At an assemblage of physicists at the British Association in 1900, one of the 19th Century’s most influential physicists and mathematicians, Lord William Thomson Kelvin said, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”
This statement appears myopic today and would certainly be lambasted by the likes of Einstein, Schrödinger and Hawking.
Arguments by the Gillard government that the science of climate change is “settled” and “the debate is over” are not dissimilar and will leave future generations in no doubt Labor is using flawed science to drive this tax grab.
Science is all about asking the right questions. If we went back 1000 years we could answer every scientific question someone might have, based on knowledge of the day. However, follow-up questions would lead to a point where we would not yet have discovered definitive answers. Such is the nature of science. Asking the wrong question or one with the presumption of a result fails to respect scientific practice and leads to answers that history will judge as misguided and unscientific.
The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change has been asked the wrong question. Its mission statement reads in part,
The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change.
The IPCC has presumed anthropogenic factors as the cause of climate change.
A carbon tax is held by the Gillard government as the definitive climate change cure. But this answer comes from questions based on science that is contentious and literature that is outdated.
Independent Scientists have identified flaws in the computer models that form the basis for the IPCC’s 2007 global warming predictions. IPCC vice chairman, Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele has conceded there “probably would be mistakes” in a larger report scheduled for 2013-14. The Royal Society states, “There is little confidence in specific projections of future regional climate change, except at continental scales.” The French Academy of Sciences as well says the jury is still out regarding the indirect effects of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by human activity.
Bryan Leyland, spokesman for the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust said when referring to a High Court case against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and its national climate data,
Many scientists believe that, although the earth has been in a natural warming phase for the past 150 years, it has not heated as much as Government archives claim. The precise trend figure is extremely important, as it forms the sole basis of the claim that human activities are the dominant cause of the warming.
The Federal Government must review its position along with the climate scientists of the world. If it continues down the path of carbon tax, history will judge this solution as unscientific and financially unviable.
An assessment of some of the history of physics demonstrates how dangerous it can be to assume that you have all the answers. In the late 17th century probably the greatest physicist- mathematician of all time, Isaac Newton, derived laws for motion and gravitation. These laws were accepted as the definitive solution for a period of two centuries and the term ‘laws’ was applied to his work rather than ‘theories’. This was despite some exceptions such as the orbit of Mercury that could not be explained using these laws.
Einstein, with his Special and General Theories of Relativity provided a far more complete understanding of mechanics and gravitation but Relativity is still called a ‘theory’. It was realised that Newton’s Laws in fact represented a special case of more generalised theories. When Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics, it was not for Relativity, a theory that overturned centuries of ‘accepted fact’. Rather it was for the Photoelectric Effect, a far less confronting discovery for the scientific establishment.
If you had asked astrophysicists only 20 years ago whether the rate of expansion of the universe was speeding up or slowing down, they would have said slowing down. Imagine the surprise when it was discovered that the rate of expansion was increasing. This overturned decades of fundamental forces understanding; gravitation, electromagnetic, nuclear strong and nuclear weak forces. To attempt to explain this, we now have the concept of ‘dark energy’ to accompany ‘dark matter’, both of which were unknown 40 years ago.
The fact is in terms of complexity, mechanics, gravitation and astrophysics have nothing on the dynamics of the climate system.
So why are we so comfortable with “the science is settled” argument?
Why do journalists such as Jon Faine see themselves and the “consensus science” as so omnipotent that they refuse to engage with sceptics or countenance scepticism?
When ‘accepted science’ has massive implications for the welfare of a nation, there needs to be a very thorough audit of the science.
This is why I am calling for a Royal Commission into the science of climate change and the roles played by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Australia’s climate change policies must be based on our best understanding of the latest scientific research coupled with assessment of the relevant economics impacts.
As The International Climate Science Coalition notes:
Attempts by governments to legislate costly regulations on industry and individual citizens to encourage CO2 reduction will slow development while having no appreciable impact on the future trajectory of global climate change.
Such policies will markedly diminish future prosperity and so reduce the ability of societies to adapt to inevitable climate change, thereby increasing, not decreasing human suffering.
A Royal Commission into the science of climate change will allow an honest public debate, free of emotion, based on the evidence.
History demonstrates the science is not “settled” and never will be. Only a Royal Commission into the science of climate change will provide the most climate effective and cost effective solutions in this debate.
Dr. Dennis Jensen is the Federal Member for Tangney