Monday, July 31, 2006

Government just doesn't get it, says Fairfax press

Australia's Fairfax press empire is throwing its weight behind a sane approach to global warming. Two recent articles sound the call to arms. In The Age, Tim Colebatch wrote on July 18, 2006: "If the science is right (and each year seems to confirm it), then we and the world are facing changes that will reduce our ability to grow food, and could threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

"The Prime Minister's disappointing speech yesterday was more evidence that at the top of this Government they just don't get it. New technology is not an alternative to carbon taxes and emission trading schemes, it is their outcome. And the massive scale of the problem is not a reason to do less, but to do more.

"You can pour money into research and development of clean technologies and hope for breakthroughs. But let's be pragmatic. Unless the new clean technologies cost less than the old polluting ones, business will not take them up. That's why you need a tax or regulatory system that creates a financial incentive to do so. Then markets will work, and clean technologies will take over."

The next day, the Sydney Morning Herald's planning writer Elizabeth Farrelly wrote, "This is the mystery. Polls show we worry about climate change, but we vote from the hip pocket. John Howard, the polls tell us, makes us feel safe. But we blind ourselves to the yawning chasm between feeling safe and being safe."

Climate change has become a moral issue, she says. Maybe the moral issue. "In Australia, where governments quail before moral issues, the vacuum is filling with an unlikely alliance of business and philanthropic lobby groups. The Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change argued in April that a 60 per cent cut in Australia's emissions is compatible with strong economic growth. Westpac's chief executive officer, David Morgan, known for lampooning emissions proposals as Mein Kampf and seeing carbon trading as a European conspiracy, notes that 'the next president of the United States … [is expected] to initiate urgent action on climate change'.
"In the US, where the writer Elizabeth Kolbert argues the need for an "environmental Churchill", an obstructionist Bush White House is nevertheless ringed by cities, states, Congress and the courts, plus a few inner-Republican colleagues, determined to make change. Last year, California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, launched a plan to cut state emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. "The debate is over," he said. "The science is in. The time to act is now." Right-wing evangelical leaders of 30 million people marched on Capitol Hill, urging leadership on climate change. Since then, 238 US mayors have pledged to "meet or beat" Kyoto; the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has supported emissions caps and the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether CO 2 regulation should be mandatory."

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