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Rudd misread the weather

December 19th, 2008

My opinion columns at the Fin appear to have emerged from behind the paywall. I guess that says they aren’t vital enough that people will pay to read them (especially since they can get much the same opinions here) but maybe that having this material available will attract readers to the Fin site and sell advertising. Anyway, here’s my latest

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  1. Hermit
    December 20th, 2008 at 07:21 | #1

    Another point I would make about per capita targets which perhaps smacks of racism is whether China and India should really have populations over a billion. If China had say 0.3 bn people instead of 1.3 billion their per capita figure would quadruple. The ‘benefits’ of urban emissions may not be getting to the rural poor anyway. Sure Australia has high per capita emissions for a number of reasons, but (so far) we haven’t let population get out of control.

  2. BilB
    December 20th, 2008 at 07:38 | #2

    Good tough talk there, JQ. Do you think that a double dissolution election fought out on the environmental issue would return the party with the best argued affirmative solution?

  3. charles
    December 20th, 2008 at 08:22 | #3

    If Rudd is wrong he will be facing a senate controlled by the Green’s in 2010. I hope he is, but time will tell.

  4. December 20th, 2008 at 08:45 | #4

    I reads most of your columns – this was one of your best.

  5. Ian Gould
    December 20th, 2008 at 10:50 | #5

    {…whether China and India should really have populations over a billion.”

    How about asking whether Australia should really have 20 million people who each produce around 6 times the emissions of the average Chinese.

  6. Hermit
    December 20th, 2008 at 11:49 | #6

    Ian I’ll restate my point. I suspect a great many people in China don’t enjoy the trappings of the middle class. Therefore they should be somewhat discounted in the per capita emissions ie the divisor is too large. In Australia even the poor drive cars and own air conditioners. If China has 300m ‘middle class equivalent’ people then per capita is more like (emissions/300m) not (emissions/1300m), a 4.3 fold higher figure. Australians then go from 6 times to 1.4 times the Chinese average.

    Consider the converse case; if there was a global personal emissions allowance and Australia doubled its population we would be ‘entitled’ to double our previous total entitlement.

  7. Ian Gould
    December 20th, 2008 at 13:13 | #7

    Right and Europeans don’t drive SUVs so they obviously don’t need the same per capita allotment as Americans.

  8. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 20th, 2008 at 14:13 | #8

    John, today Garnaut has derided the Rudd government for balking at its election commitments and of jumping into bed with the most inefficient heavy polluters in this country all at taxpayers expense. Not only is Labor out of step with the EU but the Coalition has contributed ‘zilch’ to the climate change debate by continuing to sit on the fence. Maybe the next poll results will shake, rattle and rock some sense into them.

  9. Hermit
    December 20th, 2008 at 16:25 | #9

    I’d vote Green if they softened their anti-nuclear stance and weak immigration policy, say half Green half BNP. I’m not sure the ALP stands for anything now except appeasing the most aggressive special interest groups.

  10. Joe
    December 20th, 2008 at 16:42 | #10

    The Caucus Christmas party, after a few grogs, would be interesting. Would it be “I got into politics to make a difference!!” or “The working class can kiss my rs, I’ve got a bludging job at last”?

  11. Ian Gould
    December 20th, 2008 at 16:49 | #11

    “…half BNP.”

    That’s the same BNP that’s Constitution commits it to:
    “…stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration and to restoring, by legal changes, negotiation and consent the overwhelmingly white makeup of the British population that existed in Britain prior to 1948.”

    The BNP whose current leader calls the Holocaust “a hoax”?

    That BNP?

  12. December 20th, 2008 at 18:20 | #12

    Pr Q said (on associated thread):

    what matters as far as the climate change problem is concerned is total global emissions. If someone moves from one country to another, but doesn’t change their consumption patterns, nothing changes.

    Agreed on the primacy of “total global emissions”. Nature cares only about the bottom line.

    Disagreed on the heroic-and-dodgy assumption that “someone moves from one country to another, but doesn’t change their consumption patterns”. (Why else do immigrants move if not for that?)

