Parliamentary legislatures around the world, diverse though they are, generally all share a committee system of review. The review process usually consists of either ad hoc or standing committees that are convened to discuss particular issues or draft pieces of legislation.
Thus in the United States, until recently, members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works under the chairmanship of Senator Inhofe – ignoring political blandishments and distorted science alike – have trail-blazed a path of sensible and moderate commentary on the vexed issue of dangerous human-caused climate change.
Similarly, in the United Kingdom, in 2005 the powerful Select Committee on Economic Affairs of the House of Lords conducted an investigation into the economics of climate change, concluding that “the scientific context (of climate change) is one of uncertainty” and that IPCC procedure “strikes us as opening the way for climate science and economics to be determined, at least in part, by political requirements rather than by the evidence. Sound science cannot emerge from an unsound process
Now a third parliament has chimed in, this time in the Australian lower house. There, a committee under the leadership of government MP Petro Georgiou was asked to advise the Howard government regarding the feasibility and costs of sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. In a politically bizarre development, Mr Georgiou – whose view is that “there is now compelling evidence that human activity is changing the global climate”, and who insisted on making clear reference to this view in his sequestration report – needed the support of the Labor party opposition members of the committee in order to produce a majority report. And four of Mr Georgiou’s government colleagues, led by Dr Dennis Jensen, issued a separate minority report which provides a restrained, rational and sensible discussion of the climate change issue.
Dr Dennis Jensen is that rare animal, a politician who is both a PhD-trained scientist and an experienced researcher. Dr Jensen, who represents a West Australian seat in the Canberra Senate, has worked for two of Australia’s premier research organizations, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO) and the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO).
His minority report points out that the widely promulgated and alarmist British Stern Report has been “thoroughly debunked”, and that “most of the public statements that promote the dangerous human warming scare are made from a position of ignorance – by political leaders, press commentators and celebrities who share the characteristics of lack of scientific training and lack of an ability to differentiate between sound science and computer-based scare mongering”.
With delicious irony, such a diagnosis encapsulates exactly the astonishing and fierce reaction that release of the minority report provoked from the majority members of the committee, other politicians and the press. Chairman Georgiou averred that Jensen was wrong because 43 out of the 46 submissions that the committee had received said so, apparently being unaware that matters of science are not decided by unrepresentative and unqualified consensus. Deputy Chairman Harry Quick badged Jensen’s report as “philosophical waffle”. Labor’s environment spokesman, former rock musician Peter Garrett, wondered out loud in parliament “What planet are these government MPs on?”, and Greens senator Christine Milne called Dr Jensen “a dinosaur”. Finally, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper referred to the group of four dissentient MPs as the “Flat Earth Four”, and their reporter described one of them, Danna Vale, as simply “daffy”.
What’s remarkable about that, I hear you thinking? Politics is politics. Well, yes it is, and so is science. Dennis Jensen’s minority report contains a careful and accurate assessment of the science relevant to the global warming issue, and advances logical argument and facts in support of the view that human-caused warming is not proven, nor likely, to be dangerous. Yet not one other Australian politician, scientist or media reporter is prepared to discuss any of the science issues, let alone to try to show where Dr Jensen might have erred. Instead, en masse, the commentariat have scorned and abused him for daring to challenge the mighty shibboleth of human-caused global warming.
Of course, Prime Minister Howard – whose government is well behind in the opinion polls and who faces an election in the next few months – is in a politically exposed position regarding climate policy. Recent informal polls suggest that as many as 75% of Australian voters remain unconvinced of the danger of human-caused warming. Nonetheless, with strong bias the media continue to promulgate the shrill climate alarmism of extreme groups like the IPCC, NGOs such as the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Labor and Green political parties, and this has forced the Liberal government to make an in principle commitment to the future introduction of a carbon trading system.
It surprised no-one, therefore, that Mr Howard’s comment on the Jensen minority report was “No, I don’t agree with their views”. Pragmatism, after all, is what wins most elections.
The reality is, however, that over the last few years, the legislatures of the U.S., U.K. and now Australia – all, incidentally, nations with strong scientific credentials – have given independent assessments of the in-vogue claims of climate change disaster, and each has found them wanting.
The Jensen group’s third review, launched in Australia this week, closely follows several other sensational revelations that undermine even further the already very weak case for dangerous human-caused global warming.
First, that bastion of warming alarmism the British Hadley Centre has finally faced reality by publishing a computer model which acknowledges that warming has not occurred since 1998 (and conveniently threatens “but just you wait until 2014”!). Having ignored natural climate variability for 15 years, the modelers now take it into account and discover – guess what – that climate varies.
Second, earlier British research which suggested that the late 20th century warming of the ground temperature record was not due to urban heat island effects was found to be unrepeatable, and therefore must be discarded. This calls into question the accuracy and usefulness of all thermometer-based surface temperature data.
Third, NASA acknowledged that since 2000 its much-reproduced US temperature record has been inaccurate because of a computer programming error. After appropriate corrections, it turns out that 1934, not 1998, was the hottest year of the century in the US, and that only four of the hottest ten years on record occurred around the turn of the 21st century.
Finally, and fourth, an in-progess audit of the quality of the Global Climate Network of weather stations maintained by NOAA is showing that many stations are sited in unsatisfactory locations. This revelation shows, once again, that the ground-based thermometer stations provide unreliable data. Perhaps even more serious, it shows that major government and international climate agencies have been, at best, asleep on the job
The wise men and women of our three houses of parliament may mostly be professional politicians, but nonetheless they have discerned correctly the non-alarmist nature of contemporary climate change. The world has many more pressing problems to deal with than quixotically reducing carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere in order to feel good. The global warming scare campaign needs to be recognized as such, badged as such, and then disregarded as such – and in short order.