Tim Curtin


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A Celebration of The Life Of Timothy Roger Champion Curtin

15th November 1937 –31st July 2013

Tim CurtinPassed away peacefully at Clare Holland House. Loved husband of Pamela. Father of Matthew and Rachel and father-in-law of Nicole. Proud grandfather of Alexander. Sincere thanks to the caring staff at Clare Holland House for their care of Tim.

A Celebration of the Life of Timothy Roger Champion Curtin

Ringbarking Third World Forestry

Regular readers here will know I am something of a climate sceptic, and never more so than when I find that the promoters of the programme known as securing ‘Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation’ (REDD) in tropical countries consider that it is only the trees in such non-white countries that emit carbon dioxide, whereas the much larger volume of tree harvesting in white countries like Australia and Germany allegedly produces no such emissions, so those countries are exempt from the efforts of REDD activists to terminate all forestry in the tropics and other non-white countries.

My paper first appeared in Quadrant Online on 4th September, as linked to here (slightly edited).

The new version is in Timber and Forestry Enews (Issue 245, 29th October 2012, pages 15-16).

1. Quadrant Online - PDF File

2. Timber and Forestry Enews – PDF file

Who do I think I am?

Talk by Tim Curtin to Discussion Group at Uniting Churches, Curtin, Canberra, 14th June 2012

I was recently invited to give an updated repeat of my talk on genealogy to a Discussion Group in the Canberra suburb of Curtin. It is loosely based on the TV series “Who do you think you are?”

Full Story (PDF File)

Applying Econometrics to the Carbon Dioxide “Control Knob”

My just published paper (in The Scientific World Journal) paper uses econometrics to test various propositions underlying claims that observed global temperature change is mostly attributable to human-caused greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, and that although water vapour is recognized to be a dominant contributor to the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) effect, its effect is merely as a “feedback” from rising temperatures initially resulting only from GHGs and not at all from variations in the pre-existing natural evaporation that produces most atmospheric water vapour and rainfall. The paper shows that global warming is not exclusively attributable to GHG like CO2, both because atmospheric water vapour existed before there were any significant increases in GHGs or global temperature and also because there is no evidence that such increases have produced measurably higher volumes of evaporation. Thus reducing emissions of CO2 is unlikely to be the effective climate “control knob” claimed by NASA’s Hansen, Schmidt, and Lacis (2010).

The urls for the article and the journal itself are



Full Story (PDF File)

Mr Combet’s Sun God - Comments on the Clean Energy Legislation, T R C Curtin

Tim was too trusting when he made this Submission on the government’s Carbon (sic) Tax to the Commonwealth Parliament’s Joint Steering Committee, because it showed that the so-called Clean Energy Legislation is most unlikely to have any impact at all on Australia’s emissions of carbon dioxide or its climate but will have adverse economic effects. The Government-controlled Committee refused to accept the 3,930 critical Submissions, a breach of normal practice, so only the 70 mainly supportive comments have been posted.

Full Story (PDF File)

Much better than Yes Prime Minister!?

Tim was invited by the Australian Financial Review to debate the Carbon Tax with Professor Ian Harper at The Age in Melbourne last week (22nd. July).

Follow the link  http://tv.afr.com/video/channel/122/160214?play=1

Land Law and Economic Development in Papua New Guinea.

Book Cover

Here at last is the book that David Lea and I have been working on for about 5 years or more.

It is both a great read and a snip (!) at £39.99, and is available from the publishers:

1. By cheque  payable to Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 

PO Box 302
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE6 1WR, United Kingdom

2. By BACS or Swift or other international money transfer means, please contact admin@c-s-p.org for details.

3. By debit or credit card: We accept VISA, Mastercard, Switch and Maestro; details may be emailed or faxed to +44 191 265 2056 or mailed to the above address;

alternatively books may be purchased online at www.c-s-p.org

VAT no: GB 828642212.


Postage: Inside UK (£4.00 per item)

Airmail Worldwide (£6.00 per item)

Econometrics and the Science of Climate Change

My paper Econometrics and the Science of Climate Change has been accepted by the Economic Society of Australia for its annual conference, which this year will be in Canberra (ANU) from 11th to 14th July.  I plan to add some more graphs in Power Point for the actual presentation.

Note: This paper is also available at http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/

Also there are comments on it by Jos de Laat of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, and my own response to Dr de Laat.

