Tuesday 1 June 2010

Gagged and Dudded: Australia’s dismal climate change response

CairnsBlog columnist Syd Walker explains why even many environmentalists ended up opposing the Rudd Government's proposed Emissions Trading Scheme.

There was muted outrage from the environment movement when Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did a back flip a few weeks ago on his Government’s Emissions Trading Scheme – a term often used synonymously with ‘Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme‘ (CPRS).

Is this because environmentally-concerned people in our community have suddenly lost interest in climate change?

Have we joined the ranks of so-called ‘climate sceptics’: people so silly or arrogant they’d punt on their own hunch (or the hunch of their favourite shock-jock) about what’s necessary for biospheric security against the overwhelming consensus of the world’s professional scientists who’ve been researching – and freely discussing – the subject for years?

I don’t think so.

I’ll speak personally. By the time Rudd shelved the ETS as a legislative priority, I’d become so aghast at that revolting policy, the detail of which was developed by doyen of sneaky greenwash, ‘Climate Change’ Minister Penny Wong, that I saw it as worse than neutral.

Had the ETS gone ahead, in my opinion, it would have been a step backwards on grappling with climate change. That’s because it would have helped lock Australia into grossly unsustainable practices for a considerable period – and most likely would have ended in sheer fiasco, generating in the process widespread disillusionment about any kind of action on the crucial issue of climate change.

In other words, for me the ETS was not a CPRS at all. It was a fake. Doubtless emissions would have been traded under the scheme. But genuine emissions reduction? Once again, I think not.

To be even-handed, I’ll add that conservative Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s approach to the climate change issue is little more than ‘do nothing other than sneer and misrepresent the arguments’. That, of course, is seriously woeful. In Federal Parliament at present, the Australian Greens is the only political party to behave as though climate change is a real problem that requires genuine action.

Back in 2007, part of the promise of a Labor Government – after more than a decade of intellectual stultification under John Howard – was a more enlightened and open approach to public debate on important issues.

On climate change at least, it has not delivered this.

Not only did the Government develop a worse than useless policy – and squander yet more precious years failing to implement any significant changes to help shift our infrastructure and economy towards lower emissions.

It even persecuted informed voices that spoke out against its flaky policies.

The classic case is that of Dr Clive Spash, an environmental economist originally head-hunted by the CSIRO, then gagged and squeezed out of Australian academia when his work came to threaten the rose-tinted ‘consensus’ the Rudd Government was seeking to create around its proposals for an ETS.

In other words, for me the ETS was not a CPRS at all. It was a fake. Doubtless emissions would have been traded under the scheme. But genuine emissions reduction? ___________________________________________________

Dr Spash’s work goes to the heart of what was, at the time, a crucial question. How effectively would an ETS reduce emissions and hence ameliorate climate change?

His conclusion was damning. It went beyond criticisms of detail in the Government’s policy (and needless to say, Senator Wong had made sure there was plenty of ‘devil in the detail’).

According to Dr Spash, the ETS is inherently flawed policy. It may have limited application in some cases, but as a general approach it would be a disaster.

Watch this video and judge his arguments for yourself.

Dr Clive Spash speaks on Australian Climate Change Policy, March 2010

Now ask yourself – whether or not you agree with the analysis presented by Dr Spash – what type of country gags voices such as his in the middle of a crucial policy debate?

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