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The Myth of Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

February 10, 2011

The Gillard government is proceeding with the discussions of the committee established to examine how to introduce a carbon price and it has now also established a Climate Commission, with the extraordinary appointment of  Tim Flannery as “climate commissioner”, to “sell” the supposed virtues. In short, Australia is proceeding on the basis that the “science is settled” and we are even told (according to The Age, 3 Feb) by Climate Change Minister Combet that a carbon price would boost Australia’s economic competitiveness! 

By contrast, it seems likely that the changed political situation in the United States will lead to further consideration of the science in Congress. Indeed in recent days the tired old science consensus claim has been revived by 18 scientists writing to Congress asking  that this occur. Their letter runs the consensus line that “everyone of the leading national scientific academies worldwide have concluded that human activity is changing the climate” and that “no research results have produced any evidence that challenges the overall scientific understanding of what is happening to our planet’s climate and why”. The G18 asserts therefore that climate deniers should “not be given scientific weight equal to the comprehensive, peer-reviewed research presented by the vast majority of climate scientists”. The signatories include 8 members of the National Academy of Sciences and Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth (who are not members).

Unsurprisingly, the Science and Environmental Policy Project (whose President is Professor Fred Singer) has responded with a letter to Congress (also attached) rejecting the “scares” promulgated in the G18 letter (which include “rising sea levels and storm surges”, some regions to be “increasingly vulnerable to drought” and others need to “prepare for massive flooding”) and pointing out that there are many scientific studies that reject the consensus claim. In this letter, which is signed by 36 scientists (including two members of the National Academy of Sciences, Richard Lindzen and Will Happer), reference is made to inter alia 678 scientific studies quoted in a report that “offers a point-by- point rebuttal of all the claims” by the G18, “citing in every case peer-reviewed scientific research on the actual effects of climate change during the past several decades”.    Claims of scientific consensus or overwhelming proof are described as “simply not true” but support is given to the GI8 request for Congress to take a fresh look at climate change.

With extraordinary claims being made by Garnaut and Combet (not to mention by the Greens), and little  opportunity for Australian sceptics to rebut those in the media, it is surprising that the Opposition does not seek some form of Parliamentary inquiry/examination. Gillard’s carbon price policy is high on the government’s agenda and yet it appears this will be allowed to happen with scarcely a squeak by the Opposition.

Des Moore

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