Download paper (PDF File)

Tim Curtin’s Submission to the Multi-party Committee on Climate Change

I have also made a submission to the Australian Government’s Multiparty Committee on Climate Change which is designing the so-called Carbon Tax the Government plans to introduce on 1st July 2012.

Submission (PDF File)

The Garnaut Reviews’ Omissions of Material Facts

Here are two papers with my comments on the latest Garnaut Climate Change Reviews. The first was published on 25th March 2011 at Online Opinion -


and by 26th March had attracted 27 responses, not all are flattering!

This paper is a fairly short summary of the much longer and rather technical paper which reviewed Ross Garnaut’s

The Science of Climate Change. This paper was published on 21st March by the Lavoisier Group and is available at

their site  www.lavoiser.com.au.


12.30-1.30pm Thursday 29 April 2010 - Seminar Room B, Coombs Building

This seminar challenges the quasi-Malthusian assumption going back to Wigley ( CRU-UEA & CSIRO, Tellus 1993) and maintained by Sokolov et al (MIT, 2009), that there is a fixed limit to the volume of CO2 emissions that can be absorbed by land and ocean biospheres. Wigley’s assumption is central to the MAGICC models relied on by IPCC to project global climate to 2100, as it results in more than doubling the projected rate of growth of the atmospheric concentration of CO2, from the actual 0.4% (1958–2009), to 1% p.a (2000–2100).

Presentation Flyer (PDF File)

Full Presenation (PDF File)

More scientific evidence, please

Tim Curtin was pleased to find that claims he has made over the last 2 years (see links below to Tim's first Submission to the Garnaut Review and his articles in Quadrant and Energy & Environment), that there is no evidence - despite the claims by Lord Stern, the IPCC, and the Garnaut Review - for any weakening in the ability of the so-called carbon "sinks" to absorb anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, have been confirmed in a recent peer-reviewed paper (Knorr 2009). The sinks are the globe's oceans and land and sea-based plant life, which have taken up on average 57% of CO2 emissions since 1958. Stern and Garnaut used the false assumption that the sinks are or will soon be "saturated", so that in effect 100% of CO2 emissions would remain airborne for ever, resulting in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 rising from 387 parts per million of the atmosphere to 887 ppm by 2100. They used the alleged resulting accelerated "global warming" to justify their draconian proposals for terminating our carbon-based economy.

Tim's letter in today's (29th January 2010) Sydney Morning Herald gives more details:

Full Story (PDF File)

Two new papers published - 15 October 2009

Tim has just (15 October 09) had two papers published in the journal Energy and Environment. The first shows how the "prestigious" journal Nature refuses to admit the palpable errors in the 9 papers on climate change it published in its issue of 30 April 2009. The second, more substantial, paper show how important atmospheric carbon dioxide is for global food production, and that it would be a serious calamity if the Copenhagen Conference succeeds in getting global CO2 emissions down to the proposed 40 per cent of the 2000 level, since that is less than half the current annual new uptake of emissions by the world's oceanic and terrestrial biospheres, via photosynthesis to phytoplankton (the feedstock for the krill that whales just love) and all our own food crops and vegetables. The outcome will be severe food shortages for every living creature from dolphins and whales to the teeming millions of Africa and Asia. We Australians are rich enough to avoid starvation come what may, but we should care about the less well-off worldwide who will suffer grievously if food prices rise as my paper suggests they will after Copenhagen.

Climate Change and Food Production (PDF File)

Nature's New Theory of Climate Change (PDF File)

Foolish views on education finance are stuck in 1848

"It is a pleasure to see that the ALP, whose Hawke-Keating government introduced the iniquitous HECS system back in 1990, has at last seen that participation in higher education by the lower income groups has not increased since then, by allocating new funding in this week's budget to promote increases in such participation. By chance my letter in London's Financial Times advising against proposals to extend HECS in the UK, was published on 8th May. Here it is. The best both the Australian and British governments could do is abolish HECS altogether, and leave it to the income tax system to collect from the higher incomes that most graduates earn relative to most non-graduates."

