THE economies involved Asia Pacific Climate Partnership have failed all of us by not setting a path to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if this was at the cost of some economic growth.

I was surprised that nuclear power was not more trumpeted as the saviour of us all, perhaps it demonstrates the grip coal oil and gas has over government or Perhaps they thought nuclear detracting from the main message, coal oil and gas has a grip over government and we are condemned to the vagaries of a changing climate.

The deals about nuclear will be done later when we can hear trumpeted more supposedly good news.

The one possible good thing is the makeup of those sitting around the table. The economies of India and China will grow and curbing greenhouse production through technology transfer will benefit us all. That business also has the advantage of committing them to dialogue rather than denial.

Still, we are to see more coal and gas used to generate electricity and in heavy industry with the hope that the technologies adopted will slow the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy produced.

Sunny California wants to change

Alternatives such as wind and solar are to remain on the miniscule side of the ledger, one assumes even solar domestic water heating for the 300 million living in suitable areas in southern China are to be tied to coal, let alone all those in Australia and the southern US. One can understand California embarrassing us by taking up this simple measure but not Tunisia.

California has under the Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set a target, a 60% reduction by 2050. This populous state along with states in the north east of the US have rejected the idea that somehow targets are inherently wrong in addressing climate change.

Tunisia has adopted a program to provide domestic hot water to its people using the sun. It is being assisted by the European Union, good business and good government. China, a huge potential market, is leading the world in adopting this technology. Why isn’t Australia developing the technology for sale into this market.

On the edge of the Mediterranean, [suitable climate] Tunisia is installing solar domestic water heaters as a matter of national policy. Does the sun not shine on Kirribilli.

Targets and emission trading are needed now

A target free, goal free business led reduction of greenhouse gases is as likely to fail like other self regulation. Without regulation setting targets the only measures we are likely to see will be more profitable ones.

Indeed, as Howard’s own reports say, the cleaner coal and gas technologies they are proposing will consume 17 and 14.5% more of the material than currently. Therefore the costs will rise and so for electricity users the price will also increase.

What does such a price rise do for the economics of wind and solar. Would not the cost of such changes to the economy, including the changes to the climate and so to our living environment be better spent getting the benefit of low cost energy from the sun.

A low carbon future is clearly what is required if we are to avoid the more severe impacts of changing the climate.

France has set the goal of reducing emissions by 75% by mid century. Already the Renault leads with ‘green’ cars. More fuel efficient and therefore cheaper for the consumer and the economy.

By setting targets industry is given a framework in which to invest and by setting them early the annual costs of change will be low and the costs of the impacts of changed climate may also be constrained. [How much will Katrina cost, then add the additional cyclones, droughts and fires, the changes to the world’s 5 major rivers when the ice in the Himalaya melts away, etc. How often can economies afford these sorts of impacts].

An economy guided by such targets and assisted by directed government support is likely to see innovations that grow it ahead of those that remain reliant on minor modification to existing technologies and attempts to develop new ones.

Staring these targets and allowing emissions trading before the some technologies are available would stimulate those that are. India has a growing wind energy industry and their market potential for wind turbines is huge.

Environment Minister Campbell says targets and trading are inevitable. The only difficulty seems to be a fear of voter backlash and an impact on profit. These 2 holy grails will have to be sacrificed anyway so why not start early so the adjustments needed can be spread over the longest time frame and therefore be at the least cost.

Australia’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets are set to expire, making it difficult to grow the wind energy industry. Tasmania will feel the impact of this in the loss of manufacturing and construction work.

The danger of putting your head in a carbonated atmosphere

Contrast this with the $500 million to be spent over the next 25 years or so to develop carbon sequestration for coal burning plants. We have several centuries of proven coal reserves that could become valueless in a world where carbon pollution is not possible without irreparably damaging the environment on which we depend.

This $500 million Howard government measure may pay off in the long run, although we will have to rush installation to have a meaningful impact on what will be a burgeoning climate crisis if we stick with the AP6’s current course.

Howard and Downer are happy not to have any targets, but instead, to quote from a report that suggest greenhouse gas increases from the economies involved up to 2050. Particular forms of energy production may produce less greenhouse gases per unit of energy whilst the overall total of greenhouse gases produced grows by 50% as the energy production from these climate altering forms grows.

