Australia Needs a National Climate Policy
THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model of dangerous, human-caused climate change has failed. Independent science relevant to supposed human-caused global warming is clear, and can be summarised in four briefpoints.
First, global temperature warmed slightly in the late 20th century and has been cooling since 2002. Neither the warming nor the cooling were of unusual rate or magnitude.
Second, humans have an effect on local climate but, despite the expenditure of more than $US50 billion ($70 billion) looking for it since 1990, no globally summed human effect has ever been measured. Therefore, any human signal must lie buried in the variability of the natural climate system.
Third, we live on a dynamic planet; change occurs in Earth’s geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and oceans all the time and all over the world. No substantive evidence exists that modern rates of global environmental change (ice volume; sea level) lie outside historic natural bounds.
Last, cutting carbon dioxide emissions, be it in Australia or worldwide, will likely result in no measurable change in future climate, because extra increments of atmospheric CO2 cause diminishing warming for each unit of increase; at most, a few tenths of a degree of extra warming would result from a completion of doubling of CO2 since pre-industrial times.
These facts notwithstanding, the [Australian] Rudd Government is poised to introduce a CO2 taxation bill on doubly spurious grounds. It presumes, first, that dangerous warming caused by human emissions is occurring, or will shortly occur. And, second, that cuts to emissions will prevent significant amounts of future warming.
There is, therefore, now a dramatic disjunction between scientific reality and the stranglehold that global warming alarmism has on planned Australian climate policy.
Today’s public views about climate change are based upon 20 years of promulgation of dangerous global warming by what has become a hugely powerful coalition of self-interested groups and agencies.
Beneficiaries of warming alarmism include individual scientists, managers of research centres, morally pretentious environmental non-government organisations, prestigious science academies and societies, bureaucrats from government greenhouse and climate agencies, big businesses poised for carbon trading (think Enron and Lehman Brothers), alternative energy providers, those in the media who remorselessly promulgate environmental alarm stories, and, last but not least, those uninformed politicians who seek political advantage from cynical exploitation of the public’s fear of global warming.
The Australian Government does not possess a national climate policy; instead, it has an imaginary global warming policy, based on sub-prime science, sub-prime economics and sub-prime politics.
In dealing with the certainties and uncertainties of real climate change, the key issues are prudent risk assessment and adaptive response. As is the case for other unpredictable and unpreventable natural planetary hazards, policy to deal with climate change should be based on adaptation to change as it happens, including the appropriate mitigation of undesirable socioeconomic and environmental effects.
We therefore need, first, to monitor climate change accurately in an ongoing way; and, second, to respond and adapt to any changes — including long-term warmings, the likely more damaging coolings, and severe weather or climatic events such as cyclones — in the same way that government and voluntary disaster services now deal with hazardous natural events such as bushfires, droughts and floods.
The main certainty is that natural climate change and variation are going to continue, and that some manifestations — droughts, storms and sea-level change, for example — will be expensive to adapt to.
Adaptation will not be aided by imprudent restructuring of Australia’s energy economy in pursuit of the chimera of “stopping” an alleged dangerous human-caused global warming that can neither be demonstrated nor measured. In reality, too, our lack of understanding of all the climatic feedback loops is such that cutting CO2 emissions is as likely to “harm” as to “help” future climate.
New Zealand already has a national monitoring and response system in place for earthquake, volcanic and flood disasters (GeoNet). This is linked, appropriately, to a parallel compensation and insurance system that recompenses victims of natural disaster (the Earthquake Commission).
Even if generous funding were to be provided in Australia towards a similar preparation for climatic disasters (of which drought and flood relief are part), the net cost would still be orders of magnitude less than will be engendered by a fundamentally misconceived emissions trading scheme. To boot, contingent damage to the economy, the standard of living and the world food supply would be avoided.
Attempting to “stop global warming” by limiting CO2 emissions is simply an arcadian fantasy, since making deep cuts to Australia’s emissions would at best help to avert or delay warming by about a miniscule one-thousandth of a degree.
Australia needs a national climate policy that is rooted in sound science, sensible precaution, prudent risk assessment, and efficient and effective disaster relief. Lacking all such elements, the Australian Government’s global warming policy fails the basic test of duty to care for the citizenry.
Bob Carter is an adjunct research fellow at James Cook University, Townsville, and studies ancient climate change.
Photograph of Professor Carter taken by Jennifer Marohasy in Brisbane in October 2008.