Hackneyed Science and Deceitful Politics.
Why the ETS Bill is Fundamentally Flawed
“There is something fascinating about science”, observed Mark Twain. “One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact”. His observation is still pertinent today as I will shortly demonstrate. But there is something equally fascinating about politics when far reaching and intrusive legislation can be built upon poorly conceived and flawed ideas. So imagine the impact on society then when a scientific hypothesis that is based on little more than conjecture is used to justify wide-ranging and economically damaging legislation. Everyone loses.
But this has not deterred Climate Change Minister David Parker from doing precisely that. Inspired by the politically drenched dictum of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we must cut our carbon emissions to save the planet from “dangerous global warming”, the minister has employed a flawed scientific model to justify the Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference (ETS) Bill, now before Parliament. The effects of this Bill if passed will be to fetter manufacturing industries with inhibitive costs as punishment for emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It will inevitably drive some manufacturers off-shore while at the same time increase the cost of living for all households as these costs are passed on to consumers. The idea of using a scientific hypothesis to bolster unattractive and controversial legislation is to convince the scientifically illiterate public that there is cause for alarm, that our future lies in the balance and that therefore something must be done to save the planet from imminent ruin.
Before the invention of the IPCC, the very concept of a government ministry in charge of climate change might have been viewed as an amusing yarn, a frivolous political jest shared over coffee at morning smoko. Such a quirky portfolio would have been hardly different to a ministry in charge of any natural phenomenon, like a minister for rainfall and snowstorms, tempests and balmy days. One might ask why not a minister in charge of earthquakes and tsunamis? A minister for phases of the moon? The difference of course is that the IPCC declares climate change to be wholly unnatural when in a warming phase, but completely normal when in a cooling phase. The IPCC asserts a warming climate is necessarily bad, the inevitable result of man’s filth, while a cooling climate is good and caused by natural events. One would think Earth’s climate had always been immutable, rigidly fixed and governed by a regulated clockwork universe where nothing changed until the Industrial Revolution when mankind threw a spanner in the works by emitting a modicum of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and throwing the climate into a heat spiral. The IPCC believes that without immediate and drastic action by Western governments to curtail such emissions, we will reach the point of no return - the so called “tipping point”. The atmosphere will burn and all life forms will expire. It is as though carbon dioxide is so alien to the environment its unfortunate presence through industrialisation threatens the very survival of the planet. Therefore, to bring us back from the brink, the IPCC recommends hobbling further industrial development until the climate restabilises and temperatures return to “normal”, whatever that is. Some in the IPCC believe that nothing short of a return to pre-Industrial days will do, when man travelled by horse and cart and read by candlelight. But even this is not enough for environmentalists like radical Finnish eco-philosopher Pentti Linkola who goes so far as to prescribe the end of Western civilisation. "Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed", he says, and that “World War III would be a happy occasion for the planet”. Linkola insists the only way to save the planet is for complete deindustrialization and the eradication of human beings. Although his solution is somewhat extreme, the attitude is not altogether different to that of Maurice Strong, the architect of the Kyoto Protocol, who similarly believes “Economic growth is not the cure, it is the disease”.
Already burdened with over 1,000 amendments because of the doubtful science and the haste in which it was drawn up, the ETS Bill is based on the premise that a warming climate is abnormal and caused predominantly by mankind’s industrial activities. It is based upon the premise that our industries and our use of fossil fuels are heating the planet to a dangerous degree through emissions of greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide.
The problem with this idea is that it relies almost exclusively upon conjecture distilled from computer models. The models themselves are dependent upon countless assumptions because the atmosphere’s behaviour is too complex to be approximated. In order to compensate however, the computer models are furnished with a blend of fudge factors designed to conceal the uncertainties yet still generate a meaningful end product. Computer modelling of course has a veneer of prestige that attracts research and investment, but the fly in the ointment is the ease with which models can be tweaked and massaged to produce a desired result. There is kudos and research money in employing them to generate “scenarios” that advance a politically favourable outcome, even though these “scenarios” are entirely fictitious. Yet despite the hype and endless propaganda in the media, whose bulletins feed off these modelled “scenarios”, there is as yet no empirical evidence, no raw data, no tests or measurements of any sort that prove or even strongly suggest that today’s climate is being driven chiefly by man’s carbon output and not by the sun. Ironically, the IPCC knows this and readily admits that the science is highly speculative. But Professor Stephen Schneider (Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II) of the IPCC is indifferent. He suggests it is ok to ignore the lack of actual evidence and propagate a fiction because "we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have." Equally indifferent, Sir John Houghton, senior editor of the first three IPCC Assessment Reports declares that “Unless we announce disasters no one will listen.” What message then should we be listening to? If the science is broken, the IPCC must have a purely political agenda.
It is in this atmosphere of hackneyed science and deceitful politics that Climate Change Minister David Parker has drawn up his ETS Bill. Mark Twain would not have been surprised.
Joe Fone is a bibliophile, amateur astronomer and avid reader of science, philosophy, science history and ancient history.