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The Oz blows it again on global warming

September 4th, 2006

The Australian continues its deplorable coverage of global warming, in this editorial which contains more errors and misleading claims than it is possible to count, following on from an equally bad news story at the weekend.

The factual basis of the story is that the IPCC has confirmed the reality of anthropogenic global warming, tightening the error bounds around its earlier estimate of a 3 degree warming by 2100. Obviously, when you tighten error bounds, you raise the minimum estimate, but the Australian manages to mention this once in passing in its news story and not at all in its editorial.

The rest of the editorial contains allusions to all the denialist claptrap the Oz has been pushing for years now: claims that climate change is really natural (the IPCC confirms that the change we are observing is anthropogenic), suggestions that the report refutes the ‘hockey stick’ (it confirms it, even more strongly than the 2001) report, misleading references to the Medieval Warm period and so on.

At least, having publicly relied on the IPCC, the Oz might stop publishing the conspiracy-theory opinion pieces suggesting that the whole thing is a hoax.

The Australian’s coverage of this issue has been a disgrace. As a paper, it cannot be taken seriously on any scientific issue.

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  1. Terje (say tay-a)
    September 4th, 2006 at 08:00 | #1

    Out of interest which newspapers can be taken seriously on scientific issues?

    I read the article in question and interpreted it as a face saving retreat. With a wiff of victory in the air for your camp I think you should be gloating more than cursing. Of course you may just be posturing.

  2. September 4th, 2006 at 08:56 | #2

    The Oz keeps trotting out this furphy:

    The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics suggests that a unilateral halving of our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would also cut real wages by 20 per cent.

    Once in the lead story and again in the editorial.

    Anyone who has actually read the ABARE report can tell you that ABARE examined six scenarios, most of which show significant reductions in GHG emissions with minimal impacts on the economy. The Oz has plucked the scariest number from most extreme ABARE scenarios and presented it as the likely impact of any attempt to reduce GHG emissions.

    The fact is, ABARE’s modelling shows that significant reductions could be achieved with just a 0.07% percentage point reduction in the annual rate of GDP growth. Minor correction made by JQ

    Read more here:
    Howard spins ABARE’s report on carbon taxes
    Howard attacks Labor’s ‘hidden’ plan for a carbon tax
    Strangely, the 600% increase in electricty and gas prices Howard mentioned in Parliament last month has never been heard of again.

  3. September 4th, 2006 at 09:16 | #3

    FYI: Here’s a list of links to the climate change stories in the Weekend Australian. The first three push the “the evidence is not conclusive” line or the new “its really not that bad after all” line. The last three stories are more balanced, including a favourable write up on Al Gore.

    Too vital for guesses (Bob Carter gets more oxygen!)

    Science tempers fears on climate change

    Editorial: It’s not the end of the world

    More balanced stories:
    Winning from the sideline

    Let’s get down to business

    Travel goes radical for the carbon conscious

  4. Ken Miles
    September 4th, 2006 at 09:18 | #4

    When I read the Oz’s report, I was left wondering if they have confused climate senstivity to a doubling of CO2 with projections of warming in 2100.

  5. conrad
    September 4th, 2006 at 09:32 | #5

    I could very well be incorrect about this (you need to ask a climate guy that knows about statistics), but I think that the error they are talking about is structural error, and not parametric error, so getting rid of error in this case doesn’t neccesarily change the minimum estimate, although it did in their case — it just means you have a better model (it makes you more sure that your estimates are good vs. necesarily changing the estimates of the various bounds that are calculated). So it isn’t like, say, a confidence inteveral, where you just specify an upper and lower bound — it is more like an r2 that tells you what perecentage of the variance your model captures, and hence whether you can trust the information from the equation (or in their case multiple equations) that were used.

  6. Andrew
    September 4th, 2006 at 09:44 | #6


    As someone who’s clearly not as passionate about climate change as an issue as you…. I clearly haven’t followed the debate as closely. When reading the Australian editorial I thought it sounded reasonably balanced – can you be more explicit on where the errors are?
    I thought the editorial (and article) clearly acknowledged that climate change was caused by CO2 emissions (therefore caused by man) – it certainly didn’t seem to be denialist.
    By the way – is it true that Australian is on track to meet the emission targets we didn’t sign up to in the Kyoto treaty?

  7. September 4th, 2006 at 09:57 | #7

    By the way – is it true that Australian is on track to meet the emission targets we didn’t sign up to in the Kyoto treaty?

    Yes we are, but only because Australia negotiated a Kyoto target that is 8% above 1990 levels, which the Howard government refused to ratify anyway. Virtually all of Australia’s “reduction” in CO2 emissions has been achieved by reduced land clearing in Queensland, not by reducing emissions from electricity generation, industry or transportation.

    My main objection to the editorial (and I suspect JQ’s) is that the Oz has always found a reason to argue that no action is required on climate change. First it was “its not happening”, then it was “the evidence is not conclusive”, then “global warming is not anthropogenic”, then “Australia can make no impact on a global scale” and now “its really not that bad after all”.

  8. Paul Norton
    September 4th, 2006 at 10:24 | #8

    Agree with JQ and carbonsink. The stock in trade of the Murdoch press and the rest of the greenhouse denialist/inactionist gang is to seize any weapon at hand (and to hell with intellectual consistency) to throw up against the view that climate change is real, has a major anthropogenic component, and can be minimised (if not averted) by appropriate policies.

  9. Paul Norton
    September 4th, 2006 at 10:28 | #9

    I was actually going to write to the Oz stating that the IPCC assessment boiled down to saying that the worst-case scenario got better, the best-case scenario got worse, and the most likely scenario is basically as bad as it always was. But my fellow Green James McConville beat me to it http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/letters/index.php/theaustralian/comments/more_resources_vital_in_the_search_for_definitive_answers/. James is the Greens candidate for Yeerongpilly in the Queensland State election this weekend. Just sayin’…

  10. Ken Miles
    September 4th, 2006 at 10:29 | #10


    the science in the editorial is very poor. This is bad, especially given that it is based of an article by Matthew Warren, the Oz’s environmental reporter. The editor should have used Leigh Dayton (the science reporter) as a source.

    While The Australian is playing up their exclusive draft, it isn’t that exclusive. For example, I’ve got a copy of some of the interesting chapters. For a while, it could be downloaded by anybody.

    The temperature comparisons are all muddled up. The editor has confused climate sensitivity (which is a measure of how much warming will occur if CO2 levels doubles and is used to compare climate models against one another) with projected warming (how much warming is projected to occur by 2100 AD).

    For the record, the IPCC’s range of future temperature projects is 1.8 – 5.8 degrees, not 3 degrees. This is identical to the 2001 report.

    When the editor writes It is also further evidence that such alarmist scenarios such as the “hockey stick” theory (so named for the shape of the line on the graph it is taken from) are, well, overheated he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The Hockey Stick is a reconstruction of past temperatures, and consequently, future temperatures don’t say a thing about its validity.

  11. Ken
    September 4th, 2006 at 10:30 | #11

    Implicit in the “doing something about Greenhouse gas emissions will be costly” argument is the presumption that not doing anything will not be costly. Whilst it’s possible to make projections of future costs of various policy options with ours and the international economy going on as per usual. estimating the costs of more numerous and more severe weather events (droughts, floods and storms), rising ocean levels with loss of arable lands, dislocation of populations and the local, and international conflicts that will arise in their wake is much more difficult. To claim there will be no economic downside (or simply to fail to mention any out of short term political expediency) is gross deception.

