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Australia Ignores 25 Huge Climate Change Realities

By Dr Gideon Polya

06 July, 2011

Australia, a world-leading per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluter,  is currently having a major debate over how to “tackle climate change”, whether by a Carbon Tax and Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS ) mechanism (Labor Government) or through taxation-free Direct Action in areas of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution reduction such as cleaner energy, biochar and re-afforestation (the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Opposition). Both the Government and Opposition are agreed on a derisory “5% off 2000 Domestic GHG pollution by 2020” coupled with hugely expanding, world leading  coal and liquid natural gas (LNG) exports. It is clear that neither of the major parties in disproportionately polluting, climate criminal Australia is serious about tackling climate change that may  kill 10 billion people this century.   

What is extraordinary in this Australian national debate is the near total exclusion from public discussion in Parliament and the Mainstream media of 25 science-based, Elephant in the Room matters relating to climate change action, notably. (1)  Australia must get to zero GHG emissions before 2020 to do its “fair share” in the required global action to avoid a damaging 2 degree Centigrade  temperature rise but in fact is set to massively increase its Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in this period;  (2) a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition will result in a doubling of power industry-based  GHG pollution; and (3) achieving   zero emissions is not enough: atmospheric CO2 must be then reduced from the current 394 ppm to 300 ppm.

Look-the-other-way Australia simply ignores these enormous matters because it simply doesn't want to know.   Australia is a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution, coal exports and liquid natural gas (LNG) exports. Australia is intent on Business As Usual (BAU) until the World forces  it stop its disproportionate GHG pollution of the one common atmosphere of all countries. It is increasingly likely that a climate criminal and climate racist Australia will eventually face boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), sporting bans (e.g. exclusion from the Olympics and the  football and cricket World Cups), Green Tariffs, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations and International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions.

Of course most Australians recognize man-made climate change as a major problem but recent polls suggest that only 40% of Australians are prepared to pay for GHG pollution reduction. This massive support for climate change inaction is due to Australia , like other English-speaking Western democracies being a Murdochcracy  (Big Media determine popular perception of reality) and a Lobbyocracy (Big Money buys policy). However a major part of the problem lies in innate greed and self-interest and Australians conflating truth with convenient perception. One is reminded of Winston Churchill's shocking admission “I therefore adopted quite early in life a system of believing whatever I wanted to believe” (see Madhusree Mukerjee's recent book “Churchill's Secret War. The British Empire and the ravaging of India during World War II”: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya130611.htm ).

Below are 25 huge, Elephant in the Room realities about climate change action  that climate criminal, climate racist Australia chooses to near totally  ignore in the context of a stormy public debate that may well determine the fate of the present Gillard Labor Government. As a responsible, 5 decade career scientist who has been teaching university science students at a major university  for 40 years, I am sending the following carefully referenced, 25-point summary  to Australian MPs and Mainstream media but no doubt the Silence will be Deafening in look-the-other-way Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy Australia, the land of flies, lies and slies (spin-based untruths).

1. According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany), for a 67% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise the World must cease CO2 emissions by 2050 and top per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) polluters such as the US and Australia must get to zero CO2 emissions by 2020. [1, 2] 

2. According to the Australian Climate Commission's 2011 "The Critical Decade" report, for a 75% chance of avoiding a disastrous 2 degree Centigrade  temperature rise the World can emit no more than 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 before reaching zero emissions in about 2050. Australia 's high Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution rate means it must get to zero emissions in 1.9 years or in 4.6 years  (ignoring Exported GHG pollution). [3, 4]

3. Gas is not clean, it is dirty, 1 tonne of methane (CH4) generating 2.8 tonnes CO2 on combustion. Gas burning is cleaner than coal burning in terms of twice the MWh/tonne CO2  emitted and less health damaging pollutants but gas is not cleaner than coal burning GHG-wise.  Thus methane (CH4) leaks (3.3%) and is 105 times worse than CO2 as a GHG on a 20 year timeframe taking aerosol impacts into account, this meaning that a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition will double electric power industry-derived  GHG pollution. [5, 6]

4. Climate change is damaging and destroying ecosystems (ecocide) and the species extinction rate is now 100-1,000 times greater than normal ( Australia is a word leader).  We must not destroy what we cannot replace. [7, 8]

5. Leading scientists, economists and analysts slam the Carbon Trading Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) approach as empirically ineffective, dangerously counterproductive and inherently fraudulent because it involves governments selling licences to pollute the one common atmosphere of all countries. [9].

