Keeping politicians away from climate change

Gareth Renowden has an interesting, if biased, assessment of ACT’s view of climate change. ACT is presenting a rather mixed message, with a carbon tax in their official policy but the ACT MPs individually appear to disbelieve climate change, so it is hard to know where they stand.

Gareth certainly has some interesting stuff to say:

“Time for Hide and the ACT party to front up. Do they accept the IPCC report in full? If they do not, why not? I assume that if ACT is adopting the latter position that they have conducted a proper review of the evidence. If they have, I’d like to see it. And if they haven’t then they should shut up. Climate change is too serious an issue to leave to the political whims of parliamentary windbags. From any party.”

Now I highly doubt ACT have conducted a “proper review of the evidence”. For that matter, I highly doubt the Greens have – as they seem to disregard the opinions of plenty of scientists on this issue as “deniers”. Nor has The Family Party – we have neither the expertise nor the resources to do so. And although neither Labour or National will have conducted such a review, they may each have conducted research into which position would gain them most votes.

I fully agree that “Climate change is too serious an issue to leave to the political whims of parliamentary windbags. From any party.” This is a massive issue – if it is true it is the biggest issue affecting the world today. If it is false it is the biggest misconception (scam?) affecting the world today. We can’t trust parliament to make the correct judgement on such a massive issue.

This is why The Family Party, alone among all the political parties, is proposing to put this issue to a Royal Commission of Enquiry. We need to know:

  • Whether humans are causing global warming
  • If we are, what we should do about it

There is a lot of controversy around the accuracy of the IPCC reports on climate change. We do not know whether we can trust these reports or not, so need an independent review that takes into account both the IPCC line and the views of those disputing this position, and can tell us whether we should use the IPCC reports when designing policy.

Then, if humans are causing climate change, we need to know what we should be doing about it. Should we be reducing emissions to prevent it, or is this futile? Should we be adapting to it? Should we be doing a bit of both? What are the costs and benefits associated with each measure?

These are massive issues. Politicians do not have the expertise to sort this out. They must be worked out by scientists, economists and other experts.

If you want sensible policies on climate change, based on science rather than hype, only The Family Party is promising this.

7 Responses to “Keeping politicians away from climate change”

  1. Mike Perkins Says:

    An interesting and honest appraisal of the situation. Obviously we don’t elect politicians because of their expertise (or lack of it) in any particular scientific discipline but as representatives of the people.
    When their is need to develop policy on a technical issue, politicians need to rely on other “experts” to advise them. Frequently those other “experts” are paid employees of a government department which , it is assumed, does have that expertise. Such trust is frequently misplaced.
    With respect to “climate change” or “global warming” the politicians are relying to a great extent on the IPCC Report as we all know.
    It is therefore important to understand EXACTLY what the report concludes and how it arrived at that conclusion.
    The IPCC Committee was established by the UN.
    It’s terms of reference (simplified here) were to assess ALL the information available on this issue, for, against and “sitting on the fence” (so to speak)
    This meant assessing all the evidence (papers written on the topic and those closely related), comment on the value of that information from the point of scientific discipline ( ie peer-reviewed papers held more credibility that non peer-reviewed etc.) and establish the committee’s findings.
    Their conclusion in a nutshell was very simple. That there is a 90 % probability that human activity is creating or contributing to global warming via a greenhouse effect and that global warming is resulting in climate change.
    At NO time have they come out and stated (categorically) that human activity IS causing climate change.
    Regrettably, from a strict scientific standpoint, it is impossible to prove categorically one way or the other.
    To do so would require the establishing of one or more experiments on a global scale, conducted under strict scientific discipline, that created artificial atmospheres, varying the “greenhouse gas” concentrations and observing over a very prolonged time scale the effects on climate.
    It’s a lot like our legal system bringing down a conviction based on circumstantial evidence.
    The IPCC has done exactly what you would have a Royal Commission do.BUT the make-up of that committee drew on the resources (scientific) of very many countries. You make the statement that The Family Party would not have the resources nor the expertise but perhaps you fail to realise that New Zealand as a country does not either. Whereabouts in New Zealand would you draw on to staff your proposed Committee? The Ministry of the Environment? The Environmental Risk Management Authority ? OSH? Who? The Met Service maybe?
    Accept therefore that the IPCC is PROBABLY right. So what can we do you ask. The answer to that is relatively simple (getting people to accept the fact is not so simple!)
    So called greenhouse gases are a form of pollution in much the same way as excessive use of chemicals in agriculture is and it is easy to find many other examples of how mankind (including us here in “clean, green New Zealand) have contributed to polluting planet Earth and are continuing to do so on an ever increasing scale.
    As such, any policy that aims at genuine pollution reduction (and I don’t include “pollution trading ” in that category, is heading in the right direction. Vast improvements can be achieved in that direction without calling on so-called “experts” to advise. I am certain there are many supporters of your party that can contribute in this direction.
    As a starter and as you acknowledge, we have to stop treating important issues as political footballs.

