Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Here comes the carbon tax.

On Feb. 5, 1976, in a TV interview for ‘Thames TV This Week’ British Prime Minister Thatcher said,
"...and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them."
What was true in 1976 is certainly true now and is borne out by the economical difficulties in Europe and elsewhere. If Australia’s Wayne Swan can be voted the world’s best treasurer you can imagine just how badly the economies of the rest of the world are run.

A Socialist government is taxing in every meaning of the word. Just when I thought that everything that could be taxed has been taxed, the Australian Labor Government with Julia Gillard as Prime Minister introduced a carbon tax which will be effective as of July 2012. The Green Party under Bob Brown insisted that a carbon tax be introduced as part of their support package for the Gillard minority government . Strangely, Malcolm Turnbull who is part of the Liberal Party supports a carbon tax, but then he is a merchant banker.

Flashback to 1970, there were widespread predictions of an impending ice age within the next 200 years, probably based on the run of cold weather from the previous 30 years and aerosols in the air preventing the sunshine from getting through. This was also a time of enormous air pollution from households and power stations burning coal in an unrestricted manner. Eventually most countries invoked clean air acts which cut down the pollution from coal and wood fires but unfortunately did nothing about motor vehicle emissions. Thus large cities still had ‘smog’.

From the 1970’s on there was a groundswell towards the greenhouse effect and how it would affect the climate. This interest in the greenhouse effect may have been prompted by studies of the planet Venus which was found to have what was termed a runaway greenhouse effect. There are opposing scientific opinions on whether or not our planet Earth can accumulate sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to trigger this event and it is possible to cherry-pick your expert to support your prevailing view. Note that prophets of doom and gloom always seem to be very well supported.

Comparing Earth with Venus may be like comparing apples with pineapples as Venus is a lot closer to the Sun than earth and chemistry that is true on Venus may be far different than chemistry on Earth. If we imagine Earth to be a big black rock its normal temperature would be about -18C. This is known as the ‘black body temperature’. If we add frozen water the libido increases and the temperature drops even further. A completely frozen earth has been nicknamed ‘Snowball Earth’.

In reality Earth is not a big black rock but contains water and air and as the outer mantle cooled there would have been a complex interaction between earth, air, fire and water to produce an effective closed system greenhouse effect. This greenhouse effect would have allowed water vapour to form in the atmosphere and eventually create a primitive atmosphere with liquid water at the tropics but retaining ice at the Polar Regions. Snowball Earth is postulated to have happened a further three times before the climate stabilised to what we have now.

What is our climate now? It is generally described as mainly glacial with inter-glacial ‘warm’ events occurring about every 100,000 years lasting for between 10,000 to 20,000 years. A beautiful record of the climate has been preserved in the polar ice caps and elsewhere and a large number of ice-cores have been retrieved. The ice core that gives the longest timeline of about 800,000 years is the EPICA core.

The reason why the inter-glacial event happens has been discussed for some years and to my knowledge is still in contention. The Serbian geophysicist and astronomer Milutin Milankovitch proposed that variations in eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession of the Earth's orbit determined climatic patterns on Earth through orbital forcing. This theory is commonly known as the Milankovitch cycles. It is generally accepted that there must be more forces contributing to climate change but no real agreement on what.

I like to indulge my poetic side and call the inter-glacial events “Mother Nature’s heartbeat”.

The inter-glacial event itself has warm and cold periods and we have historical descriptions of those occurring over the last 2,000 years, the most obvious being the Roman warm period (about BC 100) and the medieval warm period (AD 950 – 1250). If we believe these warm periods are cyclical then we should be due for another warm period now. There is no doubt that rainfall patterns changed during these warm periods and some civilisations fell, but overall the periods seem to have been a time of prosperity and exploration for many nations.

The answer to the question “do you believe in climate change” has a different connotation if you use the IPCC definition of ‘Climate change’. I quote the Global Warming Policy Foundation website especially footnote 2:
“IPCC Introduces New 'Climate Change' Definition
Saturday, 19 November 2011 10:28 IPCC 
Reflecting the diversity of the communities involved in this assessment and progress in science, several of the definitions used in this Special Report differ in breadth or focus from those used in the AR4 and other IPCC reports.
Climate Change: A change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.
[INSERT FOOTNOTE 2: This definition differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change is defined as: 'a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.' The UNFCCC thus makes a distinction between climate change attributable to human activities altering the atmospheric composition, and climate variability attributable to natural causes.] “
The human activity referred to is the emissions of large quantities of carbon dioxide by power stations and industries that use large amounts of energy. I have heard Australian politicians refer to carbon dioxide as a noxious gas, which is quite untrue. We rely on carbon dioxide emissions in very many ways for instance when making wine, brewing beer, baking bread and just simply breathing. In turn, the trees and plants use the carbon dioxide to grow and produce the food that we rely on, plus returning oxygen to the atmosphere.

The biggest user of carbon dioxide is the Phytoplankton in the ocean. Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity (production of oxygen) on Earth. In planet Earths infancy phytoplankton converted all of the iron in the sea into rust. The resulting mounds of rust (iron ore) are now mined by the millions of tonnes every week to satisfy the ongoing industrial revolutions around the world, making some people very rich. Phytoplankton are in decline in the oceans and one reason given is the decline in iron salts in the oceans, believe it or not.

The Australian Labor Party, currently in Government, is forcing upon a dissenting population the opinion that climate change, in the form of global warming, is caused by the emissions of carbon dioxide, and that a large tax must be imposed to stop these emissions. We are told in no uncertain terms that if we don’t agree then we are stupid and don’t understand the science. In reality they are strapped for cash, borrowing millions every week, and now they have found a way to tax the air we breathe.

Footnote: CSIRO climate change scientists received threatening emails a while ago and were move to a place that ensured their safety. The emails were released recently under freedom of information and were found to be mainly hyperbole.

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