Homework done

27 Nov

I said yesterday that I thought Malcolm Turnbull’s defiant press conference speech last night is one of his best. Here is what he said.

I appreciated his allusion to that well-known leftist plotter against capitalism Margaret Thatcher. Here (I quote from my entry of 2007 Miranda asks a question or two on climate change) is an example of her subversion in 1990:

…the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks. It can be more insidious though less visible. The danger of global warming is as yet unseen, but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.

Our ability to come together to stop or limit damage to the world’s environment will be perhaps the greatest test of how far we can act as a world community. No-one should under-estimate the imagination that will be required, nor the scientific effort, nor the unprecedented co-operation we shall have to show. We shall need statesmanship of a rare order…

In recent years, we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.

We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavours have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.

I want to pay tribute to the important work which the United Nations has done to advance our understanding of climate change, and in particular the risks of global warming. Dr. Tolba and Professor Obasi deserve our particular thanks for their far-sighted initiative in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC report is a remarkable achievement. It is almost as difficult to get a large number of distinguished scientists to agree, as it is to get agreement from a group of politicians. As a scientist who became a politician, I am perhaps particularly qualified to make that observation! I know both worlds.

Of course, much more research is needed. We don’t yet know all the answers…

But the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level. The IPCC tells us that we can’t repair the effects of past behaviour on our atmosphere as quickly and as easily as we might cleanse a stream or river. It will take, for example, until the second half of the next century, until the old age of my grandson, to repair the damage to the ozone layer above the Antarctic. And some of the gases we are adding to the global heat trap will endure in the Earth’s atmosphere for just as long.

The IPCC tells us that, on present trends, the earth will warm up faster than at any time since the last ice age. Weather patterns could change so that what is now wet would become dry, and what is now dry would become wet. Rising seas could threaten the livelihood of that substantial part of the world’s population which lives on or near coasts. The character and behaviour of plants would change, some for the better, some for worse. Some species of animals and plants would migrate to different zones or disappear for ever. Forests would die or move. And deserts would advance as green fields retreated.

Many of the precautionary actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event…

On recent claims of dishonesty in the IPCC I commend on one side Miranda Devine and on the other George Monbiot. The links are in yesterday’s entry. Monbiot answers the charge effectively. **

You should also note that I can sympathise at least with Greg Sheridan’s dilemma (see yesterday’s entry) when he says: “I do not know whether the science that says we’re all doomed if we don’t de-carbonise the economy is true. Neither does anyone else.” Sympathise but not entirely agree, as I do think the odds are that the IPCC is more than likely right. Yes, we are talking about something which by definition cannot certain until after it has happened, and I probably won’t be around to see it. But Margaret Thatcher’s last line makes as much sense now as it did in 1990 when a great deal less was known on the subject.

I don’t think the government has done a good enough job of explaining the issues at stake, or what their ETS is actually meant to achieve. That is a shame. (New Zealand passed its own ETS the day before yesterday. Did anyone notice?) On the other hand there is much clear material on the Department of Climate Change website.

My opinions aren’t worth a lot. Lord May of Oxford is much better informed.

And he is a Sydney High Old Boy… 🙂

** And a SBHS ex-teacher (Geography) and friend is even more persuasive! See Thoughts on Climate Change after the CRU Hacking.

…Troubled as I am by the academic jealousy I’m far more troubled by the timing of this breach of the CRU and by the character of the political beings who’ve been so vocal about it. So it was with some interest that I encountered this fascinating article The SwiftHack (ClimateGate) Scandal: What You Need to Know. The article makes the following points:

* The scientific consensus on climate change remains strong.
* The impacts of catastrophic climate change continue to rear their ugly head.
* Hacking into private computer files is illegal.
* All of the emails were taken out of context.
* The story is being pushed by far-right conspiracy theorists.
* Scientists are human beings and they talk frankly amongst themselves.

Clearly this hack of a research organisation is an interestingly timed diversion….


7 responses to “Homework done

  1. Kevin

    December 1, 2009 at 11:03 am


    You make me sad yet again, Neil. I had you pegged as a reasonable liberal (that’s amerispeak for ‘leftist’). Yet you still cling to the belief that AGW is either real, a problem, or both.

