Briefing Note: Environmental Policy

Des Moore

24 August 2015

Having announced a target for reducing emissions by 26 per cent by 2030, is it feasible for the Abbott government to publish a critique of the reductions approach being adopted by some countries? As it appears that the Paris talks will involve a "pledge and review" that will be highly unlikely to involve legally binding commitments by (at least) major developing countries, there would seem no reason to forego publishing a critical review and to indicate that Australia will not adopt policies that would reduce potential economic growth (now acknowledged by the one-eyed Climate Change Authority under former Treasury Head Bernie Fraser) until major emitters have all agreed to substantive reductions.

Such an approach would allow action to be attempted to prevent the anti-coal and other environment groups which are acting to reduce economic growth. That should involve a more comprehensive approach than the very weak present proposal by Brandis designed to ensure that such groups could not initiate legal action to delay or stop a project unless they have a direct interest in the environment close to a proposed project such as the Adani coal. In short, the test for a project should include an assessment of whether it has favourable implications for economic growth. Even if the government was unable to legislate this, an announcement that it should be a criterion would draw attention to the need to at least qualify environmental assessments.

As to any critique, this should be undertaken by the departments of Prime Minister, Treasury and Environment ie not by the latter alone. I note here that there is increasing evidence that there is little connection between increased emissions of CO2 and increased temperatures. A recent article in Science by a lead author of IPCC reports (Kevin Trenberth) has acknowledged that since 1910 there have been two lengthy periods ("hiatuses") when temperatures have not risen despite increasing emissions (this is consistent with the analyses I have published with the assistance of Dr Tom Quirk). Trenberth makes highly unconvincing attempts to explain the disconnection which I cannot explore here, but in which prominent sceptic of the dangerous warming thesis, Dr Richard Lindzen, has taken an interest (in any review by PM&C, Treasury and Environment Dr Lindzen should be consulted).

I have previously referred to doubts about the accuracy of temperatures published both here and overseas. Such doubts are increased by the claim by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that July temperatures were the warmest in 136 years. This has attracted world-wide media coverage. However, analysis by William Kininmonth (incorporated in a letter sent to The Australian) suggests that this appears to be based on recent revisions to NOAA's temperature data which are inconsistent with data derived independently from satellite records. The suspicion must be that institutions which support the dangerous warming thesis are themselves warming up for Paris. NOAA will have in mind the need to provide Obama with supporting analysis.

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