6. World Bank analysts have recently re-assessed annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution as 50% bigger than hitherto thought and that the livestock contribution is over 51% of the bigger figure (Labor proposes to ignore agriculture). [10]

7. Many countries (e.g. EU countries and Australia ) support a 450 ppm CO2-equivalent  and a 2 degree Centigrade temperature rise "cap". However the Synthesis Report of the 2,500-delegate March 2009 scientific Copenhagen Climate Conference indicates that we have already exceeded 450 ppm CO2-e and over 90% of delegates polled thought 2C was inevitable. [11]

8. GHG pollution must decrease but it has increased under Labor whose policies mean that Australia 's Domestic plus Exported GHG will be about 150% of the 2000 level by 2020. [4]

9. Atmospheric CO2 must be urgently returned to about 300 ppm for a safe Planet.for all peoples and all species. Circa 320 ppm CO2 is required for restoration of the Arctic sea ice and  for coral sustainability. However atmospheric CO2 concentration is currently 394 ppm and is increasing at about 2.4 ppm per year. [12, 13]  

10. Carbon burning pollutants have been estimated from Canadian and New Zealand data to kill about 10,000 Australians yearly. Australians dying each year from the effects of pollutants from vehicles, coal burning for electricity and other carbon burning total about 2,200, 4,600 and 2,800, respectively. [14]

11. Leading UK climate scientists  Dr James Lovelock FRS (Gaia hypothesis) and Professor Kevin Anderson (Director, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester , UK ) have recently estimated that only 0.5 billion people will survive this century due to unaddressed, man-made global warming. Noting that the world population is expected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, these estimates translate to a climate genocide involving deaths of about 10 billion people this century, this including 6 billion under-5 year old infants, 3 billion Muslims in a terminal Muslim Holocaust, 2 billion Indians, 1.3 billion non-Arab Africans, 0.5 billion Bengalis, 0.3 billion Pakistanis and 0.3 billion Bangladeshis. [15].

12. “Annual per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution” in units of “tonnes CO 2 -equivalent per person per year” (2005-2008 data) is 0.9 (Bangladesh), 0.9 (Pakistan), 2.2 (India), less than 3 (many African and Island countries), 3.2 (the Developing World), 5.5 (China), 6.7 (the World), 11 (Europe), 16 (the Developed World), 27 (the US) and 30 (Australia; or 54 if Australia's huge Exported CO 2 pollution is included). [15]

13. Australia has about 0.3% of the World's  population but its Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is about 3% of the World total (climate exceptionalism, climate racism, and climate injustice in addition to horrific intergenerational inequity). [15].

14. Australia already has a huge carbon tax of $12 billion annually to subsidize carbon burning. [16].

15. It is estimated that a carbon tax of greater than $25/tonne carbon will encourage gas-fired power, $70/tonne carbon will encourage wind and about $200/tonne carbon will encourage concentrated solar thermal installation (indeed Labor hopes  for a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition). [5, 17]

16. A risk avoidance-based  estimate of $7.6 million for the value of a statistical life and Australia's annual Domestic GHG pollution (2009) of 600 million tonnes CO2-e (162 million tonnes Carbon) yields a Carbon Price of $7.6 million x 10,000/ 162 million tonnes Carbon = $469/tonne carbon. [14]

17. Politically a correct voter strategy should to punish the incumbent and success in “tackling climate change” is surely measured in terms of GHG pollution reduction. Australia 's Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution increased from 1121 million tonnes CO2-e (CO2 equivalent) in 2006-2007 (under the Coalition) to 1,415 million tonnes CO2-e in 2009 (under Labor) and is expected to reach about 1,666 Mt CO2-e by 2020 under Labor policies. [4, 18]

18. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) has projected that Australia 's black coal exports will increase at an average rate of 2.4% per year over the next 20 years and that liquid natural gas (LNG) exports will increase at 9% per year over the same period. Further, it is estimated that Australian exports of dried brown coal will reach 20 million tonnes by 2020, this corresponding to about 59 million tonnes CO2-e after combustion. [19]

19. The Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) plan for 100% renewable stationary energy for Australia by 2020 (Zero Carbon Australia by 2020, ZCA 2020) involves 40% wind energy, 60% concentrated solar thermal (CST) with molten salts energy storage for 24/7 baseload power, biomass and hydroelectric backup (for days of no wind and low sunshine) and a HV DC and HC AC national power grid. The BZE scheme was costed at $370 billion over 10 years, with roughly half spent on CST, one quarter on wind and one quarter on the national electricity grid. [2]  

20. A scheme for 100% renewable energy for Australia has been set out by top electrical engineer Professor Peter Seligman (a major player in development of the bionic ear). Professor Seligman's scheme involves wind, solar thermal, other energy sources, hydrological energy storage (in dams on the Nullabor Plain in Southern Australia), an HV AC and HV DC electricity transmission grid and a cost over 20 years of $253 billion. [20]

21. Ignoring cost-increasing energy storage and transmission grid costs and cost-decreasing economies of scale for a 2- to10-fold size increase, here are 2 similar cost estimates for installation of wind power for 80% of Australia's projected 325,000 GWh of annual electrical energy by 2020: (1) 90,000 MW capacity, 260,000 GWh/year, $200 billion/10 years (10-fold scale-up from GL Garrad Hassan) and (2) 96,000 MW, 260,000 GWh/year, $144 billion (2-fold scale up from BZE ). [2, 6, 21]  

22.Science-demanded  reduction  of atmospheric CO2 from 394 ppm to 300 ppm requires “negative GHG emissions” achieved by cessation of GHG pollution ASAP and CO2 reduction though re-afforestation (SE Australian native forests are the World's best forest carbon sinks), renewable energy driven CO2 trapping in alkaline solutions, and biochar (as much as 12 billion tonnes carbon  as biochar can be fixed annually globally from renewable energy-driven anaerobic pyrolysis  of agricultural and forestry cellulosic waste). [22]  

23. What needs to be done to tackle climate change: ( 1) Change of societal philosophy to one of scientific risk management and biological  sustainability with complete cessation of species extinctions and zero tolerance for lying , ( 2) urgent reduction of atmospheric CO 2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm as recommended by leading climate and biological scientists, and (3) a  rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as coal burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils and mining cavities coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production  and population growth. [23]

24. From a science perspective, the Australian Coalition's Direct Action  policy has 2 major things to commend it, specifically (1) unlike Labor's policy it does not entrench climate change inaction (it can be scaled up or down in response to science or greed, respectively) and (2) unlike Labor's hypothetical market approach it actually does something concrete about reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution  (cleaner energy, biochar, re-afforestation), albeit too little too late.

25. In stark contrast to the Australian Coalition Opposition's Direct Action policy, the pro-coal, pro-gas, anti-science Labor market economics-based Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) policy of the Gillard Labor Government fails comprehensively in 2 key areas, specifically (1)  it entrenches climate change inaction for decades by promoting a Carbon Tax-driven coal to gas transition (that will double electricity generation-derived GHG pollution) and scuppering science-demanded 100% renewable energy by 2020 and (2) it adopts an empirically ineffective, disastrously counterproductive  and inherently fraudulent ETS approach as well as ignoring petrol, fossil fuel exports (apart from fugitive emissions, extraction and transport costs), soil, forestry and agriculture (agriculture is responsible for over 50% of GHG pollution).


1. Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, “Terra quasi-incognita: beyond the 2 degree C line”< 4 Degrees & Beyond, International Climate Conference, 26-30 September 2009, Oxford University , UK : http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/4degrees/ppt/1-1schellnhuber.pdf  .

2. Beyond Zero Emissions Zero (BZE), Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 Report (BZE ZCA2020 Report), 2010: http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/about/bze-brand .

3. Australian Climate Commission, “The Critical Decade. Climate science, risks and responses”, 2011: http://climatecommission.gov.au/topics/the-critical-decade/

4. Gideon Polya, “ Country By Country Analysis Of Years Left Until Science-demanded Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions ”, Countercurrents, 11 June 2011: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya110611.htm .

5. Gideon Polya, “ Australia 's Carbon Tax And Coal To Gas Transition Will Double Power Generation Greenhouse Gas Pollution ”, Countercurrents, 15 May 2011: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya150511.htm .

6. Gideon Polya, “ Carbon Price & Climate Change Action Fact Sheet for leading per capita greenhouse gas polluter Australia ”, Bellaciao, 14 March 2011: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article20628 .

7. Phillip Levin, Donald Levin, “”The real biodiversity crisis”, American Scientist, January-February 2002: http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the-real-biodiversity-crisis .    

8. “ Australia 's threatened species”, Nova: http://www.science.org.au/nova/010/010key.htm .

9. “Experts: carbon tax needed and not cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme (ETS”, 300.org): http://300org.blogspot.com/2011/05/experts-carbon-tax-not-ets.html .

10. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anfang. “Livestock and climate change. What if the key actors in climate change are … cows, pigs and chickens?”, World Watch, November/December 2009: http://www.worldwatch.org/files/pdf/Livestock%20and%20Climate%20Change.pdf .

11. Synthesis Report from the March 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Climate Change, Global risks, challenges & decisions”, Copenhagen 10-12 March, 2009, University of Copenhagen , Denmark : http://lyceum.anu.edu.au/wp-content/blogs/3/uploads//Synthesis%20Report%20Web.pdf .

12. “300.0rg – return atmosphere CO2 to 300 ppm”, 300.org: http://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/300-org---return-atmosphere-co2-to-300-ppm .

13. US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, “Recent monthly mean CO2 at Mauna Loa ”: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/ .

14. “Australian carbon burning-related deaths”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/2011-carbon-burning .

15. “Climate Genocide”: http://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ .

16. Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), “ Australia spends $11 billion more encouraging pollution than cleaning it up”, 1 March 2011: http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=3308&eid=11731 .

17. Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), “Carbon pricing – will it benefit renewable energy”, February 2011: http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/15154881/738777308/name/

18. Gideon Polya, “ Australia 's Domestic plus Exported GHG  pollution has increased under Labor ”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/australia-s-ghg-pollution .

19. ABARE, “Australian energy national and state projections to 2029-2030”: http://www.abare.gov.au/publications_html/energy/energy_06/nrg_projections06.pdf .  

20. Peter Seligman, “Australian sustainable energy – by the numbers”, Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne , 2010: http://energy.unimelb.edu.au/ozsebtn/ .

21. GL Garrad Hassan https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/mediaObject/events/2010-conference/presentations/1600-Barber---White/original/CEC%202010%20conference%20-%20GLGH.pdf

22. Gideon Polya, “ Forest biomass-derived Biochar can profitably reduce global warming and bushfire risk”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/forest-biomass-derived-biochar-can-profitably-reduce-global-warming-and-bushfire-risk .

23. “Climate crisis facts and required actions”, Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: http://sites.google.com/site/yarravalleyclimateactiongroup/climate-crisis-facts-required-actions .

Summary and conclusions.

Australia under the extreme right wing, pro-coal, pro-gas,  pro-war, pro-US Gillard Labor Government is preparing to legislate its disastrously ineffective  Carbon Tax-ETS-Ignore Agriculture (CTETSIA) plan and thereby entrench climate change inaction in climate criminal, climate racist Australia.

The current impassioned national debate is extraordinary for almost totally ignoring 25 major Elephant in the Room climate change realities that  are not consonant with the greed-driven national narrative. 

Australia's selfish, politically correct racist (PC racist), dog-in-the-manger intransigence about climate change action invites international boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), sporting bans (e.g. exclusion from the Olympics and the  football and cricket World Cups), Green Tariffs, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations and International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions.

What can decent people do? Decent folk must (a) inform everyone they can and (b) demand sanctions in response to   Australia 's entrenched policy of disproportionate greenhouse gas pollution of the World's one common atmosphere.

Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot/ bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .  



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