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March 26th 2012 print

John Dawson

Get Carter! Kill doubt!

In the Weekend Australian, Michael Steketee emptied a load he called Scientists who trade in doubt, from a bucket labelled: Get Carter.


In the Weekend Australian (17-18/3), Michael Steketee emptied a load he called Scientists who trade in doubt, from a bucket labelled: Get Carter.


Steketee began his attack on Professor Bob Carter with the customary oath of allegiance to the dangerous anthropogenic global warming doctrine and appeal to the authority of the consensus. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are high, warned Steketee, and getting higher:

Last year they reached 390ppm and they are increasing at 2ppm a year. Should we be worried? Not according to sceptics such as Bob Carter, a former head of James Cook University’s school of earth sciences. He says he has seen no evidence that the climate change that is occurring is caused by human activity or is dangerous. How does this square with the overwhelming majority of expert scientific opinion? It doesn’t.

In their joint report this week on the state of the climate, the CSIRO and BOM argue "that the dominant cause of the observed CO2 increase is the combustion of fossil fuels.

This mismatched rising CO2 levels with alarming climate change, and Carter’s skepticism about the latter with skepticism about the former. Carter doesn’t dispute that CO2 levels are rising or that CO2 warms the planet, and he is not at odds with the “overwhelming majority of expert scientific opinion” on such matters – although he does explain why they are no cause for undue alarm.

“It is widely accepted”, continued Steketee, that it "is very likely”, that “most of the surface global warming observed since the mid-20th century is due to anthropogenic (human-induced) increases in greenhouse gases". But how many widely-accepted-very-likely scenarios have we seen come and go? The hockey stick graph that turned out to be too tricky by half, Al Gore’s inconvenient truth that turned out be too conveniently untrue, and too many more.

While billions of dollars were being spent defending the doctrine launched by such too convenient tricks, how much was being spent investigating: non-human causes of climate change? The benefits of higher temperatures and CO2 levels? The costs and dangers and counterproductive damage of the alleged cure of the alleged “pollution”, etcetera? 

If you think such issues require more objective consideration before we take a wrecking ball to the fossil fuel economy that raised the world’s productive capacity to sustain an additional six billion people, double our life expectancy, and expand our opportunities beyond the dreams of pre fossil-fuel generations, you are, in Steketee’s eyes, a “doubt monger”. And Carter is the master monger.

The evidence that he demands really is absolute proof, an impossible test given the complexity of the world’s climate, as well as other areas of science.

If 90 per cent of people receiving a vaccination develop immunity, this is not proof the vaccine works. But it does seem likely, even if some will continue to argue against its effectiveness.

Nonsense. Carterian doubt is not Cartesian doubt. Carter presents a scholarly case to be answered by more than misrepresentation, ad hominem and appeals to the authority of a consensus flux with gravy. Alarmists can’t point to empirical evidence that reducing emissions of CO2 will reduce climate change dangers by 90 per cent – or have any beneficial effect at all. When they imprudently make predictions within a testable time frame rather than into the remote future their success rate is not 90 per cent, it’s more like 90 per cent failure. A great deal of their research, not to mention their spin, seems to be devoted to fitting unpredicted weather and newly discovered data into the matrix of their doctrine retrospectively.

How blithely, for instance, Australian alarmists slid from predictions that our dams would never fill again to claims that overflowing dams are further evidence of their predictions coming to pass. How blithely Steketee slid past the CSIRO/BOM report that 2010/11 had “the coolest temperatures since 2001”, to find a warm spot and a maybe: “record sea surface temperatures caused by global warming may have contributed to the intensity of the rainfall in Australia in recent years.” Just give the CSRIO and BOM a few hundred million more and they’ll find the evidence.

But science is not supposed to search for a pre ordained cause that will explain the evidence in defence of a doctrine. That’s the way the Ptolemaic system of planetary motion around the earth was defended by a learned consensus for one and a half millennia. Science involves testing a hypothesis against a null hypothesis, not denouncing it as the heresy of “doubt mongering”.  

Which brings us to the bottom of the Get Carter bucket and Steketee’s revelation that: “confidential documents leaked last month show Carter receiving $US1667 ($1590) a month from the Heartland Institute, an American organisation that campaigns against action on global warming” to be “co-editor on the non-governmental international panel on climate change.”

Wow! Is $19,080 a year really Professor Carter’s fee for applying the knowledge of his distinguished career to this monumental task? “Cash for climate skepticism” cried a professor of philosophy in The Age, “we are well justified in dismissing his comments”. How desperate are these people to find a reason to dismiss Carter’s case that they would invite a comparison between his paltry fee and, say, Tim Flannery’s $180,000 a year for chairing Australia’s Climate Commission (or lately for keeping out of sight)? So Carter turned his back on opportunities like that to go after “cash for skepticism” easy street? Or is it the source rather than the amount that alarms the alarmists? Whereas their fees emanate from involuntarily taxation, skeptics’ emanate from voluntary donations. How sinister!

Steketee revealed that Heartland’s budget is $US 6,600,000. The US government’s budget for climate change research is $US 2,481,100,000. But then that is clean taxed money for consecrated man-is-sinful work, whereas Carter’s work according to Steketee follows in the dirty footprints of a tobacco company executive who wrote in 1969 that: "Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the body of fact that exists in the minds of the public." What links that tobacco man to Carter? Carter receives a fee from Heartland, who received donations from tobacco “interests” and paid a fee to a physicist who once received a fee from the Tobacco Institute! Need you ask more? Doubt mongerer! Get Carter! Kill doubt! Gaia is great!