Russian names are hard for native-English speakers to remember but Andrei Illarionov is a Russian name that Australians should remember with gratitude.
Andrei Illarionov is a 40-year-old economist from St Petersburg who has argued his way to be President Putin’s senior economic adviser and the President’s personal emissary to the G8. He has high hopes for the Russian economy - he has declared that within 10 years, the Russian economy will double in size, requiring an annual increase in GDP, year-on-year, of 7.2 per cent. The primary method of achieving this target, claims Andrei Illarionov, is to reduce government share of GDP to less than 20 per cent.
President Putin has endorsed the target, and has made its achievement a central part of domestic political debate.
But what has Andrei Illarionov done that Australians should remember him?
At the World Climate Conference held in Moscow four weeks ago, Andrei Illarionov announced that the Kyoto Protocol is dead. Although he didn’t use those words, words that only President Putin could employ, he gave a press conference on 3 October, in which he emphasised repeatedly that the US and Australia had refused to ratify Kyoto on the grounds that it would damage their economies. How much more would Russia have to lose, he asked, if Russia were to ratify?
He also pointed out that Russia, if it were to meet the growth targets which the President had endorsed, would need to buy carbon credits from some other countries. Instead of earning foreign exchange by selling carbon credits under the Kyoto arrangements, it would damage its balance of payments by having to buy them, in an international market where credits were in short supply.
What distinguished the economist’s attack on the Kyoto Protocol was not his economic analysis, which was clear and straight-forward, but his mastery of the science debate and his willingness to debunk the junk science that has surrounded the global warming debate since warming superceded cooling as the great climate scare in the late 1980s.
The Russian scientific establishment has realised that the IPCC’s policy makers’ summaries of 2001, 1995 and1991, are based on junk science. For example, Prof. Kirill Kondratyev, an influential climate expert with the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that theories linking global warming to greenhouse gas emissions ignored numerous other factors, such as the ocean's impact on climate and volcanic eruptions. He said "The only people who would be hurt by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would be several thousand people who make a living attending conferences on global warming".
Without Russian ratification the Kyoto Protocol will not come into effect. Thus all of the green rhetoric about Australia’s status of international pariah-ship; all of the rent-seeking activity dedicated to building garbage disposal units in China, for example, which would attract carbon credits to be realised in some international trading scheme; are today all wasted time and energy.
John Howard has good cause to feel pleased at this outcome. His decision on June 5 2002 to override his Environment Minister, David Kemp, who had surmised less than 24 hours previously that Australia would ratify Kyoto by the end of 2002, and declare in the House that ratification would be against Australia’s national interest, has been now vindicated.
David Kemp, who has alienated many of his old friends and supporters by adopting the rhetoric and arguments of the green ideologists who staff Environment Australia, to the point where he was telling Australians that the high temperatures of the drought years of 1998-2002 were attributable to mankind’s consumption of fossil fuels, will now have to find new advisers. The difference between the Russian attack on Kyoto and the criticism of the US and Australian governments, is that the Russians are pouring scorn on the junk science which has been used to legitimise Kyoto. David Kemp has saluted that junk science in speech after speech. Illarionov has shown that an economist, well advised by scientists who are internationally and nationally recognised, can drive a horse and cart through the nonsense which the EU and its green friends in other countries, have been parading as the advice of 2,500 eminent climate scientists.
There are some immediate steps which the Australian government can now take. The Australian Greenhouse Office, with an annual budget of $250 million can be closed. The scientists who have mis-spent many years justifying their research budgets by dressing up their projects in global warming clothes can address a very real climate problem in Australia - how to predict El Ninos. Solving that problem would save Australia hundreds of billions every decade.
The ALP might now begin to rethink its position. There is no point now in ratification of Kyoto - akin to chaining oneself to a corpse. Perhaps returning to the bread-and-butter concerns of Labour’s traditional constituencies might become an attractive option.