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Category Archives: Tony Abbott

Hang on a minute: what tax?

We all know Brer Abbott and The Undead are standing up for us against the dreaded

GREAT BIG TAX ON EVERYTHING!!!!

My problem is that I naively thought you could have a carbon tax, which the government has opted against, or an Emissions Trading Scheme (Cap and Trade), which the government has opted for.

Does it not follow then that while one is a tax the other is not? Sure, it may well be a cost, but a tax?

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Brer Abbott and The Undead

What a good name for some Gothic band to take!

I refer of course to Tony Abbott’s ghost cabinet — a cabinet of Dr Caligari.

An Abbott, two Bishops and Nick the Impaler
A Cadaver, a Barney and Kevin the Tailor

That refers to the famous couplet on Richard III:

A Cat, a Rat, and Lovell the Dog
All ruled England under the Hog

Yes, we have an alternative at last: the pit or the pendulum, the devil or the deep blue sea, Scylla or Charybdis, Hitler or Stalin… Of course the latter is particularly unsavoury, is it not? Unfair on both counts — but don’t blame me: I’m not the one who compared Copenhagen to Munich while fully aware of the spurious nature of the analogy but nonetheless knowing it would push the right buttons in punter-land. That was Tony yesterday to Alan Jones. And interviewed on Lateline last night the neuro-linguistic triggering got a typically Abbott overkill: he even underlines the cue words by raising the stress above the rest of the utterance, a kind of phonological CAPITAL LETTERS TRICK.

Peter Hartcher noted inThe Sydney Morning Herald:

…He has rejected the counsel of the Liberal Party’s founder, Robert Menzies, that ”the duty of an opposition is to oppose selectively”…

Abbott will not engage on Rudd’s terms. He will not mount an intellectual case. He will not present detailed policy alternatives.

He will circle Rudd, throwing jabs from all directions, never presenting a stationary target. He proposes deregulating the job market, for instance, but refuses to be specific: ”I am asking questions here,” he told Sky News yesterday, ”not making policy.”

”I want to make a fight of things,” he said. ”I think I have got the frontbench to do that.”

With the climate sceptic Nick Minchin in resources, the hardliner Eric Abetz in industrial relations, Barnaby Joyce free-ranging and veteran warriors like Bronwyn Bishop and Kevin Andrews on the front line, nobody would disagree with him.

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Kind of Part Two of the promised post…

I have given up on the project of reviewing the various measures, partly because this has already been done in things like our own Garnaut Report. You can even download the summary from this blog.

However, from Brian Dawson and Matt Spanagle The Complete Guide to Climate Change (2009) here are a few points.

1. Nuclear power. (pp. 293-302)

While new nuclear plant construction is expected to increase over the next decade, this needs to be balanced against the anticipated decline in nuclear-generating capacity in Europe and the United States, as many existing nuclear reactors are approaching the end of their useful operating lives. More than half of the present reactor stock is due to be retired by 2025…

Overall nuclear capacity [present and future] could plausibly contribute up to 5-10% of the greenhouse gas emissions required to stabilize global emissions by 2050, but to achieve this would require a significant shift in present energy and climate policies.

That last point refers to the need, among other things, to put a price on carbon.

2. Emissions trading. (pp. 136-145)

Overall, emissions trading offers considerable promise as a mitigation instrument and, in theory, should deliver least cost emissions abatement in many circumstances. However, it is still too early to judge whether trading will deliver a superior economic outcome relative to other policy instruments…

For emissions trading to provide a common global carbon price signal, it would require the establishment of a truly global cap encompassing all greenhouse gases and all major emissions sources. In reality, such a comprehensive global system is unlikely to eventuate in the short to medium term…

Note “mitigation” means bringing down emissions to a liveable or least damaging level over the first half of the 21st century. “Adaptation”, which also appears often in this field, means learning to live with climate change. There is something of a tension between these two ideas, but it is a realistic tension.

3. Energy efficiency. (pp. 146-155)

[Given appropriate policy settings at the national level, such as a price on carbon] … energy efficiency would provide between 45 and 53% of cost effective reductions. This dwarfs what any other mitigation options could feasibly deliver.

4. Solar. (pp. 345-353)

Overall solar power is likely to make a relatively small, but increasingly important, contribution to emissions reduction by 2050.

Crap detecting kit

I have opted for a slightly more polite term than that used yesterday by Malcolm Turnbull. 😉

As you read letters to the editor, op-ed pieces in The Australian, or listen to Tony Abbott or Nick Minchin or the Saudi Arabian government or talk-back radio, keep this kit beside you.

