I’ve been a bit quiet about climate change issues lately. That’s because I’m now working on other issues and also because there isn’t much new to say.
I thought I would use the recent column by Paul Sheehan as a link into some musings. Sheehan reviews the recently released book, Heaven & Earth, by Ian Plimer. The book takes a long-term view and suggests that there is nothing strange about the current climate and nothing to be worried about.
My views on climate change have changes over the years. I was originally dismissive, then increasingly convinced of the mainstream story, then my skepticism increased again, and now I think the only sensible opinion on the issue of man-made climate change is to not hold a strong opinion. I think those who “know” the IPCC is right or wrong are over-estimating their intelligence. Some of them will be right. And somebody will win the lottery. But I don’t believe current evidence allows anybody to the luxury of certainty.
My policy preference is (and has always been) that the government should do nothing because they are unlikely to make the situation better. But if they must do something, then a revenue-neutral carbon tax is better than a trading system or picking winners.
Towards that end, I wrote a monograph for the CIS outlining why a carbon tax would be better and how it could work. One provocative suggestion was to link it with fuel tax cuts. I also mentioned the McKitrick approach of linking the tax to temperatures. Earlier this year, as the government pushed closer to their trading system, I got a bit more active in saying that a tax would be a better approach and that a trading system needs to be avoided. A few other people (from both left and right) have also complained about the current proposal and hopefully it can be stopped (even Ross Garnaut doesn’t like the current effort).
I have been attacked by various anti-IPCC types because I was willing to engage in the pragmatic “second-best” debate about policy. I still think that it was worthwhile pointing out the differences between the different policy, and I hope that those efforts helped to undermine the push towards a trading system.
It is interesting to note that one of the pin-up boys for the anti-IPCC brigade, Chris Monckton, has recently mentioned a proposal quite similar to what I suggested. In a long open letter to John Key (NZ Prime Minister), Monckton argues that the government should not intervene, but that if they do then the best option would be a carbon tax combined with a fuel tax cut, with a McKitrick tax-temp link. Snap.