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July 13th 2009 print

Bob Carter

What science-war?

Given that Australia still has an emissions trading bill on the Senate table, is it not of public interest to know that climate science Minister Penny Wong is acting on the basis of flawed, if not incompetent, science advice?

Shhsssh – whatever you do don’t mention the global warming science-war 

About two weeks ago, it was all over the news that Senator Steve Fielding had attended the Heartland-3 climate conference in Washington in early June, and that on returning to Australia he had asked Climate Minister Penny Wong three simple questions about climate change. 

The Minister replied, first in a meeting at which her Chief Scientist (Penny Sackett) and departmental science adviser (Will Steffen) presented a briefing paper, and secondly in writing. Senator Fielding then asked his advisory scientists – Bob Carter, David Evans, Stewart Franks and Bill Kinimonth – to perform an audit of the Minister’s replies to his questions. 

Copies of Senator Fielding’s original questions, Minister Wong’s written reply, and other papers relevant to the matter are available for download here and Senator Fielding’s summary of the results of his discussions with Minister Wong can be found here.  

The full Due Diligence Paper on Minister Wong’s climate science advice was released by Senator Fielding on July 3. The document shows, first, that the Minister and her Department of Climate Change have largely been unable to answer the simple questions that they were asked by Senator Fielding. And, second, that the Department has little capacity to assess the science of global warming in an expert, knowledgeable and independent way. 

The second conclusion was reinforced this week when the Department of Climate Change issued another summary document written by Professor Steffen here. This document, which is derivative of an earlier released ad hoc report from a meeting in Copenhagen in March, contains the same flawed arguments for a dangerous human influence on climate as have already been shown wanting in Fielding’s Due Diligence report. Worse, Steffen’s report reproduces yet again – as the highlight figure for its Executive Summary, no less – yet another alarmist-adorned version of the hockey-stick temperature curve of Michael Mann and co-authors that is now a scientific laughing stock. 

Given the reception that Steffen’s earlier advice to the Minister had received from independent scientists, if wiser heads had prevailed the Department would doubtless have quietly suppressed this latest report. Instead, they proceeded to publication, though not without putting the following caveat inside the front cover, viz:

This document is produced for general information only and does not represent a statement of the policy of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Commonwealth of Australia and all persons acting for the Commonwealth preparing this report accept no liability for the accuracy of or inferences from the material contained in this publication, or for any action as a result of any person’s or group’s interpretations, deductions, conclusions or actions in relying on this material. This report was prepared by Professor Will Steffen and funded by the Department of Climate Change. 

One can only wonder whether the Department believes a word of it, and how much Professor Steffen was paid for his “no liability for the accuracy of” efforts. 

Senator Fielding is the first member of a western parliament since the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report to release a public document that makes an independent science assessment of the danger of human-caused global warming (as promulgated by the IPCC). In so doing, the Senator has shown for all to see, first, that there is an amazing lack of empirical evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are damaging to the environment; and, second, that emissions trading systems are unnecessary, and will be ineffectual no matter how large the emissions cuts that they seek to impose (conversely, the economic and social damage that they will cause is assured). 

However, though Fielding’s raising of the issue in parliamentary context may be new, the conclusions reached by the authors of his Due Diligence report are most certainly not, for many other qualified scientists have reached them too. For example, two other independent assessments have been provided recently by Craig Idso and Fred Singer (NIPCC), and Alan Carlin (EPA) here and here

So, three groups of independent scientists have now examined the evidence for dangerous human-caused warming, and all have reached the same conclusion – which is that evidence is lacking. Given the large costs, and the industrial and social disruption that established ETS’s are already causing, for example in Europe, it is little short of astonishing that the mainstream media in Australia have failed to report, let alone intelligently discuss, any of this information. 

Why could that be? 

What was “all over the news” when the Fielding issue was perceived to be the political one of exercising a casting vote on carbon dioxide taxation rapidly became unmentionable once the topic became the quality of the science, which our media clearly have no capacity to judge. 

Given that Australia still has an emissions trading bill on the Senate table, is it not of public interest to know that climate science Minister Penny Wong is acting on the basis of flawed, if not incompetent, science advice?