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December 16th, 2008

In the leadup to the release of the White Paper, Kevin Rudd said he’d be aiming for balance, and predicted criticism from both sides

We’ll be attacked from the far right and by various business groups I suppose and certainly the Liberal Party for doing anything at all,” he said.

“We will be attacked by extreme green groups for not taking the most radical course of action.”

This kind of reasoning is often specious. For example, we see the Bush Administration being praised for finding a middle course between the extremists one side who want unlimited torture and those on the other side who want torture banned altogether. But let’s grant Rudd his premise this time.

You have to go a long way to the right to find anyone willing to say the government has done too much. As Tim Lambert points out, the Australian Newspaper, long the main outlet for those happy to reject science and trash the environment, is entirely satisfied.

The other side of Rudd’s prediction is satisfied only if you define “extreme green groups” to mean anyone who cares about the environment.

It’s pretty clear that the government has been willing to dump its own supporters in the hope of wedging Turnbull. This kind of thing is characteristic of the cynical centrism implicit in Rudd’s statement.

The Projectionist hd
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  1. Roger
    December 16th, 2008 at 20:36 | #1

    Spot on JQ – Kev has been conned by the business lobby and their spokespaper “The Australian”. We all expected much more from him. What is it about the office of PM – one year in and they all head to the “dark side”.

  2. Hermit
    December 16th, 2008 at 20:42 | #2

    Just going on gut impressions I’d have to say Rudd looks like a shonk. He broke a core election promise so his moral mandate must now be shaky. He has tried to baffle us with numerical jiggery pokery about population increase. He has invoked technological fantasies about carbon capture.

    Perversely this turnabout could actually worsen consumer confidence as the public seem to be asking for a green shift. A poster on another website has pointed out that Rudd via Garrett has approved a huge expansion in coal exports. Not happy Kevin.

  3. nanks
    December 16th, 2008 at 20:47 | #3

    Rudd has done what I thought he’d do – promote the interests of his constituents. I struggle to see the ‘figurehead’ politicians as doing much more than marketing entrenched power. The major parties differ slightly on whose interests they are promoting, but the overlap is considerable.

    Carbon capture research is a tool to buy time for the coal industry. That is not to say it can’t work, but the information I’ve had from people who seem to understand that stuff is that carbon capture represents high risk poor return compared to other research programs.

  4. charles
    December 16th, 2008 at 21:51 | #4

    I would argue that the only way out of our current economic problem is a green bubble or a war, in my view a green bubble beats a war.

    The only way to kick start the green revolution is a green bubble.

    As a economic policy that sets Australia up for the future Kev has failed through a lack of imagination.

  5. Ubiquity
    December 16th, 2008 at 22:43 | #5

    In my time, I have learnt that you can’t make people change.Particularly in negotiation. The people themselves have to become enlightened, come to understand the situation. If you try and force an agenda upon them it almost always fails even under duress. Things take time.

    The “enlightenment” is more likely when people are empowered as individuals. It may be easier to take them by the hand and lead them to the light, but this will ultimately fail as they do not own their enlightenment, they will be complacent and never truly be passionate and proactive in the cause.

    I am critical of socialist principles for this reason. Rather than creating a mass of believers we are better of having a diverse bunch of well informed individuals. This is not the exclusive territory of intellectuals. If the state has any role in climate change, it is facilitating information and knowledge to the people so that regardless of wealth, education, language, status they have the opportunity to participate in the improvement of our world. The “believing” bit just dosen’t “cut it”.

    Our current political system in its present form is wrong place for changing the world. It will always travel the course of least resistance. However if you win the informed people over its a no brainer for our politicians.

    So climate change policy (or any policy ) starts with the people and ends with the government.

  6. December 16th, 2008 at 22:47 | #6

    This’ll push more votes away from the ALP and towards the Greens. A good thing IMO.

  7. stockingrate
    December 16th, 2008 at 22:47 | #7

    When the housing market in the US started to decline it seemed to take forever for the appropriate order of magnitude of losses (trillion) to be mentioned.

