TCS Daily


Getting Desperate Down Under

By Alan Oxley - January 8, 2006 12:00 AM

Things are not going well for the global warming alarmists. The first high level meeting of governments which account for the largest share of the world's economy, most of the world's population and most emissions of greenhouse gases will be held in Sydney, Australia, this week. But the greens decry the event.

One Australian newspaper described those gathering as the Kyoto miscreants: they reject the targets in the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. They are meeting to develop their own strategies to deal with climate change. Shouldn't the greens applaud this? The US, China, India, Japan, Australia and South Korea are getting together to adopt technologies, like clean coal power combustion, to reduce emissions.

Greenpeace has slammed it as a sham: an excuse for doing nothing. It is not drastic enough. There is agreement among greens on that. Greenpeace and their partners, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), want greenhouse gases reduced regardless. If that reduces growth, which it will, so be it.

But this Asia Pacific Climate Partnership just won't go along with that. Growth is important. India and China will not improve the lot of the more than 1.5 billion of their citizens mired in extreme poverty without growth. They want strategies that are not "drastic".

There is something else to the green angst. The global warming debate is slipping out of their control. It is off the front page in the United States. The parties to the UN mother convention to Kyoto will not agree to start work on a Kyoto Protocol mark II (for all the hype about it, Kyoto is really a mouse of an international convention: its provisions apply only until 2012). Tony Blair, their key political ally in Europe, has dropped Kyoto and, horror of horrors for Greenpeace, he has embraced nuclear power. And it looks like many members of the EU will fail to meet their Kyoto obligations to cut emission in the very first year they are supposed to meet their Kyoto commitments.

The spokesman on environment for Australia's opposition party, Anthony Albanese, a relentless supporter of Kyoto, announced recently that global warming has created the first climate change refugees. He apparently has found some in Papua New Guinea. He has called on Australia to spearhead a global initiative to house the imminent flood.

Australians won't be convinced. They are used to boat people from Vietnam and refugees from the Middle East. Graphic media coverage of the Indian Ocean Tsunami and the consequences of mud slides in Central America and Indonesia demonstrate catastrophe. Papua New Guineans are not paddling en masse to Australia in dugout canoes.

We have heard claims for nearly 20 years that Pacific Atolls are about to be washed away. They are all still there. The very UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), which made the political declaration in 2001 that we humans are causing global warming has told us why. Even it concluded in the same report that sea levels in the twentieth century have not risen. Even if they had, Papua New Guinea would be the last place in the Western Pacific to be severely affected. It is the most mountainous of Pacific Island states.

It seems Mr. Albanese is not keeping up with his global warming reading. Many greens don't bother. But those who are serious do. WWF is the largest and wealthiest international green organization. To date, it and the other major green organizations have been wary about engaging on the science of climate change. They know as well as the sceptics that it is very weak.

Each time the science underpinning the IPPC case gets knocked out, as it did over the "hockey stick" debacle (where the research backed by the IPCC showing the twentieth century was the hottest in a millennium -- demonstrated as a sharp rise on a chart like the end of a hockey stick -- was found baseless ) the Green strategy has been a subtle version of shoot the messenger. 'Why do they persist?' 'The scientific debate is over'. 'There is scientific consensus'.

WWF has evidently decided it is time to wade into the science debate. Its President in Australia, Robert Purves, a wealthy businessman, has just funded Australia's most prominent science writer, Dr. Tim Flannery, to write "The Weather Makers -- the History and Future Impact of Climate Change". It was published recently with a glowing endorsement from best-selling popular science writer, Jared Diamond who is quoted on the cover: "It would be difficult to imagine a better or more important book".

Flannery's frame of reference to understand the science of the Earth's biosphere is Gaia. This is the idea that the Earth is one integrated ecosystem. Conceptually it is like a pseudo-scientific Earth Mother. He expressly rejects "reductionism": the logical method of demonstrating the causal relationship of how one action affects another: for example, do increased levels of carbon dioxide cause the Earth to warm?

