Professor Ian Lowe Wrong, But By Not Quite So Much

A couple of days ago I reported on a landmark decision in the Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal. It was decided that operations at a coal mine in central Queensland could be expanded without any of the conditions sought by two environmental groups, inparticular that mining giant Xstrata avoid, reduce or offset the greenhouse gas emissions likely to result from the mining, transport and use of the coal from the mine.

The decision included comment from Tribunal President Koppenol that Professor Ian Lowe, an expert witness for the environment groups, had exaggerated greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of 218 in his evidence. Professor Lowe immediately hit back in comment to media claiming he had only got the facts wrong by a factor of 15.

I must say, this seems like rather a large amount!

A reader of this blog, Cinder (aka Alan Ashbarry) has done his own calculations and concludes the Professor overstated the emissions but by not quite as much as President Koppenol claimed:

Hi Jennifer,

The decision by the Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal is supported by a well argued assessment of the merits of the development of this mining enterprise. It also critically examines the evidence presented on behalf of the Queensland Conservation Council by its ‘Expert Witnesses’.

Whilst not privy to the verbal presentation of the witnesses we can see that the written evidence may be confusing to many. QCC witness, Dr Hugh Saddler, first calculated the emissions from the mine’s operations, the transport of the coal and then the use of that coal. Dr Saddler then determines an annual figure and a total mine life’s figure. He does so by using his own methodology rather than the Australian Greenhouse Office that he states “this calculation of emissions yields a higher figure than would be the case if the default emission factor given in the AGO Factors and Methods Workbook were used.” Dr Saddler did not provide the AGO figure.

In Dr Saddler’s written evidence the calculated total annual greenhouse emissions and the total greenhouse emissions were compared with Australia’s total greenhouse gas emission including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry. A similar comparison was made with Global Annual emission (excluding LULUCF).

Dr Saddler’s comment “The total greenhouse gas emissions from the mining, transport and use of the 28.5 Mt of coal from the 15 year life of the Project (84 Mt CO2-e) are, therefore, equivalent to approximately 0.24% of international annual greenhouse gas emissions based on 2000 levels of emissions (of 34 Gt CO2-e).” appeared in Professor Lowe’s written evidence as

“To put the potential release of CO2 from the proposed mine extension into context, the lifetime emissions from the proposed mine extension … about 0.24 per cent of the current annual global release of greenhouse gases.”

The Chair of the Tribunal correctly points out that this should only be an annual comparison, and correctly points out that the 0.24% figure is calculated on the 15 year life of the mine. However in his attempt to correct the evidence of Professor Lowe who used Dr Saddler’s figures the Tribunal appears to have divided the annual emissions by 15 rather than the total of 15 years output.

The Tribunal should have calculated 84 Mt divide 15 years = 5.6Mt to determine annual, then divide by 34 Gt equaling 0.0164%, an overstatement by 14.63 times.

Such an error is understandable given the number of equations, calculations and comparisons presented to the Tribunal, and whilst it changes the order of magnitude of the exaggeration, it still shows an exaggeration. The correct figure still agrees with the conclusion that the mine’s annual contribution to annual global GHG emissions was “very small”.

The Tribunal also could have added the LULUCF figure of about 8Gt to the global annual figure or excluded the estimated 5.5 Mt per annum usage figure as it could have been argued that coal from another source would be used, thus this mine would not have a net impact on global use of coal.

Excluding the use of the coal, the mine’s operation and the transport of the coal is in the order of 0.1 Mt each year or 0.0003% of yearly Global emissions

It would appear that the expert evidence, by including comparisons of life time emissions and annual emission, has created a mathematical dilemma that is not easily understood by the lay person, and takes more than a 15 second grab on TV to explain.

This appears to be identical to the tactics employed by the Wilderness Society in Tasmania when they apply mathematical comparisons to official government figures in the forest debate, such as comparing today’s old growth forest to the area that estimated to have existed in the year 1750 even though the forest in 1750 was of all ages, and only a percentage would have been considered “Old Growth”.

The word “Statistics” can be found in a well known phrase attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and popularised by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

As Wikipedia says this semi-ironic statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, and succinctly describes how even accurate statistics can be used to bolster inaccurate arguments.

Cheers, Cinders

50 Responses to Professor Ian Lowe Wrong, But By Not Quite So Much

  1. Ian Mott February 21, 2007 at 9:55 pm #

    Good points, Cinders. Lets spell that out. Lowe overstated by much more than a factor of 15 while the tribunal understated by a factor of 15.

    The tribunal President has the valid excuse of being essentially a reasonable man doing his best to understand a complex situation and so, has made an innocent misrepresentation.

    Lowe has no such excuse. He held himself out as an expert but went on to mislead the tribunal rather than properly discharge his duty to inform it. He failed to give a full and fair representation of the facts through errors of both omission and commission.

    He omitted the 8Gt of annual emissions from land use change when seeking to inform the court on the relevance of mine emissions. He appears to have done so to avoid dividing the claimed mine emmissions by 42Gt instead of 34Gt. So his overstatement on this count was actually by a factor of 18.5, not 15.

    And the point about lumping in the emissions from the coal itself is even more damning as these emissions are unambiguously those of the purchaser under IPCC rules.

    Lowe may have the right to dispute IPCC methodology, just as anyone else is entitled to do. But he has absolutely no business making up his own rules when discharging his duty to the tribunal. At the very least, Mr Lowe had a professional duty to inform the tribunal of the nature and extent of his departures from generally accepted emission accounting procedures.

    And the fact that he appears to have not done so would indicate that he may have a case to answer in respect of contempt of court, or under the criminal code.

    He did, after all, make these representations under oath. He made misrepresentations that amounted to partial and fragmentary statements of fact that went to a matter of the proper exercise of power, particularly in respect of the legal duty to consider all relevant material.

    Furthermore, Mr Lowe appears to have made these misrepresentations with a knowledge of their untruth, and with the clear intention that the tribunal should act upon those misrepresentations.