    So a request: how should one frame estimates of loss of life from climate change? my stab: deaths from climate change could well (say >10% chance) top 1 billion in the next 50 years.


  8. wbb
    December 16th, 2008 at 23:32 | #8

    See, the problem is, there’s no way to watch the score with climate change. This week in Melbourne it’s been wet and cold. People are starting to grumble about Christmas weather.

    Where is the DJI for CC? None of the papers even have a Climate Section. Richard Branson and Al Gore should establish an index that we can take our daily bearings from. Complete with death rates.

  9. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2008 at 01:17 | #9

    This’ll push more votes away from the ALP and towards the Greens.

    John Howards intransigence towards AGW action was not something that suddenly happened in 2007. As such I don’t think it was the deciding factor that lost him that election. It seems more likely that he lost because of:-

    1. the “it’s time” factor
    2. general concern about IR reforms.
    3. The ALP stopped bagging tax cuts.

    AGW was a political issue in 2007 but I don’t think it was a deciding issue. The three items that I have listed at least have the merit of being a variation relative to prior elections.

    In terms of the 5% target Andrew Bolt makes the following assessment:-

    “Bottom line: Rudd boasts that he is in fact imposing on each person emission cuts of 34 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020 – the biggest cuts per capita of any country in the world, Britain possibly excepted. Think what it would involve in taxes, costs and fines to get you emitting a third less in just 12 years.”

    Assuming he has his figures straight I can’t see a 34% cut in just 12 years being incredibly popular. If Turnbull turns around some time between now and the next election and promises to replace the ETS with a carbon tax he can hand out tax cuts elsewhere, keep the green energy bias for new power plants and ditch the extremism that a carbon quota represents. In the interum his best bet politically is to give the ALP enough rope to hang itself with.

  10. Hermit
    December 17th, 2008 at 05:29 | #10

    Terje in theory a floating carbon price under a cap should adjust to economic conditions. However in practice what we will get is a staged carbon tax. But that could be 18 months away effectively in the next election cycle. During that time (inc. all of 2009) there will be some tinkering with solar power but no ETS. The climate people won’t be drawn on whether the current cool spell will continue but it looks like the Murray Darling won’t revive even if it is a bit rainy. The Barrier Reef is probably doomed regardless.

    The parallel development will be economic recovery or lack thereof. If it fails to pick up then things could get nasty. Big Coal will be told ‘you got what you wanted and you’re still not happy’. 2009 will be a year of spite.

  11. carbonsink
    December 17th, 2008 at 06:26 | #11

    charles @ 4:

    The only way to kick start the green revolution is a green bubble.

    Spot on. I’ve argued this for some time.

    The problem worldwide is politicians are not prepared to punish people for emitting carbon, doubly so in the midst of the worst downturn in 50 years. The next to follow this trend will be one B. Obama.

    If they’re not prepared to use sticks then the carrots have to be made irresistible. i.e. Outrageous tax concessions, rebates, subsidies etc to a point where the economy is totally distorted.

    Our leaders need to engineer a cleantech bubble. I see no other way forward.

  12. john armour
    December 17th, 2008 at 07:38 | #12

    Ubiquity @ 5

    There are some things only governments can do, like collect taxes and fight wars.

    And in this case the masses are already behind strong action (if polls are to be believed), and whether they are “enlightened” or just “fearful” to me seems irrelevant

    I don’t know what political system you think would be better in this time of crisis, but if action is not taken soon, the vacuum in leadership will be filled by something very green and possibly quite nasty.

    I don’t think we have time to experiment with different models of governance.

  13. Marginal Notes
    December 17th, 2008 at 08:05 | #13

    As I understand it the White Paper is entirely consistent with Garnaut’s 2020 ‘targets and trajectories’ and interim C price – based on his political judgements rather than his detailed analysis of the science or economics – whereas early in the year Penny Wong seemed at pains to distance herself from Garnaut’s findings. How do people explain the ‘convergence’ in recent months between the ‘independent adviser’ and the Rudd government’s own political ‘balancing act’?

