Archive for February 2011
Yesterday The Age published an estimate of the cost of greenhouse gas abatement programs detailing spending over the past decade (Climate cash goes up in smoke, Mark Davis and Lenore Taylor). In the online version, they haven’t included the table of costs, which I have reproduced here. Without knowing exactly how they cost per tonne of CO2 abated, it’s difficult to say anything with any great confidence, but the comparison between cheap and expensive programs is interesting.
The authors of the report benchmark these costs against a carbon price, which would be around $20 to $25 per tonne. They estimate that by 2020, these programs would deliver a 0.5% cut on 2000 emissions, one tenth of the current 5% target, which is itself miniscule in proportion to the risk we face from climate change. Read the rest of this entry »
Complex problems like climate change are so contentious because of the many different ways that people view issues and apply their own brand of reasoning to them. Take the different cultural values and world views people have, combine them with very different ideas of causality, then it’s no great wonder that people come to very different conclusions.
The world of globalised communications has become a big marketplace of ideas. We’re into the territory of “there are no right answers, but there are some very wrong ones”. This is because complex problems do not have single, simple solutions; they have messy ones. After reviewing the range of arguments over climate change, I’ve been very disappointed to realise (on reflection) how little formal training in reasoning people get. Applying simple reasoning to complex issues does not lead to good decisions, except by accident. People can go through school, negotiate university and come out the other end with no particular skills in decision-making beyond their narrow training (this includes science education). Apparently in a post-modern democracy to teach decision-making is undemocratic, in an autocratic system you are told what to think and in a traditional system you think the way your forbears did. Ideas are communicated via social means where confidence, reputation and small-world trust networks can be more effective than their content. This is dangerous where the limits of a range of social-ecological systems are being reached. Narratives can amplify or dampen ideas – a powerful narrative is able to promote almost any idea – for example that somehow the vast majority of the globe’s natural scientists have deluded themselves and others into thinking the climate is changing.
A new entry into the Australian marketplace of ideas is the launch of the Climate Commission by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet. It is headed by Professor Tim Flannery, who is named as a leading science communicator. Other commissioners are Professor Will Steffen, Professor Lesley Hughes, Dr Susannah Eliott, Mr Gerry Hueston and Mr Roger Beale. It is backed by a science advisory panel Professor Matt England, Professor David Karoly, Professor Andy Pitman, Professor Neville Smith, Professor Tony McMichael, Dr Helen Cleugh, Dr Lisa Alexander and Professor Brendan Mackey. Read the rest of this entry »