Campaign update: Q&A on the climate debate
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While politicians argue about whether the climate debate needs a face-lift or a fist-fight, a referendum or legislation, it’s time we heard more about the facts behind the fight.
We’re not climate scientists, but we’ve done our research – and found some great resources along the way. We want to share them – and keep the climate conversation going. If you’re still a little sketchy on climate facts, the carbon tax, or you know someone else who is, we want to help link you to the research that answers your questions.
Ever heard someone say, Why am I being taxed on breathing? Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it’s a natural element!
Here’s the answer: carbon, and carbon dioxide, are natural and essential compounds – but this doesn’t mean they’re not harmful in excess. The level of CO2 has risen rapidly in the last century, and is now about 30 % higher than at any time for 800,000 years. Also, we’re not being taxed for the air we breathe – ‘carbon pollution’, while not a scientific term, is used as a short-hand catch-all term for greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.
The world is warming at a rate unprecedented in human history – the average temperature has risen by about 0.75°C over the last 100 years. In Australia, some areas have experienced a warming of 1.5°C to 2°C over the past 50 years. This isn’t a natural phenomenon – and volcanoes emit less than 1% of the CO2 that humans put into the atmosphere in a year.
Why Australia? Why now?
Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 reached 385 parts per million (ppm) in 2008, higher than at any time for at least 800,000 years. We’re already trailing the 31 European countries and major US states such as California that have put a price on carbon pollution – some for over a decade. Even New Zealand has already priced pollution! Per person, Australia is currently one of the biggest polluters in the world – even more than the US and almost five times that of China. The longer we leave climate action, the worse the situation will become, and the more it will cost us to convert to clean energy.
How does a price on carbon pollution work?
Paying for their pollution means those big companies will have a reason to clean up their act – because we’re rewarding the ones who go clean. Then big power users and generators will use more clean, renewable energy. And that will help make clean cheaper for everyone. The carbon price is to be paid by less than 1% of businesses, who are responsible for 75% of Australia’s carbon pollution. Check out these seven reasons to put a price on pollution.
Where does the money go?
It’s a key feature of a carbon tax to develop a mechanism that maintains budget neutrality. It’s true that putting a price on pollution will make some products more expensive, but the overall impact on cost of living is expected to be small – an increase of 1.1% for the average family. A price on pollution will add less than 1% to the weekly shopping bill – less than $1.60 a week. This is likely to be balanced out, given that the Government has committed to spending every cent raised to help households with bills, support workers and businesses as we move to a clean economy, and to tackle climate change.
I don’t understand how this is going to help the environment…
It’s been suggested that a system that goes hand in hand with other measures – including a cap on pollution, assistance for households, direct investment in clean energy and support for renewables – will be the most successful. Unlike other models, a price on carbon will raise the revenue to do so – and you will be no worse off.
What about Australian jobs?
Unlocking Australia’s clean energy resources will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Analysis by The Climate Institute shows that a price on carbon would unlock billions of dollars of new investment in clean energy and create over 30,000 new jobs – mainly in regional Australia.
What about our place in international marketplace?
A price on pollution can be flexible to make sure Australia is adaptive – according to outlines by the MPCCC, “a mechanism to price carbon should be sufficiently flexible to respond to changing international circumstances, including improvements in international accounting rules, developments in climate change science, and tangible international action to deliver an effective global solution.” According to the Garnaut Climate Change Review, wise use of revenue from a carbon price can reduce the cost to the economy, and promote productivity above what it otherwise would be.
How will we make sure it works?
The Garnaut Climate Change Review recommends that Here’s how to go about climate campaigning for the shy types.. It’s best printed out double-sided and folded into thirds.
If you have more questions about the climate campaign that are still unanswered, post a question below.