Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
Menu
February 28th 2011 print

Bob Carter

Shhsshh … don’t talk about the science

A broken election promise of some magnitude and a stupid policy provoked an immediate blizzard of public criticism and resistance. Yet, after almost 4 days of saturation press coverage, not a single mainstream media commentator appears to have discussed the real issue at hand.

Carbon dioxide tax – the People’s Revolt – Part II


Last Wednesday, February 23, Prime Minister Gillard announced, on behalf of her Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change, an in-principle commitment to introduce a carbon dioxide tax in Australia on July 1, 2012.


This despite the irreconcilable breakdown of the Copenhagen and Cancun meetings that were aimed at achieving international agreement on similar action, and despite it now being clear also that cap-and-trade measures are dead for the foreseeable future in the USA.

This representing, first, a broken election promise of some magnitude, and, second, a stupid policy, it is not surprising that the announcement provoked an immediate blizzard of public criticism and resistance. Yet as I write, and after almost 4 days of saturation press coverage, not a single mainstream media commentator appears to have discussed the real issue at hand.

That issue is, of course, supposedly dangerous global warming caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. And note the two adjectives “supposedly” and “dangerous”, for both are critically important to the debate that we are failing to have.

Instead of analysing the global warming issue – about which, more below – press commentary continues to endlessly recycle tired, stale, sanctimonious and entirely misleading clichés about carbon pollution, climate change and energy efficiency. Everyone, it seems, has a strong opinion, yet almost none of these opinions are grounded in the empirical science facts that society used to view as the essential basis for good public policy decisions.

So what about the famous global warming which occurred in the late 20th century, whatever happened to that? Well, not only did the gentle warming terminate in 1998, but in accord with natural climate cycling that warming has been followed by a gentle cooling since about 2001. That’s ten years of no temperature increase, let alone dangerous increase, over the same time period that atmospheric carbon dioxide increased by about 5%.

Run that past me again, Professors Garnaut and Flannery – your advice to government still remains that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming?

Do you understand the meaning of the phrases “empirical science” and “hypothesis testing”?

Do you understand that the correct null hypothesis is that gentle warmings, such as that which occurred between 1979 and 1998, and equivalent coolings, are to be viewed as due to natural causes unless and until evidence indicates otherwise. Gentlemen, where is that evidence, and why is it not presented in the voluminous reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that you and the government so often refer to?

Despite this lack of evidence for dangerous, or potentially dangerous, warming, and despite the lack of efficacy of cutting carbon dioxide emissions as a means of preventing the trivial warming that is likely to occur (cutting all of Australia’s emissions would theoretically prevent, perhaps, around one-thousandth of a degree of warming), the political course in Canberra is now set on carbon tax autopilot, and the plane is flying squarely into the eye of a storm that is labelled “let’s spin a regressive new tax as a virtuous environmental measure”.

For instance, the Prime Minister says:

I also want to be very clear with Australians about what pricing carbon does. It has price impacts. It’s meant to. That’s the whole point.

No, Prime Minister, that is not the point at all. The point is supposed to be attaining a meaningful reduction in future warming, which a carbon dioxide taxation policy will not achieve – even were it to successfully close down the entire industrial economy of Australia

Climate Minister Mr Combet believes that reducing “carbon pollution” to “drive investment in clean energy …. is fundamentally what a carbon price is about”.

No, Greg, the matter has nothing to do with either carbon or pollution, for the alleged dangerous warming is supposed to be produced by the atmospheric trace gas carbon dioxide. To call carbon dioxide a pollutant is an abuse of logic, language and science, given its pivotal role in the photosynthetic processes that underpin most of our planetary ecosystems. In essence, carbon dioxide is the very staff of life, and increasing it in the atmosphere helps most plants to grow better and to use water more efficiently.

And, so far as energy efficiency is concerned, the market itself will drive any needed changes in future energy supply, as hydrocarbon resources run down, without your wasting more billions of dollars of taxpayers funds in picking white elephant “winners”. If you want to encourage alternative energy then by all means subsidize the introduction of clean, green nuclear power in Australia rather than frittering away scarce public resources on uneconomic eco-bling like windmills and solar farms.

Minister Combet is also prone to saying: “We are committed to tackling climate change”. No, Minister, you are not. Instead, you are playing with ghosts in trying to “stop” a chimerical dangerous global warming, and that for entirely political reasons. Meanwhile, you are offering nothing by way of policy initiatives to deal with the actual and very real hazards that are associated with NATURAL climate events and change in Australia.

Relating to the El Nino-La Nina weather cycle, no part of Australia has escaped climatic hazard in the last two years. Events like the Victorian bushfires, the Queensland floods and landfalling tropical cyclones in northern Australia are of concern to every citizen, indeed some have been killed by these events and many others have sustained crippling personal or business costs.

Despite which, Mr Combet and PM Gillard and their expert climate advisers appear to have no interest in dealing with these only-too-real natural climate problems in a commonsense and cost-effective way, which is by preparing better for them in advance, and adapting better to them as and when they occur. Instead they are busy constructing a tornado of political spin about imaginary global warming.

Dragging another skeletal warhorse out of the cupboard, Mr Combet makes the highly original assertion that “Business needs the certainty of a carbon (sic) price”. Yes, it most certainly does, Minister, and as Terry McCrann has endlessly pointed out, that certainty should be a price for carbon dioxide emissions of zero dollars per tonne. Then the power utility companies can get on with planning the mix of new coal, gas and nuclear power stations that are now urgently needed to secure Australia’s future.

Never has an important national policy issue been so surrounded with public dishonesty and deliberate ambiguity of language as is the issue of dangerous, human-caused global warming.

Choreographed over the years by green lobby groups, politicians and commentators alike now participate like puppets-on-strings in an entirely faux public gigue involving words or phrases like “carbon” (when they mean carbon dioxide), “pollution” (when they are referring to an environmentally beneficial trace gas), “settled science” (when the science is hotly contested, and the onus of proof of danger still rests, unattained, with the climate alarmists of a discredited IPCC), “climate change” (when they mean dangerous global warming), “energy efficiency” (in the same breath that they rule out the environmentally friendly baseload energy source represented by nuclear power) and “international good citizen” (at a time when international action on climate policy has never been less certain).

It is therefore entirely unsurprising that there has been a swing in public opinion against alarmism on global warming, though nervous Labor politicians are doubtless already sucking in deep breaths of surprise at the apparent strength of the swing. One recent online poll, in The Age of all places, received an 89% NO answer to the question “Would you support a climate tax?”; and another, in the Herald-Sun and with more than 30,000 respondents, received an 85% NO to the question “Do you support a price on carbon (sic)?”.

Plans are already being made for a series of public protest rallies in metropolitan centres on March 23rd, and other organized protests and resistance are inevitable. Any reader who wishes to help fight the introduction of Prime Minister Gillard’s new carbon dioxide tax is invited to send an email expressing such interest to [email protected]. An online petition has also been organised and can be viewed here…

As I wrote in Part I of this article last Thursday, the government’s intention to introduce a carbon dioxide tax represents “a ridiculous attempt to compulsorily reduce the living standards of all Australians, with especial impact on the poorer ones”.

In the interest of good governance and sound environmental stewardship, I urge readers to reject this costly, inefficient, ineffectual, inequitable and unnecessary tax.


Professor Bob Carter is a geologist, environmental scientist and Emeritus Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. The views expressed in this article are, however, entirely his own.