Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Doubt is our product": The Uncanny Similarity of Strategy

There is an astonishing likeness between the strategy used by CLimate Skeptics to derail action against Climate Change and the strategy used by those opposing the trade in soil carbon offsets. The Grand Strategy that led to success for the Climate Change Denialists was developed by the American Petroleum Institute, and leaked in 1998 to the New York Times in the form of a memo that stated: “Victory will be achieved when…recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” It was the same strategy used by tobacco companies to fight the fact that smoking causes lung cancer. A tobacco company memo from the late 1960s, which observed: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” (1)

The following is a prime example of the Anti-Science of Soil Carbon: Complexity is a reason why soil C should not be traded, rather than as a problem seeking a solution."There are numerous complicating factors that will need to be addressed and dealt with explicitly in any market-based GHG trading scheme that involves C-sequestration into grazed ecosystems." (2) (See The 10 Complexities below.)

It was after several months of exposure to similar false assertions of complexity that the Victorian Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into Soil Carbon Sequestration decided: “Due to the significant scientific and economic uncertainties associated with soil carbon sequestration, the Committee concluded that a cautious and conservative approach should be taken in establishing incentive mechanisms to encourage soil carbon sequestration in Victoria.”

Nearly every one of the 10 Complexities can be eliminated with a small amount of common sense. But this scientist is not interested in solutions. Complexity means risk. Risk means insecurity. Insecurity means fear. And to make sure the policymaker reading this paper feels the fear, the scientist becomes hysterical: “The existence of the above and other real-life complexities will render market-based C-trading schemes involving pastures, exposed to the risks of complicated, ill-conceived, ill-understood, poorly regulated financial instruments and arrangements that are replete with opportunity for fraudulent scams and inappropriate diversion of community wealth to the personal fortunes of scheme managers and traders, while not delivering the scheme objectives, reminiscent of those involved in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009.”

The 10 Soil Carbon Complexities:

"These include, linked emission and/or uptake of methane and nitrous oxide associated with management changes for achieving changed C-sequestration, the impact on C-stocks of wildfire frequency and intensity, compensatory non-domesticated animal grazing, and large scale movement of high-C surface topsoil by flood and wind, difficulties of defining baseline C-stocks and baseline GHG fluxes from each patch of land under consideration especially when the requisite baseline is in the past, long time-frames (several decades) required and high expense for measuring change in C-stocks in each patch of land under a scheme, the high actual input-value or opportunity-value of the mineral elements associated with increased organic C stocks, the special status of any lands that have already been defined as “Kyoto Lands” by coming under Kyoto Protocol arrangements, and the interaction of C-sequestration with other environmental externalities that are coming under different management policy arrangements such as interactions with hydrological and biodiversity policies."

(1) Chris Mooney, "Some Like It Hot As The World Burns", MotherJones May/June 2005 Issue
(2) Roger M. Gifford, CSIRO Plant Industry, “Carbon sequestration in Australian Grasslands: Policy and Technical Issues”, Proceedings of FAO workshop on The role of grassland carbon sequestration in the mitigation of climate change
Rome, 15-17 April 2009

No comments: