Green $cience’s Ugly Growth

scientist green varietyThe federal electoral urgings of the Australian Academy of Science are pretty much what you’d expect. It wants more funding for science, technology and engineering. This will ‘drive innovation and growth into the future’, it says.

The Academy is oh-so-keen on economic growth. It says, “More than three decades of exponential growth in Australia’s per-capita GDP is tapering, and if nothing changes Australia will fall out of the G20 within 15 years.”

But wait!  Wasn’t this same Academy sponsoring a Green anti-growth agenda as it cranked up its Fenner Conference on the Environment less than two years ago? The conference, at the University of NSW, was titled, “Addicted to Growth? How to move to a Steady State Economy in Australia.” The Academy approves, brands and seed-funds these annual Fenner gigs at up to $10,000 a time.

The  conference flier reads: “Novelist Edward Abbey once noted that ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell’. Our economy is meant to be a ‘servant of society’, not its master, yet is this true today? On a finite planet nothing physical can keep on growing forever – yet that is the ideology of the ‘endless growth’ neoclassical economics that now dominates the thinking of most governments and business. This has led to a rapidly worsening environmental crisis that degrades the nature on which we all depend. We cannot keep avoiding talking about this issue – hence the need for such a conference…”

The Academy has no economics expertise. But it promotes the eco-catastrophism of the global warming religion, having failed to notice that there has been negligible warming for two decades,[i], contrary to all the scary stuff from the IPCC computer modelling.

When common-sense flew out the Academy windows, the leadership became suckers for any variety of green ideology, such as divestment last year of its fossil fuel shares (but continued unprincipled use of fossil-fuel-powered electricity).

Dr Frank Fenner, after whom the conferences are named, was himself a mega-catastrophist, saying warming will make us extinct and whatever we do now is too late. He  played a leading post-war role in defeating the scourges of smallpox, TB and Australia’s rabbit plague. He also set up a perpetual endowment fund to support Academy conferences on the environment.[ii]

The Academy’s  conference organisers[iii] welcomed multiple   green warriors to its platform, such as an ex-strategy adviser to the Green’s Bob Brown, and various home-grown and overseas eco-lunatics. Some were strongly opposed to a zero-growth economy. That’s because they preferred economic contraction.

Speaker Haydn Washington of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy quoted Ted Trainer, guru of the “simplicity movement”, who lusts for a 90% drop in Australian living standards:

“(P)resent rich world levels of consumption are grossly unsustainable and we will probably have to reduce them by something like 90% if we are to achieve a sustainable and just world. Most people concerned about the state of the planet don’t seem to realise how huge the changes would have to be.”

Trainer’s “necessary and non-negotiable radical restructure of our society” would involve complete elimination of growth, eradication of the profit motive except for little firms and co-ops, and shifting of ‘just about all’ economic activity to small-scale, local and highly self-sufficient enterprises. In frugal, cooperative sufficiency we would find true happiness, he urged. We would work for money only two days a week and have the other five days for arts, crafts and personal growth amid a “leisure-rich landscape” and supportive community.

Speaker Erik Assadourian  from Worldwatch Institute, was described as  “spending a lot of his time raising his toddler son to prepare him for the ecological transition and civilizational collapse most likely in our future.”

The conference was opened by the ABC’s Science Show man Robyn Williams AM FAA, who boasted that, as he was an Academy Fellow, he was a fit person to represent the Academy there. He also claimed that he hadn’t bought any clothes for at least ten years, preferring hand-me-downs, and that he didn’t own a car or mobile phone.

Williams said that in the same year, 1972, that he joined the ABC, he had attended reverentially at the Canberra launch of the Club of Rome and their [failed] Limits to Growth shtick. He was unpersuaded by an odd-man-out speaker there, John Stone of Federal Treasury, who had said [correctly] “that it was all bullshit”.[iv]

Graeme Maxton, from the Club of Rome itself, spoke via video link to the UNSW show. Gushed the organisers: “A thinker of astonishing depth and breadth.”

Robyn Williams, who thinks it clever to threaten punters that global warming will kill their kittens and puppies in 2023, was followed by keynote speaker Dr Brian Czech from the Washington Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. Czech’s theme was ‘Steady State – the time is now’.

Czech opined that down-shifting to no-growth frugality was beneficial in the same way that oppressing smokers from the 1970s did wonders for their own health. Economic policy instruments such as the Fed’s interest rate should be re-oriented against rather than towards GDP growth. The economy downsizing would start with the wealthy nations that could afford it, while making room via United Nations and G20 initiatives for poor countries to do some equitable catch-up. “You solve the poverty problem through contraction and convergence,” he concluded, a little enigmatically.

There were plenty more glum speakers on topics like “Why the growth economy is broken” and “How can civilization survive?”.

