The carbon tax - useless and pointless
Saturday, 01 November 2008 10:00
Whether or not the world is getting warmer, and whether humans are contributing, the proposed Carbon Tax is bad policy. The Liberal Democratic Party believes there will be far less misery if society is simply encouraged to adapt to the changing climate, allowing market responses to proceed and providing support to any people or countries that are genuinely adversely affected.
With the carbon tax, everyone in Australia will pay more for simply going about their daily lives. Profits will be reduced and jobs lost.
The scheme is deliberately designed to increase the cost of energy-dependent activities. This will be most apparent in the price of electricity, as Australia relies on coal and gas for its energy. Renewable sources of energy, wind and solar, may become more important as a result of taxpayer subsidies and government incentives, but will be even more expensive.
The carbon tax will cause a massive diversion of resources from real and present issues while having no impact on global CO2 levels. Without China, India and the US, it is pointless. The US has made it clear that it will not impose anything similar without the involvement of developing countries, while China and India have made it clear they will not compromise their economic development.
The world has more important priorities than the possibility of global warming. The following articles are by Bjorn Lomborg and were taken from The Wall Street Journal.
Global Warming as seen from Bangladesh
When the monsoon rains come, Momota Begum and her husband and children must take turns sleeping in their tiny concrete house's one bed to escape the waste and human excrement that can wash in from outside. They live in a three-decade old refugee camp in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is run for Urdu-speaking people who found themselves on the wrong side of the border after Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Late last year, campaigning politicians and journalists visited the 20,000 residents of the camp. This visit gave many of the refugees hope that their living conditions would soon be improved.
"They saw our living conditions here," 45-year-old Mrs. Begum told a Copenhagen Consensus Center researcher in June. "It gave us hope every time these people came, but now I understand that even if people know about us, it doesn't matter."
As a cart-puller, Mrs. Begum's husband earns about $44 each month. The family has no savings. Mrs. Begum believes that education could help her children achieve a better life. But her eldest daughter dropped out of school at age 13. The family could not afford the $22 annual fee for books and uniforms. "It's better that she stays at home and helps out," Mrs. Begum said.
Bangladesh provides camp residents with water and electricity, but not proper sanitation. Mrs. Begum cooks the daily meal next to an open drain. Diarrhea is common. Mrs. Begum's family cannot afford the $2.90-$4.30 cost of going to a private health clinic when someone in the family gets sick.
In the developed world, when we consider how best to help Bangladesh, our minds quickly turn to policies that would reduce the amount of carbon emissions to lessen the risk that global warming will lead to rising sea levels over the next 50 or 100 years.
Mrs. Begum's biggest challenge is not what the sea level may do in five or 10 decades. She has a more modest request: "It would be a heaven's gift if a proper drainage system could be arranged in this area where all the drains are covered and do not overflow."
Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cutting carbon emissions will likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world.
For Mrs. Begum, the choice is simple. After global warming was explained to her, she said: "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about."
One of Bangladesh's most vulnerable citizens, Mrs. Begum has lost faith in the media and politicians.
"So many people like you have come and interviewed us. I have not seen any improvement in our conditions," she said.
It is time the developed world started listening.
Climate Change and Malaria in Africa
When he first got sick, Samson Banda didn't realize he had malaria. Only after he came down with a serious fever did he end up at a clinic in the Bauleni slum compound in Lusaka, Zambia. The clinic has just a few nurses and staff with basic medical skills. Locals can wait for an entire day to be seen.
Unchecked malaria is serious. Nine out of 10 of the world's annual one million malaria-caused deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease—transmitted via mosquitoes—can cause low blood sugar, an enlarged spleen and liver, severe headaches, a shortage of oxygen to the brain, and renal failure. It can lead to coma and death. Twenty-seven year-old Samson was ill for six months before he started to recover.
Bauleni is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes during the rainy season between November and April. The slum lacks any sanitation or sewer supply, so locals dig pit latrines. The waste overflows. Most adults have some long-term infection that tends to recur.
"Our conditions are pathetic—both the health clinics and the sanitation in this area," Mr. Samson told a Copenhagen Consensus Center researcher.
Ask what he wants to see foreign donors' money spent on, and he is quick to answer: better health care. When he is asked about global warming, Mr. Samson responds: "I have heard about it, but I don't even know how it would affect me. If I die from malaria tomorrow, why should I care about global warming?"
In the West, campaigners for carbon regulations point out that global warming will increase the number of malaria victims. This is often used as an argument for drastic, immediate carbon cuts.
Warmer, wetter weather will improve conditions for the malaria parasite. Most estimates suggest that global warming will put 3% more of the Earth's population at risk of catching malaria by 2100. If we invest in the most efficient, global carbon cuts—designed to keep temperature rises under two degrees Celsius—we would spend a massive $40 trillion a year by 2100. In the best case scenario, we would reduce the at-risk population by only 3%.
In comparison, research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the number of those infected with malaria within one decade. For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives. Mr. Samson has not done these calculations, but for him it is simple: "First things first," he says. Malaria "is here right now and it kills a lot of people every day."
Malaria is only weakly related to temperature; it is strongly related to poverty. It has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years not because of global warming, but because of failing medical response. The mainstay treatment, chloroquine, is becoming less and less effective. The malaria parasite is becoming resistant, and there is a need for new, effective combination treatments based on artemisinin, which is unfortunately about 10 times more expensive.
Mr. Samson is right to ask what spending money on global warming could do for him and his family. The truthful answer? Very little. For a lot less, we could achieve a lot more.
—Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).