A tiny bit of good news

Putin has signed the Kyoto protocol, which brings it into force. For the foreseeable future, constructive international action of this kind is going to have to be undertaken without the support of the United States, and therefore of US client states like Australia. However, a designed system of emission credits and taxes may put pressure on non-ratifying countries to cut their emissions – Howard has promised that Australia will do this anyway, which doesn’t make much sense as far as I can see.

13 thoughts on “A tiny bit of good news

  1. “and therefore of US client states like Australia”

    Ouch! But is Australia really a client, or just highly sympathetic give the similarities in culture and governing parites?

  2. When the topic of Kyoto came up during the course of the election, eyes turned toward yours truly for some elucidation. I had to confess to being as ignorant about it as the representation of the community assembled there. Yes we understood it meant signing up to some motherhood goals on greenhouse emissions, but other than that total ignorance prevailed. The general consensus was that Kyoto would probably mean higher electricity bills, among other things, a bone of contention among South Australians, given that privatisation has ended the cross subsidies from wholesale users to retail consumers recently.

    Now while it was agreed that reducing greenhouse emissions was a nice idea, there certainly was no agreement on how Australia should go about it. I raised the point that it might well be possible for Australia to reduce GE by switching all of its power generation from coal and natural gas to nuclear generation and presumably have a major impact on meeting any proscribed targets. Well that would go over like a lead balloon with the Greenies was the consensus. Also it would be possible for Australia to offshore its GE by cutting back on value adding in Aust. Rather than smelting aluminium, steel, etc here and casting and machining engine blocks for export, as engines or in cars, you could ship the raw materials to China and let them do it for you. That would thrill workers at Holdens Elizabeth plant they agreed. Does it mean developed countries simply make economic sacrifices to reduce emissions, only to see them rise in less developed countries. All in all a large degree of ignorance about what Kyoto means, but certainly a lot of concerns and questions. It would seem they are generally happy to leave it to Howard’s better judgement in a roundabout way. The Greenies have a long way to go here.

    Perhaps John would like to blog on the state of play of Kyoto for a serious discussion of the issues and what it means for Australian workers?

  3. Non carbon based energy is the only way now possible. With some sort of fission or fusion energy to keep the CO2 from rising, perhaps even using it to reduce the CO2 content of the atmosphere, we might stagger on. Moreover oil will run out eventually, if large numbers of the worlds population, are not to freeze in the dark something must be done. Did you see the program about the last of the viking settlers in Greenland, when the mini iceage happened? Parts of russia,america, and canada have a mini-iceage every winter.

  4. Observa’s comments seem to indicate a belief that the cure is percieved as being worse than the disease. Perhaps if weather people on morning TV were less ambiguous about the causes of exceptional weather events (“Gee Whiz! Wasn’t that a storm last night! Wonder why that happened!”) people would begin to see that climate change has costs attached. However it would appear that we have passed the point where social action is a possible way to respond to such changes.

  5. Gordon said:

    “Perhaps if weather people on morning TV were less ambiguous about the causes of exceptional weather events (“Gee Whiz! Wasn’t that a storm last night! Wonder why that happened!”) people would begin to see that climate change has costs attached.”

    A quote from the Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer is informative in this regard:

    “During the late 18th century, the climate of Western Europe became highly variable. The years from 1778 to 1781 were exceptionally warm, with long hot summers and mild winters. Then the pattern reversed. From 1782 to 1787, Europe and America suffered hard winters, wet summers and short harvests. In 1788, the weather was even worse. Throughout western Europe, crops rotted in the fields. In France that year the final blow was a fantastic hailstorm that dropped stones as heavy as 8 pounds, KILLING ANIMALS (my emphasis) and ruining what remained of the ripening grain.”

    Let’s leave observations on climate change to the experts rather than having morning TV hosts making uninformed links between unusual weather and global warming.

  6. Pr Q continues his slow-mo post-electoral melt-down:

    constructive international action of this kind is going to have to be undertaken without the support of the United States, and therefore of US client states like Australia.

