Thursday, June 5, 2008

Climate change will probably beat us: Garnaut

Climate change will probably beat us: Garnaut
  • The Age, June 5, 2008 - 7:46PM

Economist Ross Garnaut thinks humanity will probably lose the fight against climate change.

The architect of Australia's response to climate change says the issue is "too hard" and there is "just a chance" the world will face up to the problem before it's too late.

Professor Garnaut issued the chilling prognosis in a speech in Canberra tonight.

"There is a chance - just a chance - that Australia and the world will manage to develop a position that strikes a good balance between the costs of dangerous climate change and the costs of mitigation," his prepared speech said.

"The consequences of the choice are large enough for it to be worth a large effort to take that chance, in the short period that remains before our options diminish fatefully."

Prof Garnaut was pessimistic about Australia's ability to tackle climate change.

"An observation of daily debate and media discussion in Australia could lead one to the view that this issue is too hard for rational policy-making in Australia," he said.

"The issues are too complex, the vested interests surrounding it too numerous and intense, the relevant timeframes too long. Climate change policy remains a diabolical problem."

And Prof Garnaut said the effects of climate change on the planet could outlive human beings.

There was one positive note in his speech - the soaring price of of oil, gas and coal of recent months will see the nation's greenhouse gas emissions fall below the limits set under the Kyoto Protocol.

Higher prices for petrol and electricity will reduce demand and the effects of higher prices will be felt over the next few years, Prof Garnaut said.

"If we had been more or less in line with the Kyoto requirements, we will now be tending below," he said.

Prof Garnaut was delivering the HW Arndt Memorial Lecture at the Australian National University.

He will release a draft report on how the federal government should tackle climate change in July, and a final report in September.

The report is expected to influence the design of an emissions trading scheme, the government's main response to climate change, which will start operating in 2010.


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