Two worlds collide

On the one hand, we have Brian Fallow in the Herald providing a cogent analysis of the new government’s decision to do a deal with ACT and put a carbon tax back on the table:

In any case it represents further delay and uncertainty to follow the three years wasted as the previous Government failed to muster the parliamentary numbers for a carbon tax, and the three more as it designed and finally passed an emissions trading scheme. Act’s proposed terms of reference, perhaps deliberately, are a recipe for interminable further delay and uncertainty.

On the other, we have former ACT MP Muriel Newman explaining her thinking in the NBR:

First, the move to pass legislation to delay the implementation of the emissions trading scheme and to repeal the ban on thermal electricity generation is sensible.

Second, while the plan to hold a select committee inquiry is a good step in the right direction, it is crucial that it allows the opportunity for a wider debate on the scientific evidence in support of, or against, the existence of anthropogenic global warming. The review must also, as a priority, hold a proper investigation in the way that the Kyoto Protocol deals with agriculture.

Fallow’s not impressed:

The committee should hear competing views on the science from internationally respected sources, it says. Apparently the careful processes of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, endorsed by the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society and all the other guardians of the scientific method, are not good enough.

A few New Zealand MPs are more likely to get to the bottom of it.

That’s laughable.

But not in ACT-world1. Newman’s apparently convinced – based on a piece of over-the-top lobbying by the Greenhouse Policy Coalition’s Catherine Beard – that the world’s moving away from carbon controls:

[…] the future of the EU climate change initiative looks increasingly shaky. Add to that (the) view increasingly held by developed countries that India and China (which is expected to double emissions over the next 20 years) must also agree to cut emissions if there is going to be any further global agreements, and the whole climate change edifice looks to be on the brink of collapse.

She seems to have forgotten that other recent election – but Fallow reminds us of the new reality:

…it is worth noting in that context that US President-elect Barack Obama, who supports an emissions trading approach (like Europe and Australia), yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to set aggressive targets for fighting climate change. He has promised “strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by an additional 80 per cent by 2050”.

That is a more ambitious target than National’s 50 per cent by 2050.

Two worlds are in collision. The real world, where people know we have a problem, and are doing something about it, and the strange nether world2 of ACT politicians and their fellow travellers, where saying something often enough makes it true. Fallow’s piece nicely sums up the issues we now confront, and the problems a rapid coalition deal has delivered to large sections of our economy. Rod Oram in the Sunday Star Times expresses the frustration felt outside Federated Farmers and the Greenhouse Policy Coalition:

Potentially, the MPs could go right back to first principles on climate change science. At a minimum, all carbon reduction mechanisms are back on the table including a carbon tax.

This is not what National promised in the campaign. It said the ETS would start but be quickly amended. This would have allowed forest owners to start developing and selling credits. No wonder they are furious about the U-turn and about the cancellation of imminent new investment in forests. They and the rest of the economy now have to live with massive uncertainty created by the government.

The government says it still hopes to complete the review and get amended mechanisms in place by September so carbon can be priced into electricity generation from January 2010, as planned. But this is optimistic. The government will be besieged by lobbyists seeking to relitigate every single aspect of the legislation.

So once again short-term politics have killed a sensible response to climate change. No wonder our greenhouse gas emissions rose 25.7% from 1990 to 2006, the sixth biggest increase among developed countries, the UN reported last week. Meanwhile, the EU’s fell 2.2% and the UK’s 15%.

Our shiny new National prime minister simply doesn’t get this issue. Climate policy is not central to his thought – it can be traded, swapped for an illusion of government stability. It doesn’t really matter. The bad news, Mr Key, is that your ignorance and bad political management make you look a fool on the international stage upon which you are so keen to stride. That’s bad for you – but it’s worse for New Zealand.

[Title reference]

1: Lest anyone think I’m going soft on Newman’s “science”, she repeats the “cooling since 1998” lie (dealt with superbly by Prof Barry Brook in this new post at Brave New Climate), demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the Kyoto Protocol (the same misunderstanding as Hide, by a strange coincidence) and then gets the agricultural methane issue completely wrong.

2: aka La-la Land

37 thoughts on “Two worlds collide”

  1. I think Muriel Newman’s committee is a great idea. Once they’ve dealt with climate change they could investigate whether the Apollo astronauts really got to the moon (or did they go to Loch Ness) and whether the Earth was formed 300 years ago by a god called Elvis. Go Muriel!

