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Leading article Australia

Farming carbon

8 November 2014

9:00 AM

8 November 2014

9:00 AM

And so the great farming nation that rode to prosperity on the sheep’s back and through harvesting wheat now looks to turn its hand to farming, um, carbon. How this great leap forward shall put food on the table of future generations remains a mystery to many, although clearly the Environment Minister Greg Hunt is not alone in putting his faith in this exciting new industry. Louisa Kiely, the Director of Carbon Farmers of Australia, delightedly told the ABC how she raised not only a glass but an entire bottle of bubbly to the passing of Mr Hunt’s and Mr Palmer’s Direct Action laws. ‘In a world where it was Direct Action or no policy, Direct Action trumps no policy’, she enthused, creating a stunning tautological political formulation that, much like the policy itself, guarantees success out of thin air.

Naturally, we wish Ms Kiely and any other enterprising individuals, such as her ‘carbon neutral truckie in Dubbo’, all the best in the forthcoming reverse auctions that are the centre-piece of this grand scheme. But can Direct Action really be better than nothing? According to the official website, carbon farming allows an enterprise to ‘earn carbon credits by storing carbon or reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the land’. These credits can be traded like Pokémon cards. ‘It’s theirs to sell, there’s nothing to stop them adding that to their offering at a farmers’ market, on a website, on any of those things,’ claimed Ms Kiely. Mr Hunt agreed: ‘You can then choose to keep them, to bid them, they’ll be yours to use as you wish.’ The one slight problem, of course, is that (also like Pokémon cards) the inherent value of such credits relies entirely on a suspension of disbelief, or scare campaign: in this case, that our government will carry on propping up artificial business models ad infinitum in order to ‘tackle’ climate change in line with the ‘progressive’ world’s wishes.

The real value of these credits, self-evidently, relies on confidence that carbon farming will reduce the volume of greenhouse gases and therefore reverse the effects of ‘catastrophic’ man-made climate change. Hmm.

Even the IPCC now accept some kind of global warming ‘pause’, even though it’s more like a ‘stop’. Furthermore, as Bob Day points out in this issue, we are also seeing interesting new evidence that nature itself does a far better job of ‘carbon farming’ than the modeling had hitherto predicted.

The climate change fear campaign relies on the sensationalism of the likes of Dr Elizabeth Hanna, an epidemiologist at the ANU, who claims ‘we are at risk of mass-death events… similar to the death tolls due to extreme heat overseas… 70,000 people died in Europe in 2010 due to extreme heat.’

Possibly. But the more likely scenario is that the countries that rely on fossil fuels the most (China, India, Brasil etc) for growth won’t be giving them up anytime soon, and no matter how much carbon we ‘farm’ it won’t make a jot of difference to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Two states, two people

‘Two states for two people’ sounds like a reasonable formula for resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict, and it is one that most fair-minded Australians support. The only impediment to such a practical solution is the Israelis themselves, or so the popular narrative would have it, particularly on the Fairfax/ABC left. For many years now, the oft-voiced assumption has been that Israel is dragging its feet, beholden to its religious ‘extremists’ who hold the balance of power in the Knesset.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the ‘two states for two peoples‘ formula recently proposed by Barack Obama was turned down flat – not by Israel but by the Palestinians. The reason? Put simply, the Palestinians will never sign up to any concept that recognizes the right of Jews to have their own country on what they perceive as a Palestinian birthright. In Palestinian eyes, ‘two states’ means one Palestine plus another land next to it that will eventually also belong to Palestine.

If that sounds cynical, rest assured it is the reluctant belief of many top Israeli strategists, and is tacitly implied by the PLO. Indeed, Bob Carr’s actions of acknowledging Palestinian observer status at the UN, only increased the likelihood of never seeing two states, by encouraging the Palestinians to believe they can get 100% of what they want without giving anything up.

Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott (who have already proven their worth as straight shooters on the world stage) need to encourage the Palestinian leadership to face reality and acknowledge the possibility of living next door to a Jewish state. Two states, two people.

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