Saturday, September 05, 2009


Below is a summary of a climate policy paper from the author, Graham Dawson [], visiting Fellow in the Max Beloff Centre for the Study of Liberty at The University of Buckingham


(See "Economic Affairs", Volume 29, Number 3, September 2009, pp. 57-62)

There are destructive and constructive sides to this paper. The destructive aspect of the paper is the claim that all existing ‘climate policy’ instruments should be swept away. Climate science cannot provide the knowledge that is needed to justify the policy instruments including taxes, subsidies, regulation and emissions trading that are directed towards the mitigation of climate change or, more properly, ‘anthropogenic global warming (AGW)’.

There is no secure foundation in climate science for the current policy rhetoric. The earth’s climate has always been susceptible to change caused by natural factors over which human beings have no control. If global mean surface temperatures are rising as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions from economic activity, economic agents should curtail those emissions. However we do not know that they are. The IPCC’s estimates of global average surface air warming for the next century range from mild temperature increases that would increase world food production to those that would have catastrophic effects on human life. We face radical uncertainty rather than calculable risk.

The constructive aspect of the paper consists in the proposal for an alternative privatised AGW policy, based on an interpretation of climate change as a putative interpersonal conflict rather than market failure. Current policy is based on the neoclassical assumption that AGW is a case of market failure. However, it is not markets that have failed but governments in failing to allocate property rights. The use of fossil fuels, like any other economic activity, should be subject side constraints designed to avoid the infringement of other people’s property rights.

This framework is based on an Austrian approach to environmental economics and a libertarian political philosophy. AGW is a possible example of interpersonal conflict over the use of resources insofar as some individuals use the atmosphere as a carbon sink, changing the climate and thereby making it impossible for other individuals to rely upon an unchanged climate as a resource for growing crops in and even inhabiting particular locations. Economic activity giving rise to CO2 emissions would proceed without hindrance from existing policy instruments but would be subject to side constraints concerning the avoidance of harm to others. It is for the courts to decide, calling on the testimony of expert witnesses, whether CO2 emissions are responsible for such harm by causing dangerous AGW. Tort litigation on the basis of strict liability would protect people against others’ meddling with their climate.

By providing a public arena for the competitive testing of scientific hypotheses concerning climate change, such litigation would also promote the public understanding and even the advancement of climate science. Litigation or the threat of it would persuade firms using carbon-intensive production processes to fund research into climate science, challenging the IPCC’s monopoly and stimulating scientific progress. An Austrian approach could promote advances in climate science that might eventually yield reliable knowledge concerning the putative occurrence of anthropogenic global warming.

Interested readers can obtain a PDF copy from the author at Below is the abstract:

Existing ‘climate change’ policy instruments should be withdrawn. Climate science cannot provide the knowledge that is needed to justify them. Anthropogenic global warming is a putative interpersonal conflict rather than market failure. Where property rights need protecting, tort litigation on the basis of strict liability is appropriate. By providing a public arena for the competitive testing of scientific hypotheses, such litigation would also promote the advancement of climate science.

Global warming is low priority

By Willie Soon and David Legates (Willie Soon is an astrophysicist at Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. David Legates is a climatologist at the University of Delaware)

WHAT DOES the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation think about carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced global warming? “We don’t think about it,” Bill Gates said during last year’s Engineers Without Borders International Conference. On another occasion, he told Newsweek magazine: “The angle I’ll look at most is …What about the 4 billion poorest people? What about energy and environmental issues for them?”

The question, however, is not simply a matter of re-prioritising limited resources. More fundamentally, the scientific case for catastrophic global climate change from increased atmospheric CO2 is substantially flawed.

The Indian government also recognises the need to put real, immediate, life-and-death problems ahead of speculative risks 50-100 years from now---and base the country’s health and prosperity on energy, economic and infrastructure development, full employment, and diseases and poverty eradication. “It is obvious that India needs to substantially increase its per-capita energy consumption to provide a minimally acceptable level of wellbeing to its people,” the Indian government’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAP) declared. Moreover, a stronger economy and increased living standards will reduce the vulnerability of poor families to extreme weather events and climate change, natural or man-made.

Over 400 million Indians remain energy-deprived, impoverished, and reliant on wood, grass and animal dung for heating and cooking. When the sun goes down, their lives shut down. India’s per-capita CO2 emissions are roughly one twentieth of the United States, one-tenth of the EU, Japan and Russia, and a quarter of the world average. Even under rosy economic growth scenarios, India’s future per-capita CO2 emissions will remain far below those in most developed countries.

