(Sale 2pm 26.9.13)
A thousand years ago King Canute demonstrated the limited powers of rulers by having his throne placed on the shore to show – that powerful as he was – he could not stop the tides. Tides, of course, are governed by the gravitational pull of the moon and gravity also holds our atmosphere – a natural law. Without atmosphere there could be no life on earth as we know it. Within the atmosphere we have another natural law – the Greenhouse Effect.
The Greenhouse Effect was discovered by Fourier in the 1820s. He calculated quite accurately that without the Greenhouse Effect the Earth would be about 30 degrees colder – a permanent ball of snow and ice. Without the Greenhouse Effect there could be no life on earth as we know it.
In 1857 John Tyndall identified the two main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – in effect these trace gases are the earth’s thermostat.
In 1895 Svante Arrhenious calculated that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was doubled the temperature would increase by 4-6 degrees.
Since the beginning of the Industrial revolution in 1750 mankind has increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280ppm to 400ppm – about a third – by burning fossil fuels. This has caused the average temperature on earth to rise by about a degree with as much as another degree warming still in the pipeline. Man has been unknowingly turning up the earth’s thermostat and continues to do so, despite the warnings from science for more than 20 years.
So our new government has a huge problem. Like Canute it cannot alter natural laws. It can ignore them – business as usual – but if we keep on with business as usual the problem then gets much worse. Business as usual means a dominant fossil fuel lobby and risks low level runaway global warming. This will mean the end of life on earth as we know it.
Prof. Steven Sherwood of UNSW recently stated “… if we fully ‘develop’ all of the world’s coal, tar sands, shales and other fossil fuels we run a high risk of ending up in a few generations with a largely unliveable planet”.
The new government therefore needs a price of some sort on carbon. Since the carbon tax and emissions trading are both unpalatable to them they might consider the fee and dividend proposal of James Hansen. The fee is collected from all fossil fuel producers at the mine or well head. The dividend is this fee [that is] then paid to every citizen of the country. You can find a brief video about this on my twitter page.
Finally I am prepared to talk to any group, small or large, about climate change and the emergency actions required, including members of the National party.
*this brief speech was prepared on the assumption that Darren Chester, the Nationals sitting member would be present, but unfortunately he did not attend. Slightly edited and some of the science has since been modified, for instance the chances of low level runaway global warming now appear unlikely.