living campaign and "broken promise" line.
* get everyone to forget about the fact that you promised not to introduce a carbon tax before the election.
* keep the Greens happy.
* get the Independents on side.
* keep mending relations with Professor Garnaut.
* make sure the lobbyists don't get any ideas in their head about an anti carbon tax campaign, resource super profits tax style.
* settle policy disagreements over price, compensation and coverage.
* persuade people that you're not just doing this because you need to wrestle back Green votes.
* put the Chief Scientist's number in rollerdex
[sic].
* be convincing.

Ticking that off by July 2012 should be a cinch.


Personally I hold out little hope that the Australian people will buy this. I think that given the state of the body politic, and the pervasive influence of News Ltd, this will not fly, and Gillard will lose the next election.

Leading to far greater imposts, far less efficient adjustments in the future.
posted by wilful at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2011


er, Internet filter and the National Broadband Network. If the Carbon Tax helps fund the NBN, i'm happy
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2011


Climate change will effect [sic] me after I'm dead.

How old are you, Lovecraft in Brooklyn? Over sixty, at least.
posted by wilful at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"How old are you, Lovecraft in Brooklyn? Over sixty, at least."

Try 25. I don't understand why people my age keep focusing on environmental issues and not issues of free speech and free access to the Internet. Accessing anything more complicated than Metafilter feels like pulling teeth here.

But don't worry. Just like the last election all my friends will try and convince me that Tony Abbot is George W Bush, Margarat Thatcher and Joh Bjeke Peterson wrapped up in one. Just like last election they'll try and convince me that 'free speech' is meaningless, and I should just vote Green, and that if even mention the Coalition they'll stop talking to me.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2011


If it was ever going to be introduced, now is probably the right time given that the Australian economy is going through a (relatively) stable period. Of course, that may have changed by 2012.

Forgive my ignorance, but what constitutes a 'carbon emission'? i.e. Is this a tax that will fall primarily on the power and oil companies? (I take it as a given the costs will be passed on to consumers.)
posted by Ritchie at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2011


Personally, I think it's about bloody time. And it sounds like the PM has been pretty happy to acknowledge in the media today that this will mean some price rises (without which, it will be pretty useless).

I remember reading some opinion that if they were ever going to do something like this, they should do it in the middle of an electoral cycle. If it's a done deal by the time the next election rolls around, they're much less likely to be affected by negative advertising by deep-pocketed affected players like the RSPT. And with the greens onside, they're much more likely to get it through the new senate. The lower house will be the tricky bit, of course.

By announcing this now with time for consultation (unless just about everything else Labor has done since it got back into power), it's possible that they may be able to neutralise the complaints of the energy and mining companies, or at least de-fang them a little. After all, the next election is a long way off.

(And it's nice to see Grog get a mention in a fpp.)
posted by damonism at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


No dude, what I'm saying is, if you're expecting to live for the next twenty years, you can rest assured climate change will deeply affect you.
posted by wilful at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


No dude, what I'm saying is, if you're expecting to live for the next twenty years, you can rest assured climate change will deeply affect you.

How so?
It seems like my generation is looking backward to the Earth instead of forward to the future. And while they do this politicians continue to cut our freedom. Hell if you could convince them that shutting of the Internet would 'cut our carbon footprint' they'd probably do it.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2011


Ritchie, the tax will fall on stationary energy and transport emissions (so yes, petrol) and on easily captured fugitive emissions. It will not fall on exports (Australia's greatest contribution) nor on Agriculture (for some logical reasons).

The compensation package hasn't been settled on, the risk is that the compensation will go to the generators who will increase prices anyway, the hope is that the compensation will go to consumers who can then change their behaviour appropriately without hardship.
posted by wilful at 6:50 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tony Abbott in October 2010 on a carbon tax, via Twitter:

When criticising the proposed emissions trading scheme last year, he said: ''If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax? Why not ask motorists to pay more? Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more?''
posted by damonism at 6:51 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


BTW, if Australia is so dead set on curbing carbon emissions why is nuclear power completely off the table? People are still living in fear of Godzilla.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2011


LiB, my estimation of your intelligence is going down.

You said climate change will effect you after you're dead. If you think you'll live till your 80s, you'll live until late in the 21st century. By this time, under BAU, temperatures should be in the range 3 - 6 degrees hotter, and sea level increases will be at least a metre. This will affect you unless you've structured your affairs in a very novel manner.
posted by wilful at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just like last election they'll try and convince me that 'free speech' is meaningless, and I should just vote Green, and that if even mention the Coalition they'll stop talking to me.

It's a preferential voting system. Just tell them you're putting the Greens first and they'll leave you alone. Then you can put whomever you choose in the number two slot secure in the knowledge that the Greens won't win (except when they do).
posted by Ritchie at 6:54 PM on February 24, 2011


I can't help feeling that Kevin Rudd was doing a good job as Australia's PM before Gillard & co. decided to pull the rug out from under him. What exactly has been achieved here, other than handing Tony Abbott the next election on a plate?
posted by anigbrowl at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2011


You said climate change will effect you after you're dead. If you think you'll live till your 80s, you'll live until late in the 21st century. By this time, under BAU, temperatures should be in the range 3 - 6 degrees hotter, and sea level increases will be at least a metre. This will affect you unless you've structured your affairs in a very novel manner.

I can turn up the air conditioning and move farther inland. Sure, it's probably important. But people here treat this as the defining issue instead of a sideline to the Labor government's attack on individual rights and freedoms (does that idea even exist here?). Kids will vote against their own interests because they love the idea of living in some eco-paradise.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The compensation package hasn't been settled on, the risk is that the compensation will go to the generators who will increase prices anyway, the hope is that the compensation will go to consumers who can then change their behaviour appropriately without hardship.

The Greens seem to have been pretty consistent in their views that compensation should go to consumers rather than generators, IIRC. The requirement to negotiate with them to get this through the senate seems to make it more likely that it might go this way. Still, there are plenty of carbon producer interests with hooks in Labor (particularly via the unions), so who knows.
posted by damonism at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2011


It's a preferential voting system. Just tell them you're putting the Greens first and they'll leave you alone. Then you can put whomever you choose in the number two slot secure in the knowledge that the Greens won't win (except when they do).