  12. September 4th, 2006 at 11:01 | #12

    I saw the article and was stunned at the inconsistency between The Australians headline and analysis and the information the article actually presented. In fact I was a little offended that they expected me to swallow the line that a worse best-case scenario would somehow ‘temper my fears’.

    I must admit that since I’ve been reading this blog I see The Australian in a whole new light. Keep on keeping those bastards honest JQ.

  13. gordon
    September 4th, 2006 at 11:10 | #13

    Ken, I think the agenda here is to head off any attempts at social action (which in our society means Govt. action) to either mitigate or adapt to climate change. The costs are to fall on the most helpless.

  14. Mike Hart
    September 4th, 2006 at 11:14 | #14

    As I said in my post in Weekend Reflections, I have bought my last Australian. They cannot be taken seriously on almost any issue these days. I am not really quiet sure what the editorial staff and management think they are producing except fictionalised opinion. Shame really, they seem to have well and truly lost the plot as a national broadsheet.

    The report referred to is a draft only, the scientists who have a copy have been asked not to comment publicly. I see they also dragged out the perennial rock loon to provide scientific balance. Shoddy, shoddy work.

  15. Terje (say TAY-A)
    September 4th, 2006 at 11:14 | #15


    Doing nothing may be costly, however the early modelling seemed to suggest that doing Kyoto would not achieve much. Over a century it would defer warming by a few years at most. As such doing nothing looks like offering a pretty good return on investment in relative terms.

    Most hard core advocates of Kyoto really believe in something we might call Kyoto-plus. And whilst the benefits of Kyoto-plus will be peace on earth as well as health, harmony and happiness for all, the cost of this thing called Kyoto-plus has not been calculated.

    As it stands the costs of Kyoto are modest, however so are the benefits. And the precedent set by such a system of global regulation is on some levels quite scary, especially for those of us that are cynical about large centrally organised governing bodies.

    It is not meaningful to compare the costs and benefits of “doing nothing” versus the costs and benefits of “doing something” unless the latter is properly defined such that both the costs and benefits can be determined. It is certainly not acceptable to make a comparison on the basis of what it costs to “doing something” coupled with the benefits of “doing something else”.


  16. September 4th, 2006 at 11:20 | #16

    As a paper, it cannot be taken seriously on any scientific issue.

    One wonders what their position will be in the upcoming nuclear power debates. I’m willing to bet money on them taking a pro-mining position, but whether they end up being pro-fossil fuel or pro-uranium is up for grabs. Maybe the current softening up on global warming isn’t so much concession to reality as strategic withdrawal prepatory to a pro-uranium assault.

  17. September 4th, 2006 at 11:54 | #17

    Ken – “When I read the Oz’s report, I was left wondering if they have confused climate senstivity to a doubling of CO2 with projections of warming in 2100.”

    I think they have as I read this from another AGW denier, Andrew Bolt, and he seems to have done the same thing:

    It seems to be a common thing.

    It would seem that the Murdoch press is only interested in the party line.

  18. Tom Davies
    September 4th, 2006 at 12:07 | #18

    The fact is, ABARE’s modelling shows that significant reductions could be achieved with just a 0.07% reduction in GDP per annum.

    I assume you (carbonsink) mean ‘0.07% less GDP growth per annum than if we did nothing’ rather than a 0.07% reduction in GDP per annum?

    Otherwise going from 3% growth to 0.07% reduction is a big deal!

    I’ve fixed this minor error in carbonsink’s comment – JQ

  19. September 4th, 2006 at 12:11 | #19

    Terje, might I suggest you read carbonsink’s blog post on the effects of what is essentially Kyoto-plus, according to ABARE. GDP growth ends up being cut by about 0.1% per year; real wages growth is cut by about 0.17% per year. By 2050, GDP is about 3.2% lower than it otherwise would have been, and real wages about 7.5% lower. And that assumes no use of geosequestration or nuclear power.

    They are not small costs, but they are hardly disasters either.

  20. jquiggin
    September 4th, 2006 at 12:34 | #20

    Terje, this blog has had at least a dozen posts looking at the costs of Kyoto-plus, most recently here which covers the same ground as carbonsink, cited by rm.

    As noted, the costs are small.

  21. September 4th, 2006 at 13:07 | #21

    I assume you (carbonsink) mean ‘0.07% less GDP growth per annum than if we did nothing’ rather than a 0.07% reduction in GDP per annum?

    Tom Davies – Yes, you are correct. Apologies for that. I meant GDP growth would be 0.07% less that it would otherwise have been under ABARE’s business-as-usual reference case.

    As a few poster have pointed out, ABARE’s report does not take into account the possible costs of climate change (e.g. reduced agricultural production through droughts, damage from cyclones, costs of new water infrastructure in cities, loss of tourism income resulting from snowless winters in skifields, coral bleaching on the Barrier Reef etc)

    I wish I could edit my post! Prof Q?! Done! – JQ

  22. Ken Miles
    September 4th, 2006 at 13:25 | #22

    Ender, I’m not convinced that there really is a party line at the Oz*. I suspect that the story goes more like this; reporter misreads IPCC draft report** and writes poor quality story, then the editor + Bolt jump on board, unaware that they are now in line with what the IPCC.

    I’m actually finding the whole thing quite funny.

    * for example, Leigh Dayton, is quite a good science writer, and doesn’t appear to follow the peusdoscience script.
    ** his story contains other errors, such as the sea level rise. The range which he quotes is only from one scenario, not all of them.

  23. Steve
    September 4th, 2006 at 13:48 | #23

    Its not all bad. See today’s story by Matthew Warren:


    And that’s the AIGN too!

  24. September 4th, 2006 at 14:38 | #24

    Editorials today seem as relavent as printing stock market prices or shipping lists. Who writes the Oz editorials? I presume it is mostly Chris Mitchell but sometimes they read like Wood or Sheridan?

  25. September 4th, 2006 at 16:20 | #25

    John, A valuable post – really should go as a letter or op-ed to Oz. They should be made to explain or recant. This kind of scrutiny is socially valuable.

  26. September 4th, 2006 at 16:39 | #26

    Harry – I thought global warming “will be a hickup without long-term consequence” (see your comment in the Peak Oil thread) which is more or less what the Oz is saying in its editorial.

  27. Grant
    September 4th, 2006 at 17:35 | #27

    Crikey! The guys that responded to Hurricane Katrina are looking after Global Warming! Pass the icecubes!

  28. September 4th, 2006 at 17:35 | #28

    What I have said was that the cost of dealing with global warming will be low – contrary to the views expressed in the Australian above but consistent with John’s views. The costs of dealing with the problem will be equivalent to foregoing a few year’s economic growth at most. This isn”t what the Australian is saying at all – either in its newsarticle or its editorial.

    Peak oil issues will similarly be met with resource substitutions which currently seem daunting but which ex post will be seen as small.

  29. BH
    September 4th, 2006 at 17:38 | #29


    My reaction to the WOZ splash was that the paper may be shifting its stance away from climate change denial, albeit slightly. That’s a positive, I think.

    I haven’t read the editorial.

