Submission to the Garnaut Enquiry

Peter Walsh
(President, The Lavoisier Group)

I do not believe the Kyoto hypothesis can be reconciled with the recent history of the Earth. When the Romans were growing grapes in Northern England early in the first millennium, and the Vikings were growing cereal crops in Greenland early in the second millennium the Earth must have been substantially warmer than it is now. Those much warmer periods cannot logically be attributed to 'greenhouse gases'.

Temperature sensing within the solar system by NASA has led it to estimate that the temperature on Mars has increased by about 0.5 degrees Celsius during the 20th Century---almost identical to Earth.

Nobody burns fossil fuel on Mars, but the Sun shines---and always has---on both.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assertions that the 'science' of warming is 'settled' are self-serving and false.

Many well-qualified scientists (see Attachment A), believe that temperature changes, up and down, are driven by changes in solar radiation, and that 'Greenhouse' gases have negligible influence on the modest 20th Century warming. Many believe a cooling period will set in within 10 to 15 years.

Australian Government policy is not settled, but seems likely to aim for a 20 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050. The latter figure is unachievable without a massive growth in nuclear power or a reversion to the living stands (and/or population) of the Middle Ages.

The 2020 target might be technically feasible, but to suggest it can be met without a big decline in average income, is self-delusory.

Within the 2020 time frame, nuclear power is unlikely to make a significant contribution. The favoured, or perhaps only, options are carbon trading or a carbon tax. To replace coal with natural gas would be effective, but natural gas is premium fuel and should probably be used for transport fuel.

Carbon trading is the Cargo Cult of the 21st Century. The rent and arbitrage seekers who beat it up would have us believe that we will all be winners. Economic theory tells us that the cost of decarbonising the economy could be discounted somewhat, but only if a perfect market and perfect knowledge prevailed among sellers and buyers. It does not and cannot.

Carbon trading has failed miserably and scandalously in Europe. As with Managed Investment Schemes in Australia the only people who make money will be the shonky promoters.

Planting trees and changing agricultural practices to increase organic carbon in the soil are at best one-off measures. Organic carbon eventually returns to the atmosphere as CO2. To measure and audit such schemes is simply not possible.

A carbon tax is a vastly better option. It is transparent, with low compliance and enforcement costs, and difficult if not impossible to evade.

The demand for electricity and petroleum will be price inelastic. To be effective the tax rate must be high but the extra revenue will allow other taxes to be reduced or abolished.

The Climate Change Review Issues Paper sets out (Box 3.1) adoption opportunities available for agriculture and forestry. The seven examples set out are, I believe, already embraced by most farmers and foresters. One option not available in most States is the use of Genetically Modified Seeds and Cultivars currently banned by superstitious State Governments. The role for and adoption of GM could play a critical role in adaptation if perchance the Kyoto hypothesis is basically correct.

If the Earth moves into a prolonged cooling period around 2020 the Kyoto hypothesis will be thoroughly discredited. But for many decades those with heavy secular religious and/or economic vested interests will be the new 'denialists'. The existence of either carbon trading or carbon taxes would prolong the period of denial and continuing economic damage. I expect a carbon tax would be easier to get rid of than emissions trading.

Lavoisier the Man
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