Saturday, 8 August 2009

There actually is a coalition that can win - unfortunately

In today's Australian is an article discussing the problems the Coalition is facing about climate change policy. The fact that it says adapting to climate change may be more sensible than trying to create the carbon-free economy Australia should have had decades before countries in Eurasia or North America do is unimportant for the issue at hand.

The real issue is that only for a vocal minority in academia have the major parties any need to deviate from a consistently greenhouse-sceptic position. Radically deviating from this viewpoint would mean the crucial support of mining and energy corporations would be lost, with the result that Australia would become a one-party state, although actually supported by the majority of its population. This is because one-party stability brings them prosperity without any need for radical new inventions. The long-term consequence is that even if, as paleoclimate records from the Tertiary suggest, climate change does convert all of southern Australia's farmland and the cities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth into hyperarid deserts where summer temperatures consistently reach 50˚C, Australia is not going to do anything to move its energy policy away from coal (except perhaps to nuclear). More likely water will be piped from the northern super-monsoon to irrigate crops next to permanently dry channels along what were once the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.

The article's claim that it will be possible to adapt to climate change is made dubious by the history of Saudi Arabia, where expensive oil-sponsored irrigation schemes to allow the country to become a net expoerter of wheat is not likely to be able to be maintained once oil revenues decline. However, in the case of Australia, mineral revenues are not likely to decline until every other nation is completely exhausted of its minerals, so that the money to build and maintain numerous pipelines from a super-wet north (and likely even the historically arid Centre) will remain for a long, long time. Moreover, if governments in Europe, Asia and the Americas are forced to eliminate their farm subsidies, all or almost all of their farmland will be turned into housing, placing even mroe responsibility upon Australia as a food producer.

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