CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot?

Climate Spectator

"For the extreme left it [the existence of climate change] provides the opportunity to do what they've always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left...and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.” – Nick Minchin, Liberal Senator and former Australian Government Minister.

I happen to think carbon dioxide re-radiates energy within the infrared spectrum. I also believe combustion of a million years of fossilised carbon within the space of a year, as well as deforestation of large tracts of the world’s forests, is likely to lead to a material increase in carbon dioxide within the atmosphere. All other things being equal, I think this is likely to lead the Earth’s atmosphere to trap greater amounts of the sun’s energy, leading to an increase in global temperature. I also think that if we make emitting carbon dioxide more expensive and harder to do, we’ll reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we emit and moderate temperature rises.

Does that make me a communist?

People that expressed concern for their children’s wellbeing from lead in petrol were never yelled down as communists. Restrictions on cigarettes have often been pioneered by people within the Liberal Party. And no one suggests that workers with mesothelioma are part of some leftist plot to undermine capitalism because they seek compensation from firms that produced asbestos. None of these problems with everyday, widespread products were immediately and unambiguously evident to us, it took a considerable amount of time and a large body of evidence to accumulate before action was taken. While the firms involved vigorously lobbied against government controls and penalties, these were not seen as issues dreamed up by one side of politics. They were seen as matters of proving cause and effect, to be determined through scientific study.

Yet, within Australia, climate change science has become tarred as a cause of the left rather than an objective physical phenomenon. Attempts to use a price signal or a market in carbon permits to control the problem, one of the least communist ways of controlling emissions, are represented as the end of the world as we know it. We are told to expect mass job losses, a deep economic recession, the lights going out and even the loss of our democratic freedoms.

Some of this hysteria is clearly the product of public relations exercises by cold, calculating firms looking after their own self interest, as I touched upon last Friday (Carbon prices and the economics of self-interest, March 2). But that doesn’t fully explain the thoughts of someone as intelligent as Nick Minchin. Nor a range of other prominent Australian business people who have strong views on climate science, yet generally wouldn’t give two hoots about any other matter of scientific inquiry. If you look at the hard economic numbers around the likely impacts of a carbon price, there appears to be little sitting behind such hysteria. So it is hard to believe that clever people such as Minchin and other business leaders could be duped by a PR campaign.

For these people this is about far more than a price on carbon, this is about a battle for Australia’s destiny. These people have a grand vision where Australia will become rich and prosperous, helping pull the poor of the world out of poverty on the back of our minerals and energy resources. As John Howard put it, Australia could become an "energy superpower”.

According to this vision, the people of China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, need huge quantities of metals and energy to take their economies into the 21stcentury. Australia, with its close proximity and plentiful access to metals and energy, is in the box seat to supply these nations’ needs. For these visionaries this is not just about making themselves personally wealthy, this will make the world a better place. This will be Adam Smith’s enlightened self interest writ large. The Chinese and Indians will gain much improved standards of living and Australian workers will obtain well-paying jobs.

These visionaries are now being proven correct in the insights they made back in the 1990s and early 2000s, so you can understand why this vision is held so fervently.

While the carbon price, as currently envisaged, poses no real threat to development of Australia’s energy and minerals projects, even the acknowledgement of climate change as a genuine problem is problematic for these visionaries. Fulfilling such a vision is not just about making money for these people, it’s what gives their lives purpose. To say that burning fossil fuels is bad is to call into question everything they’ve spent their lives working towards.

For many of them climate change is seen through the lens of a broader battle against the left’s attempts to curtail achievement of their vision. This is perhaps best personified by someone like Hugh Morgan, former head of Western Mining and president of the Business Council of Australia. Morgan has been a major driver of Australia’s resources industry and has led fights on industrial relations, Aboriginal land rights, and other constraints on development of minerals resources. When climate change emerged as a major problem in the 90s, Morgan was quick to act with the establishment of the Lavoissier Institute.

This association of climate change with broader causes of the left has been incredibly unfortunate. It means we now have a significant and incredibly influential segment of the business community that is almost irrational in its approach to government policies to control greenhouse gas emissions. Using a price signal or carbon permit market to control greenhouse gas emissions would be the most business friendly way of controlling our greenhouse gas emissions. It should not be seen as some kind of communist plot.

