Baby steps: Australia’s carbon tax passes Senate vote

Today could be viewed as an historic day for Australia, where the carbon tax has just today been voted through the Senate. Historic, yes, because it’s taken 20 years for Australia to finally implement this legislation. Finally, a price has been put on carbon in Australia. O my, what a fight it has been. If the NZ Herald thought Robyn Malcolm’s attack on John Key at the weekend was “vitriolic”, I’m not sure how they’d label the toxic politics across the ditch.

Tony Abbott has vowed in blood to repeal the package. He’s been obsessed with blood, baying for Julia Gillard’s all year. But it doesn’t seem to have got him anywhere — his unpopularity has reached new heights today, according to a news poll today.

I’m not going to go into the details of the tax and how it compares with NZ, as Mr February has covered that far better than I ever could in two excellent blogs here and here.

The tax has rallied the right. And boy have they rallied, with anti-carbon tax rallies up and down the country, festooned with abusive placards like “ditch the bitch” – and much, much worse. At one point even Tony had to distance himself from these, his most avid supporters.

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Garnaut: no reticence on risk

I appreciated the candidness with which economist Ross Garnaut introduced and concluded his recently released update on the science of climate change, one of a series of updates to his 2008 Review which have been commissioned by the Australian government. In the introduction he explains how he began his original Review with no strong views and no more than a common knowledge of climate change science. He read a fair bit of climate science in the course of preparing the Review, including paying due attention to sceptics with genuine scientific credentials, and his investigations led him to the premise for his Review that “on a balance of probabilities” the central conclusions of the mainstream science were correct.

Since then he has moved in his thinking to regard it as highly probable that most of the global warming since the mid-20th century is human-caused. Further, he declares that he would now be tempted to say that those who think that temperatures and damage from a specified level of emissions over time will be larger than is suggested by the mainstream science are much more likely to be proven correct than those who think the opposite.

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Bob Carter: innumerate and irrational?

Bob Carter, in Shhsshh … don’t talk about the science, Quadrant Online, Feb 28 2011:

So what about the famous global warming which occurred in the late 20th century, whatever happened to that? Well, not only did the gentle warming terminate in 1998, but in accord with natural climate cycling that warming has been followed by a gentle cooling since about 2001. That’s ten years of no temperature increase, let alone dangerous increase, over the same time period that atmospheric carbon dioxide increased by about 5%.

Run that past me again, Professors Garnaut and Flannery – your advice to government still remains that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming?

Ross Garnaut, in his introduction to the Garnaut Climate Change Review – Update 2011, Update Paper five, March 10 2011: The science of climate change, after noting that statisticians confirmed (again) the presence of a warming trend in the latest data:

The statistical evidence did not stop assertions in the public debate that the earth was cooling, but it does seem to have discouraged at least the numerate and rational from repetition of errors into which they had carelessly fallen.

So where does that leave Carter, I wonder? I think we can rule out his being careless in the presentation of the facts. And he can’t really be innumerate — the Royal Society of New Zealand does not welcome the mathematically challenged to its ranks. Irrational? How else do you describe someone who argues the exact opposite of the truth? What’s the term I’m striving for? Is he being economical with the truth or simply telling lies? I leave that for the reader to decide.

Garnaut update on climate science: avoiding high risks will require large changes

Ross Garnaut, the Australian government’s climate change adviser, today published the science update [PDF] to his 2008 report. It warns that recent research has “confirmed and strengthened” the view that the earth is warming and humanity is to blame. Temperatures and sea level continue to rise, and there are worrying signs that a 2ºC target may no longer be “safe”. Garnaut comments that it is an “awful reality” that his 2008 review did not overestimate the risks of climate change. Most telling, though, are the update’s final lines. After a section discussing scientific reticence as a possible reason (pace Hansen) why published science appears to systematically underestimate the extent and dangers of probable climate change, Garnaut states:

We should, however, be alert to the possibility that the reputable science in future will suggest that it is in Australians’ and humanity’s interests to take much stronger and much more urgent action on climate change than might seem warranted from today’s peer-reviewed published literature. We have to be ready to adjust expectations and policy in response to changes in the wisdom from the mainstream science.

In other words, don’t bank on getting an easy ride. Full details below the fold.

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