Flannery says: "But saying that something causes something is an unhelpful way of thinking. Instead what we have are seemingly insignificant initial occurrences -- such as an increase of atmospheric CO2 -- that lead to runaway change". See the point? We don't have to demonstrate the linkage with science.

Flannery's most astonishing point is that the Earth's biosphere is shaped by "Telekinesis" (how Uri Geller used to bend spoons with paranormal telepathic powers). Activity in one part of the system remotely causes changes in others.

Consider what Flannery is implying. Do these big concept, if not other-worldly, ideas warrant the discarding of a normal test in science to prove claims that one thing causes another? Would a construction company employ Uri Geller to use his paranormal powers to build a skyscraper instead of using cranes on the basis of the theory implied in an otherwise implausible event?

The intention of WWF to engage in the science debate is welcome. Governments have kept away from the issue. This has been a major mistake. One of the strongest arguments for proceeding cautiously with measures to address global warming is that the science, as it stands now, doesn't help indicate what, if anything, governments should do. If the science is not clear, nor is the case that we face calamity.

Alan Oxley is host of the Asian Pacific page of TCS.
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5 Comments

What the?
Alan stick to what you know not to what you think you do, there is a big difference. Tim Flannery knows a little bit more then you about this subject, also to quote him out of context like you have, displays your lack of morals. You fail to mention that the Howard Government does indeed take the global warming issues seriously and wishes to do something about it. You some how fail to mention that the Government didn’t sign the Koto agreement because it didn’t think it was fair not because it didn’t think global warming was a real problem, That is why the government has spent a lot of money helping Australian business reduce their green house gas emissions. Are you miss representing the Australian Governments position on this matter deliberately?

wwgeek1, you need to learn to read
"You fail to mention that the Howard Government does indeed take the global warming issues seriously "

"The first high level meeting of governments which account for the largest share of the world’s economy, [US, China, India, Japan, Australia and South Korea] will be held in Sydney, Australia, this week."

So you are well wrong in your assettion.

Anyway, the government science advisors are also of the opinion that the debate is over. They aren't interested in discussing it anymore. The science is NOT settled. For gods sake, Darwinian science isn't settled.

"You some how fail to mention that the Government didn’t sign the Koto agreement because it didn’t think it was fair not because it didn’t think global warming was a real problem."

I could be corrected here, but where exactly does Alan say that global warming isn't a real thing? He does say the debate isn't over, he does say that the science isn't settled. This article was about the global warming activists abandoning critical thinking, and you have perfectly illustrated his point. Any debate it seems is apostasy.

kimble have reread
"Things are not going well for the global warming alarmists"
The opening statement clear spells out what Alan's view point is have another read of his piece and other's he is reading. Now where in this piece does it state that the Australian parliament. This piece is full of deliberate misrepresentation and omissions. For instance he fails to mention that there are many Koto supporters within the Howard Gov, but he choose to attack the opposition for it's support. The only part of the global warming debate among scientist is how much we have/will effect the climate not whether we have or not. By the way only religious fanatics believe that Darwinian evolution is not settled.

Plainly false statement in article
I don't know what this guy's been smoking, but his statment that global warming is "off the front page in the United States" is just wishful thinking. GW has been receiving steadily more coverage over the course of time. This is not to say that the coverage is sufficient.

Crudely Attempting to Point out bias exposes one's own bias
It would have been more helpful if Oxley had made some attempt to understand the bigger issue at play here.

In selectively quoting he displays not only his own bias, but also his ignorance.

Sadly, this is not unexpected - the analogy used by Oxley seems to display the level at which he functions (Uri Geller is a discredited fraud, who used chemicals to convince others of his telekinetic powers).

I agree that there is alarmist Global warming information out there - and perhaps it is comfortable to think of this as the "millenium bug" over again - so we can dismiss it.

As a specialist medical practitioner I can tell you that a few degrees change in temperature in a biological system can make the difference between a healthy sustainable system and one that will eventually die.

This is an opportunity to educate one's self, to expand one's horizons beyond "economic growth", "free trade" and profits for all.

If you wish to quote science, perhaps best to quote the science that the USA, Australia and most others accept now that tells us that Global Warming is a reality.

More practical still would be to become part of the solution, .....

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