Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Carbon tax now enacted in Australia

By a very unpopular Leftist government. The conservatives are set to abolish it after the next election

The government's controversial carbon tax has passed through the Parliament - and is now set to become law.

Electricity suppliers have warned that their bills will rise under the scheme because they will apply a "risk premium" to current price contracts as a hedge against more expensive carbon permits later on.

But the Government says its compensation package is adequate and will flow to nine out of 10 households and more than fully compensate many for any extra costs. Treasury modelling predicts the average household will pay an extra $9.90 per week under the scheme but will receive $10.10 in compensation.

This is backed by more recent independent modelling, which found the compensation - starting two months before the price applies in May next year - will leave the average household $2.20 better off per week after compensation.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who voted against the scheme, said electricity costs would increase by 10 per cent because the Government had defeated his amendment to allow for the deferred payment of forward-dated carbon permits.

"Energy companies forward-sell electricity - it's a core part of their business. Why would we make them pay upfront for permits which they won't receive the revenue for until years later?" he said.

The Senate vote, which was greeted by applause in the packed public galleries, gives Australia one of the world's first economy-wide carbon pricing systems from July 1, 2012.

It will apply to fewer than 500 of the largest polluting companies and begin with an initial fixed value of $23 a tonne, climbing by 5 per cent a year before moving to a full floating price from mid-2015.

However, the $23 figure, set months ago, is more than double that on Europe's carbon market, where the price has plummeted recently amid its widening economic malaise.

Ms Gillard applauded yesterday's vote, calling it "historic Labor reform", but it remains deeply unpopular with voters and comes at a difficult time for households already facing skyrocketing power bills.

Adelaide electricity prices have increased by 25 per cent in the past year, 4 per cent more than the next-largest increase in Hobart.

Energy Users Association of Australia executive director Roman Domanski said the Producer Price Index information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed electricity prices had continued to rise by "large and disturbing amounts over the past year" in all states. "The level of electricity price increases we are seeing across the country continues to be of major concern," he said.

Cries of "betrayal" and "doormats to the Greens" echoed across the Senate as the package passed into law.

Ms Gillard acknowledged that some voters harboured "a great deal of anxiety" about the tax. She flagged an advertising campaign, saying the Government would take the necessary steps to give people the facts.

But she faces a steep climb back to voters' hearts, especially as the Opposition will tie all future price rises to the new carbon price - whether related or not. "It is not a defeat - it's an adjournment," said Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce.

Opposition MPs drew out the vote for as long as possible to expose Ms Gillard's no-carbon-tax promise. But in the end, the 18-Bill Clean Energy package passed with 36 Labor and Greens votes to 32 Opposition and independents.


Roman warming period recognized in the NYT, no less

Mr. Routson and his co-authors, Connie A. Woodhouse and Jonathan T. Overpeck, focused on bristlecone pines, the longest-lived of all trees. They found a stand near Summitville, Colo., covering more than 2,000 years, and were able to obtain specimens of dead wood and thin cores from living trees. (The trees were not harmed by the research.)

Analyzing tree rings and matching them with previous work, they found what they consider to be compelling evidence a long dry spell in the Southwest stretching through the first four centuries of the Christian era and punctuated by more acute dry stretches.

Scientists already knew the Southwest was prone to long, severe megadroughts far worse than anything that has happened there since European settlement of the region began. Some of the same scientists involved in this work helped document such a drought in the medieval era. And some previous research had already pointed toward the likelihood of a second-century megadrought. But with the fresh evidence, the Arizona scientists believe the case is nailed.

“Our record brings these previous studies together to show that is event was indeed real and widespread,” Mr. Routson told me by e-mail.

Evidence of the causes is of course quite thin, but the scientists speculate that one factor may have been a broad pattern of warmth in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly caused by an uptick in the sun’s energy output. This warm spell is often called the “Roman Warm Period,” and while it has not been definitively proven to exist, evidence for the idea is growing.

