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Poles apart on climate change

I’d like to grab a beer, sit down and have a good yarn to an agronomist mate of mine who sent me an email titled How Well Has The Media And Government Informed The Public About CO2 Levels In The Air? condemning the Governments proposed price on carbon.

Answers to most of the questions posed in the email are available to anyone wanting to spend a few hours research on the web, so to say that people have been misinformed is not quite true. Uninformed would be a better word because Labour has made an absolute debacle with its announcement of a price on carbon and while I have a fair knowledge of the carbon cycle it took me around 5 mins to find a plethora of information on the % of CO2 in the atmosphere and the role it plays in climate change (See Carbon Cycle Science).

It’s strange that we both grew up on farms, got the same degree at university and are both still very passionate about agriculture yet our views on climate change and a carbon price/tax are completely different.

I love that we live in a society where we can debate openly about such things but I really thought that the climate debate was done and dusted and that we had moved on to finding sustainable solutions. There is overwhelming evidence (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007) that humans are causing a shift in the climate due our consumption of fossil fuels.

Even our own Bureau of Meteorology is saying that Australia and the globe are experiencing rapid climate change largely due to human activities. (See full report The Greenhouse Effect and Climate Change) and that is why Governments all around the world are pushing to implement carbon policy and move away from fossil based energy to more sustainable energy sources.

It’s true, Australia putting a price on carbon will have little effect on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere as we are a small contributor to global carbon dioxide emission levels compared to countries like China and the USA. Seriously, it’s a global effort and we all have to do our bit to reduce our emissions. How can we say, with our standard of living, to the Chinese factory worker living on maybe $4/day that they must reduce their emissions when we are one of the biggest emitters on a per capita basis in the world?

Top 20 C02 emitters by country 2008

Top 20 CO2 emitters per capita 2008

China is already moving toward reducing its carbon emissions. In 2009 China’s spending on renewable energy rose by 50% as it invested 34.6 billion (China surpasses US in renewable energy investments) in wind, solar and other RE projects. Also last Saturday 7/3/2011 Premier Wen Jiabao released China’s 5 year plan China pledges ‘green’ push over next five years which will see China reduce its energy consumption and invest in renewable technologies with the goal of “keeping the levels of CO2 under 450 parts per million to save the planet from catastrophic disasters caused by rising temperatures”.

A carbon price/tax is not the end of the world…its the beginning of a new one, a more sustainable one, where, over time, investment will flow away from finite fossil based energy to more renewable forms such as wind, solar and importantly for farmers in the Midwest, biomass energy.

I share the vision of the Oil Mallee Association where farmers integrate tree crops into their current farming systems and using the biomass that they will grow to feed regional bio energy plants. Plants that will provide energy security for regional communities, employment and an alternative income stream for farmers. A carbon price combined with the Government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 20% by 2020 would generate the investment needed to get these types of projects off the ground as investors move away from polluting energy sources to cleaner, more sustainable energy.

Even if all the climate science is wrong and climate change is not real, the truth is, that we are facing a global population of 9 billion people by 2050 and the demand these extra 3 billion people will place on the resources of the planet may just be too much for our world to handle. I liken it to stocking rate, you put too many sheep on a paddock and it will blow, unless you manage it. A carbon price is a management tool to help us live more sustainably.

In closing I would say that I welcome healthy debate from people within our industry who are still skeptical about climate change and the need for a price on pollution. While I do think the government needs to do a lot of work to ensure no one is disenfranchised by the introduction of a carbon price, I believe that a carbon tax will be a good thing for Australia in the long run.

I think the following cartoon sums it up nicely. It sort of makes sense to me, for us to at least start thinking about ways to utilise the renewable resources we have so that the future generations of this planet have a cleaner future.

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About the Author:

Euan Beamont is Co-Founder/Director of Energy Farmers Australia. From a rural background Euan has always had a strong connection to the land and is very passionate about the sustainability of agriculture. Euan believes that a carbon price is a good thing for agriculture and will enable farmers to change to more sustainable farming practices and move away from their reliance on fossil based energy.
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