  14. Socrates
    December 17th, 2008 at 08:32 | #14

    Marginal Notes

    Are you sure on that? I didn’t think this outcome (5/15 reductions over 2000 levels with compensation to both consumers and producers) had been reported in Garnaut. Apology if I’m wrong but if so, can you tell me what carbon price Garnaut said would result from this outcome? I would have thought the C price resulting will be too low to induce any change in behaviour by energy suppliers.

  15. December 17th, 2008 at 09:43 | #15

    Garnaut suggested that Australia should be willing to commit to a 25% 2020 reduction compared to 2000 levels as part of a global agreement that adds up to a stabilisation target of 450 ppm. This is probably not enough, because it assumes a very late date that different countries converge to equal per-capita emissions. Garnaut’s targets are probably also quite optimistic about the amount of carbon cycle feedbacks.

    Unfortunately, because Rudd has totally ruled out a 25% target, he has sent a signal to the world that Australia is not prepared to play its part in a comprehensive international agreement that stabilises at 450 ppm. Australia is undermining stronger stabilisation targets in international agreements.

    When I asked about this in a White Paper public information session, the response was that for the first time it has been expressed in public policy that a 450 ppm target is desirable. This means nothing if it is not backed up by a commitment for Australia to play its part. Kevin Rudd has treated the Barrier Reef, the Murray Basin, and Kakadu with complete recklessness. It is hard to find words that express my disgust and disappointment with the approach to climate change policy of our Prime Minister.

  16. December 17th, 2008 at 09:56 | #16

    Andrew Bolt?

    Are you seriously suggesting that anything he says about this issue (let alone any other issue) is worthy?

  17. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 17th, 2008 at 10:04 | #17

    John, whilst extremists are venting their anger towards Rudd I don’t think they would go as far as the Rev Jesse Jackson did in July of wanting to cut Obama’s ‘nuts out’.

  18. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2008 at 10:59 | #18

    It seems clear that it will take a major energy crisis and/or a major climate crisis event to convince the general populace and the major governments to take decisive action on clean energy and AGW. Sadly, nothing else will bring the truth home to people. Experts can predict until they are blue in the face.

    At the rate that the Greenland ice is melting, I think sea level rise might be the issue. A metre a decade is not out of the question now. It will take a world crisis and some seriously green governments to turn this thing around now.

  19. smiths
    December 17th, 2008 at 11:27 | #19

    There was a line in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s fourth report that didn’t get the attention it deserved:

    “Dynamic processes related to ice flow not included in present models but suggested by recent observations could increase the vulnerability of the ice sheets to warming, increasing future sea-level rise.”


    what i would like to ask the deniers is this,

    do you believe that 200 years of steadily intensifying industrial production, featuring massive release of smokes and poisons into the air has no long-term adverse effect on the biosphere?

  20. may
    December 17th, 2008 at 11:28 | #20

    Dyesol,an Aust company is,with the steel company Corus(recently bought by Tata)now manufacturing,in Wales,power generating roofing steel.


  21. December 17th, 2008 at 11:46 | #21

    Good to see at least some optimism there – not long ago IIRC you were declaring that we are all dooooooomed. At least you now see a chance of turning it around. What prompted the change?

  22. Peter MacRae
    December 17th, 2008 at 11:53 | #22

    If we look at the newspolling completed on climate change – seems the government has lost momentum and not just from the traditional drastic-action-needed environmentalists. Labour has lost trust on “handling climate change issues” from a percentage point of 45 to 37 from July to October this year. It is not simply those relinquishing support from Labor to the Coalition either, as the “Someone Else” category has shifted upward from 17 to 20 percent. Whilst the coalition has added 3 percentage points of support.

    This would obviously be a shift of the middle ground from environmental concessions to economic conservatism. Surely this is the logical result from current international economic conditions.

