What is the Carbon Tax about?
In a sentence: The Australian carbon tax is a species orphan, the Collins-class submarine of global environmental policy. It is environmentally inconsequential, economically costly, administratively nightmarish and unlike anything else in the world. Greg Sheridan, The Australian.
If you have lived on Mars for the past 5 years, then you will need to understand the whole sorry story of climate change wars to understand the Carbon Tax:
What is this Carbon?
It is an invisible gas Carbon Dioxide (CO2), a natural part of earth life’s carbon cycle, not soot or any toxic substance. Fossil fuel was created million of years ago by plants using sun’s energy to combine CO2 gas in the atmosphere and water into organic matter and a by-product, oxygen. Today, burning the organic fossil fuel reverses this by using oxygen to break up the fuel mostly into carbon dioxide and water and releasing the stored energy for our use.
Earth’s fauna emits CO2 in fall and leaves decay and absorbs CO2 in spring as leaves grow (mostly in northern hemisphere) forming a huge annual CO2 cycle. Volcanoes, including underwater ones and warming seas emit CO2. Overall, 95% of annual CO2 production (and absorption) is by nature and man’s burning of fossil fuel adds only 5% of CO2 to this natural cycle. About 1/2 of man’s additional CO2 is absorbed by natural CO2 sinks like limestone and deep sea carbonates, but this is a slow process and the rest of the CO2 builds up in the atmosphere and over the past 100 years has raised atmospheric CO2 concentration from 0.032% to 0.039%, the highest its been for thousands of years.
Why is CO2 Bad?
CO2 is not toxic and is essential for life – it is a plant nutrient often added to greenhouses by farmers to make market crops grow faster. It is also one of the greenhouse gases contributing to the life-giving planetary atmospheric Greenhouse effect, which normally traps Sun’s heat and keeps earth habitably warm. In the past 30 years, rising CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane have caused concern that they may be trapping too much heat, causing dangerous man-made global warming.
Is Global Warming and Climate Change real?
Yes, earth’s climate is always changing, sometimes quite rapidly. Earth has been naturally warming from a mini ice age for several hundred years, long before man’s CO2 emissions, causing gradual loss of glaciers, slowly melting Arctic ice and slowly rising sea levels. Over the past 50 years and up to about 10 years ago, temperatures however seemed to rise more quickly than normal in tandem with rapidly rising atmospheric CO2, begging the question if CO2 is causing the dangerous man-made global warming.
Enter Climate Models.
Earth’s climate is incredibly complex involving air, clouds, oceans, geology, the sun, other planets, cosmic radiation and the biosphere, in fact it is a non-linear chaotic system subject to the famous butterfly effect, which really can not be modelled effectively. The only way climate scientists could make their primitive computer climate models work in explaining this rising global temperature, is by assuming that one brute strength factor, the rising CO2, was causing virtually all of the temperature rise. But in fact, the greenhouse physics of CO2 could only explain a third of the temperature rise, so they programmed the models to have a high climate sensitivity to CO2 – to assume that the heat trapping effect of rising humidity from the mild CO2 warming would amplify the CO2′s warming 3 fold. This CO2-centric model now reproduced observed past temperatures.
Unfortunately, these models now also gave frightening possible future scenarios for the next 100 years, showing runaway global warming of 3-6 DegC, if atmospheric CO2 continues to rise from burning fossil fuels. Thousands of studies, all using these computer models projected desertification of countries, sea level rises of up to a meter from ice melting and possible increased extreme weather, which if correct might cause global havoc and politicians like Al Gore dramatised it to apocalyptic 10m sea level rises for effect. The scientists always caution that their climate models were just models and not reliable, but many believed that emissions of CO2 should be drastically reduced as a precaution to prevent possibility of runaway catastrophic global warming. This would require unprecedented global coordinated control over all energy production and thus every aspect of global societies.
This frightening climate scenario and its need for global control fitted well with the environmentalist’s Malthusian belief that man’s industrialisation and excessive consumption was destroying the earth and their socialist ideology for a society centrally controlled by benevolent intellectuals. It also suited the United Nation’s quest for ever-greater influence of global governance and redistribution of west’s wealth to their majority of less wealthy members. The two got together and formed the IPCC a notionally scientific but largely activist political advisory body to governments charged with, no longer investigating, but rather proving the dangers of CO2 related anthropogenic Climate Change and recommending and advocating ways to combat it.
