Environment

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The case against carbon trading—but is it a fair assessment?

It seems the debate over carbon trading just won’t stay out of the headlines at the moment. The opposition party in Australia—in their usual blatant political opportunism—have decided this week to unveil an alternative climate change policy to carbon trading. However, in spite of calling carbon trading “a great big fat tax”, they have yet to specify how their own policy will be funded—and even worse, it will basically mean business as usual for big polluters anyway. So it’s basically a climate change policy for those who don’t believe in climate change, and for those who think profits for big business should always take precedence over everything else. They want to appear as though they are doing something without actually doing anything useful, while incurring costs to the consumer and pretending it won’t cost them anything. This is hardly surprising, given their present leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

Carbon Trading?

It seems my previous post has turned into a pretty heated discussion as to the merits or otherwise of carbon trading, so seeing as you want to talk about this issue, I thought I should devote a post to it, and move that discussion here (as it is off-topic for that thread). Although I am very certain we should take action on climate change, I am not sure whether carbon trading is the best way to go about it or not. I can certainly see enormous potential benefits to it (especially for the third world), but it is also very complex, and potentially susceptible to corruption and excessive bureaucracy. Anyway, as I’m not sure where I stand, let’s have everybody’s opinions so I can make up my mind. :-)

As to whether carbon trading is a conspiracy or not, I will be devoting a future post to our peculiar willingness to believe in conspiracies, which I suspect is related to our tendency to believe in God. I certainly do not think action on climate change generally is a conspiracy though, as it is very much against the short term interests (in other words, short-sighted greed) of big business. After all, they have always opposed it in the past—and with very good reason, as it hurts their short term profits.

After looking as though no deal might be struck at all, a last minute agreement has been reached at the Copenhagen summit on global change. Although the deal is disappointing, as Obama says, it is only the beginning, not the end, and in my opinion far better than no deal at all. At least now we have something to build on—as Australia’s leading campaigner on climate change Tim Flannery has said, I think we have to accept the political realities, and accept this deal as a positive outcome overall. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s nice to post a good news story for a change! According to a group of scientists from Australia’s Antarctic Division, the ozone hole over Antarctica is now shrinking. This must surely to be a direct result of the Montreal Protocol to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which caused the ozone hole in the first place. I think this clearly demonstrates two things: human activity can indeed have serious effects on the global climate, and human co-operation and positive action can solve those problems. Imagine if George W. Bush were the President at the time. Would the Montreal Protocol have been agreed to? I’ll bet it wouldn’t have—he would have said there was no proof that CFCs damaged the ozone layer, and that the Protocol would have a negative effect on business, jobs and the economy.

Which brings me to the next part of my good news story. At the recent G20 summit, the leaders of the top 20 economies in the world agreed to a very simple measure that I feel will have far reaching consequences—to end fossil fuel subsidies. I’ve always felt it was both extraordinary and ridiculous that—when we really need to encourage the development of alternative energy—the governments of the world are still subsidising fossil fuel production. I am also proud to say that Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spearheaded these changes, even though our economy is currently very highly dependant on fossil fuel exports (particularly coal and gas). It’s hard to imagine that just a few short years ago, both Australia’s Prime Minister and the American President denied climate change, and refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Once again, if they were still in government, it is hard to imagine that the lifting of fossil fuel subsidies would ever have been agreed to (for the reasons cited above).

Of course, that isn’t the only good news to some out of the G20 summit: it is also good to see such widespread co-operation in dealing with the economic crisis (which already appears to have averted another great depression), and that they are taking affirmative action to try and prevent corporate greed from creating such a situation again (such as the measures to control executive salaries).

The computer I am modelling above (in what is certainly one of our more creative compositions I think!) is a Macintosh PowerBook G3 “Wallstreet”, taken from the PowerBook photo set on my main web site. This model was first released eleven years ago this month, so when we took this photo in 2003 (it was one of the very first photo shoots we did), it was already five years old. And believe it or not, it’s still my webmaster/photographer Lee’s main computer! (Although he has upgraded the processor to a scorching 500 MHz!) He also has a second computer (an 800 MHz SuperDrive eMac from 2002) for editing our videos and authoring/burning our DVDs. As for me, I use an original 500 MHz dual USB iBook (or “iceBook”), which coincidentally celebrates its eighth birthday this month. Read the rest of this entry »

While Australia’s new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is infinitely greener than John Howard was (Howard simply didn’t care about climate change at all), I am nevertheless disappointed with the fairly weak emissions targets that his government has set, and the push toward alternative energy (particularly solar in what must be the sunniest nation on earth) could be a whole lot stronger. This is especially so when we need grand new projects to create employment; business sees environmentalism as the enemy of profits and jobs, but this is a very shortsighted and overly simplistic view in my opinion.

In the mean time, the Maldives have vowed to become carbon neutral within a decade, by totally eliminating their dependency on fossil fuels, and switching completely to solar and wind energy. Even though the total cost of this plan will be worth more than their entire annual GDP, it will save them a lot of money in the long run: it should pay for itself in ten years, then after that their energy costs will be cut dramatically from what they are now (as they are currently dependent on oil imports to supply their energy needs). Hopefully they won’t be the only country who does such a calculation.

So why is a country of such modest means (and carbon footprint) as the Maldives leading the way in climate change initiatives? Basically because they—like other low-lying island nations—will be the first countries to be seriously effected by global warming, as predicted sea level rises will mean they are threatened with being under water in the not too distant future. They want to set an example that other nations will follow, in the hope that they will be able to avert this threat to their very existence. As we are such selfish and shortsighted creatures, nothing motivates us like our own self-interest. Read the rest of this entry »

The Story of Stuff

I’ve been intending to write about environmental issues on my blog for some time now (in addition to the socio-political stuff I’ve already covered), but there’s just so much to write about, and so little time! Anyway, until I get around to writing a proper article on this issue, check out this clever site:

The Story of Stuff

Although there’s probably some exaggerations here and there, I certainly agree with the gist of what they’re trying to get across. I think it is especially important to examine these issues in light of the current economic crisis—many people seem to want to put the environment on the backburner until we get our finances in order, but not only can we not afford to do this, I see the destruction of the environment and the financial crisis as symptoms of the same problem: an economic model that is based on endless growth, and encourages ever increasing (over) consumption. We just cannot have limitless growth on a planet with finite resources—at some point, we need to reach an equilibrium with what our planet is capable of sustaining. Switching to renewable energy resources will help a lot, and is essential if we don’t want to face a resources crisis in the near future. Yet even then, we need to ask tough questions about population control and other difficult issues, if we are to survive.

I guess most of you know that I live in the beautiful state of Queensland in Australia. What you may not know though is that recently more than half the state has been under water! Flooding is certainly very normal at this time of year in north Queensland, however the extent and duration of the flooding this year has been extraordinary—some towns have been flooded since the beginning of the year! And while flood waters are now receding in many locations, there is apparently still more to come.

While this has been going on, southern Australia has been experiencing a record drought, which just recently produced a record heat wave. Adelaide has experienced more than a week of temperatures over 40°C (over 104°F), and Melbourne went for 11 days with temperatures over 40°C—both cities’ morgues filled up due to heat related deaths. The heat wave has now ended, but it did so with utterly disastrous results in the state of Victoria. The exceedingly dry conditions resulting from the record drought, and the strong winds that came in ahead of the cool change combined with a 46°C (115°F) day, produced the worst fire conditions on record. And they certainly delivered—untold properties have been lost to ferocious, uncontrollable fires, and the death toll is currently at 181 and counting. Read the rest of this entry »