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Climate change roundup

November 18th, 2007

There’s too much happening on climate change to keep up with it all, so I’ll give some links

* In Crikey, Guy Pearse points out that in 1990 the Liberals had a policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. His book, High and Dry, showed where that all went. If the predicted wipeout occurs, the climate delusionists in the government’s ranks (and in its leadership) will bear a large share of the responsibility.

* The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is finally complete, and provides a strong call for action. Here’s Howard’s response.

* Giving the lie to regular claims that the EU is not serious about cutting emissions, the EU Parliament has imposed caps on emissions from the airline industry, stronger than those suggested by the EU commission.

* A call for action from Kate Carroll of Greenpeace

* More surprisingly, the same from former NSW Liberal leader, Peter Debnam

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. Ikonoclast
    November 18th, 2007 at 15:45 | #1

    The salient points about the climate change issue are;

    1. It’s real, it’s here and it’s now.
    2. Current actions are too little too late.
    3. Yes, the Europeans are a little ahead on it.
    4. The mass of humanity will not change its ways until forced to by physical realities.
    5. A corollary of 4 is that en masse we never listen to advance warnings by scientific experts.
    6. A further corollary is that most experts never even listen to their own warnings. (How many have changed their lifestyles?)
    7. There is still a huge disconnect between the knowledge and the reality. Witness TV reports on global warming interspersed with adverts for ever bigger SUVs and 4WDs.
    8. There is a huge momentum in our energy and production systems which we have not even begun to turn around yet.
    9. If we get out of this one, then our species designation of “sapiens” may be justified.

  2. Ian Gould
    November 18th, 2007 at 16:01 | #2

    Ikonoklact: Re./ 4. – the obvious counterargument is the Montreal Protocol.

  3. Persse
    November 18th, 2007 at 17:06 | #3

    Tim Lamberts blog also has a pdf version. http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/11/17/ar4_syr_spm.pdf
    My take on the renewed urgency to tackle this issue is that the need for haste is only going to increase. And how exactly do you bring several billion people through an industrial revolution without the world becoming like the English Midlands in the 1840′s permanently.

  4. Hermit
    November 18th, 2007 at 17:06 | #4

    Re I’s point #7; the NSW Premier is off flogging coal to Asia as we speak
    http://au.news.yahoo.com/071116/2/14zf9.html
    If he had taken IPCC 4 to heart he would be telling them to cut back. The powers-that-be won’t have that change of heart until it is too late, if it isn’t already in terms of a smooth transition.

  5. November 18th, 2007 at 17:53 | #5

    if you get out of this one, you’ll be homo lucky ’cause no visible wisdom involved. pollies can’t do it, people can’t do it, war, disease, and famine are saddling up again ’cause they can do it.

    i kind of regret not being around to say i told you so, when population is finally brought down to sustainable levels in the usual fashion. but it would be a sour pleasure, and grumpy old men would be in great danger of being converted to greenburgers anyway.

    btw, if you need fast action, gathering outside parliament house with rope and torches has been known to speed up deliberation.

  6. observa
    November 18th, 2007 at 23:35 | #6

    “Giving the lie regular claims that the EU is not serious about cutting emissions, the EU Parliament has imposed caps on emissions from the airline industry, stronger than those suggested by the EU commission.”

    The new denialists like John Quiggin are not lying of course. It’s just that their silence is deafening that cap and trade equals inefficient, backdoor carbon tax plus corporate welfare, which is probably why Howard has joined their caravan, unlike some more experienced skeptics-
    http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/45365/story.htm

  7. mugwump
    November 19th, 2007 at 04:51 | #7

    You forgot:

    * Another publication discrediting the hockeystick and supporting a warmer Medieval Warm Period than today.

    * A little old, but the Antarctic sea-ice extent hit a record maximum this SH spring. Curious how it received so much less attention than the record arctic minimum in the NH summer.

  8. jquiggin
    November 19th, 2007 at 05:36 | #8

    Energy & Environment. Oh dear.

    Seriously, though, your contributions to the destruction of the Liberal party are gratefully received.