  2. And in this morning’s Herald there’s a long, confused article from Owen McShane, given high prominence and a large supporting picture, claiming amongst other things that “there are scores of papers in peer-reviewed journals challenging the hypothesis that anthropogenic actions, and in particular, the burning of fossil fuels, are causing dangerous levels of global warming.” The previous government “chose to rely on a small beltway group that controls climate issues within Niwa, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and most of our country’s input into the UN’s IPCC.” And of course sea level rising is slowing, not increasing. Actually McShane is, I note, careful not to paint himself into a corner on the science – there is potentially a way out if he ever needs to take it. But the main purpose of all this is to delay meaningful action by claiming that nothing is yet clear enough to justify it. Economic ideology is really the dominant theme.

  3. Wakey wakey!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry I have no URL for this.

    [A very long email from Benny Peiser snipped – GR]

    —————
    CCNet is a scholarly electronic network edited by Benny Peiser. To subscribe, send an e-mail to listserver@livjm.ac.uk (“subscribe cambridge-conference”). To unsubscribe send an e-mail to listserver@livjm.ac.uk (“unsubscribe cambridge-conference”). Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational use only.

    [Roger: If you want to comment on this, please use some judgement and pick the bits you think make your case, not just spam us with the whole kit and caboodle. – GR]

  4. EU CLIMATE BILL IN DOUBT AS REBELLION GROWS IN GERMANY
    —————————————————–

    The European Parliament has annulled a decision to vote on the energy and climate change package before heads of state and government are expected to clinch a deal at their meeting on 11-12 December.
    –EurActiv, 24 November 2008

    The adoption of the EU climate bill in the European Parliament has been delayed. The legal package won’t be decided upon on 4 December, as planned, but at a later time. “This way, we can negotiate until the last minute,” a speaker of the Parliament said. The delay means that the EU’s climate bill cannot be finally agreed by the heads of state and government at the EU summit meeting on December 11 and 12 in Brussels. Without an endorsement of the EU Parliament, the climate bill cannot become legally binding.
    –Das Parlament, 24 November 2008

    The really seismic shift in Europe is the emergence of a strong group of opposing countries against the whole agenda. The reality is now sinking in that the climate policies have a cost. The original aim of the EU was to go into the UN negotiations showing the rest of the world, ‘look we have this 20% reduction and if you’re good, 30%’. That was the intention. This has been given up. Full stop. It’s gone through the roof.
    –Benny Peiser, LTT, 14 November 2008

  5. …economic rationalism is forcing more debate…and in time more research will clarify the causes of climate change. The biggest blunder of environmental groups has been to proclaim that the debate is over, because the science is settled.

  6. Do you people believe that the glacials and interglacials actually happened? If so how do you explain them? Do you accept that the interglacial fauna in Britain included crocodiles and hippopotami? If so what do you infer from that?

  7. Roger, you need to read my book. Understanding the glacial cycle is key to understanding the way the climate system works.

    And exactly how is the presence of hippos in southern England during the last interglacial (Ipswichian, up there) supposed to make me feel better about current change?

  8. >Roger, you need to read my book. Understanding the glacial cycle is key to understanding the way the climate system works.

    I will read your book if you lend it to me, but I am certainly not going to spend money on it.

    >And exactly how is the presence of hippos in southern England during the last interglacial (Ipswichian, up there) supposed to make me feel better about current change?

    It indicates that there climate was rather warmer then than it is now and that the world did not come to and end because of it. What did happen was another ice age which left Britain unpopulated by any sort of human. That is what we can expect next time; and that might not be too far in the future.

  9. “It indicates that there climate was rather warmer then than it is now and that the world did not come to and end because of it.”

    No one is claiming the world will end. The effects of abrupt climate change will most likely cause dramatic changes in civilisation, in terms of population numbers and living standards. The world is very different to what it was back then Roger.

    I suggest you read Collapse by Jarrod Diamond to educate yourself!

  10. It indicates that there climate was rather warmer then than it is now and that the world did not come to and end because of it. What did happen was another ice age which left Britain unpopulated by any sort of human.

    There is one rather obvious difference: 120,000 years ago there weren’t 6.5 billion people on the planet. Another is that the rate of change then was slower.

    As I’ve said many times, the fact that the climate system swings between glacial and interglacial as the result of orbital forcing with some CO2 feedback hardly inspires confidence that the system is somehow “stable”.

