George Brandis may not be everyone’s idea of a really good time, but this bit of argument deserves a round of applause.
CSIRO is the Australian government’s research organisation. It gets about $1 billion per year of taxpayers’ money. In recent years, quite a lot of that has been spent, not in doing any research, but in proselytising on the subject of climate change. We see for example this on their website:
There is less than 1 chance in 100,000 that global average temperature over the past 60 years would have been as high without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, our new research shows.
Published in the journal Climate Risk Management today, our research is the first to quantify the probability of historical changes in global temperatures and examines the links to greenhouse gas emissions using rigorous statistical techniques.
Our new CSIRO work provides an objective assessment linking global temperature increases to human activity, which points to a close to certain probability exceeding 99.999%.
Now, I used to be a scientist. That was a long time ago, when I was a student. Since then, as a lawyer, I have spent a great deal of time looking at the evaluation of technical arguments in construction cases. My experience in both of these areas leads me to the same conclusion: that to say any probability in an area like this exceeds 99.999% is just plain silly.
Furthermore, as both an ex-scientist and a lawyer, I am a firm believer in looking at the actual evidence, from both sides of any argument. And the other side of the argument is that there are some really quite good reasons to think that human activity was not the major driver in the temperature rises that we saw in the final decades of the last century. In particular: –
- Carbon dioxide emissions – which the CSIRO identify is the major cause of that temperature rise – have continued to rise this century. Conversely, global temperatures have not. The jury is out as to whether global temperatures this century have remained static, or whether they have gone up a little bit. What is not in contention (apart from in the barking mad imaginations of the near religious nutters) is that the global temperature rises this century (if any) are a country mile short of the sort of runaway catastrophic global warming that was predicted by tub-thumping zealots like Al Gore and Tim Flannery.
- There is also the small matter of the historical record, if you go back a bit. It was much warmer than today in the Minoan warming period. It was good for civilisation, spawning Greek culture. It was also warmer than today in the Roman warming period. Views vary about quite how good the Romans were. What did the Romans ever do for us? Yes, yes, there were the roads. But they also brought extraordinary brutality. And most of their decent art was nicked from the Greeks. But anyway, like them or not, the period of the Roman Empire occurred during a period when it was a lot hotter than it is today. And then, course, you get the Medieval warming period – the famous episode that Michael Mann tried to conceal in his infamous “hockey stick” graph (I do find it rather curious that he hasn’t even been sued for fraud, let alone imprisoned). Again, quite a bit warmer than today. And the thing about all of these periods is that they occurred when carbon dioxide levels were much less than today. So the notion that warm weather (good, incidentally, for humankind) is caused by carbon dioxide is, to say the least, decidedly dodgy. To put a 99.999% prospect on a dodgy horse is not good science.
Anyway, the way that the warmists deal with these sorts of points is to stifle debate – to say that “the science is settled”. Personally, I side with the lukewarmers. In common with most of the scientists whose views I respect, I think:
- Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide do increase global temperatures, but not by much.
- Unlike the alarmists, I think there is probably a negative feedback in this mechanism. In other words, the planet has a tendency to accommodate modest increases in carbon dioxide (which is what we are talking about – still fraction of a percent) and is highly unlikely to fall off its perch like a dead parrot. Past changes in climate and conditions have been far more extreme than the current modest increase in carbon dioxide, and the planet seems to have survived just fine, thank you very much.
- Global warming is a good thing, not a bad thing. The balance of the historical evidence is that civilisations tend to thrive in warm periods, and to regress in cold periods. That is not surprisingly really. The biggest experience of global warming is by people who move from cold, boring places like Scotland to warmer, more fun places like Florida. I’m not saying that a lot of people move from Scotland to Florida. People from Scotland tend to move to the south of England, and in particular, into the Houses of Parliament and the offices of the BBC, where they whine on at interminable length. It is people from the northern part of the United States who tend to move to Florida. Here in Australia, people move from colder parts to Queensland, seeking more warmth. Given that so many people with common sense, and a few dollars in their back pocket, actively uproot themselves to go and live somewhere warmer, it is bizarre that the climate change nutters still maintain that even a fraction of a degree of global warming is going to see is all going to hell in a conflagration of self-righteous puffery.
- Sooner or later, the world will run out of oil and gas. But really, it’s more a question of “later” not “sooner” – there is still plenty of the stuff left under the ground, and my personal opinion is that oil is not the product of rotting plankton, but rather is continually produced from the centre of the earth, just as hydrocarbons are continually produced on other planets and moons in our solar system that had never had any plankton, rotting or otherwise. Windmills are not the answer. They’ve been around for hundreds of years, and have never been very efficient. Nuclear power is a far smarter way of producing energy in the future.
- A much bigger problem is that the next ice age is just round the corner. Our best prospect of postponing it might well be to burn all the hydrocarbon we can possibly find.
Now you might agree with this stuff, or you might not. Anyway, what to do about the billion dollars a year. Enter George Brandis QC is the Attorney-General, and leader of the government in the Australian Senate. He says that it would be a smart idea to cut the funding for the CSIRO. Logically, he says, the socks and sandals brigade ought to support this cut. After all, if they think the science is settled – and that is what they say all the time – what would be the point on spending a shedload more money on the CSIRO trying to settle it some more?
His logic looks good to me.
Unhappily, the issue is no longer one of science, but one of neo-religion. If you are believer, and think the “science is settled” why spend more money trying to prove it? And if you are a sceptic, and think that the CSIRO are a bunch of tree-hugging proselytisers, then again, the sooner CSIRO’s funding goes, the better.
One thing is clear – spending lots of money on the CSIRO and its ilk is not going to convince anyone of anything – everyone is already tucked up in their respective spititual homes. You might as well spend lots of money trying to persuade the Catholics that a wafer and a cup of cheap wine is not really the flesh and blood of someone who died 2000 years ago. Leave them to it, I say, as long as they do not do it in the street and frighten the horses.
Now some people say that there should be no cuts to the CSIRO budget until the government changes its policy on all sorts of other things, and has us running around weaving our own knickers and hoping like hell for a nice, sunny windy day to make up for shutting down all of the proper power stations. But it does not work like that. Given that real people these days are pretty sceptical about the scaremongering of the warmists, and do not want to turn off the proper power stations, thank you very much, what advantage would there be in the CSIRO continuing to bleat in our ears like some deranged Welsh nanny? For the cognoscenti, the CSIRO have been caught with their fingers in the till far too often fiddling data, in order to try to prove their messianic point, that they have no credibility. For the ignorami, they are just a bunch of tiresome dole dodgers. They are not now going to persuade anybody of anything.
So, good for George, I say.
 A close reading of this quote suggests that there really not saying very much at all. So, if global temperatures rose by about half of the degree centigrade in the latter part of the 20th century, and if 1% of that very small rise was due to carbon dioxide emissions by humans, the statement would be literally true. But that is not what the CSIRO all about. What they have been trying to convince us of is the scaremongering line – that the human impact on climate is an existential risk to mankind.
 If you are moved to comment on this post, please do not tell me blah-blah of the hottest recorded years have been in the last blah-blah years. Of course they have! It got a bit hotter, then it stayed a bit hotter. But still not nearly as hot as the times before people started measuring and recording temperatures.