It is depressing to see the issue of legislative controls of carbon emissions get reduced to the selfish, pro-corporatist, irresponsible idiocy of the American debate. Australians have always been proud to be distinct from Septics ideologically and intellectually (even the few of us who think Noah was real don’t think Joan of Arc was his wife).

But the debate here has been reduced to an incoherent Babel, a vulgar replica of America’s debate, and now that maniac right talk-back radio has chimed in, all hope of reason prevailing is lost.

The most flabbergasting aspect is the monotone repetition of “it’s a tax on living” and “everything will be more expensive”. Well, duh. Yes. That is the whole point, and thank you for informing us that you have not listened to a single word of the debate in the last few decades and have just woken up out of your V8 supercar stupor at the mention of the word “tax”. The imposition of a price on carbon is designed to give incentive to improve our energy consumption habits. Nothing is free. This entrenched delusion that the environment is free and has no associated costs in maintaining it is what may ultimately bring about the failure of civilisation itself. Yet if anyone merely mentions it,  the public starts running around looking for rope and high trees.

This was one of the topics of David Suzuki’s recent lecture tour captured by ABC Big Ideas. The whole talk is well worth seeing, but the key point is that the environment is not free slave labour that can be called on to take care of industrial housekeeping forever. There is a cost associated with it. To vaguely rephrase Suzuki’s take on this – consider you are running a business and you call on your family members to help out as needed. When times are good, you remunerate them appropriately (ie. you run emission control and remediation systems), and when times are tough, you just expect them to work for nothing (ie. you drop environmental considerations and start catastrophist shrieking about how “jobs will be lost”, “business will head overseas” and all manner of similar nonsense to shirk responsibility). It is a position of absolute moral bankruptcy.

The problem with carbon is you can’t see it. That is the whole problem in a nutshell. The human race have no capacity to comprehend that which is not presented clearly right in front of their nose. If carbon was a vile smelling sludge that fell out of the sky and befouled the swimming pool and laundry on the clothesline, there would be no debate. The problem would be addressed and fixed. But it’s not – it’s an invisible, odourless, non-toxic gas that has no immediate effects of any kind. Rather, it takes decades of overwhelming emission to even give any indicators of ill effect (which will correspondingly take decades to reverse, if it is possible at all).

There was a time when this “if you can’t see you, it can’t hurt you” mentality was applied to our rivers and oceans. Similarly, environmentalists raised their concerns then and were likewise shouted down by maniacs. It took decades and decades to make us realise they had a point and that we simply couldn’t use our water systems as garbage disposal units and eventually, we did learn. This is what is happening now with the question of gaseous carbon (lets not forget methane either, it’s not just CO2). Even if we assume, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that anthropogenic global warming is not responsible for climate change now, we do understand climate chemistry enough to know that it still can affect it in the future, so it’s probably a good idea to act sooner rather than later. Given the hysteria we give to nonsense like passive smoking terror, it is beyond comprehension that we can treat atmospheric emissions into the planet’s lungs as a non-issue.

But back to the issue of the Carbon Tax that has the usual suspects, mostly from the political right, though the left is just as guilty, trumpeting impending armageddon at any effort to try and get us to start paying for what we belch into the atmosphere. The very idea of it being a cost that will affect everything and, as a very cheap and dirty trump card, hit the disadvantaged the hardest1, is a nonsense that needs to be stomped on hard. And here’s why.

Here are two graphs0 charting historical at-the-pump petrol prices. The first is from Melbourne, the second less pretty one is from Sydney. These are Australia’s two biggest cities, between them sharing close to 40% of the total population –

Petrol Pump Prices Melbourne

Pump Prices Sydney

Sydney Petrol Price Model (Singapore 97)

Over the last decade, petroleum prices have doubled. No one has died. The economy has not collapsed. If the end of the world happened, we missed it. Oh, and we also had the GFC thing too. We’re still here. No one is starving. There are no riots in the streets. Now, all of you anti-Carbon Tax hystericists, can you explain to us, again, how the tax is going to destroy life as we know it? My math is not what it used to be, but how is a few percent here and there in carbon tax more lethal to the economy than the 100%+ jump at the petrol pump we just shrugged off stoically, as if nothing happened?

As usual, we are allowing professional lobbyists, who represent interests of those to whom you and me are mere inconsequential cockroaches, to dictate reality to us. And the majority are obediently marching along to the tune. This is how propaganda works – public opinion is wet clay, and when it is not vigilant, it can be molded to suit by skilled operators.

It’s time to call BULLSHIT and ask what the motives of the negative camp are and have some full disclosure as to exactly how they are personally going to benefit from it.

If we had no sewage system and the government was planning to implement one using similarly imposed taxation streams, these same lobbyists would be here and presenting the same arguments to us about economic ruin and the collapse of the country as we know it. BULLSHIT.

And some disclosure from me – I don’t particularly like the proposed legislation2, it is probably seriously flawed and can definitely be done better. But that does not matter. It is a first step. No journey commences without the first step. We can at worst find out how it is broken, try and fix it and then try again. It’s a learning process. Without it nothing will happen. So it is time to pull the finger out.

Footnote: The final word of the naysayers is always “but we’re a small country, it will change nothing…” Again BULLSHIT –

a) That is not an excuse to do nothing. That is an apathetic losers argument.

b) It will not achieve “nothing” – if we can make it work successfully, it makes the process of other countries making excuses not to just that little bit harder. A good example here is Portugal’s experiment with drug policy – it has the rest of the planet seriously questioning their own approaches.

0 – Melbourne graph lifted from The Melbourne Urbanist, Sydney graph from Stubborn Mule.

1AS IF the anti-Carbon Tax lobbyists even give a flying fuck about the poor. Seriously. The trouble is, suburbia is full of pea-brains that listen to the gospel of radio talk-back and swallow it all hook, line and sinker.

2 – And I am certainly no Julia “I am an atheist” Gillard fan. The most repugnant politician in my living memory.