  30. Jim Green
    September 4th, 2006 at 19:02 | #30

    My letter to The Oz … which I’m not expecting to be published …
    Congratulations to The Australian for running an editorial which both disputes anthropogenic climate change and proposes a nuclear fix to this (non-)problem (A climate change report helps separate fact from hype, Sept 4). It takes guts to run an argument as laughable as that.

    The editorial parrots claims from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics that a halving of greenhouse emissions by 2050 would cut real wages by 20 per cent. But ABARE is infamous for inviting fossil fuel interests onto its climate change steering committee for a fee of $50,000, a practice which the Commonwealth Ombudsman later criticised.

    The editorial ought to have drawn attention to the 2003 report of the Australian Ministerial Council on Energy, which found that energy consumption and greenhouse emissions in the manufacturing, commercial and residential sectors could be reduced by 20-30% with the adoption of commercially-available technologies with an average payback of four years.

    To generate greenhouse reductions of that magnitude by replacing coal with nuclear power would involve start-up costs of tens of billions of dollars and result in the production of thousands of tonnes of high-level waste in the form of spent nuclear fuel.

  31. September 4th, 2006 at 20:52 | #31

    harry clarke – Sorry I misunderstood what you are saying.
    I’d love to share your optimism, especially on the cost of resource substitution for liquid fuels. The way I see things Peak Oil will most likely drive us towards solutions that are even more carbon intensive than what we have now, unless we see some major intervention in the market (in the form of a carbon tax). IMO, the only long term solution is to electrify transportation and power it with renewables.

  32. Louis Hissink
    September 4th, 2006 at 22:00 | #32

    Hardly surprising when economic modelling is fashionable too. Neither human activity nor climate can be modelled mathematically.

    So it is hardly surprising the supporters of economic quackery also support climate quackery,

  33. September 4th, 2006 at 23:10 | #33


    Jim, might I suggest you’re on shaky ground arguing that nuclear plants should be prohibited because they’re too expensive.

    On those grounds, we should immediately ban the use of rooftop solar panels.

  34. Terje (say tay-a)
    September 4th, 2006 at 23:47 | #34


    With respect I have not seen any useful comparison of both cost and benefit for any single mitigation strategy. The post that you link to (which I read the first time) talks about the low cost, or rather the not high cost of a certain scenerio. However in that particular post you did not quantify the benefits.

    Also for instance Robert indicated above one scenerio (call in scenerio-X) in which the cost in 2050 would be a lowering of wages by 7.5% (relative to what they would have been). It would be useful in the same breath to discuss how many years scenerio-X would defer warming or whether it would halt climate change. If it delays warming by 12 months I would say don’t bother. If it delays warming by 50 years then there would be a strong case for action. Although of course it would be even better to qualified benefits of defered warming in terms of impacts mitigated.

    I know this is probably more a concern about style and the packaging of the solution on sale. However I don’t know how anybody can sign up to a given solution if they are only told the costs or only told the benefits. Surely any sane buyer wants to hear a narrative about both costs and benefits for the given solution. To often it seems like a game of bait and switch where the benefit of action is cast in terms of avoiding all the disasters of warming whilst the cost is outlined for something that won’t achieve the originally advertised benefits. Its a bit like being shown a mansion and then been told the price for a cottage.

    As I said the first time, none of this does not mean such a comparison does not exist. It is just a personal reflection on the fact that I have not yet encountered it here.


    P.S. Following earlier discussions on this topic I concede the point expounded by you previousky that political discussion needs to proceed on the basis that AGW is the overwelmingly dominant explanation for the current climate trend. Further political debate about whether AGW is valid no longer deserves as much air time.

  35. September 5th, 2006 at 02:03 | #35

    Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” was screened in the Parliament House cinema last night, courtesy of the Government’s Parl Secretary fro the Environment, Greg Hunt (see entry on my blog for more). There was a reasonable turnout, although it certainly wasn’t a full house.

    Perhaps a few of the commenters are right, and this latest mix of articles by The Oz represents a dying flurry before reality sets in? One can only hope, but while it would be nice, there’s no point waiting around for them to catch up. There’s more and more people doing plenty of things in the right direction, and we have to find ways of knitting all of those things together as effectively as possible.

  36. September 5th, 2006 at 08:39 | #36

    Louis – “Neither human activity nor climate can be modelled mathematically.”

    No really??? Damn all those computers are just useless aren’t they.

    Andrew – “Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truthâ€? was screened in the Parliament House cinema last night,”

    Don’t suppose the Minister for the Environment was there?

  37. Steve
    September 5th, 2006 at 10:22 | #37

    Real Climate comments on the Oz story here:


  38. Terje (say TAY-A)
    September 5th, 2006 at 10:31 | #38

    “Neither human activity nor climate can be modelled mathematically.�

    George Soros talked about this issue in one of his books. In a nut shell I think that physical systems like climate are more open to calculation because they are more likely to be deterministic physical systems (biosphere complicates things). Human systems are far less open to predictive calculation because humans exhibit what Soros calls reflexivity. In other words the way that an electron will respond to a proscribed force is deterministic whilst the response that a human will have to a proscribed force will depend on the humans internal belief systems about what the force means, why it is being applied etc. And those that seek to proscribe forces to change human behaviour arrive at the table carrying their own belief system baggage.

  39. September 5th, 2006 at 11:36 | #39

    Terje wrote:

    It would be useful in the same breath to discuss how many years scenerio-X would defer warming or whether it would halt climate change. If it delays warming by 12 months I would say don’t bother. If it delays warming by 50 years then there would be a strong case for action.

    As John Howard, Peter Beattie and others are so keen to point out, it would make precisely zero difference to climate change if Australia slashed its GHG emissions by half tomorrow.

    Exactly the same argument could be applied to California. With ~37 million people California represents around 3% of the world’s GHG emissions. If California halved its GHG emissions tomorrow it will make bugger all difference on a global scale, so is Arnie mad to punish his own economy with the recently passed Global Warming Solutions Act? As Howard said on 4 Corners last week:

    JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: The facts are that our emissions, if we stop them tomorrow, it would take all of nine months for China’s additional emissions to equal what we’d withdrawn by stopping ours.

    You can extend the Howard argument to every person on the planet. Should I punish myself by switching off a few lights or turning off the heater when I know the people across the road have 10kW air-conditoner running 24 hours a day?

    At some point you have to say, we all have a responsibility to do something, whether its a country, state, city, town or individual. There is no exit clause from responsibility just because you’re small.

    Prof Q: thanks for editing my post.

  40. Ernestine Gross
    September 5th, 2006 at 12:07 | #40

    Terje, aren’t you going to give credit to economic theoreticians in the area of analytical economics and discard the ‘crusaders and persuaders’, who carried “their own belief system baggge” to the tables of ‘economic rationalism’, ‘supply side economics’, Thatcherism, Reagonomics?

    So called ‘free market economics’ was introduced in Chile by military force.

  41. September 5th, 2006 at 12:18 | #41


    You are essentially stating that the nature of the problem forms the basis for a global public policy response rather than an individualistic response. Even so there is no logical reason why any recommendation of international public policy can not be articulated in such a way as to account for benefits as well as costs. Or at least to include a comprehensive narrative about both in the context of a given solution.

    One such solution is the Kyoto protocol. John Quiggin has outlined previously that the costs of implementing Kyoto are not high. I think his anaylisis seems sound. From memory his estimate is that implementing Kyoto would defer GDP growth by a few months each decade. However it also only defers global warming by a few years over a century. Not really worth the economic pain.

