Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Thinking about things

By Don Aitkin - posted Wednesday, 26 June 2019


When I was an undergraduate I was not excitedly exploring the life of the mind. Far from it. I was studying in order to become a high-school teacher, like my parents. I was doing the subjects that would equip me in time to become a subject master, and I did whatever my teachers required me to do. It was not until my honours year (and I was lucky to get into it) that I began seriously to ask questions about life, nature and the rest.

My History teachers had equipped me for such work: I was always to go to the original source, and question it. How valid are you, the source, anyway? Who says so, and how do they know, and so on? Before long I was a doctoral student, and these approaches were part-and-parcel of my intellectual life. I was creating new data, to some degree, and my work had to be as good as I could make it. Postdoctoral work, especially in the USA, intensified that priority. 'Garbage in, garbage out' I first heard in 1965, in Ann Arbor. Thereafter that was the way I tried to approach all issues in thought.

Perhaps that style of work brought me to the attention of elders and betters in other areas. By the time I was forty I was being asked to do things for which I had little prior experience, and each new task filled out my knowledge base, and seemed to intensify my way of doing things. In the middle 1980s I was a member of the Australian Science and Technology Council, the Chairman of the Australian Research Grants Committee, the Chairman of the Board of the ANU's Institute for Advanced Studies, and involved in a number of other activities that spun off, as it were, from these responsibilities. All of them led me into new fields of inquiry, and that was exciting, because I kept on learning.

Advertisement

The point of the work was advice, to the Minister, the Prime Minister, the Vice-Chancellor. I soon learned that whatever I was doing, and whatever the advice we were putting forward, these were only one or two of the sources of work and advice coming to the boss. That led to another discovery - our country and our university seemed to run on committees. I was always on several, it seemed, and their advice merged into other sources of advice and ultimately to a decision, or sometimes a decision not to make a decision. One of my Ministers once said that to me, more or less as a piece of friendly advice: 'Don't make a decision you don't have to make,' and its brother, which was not to make a decision today if you could leave it till tomorrow. Who knew what might happen in the next twenty-four hours?

And all the above now merges into a short thought-piece about 'climate change', among other things about the ways in which organisations, especially scientific ones, have felt the need to have a position on it. The number that do so grew from none to a lot once governments started pumping money into the issue of how to deal with the twin scares of increasing global gas emissions and the change to climate thought to be resulting from the increase (always a negative effect, in this case). I know of no case where the entire fellowship of any learned body was asked to express its view. If there is one case, then someone will tell me. Very often, as in the case of the Australian Academy, a small panel was asked to write the position paper, and the panel seemed to consist only of those of the alarmist persuasion, or, if that is too strong (because there was one sceptic, if I recall it properly, who had a lot of trouble with the procedure), not to be balanced by the inclusion of an appropriate number of well-known sceptics. 'We'll look bad if don't follow their [the Academy's] example!' was a cry voiced in another Australian scientific body, according to one of its sceptical fellows, who told me what had happened in his outfit.

Well, the Geological Society of London is having a turn about all this. A year ago, 33 Fellows of the Royal Society wrote in protest to their President about the tone of the Royal's comments on 'climate change', which they saw as lacking in rigour. That protest was followed by a comparable number of Fellows of the GSL agreeing to write to their own President in similar vein. Why it has taken so long to reach agreement among the dissentients I do not know, and what follows comes from some email exchange that I have been able to read. To begin, one critical Fellow quotes two small parts of the official position, as follows:

'the only plausible explanation for the rate and extent of temperature increase since 1900 is the exponential rise in CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution' and 'this temperature decline sharply reversed since about 1900 without any corresponding change in insolation. The scientific community can find no plausible explanation for the rate and extent of this reversal in the second half of the 20thcentury, other than the increasing rise in CO2 and other greenhouse gases that began slowly with the Industrial Revolution.'

The repeated phrase 'no plausible explanation', he says, is absolute rubbish. Because 'no plausible explanation' has been voiced again and again by alarmists (on this website, as well), I was interested in his rebuttal. (I've done a little textual editing, above and below.)

'There are numerous potential reasons explaining the rise at the end of the 20th century:

Advertisement
  1. Solar
  2. The Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation
  3. The reduction in cooling pollutants like SO2
  4. False instrumentation warming
  5. Blatant fraud (as shown by NASA's changing of the 1970s cooling into what is now alleged to be warming).

Indeed, if we look at the best proxy for long-term climate-change - the Central England Temperature record - we see that the end of the 20th century is very far from unusual with several periods of similar scale change, and the 1690-1730 change being far, far bigger in scale. So, we KNOW that natural variation is more than enough to explain the temperature variation seen in the 20th century.

There is no problem finding very plausible alternatives to CO2 to explain the 20th century record. The problem is that they [the alarmists] just point blank deny them.'

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This article was first published on Don Aitkin.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

31 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Don Aitkin has been an academic and vice-chancellor. His latest book, Moving On, was published in 2016.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Don Aitkin

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 31 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy