Web_60-trillionIt takes a while to get your head around so many $Trillions, way too big for games of one-up-manship of our Federal leaders. It’s been reported widely, a good original being available from ABC1, Lateline, July 29, when Emma Alberici cross examined the main spokesperson, Dr Chris Hope, leading climate economist at Cambridge University and specialist advisor to House of Lords Select Committee on Economics of Climate Change.

This mind boggling $60,000,000,000,000 is the predicted cost to the world economy for climate change resulting in ice free arctic, where warming is already twice as fast as rest of world. This new warming comes from release of 50 billion tonnes of methane buried in Arctic ice. Methane is 20 to 30 times worse than CO2 for warming, over 20 years, then breaks down to CO2, which persists in atmosphere for centuries. Base case model is for damage to start in 2015 and finish in 2025, though start may be a decade or so later with duration a decade or so longer. Some folks are eager for ice free Arctic to enable drilling for oil, extracting minerals, fishing and even shipping fossil fuel from Oceania to Europe! But it will be anything but plain sailing, won’t last more than a decade or so and be worth very few $Billions compared to $60T cost. Of course, we can say the Arctic isn’t in our backyard, no worries. But this scale of climate change means a major rise in sea level, more extremes of rainfall/drought, also extreme heat/cold, leading to complete failure in much agricultural land, previously marginally viable.

This means large areas of Australia. We can also make excuses that our population is so small that we can’t make any difference. Meanwhile “our” miners tell us we’re all wealthy because Australia is already the biggest exporter of coal. Additional approved projects for coal and LNG will make us the biggest exporters of total energy, making us responsible for 20 per cent of world CO2 emissions. Surely “we” need to either cop a serious slice of this CO2 cost or not approve some projects? The $60T is cost from release of Arctic Methane alone; bigger cost of BAU (Business As Usual) emissions of CO2 continues to accumulate. If our leaders could only rise above their claims to be cheapest, smallest and toughest government, to be taken seriously, about climate change, the biggest issue of our time, then maybe some of the $60T could be saved. The longer they procrastinate, the more expensive it gets. Other than money, lives of people, flora and fauna can be saved from extinction.

About measures to reduce emissions, Dr Hope – “ETS… is nowhere near as successful at reducing emissions as we would’ve hoped it would be, or as sensible as carbon tax”. About proposals in USA and Australia for direct action: “It’s a very bad system. The last thing you want to be doing is subsidising people who are doing bad things. What you want to do is use the polluter-pays principle”…. “Best estimate for damage caused by CO2 emissions is about $100 damage for every tonne of CO2 that goes into atmosphere. That’s the carbon price you should be setting, and it should be set ideally as a carbon tax, which is charged on every tonne of emissions and increases over time.” Sooner or later, our leaders must respond to climate change. They still need much lobbying before they might follow the lead of public opinion, which needs to be informed by other than mainstream media, which continues to peddle never ending compound growth of everything, sustainably, of course! Time to ask our leaders to be as transparent and accountable as CO2.

Bernie McComb, Cowes.