    If you take the view that Kyoto is a down payment on a larger policy plan then that is fine and good. However a cost benefit analysis of a new house does not take the costs to be merely the deposit required up front by the bank. If you want the full benefits then you will need to pay the full cost.

    Let me restate that this is predominately an issue of presentation. However if you wish to sell people on a concept and get them to sign up you need to polish the presentation. So far the presentations I have seen here are good at looking at costs for some scenerios and good at talking about benefits of other scenerios. What I have yet to see is the marriage of these discussions around a single scenerio.

    Of course some people think that the correct approach to public policy is to just start laying bricks and see what happens.


    P.S. If you vote you should know that it will make approximently zero difference. However even in nations where voting is optional large numbers of people still choose to vote, either out of a sence of civic duty or else some delusion about it making a difference. A delusion I should hasten to add that I frequently find myself subject to.

  42. September 5th, 2006 at 13:43 | #42

    Terje – ok, you want a cost-benefit analysis? Here goes…
    First you should read the ABARE report, then read my thoughts on the various scenarios modelled and the costs and benefits of each:
    Howard spins ABARE’s report on carbon taxes
    Howard attacks Labor’s ‘hidden’ plan for a carbon tax

    I think you can safely ignore any of the scenarios that include use of CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) because the technology is at least 20 years away and there are big question marks about whether it will actually work. Similarly, you can ignore scenarios that include using nuclear power because that’s not going to happen in Australia within 20 years (~10 years of NIMBY issues over location + ~10 years to plan, design and build).

    Since we are talking about acting on climate change now, and not in 2030, that eliminates scenario 1, and since it is extraordinarily unlikely that Australia would take unilateral action and cut its emissions to 50% below 1990 levels, I’ve excluded scenario 2d.

    Unsurprisingly Howard (and the Oz) only quote the economic impacts of scenario 2d and none of the other scenarios.

    So I’ve focussed on scenario 2b (no nukes, no CCS, no deep unilateral cuts) as by far the most likely of the early action scenarios. In this scenario Australia produces GHG emissions in 2050 that are 40% lower than ABARE’s reference case, with GDP 3.2% lower than the reference case. IMO, 3.2% over 40 years seems like a small price to pay.

    Would GHG emissions that are 40% lower than business-as-usual slow global warming? Definitely, if similar measures were applied globally. Would it be enough to stabilise CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Possibly not, I don’t know. As I understand it, the climate scientists say we need to reduce GHG emissions to well below 1990 levels to stabilise the atmosphere, and that would require the more draconian measures detailed in ABARE’s scenario 2d.

  43. September 5th, 2006 at 13:58 | #43


    Thanks for attempting to address my point.

    You say you have focused on scenerio 2b. However can you tell me which scenerio you actually advocate? Your final sentence infers that you advocate 2d.


  44. September 5th, 2006 at 14:53 | #44

    Terje – 2b short term (because its virtually painless according to ABARE) and 2d long term (if 2b doesn’t stabilise CO2 levels in the atmosphere). Obviously, the measures described would have to be applied globally to have any effect.

    Given that Australia’s economy is very carbon intensive (we have the highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world) I would assume that if Australia can achieve a 40% GHG reduction relatively painlessly, it should be even easier for other countries.

  45. September 5th, 2006 at 16:38 | #45

    Ender: “Don’t suppose the Minister for the Environment was there? (at the screening of an Inconvenient Truth)”

    I couldn’t tell Ender – the cinema was dark and I wasn’t checking out the crowd too closely. Still the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment out the film on, which can’t be a bad thing.

  46. September 5th, 2006 at 16:40 | #46

    As I understand it, the climate scientists say we need to reduce GHG emissions to well below 1990 levels to stabilise the atmosphere, and that would require the more draconian measures detailed in ABARE’s scenario 2d.

    Lets presume they are right.

    2b short term (because its virtually painless according to ABARE) and 2d long term (if 2b doesn’t stabilise CO2 levels in the atmosphere).

    Given the presumption above you seem to be saying 2d. The fact that 2b is virtually painless should not ignore that it may also be virtually without much significant benefit (ie doesn’t stop global warming or defer it by much). On the face of it you seem to be playing the same old game of wanting the 5 star benefits whilst paying for an economy class ticket. If you believe that the 5 star benefits are what we need then you should be prepared to defend expenditure on a 5 star ticket.

    In any case I will try and read the ABARE report tonight.

    And thankyou again for actually attempting to address my point.

  47. September 5th, 2006 at 17:15 | #47

    The fact that 2b is virtually painless should not ignore that it may also be virtually without much significant benefit.

    I disagree completely! A 40% reduction in GHGs worldwide would be hugely beneficial and would slow global warming considerably. What’s more, if ABARE’s figures are correct, it is politically feasible.

    Since when did this become a digital matter? Are you saying our only options are zero GHG emissions tomorrow –OR– business-as-usual? What utter nonsense!

    The best way forward at this point in time is a price signal for carbon that delivers meaningful reductions in GHGs while allowing the economy to function relatively normally. The carbon tax can be ramped up over time, which is part of the ABARE modelling anyway.

  48. Louis Hissink
    September 5th, 2006 at 22:03 | #48


    only robots can be modelled mathematically – humans not. My position remains.

  49. Con
    September 6th, 2006 at 05:31 | #49

    Oh well its just an extension of Fox News. I expect future guest columnists will be Bill O’Reilly followed by Condi, Dick and Carl Rove. “We bias and you decide” – blah blah blah.

  50. Terje (say tay-a)
    September 6th, 2006 at 08:07 | #50


    I started reading the ABARE report on the PDA on the train home. It wasn’t too sucessful so I will try and find a printer sometime today. I would point out however that the foreword to the ABARE report seems pretty explicit about not analysing benefits. It seems to be a cost comparison of alternate scenerios that all get to the same end point in 2100. Thats all well and good but it seems that it is not a cost benefit analysis, but merely a cost analysis. However I still intend reading it.


  51. September 6th, 2006 at 08:30 | #51

    Louis – “only robots can be modelled mathematically – humans not.”

    The atmosphere is not composed of humans. Computer models are used all the time quite accurately even in geology.

  52. StephenL
    September 6th, 2006 at 10:39 | #52

    Just remember kiddies, Louis Hissink believes (or used to) that Saturn used to prowl the inner solar system, and in a near pass with Earth produced the world’s oceans. Or something. If you google his name this stuff comes up. To not believe the climate can be modelled mathematically is pretty tame stuff.

    The extraordinary thing is that the Oz is increasinly reliant on people like him as more pragmatic denialists recognise the game is up.

  53. September 6th, 2006 at 11:46 | #53

    I would point out however that the foreword to the ABARE report seems pretty explicit about not analysing benefits. It seems to be a cost comparison of alternate scenerios that all get to the same end point in 2100. Thats all well and good but it seems that it is not a cost benefit analysis, but merely a cost analysis.

    I never said it was. The only benefit measured is the reduction in GHGs from the reference case. ABARE does not quantify the reduction required to stabilise the atmosphere or deliver measurable benefits.

    Note: The alternate scenarios do not all get to the same end point in 2100. Scenario 2d delivers a 71% cut in GHGs from the reference case by 2050, while scenario 1 delivers a 38% cut by 2050.

