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Monday / June 27.
HomemitwocentsWho Needs a Carbon Tax?

Who Needs a Carbon Tax?

Being a science graduate, I am always ready to listen to well argued science. Which is probably why I am struggling to see how the redistribution of income, via the carbon tax, will have a bottom line effect on global warming. It’s not that I disagree with the concept of CO2 contributing to higher atmospheric temperatures. It’s just that the poor Aussie battler may be paying a high price for the political expediency of Australia’s borderline legislators – rather than making an iota of a degree of a difference.

Spending time in India gives one a certain perspective on the matter. Indian governments don’t have the luxury of another tax, despite the fact that it is becoming more affordable for the Indian middle class. Indian personal tax rates are a flat 20 per cent and most company taxes are far below that. Fortunately the British Raj left a legacy of income registration and internal revenue collection… God bless the public service.

Even if a new tax was a possibility, in India right now, a carbon tax simply wouldn’t occur. In the three months I’ve just spent in the country, I did not read, hear or see a single reference to global warming. It’s simply not a pressing issue in a country where fundamental daily staples are still the concern of 400 million souls who officially remain below the poverty line.

While millionaire Cate Blanchett fronts media campaigns telling you to turn your lights off and fork out for another tax in one of the most taxed nations in the world, the residents of Ahmedabad and Khanpur are more concerned with continuous domestic electricity and some clean water.

Australians debate the value of a carbon tax, which will indisputably raise the price of commodities and cost jobs. Yet despite having one of the largest per capita carbon footprints in the world, as a nation, we contribute almost zero per cent of the planet’s CO2

That country’s Bollywood stars are more inclined to spruik yoghurt or mobile phones, and to and compel consumers to spend wisely, save judiciously and drive safely during the monsoon.

Speaking of contrasts, at the close of my excursion to India for the Indian Premier League, I took a flying visit to one of the United Arab Emirates. Qatar is a two and a half hour flight from Mumbai but a galaxy away in terms of population, lifestyle, architecture and living standard.

The attraction of my trip to the UAE was the familiar central theme of sport, in particular cricket.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the near neighbours of Qatar. Both ’emirates’ are independent and run by the original Saudi sheiks who protect the natural culture of their once nomadic goat herding, date gathering societies. Yet they could only be described as “the polar opposite”. There are no individual taxes in Qatar, and the sheikdom sits on 80 per cent of the world’s known natural gas resources. All land is owned by the indigenous Qataris – there’s no foreign land held – and the state looks after all of the infrastructure, which is very impressive.

Having acquired the most votes, Qatar recently won the bid to host the 2022 World Football Cup. Australia was one of the losing bidders, having spent approximately AUD$21 million dollars per FIFA delegate’s vote. In response to accusations of an “inappropriate” climate, those from the home of perpetual summer and sand said they would build all airconditioned stadia. They weren’t joking. In the next decade $180 Billion (that’s US Dollars rather than the much more valuable Aussie one) is earmarked for state sponsored public works.

The haphazard bounce of the stock market does not affect the local economy and they have no notion of global warming – it’s already hot there all year round. They do grow grass and plant trees using billions of gallons of desalinated water so I guess they are doing their bit to keep the gas quotient low. Releasing all that underground natural gas into the atmosphere is a severe negative blow to greenhouse gas control. However without that earthly resource, perhaps the modern city of Doha would still be a Bedouin fishing village.

Qatar’s choice is a no-brainer. The 1.3 million residents will not be paying a carbon tax or leaving their precious asset in the ground. Meanwhile, Australians debate the value of a carbon tax, which will indisputably raise the price of commodities and cost jobs. Yet despite having one of the largest per capita carbon footprints in the world, as a nation, we contribute almost zero per cent of the planet’s CO2.

A healthy humane conscience is a wonderful compass to leaving a better planet for our grandchildren. But whether or not people who can afford it is an entirely different matter.

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