return to letters list

The Abbott government is about to introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax and  has received congratulations from the Canadian PM for taking such action. Labor has, however, foreshadowed that it will move in the Senate to establish an inquiry to, inter alia, examine the effects of abolishing the tax, the cost of direct action and its ability to reduce emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 (see AFR article below). The Greens will doubtless support such an inquiry and the Abbott Government  may find insufficient support from independents to prevent it or to secure better wording.

A better alternative  for Abbott would be to establish his own inquiry covering the costs and benefits of all programs designed to reduce emissions. This would allow an examination of the renewable energy policy of achieving 20% of electricity from sources other than coal, oil and gas, which (according to the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) has already increased electricity prices by almost as much as the tax (see reference in this article by Janet Albrechtsen). Abbott has already attacked Shorten as “Electricity Bill” and should  surely cease running a program that is almost as bad in raising electricity prices, not simply promise a review of it next year (of course, some of the blame for electricity price increases rests with the States, but the abolition of the RET by the Commonwealth would put pressure on the States to follow).

As previously mentioned, with colleagues  I am sending a Petition to the House of Representatives to ask it to support the establishment of a broad-based inquiry on the costs and benefits of all emission reducing programs. Such an inquiry could also publish accurate information on the extent of extreme weather events and the false connections being made between such events and climate. This has again occurred, with false climate-connection conclusions by UN rep Figueres, the BBC, and the ABC,  to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (which normally experiences about 20 typhoons a year). The article below certainly suggests Australia has experienced a bigger typhoon and a report by the Philippine weather agency suggests it was a Category 4 storm.  

Meantime, reports centred around the start of UN Climate Summit in Warsaw indicate that a leading sceptic addressed a crowd there of about 50,000 and condemned “those who would use environmental and climate alarmism to steal away our liberties and give international bureaucrats control over our energy sources, our daily lives, our prosperity and our national sovereignty”. He stood next to a banner entitled “No to UN Climate Hype” and many in the sympathetic crowd wore stickers with the same notation. This rally followed a meeting in Warsaw the previous day of representatives from other countries (including the US) who signed a “Warsaw Declaration” calling on the UN to discontinue work on a new treaty until a “genuine “ scientific consensus is reached on the phenomenon of so-called global warming”.

Say, Yes to an Inquiry on the costs and benefits of emissions reduction programs.

Des Moore

Labor to delay carbon repeal legislation
(Article by Phillip Coorey Chief political correspondent for the
Australian Financial Review,
13 November 2013.)

Opposition spokesman for climate change Mark Butler (left, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten) says Labor’s approach of ‘reveal then repeal’ has the support of key stakeholders.

Labor will move to delay a vote on the carbon tax until well into next year by moving for a twin Senate inquiry into the repeal legislation and the Coalition’s planned direct action policy.

As Tony Abbott ramped up the pressure ahead of the introduction of the repeal on legislation Wednesday, Labor gave notice that it would move in the Senate to establish the inquiry which would not report back until March.

While Labor has no intention of voting for direct action, the strategy aims to buy enough time to discredit the policy, thus buttressing the opposition’s ­gamble to oppose the repeal and insist instead the carbon tax be replaced with a floating price emissions trading scheme.

The 14-point terms of reference call for an examination of the effects of abolishing the carbon tax and the cost of direction action to the budget and its ability to reduce emissions by 5 per cent.

With the carbon tax repeal being the Prime Minister’s top priority, the nation’s industry groups united on Tuesday in one last concerted push to have Labor change its mind and not force Mr Abbott to wait until after July 1 and have the new Senate repeal the tax retrospectively.

The appeal to “move beyond polarised politics’’ was issued by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia and Australian Industry Group.

“Delay would add substantially to the costs and burdens facing business and households, particularly in electricity contracts. That would be deeply unhelpful as we try to build a more competitive Australia with a better chance of keeping our manufacturing base onshore,’’ they said.

“Industry should be allowed to turn the corner on the new year with uncertainty about the carbon tax resolved.’’

Mr Abbott said the carbon tax repeal was at the heart of his government’s mandate.

“I trust that ‘Electricity’ Bill Shorten will have a light-bulb moment and will appreciate that the people’s verdict must be respected if the pressure on families is to reduce and if the pressure on jobs is to reduce.’’

But Labor was not budging and Senate leader Penny Wong was negotiating with the Greens, who share with Labor the balance of power in the Senate, to support the inquiry process. The Greens want to vote down the repeal in both Houses straight away and then have an inquiry into direct action.

‘Reveal then repeal’

Opposition spokesman for climate change Mark Butler said Labor’s approach of “reveal then repeal’’ made more sense and had the support of key stakeholders including environment groups, the ­Climate Institute and institutional investors.

