Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Australia's doggedly Warmist government has done what it said it never would: Postponed its planned attack on industry. Since the Australian government Warmists had always portrayed their schemes as urgent, that does rather tend to puncture the whole bubble. The decision has promoted a lot of comment both in Australia and abroad. It would be amusing if the Australian decision proves to be the catalyst that causes the whole nonsense to fall apart worldwide. Five current articles below

Rudd's backdown from Warmism needs to be more open

DESPITE the Government announcing it has backed away from early action to reduce carbon emissions, the Prime Minister's website continues to say, "The cost of inaction on climate change will be much greater than the cost of taking action now."

Like others working for Kevin Rudd, his website managers can't keep up with his policy changes. Costs of "inaction on climate change" have just assumed a new meaning. At the very least the PM, in postponing the carbon trading tax, is acknowledging that immediate measures to reduce emissions would be costlier than doing nothing.

But his proposed watering down of the already diluted proposals has all the hallmarks of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.

Ross Garnaut, Rudd's hand-picked consultant on global warming policy, had already said that the white paper was irresponsible in proposing a free supply of emissions to electricity producers and energy intensive firms. Now Rudd plans to increase that supply further.

Garnaut, Rudd and Penny Wong all talked about failure of a meaningful international agreement on emission reduction at Copenhagen later this year as being unlikely. Now that such failure is a certainty, the costs of Australian action to the economy are becoming clearer even to mystics who see only evil in production. Hence the PM's humiliating backdown. But, never one to acknowledge his own misjudgments, Rudd is spinning this as a means to buying the Opposition's support and as some sort of hiatus to remain in place only while the global economic crisis runs its course.

Doubtless Rudd's postponement of the planned new carbon tax is a prelude to an attempt to replace it with a tax on households to help defray some of the costs of his reckless cash giveaways.

What is increasingly clear is that there will not be a carbon emissions trading scheme.

Australia has an energy-intensive industry structure, a coal-based electricity generation industry and coal and gas as our export mainstays.

Capitalising on our natural advantages in fossil fuel energy has required forging supportive institutional structures, a process that has taken many decades. Our carefully developed political and administrative framework has allowed the creation of an energy supply industry that is the backbone of our present living standards. To become one of the world's lowest cost energy suppliers has entailed marrying our resource endowment with entrepreneurial and workforce skills. All this would have been jettisoned by a tax squarely aimed at destroying that productive efficiency fostered by low-cost energy.

Strongly performing industries will be at a premium in a world economy that's likely to be facing sluggish conditions for many more years. Even the most complacent optimists can no longer take as given the income derived from our present industry structure. Compounding the effects of the global economic meltdown's external assault on living standards with some purpose-made domestic measures is now revealed as a sledgehammer blow to the welfare of all Australians.

Formally announcing a total abandonment of the carbon trading scheme must be the next step. Such action is necessary, and the sooner the better as the prospect of the proposed tax hangs like a sword of Damocles over any prospective investment decisions involving energy. Australia can never afford to carry such baggage and the global financial crisis merely brings this home.

Inadvertently, the PM's website remains spot-on in saying, "There is no greater challenge now facing our world and our nation than dangerous climate change." The challenge is to his Government's credibility at having commissioned endless reports, undermined the integrity of Treasury forecasting and created a monster department of hundreds of globe-trotting drones to promote phantom opportunities that a carbon tax would offer Australia. The "dangerous climate change" is the shift in the climate of business opinion and community opinion more generally, as the reality of a crippling new energy tax looms.



Australia needs to declare its commitment to cut carbon emissions before the Copenhagen summit in December or risk weakening the outcome of global climate talks, the head of the U.N. climate panel said Monday.

Australia announced a one-year delay an major changes to its carbon trading plans Monday, citing the global economic recession for the need to delay the start date until July 2011 but the country may raise its target for cutting emissions.

"If you have even one or two developed countries not showing adequate commitment in this business, that would rub off on the others," R.K. Pachauri chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I think what's going to be critically important is that what it is going to do is announced before Copenhagen," he added.

Pachauri, who is also the head of The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, said Australia needed to send a robust message to the world. "Otherwise you're not going to get a strong agreement in Copenhagen. If major developed countries are not going to make commitments before Copenhagen, then you're not going to get a strong decision," he said.