Westminster democracy was distinctly passé. Someone called Professor Herman Daly, billed as “Father of the term, Steady State Economy”, was cited for his bright idea for elections in “an ideal democracy”. Each political party would produce a manifesto of equal length. The media would be restricted to covering only debate on the manifestos.   “I would be tempted to also recommend that discussion be limited to the written and spoken word — print and radio, including via the Internet,” Daly said. “No TV or posters or other advertising images of good-looking faces, cute babies, or evil monsters.”

University students were given the “exciting opportunity” to contribute posters and abstracts on “eco and social justice”, “over-consumption”, and “transition strategies” towards the zero-growth nirvana.

For stress relief, attendees got music from a group called Wind Energy (“The Lorax’s Lament” and “Earthrise”) and after dinner, they got zingers from Rod Quantock, “an award-winning comedian” who’s been blathering about climate catastrophe for the past decade.

Perhaps I need to remind you again that this event was brought to you by the most august group of scientists we have, the Australian Academy of Science.  Anyway, I hope the election winner gives them more money, although the first tranche should be allocated to teaching them some elementary economics.

Tony’s new book, That’s Debatable – 60 years in print is available here



[i] Other than the natural el-Nino induced warming in the past year

[ii] Fenner shared the 1988 Japan Prize of 500m Yen ($A6.5m in today’s money) for preventative medicine.  It has Nobel-like status but is for applied science.

[iii] The conference was run by the UNSW,   the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy ( NSW Chapter), and the Institute for Land, Water and Society.


[iv] Stone says the Club of Rome founders, including the heads of VW and Fiat, had lined up eminent Australians to applaud their ‘limits to growth’ theory, and he was delegated by Treasury Secretary Fred Wheeler to attend. “I got up and tore into them and some in the audience were terribly upset at the sacrilege. However, I also got some congratulations including from Labor MHR Dick Klugman who was then in New York at the UN. A year later we put out Treasury White Paper No 2, ‘Economic Growth: Is it Worth Having’ . It rubbished the Club’s case and I’m pleased to say that then-Treasurer Frank Crean did not mind us publishing it.”

4 thoughts on “Green $cience’s Ugly Growth

  • Rob Ellison says:

    This is a green anti-growth strand. There also a pro-growth faction that with such extreme poverty in the world seems more humane. Google Ecomodernism. Science, technology, engineering and math are certainly the basis of innovation – one pillar of productivity growth. Resources are indeed finite while we are planet bound. Although economic substitution may provide a solution in many cases – it is usually a case of technological change. The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.

    I have been writing about the ‘pause’ since 2007 – because the IPCC missed it. The mechanism is mostly in the Pacific. It involves cooler and warmer sea surface temperatures in 20 to 30 year – and much longer – regimes.


    I wrote here on models and climate in 2010.

    Anastasios Tsonis, of the Atmospheric Sciences Group at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and colleagues used a mathematical network approach to analyse abrupt climate change on decadal timescales. Ocean and atmospheric indices – in this case the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the North Pacific Oscillation – can be thought of as chaotic oscillators that capture the major modes of climate variability. Tsonis and colleagues calculated the ‘distance’ between the indices. It was found that they would synchronise at certain times and then shift into a new state.

    It is no coincidence that shifts in ocean and atmospheric indices occur at the same time as changes in the trajectory of global surface temperature. Our ‘interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Tsonis said.

    Science gets it – if most people don’t. It is abrupt change – internal variability in ice, cloud, wind, currents, atmospheric moisture, biology – in a complex, dynamical (chaotic) system. It is unpredictable and can be extreme. Regional changes of up to 16°C and a factor of 2 in rainfall. The not so secret reality of models is that they are chaotic nonsense. There are thousands of divergent solutions for any model. Pick one arbitrarily and send it to the IPCC.

    “Lorenz was able to show that even for a simple set of nonlinear equations (1.1), the evolution of the solution could be changed by minute perturbations to the initial conditions, in other words, beyond a certain forecast lead time, there is no longer a single, deterministic solution and hence all forecasts must be treated as probabilistic. The fractionally dimensioned space occupied by the trajectories of the solutions of these nonlinear equations became known as the Lorenz attractor (figure 1), which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change.” Julia Slingo – head of the British Met Office – and Tim Palmer – head of the European Centre for Mid-Range Forecasting.

    But I would still argue for returning carbon to agricultural soils, restoring ecosystems and research on and development of cheap and abundant energy supplies. The former to enhance productivity in a hungry world, increase soil water holding capacity, improve drought resilience, mitigate flooding and conserve biodiversity. We may in this way sequester all greenhouse gas emissions for 20 to 30 years. The latter as a basis for desperately needed economic growth. Climate change seems very much an unnecessary consideration and tales of climate doom – based on wrong science and unfortunate policy ambitions – a diversion from practical and measured humanitarian goals. Mind you – climate certainty is an impossible delusion from either side.

