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Australian climate change inaction

Australian climate Orwellian Labor Government pretends the opposite

Australia is a world leader in annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. However pro-coal, pro-gas  Australian PM Julia Gillard has an appalling record of climate change inaction falsely dressed up as the opposite. The biggest and most outrageous untruth of Gillard Labor is that it is "tackling  climate change" for a "clean energy future", as systematically set out below.

1. Among PM Gillard's first acts in June 2010,  after the Coup that removed the very popularly elected PM Kevin Rudd, was to approve export of dried brown coal from Victoria to Asia that is expected to generate  59 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2020.

2. In Australian Federal politics the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Opposition and the Labor Government (aka the Lib-Labs) have the same official climate change policy of a derisory 5% off Australia’s 2000 domestic GHG pollution by 2020 and unlimited GHG pollution through coal and gas exports.  The Labs differ from the Libs in how they will attempt to achieve this appalling outcome. Thus the Coalition has a Direct Action policy involving biochar,  re-afforestation and subsidies for a transition to lower GHG pollution. In stark contrast,  Labor under PM Julia Gillard has actually no intention of even achieving  this derisory 5% reduction in GHG pollution in 2020 relative to that in 2000.  Labor has legislated  a Carbon Tax-Emissions Trading Scheme  that as shown by Treasury analysis (see its 2011 report "Strong Growth, Low Pollution" ) will mean that Australia’s domestic GHG pollution in 2020 will be 1.1 times bigger than that in 2000 rather than 5% smaller.

3. Success in “tackling climate change” is surely measured in terms of GHG pollution reduction but Australia’s Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution was 1,077 Mt CO2-e (CO2 equivalent) in 2000  and is expected under Labor policy to reach about 1,799 Mt CO2-e annually by 2020 (a 1.7-fold increase) and 4,490 Mt CO2-e annually in 2050 (a  4.2-fold increase) (see “2011 Climate Change Course” ) .

4. It can be estimated that the domestic plus exported GHG pollution by Australia between 2010 and 2050 will total 100 billion tonnes CO2-e, 17% of the World’s terminal CO2 pollution budget of 600 billion tonnes CO2 as adjudged by the WBGU that advises the German Government on climate change. Thus Australia with currently about 22 million x 100/7,000 million = 0.3% of the World’s population will produce 17% of the last 600 billion tonnes of CO2  pollution permitted for the whole World between now and zero emissions in 2050. Australia is assuming a right to pollute (100 millions tonnes /22 million people)/(500 million tonnes /6,978 million people) = 63 times more per capita than other human beings over the next 40 years.

5. Labor’s plan essentially ignores Agriculture whereas World Bank analysts have recently estimated that Livestock alone contributes over 5!% of global man-made GHG pollution,  which in turn they estimate to be about 50% bigger than hitherto thought (see Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?”, World Watch, November/December 2009) . The Carbon Tax is mostly a futile cycle of taxing major polluters and then returning most of the receipts to consumers to pay for elevated prices for power, goods and services. The ETS approach has been empirically unsuccessful, is disastrously counterproductive and is inherently fraudulent because the Australian Government will dishonestly issue licences for Australians  to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries on Earth. Labor’s dishonest, spin-driven Carbon Tax-ETS- Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy is a disastrous scheme for actual climate change inaction while pretending to do the opposite.

6. PM Gillard repeatedly talks of "160 million tonnes" of CO2-e to be saved in 2020. However Treasury modelling has found, and Labor has confirmed, that this will largely come from international purchase of Carbon Credits from tropical Third Word topical countries.

7. Under Labor policy Queensland coal exports will rise from 156 million tonnes in 2011 to 944 million tonnes in 2020.

8. Under Labor policy, Queensland coal shipping will increase from 1,722 ships in 2011 to 10,150 in 2020, this increased traffic and port dredging endangering the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. (see Greenpeace report entitled “Boom Goes the Reef. Australia’s coal export boom and the industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef”, March 2012 ).