Climate-change contrarians love to cite the Roman Warm Period and its counterpart, the Medieval Warm Period, as proof that there is nothing unusual about today’s rising temperatures. But mainstream climate scientists say these earlier episodes, while intriguing, do not necessarily shed light on the question of whether modern-day human activity is causing the climate to warm, as their evidence suggests it is.

“The evidence for human-induced warming is overwhelming, but not the focus of this study,” Mr. Routson said.

Scientists expect temperatures in the coming century to rise substantially compared with these earlier warm periods. Since the earlier periods were associated with severe droughts and climate disruptions in some parts of the world, they warn of a potential replay — except that the coming megadroughts could be worse.


2012 GOP Candidates Demonstrate Dramatic Political Shift on Climate

Republican candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination overwhelmingly agree in rejecting evidence that Earth is warming and that humans are substantially responsible. But just three years ago, both major party presidential candidates were pledging to cut greenhouse emissions. What’s changed?

Americans voting in November 2008 chose between two presidential candidates who had each pledged to take significant action on climate change.

“We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world,” Republican nominee John McCain said on the campaign trail in Oregon. “Time is short and the dangers are great.”

McCain proposed cutting greenhouse emissions by 60 percent by 2050. Then-candidate Barack Obama said he supported cuts of 80 percent.

Fast-forward three years, and scientists remain convinced that Earth is warming and that people are substantially responsible.

But the political landscape has shifted dramatically. All the Republican presidential candidates now either oppose greenhouse regulations or outright deny that climate change is occurring.

Take Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has described global warming as “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax” and carbon dioxide as “a natural byproduct of nature.”

Business executive Herman Cain has said the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative should instead be called the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Rip-off.” Texas Congressman Ron Paul has said global warming is a hoax; former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has called it “a beautifully concocted scheme.”

There’s also Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has claimed that “there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.”

Youtube video no longer available to embed. View it at Perry suggests global warming is a hoax

In 2008, former House Speaker and now candidate Newt Gingrich appeared in an advertisement with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi on behalf of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. “Our country must take action to address climate change,” he said in the ad.

But in the heat of the presidential campaign, Gingrich has said he regrets participating in the ad and that his appearance had been “misconstrued.”

In the GOP field, former Ambassador to China and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman stands virtually alone in his clear support for the evidence on climate change, which he expressed via Twitter.

That tweet prompted a swipe from GOP veteran Pat Buchanan, speaking on MSNBC: “If he’s running for the Republican nomination, he is crazy,” Buchanan said.

But even Huntsman doesn’t support legislation to address emissions. He told Time in May that “this isn’t the moment” to take action on climate change.

Mitt Romney’s Cooling Climate Views

The changed political prospects for climate change are most obvious in former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s shifting position on the issue. When Romney was governor, his administration capped emissions from coal-fired power plants. The limits, Romney said in a December 2005 press release, would provide “real and immediate progress in the battle to improve our environment.”

The Romney administration also helped negotiate a regional cap-and-trade initiative, although the governor ultimately backed out of the deal.

As recently as June 3, 2011, Romney offered support for the scientific consensus on climate change.

“I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that,” he said in Manchester, New Hampshire. “I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”

Then conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh seized on Romney’s comments. “Bye bye, nomination. Another one down,” Limbaugh said.

By August, Romney seemed to soften his stance. “Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that, but I think that it is,” Romney said in Lebanon, New Hampshire. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” He added: “What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to.”

In early September, Romney released his jobs plan, in which he pledged to move to amend the Clean Air Act so that carbon dioxide could not be regulated as a pollutant.

That didn’t stop Rick Perry from using Romney’s climate-change record as attack fodder. “Massachusetts was one of the first states to implement its own cap-and-trade program, which included limits on carbon emissions from power plants,” Perry said in a Georgia speech that likened Romney to President Obama. The Perry campaign released a video describing Romney and Obama as “carbon copies.”