New Zealand Emissions Trade Scheme (ETS) may face further delays as Australia puts off the start date of its related legislation. Prime Minister John Key told reporters it made sense for the New Zealand and Australian schemes to be aligned.

Australia announced a one-year delay until July 2011 and major changes to its carbon trading plans yesterday. Lacking the political backing to implement a cap-and-trade scheme more quickly, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he still aimed to push laws through parliament this year.

Mr Key said Australia had not informed him of the decision to delay.

New Zealand's ETS was designed by the previous government and passed just before the election. The National Government put it on hold and is reviewing it through a special select committee.

"I wouldn't say (a delay is) inevitable," Mr Key said. "But I have made it clear that I think it makes a lot of sense for New Zealand to be as closely aligned to Australia as is practically possible, simply because we are trying to bring the two markets together through a single economic market and CER, and to be driving them apart because of differences in climate change policy doesn't make a lot of sense to me."



You know the drill: The new leader embraces Kyoto, announces plans for a big climate-change bill, and then gets sideswiped by the global economic train wreck. So, now that Australia is backing away from its promises to tackle climate change, what lessons are there for the U.S.?

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who swept into office by renouncing the Iraq war, signing the Kyoto Protocol, and promising a “green revolution” for the country, just pushed back the start of the country’s cap-and-trade program a full year so that businesses have a chance to recover from the economic meltdown. (More from his press conference here.)

Not coincidentally, the new start date—July 2011—comes after the next national election. The new blueprint also offers vulnerable industries even more carrots. To mollify greens, the prime minister said Australia’s emissions-reduction targets would be a lot more ambitious—but only if the rest of the world miraculously agrees on a tough successor to the Kyoto Protocol this December.

The parallels with the U.S. are striking. Both countries rely heavily on coal and have lots of industries that could get hammered by a climate bill. Both Mr. Rudd and President Obama have struggled to secure opposition support for their climate plans. And both are pledged to restoring economic growth and job creation.

Australia’s tactical retreat seems to hold three lessons for the U.S. First, the economic crisis is indeed derailing action on climate change, much as that pains folks that see crises as a terrible thing to waste.

Second, getting broad political support for a climate bill that would raise energy prices and which will act as a brake on economic growth is a tough sell everywhere—even in countries, like Australia, already visibly ravaged by the effects of climate change. [What??? I know of nothing ravaged in Australia. If he is referring to our recurrent droughts, he may be interested to hear that several of the dams in the State I live in have been overflowing this year]

Third, the minimum price for securing political support seems to be offering even more carrots to industries threatened by climate-change legislation. Australia’s new plan increases the amount of free emissions permits for some industries, and offers knock-down prices on permits for the first year. Almost identical wrangling is now taking place in Washington, with a host of industries clamoring for free emissions permits.

That may or may not win political support; Australia’s version of the Republican party still isn’t sold on the plan. But one thing seems certain: further cushioning the very industries most responsible for the country’s emissions amounts to a very watery brew indeed.


Science has become subservient to political expediency

THE notion that human activity has an alarming influence on climate is based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and spurious claims about a scientific consensus. Independent scientists who question these claims are accused of being in the pay of the energy industry and of believing that the notion of man-made climate change is a conspiracy.

To the best of my knowledge, no climate conspiracy has ever existed. But another force has driven science into its present parlous state where the output of computer software is held in higher regard than observational data, where marketing spin is more important than fact and evidence, and where a trenchant defence of the notion of man-made global warming is seen as paramount.

The single, pre-eminent force driving this distortion of science originates in the once-august UN. The UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change set the tone by linking climatic variations to the air and water pollution issues that it was quite reasonably addressing at the time. It ignored recognised natural climate forces and declared that recent variations in climate were attributable to human activity. Although the IPCC, which was set up by the UNFCCC to investigate the matter, backed away from the assertion that all modern climate change is man made, it nonetheless operates under a charter that considers only the risks of "human-induced" climate change.

Raising these matters under the UN banner was a political masterstroke because it drew national governments into the process. UN bodies have a reputation for political allegiances rather than peer-group pressure but the result is much the same, and even more so when government appointees, often fervent believers in the cause, speak passionately and seem backed by UNauthority.