9. Several weeks ago Gillard Labor renewed its commitment of $100 million towards the proposed, dirty,  coal-fired HRL power station in Victoria.

10. Under Gillard Labor coal exports are increasing at 2.4% annually and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) exports at 9% annually.

11. Gillard Labor's last climate change betrayal has been to abolish the solar hot water subsidy, a retrograde move that is set to wipe out the green solar hot water industry.

12. Gillard Labor declares that “gas is clean” or “gas is cleaner” and believes that its Carbon Tax-ETS strategy will hasten a coal burning to gas burning transition. This  ignores the latest science that says that gas burning for power can be much dirtier GHG-wise than coal burning. In short, methane is the major component of natural gas, leaks (3.3% US average, 7.9% if derived from hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for coal seam gas) and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG  on a 20 year time scale with aerosol impacts considered (Drew T. Shindell , Greg Faluvegi, Dorothy M. Koch ,   Gavin A. Schmidt ,   Nadine Unger and Susanne E. Bauer , “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions”, Science, 30 October 2009:

Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718). With existing plants in Victoria, Australia,  3.3% leakage means that gas burning is just as dirty greenhouse gas (GHG)-wise as burning coal but at 7.9% systemic leakage the GHG pollution from gas burning will be twice that from burning coal (see "Gas is not clean energy") .

13. Gillard Labor is supporting the huge roll-out of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) in Eastern Australia that is set to despoil landscapes, salinize and otherwise pollute agricultural land , deplete and pollute aquifers, increase GHG pollution through systemic gas leakage and add to Australia’s already huge and disproportionate GHG pollution.

14. In 2009 the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU) determined that for a 75% chance of avoiding a 2 degree C temperature rise, the World must pollute less than 600 billion tonnes of  CO2 between 2010 and essentially zero emissions in 2050. Unfortunately, Australia (through disproportionately huge annual fossil fuel burning and exports) had  already used up its  “fair share” of this terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) budget by mid-2011 and it now stealing the entitlement of impoverished nations such as Somalia and Bangladesh (see Gideon Polya, “Shocking analysis by country of years left to zero emissions:, Green Blog, 1 August 2011  ).

15. Greens leader Dr Bob Brown is in dispute with PM Julia Gillard over her backsliding over an agreement on logging of Tasmanian forests: “"She signed off on the 7th of August (2011) that there would be an immediate halt to the destruction of the high-conservation value forests of Tasmania. When she keeps up her word on that matter - her signed public word on that matter - we'll be having meetings with her.” (The Australian, 11 January 2012).  The South East Australian Eucalyptus regnans forests are the best forest carbon sinks in the world (see Heather Keith, Dr Brendan Mackey, and Dr. David Lindenmayer (ANU), “Re-evaluation of forest biomass carbon stocks and lessons from the world's most carbon-dense forests”, PNAS July 14, 2009 vol. 106 no. 28 11635-11640). 

16. Ultimately one must judge a government on how well it has been prepared to “tackle climate change” by the annual GHG pollution during its administration. Labor came to power at the end of 2007  when Australia’s domestic plus exported GHG pollution was about 1,363 million tonnes CO2-e and will face the electorate in 2013 when, after 6 years, it will be about 1,497 million tonnes CO2-e, or roughly 10% bigger than under the conservative Liberal Government back in 2007. Labor will have had 6 years to "tackle climate change", is facing utter failure and should be kicked out following the principle "punish the incompetent incumbent".

PM Julia Gilard’s broken pre-election pledge that "There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead", her pre-Coup pledges of loyalty to PM Kevin Rudd, her backsliding on promised poker machine gambling reforms, and her recent assertion that stories of an offer to get former NSW Premier Bob Carr as a Senator and Foreign Minister were "completely untrue" are the least of  the incorrect assertions of PM Julia Gillard. To paraphrase the title of a song from the Broadway musical "Paint Your Wagon" (1951), "They call the wind Ju-liar".

Utterly betrayed, pro-environment Labor voters will vote 1 Green and put Labor last until it reverts to decent Labor values, not the least of which is being truthful.

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