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The always perceptive Brendan O'Neill raises an important point
about the Brisbane floods, which just may have been exacerbated by
a collective institutional obsession with preparing for droughts
caused by global warming (hat tip Bishop Hill).
It is worth looking at
a document called ClimateSmart 2050, which was published in
2007 by the Queensland government. It outlines Queensland's
priorities for the next four decades (up to 2050) and promises to
reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent during
that timeframe. The most striking thing about the document is its
assumption that the main problem facing this part of Australia,
along with most of the rest of the world, is essentially dryness
brought about by global warming. It argues that "the world is
experiencing accelerating climate change as a result of human
activities", which is giving rise to "worse droughts, hotter
temperatures and rising sea levels". We are witnessing "a tendency
for less rainfall with more droughts", the document confidently
As a consequence the government went on warning of water
shortages even as the Wivenhoe dam got close to full, apparently
forgetting that one of the dam's jobs was to act as a flood shock
absorber. As with British snow, the concern seems to have
asymmetric, suggesting that climate change is causing officials to
forget that weather noise may still be far more important than
climate signal even in a slowly warming world.
O'Neill's conclusion is characteristically wise:
This is not to say that "greens are to blame
for Brisbane". There's no point joining the current clamour to find
one evil person or one evil that can be held responsible for what
is a very complex natural disaster. However, in a world in which
the political elites increasingly spend their time fantasising over
a future hot apocalypse, where it is fashionable to make Biblical
predictions about mankind receiving a sweaty punishment for his
wayward behaviour, it is worths raising the possibility at least
that our priorities have become seriously skewed. Perhaps it is
time for our leaders to come back down to Earth, and to address
problems in the here and now, rather than endlessly moralising
about man's behaviour and its future impact on Mother Earth.