Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Ross Gittins’ letter to grand children

November 26, 2013

Ross Gittins’ letter to grand children

This article is very powerful. If you are a baby boomer, you might wonder if we are spending the kids inheritence in more ways than one.

Netherlands June 2012

October 21, 2012

I started this about four months ago and have not been back since so here it is, posted from New York.
Am in the Netherlands for a couple of weeks. Attended a day of Rabobank international farmer master class which was fascinating. Not there because I’m a master farmer but because Kim was a key note speaker. She went well, lots of positive feedback. Went to Wageningen University to hear the Dutch perspective on the challenges facing agriculture. Essentially, food demand is expected to double and productive land not expected to increase, which leaves increase in production per hectare. Plus reduction in supply chain waste which represents up to 25%. I can not believe that Netherlands is the 2nd largest exporter of agricultural produce after the US. It is 250 km by 150 km for god’s sake! Obviously they mean by value but it is still an extraordinary achievement. Interestingly, the scientists at the uni see great potential in genetically modified plants despite the current EU policies.
Love Amsterdam 700,000 bicycles and 200,000 cars! Bikes rule, even pedestrians have to give way. Crooked old building leaning against each other. Rode our bikes out along the dykes for lunch by the sea. Ran into another group of Aussies doing the same thing. In the afternoon we sit at our local bar by the canal with a beer and a plate of Bitterbollen. Bliss.

Pretty feeble travelogue, I must have got busy. I think I like Amsterdam more than NYC.

Letter 7th July 2011

July 20, 2011

The Carbon Tax


Dear Sir/Madam, 

I would like to thank the readers of the Express for all the positive feedback that I have received for my comments in your paper on climate change. Obviously the readers of the Express are clever, forward thinking people because they agree with me. I might cop a bit of flak now though because if you accept the science that human activity- our activity- is having an impact on the climate, as the leader of the opposition does, then you must also reflect on what the scientists predict our impact is going to be in the future. Briefly, if we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the present rate, the year we have just had will seem boring; floods, cyclones and droughts will be common place. The warming means there is more water vapour in the air and more heat which combine to produce bigger weather events. Apparently the El Nino will occur more frequently making the droughts of 2002 and 2006 more common place and perhaps more severe. These are not alarmist rantings, they are the best predictions of people who have spent their careers working in this field. 

The solution is to dramatically reduce the emission of greenhouse gases around the world. This is why world leaders keep having big conferences to try and agree on a global plan to do just that. The reason why getting an agreement is so hard is because cutting emissions will involve massive change to the economies of the world. People do not like change. There are many people who own, run and work in many industries that will contract, where costs will rise relative to other sectors. This adjustment is traumatic for those of us that have to find new jobs or whose business has to adjust. Equally, other businesses will prosper and grow, employing more people. Human nature dictates that the people who scream the loudest are those that are getting hurt not those that will benefit- especially if they have not been born yet. The world economy is always changing; just ask those involved in the music industry how the internet has affected them. A lot of people are losing jobs in the book retail industry at the moment because of structural changes in publishing. Electricity will be generated in a different way in 30 years time, steel and cement will be produced using less energy and if we still farm sheep and cattle they will burp a lot less methane. The trick is to work out the least costly way to change. 

The two options on the table inAustraliaat the moment are the Government’s carbon tax cum emissions trading scheme and the opposition’s direct action. Both schemes will be very expensive if they are to have any chance of reducing emissions. We will pay for both, one way or another. The carbon tax will be paid for by consumers of products that emit a lot of CO2, the direct action will be paid for by tax payers. I find it ironic that it is the conservative side of politics that is advocating for taxpayers to foot the bill through government trying to pick winners by paying industries to invest in emissions reducing technology. We have a long history inAustraliaof failed attempts by governments to encourage or protect various industries and the coalition parties have been the strongest advocates of getting government out of private markets. Direct action by government always seems to bring out the worst in us and I worry that all the opposition will succeed in doing is lining the pockets of those industries that lobby the best. 

A carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme (ETS) impose a price on emissions. This forces all of us to pay for something we have never paid for before and have therefore used to excess. The beauty of this system is that we decide how we handle this increased cost. Consumers can choose to change how they use energy for example. Producers can be innovative to reduce their costs or move into new areas to make money. The big advantage of an ETS is that an entrepreneur can actually earn money by innovating to reduce emissions. This provides both push and pull to reduce emissions. The push is the higher cost of carbon intensive products and services, whilst the pull is the money that can be made by generating reductions in emissions.

I do not doubt that the carbon tax and later, the ETS will increase the cost of living initially and cause considerable dislocation and change to our economy, just like reducing tariffs in the 1970s and 80s. The government has said that it will compensate individuals through reducing income tax and increasing welfare payments. If we respond to the price incentives cleverly we might actually end up better off.

I argue that the earlier we act the easier the change will be. If Australiamucks about because the old vested interests hold sway we will all be the poorer for it.  

Kind regards.

Robert Lee.

Productivity Commission Report on Emission reduction policies in key economies

June 9, 2011

Did anyone else notice the irony tonight in the position and statements of Tony Abbott’s response to the release of the Productivity Commission report on Emission Reduction. Mr Abbott had positioned himself in a coal mine and vowed to fight to “keep this mine open into the future”. A coal mine is an icon for the old economy. I think it is telling that Tony chose the depths of a coal mine to frame his response to a thorough, credible and independant dismantling of one of his main arguments against the Government’s proposed carbon tax; that is, that other countries are not acting to reduce emmissions.

