So, What Do I Think of the ALP’s Price on Carbon?

I know I’ve focused upon the alternative. This is due to it being an election year, with the Coalition doing so well in the polls with initiatives that are contrary to the interests of Australia (I say this, not as a personal opinion, but based upon my analysis of their Direct Action Plan, which seems too immense and thus ineffective as well as expensive to carry out).

So, what of the ALP’s price on carbon?

In my criticisms of the alternative measures, I often state that I see sense in a price in carbon. It is a method that provides a market-based incentive to decouple economic activity from carbon emissions, which is the ultimate goal for a prosperous markets place into the twenty first century.

That said, I fear the ALP’s approach is weak and ineffective at best.

Sure, we need to buffer the market as it moves in the right direction and so using the revenue obtained from the carbon price to provide a safety net is essential. Yet, where does this buffer simply blinker spending activities, thereby undoing the motivational force behind such an initiative?

I think the APL have failed to answer this point correctly. Moreover, a large part of the revenue would better be used to subsidise alternative markets that have low greenhouse gas emissions (I do not rule out nuclear for a transitional power source, although I suspect it will end up like fossil fuels whereby we will exploit it ever more efficiently, but use more per capita, depleting the supply far quicker than initially anticipated, leaving us with an even greater deficiency beyond peak nuclear fuel).

It is here where the initiative fails the process entirely. Providing avenues for cheaper alternative markets is by no means stimulated as much as it could be.

It is likely, regardless what Tony Abbott says, that whichever party is elected in September, they will push to bring in an ETS as quickly as possible (it will be very difficult to actually remove the carbon pricing and so, by moving quickly to an ETS, the Coalition can say that the price on carbon, as it was, is now gone). However, an ETS, in my opinion, is not essential.

We hear a lot about our competitiveness on the global market, but at the same time, we sell our fossil fuels, uranium, wood and meat often in an unprocessed state at the lowest price, where instead, we ought to refine our resources, producing more local jobs and sell these resources at their deserved premium. While it remains as it is, such noise regarding our global competitiveness should rightly be ignored. In the same way, this should include the price on carbon or an eventual ETS.

So while I believe the price on carbon is the only sensible market-based method to motivate us away from a carbon base economy, the approach we currently have is sorely lacking. It is stuck within a political culture more akin to competing soft-drink brands than public representation and leadership. We have the answers, but lack the political will to achieve any meaningful and inspiring targets.

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“Carbon Tax” Successful Reframing at its Best

I got into a debate over the weekend with a family friend. I learnt fairly quickly that nothing I said could alter the frustration the other felt over the “carbon tax”. This included pointing out an absurdly obvious fact; it’s not a tax.

I shouldn’t need to say it, but we all know the basics of tax. Put simply, a tax collects a fragment of one entity’s wealth for certain reasons, from establishing a “common wallet” to fund public based goods and services to the outright repugnant sequestering of wealth and lands by yesteryears lords and kings to pay largely for their lavish lifestyles.

What we have with carbon is unrelated directly with wealth, but instead the amount of greenhouse gases one’s activities are responsible for. A carbon neutral business could laugh themselves to the bank, because they do not pay, per unit, for their emissions. What we have on carbon is a price paid to emit. It is a price on carbon.

It continually amazes me how the most vocal against the price on carbon tend to want a market-based strategy; when that’s exactly what they bark so feverishly at! At the same time, they tend to be silent in the face of the real cost increases with power supply, of which, the carbon price is small.

As stated above, the cost effective approach is to reduce the emissions one is responsible for or, in other words, reduce one’s overheads! The price on carbon is a good place to start.

Yet, as I found over the weekend, no matter what I said, the word “tax” stuck. People hate tax, obviously (but one wonders how much this hatred compares to that six-month old pothole that has not been repaired due to a loss of public revenue) and so labelling it the “carbon tax” is a wonderful tool to mislead people into thinking that a portion of their hard-earned money has been swiped by the federal government against their will.

In reality, the price on carbon is essentially avoidable. And, if it works well, eventually it would fade itself out of existence.

I’ve harped on about it, however, the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan is entirely funded by the taxpayer, either through increasing taxes or by removing standing services instead. Either way, it is an initiative entirely funded through the taxpayer’s expense. It is, unavoidable regardless how small your carbon footprint is. It is the true tax paid by everyone.

