I recently got into an extensive FaceBook conversation/debate with someone that was somewhat ridiculous, but we all do stupid things from time to time.
This debate was about CO2 emissions and the role of man. The person on the other side of the debate is a big fan of Lord Monckton, the media shill who shows up from time to time in Australia, most recently paid for by Gina Rinehart, the mining magnate, Australia’s richest woman and more recently a strategic investor in a number of major media companies (Channel 10, Fairfax etc.).
The person I was debating with keeps on coming out with opinions from a variety of scientists who are “climate skeptics”.
The problem with this debate is that it is like religion in the middle ages – you can a Catholic christian or you can follow Martin Luther’s arguments – neither can ever be proven to be right or wrong, because ultimately there is never any proof that God exists. That’s the Richard Dawkins proposition.
In that environment there isn’t anything to be gained from continuing the argument, because for some people the winning is in keeping the discussion going…
The important facts are different to those being discussed on talk back radio (and I spoke to someone last night at a party who told me quite seriously that she was well informed about this topic because she listed to talk back radio!).
The important facts that actually influence us all (and some more than others) are these:
CEO’s of large emitting companies are generally of the view that there will be some kind of regulations introduced in every country in the world that will regulate the emission of CO2. Some countries will act before others. There will be no universal agreement as to the approach.
As a result the race is on to identify ways to reduce CO2 emissions and effectively to become sustainable. Some of the industries affected are major emitters of CO2 and for these businesses the move to accept regulations is of course much more painful than for others.
However, the means of reduction of CO2 will be technical and will be many and will certainly be proprietary. So those businesses that identify, and acquire technologies that interdict effectively will be in a vastly superior position than those that don’t. So CO2 regulation will act as a motivator of positive management change and increased efficiency and improved profitability for those who are able to get past the rhetoric.
In the mean time while the debate is heated, the media rubs its hands with glee, because that translates into increased readership or listenership of the media that presents the most heated arguments… which means more ratings, circulation which in turn means more ads and more $$$.
The facts are not what drives media to cover stories. Its consumer sentiment.
Business makes decisions based on the perception of what policy is going to do, and focuses on trying to modify policy to suit them.
In the CO2 debate the place to be is not in the argument about which is right or wrong, but where people have already made up their minds, and where they have the strength of balance sheets to invest in innovation. Again the best technology won’t necessarily become the most successful technology. It will be the one that has the best distribution, the best value proposition for the customer, or perhaps is the one that gives the owner a level of control over its business sector that allows it total industry dominance. These beget complex economic considerations – and have nothing to do with whether humans make more CO2 or not, whether Australia makes enough to be important or not, etc.
The decisions that affect us all will be made in the boardrooms of the world’s biggest energy companies, chemical companies, mining and agricultural companies. These are the businesses that have the opportunity to become much much bigger if they can get ahead of the regulatory curve.
Research scientists probably, in fact almost certainly, have a good part of the technological solution worked out. It won’t be robust enough to take to market yet. But it is almost certainly nearly there.
Watch as the US and Europe introduce regulations that require all goods that are shipped into their markets to have a universal CO2 impact number to be incorporated into the product. This will happen at approximately the same time that their local industries advise the government that they have the ability to become more sustainable and therefore more competitive. At that time Chinese and Indian companies will be forced to adopt the same practices because otherwise they will be denied markets.
This will affect Australian businesses massively unless we too get ahead of the curve.
CO2 is no longer about what is right or wrong in terms of climate science. It is about how countries can be competitive in the CO2 regulated world that is going to be with us within the next 10 years.
For the innovator, the opportunity is to understand that when the gold rush comes you want to have access to a lot of shovels in order to be in a sustainable business yourself.
- CO2 Tax Australia – Solar Powered Bull (papundits.wordpress.com)
- Supreme Court blocks state suits over CO2, in deference to EPA (arstechnica.com)
- CO2 tax debate like tariffs row: Treasury (news.theage.com.au)
- Baby Steps Against Global Warming, Ctd (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- How mining and media distort Australia’s carbon tax debate | Oliver Milman (guardian.co.uk)
- Smoke and mirrors hide carbon truth (theage.com.au)