The climate change ends and means gap

We still don’t have any polling on what global impact the Australian public believes our proposed emissions trading scheme would have, but this morning’s Newspoll does explore opinion on the strategic issue of whether Australia should act alone or wait for other countries.

While a clear majority – 61% – say we should act even if other countries do not, 36% either think we should wait or don’t believe we should have an emissions training scheme at all.

This fits a common pattern in polling on this subject of the massive majorities believing in climate change (at least mid-80s) shrinking when it comes to any specific action.

The medium and long-term politics of climate change policy continue to remain hard to predict.

7 thoughts on “The climate change ends and means gap

  1. Could the purchase of carbon offsets and green energy be a useful measure for how much people are really prepared to pay?

    You could look at question such as ‘should the homeless get more money’ and check the response in a poll against the number of people who actually donate to the Smith family or the City Mission or whatever as a guide.

    There are questions about the efficacy of carbon offsetting, but nonetheless if lots of people are paying extra for their plane tickets and whatnot it would show that they are serious about the issue rather than just tending to answer in the way they think people should answer.

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  2. I wonder how much the 61% would shrink when the people in that group find out that the scientific debate is not over, certainly not on the concept of carbon pollution.

    The news from Getup. “On Friday, climate change adviser Ross Garnaut recommended a vastly inadequate carbon pollution reduction target – merely 10% by 2020. The target is so low that if adopted, Australia is at high risk of losing the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our ski fields and more.”

    What happens when the 61% understand that our efforts make zero detectable difference in the world picture?

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  3. As I’ve said before, a $20/tonne carbon price, which is now Garnaut’s starting point, will not have a major effect on the economy or consumers, particularly if trade-exposed industries are shielded and the revenues are recycled back through taxes and transfers. It’s the 2050 target of 60% reduction that will really turn things upside down. But the electorate does not yet have the faintest idea of what that will mean – zero electricity emissions and forest planting the size of WA, both the result of a $150-300/tonne carbon price.

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  4. Rajat:

    I actually think the 2050 target is easily achievable- more so than the 2020 target.

    65% of domestic energy consumption is through coal plant generation. Stick 15 nuke reactors around the country and you have the problem solved. I think by 2050 enough science denialists that oppose nuke power for phobic reasons would have died off by then anyway and people will begin to see that nuke power is a real alternative.

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  5. ‘The news from Getup. “On Friday, climate change adviser Ross Garnaut recommended a vastly inadequate carbon pollution reduction target – merely 10% by 2020. The target is so low that if adopted, Australia is at high risk of losing the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our ski fields and more.”’

    We could cut our emissions by 100% and, so long as the rest of the world didn’t follow, we’d still (according to the science they are relying on) lose these natural wonders.

    Still, coral reefs, wood, ice and the ambiguous ‘more’ are obviously more important than jobs and high living standards for people in Canterbury-Bankstown. Cut away fellas!

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  6. ‘We could cut our emissions by 100% and, so long as the rest of the world didn’t follow, we’d still (according to the science they are relying on) lose these natural wonders.’

    Yes this is right, but the point is to drive the debate forward to put increasing pressure on other nations to reduce there’s significantly. Aim for 20 to 30% reduction on 2000 levels, argue for targets for other countries that would achieve the 450ppm outcome and eventual per capita allocations. Then if the negotiations fail join with Europe in imposing environmental tariffs (which I really think they WILL do if the negotiations fail).

    We need to be willing to make some sacrifices (albeit relatively small) and then play hardball if negotiations fail.

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  7. Hey Andrew,
    As someone who thinks reducing emissions is probably good value (globally) at the margin, it seems to me that refusing to meet tough targets unless other countries take on goals of their own is a way to *amplify* your influence on emission worldwide, rather than shirk your responsibility. It seems that the question should be *who* we require to take on strong targets before we do (presumably rich countries, responsible for most past pollution, high pc emissions) not *whether* we should. Once we have the scheme in place it shouldn’t be too hard to alter our emission trajectory (easier if we had a tax of course!). Just increase the rate of ‘value decay’ of existing permit.

    – R

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