  9. conrad
    November 19th, 2007 at 06:35 | #9

    And to think I’ve complained about journals that exist just so that people could collect DEST points and the like. Excluding the trees, at least they’re harmless and no-one brags about having papers in them.

  10. Ken
    November 19th, 2007 at 07:14 | #10

    I’ve noticed that Labour spending on climate change has been included as one of the economic fears the Libs are promoting in their recent ads. Just having a bet each way? Hoping that message reaches the ears of those who aren’t swayed by the “we are taking the issue seriously”. The same ones who like the “but we won’t rush into anything” proviso?

    Greed and Fear – these are the tools the Libnats consider the best for swaying voters. Not just Libnats of course, but JH has always been masterful in his use of those tools of persuasion. Those mainstay tools of electioneering have been winners for them in the past – hitting those emotional triggers tends to stops clear thought and reasoned argument in their tracks. Or normally does, but that climate change, rightly, has become an emotional trigger with it’s own powerful resonance, hitting parents most of all, for fear of the hard times that will be bequeathed to their kids by failure to act.

    I think the inconsistencies of the Libnat position on climate change is undermining the “strong and decisive” image JH has tried to foster. Of course I fully expect Rudd and Labour will ride the coal boom all the way, as determined as Howard to resist local or international efforts to add the full environmental cost to the price of coal or to restrict it’s sale to carbon neutral users.

    Despite my own optimism that the technology we need for a low GHG future is not far off, I am doubtful Australia will be at the forefront of policies that see them deployed – Australia is going to be more part of the problem than part of the solution for the foreseeable future.

  11. November 19th, 2007 at 07:50 | #11

    Ikonoklact: Re./ 4. – the obvious counterargument is the Montreal Protocol

    Hilarious! May I suggest that giving up CFCs (and replacing them with an inexpensive alternative) is a little different to giving the fossil fuels that power our civilisation.

    Ikonoclast: You forgot this one:
    10. The era of cheap oil is over and we will almost certainly choose very greenhouse intensive alternatives (oil sands, oil shale, coal-to-liquids…) to protect our “lifestyle”.

  12. mugwump
    November 19th, 2007 at 08:42 | #12

    Hey Quiggin, how about earning your keep for a change and explaining what is wrong with the paper, instead of your (never-ending) ad hom attacks?

    I guess that would require real work; I won’t hold my breath.

  13. wilful
    November 19th, 2007 at 09:10 | #13

    Earning his keep? I didn’t realise this blog was subscription based. Where am I supposed to pay?

    Or put it another way, you’re damned insulting, Mr mugwump, and Prof Quiggin doesn’t have to justify anything to you.

  14. Stephen L
    November 19th, 2007 at 09:33 | #14

    Mugwump, if you had linked to a paper in Nexus or New Dawn would you expect Professor Quiggin to demolish it line by line? Yet the credibility of Energy and Environment is hardly any higher.

  15. jquiggin
    November 19th, 2007 at 10:07 | #15

    Mugwump, your subscription is suspended for 72 hours, with a full refund. Please read the comments policy again before returning.

  16. Peter Wood
    November 19th, 2007 at 11:05 | #16

    The international climate change talks in Bali will be taking place between December 3 and December 14. These talks will include some negotiations on a Kyoto successor. If I was to choose a method to allocate targets for different countries I would choose a global cap that declines with respect to time (and choose it in a way that would have greenhouse gases stabilising at less than 500 ppm CO2-e). I would then allocate permits to each country based on their population so that each country is allocated the same per capita emissions. Countries would be free to buy and sell permits. Unsurprisingly, I have heard quite a few African countries like this sort of proposal. Like Kyoto, this will be a form of cap and trade. The main criticism of this approach that I can think of is that it does not take into account the much higher previous emissions from developed countries.

    It will also be interesting to see if any methods come out the Bali talks to use carbon finance to pay for avoided deforestation. Something which is also environmentally necessary.