  54. The Lithophyte
    September 6th, 2006 at 12:08 | #54


    the 2a-d scenarios deliver a 39% cut in 2050 and the 1 scenario delivers a 34% cut from the reference (Table B).

  55. The Lithophyte
    September 6th, 2006 at 12:21 | #55

    With ref to my previous note – the latter numbers are the global reductions (Table B in the exec summary of the ABARE report), carbonsink’s figures are the Oz reductions (Table C). Global reductions are more relevant to the assessment of benefits – relative mixes from one country to the next are more relevant to burden and equity considerations.

  56. Ernestine Gross
    September 6th, 2006 at 12:25 | #56

    Louis Hissink,

    “only robots can be modelled mathematically – humans not.â€?

    Louis, if you mean propagandists of whatever persuasion have learnt that people can’t be shaped along the lines the propagandists want it (ie like a robot programmed to act the way they want), then many people might agree with you.

    If this is not what you mean, then there are a few questions I’d like to have answered.

    Part A: Physical (‘material’ in economics).
    1. Are you aware that dress and suit manufacturers rely on ‘model sizes’ (eg 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 for females) which involve measurements (ie application of mathematics)?

    2. How tall you are, relative to your ‘neighbourhood’

    Part B: Philosophy.
    1. Are you aware that economists (some) have managed to make precise, by means of applying mathematics, the notion of ‘freedom of choice’ and rationality?

    2. Are you aware that the wishful thinking spruiked by some economic ideologues can be debunked by means of the mathematical models generated by economists?

  57. September 6th, 2006 at 12:29 | #57

    StephenL – Louis and I have a been taunting each other for a while now. My apologies for bringing down the dicussion on this thread.

  58. September 6th, 2006 at 13:42 | #58

    The Lithophyte wrote:

    Global reductions are more relevant to the assessment of benefits – relative mixes from one country to the next are more relevant to burden and equity considerations.

    Fair enough. I was focussing on the Australia-only cost-benefits, which are shown in Table C. Go here scroll down then click the Table C image to see a larger view.

  59. September 6th, 2006 at 13:52 | #59

    Scientific American has given the Oz a serve…

    There’s topspin on that presentation of what’s in the draft of the new IPCC report (which, being a draft, is still a work in progress). My colleague George Musser has been looking at this draft, too (so much for it being “obtained exclusively by The Weekend Australian”)…

    It’s not that the IPCC’s climate scientists have lowered their forecasts for the worst case scenarios. As the researchers at RealClimate explain, the new report is tightening the estimates for climate sensitivity to a doubling of preindustrial CO2 levels; a forecast would be somewhat different…

    As reported by Crikey.

    Also, in what maybe truly planet-saving news Crikey’s Sophie Black says Rupert may have seen the light:

    The greening of Rupert Murdoch is warming up globally, a U-turn apparently masterminded by his son James.

    In May, James Murdoch announced that his bit of the News Corporation empire, British pay TV broadcaster BSkyB, has achieved carbon neutral status. Then came News Corp’s “Imagining the Futureâ€? conference in California in late July, which featured Leftie former US Vice President Al Gore promoting his move An Inconvenient Truth. That speech, as Tim Blair in The Bulletin put it, “might be remembered as the moment News went green.”

    Seems like there’s quite a debate happening within News Corp over climate change. If Rupert turns, how long until Bush and Howard see the light?

  60. O6
    September 6th, 2006 at 14:23 | #60

    Modelling humans is impossible?

    A complete model, perhaps for ever, yes, but for many special purposes human behaviour can be modelled. Some financial institutions use statistical models to make loans, and do so more successfully (in terms of bad debts etc.) than human loan managers. Life insurance is based on models of (certain aspects of) human life. Genes behave in human population genetics the way they behave in other mammals, so you can model human micro-evolutionary change quite well. Exam results predict exam results, so you can base university entrance largely on exam results. And so on, in terms of descriptive and predictive models, not normative models.

  61. Paul Norton
    September 6th, 2006 at 15:36 | #61

    What carbonsink said most recently. The IPCC draft report is still going through the review process and is currently being disputed by scientists. See http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,20359400-3102,00.html

  62. September 6th, 2006 at 16:37 | #62

    Paul – “The IPCC draft report is still going through the review process and is currently being disputed by scientists.”

    I think that they are confusing the climate sensitivity work of Annan and Hargreaves with the total amount of warming expected by 2100. I also don’t think that climate scientists are disputing it. The report is still in draft and the normal review process is going on.

  63. rog
    September 6th, 2006 at 21:14 | #63

    StephenL, I wouldnt get too excited, when Ender isnt pedalling his peak oil unicycle he is tinkering with his virtual windmill. Bad news from Chevron..for some

  64. Ken
    September 6th, 2006 at 21:41 | #64

    As long as the long term costs of Greenhouse gas emissions are not included in the current price of the goods and services that create them there won’t be real incentive to develop and use low emission technologies. Until those technologies are developed and deployed there’s not much chance we’ll make a significant impact on Global warming. To say we can’t make any significant impact on Global Warming and so should make no efforts to curb emissions would mean we get the worst of all scenarios – uncontrolled growth of emissions without policy directions to do otherwise. Of course there are at least some efforts to develop those technologies although I think Australia’s leaders – Labs and Libs alike – are expending little more than some PR rhetoric whilst resisting any measures that might reduce the apparent profitability of fossil fuel based industries (ie profitability without those currently externalized future costs). Sustaining our wealthy and indulgent lifestyle into that future without the expense of converting to low emission technology seems a bit dubious -there will be other costs which are most likely going to eat away that wealth anyway – even if a carbon tax isn’t imposed on us by the rest of the world, there could well be a lot of lost agricultural production, new infrastructure to build such as coastal levy banks, land lost to saltwater inundation, increased security and defence costs even without major conficts and with any major conflicts that draw us in potentially costing more than a host of GHG reduction measures. It may not be easy to create costings for these. That they aren’t amenable to projections of costs does not mean they aren’t foreseeable consequences to a collective failure to take action.
    We – the developed world – need to lead in this matter. It’s unlikely the developing world will deploy low emission technologies unless they are proved, established and made cost effective. Part of that cost effectiveness is only going to be apparent by incorporating those externalized costs of using fossil fuels into the equation.

  65. September 6th, 2006 at 23:21 | #65

    rog wrote:

    Bad news from Chevron..for some

    I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. Its very deep (7,000 feet of water and >20,000 feet below the sea floor), dispersed amongst a number of smaller fields, not that big (between 3 billion and 15 billion barrels) and won’t start production until 2013. Its no Prudhoe Bay.

    Hopefully it will buy some time, but its a drop in the ocean for a world using 30 billion barrels a year.

  66. Terje (say TAY-A)
    September 6th, 2006 at 23:21 | #66

    EG said:-

    Terje, aren’t you going to give credit to economic theoreticians in the area of analytical economics and discard the ‘crusaders and persuaders’, who carried “their own belief system baggge� to the tables of ‘economic rationalism’, ’supply side economics’, Thatcherism, Reagonomics?

    Happy to give credit where credit is due.

    So called ‘free market economics’ was introduced in Chile by military force.

    Government policy is always backed by force. Not a major point I should think, unless you wish to expand on it and use it to say something a little more substantial. Perhaps your point is that it was not democratic.

    Before this gets too protracted let me make it clear that my point was that human system are not as readily open to mathematical modelling as physical systems. However I accept without any reservation at all that mathematics has wide and appropriate application in economics and the social sciences.

    I think your point about clothing sizes was amusing and also pretty spot on. Opinion polls are another example of mathematics being applied to human systems with great success.

  67. rog
    September 7th, 2006 at 10:18 | #67

    “Its no Prudhoe Bay”

    No, but it is the first with more to come.

  68. September 7th, 2006 at 11:44 | #68

    rog wrote:

    No, but it is the first with more to come.

    How exactly do you know that? I don’t pretend to know that there won’t be major oil discoveries in the future, but if this graph is accurate, the trend does not look good.

  69. September 7th, 2006 at 13:21 | #69

    rog – “StephenL, I wouldnt get too excited, when Ender isnt pedalling his peak oil unicycle he is tinkering with his virtual windmill. Bad news from Chevron..for some”

    … and as usual when devoid of cogent arguments you resort to schoolyard taunts.

    The new find is between 3 and 8 billion barrels. At the usual recovery rates then between 1.5 and 4 billion barrels will be recoverable. The USA currently uses 25 million barrels per day so this represents at best 4 billion/25 million = 160 days of US consumption and at worst 60 days.

    Also these minor facts also apply:
    More than a half a dozen world records for test equipment pressure, depth, and duration in deepwater were set during the Jack well test. For example, the perforating guns were fired at world record depths and pressures. Additionally, the test tree and other drill stem test tools set world records, helping Chevron and co-owners conduct the deepest extended drill stem test in deepwater Gulf of Mexico history.

    The oil that was found was thus expensive to find, and will also be expensive to produce. It is also far enough out into the Gulf that the platforms that will produce it will run into the same risks that hit Thunder Horse and the Mars platforms, and which, should more hurricanes hit the area, may make it more difficult to find insurance. ”

    This is exactly in line with Peak Oil. As the peak approaches the finds get smaller and smaller, harder to get at and more expensive to produce. Perhaps you should save your taunts for blogs that consist of little else.

  70. September 7th, 2006 at 15:53 | #70

    rog – a bit more reading for you about the oil discovery:

    Point 7 is illuminating

    “7. Related to point #6, the announcement is reminiscent of the Mexican “huge oil discovery” announced last year, of a possible 10 billion barrels, which was quietly revised this year to around 43 million barrels, a downward revision of 99.57%. This similar “discovery” was made in Mexico last year a few months before the Mexican parliament was to vote on Pemex (state oil co)’s budget and rights to expand drilling. This illustrates the potential political pressure to announce oil and gas discoveries.”

  71. September 8th, 2006 at 11:05 | #71

    Dear All,

    Its great to see all these smart arguments. It would be even better if the sceptics would read and contribute to it too.

    Coincidentally on the 2nd of September when the Opinion article was published ABC RN aired The Science Show on the theory of Gaia and accelerated global climate change I’ve written and produced.

    Following climate change debate for a decade I felt its important to look at climate change from an Earth system point of view and explain why could relatively small increases in CO2 levels lead to major consequences. Those who listened might have an idea what could a 3 degrees increase in global temperature cause. But is that enough? We need to have the most visible forum for a public debate not just pro and con opinions, articles, reports, documentaries scattered in different media over a period of time. Any suggestions, please?

    Best wishes,


  72. Brian Bahnisch
    September 8th, 2006 at 15:14 | #72

    Annamaria, I thought it was a great program – listened to it, taped it, printed out the transcript, though I haven’t learnt it by heart yet.

    Scary in parts, though.

  73. September 8th, 2006 at 16:41 | #73

    I know this is off topic, but for rog’s benefit I thought I’d write up what I know about: the biggest oil discovery in 38 years.

  74. September 8th, 2006 at 18:48 | #74

    Brian! That’s such a nice surprise. Thank you.

    Yes it gets really scary once you think about it as an interconnected non-linear system pregnant with surprises. We only see it in its robust, steady state but the Earth reached this balance over 3,5 thousand million years and regulated itself in narrow bounds of CO2 levels.

    There were always great natural disturbances but there was always time to bounce back to balance. The problem is that this fast world we call civilisation can’t be put on hold for that sort of timescale.

    What is the chance that we will act sensibly, collectively, internationally and within the timeframe available for us? It would be so important to have a big open debate on the emergency and extent of climate change..

  75. Brian Bahnisch
    September 8th, 2006 at 21:43 | #75

    It gets a pretty frequent run on this blog, Annamaria, including one post that ran for 647 comments.

    Over at Larvatus Prodeo in recent weeks we’ve had the greening of Greenland and Johnathon Holmes’ Four Corners report then the fragility of the Amazon plus The Australian Environment Foundation and methane in Siberia. Oh yes, and something about red balloons.

    So we might be accused of obsessing about it.

    But too much is not nearly enough on the topic. The mail I’m getting is that if we start turning things around majorly in the next ten years we have a chance that the system won’t run right out of control. Even so Vicky Pope may well be right when she said on your program:

    “Essentially the uncertainty is whether it’s going to be bad or very bad, not whether it’s going to be good or bad.”

  76. September 9th, 2006 at 11:54 | #76

    I made a long interview with Vicky Pope. She is not the kind of person who jumps into conclusions, rather a classic conservative scientists. This makes her prediction even more serious. She says that we have to adapt and we have to do everything to stave off the worst. She doesn’t say that the system will run out of control – that’s only a 1% chance and a speculative one for the moment.

    The 4Corner was great but all of these things I fear only talk to the converted. That’s why we need to bring everyone in to a big forum – to a debate. Otherwise pro and con we just selfcongratulate ourselves on random appearances of varoius stories published/aired on the issue.

  77. taust
    September 9th, 2006 at 22:58 | #77


    Why not a program on what are the changes that are going to be needed to adapt? The changes will need to be linked to the time for adaptation.

    Basically start from a scenario in which little or nothing is done to mitigate climate change so how do we best adapt to the change.

    Perhaps examples are: the extension of Canadian and Russian wheat belts to the North whilst a decrease to the South; the shift in wine growing regions in the USA, the shift in sugar growing region from the coastal belt up into the Atherton Tablelands.

    I’m sure professional research will give a much more complex position and also identify important projects to prepare Australia for the most likely outcome.

  78. Brian Bahnisch
    September 10th, 2006 at 12:02 | #78

    Annamaria, you say of Vicky Pope:

    “She says that we have to adapt and we have to do everything to stave off the worst. She doesn’t say that the system will run out of control – that’s only a 1% chance and a speculative one for the moment.”

    I guess we have to define “out of control”. In the program Watson says this:

    “Now if we push it [CO2 levels] up…this is not something that most climatologists will talk about but I think that there is a small chance, maybe a 1% chance, that if we really hit the planet too hard we may push it into a runaway system in which the temperature simply goes up and up until the oceans boil into the atmosphere, and that would extinguish all life on Earth.”

    Truly scary and very much out of control. I wonder whether his 1% was off the top of his head in an interview situation or, as I suspect, his considered assessment of the risk would be much lower. In insurance terms 1% for such an extreme outcome seems to me horrendously high. If the risk is anywhere near that level there should be a G8 emergency meeting devoted entirely to the problem within weeks.

