QFT: Cleaning up is a costly business

Ian Verrender points out that we’ve prided ourselves over the last few decades on our improved community standards regarding minimising and recycling household waste, removing and treating our effluents, and banning (and punishing) the disposal of pollutants/toxins into our rivers and harbours. But over the last few years, the idea of treating the atmosphere with the same level of care as we (now) treat our neighborhoods and our waterways has become an ideological football.

If you truly believe that the amount of crap we’ve pumped into the atmosphere during the past 200 years has had no impact on the environment, good luck getting the sand out of your ears when you finally extract your head.

Will a carbon price save the planet? Who knows? It will certainly help clean up the atmosphere. And it definitely is more efficient than subsidies and direct involvement from government, for it allows business leaders to choose the way they would reduce emissions. A price – whether through a carbon tax or a trading scheme – minimises the heavy hand of government.

And there we have the ultimate irony. Both sides of Australian politics are committed to reducing carbon emissions. But in an odd twist, Labor is pushing for a market-based solution while the Coalition advocates government intervention. It’s a funny old world.

Read more: SMH

smog blankets Sydney's CBD skyline

Source: Daily Telegraph (April 2007)

I find the scientific conclusions regarding how industrial and carbon-fuelled transport emissions contribute to climate change compelling. But even if I didn’t, why wouldn’t I be working for a less toxic atmosphere anyway? Sydney (and other Australian cities, of course) has an immense smog problem, we know that smog causes many acute health problems, and atmospheric pollution is suspected of contributing to many chronic health problems – environmentalists and public health specialists have been advocating emission controls for these reasons for decades, and most people could see that it made sense. Why does it suddenly stop making sense just because some Culture Warriors have decided to make climatology contrarianism their latest staging ground?

Categories: culture wars, environment, media, Science

Tags: ,

12 replies

  1. Whether our activities are or are not capable of influencing global warming is largely irrelevant.
    What really matters is that we are the filthiest animal on this planet, and we are the most careless breeders, clinging to the cheapest and dirtiest ways of supplying our needs, when there are cleaner, if more expensive options. Power from coal is the dirtiest option, right down to a diagram I saw recently of an open cut mine. Do you realise that the soil in the top layer is dismissively described as ‘overburden’. “Overburden” is the precious layer that feeds us all, and I doubt very much if coal would be an appetising main course.
    We do not ‘own’ this world and its resources, we are only stewards and guardians for a generation, and we have an obligation to cherish our world and its resources for the sake of our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren.
    And if this costs us a little more, it is still our duty and obligation.
    Gae, in Callala Bay

  2. I’m all for the carbon price, and I say this as someone who is likely to see the household costs rise significantly as a result. I have a lot of trouble dealing with the ongoing whining from the deniers, however. Things like “why do we have to do this?” (we have to do this because we’re a part of the problem); “why aren’t the big polluting nations doing something?” (it varies, but generally the answer can be summed up as “money”); “why doesn’t someone else do something?” (who else, and when would you like them to start?), “what’s the point – we’re such a small nation?” (well, every little helps). They make it sound as though the whole business of dealing with global climate change is the equivalent of having to clean up a party room after a lad’s night they weren’t invited to.
    I think the whinge which puts my nerves most on edge, though, is the one about “why are we the ones who are going first?” – a whinge which implies that Australia shouldn’t have to be first with anything. A whinge which implies we’re supposed to wait for someone else to go first, rather than showing a bit of leadership. A whinge which ignores a lot of Australian political and social history: we’re a nation which has often led the way. We were one of the first countries in the world to allow women the vote; we were among the first countries in the world to have a trade-union led political party in charge of our government; we were one of the pioneering countries behind things like the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and so many other measures. We have a history of leadership on tricky matters, on matters which affect more than just the few people on this little continent. So the more accurate question is “why shouldn’t we be the ones to lead the way on this matter?”

  3. People can see smog, but they can’t see CO2. Same problem as with evolution – you can’t see it unless you really know what you’re looking for. Opens the doors for charlatans to come in with simpler explanations that “feel right”.

  4. Sort of related:
    It is amazing to me the number of new products that are STILL coming on the market lately that do the same job as old products with the only difference being MORE PACKAGING!
    I was looking after my charges at their house a week or so ago, and in their pantry was a box of individually wrapped straws, each containing flavouring for milk. So rather than make up some flavoured milk out of a tin – you can drink milk through this straw thing and it makes it taste like chocolate or strawberry milk.
    Honestly, it didn’t even take up that much less time by the time you’d wrestled the individual little plastic wrapping off for more than one child.
    I mean, I’ve only been alive for 25 years, and watching this rapid increase in disposable crap that we go through is disturbing. Everything from food to electronics.

  5. Yeah, I pretty much had a rant on my LJ about this very thing. Mainly because with all the noise, the thing that isn’t largely reported that on the first day of this tax announcement, money is already pouring into the alternative energy industry. All we’re hearing is, “OH NO THE AUSSIE DOLLAR” not “HEY! Finally the alternative energy industries are getting the money they need to develop and become more affordable for all of us, and in the end, lead to a cleaner environment!”
    The more I hear economists paid by Rupert Murdoch to forecast woe and sadness, every time I see Gina Rineheart fuss over these taxes, I think, “Awww, cry moar. It’ll help with the drought we’re having due to Climate Change.”
    I guess I’m like that because I don’t have much money to begin with. I can’t afford anything, so it’s all the same to me.

  6. I support action on climate change and think the carbon price is a good starting point.
    And we will be hit hard by it. Very damn hard. As an itinerant family that doesn’t have a lot of options in sustainability, it will hit us hard. Unless DHA overhaul their criteria for housing, making all the houses more sustainable and green, we’re pretty much screwed.
    We don’t qualify for much in the way of government kickbacks, (i did the estimator thing online which said we don’t meet the criteria- I suspect because we are a single income family with all our children over 5yrs- my husbands earns less than $75000. We struggle to make ends meet now)
    So whilst I welcome the change, I am afraid of what it will do to us financially.
    If any one has any great ideas on how to live more sustainably when you rent and move every two years, please, point the linkage in my direction.

  7. I just read this.
    you shut your goddam carbon taxin’ mouth
    If $10 a week is the impact for cleaning and greening our environment and economy…bring it on.
    Certainly makes me feel better if that’s even remotely close to the reality of what we will feel by pricing carbon. Not the painful price increases I imagined. ( i sure hope so anyway.) BTW, did any watch Q and A on monday night? I am not Gillards biggest fan, but I thought she conducted herself fabulously.

  8. Ten dollars a week… for families on >= $110 per year. For everyone else, less than that.
    [Also: warning for really fucking hideous grossly ableist language in para one at Pirra’s link.]

    • Ten dollars a week… for families on >= $110 per year. For everyone else, less than that.

      That should be $110K per year, but yes.

  9. Oh yes, sorry I forgot the warning! I think there is a cleaned up version of it on the drum. (But I am not sure)

  10. Here’s the link on The Drum. It’s been somewhat cleaned up, but he still uses words like “idiot” all over the place.

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