Wednesday, June 06, 2007

An aspirational goal

To say there is nothing surprising about the Howard government’ polluter’ independent Task Group’s report on a carbon trading scheme for Australia is, well, not surprising.

Tim Dunlop has some excellent posts on the report and associated issues here and here.

What we got was no target and a delay until past the next term of government before any action is deemed worthy.

When the taskforce was comprised of government bureaucrats and the following people (no scientists, of course), the outcome was very Sir Humphrey (that is, never hold an enquiry into anything unless you know the answer in advance).

But surely, you may ask, the following aren’t beholden to their shareholders, that they hold the welfare of the nation and, indeed, the very planet, above mere quibbles like profit?

So, who are these white knights?

They are:

Mr Peter Coates: Mr Coates is Chief Executive of Xstrata plc’s global coal business, Xstrata Coal, and a member of the Xstrata Group Executive.

Mr Tony Concannon: Mr Concannon is the Managing Director of International Power

Ms Margaret Jackson: Ms Jackson has been the Chairman of the Qantas Board since 2000.

Mr Chris Lynch: Mr Lynch is a Director of BHP Billiton Limited.

Mr John Marlay: Mr Marlay is the Chief Executive Officer and an
Executive Director of Alumina Limited.

You can almost hear Mother Nature: “Well, they're furiously considering about thinking about doing something. All those meetings and consultation, that forthcoming tax payer-funded advertising campaign; collectively that’s gotta be worth something.

I know! I’ll knock 2 degrees Celsius off the average 2100 temperatures and send a couple of inches rain over the major Oz catchments!”

The first section of the report I decided to skim was the scientific basis.

Only one expert is quoted verbatim, and who do you think that was? Australia’s Chief Scientist? The head of climatology at the CSIRO? A work-experience kid from the Australian Greenhouse Office?


Prime Minister John Howard:
[T]here can be no argument that greenhouse gases are having an adverse impact on the earth’s environment.
A bit different to Howard in Parliament earlier this year:
The jury is still out on the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
He did later correct that statement, with some harsh words muttered under the breath about some fellow named Freud, I do believe.

Let us move on and look at the language of the report:
The latest report from the IPCC confirms that greenhouse gases are damaging the earth’s environment and that human activity is at least partly responsible.
At least partly responsible?

The actuall IPCC report states:
Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.12 This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.
You know what? That doesn’t sound like ‘at least partly” to me.

And what does the business lobby task group have to say about targets?

Well, as has been reported in the media, nothing specific.

But when, eventually, a target is set, what kind of target will it be? Again, the language is illuminating.
Government would establish a long-term aspirational goal for emissions reductions.
An aspirational goal. A goal to aspire to, with its actual achievement of little importance. The term ‘aspirational’ gets bandied about by conservatives a lot in Australia, and it’s worth checking out what means in the current context.

According to the Cambridge dictionary the adjective ‘aspirational’ means:
Showing that you want to have more money and a higher social position than you now have
Could there be a better enunciation of our Right-wing government’s motives for a do-nothing carbon-trading scheme than that very definition?