Greenhouse, Sustainability and Industry:
An Industry View
Some weeks ago, aware that the parties to the UN Framework
Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), would be meeting at The Hague
at this time, Professor Nicklin asked me to present "an industry
view" on "Greenhouse, Sustainability and Industry".
The first point to be made is that there are many industry
views, and as the debate on greenhouse has evolved since the mid-1980s,
companies have changed positions, and some eminent people, including
scientists, have done likewise. Australia has a strategic position
in this debate because we are the world's largest coal exporter,
and our coal-based electricity is extremely competitive by world
standards. At the same time Australia is home to a large number
of companies that are headquartered in Europe or in North America
and these companies tend to reflect the view from head-quarters
rather than from an Australian perspective.
A conversation which took place in October 1997 had a profound
impact on me and I would like to share it with you. My interlocutor
was the chief executive of a very large resources-based corporation.
We had been discussing issues very similar to the issues we are
discussing today and with a degree of intensity that was the consequence
of strongly differing views. Thinking that I had not really understood
his position, and desperately trying to get his point across,
"Hugh, don't you understand? My organisation is run by
Greenpeace today, and it is my job to ensure that Greenpeace is
running yours tomorrow."
Now I am a lawyer by training. I'm not an engineer or a scientist,
but I've spent my working life with engineers and scientists,
and after a while you acquire a feel for scientific integrity
and technological authority.
In following the greenhouse debate with growing concern over
the past ten years or so I have come to the view that there are
very few people in the world who really know this topic in its
full breadth and depth. And I find the repeated assertion about
the two and half thousand scientists who are telling us to sign
onto the Kyoto pledge, and that we must inquire no further, an
extraordinary proposition. That is a matter to which I will return.
As I said, I'm a lawyer by training, and fundamental to the
law, when a matter is put to trial, is the distinction between
the criminal law, where a conviction should be handed down only
when it is ascertained "beyond all reasonable doubt";
and the civil law, where judgment is based "on the balance
There is a world of difference between these two standards
of proof, and we have inherited this distinction because a criminal
conviction carries not only serious penalties, but more importantly,
loss of reputation.
So when we consider the arguments concerning global climate
change and the programme of de-carbonisation that is urged upon
us, the consequences which will follow if we get this matter wrong
are so profound, that we can very reasonably ask why proof beyond
all reasonable doubt should not be required.
The argument that to wait for proof beyond reasonable doubt
may leave it too late to save mankind, is an evasion of responsibility.
If that principle were incorporated into our criminal law a large
proportion of our population would be incarcerated because there
were arguable grounds to fear for the safety of our persons and
property if they were left to run free.
The precautionary principle is not used in criminal trials.
I am putting forward a view on Kyoto from industry. There is
no agreement within industry on these issues so there is no "industry
view". The industry in which I have spent my working life,
the mining industry, has been at the centre of environmental debates
for at least twenty years. Mining does have a big impact on those
areas where an economic ore-body is found and subsequently developed.
But the areas of land in which we are involved are minuscule compared
with the cities we live in, and the roads we drive on. But we
are at the centre of community interest in what we do. We accept
that. If the nation at large does not wish to have a mining industry
in its country then that view will prevail. There's no doubt about
My own company is committed to the highest environmental standards.
We are committed to transparency; we have external review; and
we have been recognised for our public reporting in this field.
We are active in industry bodies, at home and abroad, in which
improvement in environmental performance, industry stewardship
if you like, is the primary focus of activity.
So asking some basic questions about the Kyoto Protocol, and
expressing deep concerns about the consequences of Kyoto for Australia,
does not imply any resiling from the best environmental standards
in our operations, or in the design of any new project we might
That is the preamble. Now to my topic, which contains three
key words. "Greenhouse", "sustainability"
and "industry". Two of those words are well-defined
and I think widely understood.
"Greenhouse" is the word used to describe a scientific
hypothesis, first proposed by Arrhenius more than a century ago,
in which the differential properties of water vapour and CO2 with respect to infra-red and ultra-violet
radiation lead, so it is argued, to heat entrapment by the atmosphere,
and thus to an increase in the earth's temperature.
"Industry" is a word usually associated with smoke-stacks
and production lines. However banking, insurance and agriculture,
for example, have long been accepted as industries by industrial
relations experts, amongst others, so we can assume a much wider
definition than would have been accepted a century ago.
