This is our fourth FOOTPRINT Newsletter
The Crisis Coalition aims to raise awareness and to galvanise action. The basic facts are assembled in www.planetextinction.com.
What we need to do - NOW
We have declared war on Gaia. James Lovelock
The dominant economic policy is getting rich through putting out greenhouse gases. If we don't deal with global warming within a few years, island nations will be flooded; world's agriculture completely disorganised; and a dramatic increase in unmanageable weather events. The good news is that we can deal with this problem, and strengthen our economy at the same time. Bill Clinton.
The eradication of poverty is an empty dream without first addressing climate change. Australian Evangelical Alliance.
The policies we need now
Preparing for a sustainable future requires a national strategy to deal with the following five urgent issues that must be addressed immediately. These cannot wait. See site page.
1) Carbon tax and emissions-trading to stimulate more efficient use of fossil fuels. Individuals as well as industry will then be paying for the effects of their actions on the climate, particularly in offices and aluminium production.
Extend the principle to all industrial production, all travel including air flights, and all building construction. Through it encourage domestic solar and the use of green power. If non-solar air-conditioning units were taxed people would quickly start powering theirs with solar panels on the roof.
This will raise consciousness very quickly. People would use power so efficiently that there would be no need for more power stations. The dirty-coal TXU power stations in Texas and BHP's in Anvil Hill would not be necessary.
2) A graduated tax on coal so that renewables become the preferred option and will encourage the industry to achieve zero carbon emission. In theory this approach should appeal to all the dry economists who have had such a powerful influence on government policy in the past 40 years. It is simply an extension of the user-pays principle.
Emissions from coal must be cut back by 90 percent. This does not mean the end of the coal industry, but just that coal-use has to approach zero-carbon output. It means using new technologies that pulverise coal and convert it into gas before it is burned (called the integrated gasification combined cycle) plus other widgets.
3) Offer incentives for innovation and investment in emerging technologies, with best performance standards for buildings, vehicles and appliances, and retro-fitting of fuel-efficient motors. Much future revenue would come from inventing and manufacturing the best green machines and equipment for sale to the entire world. This is an easy way to support future wealth.
4) Realignment of investment priorities, such as diverting road construction funds to public transport.
5) Educate people to foster consumer awareness.
It may seem extraordinarily ambitious to build such a concensus within a very short time. But when the US entered the second world war it turned the economy around on a sixpence. Carmakers began producing aircraft and missiles within a year and amphibious vehicles in 90 days, all from a standing start. And that was 65 years ago. If we want this to happen, we can make it happen. It will require more economic intervention than we are used to, and some pretty brutal emergency planning policies, but none of this can be worse than mass starvation and the death of those we love.
WE MUST ACT, AND NOW - NOT LATER.
Our children's futures are at risk.
So, what can you do?
You can apply for green energy (click here for details) and this wont cost much. You can check out the list on the same page of our site to see whether you can make any of the savings listed there.
You can popularise our site, especially among those at work or in the shops, and you can get all your friends to subscribe to this newsletter. Also - and do not minimise this - undertake to write to one selected politician once a week. In the next newsletter we will offer ideas and connect you to sites that will provide draft letters and addresses.
Time is the essence.
The evidence suggests that the change in tipping points will be sudden and catastrophic rather than gradual, and that one or more will be triggered very soon. Then sea levels will start to rise and world food production will decline and forest fires become unbearable.
If it takes longer, we will have used this time to create a clean and sustainable world. Our children will bless us for this.
If it happens sooner, then we will be prepared. Or, at least, as prepared as we can be in the time.
The yearly rate of greenhouse gas emissions has trebled in the past 15 years! See CSIRO report opposite. Glacier destruction and permafrost burping show that the situation is rapidly getting out of control. Yet no one wants to damage the economies that have made us all so wealthy.
The three great questions:
First, how do we act quickly without damaging our economies?
