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 every year by monsoons  sufficiently intense to drown a land that has retained its fertility indefinitely under the most intensive use. Such destructive flooding of amongst the most proven farmland in the history of agriculture would stand very costly globally, especially should less proven land be dried out or leached by global warming.

I firmly think petitions must instead focus on those countries most responsible for emissions of gases like CO2, CH4 and N2O. Relative to its population, and more so to its ecological character and 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 per capita 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. For instance, the approximate ratio of typical Australian to typical northern hemisphere water yield to precipitation ratios for a climate on the arid/Mediterranean boundary is 1:100, so sustainable Australian per capita emissions might be one percent of the Enriched World’s. (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 Australia and its exceptionally high per capita carbon emissions are to blame and actively attempt to combat this. If 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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