I spent yesterday morning in a road safety meeting discussing the ACT Government’s forthcoming Road Safety Plan, which is itself an aspect of the Federal Road Safety Strategy. And during the morning it occurred to me that governmental priorities are a strange mixture. ‘Climate change’ is an important issue for both the Federal Government and its Opposition, and road safety isn’t anything like as important. The Hon Catherine King is now the Minister for Road Safety, not (as before) merely the Parliamentary Secretary with that responsibility, so that’s an improvement. But, as the Romans were fond of saying, it seems a case of nomen et praeterea nihil (name and nothing else).
Yet if you look at real effects of both surely it ought to be the other way round. Here’s my simple little table of the costs of this carnage in our country:
Road deaths: around 1500 per annum
Serious injuries: around 30,000 per annum
Estimated costs: $27 billion per annum (and rising).
I’ve used the analogy with air transport before. No planes would fly if this happened in the sky — or rather, from the sky. Now let’s consider the human and financial costs of ‘climate change’. To the best of my knowledge the ledger would look like this:
Australian deaths directly due to climate change: 0
Serious injuries directly due to climate change: 0
Estimated direct annual costs of climate change: $0
At once there will be people telling me that climate change has been responsible for much greater agricultural and pastoral productivity all over the world for the last thirty years or so. You can argue that way, to be sure. From the orthodox side will come claims that many people have died of heat-waves which they say have been caused by ‘climate change’. You can argue that way, too, but heat-waves seem to be caused by blocked high-pressure systems that last for days and days. To the best of my knowledge, again, we are still unable to show how it is that increased carbon dioxide accumulations affect high-pressure systems, and in any case, as previously remarked (many times), we have been in a temperature pause for the last fifteen years or so, while carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has gone on rising.
Here’s the really odd bit. In order to ‘combat climate change’, which so far hasn’t actually harmed anyone in Australia, or cost anyone anything, and may indeed have made us all a little better off and better fed, we have spent a great deal on ‘measures’ of mitigation. Alan Moran of the IPA (yes, I know that it’s a right-wing think-tank) has done some work on what all these measures cost. His table looks like this:
I haven’t double-checked his figures, but they come from government papers, and are likely to be accurate. It wouldn’t matter much if they were ten per cent off, because we are comparing them with a big $0, or a substantial but imprecise benefit from the increased growth caused by the increase in CO2.
Now I know that road safety is a difficult area, with absolutely no silver-bullet solutions, and the media ready to launch into attacks on speed cameras on the ground that they are nothing more than revenue-raisers. It is plain that no government wants to tackle road safety seriously, or believes that it has any levers that would produce a quick decline in the current level of wasted lives and wasted money.
But it does make you wonder about how things get to be priorities, let alone to be ‘the greatest moral … etc challenge of our generation’.
And just for fun I asked my ‘favourite search engine’ (politically correct ABC talk) to summon up joint references to ‘climate change’ and ‘road safety’, and found not quite 6 million of them, including scholarly papers that tell us how increased global warming will reduce road safety. Yes, they were peer-reviewed, I’m sure.
Here’s the opening paragraph of one of them, a few years ago, as you’ll see, and Australian:
‘Compared to the many political, economic and technological factors affecting the evolution of transportation systems and road safety, the role of climate change may be relatively minor. Nevertheless its implications are still likely to be significant, given the anticipated changes in thermal and moisture regimes. Although Australia is gripped in drought, climate factors including increases in temperature ranges and intensity of adverse weather conditions are expected to have a significant effect on not only the road transport system but also on road safety and driver behaviour.’ And off the authors go.