David Flint

Why aren’t we being told?

The editor of The Sydney Morning Herald (16/4) has decided that the debate about climate change is bedevilled by a disconnection between theory and practice.

He says that most people agree that something really should be done “when they are presented with evidence of longer droughts, rising sea levels, more intense fires, more frequent cyclones and hurricanes and the like.” Presented with evidence? What evidence is there of extreme changes to the climate which are attributable to manmade global warming?

Don’t say “the” science.  Whenever she went on about “the” science, Penny Wong sounded like a Soviet commissar. The idea of some monolithic dogma held by all scientists is antithetical to Western science – indeed to Western civilization itself.

Now I have to conceded that  I am as much an expert on man-made global warming as the Herald editor, Penny Wong or indeed, Professor Ross Garnaut or Professor Tim Flannery. But I know one thing. Establishing what is fact in the difficult areas in any field – even when you are an expert – requires hard work, usually a degree of luck  and above all, a  good dose of healthy  scepticism. Perhaps I should have said especially when you are an expert. So incidentally does good journalism. Just swallowing the official line or going along with your personal agenda is a recipe for poor journalism. It’s just propaganda and spin.

Australians are entitled to know what the experts are saying, particularly those who challenge the establishment. It is surprising then that little has been heard in our media of the testimony given recently to the US Congress on climate change in Australia by an expert climate scientist – and not an economist, lawyer or palaeontologist.         

The Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and the Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Professor John R Christy, has served both as a Lead Author and Contributing Author of IPCC assessments. He told Congress (the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power on 8 March)  that it has become popular to try to  attribute certain “extreme events” to human causation.

Because the earth is very large and the weather is very dynamic, “extreme events” of one type or another are going to occur somewhere on the planet in every year. There are innumerable ways to define an “extreme event”. Examples include record high or low temperatures, the number of days of a certain quantity, precipitation over so many days, snowfall amounts, etc. So there will be numerous “extreme events” in every year.

In his testimony, Professor Christy assesses a number of recent “extreme events” and the explanations that have been offered as to their cause. He began with the tragic Queensland floods. How often does an international expert on climate look at Australia?

We are being rushed into a tax on carbon dioxide. We have no idea what effect this will have – if any -on the climate. In that context, you would expect that an expert opinion which dissents from the establishment view might receive wide attention in Australia. Apart from Andrew Bolt on the ABC’s Insiders, I cannot find any significant report of this. 

Professor Christy finds there has been a relative lull in Queensland flooding events after 1900, with only four reaching the moderate category in the past 110 years. But fourteen such events were recorded in the 60 years before 1900. He says the recent floods have been exceeded six times in the last 170 years. Two of them recorded almost double the level of flooding last year. And what exactly was the role of the emergency releases from the Wyvenhoe Dam in the recent Brisbane floods is yet to be determined.

Professor Christy also considers the floods in England, Russia and Pakistan and snowfall in the US. His conclusion is that the history charts indicate that severe flooding and other extreme events occur from “natural unenforced variability.” The climate system, he says, has always had within itself the capability of causing devastating events. And these will certainly continue – with or without human influence.

What should we do? 

He says nothing about a carbon dioxide tax, or a carbon price or bank induced carbon trading, instead we should plan for the infrastructure projects to be able to withstand the worst that we already know has occurred.

We must understand the obvious – that the worst events should be expected within such a dynamic system. That is what anyone with common sense realises.
In Australia, it especially means harvesting water, including building more dams. 

Just as an exercise he pulls out some US statistics which would make you think the weather in the relevant states is in fact getting less extreme and colder. But, he says, he is not trying to prove either. His point is that extreme events are poor tools to use for detecting climate change.

Indeed it is by using extreme events to bolster a claim about any type of climate change, the proponents risk setting up a classic inverted “non-falsifiable hypothesis.” 

Thus we were told by the IPCC that milder winter temperatures would increase heavy snowstorms. But after the winters of 2009–10 and 2010–11, we are told the opposite by IPCC advocates.

He says the non-falsifiable hypothesis works this way. “Whatever happens is consistent with my hypothesis.” In other words there is no event which would falsify the hypothesis. 

Such assertions, he says, cannot be considered science or in any way informative since the hypothesis’ fundamental prediction is “anything may happen.” 

Professor Christy’s testimony is extensive. 

Given that we are told that “the science” points only one way and everyone else is a “ratbag denier”, surely the Australian people are entitled to know of testimony by an expert which flies in the face of the establishment position. The fact that it coincides with the common sense you find in the rank and file is not sufficient reason to censor it.

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