Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gittins on Australia's hung parliament

Ross Gittins once again talks sense in his latest SMH article on why the Greens did so well. Here's a taste:

"So unattractive was the choice the main parties offered that I'm sure people voted Greens for various reasons. But no doubt concern about lack of ''real action'' on climate change was the most prominent. Consider the way people concerned about global warming - still a majority of voters - were dudded by the two main parties. Both went to the last election promising to introduce (similar) emissions trading schemes; both went to this election promising not to introduce such schemes. [...]

"The Libs describe their approach as 'direct action' - which translates as support for the regulation and government intervention once primarily associated with Labor. Labor's major contribution to the climate change policy debate during the campaign was its proposal for a 'citizens' assembly', which sounds reminiscent of the Greens' historical preference for 'consensus-based' decision-making. The Greens, on the other hand, have been pushing for the economic rationalist approach of relying on a carbon tax and price signals."
Gittins mentions a new paper put out by the Australia Institute that includes six principles for policy design on climate change.

I've also just caught up with two slightly older pieces by Gittins: Gillard's failure of leadership and why the pursuit of green jobs is a distraction from climate action.


David Palmer said...

Two more interesting articles, both of which in my opinion are on the money:

Dennis Shanahan from The Australian, Forget three amigos, let's go back to polls

and Andrew Shearer from "The Lowy Institute, Green foreign policy: Feeling queasy

As of today (Thursday evening), it is looking Coalition 73, Labor 72.

I'm inclined to the view that the Coalition should pass up the poisoned chalice of the 3 independents in the lower house who are making extraordinary demands whilst also facing the grim prospect of having to deal with the Greens in the Senate in 11 months time.

I know you are excited by the climate change issue, Byron - but don't get too carried away - the Greens have polled ca 14% which is a long way from a majority. There is not a great deal of excitement in Australia about climate change at present. For most Australians whether from the left or the right climate change has slipped well down the list of priorities.

Whilst we shouln't make too much of current weather events, very little infact, it has been comparatively wet and cold in SE Australia where most Australians live.

byron smith said...

I'm not defending everything the independents are doing, but the first article was silly and used a number of false dichotomies. Example: if the independents threaten a new poll in the absence of a deal, then they are not interested in stable government. They might be so interested in stable government that they agree with the author of the article that this might only be achieved through a new election, however, they might also have the ability to see that a majority isn't a necessary condition for stable government if a decent agreement can be reached between a minority government and other players.

I don't see any evidence for his claim of overseas funding for the Greens. Here are their receipts from 08/09. But maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. If this piece is on the money, maybe it could point to the money more clearly?

The second piece: I think that more exposure to Greens policies will be a good thing for both the Greens and for the political debate. I am familiar with your position on nuclear power (and don't think it is a particularly strong point of Greens policy). However, do you think all the points were on the money? You're opposed to Australia meeting its international aid commitments? You're opposed to Australia meeting human rights commitments? You're opposed to all reductions in military spending? You're opposed to peace research?

I'm not excited by climate disruption. I'm saddened by it (amongst other things) and by short-sighted populist responses to it.

You're right. We shouldn't make too much of current weather. Which is why we pay attention to long term trends, such as the 12 month running mean having broken numerous records over the last six months, 2010 being the hottest year to date at the end of the hottest decade to date, CO2 levels being higher than they have been for hundreds of thousands of years, Arctic sea ice volume being at its lowest ever, mass coral bleaching events occurring in the Indian and Pacific, Greenland glaciers running at highest ever recorded speeds, long term changes in flowering, migration, peak flow data, an increasing trend of wildfire destruction in North America, huge tracks of forest devastated by pine beetle due to higher than average winter temps and a wide pattern of very unusual weather this northern summer in which 17 countries have broken all time hottest temp records and we've seen extreme weather of 1 in a 1000 or higher events far more than average, including the largest ever humanitarian weather disaster affecting more than 20 million people and the disruption of global wheat prices. We could go on, but the point is that we don't pay too much attention to isolated weather events (such as a colder and wetter winter in one part of the globe that has just come out of one of the longest and worst droughts on record); we look at the whole pattern.

David Palmer said...

I think I'm getting under your skin Byron!

I'll leave a considered reply til tomorrow or day after.



David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

Just reread your last paragraph.

It starts well.

You're right. We shouldn't make too much of current weather.

But then you start going on about current weather, claimimg 2010 to date being hottest ever.

