Feb 4, 1998: Australian Ombudsman slaps economic modellers around for excluding greenies

The Australian Ombudsman releases a report responding to a Australian Conservation Foundation complaint about “ABARE” and its economic modelling.

Context:

The Australian Government had been using “economic modelling” to demand (and get) special consideration for Australia in the international climate negotiations that led up to the Kyoto Protocol. (Australia’s target was 108%, where developed world countries bar Norway and Iceland had reduction targets.) And this economic modelling – which “showed” that the sky would fall if so much as one lump of coal were taxed or left in the ground – was put together by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture Resource Economics, using a computer model called MEGABARE. Now, computer models cost money. So the ABARE people had invited contributions. And the list of organisations that ponied up the $50,000 that it cost to get a seat on the steering committee includes little mom and pop outfits like…  BHP, the Business Council of Australia, Exxon, Texaco and so on.  Here’s a table from Clive Hamilton’s 2001 “Running from the Storm”

The Australian Conserfeb41998megabarefundingvation Foundation (ACF) had requested a seat at the table, and a waiver for the $50,000 fee. ABARE refused. The ACF asked the Ombudsman (investigator/referee) to look into it. The Ombudsman did, made the usual recommendations, but frankly the damage had been done…

Even more context:

The Sky Will Fall” economic modelling reports are a favoured technique for blocking/delaying/softening action on any issue you care to mention…. It doesn’t matter that the assumptions of the models are usually laughably inaccurate/unrealistic, or that their predictions turn out to be false. All that matters is that a politician opposed to action can quote a scary number of jobs lost or impact on “the economy”. Most journalists, pressed for time and/or fundamentally obedient, will dutifully report the number, with few or no caveats. Thus is the reality distorion field enhanced…

Other things that happened on this day:

2004 An email is sent to press secretaries of all Republican congressional reps with advice on responding to environmental questions

As ever, see the disclaimers, help the project and comments policy.

 

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