Full Story

Land in Melanesia - 16 March 2009

Tim Curtin was one of three panelists for one of the RMAP-RSPAS "Argument" series at ANU. Summaries of all three presentations are at http://rspas.anu.edu.au/blogs/rmap/land-melanesia/

Here is Tim Curtin's Summary;

I am an economist and so ask which alternative form of land ownership does most to raise human welfare Pareto–optimally, whereby average incomes are higher than otherwise but such that none are worse off than before. I provide data showing that customary land tenure systems have a poor track record of welfare optimisation. In PNG and across Melanesia generally, the only production sectors of the economy that have achieved real growth above the rate of population growth are those (mining & petroleum, oil palm, forestry) where there has been land mobilisation based on some form of land alienation. The taxes paid by these sectors have done more to enable PNG to achieve the MDG than the great mass of the subsistence–only economy. I argue that the worst aspect of customary land tenure is that it promotes rent seeking rather than productive enterprise, as is most obvious at PNG’s mines and oilfields. The stark choice is between equality of outcome, at the low level that obtains wherever there is only communal or customary land title — as now in Zimbabwe, South Africa’s former Bantustans, and much of Australia’s Northern Territory, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, as well as PNG — and the higher and faster growing incomes for all that secure title permits, even if at the cost of some degree of relative inequality. Absent land reform, the only viable outcome in the long run is likely to be euthanasia of rent–seeking landowners a la Paris 1792 or St Petersburg after 1917.

Complete version of Quadrant article "The Contradictions of the Garnaut Report"

Here is the complete version of Tim Curtin's article "The Contradictions of the Garnaut Report" in Quadrant, Jan-Feb 2009, with footnotes and references. I took the opportunity to make a few corrections of mostly minor errors pointed out to me by various readers of the Quadrant paper including E. Adler, P. Lewis, and K. Macoun, to whom my thanks. All remaining errors are mine. This version has been available since January 2009 at Quadrant Online and at www.lavoisier.com.au.

Download here (PDF File)

Is Land in Melanesia being Mobilised?

4pm 16 March 2009, Hedley Bull Centre (APCD)

Argument Panel:
Dr Tim Anderson, Dr Colin Filer and Mr Tim Curtin
Argument Moderator
Dr Matthew Allen
Argument Timekeeper
Dr Sango Mahanty
Argument in progress
Photographs by Darren Boyd
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Argument SummariesComments welcomed



The contradictions of the Garnaut Report

The Report makes many dire projections for the future, including the claim that without drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly carbon dioxide, there will by 2100 be major declines in gross domestic product (GDP) across the globe … The Report offers no evidence for such effects having already become apparent despite the warming temperatures experienced globally and in Australia since 1976. On the contrary, that whole period has seen the fastest economic growth ever recorded across almost the whole globe, and Australia is no exception. 

Full Story

Carbon dioxide is NOT a Pollutant

  • Without CO2 we would not be here. If it is a pollutant, then so is water (H2O), which is the other main effluent from fossil fuel combustion
  • We do not any of us breathe out black smoke, pace SBS and ABC.
  • The increase in atmospheric concentration from 280 ppm in 1750 to 384 ppm at end 2007 is trivial (growth rate is c0.2% p.a.)
  • CO2 is a fertilizer, without which we would starve.
  • Minister Wong spoke about the “ethics” of dealing with climate change at LSE 2 weeks ago. Her Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is based on a falsehood.

Download here (Powerpoint File)

"The next recession we have to have" - Tim's 4th Submission to the Garnaut Review.

Download here (PDF File)

Garnaut, the Greens, and the browning of Australia and the World

Download here (PDF File)

Climate Change Mitigation - and mass starvation by 2050?

Presentation to the Emeritus Faculty, Australian National University, 20 February 2008 (Power Point File)

Tim Curtin's contribution to the Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific at the ANU on 31st January 2008, "The Economic History of Land Tenure in Zimbabwe".

Download here (PDF File)

Tim Curtin's Submission to the Garnaut Review

The new Australian Government led by Kevin Rudd has commissioned Ross Garnaut of the Australian National University to undertake a Review of what Australia should do to reduce so-called Greenhouse Gas Emissions. He has already indicated that he will propose some form of an Emissions Trading Scheme. Prof. Garnaut encouraged me to make a Submission to his Review. It is available on the Review's website, at www.garnautreview.org.au.

Here is a slightly updated version of my Submission.

Download here (PDF File)

An Overdue Letter to President Bush from Albert Einstein
October 2007

Royal Economic Society Newsletter

Download here (PDF File)

Old Growth Eucalypts are not Rembrandts - and Papua New Guineans are not to be treated as if they were old growth eucalypts
August 2007

Letter in the Canberra Times.

