'Clean coal' and other greenhouse myths


There is no longer any doubt that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases are leading to dangerous change in the global climate. In Australia, public and political opinion finally shifted in late 2006, with record droughts and an early start to the bushfire season. The Stern Review in October 2006 and the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in February 2007 reinforced fears about global warming.

The debate has now shifted to the best means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and to the need for adapting to the level of climate change that now appears inevitable. Not surprisingly, the confusion and deliberate misinformation which formerly surrounded the debate on climate change has now shifted to the debate on how to tackle it. If there is to be an effective response (and the odds do not look good at present) very large changes are required in the global economy, and especially the global energy system. There will be both winners and losers among industries and companies. The potential losers are fighting to retain their advantages and privileges. Others are positioning themselves to profit, in some cases from ineffective or even counterproductive ‘solutions’.

Part of the strategy of potential losers and winners is to influence the public debate through myths and half-truths. Governments and oppositions are also attracted to convenient half-truths to mask inaction or lack of effective policy. Even among the many who sincerely support a reduction in emissions, there is much confusion.

The scope for misinformation is especially high in 2007, with climate change already a major issue for the federal election later in the year. This paper addresses some of the most widely repeated myths about reducing emissions, which are sure to get a thorough workout in the coming months.

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