What Price Global Warming?  

Posted by Big Gav

Following on from Peak Oil on 60 Minutes tonight there is a Four Corners episode on global warming tomorrow.

Heat waves and cyclones; droughts ravaging farmland; rising seas swamping beach havens; forests drying up and species dying out; the Barrier Reef and Kakadu, icons of nature, doomed.

This is Australia’s future if nothing is done to tackle global warming, scientists warn - though exactly what will happen, and how soon, remain uncertain.

Is there still time for the world to avert these dire consequences? How can Australians – per person the biggest greenhouse gas polluters on the globe – do more to curb their own emissions?

The biggest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions is the burning of coal to produce electricity – and Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter. The best way for Australia to help, the Howard Government believes, is to invest in the search for technologies that will drastically reduce the emissions that come from burning coal.

Meanwhile, says John Howard, it’s pointless for Australia to take expensive steps to curb its own emissions: "If we stopped them tomorrow, it would take all of nine months for China’s additional emissions to equal what we’ve withdrawn by stopping ours," the Prime Minister tells Four Corners.

But a growing cast of business leaders is calling for the Government to engage the power of the market in the fight against global warming. They say Australia needs a "carbon price signal" – either a tax on carbon dioxide, or better still an emissions trading system, which will give business a real economic incentive to save energy, cut emissions and invest in clean technology.

The European Union has an emissions trading regime; Labor state governments are proposing one; but the Federal Government says any such system, unless it’s applied globally, will mean excessive job losses, electricity price hikes and lifestyle sacrifices for Australians.

Which way forward: technology or tax? Four Corners reporter Jonathan Holmes looks at clean coal technologies in the laboratory – and at the efforts of entrepreneurs responding to New South Wales’s trial emissions trading system. And he asks – why not have both?

This essential report on coal and global warming is the third by Jonathan Holmes on Australia’s energy future, following thought-provoking pieces on oil ("Peak Oil?") and uranium ("Who’s Afraid of Nuclear Power?").

4 comments

I know Australians are discussing the nuclear power issue. Like everything else there is good and bad in it. If you would like a realistic portrait of the United States' nuclear energy industry, and also wish to be entertained at the same time, see http://RadDecision.blogspot.com for a thriller novel on the topic by a longtime nuclear worker (me). It's free to readers - who seem to like it, judging from their homepage comments.

Hi James,

I like the idea of publishing your book in blog format.

I'm not much of a fan of nuclear power - its too expensive and there are too many externalities without good solutions in my view.

However I'm enough of a realist to realise that a number of countries will push ahead building nuclear power plants, so the nuclear industry is in for something of a reniassance.

But this money would be better spent on renewables and efficiency in my view.

As Australia will prosper from uranium exports,so I'm not going to lose sleep over it...

Hey Big Gav,

I just posted some comments on the program. A few interesting take aways I thought.

Not sure if your software supports trackbacks - the ping didn't work.

The post is here anyway:
http://burrows.typepad.com/burrows/2006/08/the_australian_.html

Cheers,
Tim

Tim - thanks for the link - I like the 'time machine" quip.

My trackback (haloscan) wngine did work a year or two ago, but its been a long time since Ichecked it - best to leave comments (or just click on a link to PE - I see most new referrers in the logs)...

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