It remains, however, that the spin, “carbon tax” has seem to have worked, without any rationale behind it.

Associating a market-based strategy with mythical overbearing government propaganda has, in this case, switched off the minds of many, to crassly parrot back the same absurdities time and time again.

The Coalition has continually called it a “big fat tax” on everyone and “the economic wrecking ball” (that never was), with Greg Hunt dedicating a blog to the “carbon tax”. Christopher Monckton, too, has enjoyed this bandwagon with his latest tour; Carbon tax, climate scam, Agenda 21: can democracy survive all three? Lord Monckton does due diligence.

The “carbon tax” stands as a success campaign to mislead and ultimately undo the standing political leadership within Australia. It has been an excellent political manoeuvre that threatens to lead us well and truly to a carbon tax paid directly by the taxpayer. Sitting on the sidelines to this crazy affair, I’m amazed at how well the opposition have successfully plugged this bait and switch. They could put many marketing gurus to shame.

Many Inconsistencies From Greg Hunt on the Carbon Price

The claim that the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan, firstly, is an alternative to taxpayers paying is absurd. The analysis I undertook and the material I referenced therein suggest that the taxpayer is directly forking out for the Direct Action Plan, should the Coalition come into power and implement it.

The Direct Action Plan is directly aimed at the taxpayer, through increasing tax to support an inefficient methodology of greenhouse gas emissions reduction or the general public more broadly through a loss of current public services (such as health or education services).

This is contrary to a price on carbon that hurts excessive carbon emissions, rather than everyone equality regardless of their actions (ie. if you want to pay less on carbon, use less or find low carbon alternatives; in other words, behavioural change away from a carbon economy). The carbon price targets carbon use and thus provides market place incentives to decarbonise economic growth in Australia for the 21st century.

But it gets better. On Minister Greg Hunt’s website, he has a page dedicated to knocking the carbon price.

On the 20th of February, he had an article, titled, Carbon Tax Robs Poor To Pay The Rich  in which he talks about the ALP providing large sums of money to coal fire generators. Of course, he does not reference this or provide the ALP’s justification, but I can.

In Chapter 5 of the 2012-13 budget, Supporting Energy Markets, this money is claimed to assist with initial impact of the carbon pricing as part of allowing for a smooth transition from carbon based energy supply, to a mixed base and eventually low carbon emission power supply.

We may need to remind Hunt that the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan includes the Emissions Reduction Fund. This is a tax funded initiative (that’s right, we all pay through tax or loss of public services as there are no other funding sources, unlike the price on carbon). The Emissions Reduction Fund funnels taxpayers money to private industry to pay for improvements to industry for private benefits. From the Emissions Reduction Fund section of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan;

“It is envisaged that the Fund will invest an annual average of around $1.2 billion in direct CO2 emissions reduction activities through to 2020.”

If they implemented the Direct Action Plan before 2015, this alone would funnel off more money into private industry than that Mr Hunt accuses the ALP of in his article. The major difference here from the ALP’s initiative is that it is done in an economic environment without the market based incentives discussed above.

The pot calling the kettle black…?

Further, six days later, Greg Hunt’s very next article, titled, Carbon Tax Hits Virgin Airlines, talks about multimillion dollar payments being made by, you guessed it, the rich!

So who is the victim here? The poor? The rich? Or is he really going down the path of the doomsday theorist and claiming that the whole economy is going to collapse with the ALP’s price on carbon – except for the fossil fuel industry whom the ALP are, apparently, funnelling money to? More than six months on from the introduction of the price on carbon and Australia is still a strong economy.

In truth, even within his own articles, Greg Hunt cannot develop a consistent message. He attacks the ALP, accusing them of exactly what his party’s Direct Action Plan will set out to do. Moreover, he then accuses the ALP of doing to opposite as well. This, from the Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage of a party lead by Tony Abbott whom famously said;

“The argument [behind climate change] is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.” (12 December 2009)

and,

“I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.” (27 July 2009)

Among other gems. We have valid reason for concern regarding the Coalition’s seriousness and capacity to provide meaningful leadership on climate change mitigation.

One Angry Summer… Oh, Anthropogenic Climate Change was Involved.

6883-DCCEE-Summer-Heat-Infographs_SUMMARY_v6_1MARCH-2

Sure, Australia is a country of drought and flooding rain, but not often at the same time, year after year!

Key facts:

  1. The Australian summer over 2012 and 2013 has been defined by extreme weather events across much of the continent, including record-breaking heat, severe bushfires, extreme rainfall and damaging flooding. Extreme heatwaves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the Angry Summer were made worse by climate change.
  2. All weather, including extreme weather events is influenced by climate change. All extreme weather events are now occurring in a climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago. This influences the nature, impact and intensity of extreme weather events.
  3. Australia’s Angry Summer shows that climate change is already adversely affecting Australians. The significant impacts of extreme weather on people, property, communities and the environment highlight the serious consequences of failing to adequately address climate change.
  4. It is highly likely that extreme hot weather will become even more frequent and severe in Australia and around the globe, over the coming decades. The decisions we make this decade will largely determine the severity of climate change and its influence on extreme events for our grandchildren.
  5. It is critical that we are aware of the influence of climate change on many types of extreme weather so that communities, emergency services and governments prepare for the risk of increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather.

Maybe weather itself must be deemed alarmist…?

Check out the report by the Climate Commission here.

Nothing the Right Tell You About Climate Change is True

I must open an article as deliberately provocative as this with a disclaimer, which I’m certain will be blinkered for those whom wish to shoot the messenger rather than critique the argument itself; this is not an article in favour of “the Left”. I do not find either side of the political see-saw a comfortable fit. Rather, my only political interest is a passion for democracy.

Democracy only exists where there is transparency, free access to information (hence my loathing if pay-walls in academia even though I have access myself) and the capacity of the general public to critically analyses the quality of information (why I so often post my critiques of misinformation, spam mail and open replies, so that I can provide an example of such).

All of this matters in regards to the following considerations. Why? The predominately Right-wing form of anthropogenic climate change denial is completely contrary to all of the above; ultimately it is contrary to democracy itself. This form of denial, made popular by extreme Right-wing individuals, such as Chris Monckton, claim in fact that democracy is at stake in this fake debate over the reality and potential severity of anthropogenic climate change and yet this is the first case of contrary claims made by such people. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Climate change (indeed environmentalism in general) is a socialist agenda to seek power.”

This form of “socialism”, as people like Monckton like to remind us within their paranoid fears of a global dictatorship run by the UN, is basically unelected heads having supreme power over the majority, for their own personal gain.

Yet, we are witnessing industry effectively buying senators to support industry exploits over what the public may or may not wish (if it was the vote of the people, why would such money be required at all?)

You might then claim that it is what the public want, but how well are the public informed in an age where industry sponsored think tanks are well funded to produce propaganda to manipulate what the pubic understand in such a way to favour industry exploits?

Industry heads are not elected. They are driven by self-interests. They are demonstrating the capacity of manipulate governing powers of their state to favour their self-interests. This is the real threat to democracy.

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“Action on Climate change will send us back to the stone age”

This largely circulates around decarbonising our power supply and simplistically assumes that this in turn means depowering the globe. Naive to say the least.

In fact it is a call for innovation, development and progress (noting that the term “progressive” tends to have the same effect on extreme Right-wingers as water on the Wicked Witch of the West). The alternative is business as usual; do things how we did last year and the year before and the year before and the year before…

Listen to how these character whined about the loss of the nineteenth century light globes!

An obsession with old technology is the real threat to future prosperity. It is the real homage to the stone age.

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“Climate change is against the rights of the individual”

Individualism! This conservative ideology is contrary to anywhere with a sizable population and fails to acknowledge the power of our species.

We all grew up watching and reading about heroes – these big men and occasionally women able to defend the world against all manner of beast. However, this is most often a delusion. Modern Homo sapiens never headed out alone and brought back something much larger than a small monkey for dinner. It was the team that brought home the goods.

Sure, one might take out apex predators today with a high powered weapon, however the development of that weapon and the means to carry the poor beast home were the result of many minds developing the tools over generations.

Even the militia mentality of the Patriots in the US, whom insist upon the rights of the individual, depend on communities rising together if their secular Armageddon (the government or UN starting a war against them) ever occurred.

The individual is weak where the community is strong.

Moreover, within this ideology, the individuals right stop where they infringe upon the rights of another. Packing the atmosphere with additional insulation is against the rights of people whom live in arid environments and on permafrost who will quickly find their chosen way of life increasingly unbearable due to the unfair actions of others in different communities.

