Archive for February, 2010

Of Climate Change and Pinkbats

It is unfortunate that in the attempt to do something (direct action, anyone?) about climate change, this government has administered a program that has been a victim of cowboy installers, and its own impatience to do some good. However, while much of what is alleged by the opposition is not proven about the scheme, there is no overlooking 4 bodies.

The law, I believe it says, is that the safety of a worker is a shared responsibility between the worker and his employer. In the case of these deaths, it looks to have been shared between younger, uneducated workers in conjunction with their irresponsible employers who were participating in an industry expanding rapidly, and too often new to the business of insulation installation.

The Minister for the Environment, and his Department, has apparently taken a risk assessment on board too slowly, and the modifications to the controls applied to the companies in the program have not been heeded, or failed, to achieve the desired result. It is very possible that personnel within the Department should be reprimanded, and if so perhaps the Minister should pay with his job. I think Peter Garrett is a great man, and a knowledgeable and capable manger of things, and he will be back if he goes for now.

This reminds me of another conversation I was having with a business partner about the close out of corrective actions from audits he has performed recently. There are apparently dozens of them laying there, identified, rated for risk, assigned . . . and forgotten. Any number of these could contribute to a serious incident. It is no good to close out an investigation, audit or inspection and identify the things you should do, but then not hold yourself to completing them.

The Liberals Next Terrible Idea

The Liberals have announced that if they take government, they will quickly move to sell Medibank Private and use the money to pay off government debt. This is another simple sounding “we are fiscally responsible” proposals from Abbot’s team that is meant to gain them populist support from Joe Six-packs that have to live within their family budget, and therefore see the model easily extrapolated to the government finances. The truth is that the sale of Medibank Private would have almost no effect on government finances, according to all independent experts surveyed, and will lead to the worst effects on the finances of the middle class over the medium to long term of almost any change the government could make.

Currently, competition in health insurers in Australia is very high, with many providers (30) nationally and 5 of them being larger companies, but none of which has a dominant position and all with highly competitive offers characterised by lots of attempts to differentiate form one another through minor tweaks in their plans, and lots and lots of spending on advertising. The Australian health insurance market would be the envy of places like the US with respect to competition, if their consumers were to examine it.

The Liberals have announced the industry is healthy, as well as competitive, so there is no continual need or interest in maintaining its ownership in one of the large health insurance companies. Their earmarking of where the funds raised from the sale would go may have some populist support, but their long term economics are also bad for the public purse. Once again, I think you need to see who is for this type of thing to fully evaluate it. Large health insurance company CEOs, like NIB’s CEO, are all for the sale, and he says that the government has no real role in the industry. He has lots and lots and lots of interest in a possible sale of Medibank, so he is not an independent observer, but his opinion is where the Liberal’s opinion comes directly. I don’t know, but I would suggest that his company so spends as much on lobbyists for its position as it clearly spends on advertising to convince you it has the best deal.

If the sale took place, the Liberals estimate that it would raise about $3.5-4.5 billion dollars in revenue. Independent estimates put the value down closer to the $2 billion dollar mark. But really, neither amount seems like a big deal as far as the government’s budget, or in the wider market of a $1.2 trillion dollar economy (US$1,055 billion[1]). More importantly, it will remove something I will call “the public option”, from the marketplace.

The public option company, Medibank Private, doesn’t exist to dominate the market, pay excessively large salaries to it executives, and even though it makes a tidy $120 million after tax a year, to turn the most fantastic profit, given that it should really be spending the whopping majority of its budget on paying actual medical claims from its subscribers. I mean come on folks, isn’t that what you buy into one for, the catastrophic assistance, along with your glasses and physio? So, if the government is going to allow the silliness of private health insurance to exist, it has to participate. And it has to compete and even spend as much on advertising, on average, as the private insurance companies, and continually try to rebrand its product as better than the others, when all of them are essentially only selling statistics.

If the proposal were to go forward based upon the Liberals winning government at the next election, Medibank would probably be broken into two smaller private companies through IPOs in order to make it look like they will further maximise competition. In fact, the lack of a public option company in the marketplace would (I think) lead to very fast consolidation of these highly competitive medium-sized companies and their tiny brothers. Whatever money is required to be spent in the short term by this all-private marketplace will be spent in order for companies to cannibalise and join with others in order to gain the largest market share possible. Following that, maybe 3 years later, and maybe as many as 10, we will then start to see the kinds of rapid rate rises in premiums that we see in the USA, where a very small number of insurers hold near monopoly power over US consumers.

An essentially not-for-profit supplier is what keeps cost down in health care in Australia, and this is exactly what the “Public Option” is in the debate in the USA over health reform. The public option there has amazingly stable public popularity throughout the acrimonious debate there since August (56% presently and as much as 80% over all the polls in the last 7 months [averaging somewhere in the 60s]), despite a huge amount of disinformation and outright lies by those who oppose health care reform in the USA. Major health care and insurance companies will spend hundreds of millions of US$, maybe even billions, by the time the argument is finished there, to defeat a public option from coming into being.

The bottom line though is this; these companies provide to consumers a service that you cannot live without sometimes, health care. And while I will not oppose those who wish to waste their money doing so, I personally will never voluntarily participate in a system where a private company with a profit motive can sit in judgement over whether I get a specific piece of health care, or not.

[1] CIA World Factbook

Missing the Point

I read the other day a couple of really good points by a lead climate change scientist (Joseph Romm) that strike a chord with me because of what I have been saying about energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reductions. You can check out all of what he has regularly to say here.

The key points I found are:

3) Those who favor taking action are saying: “Because the warming that humans are doing is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, let’s buy some insurance — by investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and mass transit — because this insurance will also actually make us richer and more secure.” We will import less oil, invent and export more clean-tech products, send fewer dollars overseas to buy oil and, most importantly, diminish the dollars that are sustaining the worst petro-dictators in the world who indirectly fund terrorists and the schools that nurture them.

4) Even if climate change proves less catastrophic than some fear, in a world that is forecast to grow from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion people between now and 2050, more and more of whom will live like Americans, demand for renewable energy and clean water is going to soar. It is obviously going to be the next great global industry.

China, of course, understands that, which is why it is investing heavily in clean-tech, efficiency and high-speed rail. It sees the future trends and is betting on them. Indeed, I suspect China is quietly laughing at us right now. And Iran, Russia, Venezuela and the whole OPEC gang are high-fiving each other. Nothing better serves their interests than to see Americans becoming confused about climate change, and, therefore, less inclined to move toward clean-tech and, therefore, more certain to remain addicted to oil.

What strikes me about these completely true points is that they are unlikely to be challenged by even those most ardent of climate change deniers, not because they are true, but because they have nothing to do with climate change. And that is what is important, because I believe that it is nonsense to be arguing science at this point with the remaining .05% of climate change deniers. What we should be arguing is not whether anthropogenic climate change is real, but rather how bad it will be, and what we can do to ameliorate the worst of the effects and in the meantime do things that are good for many other reasons as well.

If they had a brain in their heads, all the red meat-eating, libertarian, nationalistic xenophobes would be falling over themselves to join the lentil-eating, sandal wearing hippies to change the energy game as soon as possible. Energy independence and emissions reduction go hand in hand, and those who recognise that already are working to own the future. That’s why all the major oil companies are investing in some form of renewable energy, and the world’s users of energy with the greatest rate of increase (China) are doing the same.

Once they own the game, and we all have nowhere else to go for our next major source of power, you can bet they will put all the pressure they can bring to bear on swinging us all away from burning the magic dirt.

Where Paths Diverge

Hey, all of you (or probably more accurately, both of you) who have been reading my prototype set of articles here, I have just heard word today that the blog is ready to start up at An Meá (my company) where all of my articles on climate change will be published. However, as some of them may be considered inappropriate for publication there, due to my sometimes colourful use of language, or the fact that they have nothing to do with climate change. That’s cool, since it is a company site, but frankly it takes a shitload of work to think up something to write, and then draft an article on it, so I plan to publish all my work here. It will also allow me to publish articles on other topics I think are important or interesting, and as I have become sort of addicted to the cathartic nature of doing so, and will therefore continue.

Feel free to comment at will as you wish, and provided you aren’t a troll or spammer, I will likely not censor your work either. But keep in mind this isn’t a democracy. If you comment enough and have something useful to contribute (whether I agree with you or not), I can also possibly make you a contributor.

Definitions for Stupidity

Weather – the current state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness.

Climate – the average course or condition of the weather at a place over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation.

I hate to insult your intelligence if you already had a grasp of the two concepts above, but unfortunately too widely in the news at present, I see a lack of basic understanding of these simple words that needs to be addressed.

See, a couple of interesting things are happening in North America this week. First, two snowstorms have hit the east coast of the USA, dumping an all time record amount of snow on places like Washington DC. At the same time, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver is at risk due to a lack of snow there.

The first item above has been picked up pretty quickly by those who deny climate change to try to show that climate change is all a hoax due to the fact that a single weather event has occurred. The problem the deniers have is apparently a lack of understanding of the terms weather and climate, accompanied by a failure to understand the science of thermodynamics. I can possibly excuse the latter, provided they don’t attempt to attack it simply due to a failure to understand it, but I cannot excuse not level of stupidity that is required to treat the terms weather and climate as interchangeable.

The current weather outside is an example of nothing unless it is joined over a long period of time by similar weather events that form a trend which may then demonstrate something in relation to the climate at a location. To suggest otherwise is analogous to seeing a single bird flying through the air and declaring it as proof that gravity no longer exists.

Furthermore, the increased incidence of big freak snowstorms are exactly the kind of evidence that supports climate change theory. A discussion of climate change and how it will almost certainly manifest itself (thank you again, J Willard) is covered in some detail here (starting in paragraph 7). If you don’t want to read it all, I will summarise for you: heating of the atmosphere due to anthropogenic climate change will manifest itself as greater weather chaos, not as similar changes in weather all over the world.

The example we see at present in North America is an example of greater chaos in weather. Note, however, that nether I or any of the other climate change believers that I know about have made the claim that the lack of snow for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver proves our case for anthropogenic climate change. We haven’t done this because it would not be supported by a reasoned scientific evaluation of the facts. Vancouver is actually a pretty warm and wet area as far as places that receive regular winter snow are concerned. This year’s lack of snow at this time, while regrettable, is not particularly uncommon. Until climate change really kicks in, organisers should probably stick to the continental divide if they want guaranteed dry fluffy snow for their tv events.

So, despite its high profile as an event where we could whip up lots of frenzy and possibly recruit people to our side of the argument, we on the side of science haven’t done so. But you decide for yourself who the fanatics are.

J Willard Gibbs

{Originally posted Feb 11}

I’d like to take an opportunity on the day of his birth in 1839 to take some time to celebrate the achievements of a fellow that you likely haven’t heard of, J. Willard Gibbs. Simply put, he is known as the father of modern thermodynamics. J. Williard Gibbs provided the basis upon which virtually all of the science that I use on a daily basis to provide, or attack, arguments on climate change. Pretty much everything to do with climate change comes down to issues of entropy, enthalpy and free energy transfer, along with the second law of thermodynamics, which is called a “law” because it has done its time as a theory for so long and been so well supported by all the empirical evidence collected to date, and by the by work of Gibb’s that it is no longer called a theory. That’s the way science works. If you haven’t noticed by now, I love how science works.

It would be nice to say that J. Willard Gibbs received the recognition that he deserved in his lifetime, and he did receive significant recognition of his peers. In 1901, Gibbs was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London, the peak scientific award of his time, for being “the first to apply the second law of thermodynamics to the exhaustive discussion of the relation between chemical, electrical, and thermal energy and capacity for external work.” This work allowed engineers like me to apply elegant theoretical science to everyday application in things like internal combustion engines, boilers and turbines.

As importantly, Gibbs work is directly connected (by the authors themselves) to the following Nobel Prizes that followed after him:

Johann van der Waals – Physics in 1910 for his equations of state for gases and liquids
Max Planck of Germany – Physics in 1918 his work in quantum mechanics.
William Giauque – Chemistry in 1949 for his studies in the properties of matter at temperatures close to absolute zero.
Paul Samuelson – Economics in 1970 for his work on the foundations of economic analysis, in which he explicitly acknowledged the influence of the classical thermodynamic methods of Gibbs.