1. The Non-Governmental International Panel On Climate Change

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Note Scientific American on this.

The 2,500 or so scientists, economists and other experts of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) call global warming "unequivocal" and think it "very likely" that humans have contributed to the problem. The world’s governments agree with the panel, which also shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Then there’s the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). These 23 individuals from 15 countries, including a handful of scientists, disagree. Led by physicist S. Fred Singer—best known for his denial of the dangers of secondhand smoke—they argue the reverse: "Natural causes are very likely to be the dominant cause" of climate change.

The NIPCC goes on to contend: "We do not say anthropogenic greenhouse gases cannot produce some warming. Our conclusion is that the evidence shows they are not playing a significant role."

In other words, even skeptics, deniers, contrarians—pick your favorite term—agree that global warming is real, or so it appears from the recent three-day conference in New York City put together by the Heartland Institute, a bastion of free-market thinking on the perils of junk science and government economic regulation. They just disagree—even amongst themselves—whether it is man-made.

On the one side sits Patrick Michaels, the recently resigned state climatologist of Virginia who ascribes global warming to fluctuations in the sun’s energy output aided and abetted by human activity. In his conference dinner address, Michaels said: "Global warming is real and people have something to do with it."

On the other side is astrophysicist Willie Soon of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. He lays the blame on the sun for all the agreed-on warming. And meteorologist William Gray of Colorado State University in Fort Collins believes the sun will soon reverse its effect. "We should begin to see cooling coming on," he predicts. "I’m ready to make a big financial bet.

2. Bjorn Lomborg

The Australian often gives him a run, and so, I note, does the latest Australian Spectator. See Real Climate, and also So what’s wrong with Lomborg?

Well, he’s managed to present himself as being in the middle ground. Lomborg makes himself look reasonable by saying that he accepts the science, that AGW is occurring, but that it won’t be that bad. But what Lomborg really does is cherry pick and systematically misrepresent the science. You don’t have to take my word for this. See, for example, Kevin Berger’s interview with Lomborg:

You start "Cool It" by boldly stating that polar bears illustrate the exaggerated claims about global warming. You write that polar bears "may eventually decline, though dramatic declines seem unlikely." Yet the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, which you use to support your thesis, concludes: "As the amount of sea ice decreases, seals, walrus, polar bears and other ice-dependent species will suffer drastically." Don’t you think that sounds like there will be dramatic declines?

I’m just saying that it will be harder for the polar bears but that they will not decline, and they’re not going to be extinct or even appear to be affected at present.

And it goes on like that — the scientific reports that Lomborg uses say the opposite of what he makes it appear they do. Read the whole thing. But hey, anyone can make a mistake, right? Well, look at Lomborg’s list of corrections for his book. Berger made it clear that there were serious errors in his treatment of polar bears, but Lomborg has corrected none of them.

3. Those emails

The link there is to Paola Tataro in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. See also The Economist.

AS POLITICIANS, policy wonks, businessmen, NGO types, hacks and hangers-on converge in Copenhagen for the forthcoming climate conference, a row over a set of e-mails from a previously obscure part of Britain’s University of East Anglia is becoming ever louder, if no more illuminating. Two weeks ago e-mails and other documents that had been leaked or hacked from the university’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were sent to various websites. Those with a longstanding opposition to action on climate change, from bloggers to members of the American Senate to the Saudi government, are touting the e-mails as a resource with which to derail the Copenhagen talks.

CRU’s researchers use various techniques to reconstruct the temperatures of times past. Some of the reconstructions they have been party to have long been the subject of technical criticism, sometimes in peer-reviewed literature, more frequently on blogs, notably Climate Audit, an award-winning blog by Stephen McIntyre. The critics have made many attempts to get CRU to distribute the raw data and computer codes which its scientists work on. The e-mails and other documents read as though the researchers were obstructive in dealing with some of these requests, that some of the data they used were in poor shape, that they may have indulged in spin when presenting some results and that they really did not care for their critics…

The IPCC bases its work on papers that have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In one e-mail Mr Jones talks of stopping a couple of papers that he holds in low esteem from being discussed in an IPCC report “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is”. This does not look good, though it is worth noting that at least one of those papers was, in fact, included in the report. Other e-mails talk of trying to get editors at specific journals removed.

That the e-mails and documents should be inspected in some sort of systematic way for evidence of poor practice or even chicanery is a fair next step. But it is ludicrous to think that climate science is a house of cards that will collapse if the e-mails were to discredit CRU’s work.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It warms the surface and increases the amount of water vapour that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn warms things further. How much warming you get for a given amount of carbon dioxide is hard to say, because there are feedback processes involved, such as the making of clouds, and also other factors at work. It may be that this century’s warming will be moderate, staying below 2ºC. It is quite possible, though, that unless something is done the warming will be greater, and there is a real risk that it could be a lot greater, perhaps 4ºC or more.

