How is it that the latest IPCC report on climate science at released in June and showing that previously assumed impacts and tipping points were much too conservative, barely made it into mainstream press and by all accounts had no influence on policy makers?
Indeed since its release, the ALP has underwritten the emissions from the $50 billion Gorgon LNG plant; released 31 new offshore petroleum exploration licenses; pushed an increase in coal’s share of the global energy market; dropped its financial support for domestic solar power; and made its emissions trading legislation a whole lot weaker.
The Coalition will oppose the CPRS on the pretence that jobs will be lost (when did they seriously care?) and Senator Fielding will join them because he’s been unable to “get to the bottom” of minor differences in the trajectories of atmospheric CO2 and temperature rise.
Reports from the UK and US show that millions of dollars have been poured into campaigns to lobby government and disprove climate science. The American Enterprise Institute was given $1.6 million by ExxonMobil to offer scientists $10,000 in cash for disputing reports by the IPCC. In the lead-up to debate on President Barack Obama’s carbon cap-in-trade legislation, oil giant-funded think-tanks employed more than 2,000 lobbyists to press their case.
It’s a fair bet that the powerful and cashed-up mining, coal and energy intensive industries influenced the Rudd Government in the last 18 months, too, considerably slowing Australia’s response. Science has become readily expendable as just another interest to be weighed against those of big emitters.
Indeed, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong boasts that dissatisfaction from both sides shows that a good balance has been achieved. David Spratt, co-author of Climate Code Red, says:
Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong have adopted a traditional Labor approach to the climate problem: something for the environment lobby and something for business. But the problem is that solving the climate crisis cannot be treated like a wage deal, with the demands of each side balanced somewhere in the middle. It is not possible to negotiate with the laws of physics and chemistry. The planet cannot be bought off. There are absolute limits that should not be crossed, and doing something, but not enough, will still lead to disaster.
Scientists, largely uncomfortable in the glare of publicity, have also had to endure the media balancing their “claims” against the opinions of the fewer than 5 per cent of scientists who disagree. Professor Ian Plimer, a mining geologist, is one such scientist happily cashing in on his speaking tours and his book Heaven and Earth: Global Warming - The Missing Science that he claims would “knock out every single argument we hear about climate change”.
He fails to do this, as climate scientists such as Professors Barry Brook, Ian Enting and Dr Andrew Glikson painstakingly demonstrated, but their responses rarely get space in the mainstream press. The kind of debate where complex science must be defended in 10-second grabs is highly problematic because the future of humanity and the planet depends on quick action, backed by good public understanding of the need for governments to move.
With scientists pitted against each other, and neither Government nor Opposition prepared to openly back the science or admit to the dangers we face, the general public has become more confused and more sceptical of science per se. Scientific method and its system of peer review ends up counting for nothing. As Professor Brook points out:
… it’s rather silly to debate the science because this is the role of the scientific community as a whole and in doing so they’ve reached a view that this is a serious problem - but a one-on-one debate is what the media demands.
Such debates let governments use science as a tradeable commodity to avoid the hard decisions.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
28 posts so far.