"Sustainability" however, is a much more contentious
word. Some have labelled it a "humpty-dumpty" word,
suggesting that it means whatever you want it to mean. But there
are some examples of unsustainability in Australian industry which,
in my view, cannot be contested, and I will focus on them subsequently.
The word "sustainability" came into prominence with
the Brundtland Report of 1987 "Our Common Future", and
its emphasis on "sustainable development". Energy production
and consumption was a major theme of that report, and the Brundtland
authors proclaimed the desirability of a world with a low-energy
future, in which the developed world halves its per capita energy
consumption and the developing world increases its per capita
energy consumption by a mere 30 per cent. They wrote that:
"fundamental political and institutional shifts are required
to restructure investment potential in order to move along these
lower, more energy-efficient paths."
It is, however, impossible to conceive of people living in
a modern, industrial society without consuming energy at the levels
now characteristic of countries such as Australia. Modernity and
the use of energy are so inextricably linked together that going
back to using whale oil for lighting, oxen for ploughing, horses
attached to a tread-mill for motor power, canals and barges for
transporting goods and sailing ships for international travel
and trade, is simply not an option. Even a proposal that we should
forego the means of heating and cooling our houses which very
many Australians now enjoy, is not likely to win popular support.
And what is true for Australians is true for other peoples.
Thus the combination of world population growth, and demand around
the globe for a quality of life similar to that which we take
for granted in Australia, means therefore, that global primary
energy consumption will, unless there is some unanticipated global
upheaval or catastrophe, increase markedly during the next half
So the Brundtland proposal to reduce energy consumption in
the developed world to half its current level is indeed a revolutionary
The primary reason which was advanced by the Brundtland authors
to justify such an upheaval was:
* the serious probability of climate change generated by the
'greenhouse effect' of gases emitted to the atmosphere, the most
important of which is CO2 produced from
the combustion of fossil fuels;
The Brundtland Report came out in 1987, before the unusually
hot and cyclonic North American summer of 1988, when James Hansen
lit the greenhouse fuse at a Senate Committee hearing chaired
by the then Senator Al Gore. That unseasonal North American summer
turned greenhouse from a barely discernible issue, into a mainstream
issue in American politics.
On the back of that hot summer, and the momentum which the
Environmentalist movement sustained thereafter, President Bush
eventually decided, in 1992, to go to Rio, and the US Senate ratified
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC). The Parties
to the UNFCCC subsequently adopted the draft of the Kyoto Protocol
in Dec 1997. Prior to Kyoto, in August 1997, the US Senate voted
95--0, disavowing the proposed protocol. Two caveats were adopted
in that resolution. The first was no economic detriment to the
US. The second was the full participation of developing countries
in any regime of de-carbonisation.
Since the Rio Earth summit of 1992, the ratification of the
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the agreement
on the text of the Kyoto Protocol, in December 1997, the debate
about greenhouse science, global warming and the de-carbonisation
of our economy, has been confined to a comparatively small segment
of the Australian people.
But within that small circle there are strong views. On the
one hand there are those who are convinced, some of them passionately
convinced, that greenhouse is a very serious problem, a planet-threatening
problem, and those on the other hand who fear that the proposed
remedy is far worse than the disease (if there is in fact any
illness at all). These people often argue that the time and money
spent on greenhouse is detracting attention and energy from real
and urgent environmental and social problems. In between, as in
every such occasion, there are many involved in the debate who
are there for the ride. Despite the comparatively small numbers
of people that have been involved, a lot of money has been spent
and continues to be spent.
The budget for the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) for the
current financial year is $230 millions. The Minister for the
Environment, Senator Robert Hill, said in Parliament on 9 May
"The Australian Greenhouse Office is the world's only
national greenhouse-dedicated agency, established and funded
by the Australian Government to help achieve Australia's commitments
under the Kyoto Protocol. The Government has provided almost
$1 billion over four years---the largest amount of funding per
capita in the world".
The CSIRO's budget on climate and atmospheric research is $27
These are large sums and the politics of greenhouse have become
intense and at times acrimonious. This should not surprise anyone.
The stakes are very high.