The Romney campaign replied with its own climate-tinged swipe: “Rick Perry supported Al Gore for president,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul told Politico. “Instead of distorting Mitt Romney’s record, Mr. Perry should explain why he lined up behind Al Gore’s radical environmental agenda.”

Then, speaking in Pennsylvania in late October, Romney reversed his position on climate change. “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” he said.

Four Reasons The Debate Has Changed

What’s changed since 2008? Drexel University’s Robert Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science, says four factors help explain climate change’s political problems, even within the Obama camp. The administration is “not really talking much about climate change at all, either,” he said. “You have the Democrats sort of just getting quieter and quieter, and the Republicans getting louder and louder in denial.”

First, in the summer of 2008 — when the last presidential campaign was in high gear — unemployment was low. The opposite is true today. ”Climate change becomes a peripheral issue when unemployment is so high,” Brulle said in a recent interview.

The second factor: the rise of the Tea Party. In 2008, the Tea Party did not exist. By 2010, it was an organized political force.

According to a poll conducted in April and May of this year, led by Yale Forum publisher Anthony Leiserowitz, 53 percent of Republicans who do not identify with the Tea Party say that global warming is happening. In contrast, among Tea Party members — who make up 12 percent of the American public — only 34 percent say that global warming is occurring.

“All the Republican candidates have to go through the gauntlet of the Republican primary, which is where the Tea Party is going to have the most influence,” Brulle said. The result is that candidates are taking positions to appeal to their political base in the upcoming primaries.

Dwindling news coverage is also a factor in this year’s climate politics. Media coverage and public concern about climate change increased dramatically in 2006 and 2007, during the period when Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was released, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its Fourth Assessment Report, and Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize.

But by 2010, coverage had returned to 2004 levels, Brulle said: “It’s just not a major item of discussion.”

Finally, the movement to oppose action on climate change has grown much stronger since 2008, Brulle said. In the wake of hacked e-mail controversies, for example, climate “skeptics” feel free to claim publicly, though falsely, that climate scientists faked their data.


"Nature" pans Gore's old-fashioned revival hour

The November 2011 edition of Nature Climate Change pans Al Gore's 24 Hours of 'Reality', disputing Gore's suggestion that global warming is responsible for all extreme weather and noting,

"Gore may have briefly pumped up his disillusioned environmental base, but it's hard to imagine such a polarizing figure convincing anybody who has honest doubts about the severity of the problem, let alone the diehard skeptics."

The article is behind a paywall but the introduction is available here and there is an image below


Climate change caused $14 billion in health costs?

Did merely six “climate change related events” cause $14 billion in health costs in the past decade?

That’s what the Natural Resources Defense Council says in its new study, “Six Climate Change–Related Events In The United States Accounted For About $14 Billion In Lost Lives And Health Costs.

The events were:

US Ozone Air Pollution, 2000–02
California Heat Wave, 2006
Florida Hurricane Season, 2004
West Nile Virus Outbreak In Louisiana, 2002
Red River Flooding In North Dakota, 2009
Southern California Wildfires, 2003

So if you assume that all losses are due to climate change and then multiply deaths by the EPA-per-life-valuation of $7.9 million, like the NRDC does, you get to $14 billion pretty quickly.

There is, however, no evidence that these or any other discrete weather events were caused by climate change, manmade or otherwise. But that would get in the way of the creation of another green factoid to be mindlessly parroted.

And since all the events listed took place AFTER the warming ceased in 1999, they CANNOT be due to warming! -- JR


Another step backwards from "The Ecologist"

They ask, below, of the Durban climate summit: is it time to forget about 2 degrees of warming?

Is it time environmentalists let go of the holy grail of carbon emission reduction targets and looked at alternatives such as 'carbon clubs'?

Second tier politicians will gather around and agree of the need to tackle the problem of climate change and possibly commit funds for poorer countries for adaptation.

A binding or voluntary agreement on cutting carbon dioxide emissions will remain out of reach though, with the US, China and subsequently others, unwilling to commit to substantial reductions.

