Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Making the guilty parties pay for natural disasters

A petition site is arguing that because of the devastating Pakistan floods, that country’s debt should be permanently frozen for two years so that it can rebuild.

Whilst doing that would help Pakistan deal with the crippling costs of unprecedented rainfall, there is the trouble that the amazingly fertile Indus Valley – watered by a river through reliable summer floods so large and muddy that the Indus has no real banks – will be under larger concentrations of carbon dioxide flooded by super-monsoons every year in such a manner as to drown a land that has retained its fertility for extremely long periods under the most intensive use. To destroy some of the most proven farmland in the history of agriculture would be very costly to the world, especially should less proven land be dried out or leached by global warming.

For this reason, I firmly think petitions should focus on those countries that are most responsible for emissions of gases like CO2, CH4 and N2O. Relative to its population, and more so to its ecological character and the rate of observed climate change, Australia is by far the worst offender in this regard. Having some of the cheapest energy in the world due to its abundant black and brown coal has meant that, in spite of its extremely fragile hydrology and ecology, Australia has carbon emissions four times higher than the European Union and 25 percent higher than Canada and New Zealand.

If ecological and hydrological fragility determined allowable greenhouse emissions, Australia would be permitted maximally a few percent the per capita carbon emissions of Europe, Asia, North America, New Zealand or extratropical South America. One percent is roughly equivalent to the ratio of typical Australian to typical northern hemisphere ratio of yield to runoff for a climate on the arid/Mediterranean boundary. (Typical Australian runoff for this climate is about a tenth that of northern hemisphere streams, but the ratio of storage is inversely proportional to the square of the runoff ratio.)

Thus, those who are concerned with the Pakistani floods should first of all know who is to blame – Australia and its exceptionally high carbon emissions - and actively do something to combat this. If they are outside Australia, they should protest for international pressure or voluntary trade boycotts that might involve working for themselves to reduce the overwhelming dependence of the rest of the world on Australia’s monopoly on mineral resources. If in Australia foreigners should use statistics found in many places on this blog and in linked sites to show that Australia’s ecology tolerates no CO2 emissions whatsoever and regardless of inconvenience follow a strict zero-emissions standard. Australians themselves should also do the above.

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