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Both barrels

November 8th, 2009
That’s what Kevin Rudd gave Australian delusionists in this speech to the Lowy Institute, . I agree with him that there is no point in being polite about this. Those who reject action to address climate change are doing so on the basis of lies propounded by tobacco hacks like Steve Milloy, bought-and-paid-for thinktanks like the IPA, loony world-government conspiracy theorists like Lord Monckton, intellectual cardsharps like Bjorn Lomborg and reflexive contrarians like Richard (‘the dangers of smoking have been much exaggerated’) Lindzen. In years following this debate I have seen no-one (literally and without exception) on the delusionist side separate themselves from these hacks and cranks and present a coherent case. That’s because it is impossible for an intelligent person to reach  delusionist conclusions on this issue while retaining their intellectual honesty.

All that said (and I’ve said it many times before) I was surprised to see Rudd, who is normally pretty cautious, going all out like this. My immediate conclusion is that he doesn’t expect the Liberals to support an amended ETS and is preparing the ground for a double dissolution.
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  1. SeanG
    November 8th, 2009 at 18:41 | #1


    Rudd said: “20 days away from the vote on the Government’s cap and trade emissions trading system which both sides of politics have recognised as the lowest cost way to tackle climate change.”

    Is this true? Will a cap and trade system immediately stop climate change? If not, then is this not rhetorical overreach and could be seen as manipulating people?

    This is apparently from the CSIRO:
    “· Temperatures in Australia rising by around five degrees by the end of the century.
    · By 2070, up to 40 per cent more drought months are projected in eastern Australia and up to 80 per cent more in south-western Australia.
    · A fall in irrigated agricultural production in the Murray Darling Basin of over 90 per cent by 2100.
    · Storm surges and rising sea levels – putting at risk over 700,000 homes and businesses around our coastlines, with insurance companies warning that preliminary estimates of the value of property in Australia exposed to the risk of land being inundated or eroded by rising sea levels range from $50 billion to $150 billion.
    · Our Gross National Product dropping by nearly two and a half per cent through the course of this century from the devastation climate change would wreak on our infrastructure alone.”

    What has their forecasting accuracy been like? No just sixty or more years into the future but rather six years into the future? If organisations cannot accurately forecast, then why use them to trump up a case?

    And I find it funny when people like Rudd talk about fear campaigns.

    Catastrophic climate change – a term often heard in the media to build up fear in the community.

    What about climate change adverts like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w62gsctP2gc

    That is pretty extreme, don’t you think?

    What about those nitwits who are running a hunger strike?

    ProfQ, you are a true believer. Much like the religious nutters in the past, you denigrate anyone who questions your faith on climate change, on cap and trade, on CO2 as something akin to the devil. That is why you are blind to the hypocritical aspects of Rudd’s (and by extension, your) approach to arguing climate change.

  2. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 8th, 2009 at 18:51 | #2

    John, contrary to what many pundits are saying an agreement in Copenhagen is still possible now that the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, has openly declared India was committed to working with all like-minded nations in reaching a purposive and positive outcome in Copenhagen. If anything this should sway the sceptics from denying the bleeding obvious that climate change is a real threat to humanity.

  3. Rationalist
    November 8th, 2009 at 18:54 | #3

    Claymate chonge.

  4. iain
    November 8th, 2009 at 19:06 | #4

    Rudd is still very quiet re: the Greens criticism of the CPRS.

    Also no leadership from Rudd on the CSIRO ban on Clive Spash’s critical paper of the CPRS.

    It’s pretty easy game taking pot shots at Barnaby et al (and rightly so) – but less easy to take aim at his own ineffective policies.

  5. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 8th, 2009 at 19:20 | #5

    Iain, I am in agreement with much of what Clive says but for the good of the nation the CPRS must be passed even though many, including myself, have had reservations about whether giving out free permits to the worst polluters in this country will achieve its desired outcome of reducing greenhouse gases emissions.

  6. nanks
    November 8th, 2009 at 19:30 | #6

    Rudd’s problem is how to position himself as celan and green whilst supportiing the existing power structures. I do not believe he has the slightest interest in global warming other than as a lever to mainpulate for electoral advantage. What I think is happening is Rudd, and Labor in general, will be spinning a message of decisive action for the envirnment whilst actually doing the bare minimum to sustain the illusion. In other words they will describe their own dungheap as a mountain and claim first conquest of the summit. The psychology of influence through repetition of positive associations is well known. That’s all this is – a sweetener for the double dissolution to come

  7. billie
    November 8th, 2009 at 19:42 | #7

    It’s a bit rich linking the considered reports of the CSIRO with a YouTube offering.

    Have you considered the increasing salinity of farmlands in southwest Australia, increasing salinity of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area to name but 2 schemes.

    Check out the climatology section of http://www.elderweather.com.au for various regions around Australia, some regions have records going back 150 years.

  8. November 8th, 2009 at 19:48 | #8

    He even quotes Kenny Rogers! The Johnny Cash version is of course much better.

  9. billie
    November 8th, 2009 at 19:56 | #9

    The third last chapter of “Big Fella: Rise and Rise of BHP Billiton by Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin, describes BHPs lobbying activities re climate warming and carbon reduction. They have played a 20 year game with Liberal Party candidates. The book says that BHP writes the government CPRS policy.

    I can’t see how the ETS scheme will reduce our carbon footprint

  10. SeanG
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:13 | #10


    Surprisingly enough (for you), salinity is something which I am deeply concerned about and I think that we are making a mistake linking climate change solely to CO2 and an ETS.

  11. Freelander
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:16 | #11

    The ETS will once more provide an opportunity for big business to get their snouts in the public trough through lobbying for ‘free’ permits. There is no reason why any business should get ‘free’ permits and plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t. Businesses that have chosen to ignore the predictable necessity of some form of carbon pricing should not be compensated for their bad decisions. Moreover, to compensate these businesses is to further punish the cleaner and wiser businesses that made efforts to protect themselves from what they could see was coming. The efforts to protect their businesses from the predictable introduction of carbon pricing was not costless and if their dirty competitors are compensated for their dirty business decisions and tactics, clean businesses will be doubly punished. That those that funded deniers will be rewarded for their efforts looks more gallingly likely.

  12. LuxuryYacht
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:18 | #12

    So, what, is the Liberal Party meant to negotiate on good faith with Penny Wong, while at the same time being attacked by the Prime Minister. It smacks of everything that happened last week – Kevin Rudd trying to get back into control after a poll result which was probably a rogue.

  13. LuxuryYacht
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:25 | #13

    David Marr, on Insiders, while being fascetious at Piers Ackerman (and fair enough too), made an important point. Who polices what individual carbon permit holders’ can emit, and how do they decide when they have reached their limit and either must buy more permits or stop emitting?

  14. Alice
    November 8th, 2009 at 20:35 | #14

    Ive had enough of the denialists as well and welcome both barrels out …lock, stock and smoking! Anyone see the size of that iceberg floating 1500 ks off the coast of Tasmania?. Yeah…like right…”its not happening” is a greedy empire sized lie. I live amongst ostriches with ostrich sized brains masquerading as human beings. If it takes a double dissolution – all they have to do to win is remind people about workchoices. The grey gnome is out there telling people he stopped the boats now. Well the talking gnome can keep on talking. JH is just what Rudd needs to remind people of why they kicked him out.

  15. November 8th, 2009 at 20:46 | #15

    If the PM is willing to go to a double dissolution then that is a good thing. A “browner” CPRS with more free permits and a longer period of scheme caps would not be a good outcome.

  16. Hermit
    November 8th, 2009 at 21:55 | #16

    It seems to me the AFP must go round to the premises of a transgressor and throw the switch or impound a key piece of machinery. For example when the free permits run out an emitter like Hazelwood in Victoria will have to buy 20 million permits a year (1600 Mw X 1.4 tCO2/Mwh X 8,760 hours). If they bought just 15 million permits their ‘licence to pollute’ could expire after 9 months or so and the monitoring agency would be forced to act. If the power station was shut down apart from health emergencies customers could also sue.

    Rudd talks tough but so far doesn’t seem to be able to back it up with action. The people he is supposed to boss around end up calling the shots. That is why I think we’ll burn as much coal as ever but we’ll delude ourselves with scams like the PNG forests.

  17. November 8th, 2009 at 23:05 | #17

    “My immediate conclusion is that he doesn’t expect the Liberals to support an amended ETS and is preparing the ground for a double dissolution.”

    It could also be that:

    (a) he’s preparing the ground for making maximum political capital out of it, regardless of whether he will pursue a double dissolution some time next year;

    (b) he’s not prepared to make the amendments the Liberals are asking for (and nor should he) and he’s preparing the ground for making maximum political capital out of it (and/or a double d);

    (c) he was trying to turn the media focus away from asylum seekers on boats; or

    (d) he was in a really grumpy mood.

    Or all of the above.

  18. plaasmatron
    November 8th, 2009 at 23:47 | #18

    Go the DD and hope for a Green balance of power in the senate to force some changes into the laws to stop big polluters getting free credits.

    Our only hope as I see it.

  19. plaasmatron
    November 9th, 2009 at 00:25 | #19

    Or we could just put lots of money into a scientific initiative to capture and store carbon. The idea would be to spend billions to develop a process whereby CO2 is captured from the atmosphere using a self-organising, organic, bio-friendly, low cost mechanism. The process would be generated using solar power and would require only water which could also be provided in the form of solar generated precipitate. By combining the CO2 with H20 using solar power one could generate hydrocarbons which could be used not only to store CO2 but as a source of energy in the future. It would have the added benefit of reducing soil salinity and halting desertification. If all the scientists in Australia got together we could surely come up with such a clean green scheme. It could be called, lets see, the Total Renewable Energy Enterprise (TREE). I am sure it would only take our superbrains a few years to replicate the inferior natural products available. This would create jobs and put Australia at the forefront of green-tech worldwide…

  20. Freelander
    November 9th, 2009 at 00:26 | #20

    I would support a Green balance of power if the Greens were, themselves, balanced. Fortunately they are not as unbalanced as the Family First nitwit. A DD would be worthwhile simply because it would rid us of him.

  21. Rationalist
    November 9th, 2009 at 05:07 | #21

    A Labor Government will work with the Liberals before the Greens. Look how the environmental thing worked for Mark Latham in Tassie? It didn’t. Rudd is smart enough to work with the Liberals such that sensible policy is developed.

  22. Alan
    November 9th, 2009 at 05:43 | #22

    Any leader of a major political party has demonstrated, by achieving that position, a capacity for chicanery and mendacity baffling to honest people.

    For Rudd, global warming is a means to an end and the end is to win the next election.

    The coal and oil lobbies are winning the PR battle and they will soon spend both major political parties into submission.

    I cannot understand how anyone can be so naive as to think that there could be a Copenahagen agreement that will result in coal and oil industries selling less of their products.

  23. LuxuryYacht
    November 9th, 2009 at 07:26 | #23

    A DD is less likely to rid us of Family First, as the quota is 1/13 rather than 1/7. I’d love for the Australian Democrats to have the balance of power – at least they were balanced!

  24. wilful
    November 9th, 2009 at 09:33 | #24

    Climate change requires strong legislative and policy action from the Australian Government.

    The government has proposed the CPRS.

    These things are not equivalent.

    Rudd is a damned hypocrite, his CPRS is economically ruinous compared to the alternatives (either a Garnaut designed ETS, or carbon taxes) and does SFA for Australina emissions.

  25. Donald Oats
    November 9th, 2009 at 09:56 | #25

    They well and truly deserve both barrels, but by doing so Kevin Rudd hasn’t necessarily helped his case. A quick peek at the national rag (no, not AFR, the otherone) reveals a broadside offence as the defence against Labor’s scientific warrants; of course, as usual, every single noun and verb and number quoted by these defenders of the free (market) world must be cross-checked with the scientific literature carefully, if the reader wishes to avoid the usual traps set by the phonies.

    In today’s broadsheet toiletry tissue we may find such gems as:

    * Mitch (Captain) HooKe, who is Chief Executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, makes a compelling case for I dunno but it involves not affecting the minerals industry, surprisingly enough. The article is titled Emissions plan a meal unfit for human consumption. Thanks for your early input to that plan, Mitch. Well done mate.

    * Sid Maher in “The Nation” section reports on “Mining boss lashes Rudd over ETS”, that being an advertisement for Mitch (Captain) HooKe’s diatribe.

    On the Letters Page – Fighting the good fight and leading the charge are:

    *Des (Less-is-) Moore, commenting on “The science of our sea levels”, presumably having been encouraged to research the topic scientifically, after Janet’s opinion piece on “Seeing through hoax of the century” which included these comments: Nils-Axel Morner – a leading world authority on sea levels – wrote an open letter to the president telling him that his stunt was “not founded in observational facts and true scientific judgments”. , the president of the Maldives being the one referred to in the quote. Note the last clause of Morner’s statement, ie not founded in observational facts and true scientific judgements.
    Now while Morner is indeed a geologist who specialises in the measurement of sea levels in geologic time, he is also a dowser of many things, including water dowsing. This wouldn’t overly bother me except that dowsing is “not founded in observational facts and true scientific judgements”, if I may be so bold as to quote from Nix-Axel Morner himself. The strange theories of E-rays and the like are occasionally trotted out to explain why the majority of the world’s scientists cannot find the connection between a “Y” shaped branch and underground water. Perhaps it is because dowsing doesn’t work? The academic studies with proper statistical and experimental design overwhelimingly – maybe unamiously but I cannot know for certain – retain the obvious null hypothesis, which in layperson speak is dowsing does not work. But, I digress.
    * Graham Dick, getting hot under the collar – but presumably cold below the collar right down to his feet – since scientist John Church had the audacity to challenge Dick’s assertion that only a thin layer of the ocean surface is warming. He quickly brings in John Daly (RIP) and William Kininmonth for his defence.

    Under the Letters section title “Sceptics started as agnostics, and then they were bullied”, we have the usual claims by:

    * Frank Pulsford, explaining how agnohockeystics were “lied to” by Mann, presumably. Hey everybody, is the “lyin’ hocky schtick” and automatic Godwin?

    *Peter Carroll charges up the back straight, easily overtaking Pulsford for the Godwin gong with his use of the Evil Communist Lysenko defence.

    Well done chaps, jolly good show.

    Finally, the “Climate” menu item seems to have disappeared from the online version of the rag. Far be it from me to be cynical – maybe the menu item is just under a different menu, or demoted to a link inside the “content” (LOLROFL) which I couldn’t locate amid the peals of wisdom (to mash a common cliche) – but maybe they got sick and tired of people locating some of the more evenhanded articles by Leonore Taylor, Leigh Dayton, Asa, and a few remaining true journalists.

    As I finish this Monday Round-Up, the lovely garden surrounding the house and home is once again under threat of a vicious tail end to Spring. Perhap the drought is just a little bit longer around here; isn’t that the explanation?

  26. carbonsink
    November 9th, 2009 at 11:02 | #26

    Alan :
    I cannot understand how anyone can be so naive as to think that there could be a Copenahagen agreement that will result in coal and oil industries selling less of their products.

    Neither can I. Australia is a nation of coal junkies. Its our biggest export earner, and it supplies more than 80% of our electricity. Why seemingly intelligent people like ProfQ believe that Rudd is serious about punishing the coal industry is beyond me.

    Both barrels my ar*e. Its all a charade! Rudd is creating a diversion by launching a false war on the denialists, so he can point the finger of blame when the CPRS and Copenhagen fall over. The last thing Rudd wants is a Senate with the Greens holding the balance of power (which is probably what he’d get after a DD) then he’d have to cop all the blame for a p*ss weak CPRS, and no commitment by Australia at Copenhagen.

    Isn’t is obvious?

  27. November 9th, 2009 at 11:57 | #27

    Pr Q says:

    Those who reject action to address climate change are doing so on the basis of lies propounded by tobacco hacks like Steve Milloy…and reflexive contrarians like Richard (’the dangers of smoking have been much exaggerated’) Lindzen.

    In years following this debate I have seen no-one (literally and without exception) on the delusionist side separate themselves from these hacks and cranks and present a coherent case. That’s because it is impossible for an intelligent person to reach delusionist conclusions on this issue while retaining their intellectual honesty.

    What a splendid rant, with vituperative flair like that you would have made a formidable RWDB. (Although I think that “hacks, cranks and crooks” would have scanned a little better.) You write beautifully when you are angry [no homo].

    Pr Q says:

    I was surprised to see Rudd, who is normally pretty cautious, going all out like this. My immediate conclusion is that he doesn’t expect the Liberals to support an amended ETS and is preparing the ground for a double dissolution.

    I am still holding to my prediction, made on 10 MAY 2009, that the LP will vote in favour of a diluted and watered down CPRS in the Senate. Although its recent outbreak of delusionism has lengthened the odds:

    Since the 2007 election the more extremist members of the L/NP have rejoined the reality-based community for long enough to stop the Self-Inflicted Wounding of Work Choices…it follows that signing onto an effective CPRS will be a much more trifling offence.

    I therefore predict that, if they are sensible, the L/NP will eventually sign onto such an instrument sometime between now and 2010 election. If they are as silly as Ken Lovell suggests then the L/NP will suffer a monumental defeat in 2010, instead of just a routine one.

    I am bewildered by the L/NP’s lack of basic Machiavellian realism, even when it comes to basic facts of political survival. Never mind ecological delusionism, they are flirting with psephological delusionism if they think they can take seats of the ALP on a climate-change double-dissolution election.

    On 17 FEB 09 I predicted that the L/NP will lose the 2010 election, come what may. Given the success of the ALP in managing the (mild) eddies of the GFC that washed on our shores the best they can hope for is to hold the line at 53-47 TPP. But they can do considerably worse than that if they continue on their delusionist follies.

    Its clear now that Howard was vital to the L/NP’s long string of federal successes, through his generally pragmatic conservative policies, competent admininstration and populist politics. The absence of Howard is turning the L/NP into a gaggle of dills.

  28. November 9th, 2009 at 11:58 | #28

    One of the few times I think you and I have agreed. From Andrew Barlett’s list above I would say the probable (in order of probability) answers are:
    1. c with a bit of d
    2. b
    3. a – being the least probable by some way.

  29. November 9th, 2009 at 12:18 | #29

    I disagree. I think the Libs know that Rudd has no real interest in a DD election as all it would do is hand the balance to the Greens, pulling future legislation to the Left – making his job of getting elected the time after that a lot harder.
    To me, the Libs are trying to appear to be be the voice of reason here, waiting until after Copenhagen to implement whatever is decided there or, even better, if there is no decision to be able to say “weren’t we smart not to get ahead of everyone”.
    The only problem is that the Country National Party will not play ball as they are just opposed to the whole thing.

  30. carbonsink
    November 9th, 2009 at 12:24 | #30

    @Andrew Reynolds
    It may well be a diversion from the boat thing as well. I can’t really say because I’m completely uninterested in politicians point-scoring over a few unfortunates in a boat.

    What I can say for sure is Rudd is more than happy to see the Coalition take the blame for the CPRS falling over. The last thing he wants is a compliant Senate on environmental issues, then he might actually have to do something.

  31. robbert
    November 9th, 2009 at 12:30 | #31

    The CPRS is a dangerous nonsense. The best analogy I have read is that the CPRS is like giving a cancer patient a little bit of chemo therapy – not so much that makes her hair fall out, but enough that it looks like your doing something. In both cases, money and time is wasted, and the patient ends up dead.

  32. November 9th, 2009 at 12:34 | #32

    Pr Q says:

    All that said (and I’ve said it many times before) I was surprised to see Rudd, who is normally pretty cautious, going all out like this.

    I would say that Rudd’s Lowy Speech means that he is very sure that dissing the delusionists will not cost him any political capital. It implies that the Green philosophy is now more or less mainstream and that it is now safe to marginalise the “Browns” as a fringe group, in a Prime Ministerial way. Talk about role-reversals!

    Its not totally out of character for risk-averse Rudd to go on the ideological offensive. I maintain that in matters of political style, “Rudd is the quintessential softly-softly diplomat who abhors damaging conflict”. But he also enjoys a bit of ideological argy-bargy, going by his occasional sallies in The Monthly. Not to mention the ideological pantomime of the Summit.

    There is something of the testy vicar preaching a finger-wagging sermon to somewhat delinquent members of the congregation about him. Its a cheap way of grabbing the high moral ground, without necessarily committing to doing anything risky or momentous.

    But more generally, in matters of policy substance, I maintain that “Rudd-ALP is the most “c”onservative, managerialist federal administration in living memory”. It must be embarrassing for those on the Left, and side-splittingly funny for Machiavellians like y.t., to watch how closely he cleaves to policy settings inherited from Howard. There is no end to the echoes of His Masters Voice, whether it be regressive tax-cuts, a tepid ETS, ramped up immigration, the Intervention or now “the Indonesian solution”.

    (Granted the Santa Claus fiscal stimulus hand-out would probably have been given the thumbs down by Howard-Costello. But it was dwarfed in signficance compared to the massive cuts in interest rates made by the RBA from MAR 08 through JUL 09.)

    Rudd cant even be bothered to breathe a bit of life into the comatose republican movement although this would be a cheap bit of symbolism and right up his political alley.

  33. November 9th, 2009 at 12:55 | #33

    Andrew [email protected]#29 November 9th, 2009 at 12:18

    Jack, I disagree. I think the Libs know that Rudd has no real interest in a DD election as all it would do is hand the balance to the Greens, pulling future legislation to the Left – making his job of getting elected the time after that a lot harder.

    I take it that you predict the LP will vote to reject the CPRS. I agree that this appears more likely now, what with the ideological debate hotting up. Although I still think the LP will blink.

    I agree that Rudd would be averse to a DD election. But if the L/NP reject the CPRS Bill then Rudd would have a good cause to call one. I dont think the electorate would punish Rudd for going early to the polls since he would be calling the election on grounds of policy principle, not political convenience. The result would be a landslide wipe out of the L/NP.

    I dont see the GREENs making great headway in a CPRS-inspired election, mainly because the ALP tends to pick up moderate GREEN votes. The GREEN SENATE vote jumped by over 2% in both 2001 and 2004. But they only managed a 1.38% swing in 2007, despite melting polar ice-caps and a massive full-court press behind them from the media-academia complex. And people are probably more conscious of the economic costs of CPRS now than they were in 2007.

    I dont see the GREENs cracking double figures in 200(9?)10. Why vote for the GREENs when the ALP are obviously doing some environmental hard yards? Mainstream voters are wary of the GREENs on issues un-related to environmental policy.

  34. November 9th, 2009 at 13:26 | #34

    It could be that the PM made the speech for the following reason:

    (e) to include a Kenny Rogers quote in a speech on climate change.

    What was probably more interesting was what Rudd didn’t say in his speech. He said that

    “Their objections fall into three categories:
    · Some argue that the cost is too high in terms of its impact on our economy.
    · Others argue that the cost is too high in terms of its impact on households.
    · And others object to the system of global emissions trading because they believe it will unjustifiably transfer money and power from rich countries to poor countries. “

    He didn’t mention anything about the CPRS giving too much handouts to generators and emissions intensive industries; policies that risk locking in weak targets for too long; that the CPRS does not allow the sale of permits overseas, but does allow unlimited import of international permits (including CDM CERs, but fortunately not AAUs); and in general too weak environmentally at the same time as handling certain industries with kid gloves. I suspect that there are many economists, environmentalists, and people in government who would agree that these are problems, even if they do support the passage of the CPRS.

    Interestingly unlike The Rentseekers Review, there were plenty of letters to the editor in today’s The Age that responded to the PM by arguing that the CPRS was not going to do enough about climate change.

  35. carbonsink
    November 9th, 2009 at 13:48 | #35

    It implies that the Green philosophy is now more or less mainstream and that it is now safe to marginalise the “Browns” as a fringe group, in a Prime Ministerial way.

    WTF is “Green philosophy”? Don’t you mean peer-reviewed science?

    Acceptance that climate change is caused by human activity is more or less mainstream, I very much doubt that policies to reduce carbon emissions in Australia will have much acceptance.

  36. November 9th, 2009 at 14:46 | #36

    My reading of Rudd is that it was just some bluster to cover the absolute intention he has of doing absolutely nothing on greenhouse emissions in order to keep the energy industry, the CFMEU, the conservationists (aka the general public who voted for Kevin 07), and Rupert Murdoch happy. The idea has demonstrably failed to keep any of them happy, most notably Murdoch a few days ago. Rudd is a man who clearly has less interest in the world we live in than Howard, and there’s a sentence I never thought I would write.

  37. November 9th, 2009 at 14:47 | #37

    That could have been better expressed, the bluster was meant to keep the conservationists happy.

  38. John Mashey
    November 9th, 2009 at 16:43 | #38

    JQ: regarding Lindzen
    You may wish to get Stephen Schneider’s new book, “Science as a Contact Sport”, which includes discussions with Lindzen as far back as 1972. I think it’s more complicated than reflexive contrarian. See p41-42 in particular.

  39. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 9th, 2009 at 17:24 | #39

    John, according to the lastest reports, Nick Minchin is latest sceptic/spoiler making things tough for Turnbull by claiming the majority within the Liberal Party do not believe humans are responsible for global warming. What a lot of hogwash.

  40. Alice
    November 9th, 2009 at 17:56 | #40

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Except that its true Moshie…the majority in the liberal party are AGW denialists….just like they also think workchoices was the best thing to happen to the country…

    There is a song about them

  41. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 9th, 2009 at 18:22 | #41

    Alice, it wasn’t long ago that Turnbull consolidated his position and the sceptics failed to unseat him. I just think Minchin is wrong.

  42. November 9th, 2009 at 18:31 | #42

    Those advocating the defeat of the emissions trading scheme (ETS) now find themselves in common cause with the “filthy polluters”, the big coal companies.
    The Sydney Morning Herald weekend edition of November 7-8 says on page 4 that these coal companies intend to spend millions to defeat the ETS.
    Those who tell us the ETS should be defeated because it does not go far enough and/or because the Government has caved in by giving too much compensation to the polluters now find themselves on the same side as coal polluters..
    Yet these polluters will spend millions in the hope of knocking back this compensation by defeating the ETS.
    The reason is that the coal companies know that once an ETS is up and running it can be amended, particularly after people see the effects are nowhere near as bad as the coal companies claimed.
    The only reason coal companies are spending millions to defeat the ETS is because they consider it a threat to their long-term interests.
    Advocating the defeat of the ETS means sharing the current major aim of the coal polluters.
    It’s such a good feeling to wallow in self-proclaimed purity while sharing the same goal as polluters.

  43. Alice
    November 9th, 2009 at 18:35 | #43

    Bring it on (the defeat ) and a double dossolution. If they vote the libs back in, the vox pupuli get what they desrve – more of the same that is running the country into the ground in favour of big busines and big polluters. Serves them right. I couldnt believe the majority voted in favour of Iraq and Howard anyway. They deserve a crappy government.

  44. Fran Barlow
    November 9th, 2009 at 19:02 | #44


    I just can’t agree with this John. This is a very poor proposal — worse than nothing because it locks in dreadful features for at least 10 years. I really hope the Libs aan Nats do prevent this ahppening because then it makes them look idiotic and wedges their base AND stops a crap proposal.

    What’s not to like?

    We need a serious proposal that auctions all permits and sets a cap at least 25% below 1990 by 2020 and which is adjustable so that if we make speedier progress the cap can be lowered further (perhaps on three years notice).

  45. Fran Barlow
    November 9th, 2009 at 19:04 | #45

    Oh and agriculture and forestry and transport in, with carbon taxes while we work out the precise details.

