The Greenhouse-warming Debate is Hotting Up
[First published in The Canberra Times, 24
One of the completely trivial consequences of the bushfires
which caused so much devastation in NSW over Christmas and into
the new year is that emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
from Australia have increased by between 50 million and 60 million
A typical annual emission rate for Australia is between 400
million and 500 million tonnes, although there is considerable
argument about the contribution that land clearing makes, or even
whether the net result from land clearing is positive or negative.
It seems petty to raise the CO2 issue
in the face of so much tragedy, but since the Kyoto Protocol is
all about carbon dioxide and its alleged impact on the world's
climate, and because ratification by Australia would lead to far,
far greater economic dislocation than that wrought by the bushfires,
there is some profit to be gained in understanding why the bushfires,
and the immense quantities of CO2 they
generate, are accepted by environmentalists as the manifestation
of a benign nature, but the CO2 emitted
by our power stations is condemned as the outward and visible
sign of a spiritually bankrupt civilisation.
No environmentalist, or Kyoto Protocol protagonist, has connected
the bushfire-generated CO2 with increasing
global temperatures. This CO2 is part of
the natural carbon cycle, they will say, and will return to earth
in due course as new plant life. But does not the CO2
emitted by our automobiles and power stations likewise reappear
as new plant life?
Well, yes it does, but, we are told, being anthropogenic, and
derived from fossil fuels, its impact will be harmful, not benign.
In particular, we are repeatedly warned that it will cause the
planet to warm, and thus bring rising sea levels, malarial plagues,
increasing numbers of cyclones and tornadoes, and other climatically
But did not the carbon that we today are releasing back into
the atmosphere, from these fossil fuels, originally come from
the atmosphere? The answer is, unavoidably, yes, but that was
a long time ago, when the Earth was warm and wet, when atmospheric
CO2 concentrations were 10 or 20 times
what they are today, and when plant life and biodiversity were
To justify the continuing oxidation of this underground carbon,
merely to support a lifestyle which is extravagant and selfish,
on the grounds that we are returning carbon to its prehistoric
place in the atmosphere is nothing more, it will be said, than
right-wing, sinister, extremist casuistry.
But this distinction between CO2 from
power stations as a pollutant---the word regularly employed by
the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in this context---and
CO2 from the bushfires as natural plant
food, is one which the Australian voter, who will be asked to
accept much higher electricity and petrol prices as part of the
Kyoto package, will find incomprehensible.
Of all the political scams of the post-war period, the global
warming scam, the attempt to use the fear of climate change to
turn our economy from an energy-intensive economy, based on the
combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, to a pre-industrial
economy in which energy is expensive and rationed, and the use
of fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) is proscribed, is the most
This scam is based on the greenhouse theory, which requires
the lower troposphere to warm as concentrations of carbon dioxide
increase in the atmosphere, as a precursor to general global surface
That no evidence of warming can be found in the troposphere
is no barrier to the continuing zeal of the global-warming believers,
whose faith is unimpaired by contrary evidence.
Australia's economic contribution to the world is, today, based
in significant degree on its very large reserves of low-cost brown
and black coal.
Our current prosperity and our future as an independent and
sovereign nation will continue to be based, in large measure,
on our ability to exploit these natural resources efficiently.
A decarbonisation program for Australia, today, is as sensible
as if Chifley and Menzies, in the immediate post-war period, had
agreed to an international treaty requiring the destruction of
our merino flocks.
But the Australian Labor Party supported ratification of Kyoto
as part of its election platform, and the new Shadow Environment
Minister, Kelvin Thomson, has just reaffirmed this position.
And the Howard Government supports, with $240 million of hapless
taxpayers' money each year, the Australian Greenhouse Office,
the energetic officials of which are, through a self-selection
recruitment process, committed to bringing Australia into the
Kyoto tent, regardless of our national interest.
The costs to Australia if we seriously pursue the Kyoto decarbonisation
commitments will be immense, and they will be born in the first
instance by electricity consumers, and those whose jobs in the
electricity supply industry, and the down-stream process industries
dependent on low-cost electricity, will be sacrificed on the altar
The Japanese government has recently made it known that CO2 emission reductions by Japanese industry will
be voluntary. Since the Japanese economy is already in bad shape,
and the cost to Japan of reducing its energy consumption (already
low on a per capita basis) is very high, we see here the first
sign of Japanese recognition of the costs of Kyoto.
The Howard Government would save $240 million a year if it
shut down the Australian Greenhouse Office. It will save electricity
consumers some $800 million a year by 2008 if it repeals the Renewable
Electricity Act it passed in 2000.
These are matters for the new Environment Minister, David Kemp,
to reflect upon in 2002.
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