Apparently, this report has been poorly doctored in an attempt to put a positive spin on the future under the global regime of growing the economy on a path of environmental death.

[Interestingly that same ABARE report says that carbon sequestration will begin to impact on greenhouse gas production by 2015. The recent results on CSIRO work in Poland have not been promising and the more common time frame for development of a new technology is 20 years, taking it out to a more likely 2023 before it is available for installation, most likely at newer plants and only where suitable geologies for storage can be accessed. A report of this sort is a best guess, its accuracy falling the further into the future the predictions about new technologies are made.]

Only people crazed by greed would select a course that sets the climate on a path to crisis. The choice for all of us now is how bad we will allow the climate crisis to become before we rid ourselves of these dangerous people and elect governments that will gow low carbon sustainable economies focused on providing for people rather than robbing them of their basic right, a livable environment.

And this craziness is not restricted to the leadership of the Liberal Party. Martin Fergusson appears to be a captive of the uranium and coal industries whilst also pretending to be in the left faction of the ALP. Beazley will be embarrassed by this shadow cabinet member if he is allowed to continue to drive more voters away to the Greens.

Economies producing half the CO2 emissions have agreed between themselves to risk their own populations including their voters as well as generations unborn to the worst case band of climate changes under increased atmospheric carbon. These bands are those above 650ppm of carbon dioxide equivalents and according to the studies into the impacts of different levels these will give the greatest changes to the climate.

The future is coal black

From about 272 parts per million before the industrial revolution to over 379ppm now, atmospheric carbon dioxide will go over 450ppm carbon dioxide equivalents [currently plus 401ppm]. That is all greenhouse gases, most of it from human activity.

The AP6 could take us out to over 750ppm, basically a runaway climate, although natural process could relieve them of that fools errand.

The recent discovery that plants for their removal of carbon and creation of oxygen [the stuff we all breathe] has a by product of methane tells us what. Either this is a new phenomenon that is exacerbated by a high carbon atmosphere or some other change in the gas content or it has been part of the process for millennia.

This is in a similar order to ruminants emitting methane gas, something only problematical under the conditions that have been changed by human activity. The increase in cow, sheep and pig populations has caused this and therefore it is our responsibility to address them, the same as greenhouse gases from our industrial society.

Of course, if the methane production in plants is increased as atmospheric carbon increases, we are in a greater problem than the AP6 have imagined. Plants will grow faster with more available carbon. AT least up to the point when it is oversupplied and starts to impact on the greenery.

As every child should learn, if human society manages to survive in a form similar to today’s, methane is 62 times more climate altering than carbon and huge amounts of it are locked in the frozen lands of the northern hemisphere, enough to send us on a wild ride rapidly up by about another 10dC. above today’s temperatures.

For Tasmania that is the equivalent of a northern NSW climate. That may seem attractive, but it has not happened for 335 million years. The whole planet’s climate will alter in a very short space of time, including the sea level, making a complete nonsense of climate change deniers.

The ice of the tundra is melting now, releasing this methane into the atmosphere from its hydrated form. The last time the planet went fully greenhouse, at the end of the Permian, 95% of all species we know of from that time went extinct. It took 100 million years for recovery to a semblance of the previous amount of diversity, the start of the Age of the Dinosaurs.

The warmer it gets the more ice melts and the more methane is released increasing the rate of warming. This feedback loop may already be unstoppable but to not try shows both stupidity and inhumanity.

The current leaders of the AP6 are apparently unable to hear the alarm bells of climate change so we can be guaranteed that those bells wringing will become more insistent. More catastrophes involving extremes of weather, glaciers gone, disease patterns altering and new diseases emerging, plant and animal extinctions.

The leaders will change and one hopes with the evidence mounting their views will also. Meanwhile, directly affecting the stupid monkey will be crop failures, water shortages, heat waves, failing fisheries and price rises.

Enjoy.

phill Parsons may from time to time comment on further findings about the climate crisis, especially to say to today’s dinosaurs, I told you so. However, as the leaders of the ship of fools have set our course hard onto the reef, further comment on the course chosen hardly seems worthwhile until we are closer to disaster and it is clear even to the voters apparently concerned solely with their hip pocket nerve.