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Dr Gideon Polya
Dr Gideon Polya

Australian Labor Victorious - but not Green Enough

Decent, pro-Peace, pro-Environment and pro-Planet Australians were delighted with the result of the recent Australian Federal Election that terminated the incompetent, nearly 12 year rule of the climate criminal, climate change sceptic, Bush-ite Coalition and gave Labor under Kevin Rudd a “Rudd-slide†victory and a majority of about 2 dozen seats in the Australian House of Representatives. Further, many Labor seats were won with Australian Green “preferences†in Australia’s “preferential voting†system and the Greens may end up with about half a dozen seats in the Senate.

Rudd Labor is VASTLY better than its climate criminal predecessor, the utterly irresponsible, climate change sceptic, Kyoto non-signatory, Bush-ite Coalition. Rudd Labor will sign Kyoto and increase renewable energy supply from about 1% to 20% by 2020 - but it is still NOT GOOD ENOUGH in relation to constraining greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as explained below.

“Annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution†in tonnes CO2/person/year (2004 estimates) is 19.2 (for Australia), 19.7 (the US), 18.4 (Canada), 4.2 (the World), 3.6 (China), 1.0 ( India) and 0.25 (for Bangladesh) (2004 data from the US Energy Information Administration ; see also "War on Terra, Climate Criminals").

However Labor’s stated policy of "60% CO2 emissions reduction by 2050" with constant population would mean 8 tonnes CO2 per person per year as compared to China's present 3.6 - an unwitting precise re-statement of former Australian Labor leader Arthur Calwell's appalling racist statement back in 1947 (when he was Immigration Minister administering the racist White Australia Policy) : "Two Wongs do not make a White".

However the situation is much worse than this (as if this wasn’t bad enough). Thus this turns out to be a superficial analysis because it does not take into account Australia’s role as a major fossil fuel EXPORTER. Australia is the world’s #1 exporter of coal and is also a major exporter of natural gas. Even though we Australians do not actually burn the coal and natural gas we export OURSELVES, we are still morally responsible for what happens to it.

Thus consider the moral culpability if you give a loaded gun to a child, knowingly sell dangerous products (e.g. alcohol and tobacco kill about 7 million people annually) or, as in this actual global warming scenario, you extract fossil fuels and sell them in the full knowledge that you are profiting fro the destruction of the Planetary homeostasis.

To forestall arguments about “responsibility†here, we must turn for expert advice to one of the World’s leading bioethicists, Professor Peter Singer (formerly of Melbourne’s La Trobe University and Monash University but now De Camp professor of Bioethics at the prestigious Princeton University, New Jersey and also associated with the University of Melbourne). Professor Singer is widely regarded as the world’s most influential living philosopher, particularly because of his book “Animal Liberationâ€.

Professor Singer states “that we are responsible not only for what we do but for what we could have prevented†( “Writings on an Ethical Lifeâ€, Ecco Press, New York, 2000). Singer’s exploration of active’ and “passive’ harm has been developed in relation to experienced hospital doctors who will administer pain relief but not sustenance to severely disabled infants by way of “passive euthanasiaâ€. According to Singer “Doctors who deliberately leave a baby to die when they have the awareness, the ability, and the opportunity to save the baby’s life, are just as morally responsible for the death as they would be if they had brought it about by a deliberate , positive action†(Kuhse, H. & Singer, P., “Should the Baby Live? The Problem of Handicapped Infantsâ€, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985).

For agnostic humanists who regard Man as highly-evolved, self-replicating and self-repairing, sentient, organized matter, biochemist Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics may also be relevant: “A robot [Man] may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harmâ€.

I repeat, Australia’s exporting of huge quantities of fossil fuels in the certain knowledge that their combustion will contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG)-induced global warming and climate genocide makes Australia responsible for the deleterious, mortal consequences as surely as if it were launching bombing sorties against the impoverished, GHG-threatened people of the Third World.

Referring to the US Energy Information Administration (USEIA) we see that “Australia has sizable natural gas reserves located in offshore basins, and the country is the fifth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world; Australia is the world’s fourth largest coal producer and largest net exporter; Australia is heavily dependent on coal to generate electricityâ€.

We can crucially take the USEIA “10-year energy data series†in relation to fossil fuel use by AUSTRALIA for a period that conveniently covers much of the nearly 12 years (1996-2007) in which Australia has been egregiously mis-ruled by the extreme right-wing Bush-ite Liberal Party-National Party Coalition (see: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/country_time_series.cfm?fips=AS#coal) and use this data to estimate future CO2 pollution, assuming a constant rate of increase of fossil fuel use.

When you plot “annual fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide (CO2)†(millions of tonnes CO2) versus time (1997-2005) you end up with a beautiful straight line defined by 9 data points and a positive slope indicating a roughly constant rate of increase of about 12 million tonnes CO2 per year. Some of the salient values in “millions of tonnes CO2†are 327 (1997), 432 (2007), 588 (2020) and 948 (2050) (the data after 2005 being from extrapolation of the line).

