Fomenting unhappy mischief…

By Gareth Renowden 14/10/2009


I usually stay out of the fray at NZ’s political blogs, but sometimes it’s impossible to resist a brief plunge into bracing waters. Yesterday, David Farrar at Kiwiblog posted approvingly about the impending launch of a movie called Not Evil, Just Wrong, apparently intended as a counter to Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. Here’s Farrar:

The film compares the consequences of the ban on DDT, with the cost of trying to ban carbon emissions. They talk about how Al Gore would have you believe the sea level will rise by 20 feet in the near future, when in fact the IPCC say this would be over millennia.

Here’s Ed Darrell:

The film is both evil and wrong. Errors just in the trailer:

1: Claims that Al Gore said sea levels will rise catastrophically, ’in the very near future.’ Not in his movie, not in his writings or speeches. Not true. That’s a simple misstatement of what Gore said, and Gore had the science right.

[plus eight more]

It’s sad to see Farrar giving credence to the DDT ban myth — something that’s been shown to be the product of a US tobacco-funded attack on the WHO in the late ’90s. It’s even sadder to see his mischaracterisation of the climate problem:

And again I agree the long-term trend is for warming, but the hysteria over how it is urgent to have cut emissions by 40% by 2020 or the planet is doomed, is just that. In fact by 2020 the planet may still be in a cooling phase.

The “cooling phase” thing is based on something a German modeller didn’t say at a conference a few weeks ago. Climate Crock Of The Week provides the full context (you can hear what Latif actually said), and Joe Romm interviews the man to get the truth. The whole “cooling for 20 years” thing is a beat-up by cranks. And 40%? That’s an IPCC AR4 recommendation…

But Farrar’s misunderstanding runs deeper:

As we get better technology, and gradually transition to energy sources that produce fewer emissions, our carbon emissions will reduce. But 2020 is not some date of no return.

Sadly, we passed the point of no return a long time ago. We are now committed to considerable warming — our current emissions trajectory is pointing us at 4ºC by 2060 — and unless we take rapid steps to reduce global emissions, staying under the 2ºC “guardrail” is already looking unlikely. The longer we leave cutting emissions, the steeper the cuts we will eventually have to make (and the more expensive they will have to be) if we are stay within reasonable temperature bounds. Far from being a counsel of moderation, Farrar is allowing his misconceptions to mislead us into greater danger.

Farrar is of course a National party stalwart, credited by some with being the premiere spinmeister for the present government. If this post were just the ill-conceived ramblings of a right-wing blogger, designed as a dog whistle summons to the crazies who are his commentariat, then it would be worth ignoring. But Farrar’s site is NZ’s top ranking blog, and his thinking looks suspiciously like a reflection of what’s going on in the National caucus. It’s the fallacy of the false middle, based on placing yourself in the middle of a debate you deem to be polarised, but where only one side has the facts right. And that’s not the nutters in Kiwiblog’s comments calling for those who want action on climate change to be “hung, drawn and quartered”.