Does Australia need a ‘climate policy’ at all?

A few days ago I thought I heard an MP or Senator saying, in an exasperated tone, that ‘this means Australia will be without a climate policy!’, as though a climate policy was something that every decent citizen should have, like clean undies. Now that the repeal of the carbon tax has passed the Senate, it is worth having a look at what such a state of ungrace might mean.

The radio news bulletin I heard soon after the bill had passed yesterday included a Labor woman politico’s claiming that ‘Australia will be the laughing stock of the world!’ That too was said in an exasperated tone. I get puzzled by statements of this kind, for Australia plays a tiny place in the thoughts and actions of ‘the world’. Novice Australian travellers learn quickly that there is no Australian news in any of the world’s major papers, or on any nation’s radio or television networks. When I lived and worked in the UK, before the days of the Internet, one needed a quick trip to Australia House in London to find out what had happened, and who had won what. Many, many Australians abroad needed to make such trips.

With respect to policies about ‘climate change’, ‘the world’ is divided into many groups. The UN and its agencies are for carbon dioxide reduction policies, and make a lot of noise and fuss about them. But in the world of 200 or so nation states, ‘climate change’ and global warming are not matters of much moment anywhere, if we can accept what opinion polling tells us. In the developing world, people want cheap energy, and seem uninterested in the debate about carbon dioxide and its impact, if any, on the planet’s average temperature. In the EU there seems to be a growing sense that other things really are more important than fossil fuel emissions reduction.

I’ll leave aside the other bits of the former Labor Government’s ‘climate change’ policies that are still to be dealt with, because it is quite unclear to me how negotiations will progress about them. But let me put forward the proposition that our country has no need whatever of a ‘climate policy’. Discussions about the right one so far have been a great waste of time, energy and money. The reasons are so straightforward that you wonder why the fervently orthodox don’t come to their senses about them at least once a month.

First, no country can have a sensible policy on climate by itself, because climate is not governed by national boundaries. Second, not even the UN can have a sensible policy, because climate is not governed by laws and regulations. Third, we can do something about the effects of weather, which is much more concern to everyone because weather is local, and affects our daily life. Fourth, but we can’t stop weather, or even predict it with any great success, because we lack deep knowledge about the basic components of weather (and climate). Fifth, it may be that we will never possess such knowledge. Sixth, the evidence continues to mount that carbon dioxide is not, after all, the control knob of the planet’s temperature, and if it is not, then the preceding reasons become overwhelming.

So, at least in my opinion, Australia could stand proudly as the first developed country not to have a climate policy. How long would it be before other countries followed? The right answer is that other countries will do what seems sensible to them, and not care very much what Australia does or doesn’t do. Having said that, it also seems to me that some other countries are moving in the same direction, especially in Canada, the UK and the EU. President Obama is going his own way, and keeps on harping on the villainy of CO2, but he cannot get legislation through the Congress, and in any case he is in his second and last term. The odds are not high that he will be followed by a Democratic President of the same frame of mind.

If you feel, nonetheless, that we really need some policies in this area, then we could have one that instructs the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO to concentrate their research in this area on good data about weather (and climate) and not on scary and newsy stories about the Horrendous State of the Australian Climate. We could have more research on efficient energy generation and use. We could have more research on the risks of building houses in areas that are prone to flooding, or plainly exposed to fire danger. We could have a policy on how best to anticipate and prepare for droughts in the inland. Yes, I know I have been saying these things for some time now.

But what I’m sure we don’t need is any kind of ‘climate policy’. Not even Direct Action. It’s good to plant trees, because they are good for the local environment. But we don’t need to plant trees to absorb more carbon dioxide. The biosphere takes up CO2 very happily right now.

Finally, Mr Shorten has vowed that Labor will go into the next elections with an emissions trading scheme policy. I do feel that he will come to regret making such a statement, no matter how much he felt yesterday that he had to make it.

[Update: South Korea has now announced that it is deferring the introduction of its own emissions trading scheme. See<http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/18/another-carbon-tax-domino-falls-south-korea-goes-cold-on-ets/>.]

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Bryan William Leyland says:

    I could not agree more..

  • nofixedaddress says:

    It is interesting that in Australia the CSIRO and BOM are driving the defunding of scientific pursuit.

    Bunch of wankers who cannot even hold a piece of string out the window let alone a moistened finger!

    I think it is time that all education was defunded from the taxpayers teat and let it exist as it once did.

    • Mike O'Ceirin says:

      “It is interesting that in Australia the CSIRO and BOM are driving the defunding of scientific pursuit” Could you expand this statement please?

    • Gus says:

      I don’t know about “defunding,” but I think that more private education in Australia, more private universities especially, would do the country much good. I’d like to see private research institutes too. An example of such an institute is the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, more than 65 years in operation by now, with the yearly revenue of $592 million.

  • Walter Starck says:

    The magnitude, timing and effect of any future climate change are highly uncertain. Trends in temperature, storms, floods, droughts, sea level and polar ice over the past two decades are all well within earlier historical limits. The future economic and technological capability to address climate change are impossible to predict, but are almost certain to be very different and much greater than anything we can now foresee.

    The net effect of a slightly warmer climate and stimulation of plant productivity appear likely to result in more benefit than detriment. Should climate change eventually reach a level of detriment the people of that time will be far better equipped to determine this and deal with it than we are.

    Bequeathing them a crippled economy and corrupted science from trying to employ what to them will be primitive technology to combat something we don’t understand is more an indulgence in our own self-righteousness than it is of any benefit to our descendants.