The inquiries into the “climategate” e-mails and files may find that some of the researchers fell short of the standards of their calling, or that some of the science in question does not stand up as well as its authors would wish. To think that all action on climate change should cease pending such inquiries, though, is foolish, cynical or both.

OK, that’s your lot! Other topics from now on — but here is a last offering: A special report on climate PDF (220kb).

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2009 in climate change, environment, Tony Abbott

 

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Some ETS YouTubes

Like most of us I do find this challenging. See if these help.

The last two are critical of the idea.

However, to anticipate the second promised post here, it does seem that while energy efficiency and alternative energies offer the best hopes for mitigating emissions, the best approach — and the most economically viable — is a combination of several approaches with putting some kind of cost or value on emissions being critical to the success of these other approaches.

There are some good articles in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. First, I find $50b bill for Abbott carbon plan very believable, even if the denials are no doubt winging through cyberspace and the media as I write**. (No doubt appropriate economic modelling will be trotted out on both sides in due course, even by those most prone to be sceptical about climate modelling.)

Second, Ross Gittins has nailed it again.

It’s strange to reject ”a big new tax” in favour of an approach that would need a huge increase in spending on subsidies and incentives.

TONY Abbott’s stated intention to have ”a strong and effective climate change policy” that doesn’t involve either an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax is rife with internal contradictions.

For a start, it’s strange for a party of the right to reject the pro-market solution to climate change in favour of a much more intrusive, regulatory approach.

For another thing, it’s strange to reject ”a big new tax” in favour of an approach that, if it were to work, would require a huge increase in government spending on subsidies and incentives. If such an approach wasn’t to involve huge deficits and debt, or cuts in other government spending, it would require huge increases in ”old” taxes…

Third and fourth: In search of the Magic Carbon Pudding (4 December) by finance writer Michael Pascoe and University tackles sceptics’ arguments.

Update 1 pm

** Yep: Abbott downplays $50b climate change bill.

But hang on! Look at Malcolm Turnbull’s blog!

So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.

First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.

To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money.

Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, "bullshit." Moreover he knows it.

The whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it is cheaper – in other words, electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reductions.

The term you will see used for this is "least cost abatement".

It is not possible to criticise the new Coalition policy on climate change because it does not exist. Mr Abbott apparently knows what he is against, but not what he is for….

And that’s just his first point.

 

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Brer Abbott – The Ghost Who Walks?

phantom

Well, there is the matter of budgie smugglers in common, and the torso I suppose.

That Brer Abbott may indeed be The Ghost Who Walks was revealed today in The Australian. Speaking of Abbott’s book Battlelines, which may indeed sell more copies now, Stephen Matchett notes: “His main policy is to take us back to the 1950s, when everybody agreed with government spending money on welfare for the right sort of people: working couples with kids and their grandparents. But there is more ideology than opportunism in Battlelines, which sets out strategies Abbott learned in his spiritual home, the Democratic Labor Party…”

So it appears The Ghost Who Walks, rather than being Mister Walker, is in fact Bob Santamaria on steroids.

Or something like that.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2009 in Australia, right wing politics, Tony Abbott

 

Not quite the promised climate change post

I need to pause before I attempt the summation I promised yesterday, so below I will list some additional resources.

But first some preliminary observations.

1. While “MAGIC PUDDING POLITICS” (Rudd on Brer Abbott) is not nearly as effective a mantra as “GREAT BIG TAX ON NEARLY EVERYTHING” (Brer Abbott on Rudd) the greater truth is in the Rudd mantra. The idea of a costless response to climate change is a sick joke. I do in fact believe that nuclear power should be in the mix, siding to that extent with Brer Abbott (and James Lovelock), but that has to be seen in a context too.

THE Opposition’s desire to embrace nuclear power in the absence of an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax would result in electricity price rises of between 10 per cent and 33 per cent, according to estimates by the Howard government’s nuclear energy expert, Ziggy Switkowski.

In a report for John Howard in 2006, Dr Switkowski found nuclear power would never be commercially viable unless fossil fuel-generated electricity was made more expensive using an ETS or carbon tax.

This resulted in Mr Howard embracing an emissions trading scheme as a way to reduce greenhouse gases while keeping open the nuclear option for the future.

