The US Presidential campaign and ‘climate change’

Much more than a year will pass before Americans go to the polling places to elect the people who will elect the President, and already the candidates are appearing, some only to find out whether or not it is sensible to go for party endorsement (it is a hugely expensive business), and a few because they believe they will be there at the voting.

I am not one of those who thinks that the Republicans will win if they choose Donald Trump. Almost everything about him turns me right off. His is the hubris that goes with being extraordinarily wealthy, an attribute that gives some the feeling that they can do anything and do it better than nearly everyone. Bill Gates is another example. I’m not sure about Hillary Clinton either, though I’ve no objection at all to a woman’s becoming President. Why would one object?

Enter Carly Fiorina, Republican hopeful. I knew nothing about her at all until I saw a reference on Judith Curry’s website Climate etc, which sent me off to an article in Nation Review about her, particularly with respect to the ‘issue’ of ‘climate change’. Carly Fiorina is not quite 61, was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for several years, and now runs a non-profit organisation. She lost to incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer in the last Senate election in California. Senator Boxer is a noted ‘believer’ in global warming.

In the US ‘climate change’ is one of those issues that captivates the media and the political class but has little appeal in the electorate: it is ranked 17th as ‘most important issue’ to respondents in national opinion polls. As I have argued before, what counts as an ‘issue’ depends very much on the wording of the question. But in the US, as here, ‘climate change’ is much less interesting to the people than it is to those in politics, government and the media.

Ms Fiorina was interviewed on television, and part of the interview (which you can follow yourself if you go to the link) was about her position on ‘climate change’. Hers was an interesting response, and it seemed to me that it was a position that the Abbott Government could pursue in the Australian context. You could summarise it like this: if the scientific consensus is right, then there is also consensus that the US cannot stop global warming by itself. All the regulations that the Obama administration is imposing will make no difference whatever. Why are Americans to make sacrifices in jobs and costs when no one else is? Fiorina has argued that Americans have shown in the past that they are prepared to make sacrifices if the goal is important — but this one is just silly.

Now the ‘warmist’ response, of course, is to say that is precisely why the Paris agreement in December will be so important. But China has already made clear that it will be increasing its emissions until 2030, and only then will (=may) start reining them in. That’s the ‘pact’ that President Obama agreed to not so long ago. Given that, Ms Fiorina’s position seems a strong one to me, and it gets her out of having to talk, yet again, about the 97 per cent consensus rubbish, and the ‘science’ minutiae (is there really a hiatus? etc).

I think she could have added a word or two about both the advantages of a gently warming world, and one in which carbon dioxide levels are rising. But perhaps she thought that would be to enter the science domain too far.

Her position reminded me of one of Professor Garnaut’s memorable bons mots. In June 2011 he spoke about his final report on climate change to the National Press Club, and about how important it was. To somebody who wondered whether or not Australia might be getting ahead of itself in proposing a carbon tax before everyone else had agreed to do so as well, Professor Garnaut dismissed the comment. ‘This is an argument that Australia is a pissant country. Well, I do not accept that Australia is a pissant country.’

At the time I wished I had been in the audience, not that I would have been able to ask a question, so that I could have groaned loudly. ‘Pissant’ is not an Australian coinage, but comes from the name of an evil-smelling ant-hill, and the ant that causes it — ‘pismire’ — and in English a long time ago the word could be applied to a contemptible person. I would have thought that a country like Australia, which thought it could give a moral lead to the rest of the world, at its own expense, was acting rather like a pissant, or at least was having itself well and truly on.

This is what the Nation Review article said, in a similar context, and the US is at least fifteen times larger in population and clout than Australia.

The Left doesn’t seriously dispute the notion that American regulations aren’t going to save the planet, but they justify the demand for American sacrifice by essentially ascribing a mystical power to our national policies — as if our decision to fall on our own sword will so move India and China and the rest of the developing world (which has a lot of fossil fuels left to burn to lift its people out of poverty) that they’ll essentially have their own “come to Jesus” movement in defiance of national interest and centuries of national political culture. “America leads,” they proclaim. “The world laughs,” is the proper response. Nations, as the saying goes, do not have friends, only interests. Our geopolitical competitors will not sacrifice their strategic interests for the sake of combating global warming.

Heaven knows what the Abbott Government will do about the Paris meeting, especially given that its own election day is not much before the American date. Do we have a ‘climate policy’ at all? It is hard to see one. A commenter on the Climate etc blog on Carly Fiorina had a neat little encapsulation of what passes for climate policy in the USA. It goes like this: assume with complete certainty that there is a huge problem, and make symbolic sacrifices but call it a solution. As he goes on to say, it will not be hard to improve on such a policy, which I think characterises not just the US, but virtually all the ‘climate policies’ of the Western world, including the EU.