  • Mike O'Ceirin says:

    Exactly right, the most important emitters (China and India) don’t have any policy of consequence why should we?

    I was overseas visited England, Ireland and Austria. I made a point of looking for mention of Australia and found none until I left Austria for Australia. A small article in a newspaper mentioned the opening of national museum, about 50 mm of column that was it! I think many have a greatly inflated view of their and the nations importance.

    An amusing story in this regard was Marsha Hines signed up to be in “Hair” at Kings Cross, it was not until she arrived that the realisation dawned. She thought the destination was Austria.

    • Gus says:

      The repeal of the Carbon Tax in Australia was covered by an Editorial in The Wall Street Journal. Australia is often mentioned in the context of various Far Eastern affairs and the vagaries of Chinese, Japanese and Korean economies. The disappearance of Flight MH370 put Perth on TV News broadcasts for weeks. A salt water crocodile eying hungrily bathers on Cable Beach in Broome made news too.

  • John Morland says:

    I agree Don, to paraphrase an old Irish maxim; if a half-way decent “climate policy” was our destination a carbon tax imposing on ourselves up to 6 times the European market price was not the place to start.

    Had the Greens voted for the original Rudd ETS in 2009, we would have now an established ETS scheme charging about $6 to $8 a tonne- a manageable impost . Labor would still be in power and the Greens still relevant in the Senate. To demonstrate their utter political stupidity, they missed their second chance by rejecting the Rudd-Turnbull ETS.

    But no, they had to sacrifice a perceived good in pursuit for their perfection, and now they have nothing except another big fight ahead of them. They paid the price for their lack of political vision.

    What the Green fairies and climate alarmists conveniently forget is out of the 150 MHRs currently in Parliament, 149 of them campaigned for the repeal of the carbon tax during the 2013 election campaign, that is 99.33%. The odd one out was Adam Brandt – the current Green MHR still defending the indefensible.

    It’s crystal clear – the people wanted the tax buried.

  • GoWest says:

    Australia is a net carbon sink, the rest of the world should pay us for their emissions not vise-versa.
    As far as global warming is concerned, the only climate change we will get is global cooling for the next decade. By the time we realise it will be too late to curse the greens for increasing our power costs.
    Never get between a politician and a tax – greedy revenuers the lot of them.

  • DaveW says:

    In answer to the title of your post, no we do not need a climate change policy. I’ve always thought that the belief that we could control the future climate of the earth was the biggest absurdity in the entire CAGW pantheon. Hubris comes to mind, as does the big lie. The concept that a trace gas is the heat control knob of the planet and that Australia’s emissions turn the knob is really so grandiose that it defies comparison to anything except religion.

    Perhaps, though, we do need to have a policy on separating the CAGW religion from education, research and media supported by tax dollars.

  • Dasher says:

    If and until the world moves…which may force us to comply with some form of international effort on emissions reduction…I think we just continue improving our environment with sensible sustainable initiatives that have got us a long way in the last fifty years of my life. I remember our trips to Melbourne in the 60’s. As the one who had to clean the car after wards I recall the greasy grime that was deposited on the roof and bonnet ..not any more. The carbon tax fiasco was utterly futile in global terms and I suspect the present euro ETS is the same..not to forget that it is manipulated by bureaucrats and politicians and riven with corruption. Precautionary principle? Well if we (the world) buy our insurance we should expect a reduction the world temperature I see no evidence of this…massive waste? better that we look for better solutions with nuclear in out hip pocket if we need to.

    • Gus says:

      The World cannot force Australia to do anything. All international agreements are voluntary. It is also worth perusing the so called Rio Principles, which state, amongst other things, that “States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies…”

      • Dasher says:

        Agree ..loose wording, but we may be placed in a situation where it is very difficult to resist complying with a grouping…whether or not the action makes sense to us. I think we need a proverbial Bex and a good lie down….spending these massive sums of money on initiatives that appear to no chance in arresting global warming seems barking mad to me.

  • Gus says:

    We have celebrated Abbott’s (if in doubt about spelling just double every consonant as in Mississippi) and Australia’s achievement here in the frozen expanse of the Midwest (one of the coldest summers on record so far) with a bottle of pink Moscato Champagne. It’s the latest in the US wine fashion. Goes well with nearly everything, but best just by itself or with baked Brie!
    There is much to be said for Jesuit education, after all!
    And yes, Australia needs “climate policy” like She needs “clouds, winds and ocean currents policy.” God willing, this repeal of Carbon Tax will become enviro-fascist Stalingrad. About time, too.
    The world is watching, yes, and with considerable sympathy.

  • […] and there is the problem that the ACT can’t do anything about its climate (see my last piece). But I guess that doesn’t matter. The point apparently is to be seen to be trying to do […]

  • PeterE says:

    Very well put. I agree, especially about the need for policies that anticipate the next round of bushfires, floods and the like.

  • […] Many sceptics apparently think that we have won the scientific argument, and that our next objective should be the dismantling of climate policies and climate research. But they are wrong. We have not won the scientific argument and we won’t, if we continue down the current path of suggesting that we can’t forecast weather or climate. This was a point often made at the conference and made again just last week by Jo Nova quoting Don Aitkin. […]

  • […] In a recent post I gave several reasons to explain why having a ‘climate policy’ was a waste of time, energy and money for any country. In part I said this ‘…Fourth, but we can’t stop weather, or even predict it with any great success, because we lack deep knowledge about the basic components of weather (and climate). Fifth, it may be that we will never possess such knowledge…’ JoNova built one of her posts around this one of mine, which made me feel most honoured, since her website is on my Blogroll. […]

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