“They, like us, want to know more about the Coalition’s intentions in this area,’’ he said.

“The government has released no detail about their proposals except a vague promise to establish a carbon slush fund to dole out billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to big polluters.”

Mr Butler said a promised Green paper on direct action before Christmas may not even eventuate.

“If Tony Abbott is committed to throwing out the baby with the bath water on climate change, it is reasonable for the Parliament and the community to expect a reasonable level of detail about their alternative climate change policy.”

Mr Abbott further angered climate groups on Tuesday when he unilaterally announced Australia was ­committed to a reduction in greenhouse gases of 5 per cent only by 2020.

In doing so, he walked away from bipartisan international agreements that bound Australia to reducing emission by up to 25 per cent if possible.

Erwin Jackson of the Climate Institute said Mr Abbott was wrong to say Australia had never made such a ­commitment which was enshrined in international agreements.

Typhoon a wake-up call, says climate negotiator
(Article by Graham Lloyd and Joe Kelly published in The Australian, 13 November 2013.)

SUPER Typhoon Haiyan, which has killed more than 10,000 people and wreaked havoc over two-thirds of The Philippines, has rekindled arguments over whether or not climate change could be held responsible for extreme weather events.

The Philippines lead negotiator to the UN climate change talks in Poland this week, Yeb Sano, said the typhoon was "a reminder to the international community it could not afford to procrastinate on climate action."

"To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair," Mr Sano said.

The UN's top climate change diplomat, Christiana Figueres, also highlighted Typhoon Haiyan in her opening address as a "sobering reality".

Ms Figueres caused an international furore when she linked last month's bushfires in eastern Australia with global warming effects.

Haiyan has been described as the strongest typhoon that has ever made landfall, with winds of more than 300km/h.

Jonathan Nott, from the Australasian Palaeohazards Research Unit in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University, said Australia had experienced a similar strength storm with Cyclone Mahina, which hit North Queensland in 1899.

Professor Nott said Mahina held the world record for a storm surge of 14m and was probably even more intense than Haiyan.

Priyan Mendis, from the University of Melbourne, said it was "not surprising to see these types of events in the world" and the answer lay in better building codes.

Most typhoon deaths in The Philippines had been caused by building collapses and drowning.

Professor Mendis said technology and expertise were available to build typhoon-proof houses and buildings for such events.

The Labor Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, yesterday played down any direct link between climate change and Typhoon Haiyan but acknowledged community concern about extreme whether events and climate changes.

Sun hits weakest cycle in '200 years'
(Article by Robert Lee Hotz published in The Wall Street Journal, 13 November 2013.)

SOMETHING is up with the sun. Scientists say solar activity is stranger than in a century or more, with the sun producing barely half the number of sunspots as expected and its magnetic poles oddly out of sync.

The sun generates immense magnetic fields as it spins.

Sunspots - often broader in diameter than Earth - mark areas of intense magnetic force that brew disruptive solar storms. These storms may abruptly lash their charged particles across millions of kilometres of space towards Earth, where they can short-circuit satellites, smother cellular signals or damage electrical systems.

Based on historical records, astronomers say the sun this northern autumn ought to be nearing the explosive climax of its approximate 11-year cycle of activity - the so-called solar maximum.

But this peak is "a total punk," said Jonathan Cirtain, who works at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as project scientist for the Japanese satellite Hinode, which maps solar magnetic fields. "I would say it is the weakest in 200 years," said David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre.

Researchers are puzzled. They cannot tell if the lull is temporary or the onset of a decades-long decline, which might ease global warming a bit by altering the sun's brightness or the wavelengths of its light. "There is no scientist alive who has seen a solar cycle as weak as this one," said Andres Munoz-Jaramillo, who studies the solar-magnetic cycle at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

To complicate the riddle, the sun is also undergoing one of its oddest magnetic reversals on record.

The sun's magnetic north and south poles change polarity every 11 years or so. During a magnetic-field reversal, the sun's polar magnetic fields weaken, drop to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. As far as scientists know, the magnetic shift is notable only because it signals the peak of the solar maximum, said Douglas Biesecker at NASA's Space Environment Centre.

But in this cycle, the sun's magnetic poles are out of sync, solar scientists said. The sun's north magnetic pole reversed polarity more than a year ago, so it has the same polarity as the south pole.

"The delay between the two reversals is unusually long," said solar physicist Karel Schrijver at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Centre.

The fall in magnetic activity could ease global warming, the scientists said. But such a subtle change in the sun - lowering its luminosity by about 0.1 per cent - would be too little to outweigh the build-up of greenhouse gases and soot that most researchers consider the main cause of rising world temperatures over the past century or so. "It may give us a brief respite from global warming," said Dr Hathaway, "but it is not going to stop it."

return to letters list