    But it is in any case very worrying that serious scientists should be talking in those terms.

    Lovelock is suggesting that the appropriate analogy is what happened 55 million years ago. He sees equatorial temperatures rising by 5C and 8C in the more temperate zones. This would leave the planet drastically less inhabitable and biopruductive than it is now and take 200,000 years for it to what we would term rectify.

    I notice that no scientist (almost) will go there with him, although James Zachos, professor of earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has found that we are putting similar amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, only 30 times faster.

    But even if we get, say, one metre sea-level rise per century for 500 years it will be very disruptive and there will be nothing we can do to stop it in terms of the time perspectives of normal planning. So that scenario too might be termed ‘out of control’.

    Still it gives a bit of flesh to Pope’s “whether it’s going to be bad or very bad.”

  79. Graeme Bird says:
    September 10th, 2006 at 17:23 | #79

    The main thing is to stay focused on the net positive benefits of global warming. And not get sidetracked into this Anthropogenic/non-anthropogenic talk. Which sounds sort of religious and gratuitously anti-homo-sapien.

  80. September 11th, 2006 at 10:01 | #80

    Graeme Bird wrote:

    The main thing is to stay focused on the net positive benefits of global warming

    Graeme, can you please outline what those benefits would be?

    Matthew Warren from The Australian is at it again today suggesting the really scary thing about global warming are the costs of cutting greenhouse gases:

    Perhaps the more disappointing aspect of the film is its primary focus on the cause and effects of warming, ignoring the need for, and role of, adaptation. And it rather glibly skates over the other frightening aspect of the debate – the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the scale needed to actually reduce the impact of global warming.

    Link: Climate horror flick could have been even scarier

    Hmmm … so it seems I shouldn’t be worried about mass extinctions, permanent drought in SE Australia, the death of the Great Barrier Reef, no more snow in the snowies, and cities running out of water, I should really be worried about Australia losing a few percentage points of GDP.

  81. taust
    September 11th, 2006 at 16:07 | #81

    Well look on the bright side:

    mass extinctions after which it will only be species that are improving their sustainability that will be around thus we can expect of very rapid evolutionary bloom of nature we will live in a period of rapid change in the natural world ;

    permanent death of the great Barrier reef in its northern reaches but great surfing in Far North Queensland at last and an extension of coral reef zone south- see the reef off Sydney,

    drought in SE Australia : with that frame of mind every rain event will be appreciated just like the outback a flowering of poetry and painting and other art forms(there will even be a good excuse for a whole school of artists devoted to displaying dirty washing);

    No more snow in the Snowies -Those wonderful snow gums now cover the upper reaches of the Snowies, winter bush walking, no more skiers brilliant dark nights I’m beginning to look forward to this one;

    Cities running out of water -water with efficient pricing Sydney siders decide to follow the surf to Far North Queensland.

    In all the massive extinction events in the past 90% of all genetic diversity has survived.

    It looks as though those percentage points off the GDP particularly when the effect will fall unequally on the poor should be your worry

  82. September 11th, 2006 at 17:23 | #82

    taust – and you could say that the Great Fire of London was great because people were not cold or the Hurricane Katrina at least brought plenty of water to poor people etc

    Not really an argument.

  83. taust
    September 11th, 2006 at 17:36 | #83

    If I remember from reading Samual Pepys diaries you are right people did not complain of the cold.

    The main positive effect of Hurricane Katrina appears to have been to improve the living conditions of a significant proportion of the poor who were in New Orleans. It also gave us some useful engineering and organisational data for when many of our major cities will be below sea level. Though I fear the lessons will have been forgotten by that time.

  84. September 11th, 2006 at 20:57 | #84


    re Andrew Watson:

    ‘if we really hit the planet too hard we may push it into a runaway system’

    he did run this on his computer that’s why he mentions it. Its speculative of course but the point is that things changed not only on the planet but also in our cosmc surroundings – ie. the solar energy output increased by 30%.

    Watson believes we are all here because of a series of fortunate events that were just right for life to emerge and warns that things are getting more and more difficult even without human forcing, so please hands off! The system is instable.

    Watson sees Earth less capable of bouncing back to balance. Lovelock has a great comfort in the thought that Gaia and life generally speaking are very robust. He argues that anything that survived for 4.0 billion years must be robust.

    If your are interested you can listen on the BBC’s website to the full unedited feedback that Lovelock had about his book by seven academics. They have endorsed the science in the book with the exception of the fast and large sea level rise.

    You are right – ‘out of control’ means different things – and some are already happening – sea level rise due to warming that already happened raises global sea levels because of thermal expansion. It’s nothing like as if the Greenland ice-sheet melts but with 2.5-2.7 increase of temperature that too is inevitable.

    I think the program idea you’ve suggested is great. I’ll put it forward.

    bright side of global warming..the problem is that the change is too fast for organisms to adapt. Evolution operates on very long timescales.

    The biota of the ocean is extremly vulnarable because the changes in acidity and temperature are a sudden shock to them. They were not exposed to anything like this for thousands of million years, in their gene pool they don’t have a quick fix toolkit to adapt.

  85. taust
    September 11th, 2006 at 22:04 | #85

    you will hsve to manage the Deniers and Catastophe people. It really is not their story

    Adaption particularly for Australia is going to have to play a highly significant role whatever mitigation projects get off the ground.

    It could be one of the biggest events, Projects going on all around the world, private neterprise going for the profit and the inevitable subsidies. The researchers getting really exited about being involved in something useful.

    Very best of luck,

  86. September 12th, 2006 at 00:06 | #86

    Annamaria – how about a future Science Show on how we might adapt to nuclear winter, or a comet strike, or super volcano? Hey I know, how about a show about how we’ll adapt to gamma ray burst in our galaxy? The point is, you don’t.

  87. Brian Bahnisch
    September 12th, 2006 at 00:08 | #87

    carbonsink, if you are interested in Bird’s ideas on CO2 go here.

    Be careful what you ask for!

  88. taust
    September 12th, 2006 at 08:22 | #88


    its good to know their are real catastrophes (as compared to the relative blip of climate change) to worry about.

    I do note the nature has survived all in the past except the gamma ray burst.

    One could hope that H sapien could adapt and survive.

    Some work has been done on mitigating the comet strike.

    Development of geotherma energy extraction might lead to some ways of mitigating the super volcanoe.

    Both can be solved without needing a world wide agreement so there is some reasonable hope that mitigation efforts will be made in time to have an effect.

    Then we can adapt.

    So do not get too depressed facing the future

  89. September 12th, 2006 at 12:01 | #89

    Brian, Mr Bird seems positively restrained here compared with his rants at LP. I have enough on my plate with taust, I don’t have the time or energy to take on other AGW deniers on other blogs.
    Taust is a new and interesting breed. He’s not a denier, he accepts AGW, but thinks we should put all our resources into adapting to (rather than preventing) climate change. His view is (and correct me if I’m wrong Taust) is that Australia should not “waste” any resources on preventing climate change because of the harm this would do to our economy. We should therefore abandon the Great Barrier Reef to its fate and focus on how we can adapt our civilisation to the changing climate. I am frankly horrified that Annamaria (from the Science Show) takes his ideas seriously.
    I much prefer Al Gore’s view that if Australia switched sides and ratified Kyoto that would leave the US as the only hold-out in the developed world, and would put increasing pressure on the US to get serious about preventing climate change.
    I’ve got kids. I want them to see the wonders of the reef one day. I think its a little early to just give up and accept that we have to adapt to a seriously degraded environment.

