Carbon Blackmail Doesn't Lead to Greener Future
[This is an unabridged version of an article which
first appeared in The Australian, 10 June 2002]
During Question Time on June 5 last, Prime Minister John Howard
made a clear statement about the Kyoto Protocol.
It is not in Australia's interests to ratify the Kyoto Protocol....
For us to ratify the Protocol would cost us jobs and damage our
industry.... The Australian national interest does not lie in
ratifying Kyoto: that is why we are opposed to it.
In his statement, the PM hammered home the job losses which
would follow from the relocation of energy intensive industries
to countries which are not obliged to reduce CO2
emissions. But there are other, equally serious, issues which
are buried within the Kyoto Protocol, and which have not received
sufficient attention from the Government, the Opposition, or the
The most serious is the transfer, under the terms of the Protocol,
of powers of enforcement, compliance and taxation, to an international
bureaucracy based in Bonn; a bureaucracy which will be totally
unaccountable to the Australian people. It is proposed that the
Kyoto Secretariat will have wide-ranging powers of inspection
and enforcement, including the power to impose new carbon taxes
on countries which, in their assessment, fail to meet their Kyoto
commitments. Such a proposal is unprecedented in Australian history.
In theory, Australia could withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
if the economic sacrifices demanded of us by other countries became
too great to bear. But it is the explicit ambition of the EU to
change international law and practice so that such recalcitrance
could be met with trade sanctions which would effectively cut
us off from many of our export markets. Australia would then be
powerless to recover the sovereignty which had been de facto yielded
up with ratification of Kyoto. It is forgotten that in the lead-up
to the Kyoto Conference in December 1997, Australia was threatened
by many commentators with trade sanctions, if we refused to agree
to what was an open-ended commitment to the de-carbonisation of
The science underlying the Kyoto Protocol has, likewise, not
received sufficient attention. One important element in the science
debate is the complete inconsequentiality of any contribution
which Australia's fulfilment of the Kyoto targets would make to
global temperatures. On 13 Nov 2000, on ABC TV, Dr Graham Pearman,
Head of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research, and an outspoken
supporter of the greenhouse theory, said,
The reality of the Protocol as it is at the moment is that
even if all of the nations were able to achieve those
targets it would hardly make any difference.
Australia is being asked to accept significant economic dislocation,
as predicted in AGO publications, for no discernible difference
to the climate outcome.
Of even greater concern is the refusal of the scientific supporters
of greenhouse to explain why it is that the satellite temperature
data, now extant since 1979, show no temperature rise in the lower
troposphere, precisely where greenhouse theory requires temperature
increases to be first manifest. Since 1979, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased by approximately
10 per cent and if global temperatures are so sensitive to CO2 concentrations, some response should surely
be evident by now.
The earth's climate has changed dramatically in the past, and
will doubtless change just as dramatically in the future. To attribute
every current variation in this or that climatic parameter to
anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is simply unreasonable.
Australia has some important and expensive environmental problems
to tackle. Growing salinity and water management are arguably
the most serious problems which we will have to resolve. Both
will require very large expenditures of taxpayers' funds to do
so, and those funds will only be available if Australia has a
prosperous and growing economy. Australia's present prosperity
is, in large part, based on our exports of energy-intensive products.
ABARE calculations suggest that the increase in the price of
electricity which will be required to meet the Kyoto commitment
will be of the order of 50 per cent. The consequence of that would
be economic dislocation, rising unemployment, and political upheaval
consequent upon serious increases in household energy costs.
Australian industry, and our mining industry in particular,
is committed to implement best environmental practice. But it
cannot do so if a major source of international competitiveness,
low-cost energy, is negated. And negated for no good reason. The
Prime Minister has made the right call on Kyoto.