Concluding Professor Bob Carter’s coverage of the most important events which influenced the climate debate in 2011.
JULY, AND THE YEAR IS HALF-GONE ALREADY
Professor Hannah John Hannah and his co-researchers, analysing anew data from numerous tidal gauges around New Zealand, find no evidence for high or accelerating rates of sea-level rise. “Sea-level rise around New Zealand over the next 90 years may not be as dramatic as some predict”, said Hannah, a former Dean of the University of Otago Surveying School.
The new research finds that sea levels may rise by 0.5m to 0.8m by 2100, with the rise fairly consistent around the country. This contrasts with a Dunedin City Council report produced by Emeritus Professor of Geography Blair Fitzharris last year. Fitzharris predicted an upper sea level rise limit of 1.6m for Dunedin by 2090 – enough to inundate large parts of the harbourside city, coastal settlements and even the airport.
Meanwhile, the alarmist NASA computer modeller, Dr James Hansen, told an audience of 1000 in Dunedin in May that he predicts sea-level rises of 5m globally by 2100, with 4m of that rise occurring between 2080 and 2100.
Hannah will have none of this alarmism, which is based solely upon speculative computer models, saying instead:
Temperatures will rise and sea levels will rise, we know that. It looks like New Zealand temperatures will revert back to where they were 3000-4000 years ago during the mid-Holocene period. The evidence was that sea levels at that time were about 0.5m-0.8m higher than they were now.
Senior NASA scientist Dr Roy Spencer, a lead investigator for measurements of atmospheric temperature from satellite microwave sensing units, reported in a new paper in Remote Sensing the presence of ‘a huge discrepancy’ between the real levels of atmospheric heating as measured by satellite instrumentation and the warming forecasts by the IPCC and other groups.
The satellite readings for the period between 2000 and 2011 show far smaller temperature rises than six major climate models that are used by governments and corporations to predict future changes to climate, suggesting that Earth releases much more heat into space than previously thought. The discrepancy is particularly large over the oceans, and may be related to changes in cloudiness.
Though Spencer concedes that the precise cause of the limited heating observed remains unknown, his results demonstrate yet again the unreliability of deterministic climate modelling.
Meanwhile, back in Australia
The Director of ANU’s Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, Dr Sue Stocklmayer, said (July 9) that she was not a climate-change sceptic, but was nonetheless worried that "too much time was spent presenting scary scenarios, especially to young people”. Global warming is being portrayed as a "Doomsday scenario with no way out. [Children] feel incredibly despondent and helpless in the face of all this negative information. To put all of this before our children … is one of the most appalling things we can do to [them]”.
School children are being terrified by lessons claiming that climate change will bring "death, injury and destruction" and “devastating disasters” to the world unless they take action to prevent it. Such "Doomsday scenarios" are being taught in primary school classrooms across Australia, championed by the federal Department of Climate Change on behalf of the Gillard government. Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg called on educators to be "more circumspect and present both sides” of the climate-change debate, saying that “when you repeat things over and over to young people who don’t have the cognitive maturity and emotional maturity to process this stuff, you end up creating unnecessary anxiety."
Federal Minister for Schools, Peter Garrett, said the government had no intention of stopping the teaching of climate science in schools.
The details of the Government’s carbon dioxide tax were released to the public on July 11th, specifying an initial rate of $23/tonne of emissions. Millions of businesses struggled to find out how they would be affected in detail, with many warning that they will pass the inevitable extra costs on to consumers.
In the first instance, the tax will not apply to agriculture. Indeed, that industry is set to receive some benefits, with a Carbon [Dioxide] Farming Initiative to provide credits to farmers for each tonne of carbon dioxide that they store or reduce. Not surprisingly, the agricultural industry body AgForce welcomed this, and the $400 million to be injected into new carbon mitigation R&D, whilst pointing out that higher costs for electricity will impact on all farmers at a cost of about $1500 each per year.
First Growth Funds, an Australian investment firm that has invested in forestry carbon dioxide credit projects in Asia and the Pacific, appointed administrators on July 17th. The collapse came just one day after insulation manufacturing provider and solar hot water technology developer Intelligent Solar also became insolvent. More widely, a large number of businesses that aim to facilitate or providing green technology, especially in the solar industry, are suffering financial pressure.