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It is the case that a chief support for climate alarmism comes from the ideologically obsessed leftists that Nick Minchin mentions (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6). He is quite correct. That does not mean that every believer in this contemporary cult comes from the far left Socialist Workers Party. Very many of the scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other alarmists too, are funded by their advocacy for climate change. This does not mean that everyone promoting this view is so compromised.
For those who still have open minds, however, the 2009 and 2010 reviews of recent scientific research contradicting alarmist claims of human-caused climate change (the sort that requires redistribution of wealth and de-industrialisation, as Nick Minchin points out), by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) are essential reading. A wide range of scientifically impeccable studies are cited. We learn there, for example, that sunspot activity has been closely associated with global climate for the whole of recorded history, and that activity is much higher now than in previous centuries, thus affecting the melting of snow at the polar regions of the planet Mars. That melting is not due to human activity. For the over 800 page report from 2009, see http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/2009/2009report.html For the similarly thorough interim report on scientific research on all aspects of climate change in just the last two years, see http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/2011/2011report.html
I don't give a damn about global warming, I do give a damn about the environment and would prefer it be cleaner, but I just want everyone to realise one thing: Close to 99% of all the species of animals etc that have ever lived on this planet are extinct and with no help from humans (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
So, in the scheme of things what does it matter if under our watch 10,000,000 species go extinct.
It amazes me how people want to hold us liable for something that ultimately does not matter.
I think Nick Minchin is probably more correct than Tristan Edis who says: "I believe combustion of a million years of fossilised carbon within the space of a year, as well as deforestation of large tracts of the world’'s forests, is likely to lead to a material increase in carbon dioxide within the atmosphere." (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6.)
” Which illustrates that Tristan is basing his argument on a philosophy, not science. That philosophy is atheistic humanism, which underpins communism. First assuming her premise of evolution, and her conclusion that the fossilised carbon took millions of years to form, I ask where did the CO2 come from in the first place to produce the necessary abundant plant life. Can it be anything else but a super saturated atmosphere of CO2. Second, how do you know the world is millions of years old? It cannot be proved for all dating methods are based on assumptions, which if incorrect invalidate the assumed date of millions of years. In fact 99 per cent of dating methods give a date of less than 100,000 years and there is no dating method that is not disputed. The only record that is a historical record is the Bible which gives a date of 6000 years. Evolution is therefore the philosophy underpinning climate change and also underpins atheistic communism. I might add that the Bible contradicts no scientific fact.
I think the polarity is not helped by the climate change denialists being so obviously selfish in their motivation – i.e. it hurts our profits, so it can't be true (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6). If one side is so clearly capitalist, it's easier to paint the other as opposing the ideology.
Tristan's line: "This association of climate change with broader causes of the left has been incredibly unfortunate" – kind of brings to life the quote in Ben Elton's book, 'Stark' which says, "The appropriation of radical thinking by a bunch of lazy, self-obsessed hippies is a public relations disaster that could cost the earth". (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6)
This piece is a good illustration of the intractable nature of climate change discussion (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot?).
Why do I say this ? Because his commentary conflates at least three different issues.
1) Is it true that CO2 from human activity contributes significantly to significant warming?
2) Is it true that a carbon tax constitutes a rational and effective response to the perceived problem?
3) Is it true that the political far left sees climate change as a weapon to be used against capitalism?
Edis argues that because (in his capacity as a journalist) he believes issues number 1 and 2 are both true, that issue number 3 is not true. Which is, as they say in the classics, a logical non sequitur.
Edis' assertion that "..if we make emitting carbon dioxide more expensive and harder to do, we'’ll reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we emit and moderate temperature rises."
....is moot unless we accept that China and India will be cowed ashen faced into economic contraction by our bold example of decarbonising the Australian economy.
As is now crystal clear to anybody with eyes to see, we could turn off every power station in Australia permanently and human CO2 emissions will continue to rise globally.
The key reason that so many people reject the climate change message is that those who support the anthropogenic global warming claims support their claims with the absolutely worst case scenarios, which they sell to a compliant media (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
"Do something now or the Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed!"
