08 November 2009

Kevin Rudd's Gallery of Dangerous Deniers

I thought that it would be worth illustrating the sort of people that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd characterizes as climate deniers, people whose logic does not belong in any responsible government.
Category #1

"The first category of those opposed to action is the vocal group of conservatives who do not accept the scientific consensus."
We can illustrate this first category of skeptic by everyone's favorite climate change denier, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). Senator Inhofe has said that global warming is a "hoax" and is adamantly opposed to action on greenhouse gases.
Category #2

"The second group of do nothing climate change skeptics are those who purport to accept the scientific consensus, but in the next breath are unwilling to support any of the practicable plans of action that would actually do something about climate change. This group plays lip service to the climate change science but when push comes to shove refuse to support climate change action. In Australia, these naysayers have successfully blocked the development of an emissions trading scheme for more than a decade."
We can illustrate this category of denier with NASA's James Hansen. Hansen has thought the IPCC too conservative, so it is not his views on science that qualify him for denier status, but his vigorous opposition to emissions trading schemes. Hansen was celebrated by cap and trade opponents when he said (PDF):
. . . governments are retreating to feckless “cap-and-trade”, a minor tweak to business-as-usual. . . Cap-and-trade is the temple of doom.
Category #3

"The third group of climate deniers are those who pretend to accept the science but then urge delay because they don't want their country to be the first to act."
We can illustrate this category with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has said,
"those rapidly-growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well. Some of these nations have already made great strides with the development and deployment of clean energy. Still, they will need to commit to strong measures at home and agree to stand behind those commitments just as the developed nations must stand behind their own. We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together."
Now President Obama is not explicitly urging delay and these comments are somewhat ambiguous, but it is simply a fact that extracting "commitments" from developing countries, especially China and India, has been a huge obstacle in international negotiations. The effect of calling for such commitments thus is one of delay, since the United States has thus far refused to sign on to the unilateral commitments of the sort called for by Rudd, and this has been a consistent fact of US policy since 1997, and it has not changed under Obama. This category of "denier" is quite full and would include other world leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany. These leaders fit Rudd's criteria for their unwillingness to unilaterally advance strong domestic commitments in international negotiations, preferring instead to wait for others.
Don't expect the phrase "climate change denier" to go away. But it has been reduced to political comedy in my view.