Climate Change

Yesterday saw a flurry of news regarding climate change, dominated by Treasury’s assessment of the costs of implementing a carbon tax in Australia. Serious news outlets like SBS and the SMH reported the cost to the average household as $1/day, whereas the tabloid news on Ten went for the sensationalist approach with tag lines like “see how the carbon tax could cost you hundreds of dollars!”

The business associations are trying to get the Government to hold off on implementing the carbon tax now that the global economy is in freefall, spreading fear and doubt about loss of jobs, but Treasury’s analysis correctly points out that there’s massive opportunities for job creation in alternative energy fields and other areas which would be projected to grow significantly once polluters have to pay. The delayers also fail to realise that the longer we wait to start, the sharper the emissions drops we’ll have to implement and therefore the greater the impact on the economy as a whole. Long, gradual change is going to do less damage to the economy than a short, sharp shock.

Elsewhere on TV, probably SBS again, I saw a news item about the increase in atmospheric methane levels which has recently been detected. Methane is 20 times more effective as an insulator than CO2, and one of the side effects of a temperature increase is predicted to be that as permafrost melts, massive amounts of methane will be released. The scientists interviewed seemed to think that this year’s increase was due to the record low in the extent of Arctic sea ice last year.

The final item was an interview with a professor who studies the Great Barrier Reef, specifically coral bleaching and its relationship to sea temperature and acidity. He claimed that if we continue at our current pace, the reef will be dead in 30 years. Given that our rate of CO2 pollution is only increasing, that timeframe will probably prove optimistic.

That’s just sad.