The 2016 Presidential Election and the Politics of Climate Change.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/02/climate-change-campaign-trail-obama-epa-rules

4 years ago, 70% of Republicans in the US House of Congress did not believe that climate change existed. Now even in ‘red states’, those which overwhelming vote Republican, 53% of voters support pollution caps and taxes against big emitters. In the lead up to the 2016 election it looks as if Global Warming may become a decisive bipartisan issue. Things are changing in American politics and one can only hope that the worlds biggest polluter will lead the way to a more carbon conscious future.

Our Changing Environment and its Disastrous Costs- Sebastian Gray

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/jul/14/8-charts-climate-change-world-more-dangerous

 

This article displays some quite extraordinary data of the rapid increase in disasters since 1970s and their devastating toll upon populations and the economy.

 

The statistics show a dramatic increase over the last 10 years in the number of disasters that have hardly been prominent before, such as extreme temperatures. As the article argues, the frequency of these natural disasters has been mainly a result of the effects of climate change.

 

It is quite amazing to see the multitude of natural phenomena that global warming is causing already, and it is unusual that these effects are not brought to our attention often. Although due to the lack of information provided in the article it ignores any other possible factors that could have impacted these rises.

 

I believe factors such as the earth’s growing population, which has almost doubled since 1970, could perhaps be largely responsible for the large amounts of economic loss from disasters that logically would be much higher during the last 10 years than during the 1970s. Due to growing populations it also makes sense to deduce that the total amount disasters would naturally be higher now. However it is hard to know the exact weightings of each factor.

An economic solution for a sustainable future- Ed Treloar

We have seen revolutions in industry since the dawn of time. In recent years with, following technological advancements and the advent of the Internet, companies like Apple and Microsoft made a market of their own replacing existing companies with brand new ones to distribute their revolutionary products. Billions of dollars have been invested in industries all over the world and now we are at the dawn of a new revolution: the energy race. As opposed to the industrial revolution, the focus is no longer on being able to produce and use energy but rather to be able to generate and store large sums of efficient renewable energy without running up large costs. When compared to power harnessed by coal powered plants, renewable energy production has very few ongoing costs. In New York, it is predicted that replacing 8 Gigawatts of coal produced energy with solar or hydroelectric power could save $1.3 billion in operational costs a year, which would help pay off the original investment. Similarly if Australia invests in providing remote areas with solar panels and batteries, they can be self-sufficient and help remove 51% of the cost of power. This may not seem possible given the coalition’s slashing of the renewable energy fund in an attempt to balance the budget. If the present government is not willing to invest into such a booming industry then an easy alternative exists to allow Australian Citizens to make a change. To help this energy revolution I propose a Research and Development tax incentive plan, similar to that established by Labor in October 2011.

My first step would be to implement a tax free incentive investment plan, where people are allowed to invest, tax free, on any sized renewable energy company in the form of shares. An incentive would be provided in allowing investors to drop down a tax bracket, invest a small amount of money and in turn help the environment and the Australian economy. This process can be shown by way of example. If an investor earns $85000 a year they are taxed at 28%. To lower their tax bracket they may invest $5000 on a renewable company, changing their tax payment to 25%. The difference in tax is $120, which means the person will invest $5000 and only have to pay for $120 of it. It is like marketing with a pool floaty or training wheels; nothing can really go wrong. Even after the money is spent, the investor is still, in part, in possession of it. This is because the renewable sector manages to be quite a progressive industry, generating profit and thereby remunerating its investors. Only the government, loses out in this equation- its taxation revenue may in part be compromised. However this is not a large issue because there will no longer be a need for government investment in sustainable energy, regular Australians will keep it alive and well.

The next part of my two-step plan is to give every Tax Free Incentive Investor (TFII) a list of companies that they are able to invest in. This list will be ranked based on how trustworthy and established the company is, along with other categories. Companies would financially bid for high places on this list and bidding money would go to the government and help it cope with lowered tax revenue. To make sure that no companies with sinister incentives, like firepower, buy their way through the bidding process, companies will be background checked to estimate their financial and environmental value. This list of companies makes the investing process easier, safer, more reliable and profitable for the government. This would help boost Australia in its eventual goal to lead the world energy race and assume its place amongst environmentally progressive nations.

Who Saves the Planet Now?

Despite the praise with which it has been met, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent findings confirmed little more than we already knew. The debate surrounding anthropogenic global warming should by now have been buried. Of the 10, 855 climate studies published in peer-reviewed journals during 2013, only 2 rejected the consensus that the scientific community has held since the 1990s.

The problem that confronts the scientific community is no longer in debate; it is the translation of fact into public acceptance. In the USA, the world’s second highest emitter of Carbon Dioxide, 30 % of Government Representatives consider climate change to be a ‘myth.’ Of 233 House Republicans, 130 are of the same opinion.  Amongst those who respect the findings of scientists, the most alarming perspectives on climate change appear. The facts may be true but surely it isn’t the responsibility of governments to take action? Marco Rubio, tipped to be a candidate in the 2016 Presidential Election, and a self-declared ‘man of modern science’ described what he sees as the futility of a governmental response to Global Warming: ‘The government can’t change the weather. We can pass a bunch of laws that will destroy our economy, but it isn’t going to change the weather.’ It is a depressing apathy which is common in political discourse, the interests of the economy override what is likely to be the most significant challenge the world has even known.

Debate around the consequences of inaction is often framed in abstract hypotheticals. We typically find issues with no obvious trajectory difficult to overcome. But by now we can be sure that if we fail to address the concerns the IPCC has outlined, the chance of long term survival for our species is negligible. In the next 20 years, the displacement of many millions of Bangladeshis, Indonesians and Pacific Islanders by rising sea levels will cause a refugee situation which will put Scott Morrison’s current rhetoric into perspective.

What can we do when our governments are beholden to populist, commercial interests which overlook the long term ramifications of climate change?

To begin, we must continue lobbying the system to reform from within. In the 1990s, groups of Australians took to the streets to protest ozone depletion in the atmosphere by Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s). In 1995, this culminated in the Keating administration passing a law to ban the use of these chemicals, significantly reducing Australia’s contribution to the ozone crisis.  Since the public were made generally aware of the Climate Change consensus through the effecting of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth in 2006, Global Warming has gone from being a fringe issue in political discourse to one which all governments are expected to have a stance on. In Australia, the Rudd government was voted in on a policy agenda which for the first time saw a mainstream Australian political party taking a principled stand on international environmental issues.

Despite this good work, where the state can longer or will no longer fulfil its obligation to the environment often other groups and individuals must fill the void. This obligation is two-fold. Firstly, to make people aware of their own relationship with the environment. Then, to encourage individual and collective action to help reduce our environmental impact. At Newington, the environmental sustainability committee seeks to fulfil both parts of this responsibility. Last year’s presentations on water wastage opened the eyes of many to the huge costs of water overuse. Similarly, this year’s focus on our reliance on electricity and technology paves the way for wider discussion on how we might use the laptops and IPads which have radically changed our education with greater awareness of their environmental ramifications.

However, it is in taking action on the environment that we hope our most significant achievements will come. Following the proposal of Edmond Cheng and Clyde Welsh for the utilisation of solar energy, the school has now installed new solar panels to help reduce Newington’s emissions. This year’s tasks to encourage recycling, more appropriate water usage and sustainable transport to and from school are already well under way!

The governments of the world have failed in addressing the environmental needs of our generation and those to come. It now falls on individuals and extra-governmental groups to pick up the slack. Newington should seek to be a community on the right side of history when it comes to the environment and the significant moral challenges it presents.