It's the 'except when they do' that kills me. I don't want LESS development. I think I did preference Greens after the Coalition and Sex Party but, again, only due to their anti-censorship stance. And one of the big Green intellectuals is amazingly pro-censorship.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2011


Are you saying you've got some meaningful choice between internet freedoms and environmental regulations? wow!

I'd chose opposing censorship over protecting the environment too btw. Any good post apocalyptic wasteland requires that people understand hacking ps3s into useful tools. And we're work hard to bring you your post apocalyptic wasteland up here in the U.S. and China.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:02 PM on February 24, 2011


It seems like my generation is looking backward to the Earth instead of forward to the future.
A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies! Seriously, though, where do you expect to be immune from severe weather events? Climate change is far from the only important issue, but it is an issue. Sticking a price tag on pollution is historically a fairly effective mechanism for reducing it. Think of it like insurance against things like those epic floods you just had.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


There's a Sex Party running for office in Australia?

I'm looking over the Wikipedia, and it doesn't look like a misleading name at all.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:05 PM on February 24, 2011


"probably important" is perhaps an understatement.

And BTW, climate change is not a matter of fucking turning your airconditioning up. jesus wept.

The idea of "here", if by that you mean there is a consensus on metafilter, even among Aussie mefites, that the internet filter is a good thing, a bad thing, or any thing at all, does not exist.

Personally, and I can only speak personally, the internet filter as currently proposed is trivial, it has been significantly and substantially revised since first proposed in '07.

But even if it was just how it was back then, it's farcical to think that it's as important as climate change or as important to Australia's economy and liberty as a climate tax.
posted by wilful at 7:06 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a Sex Party running for office in Australia?

yeah, despite the name they're one of the few parties that wants to protect our personal freedoms. seems like 'freedom' is way down the list of Aussie priorities
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2011


The idea of "here", if by that you mean there is a consensus on metafilter, even among Aussie mefites, that the internet filter is a good thing, a bad thing, or any thing at all, does not exist.

Sorry, I meant that accessing the Internet in Australia is pretty slow and arduous and anything that makes it harder and cuts us off further from the outside world is horrible.

Personally, and I can only speak personally, the internet filter as currently proposed is trivial, it has been significantly and substantially revised since first proposed in '07.


Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:08 PM on February 24, 2011


Labor government's attack on individual rights and freedoms

Sorry, which rights and freedoms are those? The right to burn dirty energy because it's cheaper for you? The freedom to pass on any unpleasant externalities without having to pay for them? Gotta say, 'fuck you, I've got mine' is an awesome worldview.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:09 PM on February 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


@anigbrowl Do you think Abbott will still be in charge of the Libs?

If the Libs switch to a small target leader like Hockey they might be able to pick up the 1-2% they need to topple the ALP. Why not do that?
posted by sien at 7:10 PM on February 24, 2011


Sorry, which rights and freedoms are those? The right to burn dirty energy because it's cheaper for you? The freedom to pass on any unpleasant externalities without having to pay for them? Gotta say, 'fuck you, I've got mine' is an awesome worldview.

I'm talking about the Internet filter, the lack of an R18 rating for games, and action by the censorship board against film festival programmers. I'm NOT talking about social programs - I fully support free healthcare, medicare, and all that.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:11 PM on February 24, 2011


If the Libs switch to a small target leader like Hockey they might be able to pick up the 1-2% they need to topple the ALP. Why not do that?

They should switch to Malcolm Turnbull. He sacrificed his career for the environment so even my hippie friends can't hate him. I dislike him for his opposition to the NBN but otherwise he's pretty likeable, especially on Q&A.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2011


I kind of understand where you're coming from, but consider that nothing will screw up your evening of fapping to tentacle porn faster than having your house flood because of heavy rains due to climate change. Or burn down in a wildfire after a drought brought on by climate change. Or flattened by a humongous tropical cyclone fed by the extra heat in the system as a result of climate change.
posted by Ritchie at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


LiB: 11 of 22 comments within the first hour? Take a nap or something, let the thing breathe.
posted by absalom at 7:16 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


LiB: 11 of 22 comments within the first hour? Take a nap or something, let the thing breathe.

sorry, Aussie politics always makes me really angry and confused

and Ritchie, while your joke might be applicable to losers like me the Internet filter is way more important than just a 'porn filter', and i'm sick of hearing that line even from my peers
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2011


The odds have collapsed for the ALP to win the next election

Shorten is now favourite to lead the ALP.

Just when the Coalition appeared to be fighting each other more than the ALP the ALP do this. It could have waited a month or two to see if the Libs would explode.
posted by sien at 7:26 PM on February 24, 2011


In fairness LiB it's not an either/or proposition. It's quite easy for people of our intelligence and comparative wealth to be interested not only in free speech and faster internet, but also in the well-being of our planet. I don't wake up in the morning and just fixate on one single thing throughout the entire day and I doubt that you do either. I agree with you on the issue of nuclear power, however. It is frankly a sick joke that we aren't using it.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:30 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


LiB is that most self-absorbed of creatures: the hipster troll.
posted by Rumple at 7:34 PM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do you think Abbott will still be in charge of the Libs?

I have no clue - I do try to keep up with Australian politics but my knowledge is pretty superficial. Joe Hockey or George Brandis seem much more electable to me than Tony Abbott does, but if I lived in Australia I doubt I'd be voting for the Liberal party anyway so I'm not really qualified to judge.

LiB, internet filtering is a bad thing but that sort of control-freakery is part and parcel of being an island country. Because it's possible (for the time being, until satellite internet is the norm), and because there are some votes in it, someone's going to ride the issue with older voters because it's such an easy sell. It's not some fundamental defect in the Australian political system, it's geography + democracy + demographics + technology. I remember similar hysteria 20 years ago when people thought modems were going to lead to a crime wave, but society seems to have gotten considerably more open in the meantime, rather than less.