  11. Carol Stewart 11.25.08 at 10:46 am

    > I can’t resist a challenge, Roger.
    > I will happily lend you my copy of Gareth’s book to read.

    Thank you. Where are you?

  12. >No one is claiming the world will end. The effects of abrupt climate change will most likely cause dramatic changes in civilisation, in terms of population numbers and living standards. The world is very different to what it was back then Roger.

    When it warms enough to grow Bougainvilleas in Central Otago we will still have a very pleasant climate. But I do not think that is going to happen. A new ice age will overtake us before then.

  13. >There is one rather obvious difference: 120,000 years ago there weren’t 6.5 billion people on the planet. Another is that the rate of change then was slower.

    So there is a problem with 6.5 billion. Work on that for it is a real problem. At time the rate of change has been very much faster.

    >As I’ve said many times, the fact that the climate system swings between glacial and interglacial as the result of orbital forcing with some CO2 feedback hardly inspires confidence that the system is somehow “stable”.

    If the earth’s orbit is all that is necessary to predict glacials and interglacials we would know exactly when the next ice age is coming. As for CO2, it appears to follow climatic warming. Of course it is not stable. It has not been for two and a half million years.

  14. Roger, I’m in Wellington. If Gareth is agreeable, you could provide him with your postal address and I’ll happily mail it.
    Now, I do want it back again! 🙂

  15. On past performance it is due any time. On past performance the effects on humanity will be orders of magnitude greater than warming can bring about. Where do you suppose the entire populations of Canada, Britain, northern Europe and northern Asia will go? Can you imagine the bloodshed when these populations seek lebensraum?

  16. The racial problems in Britain and many countries in northern Europe have already brought them close to civil war. Now they have an economic crisis, negative equity in housing, unemployment, dishonest and incompetent police and politicians, a massive featherbedded bureaucracy etc. Add a bit more terrorism and a cooling climate and I for one will be glad not to be there.

  17. On past performance it is due any time

    Unfortunately for your thesis, the amount of carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere is enough to effectively delay the next ice age occurring, and more will put it off indefinitely – see here:

    Humanity has to date burnt about 300 Gt C of fossil fuels. This work suggests that even if only 1000 Gt C (gigatonnes of carbon) are eventually burnt (out of total reserves of about 4000 Gt C) then it is likely that the next ice age will be skipped. Burning all recoverable fossil fuels could lead to avoidance of the next five ice ages.

  18. >Roger, I’m in Wellington. If Gareth is agreeable, you could provide him with your postal address and I’ll happily mail it.
    Now, I do want it back again

    2 Merida Place,
    Meadowood,
    North Shore, Auckland.

    You could have found me in the telephone directory in a few minutes, as anyone can.

  19. >Unfortunately for your thesis, the amount of carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere is enough to effectively delay the next ice age occurring, and more will put it off indefinitely – see here:

    What a load of drivel!!!!!!!
    What the hell do these cretins think that the climate was like as we go back in time converting all the limestones, marble, dolomites, marl, coal, lignite, oil and gas to carbon in some other form?

  20. Try and be polite, Roger. Calling a respected scientist a cretin says more about you than about him.

    The amount of atmospheric carbon around in the geologic past was higher, and the planet was warmer. Exactly how much and when is debatable. But we do know that over the last 4 million years of the current ice age sequence, atmospheric CO2 has never been much above about 300 ppm during an interglacial, dropping to under 200 ppm during an ice age. We’re at 387 and it’s warming up. No surprise there…

  21. Respected? I have my doubts. The University of Southhampton!!!!!!

    Your 300 ppm is highly debatable.

    Ian Devereax pioneered oxygen isotope analysis back in the 1960s when VUW actually taught geology. I will ask him.

  22. Go easy on Soton: nearly went there to do earth sciences…

    It’s true that the ice core record only goes back about 400,000 years, and the levels I quoted are certainly true over that timespan, but I can’t dig up the longer term figures at short notice. Got errands to run.

  23. jonno 11.25.08 at 4:53 pm

    “when VUW actually taught geology”

    Now it teaches earth science, whatever that may be, in conjunction with what was the geography department. There is even a lecturer in feminist geography!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Harold Wellman will be turning in his grave.

