The issue of climate change is not so much about whether the climate is changing but - how do we mere mortals differentiate the science from the politics. It is the “cause celebre” embraced by the political left as a convenient reason to also dismantle capitalism and replace it with socialism or worse.
Our Governments’ traditionally reach for the easily accessible taxation tool to solve a problem - any problem. To impose a carbon tax to counter climate change can be described as requiring the paying of real money to ensure the partial removal of a natural and invisible substance, essential for life, to someone (Government) which is no one – who is pretending to do something, while achieving nothing.
So, what are the conditions needed for overcoming climate change that apparently we all seek? A good start would be scientific integrity, and an understanding that there is not always a simple solution (tax) to every problem.
Some years ago in a farmers paddock just north of Roxburgh, a large sign read – “At this historic site in 1836 …….. nothing happened”. In the year 2000, the Y2K bug was predicted to create havoc. That was when planes were widely forecast to fall out of the sky as the year 1999 came to an end and on- board computers simply didn’t know what to do. Predictions by experts of calamitous events were commonplace. Meanwhile the electronic industry positioned itself for a windfall. Billions of dollars were spent on upgrades as systems were deemed to fail causing a loss of data no company or industry could afford. So, what happened nearly twenty years ago? Well actually nothing. Life carried on as normal. The point is that we have come to rely on expert advice on matters of unfathomable science with the rational assumption that the integrity of scientists, whether on weather prediction or some other entirely complex subject - is unimpeachable.
It is therefore entirely reasonable to seek some understanding of the apparent conflicting views within the scientific community around climate science. Direct challenges to the conventional wisdom of the day are rare but costly as astronomer/ physicist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) found out. These days, abuse is levelled towards anyone espousing “climate heresy”. Instead of having contrary opinion debated in open forums and scientific journals, it would seem journals simply don’t publish opposing views. New Zealand and British physicist Professor Michael Kelly FRS, FREng believes serious debate is being suppressed especially as to the true cost of some of the recommendations by the Royal Society.
Nobel Laureate and prize winner in physics, Ivor Giaever received his award for his work on super-conductors. Presuming he knows something of physics in general, he commented on climate change – to howls of outrage from the perpetually aggrieved. Conversely, a man of absolutely no scientific credential - politician Al Gore - became the darling of the intellectual left with his pronouncements on climate change. It has been unkindly suggested that he (Gore) entered this climate debate solely to remind us all - that not everyone in this world of ours has a purpose. Dr Giaever has spoken of various types of science starting with real science to the pathological to fraudulent science to junk science to pseudo-science. All of which tends to cloud the “incontrovertible truth” of climate change as it is defined and espoused by the climate change lobby. Dr Giaever notes that even the mass of a proton is not incontrovertible, but climate change is (somehow) incontrovertible.
Bjorn Lomborg- an environmental economist points out that the world spends 101 billion in subsidies for so called green energy, but it is being spent on existing technology. Germany has spent 800 billion euros on wind and solar which has hardly made a dent in that nations carbon dioxide emissions.
Prof Lomborg’s solution is spending only in new, innovative research. A transition is needed, similar to the dramatic change from the former use of whale oil to fossil fuels. Our Governments solution would have been to tax whale oil.
Another question of some importance is - what is the optimum temperature that is best for all countries and how and who decides such a question. If NZ is serious about climate change why not confront the use of nuclear power instead of meeting demand thru damming more rivers or exporting/importing coal. Solar and wind generation just don’t work for us in the south - especially during long winter nights.
So, a legitimate question for those of us who struggle to know who and what to believe these days is - why was Robin Hood able to run around Sherwood forest (according to legend in the early middle ages) wearing a tee shirt and tights. Why was the world so warm during that period? And why was there no sea ice in the early 1900s which enabled access thru the fabled north west passage in the Arctic circle. Nor was there sea ice when Scott sailed to the Antarctic in his epic journey to the South pole.
Science will find an answer and soon but only those who practice real science vs the populist variety can apply the scientific integrity needed to engender public confidence and support to solve this issue.
Gerry Eckhoff is a former MP and councillor on the Otago Regional Council.