The Australian: Any Sacrifice Worth Sitting at the Big Table

In a fact-bashing roundup, one of Australia's biggest newspapers has embarrassed itself in delighted support of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate conference held there last week.

The Australian announced in this Editorial that climate change isn't proven; and that, if it is proven, it's too expensive to address by seeking an agreeable global mandate. It pronounced coal (of which Australia is the world's largest exporter), to be the world's most efficient energy source and it it dismissed anyone who would disagree as a patsy of the environmental activists - people who are in “the catastrophe business and (who) use science as a selective source for points to push in their fund raising.”

The Australian also believes these dreaed “greenies” support carefull negotiated international solutions because agreements like “Kyoto … (meet) their ideological preference for bureaucratic solutions imposed on private enterprise.”

For the record, the eagerness of the world scientific community to get us to pay attention to climate change has little to do with profit (or fundraising) and everything to do with finding better, smarter and more cautious planetary managers than any that would be foisted upon us by The Australian's Editorial Board.

Also for the record, everyone involved in the desmogblog is darned fond of the capitalist system. We use it to feed our families and, on good days, to buy worthy wines - even, periodically, Australian wines.

Only one point in the newspaper tirade made sense, and it is this: “that our best chance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will occur when free enterprise has incentives to implement solutions.” Now, one way to create those incentives - the way The Australian would clearly prefer - is to get government to pay industry bonuses, or give out tax cuts to develop alternative sources of energy or cleaner burning systems. It's an ambitious call for aggressive government intervention in a way that will enrich businesses that are already profiting by promoting global polution.

Another way to create incentives would be to set reasonable (and rising) limits on gross greenhouse gas output and challenge smart industries to profit by finding a better, more efficient way to meet the world's energy demands.

One way demands that government - by handing out public money - pick the likely winners. (And haven't we seen that way fail often enough?) The other way sets government - all the world's governments - up as arms length regulators and lets industry fight it out on a level playing field.

ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, Rio Tinto and, apparently, The Australian, don't want a level playing field. They want to use their influence to maintain the status quo for as long as possible - the consequences be damned.

Finally, The Australian presents the signatory to the Asia Pacific Partnership (the U.S., Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan) as “the essential six,” the biggest producers and consumers of coal. If that's the rationale, then it's time to invoke the Groucho Marx rule: this is one instance in which you truly wouldn't want to join any club that you have you as a member.