Surprise! Aussie Bushfire Climate Change Outrage Pivots into an Activist Demand for Cash


CSIRO Project Aquarius experimental fire Block 20, 1/3/83, McCorkhill, WA. Fire emerging from block 1 hour after ignition. Crowning of intermediate tree layer. Intensity 7500 kW/m, rate of spread 800-1000 m/h. CSIRO [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Having failed to establish climate change as the reason for Australia’s recent severe bushfires, Aussie greens are now rushing forward with demands for a new levy to be imposed on fossil fuel companies.

Making fossil fuel companies pay for the cost of climate change bushfires

By James Purtill
Thursday 30 July 2020 6:38pm

Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Why not ask fossil fuel companies to pay for some of the damage?

In November, a fast-moving bushfire sliced through a valley in the Warrawillah area, north of Taree, on New South Wales’ mid north coast. Fiona Lee was one of the first Australians to lose her house in what would become Australia’s worst-ever fire season. More than 3,500 houses and 18 million hectares would burn before March.

“It came with no warning,” she told Hack.

“We were the only house on our road that got burnt.”

Who pays for all this? Victims like Fiona? The taxpayer? This week, a group of experts including former emergency services commissioners from all over Australia proposed that at least some of the money should come from the industry making money out of fossil fuels — namely oil and gas companies, and coal miners.

Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) are calling on the Federal Government to introduce a $1 levy on every tonne of embedded carbon produced in Australia. They calculate this would raise $1.5 billion per year.

“Something has to be done to wake up the fossil fuel industry,” he told Hack.

“We’re all paying through the nose for their profiteering at our expense.

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/making-fossil-fuel-companies-pay-climate-change-natural-disaster/12509466

Australians already pay around USD $3.40 / gallon for gasoline, even after prices came down in the wake of Covid-19 – a punishingly high price for fuel in a country with such long roads and empty distances.

Adding a carbon levy to fuel on top of all the other taxes would not punish fossil fuel companies, it would punish ordinary Australians, because fossil fuel companies would simply pass the cost on to their customers.

Everyone would pay for the levy through increased road freight haulage costs, even if they don’t personally own an automobile. Fuel taxes are regressive, so poor people would suffer the greatest impact from a new carbon tax.

If greens really wanted to make a difference to CO2 emissions they could demand Australia invest in nuclear power, convert all our coal plants to zero carbon nuclear like France did in the 1970s.

France still has one of the lowest CO2 emissions per capita in the industrialised world, because unlike renewables, nuclear power delivers genuine reductions in national CO2 emissions. Unlike renewables, nuclear plants don’t need “backup” fossil fuel plants to power up when the sun goes down, to service the early evening demand peak.

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for Aussie greens to embrace nuclear power.

Link between climate change and drought
h/t JoNova – a slide from Professor Andy Pitman‘s presentation in June 2019. Droughts are associated with increased bushfire risk.

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