At that, the filtering in Australia doesn't seem terribly effective or intense. You can be pissed off on principle about lack of access to guro you probably never wanted in the first place, and still have time to think about other issues. There are quite a few intermediate stages between prudery-driven morality police and the gulag. Hasn't it all been dumped into the lap of some law committee for the next 3 years anyway? Write them letters on a regular basis and give a little thought to some other issues as well.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:35 PM on February 24, 2011


seems like 'freedom' is way down the list of Aussie priorities

That's correct. As an arbitrarily defined liberty to consume a product, the Australian political system has never prioritised "freedom", not at all. The Australian political settlement has always been about egalitarianism (broadly defined), protection of the most vulnerable people (broadly defined), stability for the most valuable industries (broadly defined), and a longer-term sense of social protection. Australians far more value the freedom against being fucked with by one's boss or one's subcontractor than fucked with by one's ISP or one's Government. Frankly, I'm happy with that.

An abstract "freedom" outside the context of an economic and social system ensuring a medium and long-term future is a North American fetish

Incidentally, if Labor can sell the carbon tax either as one more technical stream within broader protectionist industry policy, which it is, or as a necessary response to a terrifyingly imminent crisis, which it also is, it'll be fine.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:37 PM on February 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


At that, the filtering in Australia doesn't seem terribly effective or intense. You can be pissed off on principle about lack of access to guro you probably never wanted in the first place, and still have time to think about other issues.

I was raised in a country that, for all its faults, drilled into me a love of free speech and liberty. It's not about 'access to guro'.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2011


And now you live in a country that has a different emphasis on how we all get along with each other...
posted by wilful at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lovecraft, you can support free speech and sensible environmental policy at the same time. They are not mutally exclusive.

Also, the attitude that climate change will not effect you in your lifetime is sadly misguided. Especially given the intensity of natural disasters that have hit Australia lately .
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:41 PM on February 24, 2011


I'm surprised no-one's brought up the parallel with the GST yet. Before an election Howard specifically ruled out bringing in a goods and services tax, and then proceeded to bring in a goods and services tax after his party took government. And then the Liberals were re-elected a few times. And then when Labor got in they left the GST alone. So it just goes to show... something (politicians are lying bastards? australians secretly like taxes? someone help me out).
posted by Ritchie at 7:44 PM on February 24, 2011


"People's revolt" as in "Corporation's are people, too"???
posted by symbioid at 7:44 PM on February 24, 2011


I think we get it. LiB values issue A over issue B. Many people in this thread value issue B more. That's perfectly fine.

Last election I voted essentially based upon each party's platform on gay marriage and refugees. This doesn't mean I was apathetic to every other issue out there. Can we let LiB vote the way they want and get back to discussion the actual subject matter of the post?
posted by twirlypen at 7:49 PM on February 24, 2011


Richie, no one has brought up a "parallel with the GST" because there IS no parallel.

Howard did not "Before an election Howard specifically rule out bringing in a goods and services tax". He before a previous, completely different election said a GST would never be a Liberal party policy, but then ran at the next election with a GST as the central policy platform.

Labor supporters perpetuate this myth that Howard "lied" about the GST because he once said he'd never bring it in. Announcing it as the main policy of your next election campaign and giving the people the right to vote on it, in my opinion, sort of negates it as a "lie" in political terms.

So, here we have the two situations.

One where Gillard, before an election, says "no Carbon Tax" and after the election, Carbon Tax.

Howard, before an election, said GST, here it is, here's how it works, vote on it - after the election in comes the GST.

If there's some parallel there you're going to have to point it out to me.

Again, the 1998 "GST ELECTION" was all about the GST. Howard announced it an ran with it. Gillard hid her carbon tax and doing so probably helped her cling to office.
posted by nemspyda at 7:57 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


But don't worry. Just like the last election all my friends will try and convince me that Tony Abbot is George W Bush, Margarat Thatcher and Joh Bjeke Peterson wrapped up in one. Just like last election they'll try and convince me that 'free speech' is meaningless, and I should just vote Green, and that if even mention the Coalition they'll stop talking to me.

I think this post is more about the federal government adopting a carbon tax rather than attacks on free speech.
posted by the noob at 7:57 PM on February 24, 2011


I think it's clever to present the farmers a win win - hard for the nationals to argue against it now - apart from their belief that climate change is either mars, sunspots, a yet to be explained left wing plot or vast hoax.
posted by the noob at 8:00 PM on February 24, 2011


Ritchie: My recollection was that Howard did say that there would "never ever" be a GST, but later changed his mind and did actually go to an election promising a GST, which he then won. But someone feel free to correct me if my memory is wrong on this. (On preview: beaten by nemspyda.)

And Labor hasn't dismantled the GST (and I don't remember them being any call to do so), but they did specifically exclude it from consideration by the Henry Tax Review, and have gone out of their way to say it wont be raised. So obviously the topic is still something they tread with caution around.

The challenge, I suspect, for Labor is going to be to introduce a carbon tax in such a way that it wont be easy to dismantle if they then lose office. How they do this is anyone's guess.
posted by damonism at 8:00 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Labor voters don't ever get to use the dubious "Howard lied about the GST" mantra ever again.

They had such a big problem with the way the GST was introduced even though Howard let the voters have their say on the issue at an election, because he had once said it would "never be a policy".

If given the choice between a politician who "changes their mind" before an election and one who "changes their mind" after an election, I know which I'd choose.
posted by nemspyda at 8:01 PM on February 24, 2011


Here's the Climate Change and Environment section of the Australian Labor Party's National Platform (PDF), §21, adopted at the National Conference in July-August 2009 (ie. before the last Federal election). Which, as a matter of disclosure, I attended as a non-delegate Party member.
Labor in government will for the first time put a price on carbon to encourage major polluting businesses to lower their emissions and invest in new, clean, low pollution technologies...
My bolding. We don't follow our own Platform often, but hooray for us when we do.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:05 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given the vigorous pounding Australia has thus far received this year from the weather, I have a suspicion people are going to be paying a smidgen more attention to this talk of 'predicted future extreme weather events'.
posted by Jilder at 8:11 PM on February 24, 2011


It will be sad if Australian voters join North Americans in refusing to pay for pollution. Especially as the Great Barrier Reef bleaches out from over-heating, crabs, snails, and oysters lose their shells from carbonic acidification, and the sea level rises and floods the ports.
posted by anthill at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2011


One thing missing from the discussion is the influence of the result of the election (which may provide light for those outside of Oz but who are none-the-less interested).