The general public will likely never know or acknowledge the contribution of J. Willard Gibbs to the things that make their everyday life after the industrial revolution what it is, but I would like to do so today, as I have quietly done every year since I was an undergraduate in chemical engineering and discovered the work of the man. Just one simple beer in his honour, as he probably would have liked, given the simple he led in New Haven, Connecticut for virtually all of his 64 years of life.

No better tribute to Gibbs can be paid than that of another important scientist, so I will leave the last word to him:

“Willard Gibbs is, in my opinion, one of the most original and important creative minds in the field of science America has produced.” – Albert Einstein, physicist

Odds and Sods

Well, the internet service has been doo doo where I am at presently, so you have been spared a lengthy rant on Miranda Devine based on my read of her column the other day on how we who are on the side of believing in the scientific method are “fanatics”, and we get all the air time from the pinko media. Unfortunately, her opinion is pretty hard to square with the facts, even those from just the last week if you take all the free publicity that Lord Monkton got from the ABC on breakfast, the evening news and the 730 report, not to mention the column inches in support he received from the Sydney Morning Herald (including her own column).

This is a tactic (or unknown pathology) of reactionary conservatives – a strange from of projection where they whine about something they accuse those they don’t agree with while doing the very thing they are accusing their opponents of.

Fortunately, Media Watch did good job of skewering the reactionaries above and their corporate sponsors. But frankly, who watches that?

About as many as listened to Malcolm Turnbull’s logical and reasonable analysis of the CPRS legislation that he intends to cross the floor to support as it comes up for a vote.

It can’t be any good . . .

. . . if the coal industry likes it.

Honestly, look at the facts. There is no realistic plan for addressing climate change that involves verifiable CO2 reductions that will benefit the coal industry. NONE. We must reduce the use of the magic dirt significantly to meet any targets set, and all the other direct action proposed by Tony Abbot is window dressing compared to moving to large-scale electricity production that doesn’t use coal as the fuel.

That’s the short summary of what I think of the Coalition policy that took a year to develop, after they had had a very good look at the proposed CPRS, negotiated in good faith to complete it, then reneged on that agreement.

Here is the link to the Coalition Policy I read.

And here is my more detailed analysis for the not faint of heart:

1. It’s too small, but they are only shooting for the 5% the government will. They say it will do 140 million tons of emissions reduction, and I call the amount required 143 in my previous analysis, but let’s not quibble.

2. The main focus of the policy is a thing called the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), which comprises 80% of the $3.2 billion to be spent over 4 years. Companies (with restrictions in the Policy steering finance to the largest projects at the largest companies) will bid for money out of the ERF for their abatement or emissions reduction projects to be funded. It will focus a significant amount of money on the least efficient old power plants, which smacks to me of rewarding these companies for holding out with the crappiest old technology the longest. Hardly my idea of incentivising the positive. The ERF will allow companies to trade in reductions of their emissions voluntarily, so it still has an ETS built into it, and is based on the already functioning NGERS compliance program. So, the claims of less bureaucracy and no ETS are complete distortions of reality.

3. The coalition has earmarked 61% of the emissions reduction under the ERF to abatement projects in the soil carbon area. Remember, this is the bio-char technology that they were hyping early on for sequestration of lots of carbon. It is an untested technology with uncertain success and unknown other consequences. So, for the folks who want to question the science of climate change in the first place, it seems a bit too much blind faith for my taste, but what the hell, lets put some research money into ramping it up I say.

4. It has some fantastic populist stuff in it that no one can be against, but that will have little effect or shows no stretch-target goal setting. Plant 20 million tees in the cities – who could disagree. A million homes with solar panels – great idea, but why so few? Clean energy hubs – wow, now that sounds futuristic, it’s got to be a great idea. Research on algal fuels – since I mentioned that two days ago (item 7), you know you have my vote!

5. it is entirely funded with federal tax revenue. No sources of new funding are proposed, and no elimination of current projects to free up funding are identified. So, it is an entirely unfunded program that will require drawing on federal support, and we know where they get their cash, don’t we?

