An inconvenient fallacy
Source: The Age.com
by Dr. Bob Carter
Well, you have to admit that they’ve tried hard. Labor, that is. In April 2007 Kevin Rudd, before his election as prime minister, appointed distinguished social scientist Ross Garnaut to advise the party on global warming. A strange decision, that: ”Here’s a scientific problem so let’s appoint an economist to give us policy advice.”
Roll forward 18 months to September 2008 and the publication of the first Garnaut report, in which we find much esoteric economic advice on how to deal with an assumed global warming problem for which no independent scientific evidence was provided. Instead, Garnaut relied then, and still relies now, upon the alarmist and politicised ”science” provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Unfortunately, the panel’s reputation as a source of credible, impartial science advice was badly damaged by the leaked ”Climate-gate” emails in November 2009, and has since continued to decline as evidence mounts for the controlling influence of environmental lobby groups on its activities.
Pass on again to February this year, past the final defeat of the emissions trading bill in the Senate in July 2009, the collapse of the Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009 and the rise of Julia Gillard to the prime ministership in June 2010. On February 10, Tim Flannery was appointed Climate Commissioner – presumably to provide a more friendly public face to the government’s anti-global warming campaign. Unfortunately, Flannery’s Gaia-esque style and his numerous failed climate prognostications undermine the credibility of the commission.
Now, just last week, we discover that the new Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, believes too that ”scientific consensus . . . provides the best guidance we have for decisions that are informed and rational”, and that ”the science is in on climate change”.
Wrong on both counts. Where a scientific issue is involved, the best way to approach the formulation of public policy is not to base it on a contrived consensus of self-interested parties, nor to ”ask the UN”, but to pay attention to the facts and keep an open mind.
Since 2007, then, the government’s chosen climate communicators have failed to confront the real climate change issue (which is natural climate hazard). Second, and as opinion polls clearly show, they have failed to convince the public that a global warming crisis exists, or that a carbon dioxide tax will have any beneficial influence on future climate. Labor’s woe-is-me moment has clearly arrived.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet announced the government’s solution on June 16. It is to spend $12 million on ”informing” the electorate about the need for a carbon dioxide tax.
It is certainly true that voters need to understand better the most important facts relevant to allegedly dangerous, human-related global warming. So let us list the five most salient facts the minister might try to communicate in his advertisements.
Fact 1. A mild warming of about 0.5 degrees Celsius (well within previous natural temperature variations) occurred between 1979 and 1998, and has been followed by slight global cooling over the past 10 years. Ergo, dangerous global warming is not occurring.
Fact 2. Between 2001 and 2010 global average temperature decreased by 0.05 degrees, over the same time that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased by 5 per cent. Ergo, carbon dioxide emissions are not driving dangerous warming.
Fact 3. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is beneficial. In increasing quantity it causes mild though diminishing warming (useful at a time of a quiet sun and likely near-future planetary cooling) and acts as a valuable plant fertiliser. Extra carbon dioxide helps to shrink the Sahara Desert, green the planet and feed the world. Ergo, carbon dioxide is neither a pollutant nor dangerous, but an environmental benefit.
Fact 4. Closing down the whole Australian industrial economy might result in the prevention of about 0.02 degrees of warming. Reducing emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 (the government’s target) will avert an even smaller warming of about 0.002 degrees. Ergo, cutting Australian emissions will make no measurable difference to global climate.
Fact 5. For an assumed tax rate of $25 a tonne of carbon dioxide, the costs passed down to an average family of four will exceed $2000 a year.
So the cost-benefit equation is this: ”Your family pays more than $2000 a year in extra tax in return for a possible cooling of the globe by two one-thousandths of a degree.”
Remember, too, that Garnaut’s recommendation is that the tax rate should be increased at 4 per cent a year, which would result in a cost doubling in less than 20 years.
In the light of these facts, little wonder the government’s four horsemen of the climate apocalypse have been unable to convince the public of the desirability of carbon dioxide taxation. Labor has indeed tried hard and valiantly, but it is time to admit failure and to adopt an alternative policy.
Voters now recognise that in the absence of an international agreement no action that Australia takes can ”stop global warming”. But natural climate hazard in Australia is so dangerous that nonetheless a need remains for a politically feasible, environmentally sensible and cost-effective climate policy. That policy should be to prepare for and adapt to all climatic hazards, as and when they occur and whatever their cause.
In the meantime, watch out for those ads that Minister Combet is going to run towards this end. After all, you’re paying for them.
Professor Bob Carter is a geologist and the author of Climate: The Counter Consensus.