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February 06th 2012 print

Bob Carter

Climate Review: I

In a major three part series Professor Bob Carter covers the most important events which influenced the climate debate in 2011. Quadrant Online publishes the first part today and the remaining two parts will be published during the coming week.


In a major three part series Professor Bob Carter covers the most important events which influenced the climate debate in 2011. 


2011, and the Unlucky Country finally gets a carbon dioxide tax

Australian voters entered 2011 with the pre-election commitment of Prime Minister Julia Gillard still sounding in their ears –

There will be no carbon [dioxide] tax under a government that I lead.

Nonetheless, cognitive dissonance had already arrived on the Canberra political scene, in the shape of the Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change (MPCCC) that was established in late 2010 in order to plan for the introduction of just such a tax.

Thereafter, the political year yielded a spectacular display of chicanery, scientific malfeasance, media bias and economic and social irresponsibility, all underpinned by a confusion of both purpose and morality and accompanied by an uncertainty of outcomes: and that’s just the global warming picture.

It is fitting, therefore, that the year should have ended shortly after the closure of the IPCC’s COP-17 climate conference in Durban, the outcome of which was a politically wonderful Clayton’s agreement regarding global warming – which is to say, it was the type of agreement that you have when there is in fact no agreement. As one commentator put it, the Durban partner nations’ statement appears to have agreed to an agreement to agree in future to an undefined agreement. Science magazine Nature commented that “Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the platform represents an exercise in legalese that does little or nothing to reduce emissions, and defers action for almost a decade”.

In reality, however, it is difficult to be sure exactly what was decided in Durban, for as of January 22 the relevant outcome document posted on the website of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change was still marked “Advance unedited version, Draft decision CP.17”.

What happened between the formation of the MPCCC and the closure of the COP 17 meeting is the topic of the accompanying review, which summarises some of the major scientific and political events that occurred during the year leading up to the UN’s gestural masterpiece at Durban.

This preliminary article summarises the more general implications and lessons that are apparent from the review itself.

The way that science works

Climate change is self-evidently a natural process. Warmings, coolings, cyclones, floods, droughts and bushfires have been coming and going since long before human industrial processes started adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere; and, indeed, since before there were humans at all.

The appropriate question is therefore not whether climate change is “real”, but the more specific one of whether human-related greenhouse emissions are causing dangerous global warming.

Scientists assess such speculative ideas against a norm called the null hypothesis, which, following long historical practice, is fashioned to be the simplest interpretation of any given set of material facts.

The null hypothesis for today’s observed climate changes is therefore that they are of natural causation, unless and until specific evidence accrues otherwise.

Contrary to prevailing political belief, and to the alarmist messages that come from the UN’s discredited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), much amplified by environmental organisations and a compliant media, scientists have searched for this accrual in vain.

Instead, tens of thousands of scientific papers published in reputable journals delineate changes in climate and the environment, and ecological responses, that are entirely consistent with the null hypothesis of natural causation. In contrast, not a single paper exists that demonstrates an evidential cause-effect link between change in an environmental variable (be that more or less storms, floods, droughts, cyclones, honeyeaters or even polar bears) and warming caused by human-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Given the astonishing amounts of money that are now poured into climate change research, it is no surprise that 2011 saw the publication of several thousand more scientific papers that contain data relevant to this problem. But it may perhaps be to some readers’ surprise that these papers simply added yet more evidence in favour of the validity of the null hypothesis.

2011 in review: the two universes of climate change

The 33 selected discoveries and events discussed in the main review  represent but a small part of the recent evidence that challenges the belief that dangerous global warming is being caused by human-related carbon dioxide emissions. Contradictions of nearly every shibboleth of the AGW faith are present on the list, and every argument that has been advanced in favour of the speculative dangerous warming hypothesis is now feeling the breeze of contradictory fact. Many additional articles that contradict the prevailing wisdom can be found in the more comprehensive reviews of the Non-governmental International Committee on Climate Change (NIPCC).

The 2011 climate year, then, as judged from both media coverage and new scientific literature, has confirmed the existence of two entirely parallel universes of climate thought.

In the first universe, independent scientific and public opinion are moving inexorably towards the rejection of climate alarmism and the costly measures that are perpetrated in its cause. An important manifestation of this opinion was the recent publication of a reasoned statement of disagreement with warming alarmism in the Wall Street Journal, signed by 16 independent scientists. Their conclusion is that global warming is not a serious problem, and that even if it were the solutions being offered wouldn’t fix it anyway.

In contrast, the IPCC and its supporters, who include the Australian government as one of the most faithful acolytes, continue to project unrelenting alarmism. Towards which end they encourage the implementation of expensive, unnecessary and ineffectual measures that they claim will mitigate dangerous warming, such as carbon dioxide taxation and the massive subsidisation of feel good eco-bling like solar farms and windfarms.

