The Royal Society of New Zealand released its statement on climate change last week. No, I didn’t write it, we have real climate scientists for that, but I did comment on the drafts. It says what the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences and all the rest have said, namely that:
- it is happening
- we are causing it
- we should do something about it
Here’s the response from our own bunch of skeptics, running roughly:
- we don’t like the people who said this
- we don’t believe the huge pile of very consistent evidence that everyone else believes, coz it’s just circumstantial
- there has been no warming since 1958 (that’s a new complaint to me)
- the climate varies anyway
- you can’t predict the future with absolute certainty, so we’re not going to try at all, and nor should anyone else
So, when a small number of people have dug their feet in this much, it’s hard to see what possible evidence could ever change their positions. What can be done, other than (to paraphrase Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”) to be polite and wait for them to die?
Anyway, on to lighter fare, the Ministry of Transport’s report on “Surface transport costs and charges” (overview, full report.) The headline numbers are that, surprise, surprise, no-one pays the full costs of their transport:
- cars directly pay 64% of their costs,
- trucks directly pay 56% of their costs
- buses directly pay 68% of their costs
- rail users directly pay 77% of their costs
The main costs that aren’t directly paid for are building roads, congestion, deaths and injuries due to accidents, pollution, and noise. The main difference between road and rail costs are that rail users are supposed to pay back the cost of building the track; road users do not pay back the cost of building the road.
So those who travel less subsidise those who travel more, and taxpayers are subsidising road users more than they subsidise rail users, and truckers get more subsidy than anyone else. Of course, these figures aren’t entirely accurate and changes in costs can alter them (oops – $1/litre petrol drives NZ’s roading programme).
You can argue about whether this system is fair, you can argue about whether truckies should have to pay what they are asked to pay, you can argue how sustainable this is, and how sustainable it might be if there were no subsidies and every user paid the true costs, but please, at least start the discussion with the facts.