Submission to the Garnaut Enquiry
(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
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
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.