In a dramatic departure from policy, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has abandoned support for any market-based mechanism, such as an ETS or a carbon tax, as part of the Coalition’s greenhouse strategy…

2. It is such a shame the whole issue has become politicised, but I suppose that is inevitable in a democracy. Fact is, however, that there are limits to what “debate” can actually achieve in the face of phenomena that really do not depend, in the long run, on our ideological positions or the wheelbarrows we choose to push.  Dithering is one of the less savoury outcomes of a democratic process, not that I prefer the alternative really – but a country like China is actually better placed to act decisively, for good or ill. Such a shame we are mere humans and not gods, isn’t it?

3. Given the abysmal level of much of our dithering both here and overseas, and given the importance of the issue, nothing is to be gained by censorship of the kind that apparently has happened at the CSIRO or by fudging data, as apparently happened at the East Anglia CRU. While we would all do well to forget unlikely scenarios like the movie The Day After Tomorrow and must all concede that Al Gore oversimplified in An Inconvenient Truth, we should also realise that what happened at the CSIRO or East Anglia does not invalidate the overall truth of the IPCC reports. The IPCC does not engage in research; all it does is weigh the research and gather together the implications of that research for our consideration. There was much more input to its reports than East Anglia.

Hence comments like this on the latest offering (for climate change action I hasten to add) of Sojourners, a “left evangelical” site, really are tragic.

I think it is useing a lie to push their ideas. there is no man made global warming. yes take care of the environment, being a christian this should be second nature, shouldnt need to push for eco-prophets. nature changes all the time. thats life. honesty is important and there isnt much of that in this environment "emergency" that is being pushed. The other point is that the UN has no concern for the poor. they people they have chosen to make us believe in global warming are liars. and the proposals they want to accomplish will Not help the poor but make it harder for them. If you cant see that then you have blinders on.

There are so many prejudices running through that comment one hardly knows where to start.

4. Check some recent stories in the Sydney Morning Herald.

5. Realise that there are left as well as right-wing critiques of “market strategies” like cap and trade or carbon tax.

The Same Boat

Imagine 10 rabbits lost at sea, in a boat carved out of a giant carrot.

The carrot is their only source of food, so they all keep nibbling at it. The boat is shrinking rapidly – but none of them wants to be the first to stop, because then they’ll be the first to starve. There’s no point in any of them stopping unless everyone stops – if even one rabbit carries on eating, the boat will sink.

This is the international climate crisis in a (Beatrix Potter-flavoured) nutshell: action by individual nations achieves little unless we all act together. Of course, reality is a little more complex. While it’s easy to imagine the rabbits reaching a simple agreement where they all learn to dredge for seaweed instead, our situation involves massive global inequalities, differing levels of responsibility, and a history of exploitation and broken international promises.

Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the international climate negotiations – which began in earnest in 1990 with the talks that created the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – have not yet got us a workable global solution. The best we’ve managed so far has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which industrialized nations (known as ‘Annex 1’ countries) pledged to cut their CO emissions by a completely inadequate 5.2 per cent by 2012. The US famously pulled out of the deal, and most of those who remained in are unlikely to achieve even these small cuts…

Down with Kyoto

We shouldn’t get too hung up on Copenhagen – we’re far more likely to create lasting change by building powerful national and international movements than by pouring all our energy into specific summit meetings. But it’s hard to deny that we need some sort of international framework for tackling this global issue. Despite its flaws, the UNFCCC is the only one we’ve got, and the urgency of the climate issue requires us to work with it.

However, the Kyoto Protocol has been a dismal failure. Should we demand that governments scrap it completely and start again from scratch? It’s tempting, but would be unlikely to gain the crucial support of Southern negotiators, who fear that a brand new deal would see them lose their hard-won ‘differentiated responsibility’.

A better approach might be to create space within the existing talks for alternative, fairer systems and ideas – such as GDRs, Kyoto2, community-led solutions, indigenous rights, strings-free clean development assistance, patent-free technology transfer – to get a hearing. Currently emissions trading, private financing and market-based mechanisms are seen as the only route to greenhouse gas reductions, and are crowding everything else out of the debate.

This suggests a simple, effective starting point for developing a successful – and just – global agreement: we need to get rid of carbon trading…

Confused yet? One tip though: if anyone has all their ideas on the subject from Quadrant or Ms Devine or Mr Bolt they aren’t worth taking too seriously. The entries immediately above, on the other hand, are predicated on an anti “free market” perspective. They are putting their faith in sustainables as the answer. I don’t really see either as being much practical help, though more is to be said for the New Internationalist stance than Quadrant’s.

OK, I’ll try again later on…

See also: entries here tagged “environment".

