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It was pleasing to see that The Australian has today published serious responses to the article by Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, as the “lead” section (below) in today’s letters column  (Please note that, as shown by the square bracketed deletions, the Ed changed the letters submitted by Michael Asten and myself, as he doubtless did with the others. Even so, I judge that sufficient is included to get across the general message).

Most of the letters express a sceptical or corrective view, including two of my acquaintance, Prof Michael Asten of Monash and Mr Geoff Derrick, an expert geologist). But the important thing is that The Australian presents them as part of a serious debate and effectively dismisses any idea of a scientific  consensus.

Fortunately, it is not the only paper to do so. For the second time recently, The Age has surprised by including an article by (surprisingly) the environment editor, Tom Arup, surveying the views of country Victorians on climate change (see below). Importantly, it reveals that there is quite a widespread sceptic view, even at a time when temperatures are high.

It would be too optimistic to think that the apparent shift in attitudes on climate change might be used by Abbott to institute an independent inquiry, let alone a reduction in policies aimed at reducing emissions (such as the RET). But we could be going down that path.

Des Moore
PS I would remind recipients that Case Smit and myself are planning to bring to Australia in mid-February a Canadian expert on climate change with a sceptical view, Professor Chris Essex. He would make public presentations and meet with leading politicians and journalists. But although we have been offered financial help, we need a bit more to fill our $40,000 budget if this is to succeed.  

We're stuck with carbon

Letters published in Talking Point in The Australian, January 18, 2014

IAN Chubb has nailed it, distilling into one column the reality of predictive climate models ("Surely CO2 is a climate culprit", 17/1).

Another point that sceptics evade is an understanding of the law of conservation of mass. The likes of Chubb and Brian Schmidt should not take as a given that the population understands this principle of science.

If we have pumped 2 trillion tonnes of carbon into the air, where has it gone? Nowhere.

Every atom of carbon that we have mined from the ground and put into the atmosphere is still hanging there.

The law of conservation of matter is a part of the Year 9 curriculum. As a science teacher, I make sure to teach it well in such an important context.

Instead of laying bets, perhaps Maurice Newman should be tested for his understanding of this concept before entering the debate.

Dr Peter Wilson, Fentonbury, Tas

[Commentary contributions on global warming in the past two days by Australia’s Nobel prize winner Brian Schmidt, and Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, are very welcome as thoughtful and dispassionate contributions, coming from the highest levels, to the debate we have to have]

Speaking of atmospheric CO2 changes of the past 200 years, Ian Chubb says "we have to assess the impact now; and we have to use the data to build models to estimate what the impact might be in the future". His subsequent remarks suggest he is unaware of the peer-reviewed literature casting doubts on the assumptions underlying the IPCC models on which he appears to rely.

I reviewed a sampling of these for a recent commentary ("Bring science to climate policy", 3/1) and it is a point to ponder that none as I recall include authors affiliated with Australian research institutions. [Chubb might consider the implications for Australian science, and whether his network for advice is sufficiently broad. As he notes, we must have a “healthy and constructive discussion based on all the empirical evidence, not bits of it”].

Michael Asten, Melbourne, Vic

The contribution of Australia’s chief scientist, Professor Ian Chub, to the debate on climate is welcome (“Surely C02 is a climate culprit”,17/1). Although not a climate scientist, he poses the important question of what is the effect of the CO2 emissions humans have pumped into the atmosphere over the past 150 years or so]

IAN Chubb rightly notes that climate is "the result of complex interactions of multiple variables" and suggests there should be "a healthy and constructive discussion based on all the empirical evidence" of the implications. Bravo. That is exactly what many sceptical scientists, climatologists and others believe has not happened. Would Chubb support the proposal by sceptics for an independent inquiry into the warming thesis which forms the basis for government policies designed to reduce use of fossil fuels but which has not been subject to any cost/benefit analysis?

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

PERHAPS it is safest to confess to being a climate change atheist.

The climate change debate is controversial as it has been used as a cover to introduce redistributive socialist economic policies such as the carbon tax, designed to hurt upper income earners rather than spread the burden fairly -- a case of politics trumping good economic policy.

Regardless of one's personal beliefs, breaking the nexus between the science and the economics of climate change and creating solutions that are shared by all people in the country is the only way to progress the argument in any meaningful manner.

Ashwin Garg, Strathfield, NSW

OF course we should reduce our dependence on a socially, environmentally and economically destructive finite resource. The real debate is how much of our GDP we put into clean energy research and development and where we put the hydroelectricity dams and build the thorium reactors.

Kim Hillier, Mareeba, Qld

CARBON dioxide levels in oceans and the atmosphere are now at historical lows geologically speaking. Many areas of oceans and estuaries display daily swings from acid to alkaline conditions, all due to natural variability and not to our CO2 emissions. The oceans are in a constant state of reaction with their sea floor and rocks of the continental margins, absorbing acid-creating hydrogen ions and keeping the oceans in their naturally alkaline state. The oceans also remove carbon by depositing limestone and dolomite, a process which has gone on for billions of years.

G M Derrick, Sherwood, Qld

IAN Chubb is of course correct in asserting that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The information that then makes Professor Chubb's column more political than scientific is that he equates a 0.9C rise in temperature with the 2 trillion tonnes of CO2 generated by human activity in the past century. The most significant contribution to greenhouse effects is water vapour and the amount of carbon dioxide made by humans is a small fraction of the natural exchange cycle.

Peter Clark, Mount Gambier, SA

HOORAY. Finally someone arguing for climate change who is prepared to participate in a proper debate. Ian Chubb, I don't necessarily agree with what you say, but I am happy to listen to reasoned debate that acknowledges there is another side to this question, instead of name-calling.

Only a reasoned debate will bring out the truth.

And if the truth is that we need some remedy, then the people will see it, and agree.

Terry Hassard, New York, US

Climate change a hot topic in country Victoria

Article by Tom Arup, Environment Editor for The Age, January 18, 2014

Emergency call-out: After the temperature hit 50.8 degrees, Harry Bussell resorted to a novel method to cool down his wife Nicola and children Emily, 2, Jack, 8, and Sophie, 6. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

It is ''pretty bloody hot'' on Harry and Nicola Bussell's property - 50.8 degrees, in fact. It is a new high for the stunning sheep farm nestled at the foot of the Victorian alps in Carboor.

Despite the record - and Victoria's second significant heatwave in five years - the Bussells are sceptical humans are changing the temperature or climate.

''I am definitely not convinced,'' Mr Bussell said this week. ''The climate is changing all the time. It's been changing for millions of years.''

Ms Bussell said for her debate over whether the planet is warming was not helpful. She said qualified people sat on both sides, and it was arguable Australia could do anything about it at any rate. She said helping farmers manage the variable climate they have always faced would be more useful.

The Bussells' views are not unique. Polling suggests country people are more sceptical about humans causing global warming than city dwellers. The Climate Institute last year found 48 per cent of rural people were concerned about climate change, compared with 55 per cent in cities. Just 38 per cent of rural Australians said they trusted mainstream climate science.

The broad view among scientists is that climate change will be particularly threatening to rural Australia. The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility found hundreds of inland towns were vulnerable to rising temperatures, reduced rainfall and more extreme weather and would need to adapt to survive.

Views as The Saturday Age travelled in Victoria this week were far from uniform. Hannah Marriott, a manager of a sheep property in central Victoria, said the climate had become more unreliable. She thought humans have had an impact and her gut feeling was that people sometimes act without responsibility and need to be checked.

Cooling himself by the Ovens River in Wangaratta, local sculptor Sam Anderson was worried about the impact of climate change on rainfall. But he said there was little individuals could do to prevent a problem mainly caused by big business.

In Strathmerton, dairy farmer Ryan Tuckett said he believed the recent heatwave was just part of ''mother nature's cycle'', not climate change. He said views in town seemed to be split 50-50 about humanity's role.

Independent federal MP Cathy McGowan said her prominent support for action on climate change helped her win the seat of Indi at last year's election. She said there were significant climate change threats for her electorate - from reduced agriculture to tourism being affected by declining snow in the ski fields.

''There might be people who have other opinions, but they are certainly not coming to see me and I don't think they are the majority,'' she said.

Further west, National Party MP for Mallee Andrew Broad described himself as in two minds, pointing to 130 years of records on his family farm that he said showed less dry years in recent times when compared with earlier in the century.

But Mr Broad said he was a ''pragmatist'' and there was a community expectation some taxpayers dollars be spent on climate change. He said that should be used to help farmers innovate and adapt, not a carbon tax.

Ali Cupper, a Mildura City councillor and former state ALP candidate, said younger people in rural areas were more likely to accept the consensus shared by the majority of scientists, but there was an ''old guard'' who were sceptical.

John Pettigrew, a fruitgrower from Bunbartha, said he had tried for years to inform others about climate change. After years of trial and error, he said he now emphasised the opportunities for rural people to develop new industries and adopt new crops.

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