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On a Tortuous Political Problem: Bob Carter

Oppose the ETSLAST Wednesday, I had the privilege of appearing in front of the Australian Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy.

My main advice to the committee was that making a decision regarding an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) must be considered as a cost:benefit matter.

According to the only estimates that I could find, after ramp-up the cost of the Rudd ETS scheme is going to be about an additional $3,500 tax per year per Australian family. On the other side, the benefit will be a theoretical (i.e. modelled) reduction in temperature of less than 1/1000 deg. C.

I asked the committee if they had such figures in front of them (they didn’t), and expressed willingness to drop my estimates in favour of better-founded ones if the committee could provide them. Not a finger, or tongue, stirred!

Beyond recommending that a proper cost:benefit analysis should apply, I argued also for the implementation of a (Plan B) policy of adaptation to climate change in place of the intended (Plan A) emissions trading system. This follows the policy that I espoused in a recent talk at the New York Heartland-2 Climate Conference, a written version of which has been published in the April edition of Quadrant.

It seems to me that an adaptive Plan B, as well as being hugely cheaper than the tabled carbon dioxide taxation bill that the Senate Committee is now considering, will have the additional advantage of actually doing some good. However, this will be of much lesser importance for the politicians who are now involved, for their self-perceived need is for  a pragmatic solution to what has become a tortuous political problem, quite irrespective of either the cost or of whether any implemented policy actually achieves beneficial ends beyond their own re-election.

I was appearing before the Committee as an expert scientist. Together with my companion Dr. Stewart Franks, I was received most courteously, and accorded every opportunity to explain my views. Looking back at the experience, however, what strikes me most strongly is the irrelevance of the scientific matters that Dr. Franks and I were primarily concerned with.

For it was quite plain that three matters, none of them scientific, were primarily exercising all members of the committee. They were:

1. BEWILDERMENT about being faced by two implacably opposing views from two groups of scientists who, prima facie, seem equally professionally credible, yet are each certain that their view is the right and the other’s wrong.

(Not equally authoritative, of course, for the authority lies overwhelmingly on the IPCC side of the argument).

2. INCREDULITY as to the possibility of a scam of the magnitude that is implied by the sceptics’ view being true. How could so many other official authorities, organisations and highly credentialled scientists be so wrong?

(As I said last week, you do have to admire the job that the Greens have done: since 1990 they’ve slowly and systematically stitched up the education system (schools down to kindergarten level and up to university), business, government bureaucracies (via the IPCC) and politicians alike, and the press were always there with them knitting furiously from the start, egged on by a multitude of self-interested scientists in funding feeding frenzy.)

3. A DEEP NEED to deal with the implacable reality that the members of the Committee perceive that the majority of their constituents believe that there is an AGW crisis, and therefore, to be re-elected, that they have to be seen to do something about it.

(I believe that in most cases this perception is now actually wrong, as indicated by a new poll yesterday that shows that only 1 in 3 Americans now believe AGW to be a significant problem.

Whereas it is true that up until about 2 years ago the public was convinced of the need for action, all the signs have long been that a majority of the public have now rumbled the scam –  though not, of course, those who control the opinion polls and the media, where the alarmism still gets its routine daily push-alongs .)

I stress again, that none of these three matters is scientific. Rather they are entirely sociological/political in nature, from which I draw the key inference that the members of ETS investigatory committees like this one mostly need help with fashioning politically feasible solutions to the incredible mess that they now find themselves in – which, of course, results from both major Australian political parties having long pandered to deep Green ideologies in pursuit of votes.

It is certain that the enactment of the tabled CPRS emissions scheme would be a disaster for Australia, and nearly all Australians (those working for alternative energy providers and the financial markets being two obvious exceptions, for they will do very nicely thank you should the CPRS Bill be passed); indeed, I believe its passage would do immense damage to the national interest and economy, and represent the worst single piece of legislation to be passed by federal parliament since federation.

