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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Page: 7688

Dr JENSEN (12:37 PM) —Interestingly enough, in the last parliament I was on the Standing Committee on Science and Innovation evaluating the technology of geosequestration. I have had further information about geosequestration subsequent to that. There are a few interesting things about geosequestration. One is that the coal industry itself acknowledges that the cost of carbon will have to be $50 a tonne in order to make geosequestration commercially viable. One of the questions is: why would people change their behaviour if there was no cost associated with it? In other words, if the cost of carbon is not $50 or more a tonne, there is no reason the coal-fired power industry would get involved in a geosequestration project. There are a few problems associated with geosequestration. One problem is that you pump it underground—carbon dioxide itself is very corrosive—and no-one is 100 per cent certain what will happen to it in the long term. However, we do know that the release of carbon dioxide into the environment in large doses can have very, very serious consequences. An example of that was the natural eruption, if you will, of carbon dioxide at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986 and 1,500-odd people died. If you pump carbon dioxide underground into geological reservoirs, there are risks associated with that. We are told by people who want to get involved in geosequestration, ‘Well, we will constantly monitor it.’ The question is: what will be the cost of that constant monitoring into, basically, the infinite future? People talk about the problems of storage of nuclear waste, but at least that is very clearly contained in a small geographical area. With this, you are talking about areas all over the place where you are storing the carbon dioxide.

The other issue is that the power industry says that they will not take on forever the responsibility of the continual monitoring and potential consequences of a leak of carbon dioxide into the environment. They would probably accept responsibility for about 50 years, but after that it would be up to the government to cover the costs of potential leaks. So there are very serious potential costs with this. Even if you go along with the so-called consensus view of climate change, having an emissions trading scheme with a high cost of carbon could potentially result in the loss of jobs and industry in Australia. This is before you even get into the issue of it actually having a negative effect in terms of overall global emissions.

Everyone has acknowledged that this is a global problem—you cannot geographically confine the atmospheres all over the planet. Let me give you an example of this. In my state of Western Australia, there is an aluminium-smelting industry. At a cost of $50 a tonne, it may well be that Alcoa decide it is not viable for them to smelt aluminium in Australia anymore. The aluminium-smelting industry in Western Australia use gas as their source of power generation. So what are they likely to do in that case? They would be likely to ship their industry to China. So we lose the industry, we lose the jobs but—here are the factors that are very damaging for Australia—we also have not only the monetary costs associated with decommissioning an aluminium smelter in Australia and commissioning a new one in China but also the carbon costs. You need to then transport the bauxite from Australia to China, which has a carbon cost associated with it. In addition to that, it is highly likely that the power generation method for the aluminium smelter in China would be coal. The overall result is that we have introduced an emissions trading scheme, we have shipped jobs and industry overseas and we have actually contributed to increased carbon dioxide output. That is fraught with all sorts of consequences and it needs to be considered very carefully.

I have heard many on the other side spouting about science, scientific consensus and so on. For instance, we have the member for Kingsford Smith calling himself a lay scientist. I wish he were in here so I could educate him a bit about what the scientific process actually involves. Science is about falsification. You put up a hypothesis and other scientists are duty-bound to try to prove that hypothesis wrong. That is what science is about. It is not about accepting a hypothesis because it feels great; it is about trying to prove it wrong. What we have, for instance, with the IPCC is the idea that everyone should be sitting around the table singing Kum ba yah from the same songbook. That is a stupid way of going about it and, quite frankly, science has never been about consensus. Science is about data and it is about evidence, and it is about evaluating that data and evidence and seeing whether it falsifies a theory. The point here is that there is a lot of criticism of anyone who dares to question the consensus view. This reminds me a little of the 1930s. Hitler could not stand quantum and relativistic physics because he saw it as Jewish science. As a consequence, he hated the theory of relativity. So he commissioned a book called One hundred authors against Einstein—Einstein being, of course, a German Jew. Einstein was asked how it felt to have 100 eminent scientists questioning the theory of relativity—and didn’t that give him cause for concern? Einstein’s response was that it doesn’t take 100 scientists; it takes one fact. And that is the problem here.

There are also problems with some elements of statistical studies and so on. A lot of climate science is about statistics, and a lot of climate science is about computer models. Then there is the problem with the whole business of ‘Okay, how does the peer review process work?’ We hear a lot of discussion about peer review, as if, once a thing is in a peer review journal, it is unarguably correct. Let me give you an example of how peer review works and how science works.

Let us assume you have an epidemiological study, a statistical study, and let us assume you want to correlate, for example, cancer clusters with high-tension powerlines. Let us make the assumption that there is, in fact, no correlation and that high-tension powerlines do not cause an increased incidence of cancers. The nature of statistics is that you might have 100 studies, and 20 studies would show positive correlation: yes, indeed, there is a correlation between high-tension powerlines and cancers. You might also have another 20 studies which show there is negative correlation: that proximity to high-tension powerlines actually results in fewer cancers. Then you might have the middle 60 studies showing effectively no correlation whatsoever. Remembering that scientific journals want to sell their journals, obviously they want to sell stuff that is interesting. As such, the no-correlation-whatsoever papers that might be submitted to the journal would not even go out for peer review, because they would not be seen as something that the journal would want to publish. The negatively correlated studies would be likely to have close to no chance of getting published, but the positively correlated studies—the interesting stuff—would be published. So then the consensus is: yes, there is this effect. Then you would have a metastudy, where someone would go through the peer reviewed papers and say, ‘You know, of 100 papers that I have reviewed on this, 95 of them show that there is a positive correlation between cancer and proximity to high-tension powerlines.’ This becomes the strong consensus for something where there is no effect whatsoever. This is the danger of not understanding how this entire process works.