Eventually it will even infringe upon the individual rights of even our grandchildren whom will have the difficulty of developing new agricultural methodologies simply because the hydrological cycle doesn’t follow the time tested patterns any longer.

Ignoring climate change is against the rights of the individual.

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“Dissenting scientific evidence against climate change is being censored”

Really? Have these people never heard of the internet? It doesn’t matter what you have to say, the internet is your playground!

I would happily post the content of any serious science paper that could not get published in a science journal regardless of whether it is in favour of the reality of anthropogenic climate change or not. Of course, I’d like to know the details as to which journals it was submitted to and the corresponding feedback as to why the journals refused to publish it.

If there is a genuine conspiracy against publishing evidence against anthropogenic climate change, this story would be every journalist’s dream! It would be worth a lot to our species to have the lid of this story cracked right open. I’m certain awards would be granted to the investigator whom discovered the details to this secret underworld of science.

Unfortunately, I think I’ll be waiting my life time out for this story. Science is such that one cannot make a tower out of jelly (jello to my US readers). In other words, if your analysis has no substance, it won’t stand. What stands within science is therefore the only things that people cannot disprove with all the skills we have collective acquired to date.

On the other hand, the exaggerated claims, like the so called “Climategate” or meaningless attacks on the IPCC reports that fail to even acknowledge the actual science component of the reports (I’m looking at you, Donna Laframboise) are attempts to censor unfavourable science that one has no other capacity to genuinely challenge. Chris Monckton recently arguing that climate scientists need to locked in jail is also an example of this goody bag of censorship. The industry fuelled denial and inaction discussed above is equally dissenting human activity away from human understanding of that action.

Censorship is against the science of anthropogenic climate change, not the non-existent “evidence” to the contrary.

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“Science isn’t done by consensus”

Indeed it isn’t. It only takes one individual to destroy an idea, provided that they understand something that others don’t and can demonstrate, within their peer group, the folly of the standing idea. That none of the standard climate change denial that we hear has anything to do with demonstrating erroneous conclusions or provided ground breaking to the contrary within the expert community and the expert community are forced into a consensus on the basic facts (ie. 1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, 2. human activities are increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and 3. we can observe the warming and energy imbalance within the respective infrared wavelengths through empirical observation which confirms an amplified greenhouse effect) is telling.

No, science is not done by consensus, nor is it done away from the expert community, on talk shows, stages and in combination with claims of UN take overs or the location of the birth of Obama. Science is done through hard work within a community of experts exchanging ideas. Consensus is a stepping stone to advancing ideas, nothing more.

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From what I can tell, the reason that such arguments have been usurped, contrary to reality, is to render them useless. By accusing the supporters of science of all manner of outrageous claims, it is clear to see this is coupled with reality as derived through empirical observation, instantly placing such a position on the back foot.

Not only do we need to place certainty on evidence through scientific methodology, but also defend ourselves against the onslaught of nonsensical accusations. Of course, the reality shows that in truth the very opposite is occurring:

  • Anthropogenic climate change denialism is the real alarmism [alarmism being defined as exaggerated propaganda of a real or imagined threat] as it includes bizarre claims of conspiracy, UN hysteria, unsubstantiated claims of fraud (regardless how often the IPCC or the information of climate scientists are investigated, such people insist the “truth” has yet to be discovered) and paranoia of a collapse of the first world.
  • Anthropogenic climate change denial is the real censoring force in that people like Chris Monckton are utilised as expert “sceptics” in US senate hearings on the evidence regarding the science and that we have a loud minority attempting to drown out unfavourable science.
  • Anthropogenic climate change denial is an attack on the individual in that it favours unfair profiteering by certain industries at the detriment of how people live today and how / where they will live in the future.
  • Anthropogenic climate change denial is an open affront to democracy in that unelected and unfair profiteering industries are able to buy political powers at the expense of voters in free states. Such profiteers can do so with a level of obscurity also.

We ought to be concerned about justice and democracy in the face of anthropogenic climate change denialism.

Will the Opposition’s Direct Action Plan work?

The Coalition has promised that if it takes government in September, it will get rid of the price on carbon emissions established by the Australian Labor Party. In its place, the party will implement a Direct Action Plan, its way of reducing emissions. This plan relies mainly on carbon sequestration and funding industrial improvements through taxpayer-funded initiatives.