But stopping the tabled ETS Bill now, and preventing a new but substantially similar Bill being tabled again in the near future, can only be achieved by providing solutions for the various political negatives that current parliamentarians perceive will accompany any defeat or deferring of the Bill. The question of climate change legislation is now a fraught, entirely political exercise, and I believe that it demands new thinking towards an innovative Plan B.

As I wrote in Quadrant:

“A national climate policy that improves our ability to recognise, manage and adapt to natural climate change and events, as could be met by the creation of a HazNet organisation, is an urgent necessity, and would cost but a fraction of the mooted ETS. To boot, contingent damage to the economy, energy systems, the standard of living and the world food supply would be avoided. And, by their very nature, strategies that can cope with the dangers and vagaries of natural climate change will readily cope with human-caused change too, should that ever manifest itself. Why is it so difficult for Australia’s major political parties to discern this obvious truth?”

Bob Carter, Townsville, Australia

POSTSCRIPT

Interestingly, for the first time that I can recall, ABC Radio National reported some of the details of the Senate Committee session to which Dr. Franks and I delivered previously ABC-unmentionable sceptical views. They picked up the point that I made about cost, but not the other half of the equation that shows a miniscule and literally unmeasurable temperature benefit.

And they also reported Dr. Franks’ view that:

“the public, the global public in many senses and certainly in the Western world has been railroaded into this notion of disastrous climate change for which there is no empirical event and that actually there are very real consequences to many climate policies that are being forwarded. And we have seen this recently in the case of the increase in biofuels, the use of good, productive agricultural land in producing biofuels for the decadent West which has been estimated its lead to a 50 to 70 per cent increase in food prices over the last year or two and that has killed people, not here in Australia. And so our climate policy here is here in the West are already killing people and climate change has never been shown to have killed a single person”.

However, ABC being the ABC, they simply couldn’t resist the temptation to add the derogatory ad hominem comment from Dr. David Karoly that “neither Professor Carter nor Franks is recognised as a reputable climate scientist”. Thank you, again, David.

Quite what the ABC expects to achieve, except immunity from being sued themselves, by reporting such gratuitous nonsense is unclear.

Equally interestingly, the TV cameras arrived as Dr. Franks and I were leaving the Senate Committee Room, just in time to film the following group of alarmist scientists who, duly, featured on the evening news! Similarly disgraceful press bias was also apparent in the next day’s Canberra Times, which contained detailed coverage of the alarmist scientists’ view and nary a mention of Stewart or me.

And, determined, continuing TV and radio bias notwithstanding, the last few days have brought an astonishing change in the tone and content of the climate change material being reported in the written press, stimulated by both the Senate Committee hearings and by the release of Ian Plimer’s new book.

Those who are interested in assessing a possible renaissance of the critical ability of Australian newspapers, and perhaps even parts of ABC Radio, may care to browse through the following URLs (listed in no particular order):

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25348908-16382,00.html
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25348644-7583,00.html
http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/beware-the-climate-of-conformity-20090412-a3ya.html?page=-1
http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2008/s2543811.htm
http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2008/s2545650.htm
http://theland.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/fielding-urges-delay-on-emissions-trading/1457012.aspx
http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2008/s2545653.htm
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25348271-11949,00.html
http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/planet-doomsayers-need-a-cold-shower-20090417-aa4s.html
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25356865-16382,00.html

************

Notes and Links

Details of the nature of the Committee can be found at its website: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/climate_ctte/index.htm

For Bob Carter’s publications visit:  http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/new_page_1.htm

To register your opposition to the ETS visit: http://www.listentous.org.au/

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107 Responses to “On a Tortuous Political Problem: Bob Carter”

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  1. Comment from: Luke


    Toby forget about the ETS – assume it’s a bad idea.

    So let’s take Bob up on an adaptive Plan B – we just “adapt” – we work it out somehow as we go.

    But with what Toby – all climate knowledge has now been trashed. So Toby would you like to now pick some bits you’d like. But Toby you sceptics have denounced it all.

    Your lack of knowledge of how much of Australia’s agriculture interacts with climate is gob-smacking.