6. It saves the Greenhouse Friendly™ (GF) Program that was to be killed off by Labor! This is a fantastic bit of grandstanding that is a complete distortion of fact. The fact is the GF program has already been included in the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) that will be administered by the Australian Carbon Trust, a private company set up to do just that, and the details of the NCOS are pretty much exactly the same as the GF program, and the government has made transition from GF to NCOS hassle free and low cost. Hold on, I thought the Coalition were the folks who were supposed to be into privatising government programs? Are they planning on abandoning this work that has already been done?

7. The paper complains heavily (honestly, over half of the 30 pages is just a write up of the opposition to the CPRS we have already heard) about how an emissions trading system (ETS) results in unnecessary “churn” of money that is bad. But how exactly Tony, as I thought all the capitalists were onboard with growing GDP? As I see it, isn’t that what an economic instrument to cause emissions reductions is all about? I trade emissions reductions at my clean operating plant to you operating your dirty plant so that neither of us has to shut down tomorrow, we get an emissions reduction overall, and we delay the capital cost of implementation of other newer technology? Who gives a rats whether the GDP goes up with a bunch of these trades? Maybe Glenn Stevens, but then I reckon Glenn is a pretty cluey bloke who will probably factor in the introduction of a mew commodity market into his thinking when setting fiscal policy for the country in the year that it is introduced. He will probably let inflation go to 3.4% that year instead of the regular 2.5% before he starts ratcheting up interest rates to address the “inflation” caused by the trading of carbon credits on the countries GDP.

8. It’s a policy that allows business as usual, then trade if you decide to sign up and get free money to fix your old plant. Then if your efficiency goes down later after you got the free money, you will get penalised. But the penalties will be negotiated out with business later, and new entrants to the market will have to meet “best practice” which is not defined.

The analogy I draw is pirates in Somalia. Who here thinks the best approach is to go to the pirates and say, “Hey fellas, all this pirating you are doing is really harshing my buzz. So how about I pay you to learn a new trade and if you do that you don’t have to pay me back, and if you do go back to pirating, we will negotiate a financial penalty together. Plus, any new kids of yours that want to get a job when they grow up can’t get into piracy, but they can go into drug running or something else that meets a definition of best practice employment that we will also work out later.” Anyone?

Therefore, from the observations above, I do not think this proposal from the Coalition contains sufficient quantity of the simple kind of direct action that I think that governments alone exist to do.

I can propose an alternative approach that exceeds the test of simplicity proposed by the Coalition, is honest, and contains direct action to begin addressing energy efficiency, energy efficiency, energy efficiency, and then climate change.

How about instead of bribing people to do the right thing, we do a straight carbon input tax, and we take $3.2 billion dollars of the money raised to go the old crappy coal power plants and convert as many of them as possible to natural gas. The companies can either pay us in stock for our capital injection, which we can sell on the open market later when our investment of public dollars proves to be good business, or they can take the money as a loan on favourable terms (say 50 basis points lower than the average of the rate the 4 major banks would charge a small business).

Then, we spend an equivalent amount on upgrade of the power distribution systems throughout Australia on a priority basis.

Then we pass some simple regulations to be overseen by the consumer watchdog (ACCC) that prevents any consumer product that uses electricity which doesn’t meet a basic energy efficiency test from being sold in Australia.

Then, lets do all the ice cream and puppies direct action in the Coalition plan, but lets have good stretch targets, like a solar hot water, solar electric or a fuel cell system on half of Australia’s 8 million homes by 2015. We can use some of the money from the carbon input tax to subsidies this, before we send the rest of the money back to families to pay their higher power bills.

If we do the above, we will significantly exceed the 5% target in truly simple (not even a whiff of an ETS in my plan) and honest way. All of what I want to do costs some money up front, but pays off significantly over time in a compound manner.

Getting to 95%

Our resident lurker has asked what I think of the 5% target that is the current state of play for the CPRS, now that the 19 or so countries have put forth their voluntary commitments, including a couple, India and China, that have proposed “intensity” cuts rather than caps on emissions. Remember how I said these types of caps are important in conjunction? So it s a start, but too little too late, I think.