  2. Mr Dennis Says:

    Thankyou for that detailed comment. The IPCC has done an enormous amount of work, and draws on expertise we won’t have access to. The Commission we are seeking does not need to duplicate or upstage this. However, there are many people with grave concerns about the accuracy of the IPCC reports, with many claims that the IPCC is overly politicised and rejects views that contradict global warming. We have no idea whether these concerns are justified or not. The Commission would check out these objections, work out if there is any substance in them, and decide whether we can trust the IPCC reports or not. If they conclude we can, then fine. We don’t have to duplicate the IPCC.

    Then if it found the IPCC was correct the Commission would work out a plan for how we should deal with global warming, and do a cost-benefit analysis of various strategies for emissions reductions vs adaptation for NZ.

    I agree that pollution reduction is good environmentally and often economically (I don’t count pollution trading either!). So renewable electricity, efficient transport etc may be good regardless of global warming. But large emissions reductions will cost a lot of money, and we need to know whether this money would be better spent elsewhere. If the reductions would not stop global warming, and we have to deal with the consequences anyway, we may be better to invest in adaptation. This will be investigated by the Commission.

    Examples of concerns with the IPCC process:
    http://www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st308/
    http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results.html?artId=1069

  3. Sam Says:

    I asked Rodney Hide about a carbon tax – they oppose it but see it as a better option than an ETS. It was more I think a suggestion to the Government and the National Party than anything. After their voiciferous campaign against such a tax (Gerry Eckhoff and the fart tax), I very much doubt they want any sort of carbon tax/ETS!

  4. Mr Dennis Says:

    Good to hear that Sam, but a carbon tax is part of their official policy. If they are truly opposed to a carbon tax (as I have no doubt they are if they believe humans aren’t warming the planet) why have they put one in their policy? Isn’t this rather deceptive, having a policy they never intend to implement?

    The Family Party is very clear where we stand on this in our policy.
    http://www.familyparty.org.nz/policy/environment

    Official ACT policy is here:
    http://www.act.org.nz/files/pledge/20pointplan.pdf

