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Courage in the face of climate change lies

Paul Kelly is an experienced politically savvy journalist whose views I respect who but writes for the increasingly discredited The Australian. This piece attacks Julia Gillard for abandoning Australia’s low cost fuel advantage in introducing a carbon tax. It’s putting lead in the ‘national saddlebags’ according to Kelly. This is a false picture since the costs of unmitigated climate change will be much greater than any transitional costs experienced as a consequence of current economic conditions.  Australia must do it’s eshare to limit the world’s total emissions to around 40Gt CO2E in aggregate by 2050 so that warming is limited to about 2 degrees C.  This implies that Australia must cut its current carbon emissions from about  27 metric tonnes per capita to about 2.  Postponing these endeavours will not make the required adjustments easier to the contrary they will be much harder if we even wait a few years.

The story that Australia’s actions constitute a dominated strategy in a Prisoner’s Dilemma situation provide an incomplete story since many other countries are actively mitigating.  In any event not mitigating is an act of theft with respect to future generations. We should not follow the actions of other thieves.

I repeat my earlier statement of respect for Julia Gillard. She is pursuing the correct course of action now – better late than never – when the forces opposed to this course of action at at their strongest.

3 comments to Courage in the face of climate change lies

  • Harry, what did you think about Henry Ergas’ criticism last week that the transition to an ETS won’t work if the assumption that many more countries will have an ETS scheme does not come to pass.

    I see that you didn’t make comment on it at Catallaxy. Would the government simply have the option of extending the introductory “carbon tax” period, and if so, would that hurt economically?

  • hc

    I have a lot of respect for Henry but on this one he is wrong. The modelling I have done suggests very modest costs of going it alone at least in the medium term. The case he argues on a priori grounds can be shown to not amount to much empirically – I am completing this work now and will post it soon. Unless the world comes to grips with climate policy soon we are doomed to 2 degrees C plus of warming. Even China will introduce market-based mechanisms.

    I think that carbon prices need to be a fair bit higher than $23 to have a large enough impact so that if the carbon tax period was extended I would favour a substantial increase in the tax.

    I am surprised that reputable economists such as Henry Ergas and Judith Sloan post on Catallaxy. Since Jason Soon abandoned ship it’s become a bad joke and a site for ratbags. Any attempt to argue a point is shouted down by irrational hyenas.

  • KB Keynes

    Steve,
    Given the science I think it is a reasonably safe assumption action will be taken by countries in the future.

    I endorse Fran Barlow’s criticism of people using the word carbon tax. It isn’t a carbon tax it is only a fixed price until the ETS is implemented. The ‘deal between the Liberals and the ALP when Rudd was PM was actually for a longer period for a fixed price.

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