INTERVIEW WITH MATT RIDLEY
ANDREW BOLT, PRESENTER: Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last week and killed perhaps 4,000 people. The Greens couldn’t wait to exploit it like they exploited last month’s fires, and even accused Tony Abbott.
ADAM BANDT: He can be expected to be referred to as ‘Typhoon Tony’. // Many people are saying this is the worst typhoon that they’ve ever seen. // This is what we’re in store for, unless we get global warming under control.
ANDREW BOLT: Matt Ridley is a member of Britain’s House of Lords and a science writer, whose latest bestseller is ‘The Rational Optimist’. He’s here on a speaking tour for the IPA. Matt Ridley, thank you for joining me.
MATT RIDLEY: Thank you for having me on the show.
ANDREW BOLT: The typhoon in the Philippines – what do you make of the attempts to make that evidence of the great global warming catastrophe awaiting us?
MATT RIDLEY: Well, this is ridiculous. I mean, storms and weather events happen. They’ve always happened. There’ve been much stronger typhoons in the past. This isn’t the strongest one that’s ever recorded or anything like that. They’re gonna happen, whatever. And to blame this on climate change is a bit like shamanism. It’s witchdoctory. It’s going back 10,000 years to try and blame every weather event on mankind. And we don’t have to just know this from basic data. If you look at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They say there’s been no trend in increasing frequency of typhoons or cyclones or hurricanes. In fact, this year’s been an unusually quiet one globally. And even in that part of the Pacific it’s been quiet. So the idea that you can stop typhoons happening by cutting carbon dioxide emissions is just absurd. We’ve got to tackle typhoons as an issue, whatever happens to the climate.
ANDREW BOLT: What do we have to worry about, if global warming continues? I know there’s been a pause in atmospheric temperature rises for 15 years. But should it continue, what have we got to fear?
MATT RIDLEY: Well, I personally think that we are seeing benefits from climate change. Sorry – that’s not my personal view, that’s what the data says. We’re seeing benefits from climate change at the moment – slightly greener vegetation in the world, slightly fewer winter deaths, things like that – longer growing seasons. And that’s likely to continue for another six or seven decades. After that, if the projections of climate change are right – and on the whole, they have been too warm for the last 30 years, so they may not be right – but if they’re right, we will then start to see net harm. And the one harm that will would hurt civilisation would be rapidly rising sea levels. Fortunately, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that sea levels are not rising – are not gonna rise that fast in this century – not much faster than
they did in the last century. Greenland’s losing ice at the rate of 2 billion tonnes a year, which sounds a lot, but it’s actually 0.5% per century. So the collapse of ice sheets, that sort of thing, has now largely been ruled out by the IPCC as a risk. But we are – you know, we do have to get our act together to be ready to deal with some disasters, if they happen towards the end of this century, the beginning of the next.
ANDREW BOLT: Well, when you say “get our act together to be ready”, where – obviously the world is spending trillions of dollars on various ways to so-called stop global warming. Is that a sensible use of our resources?
MATT RIDLEY: No. I think rolling out immature and 14th-century technologies like wind power all around the world – which are extremely expensive, don’t cut carbon emissions very much, and on the whole keep people unable to afford the measures to adapt to climate, by being so expensive – is not the answer. Japan, interestingly, has just said that it’s not going to try to keep emissions as low as it was hoping by 2020. Instead, it’s going to put a lot of money into research into new energy technologies. And that’s the answer. If we can get cheap fusion energy, or cheap thorium nuclear power, or even cheap ordinary nuclear power, and some of the solar power developed, then by the end of the century we probably won’t need fossil fuels, and we can give them up, long before they run out. That’s a much better approach than trying to roll out immature energy technologies now. Because we’ve tried that, and it’s just not working. We’re trying it all over the world, it’s disastrously bad for people’s living standards.
ANDREW BOLT: So when Tony Abbott gets elected on a platform of scrapping the carbon tax, is that seen, as the Greens would suggest, as a worldwide embarrassment? Or is it seen as something perhaps – well, the return of reason?
MATT RIDLEY: Well I think until now, it’s been assumed that you had to pay lip-service to dangerous climate change. I mean, most of us – I believe that human beings do affect the climate, and probably have caused some of the warming in the past. That’s not at issue. What’s at issue is a forecast of dangerous warning, which is only going to come true if certain positive feedback amplifiers happen. And if that’s likely to be the case, it’s always been assumed that you had to show real alarm about this in order to get elected in a western democracy. I think Tony Abbott has shown that’s not the case, and a lot of elected politicians around the world will have noticed that, and will have noticed that not only was the carbon tax something that he was determined to repeal, but that it was front and centre in the election campaign, so you can’t say it was just a peripheral issue. So for example, the Canadians have commented on that. And I think western European politicians will notice that, and will say, actually, you can take a relatively rational, relatively sober approach to climate change and be elected, despite what the extreme Greens will throw at you.
ANDREW BOLT: And is there any other government, then, that will be the next to follow us, do you think?
MATT RIDLEY: I’m not the one to predict political trends. I don’t think it’s going to happen in a hurry in Europe – sorry, in Britain. But there is huge disquiet in the UK about energy prices, and they’re about to go up even more, because of green levies, and that I think is beginning to make politicians rethink this agenda.
ANDREW BOLT: Thank you very much, Matt Ridley, for joining us.