    Re #6: While there are ways for polluters to game emission trading schemes by being allocated free permits and so on, there are also ways that carbon taxes can be gamed. In the 1990′s Norway introduced a carbon tax (see Stern p339) and it has been estimated that it is had helped Norway reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, quite a few sectors of the economy were exempt from the tax, including fisheries, natural gas production cement production and foreign shipping. Exemptions are much much worse than free permits because there is not incentive whatsoever for the polluter reduce emissions. For a carbon tax to work it will also have to steadily increase in order to continue reducing emissions. Getting politicians to increase taxes is always difficult.

  17. wilful
    November 19th, 2007 at 11:31 | #17

    peter, while the end point has got to be a per capita emission limit, it would be naive/unachievable and unfair to put that limit in place from 2012.

    I think a robust declining cap heading towards 80% by 2050 (my reading of the science) needs to be set, and have every country have to track towards that with the start position being today’s emissions and the final position being a per capita proportion of the greatly reduced final emissions. And of course international trading has to be allowable, so in the interim rich nations can still buy themselves a grace period. But eventually there simply wont be enough cheap overseas efficiencies, real changes would have to occur at home.

    That’s the only rational, achievable approach (IMHO). Of course, what about penalty clauses? What happens when a country goes for the free rider?

  18. Ian Gould
    November 19th, 2007 at 12:09 | #18

    “Hilarious! May I suggest that giving up CFCs (and replacing them with an inexpensive alternative) is a little different to giving the fossil fuels that power our civilisation.”

    Actually the hysterical exaggeration of the problem in both cases is pretty similar – especially in the way extreme environmentalists and right-wing drones took the same position.

  19. wilful
    November 19th, 2007 at 12:10 | #19

    Sorry Ian, which bit is hysterical? De-carbonising our economy isn’t a trivial task, but certainly an urgent one.

  20. Persse
    November 19th, 2007 at 12:45 | #20

    Just to be clear about the degree of hilarity. Sulphur and nitrogen oxides perhaps just a little chuckle, cfc’s a subdued titter. CO2 buildup an hysterical, full throated belly laugh.

    Historically we have managed to clean the crap in medieval cities, and most of the worst excesses of industrialisation.

    But CO2 is a on different level – it is absolutely ubiquitous in the environment, and has plenty of potential to be a self amplifying phenomena beyond human contributions. There are vast amounts of potential CO2 sources lying around. A product of a planet in midlife. Warmth can release CO2 thereby instituting a runaway greenhouse scenario. This is not a new idea or controversial. The conceptual framework has existed for a long time.
    The difficulty seems to be that some people refuse to acknowledge that any real problem exists for cultural/psychological reasons.

    And yet, at the end of the day, the same CO2 producing practices would have to end anyway, because the sources of this material will be used up anyway, and cannot possibly be any great loss one way or another.

    What is it going to take ( a Venus like atmosphere perhaps – 90% CO2.) to convince the naysayers.

  21. Alan
    November 19th, 2007 at 13:03 | #21

    Persse

    The denialists’ beliefs are not susceptible to facts. Even catastrophe will not change their minds, because they will cling to the belief that the catastrophe was caused by natural processes (perhaps brought on by the wrath of their deity). Even if the world’s population collapsed in a global famine, a large percentage would still say it had nothing to do with burning fossil fuels.

    Do not attempt to try to change their minds. Strive, rather, to deprive them of power and influence.

  22. John Bignucolo
    November 19th, 2007 at 13:26 | #22

    The SMH has posted an AAP that’s bound to make Peter Garrett nervous, but it also includes a sting the tail for John Howard in the form of some observations from Peter Debnam.

    The story includes the following quotes from Kevin Rudd, and with the release of the fourth IPCC report, it seems that global warming is going to be the main issue in today’s media cycle. Not good for John Howard:

    He said the government was full of “sceptics and deniers” on climate change.

    “This election will be a referendum on our nation’s future … whether we are going to act on climate change or pretend the problem doesn’t exist,” he said.

    “The future of the planet is of deep concern and requires a program of action not of avoidance.”

    Kevin Rudd has picked up on comments from Peter Debnam” in a speech to the NSW Energy Summit. He made the comments in his capacity as the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Energy.