For the world economy to have any hope of curbing CO2 emissions sufficiently to keep global temperature below managable levels, coal fired energy generation must be phased out quickly. Coal is in the front line and Tony is there, grim faced, defending it!

It is a pity that he was not around 200 years ago and he could have carried the red flag in front of the steam trains.

Tony Abbott has shown clearly tonight that he will fight all attempts to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Another Letter on Climate Change

May 23, 2011


It rained last night, what a fantastic start to the 2011 season. Long may it continue. The Climate Commission released its first report today, written by Prof. Will Steffan, a world renowned climate scientist. Already I have heard angry calls to the radio exclaiming that “no one can predict the future!” No they can’t, but they can make a pretty accurate guess. The report does make the following conclusions with certainty because they are based on actual measurements: I quote-

 ––“The average air temperature at the Earth’s surface continues on an upward trajectory at a rate of 0.17 °C per decade over the past three decades.

––The temperature of the upper 700 m of the ocean continues to increase, with most of the excess heat generated by the growing energy imbalance at the Earth’s surface stored in this compartment of the system.

––The alkalinity of the ocean is decreasing steadily as a result of acidification by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

––Recent observations confirm net loss of ice from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets; the extent of Arctic sea ice cover continues on a long-term downward trend. Most land-based glaciers and ice caps are in retreat.

––Sea-level has risen at a higher rate over the past two decades, consistent with ocean warming and an increasing contribution from the large polar ice sheets.

––The biosphere is responding in a consistent way to a warming Earth, with observed changes in gene pools, species ranges, timing of biological patterns and ecosystem dynamics.”

The report also states the following:-

 –– “There is no credible evidence that changes in incoming solar radiation can be the cause of the current warming trend.

–– Neither multi-decadal or century-scale patterns of natural variability, such as the Medieval Warm Period, nor shorter term patterns of variability, such asENSO(El Niño-Southern Oscillation) or the North Atlantic Oscillation, can explain the globally coherent warming trend observed since the middle of the 20th century.

–– There is a very large body of internally consistent observations, experiments, analyses, and physical theory that points to the increasing atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide (CO2) the most important, as the ultimate cause for the observed warming.”

 I couldn’t have put it better myself. Chapter 2 of the report discusses the risks associated with a changing climate. The report looks at five risks (i) sea-level rise; (ii) ocean acidification; (iii) the water cycle; (iv) extreme events; and (v) abrupt, non-linear and irreversible changes in the climate system.

 The report emphasises the limitations of any predictions but it does say this in bold letters:-

“Apart from these insights, what we can say with certainty is that rainfall patterns will change as a result of climate change, and often in unpredictable ways, creating large risks for water availability.”

 This is an important debate. We are talking about the effect we are having on the lives of our children and grandchildren. They cannot afford for us to simply go red in the face and say we can’t change anything here. I commend this report to you, it is a very worthwhile read. Please post any comments on my blog-


Robert Lee

ps. Climate Commission web site is

letter to Molong Express

April 24, 2011

A farmers view on climate change

 Dear Sir/Madam,

 I would like to contribute some balance to your paper on the subject of global warming and climate change. Readers could well be confused given the political shenanigans inCanberraand the vitriol coming from some commentators in the media. I am no expert but I have tried to study the topic objectively which is difficult given the size of the issue and the vested interests at stake.

 Carbon Dioxide is a relatively small component in the atmosphere. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was first noted to be rising in the 1960’s and scientists have been trying to work out the causes and effects ever since. They have shown that small increases in CO2 concentration will tend to warm the planet by increasing the effectiveness of the blanket that the atmosphere already provides for the earth. They call this the “greenhouse” effect because, like a greenhouse, the atmosphere lets the sun’s heat in to warm us up but does not let it all reflect back out again. This greenhouse effect is not disputed by any reputable scientists because it can be easily demonstrated. So, we have a theory that has been worked on for fifty years to explain what the effect of rising concentrations of CO2 might be. That theory predicts that temperatures on earth would be expected to rise. The predictions of this theory are now more robust because actual measurements of the air temperatures and ocean temperatures around the world are rising.

 The Bureau of Meteorology recently published that its measurements of air temperatures aroundAustraliashow that the last three decades have been progressively the hottest on record. The CSIRO also publishes data to support the proposition that the earth is actually warming up quite quickly when compared to other epochs such as when we came out of the ice age 10,000 years ago. Even those who are sceptical about climate change are more accepting of the fact that the earth is warming whereas a couple of years ago many people were saying it had been cooling since 2005. I tend to believe institutions like the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology because I have spent a lifetime as a farmer benefiting from the efforts of scientists making advances in technology that we quickly take for granted. People who work for these organisations earn a salary if they conduct research and report the facts as they see them. Salaried scientists have nothing to gain from peddling nonsense and lots to lose.

Far more contentious areas of research are trying to work out what effect the rapidly warming oceans and atmosphere will have on our weather and if we can do anything to reverse the trend and at what cost. Maybe we could discuss these issues in another letter.


Robert Lee

Larras Lee

April 18, 2011


My name is Rob Lee, I farm sheep, cattle and crops in the central west of NSW. I am a businessman, a capitalist and have grown up dealing with free and volatile markets for the products that I produce. Given that background and the fact that my family have been farming here as long as Europeans have been here, conservative voting is in my blood.

I have started this blog which was done for me by my daughter because I am very concerned by the spectre of climate change and our society’s response to it.

Although some regard the writing of letters to newspapers a sad and futile pursuit a letter to my local paper just might help form the opinion of someone who would not otherwise engage with the subject. That can’t be bad. If you can find the letters here, please leave a comment.

This blog will be very intermittant. I’ll be back sometime.