So, what happens when you hire a coal industry PR guy as your environment writer? You get stories like this, by Matthew Warren:

Science tempers fears on climate change

The world’s top climate scientists have cut their worst-case forecast for global warming over the next 100 years.


For the first time, scientists are confident enough to project a 3C rise on the average global daily temperature by the end of this century if no action is taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. …

In 2001, the scientists predicted temperature rises of between 1.4C and 5.8C on current levels by 2100, but better science has led them to adjust this to a narrower band of between 2C and 4.5C.

So, the band is narrower but Warren just focuses on the the top end. This naturally feeds into a deceitful editorial in The Australian that completely ignores the bottom end:

In other words, according to the IPCC, the planet is heating up – but nowhere near as much as once thought or feared. The report is particularly valuable as a rebuke to that radical and disproportionately loud fringe of greenies and leftists who treat environmentalism as a religion for whom humanity’s sinful, decadent ways threaten to bring down the wrath of nature or the gods and must be changed.

As John Quiggin puts it:

The Australian’s coverage of this issue has been a disgrace. As a paper, it cannot be taken seriously on any scientific issue.

Actually, The Australian is worse than Quiggin thinks, because Warren has confused climate sensitivity (how much warming will eventually occur if we double CO2) with projected 21st century warming. The narrower band of 2-4.5 degrees in the new IPCC report is for climate sensitivity, not projected warming. In the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report the band was 1.5-4.5. So the band got narrower but the top end did not go down, only the bottom end went up. That’s something you’re unlikely to see reported inThe Australian. Gavin Schmidt at Real Climate has more on Warren’s screw-up.

And to prove that Warren’s spin on his reporting of the IPCC report was no accident, here’s what he has further on his story:

A recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics report on the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions estimated Australians would incur a fall in real wages of about 20 per cent if the nation was to unilaterally cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.

Hands up everyone who thought that Kyoto treaty said that Australia was the only country which had to cut emissions? Of course, as you’ve probably guessed Warren cherry picked the scenario which had the worst result in terms of real wages. If you are choosing which policy to adopt to drastically reduce emissions, do you choose the one that has the highest cost, or the one with the lowest cost? If you look at the report, you will find that, for example, scenario 2a reduces CO2 by 46% at cost of 2.5% to GDP, i.e. we’d have to wait till 2051 to get the same GDP we could have had in 2050 if we had not taken action to decrease emissions.

And if you thought that story was bad, Warren has another one mainly devoted to presenting the global warming sceptic’s position. Did you know that sceptics about global warming outnumber mainstream scientist? Well, they do in Warren’s story. And here’s his take on the NRC panel report:

Eventually the US Congress bought into the dispute and commissioned an independent review, which found that Mann’s statistical work was flawed and unable to support the claims of the hottest century, decade and year of the past millennium.

Most other observers seem to consider that report a vindication for Mann.

In other global warming news, Andrew Bartlett reports reports that there was a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth” put on by the government’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, so there is hope that the Australian government will treat the issue more seriously than the The Australian.

Update: Now Matt Drudge is pushing Warren’s bogus claim.

Comments

  1. #1 ben
    September 5, 2006

    I have a couple of questions. There’s no mention in “the report” of what happens to the carbon tax once it’s collected, nor by whom it is collected, nor any word of when it finally goes away. Any idea?

    Second, in table 38 and else where, they refer to changes in gross domestic product. Is this total over the years, or annual gross domestic product? If it is annual, then an annual change of -2.5% is quite expensive over 5,10,20,50 etc. years. I’ve no time to read the thing in detail to figure out what they mean.

  2. #2 Ian Gould
    September 5, 2006

    The uniform global carbon tax is used in these simulations because it’s a lot easier to model than the wide variety of economic instruments you’d employ in reality.

    It’s usually assumed that it’d be used to replace other taxes. In reality, most countries subsidise fossil fuel use in various ways so the first thing you’d do would be to eliminate those subsidies. England and Germany are contributing the bulk of the EU’s emission reductions and in large parts that’s becasue they stopped subsidizing their coal industries and shifted much of their electricity generation to gas.

    The economic gains from using the proceeds of a carbon tax – which is essentially a broadly-based consumption tax – to offset other less efficient taxes is one of the main reasons it’s relatively cheap to reduce emissions.

    The 2.5 percent reduction by 2050 is cumulative. GDP will be reduced by that amount in 2050 COMPARED TO THE BUSINESS AS USUAL SCENARIO. From memory, what that means is that over the intervening 44 years, average real growth in the Australian economy will fall from around 3 percent per annum to around 2.98 percent.

    Similarly that ’20 per cent reduction in real wages’ is also compared to the BAU scenario. So what it really means is that wages will ‘only’ increase four-fold rather than five-fold.

    ABARE while it’s extremely competent, has very close links to Australia’s resource industries, including the coal industry. They’re government owned but get the bulk of their budget from conducting modelling for industry. The Australian government which owns ABARE is, of course, opposed to the Kyoto Protocol.

    So all the external pressures on ABARE would be to overstate the costs of global warming.

  3. #3 mark
    September 5, 2006

    Thanks for this clarification.

  4. #4 Ben
    September 6, 2006

    yup.

  5. #5 Tim Burrows
    September 6, 2006

    With reference to the ABARE report, it was extremely flawed because it did not take into account the benefits of avoided climate change. In other words, it assumed that lack of action would have no consequences for agriculture, tourism etc etc.

    These alone would be worth billions of dollars, and would go a very long way to offsetting much of the predicted GDP impact.

    IMO, the report was definitively myopic.

    In any case, nobody is seriously talking about implementing a carbon tax, it is much more likely to be implemented as a cap and trade emissions trading system.

    See here for a rundown on how emissions trading works.

  6. #6 Ben
    September 6, 2006

    In other words, it assumed that lack of action would have no consequences for agriculture, tourism etc etc.

    These alone would be worth billions of dollars, and would go a very long way to offsetting much of the predicted GDP impact.

    That would be difficult to prove, short of wait and see.

  7. #7 ian gould
    September 7, 2006

    ben,

    Check out the latest New Scientist for the article on Bluetongue disease in The Netherlands.

    Bluetongue is a midge-borne sheep disease endemic to southern Europe until this year it had NEVER been seen in The Netherlands.

    Stock losses and the need to vaccinate in future will probably cost the Dutch economy billions – and that’s one small example in one small country.

  8. #8 Stephen Berg
    September 8, 2006

    Re: “That would be difficult to prove, short of wait and see.”

    That’s exactly the wrong approach to take. We do not want, at least should not want, to try to prove either hypothesis correct. We should try to avoid as many negative effects as possible as these effects will more than likely outweigh any positive effects.

    Case in point, central North America. Agricultural zones will likely see extreme drought in the future as a result of an uneven distribution of precipitation, costing farmers billions, even trillions of dollars. Warmer temperatures in the winter will save people thousands or millions of dollars in heating bills.

    Now, Ben, what is the net gain/loss in this scenario? Billions, if not trillions of dollars in losses. Thousands or millions of dollars in gains. Combine these and you still get billions or trillions of dollars in losses.

    Ben, do you or anyone else want to take this risk? I’d suggest that you or anyone else who would take this risk should get their heads examined! It’s a lottery where you’re bound to lose, no matter what!

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