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I could be wrong, I could be right.

04/05/2019

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I haven’t blogged for ages but I think I better put my hat back into the ring in regards to one rather important policy – that of emissions reduction.

People seem to have made climate change a very important topic. And the two major parties both claim to be ‘taking action on climate change’. So I thought I might try to dissect what this actually means. This is because act, the root word in action, is be both a verb and a noun. A verb, from my old primary school english class memories, is a doing word. A noun, also from the same memory, is a naming word. Hence when one party claims they are taking action on climate change, they may not actually be doing anything, just saying they are.

The main difference we are told is one of a figure. The ALP talk about 45%. The LNP talk about 26%. The latter also talk about ‘doing enough to meet our Kyoto agreement obligations’. What does obligation actually mean? I am glad you asked! The definition of obligation is ‘an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment’ So the use of the word obligation by the LNP is a very interesting word considering the attack on Kevin Rudd when he made the statement that climate change is the biggest moral challenge of our time. How they mocked him. Now they use the same language.

The other fact that is thrown around is the year 2030. The ALP talk about life after 2030 with targets for 2040 and 2050. The LNP seem to assert that there will be no 2031, so they don’t like to talk about needing to do anything after 2030. Maybe 2031 is the year Christ is planning to make a second coming & god will fix everything. But I think they don’t mention anything after 2030 because they don’t really give a shit about ‘taking action on climate change’ at all.

At this stage, I want to interrupt this assessment on policy to talk about some harsh truths. If the feedback cycle of climate change has begun, and I believe it has, then reducing emissions to zero world wide by the end of this month will not stop it. The planet will be able to recover – over time. Most likely two hundred to three hundred years. Some will say then why are we bothering to do anything about emissions. This is because if we don’t, then the recovery time will be many more hundreds of years. Maybe thousands.

Let me also address the argument that CO2 does not drive temperature as seen from historical ice core readings. These readings do indicate that CO2 was not the driver for temperature. Heck, its only one of multiple greenhouse gases. But what the same graph shows is CO2 is an indicator – a canary in the mine. Temperature keeps rising until CO2 in the atmosphere begins to decline AND stays high for a very long time even after CO2 begins to decline. The graph below shows this clearly.

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This time around though, our time, CO2 emissions started to rise before temperature. This is because we burned a lot of fossils fuels over the last 150 years or so. The planet did what the planet does – try to cope. It tries as hard as it can to store that carbon. And it has been doing this. In the oceans and what is left of the trees we haven’t chopped down to build palm oil farms or parking lots or holiday resorts or golf courses or land clearing for farms. Can we put back more trees than we chop down? That’s yet to be seen. What we also know now is the oceans are almost full.

This is why despite reducing global emissions through more efficient machines as well as renewable energy sources, CO2 in the atmosphere continues to rise. And as long as it continues to rise, temperatures are not about to even think about starting to come down. And as temperatures rise, more water vapor, also a greenhouse gas, will occur through evaporation & also releasing stored CO2 from the ocean as it evaporates, which will drive temperatures higher which can see permafrost melt and the release of methane, also a greenhouse gas, will also drive temperatures higher. So will shutting down all fossil fuel emission sources stop temperatures rising? Not immediately, no. And it may also not stop the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere which may continue to rise as oceans evaporate due to the heat. Imagine a snowball rolling down a hill. Well we already pushed the snowball. And its got momentum. And its picking up more snow and growing. And it will continue to get more and more dangerous for a long time before it runs out of energy. Basic physics. And we don’t have something big enough that we can put in its way to stop it. Does that mean we should not act? No. We definitely need to act. But don’t expect to see a result in your lifetime or your kids or your kids kids.

 

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Okay, so back to the policies. The 26% target by the coalition is basically this (take a breath now) – they will spend $3.5bn putting in emissions reducing equipment to some businesses, many of whom make large profits now and can easily put their hands into their own pockets and upgrade their own equipment or pay for their own solar and wind and batteries to power their factories or spend money moving from fossil fuel powered vehicles to electric vehicles and not only reduce their emissions, but also save money on fuel since they can get it from any solar or wind or battery sources they invest in which will ALSO reduce their energy costs. Phew. Rather long paragraph that.

But wait! There is more!

The other thing the coalition are doing is increasing the amount of emissions a company can produce before they should even start looking at abatement or paying for the excess (yes Australia! There is still a carbon tax out there and has been for decades.) Basically, a company or a factory is allowed to produce so many emissions for ‘free’. Emissions over and beyond this amount incurs a cost OR incurs an obligation such as abatement (yes I said abatements and yes they can indeed be purchased from overseas now. Its how Qantas does it) by the company. In summary, under the coalition, businesses, mining facilities and yes even farms, will be allowed to emit more emissions before they need to do something about it. And if they exceed this, they can use taxpayer money to upgrade equipment or buy solar etc to help keep them below the target the next year.

The ALP has a much bigger target – gradually reducing the amount of emissions a company can produce per year till the 45% target. This means companies will need to start acting NOW. Investing some of the profits they make into new equipment or new technology so they can meet the ever lowering emissions limbo dance so they stay under the bar. If they exceed it, well they have to pay that carbon tax I was talking about OR buy domestic or overseas abatements.

 

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At the same time, they plan to use $300mn of taxpayer money to help emissions intensive industries such as steel makers or cement etc. While these industries can reduce emissions through a move to EV fleets of trucks for transport and solar/wind/battery equipment to reduce the emissions to power their equipment and fuel their trucks, you still need to burn coal to make steel as its a combination of coal and iron. And the emissions produced in those kind of industries are unavoidable. But other businesses and companies who produce emissions and make profits will need to use their own monies to make themselves more efficient and same money on fuel costs etc.

That is basically the difference between both policies. The LNP’s is a ‘that will do’ kind of approach were they will say they will meet the required target but then do no more. Its like their NBN speed guarantee of ‘upto 25Mbs – you can get more, but they don’t guarantee it. Likewise, they say they will guarantee emissions reductions of 26%, but no more. Nor will they mention any targets after the arbitrary 2030 date. The ALP are aiming to reach a higher target, but don’t expect there to be no more emissions by the end of the year. Nor are either party saying they will happily go to jail for 15 years if they don’t meet their targets either. In fact, neither incurs any penalty for missing a target. Nor can one be imposed other than voter backlash in elections after 2031.

Is this post a valid interpretation of either the coalition’s policy or labors? Maybe. Maybe not. I could be right. I could be wrong. But I do know this – emissions need to be acted on and political parties will need to address them or be swept away by the rising emissions free anger of the young who demand action be a verb and not a noun.

Politicians should never forget: Anger is an energy.

A. Ghebranious

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