As things stand, it’s the most likely outcome from the latest instalment of the annual climate talks taking place later this month in Durban, South Africa. Roll on 2012.

But there is another way. Led by political academics, there is an emerging consensus that it is time to drop idealistic hopes of an all-encompassing and workable global deal.

A decade of failure

The summits in Copenhagen and Cancun continued what a number of observers believe is a forlorn quest to get the major polluting countries to agree a legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction deal.

‘We’ve been doing the same kind of approach for 20 years now, and it’s going nowhere’, explains Professor Scott Barrett, from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Simply put, the major polluting countries like the US, Russia and China are unwilling to commit to making the changes to their industries and economies that would be necessary to make a real difference to climate change.

‘We’re expecting the world to do something it is just not ready to do and we’ve already delayed action for two decades,’ says Professor Barrett.

One major factor holding back a new approach is the groundbreaking Kyoto Treaty, which committed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 5 per cent below their 1990 levels by 2013.

With the US refusing to join in the agreement and global emissions on the rise, the Treaty, however well intentioned, is failing in its ultimate goal.

Less industrialised countries in the global south, who are expected to bear the brunt of the worst effects of climate change, are unsurprisingly reluctant to let go of the one binding commitment they have from the major-polluting countries to reduce emissions.

For now the negotiations on an extension to the Kyoto Treaty, which expires at the end of 2012, continue. But hardly anyone expects an agreement to be reached.

‘Kyoto is just too complicated. Countries are wary of agreeing to it in case it has some terrible consequences for national interest down the line,’ says Oliver Tickell, author of Kyoto2.

Dr Heike Schroeder from the Tyndall Centre says Japan, Russia and Canada have already said they will oppose any new deal. While the EU says it is unwilling to agree to a deal without the US, which in turn says it won’t agree to any deal without China.

‘It’s become a game of “passing the buck” with no-one willing to do anything,’ says Dr Schroeder.

Environmental campaign groups have been blamed, in part, for the continued push for a target-driven global deal.

While accepting the slow progress of negotiations, Friends of the Earth say abandoning the UN process altogether would see, ‘global temperatures rise by five degrees – putting people and wildlife all over the world in grave jeopardy’.

Even sceptical groups like Carbon Trade Watch, while accepting the limitations of Kyoto - no emissions reductions, no sanctions on those failing to reach targets and a carbon market that rewards polluters – say they still want a legally binding deal.

‘Kyoto is based on targets (although weak), which is key for real mitigation,’ says researcher Joanna Cabello. ‘We need a strong legally binding emission reduction targets at source which cannot be bought or sold in any market, and fossil fuels need to be phased-out from our societies.’

The ‘carbon club’ idea

For all the vocal urgency by NGOs and politicians and the clear scientific consensus on man-made climate change, a deal does not appear any closer today than it was two years ago at Copenhagen.

The solution, according to a growing consensus of observers, but which is likely to anger environmental NGOs, is to ditch the UN negotiations, breaking them down into a smaller ‘carbon club’ of the major polluting countries.

What’s more, rather than a top-down global goal to limit warming to 2 degrees, as demanded by climate scientists and campaigners, negotiations should start from what each individual country is willing and able to offer. Be it emission reductions or policies to help spread low-emission investment in developing countries.

‘Negotiations begin with the “carbon club” and focus on policies that countries can reliably implement,’ explains Professor David Victor, a strong advocate, in his book, Global Warming Gridlock.

‘Those policies, which will be offered to other club members as bids, will be contingent. If many countries are willing to adopt strict limits then each nation individually will be wiling to ramp up its own efforts.’

The ultimate goal, says Professor Victor, should be to move away from abstract promises few governments look willing or able to meet. Instead we should look to the example of trade negotiations like World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the model for climate negotiations at Durban and beyond.

‘So far the incentives have favoured speedy negotiations, high-profile summits, and a focus on simplistic emission targets. The result has been the illusion of action but not much impact on the underlying problem.’



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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