Garnaut bows out

Ross Garnaut

The central task arising out of the findings of climate science,
according to Ross Garnaut, is “breaking the connection between economic growth and greenhouse emissions”.

In bowing out of his role as the Government’s climate advisor, he did take a swipe at the media which he described as irresponsible and “somewhat rabid”.

“Much of the media and public discussion of climate change policy over the past nine months has been about the crudest and most distorted discussion of a major public policy in my experience,” Prof Garnaut said.

“Facts are ignored, the rules of logic violated and it’s rare for people expressing very strong opinions on particular issues to go back and actually read the document on which they are commenting.”

In the Oz we got this:

His comments followed an appraisal by The Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan yesterday that Professor Garnaut’s last report was “astoundingly poor, relying on various sleights of hand, misrepresentations and propaganda techniques”.

Sheridan said Professor Garnaut had “sacrificed his reputation as a serious policy intellectual and will be remembered for having produced a shoddy report in the interests of partisan campaigning”.

Sheridan would be qualified to know, of course!

Garnaut is firm that an ETS is what is required in spite of wobbles in the EU scheme.

And he thinks now is a good time for such a major reform:

Prof Garnaut said Australia’s climate of economic prosperity, a time when average incomes in this country exceeded those of Americans for the first time in 100 years, was ideal for structural change.

“A time when terms of trade are at record levels is the best of times for structural change – certainly the best of times economically,” he said.

Back in 2009 in my Senate submission (you might find it interesting just to read the pictures) I quoted Garnaut’s first draft report as saying:

The Review’s terms of reference require it to analyse two specific stabilisation goals: one at which greenhouse gases are stabilised at 550 ppm CO2-e (strong global mitigation) and one at which they are stabilised at 450 ppm CO2-e (ambitious global mitigation).

Then Garnaut says:

A stabilisation target of 450 ppm CO2-e gives about a 50 per cent chance of limiting the global mean temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels (Meinshausen 2006), a goal endorsed by the European Union (Council of the European Union 2005) among others.

Garnaut had obviously seen this in the Stern Review:

Eventual temperature ranges for various emission levels (relative to preindustrial levels)

Describing the acceptance of a brief with these odds as “sad” and “outrageous” I said:

Garnaut, had he acted responsibly at this point, would have gone back to those who commissioned the report and asked for the reference to be changed so that he could develop a strategy for a safe climate. By engaging in the exercise as specified he tended to reinforce the false notion that the project was in fact sane.

That was just the beginning of my outrage. But Garnaut soldiered on.

On his way out, in an interview with Giles Parkinson of Climate Spectator, Garnaut says:

But the thing I’ll be most concerned about is the governance arrangements because they will determine the quality of the scheme going forward.

For Garnaut, the institutional arrangements are more important than the carbon price or compensation, and by inference the targets set initially. In the earlier post we saw that in his latest update five governance bodies were identified. Garnaut is stressing three: one to administer the scheme, one to decide on compensation and one to review targets periodically as we go.

If this ABC story about what Christine Milne said is correct, he may have achieved his aim. It’s worth reading in detail in the Parkinson interview what Garnaut said about the EU situation. It seems as you decarbonise the price of carbon credits can fall unless you lift the level of your ambition. It seems also that the EU is not well placed to do this. Setting the targets required a lot of detailed and patient diplomacy when Angela Merkel had the EU presidency back in 2007. Now the polluting Poles are taking over the presidency for the next year, with no interest in moving the targets.

What I called for in 2009 was a change in mindset:

I will argue that a change of mindset is necessary, FROM doing what seems appropriate to avoid dangerous climate change in a manner that as an overriding and determining condition does not upset the economy TO doing what is necessary as a matter of urgency to achieve a safe climate.

I was well aware that wouldn’t happen short of something like a big storm hitting New York and drowning a couple of million people.

Garnaut, the former diplomat, may now have charted an evolutionary path starting from where we are now to where we’ll need to go, at the same time removing deliberations from the immediate political sphere. If that’s what’s happened, I dips m’lid!

Elsewhere Wayne Swan spoke of the challenge of “growing the economy without growing carbon pollution”, but unfortunately only gave us glimpses of the reference modelling of the economy without a carbon price. I hope we get to see the full picture when the details of the scheme are released.

Abbott says all those economists who believe in a price on carbon are wrong. John Quiggin, “regarded as one of the nation’s most respected economic theorists” tells why they are not.