Since September 2000, the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee
on Treaties (JSCOT) has been conducting an Inquiry into the Kyoto
Protocol. This is the first real opportunity which people outside
the executive arms of government have had, using the formal processes
of the Parliament, to debate the ambitions of the Kyoto protagonists,
and the instruments and the economic, political and trade consequences
of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Hansard record of the Inquiry makes for fascinating reading.
It is available on www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/jsct
and I commend it to every student of greenhouse, greenhouse politics
and of the Kyoto Protocol.
It is widely understood that there are two forms of environmentalism.
Geoffrey Blainey calls them "dark green" and "light
green". The Dark Greens regard men and women as akin to very
large rabbits, with innate tendencies to destroy the planet on
which we live, and which require massive predation or culling
if the earth is to be saved. I cite two quotations which articulate
this Dark Green position.
David Graber, a research biologist with the US National Park
Service, reviewed Bill McKibben's best selling "The End of
Nature" and concluded thus,:-
"Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are
not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social
scientists who remind me that people are part of nature but it
isn't true. Somewhere along the line---at a about a billion years
ago, maybe half that---we quit the contract and became a cancer.
We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It
is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to
end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third world
its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo
Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope
for the right virus to come along."
In similar vein, William Aikin, a contributor to a popular
textbook entitled "Earthbound: Introductory Readings in Environmental
"Massive human diebacks would be good. It is our duty
to cause them. It is our species' duty, relative to the whole,
to eliminate 90 per cent of our numbers."
I do not belong to that school of thought.
The Light Greens, whom I like to think of as the "good
gardener" environmentalists, are those who cheerfully accept
an obligation of stewardship, and who seek to leave the world,
or at least his particular patch, in a better condition than when
he first began his career as a steward. I would certainly like
to be regarded as belonging to this latter school of thought,
and I think it is fair comment to say that the Australian mining
industry, at least from Essington Lewis on, has thought of itself
in this camp.
The good gardener environmentalist is interested in results.
In his contemporary Australian manifestation, he wants to see
the salinity problems of the Murray Darling Basin solved. This
is an example of unsustainability which needs to be addressed,
and addressed seriously. But it cannot be addressed regardless
of cost. And it is when we consider costs that we have to move
into the political realm. The Australian people, as a whole, will
have to support the expenditures that are required, and support
them without complaint.
Every day we see in the press demands for increased government
expenditure in this or that field of social need or human endeavour.
The number of claimants increases inexorably, but governments
have to find a politically acceptable balance between the demands
of the claimants and the resilience of the taxpayer.
The first priority of any government must be the defence of
the realm and its continuing territorial integrity. In that context
I think we have to accept that the events in East Timor and in
other parts of the South West Pacific in the last two years have
changed our understanding of our situation in this part of the
world. The most important thing we need to remember about East
Timor was that the US was not prepared to send any, repeat any,
troops. We cannot predict what the future holds for our region.
Defence expenditures will have to be increased, and probably significantly
The issue of defence and the purposes of defence expenditures,
leads directly to Australia's continuing sovereignty and the impact
which Kyoto will have on our sovereignty. Under discussion in
The Hague this week are the words which explain and define "compliance",
"enforcement", and "facilitation". These are
the terms in the Kyoto Protocol which deal with the problems which
will arise if and when those countries which have promised to
meet CO2 emission targets, fail to do so.
Australia has already exceeded the 108 per cent target we accepted
at Kyoto. To bring these concepts, "compliance", "enforcement"
and "facilitation" into reality will require an international
police power, which will necessarily intrude into our economic
and social life in ever increasing detail.
In my view, few countries of the world are prepared for this.
To persuade Australians to accept such a commitment will require
a capacity for political persuasiveness that we have not observed
in our history to date.
A nation with a strong economy, an economy which is growing,
which is efficient and competitive, is a nation which is capable
of undertaking important social and political commitments, both
domestically and internationally. Conversely, poor performance,
at least in the corporate world, leads to takeovers and change
In economic terms we have done well since the Hawke Government,
with the support of the Peacock and then Howard-led Oppositions,
began the process of economic reform of the 1980s. But we are
going to have to keep moving strongly towards better performance.
