Friday, June 11, 2010
Ron Smith: Politics and Climate Change
Does it need to be said that any policy that has to be defended in this way, in front of your own supporters, cannot long be sustained? The tide against anthropogenic global warming has been going out for some time and that trend looks set to continue. Following the revelations of ‘Climategate’ and the failure at Copenhagen, ‘shoes’ have been falling all over the world with an increasingly resonant crash, as individuals and institutions have added to the disquieting evidence of misrepresentation and deceit and a diminishing confidence in the official version of both the supposed problem and the necessary solution.
As is well-known, Australia has abandoned its EFTS for the time being and, unless, the United States gets something through Congress before the mid-term elections in November, they too will give up on the project. Europe seems to be still committed but are we sure to what? In view of the undoubted economic problems besetting the whole community, it is not at all unreasonable to presume that they will be extremely reluctant to add to their difficulties by imposing further costs on their struggling economies.
In February of this year, the London-based Institute of Physics echoed the gathering concern, which is now beginning to penetrate even the more conservative bastions of orthodoxy. In its evidence to the British parliamentary inquiry on the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit revelations (‘Climategate’ above), it said quite bluntly that the emails as published, ‘had worrying implications for the integrity of scientific research in this field’. The previously monolithic British Royal Society has also been forced by a members’ petition to appoint a panel to rewrite its official position on global warming. In announcing this, the Society repudiated the view of its previous president, Lord May, who had been quoted as saying, ‘The debate on climate change is over’. Now they say, ‘any public perception that science [of global warming, or other] is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect.’ (parenthesis added)
More generally, it is noteworthy that the Interacademy Council, which links the world’s science academies, has set up an independent review of the ‘procedures and processes’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It will be interesting to see whether any of the comparable criticisms that have been levelled against NIWA and the New Zealand Royal Society produces any willingness to engage with the gathering chorus of independent and, in their way, expert local critics.
In addition to these international and institutional activities, there has also been a continuing stream of individual or local initiatives, such as that of Australian Ken Stewart, a retired headmaster who also had ten years experience as a data analyst. Mr Stewart took it upon himself to meticulously re-examine the official Australian temperature record and found it (like the corresponding New Zealand record) much doctored. Also recently reported have been the findings of a University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor who systematically examined the claims in the various IPCC reports and compared them with, ‘what is found in the peer-edited climate science literature’. Echoing others who had traversed the same ground, he found that the former had more the character of political advocacy than scientific report.
There are questions, too, at the level of practical politics. Traditional National supporters, like the farmers, are talking defection (forming their own party even). The Prime Minister may be right that he can call their bluff, or blunt their antagonism by further deferring the start of EFTS for the agricultural sector. After all, where could these disaffected supporters go? Labour? Greens?? Recent public opinion polls indicate that the only logical alternative (ACT) is not attracting increased support; it must be that the generality of citizens are not yet sufficiently agitated about the effects of the ETS to raise it to a level that would determine a change in political allegiance.
The Prime Minister must be hoping that that will continue; but will it? Already there are signs that his economic plan could be derailed by inflationary pressure and international financial trends, over which the Government has no control. If this situation is further exacerbated by the adverse effects of self-imposed charges on energy and commerce, which are increasingly seen to be unjustified by climatic trends or the fundamentals of climate science, the backlash could be severe. What puzzles this writer is why would you take the risk?
at 8:37 AM