Second, how do we curb the runaway explosion in four enterprises that are currently having bonanza profits: coal, aluminium, lumber and oil? Of these coal is having by far the greatest impact on our future.
Third, what if China and Indonesia and the US continue to pollute?
First: what is the cost?
Sir Nicholas Stern (the former World Bank president) calculated that the cost of failing to throttle back greenhouse gases could be as high as 20 percent of the global wealth. This would be enough to create a worldwide depression - and then there would be little money available for the changes we need.
This has been echoed in powerful political statements by Tony Blair to the EU leaders in October when he warned that scientific evidence convinced him that we have only 10-15 years to get it right.
Another report concluded that by early action there would be no loss in GDP, but rather that 3½ million jobs would be created. Titled Deep Cuts in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, it was signed off by the CEOs of a number of Australia's leading companies. In it the Allen Consulting Group concluded that within 40 years Australia would be three times wealthier than it is today.
A similar report by Peter Cosier's report to the Wentworth Group shows we have the money to reduce emissions by 60% without reducing either our wealth or even the rate at which it is increasing. We can have our cake and eat it - but ONLY IF we start now. The cost of global repairs mount with every passing year.
If action is immediate then all these reports are optimistic, partly because of the technological progress on capturing carbon and making clean electricity. For this we get non-polluting, perpetually renewing power from the sun and wind and renovated coal-power plants that have eliminated most of the smog and emissions.
The reports presume that business would invest in a wide range of low emission technologies, leading to reduction in costs and power consumption. The first country to adopt these strategies will benefit economically by producing the equipment that all countries will in time need, well ahead of all competitors.
The Allen report argues that a delay of even 8 years would disrupt the economy as electricity prices would have to be increased drastically to meet the demands of a more urgent situation. Acting early not only avoids more damage, but buys the time we need if we are to succeed. The cost of global repairs mount with every passing year.
We do not have to change the quality of our lives, but we do have to change the way we manage them.
Second: bringing responsibility to the coal, oil and lumber industries:
The most powerful pressure groups in government today are those that are making the most money: coal, mining, forestry and aluminium. Many of the leaders in these industries perceive either that their immediate profits are more important than the future welfare of their children, or they are blind to the situation.
When the CEOs of these industries recognise that they are hurting their families, their children and their grandchildren, they will ensure that the politicians act even if it costs profits.
When the shareholders recognise this, they will enforce changes on their companies, even if it reduces their dividends.
When the people recognise this, politicians will become responsible. The head of the miner's and logger's union in Australia, Tony Maher, stated that the union will endorse the Kyoto Treaty, a trade in carbon emissions and an increase in renewable energy targets. If the union can decide this to protect its member's jobs, what is needed for the owners to be brought to the same point of recognition?
It comes back to us. WE MUST ACT, AND NOW - NOT LATER. We are giving away our future so that a few can make profits that are miniscule compared to the financial and human risks.
Third: each country needs to act alone
If, in the end, each country has go it alone, and make its decisions without worrying about the others, then other countries' intransigence becomes their problem, and those who prepare will at least be able to continue their lives in a sustainable manner.
Ultimately, lacking international agreement, each country will have to survive as best it can. Australia is probably the only large country capable of becoming totally self-sufficient under really adverse conditions, and being able to defend itself against millions of refugees seeking a safe haven.
It is a little like asking people to prepare for war before it's started.
Do we need a catastrophe to jump start us?
How climate change may affect profits: Stockbroker Citigroup has reported that companies involved in alternative energy, sustainable builders, recycling and innovative financial products and health care are going to profit most from climate change.
The assets of some of the largest will be hard hit, especially coal and oil through their share in the cost of carbon, catastrophic weather and the physical impact of global warming. All will be affected as insurers will reduce exposure to high-risk regions.
This report says that carbon trading will inevitably become more common worldwide in the next six years.
In Britain it has been proposed to issue citizens with a carbon credit card. It could be in operation in five years. It would be swiped every time a person bought petrol, paid an energy bill or booked an airline ticket.
