return to letters list

Pervasive doubts rule climate debate
letter published in The Australian Financial Review, 13 July 2009

Anthony Nicholas says that, although my questioning of the scientific hypothesis on global warming fulfills an essential role, the serious risk of adverse outcomes requires action to reduce fossil fuel consumption ("Managing climate risk", Letters, July 8).

But uncertainty is pervasive in assessing what role the government should play role in managing the environment and there is no agreement on when and to what extent the so-called precautionary principle should be applied.

The Productivity Commission analysis of that principle in September 2007 pointed out that the definition adopted at the 1992 UN conference in Rio - that lack of full scientific certainty should not mean postponing preventive environmental measures - is not universally accepted. This is not surprising given the long history of mistaken claims by scientists that catastrophies would occur unless governments intervene, truly frightening examples of which are detailed in the 2007 book Scared to Death by Christopher Booker and Richard North.

Indeed, we have examples of major errors by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that have required amendments to its reports but have not been acknowledged in subsequent analyses.

It is important also to recognise that there is more than one way of managing the possible risk of higher temperatures, particularly as the Climate Change Minister has now effectively acknowledged in responding to Senator Fielding's questions that periods of cooling may occur.This acknowledgement that emissions of CO2 do not necessarily produce consistently higher temperatures must mean a much less urgent need than previously postulated for government intervention to reduce emissions and ought to leave greater scope for normal adaptative measure over time to whatever temperature changes occur - even to the cooling that is increasingly recognised as a possibility.

Des Moore
Director Institute for Private Enterprise
South Yarra Vic

return to letters list