A few months ago, Rodney Hide decided that he and his party had little to lose and votes to gain by declaring themselves to be climate sceptics. I’ve roundly criticised this stance in earlier posts, and this week I’ve been joined by The Listener‘s Ecologic columnist Sarah Barnett, who takes Hide to task here (full text available next week). With the election approaching, it’s time to dig a little deeper into the intellectual foundations of ACT’s climate change policy, such as they are.
I’m sorry to say it’s not a pretty sight. The background briefing consists of little more than a reprint of an article by Nigel Lawson – the British sceptic who turned up here last year to lie on national TV. The policy document, on the other hand, offers some “interesting” background information. Consider this:
New Zealand is not warming. There is no warming trend since 1970 and the slight warming trend since 1950 is not statistically significant.
Pardon? That’s not what NZ’s climate scientists say. Then there’s this:
If it were to warm moderately, we would likely benefit in terms of land-based production, human health and reduced heating bills. Arguments that we would lose from sea-level rise or more extreme events are unproven conjectures.
If forecasts of sea level rise and increased frequency of extreme events are “unproven conjectures”, then what does that make the blithe assumption that we’ll benefit from warming?
It is reckless to distort the New Zealand economy in the cause of an ineffectual Protocol that expires in 2012 and won’t be rolled forward because its 1990 targets are unacceptable to China and the United States.
Another unproven conjecture, surely, and one well out of line with most expectations? Then they move on to principles. Here’s one:
The government is globally unique including methane gas (produced by ruminants) in calculating our Kyoto commitments. This is extreme, contrary to all other member countries and should be amended.
It appears that ACT doesn’t understand the Kyoto Protocol. Methane is most certainly included in the protocol’s greenhouse gas accounting. It’s true that most countries have ignored methane when designing their emissions regimes, but they still have to account (and pay) for them.
This leads on to:
A commonsense approach to Climate Change would recognise that there is no point destroying our economy in pursuit of “carbon neutralityâ€Ÿ if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not driving global warming.
Yes, that would be a commonsense approach, if we didn’t understand in considerable detail the role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in warming the planet.
The policy detail contains no surprise: repeal the ETS, withdraw from Kyoto, fiddle with the RMA, take consideration of climate change out of energy and transport planning. The document ends with a plea to “give ACT your party vote, for better informed policy on climate change”. The irony is obvious.
Sceptic arguments against action on climate change are weak and getting weaker by the day, but this pathetic repackaging of a few crank talking points is ill-informed and dangerous. If they can be so wrong on matters of fact, and so misguided on matters of policy, why should we give any of their other policies any credence? Politicians should stick to policy-making, basing their efforts on the best available evidence. In stepping so far out of the mainstream, Hide has shot himself in the foot – not good news for a dancer.
But they do have one guiding principle I wholeheartedly support:
Make decisions based on sound science â€“ not on blind belief or ideology which is increasingly divorced from reason.
Hide and his party urgently need to apply this maxim to themselves.