Economics and climate science are not Hide’s strong suits

Brian Rudman today pins down the real danger the Rodney Hide’s climate denialism represents to New Zealand:

The British Government Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, published in March, was blunt.

“The scientific evidence is now overwhelming; climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.”

The review warned that “our actions now and over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes”.

And these are the cautious, official pronouncements. Many scientists are much more apocalyptic. Alongside this overwhelming consensus, Mr Hide’s flippant naysaying was easy to laugh off when he was a gang of one. But for Mr Key to now give these views credibility risks making New Zealand a laughing stock as well.

National campaigned on reviewing the way New Zealand meets our Kyoto treaty obligations to reduce our carbon footprint. That’s fine. Act’s global warming denial policy was not part of the deal. Mr Key should spell this out pronto.

I would have said though that scientists are currently apoplectic rather than apocalyptic.  Climate change is a relatively easy thing to combat, if only we want to. We have already developed all the technological solutions we need. We just need to start using them. But first we need some greater responsibility shown by Hide.  If he is a scientist, as he claims, he should understand what a scientific consensus is and what it means.

14 Comments Posted

  1. wat – Ironically, the political pressure on the IPCC is to understate the risks of climate change, not overstate them. As for hubris regarding the quality of the modelling and a call for humility, that is exactly what I have been reading from the IPCC all along. It is only those who want to tear down the work that put up a straw man of hubris only to knock it down again. As my post from this morning shows, there is fresh validation of one of the climate models key assumptions. Does this make it perfect? Hell no. Does is make the model better for the next round? Hell yes. And so the iterations go. All the science can tell us with any level of certainty is that the risks are massive and that inaction is not an option. What more do you need before we act?

  2. Dave

    The science behind it is simple enough, and is done in labs around the world. The CO2 absorption spectrum, the methane absorption specrum… those are well known and understood. The theory that Arrhenius gave us is pretty good.

    The warming not-so-good.

    The problem Dave S, is that this is not about “consensus” except in the sense that it is a little dense for any non-scientist to judge it without appealing to authority.

    Just a note. Leeches do work and are still occasionally used.

    Another glacial phase of this ice-age is indeed approaching… except for the fact of our driving the CO2 off the known scale of any previous interglacial. At this point almost anything can happen, but the most likely thing is what the scientists are predicting. Which is how it works.

    The scientists could well laugh, the mistakes are always there to be made, but it is far more likely that we will all cry. For every error there is a correction. With AGW however, there is no way to see the effect in time… and if we are not prepared we are dead.

    Counseling us not to prepare is only going to annoy us.

    Do the risk analysis:

    Build renewable energy and energy independence, build insulation and preserve our resources, and if WE are wrong and nothing happens we have energy independence and an efficient economy.. having used some opportunity money we could have used elsewhere. I do accept that. If you are wrong however, and we have done nothing to tame the problem, we don’t get 2 degrees, we get 4… or more. The book “6 degrees” outlines the expected consequences of each additional degree.

    Two is painful but tractable. 3 is deadly… 4 is civilization ending.


  3. As I remember my history, there was a scientific consensus that putting leaches onto the skin cured most ailments. There was another that women were mentally inferior to men. Another that an Ice Age was rapidly approaching. Another that . . . . well, you get the idea.

    Science is about fact that can be proven by replicable experimental proof. Water finds its own level – provable in a school science lab. Heat rises and cold descends – provable in a school lab. Sound travels slower than light – easily proven. Lead baloons can fly just as easily as aluminium ones – provable. Thousands and thousands of facts, chemical, physical and biological, all capable of replicable proof – with the right equipment anyone can do it.

    Scientific consensus is a statement that no scientist can prove but which, at the time, makes ‘sense’ to a lot of scientists. Take Galileo, a truly amazing scientist, and try to convince him that a tube of metal can fly through the air carrying 400 people in its midst – he would laugh. So too the 20th century scientists who were told that a ‘bug’ could be grown that would eat oil and produce carbon dioxide laughed. Could it be that the scientists of 2030 will laugh at the idea that the earth was suffering from an unnatural rising of its average ambient temperature? Who knows! What I do know is that until it can be proven by repeatable experiment it’s conjecture, not science; and even then it might be wrong, just think back to the leaches, that gave every observable indication of ‘working’.

  4. BB – as there is no such thing as an independent media, any more than there is really any left or right wing media conspiracy, I find it refreshing that journos declare their allegiances, acknowledge their biases and then get on with the reporting/editorialising.

    I think the curse of the media, which we both may agree on here, is that they are lazy. They just don’t do the hard yards for the job any more and will often publish/regurgitate crap put out from all sides of the political spectrum without checking references, science or basic facts. It’s a tragedy.

  5. Why would I read the rantings of a drugged wreck who could not pick his nose let alone the result of an election.

  6. Brian Rudman is a paid up member of the Labour party and makes no attempt at neutrality.

    Oh how I wish we had a truly independent media.

  7. Rudman’s article makes a good read. I like his analysis of Key’s apparent conversion to the need to tackle AGW, culminating in

    On September 7 this year, he launched National’s environment policy by declaring global warming “the most serious environmental challenge of our time” and pledging that under National “New Zealand, as a responsible international citizen, and as a country that values our clean, green environment, must act to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions”.

    I wonder how many people who voted for Key expected him to throw away campaign promises so quickly?

  8. economic forecasting was invented to make Weather forecasters look good.
    Stern did not foresee the impact of biofuels on food prices and certainly did not foresee the global meltdown. At least I saw that coming and gave the first warnings back in 1996.
    If he could not forecast these two events which occurred within the first year of his models why should we trust him to be right about events in one hundred years’ time?

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