Carbon Dioxide is only 0.039% of the atmosphere!
Well radioactive material is only a small percentage of the fish caught off Fukushima now, but that does not mean it is not a health risk. Concentration is not a measure of potency. Besides, 200 years ago CO2 was only 0.020% of the atmosphere, so we are at 200% of historic levels (see anybody can play the maths game to get numbers that look big or small).
Mankind produces only 3% of the CO2 each year!
The natural sources and sinks of CO2 have been roughly in balance for millions of years. Adding just 3% per year is enough to tip the balance and overwhelm the sinks. So if we just accumulate 1% of that man made CO2, it only takes 100 years to double the total CO2 in the atmosphere, which is exactly what has happened.
One volcano can produce more CO2 than Mankind
Sure! and for 300 million years the planet has been storing away the CO2 output of volcanoes as oil and coal. But in a few short decades we are burning that oil and coal so it is as if 300 million years worth of volcanoes have erupted all in the same century!!!
Our emissions are small part of the total and us changing wont save the planet!
So there is an argument for a global nanny super-state if ever there was one? The concepts of personal responsibility within a state apply equally as well to states within a planet. You see similar selfishness with vaccination, where some parents think that if they don’t take the tiny risk of vaccination for their children, then they wont effect the public health as a whole. But if many parents think that way, then many kids are not vaccinated and you have an epidemic that kills young babies, the elderly and the frail, for whom vaccination is not a protection.
The really selfish thing to do in these circumstances is to act for the communal good, so you can compel others to do the same for your own benefit. If you work against the communal good, then so will everybody else and there are a lot more of “them” than there are of “us”.
Australia should not act first!
Why not? As the world’s highest per capita emitters, there is an economic and moral case that we should have been first to act. Economically as we have further to go to get to a low carbon economy, so we should act early if we don’t want to be left behind. Morally it is tough for us to say to less polluting peoples that they should go first.
But it is already too late for us to act first as there are many emission trading systems already working around the world already. Even developing economies such as India and China have an effective price on carbon through other regulations.
A Carbon Price will wipe our industries off the map!
The impact of a carbon price has been completely overstated and the impact on most industries will be generally between 1% and 5%, which is less than the impacts they take from currency fluctuation, inflation, other taxation and energy price increases due to peak oil and uncertainty around climate action. Plus the price will be introduced gradually and with compensation and assistance, so the carbon price will not be THE END for most businesses. Besides, enterprises can always reduce the costs by acting to reduce their CO2 emissions, so we should not calculate the costs as being all industries continuing business as usual.
Finally there are some business that we do want wiped out, such as brown coal power generation. These are the industries that need to be replaced over time with new low emission industries that will create new jobs.
A Carbon Price will increase the cost of living!
Hang on, you just said that industries were going to carry the costs themselves and be wiped out! They can’t both be hit by the cost AND pass it onto consumers!!!
But let’s assume that business is evil (or stupid (or both)) and does not change and passes on the full cost of a carbon price. Firstly the impact is going to be smaller than other price increases we see due to currency changes, natural disasters, peak oil, and business behaviour that results in record profits and incredible executive bonuses. Energy bills are only a small part of most household budgets and most of us can afford it and it is the future of the planet that we are talking about, so that is probably worth the price of having a slightly smaller plasma TV. For those who can’t afford even a small increase in costs, there will be compensation.
Compensation is just a money-go-round!
If there is compensation for higher prices then a carbon price is just a great big money-go-round. Agreed it is an economic cycle, so let’s assume we all hop (or are pushed) onto the money-go-round and go for a ride. The clever businesses and consumers will then notice that they can step off the money-go-round by switching to cleaner technologies, but keep their piece of the compensation pie. A consumer who buys a cheaper green service can keep their compensation dollars. A business that reduces emissions can undercut competitors that don’t. One by one, we all step off the money-go-round and eventually there is no more money to go around, but that’s OK because now we are all standing in the low carbon economy!
High prices wont make us change our behaviour
It is true that power consumption is a very inelastic demand. Prices have already gone up recently by as much as 60% and that has not made us turn off our air conditioners in any great numbers. It is for this reason that an all of our economy approach is needed. The carbon price must be widely bases so that it will apply to areas where changes can be made- where gas can be used instead of coal, where better insulation is installed when a house is constructed, where solar/wind/geothermal projects get the go ahead they would not have otherwise.
This is not about getting us to turn off the lights. This is about getting us to use better light bulbs powered by better generators and generating jobs and economic efficiencies in the process.