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“I BELIEVE . . .” March 24, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Environment, US Politics.

The problem is I think that religious belief is intuitive whereas scientific belief must meet objective standards. The genius of science arises from the formulations of intuitive propositions that meet external standards.

It is interesting to consider some opinions about climate science expressed by Republican members of the US Congress quoted by Robert Benson:

“I personally believe that the solar flares are more responsible for climatic cycles than anything that human beings do. …” — Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin

“Nobody really knows the cause. The earth cools, the earth warms … It could be caused by carbon dioxide or methane. Maybe we should kill the cows to stop the methane, or stop breathing to stop the CO2 … Thousands of people die every year of cold, so if we had global warming it would save lives … We ought to look out for people. The earth can take care of itself.” — Rep. Duncan Hunter, California

“There was a report a couple of weeks ago that in fact you look at this last year, it was the warmest year in the last decade, I think was the numbers that came out. I don’t — I accept that. I do not say that it is man-made.” — Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan

“The greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people.” — Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois says we need not worry about the planet being destroyed because, citing chapter 8, verse 22 of the Book of Genesis, God promised Noah it wouldn’t happen again after the great flood.

Sen. John McCain co-authored a good global warming bill when running for president in 2008. But he did a 180-degree turnabout when running for re-election to Arizona’s Senate seat two years later, suddenly saying, “There’s great questions about it that need to be resolved.”

What is interesting about this selection of quotations is that there is a range of attitudes to the evidence as represented by the consensus of science. Expediency is possibly a better political behavior than literal adherence to a text. On the other hand believing whatever you like is not expedient. It is stupidity and deeply irresponsible.

The hope that climate warming is induced by human activity is that the most severe and tragic consequences that will be visited upon human beings might be avoided or least reduced. The question relating to climate science is about right and wrong. The person who said at the Canberra shock jock rally who said that, “Climate warming is nature” said more than they understood.

Julie Bishop, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in her column in the Sydney Morning Herald takes issue with being called a climate science denier. She writes:

The Prime Minister and her ministers have repeatedly declared that the “science is settled” and there is no need for further debate on how to respond to the environmental challenges from climate change.

A Nobel Prize-winning scientist told me recently that “science is never settled” and that scientific assumptions and conclusions must always be challenged.

This eminent Noble Laureate pointed that had he accepted the so-called “settled science”, he would not have undertaken his important research, which challenged orthodox scientific propositions and led to new discoveries, which resulted in a Nobel Prize.

In using deliberately derogatory and pejorative terms such as “denier” the Prime Minister is seeking to intimidate people into silence – that is the only interpretation that can be construed by her behaviour.

What does the Prime Minister say about the views of the more than 1000 scientists quoted in a report to the US Senate, also tabled at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun?

It includes comments from Nobel Prize-Winning Stanford University Physicist Dr. Robert B. Laughlin: “Please remain calm: The Earth will heal itself – climate is beyond our power to control . . . Earth doesn’t care about governments or their legislation. You can’t find much actual global warming in present-day weather observations. Climate change is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.”

And comments from legendary atmospheric scientist the late Dr Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA, who authored more than 190 studies and described as one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the last 100 years who said: “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organisation nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly . . . As a scientist I remain skeptical . . . The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.”

What does Julia Gillard say of UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist who is of the view that: “Warming fears are the worst scientific scandal in the history . . . When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.”

Or US Government atmospheric scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration who has challenged the notion of scientific consensus on climate change and claims that: “It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.”

Prime Minister Gillard is not a scientist, yet she feels free to attack and denigrate anyone, and that must include Nobel Prize winning scientists, who holds a view that differs from her own narrow political prism.

There is much more at stake in this carbon tax debate than whether science can or should ever be settled, and that includes the principle of free speech.

Next time Julia Gillard spits out the words “climate change denier” she would do well to remember the famous quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who summarised Voltaire’s beliefs on freedom of thought and expression as, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

So scientific evidence is a freedom of speech issue. Julie Bishop is both claiming to have a unstated policy on climate change while quoting people who deny the findings of climate science. I am none the wiser from reading the opinions of the scientists she quotes.


Tim Lambert and commentators at Deltroid fill the purposely created void left by the quotes that climate change denier and Liberal spokesperson, Julie Bishop, employs. I suppose that exceptions can be made when politicians are talking to the fringes of the their political base, but that surely is not the case for an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wedge politics is rationale for this stance. There has been a split in the ALP primary vote between its traditional social progressive and social conservative base. The tactics of the Federal Liberal Party – who knows what there orientating beliefs are anymore – and they run the risk of wedging themselves. Tomorrow the Barry O’Farrell led Liberals in NSW will it is expected be very successful by adopting a broadly pro-environment stance.



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