No individual or government had the temerity to stand up to the UNFCCC or IPCC and say, "we don't agree". Some stridently endorsed the claims, and many interpreted the statement, "we don't know what else might be causing climate change, so it must be human activity" as proof positive rather than admission of incomplete knowledge.

The IPCC has now delivered four scientific assessment reports, each accompanied by an increasingly urgent call to action regarding climate change driven by greenhouse gases. National governments, which are signatories to the UNFCCC, have almost without exception bought into the alarm, modulating it only to accord better with their own political philosophies. This, combined with the allocation research funding according to policy relevance, means governments now attempt to predetermine the findings of scientific research.

For many years climate researchers have understood that their proposals will only be funded if they are pitched in line with government policy. Even worse, unless some aspect of their results appears to perpetuate government thinking, renewal of their funding is unlikely. Other climatologists are acutely aware of the potential consequences for their employers and their own employment prospects should they speak out in criticism of the dominant alarmist paradigm. Scientists who have criticised the hypothesis of human-caused climate change have had their funding curtailed or employment terminated.

Climate modellers have been very aware that their expensive and powerful computing facilities would be supported only if their research produced alarmist climate predictions. This notwithstanding, these models often produced results that were not in good agreement with historical data, perhaps because they poorly replicated or even omitted variations in climate.

These deficiencies and more have been papered over by reviving outdated and inaccurate research about the warming effect of carbon dioxide. The numbers still didn't add up but the inclusion of some "positive feedbacks" masked the problem, and the models were declared "proof" of a significant human influence on climate.

The peer-review process was originally a sanity check for the editors of scientific journals but has always been open to abuse by reviewers who wish to support or suppress a particular line of argument. The recent narrow focus of climate research funding has caused an outburst of scientific papers that support the IPCC's alarmist beliefs and relatively few papers that contradict it. Reviewers with vested interests suppress contradictory papers and support the "official" line.

Vested interests now dominate climate science. Whether climatologists, their employers and other people believe the government-approved line has become irrelevant, because they all wish to retain an income stream and whatever reputations they've established. These people advise governments, which subsequently set policy and research funding regardless of any contradiction with observational data.

Climate science is no longer an impartial truth but a slave to the yoke of politics and opportunism. If this continues, society will be the inevitable loser.


Britain's global warming law 'could cost £20,000 per family'

British and Australian politics often move in parallel so these big costs could inspire the British government to do a bit of delaying too

Laws aimed at tackling global warming could cost every family in Britain a staggering £20,000 - double the original forecast. Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband admitted the bill for introducing legislation to cut greenhouse gases had soared from £205billion to £404billion between now and 2050. But in figures quietly released to Parliament, the Cabinet minister claimed the benefits to the UK would be more than £1trillion - a tenfold increase on the £110billion predicted last year.

Last night Mr Miliband was accused of entering 'Alice in Wonderland territory' with the figures in an attempt to stifle concern about the price of bringing in the Climate Change Act. Senior Tory MP Peter Lilley said Mr Miliband 'heavily massaged' the statistics to 'remove embarrassment' that the laws represented poor value for money.

But ministers insist the costs of not acting on climate change would be higher than the price of acting now.

Under the Climate Change Act, the Government is committed to cut carbon emissions, blamed for global warming, by 80 per cent before 2050. Originally the Government wanted to cut emissions by 60 per cent, with maximum costs of £205billion and benefits of £110billion. But the figure rose to 80 per cent after a threatened backbench revolt last year.

The extra cost was only revealed after the Bill became law in November. Four months later Mr Miliband slipped out revised figures in the House of Commons Library to avoid scrutiny, say critics.

They show the cost, which the Government says represents the predicted difference between the economy with and without carbon-constraining measures, had soared to a worst-case scenario of £404billion - in the region of £20,000.

Mr Lilley, a former Trade Secretary, said he accepted a reduction in global warming would cost a lot. But in a letter to Mr Miliband he said: 'When it comes to your revised estimates of the benefits we enter Alice in Wonderland territory.'

Mr Miliband said the benefits had risen because a global deal on tackling carbon emissions was more likely because Britain had passed the Climate Change Act. He denied the figures were framed to produce a convenient answer.



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