Similarly, when you plot “annual coal exports†in “millions of tonnes†versus time you get a nice straight line defined by 10 data points. Assuming that combustion of this coal is only 50% efficient in producing CO2 we can convert the data points to “millions of tonnes CO2†produced each year, with salient values being 302 (1997), 524 (2007), 1035 (2020) and 1700 (2050) (the data after 2006 being from extrapolation).

Remarkably, a plot of “annual natural gas production†in billions of cubic feet†versus time also yields a beautiful straight line for the Coalition period defined by 10 points. Noting that about one third of the natural gas produced is exported and assuming 100% combustion to CO2 (noting that methane, CH4, is a more damaging greenhouse gas than CO2) we can convert the data to “millions of tonnes of CO2†produced each year from this exported natural gas, salient values being 20 (1997), 28 (2007), 49 (2020) and 77 (2050) (the data after 2006 being from extrapolation).

Making this assumption of maintenance of the remarkably constant growth observed for the above parameters in the Coalition rule period, we can then calculate “total annual fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution†in “millions of tonnes of CO2†for various scenarios and at various points in time.

Thus with a neo-conservative, climate sceptic, flat earth position of “no GHG amelioration†we have 984 (2007), 1672 (2020) and 2725 (2050).

With the Rudd policy of “20% renewable energy by 2020†and “60% reduction of CO2 emissions on present 2007 values by 2050†we can estimate 984 (2007), 1554 (2020) and 1950 (2050) (72% of the “do nothing†scenario).

With a Super-Green policy of keeping all fossil fuels in the ground (the Greens actually wanted to phase out coal mining within 3 years and were howled down by both Labor and the Coalition) and the Greens policy of “80% reduction of CO2 by 2050†we end up with 86 million tonnes CO2 in 2050, or only about 3% of that in the “do nothing†scenario.

Go Greens!

However there is another aspect of this simple assessment of CO2 pollution outcomes, namely the “racial†or “ethnic†aspect. I am in practice rather like Kevin Rudd in being an “economic conservative†(would you knock back a dead cert tip for a horse race? Would you knock back the Coalition Treasurer Peter Costello’s “socialism for superannuants†scheme that was extraordinarily generous?). However my fundamental ideology is that of the great Jeffersonian moral injunction in the American Declaration of Independence: “All Men are created equal and have an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness†– and, again, I would be sure that Labor’s Kevin Rudd would share my belief in this injunction.

However White Australia has had a sorry history when it comes to the Equality of All Men – thus the Aboriginal Genocide involved the collapse of the Indigenous Population from about 1 million on Invasion Day in 1788 to only about 0.1 million a century later (mainly through dispossession, deprivation, disease and violence). The Aboriginal Genocide continued into the 20th century with the Stolen Generations (0.1 million children being forcibly removed from their mothers), forced labour akin to slavery and horrendous living conditions. Indeed the annual death rate†today is 2.2% for Indigenous Australians, 2.4% (for Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory), 2.5% (for Australian sheep), 2.7% (for Occupied Iraqi under-5 year old infants), and 6.7% (for Occupied Afghan under-5 year old infants) – as compared to 0.1% (for White Australian under-5 year old infants) (see “Racism in Australiaâ€).

White Australia also persecuted Chinese immigrants in Australia by discrimination, pogroms and “Chinaman huntsâ€. Indeed in 1901 the first Australian Prime Minister and Father of the notorious White Australia Policy, Edmund Barton, declared that “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of an Englishman and the Chinaman†( Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton debating the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Bill (1901) that came to be known as the White Australian Policy; See "Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History" (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998, Chapter 17). As noted earlier, in 1947 Labor Immigration Minister (and later Labor Leader) Arthur Calwell notoriously stated “Two Wongs do not make a Whiteâ€.

Well, when we see the “total annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 emissions†in 2050 (assuming no population increase) we see 130 (“Bush-ite do nothing scenarioâ€), 74 (Rudd Labor “keep extracting fossil fuels and 60% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 scenarioâ€) and 4 (the Greens’ “stop fossil fuel extraction, 80% reduction by 2050 scenarioâ€). The current value for China is about 4, that for India 1 and that for Bangladesh 0.25. The Australian Greens evidently believe in the Equality of Man in practice - as well as in saving the Planet. Rudd Labor will have to re-assess its position – it is not good enough to just bail water out of the sinking boat, you have to bail ENOUGH to ensure survival and you have to bail your FAIR SHARE.

Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has just published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950†(G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/1375/247 and http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com). He is very actively involved in a Melbourne, Australia Climate Action Group. For his commentary on global warming as a painter of HUGE polemical paintings, see: “US Nuclear, Greenhouse & Poverty Threats. “Apocalypse Now†Paintingâ€: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/17652/42/ and “War on Terra, Climate Criminals. “Terra†paintingâ€: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/15671/42/).

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