"This is an extraordinary state of affairs, unparalleled in modern history. Sovereign governments have become so enamoured of climate computer models, and decoupled from science reality, that they plan to impose environmental measures that will be financially and socially devastating, but which will have a negligible effect on what is anyway a mostly imaginary problem."  Professor Bob Carter in NZ, April 2008.

Climate indulgences: trillions in pain for unmeasurable gain

Op-ed for Professor Bob Carter’s tour of North Island, New Zealand, April 2008

“Global warming science is settled” announce the Greens, thereby betraying their fundamental ignorance of both the current state of climate research and the way that science itself works. Quite a result for the investment of only five words. And an indication of the damage that will be caused were you to let the Greens escape from the bottom of the garden.

Steel yourself, for there are costs involved in the public acceptance of the climate change-carbon dioxide hysteria. Remember that the bill for New Zealand’s misconceived membership of the Kyoto Protocol has been revised from a notional profit of $350 million to a now probable cost between $1 and $2 billion.

And that’s just for starters, for the period 2008-2012. Thereafter, as the effects of the carbon (dioxide) emissions trading bill kicks in, the New Zealand economy will be subjected to costs that run to tens of billions of dollars; worldwide the cost will be tens of trillions. The dangerous lack of forward planning for baseline energy production, already established as a cause of likely power cuts in New Zealand, will be exacerbated. The price of electricity will more than double, if not triple, and the flow-on costs through the economy will impact most strongly on defenceless persons who are already underprivileged. As economists like to say, carbon trading schemes are inevitably regressive.

And for what? Amid the hysterical rhetoric about “climate change” (that very term being transparently dishonest code for “dangerous human-caused global warming”) have you heard even a tiny voice that tells you what gain will result from such swingeing expenditures and social disruption?

The best available answer to this embarrassing question is: an unmeasurable 0.02 deg. C of warming prevented by 2050 by Kyoto actions (if all countries meet their commitments, which patently will not happen), with a few tenths of a degree of further warming perhaps prevented by whatever equally half-baked international carbon dioxide restrictions are agreed to post-Kyoto.

Why is so little warming prevented? Because - though this is a well kept secret - each successive increment of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere produces a lesser warming effect, so that an initial doubling from the pre-industrial level will result in about 1 deg C of warming whereas another doubling again will add but an extra few tenths of a degree. In the context of natural climate variability, these are trivial amounts of change.

Those who migrate from Invercargill to Northland may do so in part to escape mayoral idiosyncracies, but mostly they just wish to live in a 9 degree warmer clime - the annual average temperatures of these places being 10 and 19 deg. C, respectively. Yet public alarm has been aroused that a theoretical (not proven) increase in global temperature of perhaps 1 deg. C, a magnitude similar to inter-annual swings in temperature that we are already well-used to experiencing, will somehow be a disaster for our society and, more generally, the planet. Hullo? We encounter a similar temperature change every time we walk up or down a 140 m high hill.

This is an extraordinary state of affairs, unparalleled in modern history. Sovereign governments have become so enamoured of climate computer models, and decoupled from science reality, that they plan to impose environmental measures that will be financially and socially devastating, but which will have a negligible effect on what is anyway a mostly imaginary problem.

How did this come about? The answer, both in New Zealand and internationally, is that the successful conversion of citizens and governments to the cult of eco-salvationism reflects much hard and clever work by the special interest groups that benefit from the global warming scam.

Formidably, persons with a self-interest in climate alarmism now include environmental NGOs (who seek membership subscriptions and power), other politicians of all stripes (who seek to be elected), governments (who seek to be re-elected), bureaucrats (who seek to maintain their budgets), scientists (who seek to ensure their research income), churches (who are desperate for “relevance”), the media (who know that alarmism sells advertising), both conventional and alternative energy providers (rent seekers, one and all), the carbon indulgences industry (which uses guilt to prey on innocent, travelling citizens) and – perhaps most frightening of all; remember Enron - the financial markets’ and legal fraternity (members of which can recognize a gravy train when they see one). Finally, remember that we are now talking about the paper-only trading of an invisible commodity that has no useful purpose and is always difficult and sometimes impossible to measure - attributes that make it certain that fraudulent criminal activity will be induced.

The widespread conversion of public opinion to the cause of climate alarmism could not have occurred without the active connivance of both the government and the media. In New Zealand, politically correct government propaganda on climate change is now almost totalitarian in nature, as represented by the information issued by many government departments, and websites that are specially targetted at teachers and school children (e.g., <http://www.4million.org.nz/climatechange/>). At the same time, news and current affairs reporting on climate change has become so biased that New Zealand reporters have been singled out for criticism in front of the high powered US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The government, defending its alarmist position as a leader within the international lemming pack, will say that it is acting on the best scientific advice. The public is then entitled to presume that this advice is diverse, and comes not only from government departments (primarily NIWA) but also from bodies of reputed independence like the Royal Society of New Zealand (which has an expert Climate Committee).

In reality, however, the primary influence on New Zealand climate policy, as endlessly claimed by don’t-blame-me ministers, is advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is a political arm of the United Nations whose recent reports have been widely criticized for lacking scientific balance and credibility. Helen Clark would presumably reject any suggestion that the World Bank should set the New Zealand budget, so why does she allow the IPCC to determine national climate policy?

By the day, new science results are undercutting the desperately weak case that human-caused global warming is dangerous. Not the least of these results is that no warming has now occurred since 1998 (9 years) despite an increase in carbon dioxide of almost 5%. This is but one of many pigeons that have already arrived on the roost, and, as more arrive and the magnitude of the global warming fiasco becomes plain, governments will fall.

No democratic government in history, outside of wartime, has survived wilful actions that destroyed the living standards of its people for no measurable gain. Neither will New Zealand’s, irrespective of whether it is the Clark government or its successor that presides over the introduction of an unnecessary, ineffectual and inevitably corrupt carbon (dioxide) trading system.

Bob Carter is a geologist at James Cook University who is engaged in active research into ancient climate change. His website is at: http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/new_page_1.htm.

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This website is dedicated to the memory of Professor August H. (Augie) Auer jr, a co-founder of the Coalition.