    The only element missing from the legal test for fraudulent misrepresentation is the fact that the tribunal did not act upon these misrepresentations to Xtrata’s detriment.

    But in any event, Perjury is an offence under the Criminal Code and it does not apply a test of action to detriment.

  2. SJT February 21, 2007 at 10:09 pm #

    “Mr Koppenol concluded that the Xstrata extension would have “no demonstrated impact on global warming or climate change”. The conditions on mining being sought had the potential to “drive wealth and jobs overseas and to cause serious adverse economic and social impacts”.”

    It’s like saying only one soldier in an army makes no real difference. However, if you add the soldiers together, they make an army. Coal is one of the worst offenders in the addition of CO2 to the atmosphere, this mine will increase that amount of CO2.

    He also derides the IPCC report, by making uninformed comments on charts in it.

    And where does he get “serious adverse economic and social impacts”. Come on, I want quantities. How much, to what extent, how serious. What particular economic impacts is he referring to? Or did he just pull these phrases out of his hat?

  3. SJT February 21, 2007 at 10:19 pm #

    “The largest temperature rise was 0.75 per cent between 1976 and 1998, but similar rises occurred in 1852-1878 and 1910-1944.”

    Can I just get this straight. He is comparing the change in temperature over a 34 year period, as being comparable to one over a 22 year period as being similar. I would have thought the difference was significant in terms of rate of change.

    Can we charge tribunal heads with utter incompetence? Surely it must be a criminal offence.

  4. Luke February 21, 2007 at 11:57 pm #

    Hilarious – Jen your editorial should have read Koppenol and Lowe both get it wrong but deliver the inevitable answer.

    Contrary to Cinders obsequiousness to the process, the mistake is really not that understandable given Koppenol was supplied with detailed calculations.

    Also you don’t mention the rest of what Koppenol got wrong as detailed by Deltoid who actually broke this first! {it is normally scholarly courtesy to acknowledge original source in such matters).

    He was right IMO in the current milieu in letting the mine proceed. It was never in doubt was it. Could have asked for some improvements but no.

    So it is really predictable mock outrage at the whole issue by the pundits here.

    Ian now rails and raves on but he himself got the number wrong ! Illustrates the point eloquently. Doesn’t matter whether Lowe was still wrong – the big Intel Pentium Duo infallible envelope was wrong and yet the pomposity keeps pouring on. So we give Ian the Golden Hypocrite Award for keeping going.

    But gee the browns would never use stats to misrepresent and argument would they or attempt some sophistry. “More trees now than ever so what’s the problem”. Yee haa.

    And so Koppenol is inevitably correct but not not right is he not – after a big day out with the mathematics, a touch of mock outrage by both sides, cat calls of perjury from the cheer squad, and good dose of theatre all round.. .. after all of this discourse he will inevitably find that the mine will make a small almost imperceptible addition to the CO2 climate burden. Inevitable conclusion.

    As all of us in all our activities have done to date across the globe swince the industrail revolution. And it doesn’t look like stopping and IT ALL ADDS UP. Slowly and imperceptibly and incrementally adds up.

    So don’t worry about it – the majority don’t want Kyoto like mechanisms – Ian’s kids unable to work will possibly be destitute, the timber under his house unloved. Most of you don’t want to rein in or heasvne forbid “modify” any development or emissions.

    Adapt and smile with a song in your heart !

    Surely a little bit more won’t hurt.

    “The Meaning of Life” Monty Python. 1983 .. .. ..

    Maitre D: And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.

    Mr Creosote: No.

    Maitre D: Oh sir! It’s only a tiny little thin one.

    Mr Creosote: No. F^$k off – I’m full.. . [Belches]

    Maitre D: Oh sir.. . it’s only *wafer* thin.

    Mr Creosote: Look – I couldn’t eat another thing. I’m absolutely stuffed. Bugger off.

    Maitre D: Oh sir, just.. . just *one*…

    Mr Creosote: Oh all right. Just one.

    Maitre D: Just the one, sir.. . voila.. . bon appetit.. .

    Anyway wasn’t a court of law was it – merely a tribunal. Don’t think the global atmosphere recognises tribunals strangely.

  5. Peter Lezaich February 22, 2007 at 8:22 am #


    You’ve made some valid points, though I do agree with Cinders and Ian Mott in that Professor Ian Lowe’s evidence should have detailed any departure from accepted accounting practices (this is true for any expert witness in any circumstance, not just carbon). As an expert witness he should also be seen to be independent to the case in question. His position with the ACF does not make him an independent witness, indeed his bias becomes evident for all to see.

    As I see it he fudged, the tribunal head fudged back and they both got it wrong but to different degrees of error. It only goes to show that carbon accounting is not a simple exercise nor is the production of evidence for tribunal or court cases to be treated as a trivial exercise. It seems that in Lowes case he has treated the production of this evidence as trivial or the error that was made would have been picked up and corrected.

    I suspect that one of the reasons that it is difficult to get independant expert witnesses to appear before courts and tribunals is that they leave themselves open to challenge in an arena that follows different rules to those under which they normally work.

  6. Woody February 22, 2007 at 8:25 am #

    I’m a numbers guy and in my business I can make numbers say anything that my client wants, which makes me particularly skeptical about numerical claims by global warming alarmists, especially when they get caught in exaggerations.

    A problem with global warming statistics is that there appear to be no uniform standards to analyze, measure, and report data to make them understandable for the common user. Instead, many choose their own methods, some questionable, to support particular contentions.

    Stock markets and government regulators require companies to use generally accepted accounting principles to report their finances so that people can have confidence in the financial presentations and have a consistent basis with which to measure results in comparisons to other companies. I would feel better if scientists met similar requirements–especially if so much of the data relies on interpretations rather than clear proof.

    If AGW scientists can pick any time period or any measurement model to promote their point, then skeptics should be appreciated for demanding better accounting rather than attacked.

  7. Woody February 22, 2007 at 8:29 am #

    Peter, sorry to restate part of what you said right before my comment. I was composing at the same time as you and didn’t see your remark until I had already posted. However, our similar posts do emphasize the need for acceptable accounting methods on this topic.