Download here (PDF File)

The Great 'Illegal' Logging Swindle
July 2007

CFA Newsletter June 2007

Download here (PDF File)

(Newsletter of the Commonwealth Forestry Association, London, UK available at www.cfa-inetrnational.org )

The Da Vinci Code of Climate Change Economics
July 2007

The Da Vinci Code of Climate Change Economics


What are the real benefits of avoiding predicted climate change, and what are the costs?

Lavoisier Group Workshop: Rehabilitating carbon dioxide. Melbourne, 30th June 2007

Download here (PDF File)

Economics of Climate Change
March 2007

I have been working on the economics of climate change for some time now. First there is an exchange of views prompted by my letter to the Royal Economic Society Newsletter in July 2006 - "Nicholas Stern's Immaculate Conception", leading to a comment by Jeremy Berkhoff and my response (October 2006), and a further comment by Alan Kirman (January 2007). These are followed by my letter to the Financial Times, 7 January 2007.

Nicholas Stern's Immaculate Conception (PDF File)

Jeremy Berkhoff - Stern on Climate Change (PDF File)

Tim Curtin - Response (PDF File)

Alan Kirman (PDF FIle)

FT Letter - Business as Usual (PDF FIle)

Economics of Forestry in Australia and Papua New Guinea
March 2007

I am also doing more work on so-called illegal logging in Papua New Guinea, see (1) my Submission to the Australian Government's Discussion Paper, Bringing down the Axe on Illegal Logging, January 2007, published in Pacific Economic Bulletin and (2) a short piece on Yale University's evaluation of PNG's forestry (The National, June 2007)

Sustainable and legal logging (PDF File)

Bringing down the axe in illegal logging (PDF File)

The Greenpeace attack on Forestry Development in Papua New Guinea
Sept 2006

IPA Review, vol.58 no.3, October 2006.

[The text here is a longer version of the article as published and includes graphs and footnotes]

Full Story (PDF File)

Net change in emissions after 'successful' trade: zero.
16 June 2006

Sir, Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, was, as to be expected, unctuously bland when he claimed that trading volume in the European Union's emissions trading scheme in 2005, at Euros 5bn, demonstrates "success" ("Europe's emissions trading is a model for the world", June 8). But apparently a full column of the Financial Times left him no space to inform us of how large a reduction in CO emissions this produced.

Anyone with knowledge of stock exchange trading knows that for every buyer there has to be a seller, and that therefore Mr Dimas' statistic means no more than that Euros 2.5bn of emissions were saved and sold, and that an extra Euros 2.5bn of emissions were allowed from that saving, for a net change in emissions of precisely zero.

Tim Curtin,

Emeritus Faculty,

Australian National University,

Nicholas Stern's Immaculate Conception
July 2006

It was good to see David Henderson's comment in the April 2006 Newsletter (Economics, climate change, and governments) but I feel that both he and his eight co-authors in their submission to the Stern Review have been too kind to Nicholas Stern's keynote paper "What is the economics of climate change?" For the most extraordinary feature of that paper was not just its blind acceptance of the Kyoto consensus but also its disregard for all previous work on the economics of climate change. The only economists cited by Stern are those he probably cut his teeth on as an undergraduate, Pigou and Coase, but while they still have much to teach us (and Stern) there have been more recent contributions.

Full Story (PDF File)

Expert: Bank robs PNG of more logging revenue
April 29th, 2006

A RESPECTED Australian economist has argued that World Bank intervention in PNG’s logging industry has stifled exports that could be worth K13 billion compared with only K416 million in 2003.

Economist Tim Curtin compared Papua New Guinea with Sweden and suggested that PNG’s logging exports could be worth K13 billion or nearly double the country’s total exports in 2003.

Full story (HTML)

‘Old’ forestry law best bet for forest exploitation
April 29th, 2006

PAPUA New Guinea would need to amend the Forestry Act 1991 and revert largely to previous legislation if the government wants to exploit the full potential of forestry resources, an Australian economist suggests.

Mr Tim Curtin said “the Forestry Act was largely a response to what in retrospect seems the half-baked Barnett Report, with its exhaustive exposure of alleged ‘depredations’ through the claimed transfer pricing of foreign logging companies”.

