Climate truth should guide recovery spending

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The Prime Minister and Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor have been once again promising a ‘gas-led recovery’, supposedly to provide affordable energy and drive jobs growth. As faith leaders, we feel compelled to speak out in favour of a far more ethical and constructive path forward. 

Gas range (Peter Asquith/Flickr)

The pandemic has afforded us a preview of how a crisis plays out when the science is not properly heeded. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists have long been sounding the alarm that the health and safety of large parts of the population are at serious risk, both here and around the world. We are already seeing the damage to health and to the environment that they predicted. 

As people of faith, our compassion is especially for younger generations and those on the frontlines of climate impacts. Australians are still raw from their experiences of the catastrophic summer bushfires and years of heartbreaking drought, but people around the world are also increasingly suffering from sea level rise, heatwaves, cyclones, forest fires, floods and drought. Scientists confirm that climate change has amplified the intensity of all of these, and impacts will only worsen. Dangerous tipping points will be reached if humanity fails to radically reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

In spite of the hype, gas is just another fossil fuel. When fugitive emissions are properly accounted for, gas is at least as polluting as coal. The refrigerating of liquified natural gas for export adds again to its emissions. We have seen how gas extraction destroys agricultural and forested areas and threatens to pollute groundwater. Globally, gas is a declining industry. Using public money to support it would be financially and morally irresponsible.

There is also the opportunity cost of diverting funds away from renewable generation and energy storage (including batteries, hydro and other technologies), which are more job creating, less polluting, and would lead to better health outcomes and a more resilient economy.

With climate-conserving technologies now ready for deployment and very competitively priced and supported by a great majority of citizens, now is the time to set a course to make Australia a renewable energy powerhouse.

 

'Younger generations are making sacrifices today largely to protect the health of older people, and it is they who will be called upon to pay off the debts we incur in the fight against this pandemic.'

 

Everyday Australians have shown repeatedly how they support strong action on climate change, but we know that genuine action is frustrated by the enormous political influence of extractive industries. During the COVID-19 crisis, the fossil fuel lobby has again been in the ear of the federal government, indeed the COVID Commission is stacked with mining executives. This largely hidden influence is undemocratic and it is ethically unacceptable. 

Lobbyists of these industries regularly overstate the number of jobs in coal, oil and gas and the multiplier effects of these industries. They overstate their contribution to the economy and often lie about their adherence to environmental regulations that are already too lax. 

Regional communities would be better supported by establishing new employment opportunities, rather than by propping up declining industries which create very low levels of employment, while also undermining land rights for Aboriginal traditional owners, increasing pollution and reducing health for impacts on rural communities, poisoning or diverting scarce water supplies, and creating the community distress manifest in widespread protests. 

This is part of Australia’s pattern of evading its international responsibilities to cut emissions. Remember our nation pleading at last year’s COP25 to have carry-over ‘credits’ from the Kyoto Protocol counted, despite this option being intentionally excluded from the Paris Accord?

Younger generations are making sacrifices today largely to protect the health of older people, and it is they who will be called upon to pay off the debts we incur in the fight against this pandemic. Should we add to this the burden of a terrible climate-disrupted future which they have not created themselves? 

COVID has created disruptions, and also opportunities. Can we use the opportunity of the economic stimulus not only to create more jobs now but also to create a fairer, more thriving and climate-resilient economy for our long-term future.

 

 

co-signed by

Rev Dr Peter Catt, Dean of Brisbane Anglican Diocese

Dr Rateb Jneid, President of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils/Muslims Australia

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Environmental Adviser to Moetzah of Australian, New Zealand and Asian Rabbis

Dr Gawaine Powell Davies, President, Buddhist Council of NSW

 

Main image: Gas range (Peter Asquith/Flickr)

Topic tags: Dr Peter Catt, Dr Rateb Jneid, Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Dr Gawaine Powell Davies, climate crisis, gas

 

 

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Existing comments

PM Morrison's "gas led recovery" is somewhat like encouraging a cigarette smoker to quit by changing them over to cigars. It is pleasing to see that persons from diverse religions can collaborate in a unified direction of sorts; despite my being generally in agreement with the various concepts of the article I'm unsure that it achieves the desired outcome(s)... It's only a brief collection of propositions but the writers seem to fail in getting their missal on target; not "everyone" will remember the COP25 carry-over credits, some people will be unaware - the writers would do better to explain their position and the facts rather than quiz the reader's knowledge or rely on their opinion. Also, I'm unsure about beginning a paragraph with "As people of faith"; do the writers refer to themselves or is it assumed that (all) readers are likewise? Unfortunately, the 2020 budget is due within a couple of weeks; the PM's announced gas-led recovery will be entwined in the employment and fiscal numbers already. I respectfully suggest we prepare for disappointment.
ray | 20 September 2020


I'm afraid that Ray is right. What we're going to get is tax cuts for those with secure well-paying jobs and benefit cuts for those without jobs or struggling to make ends meet in the gig economy.
Ginger Meggs | 22 September 2020


"Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?" That's my response to this anti-science, anti-economic, piece, which simply refuses acknowledge the relevant issues. Not only should there be no Keynesian-inspired Government recovery spending, but the "reset world, climate change is dogma" narrative is simply that - a desperate attempt to coercively impose a dogma because the observed facts are in contradiction to the catastrophic global warming paradigm. Cuddly polar bears have not been dying out. Pacific islands insist, in the main, on maintaining or even increasing their size. Thanks to increased CO2 (however that has come about – bring it on, I say – ) is much greener (hear that, Greenies? GREENER!) than it was in 1950 and world harvests continue to break records despite the dire predictions of Paul Erlich, Al Gore, etc. As the world, despite government mismanaged blips like COVID, advances economically, the ability to withstand climate disasters increases exponentially: compare world deaths from climate-related disasters in, say 1920 to today: down 99%. According to the IPCC AR5, there is no detectable link between hurricane/cyclone frequency and the global temperature since 1950. Bushfires' scale and intensity are directly traceable to planned cool season burn offs, or rather the lack thereof, not to increased temperatures. Fossil fuels (and the unmentionable nuclear power) continue to dominate baseload power delivery in most advanced countries, whereas the coerced adoption of wind and solar has driven energy prices through the roof wherever it has occurred and delivered ancillary problems such as decimated species of birds. Oh, and rolling blackouts. This is the way the West suicides. Not with a bang, but a self-imposed, totally avoidable, blackout. Nightey-night, baby.
HH | 23 September 2020


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