    The reference to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol below, is the one that news organisations are picking up on:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, while acknowledging organisers didn’t have prior knowledge of the election date, the week before a federal election is terrible timing for our discussions this morning. The state of energy infrastructure and the market warrants real public attention and it won’t get it this week.

    But – let’s be optimistic that at least in this room this morning, we can do a reality check about NSW energy strategies.

    I’ll focus on electricity but gas and alternative fuels warrant equivalent debate in this state.

    The bottom line on electricity is that clean coal is in fact an oxy-moron, nuclear is just not a realistic option for Australia but NSW can lead the world in championing renewables, especially solar, and in aggressively pursuing energy efficiencies to keep household and business costs down.

    Clean, sustainable energy strategies are staring us in the face – we just have to grab them.

    In Australia, we’ve been distracted by vested interests and by everything else imaginable including the prolonged Kyoto debate – I wish we had ratified Kyoto long ago and then led the world with bold initiatives in clean energy.

    Next year, we have an opportunity to re-position NSW on a path of market leadership and I will be challenging the Labor Party to adopt this objective.

    Let me explain why and how we can lead the world in renewables and efficiencies.

    One could ask where Peter Debnam was on this issue when he was NSW Liberal leader. It could be a case of Peter Debnam trying to help Malcolm Turnbull, and it could also be an attempt to reposition the NSW Liberals, who at the next state election will have spent 16 years in opposition.

  23. John Bignucolo
    November 19th, 2007 at 13:29 | #23

    Oops, this is the link to Peter Debnam’s speech.

    Prof. Quiggin, it would be nice to have a comment preview feature.

  24. wilful
    November 19th, 2007 at 13:49 | #24

    The SMH article is a beat-up. No Cabinet Ministers have ever been guaranteed their title post-election, until this one.

    But I reckon it was a mistake to put Garrett in on Environment anyway.

  25. BilB
    November 19th, 2007 at 13:56 | #25

    That was a very good speech by Peter Debnam who clearly registers a very real understanding of the issues and their gravity. I hope that he publicly announces offers Federal Labour bipartisan support for alternative energy initiatives prior to the election. That would be real leadership.

    I do not care who does the job, as long as they do it right and they do it fast. Debnam can very effectively take the high ground on this issue as NSW Labour is asleep at the wheel.

  26. jquiggin
    November 19th, 2007 at 13:58 | #26

    I did have comment preview, but it got lost when I was having trouble with the site. I’ll try reinstalling it.

  27. November 19th, 2007 at 14:30 | #27

    What part of “abrupt and irreversible� don’t the Liberals understand?

    This question was on my mind when I read the leaflet from Craig Thomas, Liberal candidate for Griffith.

    “Presumably Mr Thomas and his party are ‘relaxed and comfortable’ with the exponential growth of Brisbane Airport, and with the impacts severely affecting the living amenity of Griffith residents. Nor is Mr Thomas much concerned with the need for public transport, the urgent need for public and affordable housing and the poverty in our midst. He is offering to get tough on ‘hoons’ and clean up graffiti (which are state government and city council matters).

    “Mr Thomas thinks that “Protecting our Environment� is just a matter of “making sure our waterways are clean�. I hope that voters have realised why the Howard government might be about to lose this election�. “Hello! Aren’t there more pressing environmental problems?�

    Mr Thomas does not mention is that global warming will severely affect everyone in Griffith in varying degrees. Some of us are already trying to cope with price spirals, which affect our standards of living. The past twelve squandered years of inaction and denial happened because the major parties nominated people like Craig Thomas who are prepared to mouth platitudes and do nothing.

    Since Craig Thomas preferred not to have a public debate with the Greens candidate, we should be asking what his opinion is of The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which describes global warming as “abrupt and irreversible�, in case he and his colleagues were to sneak back into office without an effective plan of emissions reduction.

    “I prefer to hope that the demise of the Howard government will be “abrupt and irreversible�, Mr Bach concluded.

    Willy Bach
    Greens candidate for Griffith

  28. Peter Wood
    November 19th, 2007 at 15:09 | #28

    wilful,

    With trading in place if a per-capita limit was rapidly introduced big emitters (like Australia and the US) would have to purchase almost all of their permits from smaller emitters. So a $10-30/ tonne price would mean that Australia could have to spend something like $6-18 billion on permits. Probably not the sort of proposal that would be popular with big emitters. This would lead to very large cash flows to countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Afghanistan etc.

    Of course with that much trading in place you would need strong penalties in place and strong verification mechanisms.

  29. Peter Wood
    November 19th, 2007 at 15:19 | #29

    In 2000, the world emitted about 6.9 t CO2-e per person. The median would be less than that.

  30. wilful
    November 19th, 2007 at 15:42 | #30

    Peter, I guess I’m not commenting on the principle of you position, more the realism of getting any of the larger emitting countries to sign on to anything remotely like it.

  31. rog
    November 19th, 2007 at 18:08 | #31

    Ozzie of the year Tim Flanney has also endorsed Turnbull

  32. November 19th, 2007 at 19:27 | #32

    Actually the hysterical exaggeration of the problem in both cases is pretty similar – especially in the way extreme environmentalists and right-wing drones took the same position.

    Hey, who are you calling an extreme environmentalist?!

    Am I extreme because a) I believe AGW is real and happening faster than anticipated, and b) it will be extremely difficult and expensive to fix? IMO, those are both perfectly reasonable and realistic positions.

    Just because it will be hard to fix doesn’t mean I don’t think its worth doing, or that all hope is lost, but to equate Montreal to the challenge of climate change is frankly absurd.

  33. November 19th, 2007 at 19:32 | #33

    BilB: I agree about Debnam. I was more impressed with the Liberal’s environmental policies (e.g. recycling vs desal) at the last state election than Labor’s. This is why its so important to get rid of Howard, because once Ratty is gone Liberals across the country will be free to embrace more sensible policy on climate change.

  34. November 19th, 2007 at 20:33 | #34

    Carbonsink says, “once Ratty is gone Liberals across the country will be free to embrace more sensible policy on climate change”.

    It would be nice to think the Liberals would suddenly get their act together, but I can’t see that happening.

    If Labor win the election and the Liberals are routed they will probably have lost John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull. Peter Costello will step up to take his ‘rightful’ place, or so he thinks and will soon discover that no one wants him. After all, wasn’t it Work Choices, arrogance and bullying that lost them government.

    Peter Costello is the centrepoint of all that. In any case he wants to extend Work Choices till no one is eligible for unfair dismissal protection. That will get them in more trouble.

    So, I predict that the Liberals will be tearing themselves apart. They have already started. This means that only the Greens and Democrats will provide the Labor government with an effective opposition. Without an effective opposition that knows the territory of global warming the Labor government will start to show the same tendency towards arrogance, bullying and undemocratic practices.

    Willy Bach
    Greens candidate for Griffith

  35. Ian Gould
    November 19th, 2007 at 20:48 | #35

    Wilful, it’s big task but not an impossible one and while the sooner we start the better, we have twenty to thirty years.

    Over that time-frame virtually all our mobile technology (planes, trains, boats and cars) and 50% of our currently installed stationary power-generation capacity will need to be replaced anyway.

    Most economic models predict a cost of less than 1% of global GDP per year for the change-over.

    In light of current growth around 4% (and given a long-term secular trend of accelerating economic growth), that’s a big task but quite manageable.

    When you take into account the ancilliary benefits from decarbonisation (such as the reduction in health costs from air pollution) the net cost is probably close to zero or even positive.

  36. observa
    November 19th, 2007 at 23:20 | #36

    “Most economic models predict a cost of less than 1% of global GDP per year for the change-over.”
    These would be the same economic models that couldn’t predict stagfalation in the 70s nor the next recession, nor interest rates in 12 months time, let alone the weather next week. If that 1% prediction were remotely believable, even Howard and Bush would have jumped on board Kyoto years ago and China and India would have been right behind them. Whilst we might all agree the conventional wisdom is that CO2 emissions are a serious threat, that is a far cry from the one percenters living in cloud cuckoo land. If that is conventional wisdom then please explain why the NSW Govt gave a 30 yr CO2 emission moratorium for a new steel plant.

    Kyoto evangelists now deliberately and dishonestly conflate Kyoto skepticism with GW skepticism. By that I mean the track record of cap and trade to date rather than the notion of a serious gathering of the concerned to devise effective and workable solutions to the problem. They are still locked in a time warp of ‘making the community more aware’ rather than seriously addressing workable solutions, or listening to valid criticisms of attempts to ameliorate Co2 to date. That’s their denialism.

  37. observa
    November 19th, 2007 at 23:47 | #37

    That said, I think Kyoto’s cap and trade equals administrative nightmare, inefficient carbon tax plus corporate welfare, coupled with its track record to date sucks. The Howard and Rudd camps are singing the same hum along tune with it now and given that, I’d rather see the Rudd camp be responsible for its metoo failure, if that’s the way the evangelists ultimately drive us.

    Cap and trade with give away emission rights is doomed to failure, as well as shortchanging our offspring. Caps for MDCs, will simply drive CO2 emitting industries to LDCs with no caps and hence lower costs. If we can’t get all countries to agree to a level playing field carbon tax, (perhaps with offsetting income tax cuts as they individually see fit), the prospects of reducing global CO2 emissions are zilch. That’s not to say MDCs should not also engage in exemplary alternative means to further reduce their emissions, but cap and trade is unworkable rubbish. Much ado about nothing as the Head of Italy’s largest utility said, which is probably why Rudd and Howard are on the same wavelength now. At least Howard was honest enough to admit it, despite the political unpopularity of doing so.

  38. Peter Wood
    November 20th, 2007 at 00:02 | #38

    observa,

    It is important to distinguish between cap and trade schemes at a national or regional level (such as the EU ETS) and the use of cap and trade in international agreements such as the Kyoto protocol and other protocols that may be negotiated under the UNFCCC. Once a particular country (or group of countries such as the EU) agree to a cap, the country then has to choose the required policy measures to achieve the cap, such as avoiding deforestation, technology policies, a carbon tax, emissions trading, etc. It seems to me that a global cap and trade system would be easier to set up than a global carbon tax.

    While policies such as countries allocating free permits in an emissions trading scheme is less fair or efficient than auctioning permits, there are similar ways that carbon taxes can be and have been gamed (see #16). The best way to avoid gaming and corporate welfare is probably through increasing public awareness.

  39. observa
    November 20th, 2007 at 00:07 | #39

    Surprisingly the greens seem to be on the same wavelength
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,22748701-30417,00.html?from=public_rss

  40. observa
    November 20th, 2007 at 00:15 | #40

    “It seems to me that a global cap and trade system would be easier to set up than a global carbon tax.”
    And why would that be Peter? It wouldn’t be because you have to be forthright and honest with people about what cap and trade really means? Hence the backdoor giveaway of emissions permits and let corporates take the blame. It’s like choosing WMD over Beacon of Light, but you usually get found out in the end.

  41. Peter Wood
    November 20th, 2007 at 00:21 | #41

    It would be easier because it would be almost impossible to get all of the countries involved to agree on what to do with the revenue raised.

  42. Peter Wood
    November 20th, 2007 at 00:29 | #42

    On a country or regional level I would prefer a hybrid scheme which combined cap and trade (with all permits auctioned) with a carbon tax to maintain a price floor. Some people have proposed introducing price floors by having governments buy back permits but I think having a tax would be a better use of money. This would provide an extra degree of price certainty that would help guide investment decisions.

  43. jack strocchi
    November 20th, 2007 at 06:06 | #43

    Is it possible to be a climate change affirmationist and still be relaxed and comfortable about the probable consequences of global warming? That is roughly my position.

    Although I guess AUS should sign onto Kyoto to be a good global citizen.

    I am not all that worked up about temperatures rising by a few degrees and sea levels rising by a few metres. Humans have coped with far worse through their evolution. In fact, some degree of ecological adversity tends to encourage our technological facility.

