With the media running headlines about the “global emergency”, “threat to national security”, and need for a “war effort” you could be forgiven for thinking that the penny had finally dropped among world leaders about the seriousness of climate change.

But of course it takes the threat of economic meltdown, not merely planetary meltdown, to spur our politicians into multi-billion dollar action. Funny that they can’t seem to find money for climate change measures but will happily dig deep into their pockets to bail out banks to the tune of trillions worldwide.

Even more disheartening are the calls by business lobby groups to delay the start of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) while we deal with the economic crisis.

Fortunately a few sane voices are rising above the others to point out that the financial crisis could present a climate opportunity. UK climate adviser Nicholas Stern is among those who are pointing out that the current situation creates an opportunity for investment in renewable technologies and should be seized to promote ‘green’ jobs and infrastructure.

At the moment Rudd and Wong are standing firm on the ETS, saying it will not be delayed. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to consider how else their $10 billion stimulus package might have been spent. Rough calculations suggest the Government could have spent that money on 5 million solar hot water heaters for Australian homes. This would save $2.5 billion in electricity bills in the first year alone, injecting the $10 billion back into consumer’s pockets over the next 4 years.

Such a step would take 2-3 medium-sized coal-fired power stations offline, and save 15 million tonnes of Australian CO2 emissions per year. The government has a moral obligation to future generations to take action now and not to put the capitalist interests of the rich and powerful over the needs of wider society.