And it is in this context that I find the proposals set out in
the AGO documents for a carbon tax regime, with the implicit recognition
or explicit acknowledgment that,
one, billions of dollars worth of our industrial capital stock
will become worthless;
two, the creation of many billions of dollars worth of permits
to emit CO2, will divert investment and
energy into projects that would otherwise be regarded as dubious;
three, the initial minimum of $12 billions per annum in carbon
tax receipts which the AGO has projected could be used, at least
in part, for retraining and re-adjustment programmes; and
four, the long cherished objective to add value to the natural
resources which are a major part of our national inheritance,
is to be cheerfully abandoned;
as an adventure in social engineering which is unlikely to
enable a government to stay in office.
On the science of greenhouse I am well aware that the CSIRO
and the Met. Bureau are on side of the argument and the "sceptics",
to use a polite and rather condescending word, such as Professor
Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at MIT, are on the other.
We are laymen in the unenviable situation where a decision is
being forced on us, and our role is that of a jury, having to
make a decision in a criminal trial, but at the same time under
great pressure from the prosecution to reach a verdict, immediately.
Not everyone will concede that the economic consequences of
Kyoto for Australia are as horrendous as I have maintained. Indeed
there are many Kyoto enthusiasts who say that Kyoto will be costless.
But there are some points on which there is no disagreement, and
one such matter was ventilated on the ABC's 7:30 Report on Monday,
13 November last. At the conclusion of a one-sided presentation
of the issues, Dr Graham Pearman, Head of the CSIRO Division of
Atmospheric Research, said, and I quote:
"The reality of the Protocol as it is at the moment is
that even if all of the nations were able to achieve those targets
it would hardly make any difference."
Dr Pearman was referring to CO2 concentrations
and their impact on global climate
In support of Dr Pearman, I can also quote Professor Martin
Parry, director of the Jackson Environment Institute at the University
of East Anglia, and a leading figure in the IPCC reporting processes.
On the ABC's Late Line Live on 8 November last, Professor Parry,
in commenting on the negligible impact which the Kyoto targets
would have on climate change, stated
"To take a journey of a thousand miles one must begin
with a first step."
He added that the Kyoto commitments might be but a "tenth
of the whole step that needs to be made."
The 108 per cent target is, therefore, merely the first step
in de-carbonisation. The Kyoto protagonists therefore seek much
more than 108 per cent. They seek the wholesale de-carbonisation
of the Australian economy. A 60 per cent reduction in current
CO2 emissions is often cited as required
for "climate stability".
"Business-as-usual" (BAU) predictions indicate Australian
CO2 emissions by 2010 will be at least
145 percent of 1990 levels. The AGO's first estimate of the carbon
tax required to achieve the 108 per cent target, instead of the
145% BAU outcome, was $30 per tonne of CO2
emitted. The Monash econometric modellers commissioned by the
Allen Group came up with $44 as their lowest estimate. To translate
the CO2 tax to a carbon tax requires multiplying
by 44/12, ie 3.67. Taking the AGO $30 figure, that in turn translates
into a tax on Latrobe Valley brown coal of approximately $25 per
tonne depending on the moisture content, and a tax of approx $75
per tonne of Queensland coal depending on the ash content.
These are huge imposts. The cost of brown coal in the slot
bunkers in the Latrobe Valley power stations is, I am told, about
$2 per tonne. Twenty five dollars on top of two dollars will certainly
displace the Latrobe Valley Power Stations from their place at
the bottom of the cost curve. (The comments in The Report of the
Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and
Arts References Committee entitled "The Heat Is On: Australia's
Greenhouse Future" are noteworthy in this context. See appendix
The costs of coal-based electricity in Eastern Australia are
typically between $25 and $40 per MWhr. The cost of so-called
renewable electricity, wood-chip fired boilers, wind-mills, and
so on, is in the region of $90 to $140 per MWhr. A carbon-dioxide
tax at $30 or more would bring windmills into competition with
coal-based electricity. At the same time it would destroy one
of Australia's most important sources of international comparative
advantage---low-cost electricity based on coal. It is noteworthy
that nuclear electricity which is more expensive in Australia
than coal, but much less expensive than windmills, hardly ever
gets consideration in these debates. The European Energy Minister,
Loyola De Palacio, speaking at COP VI at The Hague on 15 November,
did insist that nuclear power had to be part of the Kyoto outcomes,
a stance immediately rejected by US Vice President Al Gore.
Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal. We can produce
electricity here at prices which are at the bottom of the international
cost-curve. And that imposes upon us a stewardship obligation.
Other people want to buy the goods and commodities which we can
produce more cheaply than anywhere else, and for Australia to
forsake coal and turn to windmills, for example, is to turn our
back on the rest of the world.
To meet the Kyoto target, the 108 percent emission goal, means
transforming the Australian economy into a high-cost energy economy.
The industries which have played the major export role for more
than a century, mining and agriculture, will either vanish, or
will survive only because the Australian dollar has sunk to unprecedented
depths. And this outcome, it is freely admitted, will have no
impact whatsoever, even if greenhouse theory is tenable, on temperatures
or climate or anything at all connected to the weather. And the
108 percent target is but the first step!
An Australia in which our energy costs are to be tripled or
quadrupled is an Australia which will not be able to grow, either
in population or in prosperity.
I cannot conceive of an Australia which is able to significantly
increase its defence expenditure (much of this expenditure consumed
in buying sophisticated platforms and weaponry from overseas);
an Australia able to spend, cheerfully, many billions of dollars
in solving the salinity problems of the Murray-Darling Basin and
parts of WA; an Australia able to project abroad a confidence
in our future as a rapidly-growing country with a dynamic economy;
but which is, at the same time, embarked on a transformation of
our economy from one based on abundant, low-cost energy, to an
economy driven by windmills or their equivalent on the so-called
renewable energy cost-curve. And we are asked to go down this
road because of an hypothesis about atmospheric carbon dioxide,
and climate, which has failed, so the sceptics tell us, to pass
the basic experimental tests. In this situation computer models
are no substitute for reality.
This brings me back to the science of greenhouse and the decision
which is being urged upon us in the name of 2,500 anonymous scientists
connected to the IPCC.
The Kyoto Protocol does not mention water vapour. It's primary
focus is on carbon dioxide, and in 1980 the measured CO2
concentration in the atmosphere was approx 335 ppm, ie .0335 per
cent. In 1999 the measured concentration was approximately 368
ppm, ie. .0368 per cent, an increase in CO2
of nearly 10 %.
Given all of the greenhouse chatter one could be forgiven for
assuming that CO2 is the only greenhouse
gas which matters. But it is water vapour which provides the overwhelming
proportion of the radiation absorption capacity of the atmosphere.
Depending on definitions, and different definitions give different
answers, it is 98 percent. So a ten percent increase in a gas
which provides less than 2 percent of that capacity would not
yield a measurable result, unless there were some extremely powerful
positive feedback effects at work. Lindzen argues that a doubling
of CO2 could provide a 1 degree increase.
To get more than that requires positive feedback loops which are
yet to be found.
The CO2 increases in the atmosphere
since, say, the 1850s, are small perturbations to the atmosphere,
but the economic consequences to Australia of Kyoto, as I understand
them, let alone the more far-reaching de-carbonisation programme
which comes after the Kyoto targets have been met, are immense.
As jurors in this case, we should ask questions about the immensity
of the disjunction between the atmospheric perturbation and the
Such questions are usually met with the response that 2,500
climate scientists agree that increasing atmospheric concentrations
of CO2 are causing global warming, and
that we therefore have to set off, without question or protest,
down the Kyoto road. In his testimony to JSCOT on November 3 last,
Richard Lindzen spoke of this alleged consensus in these words,
"In the case of the IPCC you have hundreds of scientists,
each is working on a couple of pages, none is ever polled to
assent to the summary and yet the summary is presented as the
consensus of hundreds of scientists, or thousands, or millions.
It is not a true statement. One can simply go to any record
of how it operates and see that, but it is used as a bludgeon
to prevent questioning. This is fundamental to the difference
between science as it is used in politics, and science as it
is used in science. In politics, science is a source of authority
for the promulgation of dogma in support of policy. This is not
science. In science, science is a method of examining the world
by questioning, analysing and testing hypotheses. At least it
used to be."
Appendix I contains some comments made by Richard Lindzen on
the significance of the satellite temperature data, and the problem
which this evidence poses to the greenhouse hypothesis.
