Telling porkies to Parliament (first reprise)

NZETS.jpgThere are hours of harmless fun to be had digging around in the submissions to the Finance & Expenditure Committee on the government’s proposed amendments to the Emissions Trading Scheme [full list here]. There’s some good stuff — the Institute of Policy Studies/Climate Change Research Institute submission [PDF] is scathing:

The Bill […] does not provide a path forward to decarbonise the New Zealand economy in an efficient, effective or equitable manner. It will barely reduce emissions. It imposes high costs on the economy for the benefit of a favoured few. It is fiscally unsustainable, environmentally counterproductive, administratively cumbersome and economically indefensible.

Don’t mince your words, chaps, tell us what you really think…

Unfortunately, there’s also a fair amount of rubbish.

The Business Roundtable submission, for example, despite my vigorous criticism of their ETS Review submission, continues to show appalling ignorance of the real evidence:

On the science, as our February 2009 submission to the select committee indicated, we regard the UN lntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports as constituting an important body of scientific opinion which is sufficient to justify some governmental action to mitigate or adapt to the threat of dangerous warming. However, we strongly criticised claims that “the science is settled”. The order of magnitude of human−induced global warming is uncertain and controversial.

Oh dear. I thought Kerr & co were off to a good start, but then they go and spoil it. “Uncertain and controversial”? Straight out of the climate denier playbook. This stuff isn’t remotely controversial where it matters — which is with the people studying climate.

The science continues to evolve, and its future evolution should influence whether government policy actions should be intensified or scaled back.

Scaled back? Is this an argument for delay on the grounds of uncertainty, or does it just show ignorance of the recent evidence that change is happening faster than expected?

Particular points policy makers should bear in mind include the absence of any global warming for nearly a decade (contrary to model predictions);

A spectacular own goal. Two crank lies condensed into one sentence. Global warming hasn’t stopped, and climate models have made no predictions for this decade. Clear evidence that the Business Roundatble is getting its climate “science” from the cranks.

the fact that increasing CO2 emissions have a progressively lower impact on temperatures;

Yes, it’s a fact, but it’s not relevant to climate policy, because as any reading of the climate literature would tell you, there’s more than enough oomph left in the gas to get us into a lot of trouble.

and the likelihood that any warming in New Zealand will be below global temperature increases, and at moderate levels could be beneficial for many decades.

Same claim as last time. Still unsubstantiated. Still rubbish. Leaving to one side the question of what might happen in NZ, how do Kerr & Co think NZ and its business community will do if the rest of the world is going to hell in a handbasket? Unless of course we’re selling handbaskets. I wonder if that’s what the Business Roundtable has in mind?

Eminent critics such as Professor David Henderson, formerly Head of the Economics and Statistics Department of the OECD Secretariat, have also argued that the IPCC process is deeply flawed. We believe the New Zealand government should be making the case for greater objectivity and a wider range of analysis and opinions in the IPCC’s work.

Further proof (if any were needed) that Roger Kerr is getting his climate “science” from the cranks. The NZ CSC have been blathering on about the need for “contestability” in climate advice to government for years.

When it comes to understanding science the Business Roundtable’s credibility is in tatters. If they choose to get their “science” from cranks and charlatans, why should anyone take anything the organisation says seriously?

Another submission one hopes the committee will read and ignore is that of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, presented by Terry Dunleavy. Point four was enough for me:

What consideration has been given to an exit strategy in the increasingly probable event that the “change” of climate that will confront the world in the next decade or two will be significant cooling rather than projections of modest warming which rely for their integrity on pre-determined computer modelling of increasingly demonstrable doubt.

It’s “increasingly probable” that Terry is talking out of his posterior orifice. He runs through all the standard crank arguments, but provides the best laugh of the day with a blatant call for jobs for the (old) boys:

In providing this leadership, it will be vital to harness the full range of agricultural research talent available, not just from Government departments and agencies, but also from our tertiary institutions and from the ranks of still active retirees (scientists like Dr Gerrit van der Lingen whose paper “Ruminants Not Kyoto Villains” is [here]).

In that document, Gerrit (a geologist) manages to completely overlook the crucial point: that ruminants are efficient converters of carbon to methane, which is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. If he gets anywhere near research on agricultural emissions then NZ really will be stuffed.

