Thursday, February 04, 2010

Family history, Indian students and climate change

This morning I devoted my main time to writing Inverell District Family History Group reorganises after fire disaster.

As an aside, I really am very pleased at the way the New England, Australia blog has begun to gather traction. This is a niche area blog. When I began I really wondered if any one would read it. Now as I track towards the 30,000 visitor mark with a still small number of daily return visitors, I feel that I am getting somewhere.

This is important to me. I try to make the stories reasonably varied and interesting without losing sight of my primary objective, the promotion of New England. Increased traffic means that the blog can better serve my primary objective.     

In this post I simply want to update a few posts. 

In my post Problem ownership and Indian students - it's time to draw the line I tried to make the point that with an issue like this, the only thing that we could control was our own responses.  In this context, Victorian Premier Brumby's  latest spray - Brumby accuses Indian media of double standards - was simple not helpful. 

Nor, for that matter, was Indian High Commissioner Singh's apparently stinging complaint to the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, over the attacks in Melbourne, labelling Victoria a state ''in denial'' over the severity of the problem. Apart from the constitutional issues involved in complaining to the GG rather than the PM, this is just political grandstanding of the same type as Premier Brumby's complaints.

While Australia has a duty of care to Indian students, we cannot guarantee them a higher degree of safety than applies to all Australian residents. The fact that one case widely reported as racial violence, that of Jaspreet Singh, may have had nothing to do with racial violence, is neither here nor there. To the degree that ethnic violence exists, we need to address it.

In the long term, the current problems don't matter a damn unless we choose so. Australia already has a large and loyal Indian community. Looking forward ten years, this community is going to be much larger. We have to worry about and look after our own Indian people, not worry too much about immediate problems.

In  Water Wars - the Darling floods I spoke of some of the problems and conflicts that could arise over water policy. The Darling Flood waters are now entering the Murray River. With any luck, the tropical rains over the far northern headwaters of the Darling - there are current flood warnings for the Warrego and Paroo rivers - will bring a further flush later. Without moving away from the points in my post, the NSW Government seems to have handled this one pretty well in managing conflicts between water uses.

I have yet to look at the Australian opposition's new policy proposals on climate change. However, there are a few points I want to make.

The swirling currents around this issue have had some very odd effects from my viewpoint.

Just at present, those who are opposed in one way or another to the concept of climate change have moved from social pariahs to the ascendant. The visit by Lord Monkton to Australia has attracted quite remarkable grass roots interest. Note, by the way, the sneer in this report:

What an Australian scene - a scrubbed, white crowd hanging off a viscount's every word. Rank was everything at the Press Club. "Lord … lord … lord," intoned Ian Plimer as he introduced fellow climate sceptic Christopher Monckton. "My Lords," began the visiting peer with a wry smile. "That's me …''

Regardless of my own views on Lord Monkton, this is crap.

Now in all this, my position has not changed a great deal, although I think that my thinking has become more refined. However, the swirling changes in public opinion mean that I have been moved from somewhat to the right of the political spectrum to the left. And all this without raising a finger!

My position can be summarised this way.

For the present, I accept the majority scientific position that human induced climate change is a problem. We need to respond to this. However, I have also been concerned for some time that group think in the scientific community has, to some extent, crowded out alternative views and that this has dangers.

To be quite fair here, I do make a distinction between the view of scientists and the way this has been interpreted. In this context, I have been quite cranky about the way that certain environmental groups as well as some politicians have used climate change to support proposals that actually have very little to do with climate change.

I have been especially concerned about what I call the lock-in effect, the way in which policy debate has become constrained by simple one-size fits all solutions. This lead me to explore in my own simplistic way different options including soil sequestration.

To my mind, Tony Abbott's biggest contribution to the debate is the way he has forced discussion of other alternatives.

Now here I quote Peter Cosier from the Wentworth Group of scientists, hardly an anti-change group!

  "The whole issue of using landscapes to help us with climate change and get multiple benefits is now a mainstream public debate," he said.

"Six months ago, we were struggling to get people to take notice of this issue at all." Back then, the group released a report stating that Australia could store an additional 1000 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in soils and vegetation each year.

Mr Cosier said it is possible for Australia to cut carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 from storing carbon in vegetation and soils.

This, the recognition of alternatives, is actually quite a big step forward in the debate.

I am sorry, but I no longer like the cut and thrust of political debate intended to support particular positions. It used to be fun, but now its boring.

I need information that will help me to make up my own mind. I also want to see a variety of alternatives tested. At the end of the day we may come back to an emissions trading scheme as part of the mix.

To finish this post, one of the silliest things that Lord Monkton said to my mind was let's wait for ten years. Then, if its a problem, we can do something about it.

I would turn this on its head.

Given the scientific consensus, let's do something about it now. If, then, at the end of the ten years we know that the global warning argument is wrong, we can change direction. It's really a simple benefit-cost analysis. The net costs of waiting are greater than the net costs of doing something now and getting it wrong.  

Finally, in all this let's keep talking about options and choices. 


Neil said...

It really is very hard to take Lord Monckton seriously. See the video I posted today.

Otherwise, as often, we converge on much here, and I have added some of your remarks as a supplement to my other post today. I use "comment" for that sometimes.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Neil.

Anonymous said...

Agree completely with your comments Jim. It is frustrating that in such a supposedly important debate, one side would choose to wheel out this Monkton insult.

The man is a caricature of himself, and has reduced the discussion almost to vaudeville.


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, KVD. I think, though, that Lord M is quite capable of wheeling out himself!