    Mate we’ve spents billions – billions mate – over decades on a sector that is supposed to know what it’s doing.

    We’ve STUFFED vast areas of rangelands overgrazing in droughts.

    If temperature changes the fruit in your new olive orchard may not be vernalised -i.e. not set.

    Change that 30:40:30 to 20:40:40 and that’s the difference between being in business and broke.

    “but i base those decioins on what i think will happen based on factors that i think count”

    what like divining chook guts? You’re just arm waving Toby.

    Face it Toby – you don’t study this field – you don’t read the latest work. You’re just so up in arms about ETS’s and Al Gore that you’ve forgotten too look at what is sailing past your nose. Like http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2009/flow.jsp

    Mate I’m not angry with you – I don’t think anyone on here is going to change their mind about AGW – but we hardly ever progress past the trivial do we.

    A Plan B by Bob is a good idea. But everyone is so busy ranting that it will neve rbe discussed.

    Toby – why do you think this place exists – http://portal.iri.columbia.edu/portal/server.pt

    The bastardisation of all climate science by sceptics has now left you in a wasteland. Unless of course you choose to pick what you like and ignore your own hypocritical inconsistency.

  2. Comment from: toby


    Luke, the gross exagerations and lies that we are being fed by many climate scientists/ media/ commentators will leave climate sceince in a wasteland when AGW is finally laid to rest.

    I dont think any farmer or business would consider farming agriculture without looking at rainfall, temp, cycles for the region in which they are considering operating. And I have no doubt that farmers would use many factors when considering if/ when / what and how much to plant, including ocean temp and cycles. I still think you are talking apples and oranges. And i dont think its hypocritical of me to be sceptical of science based on models, give me evidence please, not models. Everything happening is within the realms of natural variablity.

    many rivers are receiving less flow…. its well documented that the himalayan mountain glaciers have been retretaing and melt water levels are decreasing. These glaciers have been melting since the end of the LIA, also human use has shot up since the start of the last century, in 100 years popn has increased from 1 billion to 6 billion, much of it in areas where rivers are seeing less flow…..could it also be water use? dams etc?

  3. Comment from: Luke


    “I dont think any farmer or business would consider farming agriculture without looking at rainfall, temp, cycles for the region in which they are considering operating.” – maaatttee – wakey wakey – so why then have we had billions upon billions going out in drought aid for decades in a sector that has it all under control. Why do rice growers have no water?

    “And I have no doubt that farmers would use many factors when considering if/ when / what and how much to plant, including ocean temp and cycles.” – NO YOU CAN’T – you guys have said all that science is corrupt/wrong. You have no basis at all for using any of it. Otherwise you’re being hypocrites. It’s all from the same stable !!

    “Everything happening is within the realms of natural variablity.” – WHY – just coz you think it is?

    And given natural variability exists what would an AGW signal look like. It would look like a small departure emerging from a fog of natural variation. This is where you are in history.

    Toby Toby – a central prediction of AGW – drying out of sub-tropics is coming true. The obs matching the models and the broad observations.

    To not have any concern and be whistling as you walk is sooooo naive. Indeed food security is back as a major global issue. Growing world population. 6B going to 9B. Pretty well all arable land and freshwater resources exploited.

    Tell me Toby – have you read the recent science on SAM, STR and IOD?

    Evidence Toby for anyone looking at such a complex system has to be based on observations, physical mechanisms and models which reproduce the effects and interactions.

    You have a growing story under your feet if you start to doing some reading. And that reading isn’t blog comics.

    There is a chance too that the average AGW type scientist is also wrong. The impacts could be much worse.

    Indeed growing Antarctic ice is simply a product of ozone depletion. What you’d expect actually.

    A quieter Sun and change in PDO have simply knocked the trend of what will be an inevitable temperature rise when it flips back.

    The big changes evident in circulation patterns are the key to watch. All about redistribution of rainfall in the end – and who wins and who loses.

    As for Bob’s Plan B – hahahahahahahahaha

    You’re on your own mate !