    Greenies are not facing up to the policy and political implications of mass immigration. Esp in an era of urban congestion and sprawl. Population denialism is as rampant amongst Greenies as is greenhouse denialism is amongst “Brownies”. With a couple of noble exceptions eg Ian Lower. Mark O’connor gives the dismal science:

    Under the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, our [population growth] rate has increased. According to Bureau of Statistics figures, it is now 1.7 per cent. Both natural increase and net migration continue to rise. At this rate, one which many are determined to maintain or increase, our population will reach 42 million by 2051. By the end of the century, it will pass 100 million.

    This is far above any credible estimate of the population Australia could hope to feed.

    Troubles will come sooner. This week’s government white paper proposes a 5 per cent cut in emissions, but this, like Ross Garnaut’s report, assumes large per capita cuts can outpace population growth, like a swimmer prevailing against the tide. But this planning is based on the dubious assumption we are heading for 28 million people living in Australia by 2051, rather than 42 million. If the Rudd Government does not change course, even painful per capita cuts will deliver no overall cuts, but an increase.

    Greenies are saying AUS still has high per capita carbon emissions than anyone else. So we should make bigger carbon emissions cuts in the future because we are the biggest offenders now and were so in the past. True enough and fair enough.

    But they are saying nothing about the ecological perversity of mass immigration from low-GHG to high-GHG countries. The Centre for Immigration Studies analysed this and concluded:

    The findings of this study indicate that future levels of immigration will have a significant impact on efforts to reduce global CO2 emissions. Immigration to the United States significantly increases world-wide CO2 emissions because it transfers population from lower-polluting parts of the world to the United States, which is a higher-polluting country. On average immigrants increase their emissions four-fold by coming to America.

    This demographic reality of unprecedented immigration is the eco-logic hobbling Rudd’s attempts to meet reasonable GHG targets.

    This logical point seems to have escaped the notice of both sides of the Greenhouse debate. (The PRC at least grasped the connection b.w. massive population growth and ecological sustainability a generation ago. But they have not been intellectually disabled by the virus of post-modern liberalism.)

    The more immigration the greater the per capita carbon cut we must take to meet our Kyoto capita quota. This will inevitably increase the economic costs to industry and political opposition amongst voters.

    It would be nice, just for once, if Greenie liberals could set aside their dogmatic commitment to “density and diversity” for a moment and consider the inner-contradictions in the liberal world view.

  13. jquiggin
    December 20th, 2008 at 19:42 | #13

    Jack, your piece is notable for its total failure to engage with the arguments in my column

  14. December 20th, 2008 at 21:39 | #14

    John,

    It might be out from behind the paywall, but it’s still self scrambling when you try to grab some text. Here is your last sentence copied and pasted.

    ” n i w f u n u l’ l n a d e c r a l g l n p l t c l a e r, h s e m l k l t b a a n o e. u i ‘s h o l h p t e o e n e t a l f .”

    Why the Fin uses technology like this is a complete mystery to me. But there you go.

  15. charles
    December 20th, 2008 at 22:19 | #15
  16. Tony G
    December 20th, 2008 at 22:21 | #16

    “That’s the same BNP that’s…reversing the tide of non-white immigration”

    Similar to a famous Labor premier Jack Lang

    “Anybody who is against the White Australia Policy is against the Australian nation”

  17. Ian Gould
    December 20th, 2008 at 22:58 | #17

    Was that before or after Bob Menzies said “Hitler has done great things for Germany, there is much we could learn from him,”?

  18. tomd
    December 21st, 2008 at 01:48 | #18

    Nicholas Gruen beat me to it. Some sort of anti-copying scheme? Weird. Most likely effect would be that Google doesn’t index their pages properly and they don’t get as many links to their pages. Probably doesn’t matter if your articles are behind a paywall, but if you want them out in the open it’s a bit strange.

    On that topic, John, is it not possible that AFR reckon your articles are more useful as a sample for non-subscribers to entice them, or simply that they might appeal to people who are unlikely to sign up but may click on some ads?

  19. Ernestine Gross
    December 21st, 2008 at 10:22 | #19

    Question to JQ: What is the justification for setting emission targets per capita?

    By way of background: While I can understand that international policy coordination should allow for some degree of convergence of per capita emissions among countries (because of uneven technological development), it seems to me that the differences among countries (size, geography, resources, climate, population, imports, exports, natural and human history)and differences within countries is also non-trivial. It seems to me that a point measure, such as per capita emissions, is at best a very rough indicator.

  20. Hermit
    December 21st, 2008 at 12:53 | #20

    OK selected bits of the BNP. The trouble with voting for established parties is you don’t get the policy mix you want. For example I am pro-nuclear, but anti high migration and old growth logging. My fear is that Rudd is a deep conservative in small ‘l’ liberal clothing. I think it is on the cards he will give cash bailouts to mining having already scuttled the ETS on their behalf. When China wants more coal he won’t say no. As far as I’m concerned he has sullied his green credentials and should not be re-elected.

  21. nanks
    December 21st, 2008 at 13:15 | #21

    following Hermit – I’m attracted to a population policy that is strongly driven by humanitarian and ecological considerations. I think we should bias to refugees. However, I am uncertain that the carrying capacity with current land use policies and infrastructure is substantially higher than 20 million or so.
    If someone wants to put forward that 40 million is better then I’d like to see what has to be put in place to cater for the increased population without stuffing up the ecology further or stressing out infrastructure above and beyond what our country has been willing to pay for in the last 20 or 30 years.
    I’d really appreciate any links to review and summary papers.
    thanks, nanks

  22. Chris O’Neill
    December 21st, 2008 at 13:16 | #22

    It seems to me that a point measure, such as per capita emissions, is at best a very rough indicator.

    Some people are more equal than others, I guess.

  23. Ian Gould
    December 21st, 2008 at 13:33 | #23

    Actually Chris Ernestine has a point – which I hadn’t really considered before.

    Some countries have better access to hydropower, for example.

    Others have colder climates and need more nergy for heating.

    But I think the proposal for gradual convergence over fifty years or so remains reasonable – provided the developed world reduces their emissions more in absolute terms than the developing world increase them during that period and the Indians and Chinese accept the need to cap their growth in emissions and eventually reduce them.

  24. jquiggin
    December 21st, 2008 at 14:56 | #24

    I’m concerned about comments above regarding the BNP. I’ll be straight out and say that anyone who sympathises with the British National Party in any respect is not welcome here, so people who’ve made ambiguous comments in this respect may wish to reconsider and clarify their position, then act accordingly.

    To be clear, I don’t think that opposing high immigration is a reason for sympathising with the BNP, provided that your opposition is not based on racial/religious bias.

  25. jquiggin
    December 21st, 2008 at 15:00 | #25

    #19 Ernestine, there are currently two possible bases for a final agreement – historical emissions or per capita.

    I don’t think an agreement based on historical emissions is either just or feasible, so I favor one based on per capita.

    Noting the various differences you mention, there are two possible approaches
    (a) An attempt to modify the per capita allocation to take account of the differences
    (b) trade between countries – those with a higher demand for emissions import from those with a lower demand

    Either seems defensible on grounds of justice, but the second seems to me to be more likely to be feasible as a basis for agreement.

  26. nanks
    December 21st, 2008 at 15:07 | #26

    I hope no-one thinks I’m sympathising with some racist party or racist views – I was following Hermit with respect to the topic of immigration. I’m not even particularly nationalistic.

  27. Hermit
    December 21st, 2008 at 18:08 | #27

    Changing tack I think if ‘contraction and convergence’ is taken to its logical conclusion then population should redistribute to where the local resources are. If I recall the ABC ran a series with Flannery and Nelson discussing a population shift from SE Australia to the Kimberleys. Dare I suggest that Sydney has now outgrown its local resources if you exclude coal. A resources hot spot like a ore mine which was otherwise unsustainable would earn its keep by trading with other areas.

    The implications of this are profound, not just for GHG emissions. Some parts of the world might be deemed overpopulated and others underpopulated, though mostly overpopulated. What will force this is all fossil fuels (thus cheap energy) peaking by 2025 and problems with water supply and sea level rise.

  28. Chris Lloyd
    December 22nd, 2008 at 11:55 | #28

    We had a previous stoush on the issue of per-capita targets (I cannot find it) where, as I recall, JQ finally admitted that we will have to end up with per-capita rather than total. Otherwise, it becomes a mathematical fact that every immigrant reduces my emission allocation – not a tension multi-culturalists should welcome. On the other hand, mother nature does not care at all about per-capita, only total.

    I notice that JQ invokes the authority of Xinhua’s analysis in his second paragraph, the same Xinhua that thinks the Dalai Lama is a terrorist. Not a good look, but I guess the point was being made that the Chinese leadership see western backsliding as an excuse to not come on board. Fair enough.

    BTW John, racial bias is unethical. Religious bias is not unethical.

  29. nanks
    December 22nd, 2008 at 12:08 | #29

    Racial bias is nonsensical because the underlying concept, there are human races distinguished by phenotype and/or genotype, is unsupported. One might as well talk of there being two races – those with asthma and those without.

  30. jquiggin
    December 22nd, 2008 at 12:32 | #30

    #28 “finally admitted” suggests a previous denial, which I don’t think you’ll find.

    I’ll leave your suggestion of a religion-based immigration policy for others to deal with.

  31. Chris Lloyd
    December 22nd, 2008 at 13:17 | #31

    You could be right John. I recall that I was getting some strong opposition – I thought from you amongst others – to the suggestion that immigration and total caps set up a problematic trade-off. Overall though, I find myself in agreement with your stance that the main game is to act in a manner that will get China and India on board.

    I did not suggest a religion based immigration policy – I pointed out that such a suggestion is not, in itself, unethical. I am sure you appreciate the difference.

  32. Ernestine Gross
    December 22nd, 2008 at 15:04 | #32

    #25. Thank you for replying to my question, John.

    I don’t have a relevant knowledge base to have a feel for politics in general and the specifics in the case in question in particular. However, even I can see that without a political agreement close to nothing will work and this would be the worst possible outcome.

    Regarding your potential modifications, option a) is appealing on the following ground. Assuming my interpretation of past behaviour is not totally wrong, many people in the so-called developed countries are prepared to make sacrifices for the poor people in so-called developing countries but they are not prepared to subsidies those segments of the societies in question who have effectively a higher (luxurious) standard of living than themselves. To cut a long story short, is it possible to link differences in CO2 emissions among groups of countries to the requirement that the income distribution has to be made less unequal by some gamma percentage of an income distrituion measure?

  33. Stephen L
    December 22nd, 2008 at 15:25 | #33

    Thanks John, this article just made me realise *another* reason why the white paper is so bad.

    In the developed world the major obstacles to a global agreement are currently seen as Italy, Canada, the former Eastern block members of the EU. Rudd added Australia to the list.

    But the Canadian government has lost its majority, and when parliament sits again it is likely it will be replaced by a coalition where enthusiasm for action on climate change is one of the few things holding them together. The Eastern members of the EU can legitimately be bought out, so Rudd is effectively staking his position on one of two things:

    * Obama not coming up with the goods or
    * Italy managing to wreck havoc within the EU.

    It’s a particularly craven leadership that stakes its position on one of the most corrupt and racist governments in the world, led by a man who will not be around to see the damage, destroying humanity’s best hope of avoiding catastrophe.

  34. Joseph Clark
    December 22nd, 2008 at 15:28 | #34

    “some gamma percentage of an income distrituion measure”

    A gamma percentage? Is that a new kind of way to calculate a percentage? Very cool.

  35. Ernestine Gross
    December 22nd, 2008 at 19:42 | #35

    No, Joseph Clark, it is not a new way of calculating percentages – its just a name for a percentage to be specified by someone other than me (ie policy parameter).

  36. Joseph Clark
    December 22nd, 2008 at 19:44 | #36

    In that case is the “gamma” really necessary?

  37. Ernestine Gross
    December 23rd, 2008 at 07:59 | #37

    #36, I suppose, “x percentage” would have been shorter.

    What about the idea?

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