Carbon Tax: Stay Firm

by Bob Carr

That an alliance of business is planning advertising against the carbon tax should only strengthen the resolve of the Gillard government to press ahead and put the legislation on the books. The package is close to being finalised and can be presented as precisely the sort of bold economic reform that Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson called for in his address in Melbourne last night.

Indeed there are reports that part of the federal government’s package will be the closure of the dirty Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe valley in Victoria and the Playford plant in South Australia. These are Australia’s dirtiest power plants in terms of their greenhouse contributions. Their output will be taken up by gas – something that would be underway now if the Green Party had allowed passage of Kevin Rudd’s ETS legislation in late 2009. In any case this represents a shift away from carbon dependency. In other words, a modernisation of the economy.

Barry Jones in today’s Age reminds us that climate change deniers never refer to “observed phenomena” such as disappearance of Arctic ice, thinning of Greenland's glaciers, fractures at the edge of the West Antarctic ice shelf, ocean acidification, thawing of Siberian tundra, changes in bird migration, earlier flowering of plants: all of which strengthen the reality that Bill McKibben pointed out in his excellent book Eaarth, namely that the planet has been changed already by global warming caused by human intervention.

Barry Jones describes the steady accumulation of information on anthropogenic global warming since 1824 when the French mathematician Joseph Fourier argued that surface heat on Earth was maintained by the atmosphere and 1896 when the Swedish chemist Arrhenius named “the greenhouse effect” and calculated the relationship between changes in CO2 levels and atmospheric temperature with astonishing accuracy.

Jones reminds us of the ease with which the international community and the corporate sector accepted the argument that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer even though – and this I think is important – their volume as a percentage of the atmosphere is tiny compared to CO2 and methane.

Instead we have what Jones describes as “a combination of fury, hysteria and mendacity against evidence of global warming.”

If the polls we are now seeing are reflected in two years time then Labor can go down to defeat knowing it was as right on this score as it was on Vietnam in 1966. But I for one am not writing the next election off for Labor.