Last August, the man who, on 23 June, 1988, lit the fuse which
turned global warming into a mainstream political issue in America,
James Hansen, the Director of the GISS Institute in New York,
recanted from his earlier position, and took CO2
off the hook. Other greenhouse gases, he suggested, might be more
of a problem. Well, whatever the farmers might think about bovine
belching as a trigger for global warming, James Hansen has declared
CO2, "not guilty", and given
his primary role in this affair we, as laymen who have to come
to a decision concerning Kyoto and de-carbonisation, must give
his recantation considerable weight.
There are two other issues in the science debate that I wish
to raise. The first is the way in which the astro-physicists have
been largely ignored in this debate. US Senator Chuck Hagel, in
a speech given in Houston on 7 September, last said this:
"Some of the most significant studies have been produced
by Dr Sallie Baliunas, the Director of Science Programs at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. Using records of
changes in the sun's magnetism going back three centuries, she
has been able to closely correlate changes in the sun's brightness
with temperature changes on earth. Unlike climate models, her
studies have been able to explain why most of the Earth's warming
in the last 100 years occurred before significant growth in man-made
greenhouse gas emissions. According to her work, solar activity
may be the most direct factor in global warming. Imagine that:
the earth's warming could actually be caused by the sun!"
The second is the way in which predictions of plagues and pestilence,
without any scientific credibility, have been used to frighten
us. An article entitled "Biting Back" in New Scientist,
23 Sept, 2000, began with these words:
"Malaria is marching north and global warming will make
it worse, with mosquito armies colonising Europe, the US and
highland regions of the South. That's the picture being painted
by a panel of UN scientists and several national governments.
But for one of the world's senor entomologists, this is not honest
science. Paul Reiter, Chief Entomologist at the US Government's
Dengue Research Laboratories in Puerto Rico is afraid that `attributing
the spread of malaria to global warming could detract from much-needed
efforts to combat the disease itself and save lives now."
Dr Reiter was asked the following question:
"Climate change researchers claim that an increase in
extreme weather events will lead to more pools of stagnant water
where mosquitos could breed and that higher temperatures kill
mosquito predators . ."
"I find this very frustrating. Specialist in my field
have had little voice in this debate. Take the IPCC which produced
a global assessment of climate change in 1996. The bibliographies
of the nine lead authors of the health section showed that between
them they had only published six research papers on vector-borne
diseases. Nevertheless, they devoted a third of their chapter
to speculation on the future of those diseases. On the other
hand, if you take those of us who don't toe their line, you will
find we have well over 600 publications on the subject. It beats
me why the IPCC is given such credence while we are branded as
At the end of the article we have the following question and
Q. "But can you see why some scientists go on about climate
change and infectious disease? It's taken a long, hard fight to
get the US to take global warming seriously, and scientists don't
want to throw that away. Even the slightest contrarian message
can be used by the oil and auto lobby to obstruct efforts to address
global warming . . "
A. "You seem to be implying that the ends justifies the
means. I disagree. The people who are most vociferous in this
debate are simply not familiar with the epidemiology of diseases
like malaria and dengue. My interest is in trying to keep the
science straight. I love my subject and so do my colleagues. We
are greatly concerned that a distorted picture has been presented
to the public and is being used to drive policy."
I see those comments as a very telling criticism of the processes
which have led us to our present situation.
This conference is about "Sustainable Australia".
We are stewards for this continent and we have to admit that we
have made mistakes in the past, and that we have to remedy those
mistakes. Salinity is the consequence of one such mistake. Other
environmental issues also demand our attention. The proper management
of our water resources requires urgent consideration. Soil conservation
and rehabilitation is another important issue. Addressing these
problems will take up scarce resources. We will be failing in
our stewardship responsibilities, if in the pursuit of a de-carbonised
world, which it is admitted on the present proposals will have
no discernible impact on CO2 concentrations
or on climate, we undermine the economic base of this country.
The Brundtland definition of "sustainable development"---ensuring
that we meet the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs---fits well
with my position on Kyoto.
If I were a juror listening to the evidence and contemplating
the sentence which would follow a decision of "guilty",
I would require more certainty before pronouncing a verdict. If
the sentence means major economic dislocation, the loss of tens
of thousands of jobs, and social and political tensions of an
unparalleled dimension, I would say the jury should stay out and
hold its judgment.