  • en passant says:

    We are doomed, you know. It is written and I have seen the computer model that proves it with absolute certainty and without a doubt.

    Way back in 1973 when the Club of Rome’s ‘Limits to Growth’ was a mandatory text on one of my University electives the Syndicate Tutor noted that the convergence of catastrophes pointed to 2000 being the last year.

    Yes, even in the 1970’s we were taught that the activist consensus mandated our doom with absolute certainty. One that did seem a little ‘off’ to me at the time as I sweated through a Perth summer was the absolute certainty that the next Ice Age was due in just twenty years – and when it inevitably descended upon us the world was doomed. After all it was a proven fact endlessly set out in high quality tables, colourful graphs, mathematical formulae and new-fangled computer models all leading to the inescapable conclusion that the world would be uninhabitable by the Year 2000 (not ‘2012’ as the Mayans calculated in their apocalyptic calendar). The icing on the cake, so to speak was that the North Atlantic would be frozen over for 3 – 4 months a year with iceberg warnings would be regularly issued for the English Channel. With so little time left I had to ask myself if it really was worth the effort of continuing on and finishing my degree, … Maybe it would be better just to party.

    With the benefit of hindsight after a university education I can now assert with absolute confidence and computer models that I should have partied.

    Then again, who can forget the immortal prophesies of Kenneth Field at the first Earth Day in 1970? Well, I think Ken probably wishes we all would, but I have not forgotten his eternal words (thanks to the internet and the Wayback Machine). You surely must remember Ken as solemnly intoning with absolute on the first ‘Earth Day’ that “The North Atlantic Ocean will be frozen for months by the year 2000” omm, omm (that’s my contribution to this pseudo-scientific propaganda). EVERY prediction the doom-saying circus gurus have made has been proven wrong with the fullness of time. For example, after that failed prediction of alarmist doom, Al Gore then predicted exactly the opposite 39 years later in 2009 when he solemnly intoned with absolute certainty that “The Arctic Ocean might be ice free-by as soon as 2015” Well, give or take a million or so square kilometres of ice, but who has noticed?

    Corruption of scientific methods by the ‘Climate Alarm Voodoo Expert Attack Team’ (‘CAVEAT’ for short) in support of their ‘igNoble Cause’ qualifies as scientific corruption at least and criminal fraud at best. This is evidenced in Australia by the recent unscientific adjustments being made to the accumulated temperature data carefully recorded for more than a century by thousands of conscientious postmasters, school teachers and other upstanding public servants throughout Australia. When their reality and the carefully compiled records did not equate to or support the CAVEAT social and political views then the results of honest people had to be consigned to the memory hole and a fictional account of history that fitted the narrative had to be constructed. This ‘homogenisation’ of reliable data is the most obvious damning indictment of all the frauds perpetrated on the taxpayers and disqualifies every member and supporter of the CAVEAT cult from the brotherhood of true scientists who consider data as sacrosanct.

    Vast sums (in the $’000Bns) have been lavished on this alchemy by ignorant or activist politicians and their compliant and foolish governments, yet the climate refuses to obey their absolutely certain predictions. As a result what we see with our own eyes and feel every day must be ignored. So when I turn on the heater at home I understand exactly what is going on when the wide-eyed newsreader on the ABC tells me that we have just had the hottest hour/day/week/month/year/century evvaaaa. I know with absolute certainty that I am hearing pseudo-scientific nonsense that bears no connection to reality.

    While the three major parties rule over us I can predict with absolute certainty, backed up by computer models and graphs that this fraud will continue to the detriment of the sovereignty of all Australians.

    No more room to comment on their ‘steady state’ proposal, but every empire and nation that became ‘steady state’ atrophied and died. Rome, Spain, the USSR, the Caliphate all crumbled in the face of vigorous and innovative new states – just as it is right now with the moribund and dying EU. Yet this is what they want for us, though not for the elite i.e. them.

    50-years ago I read Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, but it did not really register. I am re-reading it now so I understand the future these visionaries are proposing. Along with Orwell’s ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ they have already mapped our future for us and we are doomed.
    It is an absolute certainty.

  • Rob Ellison says:

    “Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific
    language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to
    be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.” http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/mackinder/pdf/mackinder_Wrong%20Trousers.pdf

    Science is ultimately self correcting. That’s the point. Perhaps you should of studied engineering.

  • ian.macdougall says:

    But it promotes the eco-catastrophism of the global warming religion, having failed to notice that there has been negligible warming for two decades,[i], contrary to all the scary stuff from the IPCC computer modelling.

    That is if one goes by standard thermometers. (After all, we’ve had a pretty cold winter so far.) But the planet is a thermometer in its own right, and its ‘mercury’ is the one ocean, which is steadily rising: due to glacial melt and thermal expansion of the sea water. So like it or not, the whole planet is warming.


Leave a Reply