The most right wing political party in New Zealand that is represented in parliament is the Act Party. This blog post by Bryce Edwards, a political scientist at the University of Otago, is a little long and a little out of date now (November 2009) but it gives a reasonable summary of the state of play in New Zealand. For the impatient the guts is that parties can be positioned on xy axes of left-right and libertarian-authoritarian.
Positions of New Zealand political parties as of 2008. Figure by Doug Mackie, drawn from the mean data at Bryce Edwards’ blog. Scale converted from 0-10 in original to -5 to +5 here. Edwards gives the caveats and all errors and distortions are mine.
Until just after the 2005 General Election the ‘centre right’ National Party was lead by Don Brash, an ex-governor of the Reserve Bank. The arguments will go on but most think Brash lost the election for the National Party as he was too right wing.
National won the 2008 election without Don Brash. But it seems Brash and his mates have ‘unfinished business’. Brash gained infamy in 2004 as leader of the opposition for suggesting to a US Congressional delegation that if he were elected in the 2005 election then New Zealand’s nuclear ship ban would be gone by lunchtime. And as leader of the National Party Brash was vocal about his extreme scepticism of climate change.
This week Brash announced he wanted to emerge from dotage and take over the leadership of the further right Act Party. A few funders of Act, like Alan Gibbs were said to support the challenge and on Thursday the coup went through. Oh, and this weekend, after the coup Don Brash will go through the formality of actually joining the party he now leads.
The Act Party already has a solid line in denialism. The just toppled leader, Rodney Hide thinks that:
…that the entire climate change and global warming hypothesis is a hoax, that the data and the hypothesis do not hold together, that Al Gore is a phoney and a fraud on this issue, and that the emissions trading scheme is a worldwide scam and a swindle.
So will things be any different under Don Brash? Before getting into the details it is worth starting with the fact that, in a Speech in memory of Michael Joseph Savage 28 May 2008 Brash says of himself:
…and I’m not well qualified to offer strong views on global warming.
I remain somewhat sceptical about the impact of human activity on the climate, and suspect that within five years many others will have come to share my scepticism.
Going back to October 2006 in his regular press release column he appeared less equivocal when talking of launching a National Party environmental policy document:
Although there are still uncertainties around some of the science – and National will keep a close eye on the latest findings so our policy response remains appropriate – the majority of scientists believe greenhouse gases are causing climate change. National views the climate change proposals in [A Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand] as an insurance policy to protect against that risk.
The 2006 Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand says that:
Many years of scientific work, summarised by the National Academies of Science of all the main countries, including the United States, and by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirms the risk is serious, although uncertainty remains about the rate and timing of global climate change and its regional effects (1). These uncertainties are not an excuse for doing nothing.
That “(1)” in the Bluegreen document is a reference to 4 sources presenting such ‘uncertainties’. I wondered if National/Brash thought these uncertainties offered them an out so I followed the references up.
Levin & Pershing source turned out to be obscure with only a few thousand google hits – so I knew it wasn’t disputing the science as anything that even superficially appears to offer doubt is passed around the echo chamber by the million in milliseconds. However, it is cheerily doom laden:
2005 was a year in which the scientific discoveries and new research on climate change confirmed the fears and concerns of the science community. The findings reported in the peer-reviewed journals last year point to an unavoidable conclusion: The physical consequences of climate change are no longer theoretical; they are real, they are here, and they can be quantified.
In this short paper, WRI reviews some of the major discoveries from the past year. Taken collectively, they suggest that the world may well have moved past a key physical tipping point.
In addition, the science tells us the effects of climate change are at a scale that adds enormous urgency not only to the efforts to prevent additional change, but equally important, to efforts to adapt to the impacts already occurring.
Finally, the science makes it clear that additional climate impacts will result even if emissions of greenhouse gases are halted immediately.
In one place the paper discusses sceptical views “that human induced changes in atmospheric composition would only lead to insignificant changes in the climate system” and concludes that:
“This study, [details of methodology], solidly refutes those sceptical views.”
The second source presenting uncertainties is United States National Research Council 2001: Climate Change Science – An Analysis of Some Key Questions
Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.
Third is the Joint Science Academies 2005 statement :
We recognise the international scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
I saved the best till last. The 4th reference used by National as proof of uncertainty is the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report. ’nuff said.
These are the sources that the National Party under Don Brash demonstrated that “uncertainty remains about the rate and timing of global climate change and its regional effects.” Uhh hello! That is exactly what the IPCC Assessment Reports have repeatedly said.
These sources discuss real scientific uncertainty. Of the ‘it is happening but we don’t know yet if it will be really bad or really really bad’ type. Not the ‘it might not be happening’ type of uncertainty. Not one contains any hint that the climate change situation is anything other than dire and urgent action is required.
So what changed for Don Brash? In 2006 he was launching a policy paper that cites a document saying: “The physical consequences of climate change are no longer theoretical; they are real, they are here, and they can be quantified” and in 2008 he had become “sceptical” about the reality of human induced climate change.
This is what I think changed: In
But why should Brash believe Lawson? Because I think that Brash agrees with Lawson on other issues:
From the book An Appeal to Reason, A Cool Look at Global Warming.
To take the extreme case, while it may at first blush seem heartless to say that the welfare of those living in the next millennium is of no consequence, to take decisions on the basis that it is every bit as important as the welfare of the population of the world today would be palpably absurd.
So easily swayed. Is Don Brash just a hollow man with no originality? We have a few throwaway lines from the speeches above but what about the detail of what Don Brash thinks about climate change?
Brash (along with Roger Douglas and Alan Gibbs) is a trustee for the ‘Centre for Resource Management Studies’ (i.e. Owen McShane) which made a submission to the 2nd ETS Select Committee in February 2009. Total 31 pages plus another 46 in supplementary material.
No prizes for guessing what it says but page 15 of part one is a must see. Trust me. Go look.
The part of the submission written by the ‘centre’ for which Brash is a trustee has laughs but no originality. It is, for the most part, devoid of science (though it would take 2 or 3 full posts to debunk the lies they do slip in). Instead it is mostly a rant about the evils of public transport. And that seems to be the motivation for Brash and company. Oh, the banality of venality.