For 30 years, governments have spent tens of billions of dollars on climate change institutes which dutifully employed thousands of well meaning youths wanting to save the earth, who in turn dutifully produced ever more frightening climate ‘research’ using these made up climate models, with warnings ranging from polar bear extinction to malaria epidemics to hundreds of millions of climate refugees. Epic star-studded international meetings have been held annually, renewable energy industries have been created with tax dollars, CO2 permit trading schemes developed and governments eager for a moral crusade, silenced all dissenting voices with claims of the science being settled and promoted the dangers of climate change to their population from schools to businesses to our homes. The activist administrators of most scientific bodies signed on to the climate models they knew little about, all in the name of saving the world’s environment. A giant taxpayer funded green climate industry thus grew, with conflicts of interest, rent-seeking and frank corruption all justified with the piety of using capitalist greed to fight the noble cause or “the greatest moral challenge of our times”, as Kevin Rudd called it.
What went wrong with Global Warning, then Climate Change, now Climate Disruption?
Earth has failed to warm for 10 years, seas have not warmed and sea levels have not accelerated despite ever rising CO2, showing the the frightening climate models to be either exaggerated or plain wrong, Then GFC came and the giant green industry ran out of taxpayer’s money.
The various climate model predictions and in particular convincing evidence for dangerous high climate sensitivity to CO2 have failed to materialise. Errors and exaggerations in climate models and bias and politicking by climate scientists were first found by independent retired climate and non-climate sceptical professionals and scientists, particularly geologists, and publicised in the blogosphere. They were quickly labelled by governments and green lobbyists as heretical ‘deniers’ lest they derail saving the earth.
Later, contradictory physical evidence were published in journals by a growing body of defecting respected climate scientists like John Christie, Roy Spencer and Judith Curry, bold enough to bite the hand that feeds them. Many other factors have been found which influence climate on a decadal scale, such as giant ocean current, cosmic rays and cloud cover, all of which are not well represented in climate models if at all, and seem better natural explanations for past global warming. This relegates CO2 to a minor influence on climate, causing most likely a harmless <1.0 DegC rise by end of century, certainly not requiring any forced CO2 reductions or carbon taxes.
With climate sceptics rising, patently absent warming of the globe and cold rather than hot weather for some years making populations sceptical, climate lobbyists cynically renamed the campaign to Climate Change and more recently to Climate Disruption, to enlist natural but frightening storms and floods in support of climate alarm. But is is all too little too late.
Since 2008, when world governments spectacularly failed to agree on a global CO2 reduction regime, fighting climate change has quietly dropped off the list priorities for most nations’ populations and governments. One can only assume it failed due to the weakening scientific evidence, the huge costs involved and damage to economies and relative ineffectiveness of carbon reduction schemes. Only the radical Greens remain committed. The public, increasingly faced with scientists contradicting scientists on climate change and aware of bias and advocacy from alarmist climate scientists due to Climategate emails, no longer want to spend effort or money on climate change.
So what is this Carbon Tax?
A tax of $23 per ton of emitted Carbon Dioxide (CO2) gas, payable by large emitters of CO2, such as electrical power stations, manufacturers, transport companies, miners, smelters, including council tips and concrete manufacturers; a complete list is here and categorised list here. The tax is scheduled to increase every year. The greens want it to be above $100 per tonne.
Why a carbon tax?
Politically, the radical Greens made Ms Gillard introduce the Tax, or gave her an excuse to do so against her election promise as a condition of forming government with Labor. The tax is hugely attractive to the government because it, even more than the GST, taxes indirectly every aspect of our lives and will be a huge source of tax revenue in the future.
Internationally, it is intended to help prevent global warming albeit by an unmeasurable amount, by reducing Australia’s CO2 emissions by 5% by 2020, mostly as a symbolic act of a responsible government for other to follow. Given the central role of energy in our civilization, it would represent dramatic falls in our living standards and would prevent the development of 3rd world countries. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for the world, the risk and alarm of global warming is dissipating, and other countries are no longer contemplating such a damaging economy-wide scheme. Our Carbon Tax has thus been described as Australia picking the last possible moment to leap ONTO the burning ship of climate alarm.
Scientifically it is meant to contribute, albeit immeasurably to stabilising the rise of atmospheric CO2. The falling confidence in alarmist climate models and alternative natural explanation of the now decelerating global warming make the scientific reason very weak, which may be the reason why it is rarely mentioned by the government.
Economically, it is intended to make fossil fuel energy more expensive and thus favour the development and utilisation of more expensive ‘clean’ renewable alternative energy sources. It is also meant to create green jobs, ignoring the many more existing jobs it destroys. Unfortunately, effective renewable energy technology is many decades away and no rent-seeker spruiking and not even obscene amounts of taxpayer subsidies will change this, as the growing numbers of failed projects around the world testify.
