As evident from the failed G8 meeting at Lâ€™Aquila, Italy, the worst greenhouse gas polluters of the First World support cap-and â€“trade emissions trading scheme (ETS) approaches to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution despite contrary advice from top climate scientists and climate economists. In short, a Carbon Tax is the best way and Carbon Trading is flawed, will not work, is inequitable and will lead to a carbon pricing â€œbubbleâ€ and another market meltdown. Further, top climate scientists say that we must be urgently REDUCING GHG pollution rather than INCREASING it (see â€œ300.org - return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppmâ€).
Nevertheless, environmentalists and environmentalist groups are being seduced into supporting the Carbon Trading ETS approach e.g. that of Obama that is now before the US Senate and the disastrous, proposed, pro-coal Australian ETS . The weak argument they offer is that â€œsomething is better than nothingâ€.
The pro-coal, pro-war Rudd Labor Government of Australia was elected in November 2007 with promises to the electorate that it would stop Australiaâ€™s involvement in Occupied Iraq (18 months since the election, two thirds of Australian troops are still there and there has a big boost to Australian forces in Occupied Afghanistan) and that it would take strong action on man-made climate change (but its post-election actions have been largely confined to rhetoric and propaganda while Australiaâ€™s world-leading per capita Domestic and Exported greenhouse gas pollution continues unabated).
The Rudd Labor Government did sign up Australia to the Kyoto Protocol in 2007 (a decade late) but balanced this by helping the US sabotage the Bali Climate Conference by refusing to agree to definite targets. As a ploy to avoid having to do anything concrete to decrease Australiaâ€™s world-leading Domestic and Exported greenhouse gas pollution (54 tonnes per person per year as compared to a world average per capita GHG pollution of 6.7 tonnes per person per year), the Australian Government appointed an economist Professor Ross Garnaut to research climate change for about a year and then proceeded to propose a softened version of Professor Garnautâ€™s final recommendations.
The Australian Government cap-and-trade Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) proposal was called the â€œCarbon Pollution Reduction Schemeâ€ (CPRS) but the reality as estimated from US Energy Information Administration data is that the Australia ETS will INCREASE Australian Domestic and Exported GHG pollution by about 80% above the 2000 value by 2050 (see â€œAustraliaâ€™s â€œ5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020â€ endangers Australia, Humanity and the Biosphereâ€) whereas top climate scientists are demanding that atmospheric GHG needs to be urgently REDUCED (see â€œExperts: Carbon Tax needed and NOT Cap-and-Trade Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)â€).
Further, top climate scientists and climate economists are increasingly blunt in their assessments that a straightforward Carbon Tax is the way to go and that the cap-and-trade Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach in general is highly flawed; will reward major polluters; has not and most likely will not deliver timely reduction in GHG pollution; and will lead to a destructive market manipulation â€œbubbleâ€ that will make the recent market meltdown look like a picnic (see â€œExperts: Carbon Tax needed and NOT Cap-and-Trade Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)â€).
Politically, the Australian ETS has been a great success for spin-driven, pro-coal, pro-war, pro-US Rudd Labor because it has succeeded in fooling the public into believing that it is actually doing something against climate change â€“ whereas the reverse is true i.e. it is doing nothing concrete to reduce GHG pollution and indeed is doing the reverse by permitting massive expansion of coal burning, gas burning and coal and LNG exports while damaging Australiaâ€™s remaining renewables industry.
While the Greens oppose the ETS as a scam and the conservative Liberal a party-National Party Coalition oppose the ETS because it is flawed and/or may harm particular business interests, an ignorant and media-brainwashed Australian electorate continues to put its faith in an ignorant, dishonest, and dangerously incompetent pro-coal Australian Labor Government.
A recent estimate was that about 25% of Australians opposed the Carbon Trading ETS, with half opposing because it wonâ€™t work and half opposing because they are climate sceptics or are otherwise pro-coal and think it may work.
The great political success of Rudd Labor has been to also split the environmentalist movement. While the over 140 Climate Action Groups who met at the Canberra Climate Action Summit in January 2009 oppose the Governmentâ€™s ETS and want REDUCTION of atmospheric CO2 from the current 390 ppm to 300 ppm, other environmentalists have been persuaded to come out in support of the highly flawed Government ETS that will commit Australia to INCREASING its world-leading GHG pollution.
The pro-ETS environmental groups include the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Climate Institute have now, sadly, been joined by leading Australian environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery. The essential argument appears to be â€œsomething is better than nothingâ€ or as stated by Professor Flannery â€œI personally think they [the Greens] should vote for the CPRS and get it through. Because a first step is better than nothing.â€
Below is a critique of an interview by ABC Lateline presenter Tony Jones with well-known Australian environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery (see ABC TV Lateline 29 June 2009). I have treated this as a kind of â€œstudentâ€™s oral examinationâ€ and have inserted below correcting comments with appropriate references as required in bold in square brackets. Flannery has failed the Examination in key technical areas (it is no excuse that he was originally a Humanities Bachelor of Arts graduate from Melbourneâ€™s Humanities-eminent La Trobe University before embarking on an eminent scientific career) and has also failed the Environment by supporting the pro-coal Australian Governmentâ€™s highly flawed, cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme (ETS) that is misleadingly and paradoxically called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).
