Friday, 7 February 2014

Europe: perversely leaders when it needs to be laggards – and vice versa for Australia

The notion that a “sustainable” energy policy is incompatible with economic growth is one that is often heard shrilly in the Australian media.

The facts are that Australia has abundant sunlight and some quite unconventional potential geothermal energy sources in its outback that would allow it to achieve a zero-emissions target that should be absolutely the first priority of any international climate protocol. Australia is a much bigger problem than Europe, the United States or China who need to regard themselves not as enemies engaging in petty quarrels over minor reductions, but as allies in a fight against high emissions from Australia and to a lesser extent South Africa and the Gulf States. Severe effects from anthropogenic global warming like:
  1. Melbourne having 24 days in a month over 30˚C as against a previous record of 18
    • this figure could easily see Melbourne have higher maxima than historically hot Halls Creek for this February as a rock-steady super-monsoon drenches northern Australia.
  2. San Francisco receiving only 86 millimetres for the calendar year of 2013 and less than 10 percent of its virgin mean rainfall for the period from February 2013 to January 2014.
certainly mean something should be done to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The trouble is that it is being done in precisely the places where it makes least difference!

George Osborne certainly should fear his own nation going far ahead of the rest of the world – and so should every nation in Europe. The lack of natural resources in Europe is already economically crippling, especially with the industrialisation of China which, as Osborne says, could very easily affect even the production of renewable energy and related components. As I said in my previous post, the EU faces a perverse energy price-gap for a region that is in geological terms exceptionally energy-rich and bears negligible responsibility for anthropogenic climate change. Given its comparative disadvantage in supplying land and mineral resources, there is every reason that European energy prices should be the lowest, or very nearly the lowest, in the world. Contrary to what Calbick and Gunton imply completely eliminating EU energy taxes would have little impact on energy consumption and greenhouse emissions in the EU, whilst potentially ameliorating major demographic and social problems faced by the region. These are severely regulated by the lack of natural resources without further price controls.

Emissions reductions in the EU are unimportant vis-à-vis reductions in Australia where an abundance of coal and flat land make energy-efficient mass transit systems economically questionable and politically unviable. What Osborne hopefully can recognise is that campaigns for severe reductions by Australia will make a difference, which his own country could never make. They may be politically exceedingly difficult, but the key step is for people in Europe should recognise the warming they observe as being in no way their responsibility and, if it affects them, something other nations (chiefly Australia) have a severe duty to pay the cost of.

Were it put forward hard enough to Australia’s politicians and businesses that they possess this responsibility, the globe would be half-way to repairing the damage caused by burning of fossil fuels. With enough pressure and insistence that Australia pays the cost for climate change abroad (not, however, for natural disasters within the virgin climate range), and clear evidence for Australia}s responsibility already existing, this can hopefully be done, but politicians do not yet see it.

No comments: