Copenhagen commitments

While Australia has been transfixed by the meltdown of the Liberal party, there have been a string of positive developments around the world, which make a positive outcome from Copenhagen, leading over the next year to an intermational agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, much more likely than it seemed two years ago, or even six months ago. Among the most important developments

* Obama’s commitment to a 17 per cent (rel 2005) target, which essentially puts the Administration’s credibility behind Waxman-Markey
* China’s acceptance of a quantitative emissions target, based on emissions/GDP ratios, but implying a substantial cut relative to business as usual
* The change of government in Japan, from do-little LDP to activist DPJ
* EU consensus on the need for stronger action
* Acceptance of the principle of compensation for developing countries, and acceptance by countries like India that they should take part in a global agreement and argue for compensation

A notable consequence has been the announcement by Canadian PM Harper that he will go to Copenhagen, having previously said he wouldn’t. Canada is a hotbed (coldbed?) of delusionism, and Harper has reneged on Canada’s Kyoto commitments. That was fine while Bush was in, but now he finds himself on the outer with Obama and threatened with suspension from the Commonwealth. More serious measures, such as trade sanctions, are being kept out of view for the moment, but they are already being discussed in both EU and US circles.

Harper’s embarrassing backflip is an indication of the silliness of the idea that Australia is in danger of “getting in front of the rest of the world”. If fruit loops like Abbott and Minchin get any share of political power in this country, even the partial veto associated with control of the Opposition, we run the risk of finding ourselves at the back of the pack, and paying a hefty price.

As with most international agreements, the outcome from Copenhagen will prove far short of ideal. But once the world is on the right track, and it becomes evident that the costs of stabilising the global climate are far smaller than the delusionist doomsayers have pretended, it should be possible to improve. With luck we will be in time not just to save ourselves from the worst-case disasters but to give vulnerable systems like the Great Barrier Reef a chance at survival.

50 thoughts on “Copenhagen commitments

  1. @Sarah Palin Fan
    In case tyou havent noticed SPF. Climate gate was an iillegal hack and then a tacky media smear campaign, characterised by snipped, cut, and wildy misinterpreted information (and I mean wildly).

    Climategate is nothing but a con by delusionists of which you appear to be one when you are not being a troll. They are the minority. They are very much the minority and they will increasingly become even more marginalised.

    You need to make absolutely certain you are not with the wrong tribe SPF – as for the reference to socialism – what has that got to do with the points on climate? Or are you really trying to fan fears of invisible enemies that dont exist (communists) just to obstruct good environmental policy initiatives because you dont give a damn what happens to the environment as long as you dont have to donate two cents to the cause. Its so transparently greedy and “bugger you Jack Im OK” – all of course couched in cloying sweet terms – its breathless but not convincing.

    If you didnt want to live in a socialist country you shouldnt have moved to Australia. Weve been a mixed socialist country since the convicts arrived. Try Somalia instead.

    We have heard it all before…. It is a waste of the vast majority’s time out there. You and your type are obstructive and destructive. We need change on this. It will happen. You people and your silly desperate ideas will be run over.

  2. @stuart
    Look at the facts. Australia is on about 1% renewables yet we are supposed to be on 20% in just 10 years time. Hydro is maxed out. Despite cash subsidies geothermal and wavepower have yet to achieve anything. As to windpower it failed to impress when the PM opened the Bungendore wind farm. It contributed less than 10% of capacity during Adelaide’s heat wave.

    Basically the alternatives to coal are gas or nukes. I think we should save gas for the long run, like powering trucks when diesel is prohibitive. Even Greenpeace has eased off criticising nuclear because when you leave it out the numbers don’t add up.

  3. We’ve been a mixed socialist country since the convicts arrived.

    Alice, don’t blame the convicts! From what I’ve read, sharing – with and without coercion – is a pretty universal feature of hunter-gatherer societies too.

  4. Alice :
    @Mark Hill
    Free trade was not re-established in the 1950’s. The most significant trade liberalisation was in the late 1940s, the late sixties and late seventies (formation of GATT, Kennedy Round and Tokyo Round).
    You still dont know what you are talking about Mark. Your original point was local not international.


    I was referring to international trade barriers. You are free to tell me you don’t think I know what I am talking about, but please do not profess to be able to read my mind.

    Nevertheless you are incorrect about Australian tariffs. Mc Ewen’s reputation and legacy was built on establishing or maintaining high tariff barriers during the 1950s. This lead to deteriorating export and productivity performance (and foreign investment remain as tariff hopping, resource seeking) until the 1970s when tariff liberalisation began with across the board 25% cuts (thanks Whitlam).

  5. Freelander,

    Please explain to me why the relatively high costs to domestic economies that impose trade barriers are irrelevant and why the large/small country effects of trade don’t matter.

    Perhaps you can explain first how a trade sanction that “properly prices the externality” doesn’t get enforced as a trade barrier?

  6. Mark Hill :Freelander,

    Perhaps you can explain first how a trade sanction that “properly prices the externality” doesn’t get enforced as a trade barrier?

    Last thing first, the cost of production (converted into the domestic currency), which if all markets are competitive and there are no trade barriers still has to be paid by someone paying for an imported good is not typically treated as a trade barrier. Simply because you pay for the full cost of a good is not a problem. If the production of a good is essentailly subsidised because the cost of an unpriced global externality is not being paid for, removing that subsidy by charging for the externality is not a problem or a trade barrier. It fixes the problem.

    As for the rest I will leave you to work that out.

  7. Correction to my comment several posts back. Renewable energy could now be up to 7% or so of the Australian energy mix
    Most of that by far is hydro so the next 13% will have to come from non-hydro. I could also have said that solar seems to need RECs, cash grants and feed-in tariffs three times the standard billing rate per kilowatt hour.

    If low carbon energy is a race I suggest we haven’t even yet arrived at the starting line.

  8. If you seriously want to debate the costs and virtues of different electricity production technologies then the blog of Barry Brook is a good place to do it. He has the numbers and does a good job of presenting them in practical terms.

  9. @Mark Hill
    You referred specifically to “the domestic costs of trade barriers” Mark. Domestic means domestic. Perhaps you need to explain what costs exactly you were referring to. Some firms gain and other firms lose when trade barriers are put in place or removed. To then waffle on about GATT and various international agreements was a vague non response.

  10. Alice,
    You are right that some firms gain and some lose when trade barriers are put in place. The point is that consumers, almost without exception, lose.
    If you want to support rent seeking firms (as you have supported other dead weight losses before) fine. I just cannot see how you can square that with your professed desire to help the poor.

  11. @Andrew Reynolds
    Your problem is Andrew you accept that unregulated unrestrained free market ideology will help the poor without any questions and without any examination of outcomes and without any doubts at all. That is religion Andy. The world is not quite that perfect and we need economists and politicians willing to examine outcomes for signs of weaknesses or failure, not to insist there wont be any, in advance.

  12. Alice,

    If you are unfamiliar with the political economy of protectionism, please do not make assertions about it in so far as my views on it are generally incorrect.

    I am referring of course to the differential between the costs of protectionism and benefits of liberalisation that accrue to domestic and foreign parties, as well as the differences in the benefits of trade and political economy of tariffs on large and small nations.

    From this basis, I find you characterisation of Andrew Reynolds as completely unfair.

  13. Fascinating that the “libertarian” – read right-wing free marketers – economically abstract human beings into “consumers” and posit their ability or no to be consumers as decisive in their ability to be non-poor.

  14. When and until anyone can prove to me the current warming is greater in acceleration that the MWP then you stick everything else sideways with a little help of your local endoscopy dept.

    So that excludes all hockey sticks, data from EAU, all discredited NON-scientists, who should be sacked at once.


    So we need urgently proper data and proper (no tricks) reconstructions, we also need firm DATA (you know that stuff that really matters that should be in the public domain) of just of much nature is absorbing CO2 (see freeman Dyson, opinion, he of REAL SCIENCE)

    I Think a lot of the problem here is the lack of academic quality, UEA are really a old polytechnic with no track record of rigorousness scientific research. The world is now full of make work institutions for second rate and psudo scientific interest, and in too many cases political interests.