  24. >The amount of atmospheric carbon around in the geologic past was higher, and the planet was warmer. Exactly how much and when is debatable. But we do know that over the last 4 million years of the current ice age sequence, atmospheric CO2 has never been much above about 300 ppm during an interglacial, dropping to under 200 ppm during an ice age. We’re at 387 and it’s warming up. No surprise there…

    There are plenty of peer reviewed papers which show that 400 ppm or more was not uncommon prior to 1945.

  25. Roger, the book will shortly be winging its way towards the North Shore.
    My prediction is that it will be an exercise in casting one’s pearls before swine – but I would love to be proved wrong.

    “How else do you do the crossword?”

    While texting and driving through rush hour traffic, of course – you know us urbanites.

  26. Carol,

    Thanks. Have a look at these:

    The best source of scores of papers arguing against catastrophic global warming is:

    http://www.co2science.org/

    A secondary site:

    http://climatesci.org/

    A useful site that highlights the bizarre range of catastrophic consequences being attributed to global warming.:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

    It would be difficult for a rational person to read all the
    items on this site and still take global warming catastrophism seriously
    given the number of contradictions.

  27. I’ve looked at a few things the CO2Science website before, and when I checked a few things there against the actual scientific papers I found some misrepresentations and bad reasoning.

    Here is an interesting example from 2003. The paper reported on is here. Compare for yourself the claims of dogmatism against the actual arguments provided in the paper. What’s interesting, though, is that CO2Science were good enough to make a prediction:

    Projecting ahead, therefore, if anomalous events such as those recorded in the 1990s continue to occur at similar intervals, the global atmospheric CH4 concentration should continue to rise – but only very slowly – for just a few more years, after which the declining background CH4 growth rate, which has already turned negative, will have dropped low enough to have the capacity to totally overwhelm any short-term positive impacts of periodic anomalous CH4 spikes. Then we should be able to see an actual decline in the atmosphere’s global CH4 concentration, which should gradually accelerate in the negative direction, as subsequent anomalous CH4 spikes fail to penetrate into positive territory.

    Turns out that methane’s on the rise again. How long that will continue for we can’t say, but I think we can reject CO2Science’s simplistic extrapolation-based prediction.

  28. Cold snap fails to cool protagonists of global warming

    John Stapleton | November 29, 2008
    Article from: The Australian

    EUROPE is shivering through an extreme cold snap. One of the coldest winters in the US in more than 100 years is toppling meteorological records by the dozen, and the Arctic ice is expanding. Even Australia has been experiencing unseasonable snow.

    But the stories about global warming have not stopped, not for a second.

    In May last year, The Sydney Morning Herald breathlessly reported that climate change had reduced the Southern Ocean’s ability to soak up carbon dioxide, claiming that as a result global warming would accelerate even faster than previously thought.

    The story was picked up and repeated in a number of different journals around the region.

    But this week the CSIRO suggested the exact opposite. “The new study suggests that Southern Ocean currents, and therefore the Southern Ocean’s ability to soak up carbon dioxide, have not changed in recent decades,” it said. This time the story got no coverage in the SMH, and was run on the ABC’s website as evidence the Southern Ocean was adapting to climate change.

    CSIRO oceanographer Stuart Rintoul, a co-author of the study, said it did not disprove global warming and he did not believe its lack of an alarmist tone was responsible for the poor coverage.

    But the story is being pointed out as an example of media bias on global warming. Critics argue that the ABC and the Fairfax media are the worst offenders.

    ABC board member Keith Windschuttle said yesterday the national broadcaster was in breach of its charter to provide a diversity of views. “The ABC and the Fairfax press rarely provide an opportunity for global warming sceptics to put their view,” Mr Windschuttle said. “The science is not settled.

    “We are seeing an increasing number of people with impeccable scientific backgrounds questioning part or whole of the story. I don’t believe the ABC has been reflecting the genuine diversity of the debate. Under its own act, the ABC is required to produce a diversity of views.”

    Bob Carter of James Cook University, one of the world’s best-known climate change sceptics, said there was no doubt Windschuttle was correct.

    “With very few exceptions, press reporters commenting on global warming are either ignorant of the science matters involved, or wilfully determined to propagate warming hysteria because that fits their personal world view, or are under editorial direction to focus the story around the alarmist headline grab — and often all three,” Professor Carter said.

    National Climate Centre former head William Kininmonth said coverage of global warming had been hysterical and was getting worse, with a large public relations effort inundating the media with information from the alarmist side.

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