    No doubt you’ve seen the data (surely you peruse wattsupwiththat from time to time, right?). You’ve certainly seen the FOI data from CRU East Anglia that proves that AGW alarmists:

    – kept dissenting opinion from being published
    – hid data from non-believers
    – fudged data (the ultimate scientific no-no)
    – got people fired because they didn’t believe in AGW
    – probably destroyed the original data to hide their tracks

    And yet, you still believe man is destroying the planet. You still believe the UN should get ridiculous amounts of working people’s money (that could just as easily go to starving people across the planet) to combat a problem that might not even exist. There’s certainly very little untainted data to even suggest that it exists anymore*.

    I pose a serious question to you, Neil. What would it take? What would you need to see for you to become a non-believer in AGW? Obviously, if you woke up one morning and the oceans were solid ice, you’d start to doubt AGW :). I’m curious about the least bit of information that it would take for you to say, “OMG, this thing’s a scam!”?

    * – I’m assuming you’ve also read that the New Zealand numbers were fudged as well, and no warming trend has occurred over the past 100 years there. The only data set left that suggests global warming is GISS, and it will fall too, imo, as soon as we find a way to get the raw data, with all of that ‘urban heat-sink adjustment’ alchemy removed.

  2. Neil

    December 1, 2009 at 11:20 am

    It’s not unreasonable to follow people like Robert May, probably the UK’s top scientist and one of Australia’s brightest as well, not to mention Maggie Thatcher! I think the East Anglia thing is well answered in the links in my post. So I am, in my view (and using Amerispeak) a reasonable liberal — but as I keep saying, not a scientist. Of course that means my views rely on others — as is true of most of us. I do not believe climate change is a scam, I do believe the evidence is quite strongly for it. That of course is my view; you have yours. See Tim Lambert and Climate Shifts as counterpoints to Watts up.

  3. Kevin

    December 2, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Could you answer my question? What would you need to see for you to become a non-believer in AGW? It’s kind of important, since the only way that we can stop the waste of $trillions is by convincing people such as yourself.

    I’ll answer the opposite qurstion. Here’s what would turn me into an AGW believer. If someone used pre-1960 data to create a computer model that accurately predicts the climate as recorded from satellite data from 1960 to today, without having any post-1960 temperature data input into the program. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

    Of course, it would then have to also predict doom and gloom for the future.

  4. Neil

    December 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

    It isn’t at all reasonable to posit the computer model you propose as it excludes all data before satellites and other more recent measuring instruments. I do take your point, however, about the limitations of computer modelling, as does the book I refer to at the end of this post. That book is far from hysterical or total doom and gloom. It canvasses, among other things, the paradoxical nature of climate change, including a few potential benefits for some, such as farmers in some parts of the world, and does explore the fertilising properties of CO2 for some crops.

    In the meantime until you can cite a body of scientific opinion of the same weight as the consensus, broadly speaking, on the IPCC analysis I will remain in the camp of those who give the planet the benefit of the doubt. This is not to say I dot every i or cross every t on what is proposed. Further, I do not exclude the need for looking at nuclear energy, as some greens do and our Labor Party; interestingly James Lovelock (the Gaia guy) also has embraced nuclear technology.

  5. Neil

    December 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    On the East Anglia affair see also The New York Times.

  6. Kevin

    December 5, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Well, it’s going to be tough to change your mind if you still believe that the IPCC analysis is in any way accurate :(. I mean, after you’ve been made aware that the analysis was based upon falsified data – yet you still believe its conclusions to be true… It doesn’t seem like there’s any way to move the discussion forward.

    *sigh* Still, grats on you not having to pay extra taxes for your energy use, and getting rid of Turnbull. I know that you’re not happy about it now, but you will be within a decade when this farce goes away.

  7. Neil

    December 5, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    if you still believe that the IPCC analysis is in any way accurate…

    I think the later posts make that clear, Kevin. There is still an issue about the most effective response or set of responses. It will be interesting to see if Copenhagen actually does come up with any workable agreement.

    You can have Tony Abbott, of you like…


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