'A Perfect Storm of Stupidity': Scientists React To News The Carbon Tax Is Gone

The Abbott Government delivered on its election promise to repeal the carbon tax today, 10 months after taking office, thanks to a new Senate line-up and the support of Clive Palmer’s party and some other crossbenchers.

While Clive Palmer appeared with Nobel Prize winner and climate campaigner Al Gore three weeks ago to detail his views on addressing the issue, scrapping the tax was first and foremost on the mining magnate’s agenda.

This morning the Senate voted 39-32 to repeal the tax.

In contrast to Palmer’s wish for an emissions trading scheme, the Government’s plan, called Direct Action, doesn’t penalise the biggest carbon emitters and doesn’t have the support of the Palmer United Party.

With the Senate rising at the end of the week, legislation for it can’t be tabled until late August, even if the Government could round up support for its plan.

In the meantime, a range of expert scientists have spoken out again the scrapping of the two-year-old scheme, introduced by the former Gillard government, which placed a fixed price of $23 tonne on carbon before it was supposed to move to a “Cap and Trade” scheme in July 2015. They’re equally scathing of the Coalition’s Direct Action proposal.

Professor Roger Jones, a Research Fellow at Victoria University’s Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies didn’t mince words, calling today’s decision “the perfect storm of stupidity”.

“It’s hard to imagine a more effective combination of poor reasoning and bad policy making”, and said it showed “a complete disregard of the science of climate change and its impacts.”

He labelled the government’s Direct Action plan “bad economics” which didn’t trust market forces.

He said it was “poor risk management to take what is effective and working, what can be readily adapted to more stringent targets, and replace it with a more expensive and unwieldy scheme that lacks the resources to meet its totally inadequate target of 5 per cent reductions by 2020,” he said.

Dr Roger Dargaville, senior energy analyst at the University of Melbourne’s Energy Institute & School of Earth Sciences said CO2 production had fallen by 12% since carbon was priced, as energy producers shifted from brown coal to cleaner gas, wind and hydro power production.

“The cost of this shift is carried primarily by the largest emitters who have seen their revenue slashed, which is exactly what the price on carbon was supposed to do,” he said.

“The repeal of the price on carbon is a backwards step and a sad day for the global climate.”

Dr Hugh Outhred, visiting fellow at the University of NSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications called scrapping a carbon price a “dereliction of duty”.

He noted the $23 tonne price set under the ALP was too high, but dismissed both emissions trading schemes and Direct Action, adding the latter will also be a disaster for the budget.

“The Coalition plan to replace a ‘polluter pays’ policy with a ‘pay the polluter’ policy will exacerbate the budget imbalance while being simply inadequate to the task, while emission trading schemes are too complex and too subject to gaming to earn public trust,” Dr Outhred said.

“The centrepiece of a coherent policy framework to mitigate dangerous climate change should be a steadily increasing carbon tax with reinvestment of the proceeds in assisting our society to become more sustainable.”

But perhaps the most telling comment came from Professor Peter Rayner at the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences, a carbon cycle scientist who monitors and predicts atmospheric CO2 levels.

“As an Australian, I’m proud of how much we have contributed to that understanding, but today I’m embarrassed by how poor we are at putting that understanding into practice. We know we have to put Australia on a long road to a low-carbon future. Today we stepped off the road for a nap but that won’t make the road any shorter, we will just have to hurry more to catch up later,” he said.

“I’m also mystified that a government which has thought and acted seriously for the long-term health of the federal budget can’t think beyond the previous election for the carbon budget.”

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