In a splendid show of crank solidarity, Vincent Gray chimes in on agriculture’s behalf with a pithy little submission that includes the following:

All farming removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Emissions of methane represent only a small part of the total carbon dioxide that has been absorbed by farm animals.

Thanks Vincent. Don’t ring us…

[PS: My submission is here, Bryan Walker’s here, and Brian Fallow provides an overview of the arguments in today’s Herald.]

12 thoughts on “Telling porkies to Parliament (first reprise)”

  1. I wrote to the paper two years ago when the Business Roundtable had hosted a visit from Nigel Lawson, asking what on earth an organisation that claimed membership of chief executives from many of the large business interests in New Zealand was doing aligning themselves with views which sweep aside the sober findings of thousands of independent scientists as some kind of conspiracy to interrupt global capitalism. I don’t know whether they’re still pushing that aspect of Lawson’s views, but they’re obviously sticking with his airy dismissal of the science as uncertain. The sheer scientific ignorance they display ought to be unbelievable in an organisation as prominent in public life as they are. How long before members start leaving the organisation, as is happening with the US Chamber of Commerce which has taken similar positions in the US? Energy Secretary Steven Chu described the news of the US resignations as “wonderful”. Do you think Gerry Brownlee will say the same to any who leave the Business Roundtable because they can’t stomach the confident ignorance?

  2. Its a bit sad to attack an organisation because of its views on a yet unproven theory. Seems that AGW bull-horners are very happy to shout heretic at anyone who doesn’t agree with them though, resulting in in the relegation of the debate away from mainstream media and into places where opinions can be kept confidential such as this blog (and retirees who do not have careers to protect).

    1. Didn’t we go through this already time and time again?

      “Best Available Evidence” still doesn’t cut it for you does it.

      ps. Rhetorical questions, not interested in repeating old arguments, thanks.

    2. Honestly, R2, is there nothing you will not try to spin your way? The simple fact is that the Roundtable has been misrepresenting our understanding of climate to Parliament in (at least) its last two submissions on the subject. It would be a trivial matter for Kerr to either read up on the matter or accept the advice of those best qualified to give it (such as the government’s chief scientist), but he prefers to present a crank viewpoint. His choice, but it diminishes the value of anything else he says on the matter — and, note, I do not criticise his policy recommendations. Frankly, his organisation would be better served by a less ideological stance. But I’m not holding my breath.

  3. R2D2, I presume I’m the retiree who doesn’t have a career to protect. For your information I have never protected my career, such as it was, by keeping by opinions to myself. I don’t quite follow what you mean by your references to the mainstream media. I certainly take any opportunity that presents itself to write about global warming in the press. I indicated in my comment above that I criticised the Business Roundtable in a letter to the editor two years ago. And Gareth hardly provides a confidential secluded retreat on Hot Topic.

    I doubt the officers of the Business Roundtable have read anything of substance on the science of climate change yet they are actively trying to prevent effective action on emission reductions. This isn’t an obscure theological argument, but a matter of great seriousness for the human future. They deserve to be attacked.

    1. Nah I was referring to the guys at NZCSC. I think the reason mainly retired scientists speak out against AGW is because the masses of working scientists know full well the effect it will have on their career if they speak their minds. The same could be said about politicians and business people.

      1. Why don’t you google Linus Pauling? No one can doubt that during his active career, Pauling was one of the most brilliant scientists there has ever been. And yet, after he retired, he is largely renowned for crackpot theories about the ability of huge doses of vitamin C to cure just about any disease known to man.

        That is not to say that every retired scientist should be ignored, rather that when a retired scientist take up positions that are broadly contradictory to the rest of their career, you should ignore the latter part.

      2. So you’ve clarified your reference to retirees – and ended up with something even harder to understand than your first comment. Are you saying that the large body of working scientists who contribute towards the emerging picture of climate change in reality know that their work is a pretence but they are too cautious of their careers to say so? What is the mysterious force which has commanded compliance on this vast scale?

  4. Who needs to retire in order to become irrelevant?

    Even such a scientific eminence as Albert Einstein was ignored for the last few decades years of his career, as he refused to accept the overwhelming evidence for quantum theory. This was despite being one of its founders, through his explanation of the photoelectric effect, for which he received the Nobel Prize.

  5. Isn’t there a saying that most scientists do their best work before they are forty (thirty for mathematicans) and spend the rest of their careers tidying up and defending there earlier work? I am sure it is not completely true and there are notable exceptions.

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