  23. charles
    December 17th, 2008 at 13:33 | #23


    I was watching Clinton on letterman saying the same thing 2 months ago. They way he put it was, “we let all this money go into housing, it’s got to go someplace, green energy is where it should go.

    I think we will have our green bubble and Australia will be left behind.

  24. December 17th, 2008 at 13:44 | #24

    How does a 5% reduction from 2000 emissions turn into 27% (and 15% into 34%) because of population growth? That just doesn’t make sense. Or does it?
    Can someone explain this please?

  25. Joe
    December 17th, 2008 at 14:07 | #25

    John, I recall that earlier this year you wrote that if the Government didn’t tackle some “hard” things such as FOI reform in its first year, it never would; and you wrote in September that the Government might go for a Double dissolution. It shows what a petit-bourgeois government (to quote David Marr, from The Monthly) this govt. is, that you were right with your first comment and wrong with your second.

  26. Nick K
    December 17th, 2008 at 14:11 | #26

    I think Labor’s policy at the last election was to have a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020. Yet now they are only in favour of a 15% reduction even with the co-operation of other major emitters.

    This doesn’t make any sense. If 20% was considered feasible even without the co-operation of other emitters, how can 15% now be the limit even with that co-operation?

    Rudd’s approach to the issue has been driven by short-term electoral opportunism. He made a big deal of it in 2007 because it was a popular issue at the time. Now that the economy is looking weaker and people are more focussed on the costs, he is backpedalling.

    Setting targets for 2050 seem pretty meaningless in this context. If targets for 2020 can be altered so often in relatively short periods of time, any commitments for 2050 don’t mean much.

  27. charles
    December 17th, 2008 at 15:16 | #27


    It’s per head, it only makes sense if a lot more people arrive in Australia.

    100 people produce 100 tonnes = 10000 tonnes.

    A reduction of 5% for the 100 people
    100*95 = 9500 tonnes.

    A reduction of 35% per person is 65 tonnes per person.

    n*65 = 9500
    n = 146 persons.

    If the population of Australia goes up by 46% from the reference year then they are not speaking rubbish. It’s for others to judge if 46% is a realistic figure. I suspect it isn’t.

  28. December 17th, 2008 at 15:49 | #28

    Thanks Charles, I think I get it now.

    So they start out in absolute terms (all Australia’s emissions less 5%) but turn it into a high per-capita figure by projecting a big increase in population while holding total emissions steady.

    That’s still nuts as a ‘population’ policy, though. What are they all going to drink? Are they all going to be coal miners driving around in V8s? Isn’t that somwhere in the order of 32million people in 12 years time?


  29. mp
    December 17th, 2008 at 17:03 | #29

    I think it is wrong to say that you have to go to the far right to find people who think the Government has gone too far, with all the major business groups raising concerns.

    From my reading, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the BCA, Australian Industry Group and the Minerals Council (all who accept the need to do something about climate change) have expressed concerns over the Government’s target.

    And note that AI Group is normally fairly supportive of Labor.

    Specifically, AI Group argues that the start date should be postponed, the BCA argues the 5% target is more aggressive than that proposed by other developed nations, ACCI argues that business will “remain apprehensive”, with business and the community hit with “very high costs of industry restructuring” and the Minerals Council argued that the target sets “too high a price” and that it is “profoundly disappointed”.

    It is a huge stretch to argue that all these groups are far right.

  30. Hermit
    December 17th, 2008 at 18:05 | #30

    From a graph I inferred Australia’s 1990 population was a bit over 17 million. The current thinking seems to be 24 million by 2020. Not sure what they’ll be using for food and fuel by then.

    Like I said if it backfires badly for the captains of industry we’ll all be shedding tears. They got their golden carriage but it turned into a pumpkin. I’d like to see a sticker that says ‘Save the Reef. Get rid of Mining’.

  31. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2008 at 19:04 | #31

    Re #21. Actually AR, applying my most logical assessment I don’t have much hope that things can be turned around. However, I don’t like to be relentlessly gloomy because (a) I depress myself, (b) nobody will listen to a total doom merchant and (c) I might be wrong.

