Sunday, April 3, 2011

IPA "remedy" for climate suits big polluters

Last week's edition of The Sunday Age carried another missive from the Institute of Public Affairs on how the world can be saved from the impacts of climate change by making countries rich enough to adapt.

Unfortunately, Chris Berg's free-market prescription amounts to little more than a get-rich-quick scheme for poor countries based on the same high-emissions growth that has led to our current climate emergency. This claimed panacea of profit-fuelled adaptation is deeply flawed.

Aside from the certainty with which the big polluters would flee the queue to pay for expensive adaptive measures, recent disasters give the lie to our ability to adapt to large-scale impacts. Among these, floods and bushfires are set to increase in frequency and severity if we do not act to sharply curtail our carbon emissions.

With Fukushima now adding to Windscale, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, there is also a nuclear cloud over Berg's failure to even mention renewables as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

A full  accounting of the mortality, health and broader environmental impacts of climate change points to the urgent necessity of a strong carbon price. It also highlights the risks of the proposed compensation and current massive subsidies by the Australian Government for the polluters who work against a safe climate future.

The distraction we must resist is not a carbon price, as Berg would have it. Instead, it is the false reassurance of selective statistics and scant scientific support for doing nothing beyond business as usual.

Growing our emissions so we can get rich enough to supposedly adapt to the climate change those emissions cause just doesn't make sense.

It is to be hoped that Julia Gillard and her government recognise this as a basic physical constraint on how the world works - ignoring it could have extreme consequences for our shared global climate.

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