More Politics from Ross Garnaut: A Note from Des Moore

LAST November Ross Garnaut was commissioned, for an unknown fee, to produce an Update of the Review of climate change he completed in 2008. Garnaut is an economist who describes himself as an independent expert but he acts like a believer in a greater role for government and has worked closely with Labor governments. As one commentator put it yesterday, “his work has been a key feature of Labor’s campaign to introduce a carbon trading scheme”. Indeed, his first Update and associated comments present a blatantly political perspective in portraying all developments since the Review as supporting the need for emission reducing action by government and dismissing or ignoring the reality that those developments have clearly heightened the uncertainties about the so-called science and whether there will be any agreed international political action.  

We now find former “free trader” Garnaut even more strongly supporting emission reducing action by Australia – and regardless of what other countries are doing. His advocacy of such action would, if followed by the government, reduce our international competitiveness and would be equivalent to asking the rest of the world to impose tariffs on all imports from Australia. The rationale? The naive, even laughable, view that the absence of emission-reducing action by Australia would go “a long way to ensuring there would be no effective global action” – as if Australia has such international influence! 

His support for a lone ranger approach also seems to reflect an acceptance of moral responsibility for the past – developed countries are “the source of the urgency of the global warming problem” and are better placed to make larger reductions in emissions. It also involves implicit acceptance of international redistribution rather than domestic policy changes by developing countries as the main solution to development.

Despite giving himself a big pat on the back – the Review “has survived the public discussion as a robust, logical and ethical framework within which to consider the diabolical policy problem of climate change”- Garnaut will now produce no less than 8 Updates, the last on 31 May and the next on Monday 7 February.

Given this self-congratulation, it is difficult to see why another seven are needed, particularly as he refers to only two specific criticisms by Australians, one being by Michael Porter of CEDA on how we should value the future relative to the past and the other by Professor Richard Blandy who apparently argued (sensibly) that the response to climate change should be to adapt to the effects if and when it occurs rather than assume damaging effects if mitigatory emission reduction action is not started now. But Garnaut claims “we are dealing with a very high probability that unmitigated climate change would lead to very large damage” and that we need to invest rather heavily to avoid this. Indeed, he warns that as Australia has failed to take mitigatory action, “substantial costs” have already been incurred. These costs allegedly include the decisions to build desalination plants and to re-zone land in some coastal areas. Yet both of these reflect the acceptance of the dangerous warming theory rather than any actual or threatened climate damage.  

His argument that Australia is falling behind both the United States and China in dealing with climate change is also hard to take. US President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union message indicated that neither an ETS nor a carbon price were on the US’s climate agenda and, although he proposes more action on the use of renewable energy, the objectives would not be realised for a considerable time – “by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources” – and would include one source not yet on Australia’s agenda -nuclear power. As to China, the latest projections in the World Energy Outlook show China’s emissions of greenhouse gases as being twice current levels by 2030.

As with much of this first Update, Garnaut’s response on the specific Australian criticisms (and on other issues) consists mainly of either a reference back to what was said in the 2008 review or to a political judgment that Australia should adopt a policy of playing a leading role in international negotiations on climate change. Thus, any refraining by Australia from mitigatory action to combat global warming would reduce the prospect of achieving strong global mitigation – for which “there is still a chance”.

Garnaut’s failure to recognise the continued criticisms of and questions raised about the whole basis (as distinct from one or two specifics) of the dangerous warming theory since the 2008 Review is little short of amazing. There is no mention of the revelations of data and other manipulations arising from the Climategate exposures, presumably because the official inquiries have supposedly “cleared” those involved and despite the careful assessment of those inquiries by prominent Canadian economist Ross McKitrick that “the world still waits a proper inquiry into climategate: one that is not stacked with global warming advocates”.

Nor is there any reference to the public acknowledgement by the leader of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia and a lead author of the IPCC’s 2007 report, Philip Jones, that from 1995 to 2009 there was no statistically significant global warming; or of last year’s Royal Society report (in response to internal complaints of one-sidedness amongst scientist members) which acknowledged that “it is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change” and that climate change “continues to be the subject of intensive scientific research and public debate”. By contrast Garnaut falsely claims that that Royal Society report means “the informed non-scientist can be left in little doubt about the way the scientific community sees certainty in climate change”!