    I’m not sure why at this stage in history we have been / are stuck with God-bothering politicians like Blair, Bush and Rudd. (If I was God those three would bother me I can tell you.)

    These men are self-styled ‘tough’, ‘conviction’ politicians when it comes to the meat-grinder called war. Yet they are over-cautious do-nothing populist consensus fence-sitters when it comes to the real challenges of the age namely global warming and energy security.

    Imagine if the trillions blown on the Iraq war, the US housing bubble and subsequent financial meltdown had been spent on ramping up genuine renewable energy. It would have made a vast difference I believe.

  32. charles
    December 17th, 2008 at 19:22 | #32

    Thanks Hermit
    24 – 17 = 7
    7/17*100/1 = 41%

    46% 41% whats 5% between friends.

  33. charles
    December 17th, 2008 at 19:28 | #33

    Is the reference year really 1990? I haven’t seen that small detail reported. If it is the reduction is greater than 5% as our emissions will be greater in 2008.

    If they are using 1990 as the base year they really are out to wedge the Liberals. Suckers.

  34. TerjeP
    December 17th, 2008 at 19:45 | #34

    Barp – grow up.

  35. Ubiquity
    December 17th, 2008 at 20:07 | #35

    John Armour @ 12

    I don’t disagree that there is a place for government, but I suggest that the process of governance should start by educating the people. You could suggest that this may be expensive, and practically impossible, but a strategy of governance that encourages and attracts the interest of the people in making a decision is a much more viable long term strategy than one that elicits fear.

    The “Fear instrument” is a lot like a financial instrument with a AAA rating. It looks secure and profitable but as has clearly borne out lately the fundamentals of the many financial instruments are fundamentally flawed.

    So their is a fudamentally big difference between enlightment and fear if you are looking for long term permenant change.

    The system of governance is already their it just needs to start with the people. The government dosen’t own the process the people should. You might say they do but on climate change it looks to me like the agendas are all on one big runaway goverment subsidised truck. No one is completely happy.

    Say the Climate Change campaign was introduced without the fear (and blame) factor, would the progress to a “greener world” have been faster or slower. I would suggest that it would at a minimum have been on par or more progressed but with sound fundamentals. That was my point.

    Time is what we need if we are to implement long term change. You must not underestimate the ability of man who time an again has proven his intellect in making his world a better place.

    When government controls the agenda you get blab like the white paper or a war or something wasteful. This is less likely to happen if well informed people have more say in governance.

    I personally have no appetite for fear mongering and I would be dismissive of its premise, it would only increase my skepticism.

    Of course you may feel this is either irrelvant or impossible. If so be prepared to be dissapointed.

  36. December 17th, 2008 at 20:52 | #36

    Australia’s target under the Kyoto Protocol was 108 per cent of 1990 emissions by 2012. If we are lucky we will just manage to meet that target. Therefore, a 5 per cent cut on 1990 (slightly less than 2000 emissions) by 2020 will mean that between 2012 and 2020 Australia’s target will be cutting emissions by 13 per cent in eight years on 1990 emissions. By stating it is 5 per cent, the Government is trying not to scare the alarmists. Frankly, the target announced by the Government is probably the only one that has a chance of getting through the Senate. Those who prefer to wallow in purity rather tnan reality can take confort when there is nothing in place by 2010 and the Coalition is in charge of the agenda.

  37. jquiggin
    December 17th, 2008 at 21:53 | #37

    It’s 5 per cent on 2000 levels, I think

  38. john armour
    December 17th, 2008 at 21:56 | #38

    Ubiquity @ 35

    If fear is what’s driving the polls, then government is certainly not behind it. Nor the media. And certainly not “The Australian”!

    Maybe folk just are starting to believe their lyin’ eyes ?

    I would be delighted (and amazed) if 70% (?) of Australians were logging onto RealClimate.org and getting to grips with the science ( ie, getting “enlightened”) but I think this would be unrealistic. Climate science is difficult.