While the Direct Action Plan outline has been removed from the Coalition website, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt, continue to state the plan is their climate initiative.

What does the Direct Action Plan promise to do?

The plan says:

The single largest opportunity for CO2 emissions reduction in Australia is through bio-sequestration in general, and in particular, the replenishment of our soil carbons. It is also the lowest cost CO2 emissions reduction available in Australia on a large scale.

Through the Emissions Reduction Fund a Coalition Government will commit to a “once in a century” replenishment of our national soils and farmlands.

Through the Fund we will support up to 85 million tonnes per annum of CO2 abatement through soil carbons by 2020 – and reserve the right to increase this, subject to progress and evaluation.

The favoured sequestration strategy is soil carbon storage. This methodology is still controversial, and a review by CSIRO demonstrates the large uncertainties involved in long term storage of carbon in soil.

Because of these difficulties, the Coalition may need to supplement soil sequestration at least in part, if not entirely, with more certain sequestration methodologies, namely tree plantation, if it is to have any impact on Australia’s net CO2 emissions.

The plan does include forestry measures. And on February 5, 2013, Greg Hunt confirmed on ABC News Breakfast that tree plantation would make up part of the plan.

I analysed the sequestration component of the plan to test its viability. To ensure the plan was given the best chance for success within this analysis, the selected assumptions were purposely designed in its favour.

This largely involved assuming soil sequestration would work and that, if not, the best quality plantations could be established and that the necessary high quality land could be sourced.

The species I selected as sequesters were the Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and Shining Gum (E. nitens), with optimum wood density of 600kg per cubic metre and an annual yield of 30 to 35 cubic metres of wood per hectare.

Can it be done?

A relatively modest reduction of 5% below the Australian emissions of CO2 in 1990 yielded a sequestration target of around 77 million m3 of wood per annum.

Sequestration within biomass accounts for around 50% of that biomass’ dry weight. For this reason, sequestration becomes a major project if expected to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions on the order of many millions of tonnes.

To achieve the pledged return of an annual 85 million tonnes of CO2, Australian wood production would need to be around four times what it currently is by 2020. The minimum land requirements for this additional wood production would be close to two times the size of Sydney by 2020.

As my analysis relied upon the most optimistic assumptions, real-world limits to tree plantation were ignored and optimal yield was used. The real scale of the Direct Action Plan would be much larger physically, in management and in cost, with real world conditions.

If tree plantation becomes the favoured option, this also presents the additional land and fire management requirements of such a large project.

Sequestration will play a role in mitigation of anthropogenic climate change. However, it would need to be of an immense size, spatially and financially, if it is considered a primary activity, rather than complementary.

In short, while sequestration is of value, to rely upon it at this magnitude is unlikely to be viable, especially by 2020.

Is it cost-effective?

Sequestration is of value, but the scale the Direct Action Plan calls for appears unlikely to be viable, especially by 2020, and is likely to become very expensive as the scale is adjusted over time to deal with increasing emissions reduction targets.

It is unfeasible to imagine that any sequestration initiative of the magnitude required can be achieved without significant additional expense.

Placing this hand-in-hand with funding improvements to industrial efficiency increases the cost to the taxpayer. In the case of the latter, this would be to the benefit of polluters. The Coalition has stated that this will be achieved without further taxes. The only other option is a retraction of standing public services.

The ultimate goal will necessarily be to achieve carbon neutrality. In this case, soil sequestration simply could not fulfil such obligations without major shifts away from a carbon driven economy – we will have to reduce emissions if we hope to sequester all we create.

The Direct Action Plan seems unlikely to be a viable counter pathway to the established price on carbon, because a carbon price has intrinsic market-based motivators to decouple carbon emissions from economic growth.

Ultimately, a quick analysis demonstrates the plan is very unlikely to provide the returns promised by the Coalition and is most likely to increase in cost beyond what has been promised by the Coalition. This is especially true if the Coalition eventually plans to scale up to meet future reduction targets or if it becomes necessary to scale up, simply due to returns failing to meet current targets.

The full report, A Review of the Viability of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan, can be downloaded here.

Tim Lubke does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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There is no such thing as climate change denial

By John Cook, University of Queensland

In a sense, there is no such thing as climate change denial. No one denies that climate changes (in fact, the most common climate myth is the argument that past climate change is evidence that current global warming is also natural). Then what is being denied? Quite simply, the scientific consensus that humans are disrupting the climate. A more appropriate term would be “consensus denial”.