    I know that Pr Q is feeling a little tender because the Coalition of the Willing parties have not suffered any electoral sanction for their various misdeeds. But alleging that Howard caused “massve suffering” speculating that Reagan “ran a severe risk of destroying the entire world” and now unconditionally condemning AUS as a “client state” is a throw-back to the hysterical rhetoric of undergraduate Leftism.
    It may well be that, in defence-related matters, AUS is a “client-state” of the US. There is a good reason for this cliency. It follows from the monopolistic economics of defence public goods. Pr Q does not need me to teach him how to suck eggs on that score. But he should, in deference to his less economicly literate readers, brief them on these matters.
    Of course Downer has knocked back the US on extra troops for Iraq and edged away from the defence of Taiwan. Not exactly a client there.
    If AUS were an abject client of the US then we would be pulling out of all international treaties not ratified by US Congress. AUS had, last time I checked, not withdrawn from the International Criminal Court.
    I am not sure that AUS’s non-ratification of Kyoto has been done out of slavish devotion to the US’s energy lobby-infested GOP. There are domestic political constituencies to attend to.
    Anyone remember this scene?

  7. As regards the ICC, having been one of the strongest proponents of the Court, we came close to not ratifying when the US changed its mind, and the government has been very quiet on the subject ever since.

    So I agre with you, Australia is a diplomatic/military client state, but not an abject one. As to the merits or otherwise of this stance, a longer post is probably needed.

  8. Mark Upcher, fair point. I should have done better than the brief and testy comment I gave. In my comment on Prof. Quiggin’s “Kyoto Ratified” post of 23/10/04, I referenced a couple of papers about the cost of global warming. When I have a moment, I will try to provide some refs. on the costs of Kyoto. We can only rationally decide whether the cure is worse than the disease (which I understand to be the point of Observa’s comment) after considering the costs of doing nothing against the costs of ratification of Kyoto.

  9. The true test of a “client state” is whether a nation state subordinates its immediate interests to another nation state independent of party or office holders.
    I am not sure that the ALP would have been such enthusiastic supporters of various US military intitiatives. But I think that they would have tagged with the US into Iraq along eventually.
    Perhaps Pr Q is suggesting that the L/NPs are a “client party” to the REPs. He would not get far paddling up that creek. The L/NP deviate from the REPs on many issues, border control, public health and stem cells, just to name a few.
    The LIBs are, I will grant, a bit cosy with the REPs on bread and butter issues like defence procurement and trade/investment agreeements. This may be due to some ministerial or official hanky panky, perhaps Pr Q can enlighten us.
    In reality, the LIBs and and REPs share a common ideology, of conservative-liberalism. So it is not surprising that their views are identified on many occasions. The conservative parties also draw their support from similar constituencies, capitalistic businessmen and nationalistic rural folk, so its not surprising that they pipe the same tune, given the similarity of payers.
    I expect that virtually all LN/P decisions are based on national, not hegemonial, considerations. I note that the resistance to the ICC came from the back-bench, not the cabinet, and was based on the concerns of constituents. Even the poorest meanest he in the land got a vote.
    Finally, it does not harm to remember that AUS is a province of that greater nation of Anglo-America – itself a descendant of the British Empire. This nation has not taken the trouble to become formally instituted as a state but its several provinces have much common interest with the US/UK imperial core, by virtue of shared traditions in lineage, language and liturgy. So I would expect AUS to fall into line with US/UK on many issues because of our common patrimony.

  10. My take on blue collar workers is they understand the tradeoffs with Kyoto implicitly. They are aware of the overall problem it is designed to tackle, but aren’t exactly sure about solutions being proposed. Implicitly they understand the difference between adhering to some agreed legislation and adhering to the actual intent. It is no good public car pool liberals(only limousines in US) lecturing them on the need to uphold the letter of the law with Kyoto, if the intent is largely sidetracked by offshoring the problem. These workers are not stupid.

  11. The point which is often overlooked about Kyoto is that Australia got such a generous deal at the Kyoto conference that it could easily meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations through measures including energy efficiency and greater usage of natural gas which would yield a net economic benefit without impinging on the interests of the blue collar workers who are most centrally affected, namely the coal mining and energy sector workers. Their union supports the Kyoto Protocol and a tradeable emissions scheme.

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