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Australia has huge coal deposits and it has used them power its economy, as well as being a big exporter off coal. An Aussie's Carbon footprint is only slightly smaller than an US citizen's. But climate change has been raking havoc in Australia. One prominent farming region is looking at a future without its all important irrigation as the local river goes dry. Huge fires threatening towns and suburbs as the forests get less rain. Australia's crown Jewel its Barrier Reef faces widespread coral die offs. As the world's driest Continent more decreases in vital rainfall could be devastating.

Coal-Fired Australia, Buffeted by Climate Change, Enacts Carbon Tax
Josie Garthwaite

But drought, rampant wildfire in the outback, and the degradation of the treasured Great Barrier Reef have forever altered how Australia views its energy endowment. Facing a future as one of the places on Earth most vulnerable to climate change, and one of the nations with the world's highest per capita carbon emissions, Australia has taken steps to change its fate. (See interactive: "Four Ways to Look at Global Carbon Footprints")

This week the government issued its first ever carbon emissions permits, a milestone in implementation of a new climate and energy law that is expected to give Australia the world's most comprehensive carbon cap-and-trade system by 2015. (Related: "IEA Outlook: Time Running Out on Climate Change")

Climate activists have hailed the law as a hopeful sign that even one of the world's most carbon-intensive economies can commit to a different future. But the work is only beginning.  In just one indication of the long road ahead, an International Energy Agency fuel economy report last week ranked Australia's new car fleet as worst among the world's major economies in carbon emissions per kilometer. Emblematic of Australia's failure to invest in energy efficiency, it has no binding automobile fuel economy standards. (Related Pictures: "A Rare Look Inside Carmakers' Drive for 55 MPG") Historically, only the United States has surpassed Australia in its appetite for powerful engines. And this year, as U.S. drivers have begun flocking to smaller, more efficient cars, Australia has seen an SUV boom. SUVs made up 28 percent of Australia's new vehicle sales in August, compared to just below 25 percent a year earlier.

If the Aussies can do it we Yanks can do it. We need to.

Originally posted to Lefty Coaster on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 07:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by Headwaters.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm more than a little envious (24+ / 0-)

    "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

    by Lefty Coaster on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 07:44:37 PM PDT

  •  Havoc is generally wreaked. (8+ / 0-)

    A shame that Aussies are turning to SUVs.  Bad plan, dude.

    I'm more for Cap and Dividend than Cap and Trade.  

    In Cap and Dividend, fines people pay for going over their carbon allowance are divided equally among all citizens.  Most people would come out ahead; private jet owners, not so much.

    I've also been reading Reinventing Fire by Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute, and all I can say is... I want a 100mpg car!

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 07:53:17 PM PDT

  •  Unfortunately, it looks like much of Australia is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, John Crapper, RunawayRose

    going to be in trouble in a few decades.  

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 07:57:21 PM PDT

  •  Carbon Fee and Dividend (5+ / 0-)

    Check out The Citizens Climate Lobby, active in the US and Canada. Our sole focus is to "create the political will for a sustainable climate." Specifically, to work with our Members of Congress to put in place a tax on fossil fuels: a fee that more closely approximates the true environmental cost of fossil fuels' dominance; a fee which, collected, is returned to citizens as a dividend that compensates for increased costs the energy companies will want to pass on. A fee that will rise each year, encouraging energy companies to turn to non-fossil fuel sources.

    I retired from my teaching job almost a year ago and, since learning of this group in July, have committed a portion of my time to working as a group organizer in my congressional district. It's not the only answer to the challenges we now face, but it is one piece of a necessary response. And its laser focus is what made me feel like I could devote meaningful time to it.

    "The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.". Barbara Kingsolver, _Animal Dreams_

    by thea lake on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 09:11:51 PM PDT

  •  There's a lot of hostility over here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flowerfarmer, RunawayRose

    to the carbon tax, for the following reasons:

     - The richer states, like WA and Qld, depend on emissions-intensive activities like mining to thrive (and, non-coincidentally, fill the Commonwealth coffers);
     - Middle-of-the-road voters remember that just prior to the 2010 (Australian) election, Julia Gillard promised "no carbon tax" as a policy plank;
     - Left-wing activists are annoyed that most of the mining companies' activities are exempted from the tax; and
     - Right-leaning suburbia is peeved at "yet another" tax enacted by the ALP.

    Each of these causes for annoyance can be explained away, or at least set in a different light:

     - The Australian economy should start diversifying away from extractive activities (it should);
     - Gillard's hand was forced by the minority-Government status she found herself in after the 2010 election (a carbon tax was the Greens' price for co-operation on other matters);
     - The concession to the mining companies was an effort to steer a middle road and avoid crashing the economy;

    And so on, and so forth. But in politics, if you're explaining, you're on the defensive. And Gillard and her Cabinet seem to be singularly inept at even that - their ability to go off-message rivals Mitt Romney's, much to my dismay.

    I - personally - think the carbon tax was a good idea, but bad policy as implemented. But then again, I - as a left-wing Australian - am growing increasingly peeved with Canberra after the thinly-veiled Commonwealth power grab (targeted at Western Australia and Queensland, for the crime of being more prosperous than the rest of the country) that was the mining tax. To the point where I - as a progressive, left-leaning Sandgroper - am actively urging other Western Australians to consider secession as a result.

    Don't underestimate the anger that Gillard will face going into the next election - if she wins, it will be purely on account of the low calibre of her opponent, Tony "The Mad Monk" Abbott. And the polling - while narrowing to a 53-47 'consensus' spread against the ALP - is still fairly clear: if an election is called today, the ALP will lose seats, and it will lose a lot of seats.

    The Poll Bludger is a good place to go to grab an overview of Australian polling, without having to pay Murdoch a cent.

    Pollytics is a great place to go for analysis.

  •  Australia is kind of a joke when it comes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    to the environment. It has a population that's half that of California, yet its biggest 2 cities - Melbourne and Sydney - rival LA in metropolitan area. Every Australian, it seems, has a right to a quarter acre. This sprawl is extremely wasteful at many levels. Australia is the sunniest continent. Solar power could easily provide a large proportion of its electricity. But it doesn't do that. They recently approved a coal-fired desalination plant in Victoria!

    In that context, the carbon tax is a bit of a joke. A tax is not the same as a major commitment to sustainability. In fact, it underlines just how unserious Australia is when it comes to this issue. Show me a plan to make Australia the greenest country on the planet, then I might take notice. Until then just go back to your sports and beer.

    For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

    by Anne Elk on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 06:30:43 AM PDT

  •  Australia actually has the world's largest... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53

    ...deposits of uranium, easily exceeding Canada's - although Canada is the largest exporter of uranium right now.

    This makes Australia the key player in a rational fight against climate change, although a such a rational fight is very, very, very, very, very unlikely, and even were such a rational fight undertaken, it would be too little to late.

    The climate change battle is lost and humanity will get what it deserves, regrettably dragging many other species with it.   A mass extinction is well underway, probably one of the fastest in geologic history with the possible exception of asteroid impacts.

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