[Coral-List] What can SCIENTISTS do??

Douglas Fenner dfenner at blueskynet.as
Sat Dec 22 16:09:45 EST 2007

    Just a few comments on Australia and AIMS.  Although Australia's 
previous PM refused to sign Kyoto and Australia has an even slightly higher 
CO2 output per person than the US, they have elected a new government, and 
the new PM signed Kyoto immediately, as was his pledge.  And no doubt was 
very supportive in Bali of proposals to work to solve the problem.  My 
understanding is the new govt has a very different view of envirnonmental 
issues than the previous govt, especially on global warming, and the 
prospects for improvement are very good.
    My memory was that AIMS started in north Townsville, in an 
un-airconditioned set of sheds with metal roofs- there are pictures of 
Charlie Veron looking at hundreds of corals in one of those sheds (I don't 
know how he could stand the heat).  The move to south of Townsville was 
prompted by both the need for a descent facility and for clean saltwater 
intake for the lab saltwater system, so a need to get away from the city of 
Townsville.  Charlie Veron has written a book on the history of AIMS, he was 
there for most of it, perhaps he could set us straight.  Just a few years 
ago they reevaluated the question of moving AIMS back into Townsville.  They 
found it would cost $40 million, much more than the cost of the commuter 
cars for the entire expected life of the facility, so they decided not to 
move it back to Townsville.
     Yes, there are a fleet of commuter cars that wouldn't be there if the 
govt hadn't bought them.  If they hadn't bought them, everybody would be 
driving their own cars, one person per car, producing far more CO2.  Its not 
how many cars there are that counts, its how many cars are used to transport 
people to work.  Buses might improve that further, I have no idea how 
practical that might be.
     I remind folks that the average French person produces one third the 
amount of CO2 as the average American or Australian.  It can be done. 
People are now saying that it would only take 0.1% of global GNP to solve 
this problem.  We spend more than that on stuff we throw away.  If society 
wants to solve this problem, it can be solved.  Let's get cracking.
    I was just in New Caledonia, a French area, where gas costs about $6 a 
gallon, most of the cars are small, and the car ads tout fuel economy of 
about 47 miles to the gallon.  And people live well, Noumea looks like the 
French Riviera.  Prosperity and lower carbon emissions are not incompatible, 
in spite of what big corporations think.  But we might have to rethink some 
cherished practices, like cheap fuel.  Cheap fuel in the US is a massive 
subsidy for wasteful use of fossil fuel (and for producing subsidised goods 
like farm products that can undercut products from other countries where 
producers have to pay more of the true costs of production.).  Someone said 
they thought the true total price of gas in the states was about $17 a 
gallon, when you add in all the subsidies like the gigantic military costs 
of keeping the shipping lanes to the Persian Gulf safe for oil tankers.  All 
paid for by the US taxpayer, not the fuel consumer.  Let's quit subsidizing 
the destruction of our planet- perverse subsidies are starting to come back 
to bite us hard.  Let those who want to waste and pollute pay the true total 
costs of their actions, and you'll see people and corporations scramble to 
reduce waste and pollution fast.  This could even be done without a net cost 
to the economy- you cut other taxes like income taxes in an amount equal to 
the increase on taxes on fuel needed to pay for the government's costs to 
get that fuel to the consumer.  Revenue neutral.  Big oil companies wouldn't 
get all the extra money from the higher price of the fuel, the taxpayer 
does, in the form of relief from other taxes.  But nobody wants to bite the 
bullet and consider real fundamental changes that will solve this problem. 
We'd rather go right ahead blindly driving our gas guzzling SUV's and giant 
pickups (and planet) off the cliff.  Let the next generation pay for our 
excesses, what do we care?

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