The Labor party didn't gain a majority of seats at the election, and governs in cooperation with the Greens and some Independents.

We observers can interpret what the electorate wants accordingly.

But to me, while its not part of the immediate narrative by Labor to the public on this issue, I don't think its unreasonable for Labor to say "The election told us you don't want us to implement our party platform / election promises hollus bollus. You want us in power in cooperation with the Greens and Independents, so we have to do that. And that means muddling through with our policy preferences and their policy preferences and trying to still provide good workable governance to Australia."
posted by jjderooy at 8:19 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Labor has learned from the complete cock-up they made of the ETS last time around. They're bringing the Greens in on negotiations which should mean Brandt and the Senators will vote for it this time. They've been up-front that yes, a carbon price will mean that polluting things will cost more than non-polluting things, and that's actually the point - it's harder to be cornered on the 'great big new tax' issue if treat it as a useful signal to consumers that they can use to avoid polluting. Agriculture isn't in, but it seems that there'll be complementary programs to get some action there, and petrol will be phased in.

Labor's collapse in the polls was used as the excuse for Rudd's knifing, but it wasn't because of the RSPT - it came before that, when he abandoned the ETS. He'd gone to the 2007 election promising to do something about it, and even though I think it was less important than Workchoices as a voting issue, people were still expecting serious action. They were pissed off when they didn't get it. I assume that if there's no faffing around this time and an ETS is setup smoothly, they'll be ok with it.

Not sure I'd trust Sportsbet to tell me who the next leader of the Labor party is though :)
posted by harriet vane at 8:22 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fiasco: A straight ETS would fit the statements made by Gillard and Swan prior to the election, the current proposal does not.

Howard did say 'never a GST' but then went and had a vote when his position had changed and was clear.

Gillard could do the same. But if she brings in a carbon tax without taking to the vote first she's in trouble.
posted by sien at 8:22 PM on February 24, 2011


Howard did not "Before an election Howard specifically rule out bringing in a goods and services tax". He before a previous, completely different election said a GST would never be a Liberal party policy, but then ran at the next election with a GST as the central policy platform.

Ahhhhh. You know, you're absolutely right! I got the thing with the GST mixed up with an earlier election where he promised not to cut spending on health, education and the unemployed, and then cut spending on health, education and the unemployed after the election. My bad. So I guess the carbon tax just means that Labor politicians make non-core promises too.
posted by Ritchie at 8:26 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also: WA's south-west has had a 70% drop in rainfall over the last 4 decades; coral reefs over on the west coast are bleaching too.

A poster showing the Effects of climate change in Australia (warning: pdf!)
posted by harriet vane at 8:27 PM on February 24, 2011


For the Americans in the Audience, wondering why LiB's local friends might have such a problem with his politics: Australia has no guaranteed right to free speech, and "Liberty" is a brand of car manufactured by Subaru.
posted by cheaily at 8:47 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, if LiB thinks climate change means "having to turn up the air conditioner", then he's at about the level of understanding as people who think the net filter is going to stop child porn; that is, very, very ignorant, and probably undeserving of a vote were the right to democracy to be dependant upon knowledge of the issues at stake.

I agree, the filter sucks. But it's never going to stop me accessing anything I actually want to access. On the other hand, if there's no response to climate change, I, as an individual, can't do anything to fight it. I can run Tor or get me an overseas SSH account. I can't lower the atmospheric CO2 concentration. This is an issue that needs some leadership at a national and international level, and while it may appear a distant concern while you sit there playing GTA4, it's going to get you eventually.
posted by Jimbob at 8:49 PM on February 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


>"How old are you, Lovecraft in Brooklyn? Over sixty, at least."

Try 25. I don't understand why people my age keep focusing on environmental issues and not issues of free speech and free access to the Internet. Accessing anything more complicated than Metafilter feels like pulling teeth here.


Interesting example of the fatal flaw of progressive politics in comparison with right-wing politics: like-minded people quibble over minor details and fail to work together, while their political opponents come together over the things they do agree on, and enjoy success implementing a political agenda.

I have no idea why people on MetaFilter argue about politics so much when we here all share the same basic values.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


In defense of LiB, what Australia does with environmental policy is mostly irrelevant compared to what the USofA and China does. If the bigger players in the Industialized and Industrializing world don't get their heads out of their asses and start making real moves to ensure a livable future, Australia's contributions won't tip the scale one way or another and any actions 'leading the way' will be nothing more than symbolism.

He should be warned that by the time he's 65, climate change will effect him more than "having to turn up the air conditioner". In fact you can argue that the recent flooding in parts of Australia is at least partially caused by climate/environmental instability, and air conditioners haven't helped.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:07 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can turn up the air conditioning and move farther inland.

but there won't be anywhere near as many bridges to choose from
posted by pyramid termite at 9:13 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


In fairness LiB it's not an either/or proposition. It's quite easy for people of our intelligence and comparative wealth to be interested not only in free speech and faster internet, but also in the well-being of our planet. I don't wake up in the morning and just fixate on one single thing throughout the entire day and I doubt that you do either. I agree with you on the issue of nuclear power, however. It is frankly a sick joke that we aren't using it.

Yeah, this. Mostly. I'm not totally convinced about the nuclear power thing (all that desert and no solar power?), but generally, yeah. Moving inland won't be an option - there's no fucking water in there and, without water, we die. Why do you think nobody lives there?

Australia has no guaranteed right to free speech, and "Liberty" is a brand of car manufactured by Subaru.
I scrolled all the way down here to say this (except that the Liberty is a model, not a brand ;-). It's an incredibly common misconception caused, I think, by watching too many crappy American TV shows and films.