    Notice I did not advocate an ETS ! If that’s all you can think about you’re forever doomed to throw out the climate science with political bathwater.

    If you have any sophistication you might consider that elements o fthe science may indeed by dead right. Just that the policy fixes being touted are unacceptable. But simply because you don’t like an ETS is not a logical resaon to assume that the climate science THEREFORE MUST BE wrong.

  4. Comment from: Graeme Bird


    Adaptive plan B has to be mass-sackings of taxeaters and long-term tax exemptions. Coupled with these politicians staying home and using persuasion to go around to every State Premier and mayor in the country and try and get advanced approval of far more areas than we could possibly ever need, for nuclear fission and synthetic diesell plants. As well as for port facilities and other things. Not to get them built. The tax exemptions will get them built. Just to get a sellers market for the real estate needed and to deep-six every last bit of red tape in advance.

    They’ve got to stop schmoozing round the world and selling our sovereignty for a day in the spotlight and instead start doing the hard yards of persuasion in every locality. Our rights are universal but they must be expressed locally. So its not a case of politicians using compulsion from the centre. Its much harder work than that. Its about taking persuasion to the localities. Persuade them to end or loosen zoning. To end height restrictions. To pre-approve massive areas, public and private, for important uses.

    Rudd is a useless diplomat anyhow and so he should stay home. Massive oversupply of medium-size port facilities, just big enough to load and unload containers is kind of a big deal. Since everyone knows that nothing beats sea transport for energy efficiency with heavy cargo.

  5. Comment from: Geoff Sherrington


    Re: Comment from: Jeremy C April 21st, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I have never ever supported the concept of a government subsidy for any business best run by private enterprise.

    As for electrical generation schemes without a government subsidy, well, we built the whole town of Jabiru and the Ranger processing pant without subsidy. Also, we ran the powerhouse at Cape Lambert that powered the whole of the iron ore province of the Pilbara. You do not need peer-reviewed articles to prove this. You can go there and see the reality for yourself. There is a book “The Power Switch at Robe River” Author Gethin, Patrick, 1936-
    Description Perth, W.A. : Australian Institute for Public Policy, c1990.
    iv, 71 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
    ISBN 0949186376 (corrected) : 0949186379

    Now having answered your query about my innocence or ignorance, what is your response to my observation that a carbon emission trading scheme is a circular money churn with huge transaction costs? Were you able to conceive of a significant way to spend the proceeds of an emissions impost without production of more GHGs? Is there a fault with my logic or are you just ignoring a question you have no answer for?

    At least Ross Garnaut is accepting the circularity argument and changing his preferences. Before long, I think he will return to his economics profession a wiser man, determined to avoid the treachery inherent in politics.

  6. Comment from: Glen McBride


    Someone put a large pile of paper from Leon Ashby, a climate sceptic, into my mailbox.. I glanced through it and chuckled at the inadequacy of his thinking, He is obsessed with the inadequacies one can find in the ETS, but failed to see any motes in his own eye.

    I don’t care a damn whether the “human responsible global warming model” is right or wrong. I’m not a climate expert and thus have always been open about the whole story.

    BUT I am enthusiastically in favour of any plans to stop the production of co2 by the use of fossil fuels. Yes, it is right to say that a change to renewable energy will lower our standard of living for a while. They pay lip service to our need to change but ignore the thousand reasons why it is necessary – they are obsessional about the ETS.

    We have enough oil to last perhaps a hundred years and coal perhaps could last for about 400 years. Then there will be nothing cheap left to burn easily and we will be forced to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Then there will then be no option.

    The present movement towards living with sustainable energy resulting from the experts belief in “Human caused global warming” means that we can soon wean ourselves off burning oil and coal. They are chemical treasure-houses and should never be wasted by burning them. Perhaps our generation could leave some of these treasures for future generations.

    I think we are just thoughtless – we couldn’t care a damn about our descendants. Oil and coal are valuable. We waste most of their properties by burning them. Our descendants would love to have a share but we are so greedy that we want to take them all and waste them for making energy – which we can have endlessly from the sun, tides, wind and geothermally. Stupid and selfish.