Without electricity, people must live at subsistence levels. What little they can manufacture must be done by day, by kerosene lamp and by hand. Women and children spend hours every day collecting firewood, squatting in filth to make dung patties, and carrying infected water from distant rivers and lakes. The lack of refrigeration and safe drinking water means millions suffer from severe diarrhoea, and countless thousands die annually. Open heating and cooking fires cause lung infections that kill thousands of infants, children and mothers, year after year. Poverty is rampant, education minimal.

Given these realities, can you explain why certain rich and famous people and media outlets are fixated on “preventing” CO2-induced global warming? Why they obsess over computer-generated scenarios of climate disasters a century from now? Why they blame every weather incident and disease outbreak today on global warming, when the Earth has been cooling for at least five years?

Can you understand why, in the next breath, they oppose the construction of natural gas and coal-fired power plants that could generate enough electricity to reduce the poverty and disease? And then oppose nuclear and hydroelectric facilities, as well?

As to climate science, there are no clear indications that rising CO2 levels are changing the weather in ways or degrees that haven’t been observed in past centuries and cycles. There has been no change in trends for large-scale droughts, floods, or rain, the NAP concluded. The report also noted that average Indian temperatures have increased only 0.4 °C over the past century, while cooling trends can be found in northwestern India and parts of south India. Himalayan glaciers grew to their maximum ice ccumulation about 260 years ago, according to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, and their well-known retreats began as Earth warmed following the 500-year-long Little Ice Age---not because of human CO2 emissions.

Even the computer-generated “threat” of sea level rise does not match reality. Researchers from the National Institute of Oceanography at Goa observed that sea levels in the north Indian Ocean rose an average 1.1 to 1.8 millimetres per year (4.3-7.1 inches per century). That is slightly lower than the 7 inches per century global average---and way below Al Gore’s scary “prediction” of 20 feet by 2100.

On forests and food supplies, India’s carbon dioxide news is equally bullish. The Subcontinent’s “net primary productivity” (plant and crop growth) could soar by nearly 70 percent if temperatures warm a little and atmospheric CO2 concentrations go from today’s 380 ppm (0.0380 percent of the atmosphere) to 575 ppm by 2085, N H Ravindranath and colleagues from the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore have calculated.

R T Gahukar is far less concerned about global warming, than about policies implemented in the name of preventing planetary climate changes. “If food crops are used for bio-energy, the price of foods will be determined by their value as feedstock for bio-fuel, rather than their importance as human food or livestock feed,” he points out. “India is currently providing a strong momentum for bio-fuel production, [which means that] food production may be in jeopardy.”

Ironically, many of the same environmentalists who worry about global warming, and oppose large-scale electricity generation, are also against biotechnology ---which could create more nutritious crops that grow better under hotter, cooler, wetter or drier conditions. That would enable India’s farmers to improve productivity and feed more people, no matter what the climate does. That’s why Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug, father of India’s first “green revolution” in agriculture, is such a strong supporter of biotechnology.

So here is our answer to Bill Gates’ question, “What about India’s poorest people?” India should focus on feeding the poor, improving their health, and enhancing their economic conditions---rather than worrying about hypothetical anthropogenic global warming. Only then will India’s economic and population growth be sustainable. Only then will its people be comfortable, and able to adapt to and weather or climate changes that Mother Nature might send them---just as they do in the West. That would only be fair.

From PRAGATI - THE INDIAN NATIONAL INTEREST REVIEW, September 2009. Pragati is an Indian e-magazine


What fun! It will sure take the shine off Greenie self-righteousness -- JR

Africa's climate change negotiators led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi have threatened to withdraw from the upcoming global climate change talks. The Ethiopian PM said Africa might have to walk out if the December climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, failed to agree with Africa’s minimum position. “If need be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent,” he said.

Mr Zenawi told Africa ministers and European partners gathered in Addis Ababa to consolidate Africa’s expectation and position for the next global climate negotiations. According to Africa's common position paper, the continent wants huge financial support (estimated at US$300 billion) and technology transfer from the West for mitigation and adaptation activities to curb the impact of climate crisis on the continent.

Mr Zenawi, however, hinted that his delegation will not claim compensation but fight for global action to reduce the impact of climate change. “We will never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what level of compensation and assistance is promised to us,” he said. “We will not be there to express its participation by merely warming the chairs or to make perfunctory speeches and statements,” Mr Zenawi said.

The Ethiopian leader was elected by Africa Union to head the continent's delegation for the talks. The delegation includes Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. African Union chief Jean Ping and AU current chairman Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi will also accompany the delegation to Copenhagen.

Key positions

Africa demands that developed countries should commit 0.5 per cent of their GDP for climate action in developing countries and commit to new and innovative sources of public and private sector finance, with the major source of funding coming from the public sector.

Mr Ping said the upcoming negotiation should ensure sustainable financial flow to mitigate and adapt the impacts of climate change.


Benny Peiser takes a more serious view of the above than I do: "I'm afraid the climate hysteria created and perpetuated by Western government officials has opened Pandora's Box. What looked to be a valuable policy tool for green protectionism is now threatening to unleash political chaos and economic misery on its creators and their nations. Climate alarmism has turned into a Frankstein monster that threatens to devour its own designers. I can't see why Africa and other developing nations should be ready to refrain from demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in reparations given that Nicholas Stern and other green campaigners and government officials claim that the West is liable for current and future climate disasters."


The prospects for an international agreement to tackle the causes of climate change are looking slim. They got even slimmer earlier this week, after the leading US senators crafting a climate bill announced that they're pushing back the release of their legislation indefinitely. While Barbara Boxer and John Kerry say the bill "is moving along well" and promise it will be ready for release "later in September", the delay makes the chances of passing it before the looming international negotiations in Copenhagen even less likely.

Without concrete action in the Senate, there will not be an actual deal ready to sign in Copenhagen. With no Senate action, there's no guarantee that the US will commit to binding targets. And with no US targets, there will be no firm agreement from China, India or other emerging powers. Ratification of an international treaty requires the consent of 67 senators – and right now, just getting to 60 just to vote on the climate bill is looking difficult.

With a realistic time frame, this delay means they won't release a bill until the end of September. Boxer, who chairs the Senate's environment and public works committee, has said she plans to hold hearings on the draft text, followed by markup of the full legislation. Her committee is not the only one likely to play a major role in the bill.

The finance committee, chaired by Max Baucus, is expected to author the pollution permit allocation portion of the bill, but is also at the centre of the debate over healthcare reform. They've only held one meeting on climate legislation this year, which Baucus could not attend due to commitments on healthcare. At least four other committees may want to weigh in.

No one expects the Senate to even move to climate until the healthcare issue is resolved – which, realistically, is probably going to drag out until the end of November.

So it's not much of a surprise that Helen Clark, the UN development chief, is now downplaying the likelihood that Copenhagen will be the final step in negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. "Copenhagen has to be viewed as a very important step," said Clark. "Would it be overoptimistic to say that it would be the final one? Of course."

"If there's no deal as such, it won't be a failure," she continued. "I think the conference will be positive but it won't dot every i and cross every t."



The brightest idea to help save the planet from a climate catastrophe? Spraying clouds with drops of seawater to help them reflect the sun’s rays and keep global temperatures in check. That’s the conclusion of the expert panel assembled by the Copenhagen Consensus, the Nobel-heavy brain trust assembled every year by Bjorn Lomborg. The five-member panel, which includes three Nobel laureates, ranked fifteen climate-change remedies, from geoengineering to a carbon tax, in order of how much bang they’d offer for the buck.

That’s why “marine cloud whitening” came out on top, apparently: The idea of spraying ocean clouds with water would cost only $9 billion, yet could potentially, maybe, offer trillions of dollars in benefits by acting like a giant coat of 100+ sunblock. “We’re not saying, let’s go do this tomorrow. We’re saying, let’s spend 10 years and find out if this works,” Mr. Lomborg told us.”It would be immoral not to.”

Of course, geoengineering has its critics—both within the Copenhagen Consensus and without. The British Institute of Mechanical Engineers tsk-tsked this week at the viability of climate engineering. Still, Mr. Lomborg says he got a pleasant reception Thursday when he explained the findings to White House advisers; earlier this year, science adviser John Holdren floated a similar idea.

So what was the second-best idea? A climate policy focused on intensive research and development of low-carbon energy sources—not tinkering with today’s solar panels, but a top-down effort meant to address the “Herculean” magnitude of replacing fossil fuels worldwide in coming decades.

And the three worst choices? Any sort of carbon tax, which would do little to drive clean energy and even less to curb emissions, but which would succeed nicely in derailing the global economy, the experts found. A cap-and-trade proposal, such as that operating in Europe and under consideration in Congress, didn’t even make the list.

Mr. Lomborg, who has long advocated a technology-heavy solution to fighting climate change, figures the findings could goose the global climate talks slated for Copenhagen in December. “If we don’t get a global agreement, we won’t fix climate change,” he says, reluctantly cheerleading for the confab. “But if it’s just another Kyoto, then it’s a wasted ten years,” he says.