Full story (HTML)

Economics of Land Titling in Papua New Guinea
February 16th, 2006

The paper appraises some of the arguments and counter-arguments in the Hughes-Fingleton debate on whether or not customary land tenure is conducive to raising living standards in Papua New Guinea. The paper shows that both the extent and the productivity of customary individual usufruct tile in PNG have been greatly exaggerated, and collates recent empirical evidence on relative productivity of customary and alternative titling modes in Zambia and Zimbabwe showing superior outcomes of documented individual land title. Implications for equity and legal/administrative issues conclude the paper.

Full story (PDF File) | Full story (Powerpoint File)

Letter on HIV/Aids
December 9th-16th, 2005 - published in The Guardian Weekly

Your World Aids Day supplement failed to mention that 'male circumcision' is by far the best path to prevention of the spread of Aids. The feature's map showing the African epicentres of the disease proved the validity of my contention, since none of the countries highlighted is in north Africa, with its majority Muslim population which routinely practises male circumcision. Your map did show Nigeria as a severely affected country, but singled out Lagos in the south, with its non-Islamic majority. A similar map of the former Soviet Union would also show Aids is concentrated in the non-Islamic north rather than in the southern republics.

Full story

Forestry and economic development in Papua New Guinea
June 6th, 2005 - published in South Pacific Journal of Philosophy and Culture (University of Papua New Guinea), Vol.8, 2004-05

This paper suggests that Papua New Guinea's national income would grow much more rapidly if its largest natural resource, its forests, were developed to their full potential subject to both sustainability and reasonable conservation of biodiversity. Data will be provided showing that plantation forestry could deliver exports worth more than the country’s total mineral exports in 2003 from an area of only a seventh of the total under forests. Suggestions for necessary legal and institutional changes for this to occur conclude the paper.

Full story

Kyoto and All That
May 14th, 2005

I am bound to say I was very disappointed by your article in today's Australian Financial Review, devoid as it is of even one correct factual statement whilst replete with unfounded innuendo and defamatory statements against all who disagree with the Kyoto mantras.

Full story

A Contrarian View on Aid Effectiveness
Octover 12th, 2004

It is only to be expected that a seminar attended mostly by those with a direct interest in continuation of economic aid to developing countries would be more concerned with how to deliver aid efficiently than with whether it should be provided at all. Yet there is some evidence that the developing countries that have done best are those that have not relied on aid so much as on their own efforts. Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore are cases in point, whereas despite the huge volume of aid provided to a country like Tanzania its real income per head is less now than it was when the British awarded independence in 1963, and Papua New Guinea has little more to show for all the aid it has received. However this Note will not go so far as to rule out any value of aid, but will rather emphasise preference first for project over programme aid, where the latter consists only of transfers of funds unrelated to specific projects, and second, for project aid that is based more on wealth creation than on poverty reduction.

Full story

Here are some more of Tim's recent papers:

How Poor is Papua New Guinea? How Rich could it be? (Powerpoint File)

How Poor is Papua New Guinea? How Rich could it be? (PDF File)

Rethinking the model - Campus Review vol.14 no.26, July 7th, 2004

What's fair? university graduates pay their way with a tax double whammy - Campus Review, vol.14, no.24, June 23, 2004

Equitable financing of higher education: taxes versus fees - Emeritus Faculty, Australian National University, June 17th, 2004

A new model for financing higher education (Powerpoint File)

Financing of higher education - letter published in Newsletter of Royal Economic Society, July 2003

Land registration in Papua New Guinea: competing perspectives

Past papers include:

All taxes are graduate taxes - The Round Table, 356 (2000), 479-491.

Economic and Health Efficiency of Education Funding Policy - (with E.A.S. Nelson), Social Science and Medicine 48 (1999), 1599-1611. (PDF File - 536 KB)


Project appraisal and human capital theory
Article - June 2 - 1996

The use of human capital theory to analyse expenditure on education has led to farreaching policy recommendations that public funding of education should be limited to the primary level. This has been brought about by only considering rates of return and not net present values. Similar selectivity is apparent in the failure to notice that the co"elation between education and earnings creates a correlation between education and the general taxation arising from those earnings. Far from the government providing a net subsidy on education, there is in fact a very large fiscal surplus resulting from tertiary education. The reported higher internal rates of return for primary than post-primary education are not sufficient to justify reallocating public expenditure from the latter to the former in situations of constrained budget.

Full story

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