25 thoughts on “Garnaut bows out”

  1. Sheridan said Professor Garnaut had “sacrificed his reputation as a serious policy intellectual and will be remembered for having produced a shoddy report in the interests of partisan campaigning”.

    He said WHAT?!!??!

    Irony truly is dead.

  2. Let me say unambiguously at the start that Garnaut is, by paradigm, a member in good standing of those who seek to preserve the existing arrangements in relation to social production. Thre can be no doubting that he regards the way the social world is configured now to be at least roughly ideal, and that some fairly minor reforms might nearly get us to an “as good as it gets state”. He’s not much troubled by inequality. That puts him on the right rather than the left of politics.

    That said, he strikes me as at worst, methodical and systematic in his thinking. He takes ideas seriously. He claims no more than what he thinks he can justify intellectually. He’s clearly a man of very considerable intellectual acumen. He’s diligent and he is on the correct side of this issue, whetever else may be said of him. While I suspect we’d never be friends, anyone who ticks these boxes gets my respect. People who set themselves these standards are vital to any rational society. If we had a regime of inclusive governance here, we’d want our key advisers to be like this fellow in the way they do their work.

    Garnaut ill-deserves the howls of rage and slander he has attracted. He has done, as far as I can tell an honest and diligent job within the constraints both major sides of politics assume, and the right invites derision of its credo in their responses.

  3. Yes, Fran.

    He looked at the best available information, took out the key points, proposed the best solutions he could, and ably presented them in the public domain.

    For that he deserves considerable thanks.

    A passing mention to the individual who commissioned him to act in the first place, even if he tried to bury much of the conclusions once they came in, and the collection of crossbenchers who recognized the value of the contribution he made.

  4. Gerard Henderson on the Insiders was saying how Garnaut needed to resign (or should not have taken up the post in teh first place.) It will make him happy I hope.

    Of course for balance we need someone from the other side. Monckton is in town, I’m sure Tones will give him a ring and let him have a go.

    After all…Tones has the (future) mandate doesn’t he?

  5. tssk, I think Henderson’s argument was that Garnaut should have acted like a public servant and kept his trap shut in public. We’re all the better that he didn’t.

    Madonna King has landed an interview with Monckton here on local ABC on Thursday morning. Balance means giving the wingnuts space, obviously.

  6. What the hell is the ABC doing continuing to give that moron airtime?

    Or, perhaps I should say – what the hell is the ABC continuing to give those two morons (Monckton and King) airtime?

  7. R.M.
    Morons have every right to be heard in Australia.
    Have an objective Google search (as you have advised me on another subject) on Garnauts achievements, history, interests and investments(as i have) and explain why he should be given air time.

    He is definitely NOT a moron IMHO.

  8. While they are here, we should be interviewing the overseas talent at the Four degrees conference in Melbourne, especially Malte Meinshausen and Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chair of the German Government’s Advisory Council on Global Change, both of the Potsdam Institute. They’ll tell it like it is.

    Meinshausen put together that graph I put in the post.

    Yes, Garnaut will be there too.

  9. Yep, his business involvements have had mixed success. Doesn’t invalidate his contributions to public life.

    Some outstandingly successful businesspeople have made lousy politicians; many rock stars are awful businesspeople. Sports stars have made lousy politicians and lousy musicians too; and god knows the Community Cup is pretty strong evidence that musicians aren’t necessarily great at sport!

  10. I wonder what Sheridan’s opinion of the PRC’s carbon abatement strategic vision is? Methinks he’s cool with it, as it’s a policy that almost certainly involves the PRC retaining the right to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and y’know he gets all hot and bothered for a little bit of guided democracy. Yet I reckon he’s also very keen on the American decision to go backwards to the era of the dustbowl for its environmental management techniques.

    It’s all horse for courses for our man Greg. Never say he isn’t flexible.

    @ 3: [Garnaut’s] not much troubled by inequality. That puts him on the right rather than the left of politics.

    Fran, I’m surprised you take it for granted that a dude with the scholarly papertrail Garnaut must have has never addressed this issue to your satisfaction.

    After hearing him attack Abbott’s pissant nationalism I’ve come to the conclusion this professor has probably used the freedom of tenure to voice all sorts of inconvenient truths during his time.

