EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
The carbon tax: Labor's own form of insanity
, June 23, 2012
With the imminent introduction of the carbon tax, Australians are increasingly sceptical of both the rationale for the new tax, and the benefits which — the Government claims — will flow from it.
Despite billions of dollars in hand-outs to offset the carbon tax already in people’s bank accounts, and an advertising blitz reminiscent of a federal election campaign, the latest opinion poll shows that the Labor Party’s percentage of the primary vote languishes in the low 30s, while that of the Opposition stands at 44. Even with the Greens’ preferences flowing strongly to Labor, the polls put the Opposition a commanding 8 per cent ahead.
The public’s disbelief in the new tax is based on sound common sense. While the Government is imposing its carbon tax directly on major Australian coal-users, particularly electricity-generators (which it demonises as “Australia’s biggest polluters”), it is simultaneously issuing permits to expand the export of Australian coal which will be fed into electricity generators and blast furnaces in many countries, in some of which environmental standards are poor and where environmental pollution is a real problem.
The current expansion of Australia’s coal industry has to be seen to be believed. Bureau of statistics figures show that Australia’s coal exports this year will be about 400 million tonnes, considerably higher than the level in 2007, when the Labor government was elected. Export earnings from coal and coke have doubled over the past five years to about $12 billion.
The Government’s commitment to curb domestic use of coal while at the same time encouraging expansion of coal exports is a logical absurdity.
The Prime Minister, the Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and the Government’s PR machine all insist on using the phrase “carbon pollution” to describe CO2 emissions. And so the government’s Clean Energy Future website contains a series of alarmist claims, each perpetuating this factually inaccurate claim:
“A carbon price encourages businesses to look for ways to reduce their carbon pollution and encourages the development of clean energy technologies.... Carbon pollution is the main cause of climate change, which is threatening our environment, our food production and our way of life.” (See: www.cleanenergyfuture.gov.au/why-we-need-to-act/).
Under the heading, “Australia’s carbon pollution”, it further claims: “Australia generates more pollution per person than any developed country, including the United States. We produce significantly more pollution per person than India and China.”
Every one of these statements is questionable, as anyone who has visited countries such as India and China would certainly attest. The Government’s claim appear to be based on the assertions of Professor Ross Garnaut, an academic economist whose government-sponsored reports provided the rationale for the carbon tax.
Professor Garnaut claimed that Australia’s per capita CO2 emissions are the highest in the world. How did he get this figure? By including emissions from land use and forestry, including CO2 produced by cattle and sheep! (Garnaut Climate Change Review, Ch. 7).
If one looks at energy usage per capita as an indicator of CO2 emissions, quite a number of countries are ahead of Australia, including the United States, Canada, much of Western Europe and the Arab oil states, according to the World Resources Index. As energy usage is an indicator of living standards, we should not be surprised by these figures.
The government persists with claims that CO2 is driving “climate change”. This is naïve.
The fact is that the earth’s climate is always changing, under the influences of hundreds of different factors ranging from wind and ocean currents, separately influenced by temperature and pressure gradients and the earth’s rapid rotation about its axis.
Additionally, the climate is affected by the earth’s irregular rotation around the sun and seasonal factors, solar and space radiation which impact on cloud formation, as well as CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The most important of these greenhouse gases is water vapour, much of it generated from the 78 per cent of the earth’s surface which is covered by water.
The only fact on which everyone agrees is that CO2 levels in the atmosphere are increasing, from a very low base. But throughout the past two centuries for which reliable temperature data exist, the earth’s temperature has risen only slightly. There has been no increase in global average temperatures, measured by satellite data, since 1998.
So the carbon tax is based on assumptions which are shaky, if not downright wrong.
Yet the Government insists that Australia must go down a path promoted by the Greens and radical environmentalists in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the European Union. These same irrational policies have contributed to the financial crisis in countries like Spain. There is still time to learn from their mistakes.
Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.