When it is pointed out that the reef has survived prior periods of global warming and obviously survived and flourished, they then fall back on the apocalyptic defence "this time is much worse because its caused by man!"
People like Tim Flannery, who claimed that due to climate change we would be unlikely to ever see full dams again, are poor communicators, pushing a worst case apocalyptic viewpoint as the norm.
Now, with dams on the east coast full to the brim only a few years later, Flannery looks like a mendacious, alarmist fool, and the climate change message looks even more ridiculous.
Climate change advocates can only claim that the sky is falling so many times, without result, before the rest of the population ceases listening.
That is what is now happening, people are no longer listening.
Let me get this right, we charge high carbon emission users, we then give them tax payers money to pay for their emissions (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot?). They then increase the costs to taxpayers, then the government gives tax money to low income earners. Did we achieve much? Then we scrap some of the solar power incentives. Would we be better of taxing middle to high income earners and get a "budget surplus"?
Or we should promote tree planting solar energy incentives, replace aging coal fired power stations with nuclear.
Research better ways to deal with coal fired emissions.
The dream of Australia lifting the world's poor from poverty on the back of our mining and, in particular, coal and gas exports is a hollow one, at least as far as fossil fuels are concerned (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
So what if GW denialists win the day, and Australia continues to base its economy on fossil fuel, warm in the knowledge that we have hundreds of years supply for us and the developing world.
Because other countries will embrace a low CO2 economy; they will develop cost efficient, non polluting alternatives; and they will reap the social and productivity benefits that accrue therefrom.
Meanwhile, poor old Australia will be stuck with hundreds of years supply of commodities that nobody wants, coal and gas.
Remember the lesson to be learned from the demise of the buggy whip industry, folks.
Or more recently, the lesson from Kodak. They never saw that mobile phones with digital cameras would kill their business within a couple of decades
Forget global warming. We're either part of a greener future or we're not.
And if we're not, then it'll be us asking other countries to put a little something in our begging bowls.
But by then all this generation's denialists will be long dead and buried.
So, not their problem, I guess.
Having a close family relative who was a lifelong Australian Communist who stood for election as such on many occasions and who is now a Green who admitted that concern about global warming was just another way to attack the system, I'm not so sure the motives of many of its advocates are as pure and rational as you suggest (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
The fact that the carbon tax in Australia was sold to the public as a wealth redistribution scheme in which there were more winners than losers, rather than us all making a sacrifice to change the climate, makes it hard to try to claim that climate change has not been leapt upon by the left as a means to implement long cherished policies (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
I too believe the science that CO2 levels are increasing (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
What I am yet to be convinced of is whether science can definitively show that the resulting change in the Earth's temperature will be significant, or detrimental in any way.
Some scientists believe the net affect on the environment may be insignificant, or indeed be positive. If I hold off on my own judgement, does that make my views "extreme"? Will you call me a "denier"?
What I also believe is that if you put a carbon tax on energy, then give out subsidies to those affected, then there is no incentive to use or produce less energy.
If you then restrict the subsidies to only low income earners, and penalise those on high incomes, with no measurable or demonstrable effect on the environment, then I believe the whole scheme does start to resemble some form of socialist/communist wealth redistribution scheme – taking from the rich and doling it back out to the poor.
The current federal government does not care either way about the environment. Their carbon tax is not designed to have any significant effect on the environment – it is solely a method of increasing tax revenues.
If those on the right are truly concerned about making the world a "better place", then the world should be spending money on schemes which will affect people's standard of living, not something which may have an effect in 1000 years time.
End famine, work to provide political and religious freedom, stop the spread of preventable diseases in the third world – these are all problems we could be solving now, rather than focussing on something which we are not sure is even a problem.
The one crucial thing that science does not seem capable of doing is to quantify the effect on the global temperature of the 3 per cent of total CO2 production that humans provide (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6).
Until they can do that, the issue will go round in circles.
I think the climate change deniers are fellow travellers with the evangelical christians and far right reublicans in the US. Deceit and hypocrisy in spades. And similar tactics to Big Tobacco. Shameful indeed (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot?, March 5).
Two things (CLIMATE SPECTATOR: Global warming, a communist plot? March 6):
One, the rate of warming is much slower than it was 20,000 years ago. Little human influence then.
Two, the real intended effect of emissions trading in Australia is a redistribution of wealth to the poor in a cynical attempt to get their votes to get the current Labor government re-elected