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Climate: The Counter Consensus

ACT Leader Rodney Hide Speech To Institute of Public Affairs To Launch Professor Bob Carter's New Book - Climate: The Counter Consensus
Melbourne, Australia; Thursday, October 7 2010

Professor Bob Carter has written the best book on the science of human-induced global warning I have read.

It’s a very significant book. It will save countless lives. These would be the lives lost should the world’s poor be condemned to the grinding poverty implicit in the now world-wide political goal of dramatically curtailing the use of fossil fuels.

That goal, in turn, is driven by the so-called scientific consensus and by pronouncements from on high from the UN’s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.
These summarised are that continued industrialisation will condemn us to catastrophic global warming in a hundred years or so. Therefore we must act, and act immediately before it is too late.

Prof Carter’s book will save countless lives. It will also save trillions of dollars in resources, natural, human and physical. Precious resources that the human race striving to provide every human being with the means for them to reach their full potential can ill-afford to lose.

That’s the waste that would otherwise be driven by the endless climate change bureaucracy and the massive costs inherent in climate change policy designed to upend society and stifle industrial processes and progress.

Lives and resources. That’s how significant this book is.

It’s fitting that Bob’s book is published by Tom Stacey. Mr Stacey started out in his early publishing days with “Blueprint for Survival”. That book was signed off by over 30 influential scientists and called for a radical deindustrialisation and restructured society to prevent “the irreversible disruption of the life-support systems on this planet”.
That book along with “Since Silent Spring” and “The Limits to Growth” had a profound affect on me as a young boy. They shaped twenty years of my life as I went on because of the alarm these books engendered in me to study ecology, environmental science, natural resource management, economics and to teach and research in university how we can learn to better care for the natural environment.

After all these years, I found Tom Stacey’s opening essay insightful, very moving, and for me, very poignant.

The Blueprint for Survival predicted Armageddon before the year 2000 in part because by then it was predicted we would have run out of fossil fuels.

Tom Stacey writes, “We were fooled, were we not? We had got the science and demographics ridiculously wrong, the Nobel laureates, Fellows of the Royal Society, and the rest of us.”

Yes. We were fooled. We are easily fooled. That’s why Prof Carter’s work is so important.

Bob Carter clearly loves and respects science. It comes through in every page.

The sadness too that the key casualty of the global warming scare has been science as scientists and august scientific organisations have been corralled, herded and banded together to declare like the clerics of old what is true and what is not. But of course science is not scientists and scientific agencies declaring what is true and, more importantly, what is not, it is the facts.

What makes science special is not the scientists and the authorities but the activity of critical testing of ideas not against what we think we know, or would like to believe, or the politics of the day, but against real world experience. We know too that the facts never allow us to prove a theory once and for all. The best they allow is for us to declare a theory false and another theory the best we have tentatively for now.

The power of science is not its truth value but rather its ability to expand our knowledge through the critical testing of rival theories and the elimination of theories that don’t withstand scrutiny. That’s how knowledge grows. That’s science’s power.

Science doesn’t deliver truths down from on high by consensus.

Einstein overturned Newtonian mechanics, the most successful and powerful scientific theory of all time. And Einstein himself set the critical experiment to test his own theory predicting that in a solar eclipse light from a distant star would bend around sun. Einstein didn’t appeal to authority; but to the facts, and critical facts at that.

The great Newton himself knew despite his enormous and astonishing contribution to our understanding that in his own words the great ocean of truth lay undiscovered in front of him. He described himself as just a small boy playing on the beach amusing himself with the smoother pebble and prettier shell than usual. The humility of this scientific giant stands in stark and marked contrast to the government paid scientists now ever ready to declare truth.

I was fooled once, was I not? That’s why I am sceptical.

And it’s the certitude of the so-called scientists promoting apocalyptic views of climate change that deeply troubles me and their constant appeal to authority. You can’t get more unscientific than that.

Bob Carter has none of it. It’s the evidence and our understanding that matters, not politics, not any predetermined result. And amongst the wealth of knowledge in this book there is conveyed the wonder of all that we don’t know and just how much we have to learn and to discover.

Bob Carter is a very distinguished scientist. But he’s more than that. He is a very gifted communicator and passionate about science. He explains deep and complex natural systems and natural history in a conversational way that any half intelligent and interested person can follow with both excitement and wonder.

His book stands in stark contrast to the dry and boring and politicised IPCC tomes. And so in this book Bob Carter rescues both the world and science and what could be a more valuable contribution than that.

I know that if “Climate: The Counter Consensus” had been published two years ago New Zealand would have been spared its wealth-sapping Emissions Trading Scheme. That ETS is putting pressure on farmers, ruining otherwise successful businesses, driving up heating costs for pensioners, and putting valuable land into forestry which would otherwise be uneconomic.

I am in a unique position to judge how Bob Carter’s book would have altered New Zealand’s political history. That’s because after the election in 2008 I was able as leader of the ACT Party to put on hold the ETS we had inherited from previous Prime Minister Helen Clark until a proper Parliamentary Inquiry was held.

ACT campaigned in 2008 to dump the ETS. National campaigned to keep it – but to reduce the initial costs to businesses and to households. However, National needed ACT’s support to form a government. The deal was struck to have a proper inquiry.

My view was that a proper inquiry would sink the ETS.

It proved a waste of time. There was no interest nor desire from the other parties to do the job of considering the science, the options, what the rest of the world was doing, and the costs to New Zealand of the proposed ETS. It was an inquiry in name only and New Zealand ended up where it started but with the initial price of CO2 halved.

With Bob Carter’s book ACT would have skipped the inquiry. We would simply have made our support conditional on Prime Minister John Key and Climate Change Minister Nick Smith reading “Climate: the Counter Consensus”. These are two very smart guys. I believe it would be impossible for them to read Bob’s book and then in good conscience proceed to inflict on New Zealand a wealth-sapping and inequitable ETS.

The ETS’s effect is to drive up the cost to my aged mum and dad of warming their house to the benefit of multinational forestry companies. It’s a deeply unfair tax.

I am here to encourage Australian politicians and policy makers to read this book and avoid New Zealand’s costly mistake. As part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement we have set the goal for our government to close the per capita income gap with Australia by 2025. That’s a big stretch for us especially given the economic policies we inherited.

But please, please, don’t make it too easy for us by strangling your economy with a dopey ETS. The best investment you can make in your country and your future is to buy a hundred copies of Bob’s book to send a copy to everyone you know who is half smart and who you know can make a difference.

Prof Carter is a paleoclimatologist. We have got used to a known temperature record of 150 years. Michael Mann’s infamous Hockey Stick graph took us back a thousand years with tree ring analysis. But Bob Carter takes us back millions of years through analysis of ocean floor sediments and ice cores through the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps.

It’s amazing science. To the question of whether or not the world is warming, the answer is, “It depends”. It depends on your starting point. It used to be a lot warmer than it is now. Even in geologically recent times it’s been warmer.

Since the dawn of agriculture the world’s been regularly warmer by a degree more than it is now. In the interglacial periods before that Antarctica was up to five degrees warmer. And the planet was 2 to 3 degrees warmer 2 to 5 million years ago.

There was no IPCC, no cars, no computer models, no multinational companies, no Emissions Trading Scheme.

And greenhouse gases are no bad thing. We are very fortunate to have them. Our planet would be 34 degrees colder in their absence. Fully 78 percent of that warming comes from water vapour. Only 20 percent from CO2. But no one’s jumping up and down about clouds. I suspect that’s because it’s hard to build political momentum against boiling the jug; much easier to target cars and industrialisation and our extravagant ways.

Prof Carter introduces us to the gigatonne – that’s a thousand million tonnes. It’s a lot. There’s 780 Gt of carbon in the atmosphere. Twenty five percent of that is exchanged with the oceans and plants each year.

The burning of fossil fuels pumps out about 7 Gt. That accounts for 0.45 percent of the world’s global warming. 99.45 percent of it has nothing to do with us.


The oceans have over 50 times as much carbon dissolved in them as there is in the atmosphere and the earth’s crust has 90,000 times as much as limestone and other carbonate rocks.

Not only that, but back in our planet’s past there was dramatically more CO2 in the atmosphere than there is now. In fact, geologically speaking, our earth now is in a state of CO2 starvation.

I am not here tonight to summarise Bob’s great book. You need to read it. All of it.

But there is a paragraph that caught my eye though. One that I would like to share with you.

My scepticism saw our previous Prime Minister, Helen Clark, constantly labelling me a denier. It rankled that she could dodge legitimate Parliamentary questions by such a cheap political ruse. But Bob now has this to say about the Helen Clark’s of the world:

“They deny that the Earth’s climate is cooling; they deny that the climate models on which their global warming policies are based are worthless as predictive tools; they deny that the IPCC and its advice are flawed beyond repair; they deny that the Copenhagen Conference was a failure; they deny that carbon dioxide is an environmental benefice; they deny that Climategate is any more than an isolated, minor squabble among a few climate research cognoscenti; they deny that they have allowed their young people to be educationally brainwashed about global warming; they deny that the science research community has been corrupted by their agenda-driven funding requirements; they deny that government science-related organizations, at their behest, have been acting as propagandists for eco-evangelistic causes; they deny that windfarms and solar power are environmentally damaging and uneconomic for baseload power generation; they continue to strive to deny public voice to independent scientific viewpoints on climate change; and, above all, they deny that they are wrong in their continued assertions that human-caused global warming is an identified and deadly danger.”

I am going to send Helen Clark a copy of “Climate: the Counter Consensus” care of the UN.

Thank you.

ENDS

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