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In the swim on CO2

By Chris Lehman - posted Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Fair Dinkum. This whole debate does my head in. All of the one-eyed impassioned rhetoric from the two extremes of this debate might sell newspapers or advertising banners on websites but the idea of increasing the price of energy in Australia to reduce the temperature of the planet is just farcical. I will use a couple of analogies to demonstrate my point that make sense to this public educated, self employed tradesman, and if they make sense to me I reckon there is a fair chance they might make sense to the average voter.

The proposed "actions on climate change" via a carbon tax by the Labor government is akin to being in the non-peeing section of the local council swimming pool. If we took up our purported 1.5% of the swimming pool and strictly enforced a no peeing regime and penalised and demonised the urinators, it would not mean that for a second we would not still be swimming in the uric acid emissions of the other people in the pool. Furthermore, if the people currently in our non-peeing section decide they really need to pee, all they need to do is step outside our imaginary enclosure a empty their bladder with no repercussions at all. There will still be the same amount of pee in that pool.

The other method favoured by climate alarmists is an emissions trading scheme (ETS). To me, the idea of someone being able to trade their excess emissions (Western countries, big business) with someone who has a credit of emissions (Third World countries with its citizens living in poverty) is immoral, and is as farcical as a Fat Trading Scheme or FTS. Imagine it, you could have a government scheme where you could trade unwanted kilos from one citizen who is over their ideal BMI figure with another who is under their ideal BMI figure. The government and other middle men could take their cut of the transaction. It's a great idea!!


You have a scientific way of measuring the appropriate weight (BMI), you have a buyer and a seller, you could charge a fee to facilitate the transaction, you could set up a completely new government department to administer, regulate and monitor the scheme. In effect you could make sure that on paper no-one in the world is obese, think of the benefits for public health! Think of how governments could trumpet the success of a scheme like this, and how much money could be made from it!! The real world result of an FTS is that the overweight person would still be fat, the underweight person would still be skinny, arteries would still be getting clogged all over the country and people dropping dead from heart attacks at the same rate. But you would have a "beautiful set of numbers", a brand new revenue stream, and the government could demonstrate the public benefits statistically. An ETS would have exactly the same outcome with "carbon pollution", and would be run by the same people who gave you the GFC, stockbrokers and investment bankers.

Or we could use the method that works in the real world - policy, legislation, regulation and enforcement. No-one is arguing against the fact that it is in the public good to use resources and energy more efficiently and effectively. No-one argues that we should not reduce pollution. No-one argues that we should not look after our environment and ensure that the air, water and soil is healthy and able to sustain us. We have been progressively doing this for years in the building, manufacturing industries, and primary industries; energy efficient lighting in homes, insulation, water tanks, grey water recycling, energy efficient hot water systems, environmental laws that prevent the use of harmful chemicals in building products and pest control, environmental laws that prevent the run off of silt and contaminants from building and construction sites, land clearing and vegetation protection legislation, zero till farming practices, key-line land management practices, and the list goes on.

A broad and incremental direct action policy is the only thing that will work, and it actually dovetails the ongoing public policy that has been in place for many years, without the realisation of most citizens. Clear targets set over time using proven available technologies, backed up by legislation and then enforcement is the only way that has ever worked in the past in any area of public policy change; think smoking reduction, reducing the road toll, immunisation schemes, it works.

Taxing people for emissions and then saying you will give them back the same amount or more (as the government is arguing in trying to sell its current tax proposal), will not change people's behaviour, and will actually cost money to administer. For a bloke like me that makes a living out of physically doing something, that does not make sense. It makes as much sense as a "non peeing" section in a public pool.

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About the Author

Chris Lehman is an electrical contractor.

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