    I’m just glad that a big majority now believe we have a problem and that the government should be doing something about it, for whatever reasons.

    If you’re looking for a reason however why “progress to a greener world” has been sandbagged I would suggest that it is simply because the environment has always been “owned” by the Left.

    And some on the Right would prefer to drown than hear the words “we told you so”.

  39. December 17th, 2008 at 22:12 | #39

    if you look up the “executive summary” for the white paper at the http://www.climatechange.gov.au website you will see that the “5%” is off 2000 level emissions but the population growth projection is from 1990 to 2020, so the figures are still a bit wobbly. The ABS projections of population seem to range from about 30M to 41M in 2056.

    Terje: what? Because I can’t believe anyone could take Andrew Bolt seriously? OK, matter for you.

  40. Joe
    December 18th, 2008 at 00:29 | #40

    Besides the dodgy population growth assumptions used by Rudd, the other thing wrong with the Bolt type of claim is that Australians emit per capita 2.5 times the carbon emissions of Europeans per capita, so notwithstanding their advantages (eg nuclear power) we should be able to cut excessive emissions a lot more easily. Because of this huge difference, Rudd’s “higher than European” percentage cuts in Australia will still take 40 years to catch up to current Euro levels. As noted on LP and here- http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/rudds-defence-of-target-contains-some-telling-omissions-20081216-6zwa.html

  41. December 18th, 2008 at 05:32 | #41

    John Quiggin. it is 5-15 per cent on 2000 figures. But an accompanying table allowing a direct comparison with European Union, the UK and the US shows a target of 5-15 per cent on 2000 figures relates to 4-14 per cent on 1990 figures. This table shows the Australian per capita reduction on its target as 34-41 per cent below 1990 levels, the EU target of 20-30 per cent below 1990 levels as representing 24-34 per cent per capita reduction below 1990 levels, the UK target of 26-32 per cent below 1990 levels as representing 33-39 per cent per capita reduction below 1990 levels and the US target of a return to 1990 levels by 2020 as being 25 per cent per capita reduction below 1990 levels. The latter is presumably because of an increase in popuation.

  42. stan longbottom
    December 18th, 2008 at 05:41 | #42

    2008 looks like being the 10th hottest year on record and 15th hottest in Australia.

    What should the green movement do if the actual data continues to diverge from the predictions of the IPCC gods?

    Perhaps a national sorry day for all those with a financial incentive or marxist bent who had misguided the general public on the fate of mankind, increased costs for energy and destroyed jobs?

  43. Hermit
    December 18th, 2008 at 05:58 | #43

    The climate people are hinting that 2009 could be another relatively cool year, at least away from the poles. The GW deniers will be cock-a-hoop and the captains of industry will call for a return to the glory days. However I think there are enough obstacles in the system to prevent that. If mid latitude warming comes back strongly after that coupled with Katrina-like events then the knives will be out. In the meanwhile those of us who still believe in AGW may just have to suck it in and wait to be vindicated.

  44. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 18th, 2008 at 07:57 | #44

    “Are you seriously suggesting that anything he says about this issue (let alone any other issue) is worthy?”

    Barp – the mere fact that I tune in to the John Quiggin blog should tell you that I have a high level of tolerance for ideologues and that I’m willing to look for ideas with merit in all manner of places. I quoted some numbers from Andrew Bolt and qualified the quote with an “if true” remark. On the other hand your remark about Andrew Bolt was without qualification and showed a basic lack of manners. Would you prefer that I don’t cite my sources when quoting numbers?

    If you think Andrew Bolt has the numbers wrong then just say so.

  45. Mike
    December 18th, 2008 at 09:09 | #45

    “2008 looks like being the 10th hottest year on record and 15th hottest in Australia. What should the green movement do if the actual data continues to diverge from the predictions of the IPCC gods?”

    stan – 10th & 15th since 1850 are consistent with the IPCC predictions. or do you require one record year after another, in a smooth progression?