  46. Alice
    November 9th, 2009 at 20:46 | #46

    I really think part of the problem is that the liberals have for so long labelled the environment a green “left” issue…now they are immobilised on the environment in case they lose “face.” They have backed themselves in to a corner. I also note that some newspolls show concern for the environment has dropped about recently. I dont wonder why when everyone has been wondering what on earth went wrong in the GFC.

  47. Alan
    November 9th, 2009 at 20:50 | #47

    The ETS is environmental theatre. It will give the illusion of action with little result. Have a look at Peter Martin’s comment at

    Go ahead with your ETS, Kevin, and later on let us know if you have any plans to do anything useful about “The greatest moral dilemma of our generation”.

  48. Ubiquity
    November 9th, 2009 at 21:50 | #48


    a. The greens want a double dissolution (DD), they figure it will give them more political
    clout. They are probably right.

    b. Labour is aware that a DD would give the Greens more power and decides better the
    devil you know then the one you don’t so choose to avoid a DD, but perhaps they could
    bluff the liberals into submission.

    c. Liberal party expects b. and so dosen’t expect a DD and continues to procrastinate.

    d. Status quo retained.

    On a second matter it is clear that the climate change debate and policies will be won by those that can change the perception of those within our democracy. It is perceptions that control emotions and emotions that control behaviour. Changes in perception will change emotions and therefore behaviour. No amount of logic will change perception. This explains JQ regular emotive tone on climate change, your only problem is that you have several skeptics infiltirating you’re blog who are resistant to emotive tones. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You may have to censor more, but it would get boring (at least for me).

    Mr Rudd emotive speech appeals to our perception, but alas he is a poor orator, he just dosen’t know how to capture the moment anymore as the gloss washes off his shiny begining (bit like Obama). Mr Rudd has lost his direction as he struggles to maintain his hold on power rather than focus on his job.

    So I intend to remain a “…….” whilst ever arguments of consensus and a closed door to criticism on proposed policies are dumped onto our society. No amount of emotive method to change perception and behaviour from a single entity such as the state will change anything, it will cause a bigger mess. This is obvious, just watch the circus as the pollies maneuver for power rather than good policy. To change behaviour it must start with the individual and work up through the communities. The greatest succcess for our precious environment will be achieved through local changes in behaviour, not global or state action. The state obviously has “greater” concerns than climate change.

  49. iain
    November 10th, 2009 at 00:52 | #49

    JohnL — if you are dredging up the tired argument “don’t let great become the enemy of the good” as an implict method for silencing any discussion about “less bad or basically flawed approaches” then it is difficult to see your point. If you are unaware of the serious critiques of the CPRS (which seems more likely) then you may do no better than starting with Clive Spash’s paper.

  50. November 10th, 2009 at 06:17 | #50

    Iain at 49: How can it be silencing discussion to point out that coal polluters would not be trying to defeat the ETS if, as so many repeat continually, it is too generous to them? The only logical reason for the coal polluters to spend million on this exercise is that they see the ETS as against their interest even with the concessions. I am aware of the various critiques, but I happen to believe that it is better to make a start as quickly as possible. I can understand why it is uncomfortable for you to have pointed out that you now have at least one common aim with the coal polluters.

  51. Fran Barlow
    November 10th, 2009 at 07:51 | #51

    Post 50 to kick it over

  52. Fran Barlow
    November 10th, 2009 at 08:19 | #52


    The only logical reason for the coal polluters to spend million on this exercise is that they see the ETS as against their interest even with the concessions.

    Arguably so but misleading. It could be that in the longer run they see this as the thin end of the wedge, meaning that while they could live with it in the short term it is in their opinion contrary to their longer run interests. They could also fancy their chances of securing even more concessions from the government and in effect other electricity users by running this campaign hard.

    It should be noted though that

    a) the coal polluters could be wrong, and that the ETS as currently configured does not prejudice their longer term interests — and that this is simply an uncosted and unknowable risk
    b) Even if the ETS really will prejudice the interests of coal polluters in the longer term, it’s the short term effects of extending resort to coal pollution that are key. People are being harmed right now. The fact that the ETS might author procersses that in 30 years time made coal unviable for energy obviously isn’t going to help reduce coal pollution and CO2 emissions more generally over the next 20 years very much. In the next 20 years, the people we care most about lose and after that the coal producers lose. Not a good policy result.
    c) If the ETS configuration buttresses coal polluters by forcing consumers of other electricity to subsidise them then this undermines the case for CO2 emissions reductions measures as these can be presented as merely a cover for feather-bedding. It also pushes up the net cost of each ton of reductions and transfers it to people less responsible for the emissions than coal polluters. It also sets a benchmark for other countries reliant on coal-fired electricity — i.e. most countries.

    In short, a poor ETS is subversive of good outcomes nationally and internationally. This is not about ‘purity’ but about pragmatism. Consider this: even Ian McFarlane has abandoned the spruiking for so-called ‘clean coal’. Yet the government is involved in an international porkbarrelling effort to buttress a technology that is far less probable than almost any existing technology to reliably reduce emissions on an industrial scale. Why do this?

    The answer is simple. Politically, the government doesn’t want to be seen as abandoning the coal industry, and of course, without the frippery around clean coal, coal assets would decline in value. Also importantly, this allows the government to duck the nuclear power question. In Britain, Miliband has proposed ramping up the UKs installed nuclear capacity and said that no new coal plants that cannot use CC&S will be licenced. In effect, that means no new coal plants because these will not occur before 2030 and nobody but the state is going to fund a plant that may never be built.

    As people know, I’m in favour of nuclear power here in Australia, but if, for politicval reasons, we can’t have that then NG is still far better than coal in any configuration. Under an amended ETS in which, for example, NG had to fully offset its emissions by doing revegetation or something else equivalent here it would still be a lot cheaper than ‘clean coal’.

  53. iain
    November 10th, 2009 at 09:13 | #53

    JohnL – if you are not trying to silence dissent by making (ridiculous) statements such as “It’s such a good feeling to wallow in self-proclaimed purity while sharing the same goal as polluters” then I guess I just fail to see you’re point.

    Do polluters share the same goal and view that what is required is effective legislation (and subsequent effective regulations) to reduce CO2-e emissions? No.

    Do polluters share the same goal and view that the CPRS does not provide effective and low cost administration (and hence may invalidate Coase’s Thereom). Maybe, but this isn’t their main point.

    Do polluters share the same goal and view that a secondary market will create further inefficiency and failure points including; permit allocation numbers may be subject to vested interests, and not all relevant “buyers” and “sellers” may be included (indeed, you often leave many of them out by ignoring agriculture). Even auction systems are subject to interest, influence and failure points.

    Do polluters share the same goal and view that a tax is a more efficient and effective means of abatement provided rate of change of marginal damage costs is less than rate of change of abatement costs? No.

    To the extent that the CPRS gets people like yourself thinking about why emissions trading scheme aren’t working particularly well (and may, potentially, be unlikely to) – then they have obvious and undoubted benefits.

  54. Iain
    November 10th, 2009 at 10:02 | #54

    Maybe it’ the man made climate change proponents who are deluded? I resent these sort of comments in this blog eg. (Those who reject action to address climate change are doing so on the basis of lies propounded by… etc). Simple complex adaptive system theory can be used to argue the case that complex systems oscillate (the world gets colder and holder in cycles). That’s one train of thought that makes me think that man made climate change requiring complex social political and economic changes is a lot of nonsense. There is plenty more but I am satisfied at the moment that my position is backed by some sound thinking (apart from all the other evidence railed against it). Or does John Quiggin think I am a hack/crank also? The sort of intellectually thin and insulting comments displayed in the blog entry we are commenting on are lazy and the sign of underdeveloped thought. I would think the general public will react more against smug and elitist posturing by man made climate change proponents than the actual arguments for man made climate change themselves.

  55. nanks
    November 10th, 2009 at 10:25 | #55

    “Simple complex adaptive system theory can be used to argue the case that complex systems oscillate (the world gets colder and holder in cycles)”
    Do you mean climate dynamics are limited to a stable limit cycle Iain?

  56. Freelander
    November 10th, 2009 at 12:23 | #56


    Of course you are a ‘hack/crank also’. You are also somewhat arrogant and talk pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. ‘Simple complex adaptive system theory can be used to argue…’ Well use it then and get the argument published in a serious peer reviewed scientific journal instead of casting your pearls before us. Clearly we are no clever enough to appreciate you.

  57. nanks
    November 10th, 2009 at 12:40 | #57

    actually Freelander I have a background in complex systems – been out of it for a few years but a lot of my PhD was in analysing brain dynamics – that’s what keeps me unemployed I guess 🙂
    But Iain’s comment is fairly meaningless – as ‘simple complex adaptive system theory’ can be used to explain all sorts of things including the opposite of Iain’s point

  58. Donald Oats
    November 10th, 2009 at 12:53 | #58

    There are cycles internally driven on a regional scale to oceanic scale, but take care to differentiate between spatial cycles such as Hadley cells, and time cycles such as heating and cooling of a given region, say by the PDO. Then there are cycles driven by external (to the Earth that is) variables, such as the eccentricity of orbit, nutation, precession etc, solar cycles, and other factors.

    While there are clearly long term cycles of climate, driven in large part by orbital changes of the type mentioned about, there are internal variables on Earth that affect its response at different times in its geologic history. For example, while it is widely quoted by various people that CO2 was at much higher levels in the past (say 500 million years ago), they fail to mention that our current understanding of the sun is that it was substantially cooler then. Indeed, one well supported estimate at the moment is of the order of a 30% increase over the last 4 billion years.

    Another important contributor to climate is the location and number of continents at the time of interest. Both field studies and theoretic studies have demonstrated that plate tectonics may have a major effect upon the possible climate behaviour, eg by closing off seas that once were present, preventing easy movement of warm and cold water between low, equitorial latitudes and high, sub-polar latitudes.

    In some eras it seems that the oceans were anoxic and toxic to most of life. There is quite some supportive evidence that an initial change in climate conditions shifted the environment to suit one type of krill over another; the more viable krill could survive in anoxic water, but also spewed great quantities of toxic gases into the atmosphere. Once CO2 expelling creatures died off, the high levels of CO2 could slowly be reabsorbed into carbonate form, and through other chemical reactions. Of course, we are talking millions of years for the reabsorption of CO2.

    The difference in the current time is that humans are expelling CO2 (and other GHGs, of course) at huge rates, and in recent times, at accelerating rates. Purely statistical techniques are probably unable to really resolve the functional connection between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature, especially where sometimes increasing CO2 seemingly leads temperature increase, yet more usually increasing CO2 seemingly lags temperature increases. Part of the difficulty is that it depends upon other idiosyncratic factors, such as how much water is already ice-locked (since CO2 needs liquid water to dissolve in, and glaciers reflect most incoming light rather than absorbing it, etc), whether CO2 breathing life forms are present in numbers, possibly the location and shape of the continents, etc.

    Once geo-chemo-physical models are introduced, and once ecological factors are incorporated, then statistical methods may assist in determining just how well such models capture climatic behaviour. Statistical methods can never provide certainty however. All indications is that we have most important variables basically right, in that the most significant relationships and equations have been identified and examined. There is still plenty of refinement to do though.

