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Gloves off for climate crunch


Tony Kevin: Crunch Time: Using and Abusing Keynes to Fight the Twin Crises of our Era. Scribe, 2009. ISBN: 9781921372933. Online

Crunch Time by Tony Kevin, cover, Rudd and Obama in boxing glovesThe economic recession and growing concerns at the disastrous consequences of climate change are global. Crunch Time examines the issues in an Australian context with a Keynesian economic backdrop.

This informative text focuses in some detail on climate change, science and analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, numerous individual scientific reports, international conferences and, particularly, the Garnaut Review.

It emphasises that the Rudd Government, contrary to its earlier indications, has failed to support this important Review. This, it suggests, is the result of powerful industry lobbying and the Government's subservience to political considerations rather than Australia's long-term interest.

The author, former public servant of 30 years Tony Kevin, provides an outline of Keynes' economic values and thinking, especially the emergence of macro-economics and government intervention, in contrast to the individualism and 'free market resolves all' of neo-classicists.

Of course, today's economic conditions are radically different to those that confronted Keynes in 1936. Think of the massive growth in bank and non-bank finance and credit, profligate consumption and split-second trillion-dollar investments, many of them questionable, taken daily around the world.

However Kevin does highlight Keynes' recognition of 'productive' and 'unproductive' investment and his likely being appalled at today's excessive and prolific consumption.

The book contains an excellent outline of the general operation, effectiveness, fallacies and desirable long-term objectives of the energy sector in Australia. It debunks the 'clean coal' concept as now spruiked by the Government and its proposed huge expenditures to achieve it.

In fact the clean coal concept was not originally developed with CO2 in mind. It was developed to sell Australians sulphur reduction, washed, low particulate coal using 'bag' and related technology. The issue of CO2 emissions was simply added to the clean coal concept and took it over for industry and political convenience when CO2 emissions started to become an issue, without any serious scientific or economic analysis and justification.

Moreover, in the 20 or so years that clean coal has become focused on CO2 removal, there has not been a single commercially viable application in the world. Also as the book points out that the exorbitant costs of sequestering CO2, even if possible, simply increases the viability of other options.

The book rightly emphasises the potential for a range of renewables. Coal use and exports cannot be abandoned immediately, but a credible effort should start now to replace it.

Some will be concerned by the black and white treatment of climate change in the book. There are in fact many who believe that climate change is occurring — it has happened before in the earth's distant past — but do not see CO2 as a major cause. There could be common ground now to begin to generate significant policy changes with a focus on wellbeing, even while the CO2 debate continues to rage.

For example, already sea levels are rising and a billion people are in danger of catastrophic consequences; should we not start now to develop policy responses and options? Climate change, whether due to CO2 or not, is already and will continue to change the location and types of agriculture practiced across the world; should we not invest in transitional steps now? Also, the scope for new and renewable energy expansion is substantial and economically beneficial and should be radically expanded now.

The conclusion to Crunch Time is a frightening vision of Australia facing the full, catastrophic furore of CO2 induced climate change in 2060. Similarly dire prophecies from the likes of Malthus (who in 1798 who saw population increases driving the world to disaster) and George Orwell (in 1984) proved partly valid, but in both cases there have been ameliorating factors. No one knows if this might also be the case with climate change.

Crunch Time is good, provocative reading for the thinking person. There are ample facts, figures and references to worthwhile analysis, combined with controversial assertion. It will provoke strong support from some, violent opposition from others. That is just what we need to generate and heighten debate on these important issues.

John WicksJohn Wicks is a retired senior public servant, former head of the energy division, Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry and Energy, and voluntary economic advisor to the St Vincent De Paul National Council in Canberra. Read some of his papers here. 

Topic tags: John Wicks, Crunch Time, Tony Kevin, Keynes, Twin Crises, climate change, gfc, 9781921372933



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Existing comments

Sorry, man made climate change is a political con and about making money. It does not exist. People continue to believe the IPCC (very few scientists remain) and Garnaut (economist) that this is real over the vast number of scientists who say it is not happening. Climate change occurs naturally and there is nothing we can do about it. I would not be worried about an increase in global temperature but about how far away is the next ice age. History shows that we go from normal temperatures to very cold in a relatively short period of time.

The media has a lot to answer for as they perpetuate this myth.

Shane | 18 September 2009  

Shane, what data are you relying on to draw those conclusions? There is an abundance of data evidencing the opposite.
A lot more money is being made in the short term by ignoring the problem.

bob | 18 September 2009  

Well, I agree with Shane. At the moment I'm reading a very interesting book Air Con - The Seriously Inconvenient Truth about Global Warming by Ian Wishart. He shoots holes in a lot of Al Gore's claims and the IPCC, and supports his facts with authoritative evidence. Very few scientists will put their names to support the great Climate Change scare while 31,000 scientists deny in a report in the British Daily Telegraph 30 May 2008, that mankind is responsible for global warming. This book is well balanced with back-up for the fallicies the author speaks about. It is a "must read" for every Australian before we all get sucked into this "con" of our times

Murray | 18 September 2009  

As a climatologist who has been studying the area for 40+ years and as an avid reader of the many papers on the subject, I believe that we are "frog like", heading towards dangerous climate change.

As an environmentalist who daily hears how our future is tied to ever greater economic performance and resource exploitation, I wonder just how much longer the planet can support our greedy ways?

I for one, am not keen on gambling our future away.

Gavin | 20 September 2009  


I am a geologist and have, along with many of my fellow geologists, studied what has happened over the whole of the earth's history, ie longer than the last 50 years. This is where we see the variations in climate over tens of thousands of years.

Paste the following link into your browser to read a reasonable summary of what has gone on with the current debate:


Have you ever thought what would happen if we eliminated all CO2 (the major so called GHG) from the atmosphere?

Shane | 21 September 2009  

Shane, you're a geologist; to the extent that you study life, you study dead stuff.

It's apparent from your denialism that you don't understand thermal radiation spectra and gas absorbtion spectra, or the concept of heat balance; therefore, to put the present situation in terms that a geologist can understand, try Paleocene-Eocene thermal Maximum.

Then you tell us that there's a political con going on, and it's about making money. Well, who's denying what's happening right now? Who's making money?

David Arthur | 29 September 2009  

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