18/09/2013 - 05:39

World awaits IPCC report

18/09/2013 - 05:39


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World awaits IPCC report

There is nothing more boring than a conversation about the weather but, in the case of a United Nations climate change report scheduled for release next week, there are significant business factors at work, along with political reputations and government budgets.

So far, all that is known about the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that there have been stories published in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and London's Daily Mail which claim to be based on a leaked copy of the study.

Because it is a leak and might turn out to be incorrect, there has been a muted response from government officials and climate scientists.

But if the leak is accurate then a worldwide phenomenon called the climate-change industry could face a radical overhaul, at best, or be brought to a crashing halt, at worst.

Stories published on the basis of leaked information from the report contain a number of key claims.

• Fresh measures of global temperatures show that the world is warming at half the rate claimed in a 2007 IPCC statement.

• No statistically significant rise in the world's temperature since 1997.

• Evidence that for decades at a time between the years 950 and 1250, the world was as warm as it is today. Obviously this was well before the industrial revolution and rise in carbon dioxide emissions.

• Little evidence of polar icecaps melting. Little evidence of rising sea levels.

Because the topic of climate change generates intense personal opinions, there is not much point in discussing whether the stories based on a leaked document are right or wrong.

If the stories are wrong we will discover the truth at the end of next week, and the climate change industry can carry on as before (and opinions can remain as polarised as before).

However, if the leak is correct and the IPCC is really about to perform a sort of scientific backflip, then the implications are profound.

In Australia, an entire political movement has sprung up around an absolute belief in man-made climate change,

with that movement able to have a significant effect on government policies and budgets.

The controversial carbon tax was created largely because of the 2007 IPCC report, and several government agencies were created to enforce government climate change policies.

The depth of reaction to the 2007 report was so profound that even local governments started changing their zoning laws to prevent people building in areas potentially subject to future coastal flooding.

In Europe, an entire region is being pushed deep into debt in a hectic dash to replace politically incorrect power generation systems such as coal, gas and nuclear, with alternative and renewable systems that are proving to be both erratic and horrendously expensive.

Last week, Europe's industry commissioner, Antonio Tajani, said rising energy prices were leading to "an industrial massacre" as factories are uprooted and shifted to countries with cheaper energy, especially the US, with its abundant supplies of low-cost gas.

The knock-on consequences of a new IPCC report that plays down the cause, intensity and effects of climate change are so significant that next week's report could

set the political and business agenda for the next five years – just as the 2007 report did for the past five.

Unwinding government decisions could involve dismantling entire departments. Funds allocated for climate-change projects could be reallocated. Companies formed to capitalise on government climate projects will fail. Universities could reconsider courses and coal-mining companies, the archenemy of the climate industry, could be handed a get-out-of-jail card.

The list goes on because what's been happening in the five years since the original IPCC report has permeated every aspect of government policy, business investment and personal life.

The rush to install taxpayer-subsidised solar panels is one example of how that 2007 report changed personal financial decisions and upset government budgets.

Some of the changes resulting from the original IPCC report have been good. There's a lot to be said for reducing pollution.

But some of the changes have led to an astonishing waste of money.

Next week's IPCC report will trigger a revival of the great climate change debate and, if the leaks are correct,

it could prove to be the equivalent of pressing a re-set button for business, investors and government.


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