Ideologically, the greens and UN are using climate alarm to create a transnational or global socialist governance to force the world into their own ideology of a centrally governed, de-industrialised, smaller populated earth, with people living more equitable, subsistent and sustainable lives along side animals and nature, more like the idealised natives in Avatar. Of course, history is littered with such corrupted noble causes causing millions of deaths, and such an oppressive ideology on a global scale would be truly and possibly irreversibly catastrophic or human freedom.
Carbon Trading instead?
Carbon trading is the multi-trillion dollar pot of gold for banks as they clip the ticket for every trade. It trades in not emitting an invisible gas and is thus hopelessly subject to corruption. Carbon trading has failed in the US and in EU. Enron pushed it and ex Goldman Sachs Malcolm Turnbul love carbon trading, ‘Nuff said.
How will it affect me?
These companies produce the energy and raw materials which powers our society and the increased cost will trickle through our entire economy own to consumers. For example, every business and every home uses electricity. You will pay higher electricity, higher gas bills, and higher prices for all goods and services.
If you work in one of the most affected industries, it may become uncompetitive with the rest of the world and shut down or move to other countries and you may lose your job.
But the poor and the threatened industries will be compensated, no?
Government will hand out a few dollars a week and protect their favourite unionised industries but the whole point is to make fossil energy more expensive, so compensation is small and the tax will rise each year. “I haven’t met anyone who believes the compensation will be adequate…” Graham Richardson. Because the rest of the world is not hampered with as high, if any carbon tax, we will be uncompetitive and as carbon costs rise, industries will either need to be even more highly subsidised or go out of business or will move overseas. Any of these scenarios are bad for Australia and our families.
But we are just following the rest of the world?
No. All major CO2 emitting countries like USA, India, China and have refused to damage their economies with a nation-wide carbon tax some have regional or state based industry specific carbon tax only. Most recently, Canada and New Zealand with a smaller carbon taxes have abandoned plans to enlarge it so as not to harm their citizens. No country has an economy-wide carbon tax. Australia now has an astronomical energy cost: industry will be taxed $70 million per week for our 28 million people while the green EU, with its 600 million odd people collects only 30 million per week. Do the math.
But the “big polluters” should pay, no?
Labelling CO2, a natural gas, an essential nutrient for plants, with 95% of it produced by nature, as pollution has been this government’s marketing master-stroke. Pollution is entirely emotional – it is all bad, it is assumed to be toxic to us, it is something that other careless or greedy people make, not us, there is always a better cleaner if more expensive alternative and it must be eradicated at all costs, with no safe level allowable because who wants to live with pollution.
But it’s a misnomer, a bit like calling water pollution, because too much of it can flood and drown us. These ‘big polluters’ make essential energy and material for us. They may be big green house gas emitters, but not polluters, as they have long been removing any real pollutants from their smoke stacks. Carbon tax will not clean up pollution, will not make air one bit cleaner and will not reduce asthma or other illnesses. Finally, the end customer, that is you, will of course, end up paying.
But surely clean renewable energy and kicking the oil habit is a good thing?
Yes, but no matter how much we wish for a green tree-change for our lives, the fact is that effective renewable energy to power our lifestyles is many decades away. Rather than bankrupting our governments and societies by rolling out hopelessly ineffective renewable energy today, we should be investing in technology to create adequately efficient alternative clean energy sources. This point is argued most strongly by an environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg, a believer in global warming.
So do we just keep strip-mining our earth and polluting it?
Yes we do over-consume in the west and the thought of every person in China and India getting a car and a lifestyle like ours is inconceivable, as it would probably take the resources of several earths. I don’t know the answer except that people have always peddled end of times alarms, like peak oil, food crisis and overpopulation, and our ingenuity and technology has so far managed overcome the problems mostly by market forces.
For all our concerns about the environment, we should realise the irony that industrialisation and its consequent wealth have enabled us to create the cleanest, safest and healthiest time of our history, and yet we have never been more anxious about the environment, our safety and our health.
But I know that de-industrialisation, corruption of industry and global governance by a few unelected people in the corrupted United Nations is not the way to go, particularly using a dishonest global climate fear campaign. No that is not the world I want to leave to my children.
To see the other side – the government propaganda site on Carbon Tax, go here.
About the Author, MichaelC58: I am a medical specialist and scientist, past PhD student with a long experience in technical design, manufacturing and Quality Management. I have been following the climate debate for many years and have no ‘skin’ in the game other than seeking honesty and integrity in our governance.