Looking beyond these exposures, there are of course many critics amongst world scientists, including the more than 30,000 (of whom over 9,000 have PhDs) who have signed the Oregon Petition rejecting the dangerous warming theory. That Petition is unequivocal –

“There is no convincing evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heat of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’ s climate”.

As to Australian critics, it is little short of disgraceful that Garnaut fails even to acknowledge the expert critical analyses by the likes of Bill Kininmonth, Bob Carter, David Evans, and Stewart Franks, all of whom were granted the privilege (sic) of making a presentation and submitting a major document to the (then) Climate Minister Wong. Australian scientists have also signed letters to international organisations expressing disagreement with the warmist theory. That apart, Australia has the many critical publications issued under the aegis of the Lavoisier Society and Quadrant.      

The reported public comments by Garnaut also indicate that he has attempted to bolster his argument by making incorrect claims. For instance, that sea level increases are “tracking right at the top of range of possibilities” (they are well down the range and at rates over recent years would pose no substantive risk of inundations).  He also claims there would be more frequent “extreme” cyclones – though not necessarily more frequent cyclones!  But this is reportedly based on an article in Nature (a warmist journal) claiming more intensive cyclonic activity in the North Atlantic! By contrast, our Bureau of Meteorology web site says that “a growing number of studies indicate a consistent signal of fewer tropical cyclones globally in a warmer climate”.  There is no evidence to support the view that climate change arising from increased temperatures is to blame for the recent flooding, or for Cyclone Yasi, and the argument that higher sea surface temperatures could have contributed to the strength and size of Yasi has no factual basis – the tropical ocean surface temperature during January 2011 was slightly cooler than average.

In his 2008 Review Garnaut presented economic modelling showing that with or without mitigation “Australian living standards are likely to grow strongly through the 21st century”, with mitigatory action improving GDP in 2100 by only about 5 per cent above what it would otherwise have been. By contrast, Richard Tol (an author for the IPCC, a shared winner of  the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and classified as among the top 5% economists in the world) has put the cost of mitigatory action at about 40 times greater than the benefits. There is no discussion in this first Update of such critical analyses.

The Update does puts emphasis on benefits that were described in the 2008 Review as immeasurable but of “great importance” (environmental amenity, longevity, insurance against risks, etc). This Update claims that new information now available will require a re-assessment of the measurable benefits and costs in a future Update. This new information, which smacks of a clutching at straws and assumes the science is correct, are stated as including increased scientific knowledge suggesting more serious adverse effects from climate change, lack of progress towards a comprehensive global agreement (which adds to future mitigation costs), and improved low-emission technologies.   

The conclusions to this first Update make claims that are capable of being interpreted either way. Thus “it is clear from preliminary analysis that there have been significant scientific, policy and analytical developments since 2008” and that “The international framework changed fundamentally at Copenhagen and Cancun”. But these developments are arguably not supportive of the case that Garnaut puts. Nor can it justifiably be claimed that “The climate science has developed, mostly in ways that heighten rather than ease concerns.” or that “There have also been considerable developments in the domestic policy discussion.” which strengthen that case.

It is probably true, however, that “the costs of some low-emissions technologies appear to have been falling faster than anticipated.” This might suggest though that there is less need for early emission reduction action.

Equally, the conclusion that “a late start globally on mitigation has raised anticipated costs of both climate change and its mitigation” takes no account of the increased uncertainties about the science and the likelihood of global action.

All up, much as expected but seriously disappointing from someone who might have been expected to present a more professional analysis.

