STEVE Fielding recently attended a climate change conference in Washington, DC. Listening to the papers presented, the Family First senator became puzzled that the scientific analyses they provided directly contradicted the reasons the Australian government had been giving as the justification for its emissions trading legislation.
Fielding heard leading atmospheric physicist Dick Lindzen, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describe evidence that the warming effect of carbon dioxide was much overestimated by computer climate models and remark: "What we see, then, is that the very foundation of the issue of global warming is wrong.
"In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming-climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own quite removed from science."
Another scientist, astrophysicist Willie Soon, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, commented: "A magical CO2 knob for controlling weather and climate simply does not exist." Think about that for a moment with respect to our government's climate policy.
On his return to Canberra Fielding asked Climate Change Minister Penny Wong to answer three simple questions about the relationship between human carbon dioxide emissions and alleged dangerous global warming.
Fielding was seeking evidence, as opposed to unvalidated computer model projections, that human carbon dioxide emissions are driving dangerous global warming, to help him, and the public, assess whether cutting emissions would be a cost-effective environmental measure.
After all, the cost to Australian taxpayers of the planned emissions trading bill is about $4000 a family a year for a carbon dioxide tax of $30 a tonne. The estimated benefit of such a large tax increase is that it may perhaps prevent an unmeasurable one-ten-thousandth of a degree of global warming from occurring. Next year? No, by 2100.
The questions posed were:
* Is it the case that CO2 increased by 5percent since 1998 while global temperature cooled during the same period? If so, why did the temperature not increase, and how can human emissions be to blame for dangerous levels of warming?
* Is it the case that the rate and magnitude of warming between 1979 and 1998 (the late 20th-century phase of global warming) were not unusual as compared with warmings that have occurred earlier in the Earth's history? If the warming was not unusual, why is it perceived to have been caused by human CO2 emissions and, in any event, why is warming a problem if the Earth has experienced similar warmings in the past?
* Is it the case that all computer models projected a steady increase in temperature for the period 1990 to 2008, whereas in fact there were only eight years of warming followed by 10years of stasis and cooling? If so, why is it assumed that long-term climate projections by the same models are suitable as a basis for public policy-making?
As independent scientists attending the meeting, we found the minister's advisers unable, indeed in some part unwilling, to answer the questions.
We were told that the first question needed rephrasing because it did not take account of the global thermal balance and the fact much of the heat that drives the climate system is lodged in the ocean.
Que? What is it about "carbon dioxide has increased and temperature has decreased" that the minister's science advisers don't understand?
The second question was dismissed with the comment that climatic events that occurred in the distant geological past were not relevant to policy concerned with contemporary climate change. Try telling that to geologist Ian Plimer.
And regarding the accuracy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's computer models, we were assured that better models were in the pipeline. So the minister's advisers apparently concede that the models that have guided preparation of the emissions trading scheme legislation are inadequate.
These are not adequate responses.
It was reported in the Business Age last July that the ministry of climate change's green paper on climate change, which was issued as a prelude to carbon dioxide taxation legislation, contained scientific errors and over-simplifications. Almost 12 months on, our experience confirms that the scientific advice Wong is receiving is inadequate to justify the exorbitantly costly upheaval of our society's energy usage that will be driven by the government's ETS legislation.
All Australians owe Fielding a vote of thanks for having had the political courage to ask in parliament where the climate empress's clothes have gone. Together with the senator, and the public, we await with interest any further answers to his questions that Wong's advisers may yet provide.
Geologist Bob Carter, carbon modeller David Evans, hydrologist-climatologist Stewart Franks and meteorologist-climatologist Bill Kininmonth attended the meeting between Steve Fielding, Penny Wong, Chief Scientist Penny Sackett and ANU Climate Change Institute executive director Will Steffen. Sackett has so far declined to answer Fielding's questions on this page.