  46. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 18th, 2008 at 09:19 | #46

    John, it seems like Labor and the Liberals have got to lift their game when it comes to climate change for the EU has not balked at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Given Labor’s disasterous White Paper on climate change it is not hard to imagine what the next polls will show. Maybe it is time both Labor and the Coalition move on from their old mind-set ways and come down to earth a bit. The only real winners so far on the climate change debate has been the Greens who are on a roll.

  47. December 18th, 2008 at 15:14 | #47

    But you didn’t just “quote some numbers” from a source. You repeated the spin that went with it and then added your assessment after the “if true” caveat to conclude that we’ll all be rooned by having to slash our personal emissions by 34% in just 12 years and the ALP will cop it.
    As others above have pointed out, there are two main problems with these figures. Firstly, that’s a huge population growth (improbable, unsustainable even). Secondly, what bulk of our emissions come from industries (eg. Aluminium) with questionable correlation to Australia’s population level?

    We must have different opinions about Andrew Bolt.

    But people in positions with such high exposure earn their reputation/credibility by their own track record. He owns his, he diligently made it himself.

  48. charles
    December 18th, 2008 at 16:17 | #48


    Why do you have to treat nut cases seriously. Andrew Bolt has earned such disrespect.

  49. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 18th, 2008 at 16:50 | #49

    “Why do you have to treat nut cases seriously.”

    I just like you guys and I think it’s important that somebody keep an eye on you.

  50. Hermit
    December 18th, 2008 at 17:25 | #50

    I think we have to ask questions like could we afford to let go of the aluminium industry? They use 11% of Australia’s electrical output paying a fraction of what households pay per kilowatt hour. Even supposedly hydro powered smelters have gas or coal plants at the ready nearby. Alternative approaches include aggressive recycling such as 50c deposits on soft drink cans. If they moved to China (unlikely since China is a now a net coal importer) we could slap on a tariff as the metal arrives back at the docks. If they changed technology they might even be able to use a more variable grid with emphasis on windpower not coal. Maybe we just have to pay more for aluminium at the expense of say car fuel for Sunday driving.

    The industry points out it has reduced fluoride emissions and some other superficialities. But nobody really knows how much we could reduce aluminium demand, find substitutes or major carbon energy savings because Rudd has given them no incentive.

  51. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2008 at 17:37 | #51

    To put a little more detail on what’s being proposed.

    2000 emissions were 551 Mt of CO2=e.

    A 5% reduction from that would take us to approximately 526 Mt.

    Our 1990 emissions were 547 Mtonnes meaning our recently reaffirmed Kyoto target of 108% of 1992 levels equates to roughly 590 MT.

    So Rudd’s proposing a cut to roughly 4% below 1990 or a 12% cut from what was agreed at Kyoto by the Howard government.

    The most recent National greenhouse accounts – for 2006, show total emissions of 576 Mtonnes.

    So without allowing for any increase since 2006, the reduction being proposed is from 576 Mt to 526 Mt. That’s a 9.7% cut.


    The EU-15 is on track to cut emissions by 8% from 1990 by 2012. The largest part of that comes from the shut-down of East German industry.

    The EU has committed to cutting emissions to 80% of 1990 by 2020. So on top of their current commitment they’re committing to cut by roughly an additional 15%.


    A 15% reduction from 2000 levels would take Australia to 468 Mt.

    Relative to 2006 emissions that’s a reduction of roughly 18%.

    Relative to 1990 it’s a cut of roughly 15%.

    All I’m trying to do here is get a handle on the actual figures involved and sort out the various tears and levels bandied about.

  52. Ian Gould
    December 18th, 2008 at 17:42 | #52

    “I think we have to ask questions like could we afford to let go of the aluminium industry? They use 11% of Australia’s electrical output paying a fraction of what households pay per kilowatt hour. Even supposedly hydro powered smelters have gas or coal plants at the ready nearby.”

    If we “let go” of the aluminium industry will global output fall or simply relocate to other countries with worse environemntal records?