Des Moore, Melbourne

More from Moore here: http://www.ipe.net.au/Hotoffthepress.html

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16 Responses to More Politics from Ross Garnaut: A Note from Des Moore

  1. TonyfromOz February 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Professor Garnauat was hired by the Labor Government to produce what he did, and using the principle of ‘never set up a Commission unless you already know the result’ he duly came out and said exactly what the Government wanted to hear.
    It then became a process of ‘selling it’. Garnaut went on the stumps to get the message out. The Government said all the right things, you know:

    Blah blah blah..’Independent’.. blah blah blah.. ‘Science based’.. blah blah blah.. ‘imperative’.. blah blah blah ‘reasonable’..

    True, it actually sounded reasonable, at a paltry $26 per ton of CO2, and that’s Carbon Dioxide Julia, Wayne, Greg, Bob, Christine, et al, not Carbon.

    That ‘reasonable’ $26 per ton and the way it was presented made the average Australian ‘think’ that something like this may even be a good thing.

    However, what people fail to realise, and something that will not be explained to them in any detail, is the amounts involved, and if they are, then those numbers will be so astronomical as to beggar belief, hence they will be discounted as conjecture, based only on an opposite political point of view.

    The total to be raised from this iniquitous new huge tax is $24 Billion, and that’s not a one off, but for each and every year.

    It’s an easy calculation to do, once you understand the maths, and the maths are based, not on an economic standpoint, but an engineering one, the nature of the way it is produced.

    I fully understand the bad form of using Jennifer’s blog to link into a Post of my own, but the more people who see the real facts behind what is being sold as something that seems so reasonable on the surface and imperative that we introduce it, will then see, and see starkly that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the environment, and everything to do with the common old grubby money.

    As much as Jennifer concentrates on the Science aspects, which are vitally important in all of this, it sometimes is also worthwhile to add some perspective, and to also look at the same thing from an engineering point of view as well, and then to do some Maths.

    Here’s the link to the Post, and again, sorry to take so much space here Jennifer.

    http://papundits.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/what-does-a-price-of-26-per-ton-on-carbon-dioxide-emissions-mean/

    Tony.

  2. cohenite February 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    Garnaut has a lot to answer for. David Stockwell and myself have prepared a reply to Garnaut’s latest and completely egregious update to his 2008 farrago; it is with the ABC which recently knocked back a critique of alarmist and professional AGW hysteric Lewandowsky. That article was published here.

    Thank heavens for blogs like Jennifer’s because if it had been left to the msm we would now be living under rocks due to the full effect of green policies to counter the lie of AGW.

  3. lmwd February 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Thank you Des for your article here, I just wish it could be published in the Australian! I’ll second Cohenite in saying thank goodness for blogs like this one and Jo Nova also.

    On a positive note, did you see the number of comments that were critical of Garnaut? That did take me by surprise, as normally the Australian cuts it off, but it seems like they were letting every comment through for a whole day. The greatest proportion were hugely critical and quite angry at Garnaut. Even I got a few in there!

    I’m wondering if Gillard and co are taking note. Their Co2 tax may be a harder sell than they thought.

  4. cohenite February 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    Imwd, do you have a link to the comments to the Garnaut article?

  5. Malcolm Hill February 8, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/climate/australia-one-of-the-largest-drags-on-global-climate-action-says-pms-adviser-ross-garnaut/comments-e6frg6xf-1226001425200

    Cohenite ..Try this

    I had a laugh at one comment that Australia has no more chance of influencing things than “pulling a fart out of a fairy.”

    It does beg a lot of questions about the performance and biases of public notorieties such as this man.

    Isnt it a case of misfeasance….?

  6. Bruce February 8, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    I found it interesting that Christine Milne was embracing and effusively praising Prof Garnaut and the report all day yesterday. The ALP seemed more cautious.

    In otherwords Prof Garnaut is now advocating the Greens position.

    Prof Garnaut should have an unbiassed look at the world climate data. If he did so he would see no scientific justification for such a root and branch destruction of our economy.

    Furthermore, China, who apparently by his argument is leading us all in CO2 control in 2009 had surpassed the US in CO2 emissions by 42%.

  7. TonyfromOz February 8, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    And what are the current U.S. emissions for CO2?
    10.5 Billion tons per annum.
    Australia’s are 900 million tons.

