Last week on the 7.30 Report we were treated to a debate between Mark Butler, the climate change minister and his Opposition counterpart, Greg Hunt, that just did not work. Leigh Sales tried a hard-edged questioning style, but unfortunately did not come close to being familiar with the topic. So large parts of the LNP agenda were unaddressed, such as their dismantling of the institutional framework of the the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority, the incorporation of the Climate Department into the broader environment department and the dismantling of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
One issue canvassed was the sequestration of carbon in soil, which comprises a large part of the LNP’s mitigation strategy.
Mark Butler said the cost of such abatement was higher than previously thought, the potential for sequestration less and given the problems and uncertainties there “may be some opportunity to abate carbon pollution through soil carbon initiatives in the future, but it is grossly irresponsible to make it the centrepiece of a nationwide carbon pollution policy.”
Hunt dismissed those concerns, quoting the CSIRO but when he was pressed on whether he was talking about just soil carbon he said he meant the full range of green carbon initiatives – mallee and mulga revegetation, reforestation, avoided deforestation, soil carbon.
A recent article in Nature (paywalled) came to the conclusion that:
considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (an idea with wide currency) is scientifically flawed. The capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to store carbon is finite and the current sequestration potential primarily reflects depletion due to past land use. Avoiding emissions from land carbon stocks and refilling depleted stocks reduces atmospheric CO2 concentration, but the maximum amount of this reduction is equivalent to only a small fraction of potential fossil fuel emissions.
That article was by Brendan Mackey and six other scientists from Australia and the UK, including Climate Commissioner Prof. Will Steffen. David Spratt at Climate Code Red has more and links to reports on work done by the CSIRO plus evidence given by Climate Change Department officials to a Senate estimates hearing.
Spratt points out that soil carbon sequestration seems to be front and centre in the LNP’s plans which otherwise lack credible policies for deep cuts in new emissions. So too in Abbott’s mind is the 15,000 strong green army, whhich, mercifully, Hunt didn’t mention.
Spratt’s post has a link at the end to one by Alex White, a member of The Wilderness Society (Victoria) committee of management, and a director of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Tony Abbott’s climate policy is a deniers’ figleaf:
Abbott’s direct inaction policy would condemn Australia to even worse heatwaves, extreme floods and bushfires
Tony Abbott is the alternative prime minister of Australia, and later this year he will face an election presenting a climate change policy that is frankly insulting and potentially dangerous.
The post, originally published in The Guardian, links to an opinion piece of 7 December, 2009 by back bencher Malcolm Turnbull Abbott’s climate change policy is bullshit which describes the direct action policy as “a farce” and
“…the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change.”
Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.
Needless to say this piece is now missing from Turnbull’s website.
There’s more, quite a lot more, at Climate Citizen on soil carbon, and, sadly, a piece on Rudd’s axing of the $1 billion Biodiversity Fund in the carbon pricing shake-up, which in the maelstrom of those days unfortunately I missed:
This relegates Australia’s funding of biodiversity programs to the same level as many third world countries like the Congo and Iraq. Well done Prime Minister. A real race to the bottom on conservation.
If the bottom is where Rudd is headed, and I don’t think it is, then it has long been occupied by this man:
Photograph Stefan Postles/Getty Images from The Guardian