  11. Monckton is simply a fraud. He claims to have been a science advisor to Thatcher; he wasn’t. He claims to be a mathematician; he isn’t. He claims to have a cure for HIV and the common cold; he doesn’t. He claims expertise in climate science; he has none. He claims to be a member of the House of Lords; he isn’t. Following this fraudulent character makes no sense except to the unthinking opponents of climate change mitigation.

  12. At the end of Garnaut’s Climate Spectator interview:

    RG: Oh, I’m interested in a thousand things and I look forward very much to getting back to my lifetime professional interests in global economic development.

    Not precisely inequality, but I’d be surprised if he never addressed the issue.

    What the ABC should be doing:

    What is needed instead of the false symmetry implied by “balance” is what the BBC calls impartiality – fact-based reporting that evaluates the evidence and comes to a reality-based conclusion.

  13. Garnaut was asked by Rudd to do the homework for a comprehensive ETS scheme. The parts of his reports that I have read suggest he did a good job of this.
    Problem was that he convinced Wong that the answer had to be a comprehensive ETS. The alternatives seem to have been dismissed without any serious examination of the alternatives. It was all about “market based schemes”, “market efficiency” and other general hypothesis.
    There was no serious consideration of the possibility that it may have made better sense to use different approaches for dealing with different sources of emissions.
    His ETS also doesn’t appear to have been put through any serious check list that would have highlighted the various weakness’s of the CPRS in general or the specific proposal.
    What I am saying is that there was a process failure that resulted in a focus one solution instead of a consideration of a number of alternatives. There was a failure to prepare a list of checks that would help determine that there were no fatal flaws.
    BHP had a series of failures in the nineties that were caused in part because projects took on a momentum of their own with no external auditing that may have picked up that the projects were flawed. (We are talking about failures serious enough to see the departure of the CEO and Chairman.) As a result they developed systems to avoid these problems. It is a shame the government doesn’t appear to have had such a system in place for the climate action study.
    It is probably not Garnaut’s fault but I think he has actually made it harder to get serious climate action started.

  14. JohnD – read through Garnaut’s reports and you will see that he considered the “alternatives” to a market based scheme and rejected them. Failing to agree with you is not the same thing as a fatal flaw..

  15. Brian outlined what the ABC should be doing, based on a quote from The Conversation:

    What is needed instead of the false symmetry implied by “balance” is what the BBC calls impartiality – fact-based reporting that evaluates the evidence and comes to a reality-based conclusion

    I’d settle happily enoug for just this:

    fact-based reporting that comprehensively evaluates the salient and contemporary evidence

    I don’t need the ABC to “draw conclusions”. They can report on the conclusions of those qualified to make them based on the above. Where time constraints do not permit the above “comprehensive” standard to be met, discussion should yet be confined to what has been observed and is salient to the matter at hand. Care should be taken not to arrange discussion in ways that introduce extraneous or non-salient matter to a discussion. Thus, for example, reportage on, for example, the global average temperature for a given year ought not to follow with a story about some talking point from an opponent of mitigation policy but be separated by at least one clearly unrelated story.

  16. dexitroboper @ 14. If Tony Abbott can talk about his future mandate that hasn’t happened yet, and the Libs can go on about how interest rates will always be higher under Labour then Lord Monckton is well within his rights to express his authority based on potential or alternate universes.

    I mean what is it with the left and causality?

  17. LO @14: I haven’t read all of the Garnaut reports and probably never will. However, the bits I did read on the alternatives came across as pretty generalized. There was no sense that Garnaut recognized, for example, that regulation was a very effective way of driving the use of efficient light globes compared with the proposed ETS. I saw nothing that compared the the effectiveness and costs of an MRET style emission trading scheme with the CPRS for driving the cleanup of electricity. (The proposed CPRS would be lose out compared with the MRET on both effectiveness and price.)
    It is not enough to dismiss alternatives with the statement of some economic hypothesis. What was needed was a detailed comparison for dealing with specific sources of emission. Preferably with the case for the alternatives being prepared by people who supported the alternatives.

  18. Fran @ 18, that’s a good formulation of the ABC’s responsibilities, I think.

    Helen @ 21, I think Garnaut’s going is because his role with the multi-party committee and updating of his report was a formal assignment which was scheduled to finish with the announcement of the scheme, which was meant to be July 1.

    At least with Gillard he was brought into the tent, whereas with Rudd we kept hearing that Garnaut was only one source of the Government’s advice.


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