On July 12, online website SmartCompany published the result of a poll of 340 Australian business respondents regarding the government’s plans for a carbon dioxide tax.
More than half of respondents (52%) said the legislative package would hurt their businesses, only 11.5% say the package will have a positive effect and 6.5% say it will have no effect. A large majority of 82% say that the package doesn’t provide enough support for small and medium sized businesses, and fewer than one-quarter of businesses(22%) support the package.
Respondents weren’t just scathing about the Government’s legislative package, most questioned the need to act at all. 71% of respondents answered no to the question “Do you agree that Australia needs to tackle climate change by putting a price on carbon [dioxide]?”, 73% said the package does not provide enough support for exposed industries, and 64% that not enough support is provided for households.
Princeton University Professor of Physics, Will Happer, and author of The Truth About Greenhouse Gases, argues that the supposed environmental ill effects of increasing carbon dioxide levels are the result of calculations by flawed computer models, in which water vapour and clouds incorrectly multiply the modest direct warming up to 10 times.
“Did the world have just the right concentration of carbon dioxide at the pre-industrial level of 270 parts per million”, he asks? Happer points out (i) that most plants stop growing if carbon dioxide levels drop below 150 ppm; and (ii) that we are therefore better off with our current 390 ppm than with the preindustrial 270 ppm, and would be better off still with even higher carbon dioxide.
Both the United States Navy and NASA have performed studies of human tolerance to carbon dioxide, as a result of which the navy recommends an upper limit of about 8,000 ppm for submarine travel and NASA an upper limit of 5,000 ppm for space travel.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels should therefore be above 150 ppm to avoid harming green plants, and below 5,000 ppm to avoid harming people. Other things being equal, doubling the current carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere will increase the surface temperature by about 1 deg. C, and aid plant growth by fertilization. These effects are environmentally beneficial.
Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark has long argued that the flux of cosmic rays received by Earth, which is modulated by both the Earth’s and the Sun’s magnetic fields, has a significant climatic effect. In particular, times of intense solar activity and enhanced magnetic field act as a barrier to incoming rays that diminishes the number that penetrate the atmosphere. It is observed that incoming cosmic rays collide with ions in the upper atmosphere, fragmenting them and causing a downward cascade of tiny sub-atomic particle. Such particles can aggregate into cloud condensation nuclei, and a reduction in their rate of formation is therefore expected to reduce cloud cover and hence cause warming. Strong evidence exists for such a chain of processes, including both preliminary particle experiments by Svensmark’s research group and data from the geological record.
On August 25th, Jasper Kirby and 62 other scientists from 17 research institutes published in Nature the long awaited results of the CERN CLOUD experiment. CERN is the European particle accelerator laboratory, and these scientists announced that big effects were produced by accelerator pions (simulating cosmic rays) ionizing the air in the experimental chamber to promote the formation of clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules – which are aerosols of the kind that can grow into the cloud condensation nuclei around which cloud droplets form.
CERN stated in their press release that:
The CLOUD experiment has been designed to study the effect of cosmic rays on the formation of atmospheric aerosols – tiny liquid or solid particles suspended in the atmosphere – under controlled laboratory conditions. Atmospheric aerosols are thought to be responsible for a large fraction of the seeds that form cloud droplets. Understanding the process of aerosol formation is therefore important for understanding the climate.
Remarkably, several weeks before the announcement of these important but not unexpected results, CERN’s Director General, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, said that the scientists involved should only describe the results, for to interpret them would be to “go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.”
As David Whitehouse commented:
To advise scientists, publically, not to interpret scientific results, especially when the experiment is in an area of great interest, and given that the results were so clear-cut, is extraordinary. Heuer’s statement did nothing to prevent such speculation and only highlighted how important the results were. It was a classic media mistake. In effect it told the world that the results were significant and they did bear on climate science.
A team of Danish and Tanzanian scientists reported in Malaria Journal that the incidence of malaria is dropping fast in countries that include Tanzania, Eritrea, Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia, as a result of decreasing numbers of mosquitoes. Some of the reductions have been dramatic, for instance their trap network in Tanzania caught over 5,000 mosquitoes in 2004 and only 14 in 2009.
The cause of this reduction is not certain. Researchers suggest that it may result from the implementation of effective control programmes, such as the deployment of bed nets treated with insecticide. Another possibility is that climate change, as manifest in chaotic changes in rainfall, may have disturbed the natural cycle of mosquito development. A third alternative is that a fungi or virus may be affecting the mosquitoes.
Team leader Professor Meyrowitsch concluded that:
It could be partly due to this chaotic rainfall, but personally I don’t think it can explain such a dramatic decline in mosquitoes, to the extent we can say that the malaria mosquitoes are almost eradicated in these communities.
Meanwhile, back in Australia
Public dissatisfaction with the government’s pursuit of carbon dioxide taxation, and with the Prime Minister’s post-election change to embrace this policy as the price of governing with Green support, mounted throughout the year. The countrywide nature of the dissent was demonstrated well by an extraordinary “Convoy of No Confidence” that reached Canberra on August 22nd.
Organized by Mick Patel, President of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA), the event in fact comprised 11 separate convoys that converged on Canberra from all states of Australia, the longest round trip of more than 11,000 km being made by Patel’s own convoy from Port Hedland (northwestern Australia). Led by large road-haulage trucks, the convoys attracted a mixed assemblage of other vehicles, and much public support and attention along their routes, including helicopter fly bys in some country towns.
After the convoy reached Canberra, an associated speakers’ rally, compered by Sydney radio host Alan Jones, was held In front of parliament house and with a crowd of around 2,000 people. The rally was addressed by Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and by a variety of Coalition and other speakers.
No one from the Government appeared at the rally, and cocooned safely inside Parliament the federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, chose to lampoon the event, saying:
The Convoy of No Consequence, Mr Speaker, the convoy of no consequence where a couple of hundred people gathered with no support from the mainstream organisations, the people who believe in one world government.
The next day, August 23rd, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet delivered an address at the National Press Club in Canberra that revealed just how far out of touch the government was with both reality and public opinion, by saying:
The Gillard Government’s climate change policy sets in train a fundamental economic transformation that will increase prosperity while it reduces carbon pollution. It will boost employment. It will boost investment. It will encourage innovation and technological development. It will deliver critical environmental outcomes by putting in place sustained reductions in greenhouse gases. And it will deliver a clean energy legacy to our children and to their children.
This is good policy: it is equitable, it is timely, it is comprehensive and it is effective. It will become law.
And despite the strenuous protests of Mr Patel and his many supporters, in due course so it did.
In 2007, the American Physical Society adopted an official statement that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities were changing the atmosphere and affecting the Earth’s climate. The statement said:
The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring ….. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
Emeritus Professor Giaever, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1973, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and also the University of Oslo, took exception to this statement, and resigned from the Society as a result. In his letter of resignation he wrote:
In the APS, it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this ‘warming’ period.
The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was devised to allow rich countries to offset carbon emissions by financing claimed anti-global warming projects, such as hydroelectric power and wind farms, in developing countries. Approved projects earn certified emission reductions (CERs), which are tradable credits that can count towards meeting a rich nation’s carbon-reduction targets.
Effectively, the CDM is a prototype global cap and trade system, whereby nations with high industrial emissions pay to “offset” these emissions by supporting projects that would reduce emissions in newly industrialising nations like China and India. But ever since its introduction, the program has been subjected to accusations of fraudulent agreements.
Leading German UN and CDM supporter Ottmar Edenhoffer let the cat out of the bag when he said:
One must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.
A WikiLeaks diplomatic cable released in September confirmed the inadequacies of the CDM program. The cable revealed that most of the CDM projects in India should not have been certified because they did not reduce emissions beyond what could have been achieved without foreign investment, a problem that Indian officials had apparently been aware of for at least two years.
Eva Flzmoser, Programme Director of the Brussels-based watchdog organisation CDM Watch, commented that:
What has leaked just confirms our view that in its present form the CDM is basically a farce. The revelations imply that millions of tonnes of claimed reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions are mere phantoms, and potentially cast doubt over the principle of carbon trading.