  8. cinders February 22, 2007 at 8:31 am #

    Luke claims that my observations on the use of misleading mathematical comparisons are both obsequiousness (Sweet talk) and perhaps even plagiarised. Both claims are wrong. Luke fails to defend the “experts” introducing a comparison of emissions over the life of the mine to annual emissions, in addition to the annual to annual comparison. Such an addition is confusing. My observation made that the groups such as the Wilderness Society and ACF make these sort of irrelevant and alarmist comparisons is not found in Luke’s Link.

    By looking at the ACF published article ‘The Rape of Tasmania’ by creative writer Richard Flanagan ( we can see this ‘maths’ at work.
    The ACF claims “About 90% of old-growth regnans forests are gone, and just 13,000 hectares of these extraordinary trees remain in their old-growth form.”

    This claim is based on the Greenpeace/ Wilderness Society ‘fact’ sheet that has the following:
    Original cover (ha) 99,900 (100%) Current cover (ha) 76,050 (76%) Current old growh (ha) 13,290 (13%) “Reserved” old growth (ha) 6,320 (6.3%)
    The so called original cover is an estimate of the tree community coverage in the year 1750, and was of all age classes, not just old trees. (All the trees that are 250 years old today were not growing in 1750). As old growth is meant to be old, perhaps 15% to 30% of the population trees in their ‘natural’ state would have been old growth.

    Such dodgy maths relies on misleading an uninformed public that finds maths difficult to visualise.

  9. Luke February 22, 2007 at 9:48 am #

    So Woody hints at expertise in doctoring the books while being comfortable being “Alarmed” about the possibilities of doped data in areas he doesn’t prefer. Is it time for an accountant joke.

    Woody – the reality is that your average AGW sceptics use about 90:1 b/s stats and sophistry compared with the scientists.

    Cinders – I did not say your comments were plagiarised. Message was to the editor not yourself. My aside on trees was on Qld & NSW land clearing issues not Tas forestry.

  10. Schiller Thurkettle February 22, 2007 at 10:02 am #


    I’d like to see some backup on the interesting claim that “your average AGW sceptics use about 90:1 b/s stats and sophistry compared with the scientists.”

    It appears that the methodology counted the statements of non-scientist sceptics on one side, and those of scientists on the other.

    Does that mean that statements of sceptical scientists were not included in the methodology, or that the AGW “consensus” is so complete that there are no sceptical scientists?

    This is a paper I simply *must* read.

  11. cinders February 22, 2007 at 10:12 am #

    As Ian Mott correctly points out the ‘Experts’ for the Queensland Conservation council conveniently ignored the 8 Gt of global emissions attributable to Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).

    The QCC also relied on the Stern report that modelled the economic consequences of global LULUCF. In fact the greens have made much of the Stern report’s comments on LULUCF as seen in green Senator Brown’s November media release “This week Sir Nicholas Stern said that destruction of forests does more climate change damage than all the world’s transport systems.”

    Why then leave out almost 20% of global emissions out of the equation for the QCC. Dr Saddler states: “emissions from land use, land use change and forestry …are subject to high uncertainty”. (Does this mean that the QCC believes the Stern report to be subject of high uncertainty?)

    If that is the case why are the greens using the Global LULUCF figures to criticize Australian Forest Management?

    Again is the maths too complex for the standard media report, or does it have to do with the fact that greens have been able to convert LULUCF into “destruction of forests” and further converted this to harvesting old growth forests.

  12. Ian K February 22, 2007 at 11:08 am #

    This all seems a storm in a denialists teacup to me. As Cinders has pointed out above, when Ian Lowe states: “To put the potential release of CO2 from the proposed mine extension into context, the LIFETIME emissions from the proposed mine extension … about 0.24 per cent of the current ANNUAL global release of greenhouse gases.” He is merely repeating the figures from Sattler’s report.

    As Tim Lambert has correctly pointed out on his site, the ONLY VALID way of assessing the contribution of a mine is its lifetime contribution in the way of emissions. Annual emissions are not relevant. It doesn’t matter whether total emissions are made in 5 years or 30 years. What matters is the impact the total has on the atmosphere. The issue then is what the mine’s lifetime emissions should be compared with. As 15 years is surely a completely notional figure and the true lifetime could be either shorter or longer depending on such things as market demand, accidents at the mine, etc, I can’t see why it is not valid to compare it to annual global emissions instead.

    The fact that Lowe uses global emissions suggests that he is looking at the problem as a scientist who correctly sees the problem as a global one. Ian Mott’s fulminations about his duty as an expert witness are only relevant if he is appearing as an expert on the law of carbon emissions. Is there any evidence that that was the case? I would assume he was appearing as a scientific witness only and his regurgitating of Sattler’s numbers was perhaps unoriginal but hardly criminal and only misleading to a judge who was not up to the job.

  13. Peter Lezaich February 22, 2007 at 11:39 am #

    Ian K.

    Sorry mate but there are well established methods for reporting carbon eissions. Look to the UNFCCC and Kyoto reporting mechanisms. You will find them on the UNFCCC and IPCC web sites. Alternatively you could go tothe NGGI on the AGO web site as I’m sure that the methods are posted somewhere there as well, if not a link to them.

    Reporting of annual emmissions is the norm whether for greenhouse gasses or for things such as the National Pollutant Inventory.

    Comparisons should always be of like to like. If not then they are there for context only, such as Lowe comparing annual with life of mine emissions. Where lifecycle emissions are compared with annual it is only ever to set the context. If Lowe was fair dinkum he wold have made his comparison against the projected emissions based on the number of proposed new mines world wide over the next 15 years. Clearly then we would be able to better understand the impact the emissioins of the proposed mine extension would have on a global scale. Lowe didn’t, he appears to have chosen to present his evidence with a heavy dose of politics mixed in with it rather than just science.

