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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The Australian's junk commentary #2 « Previous | |Next »
November 18, 2006

Another example of the poverty of the op-ed in The Australian which prides itself on informed public debate. This time it is Christopher Pearson on climate change in a piece entitled 'Hotheads warned, cool it'. This time we have some form of reasoning, but it is pretty implausible.

He says there is something terribly galling about the federal Government deciding to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on controlling emissions of what will turn out to be, in all probability, a perfectly harmless gas. So though greenhouse emissions are linked to climate change they are not causally linked to global warming. Pearson stands for strong leadership on this issue, for:

...we know that strong leadership can change public opinion through time. I think the Prime Minister could and should have taken a bolder stand right from the start of the debate. He should have sacked ministers, especially in the environment portfolio, who falsely asserted an incontrovertible link between global warming and carbon dioxide. He ought to have promoted more of the informed debate we have seen in the pages of The Australian from the likes of Bjorn Lomborg and Bob Carter. No doubt we are a more credulous people than our grandparents were, but he might have tried appealing to the scepticism that was once such a prominent feature of the national character.

Gee, I'm beginning to feel sorry for these conservatives. They are beginning to understand the poverty of their conservatism and the lack of strong leadership.

No worries though. Pearson turns for comfort and intellectual and moral leadership to lecture given by Nigel Lawson, Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the Centre for Policy Studies, a free market think tank in the UK. Lawson dismisses the Stern Report as scaremongering relying 'on a battery of essentially spurious statistics based on theoretical models and conjectural worst cases'. With that out of the way Pearson says that the next leg of Lawson's argument relies on two irreducible truths. He quotes Lawson:

First, there is no way the growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide can be arrested without a very substantial rise in the cost of carbon, presumably via the imposition of a swingeing carbon tax, which would require, at least in the short to medium term, a radical change of lifestyle in the developed world. Are we seriously prepared to do this? (A tax would at least be preferable to the capricious and corrupt rationing system (that) half-heartedly exists today under Kyoto).

Pearson says that Lawson's other unavoidable fact is that, even if the developed world were prepared to forgo its accustomed reliance on fossil fuels:
It would still be useless unless the major developing nations, notably China, India and Brazil, were prepared to do the same, which they are manifestly and understandably not." No amount of jaw-boning by Howard and Peter Costello is going to persuade the two Asian giants to curb their energy consumption and the economic activity that is delivering, often for the first time, a measure of prosperity to their people. It is utterly hubristic of them to imagine otherwise.

Therefore, Lawson infers 'we are driven back to the need to adapt to a warmer world and the moral obligation of the richer countries to help the poorer countries to do so.' So what does 'adapt' mean for the Murray-Darling Basin or Adelaide where Pearson lives? Oh dear, Pearson hasn't thought that through, even though the autumn rains have failed for seven years in a row in the Basin, the Darling River is more or less dead, and its stopped raining where we have built our cities and irrigation infrastucture.

Pearson is more interested in following Lawson to warn us about the twin dangers of the new religion of eco-funadamentalism apart from the needless havoc it may wreak on some developed nations' economies. He says:

The first is that "the global salvationist movement is profoundly hostile to capitalism and the market economy ...Given the fact that the only way in which the world's poor will ever be able to escape from their poverty is by embracing capitalism and the global market economy, this is not good news."

Gee I thought one of the options to address the problem of emissions was to deploy the market mechanism of emissions trading. Aren't economists talking in terms of the National Water Initiative, water trading, users paying the full cost of water and water recycling? Pearson is way of beam. He's not even reading the policy options.

Pearson says that the second danger is even more disturbing. He quotes Lawson:

It could not be a worse time to abandon our own traditions of reason and tolerance, and to embrace instead the irrationality and intolerance of eco-fundamentalism, where reasoned questioning of its mantras is regarded as a form of blasphemy. There is no greater threat to the people of this planet than the retreat from reason we see all around us today."

Who is Pearson trying to kid. He's off beam again. He simply ignores the way that it is the Right that is in flight from reason and embracing irrationality.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:26 PM | | Comments (6)


Not only isn't Pearson reading the policy options but it seems he's binned, unread, the latest missives from Murdoch who's apparently recently had a 'road to Damascus' like conversion on climate change.

Guess this is what happens when you consign former HQs to ends of the Empire status.

what is suprising about the Australian's continuing anti-global warming stance is the low quality of the work. It is as if they must the win and defeat the opponent rather than engage in a policy debate.

Yep spot on - how Pearson manages to remain employed as a columnist escapes me. Almost everything he writes is demostrably wrong ( DDT column, Terra Nullius, ABC books recently, and this one.) Surely there is a sensible conservative columinsit out there?

yep.He sure carries a lot of lead. He stays, I presume, because there are so few senior homegrown conservative journalists in Australia.

Coem to think of it the op. eds across the corporate media are looking a bit thin these days. Journalism is going through a bad time.

Its not hard to work out;

its all about whos got the most hot air.

Problem is there's too many wind bags and not enough clouds.

After the Stern Report the conservative climate change sceptics are not able to mount an argument that is persuasive.

Consider the above argument by Pearson: it implies that Stern is an eco-fundamentalist who stands for the retreat from (economic) reason? It's a joke that backfires.