    Humman’s recent contributions to atmospheric GHGs may push the climate in the direction of significantly changed annual seasons, and swiftly shifting regional climates. If climatic change is too swift we may be unable to adapt well enough given the population of the time.

    When climate scientists show concern about “tipping points” one concern is that while tipping points are likely to exist – indeed, mechanisms for some tipping points have been identified, if not fully understood yet – noone can predict if and when such tipping points are reached. What can be quantified by use of climate models, is the new “equilibrium” climate conditions around the globe, after CO2 has stabilised at some value.
    So, while predicting when a tipping point will be broached is subject to large uncertainty, the end state of relevance to humans can be projected with less uncertainty than the tipping points which led to it. The state of the art projections by different climate models provide a range of possible end states given the same final CO2. This range may be used to create an empirical probability distribution of possible end states, given a specific increase in CO2.

    Finally, what is continually surprising climate scientists (although they are becoming more used to it now) is the speed of some of the current changes. A number of predicted changes have started occurring decade(s) before they were expected to. In other words, some of the predicted changes have rapid transition dynamics.

  59. Freelander
    November 10th, 2009 at 15:15 | #59

    @Donald Oats

    All of which suggests that the scientists have, if anything, been cautious in their predictions of the consequences of anthropogenic contributions to greenhouse gases. This also suggests that we should start to do something serious about the problem, fast.

  60. Donald Oats
    November 10th, 2009 at 15:48 | #60

    Exactly, Freelander, couldn’t agreee more.

    Generally speaking, most scientists are rather circumspect in stating their results; language is nuanced rather than definitive, and they tend to identify the so-called known-unknowns that may affect their conclusions. Rarely do they come out with a definite “We know X for a fact.” X would have to be something readily measurable with excellent, accurate, and reliable data sources, and with a solid body of field work behind it, in order to be given such a definite statement.

    On occasion this doesn’t happen in the scientific articles. More usually though, the nuances and some of the qualifiers drop out in the public relations media release for the relevant university. The bulk of the remaining qualifiers and most of the context disappear between media release and the first journalist story about it. From there, every journalist and their dog picks up on it and cut-n-paste either from the PR media release, or more likely, from the already successfully published news article.

    That’s one way in which we go from the scientific:

    “X seems well supported by the processed data, although the recently discovered error in measurement tool T adds a very small statistical bias to the data. The recently submitted paper by ABC [ABC 2009] makes the appropriate statistical correction to the data; they have very kindly allowed the authors to use their bias-corrected data set. The newer statistical results from the ABC data are qualitatively in agreement with our data, and the results of the two analyses are in very close agreement (at 2.5% level). On balance, the authors believe that their results concerning X are sufficiently robust to warrant their conclusions.”

    to the MSM:

    “Boffins make breakthrough on Y!” fn^1

    fn^1 : The relationship between X and Y seems to revolve around the extra leg that X has to stand on. But that’s journalism in the Climate Science domain, with a few notable exceptions.

    Regards all,


    PS: Love the warm spring days, reminds me of summer.

  61. Ken
    November 11th, 2009 at 16:20 | #61

    It might be good rhetoric from Rudd but I’m not convinced; more like kicking the opposition in it’s most vulnerable location for purely short term political gain. Sure, Rudd’s movement is in the right direction, but it’s a step towards the rear of a runaway train accelerating downhill. Sigh. I think we’ll have a long wait before the rhetoric is matched by effective policy. If CCS is the cornerstone of Australia’s energy future – and it looks like that’s the ALP position – it’s empty rhetoric.

  62. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 14th, 2009 at 09:32 | #62

    John, according to Robert Goodland, formerly of the World Bank, livestock account for 51% of all global greenhouse gases. That would mean the sceptics within the Coalition who have been pushing a wheel barrow full of dung uphill for a very long time have been disingenuous and not telling the truth when it comes to global warming and climate change.

  63. Keith
    November 16th, 2009 at 22:22 | #63

    @Michael of Summer Hill
    Hmm, exactly where does dung come from ? And livestock methane ? And cow breath ? Ever wondered ? You should visit a farm. It comes from grasses and cereals. Livestock are unable to spontaneously create this stuff, they are simply processing their food, just like any vegan would. Crops are renewable sources, and guess what – if you want more cattle, you have to plant more crops to feed them. Last time I checked, crops use up CO2 (and dung) in order to grow. Quite renewable really. But let’s tax this process anyway, food is so overrated.

    As to Rudd’s childish tantrum, I can only say I expect more from a national leader, than attempting to provoke responses (from either side) that are less than supportive to a healthy debate. I am afraid Mr Rudd sees his opportunity to grab more money from the productive sectors slipping away. His credibility is in shreds after such a shallow attempt demonize those whose only “crime” is to disagree with him. In the speech Mr Rudd labeled anyone disagreeing with him as a denier, a conservative, and a radical – all in one speech. The level of hysteria and vitriol on display was a national disgrace. His now famous line : “the debate is over” is particularly precious, coming from a politician. Mr Rudd is contemptuous of facts. If Mr Rudd were willing to fact check he would find that there there are just 2900 IPCC scientists, of whom only 60 have specifically endorsed the claim that humans are heating the planet to dangerous levels. Other IPCC scientists say there’s no proof of this at all. Mr Rudd claimed 4000 IPCC scientists endorsed the IPCC report. Mr Rudd apparently knows nothing of the many thousands of scientists that have identified with the skeptical side of this issue, but chooses to minimize their contributions with aspersions of “vested interest”. This is so weak in a leader.
    Of course science doesn’t care about any kind of political numbers game. Even one verified observation should cause scientists to revisit their theories and models. Hard data always wins.

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