  5. MIke Perkins Says:

    I agree with much of what you stand for and as I stated previously your original comments are well thought out and rational whereas policies based on ET Schemes or Carbon Taxes are politically motivated and not rational.
    However, I still maintain that deep down you are looking for some “fairy godmother” to tell us that man induced climate change is a myth.
    I agree whole heartedly with the so-called skeptics. And I sympathise with their viewpoint. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to show that climate change can have and has in the past, natural causes.The case for will never be proven categorically but on the other hand, nor will the case against as both parties rely solely on circumstantial evidence.
    As I stated previously, the best findings of 2000 eminent scientists from around the world concluded that the PROBABILITY ( bit more emphatic than possibility) was 90% in favour of human induced climate change. But this conclusion was not unanimous. Many of those 2000 disagreed with the findings.
    Then along came the Stern Report. Did that not look at the cost-benefit analysis?
    The (supposed) cause of climate change is greenhouse gases (aka atmospheric pollution.)
    So, as I suggest in my other comment this morning re-ET Schemes, lets just forget about man-induced climate change which may or may not be a hoax. Lets just concentrate on atmospheric pollution.
    I am a retired chemical engineer who lived in London during the war and immediately after for many years . I remember vividly experiencing the London Smogs. No one would deny that these had an adverse effect on human health. Severe adverse effect.
    The cause? Atmospheric man-made pollution . More specifically the burning of carbon based fuel (coal) in open fireplaces predominantly. The cure? ban the practice. Was it popular? Definitely not and it caused considerable hardship for a while.
    In Beijing ( I use the example as we were all very familiar with this a few weeks back) the pollution (atmospheric) was putting the Games at risk and many athletes worldwide were (rightly) concerned about the potential adverse health effects. Where was the pollution coming from ? Burning carbon based fuels, transport fuels and industry.How did they deal with the problem? Shut down the heavily polluting industries and halved the number of private vehicles on the streets. (Be interesting to see what they do after the Para Olympic Games when the eyes of the world are not so focused on them) Was it popular? Certainly not among many motorists. Was it effective. Undoubtedly yes.
    Many cities in the world including here in New Zealand are suffering adverse health effects from atmospheric pollution from burning carbon based fuels. Today in this respect it is transport fuels that have replaced the London coal. A recent Health Department report came out on this very fact.
    The point I am making is simple.
    Establish policies that deal effectively to reduce pollution.
    In the meantime, DON”T get hooked into the argument that man-induced global warming is real or a hoax. It’s an argument that neither side can win. It’s a distraction and while we are awaiting a winner, pollution is getting worse.
    If man-made atmospheric pollution is causing climate change and we deal to man-made pollution, then we are killing two birds with one stone.
    If it’s not, we are still ahead in terms of improved health (I could add a whole heap of other benefits both social and financial)
    Not to mention the fact that you never answered my question. Who in New Zealand do you feel is competent to participate in your proposed Royal Commission and just what qualifications and expertise would you expect from them?

  6. Mr Dennis Says:

    To answer your question, there are plenty of people in NZ with experience in climate science who could participate in the Commission. For example, NIWA has expertise in this area, generally pushing the IPCC line. The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition has a number of well qualified scientists pushing the opposite angle, who would probably jump at the chance to get involved. And if we still cannot find enough expertise within NZ, it would still be well worth the investment to bring in people from overseas, considering climate policies are so expensive it is worth investing in this expertise.

    We’re not waiting for some fairy godmother. It really doesn’t bother me whether humans are causing climate change or not – either way the best policy is to move to cleaner technology, and not to pursue either Kyoto or emissions trading schemes. But I do want to know the facts so we can be sure we have policy correct.

    I agree that we should be tackling air pollution, and we have not yet addressed this area in policy. Generally in NZ this is dealt with at a local government level at present. I am glad to hear your expertise in this area, and thank you for your explanation of the history of this issue in London. But this is a separate issue to carbon emissions. Certainly if we stop using fossil fuel we can solve both problems. But it is possible to reduce air pollution from carbon fuel use too, and you may well be more familiar with such technology (catalytic converters, scrubbers, efficient logburners or pellet fires etc) than I am.

    I am particularly keen on electric vehicles (NOT hybrids) for short-range transportation, such as in cities. These save money, reduce air pollution, and reduce carbon emissions. Considering the technology is so old it is strange that they are not more readily available, but I expect availability to increase as fuel prices remain high.

  7. StephenR Says:

    Well, there is always the work of Naomi Oreskes, if all the other work isn’t enough…she did a rather large survey of journal articles on the ‘scientific consensus’ of AGW:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Oreskes
    (‘Science and society essay’)

    Pretty comprehensive. What’ve the NZCSC done?


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