Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Will Australia ever stop lagging behind when it should be decades ahead?

In a response to my brother’s dismissal of my emphasis in speech on cars as the primary cause of global warming and public transport as the solution, in an email today he showed me a piece whereby anaesthetics used in surgery are supposed to have as much impact on the climate as one million cars.

I certainly knew that anaesthetics, which use compounds called halons (or bromofluorocarbons) were environmentally very dangerous because of the very high global warming potential of covalently bonded fluorine. However, I had assumed that anaesthetics remain stored in the body and that a very small proportion of anaesthetics used actually reach the atmosphere as greenhouse or ozone-depleting gases. What the study my brother showed me said was that anaesthetic gases had major impacts and did not as I had thought remained in the body.

What is really, really embarassing is that yet again the EU is doing much more than Australia. The EU will be banning these games from 2011, whereas Australia will continue to use them for who knows how long. It is time everybody recognised the untenability of Australia having much lower environmental standards than European nations. In fact, even from a European perspective it is best that Australia have the toughest environmental standards in the world. Strict and high-standard greenhouse emissions regulations may attract the intellectual community, but for ordinary families and less skilled workers they are a deterrent, as Arthur Brooks and Clint Johnson in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the South show. Johnson says that the South has:
“…lower taxes, a family-friendly atmosphere… rather than a sense the State should take care of everything”
clearly attract potential migrants much more than an exceptionally clean environment and a high level of innovation.

If we follow Johnson and Arthur Brooks, we should see that tough environmental laws are a very good way to reduce population. There is very clear evidence from data on water storages that most of southern Australia is overpopulated – and the increasingly well-watered north simply cannot be farmed because of its weathered, stone-hard soils that increased rainfall will make even tougher to improve.

In contrast, the extremely young soils of Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand can, as Tim Flannery said in The Future Eaters “support population densities orders of magnitude higher than Australia”. In many ways, these soils are a renewable and limitless resources because repeated glaciation and mountain building is replacing any soil that is lost.

For this reason, everybody in the world should wish it that Australia’s environmental laws – rather than being in Flannery’s word ridiculously lenient regarding energy efficiency – are the toughest in the world by a considerable margin. Once it is accepted that weak environmental laws are for the ordinary working people an attraction because of the gentler, warmer culture that results, we see the untenability of present trends.

No comments: