Monday, 27 June 2011

The winds of climate change and the catching of carp

A refreshing change blew through Port Macquarie last Sunday. A climate change, to be more specific. Prof. Ross Garnaut took his life in his hands and ventured up here into the National Party heartland, in order to bring a rational element into the local climate change debate.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of rational people up here, and many of them turned out to hear Prof. Garnaut speak. There is also a very vocal anti-carbon tax, anti-climate change group up here that hold various rallies and get their 15 minutes of fame by making the front page of the Port Paper. They also write short but highly defamatory letters to the local papers, demanding that not only should climate change be exposed as a large Fascist plot, but also the White Australia policy should be returned and that Jesus did not die on Friday. And no, I am not making these letters up – you can find them in the online versions of the Wauchope Gazette or the Port News.

Climate change has become an emotionally fraught, and politically fought over issue during the last year or so. Often factual information about the science and proposed measures to combat it have been sadly lacking in public debate. Up here in National Party heartland, one could be forgiven for thinking that the flat earth society was in charge of the much of the information – or misinformation - that has found its way into the public arena.

A chance to rectify this situation was offered to the residents of the Hastings Valley last Sunday afternoon, with the opportunity to hear Professor Ross Garnaut, the independent expert adviser appointed by the Federal Government to advise them on Climate change policy. More specifically, his report has gone to the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, of which our Federal Member, Rob Oakeshott, is a member of.

A surprising number (over 150) of people gathered together in a cold school hall on what was a lovely sunny Sunday to hear Professor Ross Garnaut speak on the related topics of climate change and carbon pricing.

The best part of this Forum for me was meeting Rob Oakeshott in the flesh. Boldly poking my nose between him and Peter Besseling (who must be 10 feet tall), I ventured to introduce myself. To my surprise, he not only remembered my name, but also our letters. I was delighted, and only Rafael Nadal could have produced a bigger impression on this self-confessed Oakeshott (and Nadal) fan. And I got to be introduced to Prof. Garnaut.

Most of Prof. Garnaut’s initial information wasn’t particularly new to John and I, as we have been reading myriads of learned books on climate science. He confirmed the conclusion that has been reached by climate scientists in countries all around the world: that the earth is warming; that evidence shows that human activity is largely responsible, and that if allowed to continue, the expected consequences will be dire and deeply disrupt life as we know it.

Towards the end of the forum we did get one big surprise. Someone began a question that proved to be as long-winded as Barnaby Joyce, and who proceeded to cite dubious data, non-existent scientists and a belief that earth was cooling and that wind turbines were inefficient. John and I both felt something was fishy. It sounded strangely familiar. Surely it had to be our old friend Mr. Carp (see previous blogs Carping On 1 and 2), expresser of ridiculous opinions and fishy journalism in the scurrilous rag known as the Port Paper in the equally scurrilous column known as Carp’s Corner. Either this was the Carp himself, or someone who idolized his columns. I believe we have finally reeled him in, hook, line and sinker. His fame and notoriety have now been cemented, and he will be remembered by those attending the forum as the person most likely to avoid travel in case he falls off the end of the earth.

Lastly, let me say that this forum impressed on us just how serious the problem of climate change really is, and urgently we need to take action. I am sick of the political point scoring going on over this. Time for bipartisan support and to stop making this a political football.

Pricing carbon is not a tax. A carbon trading scheme has been shown to be an effective measure in many countries around the world. Introducing it here will actually cost less than the GST. We all coped with that – and will cope with this as well. The money raised through this carbon price will compensate households who need it, big polluters will have incentive to reduce their emissions, and cleaner technologies can be explored, developed and invested in. Carbon pricing means the polluters pay. Giving big polluters the money to clean up their industry means the tax payer pays. As a tax payer, I prefer the first option, thanks.

Julia Gillard, stop backing down on issues and being so poll conscious. Just bring carbon pricing in and be done with it. Stop using asylum seekers as a way of regaining votes. It ain’t going to work. And bring in that mining tax – the owners don’t need to be multi mutli billionaires.

Tony Abbott, this issue is more important than you forming government. I resent the fact you do not treat this problem with the careful attention it needs and deserves and must have. It infuriates me when you tacitly increase climate change skepticism by mislabeling the carbon price as a tax and by refusing to work with the government and minor parties and independents on this issue. It gets up my nose when you think we should waste money on plebiscites. Time to stop the misinformation campaign, stop your 12 month long dummy spit about not being Prime Minister and remember that if things don’t change, neither the meek – or anybody else – will be inheriting the earth.

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