Earlier this week, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published its – Global Summary Information – June 2015 – which reported that in the period January to June 2015, the globally-averaged land and sea surface temperatures were the highest for those months since the data was first collected in 1880 (135 years). I am not a climate change expert but the array of data that I have looked at from a statistical perspective tells me that what the experts are saying with respect to global warming and climate change is probably correct – it is happening and it is happening relatively quickly. The conservative Australian government remains in denial of the global trends with respect to climate change. It is introduced various policies that have made us a national disgrace – such as, abandoning the mining and cut taxes introduced by the previous government, defunding a research institute set up to provide information about climate change, and instructing a public ‘Green Bank’ to not fund wind or solar projects. This week, the government has been castigated by a British Tory MP, who said that its approach to climate change was not that of a ‘conservative government’ and bordered on delusion. But the most important piece of data this week has been the latest figures from China that show that dramatic restructuring away from coal consumption is rapidly taking place which will undermine the viability of the Australian coal sector in the coming decade. So the ‘market’ is going to force change in Australia when it would be much better for government to plan an orderly transition away from coal.
Regular readers will know that I am pro-growth – economic growth that is. I get criticised for saying that by Greens and such because they only consider GDP growth within their own economic paradigm, which is tainted, if only subconsciously, by neo-liberal conceptions of enterprise and employment. I would say that I am as Green as anyone but also understand that being engaged in employment is a basic human endeavour. I also agree that our usual conceptions of gainful employment – working for a capitalist to make them profits – will typically not place the ‘greenness’ of the jobs as a priority, and will, in many cases involved environmentally destructive resource use. The key to disengaging growing employment and hence, economic growth, from activities that are environmentally destructive is to redefine what we mean by productive and useful employment. But, there is also evidence that within the mainstream world of markets, private firms are starting to disengage the link between energy use and economic growth. But will that be enough? This blog is just sketching my own catchup on the latest energy use data. You might find it interesting.
Last week, the national broadcaster ABC’s Media Watch program – Up in Smoke – took aim at the Murdoch press (in particular, the Australian newspaper) for misleading reporting. The News Limited rag (it is barely that) has been running a campaign via headline claiming that Australia’s world leading laws on plain packaging of tobacco products have failed. Of-course, News Limited is just the conduit. Lying behind the headlines are rather secretive right-wing think tanks who pump out propaganda every day which aims to undermine government intervention and activity in favour of the industrial and other interests that just happen to fund the propaganda. These organisations hold themselves out as being non-partisan and independent – only offering an evidence-based viewpoint. The only problem is they clearly do jobs for bobs and manipulate ‘evidence’ to the point of absurdity.
I have very little time again today so I will have to type quickly. Yesterday, the Australian government announced it has scrapped its proposed $15 per tonne carbon price floor as part of the new Carbon Tax that it brought into law in July 2012. With the introduction of the carbon price in July 2012, the biggest polluters pay $A23 per tonne for the carbon they emit. The Government plans to allow this system (the Carbon Tax) to evolve into an emissions trading scheme (ETS) on July 1, 2015 so that instead of setting the price for carbon the government will set the quotas and let the market set the price. Yesterday, the Government made one significant change to their proposed 2015 move to an ETS. It announced that from July 1, 2015, Australia will partially link its carbon pricing system to the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). This move only entrenches the mistakes that are evident in the first proposal. Quite apart from the problems of a pure ETS, the schemes that are proposed are so politically compromised that their “market credentials” vanish. The problem of carbon emissions should be approached via rules-based regulation rather than a half-cocked neo-liberal market-based solution which will reward big polluters, lawyers and hedge funds.
Just when you thought that the Australian Government’s response to climate change – the proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) which promises to generously exempt or compensate the heavy polluters – was bad enough, it was announced today that it will also now indefinitely exclude agriculture from the ETS. The decision is purely political as was the earlier decision to exempt agriculture until 2015. All the Government is doing is appeasing the Opposition so that it can get the legislation through the Senate. The Opposition recently revealed that the majority of their parliamentarians deny there is a climate change problem. Why would you want to trade concessions with them? But the fundamental problem lies in the fact that the neo-liberal market-based paradigm is a totally unsuitable framework for dealing with climate change.
The Australian government announced that as a result of the rising unemployment it would cut the skilled migrant intake by nearly 20,000 to 115,000 this financial year. It also removed some key industries (construction and manufacturing) from the critical skills list which will prevent firms from sourcing tradepersons from abroad unless they can prove local labour is not available. The announcement while seemingly a sensible statement of the jobs equation – less jobs require less workers – once again raises the question of how population policy should be formulated.
The global recession is presenting a new dilemma for the first world which will have significant impacts long after growth has returned. We saw in recent years that the price of oil rose sharply as the demand of energy from emerging nations skyrocketed. While we clearly have a short-term incentive at least for China to redirect its economic energies into domestic growth to give our export sectors a boost there will be implications of this that we might not have bargained for. Do we really want an extra 1 billion or more people to be as rich as us? It is a case of being careful what you wish for …
Yesterday, the Living Garden section of the Newcastle Herald published an interview with me on their Profile page. After requesting (and publishing) a short bio they asked me a series of questions. Here is the transcript of my answers and note the whole profile was restricted to 800 words.
Things are going crazy with the climate these days and certain animals are coming up with new coping strategies. I was sent some photos yesterday about a Koala that got hot and thirsty in South Australia during its current record heat wave.