The point is: it comes down to journals wanting to publish what is interesting, but it also comes down, to a certain extent, to an old boy network. I will give an example of my own. When I was working with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, off my own bat—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—I hate to interrupt the member, but we are discussing the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008. I wonder if you could bring your statements to that bill in time.

Dr JENSEN —I certainly will, because the issues of peer review, climate science and the need for geosequestration are intimately related. As an example of my own about the aspect of peer review, I wrote a paper called ‘Target aspect dependent radar cross-section: the effect on assumed beam angle’. Because I was not working for DSTO in my personal time, I sent the paper from my home address. But, with one of my emails, I also sent the return email address for DSTO. Guess what? Without my knowledge, the IEEE Magazine of Antennas and Propagation actually published the paper. This is a peer review journal, and they gave my affiliation as DSTO. This is the thing: there are all these elements that are intertwined with peer review.

Let us have a look at the peer review system with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—that is intergovernmental, Prime Minister, not international; and there are fewer than 1,000 scientists, not 4,000 scientists. There is an inherent problem with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The inherent problem goes right down to its mission statement, which is:

The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

This is a field of science that has had more than $50 billion pumped into it. The key words are ‘human-induced climate change’. Let us say that they proved human-induced climate change was not happening. What happens to that research money? What happens to the IPCC itself? By its own mission statement, it ceases to exist.

We have the issue of data and transparency. I read out the mission statement; it includes ‘transparency’. Phil Jones, the head of the Hadley Centre—one of the major repositories of global temperature data used by the IPCC—said:

Climate scientists should think about data quality more often, so that there is no opportunity for incorrect data to sow seeds of doubt in people’s minds about the reality of climate change.

Steve McIntyre was looking at statistically evaluating the data, and he happens to be somewhat sceptical of anthropogenic climate change. Phil Jones, when asked by Steve McIntyre for data, said: ‘We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try to find something wrong with it?’ That is what science is about. It is about falsification. Phil Jones, in this instance, is not about science; he is about a religion, because he does not want to be proved wrong.

Upton Sinclair, a great political writer in the early part of the last century, in a book called I, Candidate for Governor: and How I Got Licked, wrote:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

I think it is critical to also consider that in this argument.

On the issue of the science being settled, we are so certain about climate science! We know exactly what is going on—no room for doubt! This is what CSIRO puts as a disclaimer on its climate change science:

The projections are based on results from computer models that involve simplifications of real physical processes that are not fully understood. Accordingly, no responsibility will be accepted by CSIRO for the accuracy of the projections inferred from this brochure or for any person’s interpretations, deductions, conclusions or actions in reliance on this information.

In other words, we will put out this data but do not hold us to it; but, by the way, this whole climate science area is absolutely beyond doubt. What we have with this issue is institutionalised group think. Where pay packets are concerned, that obviously has an effect. Have you ever wondered why so many scientists who question climate science have the title ‘emeritus’? It is because they do not actually have any pecuniary interests related to the output of such data. You get similar situations within defence, but that is entirely another story.

The question is: where is the research funding for devil’s advocates who question whether this view is correct? The Noel hypothesis on this whole area of science should be that all of the climate change that we observe is natural, and then work should be done to prove that it is not. Instead, the Noel hypothesis has been distorted towards the view that the majority or all of climate change is human induced, and then try to prove that it is wrong. It is an incorrect assumption from the start.

Some of the stuff that comes up is interesting. The World Wildlife Fund blame climate change for the coldest August in Sydney for more than 60 years. Yes, it is global warming because Sydney had a really cold August! They say that the freezing temperatures are proof of the urgent need to cut carbon pollution. Sir David King, who was the head of the British federation of scientists, said shortly after the tsunami that it highlighted climate change risk. What? It is quite interesting what you get. Global warming has been associated with so many things. If you want to get a research grant, put the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ into your application. For instance, in relation to geophysical research letters, a group of scientists said that global warming will slow the earth’s rotation. In another issue of geophysical research letters, geophysicist Felix Landerer said that global warming will speed the earth’s rotation. Global warming is now being fitted into things like the earth’s rotation.

What about the Australian experience? Dr Wendy Craik blames the low level of the Murray-Darling system on climate change. However, I have a time series graph, which I seek to table, from the Bureau of Meteorology—obviously a very biased organisation—showing average rainfall for the Murray-Darling Basin. Guess what folks? It is almost no different from what we have observed over the last 100 years. What we do have is overallocation and catchment mismanagement; it is not an issue of too little rain. What about other data? We see that, by all measures, temperatures have gone down since 2001. Ocean temperatures have gone down since 2004. So what are the scientists trying to blame it on now? Latent heat. We cannot measure it; it must be latent heat. It is called situating the appreciation rather than appreciating the situation.

I will cut to the chase. The final thing—and I seek to table this document as well—is that the predictions are that there will be an upper tropos or tropical troposphere heating the atmosphere due to well-mixed greenhouse gasses. Observations show that there has been no such heating whatsoever. I could go to many more examples that clearly demonstrate that even within the IPCC there is considerable question—(Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—Are you seeking leave to table those two documents?

Dr Jensen —Yes.

Leave granted.