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Issue #1674      February 25, 2015

Coalition’s climate policy betrays future generations

The Abbott government continues to oppose any initiative that might threaten industries based on coal, gas or other fossil fuels. But other conservative regimes are doing just the opposite. Renewable energy sources currently comprise approximately 20 percent of Britain’s power output; wind farms alone producing eight percent.

About 25 percent of Germany’s power comes from renewable energy sources. Local solar and wind plants now provide so much power that many small communities no longer rely on national grid energy.

The United States and China, in absolute terms the world’s biggest carbon emitters, have now agreed to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Last year China’s demand for coal declined 3 percent, even though its electricity production increased 3.8 percent.

Nevertheless, in Australia (in relative terms the world’s biggest carbon emitter) the Abbott government wants coal and other fossil fuel exports to grow indefinitely. Its “direct action” plan for cutting emissions is ineffective and shockingly expensive.

Abbott has threatened to reject any international climate deal that would hinder Australia’s “economic development” i.e. hurt the coal or gas industries. His government has eliminated government agencies that tracked or reported on climate change, and has hindered the development of renewable power technology.

The government is likely to support a recent proposal from the owners of private power stations that the power bills of households that have installed solar power panels in order to reduce their energy consumption should be based on higher tariffs than households with no solar panels!

Enter the nuke men

Aware of public concern over climate change, a group of mining industry businessmen has revived a 2007 proposal to build a nuclear power plant in Australia. Nuclear power advocate Ziggy Switkowsky has also revived the appalling proposal to establish a massive global nuclear waste dump in central Australia.

The South Australian Labor government will conduct a Royal Commission into the feasibility of establishing a nuclear plant in that state.

The Australian people vigorously rejected previous attempts to establish a nuclear industry. The danger of nuclear power has been shockingly demonstrated by the Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima catastrophes.

When running normally, nuclear plants emit little carbon. However, the mining, processing and enrichment of uranium are highly hazardous, and involve significant carbon emissions.

Private firms will not build nuclear power stations without massive government subsidies, nor will they run them without government insurance underwriting. And nuclear waste has to be stored for thousands of years, at an incalculable cost in terms of both money and carbon emissions.

Germany and other nations have begun closing down their nuclear power industry. Renewable energy sources are the best alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power definitely the worst.

Our children’s future

The world is now entering a desperate period. Fourteen of the world’s hottest average annual temperatures ever recorded have occurred since 2000. The ice covering the vast polar permafrost regions is melting, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas up to 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t severely cut very soon, the average world temperature increase will eventually pass the two degree tipping point. That will result in a dramatic rise in sea levels, increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events, droughts, fires, the spread of tropical diseases and a slump in world food production.

Millions will almost certainly die and wars will erupt over water, food and dwindling natural resources. And if average temperatures increase much beyond two degrees the planet may become uninhabitable.

Australia occupies a critical position in the global struggle to curb climate change. It’s one of the world’s biggest coal producers, and every year the combustion of our coal exports exacerbates the climate crisis.

We should be leading the world in the development and use of renewable energy technology, but the government blocks every move in that direction. One British Tory has even accused the Abbott government of betraying future generations, and he’s dead right.

The Australian people must dump the coalition and elect a government that will decisively curb greenhouse gas emissions, categorically reject the nuclear power proposal, and commence the difficult but vital task of phasing out the mining and use of fossil fuels, transferring to renewable energy production as fast as possible.

This must be done for today’s children and for future generations.

Next article – Deregulation of uni fees will hit future generations

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