There are two aspects to scientific consensus. Most importantly, you need a consensus of evidence – many different measurements pointing to a single, consistent conclusion. As the evidence piles up, you inevitably end up with near-unanimous agreement among actively researching scientists: a consensus of scientists.

A number of surveys of the climate science community since the early 1990s have measured the level of scientific consensus that humans were causing global warming. Over time, the percentage of climate scientists agreeing that humans are causing global warming has steadily increased. As the body of evidence grows, the consensus is getting stronger.

Two recent studies adopting different approaches have arrived at strikingly consistent results. A survey of over 3000 Earth scientists found that as the climate expertise increased, so did agreement about human-caused global warming. For climate scientists actively publishing climate research (79 scientists in total), there was 97% agreement.

This result was confirmed in a separate analysis compiling a list of scientists who had made public declarations on climate change, both supporting and rejecting the consensus. Among scientists who had published peer-reviewed climate papers (908 scientists in total), the same result: 97% agreement.

While individual scientists have their personal views on climate change, they must back up their opinions with evidence-based research that withstands the scrutiny of the peer-reviewed process. An analysis of peer-reviewed climate papers published from 1993 to 2003 found that out of 928 papers, none rejected the consensus.

Despite these and many other indicators of consensus (I could go on), there is a gaping chasm between reality and the perceived consensus among the general public. Polls from 1997 to 2007 found that around 60% of Americans believe there is significant disagreement among scientists about whether global warming was happening. A 2012 Pew poll found less than half of Americans thought that scientists agreed humans were causing global warming.

The gap between perception and reality has real-world consequences. People who believe that scientists disagree on global warming show less support for climate policy. Consequently, a key strategy of opponents of climate action for over 20 years has been to cast doubt on the scientific consensus and maintain the consensus gap.

How have they achieved this? Hang around and you’ll witness first hand the attack on consensus in the comment threads of this article. The techniques of consensus denial are easily identifiable. In fact, if one rejects an overwhelming scientific consensus, it’s inevitable that they end up exhibiting some of the following characteristics.

Expect to see reference to dissenting non-experts who appear to be highly qualified while not having published any actual climate research. Fake expert campaigns are launched with disturbing regularity. Recently, a group of NASA retirees issued a press release rejecting the consensus. While possessing no actual climate expertise, they evidently hoped to cash in on the NASA brand.

A prominent Australian fake expert is Ian Plimer, the go-to guy for political leaders and fossil fuel billionaires. He hasn’t published a single peer-reviewed paper on climate change.

There should be many cases of cherry picking but how do you identify a genuine cherry pick? When a conclusion from a small selection of data differs from the conclusion from the full body of evidence, that’s cherry picking. For example, a common cherry pick of late is the myth that global warming stopped over the last 16 years. This focus on short periods of temperature data ignores the long-term warming trend. Importantly, it also ignores the fact that over the last 16 years, our planet has been building up heat at a rate of over three Hiroshima bombs worth of energy every second. To deny global warming is to deny the basic fact that our planet is building up heat at an extraordinary rate.

One way of avoiding consensus is to engage in logical fallacies. The most common fallacy employed to deny the human influence on climate change is the non sequitur, Latin for “it does not follow”. The onslaught of Australian extreme weather in 2013 has led to a surge in the fallacy “extreme weather events have happened before therefore humans are not having an influence on current extreme weather”. This is the logical equivalent to arguing that people have died from natural causes in the past so no one ever gets murdered now.

Finally, with consensus denial comes the inevitable conspiracy theories. If you disagree with an entire scientific community, you have to believe they’re all conspiring to deceive you. A conspiracy theorist displays two identifying characteristics. They believe exaggerated claims about the power of the conspirators. The scientific consensus on climate change is endorsed by tens of thousands of climate scientists in countries all over the world. A conspiracy of that magnitude makes the moon landing hoax tame in comparison.

Conspiracy theorists are also immune to new evidence. When climate scientists were accused of falsifying data, nine independent investigations by universities and governments in two countries found no evidence of wrongdoing. How did conspiracy theorists react? By claiming that each investigation was a whitewash and part of the conspiracy! With each new claim of whitewash, the conspiracy grew larger, encompassing more universities and governments.

