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New green propaganda

FRIDAY DECEMBER 17, 2010

For decades the climate debate has been dominated by cherry-picking, spin-doctoring and scare-mongering by the IPCC, the environmental movement and mainstream media. After a massive effort to overstate the threat of man-made warming, it has left its imprint on public opinion. Purely to harvest green support the western world has witnessed anti-food legislation urging the conversion of as much cropland as possible to the production of biofuels and carbon credit forests. Less measures to “protect future generations”, it has been more to shore-up ruling party votes for each western government in their elections.

Scientists even admit now that increasing CO2 levels have minimal effects on climate change, and this plant-fertilizing gas is beneficial rather than harmful for mankind and the biosphere. Many are now searching for a way to back out quietly from promoting warming fears without having their professional careers ruined. The Climate Conference fiasco in Copenhagen, the Climategate scandal and the stabilization of worldwide temperatures since 1995 have helped give rise to growing doubts. Even Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and one of the main players in Climategate, now acknowledges that there has been no measurable warming since 1995, despite steadily rising atmospheric carbon dioxide.

It seems that lay folk have been paying attention, and opinion polls in many countries show a dramatic fall in the ranking of climate change among major concerns of the general public. They are also beginning to understand that major rain and snow storms, hurricanes and other weather extremes come in regular cycles, just like ice ages and sea level changes, with the causes probably solar and lunar-driven and not by varying levels of CO2. They also realise that claims about recent years being the “warmest ever” are based on questionable or falsified temperature data and the need to boost careers or sell scary books and movies.

The public realizes the scientific contradiction when grain-eating cows emitting CO2 and methane are considered bad for the environment, whilst grain-burning ethanol-fuelled cars emitting identical CO2 and methane are considered good for the environment. In the 1960s you were considered a nutter if you walked around carrying a sign that said "The End of The World is Nigh". These days you are considered a nutter if you don't display one.

Leaders got carried away by their own fantasies. Al Gore said the sea would rise by 200 feet (65 metres) in the next century. NIWA said 4 inches. Helen Clark declared global warming was a bigger threat than global terrorism. It means she would have preferred terrorist snipers running around on her roof, to a warmer evening.

The greens overplayed their hand. The negative massively turned everybody off, even their friends. Relentless fear created more skeptics. To be told this is the biggest threat in human history–that we are facing extinction even, and to panic us into embracing radical and unwise policies that undermined national sovereignty, depressed the economy, and redistributed wealth, created suspicion and mistrust.  It was not hard to see the politicization of the field when politicians and scientists sang from the same song book.

Neither did we warm to any leader declaring an ongoing debate “over”– based on computer projections, some already proved wrong, about a system as complex as climate and weather. Being taxed for something not well understood was unpopular and shifty. It was like imposing a speeding fine on someone considered at risk of speeding sometime over the next 100 years, “to protect future generations”.

So, enter the new propaganda ploy. A recent University of California study showing that dire messages backfire is to be published in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science. It concludes that warnings about devastating consequences of global warming threaten people's fundamental tendency to see the world as safe, stable and fair. People respond by disputing the evidence, and in the global warming case by cutting back on plans to reduce their carbon footprint.

In the described experiment, 97 University of California Berkeley undergraduates were asked whether they thought the world was just or unjust and given two versions of an alarmist article. Half received the article that ended with apocalyptic warnings about consequences of global warming, and the other half got a version that concluded with positive messages focused on potential solutions, such as technological innovations that reduced carbon emissions.

Those who read the positive messages were more open to believing in the existence of global warming and had more faith in science's ability to solve the problem, whereas those exposed to doomsday hysteria displayed more doubts. The conclusion was that rebranding environmentalism as patriotic would reduce the numbers of skeptics.

Beware then, of new initiatives. The NZ government will need such a ruse because even NIWA have now admitted to an absence of a statistically significant increase in average worldwide temperatures since 1995. NIWA has reacted to the Climate Science Coalition’s criticism that they fudged NZ temperature figures upwards, with a self-assessed self-referenced self-exoneration.

The price tag for renewables is extremely high compared to hydrocarbons. Consider these costs for sources of electricity in cents per kilowatt-hour: nuclear 4, coal 4, natural gas 5, onshore wind 13, biomass 16…solar 56. For an economy with a large deficit, new eco-industries, eco-regulations and energy resources changes are unaffordable. Despite clean and green, the idea of sustainability is economically unsustainable.

Little wonder then that around the world emissions trading schemes have not worked. At Copenhagen vast numbers of countries refused to follow Europe's ETS example so the meeting turned into a fiasco. John Key’s party is enjoying populist support, probably because global warming and the ETS have been kept out of the headlines and the public don’t know what is being hatched. There is no shortage of skepticism in the NZ farming sector, especially after another freezing South Island winter that this year wiped out half the lambs.

One duty of farmers is to remind politicians of realities. Electoral promises are like thunderstorms, big on announcement but mostly noise and promises of relief that fail to materialize. Politicians know that the ETS will be seriously challenged before the next election, so we will see it morf into a positive “opportunity” for agri-research. We will hear how lucky we are to be “leading the world” in new techno-innovation. You will be tempted think of the ETS as the farmers’ friend.

So just remember that the extra tax was stolen in the first place from farmers as a greenie-pleasing promise in exchange for Green Party support and votes, still required, and has nothing to do with the silly tale that cows and sheep are wrecking the planet. With the ETS now in full swing, the same cows and sheep are still here, farting and belching even more than before. And a cow's fart doesn't even affect the cow, let alone the farm or the air above the farm.

 

 

 


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