Hard News by Russell Brown

Grrrr ...

And so out come the climate change deniers, with the news that the official numbers on our Kyoto Protocol obligations have been revised and, rather than possibly being due a credit of $500 million when things are settled up in 2012, we are more likely to owe $500 million in carbon credits that we would be obliged to purchase from another nation.

The earlier calculations were wrong in two respects - on the way forest coverage was calculated, and on the additional pollution generated by a rapidly growing economy. But the response since the news has been somewhat hysterical. Nick Smith is high up in the Herald story declaring that the New Zealand economy will take a "hammering" on the costs for the period between 2008 and 2012.

Bollocks it will. Core government spending (excluding SOEs) between now and now and 2012 will be something like $430,000,000,000 between now and 2012. Likely Kyoto exposure is $500,000,000. Work it out for yourself. Or, if you prefer, think of it as half the increase in health spending in this budget year.

The Dom Post is even madder today, headlining its story Labour admits $1bn Kyoto botch-up, giving the impression that somehow the Labour Party is confessing to some evil deed (I bet it's that bloody Mike Williams again …). I'm not even sure it's accurate to call it a botch-up: better economic modelling led to a revision of original estimates. Shit happens. DPF has gone right off the edge, implying that Labour has actually done something (apart from, along with most of the developed world, ratifying the protocol) to cost the taxpayer $500 million. It's bullshit, and I'm sure he knows it is.

What Labour did do was dig its own grave by spending the last two or three years touting the best-case scenario of a $500 million refund and declaring that National would be tearing up a great big cheque if it de-ratified Kyoto. I hope that teaches them a lesson. Sell the programme on its merits, not on its best possible outcome.

Meanwhile, the self-styled experts are piling into DPF's forums to declare that they know much better than the science academies from all the G8 countries plus China, India and Brazil.

This reminds me a lot of the mad end of the anti-GE lobby, which is to this day quoting factoids long debunked. There was the alleged outrage of Science and Nature refusing to publish a study that claimed a majority of leading climate scientists doubted the evidence on anthropogenic global warming. Actually, it wasn't published because it was rubbish.

Another favourite is something along these lines: "Aha! But if climate change is happening, why are most of the world's glaciers advancing rather than retreating!? It's a lefty plot! Etc, etc ..." Actually, the evidence is unequivocal: most of the world's glaciers are retreating.

George Monbiot (with whom I disagree on a number of things, but not this) conducted an amusing fisking on loopy naturalist David Bellamy, who had claimed in a letter to New Scientist that 555 of the world's 625 glaciers had been advancing since 1980. This non-fact spread quickly amongst deniers and I've had it quoted to me in emails. Monbiot took the fairly simple step of sending Bellamy's letter to the World Glacier Monitoring Service. Their reply? "This is complete bullshit."

Anyone interested in an expert commentary on Bellamy's similarly bogus campaign against wind energy can listen to a radio interview I did on Wednesday with IRL energy engineer David Haywood.

Kyoto is imperfect. Getting our carbon emissions down to comply with it will carry a stiff economic cost. There are reasonable arguments that it is not the best way of handling the looming crisis. But you'd better have a pretty good Plan B, because the scientific consensus is emphatically that anthropogenic climate change is happening and that it is a critical problem.

Now, National is dangling the idea that in government it would consider defaulting on New Zealand's Kyoto obligations, breaking an international contract. No sign of a Plan B there; just the most craven short-term political advantage. If I sound pissed off about this, it's because I fucking well am pissed off. Grrr …

Anyway, thanks to Anthony Trenwith for news that the soon-to-be-Bishop Tamaki has a website and - by the look of pages removed overnight and replaced with a placeholder - plans a glorious national tour. I can hardly wait. Contact me for the dates if you're interested.

The US right-wing attack machine is in overdrive at the moment in the wake of Democratic Senator Dick Durbin saying this on the Senate floor this week:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

People are outraged. No, not because torture is being practiced at Guantanamo. But because Durbin said, hey, this is the kind of thing that pitiless despotic regimes do …

One Good Move has the Fox News Hannitty outrage clip. Note how they edited out the icky bits from the paragraph above, in case anyone were to get the idea that anything untoward is going on at Gitmo. In a similar vein, Al Franken catches Fox's Bill O'Reilly editing Sen. Joe Biden to twist the story his way. This really is quite astonishing, even for Fox.

But if you want really astonishing, check out the Republican walkout from House committee hearings on the Patriot Act, after tricky questions from people on the floor, including James Zogby. The Democrat representatives had their microphones turned off. I was actually quite gobsmacked by this: it's banana republic stuff. The video is on the multimedia page at TruthOut.org, along with quite a bit of other stuff.

And the Daily Show on political fencing over Gitmo