Saturday, June 02, 2007

LETTERS: We can pursue ambitious cuts and also grow the economy

It is encouraging to see that many are seeing through the Howard's government spin and hyperbole on climate change. Here are some letters from the Australian on June 2, 2006 that cut to the chase:

Chris Cuthbert
Epping, NSW

The climate change sceptics and the merely querulous have had a good run on the letters page this week (Geoffrey Luck, 30/5; Tom Biegler, 31/5; J. Morrissey, 1/6), so it might be time to present the other side of the debate.

The science by now is solid. The true scientists and the professional sceptics can debate the issue for the next 50 years, and new research will extend our knowledge and modify some conclusions as to the road ahead, but this won’t change the main conclusions: the world is heading for big trouble and we’re overdue in taking some serious corrective action.

Corrective action will not destroy economies or even put them under great strain. This was stated very clearly in the Stern report and also in two local reports, the latest by the CSIRO. Their conclusions? We can adopt challenging emission targets, do our best to meet them, and also grow our economy.

The do-nothing alternative is just not acceptable. To state the obvious, the economy is a fully owned subsidiary of the environment. A damaged environment equals a damaged economy. Anyone who doubts that had better read some Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Australia is one of the countries that will definitely be worse off.

If we decide to wait for everyone else, our international reputation in relation to this very significant issue will be even lower than it is today. To take just one example: the Indonesian archipelago is made up of 27,000 islands, 8000 of which are inhabited. Thousands of these islands will be under threat from rising sea levels and storm surge, if not by 2030 or 2050 then certainly by the end of the century. The vast numbers of people displaced will look south to observe a rich, complacent and uncaring land taking a free ride. What’s the point of individual Australians and our governments sending aid to these people every year and then washing them out of house and home?

Bruce Jame
Tea Tree Gully, SA

In the carbon trading and global warming debate, many people seem to think that if carbon dioxide emissions generated in Australia are reduced, there will be a commensurate reduction in the rate of Australia’s climate change. This is not so. We are almost totally dependent on what happens in the large industrial and developing countries, the US and China in particular.

What we do may be useful in consciousness-raising and setting a good example, but in practical terms will have very little effect and may come at a considerable cost. John Howard’s reluctance to promote emission targets and carbon trading may be influenced by this, but he does not say so. This is because he’s desperately trying to appear to be doing something that will make a difference and thereby curry favour with the electorate. For whatever reasons, other political leaders and global warming activists, who must know better, do not point out the futility of carbon trading unless it’s part of an effective global scheme.

Matt Mushalik
Epping, NSW

The Prime Minister recommends a cautious approach to the adoption of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nature doesn’t care about the PM’s – or anyone else’s – opinion about the pace of reducing greenhouse, it just responds to our emissions. If emissions don’t go down year on year, we’ll pay the price.

All our politicians need to attend a training course in climate physics. And the electorate will have to put pressure on all political parties. The solution is a re-industrialisation of Australia on the basis of renewable energies with technologies developed at our universities. They are ready. We can start today.

Natasha Hildebrand-Lockie

Yarraville, Vic

John Gava ("Cut gases or cop the cold shoulder”, Opinion, 31/5) overlooked three important reasons why Australia must significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

First, Australia’s annual contribution is 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions; we should, therefore, be responsible for our contribution. If every country reduced their own contribution and stopped worrying about other countries’ contribution, then the problem would be solved.

Second, Gava claims that “our production of greenhouse gases is so minuscule compared with the rest of the world”. In reality,
Australia’s emission levels are on par with many industrialised countries, such as France and Italy, and only 20 per cent lower than that of the UK. If Australia argues that our emissions are too insignificant to require action, then so could the vast majority of countries – and global warming will never be addressed.

Third, Australia can act as a convincing example to the highest emitting nations of how it’s possible to progress, cost effectively, to a low-carbon economy. In this way, Australia has the potential to make a huge contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and this shouldn’t be trivialised.

Mike Driscoll
Adelaide, SA

AS part of any carbon trading initiative, a carbon tariff should be imposed on imported goods proportional to the country of origin’s carbon emissions. This would serve to protect the economies of emissions-abiding countries from imports from non-abiding countries.


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