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Climate scientists should engage in public debate
letters by Des Moore, Ian Plimier, Tom Biegler, Art Raiche, Rod Cruice, William Kininmonth, Michael J Kerrigan published in The Australian, 29 October 2011

IT is disingenuous for those in the climate industry such as Steve Sherwood ("Why experts refuse to debate climate science", 28/10) to claim that climate change is too complex for the public to understand in a debate.

In his debate with me, Sherwood could not answer a simple question from the public: can you show me that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive climate change yet the 97 per cent of natural emissions don't? The public have woken up to the climate industry.

That's why the climate industry does not want to debate those scientists who are not on the gravy train.

Ian Plimer, Professor of mining geology, Adelaide University, SA

I DO sympathise with Steve Sherwood but opting out is not good enough. The matter is too critical. What's more, his own defeatist words describe the reasonable message that ought to be repeated again and again. Carbon dioxide emissions certainly affect climate.

There are legitimate fears that unchecked emissions will damage future generations. Given the uncertainties, such fears cannot confidently be rejected. What to do about this while taking into account all the uncertainties is what debate should be about. So, paradoxically, Sherwood has outlined the tack that he and other climate scientists ought to be taking in public forums. They should not give up but they may need to try harder to get the message right and to handle ignorant hecklers.

Tom Biegler, St Kilda, Vic

STEVE Sherwood says climate scientists won't enter public debates because "they cannot be adequately explained in an hour or a day".

If he's not prepared to debate he should at least spend an hour or a day examining the analyses by scientists drawing attention to the uncertainties in the dangerous warming thesis.

Such analyses include the 54 key uncertainties identified in the last IPCC report; the letter by 18 scientists to the US Congress in February referring to 678 peer-reviewed sceptical studies; the US petition signed by 30,000 scientists rejecting the danger thesis; and a similar rejection by four respected Australian scientists to then climate minister Penny Wong.

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

STEVE Sherwood asserts that the physics of global warming are simple, but that is far from the case. Climate science is a catch-all of many disciplines including solar physics, oceanography, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, geology and hydrology - just to name a few.

In each of these fields, there are many debatable issues. New information is always emerging.

There is a long list of publications and popular articles from prominent scientists in all of these fields that dispute the premises of fossil-fuel induced climate change. How is the public able to make a wise choice by reading technical publications?

Art Raiche, Killara, NSW

IF Steve Sherwood's experts decline to debate climate issues, they should not be surprised when those who aren't so precious about joining the public discourse do so.

They should work out how to communicate their message. That means having to debate on terms other than their own. It also means they might have to toughen up a bit.

Rod Cruice, Dayboro, Qld

TO continue Steve Sherwood's legal metaphor, the world has been subjected to a closed trial within the cloistered halls of academia. The global community's temerity was to develop a better lifestyle based on fossil-fuel usage. No law has been broken but the community has been found guilty to the charge of causing dangerous climate change; the penalty for the Australian people is a carbon pollution tax aimed at pricing comfort and plenty out of common reach.

There is no evidence of dangerous climate change. To the contrary, satellite data shows the opposite: photosynthesis has increased over recent decades and can only be beneficial.

William Kininmonth, Kew, Vic

WERE scientists confident of their research, they should be only too happy to take the opportunity to debunk their critics. Steve Sherwood's comparisons with lawyers and court cases sounds like an attempt to justify to himself why he seeks to avoid engagement with critics.

Science has not always been so gun-shy. The 1860 Oxford evolution debate pitted scientists, philosophers and religious leaders in a debate.

Thomas Huxley faced off Bishop Wilberforce. Huxley's confidence was enough to face off his critics. It is a shame the likes of Sherwood aren't prepared to test their ideas in public.

Michael J. Kerrigan, Meningie, SA

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