Everybody’s got something to Hide except for me and my Rodney

catbrain.jpg ACT’s descent into the twilight world of the climate cranks continues apace. Yesterday’s Herald quoted their esteemed leader and ballroom dancer, Rodney Hide, describing climate change and global warming as a hoax during Tuesday’s debate on the ETS legislation:

“The data and the hypothesis do not hold together. Al Gore is a phoney and a fraud on this issue and the emissions trading scheme is a worldwide scam and a swindle.”

Here we have the leader of a party that aspires to playing a role in the next government calling Gore a phoney and fraud. I wonder why he didn’t mention that Gore’s fat? So what is ACT policy on climate change? I went digging.

When Hide was interviewed by Gordon Campbell at Scoop last May, he was notably evasive on his personal position:

Campbell: You’re telling me it [global warming] varies according to the time period. My question asked you – is it occurring right now?

Hide: Right now we don’t know. Like, today. What we’re saying is once you define a time period you can get a sense of it. If you go back and say over the last 18, 000 years its been warming. From the best of the records from 1900 to the 1940s its been warming. You can say over the last 18 years – which is since we’ve had orbital satellites which is the best way of measuring.. the answer is, funnily enough, a slight decrease.

Pardon? We don’t know whether global warming is occurring? And Rodney thinks there’s been a decrease in temperature over the last 18 years? Hide is clearly spectacularly ill-informed, but Campbell doesn’t call him on it and ploughs on:

Campbell: I’ll re-phrase. Do you see human beings as being responsible for the global warming that the IPCC sees as occurring right now?

Hide: OK, that’s a better question. Um… whether its anthropogenic. I think there is an influence. I think its arguable how much. And that’s not clear. We do not know the exact influence that humans have had on the world’s climate. It requires a theoretical understanding largely based on models. If we accept the IPCC – which isn’t a bad starting point, right? The political question is what then do we do? I think that has two components. The first is that we have to worry seriously about our trade, and our international standing because we could find ourselves very easily shut out of the world. Which would be horrific. So we’ve got to be, to use the phrase, ‘ global citizens’ on this one. I think Kyoto One was a mistake.

So Rodney is – let’s be polite – confused about the reality of the problem, but seems prepared to accept the IPCC position. Doesn’t really square with his first answer…

There’s little more clarity in a speech he gave when launching ACT’s current policy, again back in May:

I’m an environmental scientist and economist and I’ve been studying this issue for thirty years. And I can assure you the science is far from settled. We’ve been sold a pup, and the bad news for our economy is, it’s a Great Dane. We need to adopt saner policies in this area before New Zealand goes out of business. A low carbon tax would be a lot more affordable than carbon trading. Why hurt Kiwi families more than they’re hurting now, when countries that do 75% of the emitting aren’t taking the lead? The US, British Columbia and Australia are all doing a better job than us in this area, and we should follow them. If we did, it would add three-eighths of a percent to growth and $37.50 to the average wage.

I think Rodney may be overselling his understanding of the issue a little when he says he’s been “studying this issue for thirty years”. And apparently the IPCC breeds large dogs.

Since May, it seems that the siren voice of Muriel Newman and other acolytes of the sceptic rump have persuaded Rodney to harden his position. Earlier this year he may not have wanted to frighten the horses by being overtly sceptical on climate change, but now – in the midst of aggressive lobbying against the ETS – he feels more comfortable spouting the crank mantra.

Time for Hide and the ACT party to front up. Do they accept the IPCC report in full? If they do not, why not? I assume that if ACT is adopting the latter position that they have conducted a proper review of the evidence. If they have, I’d like to see it. And if they haven’t then they should shut up. Climate change is too serious an issue to leave to the political whims of parliamentary windbags. From any party.


Update 5/9: Hansard has Rodney’s speech in full. He provides this – ahem – masterful description of the “hockey stick” controversy:

The problem for the first two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was what was called the medieval warming period, whereby a thousand years ago the Earth was warmer than it is now. Then, magically, an obscure physicist in the US came up with a new bit of analysis—the “hockey stick” model—that showed world temperature to be flat and then rising dramatically as the world became industrialised. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change grabbed this, put it on the front of its document, and repeated it five times.

Researchers all around the world were puzzled by this, because it did not fit any of their data. Eventually they got hold of that computer model and they discovered that any numbers fed into that model would produce the “hockey stick”. We could take the Wellington telephone directory, feed it into the model that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used in 2001, and we would get the “hockey stick”, which saw the world and policy makers running scared, and which Al Gore based his movie on. The science was rubbish, because a computer model is not science.

Rodney is clearly not up with the play. And he should be held to account for that. I thought – perhaps naively – that honourable members were not supposed to tell porkies to their peers.

3 thoughts on “Everybody’s got something to Hide except for me and my Rodney”

  1. As I said somewhere else, it’s almost reassuring to know their grasp of science is as bad as their economics (and their empathy). It makes it easier to discount at least half of the comments on the internet.

  2. It’s funny but Rodney taught me resource economics as part of my Master’s degree at Lincoln in the late 80s. Even then it was all about getting the property rights right and everything else will be hunky dory. Market failure, unless its the Government’s fault, was not a consideration.

    Unfortunately for Rodney climate change is the all time classic example of a market failure with collective action being the only way to address it. And that’s what Rodney and the rest of his property rights at the expense of everything else ilk hate.

    Somewhere between doing his undergraduate degree in biology and his Masters in resource managment he had a road to Damascus conversion to the Chicago school. It was not a pretty sight.


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