As I have said before, the failure to reach a verifiable cap based on the limit required to keep temperature rise to less than 2°C, is a significant failing. It leads to backsliding in complying with previous agreements (Kyoto), as in the case of Canada, and then it also leads countries like Australia to adopt wimpy targets like the 5% number.

However, as I have said before as well, the number is not so important as is the process by which you will regulate and meet whatever number is set. And setting some number demonstrates leadership. I note in particular that the voluntary cap put forth by the USA (4%) is almost equivalent to the Australian value, when looked at on a similar basis of 1990. Did our value taken to COP15 have an impact on them setting theirs, I don’t know. But it does get you to thinking.

The key going forward is demonstrating leadership for Australia, because we are going it alone, in a sense. We must do what we know is right, whether it be on an energy efficiency, cost or emissions reduction basis. America can not be looked to for leadership on this issue, and will not look after Australia’s interest if they do lead.

So, getting our process in place to meet the 5% target is what is important. We have NGERS and can do an accurate audit of emissions as we wish, so now we just need to decide how to meet our target. As stated recently, I now favour a direct carbon input tax on all fuels. An ETS is only my fallback position, if industry and individuals can demonstrate sufficient intelligence to use one to gain the efficiencies of it without corrupting it horribly.

But back to the number itself. There is one very funny thing about the low number. I believe it to be such a low target, that it could be reached by the direct action measures identified by Tony Abbot. So, it poses a unique political problem for a government that failed to get the CPRS through before. I still blame the Greens for a lot of that failure too, but the government is in government, so they own it.

Equal Time For This?

It annoys me greatly when I see things like I have witnessed today. When unsupportable fairly tales get equal time with established science. Today, we got the double blow of Lord Throckmorton (or whatever) with his climate change road show. And if that bit of snake oil salesman wasn’t enough, we then also get the corporate shill Paul Sheehan providing a supporting argument on the SMH today. Well, I don’t have time today to sort these two out separately, so I shall address them jointly.

Gentlemen, you are either phenomenally ignorant of the scientific method, or purposely promoting disinformation voluntarily or under corporate compulsion. Your motives are your own, and I will not comment on them, but I will take specific issue to Sheehan’s written words, since they adopt several of the Lord Christopher Monckton’s arguments.

If you want to read the short version, just stop with Paul’s beginning:

“[all of these facts] . . . are either true or backed by scientific opinion. All can also be hotly contested.”

No Paul, they can’t. That’s what makes them facts, you moron. As the saying goes, we are all allowed our own arguments, but there are only one set of facts.

However, I will continue and move onto the detailed specifics for those who have some time, and give a shit. I know there are very few of you, and probably fewer every day as we are inflicted with more and more drivel on this subject that should have been (and was) decided at least ten years ago to the bright, and to the rest of the world’s scientists in the intervening period. What we are left with is significantly less than 1% of the scientists who could withstand any peer review whatsoever who deny the anthropogenic climate change we have begun. And they use poor journalists and mainstream opinion spewers to provide winners like these 10 “facts conveniently brushed over by the global warming fanatics”:

1. The pin-up species of global warming, the polar bear, is increasing in number, not decreasing.

Hmmmn, now while I so wish this was true, I think I am going to have to see at least some shred of evidence to back this one up. None? No? Well sorry, then I think I will go with what the people at Polar Bears International, since they pretty much spend their whole time studying them and have answered this exact question, and unfortunately they don’t think so.

2. US President Barack Obama supports building nuclear power plants.

Whoopdeedoo! And so do I, Paul. What is your point? Are you saying it is a wholly and totally bad thing to consider every alternative in a risk-based approach when addressing climate change? I don’t even know why this inconvenient fact is in your list, because there are a number of climate change scientists that would be happy to pay it any amount of attention you want anytime. Maybe you just threw this in because you needed to make up the numbers.

3. The Copenhagen climate conference descended into farce. The low point of the gridlock and posturing at Copenhagen came with the appearance by the socialist dictator of Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez . . .

No, I would say the low point came when everyone realised on the first day that the organisers didn’t even plan the amount of tickets they issued based on the space they were using, and risked everything from a minor safety to a major security incident. After that, I wasn’t really expecting much, and I can say the same for the greenies I know. But here again, I don’t think I could call this in any way overlooked, as I remember seeing it on the news multiple times.