Meanwhile, back in Australia
Less than a year out from the intended start of Australia’s carbon dioxide tax, Australian solar manufacturers were struggling to survive, and on September 12th the pioneer company Solar Shop was placed into receivership. A precipitating cause, which is also bearing down on other solar companies, was the decision by new Liberal Governments in NSW and Victoria to reduce the feed-in tariff rates paid to consumers who supply power from domestic panels back into the main grid.
Founded in 1999, Solar Shop employed about 300 staff at its peak, and with an estimated 20% of the domestic market turned over approximately $70 million a year.
The collapse of Solar Shop is a clear indication of the uneconomic nature of solar power without massive, and ultimately unaffordable, government subsidies.
A group of University of California (Berkeley) scientists led by physicist Professor Richard Muller released the results of their re-analysis of global temperature, as represented by measurements since 1800 made at 39,000 weather stations distributed worldwide. Unusually, the material referred to was still in draft publication state and had not been disseminated in a peer-reviewed journal. This, however, did not preclude much media hoopla over the results.
Rather unsurprisingly (because their analysis is based upon essentially the same dataset), the Berkeley group’s findings mirrored the established NASA GISS and University of East Anglia’s HadCRUT global temperature reconstructions – in particular, showing that gentle warming characterised the late 20th century, followed by temperature stasis or cooling over about the last 10 years. Importantly, the recent lack of warming was reflected in the land-station-only measurements as well as in the global average compilation.
As David Whitehouse has pointed out, one of the four draft papers that accompanied the press release reported a strong correlation between known North Atlantic multi-decadal temperature cycles and the global land surface temperature, in effect showing that these cycles are an important determinant, or at least correlative, of global change.
Admitting thereby that the much-vaunted late 20th century warming may have been partly or largely controlled by this natural cyclicity, which has been ignored in IPCC analyses, the Berkeley authors concluded that the “human component of global warming may be somewhat overstated.”
As part of their contribution to the Global Climate Observation System, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment launched the satellite IBUKI on Jan. 23rd, 2009. The satellite is designed to make direct measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on a world scale, and the first results were announced on Oct. 28th, 2011.
IBUKI data allow the uncertainty of ground observation measurements of CO2, which are available from only a handful of stations, to be much reduced, and for regional variations to be mapped. Releasing the first map of the variations that exist in CO2 emissions and absorption worldwide, head of research Yasuhiro Sasano pointed out that CO2 absorption in high latitude regions of the northern hemisphere, including Russia’s Siberia, was higher than anticipated. At the same time, greater CO2 emissions were observed in regions near the equator.
Put another way, these startling results show that most of the world’s western industrialized nations are acting as a carbon dioxide sink, whereas 3rd world countries, including China, are a dominant source. To say that these results are politically embarrassing would be to put it mildly, which is presumably whey there has been an almost complete lack of media interest in the results.
The October issue of the journal Science China, Earth Sciences published a review paper by Fang Jing Yun and four colleagues from the Climate Change Research Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Analysing the recent research literature on global warming and its causes, these authors concluded that:
(1) climate warming occurs with great uncertainty in the magnitude of the temperature increase;
(2) both human activities and natural forces contribute to climate change, but their relative contributions are difficult to quantify; and
(3) the dominant role of the increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in the global warming claimed by the IPCC is questioned by the scientific communities because of large uncertainties in the mechanisms of natural factors and anthropogenic activities and in the sources of the increased atmospheric CO2 concentration. More efforts should be made in order to clarify these uncertainties.
The Chinese scientists commented further that climate change has shifted from being an academic research topic to become a major international political, economic and diplomatic issue, and that:
the IPCC report is no longer the most authoritative document on climate changes, as it is restricted by its political tendencies and some errors and flaws.
Finally, and in agreement with the views expressed by many independent scientists worldwide, they assert that the most essential point to be addressed:
is whether global warming is caused by human activities or natural processes, which is the fundamental base for the international communities to address climate change and for the negotiation-related carbon emission reduction.
The IPCC continues to ignore this question.
