THE BLOG

Heaviest Polluter Australia Puts The Boots To Carbon Tax

07/25/2014 03:11 EDT | Updated 09/24/2014 05:59 EDT

This is an excerpt from Capt. Trevor Greene's new, self-published book.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott kept his most noxious campaign promise early this week. He repealed the country's tax on carbon -- the most effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the industrial world's biggest polluter per capita.

In 2011, daily emissions were 49.3 kilograms per Aussie, almost four times higher than the global average of 12.8 kilograms. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper clapped right along to the axing of a tax that would have poured $24.7 billion ($24.8 billion) into government coffers in four years. "Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia's carbon tax. The Australian prime minister's decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message," droned Paul Calandra, Harper's parliamentary secretary.

Australia took a lead role in the war on climate change in 2011 when Abbott's predecessor Julia Gillard passed a tax on carbon that would have raised 25 Australian dollars ($23.44) per ton from some of Australia's biggest polluters. And it worked. There was a 9 per cent drop in emissions in the first six months. Abbott was opposition leader at the time and predictably went on the attack, promising to repeal it when elected.

In Australia's parliament, the parties are only about three metres apart and the prime minister and leader of the opposition face each other across a desk. In October 2012, Guillard made a speech on sexism that went viral. "I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said 'ditch the witch.' I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition, stood next to a sign that called me a 'man's bitch.'" she said. Abbott sat smugly through the 15-minute barrage.

He leads a sports-mad country that seems to have made a sport of doubting climate change science. Prominent UK journalist George Monbiot wrote that "climate change denial is almost a national pastime in Australia." Abbott has insisted constantly that "the science is highly contentious, to say the least." Monbiot says the Australian newspaper "takes such extreme anti-science positions that it sometimes makes the [UK tabloid] Sunday Telegraph look like the voice of reason."

Australia is the world's top exporter of coal, mostly to Asia, and there are two filthy rich and controversial Aussies who dominate the coal industry. Nathan Tinkler first saw the inside of a coal mine as an apprentice electrician. He was 30 years old in 2006 when he sold his home and electrical-contracting business to raise the $1 million to buy an undeveloped coalfield close to two mining operations. By 2008, his mine was worth $530 million. Tinkler is a hefty lad whose attitude and grace hasn't kept pace with his net worth. In 2010, Tinkler responded to a reporters' questions somewhat abruptly, "you're a fucking deadbeat, people like me don't bother with fucking you. You climb out of your bed every morning for your pathetic hundred grand a year, good luck."

Tinkler bought a pro rugby team and a stable of racehorses. In 2012, he bought a luxury home on Singapore's Millionaire Row near the other Aussie mining magnate. Some believe multi-billionaire heiress Gina Rinehart will be the world's richest person by 2014 as her coal and iron projects mature and earn her annual profits of as much as $10 billion. There must be something in the DNA of Aussie miners that makes them court controversy. Rinehart's public pronouncements have made her the subject of such headlines as 12 Reasons Why So Many People Hate Australian Billionaire Gina Rinehart. Rinehart's comments about "jealous" poor people and her call for a wage cut for Australian miners didn't win her any friends. Rinehart, daughter of a virulent racist, is a climate change denier and is embroiled in a nasty, public lawsuit with three of her four children over control of the trust fund started by their grandfather. In March 2012, they reached an agreement to extend Rinehart's control of the trust until 2068. By then, Rinehart would be 114 years old and the youngest of her three children would be 83.

The endangered Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest living structure, has the misfortune to lie along the coast of mineral-rich Queensland. And not even a designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is likely to be a lifesaver. In July 2013, the Australian government proposed building new coal terminals at the deepwater port of Abbot Point. There are nine proposed "mega mines" nearby that at full capacity would release 705 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually, according to Greenpeace Australia.

Three million cubic metres of material would have to be dredged from the ocean floor to allow access for large cargo ships. Reef scientist Terry Hughes told the Australian Senate that "... based on the science, large amounts of dredging will simply hasten the ongoing decline of the Great Barrier Reef." Scientists say that since 1986, the reef has lost half its living coral, and could lose 95 per cent of its coral by 2050 should ocean temperatures increase by the forecast 1.5 degrees Celsius. Residents and business groups in the area are enthusiastic about the economic windfall the project will bring. Aussies can't say they didn't have fair warning; a new colour had to be added to the temperature map of Australia on January 7th 2013 to mark temperatures of 54 degrees Celsius in Eucla, Western Australia.