In the meantime we should set about, with such resources as
we can command, putting to rights the real environmental problems
which no one else can remedy but us. Our first priority has to
be in Australia, and our limited resources have to be dedicated
to where our national interests lie.
Figure 1 is a diagram which has been reproduced very many times.
It illustrates the greenhouse hypothesis, at the heart of which
is the transparency of greenhouse gases, overwhelmingly water
vapour, to ultra-violet radiation from the sun, and their opacity
to reflected infra-red radiation from the earth.
During the last two decades CO2 concentrations
in the atmosphere have increased by approximately 10 per cent.
Figure 2 (attached) is the satellite temperature data from 1979
up till the present. It shows no tropospheric warming during this
period. Richard Lindzen argues:
"The greenhouse effect, though seemingly simple, depends
greatly on the highly variable presence of the main greenhouse
substances, water vapour and clouds. A doubling of CO2
alone is only expected to produce about 1C global warming. Greater
responses call for strong positive feedbacks to water vapor and
clouds---both of which involve highly contentious uncertainties
as admitted in the IPCC reports. The greenhouse effect moreover,
properly viewed, involves the warming of the atmosphere which
is somehow communicated to the surface. The fact that satellite
data for the years since 1979 fail to indicate atmospheric warming
implies that the warming observed at the surface is very unlikely
to be due to the greenhouse effect. The above are but a few of
the major uncertainties and inconsistencies in the hypothesized
role of CO2 in climate change."
Now it can be argued that a 10 percent increase is not very
much, and that twenty years is a very short period. And one can
agree wholeheartedly with those arguments. But to then say that
we have to embark on a programme of unprecedented economic upheaval
because 10 per cent is not very much and twenty years is a short
time stretches credulity beyond reason.
The satellite temperature record was first ignored, then attacked,
by greenhouse officialdom. Finally it was given official blessing
by the National Academy of Sciences in its dichotomous report
on the disparity between the surface record and the satellite
data early this year. But the necessary consequence of that official
imprimatur, is that any surface warming during the last 25 years
which can be found to put on the table for discussion purposes,
cannot be attributed to greenhouse. Some other cause, natural
variability for example, has to be found.
The following extracts from The Report of the Senate Environment,
Communications, Information Technology and Arts References Committee
entitled "The Heat Is On: Australia's Greenhouse Future",
raise important questions about the attitude which the authors
have to energy consumption and production in Australia. In particular
the competitiveness of the Latrobe Valley power stations in Victoria,
which are internationally highly competitive, and contribute significantly
to our export performance, appear in these comments to be a matter
5.3 Stationary energy was the major contributor to emissions
in 1998, at 56.8 per cent of total national (greenhouse gas)
emissions. Between 1990 and 1998, emissions in this sector increased
by 24.3 per cent and, in the period 1997 to 1998 alone, increased
by 7.6 per cent.
5.4 This increase far exceeds the rate of increase of other
sectors. Most of the increase in emissions in stationary energy
is attributable to the generation of electricity, which has recorded
an increase of 30.6 per cent since 1990 and 10.3 per cent since
1997. This is a disturbing trend. and it is clear that constraining
energy emissions will be a difficult task in Australia's abatement
5.8 Australia's high energy emissions are a legacy of two
main factors: the high dependence on cheap domestic sources of
fossil fuel, especially coal, and recent energy market reforms
which have seen electricity generation based on the highest carbon
content fuels become the most price-competitive in the new deregulated
5.9 Since 1995, national energy markets have been subject
to widespread economic reform, which, while primarily designed
to create greater competition and reduce costs, was also expected
to deliver greenhouse benefits in addition to those flowing to
consumers. However, the reforms have had many perverse outcomes
including dramatic increase in greenhouse emissions.
5.10 In theory, micro-economic reform is intended to open
energy markets to greater competition, breaking down the market
power of incumbents and thus creating opportunities for alternative
fuels and technologies. However, the Committee heard much evidence
that the new National Energy Market (NEM) discriminates against
gas as a fuel and against the entry of new players and more sustainable
technologies. It has also has the perverse effect of making the
most emissions-intensive fuel source---brown coal---the most
and the last bullet point in 5.12 is important:
* the introduction of a mechanism to price carbon, either
through a carbon tax or a market based system of tradeable emissions
permits, which would have the effect of making less emissions-intensive
and renewable generation more price competitive.