13th May 2011
I came across this interesting short paragraph in today's Australian.
Mr Burke said Treasury's report had not been a helpful contribution. "There is very limited utility in 40-year projections," he said. "Let's face it, if you went back five years people didn't know the global financial crisis was coming. They didn't know about the mining boom mark II. Once you're offering projections . . . of more than five years they're not offering a whole lot of assistance in what you should be doing right now in public policy."
It is extremely rare (and therefore refreshing) to hear a politician express common sense. (Note that this doesn't mean one can't predict long-term trends – but a trend is not the same as a precise projection. I might add that population being my area of 'expertise', I have not yet seen one population forecast that has held up to the test of time. That is why I don't care much about the debates occurring on Becker-Posner blog about the population projection of 10 billion issued recently by idle UN bureaucrats.)
But Tony Burke's statement has implications. The fact that projections of more than five years don't offer "a whole lot of assistance in what you should be doing right now in public policy" is true for many more things.
In particular, Burke's Government can now review its "climate change" policies which are based on projections 100 years into the future. If forecasts for 2050 are questionable (and they are), then what kind of credibility do forecasts for 2100 have?
As expected, most, if not all, of IPCC's short term (10-15 year) forecasts have been PROVEN false. In addition, a good number of studies have questioned IPCC's long-term projections. Consider this study on the sea level:
[T]he estimate of over 1m and higher rise in sea level by 2100 (in next 90 years) seems unrealistic, when analyzed in the context of present sea level rise which is just about 1.5mm to 2.0 mm per year with almost NO component of acceleration. For the global sea level to rise by over 1m in the next 90 years would require acceleration (in sea level rise) of up to 0.28mm/yr2, which is almost two orders of magnitude larger than present. This seems highly unlikely at present given the fact that the earth’s climate has not warmed in the last ten years and further that the earth’s mean temperature seems to be declining at present.
If nothing else, this kind of study shows that there are at least two well-informed views on the future of the sea level. With "climate science" not yet out of its infancy, why not let more research be conducted before slugging the Australian economy – which is already suffering from many Keynesian follies – with another huge hit?
Let the link between CO2 and acceleration in temperature be established conclusively before considering interventionist policies.