A high degree of double-talk

Des Moore argues there’s almost fraud in data being used to support the climate change argument

Australian Financial Review, 4 September 2002.

At the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg the reference to the Kyoto Protocol in the Summit statement on climate change apparently goes no further than strongly urging states that have not done so to "ratify the Protocol in a timely manner."

Australia is not signing the Protocol because it rejects the UN’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections that temperatures will increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100 unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced in accordance with the Protocol. Rather, the Government is rejecting it on economic grounds largely because the exemption of developing countries from the reduction requirement would undermine our export competitiveness and, along with the US’ refusal to sign, make any implementation substantially ineffective.

Indeed, substantive critics of the IPCC temperature projections have been brushed off by Federal Ministers and advised to pursue the matter with relevant scientific "experts", the implication being that the Government accepts the projections. But these critics have now established a strong case suggesting the projections are close to scientific fraud.

It might seem radical to question analyses by otherwise well-respected Australian scientists with views in line with those of many overseas colleagues. But there is a long history of naïve acceptance by scientists of theories that have proved false.

In the 1970s, for example, three Club of Rome scientists predicted shortages of resources would cause growth in the world economy and population to come to a "sudden and uncontrollable decline" unless population and living standards were "stabilized".

The shortage of resources threat had no real scientific basis and, had governments acted upon it, considerable unnecessary misery and poverty would have resulted. In similar vein, implementation of the Kyoto proposals would require a major cut-back in economic growth in developed countries, with inevitable adverse effects on developing countries too.

What, then, is the basis for thinking the scientists are wrong again?

First, the rate of increase in temperatures over recent years has been much less than that now projected by the IPCC and that group takes inadequate account of temperature influences not caused by greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, temperatures show an increase of only about 0.3 degrees Celsius since 1976 and analyses suggests up to only about a third of that increase could conceivably be due to greenhouse gas emissions. An increase of 0.1% in temperatures over a 25 year period hardly forms a scientific basis for projections that would require drastic action to reduce economic growth.

Second, even if we start from the time temperature measurement began in 1860, the warming has only been a modest 0.6 0C notwithstanding the large increase in emissions of greenhouse gases since then. Moreover, scientists have taken no account of the likelihood that this warming may largely reflect a "natural" rebound from particularly low temperatures in an earlier period.

Third, the temperature projections are based on assumptions about economic growth that are absurdly unrealistic. Analyses by former Australian Statistician, Ian Castles, show that even the lowest temperature projection of 1.4 degree assumes growth in GDP per capita in developing countries alone that, short of a miracle, is unachievable. Castles has written to the Chair of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Packauri, advising him of the serious deficiencies in the emission projections and calling on the IPCC to advise governments of these deficiencies as a matter of urgency. Castles recently challenged the income distribution analysis in the UN’s Human Development Report and was found by the UN Statistical Commission to be correct.

Fourth, as Castles has also pointed out, the temperature projections wrongly assume that economic growth will necessarily be accompanied by higher emissions on a per capita basis. Competitive market economies operate over time in ways that improve economic efficiency and tend to reduce the use of energy per unit of output. For example, global carbon-dioxide emissions per head from the burning of fossil fuels (the main source of greenhouse gases) peaked in 1979 and have since declined by nearly 10 per cent.

These and other significant flaws in the temperature projections suggest that the time has come for a more comprehensive investigation of a theory now bearing the hallmarks of the Club of Rome farce.