A key element to meaningful climate action is closing the consensus gap. This means identifying and rebutting the many rhetorical techniques employed to deny the scientific consensus.

This article was adapted from Understanding Climate Change Denial.

John Cook does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Tony Abbott Damming Up the Country

The only conclusion that I can draw is that Tony Abbott and a team of geniuses, work through the wee hours of the night to put together ridiculous plans so that people have something to deconstruct. I mean, no-one could intentionally be so misinformed and be in a position to ask Australians to vote for them as Prime Minister, could they?

Shallow pools of fresh water going to waste
Shallow pools of fresh water going to waste

Yes, water management on an arid continent such as Australia is important. I’ve always questioned the fury from NSW and Queensland farmers in response to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, when it is they who then cover their land with a few inches of water, a large shallow pool, begging to be evaporated, to grow cotton and rice in the dry interior.

However, are dams really the option?

We know that with increasing climate change there is a high chance for drying conditions (Liu et al., 2013). Unlike increasing sun activity, which affects the planet with heat loading disproportionately, an increasing greenhouse effect is likely to increase the heterogeneity of the atmosphere. Basically, it becomes more stable, reducing the potential for your typical rainfall (Liu et al., 2013). That isn’t to say anything about the intensity of storms – a warmer atmosphere can “hold” more water.

So, while we do have a problem already with the boom and bust cycle of Australia, changing between drought and flooding rain, we can expect an increasing amount of water instability the longer we do next to nothing to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

Abbott is excited to let us know that his team are dabbling with the idea of adding as much as 100 new dams to help with this water insecurity, which will also increase food production and hydro-power production.

Here’s the problem.

Flooding land, covered with biomass (which will die as part of the inundation) provides a nice environment for anaerobic respiration. In short, dams are wonderfully good at producing the potent greenhouse gase, methane (Kemenes et al., 2007). As a side note, this is another issue I have; the sudden new “wetlands” developed as part of every new suburb also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in much the same way.

So we have a situation where water insecurity is exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change and the Coalition’s plan to help this water insecurity is to increase water capture via methodology that will inevitably exacerbate anthropogenic climate change.

If Australia collectively votes for this party with the coming election, with such wacky logic on the table, surely, are we not eligible as a contender for the Darwin Award?

 References

Liu, J., Wang, B., Cane, M.A., Y, S., and, Lee, J. (2013) Divergent global precipitation changes induced by natural versus anthropogenic forcing. Nature. 493. DOI: 10.1038/nature11784

Kemenes, A., Forsberg, B.R., and, Melack, J.M. (2007) Methane release below a tropical hydroelectric dam. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2007GL02476

Monckton’s Democracy for the Few

Good Lord Chris Monckton assures us that he fights the good fight.

Everyone left of him, however, seems to be a communist of varying degrees. Depending on which interview or report by him that you refer (as he changes the message to fit whatever position his key audience is primed for) this includes even most US Republican senators, whom don’t have much lead on their belts…

He insists his is a position of centre right, but how central is it to believe that a huge Marxist movement is crawling under the banner of “environmentalism,” plotting to kill off six out of seven people, especially poor Africans, because they hate them, especially wealthy Westerners, because they hate them, all run under a world wide dictatorship developed under the UN?

Is anyone fooled by his centralist claims?

Anyway, the good fight ol’ Chris is waging is against these hidden enemies who hope to bring down democracy. Chris is all about defending democracy. Or is he?

The type of democracy he aims to protect seems to be one where political members can be bought and sold by the highest bidders, the upper crust of the free market. For instance, a group of US Senators signed a letter urging the President to back the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Those signing senators were paid, on average 340% more by fossil fuel industries than their counterparts.

How on Earth is this democracy where the elected representatives of a community can be bought to support the private interests of a wealthy few over the majority?

Yesteryear we had hereditary aristocratic classes syphoning off the wealth of the working class, through taxes based on little more than established ideology. Nowadays this is obviously replaced by a new minority class of barons whom have enough wealth to influence governance, protecting their wealth extraction while the majority of us are largely ignorant to the loss of our democracy and ultimately, our freedom.

Like so much of what Chris offers us, if one chooses not to be spoon fed and instead takes the time to read the nutrition label on the side of the box, one finds nothing but empty calories; a lot of hype without substance.

He has no interest in genuine democracy for the people, but rather defending the rights of the few to subvert justice and freedom for the majority.