Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The C word...

Image: source
It has six letters. Well, actually six plus three letters, the C word of this time is "carbon tax".

I have to admit, I haven't really been able to follow the debate very well. For a long time I couldn't figure out why so many Australians were opposed to doing something to try and prevent global warming and all the fallout that would follow from that event.

From what I gather, a lot of people are not convinced that global warming isn't a natural phenomenon that would have come to pass even without industrialisation and global population explosion. I know my brother believes global warming is a conspiracy and he has many convoluted explanations for why he believes this is so.

Me, I don't trust people with lots of power, but it still makes sense to me that in the past couple of hundred years we've become very efficient at digging coal and other fuels out of the ground, and at the same time the world's population has increased from 1.6 billion to 6 billion people in the 20th century alone. So, in 100 years it increased four fold. Now there is still plenty of room on the planet, and there is actually plenty of food to feed everyone on this planet despite the extraordinary rates of famine we've witnessed over the last century. However! Producing enough of anything or everything for four times as many people takes more energy, and emits more pollution - I don't understand how anyone could think otherwise.

So, Australia is finally - long after many other nations of this world - making some sort of effort to address this issue. There are plenty of people who are willing to argue that the effort is misguided, that it won't work. Do we tell our babies not to try to walk because at some point they are going to fall? Should we have told the Wright brothers not attempt their first flying machine because it would crash and burn? No, from failure humans learn - this is how we have come to dominate this planet; we weren't afraid to get it wrong (even if it cost money and sacrefice and a bit of effort), to learn from getting it wrong, to modify our approach and eventually figure it out.

I've heard people say Australia only emits 2% of the total global carbon dioxide pollution, that us reducing our emissions isn't going to make jot of difference if the big polluters (China and India?) don't do anything to reduce their emissions.

By that logic, our children should not stand up for the bullied child in the school yard because "no one else is, and what difference does it make if I do when the kid will get bullied by everyone else anyway?"

Also, I was watching Q and A last night. They had Julia Gillard on talking about the carbon tax. Can she be trusted - I don't know, I was a big fan of Kevin Rudd and I didn't like how Julia came to power... Still, she said that Australia leads the world in per capita carbon dioxide emissions, generating 27 tons of carbon per capita each year in comparison to 6 ton of carbon per capita each year in China. These numbers weren't easy for me to verify, but I did find this chart of emissions per capita in nations around the world and in 2007, Australia was emitting 17.9 ton compared to China's 4.9 ton per capita (Australia had remained quite stable over a ten year period from 1997, only increasing from 17.2 to 17.9, whereas China had increased from 2.2 to 4.9 over the same period - however, if what Julia said last night is true, then Australia has increase emission by 9.1 ton in the past four years while China has only increased by 1.1 per capita in the same period!).

So, by that reckoning, we have further to travel to match China's emission per capita and they are, in fact, making changes to reduce their own emissions (despite continued claims that they are doing nothing, so why should we) - though not to eliminate them altogether (but why as of them what we are not prepared to do ourselves).

By starting to make change - even if it is misguided and won't work, it will inform future attempts - we are helping to put pressure on other countries who are still refusing to acknowledge this resource and global warming crisis which has already begun.

Another hefty point of contention is over jobs. People who work in industries which pollute or drain energy resources are worried about losing their jobs, and yes, that is a fair concern. However, their current jobs will lead to the demise of the global human population, and new job can be sourced in renewable and lower emitting industries.

A few years ago, the Howard government sought to close down compulsory student unionism. When his government succeeded in establishing voluntary student unionism many, many people lost their jobs and their careers - including my husband. Since then we've been struggling considerably to make ends meet. Change can be painful for those at the coal face (no pun intended), but change when our children's and grandchildren's very existence is at stake must not be resisted, however uncomfortable it is in the short term.

Humans are resourceful and because we have to stop relying on non-renewable energy and industries which emit high levels of carbon dioxide, we will have to find other ways to make a living. We are lucky - Australians, that is - we live in a society where people on hard times are taken care of until they can get back on their feet.

So, many families will have to live with less for a while - we have long lived with excess and we've come to feel entitled to that excess, this could be a good change for many people.

As for who gets compensated for the carbon tax, and who doesn't. I do - so I shouldn't have a voice, but I would happily pay the extra $10 a week for carbon tax (which rightfully should be called pollution tax) and do without something else I probably don't need because I want to see sustainable change - I want a future for my children and their families - so, if you earn too much money to get compensation (in form of extra money and/tax rebate) and you feel you should be compensated, I will give you the $610 my family will receive in compensation. Despite living on $45k per year for a family of six, I will find a way to pay that tax ourselves (first in, best dressed for this offer!), because I wouldn't want anyone to feel hard done by losing 0.7 of their annual income to this carbon tax that is trying to make a first attempt to change our children's future for the good.


Being Me said...

I agree with you and really appreciated this post.

While it's hard to say I'm all for it because it's not my place to say on behalf of other Australians who will be worse off in a financial sense (we too are living on practically one wage so will be compensated but believe in this enough to know that we will just find the extra however many few hundred a year to bridge the gap), I can't deny that the efforts to sustain are at least being made by this train wreck of a gov't.

I need to support it. Because I need to think that it is doing good :(

Sif Dal said...

I just want to be able to face my kids and say, "We tried - or at least we put faith in those proclaiming to try - to slow global warming"... I don't want to have to say to them, "We spent so longer debating whether or not the water was getting hotter that we boiled to death".

justjoshin said...

people disagree with the theory of anthropogenic global warming because while there is proof that it has warmed since industrialisation, the warming began beforehand, and stopped just as we entered the post WWII boom (for 30 years). We are in an interglacial period, it _should_ be warming more than cool, otherwise we are heading towards another glaciation, which would be a lot worse.

Sif Dal said...

That's interesting. I'm not debating that it shouldn't be getting warmer, but does that negate human contribution to the gases which cause the glass dome effect trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere - a phenomenon linked directly with the by-products of burning fossil fuel - a phenomenon which has increased exponentially since industrialisation - or are you suggesting that all this burning of fossil fuels (something that would not happen except for human industrialisation) has absolutely not effect on the atmosphere we live within? Perhaps you would also like to argue that there is no relationship between cause and effect?

Good Job!