Will developing countries slow their industrialisation by submitting to controls on greenhouse gas emissions?
At the time of writing, Australia’s new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, with a plane-load of ministers, advisers, public servants and journalists, has flown to Bali for the UN-sponsored climate conference which was supposed to put in place enforceable policies to stop climate change.
Mr Rudd’s high-profile presence is designed to reinforce the message that, unlike the Howard Government, he is serious about climate change and is committed to the Kyoto Protocol.
However, the Coalition Government refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol because the world’s largest economy, the United States, refused to be a partner, and because there were no enforceable policies for developing countries, including China and India, which are currently expanding their greenhouse gas emissions at a prodigious rate.
Strangely enough, Mr Rudd has said he would sign the Kyoto Protocol (which has no mandatory targets for developing countries); but would insist in Bali that, in future treaties, all countries – including China and India – must be subject to mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions.
On the eve of the Bali Conference, China’s Vice-Foreign Minister, Zhang Yusui, said, “Most developing countries are in the process of industrialisation and urbanisation, and they face the arduous task of eliminating poverty. Their need for increased energy and greenhouse gas emissions is inevitable, and they need a reasonable process of continued growth.”
Even before the conference began, it was clear that developing countries would not accept mandatory controls, and they have been joined by other countries, such as Japan. Where that leaves the UN-sponsored process of a new climate treaty – or Mr Rudd’s policy – is anyone’s guess.
The latest reports indicate that specific emission targets for developing countries had been dropped from the draft Bali climate-change document, effectively putting Mr Rudd into the same position which John Howard faced in 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was adopted.
A recent report by the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change quoted an American expert as saying that deaths from weather-related events – a measure of the impact of climate change on people – peaked in the 1920s, and has been falling since then. It found that annual deaths from weather extremes in the period from 1990 to 2006 – considered to be the most dangerous period from the impact of global warming – were down by 87 per cent on the 1900-1989 average.
While our TV screens are regularly covered with footage of climatic extremes, including cyclones, tornadoes, floods and droughts, this largely reflects the fact that modern communications allow us to see what happens in parts of the world which until recently were uncontactable.
In any case, despite the endless repetition of the mantra that the world is facing imminent disaster from global warming, the latest scientific evidence simply does not back up the hype.
While global mean temperatures rose slightly from about 1978 to 1998, for the past nine years, temperatures have actually fallen slightly.
Dr David Whitehouse, a solar astronomer from the United Kingdom, suggested an explanation for this which has nothing to do with man-made global warming.
In a recent article in the UK Independent, he said, “Something is happening to our sun. It has to do with sunspots, or rather the activity cycle their coming and going signifies.”
He added, “After a period of exceptionally high activity in the 20th century, our sun has suddenly gone exceptionally quiet. Months have passed with no spots visible on its disc. We are at the end of one cycle of activity and astronomers are waiting for the sunspots to return and mark the start of the next, the so-called cycle 24. They have been waiting for a while now with no sign it’s on its way any time soon.”
It is well known that sunspots are associated with additional solar radiation, which heats up the earth.
“Looking back through sunspot records reveals many periods when the sun’s activity was high and low and, in general, they are related to warm and cool climatic periods,” he said. As well as the Little Ice Age, he noted that there was a “weak sun” period and the cold Iron Age, the active sun and the warm Bronze Age.
With the absence of sunspots, he said it is possible that the earth might be entering a cooler period.
Dr Whitehouse said, “In only the past decade or so the sun has started a decline in activity, and the lateness of cycle 24 is an indicator.”
The real danger in all this is that the pressing environmental issues which can be addressed – including reducing air pollution, improving the availability of clean water and sewerage for the majority of the world’s population which are currently without them – are being ignored.
Because these are not glamorous, they attract neither the emotion nor the money which is fuelling the current climate alarmism.
– Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.