  14. Luke February 22, 2007 at 11:44 am #

    Who knows the reality of the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)numbers – I don’t have any confidence – is it positive or negative in sign? But we do know atmospheric CO2 is going up and its signature is fossil fuel. LULUCF is code for the Australia weasel-out clause.

    To do the impact of the mine properly you would need to project forward in time 30 years with a full ocean-atmosphere GCM including appropriate land-surface feedbacks, say 20 ensembles per treatment and analyse all that to capture all the intercations – or you could do a back of the envelope and agree it’s pretty small.

    Schiller – no it was pers comm my experience and IMO. Reference not provided. If it wasn’t for Pielke’s site we’d all nod off.

  15. Ian Mott February 22, 2007 at 11:56 am #

    Luke is clearly in maximum disruption mode with his sleazy bit of obfuscation. Why else would the clown quote monty python?

    The interesting aspect of the missing 8Gt of landuse change CO2 is that it is 19% of total. And this 19% is subject to none of the certainty of other emissions.

    I have mentioned numerous times how tree stumps from the original clearing in 1927 can still be found on my property today with much of their carbon still intact.

    The situation is even more pronounced for broadscale clearing with dozer and chain where the inventory compilers have absolutely no idea what proportion of clearing events still have all the tree trunks laying in the paddocks 20 or 30 years after the event.

    The last time I took a close look at the inventory (or rather, the last time the inventory was presented in an open and transparent manner) the IPCC required 10% of all cleared vegetation volume to be entered as being burned as fire wood in the year the clearing took place.

    These intellectual giants in the IPCC had not even considered that firewood needs to dry out before it is burned, let alone recognise the fact that most of the actual firewood market is dominated by aged ironbark etc that is 30 to 40 years old.

    The greens even passed legislation to “protect” the stock of anthropogenic dead wood in paddocks from so-called unsustainable firewood harvesting (sic) but the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory assumes that this sort of retained dead wood after clearing does not exist.

    And the fact that this assumption of volume burned in the year of clearing could be maintained in the face of the volumes cleared in Queensland and the inconsistency with the tropical climate and short winters, speaks volumes for the incompetence of the entire process.

    Do we seriously believe that there was a market for firewood in the Amazon that could deal with 10% of the cleared volume? Do we seriously believe that people clearing for grazing (the majority), on sites not used for cropping, would bother with burning it if pasture can be established while it remains in situ?

    And when we consider that much of the clearing is of tree species that coppice and regrow from lignotubers when the trunk is broken (but often merely bent) then the assumptions on the breakdown of soil carbon after clearing are also revealed as complete fantasy.

    Add to this the fact that biomass sequestration through vegetation thickenning etc, has been decreed to be limited to no more than 2% of total emissions then we have hard evidence that 19% of the carbon going into the climate models is pure bollocks and a large portion of sequestration has been left out.

    One need not have much exposure to modelling to understand that even a 1.9% error in inputs can have a major impact on modelled output when projecting out as far as 100 years. But we are not talking about a 1.9% error here, a full 19% of modelled CO2 inputs are, at last check, subject to uncertainty levels of 85%+. That is another way of saying the data has only a one in six chance of being right.

  16. Ian Mott February 22, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    Admit it, Ian K, you know jack s#$%& about the obligations of expert witnesses. Their unambiguous primary obligation is to inform the court or tribunal, to provide ALL relevant information the court needs to form a properly considered decision. Lowe did nothing of a kind.

    And as for Lambert and his 5 year mine life sophistry, the 15 year mine life is likely to be the considered best estimate of the mine proponents, who, after all, would have a lot better idea than you or the Tim Lamberts of this world. Lambert had absolutely no valid basis for deciding to invent a convenient 5 year mine life for the sake of his twisted logic.

    And this issue of mine life also touches on the fact that mines actually come and go. This new mine is most probably replacing an existing mine that is running down. And so, may have no incremental effect on carbon emissions.

    Wasn’t it only recently that every green moron and his mate was predicting “peak oil”, to be followed thereafter by “peak coal”? So why didn’t our so-called expert, Lowe, consider the very real prospect that this new mine would merely replace an existing one?

    That noise you all just heard, folks, was Luke, Lowe and Lambert’s error rate zooming through the stratosphere, on it’s way to the planet Gonzon.

  17. Peter Lezaich February 22, 2007 at 12:32 pm #


    LULUCF methodolgy is well documented. Australia has adopted one of the option available for reporting its LULUC and LULUCF emissions under both UNFCCC and Kyoto reporting.Bearing in mind that UNFCCC is reporting annual eissiosn and Kyoto is reporting against a set target value. UNFCCC is probably more honest than Kyoto.

    Ths NAtional Carbon Accounting System is probably the most transparent and well documented carbon accounting system in the world today. Built with enormous input from CSIRO and leading experts it is fully documented and most importantly the documentation is available to the public in ONE place.

    The AGO’s decisioin to make the NCAS as transparent and open to scrutiny is to be congratulated. No other country has done so. Indeed it is difficult to find any other institution that has made its research so readily available.

    So your comment that “Who knows the reality of the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)numbers – I don’t have any confidence – is it positive or negative in sign?” is a demonstration of an uncharacteristic lack of research effort on your behalf. Compared with state based land use change statistics the NCAS has the only truly believable figures.

    Indeed if I were to take your statement at face value I would then have to discount most everythiong that is published by the IPCC and the UNFCCC as it is truly an ordeal to go back to first principles with their publications and find out the science behind their policy.

  18. Luke February 22, 2007 at 12:37 pm #

    Ian lays the smoke thick and fast, metal chaff and diversionary flares released – abuse and change of topics galore – Ian – your 218 times was wrong. You were wrong ! Say “I quoted without checking like many others and was wrong” !

    Being an industry apologist and political activist slick willie you’re now quoting numbers and inventory issues straight out of your bum unreferenced and unchecked. So not even worth debating Ian anymore until he checks his facts. He’ll have his high school atlas out next.

    Reality – atmospheric CO2 is going up from fossil fuel emissions. Increasing as Asia comes on stream. Ocean sinks and terestrial biosinks will limit. Biosphere will start to go positive. Get a grip sonny and up the medication or hooch intake.