Far-out ideas such as climate engineering and more R&D could help break the impasse between the West and the Rest at the climate talks. “They offer a much better chance” of convincing the developing world to play ball, he says: Easier to convince China to spend a few hundred billion to create a whole new industry than to spend hundreds of billions to shackle the economic growth that has transformed the country.


Repeated deceitful sensationalism from Australia's Green Party

The very self-confident but mentally challenged Ms Siewert above

RACHEL Siewert radiated righteous anger last weekend, after flying over the West Atlas oil rig spill in the Timor Sea, and her alarmist comments guaranteed her the kind of media coverage politicians lust after. The West Australian Greens senator said both the Federal Government and the company that owns the rig, PTTEP Australasia, had misled the public by downplaying the extent of the spill. "Literally from horizon to horizon you see the oil on the surface," she told reporters. "I'm extremely worried about the Kimberley coast because this is only 10 nautical miles, which is 20km, from the coast."

Siewert handed out photographs which she said proved her assertions, one of them showing reefs and mangroves on which she said the oil would have a devastating impact. Then she watched with satisfaction as excited journos rushed to file stories.

It was, as it turned out, nonsense. The slick was nowhere near the coast. The nearest oil was actually 148km from the coastline. But when Siewert grudgingly admitted five days later that what she had thought was oil could be algae, there was virtually no media coverage. As a result, many people still believe her original statements were true. All care and no responsibility. Who said it's not easy being Green?

Bob Brown's party is doing well at the moment, picking up support from voters disillusioned by what they see as Labor's failure to deliver on environmental issues. And with Labor not running a candidate, the Greens have high hopes of polling well in the by-election in Bradfield, the Sydney seat being vacated by former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson.

But Siewert's performance on the West Atlas issue raises questions about the Greens' approach. Are they serious, or a group of populist opportunists?

Light crude oil and natural gas began leaking from the rig early on Friday, August 21. According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, it started mobilising resources within 15 minutes of being notified. The first concern, rightly, was getting workers to safety. Then an AMSA Dornier plane mapped the spill. Two small planes equipped for spraying chemical dispersant were despatched to Truscott aerodrome. Arrangements were made for delivery of up to 50 tonnes of dispersant. Also, a specialist C-130 Hercules was chartered from Singapore by the company to spearhead the dispersant-spraying effort. (It reached Darwin the next day, and was in action by Sunday.)

Reasonable efficiency on Day 1, you might think. But Siewert was on the airwaves saying that, instead of dispersant having to be flown from Victoria, resources to combat such spills should be based in Northern Australia. In fact, the dispersant was stored in Darwin in case of just such an emergency.

Then, Siewert and Brown demanded that the government establish an immediate judicial inquiry to establish how the oil rig was being operated and how the early stages of the clean-up were undertaken. Talk about putting the cart before the horse! Clearly, at that stage, the priorities had to be dealing with the spill's effects and plugging the leak, not drawing up terms of reference and appointing judges. Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson says there will be an independent inquiry – after the leak is capped. Sensible.

Siewert's next foray was over the plan to use a mobile rig to drill into the leaking well and plug it with mud. She insisted the Government force PTTEP Australasia to borrow a mobile rig from Woodside rather than bring one from Singapore or Indonesia. The Government, wisely you might think, preferred to follow expert advice that the overseas rig, capable of fixing itself to the ocean floor to provide a more secure platform, was a better option.

If you can get the Woodside rig there even a day or two earlier, that is 3000 barrels of oil per day that they wouldn't be pumping into the environment, the senator argued. That estimate of 3000 barrels of oil a day appears to be another Siewert special. The Government's experts put the amount leaking closer to 400 barrels a day.

And then came Siewert's flight and her headline-grabbing claims. "The slick is at least 90 nautical miles, which is 180km, east-west from the rig," she said. "And it's fair, it's pretty safe, to assume that it's going north and south as well." In contrast, the observations from AMSA's Dornier aircraft on the same day had the spill covering a rectangular area 15 nautical miles by 60 nautical miles. What's more, only 25 per cent of this area was actually affected, mostly by oil streaks and patches of sheen. The heaviest concentration of oil was within three nautical miles of the rig.

No one would deny that the oil spill is a serious matter. Siewert is right to be concerned. She has an obligation, however, to ensure her information is accurate before she charges in. Considered statements would be more impressive than wild assertions.


For those who think that there is no such thing as German humour:

A report from Friedrich Heckmann []

The German humorous terms Ă–lkonstante [The oil constant] and Fusionskonstante [The fusion constant]: Ă–lkonstante refers to the fact that Oil will be finished within the next thirty years from the present "now"- since 1919. Fusionskonstante refers to the fact that abundance of energy from fusion power stations will be available from the present "now" within 30 years - since 1950.


For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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