Climate, climate ever changing

Some readers of The Age might possibly be waiting with baited breath for Abbott’s forthcoming meeting with Obama to reveal “damaging” differences on emission reduction policies and for Obama to insist on climate change being on the agenda for November’s G20 meeting in Australia. While it is difficult to stop such a discussion at any such meeting,   Saturday’s Age ran a front page scary article entitled “US ties at risk over Climate” and  drew on a World Wildlife Fund publication suggesting emissions reduction targets of certain countries to be lower than Australia’s.

But the article seriously misrepresented policies actually operating or likely to become operative to reduce emissions. For a start it mistakenly reported that the Obama administration will cut carbon dioxide emissions from US power plants by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 (it is actually by 2030). Also, despite another article in the same Saturday’s Age reporting that China has no cap on emissions, the front pager omitted China (now the biggest emitter) and several other major countries with no emissions reduction targets.

Indeed, no mention was made  of the fact that lower income countries are now (collectively) the biggest emitters and are highly unlikely to accept any international agreement to a substantive reduction  in the use of fossil fuels as principal sources of energy because they recognise that this would reduce their economic growth. Nor was there any reference to the continued failure of official average global temperatures to rise over the past seventeen years or to the recent detailed and extensive report by the Heartland Institute in the US, compiled by many expert scientists (including Australian Bob Carter), identifying serious problems with the analyses and predictions in IPCC reports, notably the failure to take adequate account of changes in temperatures which are primarily due to natural influences (see the attached summary of the NIPCC report).

New research by physicist Dr Tom Quirk adds serious questions about the IPCC analysis. He shows for example that the existing maximum and minimum method of calculating averages produces a systematic upward bias, probably as much as 0.3-0.4C of a degree; and analysis of published Bureau of Meteorology data on temperatures suggests another upward bias arising from failing to take account of the urban heat island effect from heat retained by buildings. These and other analytical failures by the IPCC and its believers suggest a substantial proportion of the total published temperature increase of around 0.8 of a degree over the last century is due to incorrect data calculations or natural causes.

Even so, Obama’s revival of the dangerous warming threat, and his indication that serious attempts may be made to obtain an international agreement for reducing emissions, suggest that the climate change debate is now likely to be more active. For Australia, parts of which have experienced unusually warm May weather (attributed to the development of a high pressure system over the Tasman sea), and which could experience a warm winter due to natural causes from the development of an El Nino, any increase in temperatures will almost certainly produce Age-like misrepresentations that suggest dangerous global warming is back.

However, despite the pathetic attempts by believers to suggest Australia is not doing enough to reduce emissions, estimates of our governments’ expenditure on emissions reductions run to about $15 bn a year,  including through subsidies to use expensive renewable energy sources. Given the very considerable uncertainties about the effect of emissions on temperatures, there is a strong case for reducing such spending and, in the process, helping reduce the budget deficit.

Recipients of this message may recall that I was the Principal Petitioner to a petition lodged in Parliament by Dr Dennis Jensen MP seeking an inquiry by the government on the costs and benefits of policies aimed at reducing emissions. Case Smit was a partner in this exercise.

On 28 May I received from the Standing Committee on Petitions a copy of a letter to Dr Jensen by the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt. Minister Hunt’s response was largely to say that the government’s policy is to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020 through its Direct Action Plan. He thanked Jensen for bringing the petition to his attention.

Relevant here is that Hunt had already sent a letter to Senator-elect Bob Day advising him that a White Paper on the Emissions Reduction Fund had been published and that “the Australian Government accepts the science of climate change and supports national and global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”. With assistance from me, Bob Day has now sent a reply to Hunt outlining reasons why the government should not accept the science (see below). This provides a useful summary of why Australia should reduce expenditure on emissions reductions and not agree to participate in an international meeting seeking an agreement on such reductions.

Day’s letter to Hunt has been sent to Abbott. Might we hope he will pass a copy to Obama?