English leading debate on climate change

OPENING SALVO The Dipton farmer dared say what every urban business person has thought for years.


Dipton farmer Bill English dared say what every urban business person has thought for years.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast this week, the finance minister said it was not sustainable for the government to keep providing financial assistance to farmers during droughts.

Instead, farming practices will have to adapt, he said.

Mr English’s comments have a bipartisan heritage.

Shortly after being appointed, Lockwood Smith, arguably the most right-wing agriculture minister of recent decades, told the media that providing support to drought-stricken farmers would be unfair given no such support exists for other climate-dependent businesses.

All hell broke loose and Dr Smith was soon handing out cash and arranging for soldiers to move feed about.

Some years later, Jim Anderton, undoubtedly the most left-wing agriculture minister in history, made almost identical points.

He also was ignorant that his ministry had cash available for when it gets too hot, too dry, too cold or too wet.

No similar government support exists for tourism operators, manufacturers, miners, fishermen, education exporters or other industries of comparable significance to the economy.

Farmers hate the comparison but, with the exception of animal welfare, it is difficult to see why a lack of precipitation is worse for them than, say, someone owning a skifield or a white-water rafting business.

Alarmist prophecies

Mr English’s comments were in the context of climate change.

Regular readers will know I am one who doubts the more alarmist prophecies.

In my view, climate change has a touch of the Salem witch trials. Whatever happens is presented as evidence for the hypothesis.

Moreover, it is too easy to see how the issue could suffer from inflation. If Professor A has a model suggesting sea-level rises of, say, 2 metres, Professor B with a model suggesting only 1.8 metres is not going to get any media attention.

It’s Professor C with a new 2.2 metre forecast who will get the attention of the university’s PR department and wind up being interviewed on some deeply earnest programme on PBS, MSNBC or Radio NZ.

Nevertheless, I accept I am in the minority. A majority of those who style themselves as climate scientists believe the world is warming – except for where climate change is making it colder – and the seas are rising.

A majority of governments formally agree – unsurprisingly given any poll will agree too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is considered the authority, although anyone who bothers to read what it says will learn it forecasts far more modest and manageable temperature and sea-level rises than those touted by multinational climate-change alarmists such as Greenpeace.

That divergence makes sense, of course. This year’s IPCC report will be read and critically analysed by scientists and historians in 100 years. The latest Greenpeace fundraising campaign to pay for the dividend back to corporate HQ in Amsterdam won’t be.

Carbon crash

What is now clear, however, is that anyone who truly believes in even the IPCC’s forecasts – let alone the Waterworld scenarios of Greenpeace and Hollywood – must now accept that any chance of serious mitigation is gone.

Since at least the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, they have told us that, unless the world takes urgent global action, catastrophe lies ahead. The world has not taken any action, urgent or otherwise.

The Kyoto Protocol was ratified by countries representing only 15% of global emissions and that percentage is falling as countries, including Canada, Japan and Russia, pull out and emissions continue to soar in China, India and the rest of the industrialising world.

Al Gore’s Chicago Carbon Exchange has folded, even the EU carbon price is heading toward zero and no country in the world – except, temporarily, Julia Gillard’s Australia – is even considering implementing an emissions trading scheme (ETS) such as New Zealand’s.

This means anyone who believes in climate change must accept it is going to happen and there is absolutely nothing New Zealand can do about it.

It sometimes surprises the local warmist fraternity to learn that whatever happens with our local ETS, temperatures and sea levels in New Zealand will rise by just as much or as little as they would have otherwise.

Military build-up

This leads to one obvious conclusion. If there are local greens who genuinely believe what they say about climate change, then they would no longer be talking about mitigation measures like Kyoto or the ETS but, like Mr English, they would be talking about adaption.

That would mean, firstly, some effort to protect coastlines as the Netherlands has done for 1000 years.

It would suggest a significant build up of New Zealand’s armed forces to protect us from what environmentalists say will be hundreds of millions or perhaps billions of people desperate to find somewhere cold enough to survive.

It goes without saying that the Greens should back subsidies to grow bananas in Northland and grapes in Southland.

Water storage would be a priority, with New Zealand suffering not from a lack of water but a failure to capture and hold it. The environmental movement, of course, has always opposed such initiatives.

We do not see Greenpeace, the green movement or the Green Party advocating anything like this. It suggests they don’t have any more confidence in so-called climate science than I do.

How ironic that it is a conservative finance minister who appears to be leading the policy debate away from mitigation toward adaption.

Login in or Register to view & post comments