I think the whole idea of a 'net filter sucks too, but I don't think it will ever happen and, in the meantime, an enormous amount of angst is misdirected from far more important things like dealing with pollution. So what if the US and China are by far the bigger polluters? Our responsibility as a nation is to deal with the crap in our own backyard first.
posted by dg at 9:44 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is the internet filter still actually ALP policy or have they quietly gone out the back and shot it? Wasn't it mostly a sop to Fielding at any rate?
posted by sien at 9:53 PM on February 24, 2011


I don't think they've put it out of it's misery yet, but I reckon as soon as Fielding's out the door (when's that, July this year?) they'll pretend it never happened.
posted by harriet vane at 9:56 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


seems like 'freedom' is way down the list of Aussie priorities

Did you just work this out? How long have you been here?
posted by pompomtom at 9:56 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Twitter informs me that thanks to the Liberal attorney general of WA, Mortal Kombat 9 has just been banned in Australia. So I'm left wondering who all the net censorship/game freedom types think they should vote for if not the Greens.
posted by Jimbob at 9:56 PM on February 24, 2011


LiB's onto that with a new thread already, Jimbob :)

dg's right - if Australia won't clean up it's own pollution, then we have no moral authority to ask bigger polluters to do it either. Plus, we're still pretty damn gassy for such a small country, our per capita rates are worse than almost all the rest of the world.
posted by harriet vane at 9:59 PM on February 24, 2011


"Kids will vote against their own interests because they love the idea of living in some eco-paradise"

Yeah, stupid ol' Earth, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you aligned yourself with 'kids' if your childish notions about air-conditioners and inland migration are anything to go by. Also frustrating: condescending and naive notions about 'freedom' in Australia which is a contested issue and philosophical freight train all over the world.

[All this tantrum stuff has marred what I had hoped for when I saw this thread on the FP - because I know there are some super smart people on here -Harriet V, Fiasco dG, Wilful et al- who always help to contextualise Australian issues in a reasoned manner, often providing supporting links and details.

I am disappointed at the obvious hypocrisy of Gillard today, as it will rebound on her at election time leaving us with the unpalatable Coalition who will do even less about climate change. And Australia's changes might not alleviate the effects of far bigger polluters [China US] but it's a start. We are in a comparably good economic space for this pricing to occur, hopefully modeling it for other countries in the coming decades.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:02 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many people live in Australia? 20m?

That's a small Chinese city. Two New Yorks. One and one half Londons. Half the number of American drivers insured by State Farm.

Whilst it is charming that some Australian people are actually serious about reducing their carbon emissions, it seems like narcissistic wankery to make it a central theme of government when their neighbor China is putting two new coal-fired electricity plants on-line EVERY week. What Australia does is a piss in the ocean, it's symbolic, and their economic loss will only be the gain of others.

*Looks at un-opened beer on the table.*

"You giving up drinking mate?"

"No, I'm just trying to cut down."

*Reaches over, opens beer*

*Drinks in one pull.*

*Belches.*

"Well, good for you. I'm trying to put on a few stone, you know, decades of undernourishment and all."
posted by three blind mice at 10:25 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


The ALP could try something slightly different to reduce C02 emissions and appoint a guy like Barry Brook and start looking at using nuclear power plants.

For non-Australians Australia has huge spaces, lots of uranium but no nuclear power plants.

They could structure this to get the support of the Libs and use it to get swinging voters to vote for them after the Greens rejected it.
posted by sien at 10:31 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's narcissistic wankery to switch to cleaner forms of energy which require more workers than mining and coal plants currently give us. Is it wankery to look into high-speed rail to give a cleaner alternative to air travel to link up a tiny number of people scattered over a huge land mass? We've got huge resources in solar, wave and geothermal energy (as well as the much-vaunted but still hugely expensive nuclear) to take advantage of. There's a lot for Australia to gain here even if climate change wasn't an issue.

China won't do anything until developed nations do. And fair enough too, I wouldn't if I were them. We made a mess of the planet and it's up to us to start cleaning it up before we ask anyone else to do the hard yards.

But once Australia puts a price on carbon, the USA will be the only developed nation that hasn't done jack shit to help this situation. Excuse me if I'd like to be on the right side of history for this one.
posted by harriet vane at 10:38 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whilst it is charming that some Australian people are actually serious about reducing their carbon emissions, it seems like narcissistic wankery to make it a central theme of government when their neighbor China is putting two new coal-fired electricity plants on-line EVERY week. What Australia does is a piss in the ocean, it's symbolic, and their economic loss will only be the gain of others.

Yeah, what hubris it is to take some responsibility for one's actions.
posted by pompomtom at 10:39 PM on February 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I dunno if nuclear is a vote winner for the ALP, sien. Lots of people like it in principle, but balk when asked if they want a nuclear plant in their town.

The carbon price was a winner for Rudd until he messed it up. With the Greens on-side, plus some pork for the independents, they don't need the Libs at all.
posted by harriet vane at 10:41 PM on February 24, 2011


their economic loss will only be the gain of others
Look, as I said earlier, this isn't even just about environmental or climate policy, it's not even about being on the right or wrong side of history, it's basic industry policy—bread and butter for Federal Governments of both stripes. Eventually there will be an international agreement, China and the US will rein in unrestrained emissions, and Australia's going to have to move away from exporting coal and burning coal and natural gas.

We can either restructure our heavy industry and energy sectors to take economic advantage of that, or fart along hoping our economy will just keep growing on ever-expanding Chinese purchases of coal from the Illawarra and La Trobe Valley. It's not asking whether we want to do our part in saving the world from climate change, it's whether we want our economy not to be behind everyone else once they start.

That we're a small player in the scheme of world energy makes it an easier decision, not a harder one.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:47 PM on February 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


'An Evaluation of the Targets and Timetables of the Proposed
Australian Emissions Trading Scheme' (PDF)

Nuclear Plants take years to build and now is the time, I would go with an american company, the french will underbid but... and Russia is up to you. How much for 10 plants?
posted by clavdivs at 10:54 PM on February 24, 2011


I wish I could favourite your comment again, Fiasco. It doesn't matter what angle you look at this from: taking action on carbon pollution now is the smart move.
posted by harriet vane at 11:06 PM on February 24, 2011


I think that the healthy showing that the Greens got in the last federal election suggests that this isn't too risky a move for Labor. The voters that Labor has lost to the Greens are the ones they're most likely to regain – provided Labor starts showing some sensible environmental policies. The presence of the Greens in the senate make it like that a carbon tax that's acceptable to the Greens will pass the upper house.

A watered-down CPRS was impossible to pass in the current (soon to end) senate term, and whilst that backdown wasn't the only thing that saw Rudd knifed by his closest mates, it certainly seems to have contributed to the poll-slide which was used to justify it in public. Getting something like this up, with a minority government in the lower house, would be a major achievement that Gillard could point to, and I think it would consolidate Labor support going into the next election.

I also think there is increasing evidence in all levels of government around Australia that Labor is going to have to rely on Greens support (or at the very least preferences) to hold any government. Passing a Greens-friendly carbon tax would give them a lot of social capital in negotiations with the Greens for years into the future. Keeping it alive would give the Greens continued reason to support Labor in future federal parliaments.

And if it doesn't get up because of independents in the lower house, Gillard can claim it wasn't her fault. She did her best, but that intransigent king-makers holding the balance of power prevented her master work. Personally, I wouldn't like to see that outcome happen, but Gillard can't really lose either way.
posted by damonism at 12:32 AM on February 25, 2011


Is this a game of spot-the-ALP-voter? Too easy, Campese.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:38 AM on February 25, 2011


I think a lot of people in this thread are losing track of the issue here.

This isn't an argument about whether Australia should or should not have a carbon tax.

This is an argument about a deceptive government who knew they were on the nose and outright lied about a significant new tax policy in order to squeak back into office.

So the argument for the carbon tax is basically "Our view is morally superior so we will do it anyway".

Can you imagine the outcry if John Howard's "Never ever GST" speech had been days before the GST Election? Rusted-on Labor supporters are still outraged about this supposed "lie" of Howard's, yet this is basically what Gillard has done here. There would be no problem if she'd announced it before the NEXT election campaign and gone to the ballot boxes running with it in the open (as Howard did with the GST after previously taking it off the table), but instead Labor will hope fury has died down over this deception and run their usual bland, non-threatening re-election campaign and, in the words of Peter Garrett "Just change everything once we get in".
posted by nemspyda at 12:46 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is an argument about a deceptive government who knew they were on the nose and outright lied about a significant new tax policy in order to squeak back into office.

A politician lying?! Say it ain't so! I'll never trust them again!
posted by Jimbob at 1:20 AM on February 25, 2011


It's OK Jimbob, you can always vote for the other mob.
posted by pompomtom at 1:33 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think Gillard's lie was particularly egregious (if one takes a view that all politicians are liars, which seems to be pretty uncontested) but then I also support a carbon tax*, and I voted roughly ALP-wards last election, and I'd eat rusty nails before I voted for Tony Abbott, so I'm biased.

I mean, Julia Gillard did lie, yes, but she lied along ideological lines. That's what Howard did too, even if there was an election in between.

And some of Howard's other porkies strike me as much more offensive than the GST matter - children overboard? Weapons of mass destruction? Not to mention those 'core' and 'non-core' promises from 1996... I hate getting stuck playing "who's the worst liar" but the fact is, we've not had a government since I've been able to vote that has committed to actions pre -election, and then maintained those commitments post-victory.

Anyway, will this play out badly in the electorate? I don't know. The mood of the Australian people seems, at best, to be rather erratic these days. It dismays me that scare-mongering about multiculturalism as flared up again, the number of people who are convinced climate change is a vast left-wing conspiracy also horrifies me, and the lack of conviction all our elected officials show is pretty dispiriting.

And I don't have much hope that Australians will look beyond their hip pockets and let's face it, this carbon tax is going to cost someone, and that someone is going to be us.

*Here in Perth we've just had our 20th day of plus 35 degrees celsius temperatures with minimums never dropping below 25c. I don't want it to get any hotter b/c my garden is dying and I can't go outside b/c it's too hot and it never rains and we've got no water and I can't imagine this being my future, but I suspect it is.

And if Lovecraft in Brooklyn thinks he can just move inland where there is nothing to drink and the soil is basically sand and hopeless for growing anything beyond spinifex, then he's sillier than a galah.
posted by jasperella at 1:43 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Australia's changes might not alleviate the effects of far bigger polluters [China US] but it's a start.

I may not be able to drain the entire ocean with this teaspoon, but I can make a start.
posted by sfenders at 3:38 AM on February 25, 2011


I think it's great. Given the choice between doing something and nothing, I'll take something. I don't care if China and the USA don't play along. Something, however small, is happening, and I applaud it.
posted by Wolof at 4:01 AM on February 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Liberals also supported an ETS before the 2007 election, then stopped supporting it before they had a chance to take their policy to the people in 2010. This "backflip" is one of the main reasons we don't have an ETS right now, so I'm having trouble finding the ALP's behaviour particularly egregious by comparison (of course, two wrongs etc. and anyway a Liberal/National ETS would have been even more shithouse than the Labor one, but the Liberals accusing Gillard of hypocrisy on this is just rank). As usual Grog, who's a friend of mine who I really should try to introduce to Metafilter, gives one of the best rundowns available.

But the best argument is the one made by "Captain Planet" in the first comment to this Crikey piece: we don't have a Labor government, we have a coalition between Labor, Greens and independents. It's not reasonable to expect the lead party in the coalition to stick to the more peripheral of its pre-election policies when they are are directly contrary to the central policies of its coalition partners. And the difference between a "market-based mechanism" and a carbon tax is entirely peripheral. Semantic, even.

One thing this debacle has reconfirmed: I can't stand Gillard, but Abbott is a rolled-gold arseclown. "Honest woman"?? You idiot. This Hun article says it all about the level of political discourse in this country and none of it is good.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:34 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whilst it is charming that some Australian people are actually serious about reducing their carbon emissions, it seems like narcissistic wankery to make it a central theme of government when their neighbor China is putting two new coal-fired electricity plants on-line EVERY week. What Australia does is a piss in the ocean, it's symbolic, and their economic loss will only be the gain of others.

