17 July 2014 – COMMENT: Workplace Health and Safety practice has a well-established hazard management protocol, the “hierarchy of control” which is just as applicable to the climate crisis and the hazards of unmitigated carbon dioxide emissions. The government policies presents us with a total fail, as complete a recipe for disaster as if we’d handed a drunk guy the keys to one of the massive mining trucks the PM was posing with last week
First choice and best option for hazard control is eliminate the hazard. Well, we can’t eliminate the climate, and the government has made it clear they have no will to eliminate the major, controllable sources of emissions from the fossil fuel industries.
Second choice is substitute the hazard for a safer alternative, and here again, the government is choosing repeatedly to preference the hazards of coal over the safer alternatives of renewable.
Third choice, isolate the hazard from anyone who could be harmed, in this case that idea’s a complete non-starter as none of us can avoid the emissions generated by coal, and few of us can eradicate all fossil fuel-related items from our lives, which is why the carbon tax which would have funded mitigation works was an idea so good, even the Productivity Commission had endorsed it.
Fourth choice, use engineering controls to reduce the risk. And that’s where the susty crew come in, with all those brilliant innovations which are being designed and built into some of the leading examples of greening the urban fabric. Shame the government is now making it prohibitively expensive for the next generation of bright minds to join the journey, and is seeking to defund many of the leading think-tanks who do the pure research which underlies engineering brilliance.
Fifth choice, use administrative controls to reduce the risk. And that one just makes us laugh and cry at the same time, as today has shot that option down in planet-baking flames.
Sixth choice, use personal protective equipment. In terms of the risks to our climate, we can only assume this would mean focusing on our immediate homes and offices and what we can do to make them resilient and liveable in a higher temperature world where extreme weather events and fires become more frequent. Bad times for “on the beach” investing or living on the floodplains of south east Queensland.
We can also plant some trees, make good choices, and keep chipping away at the obdurate power bloc of fossil-fuel dependent “business as usual”.
We can future proof our super by getting out of companies which will, inevitably, fail because they put their eggs in an unsustainable basket and the global financial markets turned on them and wiped them out. Australia is becoming a pariah on environmental and human rights grounds, and global procurement and investment trends are starting to shy away from those kinds of shonky operators. Like the old saying goes “what if we held a party and no-one came?” That’s the possible fate of many of our exports and our tourism sector.
Angry, betrayed, grieved and outraged barely cut it for how many people feel in susty land right now. This sector is now carrying the can for the future, and whether or not the government understand it, they might have done their best to burn the whole house down around our ears, but things have a way of persisting, and sprouting, and coming back and hanging in there.