A Letter to my Member of Parliament

Dear Dr Hendy

I am a resident of Yass Valley, so I write to welcome you as our new member since the boundaries were redrawn. I note that you are a highly educated man, with great experience in economics. With this is mind, I do have a question.

I was recently reading an article called ‘The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change’, published by no less an authority than the US government — the document is at the link below. I urge you to take a look if you have not already done so. It is sober, carefully considered and yet rather frightening:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/the_cost_of_delaying_action_to_stem_climate_change.pdf

Some key quotes:

“Second, the costs of climate change increase nonlinearly with the temperature change.”

“The higher carbon prices after a delay typically lead to higher total costs than a policy that would impose the carbon price today.”

In other words, while action in the short term is costly, failing to act strongly and immediately will have far more dire consequences for jobs and growth. ‘Jobs and growth’ is a phrase we hear often, yet it seems to me that not enough is being done to factor in the extraordinarily large costs of battling climate change as it gets worse, something which is bound to affect jobs and growth. We have already had flood levies from the Queensland floods, and drought packages. As the climate becomes more extreme the resources we need to put into helping victims of extreme weather will increase. Food production will become less reliable. Our Pacific neighbours may become less politically stable. There are many ‘knock-on’ costs with climate change that will become incredibly expensive, and the taxpayer will have to bear the burden.

I have kids and I want them to be able to obtain meaningful employment and a good standard of living. I agree that small business and innovation are some of the keys to the future. I would add scientific and technological advances resulting from fundamental research. But small businesses will struggle in an economy expending all its resources holding back the tide of environmental change. If an ever-increasing fraction of GDP has to go into climate change abatement because we failed to act soon enough, that will be less money for schools, for health, for welfare — and that means fewer opportunities and a lower standard of living, not a higher one. The benefits of short-term growth will have massive costs down the track, and result in a nett loss.

I am troubled by the way our recent governments of both colours have failed to plan for the years to come. They just don’t care about our kids, no matter what they might say. I see no evidence that either party cares what sort of a world we have in 2040, let alone 2100. A child born today could well be alive in 2100 – yet we are doing precious little to preserve their inheritance. For example, clearly the LNP is prepared to lose the Barrier Reef, despite its economic and natural value. I do not understand how this is considered acceptable, yet nothing is being done, as the recent budget attests. Were I a cynic, I would suggest that the LNP is not prepared make decisions that might upset its key stakeholders in industry. Governments that do nothing in the face of the single biggest threat to ever face use as a species — apart perhaps from the cold war — are remiss and not competent to lead. Right now there is one issue that dwarfs all others, and the LNP is failing to meet it.

I hope you will use your position to try to sway things in the right direction. My kids are depending on you and your colleagues to see to it that they inherit a liveable, viable land.

Best wishes

Darren Goossens

 


 

Of course, they don’t really listen.

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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