    I look forward to seeing the real data as it comes on stream in the coming years, IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

  15. Anyone want to find out what George Monbiot means, when he describes Canada as;
    “ climate what Japan is to whaling”?
    Go to today’s Guardian, read on and see what you make of this story, including in relation to Australia, especially were we to be governed by the sorts of nutters responsible for the destruction of the Liberal party here, ( eg, even worse than the ALP on ecology).
    Also wonder that the situation he’s describing hasn’t made it on to any Australian news outlet, as is the case with the passing in New Zealand by the conservative government there of, you guessed it, a carbon trading bill.

  16. @Sean Morris,
    You are perhaps unaware that “the data” is already freely available. Since I guess you have no idea what to do with it when you have it, I assume you will now await your next command from McIntyre the Voudon Zombi master. In the meantime, here is a poe-m for you, by Hans, about your situation, entitled “Data”.

    I demand some data,
    no, not that data,
    that other data,
    oh, you’ve already given me that Data…
    well now I want this other data, OK, smartypants?
    oh, I can get that too huh?
    How about…
    Could you give me some data about some other data that you have not given me and then I can want that data?
    I could really use that data.
    Come on, be reasonable!
    Data is really not much good to me unless I can’t have it.
    It is unethical of you to deny me this data about the data I haven’t got,
    because if I don’t have the data on the data I don’t have,
    I don’t know what data I want, that I can’t have, that you are denying me.
    Stop denying me.
    You are denying me data.
    Release the data on the data.
    I demand some data,

    I think there’s something in that for all of us, don’t you?

  17. An actual politician speaks: 4/12/09

    The president’s decision to attend the international climate conference in Copenhagen needs to be reconsidered in light of the unfolding Climategate scandal. The leaked e-mails involved in Climategate expose the unscientific behavior of leading climate scientists who deliberately destroyed records to block information requests, manipulated data to “hide the decline” in global temperatures, and conspired to silence the critics of man-made global warming. I support Senator James Inhofe’s call for a full investigation into this scandal. Because it involves many of the same personalities and entities behind the Copenhagen conference, Climategate calls into question many of the proposals being pushed there, including anything that would lead to a cap and tax plan.

    Policy should be based on sound science, not snake oil. I took a stand against such snake oil science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population has increased. I’ve never denied the reality of climate change; in fact, I was the first governor to create a subcabinet position to deal specifically with the issue. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. But while we recognize the effects of changing water levels, erosion patterns, and glacial ice melt, we cannot primarily blame man’s activities for the earth’s cyclical weather changes. The drastic economic measures being pushed by dogmatic environmentalists won’t change the weather, but will dramatically change our economy for the worse.

    Policy decisions require real science and real solutions, not junk science and doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood that capitalizes on the public’s worry and makes them feel that owning an SUV is a “sin” against the planet. In his inaugural address, President Obama declared his intention to “restore science to its rightful place.” Boycotting Copenhagen while this scandal is thoroughly investigated would send a strong message that the United States government will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices. Saying no to Copenhagen and cap and tax are first steps in “restoring science to its rightful place.”

    – Sarah Palin

  18. Clarification a la Wiki

    A scandal is a very public incident which involves a claim of wrong-doing, shame, or moral offence. A scandal may be about a real event, an untrue event (often called a false allegation) or a mixture of both.

    Scandals may be told by whistleblowers, who have access to secrets and allow them to go public. A well-known scandal was the Watergate scandal, in which US President Richard Nixon was found to be supporting and hiding illegal burglaries. Untrue claims often lead to a loss of respect for that person, and can destroy their careers. Sometimes an attempt to cover up a scandal creates a bigger scandal when the cover-up does not succeed.

    So its a politcal thing more than a scientific thing

    In my opinion it’s a scandal

    Repeat after me

    Climategate is not a scandal!
    Climategate is not a scandal!

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