    We believe that oil and coal are cheap. They both took millions of years to create – how much should we be valuing a resource if it takes millions of years to produce and can never be replaced? We naively think that the cost of digging them out of the earth is a real cost. Do you believe the costs we pay for coal and oil are realistic? Of course this is nonsense. That trivial cost is what we pretend is their value. This pretending lets us waste them. It also lets us pretend that their use is cheaper than renewable sources of energy. Any child could work out that their use is really a thousand times dearer than renewable energy. You know it is a pretend game and that to conserve these resources is the only sensible course. But we are greedy and of recent years, we learned that greed is good!

    I like to think that our species will last for thousands or millions of years. They will need everything we are ripping out of the earth, every mineral, every chemical. But we want them all and we want them now. We have no plans to ensure that we recapture everything we use once – for every chemical and mineral will last for millions of years and all need conserving and recycling. We are just beginning to think of recycling – a moment’s thought makes it obvious that everything must be conserved, regardless of cost. But our greed allows us to argue that it is mostly too expensive because it is often cheaper to dig more from the earth. Yet every gram will be required over and over again by our descendants.

    We are not sensible livers – we are plunderers. Our economic system has only money as a value measure. It ignores the intrinsic value of these permanent minerals and chemicals. Our only interest is immediate plunder – how much can we rip up, waste and disperse as quickly as we can with as much immediate profit as possible.

    The Club of Rome in the 70′s wrote about “Limits to Growth”. It tried to look ahead, something we should have learned from them – their logic was inescapable. We should have embraced it and made it a central activity for humankind long into the future. They attempted to show how long resources of the earth would last. Technology improved and quickly made their estimates incorrect. The plunderers then made sure that their imaginative attempt at logical thinking and planning ahead was trivialised, denounced and eliminated so completely that one never hears their name today. Yet these were real and imaginative people who tried to look logically at our failure to look ahead and predict sensible consequences. Bright people today could do much better – and those in fifty years hence will be able to do the same job even better still.

    Logic suggests to me that we should be grateful for those finding a reason to stop burning and wasting real resources. It suggests to me that the “climate sceptics” are appealing only to our greed and selfishness rather than thinking about the future of our grandchildren. Sadly logic will never overwhelm greed. So please bless the global warmers and the co2 worriers. They have just a chance of moving us to a sustainable lifestyle a hundred years before we would inevitably be forced to. They could make us pay our own way realistically sooner rather than leaving it to our grandhcildren to pay for our greedy profligate living style. Ask again and again, what is the real value of a tonne of coal or oil? Do you really think it is cheaper than renewable energy?

    You are right about costs. Changing from coal and oil wasting will be expensive. It will mean thousands of people forced to change jobs. It will take enormous resources to invest in these other forms of energy. Only a fool believes that it won’t be necessary – the only question is when. This moment is history offers us a chance to decide to do it soon. We know it will hurt. We do it now or leave it to our grandchildren. The selfish and greedy ones will leave it to our grandchildren. The proud and independent ones will delight in the challenge.

    I suggest that climate sceptics start some real thinking – this time outside the box in which they are locked. Humankind has a real challenge before it and the time is right NOW.

    Please feel free to pass this on – it may help others think beyond next the decade.

    Cheerily

    Glen McBride

  7. Comment from: neal


    All I read of these climate change skeptic’s arguments are the inconsequential and unrelated things that ‘Krudd’ has done. I.e. ‘abused an air hostess’ oh! He abused an air hostess! That must mean that theres no such thing as climate change!

    Have any of you skeptics even read the IPCC assessment reports? Maybe try reading Mann 1998, wait-stop the presses! Try and read ANY journal article published recently from a CREDIBLE source, AND a CREDIBLE writer.

    As an aside as the skeptics are allowed to use unrelated tidbits as arguments, Robert Carter is on the research committee of the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing group that has received funding from corporate interests including oil and tobacco companies. Highly unrelated-but very persuasive.

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