It’s 31st December 2006, a time for reflection and perhaps also New Year’s resolutions.
This time last year I wrote: “A CNN/TIME survey of Asia-Pacific countries reports that avian flu is expected to be the biggest global issue in 2006, followed by economic slowdown and terrorism. What happened to global warming? Why didn’t it rate a mention in the survey?”
I reckon global warming did emerge as the biggest global issue with Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ galvanized support for the idea that carbon dioxide is the cause of every climate crisis.
I did a series of blog posts on the movie, most of them are listed here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/faq.php?id=15&category=18 .
Along with ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, many environmentalists were consumed lamenting the fate of the world’s polar bears and minke whales (neither species likely to go extinct anytime soon) while a species of freshwater dolphin in the Yangtze did go extinct. As I wrote for the IPA Review in September, the extinction of the baiji has taken place at a time of unprecedented interest and concern for their large relative, the minke whale.
In May 2006, Ross Coulthart from Channel 9’s Sunday Program revealed some of the claims being used to support calls for billions of dollars to be spent on fixing a “looming salinity crisis” in the Murray River are simply not true: “Salinity is a problem. But it seems nowhere as bad as we’ve been told by environmental groups, government departments and many in the media.” Ross Coulthart began to research the issue after reading my monograph written in December 2003: ‘Myth and the Murray: Measuring the Real State of the River Environment’.
Next year I will be part of a new research group at the University of Queensland with funding available for 4 PhD scholarships to undertake evidence-based research into environmental issues with the aim of providing improved information and frameworks for prioritizing environmental need, quantifying the costs and benefits of conservation initiatives, developing agricultural policies and appropriate legal frameworks.
I’ve no resolutions for the New Year. But I am going to wish that the drought would break across southern Australia, that the bans on GM food crops are lifted and that more trees are cut down in Australian forests because trees are a renewable resource that sequest carbon and we shouldn’t be importing timber from south east Asia when we have so much forest in Australia. I will also hope for more controlled burning in state forests and national parks for the koalas. I also hope that more water gets through to the Macquarie Marsh nature reserve and here’s a list of my blog posts over the last year on this issue: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/faq.php?id=14&category=17 .
I also hope that David Hicks is released from prison in Guantanamo Bay, Richard Ness doesn’t go to prison in Indonesia, and that there is justice in the case of the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee in Queensland, Australia.
As regards this blog, I’m going to borrow from a recent post by Jim and endorse the following rules for 2007:
1. Assume good faith from your opponent – until bad faith is demonstrated
2. Address only the argument – it is very possible that a scientist paid by Exxon (or the IPA) might be an honorable, diligent and would never compromise their integrity by advancing a proposition they knew to be false. It is equally possible that well credentialed scientists may exaggerate, cherry-pick, offer up scary scenarios etcetera because of a messianic belief in their mission to save the world from evil. In short, it’s almost impossible to be certain about motivation so speculation is fruitless.
3. Acknowledge the deficiencies in your position – pretending your argument is self evidently correct and beyond doubt when it clearly isn’t is dishonest and arrogant.
And to Jim’s three I’m going to add one from Steven Pinker:
4. Acknowledge that precious and widely held beliefs, when subjected to empirical tests, are often cruelly falsified.
Thanks to everyone who’s contributed to this blog over the last year. Here are two guest blog posts worth re-reading:
A crusading journalist is one who closes one eye in order to see better with the other by Roger Underwood: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/001633.html
Paul Williams explains the pines may be a better proxy for carbon dioxide (CO2) than temperature, so the famous hockey stick graph may not be a ‘temperature hockey stick’, but rather a ‘CO2 Hockey Stick’: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/001546.html.
My best wishes to YOU for 2007.