What will you say if 2010 is not as hot as 1998 at the end of the calendar year?

As for the rest of your list it is selective, what about Antartic ice (remembering it is so much greater in extent than Artic), what happened to all the hurricanes and so on.

Anyway, we have discussed these issues before. Time will tell.

byron smith said...

David - I was quite clear: we pay attention to long term trends. NASA called the first half of this year what global warming looks like. These are not isolated events, but a clear pattern. I have indeed mentioned only a selection, but a representative selection (show me your evidence for claiming otherwise). In fact, we could go on for much, much longer with more evidence across a range of measurements from a huge number of data sets gathered by a wide variety of scientists around the world in a string of disciplines. But I felt we'd covered that before.

Antarctic ice we have indeed discussed before, so I'm surprised that you're still repeating that piece of distraction: the vast body of land ice is decreasing in mass while sea ice is increasing despite warmer oceans (consistent with models and current understanding, due to a combination of ozone depletion affecting winds and precipitation changes affect ocean circulation).

I'm sure you're experienced enough now to be able to find out about hurricanes for yourself.

What will you say if 2010 is not as hot as 1998 at the end of the calendar year?
I'll say, "Thank God that we might not have entered a new paradigm just yet." As I said above (multiple times), one year isn't the proof or disproof of anything. It is another piece of evidence in a larger pattern that is becoming increasingly clear to all but the most obstinate. Indeed, I thought you'd given up denying the science and were concentrating on economics and politics? What happened to that?

BTW, as much I regret having to consider it, I'm toying with the idea of deleting any comments of yours which make scientific claims I've already answered multiple times or which are clearly answered on skeptical science. Does that sound reasonable? If not, why not?

byron smith said...

SMH: Climate and hung parliament.

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

You are correct in that I'm more interested in the economic, technological and scientific issues.

I'm willing to concede, and not grudgingly so, that the planet has been on a warming cycle with CO2 likely being a contributing factor.

I think we part company at three main points.

1. I don't think you allow sufficiently for the uncertainty there is in climate science something which I have raised with you before and cited Mike Hulme's Why we disagree about climate change, Claire Parkinson's Coming Climate Change? the numerous forays on various blog sites over the past 10 months by Judith Curry plus Roger Piekle Jnr - I have his forthcoming The Climate Fix on order and recommend its purchase to you.

I'm disappointed in you not conceding this uncertainty - in my eyes it undermines your credibility as to the science.

2. You are forever presenting climate change as a present destructive reality and I simply don't believe it.

3. I think you have little appreciation of the difficulties (technical, economic and political) in achieving the kind of emission targets that are being quoted. This blinds you to the kind of proposals that Lomborg and the Hartwell papers propose. Because you are seemingly unwilling to explore these issues you are bound to be continually disappointed, though your disappointment will generate much grist for the mill that you are constructing.

We have probably taken our discussion as far as we can. I am appreciative of your willingness to discuss and wish you well for the future.

God bless, and please don’t think too badly of me.

David Palmer

byron smith said...

David - I have heard you. I disagree at each point.

1) I have never minimised uncertainty, quite the opposite. It is because of the uncertainties that I think we need to act now as things could just as well turn out to be considerably worse than the mainstream estimates. 2) Climate change is already destructive and is highly likely to grow considerably more so and you are ignoring the evidence. I hope and pray it is only as mild as some of your gurus suggest. But I fear and think it only responsible to acknowledge that it could be many times worse. Hoping that things are rosy is reckless at the scale we are discussing. 3) I am well aware of the difficulties at many levels and so are (many of) those experts who seriously suggest that it is worth pursuing them in any case.

See previous discussions for details in each case as I am tired of repeating myself.

I'll take your silence on my final question as tacit agreement.

I think you are quite capable of making intelligent comments, but only read a very narrow band of dubious sources and don't follow up on the many inconsistencies in your approach, but continue to repeat questions I've answered or points we've covered many times. I read all or most of your sources and generally have found them fairly unpersuasive due to their many documented mistakes. Generally, when I've mentioned these, you either haven't replied or have changed the topic. When I have pointed this pattern out to you, you have not replied.

As a lobbyist, I hope you are open to feedback on your communication strategies.

Grace & peace,

byron smith said...

The Age: "The Climate Institute released an exit poll finding that almost a third of Green voters in key marginal seats said they would have voted ALP if it had not delayed the introduction of an emissions trading scheme. This could have cost the ALP two seats, the institute said."