 

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Everything old is new again

A couple of days ago Jim Belshaw noted:

… In choosing Mr Abbott, the Liberal Party has taken a step into the unknown. The Coalition now presents a clear alternative position to Labor. Mr Abbott is a very intelligent man, but he has also been a polarising figure with somewhat of a tendency to put his foot in his mouth, boot and all. Dull he is not.

The reactions to Mr Abbott among the party faithful on both sides can be largely predicted. What is less clear is just how he might appeal to the people in the middle.

From performance thus far I doubt very much that Tony Abbott will win over people in the middle. Rather what we are seeing is a rush towards what I  regard as the worst excesses of the post-Fraser Liberal Party. It certainly isn’t the Liberal Party I at one time long ago used to support.

Though they all do it, Tony Abbott has already displayed the mind-numbing NLP propaganda technique so loved by some politicians. He is good at it and, sadly, it can often work. Let this BNP person explain:

DEVELOPING RAPPORT: According to this theory of communication, even the most fundamental truth will have little effect unless it is presented in a manner which, by developing a substantial amount of natural rapport with the targeted audience, is capable of achieving effective persuasion. Such persuasion, moreover, is ultimately dependent upon the extent to which a sophisticated tactical flexibility is employed by the communicator to enable him to establish the necessary ‘agreement frame’ with the particular audience he wants to persuade.

How to produce this ‘agreement frame’ most effectively forms the underlying basis of the NLP philosophy. The proposed method has been aptly described by Anthony Robbins, author of Unlimited Power, as ‘Aikido politics’, whereby the communicator seeks to produce the least possible resistance in his targeted audience. The idea behind this theory is that, rather than pushing aggressively or trying to bludgeon an acceptance of an argument, a successful communication is best achieved through gently ‘aligning’ an opposing viewpoint with that of your own by finding points of agreement, and then gradually ‘leading’ the other viewpoint around to your position. By this method, it is argued, an ‘avenue of redirection’ can be created which can often adroitly sidestep any possible or expected hostile response.

By disingenuously linking the snarl-words “BIG NEW TAX ON EVERYTHING” to emissions trading and/or carbon taxes Abbott short-circuits our brains and achieves his ‘agreement frame’. He knows exactly what he is doing, even if he and most of his party actually agreed with emissions trading in some form or other just last week, and had done for several years.

Such a shame, but not surprising, that the 9-12 Liberals who would have voted FOR the emissions trading scheme in the Senate reduced in the event to TWO brave principled souls.

troethcomposite

Sydney Morning Herald – linked to story

One of them had this to say on the 7.30 Report last night:

KERRY O’BRIEN: Now, initially there were up to 12 of you in the Senate who believed very strongly – in the way that you have – but only two of you in the end crossed the floor. Why do you think the others waivered?
JUDITH TROETH: Well, up til yesterday Kerry, this was of course, or the day that we changed the leader from Malcolm Turnbull to Tony Abbott, this was of course Coalition policy that we supported the Government’s legislation. And there were other senators in my party who didn’t agree with that, and so they would have been the ones crossing the floor, as I believe many intended to do. But having taken the decision to back the legislation, I saw no reason to change my mind. If it was good enough to do it one day, in my view it was good enough to do it the next day.
KERRY O’BRIEN: Now once upon a time, you were not a believer in climate change science. Why are you now so convinced about the climate change science?
JUDITH TROETH: I have read widely and I have made my own conclusions. I lived in the country for a long time, as you know, and saw many long droughts. And by, probably about two years ago, having observed what was a very long drought, and noticed other things happening and reading widely, I decided that climate change was happening and that we should factor it into any government action…

KERRY O’BRIEN: Do you think it is too simplistic to simply summarise the whole ETS package as nothing more than a great big tax?
JUDITH TROETH: That’s a very simplistic way of putting it and it is also obviously designed to scare people. And that’s largely what the anti -campaign has been, a scare campaign.
When you think of the business investment decisions that have to be made if this legislation goes through, when you think of the way in which people need to look at climate change, we’re all going to have to pay for climate change in some way or another and this will be a feature of the future world that we look at. So we had better get used to it…

Truth-tellers are rare in politics, even if there were unusual moments of candour in the last week. Now the Libs have a virtual unity – whether real or not time will tell.

Meantime we have the “new” – Kevin Andrews, Bronwyn Bishop…

Pardon me while I get up off the floor!

Tomorrow I will do a rundown, based on my recent reading, of the probable effectiveness of climate change mitigation strategies. The only thing I have in common with Mr A is that (unlike Labor at the moment or the Greens) I would factor in nuclear energy.