16 September 2011

Lies, damned lies and projections (Canberra times 20070409)

Peter Martin makes some telling points about the shortcomings of the latest Intergenerational Report in his critique ("Sir Humphrey could not have said it better", CT Opinion. 3 April). He is right on the money when he cans the report for attempting to forecast the unforecastable in one area (medical spending) but not in another climate change), and when he observes that "As a guide to likely challenges facing Australia over the next four decades it is wilfully incomplete. And unnerving."

But then he rather spoils it by accepting, apparently uncritically, the report’s prediction that we will be much richer in 40 year’s time – almost twice as much in terms of what we can buy. In a country with even more serious problems of water supply, and a rural sector struggling even harder to cope, as a consequence of global warming? With world production of oil – a basic building block of every economy – in decline? With a projected additional 8 million people, all demanding their share of scarcer resources?

You should have applied some critical thought to that bit of extrapolation too, Peter. It is a long, long way from a sure thing.