In short, the Australian CPRS (that Professor Flannery now supports) involves rigged auctions of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution licences for major GHG polluters with the receipts being largely returned to the major GHG polluters. It is estimated that this CPRS policy means that Australia, one of the Worldâ€™s worst per capita GHG polluters, will INCREASE its Domestic and Exported GHG pollution to 80% above the 2000 level by 2050 (see â€œAustraliaâ€™s â€œ5% off 2000 GHG pollution by 2020â€ endangers Australia, Humanity and the Biosphereâ€).
Parts of the transcript of the ABC Lateline interview with Professor Flannery are given below Â [my comments are in bold in square brackets].
OverallÂ a very Â poor performance by Professor Tim Flannery who has clearly FAILED the â€œexaminationâ€ as well as the environment.
Contrast Professor Flanneryâ€™s weak pro-ETS Â argument that â€œa first step is better than nothingâ€ with the conclusions of the following top climate scientists and climate economists about Emission Trading Schemes (for references and expanded quotes see â€œExperts: Carbon Tax needed and NOT Cap-and-Trade Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)â€).
Professor James Hansen (top US climate scientist; Columbia University; Head, NASA GISS): â€œThe worst thing about cap-and-trade [ETS], from a climate standpoint, is that it will surely be inadequate to achieve the sharp reduction of emissions that is needed. Thus cap-and-trade would practically guarantee disastrous climate change for our children and grandchildrenâ€.
Professor William Nordhaus (Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University, USA): â€œTo bet the worldâ€™s climate system and global environment on an untested [ETS] approach with such clear structural flaws would appear a reckless gamble â€¦The international community should move quickly to replace the current cap-and-trade structure with one in which the central economic mechanism is a tax on greenhouse-gas emissionsâ€.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade (Director of the European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, marine biologist and Professor of Environmental Informatics in the Department of Mathematics at University College London, UK): "His [Nordhausâ€™] idea is very sensible. We need to move the burden of taxation away from labour to resources â€” and tax not just on carbon but other resources such as water to tackle the far wider environmental and resource problems we face
Professor Daniel M. Kammen (Energy and Resources Group and Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley): Â â€œa price on greenhouse gas emissions is essentialâ€.
Professor Barry Brook (Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia): â€œA cap and trade mechanism is by its nature, an all consuming policy instrument thatÂ extinguishes the effectiveness of voluntary actions, harming rather than enhancing theÂ evolution of a low carbon economy ... Â the cap and tradeÂ mechanism is the wrong approach and we should instead focus on a carbon taxâ€.
Dr Robert J. Shapiro (Chair, U.S. Climate Task Force and finance consultancy firm Sonecon; undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs in the Clinton Administration): â€Despite its advocatesâ€™ good intentions, cap-and-trade could put America at risk of another meltdown â€” one originally created and financed by the government itself. None of these painful and difficult issues arise with a carbon tax-shift. Rather, it could enable us to effectively do our part in addressing climate change, while protecting or even enhancing our economic prospects. Thatâ€™s a deal Congress cannot afford to pass upâ€.
Stephen Lendman (leading liberal US analyst and commentator): â€œContributing $4,452,585 to Democrats in 2008 (around $1 million to Obama) was mere pocket change for what it can reap from scams like cap and trade disguised as an environmental plan. The scheme [the Obama ETS and energy bill] was devised. GS [Goldman Sachs] helped write it. The House passed it and sent it to the Senate. Unless stopped, it will transfer more of our wealth to corporate polluters and Wall Street on top of all they've stolen so far from derivatives fraud and the imploded housing and other bubblesâ€.
Kenneth Davidson (respected economics columnist for â€œThe Ageâ€ newspaper, Melbourne; co-editor of â€œDissentâ€):â€There isn't one cap-and-trade scheme in the world that has resulted in a reduction in carbon emissions. Instead, such schemes have made money for the biggest polluters and created a new branch of the derivatives industry that creates new wealth opportunities for brokers and financiers. Rudd's cap and trade scheme benefits the worst polluters. But the Australian scheme is special. It has been rorted at the planning stage â€¦ The carbon scheme is not simply weak. It is fraudulentâ€.
Professor Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University; 2001 Economics Nobel Laureate; former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank), December 2007: â€œThe only principle that has some ethical basis is equal emission rights per capita (with some adjustments - for instance, the US has already used up its share of the global atmosphere, so it should have fewer emission allowances). But adopting this principle would entail such huge payments from developed countries to developing countries, that, regrettably, the former are unlikely to accept it ... Of course, polluting industries like the cap-and-trade system. While it provides them an incentive not to pollute, emission allowances offset much of what they would have to pay under a [Carbon] tax systemâ€.
Photo credit: Mark Coulson, 5th World Conference of Science Journalists