Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Climate change - some thoughts

I remain fascinated by people (like Malcolm Colless in today's Oz who use the Y2K issue as an example arguing for inaction on climate change. The reality of Y2K is that millions were spent on remediating IT systems and the massive web of correspondence that flowed up and down supply chains checking that people were taking action worked.

I worked with two large telcos over the period. Both identified and remedied Y2K flaws that would have rendered their systems inoperable had they not been fixed. And yes - every one of those issues may have been fixable after the fact - but the cumulative effect would have seen commerce grind to a standstill.

Climate change is very similar - once real evidence of global warming that is faster than warming we've seen before and promises to peak at temperatures far higher than we've seen before there will be no swift mediation available. And it is not as if any of the moves to cap and trade carbon deviate from good modern economic rationalist thinking about ow to manage a pollution scenaro - that is, get the market to trade in the right to pollute. The solutions of moves to renewable energy sources have other long term benefits - the real risk with running out of fossil fuels isn't when they run out it is when new demand exceeds new supply (the so called peak oil theory) which is far closer than running out.

(Malcolm also makes a side reference to the hole in the Ozone layer and that it is now shrinking - he conveniently forgets that there was a massive global remediation program on that - it was called banning CFCs, which have been completely taken out of use in aerosol cans, as refrigerants and in the manufacture of polystyrene. Actually the full story is a stunning example of what global action can achieve.)

This piece from Malcolm followed a slightly more interesting piece from Miranda Devine in Saturday's SMH. Once you get past some of her nonsense she has some reasonable points.

The nonsense starts with a discussion of who did or did not participate or attend a Steve Fielding inspired "debate" at Parliament House. The biggest nonsesne was the idea that because only twelve attended the remaining parliamentarians were not prepared to devote the time to being informed. My sense is that every single one of them has already devoted far more than one hour to the subject. It is the height of Devine's arrogance and Fielding's stupidity that this "debate" could reach the level of being considered the definitive discussion.

Devine's second piece of stupidity is the old - we are only 1% of the problem so what we do doesn't matter. Stupid because everyone is only part of the problem.

Where she is right is in relating that to the Copenhagen discussion. What is the real benefit if we act and Copenhagen does nothing?

Australia, given its behaviour with Kyoto where we negotiated a really good deal for ourselves and then didn't sign, already lacks credibility in this forum. So the Devine strategy of only planning to legislate post Copenhagen will result in us really being voiceless.

There is a better alternative. That is to legislate before Copenhagen but to build in some kind of trigger that either delays the At taking effect until there is some positive outcome for Copenhagen, or requires the Act to be re-endorsed by the Parliament following Copenhagen.

Whatever course we take, it is time the deniers stopped thinking that inaction is an option.


For the record, I am not an expert on the Bill. I'm prepared to accept the fact that Wong has got it where it is as evidence that there is reasonable compromise (as also by the fact that neither the Greens nor Coalition are happy).

My view of climate change is that the theory is convincing, the evidence of (a) CO2 correlation to global temperatures and (b) massive ncreases in CO2 are enough to be concerned. That waiting for evidence of warming is like a general refusing to believe the intel of an invasion until he sees the first paratrooper land - by which time the skies and seas are full of the invasion force.

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