Don Brash: climate cluelessâ„¢ to the core

By Gareth Renowden 30/06/2011

The new leader of New Zealand’s far-right ACT Party — the former National Party leader, Don Brash — has confirmed that he’s a fully paid up member of the climate cluelessâ„¢, a worthy successor to Rodney Hide, and perfectly on side with major ACT Party backer, millionaire Alan Gibbs (who just happens to be on the policy advisory panel of the International Climate Science Coalition). But Brash hasn’t troubled himself with working on a new script for his climate denial, he’s retreading some of the oldest canards in the denial play book. In a speech this afternoon to the annual conference of Federated Farmers, Brash trotted out this remarkable sequence of untruths, half truths and straightforward lies, annotated below for your reading pleasure…

Early in his speech, Brash joined in with the denial meme du jour, accusing lowly local government officials of being “little Hitlers“, but then got into his stride with a robust attack on government policy.

[…]finally, ACT will press for the abandonment of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Why do we have an ETS? I have to admit I know of no good reason at all.

One might wonder why an intelligent man who has led two political parties and been governor of the reserve bank could be so unaware of the facts, but thankfully he proceeds to explain what he does understand: clearly and obviously nothing.

To be sure, it seems pretty clear that on average temperatures around the world have been increasing. But they’ve been increasing for at least the last 200 years, since the days when the Thames regularly froze over, and that warming began long before greenhouse gases caused by human activity could’ve had a significant influence on the climate.

Do I hear echoes of Bryan Leyland and the NZ Climate Science Coalition here? Has Brash been outsourcing his denial to the friends of his backer, Alan Gibbs? Couple of points Don. The Thames never “regularly froze over”. It happened only in the coldest winters, and after the demolition of the old London Bridge (which acted as kind of weir) not at all.

And we know temperatures were very warm in the medieval period, and in Roman times, when grapes were routinely grown in what is now the United Kingdom. And greenhouse gases could hardly explain that, or the cooling which took place between those warm periods.

Oh dear, the old canard about grapes in the UK. There’s almost certainly a greater acreage of vineyards in Britain now than at any time in recorded history. Did Lord Lawson forget to mention that, the last time you met?

Even if a case can be made that human activity is behind the gradual increase in global temperature, it isn’t obvious that an increased temperature is necessarily a bad thing for life on the planet.

Time for Don to don the blinkers. You’d think he must have been asleep during the record breaking weather extremes of the last 18 months, which just happen to have been exactly the sort of thing you expect from a warming climate, and which many experts suggest are an ominous harbinger of things to come.

We know that plant life thrives on an atmosphere high in carbon dioxide — which is why many market gardeners deliberately pump carbon dioxide into their glass houses.

But Don, you must have noticed (as a good kiwifruit grower) that not all plants live in greenhouses, pampered and spoiled by their growers. Out in the real world, they thrive under the limits ordained by Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, and CO2 is seldom one of those.

And we know that human societies thrive both in Singapore and in Finland, though average temperatures in the two places could hardly be more different.

Brilliant. Global warming affecting you? Install air conditioning. Got a Fujitsu franchise, Don? Doesn’t help the plants or the ecosystems that are under threat, especially when the pace of change is so rapid. Or your kiwifruit plants, which need some winter chilling to produce fruit.

Incurring the many trillions of dollars in cost which would be involved in any serious global attempt to slow the increase in average temperature would place an enormous burden on all societies, especially those already living on the margins of existence.

Cynical in the extreme, Don. The worst off people in the world are the ones expected to suffer most as the climate warms, and it’s the well off in the developed world, who got rich without penalty on their carbon emissions who are to blame. So to avoid some economic cost — and not as much as you might have us believe — we are to condemn the poor to suffer. The rich might be able to afford to adapt, if only in the short term. Tell that to the people living in the Asian megadeltas, who will be the first to see their livelihoods destroyed by rising seas.

And even if it were accepted that human activity is causing the planet to warm, and that the enormous cost of trying to slow that warming is justified, it’s entirely unclear why New Zealand should be at the forefront of that effort, at considerable cost to all New Zealanders, including New Zealand farmers.

At last, a reasonable argument. Accept the facts, and argue about what we do. That’s some kind of progress. But we should — morally and ethically — do our bit, do our fair share. If we listen to the siren voices of Gibbs and his Climate Science Coalitions, ignore what’s coming down the road, and lock our economy into a high carbon pathway, we will lose money on the way to losing our planet. How stupid is that?

[Nick Lowe]

Site Meter