    If letting go results in higher aluminium prices and more use of heavier steel and copper components in cars and planes, will the resulting increase in fuel use wipe out any greenhouse benefits?

  53. December 18th, 2008 at 21:32 | #53

    From a game theoretical perspective Rudd’s two tier cutting strategy is correct. It makes policy sense for Rudd to put a lower bound of carbon emission cuts in the event of a global non-agreement.

    There is absolutely no point in AUS cutting our emissions if the big players – esp developing world IND & PRC – do not sign onto effective cuts. No point in excessively cutting our nose to spite the national face when the global face is turned the other way.

    The only problem with his lower bound is that it should have been lower: zero cuts (or even default growth) in emissions. A derisory lower bound sends the message that developing world non-agreement is effective failure.

    OTOH the upper bound cuts contingent on global agreement should have been higher. AUS’s upper bounds should be set at a level that would bring the developed worlds total emissions consistent with 450 ppm by 2020. Assuming the developing world signs on to commensurate constraints.

    Undoubtedly the political constraints of massive per capita cuts held his hand on upper bound cuts. Most of the new ALP voters in semi-rural and urban fringe electorates in NSW and QLD are not committed Greenies. THey are energy-cost sensitive due to the enormous amount of time they spend in the cars going to work or running home entertainment systems since it is too expensive to go out.

    Rudd’s biggest carbon policy crime is his massive immigration program. AUS’s carbon cuts could have been much higher still (through economic affordability and political preferability) if our projected immigration explosion was curtailed.

    Massive growth in AUS’s gross total of carbon emissions is being driven massive growth in AUSs population. SO it is logically necessary for AUS make much higher per capita cuts so that we come in under our total emission quota.

    I predicted this dilemma a few months ago on this blog and got rubbished for my trouble. But the immigration chicken will unerringly find its way home to roost, despite the panglosses of “environmental economists”. No names no pack drill.

    Immigration remains a suppressed viewpoint in the climate change debate. The elephant in the living room that makes a mockery of all our carefully calibrated calculations.

    Of course immigration is a taboo subject that is right off the table amongst civilized people. So I was a bad person to even mention it.

  54. Hermit
    December 19th, 2008 at 06:15 | #54

    Ian note that the Rudd govt is assisting increases in coal export capacity to 300 Mtpa. 300 X 2.4 = 720 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

    In conjunction with the new high immigration policy it seems we get other countries to do our dirty work then consume more and more of the products here.

  55. December 19th, 2008 at 08:49 | #55

    Has anyone given any thought to the proposition that financially intermediated Emission
    Trading Schemes might not be the best way to go in light of recent revelations regarding this class of institutional facility? I mean it’s not like we have no reason to suspect the activities of traders may occasionally me counter-productive.

    The USE’s version of ETS has been plagued by rorts, swindles and pork-barrelling to vested interests. God knows how the USAs version will turn out, administered by aChicago politician and staffed by Wall Street types hungry for a new score.

    But ETS conforms to “rights-and-process” model of post-modern liberalism. So everything must be OK.

  56. Hermit
    December 19th, 2008 at 13:11 | #56

    The US EPA’s sulphur dioxide auction seems to have far fewer gremlins than the EU CO2 scheme. Perhaps it doesn’t tolerate the queue of triers-on wanting to claim offsets. Those same offsets would re-emerge as tax deductions under a straight carbon tax and most would be equally unverifiable.

    Interestingly in the early days the SO2 auction was run by an outfit called the Chicago Climate Exchange but now the govt dept seems to run it alone. Another outfit called the California Air Resources Board or similar seem to be as muddle headed as the EU. If Obama gets the Federal EPA to run a CO2 auction they might get it right.

  57. Ian Gould
    December 19th, 2008 at 14:35 | #57

    Hermit, it has more to do with the fact the sulphur dioxide program has actually been running for a decade and has had time to sort itself out whereas this year is the first year of real trading on the EU market (previously trading was voluntary).

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