Tuesday, October 5, 2010

disappointing IPA report

I found Tim Wilson's "Green Excuses: Collusion to promote protectionism?" a disappointing read. The report seemed badly structured with a lack of clarity about its intent. It came across to me as a reader as a grab bag of ideas, rather than a coherent argument. It is an article about the dumping of toilet paper in the Australian market with a bit about the Labor Party's policy of banning illegal timber imports tacked on the end. The pieces do not fit together well. As the first IPA paper I've read I was disappointed it wasn't more convincingly argued even if I didn't agree with the basic premise. The author frequently conflated green groups industry and unions together and then attributed a common goal to them. He uses 'industry' as a catchall term but never defines what he means and in context of the paper the meaning of the term seems to slide around. He also conflates any organization with an environmental interest into the one conspiracy.THe WWF and FSC are separate organizations, for example. He makes accusations of collusion for which he provides no convincing evidence except on occasion narrowly sharing the same goals. The CFMEU is not a green organization. It is a union that has often been in conflict with environmental organizations in Tasmania.The goals of unions and business and organizations are sometimes shared but I don't see any evidence of collusion. The language was colourful and the author ignored the evidence provided by

As well as these general comments there is a particular point I'd like to make. Wilson says: "For years environmental groups have claimed there is mass deforestation and illegal logging

occurring in the developing world." implying that there isn't deforestation and illegal logging since it is only 'claimed'. He uses the CIE report to support the idea that illegal logging is overstated. Wilson says; "The study released in February 2010 concluded that the actual volume of illegal logging internationally appears to be grossly over-estimated and may only be between five and ten per cent." And what the CIE report actually says:

The extent and size of illegal logging is debatable, but even forest associations agree that some illegal logging occurs in all countries. Estimates of the extent of overall level of illegal logging vary substantially, and depend on who is doing the estimates and the methodology and assumptions used. At the lower end, forest associations estimate that illegal logging accounts for around 10 per cent of the total harvest (American Forest and Paper Association 2009), whereas environmental NGOs estimate that the proportion is up to 80 per cent (for example, Greenpeace 2009), and others somewhere in between. The World Bank (2006) considers that significant proportions of timber production in South East Asia, Central Africa, South America and Russia are illegal.

The Bank estimates the following proportions of illegal harvest to total harvest.

Russia — 50 per cent of far eastern production

Southeast Asia:

Cambodia — 90 per cent

Indonesia — 70 to 80 per cent

Lao PDR — 45 per cent

Malaysia — 35 per cent

Thailand — 40 per cent

Vietnam — 20 to 40 per cent

Papua New Guinea — 70 per cent

South America — over 40 per cent

Africa — on average over 50 per cent.

I don't see that there is much debate that deforestation is a huge problem and Wilson's article comes across to me as Wilson egregiously refusing to acknowledge what his own sources are saying, which then goes to a lack of quality in the article and the arguments he is presenting.

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