It is a privilege to have a letter published in The Age, even if it was heavily edited and took second place to the attack on free market capitalism - see below.
The showdown: science versus the free market
5th February, 2007
WITH the heat rising in the global warming debate, I foresee a protracted battle emerging that will have many similarities with the epic battle between science and religion that began in the 17th century and, in the case of many religious fundamentalists, is still continuing.
On the one hand, we have the scientists who dedicate their lives to discovering how complex environmental systems work and understanding the long-term impacts of human activity on those systems. On the other hand, we have the free-market capitalists and their apologists Ð including economists, business executives, corporate shareholders and conservative politicians - who will do anything to protect their own short-term interests and dogmas, regardless of scientific evidence or concern for the wellbeing of future generations.
Unfortunately, the status of science in the community is now well below that of free-market capitalism.
This "dumbing down" of society has occurred over the past 30 years or so. Partly because politicians are now more concerned with surplus budgets and lowering tax rates than educating young people who can solve difficult problems such as global warming. And partly because commercial media are more concerned with playing corporate games, their ratings and circulation figures, reporting trivia and sensationalising news than educating the public about important issues facing humanity.
We have already seen instances where Bush Administration officials have interfered with the reporting of scientific evidence related to the causes of global warming. We have also seen big mining and energy companies supporting the development of nuclear and "clean coal" technologies as solutions to global warming, while ignoring the obvious alternatives of reducing the demand for power and developing solar technologies.
I believe that effective solutions to the global warming problem will only come from the scientific community, not from supporters of free-market capitalism who will not voluntarily do anything that threatens their obsession with ever-growing wealth, consumption, cash flows, share prices and corporate profits. We, the public, need to decide which side we can really trust in the battle for the future of our planet: the scientists or the free-market capitalists.
Paul Fullerton, Camberwell
No scientific consensus
5th February, 2007
(Sentences in square brackets deleted from published version)
ALTHOUGH your editorial (3/2) claims "the science is clear: people cause climate change", it fails to mention that history is replete with similar doom-and-gloom predictions by scientists unless we humans restrain ourselves. The 1972 Blueprint for Survival, for example, effectively endorsed the Club of Rome prediction that the world would run out of resources without stabilising population and reducing living standards. That "blueprint" was supported by 14 fellows of the Royal Society and 36 holders of science chairs in British universities. As with other gloomy predictions, the opposite has occurred. Other similar examples of scientific "certainty" exist. Now we have more doom-and-gloom reports endorsed by even more scientists. #
[My long experience as Treasury deputy secretary with supposed scientific modeling and analysis is that economists are no better than scientists at predictions, let alone causes of events. It is unscientific to assert that the small average temperature increase since the mid 1960s is 90 percent certainly caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions from increased human activity. Why did temperatures fall in the previous twenty five year when such emissions increased strongly?]
Moreover, you fail to mention the recent, extensive, published analysis by distinguished scientists and economists rejecting the underlying analysis in both the Stern Review and the IPCC report. The fact is that there is no scientific or other consensus on this issue, and the Australian Government should make that clear.