4. The reputation of the chief United Nations scientist on global warming is in disrepair.

Once again, no facts supplied. Just unsupported assertions with no references provided. My five minute research on this online through typically reliable sources provides me with no evidence to support the slander put forth by Sheehan. Talk about playing the man and not the ball.

5. The supposed scientific consensus of the IPCC has been challenged by numerous distinguished scientists.

The body of scientific work has been around for something like 30 years when people I know of decided that this might be an issue, following not long after the theory that was around when I was a boy suggested that the world might be going into a new ice age. The science moved on and even I published my first paper on the issue in ’99. The body of evidence upon which the science is based has been around forever. It is based on planetary physics, thermodynamics, chemistry and the application of industry through economics. It is not simple, and it is subject to some criticism (as that is the nature of science), but it remains solid and supported by the vast overwhelming number of credible scientists.

6. The politicisation of science leads to a heavy price being paid in poor countries. After Western environmentalists succeeded in banning or suppressing the use of the pesticide DDT, the rate of death by malaria rose into the millions. Some scholars estimate the death toll at 20 million or more, most of them children.

This one is so bad, I had to repeat it in full. “Some scholars”? Honestly, that’s what passes for a credible citation these days? For the record, those pesky kids who determined that the banning of DDT was causing a number of the bird species to go extinct, and demonstrating the basis of disruption of the reproductive cycle of animals through concentration of poisons through the food chain was a seminal piece of work (Silent Spring), that has withstood scientific scrutiny since its publication in 1962, despite a highly paid and aggressive disinformation campaign by the chemical industry for 10 years before DDT was banned. Humans have since, if you haven’t noticed, not gone extinct to malaria in any of the locations where it exists, and the birds were demonstrably going that way. Malaria also becomes resistant to drugs and poisons, so it would surely be as bad with or without DDT use.

7. The biofuels industry has exacerbated world hunger.

Aha, we finally have the start of something that is a bad idea and has not had nearly enough light shined on it, mainly because people still waste so much time debating if there is a climate change issue. But the idea of plant-based biofuels was attempted for the right reasons, even though it does end up driving food prices up and is not going to be a major long-term solution. But you can’t blame people for trying. Unless, of course, you have better examples of what you have tried. The thought that we might grow our own fuel is not dead either, but should be more focused on things like bacteria, and not food crops turned into ethanol.

8. The Kyoto Protocol has proved meaningless.

It may seem meaningless to those who don’t agree with the motives, good science, or common sense. But that does not make it overlooked, particularly since Paul and the sceptics still want to discuss it, and its being meaningless is not an established fact by a long shot. That global emissions have gone up since its 1990 is not in dispute, but the argument that emissions would of gone up more, and at a greater rate could easily be made, if one wanted to speculate. But why bother? Their argument is meaningless and doesn’t require any other response.

9. The United Nations global carbon emissions reduction target is a massively costly mirage.

I don’t even know what this one means, to be honest, but man it sure sounds good as an emotive statement without anything to support it at all. It is just hanging there in the article, as if dropping it so casually by itself lends itself to its credibility.

Unfortunately Paul, its also completely bullshit. To suggest emissions reductions are a mirage that cannot be reached shows no faith in the engineers of the world (forget the pure scientists), and the costs have been debated by me amongst others as not being as bad as you think. But of course we publish our math, data and assumptions, and that doesn’t really play as sexy as a one liner by a know-nothing on the subject like Sheehan.

10. Kevin Rudd’s political bluff on emissions trading has been exposed.

Here again, we have this presented as an undisputable fact hot off the pen of Paul Sheehan. But where is your evidence Paul? If Kevin Rudd wanted to pull off a bluff of doing something on emissions trading, imagine the conspiracy he would have had to create. Virtually all of Labor and a large portion of the Liberals, as well as the Greens and the non-bonkers independents are on the side of believing the science and doing something. The bulk of the emissions trading process as it exists comes from the Howard government. So let’s not characterise those of us on the reasonable side of the argument as fanatics. That’s called projecting.