Meanwhile, back in Australia
On October 12th, the package of 19 legislative bills that the government had fashioned in order to introduce its carbon dioxide tax was passed by the lower house of Parliament.
That the government entitled the bills the “Clean Energy Legislative Package” fooled no-one.
The event was summed up succinctly by the blogger who wrote:
The excitement of getting the carbon [dioxide] tax through the lower house of Parliament seems to have done magical things.
As the results of the vote on the bill were announced in the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Julia Gillard was so excited that she kissed leadership rival Kevin Rudd.
Across the chamber, the Coalition reacted to the kiss with laughter. Indeed, the Opposition appears to be feeling pretty smug right now.
They may have lost the vote on the carbon tax, but Opposition leader Tony Abbott looks very confident about winning the next election and he has "pledged in blood" to repeal the carbon tax.
In a pre-release of a paper to be published in 2012 in the journal Climatic Change, "A Trend Analysis of Normalized Insured Damage from Natural Disasters", Fabian Barthel and Eric Neumayer of the London School of Economics provided an update their earlier work on the speculative relationship between increasing insurance losses and global warming.
Based on analysis of a 1980-2008 dataset, the conclusions of these authors regarding insured losses are that:
no significant trend is discernible (at global scale). Similarly, we do not find a significant trend if we constrain our analysis to non-geophysical disasters in developed countries . . . Convective events, i.e. flash floods, hail storms, tempest storms, tornados, and lightning, deserve closer attention since these are likely to be particularly affected by future global warming …. and there is some evidence that past climatic changes already affected severe thunderstorm activity in some regions…. Figure 7a shows that there is no significant trend in global insured losses for these peril types. Similarly, there is no significant trend in insured losses for storm events (Figure 7b), tropical cyclones (Figure 7c) or precipitation-related events (Figure 7d).
Barthel and Neumayer also had some ironic advice for the insurance industry, which funded their research study. It is:
Climate change neither is nor should be the main concern for the insurance industry. The accumulation of wealth in disaster-prone areas is and will always remain by far the most important driver of future economic disaster damage.
In November, IPCC representatives attended a meeting in Kampala to consider the oft-alleged but yet to be proven relationship between human greenhouse emissions and extreme weather events.
The draft document for the meeting, entitled Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, became available to the press. Remarkably, the document contains conclusions that are precisely the opposite of the alarmist assertions usually spawned by the IPCC, and shows that mankind’s influence on the weather is a far smaller one than are natural causes.
The draft report says:
Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame is uncertain.
In other words, for many decades, and more, the human influence on extreme weather events will be insignificant. And if and when any influence is measurable, it is just as likely to result in a reduction as an increase in the number of extreme weather events.
The bottom line is that natural extreme weather events have always been with us, and will continue. The chief responsibility of policy makers is therefore to increase their preparation for, and society’s resilience to, such events rather than vainly trying to prevent them. This view has been strongly espoused by many independent scientists (e.g., Carter, 2010, chapter 11; Brunner & Lynch, 2010).
Since 1988, governments around the world have taken their advice on global warming policy from an international political body, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC has been beset by accusations of malfeasant behaviour ever since the publication of their second assessment report in 1995, when final conclusions were drawn about the human impact on warming without reference to the group of scientists charged with advising on this issue.
Subsequent IPCC scandals have included the inclusion of the famous, statistically incompetent hockeystick record of global temperature in the 3rd Assessment Report (2001), revelations that the 4th Assessment Report (2007) was gravely flawed because of its mixing of advocacy and science, and the exposure of strongly sub-standard procedures of refereeing and editing of all these volumes by the Climategate affair and by independent analyses such as those of John McLean (The IPCC Under the Microscope) and Ross McKitrick (What is Wrong with the IPCC?).
Early in November, another searing critique of the IPCC was provided by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise’s new book The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.
Full justice to the material covered in this book cannot be done in the short space available here. However, Laframboise’s key conclusions include (i) that many of the authors of IPCC reports, who are presented as world-leading climate science experts, are in fact at the graduate student or junior researcher level of expertise, and (ii) that all IPCC staff positions and reports are deeply penetrated by the malevolent influence of members of the large, unaccountable, multi-national, political activist, green organisations.
