Thursday, January 12, 2006

I'm not sure if I fit on the bandwagon

I could jump on the bandwagon and attack the "Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate change" - it seems to be the flavour of the day. However, I think I'm going to hold back a bit. I know, I know, kinda weird of me, but I actually don't entirely disagree with the approach that this partnership is taking.

For instance, Howard said today,

"The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that we address issues of climate change in a way that is consistent with economic growth and poverty reduction",
and dammit, I hate to admit this, but he's right. If we don't address climate change in a way that allows economic growth and gives us a way of fighting poverty, in Oz and everywhere else, then we are going to find ourselves in a hell of a mess. I guess I agree with his message, we need technological solutions. We need a cure that isn't worse than the cold.

While I agree with the rhetoric, I'm a bit worried that's all there is to this partnership. The whole gist of the summit seams to be that we need to stick with fossil fuels for the time being and that uranium is a good stop-gap. If I were more cynical I would say that this summit might have doubled as a trade show for the Australian mining industry. But, whatever, I'm not feeling that cynical today. I don't think we have any good alternatives to fossil fuels and uranium at the moment and I think that fact is still dominating all of the discussion on these issues.

I guess the big news today has been that Howard pledged $100 million over the next five years to be spent on the development of technology to combat climate change. I have a big problem with that, it's a drop in the ocean. I'm completely with Jenny Macklin who pointed out that the government spent $55 million this year on advertising for their industrial relations policies. Money talks, and the money is telling us that Howard isn't genuine about finding technological solutions to global warming - it's gonna cost a helluva lot more that $20 million a year to fix this problem.

We need to work harder on our approach to climate change. Howard's pledge of $20 million a year is not enough. We need to spend more money so we can get some real outcomes. The task ahead is huge. The stakes a high. If the consequences of climate change are half as dramatic as they could be, we will need revolutions in science, engineering, and economics to overcome them. Revolutions don't come cheap. Unfortunately, they also don't tend to happen till you run out of bread.