  19. Luke February 22, 2007 at 12:40 pm #

    NCAS clearing numbers are wrong – err rubbish ! (IMO) – we debated issue this blog recently. Transparent – ROTFL ! Are you really that gullible.

  20. Peter Lezaich February 22, 2007 at 1:10 pm #


    No not gullible, Have a read of the methodology and then argue against it. Both LULUC and LULUCF are clearly defined in regards to what constitutes an emission and what constitutes reafforestation and afforestation. Whilst I do not always agree with the definitions determined through the UN process, never-the-less it is what we (Australia) must report against.

    If indeed you do think that NCAS numbers are wrong you may obtain the national mosaic for the years 1972 to 2004 free of charge from the AGO or from ACRES, you can then do your own comparison. If you do not agree with their methodology you may obtain the raw data for the cost of transfer (transfer to DVD’s) from ACRES and do your own analysis. It is the standard data set for Australia wide land use change.

    State based land use change figures are never provided with the methodology or the data sets used to derive the outcomes. When state based agencies provide the data and their methodologies then and only then will I accept the outcomes as only then will I be able to make an informed determination about the quality of their work as well as a comparison with the NCAS. Don’t forget the NCAS is reporting against a defined global set of standards and criteria. State based reporting is usually determined by the existing skill set within the relevant agency.

    Again no other country in the world has made their data or methodology so transparent and available. As I said before it is a pity that the UNFCCC and IPCC do not do the same, not to mention the state agencies.

  21. cinders February 22, 2007 at 1:37 pm #

    As Ian and Peter point out the emissions that result from the use of the Coal should be accounted for when and where they are emitted according to the IPCC.
    However this treatment of 5.5 Mt of the annual 5.6 Mt doesn’t seem to have been a concern for the QCC experts or its legal representatives from the Environmental Defenders Office.

    Perhaps they were relying on the recent NSW decision on the Anvil Hill coal mine where Justice N. Paine found that the approving agency “failed to take into account ESD principles, in particular the principle of intergenerational equity and the precautionary principle.

    She justified this finding in the following paragraph (Note the reference to scope 3 emissions that were used by Saddler and Lowe)

    “138 Environmental assessment is intended to enable decision makers to be properly informed about the future environmental consequences of the project before them. The environmental assessment is a prediction of what the impacts might be given that the project is yet to be built. It is not appropriate to limit the scope of the environmental assessment on the basis that GHG emissions may or may not be subject to regulation in the future whether in NSW or overseas. The fact that it is difficult to quantify an impact with precision does not mean it should not be done. In any event, scope 3 emission methodology has been developed and can be applied and its limitations as identified in various protocols taken into account in the environmental assessment process.”

    As a result of this decision the Australian (,20867,20845211-2702,00.html) raised the question of the Justice’s past environmental views, as according to the Australian the Justice has been a long term environmental activist, strongly associated with the Environmental Defenders Office.

    Sometimes referred to as legal aid for greenies, EDO around the country are funded by State and Federal Governments as well as public donation. The condition of the massive Federal Grant is that it not be used for litigation. According to their web site, in the case of Anvil the EDO was involved in fund raising for the appeal and then making public comment on the merits of the judgment.

  22. Ian Mott February 22, 2007 at 2:12 pm #

    Further to my above statement in relation to the new mine being to replace an existing one, I refer you to the Xstrata web site at;

    Of particular relevance is the quote;

    “Underground resources have been developed to compensate for the decrease in open cut production due to the progressively increasing strip ratio. Open cut production will continue from lower strip ratio areas including satellite deposits such as Suttor Creek. There is an ongoing exploration programme aimed at defining additional open cut and underground reserves.”

    That is, the production from the existing open cut mines is falling off because the seam is getting deeper and this means that each tonne of coal has to cover the cost of removing more overburden.

    As the output from the existing open cut mines continues to decline the output from the the new mine at Suttor Creek will take over.

    The Newlands mine began operations long before the Kyoto cut-off of 1990 so the net effect of the new mine will be more of the same.

    Both Lowe and Saddler have seriously misled the tribunal with specious argument, misrepresentation of fact and omission of relevant material.

    And as for scope 3 emissions, they are not measured as Australian emissions and, consequently, are outside the jurisdiction of the Australian courts.

  23. Julian February 22, 2007 at 5:00 pm #

    i think the ‘life’ emissions argument rather than just yearly contributions is a valid one.

    monbiot paints a simple visual with his analogy of picturing the shapes of the trajectory of a cannon ball (long time to make cuts) and a ski jump (quick cuts beginning now) with the horizontal plane representing time and the vertical being emission rates. the zone between the two shapes represents all the potential extra CO2 emissions pumped into the atmosphere with the delays/excuses we are whitnessing (and roping us into higher levels of climate change) with inevitable CO2 reductions in future (being possibly more economically & socially painful).

    but again, the denialists will endlessly sieze on and play with yearly breakdown figures etc etc etc ad nauseum as reason to not do anything now (or ever)…..zzzzzz

  24. Ian K February 22, 2007 at 5:34 pm #

    Sorry Peter,
    but I can’t see the relevance of the reporting standards of the Kyoto protocol, etc to the tribunal’s findings. Basically the terms of reference for the tribunal were determined by the objectors whose objections were on the grounds of a new development failing in its environmental impact. Environmental impact is a scientific issue (although it may have economic consequences) and needs to be considered on a scientific basis to which legal obligations, such as the Kyoto protocol, are not relevant.

    if you can’t understand how total mine life emissions are the relevant issue when assessing environmental impact here, you haven’t got to square one (it is a matter of simple logic not twisted logic).
    I would be interested for any evidence you might have about the particular requirements on an expert witness before this tribunal, but I think that it is reasonable as a default position in this case that they would be limited to those of a scientific expert not a legal expert (especially not a legal expert on the Kyoto protocol which we are not a party to). You are the one making the allegations here so back it up.