The proposal is that every citizen would be given an annual allowance of the carbon they could expend on a range of products. If they wanted more they could buy it from someone else - or they could sell any surplus.
This would reward people for using less energy, on the theory that giving a credit for using less is a positive incentive.
The report concluded that though there were problems, "bold thinking is required because the world is in a dangerous place".
Norway is one of the few countries that may benefit from climate change. Higher temperatures could create balmy conditions for agriculture, while the country's steep coastline should protect it from sea level rise.
Even so, its politicians have adopted an aggressive program to address global warming because, says Professor Jorgen Randers, head of the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions: "rich countries caused climate change and therefore have a duty to act now." The politicians are leading the call for action.
Also an early start will give Norwegian industry a competitive advantage.
In stark contrast to most other countries, Norway has targeted serious cuts of two thirds the 1990 levels by 2050. It has recommended tax incentives for low-emission cars, using hydro power instead of oil and banning the disposal of organic waste in landfill.
For the sake of future generations Norway has decided not to wait for other countries to move first.
More carbon is being emitted every year. The CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (main Australian research body) states that the rate of increase in carbon dioxide emissions has risen by more than 2.5 per cent a year since the 1990s despite global efforts to curb emissions.
Whereas, in the 1990s it was less than 1 per cent per year.
Last year 28 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent was emitted into the atmosphere. This was at the high end of most international computer models, and shows that this increase is more dangerous for the future than most would once have predicted.
Last year was the fourth consecutive year of above-average growth. Such a rate has never been seen before.
At this rate it will almost impossible to rein in carbon emissions enough to be able to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at 450 parts per million.
This is the magic figure above which runaway global warming becomes inevitable, and we would then experience all the terrible consequences described on our site.
While China had the highest growth rate in emissions, the amounts per person were still below the global average, and its contribution since the start of the industrial revolution has been only 5 per cent of the total. The US and Europe have each contributed more than a quarter of all accumulated global emissions.
British conservatives demand massive cuts in emissions. The party's Quality of Life Policy Group on climate change said that the government's aim of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050 will not be enough to stop average temperature increasing above two degrees Celsius.
Instead, the government should cut emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels over the same period. Interim targets should be set to make sure it is reached.
Both parties are now vying for the best policies. Compromises between vote-catching and looking after their larger political donors is still affecting outcomes, but at last there is a change in political thinking across both parties.
US city goes it alone on carbon tax. The central US city of Boulder has approved the nation's first carbon tax on electricity. It will add $16 a year to an average homeowner's electricity bill and $46 for businesses.
The goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 350,000 tonnes by 2012, and to encourage greater energy efficiency and to switch to renewable energy.
On the incentive side, those who use alternative sources of electricity, such as wind power, would receive a discount on the tax.
This way carbon levels would be 7 percent less than those in 1990. This amounts to a 24 percent reduction from current levels and would enable Boulder to reach the goals of the Kyoto Protocol.
A successful court action. The NSW Land and Environment Court has decided that the environment assessment for a major coal mine at Anvil Hill was flawed. The reason was that it did not take account of the impact of the new mine on future global warming.
The judge stated that existing legislation requiring new proposals to be sustainable have been ignored, including the important issue of inter-generational equity (hurting future generations).
From the government's own secret assessment, the 10.5 million tonnes of coal to be mined each year will produce 25 million tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to doubling the number of cars in NSW to 8 million. You can see why coal is such a problem!
The company wants to produce this quantity for the next 21 years.
When you burn I tonne of cleaned coal you generate 2.4 tonnes of CO2. Over 21 years this will put 530 million tons to pollution, regardless of where it is burnt or who burns it.
The Stern report puts a price of US$85 on a tonne of CO2, taking into account the effect on human health, the environment, agriculture, industry and infrastructure.
On that calculation Anvil Hill would produce AU$45 billion in climate change damage in less than one generation.
We can transform our life on
maintain our lifestyles.
We can do both
- if we start NOW.