Yet the IPCC is a discredited organisation that remains under heavy attack, and its forthcoming 5th Assessment Report is facing a barrage of fundamental criticism even before its publication. For the distinguished Dutch chemical engineer and philosopher of science, Professor Arthur Rörsch, has issued a critique of the draft version of this report, entitled “Post-modern science and the scientific legitimacy of the IPCC’s WGI AR5 draft report”. Noting that the IPCC is a political organization that applies post-modern “logic” to the science that it summarizes, Rörsch calls for thorough independent investigations to be instituted into climate change policy in Europe, thereby mirroring conclusions drawn, and similar calls made, by independent scientists in Australia, Canada and other countries over the last five years.

The political costs of irrational climate policy

The huge social, environmental, economic and (so far limited, but increasing) political costs of pursuing irrational climate policies have to date simply been swatted aside, both in Australia and overseas.

But now that major discrepancies have emerged between genuine scientific knowledge and IPCC advice, sensible policy reappraisals are occurring in many countries. In these circumstances, the compulsive Australian self-harm of continuing to demonize carbon dioxide emissions has become politically enigmatic – not to mention the ultimate ironic twist that the emissions are actually environmentally beneficial, and additionally so at a time of likely global cooling.

When the accumulating new research knowledge, and the reassurance that it provides, are compared with the statements and actions of the Australian government during 2011, an enormous disconnect becomes apparent. And when measure is taken also of the present state of Australian public opinion, and of the rapidly shifting, worldwide political movement away from climate alarmism, and away from punitive measures against carbon dioxide, that disconnect morphs into full blown cognitive dissonance. 

In which state of mind, the Labor-Independent-Green government in Australia last year passed what must be the worst legislative package ever approved by a federal parliament. “Worst” because it marks a direct attack on the cheap power prices that formerly underpinned the Australian economy, thereby being a direct attack also on the living standards of all citizens – and especially the less well-off.

Those with the most to lose include not only individual citizens, but also the very lobby groups that have so assiduously fomented the dangerous warming scare.

Including, in particular, environmentalists (because anti-carbon dioxide measures, and the destruction of wealth and landscape desecration that go with them, harm the environment), scientists (because piping a called tune is the very antithesis of science), business interests (because shareholder value is never going to be enhanced by encouraging large and irrational increases in the cost of power) and politicians (because their atavistic need to be elected will not be facilitated by sharply attacking the living standards of their constituency).

The way forward will be determined by an election

The Australian government and its climate-alarmist supporters are now trapped deep inside a blind alley with walls that are labelled “scientific consensus” and “public consensus”. These have always been political siren calls, but the first is a nonsense by definition, and, in that fickle fashion that public opinion often exhibits, the public consensus dramatically reversed its direction during 2009-2010, partly because of the Climategate affair and the attendant loss of IPCC’s virginity.

Former British PM Margaret Thatcher well understood that it is the nature of consensus policy-making to spawn legislative stupidities such as Australia’s carbon dioxide legislation. As she said so well:

Consensus is the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot [otherwise] get agreement on the way ahead.

Well, people did object but a carbon dioxide tax has still become law, and as they pass from 2011 into 2012 Australian voters are probably less interested in pondering causes, consensual or otherwise, and more interested in action towards rectifying what they see as an economically damaging, expensive, regressive, ineffectual and unnecessary new tax.

They are therefore likely to be contemplating closely the carefully chosen words of Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott:

We have a Prime Minister who is the great betrayer of the Australian people. She was absolutely crystal-clear before the last election – ‘There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead’.

We [the Coalition] can repeal the tax, we will repeal the tax, we must repeal the tax. I am giving you the most definite commitment any politician can give that this tax will go. This is a pledge in blood. This tax will go.

Barring unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances, and terminally bored though we all are with the debate already, the next Australian federal election will therefore be won or lost on the global warming/carbon dioxide tax issue.

By pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, and scheduling formal Senate hearings on global warming from independent scientists, as they did in December, Canada has blazed a new trail.

The question is whether Australia’s Coalition partners will now muster the courage to honour Mr Abbott’s pledge, and to administer the bureaucratic restructuring and legislative repeal that is needed to restore sanity to our national climate policy.

Professor Bob Carter, James Cook University, is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs, scientific advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition and co-lead editor of the 2011 Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change Interim Report.

See also:

Climate Review: essential links is here...

Climate Review: II is here…

Climate Review: III is here…

REFERENCES


Carter, R.M., 2010. Climate: the Counter Consensus. Stacey International, London, 315 pp.

Idso, C.D., Singer, S.F. & Carter, R.M. 2011. Climate Change Reconsidered: Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, Interim Report 2011. Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (Tempe, Arizona) & Heartland Institute (Chicago).

Rörsch, A., 2012. Post-modern science and the scientific legitimacy of the IPCC’s WGI AR5 draft report.