As the author herself concluded:
We’ve been told that [the IPCC] is a responsible business man in a three-piece suit, but it turns out it’s a sloppily dressed teenager — a spoiled brat that can’t be trusted.
In what was undoubtedly a carefully timed release, a new tranche of around 5,000 emails exchanged by climate scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit was made public on November 28, immediately before the COP-17 meeting in Durban. A few of the emails were already contained in the first round of leaking; the remainder, and large majority, were newly public.
Persons conditioned by knowledge of the Climategate 1 emails might assert that not much that is new appears in the Climategate 2 release; and the emails do indeed confirm the same pattern of scientific obstructionism and mispractice that was revealed by Climategate 1.
For example, Michael Mann of hockeystick fame reports that “I have been talking [with] folks in the states about finding an investigative journalist to investigate and expose McIntyre, and his thus far unexplored connections with fossil fuel interests” (Steve McIntyre is an independent mathematician, critic of the IPCC and author of the award-winning Climate Audit blog), and leading researcher Phil Jones discusses again the possibility of deleting email threads as a way of avoiding FOI actions, saying that “I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts”.
One of the most damaging letters in the new collection was written to UEA’s Phil Jones by Kathryn Humphrey, a science adviser in the UK agency DEFRA (Department of Environment, Forestry, and Rural Affairs), with whom she was discussing the need to “downscale” climate models to predict local impacts. Revealing for all to see the political control that is now exerted over climate research funding in the interests of story-telling, Humphrey wrote:
I can’t overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the Government can give on climate change to help them tell their story. They want the story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.
As Steven Hayward concluded in the Weekly Standard:
No amount of context can possibly exonerate the CRU gang from some of the damning expressions and contrivances that appear repeatedly in the new emails. More so than the 2009 batch, these emails make clear the close collaboration between the leading IPCC scientists and environmental advocacy groups, government agencies, and partisan journalists. There are repeated instances of scientists tipping their hand that they’ve thrown in their lot with the climate ideologues.
Meanwhile, back in Australia
At a joint press conference called in Canberra on November 8th to mark the passing of the carbon dioxide taxation legislation through the Senate, Prime Minister Gillard announced:
Today Australia has a price on carbon [dioxide] as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries and years of bitter debate and division. Today’s vote is a win for Australia’s children.
Green’s leader Bob Brown was even more effusive, commenting:
It is a great day for Australia and a great day for this planet earth, which gives us inspiration, which gives us joy, which gives us happiness…. There will be no recision of this legislation, even the heavens are clapping.
We shall see. Certainly where I live (tropical Queensland) the monsoonal heavens have indeed been thundering lately, but it is not entirely clear that this represents approbation of the government’s carbon dioxide tax.
DECEMBER, AND THE END IS NIGH
The COP-17 conference of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in Durban between November 28th and December 9th. Like its predecessor in Copenhagen the previous year, the conference ended in an acrimonious lack of agreement about the implementation of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Nonetheless, at the very death, participants to the conference agreed to a draft resolution, the wording of which is yet to be formally confirmed, that contains the following clauses:
The Conference of the Parties … decides to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, through a subsidiary body under the Convention hereby established and to be known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action;
Decides that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action shall complete its work as early as possible but no later than 2015 in order to adopt this protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties and for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020.
Media coverage of this COP-17 statement was predictably mixed, with left-liberal interests trying to salvage something positive from the wreckage and conservative media depicting the conference as a failure. Most independent commentators, however, expressed scorn at the non-specific nature of the outcome.
Given that USA, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and Canada have now all indicated that they will not will not sign a future Kyoto style agreement, not to mention China, India and Brazil, the chances of any meaningful and uniform international action are now diminishingly small – any Durban agreement to have an agreement notwithstanding.
On December 12th, just after the termination of the Durban UN COP-17 meeting, the Canadian Minister for the Environment, Peter Kent, caused an international sensation by announcing Canada was withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, commenting that “Kyoto doesn’t represent the way forward for Canada or the world”. Kent added:
The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, United States and China, and therefore cannot work. It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment.