  90. September 12th, 2006 at 12:17 | #90


    there are some natural events that we can do very little about and can’t adapt to and there are others that we can. The world seed bank on the Arctic is a preparation for global catastrophy of different kinds. Think about the next flu pandemic – we know its coming and we do what we can to prepare to it. Maybe not enough but more than what we do about climate change.

  91. September 12th, 2006 at 12:51 | #91

    Annamaria, climate change is a preventable problem that will (hopefully) take decades or centuries to unfold. A global flu pandemic could happen tomorrow. They are two very differenent problems. If we don’t act on climate change (as taust suggests, and you seem to be agreeing with) the earth could become uninhabitable. A flu pandemic (at worst) might kill 20% of the human population, a catastrophe of course, but it doesn’t threaten civilisation or the biosphere.

    Will the Science Show seriously be advocating a do-nothing-and-adapt response to climate change in a future episode?

  92. Brian Bahnisch
    September 12th, 2006 at 18:20 | #92

    carbonsink, Bird is an AGW enthusiast rather than a denier. And yes we all have to manage our time.

    Annamaria, I’ve been busy but I hope to comment further later tonight.

  93. September 12th, 2006 at 20:31 | #93

    Ah dear, I needed a good laugh, that Bird thread at LP is frickin’ hilarious! Check it out taust, I think we’ve found your soulmate.

  94. SimonJM
    September 12th, 2006 at 22:44 | #94

    Pt 1
    First just for you taust

    Ockham’s Razor
    Climate change Sunday 03 September 2006
    Dr Barrie Pittock of the CSIRO talks about climate change and risk management and what to do about climate change.

    Climate change

    BTW are you going to be one of the first to put your hand up for all Pacific climate refugees to come here and adapt with us?

    You won’t mind massively increase our disaster aid funding to help others that we don’t let in?

    Might mean increasing taxes but surely that is just one of moral consequences of your stance.

    Annamaria Talas welcome its fortunate I checked back in. Maybe if taust had been listening to the Science Show as I’ve been doing over many years he would have picked up a thing or to and would be more informed.

    The down side I’m always catching up via the pod casts for recent shows and have quite a few to go.

    As to suggestions.

    I once contacted Robin via email in the past to suggest he may go onto Counter Point to talk about the science of AGW and biases of the skeptics but he wasn’t keen on it.

    Cannot blame him.

  95. SimonJM
    September 12th, 2006 at 22:45 | #95

    Anyway even before the recent nuclear debate smokescreen was in full swing I suggested to the admin of http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/ that a forum be held on Insight with pre show pieces by Fourcorners, Catalyst or The Science Show and with extended blog and chat forums afterwoods. Maybe the commercial channels would be interested maybe not since it isn’t a diet scam.

    The thing is with other natural feedback system like the methane in Siberia and the good possibility that massive peat bogs like in Indonesia drying up and catching alight or that forests like the Amazon-

    Daniel Nepstad from the Woods Hole Research Centre gives us the latest update on Amazonian droughts and how far North they may spread.

    Amazonian droughts

    could dry up and release absolutely enormous amounts of C02 Lovelock’s claims could well indeed be on the money.

    Which puts this topic in the league of extreme national importance similar to a real war footing not this pseudo was on Terrorism.

    Get the best science, get all the parties involved, cut the BS and put them on the spot.

    If we can get them all together to debate the Republic the very least we can do is give this our best shot.

    More than happy to help out in greater detail.

  96. taust
    September 13th, 2006 at 08:59 | #96


    consider these questions:

    1.Take any reduction amount you like to choose and see what happens to the climate over the next 50 to 100years.
    My answer is the climate changes significantly even with the largest cuts in emissions. ie adaptation will be required

    2. What is the probability that there will be an agreement put into practice in the next ten years to limit greenhouse emissions to an extent that will significantly limit climate change .
    My answer is that this outcome is a very low probability event thus adaptation is a very good strategy to adopt

    3 What effect will Australia adopting controls on greenhouse emissions have on the timing or rate of climate change.
    My answer None. Therefore if we are going to spend our material and intellectual wealth it should be spent on adaptation

    I to would like to see a functioning world
    . I am sure the world is going to be different. If we spend our material and intellectual wealth on actions that will have no effect then a number of people in Australia will be much worse off than if we do something effective.

    What is wrong with this analysis. It is only in outcome about GDP and other frightenong economic concepts. It is about practicality. Adaptation is going to be required.

    Australia is doing little to enable its people to get ready for adaptation. Meanwhile State Governments do thing which impose costs on the poor that probably outstrip those imposed by the GST and which will have no significant effect on greenhouse emissions at all.

    I went through the COAG reforms where the policy elites now lining up for emission controls told us about the benefits (that were real in that case) but did not tell us it meant throwing a group of 15 to 20 year olds and a group of 50+ on the scrap heap.

    Emission controls are going to throw another generation on the scrap heap.

    Is your view that the natural world is far more important the human beings We shoot people to protect elephants so throwing people out of work is small beer.

  97. taust
    September 13th, 2006 at 10:39 | #97

    News from the real world

    Kyoto protocol: Adapt or fry
    09 September 2006
    From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

    IS IT all over for Kyoto? Should we accept that global warming is inevitable and plan accordingly?

    Yes, says Frances Cairncross, president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) which held its annual festival in Norwich, UK, this week.

  98. Simonjm
    September 13th, 2006 at 13:51 | #98

    Taust Some of what she says makes sense she acknowledges the risk, cannot say I or other would agree about the costs in making emission cuts.

    It’s the mix that Cairncross is talking about I’d read the whole speech.

    Basically for me she sees the risk but doesn’t see the economic or political will to change so start preparing.

    I’m more optimistic for both the political and economic.

    All that will be neededis some large natural disasters to come more frequently-not to be a norm but just enough to spook the public- to hit the US China and India and case unrest –apart from the screams of the Insurance industry- and the political will will come.

    With that will come the economics and people like Gore who will be for solutionsm not the head in the sand lip service Bush and Howard’s.

  99. taust
    September 13th, 2006 at 16:19 | #99


    I think it resolves around two issues:

    the probability of achieving an effective global agreement to mitigate climate change (my assessment very low); and

    the probability that even with mitigation we will experience significant climate change (my assessment very high).

    Depending upon your assessment of the above you then factor in what difference to climate change will Australia’s çontribution make (my assessment very small).

    Depending upon your assessment of the third factor you then can arrive at an order of magnitude assignment of the proportion of effort (both material and intellectual) Australia should spend on mitigation and adaptation.
    Based on my assessments we should only mitigate where there is a very clear direct economic return to Australia and we should spend the economic rational amount on adaptation. At this stage it means that we should in general be developing our adaptation options and doing very little mitigation.

    Particularly important given the closed nature of the policy elite in Australia we should insist the policy elite do no harm to Australians.

    In the last 50 years poor policy actions have cost the lives of more Australians than wars and terrorist actions in the same time period (just look at the suicides due to the structural adjustment of the Australian economy and that adjustment resulted in large benfits to Australians generally and the effect on Aboriginals of poor policies).

  100. taust
    September 13th, 2006 at 16:34 | #100

    I should have added thanks for the link.

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