The ACT Government’s trumpeting of its bid to be 100 per cent free of fossil fuels in 2025 is a brilliant example. Electricity will still come from the grid, and it will still be more than 70 per cent produced from fossil fuels. But the ACT consumers will be paying more for their power so that some wind and solar operators elsewhere will get paid for contributing to the grid — all their efforts, of course, requiring back-up from fossil fuels. And as to cost, a correspondent who has analysed the five-minute data from the Australian Energy Market Operator reports to me that ‘ The ACT has contracted for 20 years for solar from ROYALLA1 at $184/MWh and the first group of wind farms at $92/MWh. NSW wholesale prices are usually in range $30-40/MWh.’

What a world it is that we live in.

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Dasher says:

    The ACT is a perfect example of feels good politics..a bit like the “nuclear free zone” signs outside local jurisdictions in Victoria about 40 years ago, except of course the signs cost nothing by comparison. Yet, apart from a couple of letters to the editor, I have not read a single article questioning this waste of taxpayers money. Funny, the ACT is arguably the most highly educated constituency in the country yet they appear to have no curiosity on this matter. I said this to a very bright young woman on a family occasion and she seems genuinely surprised that I did not wholeheartedly get behind what the government was doing…..I suggested she read more widely and included your blog as a sensible destination. I doubt she took me up on it..too far gone!

  • G van Rijswijk says:

    Maybe climate change policy can be based on a volunteering basis. Those who ‘believe’ can commit to going without hydrocarbon/carbon based energy – and the rest of us can get on with business as usual.

  • David says:

    “I think she could have added a word or two about both the advantages of a gently warming world, and one in which carbon dioxide levels are rising. But perhaps she thought that would be to enter the science domain too far.”

    Well there is no scientific consensus at all, for that point of view. I’s say Ms Fiorina realized she would look a bit silly arguing that. 🙂

  • Margaret says:

    For the sceptics (but maybe they won’t enjoy it – more fun for the believers).

    http://www.theonion.com/article/climate-change-deniers-present-graphic-description-51129

    • Don Aitkin says:

      It seems a piece of hyperbole to me. I don’t know any of these people and the onion is a satirical newsletter…

      • Margaret says:

        I know that The Onion is satirical. The people I’m sure are made up and represent stereotypes. I’d like to see the same satirical representation of the other side also.
        But it shows the unattainable and unacceptable proof that sceptics, (who I think are actually educated deniers) require before they would ever be willing to accept governments acting on ‘climate change’ that is accelerated by man.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          With great respect, it doesn’t show that at all. It shows an exaggerated version. I’m at an airport, but when I get home I’ll search for a piece I wrote on what it would take me to crept the the orthodox. It’s nothing like that stuff.

          • Margaret says:

            Well, okay, I’m sure you’ll come up with the goods. That “stuff” is supposed to be humorous.

    • David says:

      I can see the funny side. 🙂

    • JMO says:

      Hi Margaret

      I was once an alarmist AGWer but then I started to think it through, bringing in my astronomy, physics and history knowledge (and further research). I soon considered the alarmist/catastrophic view came up well short, I now have a more realistic view on this matter and have been called a “denier” even when I clearly said the Earth has been on a warming trend for over 250 years (since the little ice age – the nadir being 1645 -1715), CO2 is a (very mild) “greenhouse gas” and we cannot continue to be dependant on fossil fuel for our energy ad infinitum (they will run out at some point in the distant future).

      For me to revert back, there will have to be proof the Earth has become warmer than both the Medieval Warm Period (MPA -which was warmer than present temperatures) and the Roman Warm Period (RWP-which was warmer than the MPA). I would not wait until it is shown the Earth’s temperature reached parity with the Minoan Warm Period (1000 BC) which was warmer than the RWP),

      I would also have to be confident the temperature data was based on reliable temperature readings, not homogenised and not thermometer readings next to car parks or air-conditiner vents for example

  • David says:

    Don,

    I will share with you a story from my past that may make you smile.

    When I was 15 I went on a school excursion to Port Kembla. It was mid 1970’s. BHP had a professional guide who showed us around, No 5 blast furnace etc. It was great. Then he explained that the Steel works did not make a profit and its operation was subsidized from profits mining in Broken Hill.

    So what would a Year 9 economics student know, but I piped up and asked why BHP did not sell the Steel works. Well you could have heard a pin drop. He glared at me and insisted that “BHP would never sell the Steel works” [quote unquote as they
    say]. He had his head in the sand,…too. 🙂

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