  25. Peter Lezaich February 22, 2007 at 7:21 pm #

    Ian K,

    As I see it the UNFCCC, Kyoto reporting standards are relevant tot eh tribunals findings due tothe fact that they are the only globally agreed reporting standards.

    What you are advocating is a situation where in effect any oponent of any development (or whatever) sets their own terms of reference. In other words the goal posts keep moving. There must be agreed terms. UNFCCC is fairly straight forward without the argy bargy of Kyoto, so perhaps it is a better option.

    AS you say the environmental impact is a scientific issue, however, on climate, when one reads the papers that much policy and politics are based upon the continuing use of words such as may, might, and other words that convey varying levels of uncertainty have the effect of colouring the issue in varying shades of grey. In a court/tribunal situation where legal argument is looking for black and white such scientific argument is unable to provide the legal certainty that is required.

    So why no t look towards the globa agreements for monitoring and measurement in such circumstances, at least then every player knows what ground rules are. Regardless of whether they agree with them or not.

  26. Dan McLuskey February 22, 2007 at 10:00 pm #

    One of the contributors to the confusion surrounding the AGW debate is the fact that the IPCC and the UNFCCC use different definitions of climate change. The IPCC recognises this as a footnote to the current scientific report issued under FAR.

    The IPCC definition includes both natural causes and anthropogenic causes. The UNFCCC definition, and that used by all environmental lobby groups, includes only anthropogenic causes. Hence IPCC data and projections are siezed upon by the environmental lobby groups and presented as totally anthropogenic in nature. The UNFCCC does the same. This causes potentially substantial exaggerations of the AGW component in climate change.

  27. Ian Mott February 22, 2007 at 10:30 pm #

    Ian K. the link to saddlers report in the post at top also includes an outline of the duties of an expert witness. The main one being that they serve the court, not the client who retained their services. You might also care to reflect on the oath that is sworn by all who provide testimony to a legal proceeding, ie, the truth, the whole truth and nothing butthe truth.

    And as for IPCC accounting standards, the AGO has rigorously applied these standards to Australian greenhouse accounting since the mid 1990’s, even to our national detriment. And for you to claim that this framework is now discretionary suggest that you are either completely ignorant of the situation or deliberately sowing misinformation.

    In any event, there is absolutely no grounds for measuring the emissions from the coal itself because this new mine is merely replacing an old, pre-1990, one that is winding down.

    If there was a mechanism for accounting for this carbon then Xstrata would actually get credits for the reduction in emissions from the old mine that they could transfer to the new mine as it came on stream.

    I will spell it out again for those with a comprehension deficit. By the only carbon accounting standard on the planet, there is no valid basis for attaching the emissions from the coal itself to the project. And even if there was a basis for doing so, it would not apply to this project because it merely replaces coal from an existing mine.

    And the fact that Luke has made no comment on this fact leaves me wondering whether he is engaged in the “lower than lizards guts lame-out”, or the “witless weasle wimp-out”.

  28. SJT February 22, 2007 at 10:41 pm #


    as I noted, the tribunel chair was quite happy to fudge his own figures when it suited him. It’s pretty clear he went in their with his own pre-conceived ideas and he acted on them.

  29. Woody February 23, 2007 at 12:59 am #

    Luke, I NEVER doctor the books. Put that out of your mind and out of your comments now. I have a high sense of responsibility to uphold the ethics and integrity of my profession.

    To illustrate a point, I merely stated that I could look at the same numbers…honest numbers…and make an interpretation favorable to my client whichever way he needed them. (Common in divorce issues.) If I am off, it’s up to the other side to point that out. I was extremely alarmed at the dishonesty and sloppy work of Arthur Andersen, just as I am about global warming deceivers.

    Your comment that “your average AGW sceptics use about 90:1 b/s stats” seems to fall within that very same b/s ratio. You’re classic in that any evidence that disagrees with you must immediately be ignored or discredited, because how can you be right and contradictory evidence be right at the same time–and, surely you’re so smart that you are never wrong…at least, in your own mind.

    SJT, I don’t know that the judge fudged his figures as much as detected an error in what was presented to him by the so-called global warming expert. The expert witness had months to prepare, while the judge just had minutes to react to what he offered. In looking at the information, I understand how the judge came up with what he did, and I beleive that he was well-intentioned. If the expert witness was knowledgeable and confident of his data, then he could have corrected the judge–but he didn’t or couldn’t. Like Luke, don’t be quick to accuse.

  30. Luke February 23, 2007 at 1:04 am #

    For heavens sake – Ian is now laying 1080 baits everywhere. “weasel” was misspelt. And I think you mean “lower than a snake’s duodenum”. Well Ian I’ve been “flat out like a lizard drinking” and had not noticed you were trying to make an actual point in a sea of quasi-philosophical rhetoric and abuse.

    Remember some of the insults are really funny – but if you get me laughing too much I actually forget what the topic was and also neglect the point you might be feebly attempting to make. I can see you’re actually doing some reading for a change so you must have upgraded the envelope to an Intel Pentium Duo 2 and moved from the high school to the uni atlas. (the above translates for the readers into “Hello Ian” and is merely provided so Ian trys to punch out his monitor).

    Oh yea – the replacement coal mine theory – let’s enter the world of Mottsian complex numbers and mathematics where the normal laws of accounting and numeracy do not apply. Also called Mottsian applied knot and string theory.

    illustrates the complete moral bankruptcy of Ian’s incrementalist position. Coal exports are growing. The trend is up up up. The significance of a single mine coming to the end of its life in this upward trend is unimportant. How many hundred years of coal are left Ian. No wonder the world’s CO2 is going up.

    What a dirty grubby coal-handed bit of cherry-picking out a population.

    Thanks for playing. Go back to watering the hooch crop.

  31. Luke February 23, 2007 at 1:09 am #

    Woody – bolsh – the “president” not judge has more than a few minutes to read the depositions. Come on. I don’t he fudged it – simply got it wrong like everyone else including Prof Mott.