  8. val majkus February 8, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    Malcolm that’s a really interesting comment; Prof Garnaut is I understand an economist so really I can’t understand from where his preconceived AGW expertise comes except in the perception of the beholder; why he is the Govt’s climate change adviser I have no idea; as to whether he is guilty of misfeasance probably not in my view as he’s no expert on climate; there was an interesting comment on Catallaxy Files this month Natural disasters and climate change http://catallaxyfiles.com/?s=garnaut where the author comments ‘A number of climate change commentators are trying to have it both ways: not directly stating that recent natural disasters are caused by AGW, but claiming that the events are becoming more frequent and more severe. (See also column by Piers Ackerman)

    Garnaut states that this bolsters the argument for a carbon tax. Yet no one has yet put forward the proposition that, were Australia to adopt a carbon tax, natural disasters will be less frequent and less intense. Unless one considers smugness, it is a poor policy to introduce a measure which will do nothing to address the problem that is being posited.’

    This leads to a question ‘to whom are Governments ultimately legally liable (if at all) for the results of ill conceived policies ultimately brought into effect and thus affecting the country (or State) governed’ or put another way are Govt obliged to exercise what is legally termed ‘due diligence.’ I don’t know the answer to this but I haven’t found any examples where Govts have been sued by citizens for failing to exercise due diligence.

    and Catallaxy files has another article today http://catallaxyfiles.com/2011/02/07/paying-the-price-for-policy-irrationality/
    the last para ‘By the same token, the classical liberal case for the necessity of rules (e.g., greater accountability by executive government and the public service for decisions made, tax-and-expenditure limitations and public debt rules to limit the incidence of Keynesian-style fiscal stimuli in future) to restrain passions in the realm of collective action will remain undiminished.’

    I totally agree with that sentiment but which brave Govt will introduce such rules?

    .

  9. val majkus February 8, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Tony thanks for that link and I think you’re right on the money with the last paras:

    ‘Having explained it all like this, you must surely be aware by now that, as has been the case all along, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the environment.

    It’s just about the money.’

    As a commentator said on another blog recently though not in relation to this subject but still applies
    ‘Even Ned Kelly had the decency to wear a mask’

  10. Malcolm Hill February 8, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I am waiting for some one to do an update to Barbara Tuchmans excellent book called “The March of Folly”,wherein she analyses the many cases through out hisory, including Vietnam, where decision makers went ahead with stupid causes/actions, when there was already clear evidence in existence at the time they made the decisons, that to do so would do them, and their citizens great harm.

    I reckon any Govt that follows Garnauts idiot advice, then they and Garnaut will have to be put on the list and go down in history for having caused untold harm to a nation because of their ignorance and incompetence.

    The march of folly indeed….and all emanating from our illustrious university systems where one would have thought that logic, reasoning, and understanding cause and effect would be at the fore front.

  11. val majkus February 8, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I suppose Malcolm there’s another view that in a democratic society ‘people get the government they deserve’ and we did have a fed election last year; I’m not sure where that quote comes from – it’s an old saying and much quoted – some one else may know

  12. Malcolm Hill February 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    I agree with you Val about getting the politicians we deserve …but that doesnt automatically extend to getting the academics we deserve…because we dont deserve to have our investments in them, and their institutions distorted by the self serving ideological game playing now evident.

  13. cohenite February 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Thanks Malcolm; it is becoming more evident every day that the ‘elitists’ pushing AGW and the ‘remedies’ for it are completely out of touch with the average Australian who is still governed by commonsense

  14. val majkus February 8, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    totally agree Malcolm and thank you for raising that interesting malfeasance point today

  15. Malcolm Hill February 9, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Val

    I am not a pedant by any stretch, but I think the Garnaut behaviour would be classed as misfeasance, not malfeasance…. but then again it may be someting else altogether…apart from plain old academic greenoidal rubbish.

  16. val majkus February 9, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Malcolm; so far as I know there is malfeasance (or as you say misfeasance) and non feasance; but don’t think Garnaut has the appropriate duty of care for either; but prepared to be persuaded; good luck with the flood; stay safe

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