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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a retreat from politics? « Previous | |Next »
October 5, 2010

This editorial in The Australian states that the Royal Society's new short guide to the science of climate change is an honest account of where climate change science is clear and where it is less certain, such as the impact of energy emitted by the sun, and that the society's previous position was too strident and implied a greater degree of certainty than was justified.

The editorial states that the Royal Society's report also sets out a strong case for pursuing the cautionary, responsible approach long advocated by the Weekend Australian. The Australian's understanding of science is that whilst politics demands certainty to make a convincing case for co-ordinated action, science is driven by skepticism. Each hypothesis formulated from empirical evidence needs to be challenged and tested to within an inch of its life before its veracity can be assumed. From this understanding it infers that:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports should have been seen for what they were, political documents. They were designed, quite reasonably, as a basis on which to build a political solution. The mistake was to elevate them to the status of divine prophecy. When the IPCC recommended in 2007 that nations reduce global emissions by 50 to 85 per cent by 2050 to have a reasonable chance of averting warming beyond 2C and "catastrophic" consequences, it was clear to those with a sophisticated view of science that the targets were based on assumptions fed into computer models. As the debate unfolded, those who exaggerated the evidence or presented only worst-case projections did much more to set back the cause of carbon restraint than the commentators they derided as deniers. Scare tactics have not worked, and will not work.

The Australian's editorial implies that its war on science has respectable credentials--those of the cautious, responsible Royal Society which are contrasted to the UN's 2007 IPCC report that has been engulfed in scandal.

This is made explicit in this article which claimed that though the Society's new guide does not dismiss climate change or the need for co-ordinated global action to combat it, it undercuts many of the claims of looming ecological disaster that have been made in a bid to gain public support for political action.

The Australian position is well known, "rejects doomsday scenarios pedalled by alarmists, whose proposals would wreak economic devastation". It's voice, along with the Institute of Public Affairs, is one of denialism, and it has conducted a war on science.

However, the problem for The Australian is that the Society's short guide to climate change states that there is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that has taken place over the last half century; that there is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, including agriculture and deforestation; and that this warming trend is expected to continue as are changes in precipitation over the long term in many regions.

The Society also says that the report draws upon recent evidence and builds on the Fourth Assessment Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2007, which is the most comprehensive source of climate science and its uncertainties. The guide reaffirms that:

*Warming of 0.8° has occurred since 1850, mostly since 1975
*The planet is still warming, the 2000s were hotter than the 1990s and warming will continue
*Warming is mostly due to human influence
*A doubling of CO2 concentrations is most likely associated with warming of 3°
*The effects include a long-term decline in the extent of Arctic summer sea ice
*Further and more rapid rises in sea-level are likely, which will have profound implications for coastal communities and ecosystems.

The guide concludes by saying that climate science – including the substantial body of knowledge that is already well established, and the results of future research – is the essential basis for future climate projections and planning, and must be a vital component of public reasoning in making important decisions.

We have another beat-up by the spinning Australian defending business as usual in which prosperity for the few founded on ecological destruction and persistent social injustice is the deemed to be the foundation for a civilized society. For them the role of government is framed narrowly by economic growth as increases in GDP and hollowed out by a misguided vision of unbounded consumer freedoms.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:52 AM | | Comments (13)
Comments

Comments

Good summary Gary. You wonder where The Australian is going with all this as more and more evidence mounts. They are already a laughing stock.

The Australian is being criticised on several fronts

I look forward to the Oz advocating skepticism on economic theories... Particularly those claimed by politicians and sponsors advocating huge cuts to government expenditure and corporate taxes as essential to the well-being of australians.

Dave,
The Australian doesn't seem to have any problems with computer based economic modelling; or the assumptions upon which they are built.

It's only the computer modelling of climate science that is deemed to be a problem. They seem to have a positivist understanding of science--everything is based on empirical evidence through direct observation.

chriso
no doubt they will become the shag on the rocky outcrop crying for certainty, absolute certainty, in natural science as the sea water rises around them. The policy makers will have long moved on to the policy issues of pricing carbon based on climate change science.

George - but that is it: they already are 'the shag on the rocky outcrop' and have been for years. It is just more noticeable and increasingly ( albeit unintentionally ) funny.

It's just a little bit of convenient rationalisation. Conservatives still have a soft spot for any institution with 'Royal' in the name, so they can't come out and write 'The Royal Society's report is more leftie BS aimed at introducing one world government', so they just misrepresent its content. They know none of their readers is going to read the damn thing.

chriso,

the big-energy interests and their media supporters are determined to maintain the status quo and to reject the problem of sinks -- the capacity of the planet to ‘assimilate’ the environmental impacts of economic activity. There is no such thing as ecological limits for The Australian. Growth will continue indefinitely. Our future is a cornucopia of material wealth.

After the breakdown of CoP15, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change itself - the heart of climate-change science’s legitimacy - has became the target for the denialists. The Australian Greens are questioning The Australian's myth of economic growth (as measured by GDP) and they must be attacked because business as usual is the only option.

They have to be attacked in order to deny that global economic activity is at odds with our scientific knowledge of the finite resource base and the fragile ecology on which we depend for survival.

Interesting how the Australian differs from a rag like The Land which is probably the paper with the most advertising in.
What does that say? Dunno....I'm sure it means something though.

Ross Gittens in National Times says:

Economic growth and rising affluence - much of it based on the burning of fossil fuels - was fine as long as the world's sinks could absorb all the extra carbon dioxide we were pumping into the atmosphere.But now we've passed that point, partly because we've been cutting down and clearing forests and other sinks, greenhouse gases have built up and are adversely affecting the climate.

The Australian wants to maximise economic growth.

Though I'm not a denialist, I do think that climate campaigners have caused the environmental movement to put too many of its eggs in the climate change basket.

We don't seem to hear as much about recycling, land degradation, water shortages (except in terms of AGW-linked droughts), marine ecology, species loss and other aspects of sustainability as we used to do, and I think that's a pity, and unbalanced.

We shouldn't forget that climate change is just one aspect of the whole sustainability issue.

Here's an example of what I meant in my comment above. This Geo. Monbiot piece on invasive species is just as scary, to me, as climate change predictions:

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2010/10/04/the-aliens-are-coming/

Gordon, what George Monbiot describes is only the tip of the iceberg re invasive species.

The book Pandemonium by Andrew Nikiforuk gives a very comprehensive description of this very real world-wide problem.