    I’m glad you don’t doctor the books – I was simply alarmed after all those b/s try-on anti-AGW arguments on that web site that you’re baby-sitting and had put two an two together and got five. (as we were dealing with exceptionally large values of 2).

  32. Ian K February 23, 2007 at 2:16 am #

    You may well be making practical points about one mine replacing another and what would ideally happen with carbon trading. Unfortunately the tribunal shouldn’t take them into account, but deal with the discrete issue it is presented with.

    Also if you look at section 3 of Saddler’s report you will see that he considers that corporate accounting procedures cover the proposed coal mine and that the emissions of the products of a business are standardly taken into account by those procedures.

    As for your assessment of whether Lowe properly performed his duties as expert witness, I can’t see that you have a leg to stand on, though I admit I don’t know what you are getting at with the bit about land use change.

  33. Woody February 23, 2007 at 5:46 am #

    Luke, the President/Judge is not and cannot be an expert on every issue that comes before him–including global warming. He relies on the testimony and presentations of people who claim to be experts from whom he can make rulings. If the GW expert was really a qualified expert, then he would have caught his own error and the President’s error. That’s like many self-proclaimed experts on the subject who are not really qualified.

  34. Ian Mott February 23, 2007 at 10:52 am #

    We can all be thankful that Luke is not a judge. The issue of whether total coal production is increasing does not, and should not, have a bearing on this case because it would be tantamount to expecting Xstrata to cover all the carbon cost of someone else’s expanded output.

    And Saddler and Lowe’s error remains because even if there was a mechanism to allow the emission from the coal to be accounted for then they must still allow the accounting credits to be accounted for too. They cannot simply apply the costs without also applying the benefits. It is unreasonable to do so, it is also unjust, and quite possibly unlawful for them to do so.

    The same applies to Ian K’s suggestion that the consideration be limited to the narrow context of the project itself. The phasing out of one part of the Newlands Coal operation is a “relevant consideration” within the meaning of the proper exercise of power under both state and federal legislation. It must be taken into account and both Lowe and Saddler appear to have succeeded in their attempt to ensure that it was not.

    And isn’t it great to see Luke have a little win, he knows how to spell Weasel. Well, he should, shouldn’t he?

  35. Luke February 23, 2007 at 1:38 pm #

    No not a judge, but at least make me President pls. Anyway – la de dah – they are expanding production Ian. So sorry to torpedo your rant amidships. You’ll notice dear readers that when you have him on toast he gives you a quick biff and then quickly changes the topic.

    Ian – you’re have to stop with the jocular invective. It’s such a good routine that I’m having trouble concentrating and maintaining bladder control. Nobody is reading Dilbert anymore here – they’re now wondering what you’ll say next. Seriously though Ian if you had to deal with us you’d get further than with your ubiquitous Spivo-saurus scumenensis var vulgaris.

  36. Luke February 23, 2007 at 1:47 pm #

    So while Ian is conducting his own mock shadow-boxing defense of Xstrata – it’s refreshing to see the companies very own position on climate change is more substantial than Ian’s old worlde apologetic withering defense of the tribunal.

    I guess serious business people in serious industries have the ability to plan for the future unlike our antiquated agrarian socialist rural squattocracy. Alas still capitalising gains and socialising losses.

    Climate Change

    Xstrata and Climate Change

    Xstrata’s main exposure to issues related to climate change arises from its coal business, as
    the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal.
    Xstrata believes access to an affordable, reliable and secure energy supply is fundamental to
    economic and social development. Coal currently plays a leading role in helping the global
    community meet its energy needs. Given the increasing global demand for energy and the
    current limited potential for fuel switching and renewables, coal will continue to be an
    important energy asset in the future.
    Xstrata Coal recognises that coal is also a carbon liability and that climate change is a real
    international and community issue. Furthermore, the company believes that emission
    reductions resulting from the use of coal are required and achievable within a sustainable
    development framework.
    Through its approach to climate change, Xstrata Coal:

  37. Ian Mott February 23, 2007 at 11:18 pm #

    That is still a very poor attempt at changing the subject, Luke. Did lowe mislead the tribunal?

  38. Ian K February 24, 2007 at 2:11 am #

    I can’t see how the phasing out of one part of the Newlands Coal operation is a “relevant consideration” within the terms of reference. For instance if the old part of the mine were able to produce mercury pollution due to grandfathering doesn’t mean that it should be able to get away with it for the new part. In summary, Lowe didn’t mislead the tribunal, Koppenol misled himself. From a practical and short-sighted economic benefit point of view, his decision may be considered correct, however he got his reasoning wrong and his facts wrong.

    the facts as I see them are that Lowe, the expert witness, didn’t make an error at all. He should have stuck to his guns, though, because the judge used his perception of Lowe’s error to justify himself in his snap judgement that the IPCC report was similarly in error, as he could assess from a quick eyeball of some graphs. You are right, the judge cannot be an instant expert, as he seems to think he has become from the reasoning in his judgement. He should have got the expert on the other side to give his point of view. If he could get the experts to disagree then he would have the right to step in with his own opinion. He doesn’t seem to have followed this procedure.

  39. cinders February 24, 2007 at 9:13 am #

    We seem to have strayed from the point here; both experts for the QCC chose to provide the judge with a comparison of life time emission against annual emissions. The tribunal found this misleading. This is like comparing ‘apples with oranges’.

    The green movement especially the ACF (that Lowe is the President) and the Wilderness Society use these type of comparisons all the time.

    Recently the Greens claimed that Tasmania does not have low emissions.

    But they said Tasmania’s annual greenhouse gas output was approximated at 10.7 Mt in 2004. Yet as we have seen from this discussion annual global emissions are 34,000 Mt without LULUCF or 42,000 Mt with LULUCF. The Tasmanian figure quoted by the greens includes LULUCF so to compare, the equation is 10.7 divided by 42,000 or 0.025476 per cent.

    The Greens have even claimed publicly that the Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industry statement identifying Tasmania as a “low greenhouse gas emitter” is false. The Greens campaign literature states “This is a misleading statement that is untrue in the global context”.

