As we’ve been discussing, my invitation to debate Lord Monckton was withdrawn before I could make a decision on it. But, for those interested, my column in yesterday’s Fin presents my thoughts on Monckton’s key claim: that the scientific literature on climate change is a gigantic fraud, cooked up in the service of a conspiracy to inaugurate a communist world government at Copenhagen.
A tepid conspiracy
Australia is currently enjoying a visit from Lord Christopher Monckton, a former education adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who is here to warn us that the climate change negotiations are a plot to destroy the global economy and impose a communist world government. The plot, according to Monckton is led by President Obama and supported by Kevin Rudd, who are, it seems, communists who ‘piled into the environmental movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall’.
In an interview with Alex Jones, host of the conspiracy-theoretic radio/TV show Prison Planet, Monckton attributed the plot to a ‘“deliberate desire to control population by killing people in large numbers deliberately if necessary”. His co-speaker, Ian Plimer, assented to similar views on the same program.
It might be thought that such views should be enough to consign Monckton to the lunatic fringe. But his conspiracy theory has received enthusiastic endorsement from large sections of the media including such prominent commentators as Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen (though Albrechtsen later backed away a little).
And Monckton doesn’t lack political support. Opposition Senate Leader Nick Minchin echoed his views a couple of months ago, saying ‘”For the extreme Left [global warming] provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of deindustrialise the Western world … you know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the Left, and … they embraced environmentalism as their new religion. ’
The Lavoisier Group, founded by former Labor Finance Minister Peter Walsh asserted that the Kyoto Protocol represented the greatest threat to Australia’s sovereignty since that posed by Japan in 1942.
It is, then, necessary to make a serious assessment of the claim that Kevin Rudd, Barack Obama and the United Nations are engaged in a communist conspiracy to destroy the global economy and seize world power, as asserted by Monckton, Minchin, Walsh and others.
One problem with the theory is that the chosen instrument, a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme, seems grossly inadequate to the task of destroying the economy. Even without the massive exemptions loaded in to the Rudd government’s CPRS, an emissions trading scheme with full auctioning might be expected to raise about $10 billion a year, or 1 per cent of GDP over the next decade. By comparison, the GST raises over $40 billion. No credible economist suggest that the economic impact will be more than marginal.
Even if the world can manage a comprehensive agreement to reduce carbon emissions to near-zero levels by 2050, the best estimates suggest that the economic effect will be to reduce the level of GDP by a few per cent.
An even more puzzling aspect of conspiracy-theoretic claims is that part-time nature of the conspiracy. Most of the time conservatives like Bolt and Minchin treat Rudd as an ordinary political opponents, attacking him for being indecisive and more concerned with spin than substance.
But if Rudd is engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the global economy and institute a communist world government, surely this fact should drive any analysis of his economic policy, health care and so on. Full-time conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones are at least consistent. In the same program as his interview with Plimer, Jones explained how the Obama Administration’s apparently modest health care reforms are actually a genocidal plot.
It is tempting to dismiss all this as overblown hyperbole. But the continuous attacks on the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only make sense if the whole scientific consensus on climate change is the product of a fraudulent conspiracy. This claim has been made repeatedly, most notably with the recent discovery of a couple of erroneous or poorly-source claims in the 1600 page IPCC report released in 2007.
Finally, there is a particular problem for Lord Monckton, given his past career. According to the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, the climate change conspiracy began with a British politician who said, as early as 1990,
I want to pay tribute to the important work which the United Nations has done to advance our understanding of climate change, and in particular the risks of global warming .. The (first) IPCC report is a remarkable achievement … the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.
The name of this climate arch-conspirator? Margaret Thatcher.