By its withdrawal, Canada avoided an estimated $14 billion in penalties that would have been incurred by failure to achieve its Kyoto targets.
This action was therefore a no-brainer for any rational government, for as Minister Kent said:
To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads or closing down the entire farming and agriculture sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada.
The Canadian withdrawal from Kyoto was shortly followed, on December 15th, by a meeting of the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources that heard from four expert witnesses about the science and economics of human-caused global warming. Significantly, this was the first time since 2005 that scientists who disagree with the hypothesis that humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming were permitted to testify before a Canadian government committee. A full transcript and videos of the hearing are available here.
Where Canada leads, it is likely the western world will follow. For it is not difficult to work out that whilst Kyoto-style agreements exert no measurable influence on global warming, they have an all-too-measurable impact on national economies, engendering rising costs that impinge particularly on the citizens and countries who are less well off.
On December 14th, European Union carbon dioxide prices fell to their lowest ever level, accompanied by a slide in the euro currency, equities and oil prices. The carbon dioxide contract price fell 73 cents to an all-time low of 6.30 €/tonne, which was 10% down on the preceding day.
The fall was driven by an oversupply of hundreds of millions of available credits, with Reuters reporting one trader as saying:
I still don’t see any bottom to this market. It’s clear that Durban didn’t help, and Canada’s announcement of its Kyoto Protocol withdrawal tells you what little countries think about international agreements.
Green campaigners called for government intervention in the market, either by setting a floor price around 17 €/tonne, or by stimulating the market by a deepening of the unilateral cut in emissions that Europe is pledged to make by 2020, from 20% to 30%.
Green group E3G said that a flood of unneeded trading allowances, combined with carbon credits earned under the UN’s clean development mechanism (CDM), added up to 2.2 billion tonnes of oversupply, saying:
It’s really, really big. That’s the source of the problem. The first thing we have to do is to intervene on the market. If it carries on like this, by very early 2012 the price could drop to as low as one or two euros, which would render it almost pointless.
Meanwhile, back in Australia
On December 12th, Climate Change Minister Combet described the outcome of the Durban climate meeting as “an historic breakthrough”, and said that it proved that the Federal Government had done the right thing by introducing a carbon [dioxide] tax. He continued:
It’s very important we tackle climate change. We’ve got a responsibility to play our part internationally and here is the evidence. Every other country around the world will be negotiating an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is an emphatic statement that this problem is to be dealt with internationally.
Prime Minister Gillard supported Minister Combet, commenting that the Durban outcome was a "remarkable step forward …. that means the world is showing it’s acting on climate change". The PM dismissed those in the opposition, who she called doomsayers, who predicted that nothing solid would come out of the Durban talks.
A more honest appraisal was provided by the Greens’deputy-leader Christine Milne, who noted that there was now an 8 year delay before further action, and asserted that "Australia could have done a lot more and played a lot more and played a much more constructive role [at the Durban meeting]". Senator Milne continued:
Australia has lost the credibility it had gained from introducing a carbon tax. … The Durban agreement is a case of political spin completely trying to disguise what is climate failure. …. What Australia now must do is lift its own target. We should go immediately to a 25 per cent target for 2020.
But it took a British newspaper to get closest to the truth, with The Guardian commenting on December 13th that:
Bold unilateral moves like the Australian carbon [dioxide] tax, due to take effect from July next year, now look like a trip to the moral high ground at the expense of international competitiveness.
The Guardian being expert at masquerading on the moral high ground, they should know. Quo vadis cheap power prices in Australia, and what benefits to the great Australian battlers?
This review has provided a two-part summary and analysis of selected events and papers relevant to global warming and climate change that occurred, or were published, during 2011, in Australian political context.
Fuller accounts of a wider range of relevant recent papers, and a summary of the thinking of the many independent scientists who do not favour warming alarmism, can be found in Carter (2010) and NIPCC (2011), and breaking news can be found at independent web sites that deal with climate change news such as Watts Up With That, Bishop Hill and JoNova.
Climate Review: essential links is here…
Climate Review: I is here…
Climate Review: II is here…