Wrong. People in developed economies such as Australia consume 20 times more resources than do their counterparts in developing countries such as China. Besides, guess which country is fueling China's coal-fired power plants?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:57 AM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wrong. People in developed economies such as Australia consume 20 times more resources than do their counterparts in developing countries such as China.

That doesn't make him wrong. Al Gore probably still consumes 20 times more resources (though this isn't about "consuming resources", it's about CO2 emissions) than does the average person of developed country residence, that doesn't mean him cutting back is going to solve the world's problems.

Besides, guess which country is fueling China's coal-fired power plants?

I suppose you are thinking of a sort of "carbon tax on exports that will presumably lead to emissions", but the politicians very likely are not. That'd be different. Australia actually might be a big enough exporter to drive up the world market price of coal this way, which would be something. Their royalty rates on coal are probably already higher for the most part than whatever they have in mind for a effective carbon tax rate, though. Interestingly, Western Australia apparently already has a different royalty rate for coal that's exported vs. coal that isn't.
posted by sfenders at 10:58 AM on February 25, 2011


That doesn't make him wrong.

If we're taking this 20x figure as read, then yes, it does. Do the sums.

That makes Australia worth more than a third of a China-equivalent, which is a fair bit more than symbolic.

Your Al Gore non-sequitur is quite baffling.
posted by pompomtom at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2011


If we're taking this 20x figure as read, then yes, it does. Do the sums.

Yeah, sorry, I missed noticing that 20x is not even remotely close to correct.

Sorry for picking on Al Gore there, just about any other rich bloke would've served better for a rhetorical example.
posted by sfenders at 3:22 PM on February 25, 2011


On looking up what the actual number should be, I note that the amount by which China's CO2 emissions increased last year is more than Australia's total emissions.
posted by sfenders at 3:33 PM on February 25, 2011


Yeah, sorry, I missed noticing that 20x is not even remotely close to correct.

Then what is correct?

Generally speaking, people in developed countries such as Australia consume more resources and produce more GHG than do people in developing countries such as China. If you accept the assumption that carbon taxes somehow reduce per capita GHG emissions, the aggregrate amount of GHG emissions in Australia could be significant. It's not the only solution to the problem, but it's a start. If you accept the assumption that tax shifting is the way to go.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on February 25, 2011


what I find bizarre about LiB's position is that on the one hand he prioritizes a fast internet, on the other hand he wants to give his first preference to the party that will rip the NBN out of the ground.

The party whose idea of an internet is Telstra's price-gouging private monopoly on aging, slow-ass copper wire.

The party whose leader is such a technological ignoramus that he said that we don't need a high-speed fibre network because "people use wireless in coffee-shops".
posted by moorooka at 3:44 PM on February 25, 2011


Then what is correct?

This, more or less.

CO2 emissions, 2005-5008 (energy consumption only)
China: 5513, 5817, 6257, 6800, 7707
Australia: 397, 401, 410, 425, 418
All Europe: 4677, 4717, 4697, 4626, 4307

Not even considering the rest of the world, if Australia went to zero we'd still, despite a substantial reduction from Europe, have higher total emissions than just a few years ago. Even with the rather large effects of some sort of economic recession going on in 2009, the world total was down only 0.3% or so, well within any sane estimate of the margin of error. It was still higher than just two years previous.

If your country is not China, USA, or India (although a distant 3rd, I include India because it's growing so rapidly), it doesn't much matter what happens at a national level to reduce CO2 emissions by slow degrees, unless it's part of some kind of long-term strategy to convince those top three to change their ways and end their love of coal. Those three alone make up roughly half of world CO2 emissions from energy use, and their collective share grows rapidly.

If Australia reduces per-capita emissions by a third, and China continues to increase until they're equal per-capita... and the entire rest of the world stops emitting any CO2 at all... we'd have about the same total world emissions as we have today.
posted by sfenders at 4:26 PM on February 25, 2011


...unless it's part of some kind of long-term strategy to convince those top three to change their ways and end their love of coal.

DUH!

If Australia, with some of the world's highest per-capita emissions, refuses to cut back, then why the fuck would we ever expect countries like China, with per-capita emissions that are far, far smaller, to do so?

There's not going to be a global reduction without a global agreement, and there's not going to be a global agreement while the highest per-capita emitters are sitting on their hands, waiting for the lower per-capita emitters to act first.
posted by moorooka at 4:31 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


sfenders: You seem to be assuming that the absolute reduction in GHG emissions is all that can be gained here. I find that extraordinary. Do you not think, if a country such as Australia can make such reductions, that the techniques involved would be kept a secret within the country? Or that all the change is simply going to be because Australians all give up cars, or something?
posted by pompomtom at 4:44 PM on February 25, 2011


Do you not think, if a country such as Australia can make such reductions, that the techniques involved would be kept a secret within the country?

The secret is already out. Most of Europe already produces quite a bit less than two-thirds as much CO2 per capita as does Australia. Still enough that if China was their per-capita equal we'd all be doomed, of course. They got there in large part by taxing CO2 emissions and petrol. If Australia does the same thing, I reckon they'll get similar results, so yeah, basically giving up cars or something. Or maybe just giving up utes.
posted by sfenders at 4:59 PM on February 25, 2011


Whilst it is charming that some Australian people are actually serious about reducing their carbon emissions

If what you mean by "charming" is that the small cuddly country of Australia is setting off on a futile, even cute quest to reduce C02 emissions, consider that Australia really punches above its weight on the world stage, and that some sort of carbon tax may be used as a diplomatic tool to persuade other countries (China) to reduce their own C02 emissions. Australia has really been hit hard by climate change so far, so the country needs to do something to persuade other countries to reduce emissions.

CO2 emissions, 2005-5008 (energy consumption only)
China: 5513, 5817, 6257, 6800, 7707
Australia: 397, 401, 410, 425, 418
All Europe: 4677, 4717, 4697, 4626, 4307


Yeah, but per capital emissions are much higher in Australia than they are in China.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2011


consider that Australia really punches above its weight on the world stage, and that some sort of carbon tax may be used as a diplomatic tool to persuade other countries (China) to reduce their own C02 emissions.