    The ecological environment is mainly an economic good – a form of natural capital (excepting higher order mammals, who deserve special moral consideration). So I prefer to treat ecologics as a sub-set of economics (in fact that is how modern ecology got its theoretical start, Darwin being a student of English political economy.)

    I have some quantitative questions for pr Q: what is the cost of minimising irreplaceable natural capital dissipation ie reducing depreciation and depletion? Will the consumer costs of greenhouse gas emmission controls exceed the capital benefits?

    My main concern is the prospect of extreme climate change – positive feedback leading to run-away heating and climate catastrophe. What are the odds on this? What measures can be undertaken to minimise the sting in the tail of the adverse climate change outcome distribution? And what are the odds of adverse unintended consequences of rapid climate change?

    THis is certainly a question that conservatives should be asking themselves.

    I am certainly willing to lay down some cold hard cash to stop a run-away climate catastrophe.

  44. conrad
    November 20th, 2007 at 06:20 | #44

    “I prefer to treat ecologics as a sub-set of economics”

    I prefer the reverse order, with economics being a nice way to describe things that go on occasionaly. I’m sure CO2, most other chemicals, and the rest of the animal kingdom would agree with me if they could. It would be interesting to know what percentage of people excluding economists would also if they thought about it. Thus, in terms of order I get Earth->Environment->Behavior->Economics, which is not to say there isn’t feedback.

  45. wilful
    November 20th, 2007 at 08:34 | #45

    Is it possible to be a climate change affirmationist and still be relaxed and comfortable about the probable consequences of global warming? Not really, no. Not if you know anything about ecology.

    The environment is certainly not mainly an economic good, though it is convenient to treat it that way in order to get the ear of decision-makers. You can have an ecology without an economy, you cannot have it the other way round.

    Even from a strictly anthropocentric position, climate change is clearly indicating the (additional) deaths of many tens of millions, and poverty for hundreds of millions. Suffer the Bangladeshis.

    Rather a lot of morally developed people find the environment to be an intrinsic good. The spectre of massive species loss is, for most people, an absolute tragedy, whatever the impact on human material wellbeing.

    When you also consider the flow-on impacts that these losses have, through loss of eco-system services, even more narrowly defined goods are gravely threatened. There are a few simple Australian examples of where we have interfered with natural systems thinking that we know better, to discover ruination: dry-land salinity, bushfire control, overgrazing leading to desertification, eutrophication of our waterways.

  46. Peter Wood
    November 20th, 2007 at 09:11 | #46

    Jack,

    You might be interested in the following lecture on the risk of extreme climate change:

    http://info.anu.edu.au/Discover_ANU/News_and_Events/Public_Lectures/_Andrew_Glikson_07.asp

  47. John Bignucolo
    November 20th, 2007 at 13:44 | #47

    The ABC is reporting that Alexander Downer is jetting off to Singapore to push “for a declaration on climate change at a meeting of Asian nations in Singapore”.

    I can see Alexander “Neville” Downer proudly stepping from the plane on his return, his ASEAN climate change declaration flapping in the breeze, and proclaiming “energy intensity improvements” in our time.

    It seems a reasonable response from Alexander Downer’s point of view: a harmless, pointless, ineffectual stunt to address a non-existent, unimportant pseudo problem. A quick trip to appear to care about a media beat-up. It should be more than enough to counter the climate change issue’s negative effects on the Liberal Party’s primary vote.

  48. November 20th, 2007 at 22:16 | #48

    John Bignucolo brings the discussion up to date with
    Alexander Downer’s desperate eleventh-hour “harmless, pointless, ineffectual stunt to address a non-existent, unimportant pseudo problem”. Mr Downer cannot save the discredited Howard government now.

    No one will believe that his presence in Singapore means anything at all, especially it does not indicate that the Australian government intends to do anything to mitigate global warming. The ASEAN leaders and the Singapore government will be the last to be impressed or think that Mr Downer is sincere after twelve years of sabotage and inaction.

    There is a warning here for the ALP that they have to work very hard to restore this country’s credibility in the world. This means they will need to adopt the Greens emissions targets or better. There is no more time left for fumbling and ball tampering by trickster politicians.

    There is no use in voting Liberal. The candidate script from Head Office prescribes concern with City Hall issues only (there is no climate change happening, apparently). Drains, hoons and graffiti are the apex of the Liberal candidates’ concerns.

    I would say that the Liberals are not even a part of this debate and might as well not even be part of this historic election, as they contribute nothing of significance.

    If you are sufficiently concerned to be contributing to this discussion you would be thinking of voting Green in the Senate.

    Regards
    Willy Bach
    Greens candidate for Griffith
    (I add this to all of my postings for the satisfaction of Labor Apparatchiks who accuse me of concealing my intentions).

  49. Brian Bahnisch
    November 21st, 2007 at 00:29 | #49

    Jack Strocchi, if you’re still there, you should have a look at a paper by Harvard economist Martin L Weitzman. I can’t understand all the squiggles, but he clearly takes the fat-tailed risks of climate sensitivity seriously. If I’ve got him right the models show that there’s a 1 in 20 risk that doubling CO2 will lead to a 6C temperature change and a 1 in 50 risk of 8C. Either would end civilisation as we know it. Truly catastrophic climate change is way more likely than an asteroid strike.

    I liked the bit where he briefly questions whether the industrial revolution was really a good idea. The Dismal Theorem which “in the limit as the VSL-like parameter becomes very
    large, agents will pay virtually any price to eliminate deep uncertainty” is, as he says, a “vexing idea that
    is difficult to wrap one’s mind around.”

    I think it would be great, Jack, if you could wrap your mind around it and report what you think!

  50. wilful
    November 21st, 2007 at 07:36 | #50

    Well Willy, despite my grave misgivings about the Greens and their idealistic approach to government (I far prefer the Democrats and their pragmatic approach – far more responsible and democratic), I will be voting Greens in the Senate this time around, due principally to their appreciation of the climate change issue.

    Now if only they could be a bit more sensible about forestry…

  51. November 21st, 2007 at 08:39 | #51

    Is it possible to be a climate change affirmationist and still be relaxed and comfortable about the probable consequences of global warming? That is roughly my position.

    I am not all that worked up about temperatures rising by a few degrees and sea levels rising by a few metres…

    Sea level rises are unlikely to be a serious issue in my lifetime (unless greenland or the west antarctic melt in hurry) but I would like to see my kids enjoy the pleasures of the Great Australian Beach well into their adulthood. What value do we as a nation place on our beaches?

    One thing I can’t be relaxed and comfortable about is the desertification of Australia’s food bowl. When I see thousands of mature fruit trees ploughed into the ground, I am less than relaxed, perhaps even alarmed.

  52. Brian Bahnisch
    November 21st, 2007 at 21:43 | #52

    I would like to see my kids enjoy the pleasures of the Great Australian Beach well into their adulthood.

    Look on the bright side, carbonsink. They might not have to go as far to get to the beaches.

    There’s also the prospect of the waves rolling in right up the Queensland coast if the great Barrier Reef gives up the ghost.

  53. November 22nd, 2007 at 01:50 | #53

    1. Quiggin ignores argument and instead directs ad hom attacks at dissenting person.

    2. Dissenting person complains about not being met with a real argument.

    3. Quiggin bans dissenter.

    Business as usual at Quiggin’s.

  54. jquiggin
    November 22nd, 2007 at 06:09 | #54

    Yobbo, before you rush to the defence of this particular troll, you might want to check out this thread from a couple of days previously, in which, unable to refute the arguments of a leading econometrician, he attacks him on the grounds that, being an academic he must be pro-Labor.

  55. November 22nd, 2007 at 07:04 | #55

    not all academics are pro-labor, but all are academics. that’s enough for some of us.

  56. jquiggin
    November 22nd, 2007 at 10:08 | #56

    Oddly enough, that’s exactly the way I feel about trolls.

  57. November 22nd, 2007 at 15:10 | #57

    Which is no different to what yourself and Lambert do to the other side John.

Comments are closed.