    As can be seen from the maths, Tasmania is a low greenhouse gas emitter.

    If Global warming or any other green cause is something worthy of action, then why do the greens resort to misleading tactics? Surely these causes should stand up on the facts, not ‘spin’!

  40. Ian Mott February 24, 2007 at 9:57 am #

    I have already mentioned it, Ian K, but will spell it out for you again. As the Newlands operation is a pre-1990 one, it has the right to continue with any emissions that it was doing before 1990. And as there have been no limitations placed on anyone (except farmers) to date then their expansion prior to 2000 also has that right to continue.

    And under the IPCC framework any entity with a right to emit, that then reduces their emissions by any means, earns credits to the amount of the reduction that can either be used or traded.

    In this case, Xstrata has chosen to transfer the credits from the winding down of one division to the new division at Suttor Creek. This capacity to trade or transfer credits is absolutely fundamental to the whole concept of carbon trading so if you have a problem with this then go and tell that to the IPCC itself.

    Lowe and Saddler have withheld information about rights that are fundamental to any form of carbon management.

  41. Luke February 24, 2007 at 11:50 am #

    “Withheld information” Gee I’m sure Xstrata are really relieved to have you working for them – they would have been lost without your help. ROTFL – too much hooch Ian.

    When are you going to apologise for the 218 times wrong. Time to fess up.

  42. Siltstone February 24, 2007 at 6:36 pm #

    The attempt by certain conservationists exagerate by comparing aggregated emissions with annual emissions is very foolish. Lets say the Ian Lowe Coal Company has coal mine with a 100 year life. It’s coal production contributes 100 million tonnes of CO2 in the first year but the CEO commits to abatement programmes and/or offsets that reduce this by 1 million tonnes extra every year. So second year it contributes 99 million tonnes, 3rd year it produces 98 million tonnes etc. The CEO then says to the world “I’ve fully offset the CO2 emissions, 1 million tonnes additional reduction every year for 100 years. That’s 100% of our annual emissions!” Should the Ian Lowe Coal Company get an award for this from the conservationists? After all, the Company has used their own logic.

  43. Ian K February 25, 2007 at 6:58 am #

    I will also spell out my position as regards the issue of the company’s former operations.

    1. If they fell within the terms of reference of the tribunal (which I do not concede), they would only be matters of mitigating circumstances. These could only be taken into account when assessing remedial action the company would have to take, if any. They would not bear on the findings as to whether the new part of the mine has an adverse environmental impact.

    2. You seem to be talking about Kyoto Treaty obligations. The fact the opponents of the mine are pursuing it through the tribunal is because we have NOT signed the Treaty and the issue of whether the mine might comply with its conditions does not arise. Matters concerning international treaty obligations, I would think, would have to be pursued through the High Court.

    3. If the former operations of the company were a relevant issue, it should have been raised by the expert witnesses for the company. If the opponent’s witnesses were dishonest in not raising this issue, you would have to say that the witnesses for the company were equally dishonest (and incompetent) in not raising it.

  44. Ian Mott February 25, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    Ian K, you are splitting hairs to defend the indefensible. We have not seen any reports from Xstrata’s team but when Saddler and Lowe prepared their reports they had a duty to raise all relevant issues. And if they seriously held the same casuist crap views that you do then they had an obligation to present those arguments as well.

    They did neither. It is the tribunal’s prerogative to determine which arguments are valid, not Saddler or Lowe. They were selective in their evidence and selective in the manner certain rights and privileges were applied to Xstrata.

    And as we have no copy of the Xstrata position any discussion on it is purely speculative.

  45. Ian K February 27, 2007 at 9:12 am #

    Most of the law is “casuist crap” Ian, blame the lawyers!

  46. Ian Mott February 27, 2007 at 1:58 pm #

    You may think the principles of justice, equity and due process are nothing but casuist crap, Ian K, but those of us who understand all the sacrifices it has taken to get us this far do not. But I accept your cop-out for what it is.

  47. Ian K February 28, 2007 at 9:41 am #

    I was outlining how “justice, equity and due process” occur in the processes of a tribunal which rightly and appropriately does not have the authority to rope in treaties like Kyoto for your convenience. “Casuist crap” is your term, and is one which it would never occur to me to use. I will leave this debate here although I object to your besmirching the reputations of people without a skerrick of evidence that they have acted inappropriately before the tribunal. If you really hold the principles of “justice and equity” so dear, stop vilifying people without proper evidence just because they hold differing opinions to you!

  48. Ian K February 28, 2007 at 9:43 am #

    I was outlining how “justice, equity and due process” occur in the processes of a tribunal which rightly and appropriately does not have the authority to rope in treaties like Kyoto for your convenience. “Casuist crap” is your term, and is a term which it would never occur to me to use. I want to leave this debate here although I object to your besmirching the reputations of people without a skerrick of evidence that they have acted inappropriately before the tribunal. If you really hold the principles of “justice and equity” so dear, stop vilifying people without proper evidence just because they hold differing opinions to you!

  49. Ian Mott February 28, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    Your desire to insulate your cronies from the consequences of their actions was always obvious, Ian K. All I have done is outline what would constitute the proper discharge of their professional duty and then highlight the nature and extent of the variances. If that variance is so substantial that you might regard it as villification then that is their problem, not mine.

  50. Sid Reynolds February 28, 2007 at 7:45 pm #

    Having followed postings on this thread, and reading press reports in the Qld and National press, it would seem that Lowe and Saddler did mislead the Tribunal.
    It seems to be quite OK for the AGW brigade and their allies in the loopy left, to put forward Lowe, as one of their own, as an (independant?), ‘expert witness’, to tell fibs. However the same people will howl down any scientist, or other expert who has the temerity to appear for Xstrata, or any other mining company for that matter.
    As a matter of interest, I understand that Ian Lowe holds a position of ‘consultant’ on climate matters with the CSIRO. Enquiries to that division of the CSIRO go unanswered. Could anybody tell me whether this is so?

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