Good luck with that, Australia!
posted by sfenders at 8:11 PM on February 25, 2011


So sfenders, is your recommended approach to simply do nothing?
posted by pompomtom at 6:24 AM on February 26, 2011


So sfenders, is your recommended approach to simply do nothing?

No. Somehow I temporarily forgot there that in general, I'm all in favour of having a carbon tax. Governments have to raise money somehow, and taxing CO2 emissions, by way of cap-and-trade or otherwise, is a fine way to do it. Sometimes criticized as regressive, but that can be offset fairly easily, and indeed Gillard is quoted as saying "The single biggest use of money ... raised by pricing carbon will be to assist households with cost of living."

So yes, a good idea, I'm just quite pessimistic about the odds of it doing anything much about climate change. Various countries throughout Europe have had carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, all kinds of crazy taxes on petrol and cars, gigantic subsidies for clean energy, all manner of rules and regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What have they accomplished since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997? Well, they've had more than a decade of economic growth without CO2 emissions increasing much, and they've reduced some other greenhouse gases by a bit. But except for what appear to be the temporary effects of the global financial crisis, EU27 CO2 emissions are basically flat since about 1993 as of the latest data. CO2 is the big one; in volume, in effect, and in level of difficulty in reducing it. They'll happily tell you that emissions are down 10% since 1990... but there's a reason they chose 1990 as the base year. If you instead take the 1992-1995 average for instance, they've made pretty much no progress since then. I'm not just cherry-picking a baseline as they do, you can look at the chart from 1990 and see the big reduction in the first couple years and then a flat line since then. Some have done better than average of course; Germany did apparently manage to reduce CO2 emissions by about 10% between 1993 and 2007. As well as their many efforts to reduce CO2, their aging population of diminishing size might have a little something to do with it. The other major industrial powers of Europe generally saw CO2 emissions fall by very little, while many have instead continued rising. It is possible to pick out a few other successful-looking stories; Denmark for instance also seems to have done well lately.

Australia apparently aims for a 25% reduction in less than ten years. That is more than any other country has done so far when you measure from a sensible baseline, with a few exceptions due to unusual circumstances such as in North Korea where they reduced emissions a great deal by the simple expedient of running out of fuel to burn. It's far more than Europe has thus far managed with all its taxation of carbon-based fuels and its convoluted mix of regulation on specific industries. Perhaps it will be easier in Australia due to a less-efficient starting point. But I'd bet against them meeting that target even with a price on carbon double the proposed one.

Though the empirical evidence is mixed, I'm guessing that "putting a price on carbon" near the highest levels that have been tried might be good for a one-time reduction in emissions levels by a few percent at best. Your country's results may vary. That'd be a reduction compared to "business-as-usual", not an absolute one. Continued economic growth will probably eat it up in a decade or two, if we generously assume as all the planning scenarios do that growth will continue. It's very hard to guess how effective in the long run will be all the other things being planned.

Meanwhile, Europe claims to intend to reduce emissions by 80% over the next 40 years. If they've any chance of actually doing it, I think they'll have to devote rather less time to arguing about emissions targets, carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, ccs, restrictions on engine size in passenger cars, et cetera, and a whole lot more building many nuclear power plants as quickly as possible. By 2050, peak oil will be well in the past, so it's mostly coal and gas you have to worry about. Tax the hell out of them, sure. But just as Australia is practically irrelevant on the scale of what would need doing in the world to stabilize the level of atmospheric CO2, a carbon tax at politically-acceptable levels is only one very small part of the challenge for an individual country, and probably the easiest one.

There's already been a substantial increase in the price of oil in the past few years. A $30 per barrel price rise is roughly equivalent to a world-wide carbon tax on oil of $90/tonne. Except for a very few months, the price has been at least that much higher than the previous 10-year average since 2005. By how much has that reduced world oil consumption so far? It's up by at least 5%. It may be good tax policy, but when it comes to actually reducing CO2, a carbon tax seems likely to accomplish something between nothing and next to nothing.

So my recommendation would be to do more. Rapid build-out of the most cost-effective and proven large-scale zero-carbon (or at least very low carbon) energy source, nuclear power, would be the best place to start. Go all-out on research of batteries, fuel-cells, hydrogen storage, solar power,
nuclear fusion, anything that looks promising. Maybe something good will result, maybe not. Forget about micromanaging actual production with specific subsidies for electric cars, solar PV, biofuels: just put that money into research, and directly building nuclear and offshore wind power where appropriate which are far more cost-effective at present. Maybe solar thermal would also be good enough to make the cut in a particularly sunny country. There's still an enormous amount of coal power generation to replace in almost all the world including Australia, and that's the easier target to start with. Hope some of that research on those other things pays off by the time you're done with that, so that you can then more efficiently deal with replacing liquid fuels if they're still around by then. Forget about CCS, it's not going well so far and fossil fuels are a dead end. If you're going to use tax policy, have only a carbon tax that's as simple as possible, with minimum exceptions and special cases; it may not do much, but compared to the other kinds of tax policy fiddling that go on, it doesn't hurt.

That is my personal idea of the kind of grand plan that would maybe have a chance to demonstrate by example to the world what can work, in a sufficiently convincing way to make some difference. The main point is build nuclear power generation. Get good at doing it efficiently and safely, and dealing with the radioactive waste. If you're not already doing that, and you're still burning coal, your government plan to reduce CO2 emissions is bunk.
posted by sfenders at 8:03 AM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole "... but Julia lied!" line is a non-starter.

a) Everyone expects politicians to lie.
b) Labor and Greens supporters were pissed off when Gillard took a carbon price off the table. Putting it back into the mix is just doing what their supporters had asked for.
c) Liberal and National supporters hate her anyway. Change = zero.

A Thousand Baited Hooks: if Grog has time for Metafilter, try to lure him over here. I really enjoy his blog.
posted by harriet vane at 8:43 PM on February 27, 2011


Oh yeah, I don't want Greg/Grog reading and writing here, I want him crafting his excellent and insightful posts over at Gamut.

Whether or not the PM lied is a bit theoretical. That was when they hoped to form a majority government. They didn't, the game changed. I prefer my politicians to be responsive to facts.
posted by wilful at 8:46 PM on February 27, 2011


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