Climate change; asylum seekers

The SMH features Spratt (Climate Code Red coauthor) who explains why Labor’s 450ppm target is wrong.

This means that when long-term effects such as the loss of large polar ice-sheets are taken into account, the Government target of 450 ppm may well produce global warming of about 4 degrees, twice the level considered dangerous by conservative governments.

Even 2-degree warming will take the Earth past significant tipping points. Likely effects include large-scale disintegration of the Greenland and west Antarctic ice-sheets, big sea-level rises, the mass extinction of plant and animal species, dangerous ocean acidi?cation and widespread drought, deserti?cation and malnutrition.

Should this always be an object of unwearied explanation by our scientists, or will political minders always be hassling for a quick media grab about policy ”moving in the right direction”, so we can move on to other matters, having ”fixed” the climate?

It’s a grand illusion that that 2 degrees and 450 ppm is a reasonable target. Twenty-nine of the world’s leading scientists, including Steffen, have specified that less than 350 ppm of carbon dioxide is a “safe boundary” for the planet, in perhaps the most significant peer-reviewed paper of the year.

Davidson too.

Treasury modelling of CPRS from 2005 to 2050 shows that Australian emissions will still be above the 1990 baseline until after 2035.

Unless global emissions peak in the next five years, it becomes nearly impossible to avoid 2 degrees of warming. Containing global warming to 2 degrees is no longer acceptable. The latest science suggests that a 2-degree rise means there will be no Arctic sea ice, Greenland and the Himalayas will be past their melting tipping points, and in Australia the probable destruction of the Murray-Goulburn basin as our most important agricultural production zone and the death of the Great Barrier Reef.

The risk of destruction of Australian economic assets, even with 2 degrees of warming, is in the order of tens of billions of dollars. Incremental politics won’t do. While the Greens’ amendments to the CPRS are a mile ahead of the major parties, they are still well short of what needs to be done for a safe climate.

Gittins writes about this in smh.

At the same time, it seems the Government is preparing to use the supposed need for compromise with the Libs as cover for its own capitulation to the renewed importuning of the electricity generators (some of which are private businesses, but most of which are state Labor mates in NSW, Queensland and South Australia).

In his official report, Ross Garnaut advised the Government there was no case for compensating the power generators. It’s a safe bet this view was shared by all the Government’s econocrats.

But good old Santa Kev – every child or businessman wins a prize – gave them free emissions permits worth $3.5 billion, anyway.

Did they say thanks? No, they said: this guy’s a soft touch, let’s hit him for more. They continued their rent-seeking, thinking up half a dozen dubious arguments why their compensation was inadequate, and scaremongering about how the lights could go out.

Did Mr Tough Guy, I-make-no-apology, fiscal conservative Rudd send them packing? No, he went to water and quietly commissioned a special report on their claims.

Which government department did he get to do the report? An agency called Morgan Stanley (formerly known as part of the ”unrestrained and unregulated greed” Wall Street crowd).

Gittins goes on to note what I noted in the last blog:

But to the extent that the capital value of their asset is reduced by the scheme, they have no moral, legal or economic argument to demand that taxpayers compensate them for their loss.

There’s no insurance against loss for capitalists in a capitalist economy. Market-caused change raises or lowers the capital value of businesses every day. No one suggests losers should be compensated by the taxpayer.

Similarly, businesses gain or lose from changes in government policy all the time. No one suggests the losers should be compensated, nor that windfall gains be confiscated. To wish otherwise would be to put elected governments in an intolerable straitjacket, greatly constraining their ability to act in the public interest.

No one compensated the tobacco companies when governments took to discouraging smoking, nor James Hardie when governments acted against asbestos. No one has compensated the smash repair industry for all the things governments have done to reduce road accidents and deaths.

Right on.

Meanwhile, Guy Rundle is optimistic about the future on asylum seekers. I’m a little less sunny. Laurie Oakes in the Daily Telegraph.

WE’VE heard Kevin Rudd promising tough action to stop asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. We’ve heard him condemn people smugglers as vermin.

What we have not heard from the prime minister is any criticism of the Sri Lankan Government for creating a situation which drives ethnic Tamils into the arms of smugglers in the first place.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor has agreed to send Australian police to Sri Lanka to help the government there clamp down on the exodus of asylum seekers.

But there has been hardly a peep out of Rudd or any of his ministers about the appalling camps in which an estimated 300,000 Tamils are being held following the end of the Sri Lankan civil war.

“I understand something of the plight of people around the world,” Rudd said yesterday. Of course he does.

He knows exactly what is happening in Sri Lanka. He knows how the displaced Tamils are treated by the Sri Lankan Army. He knows the Sri Lankan Government denies international aid organisations access to the camps and shuts out the international media so conditions cannot be reported. Rudd is the full bottle on the hopelessness that causes people like the 260 he dobbed in to the Indonesian navy last weekend to risk their lives on a dangerous ocean voyage in a small, overcrowded vessel.

The best way to stop Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka and paying people smugglers to get them to Australia is to make things more tolerable in their own country.

But has Rudd heavied the government in Colombo? Not so as you’d notice. Easier by far – and electorally much more advantageous – to thunder on about taking a hard line on illegal immigration. Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser accuses the coalition of “scratching the redneck nerve” by attempting to exploit the recent increase in boat arrivals. But Rudd is scratching the same nerve.

In Australia, people arriving unlawfully by boat make up a very small proportion of all asylum seekers – on average, just 7 per cent. That is, more than 90 per cent of those who claim refugee status turn up at airports, often with fake documents or having destroyed their travel documents en route.

Like the odious “Pacific solution”, the Howard government’s temporary protection visas, which Coalition hardliners claim were such an effective disincentive, only applied to boat people.

The figures also show that, while the Coalition claims the Rudd Government’s abolition of TPVs was a welcome mat for people smugglers, unauthorised boat arrivals actually increased following their introduction in 1999. There were only 200 arrivals by 17 boats in 1998, but 5516 asylum seekers arrived in 43 boats in 2001. And all but 3 per cent of the 10,000 asylum seekers granted TPVs when they existed ended up remaining here.

But back to the Tamils. The Government denies it has failed to exert real pressure on Colombo. The official line is that “Australia and the international community continue to watch closely”. That will have them shaking in their boots.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, we are told, has spoken to his Sri Lankan counterpart six times this year about ensuring the protection of civilians and the need for reconciliation. Smith also had a word to Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Egypt in July.

But everyone knows that Rudd drives foreign affairs. If he considers an issue to be important, he takes it over.

When Australia wanted that boatload of Tamils intercepted, it was Rudd – not Smith – who called Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

If Rudd picked up the phone to the Sri Lankan President, too, and did a bit of tub-thumping, it might make a difference. But it seems he’d rather beat the anti-asylum seeker drum.

Right on brother! It is excellent to read this in the Daily Telegraph: complaints about Sri Lanka’s appalling treatment of Tamils, and calls for a more humane approach to refugees.

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