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Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Page: 5500

Dr JENSEN (5:28 PM) —I rise to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and cognate bills. I will deal with scientific aspects related to this, as well as economic issues and, obviously, Copenhagen. First of all, I think it is very important for all members to realise that, throughout the planet’s history, carbon dioxide concentration has followed temperature changes, not the other way around. Carbon dioxide has never been a driver of temperature in the past. That is like saying that the wheels of the car drive the engine. That is what we are trying to say at the moment. The association between carbon dioxide concentration and temperature is not particularly strong. For instance, in the Palaeozoic era the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was nearly 5,000 parts per million. That is about 15 times what it is now, yet the planet was in an ice age.

If you have a look at the historical data, you can see that the IPCC is effectively trying to say that global temperatures have been stable for a thousand years and all of a sudden mankind has got involved and it has heated up. The problem is that there are significant problems with proxy data which is used to get that last thousand years of data. There is a problem called divergence, which is that after 1960, if you did not have temperature records and all you had were the proxy records, what you would assume is that the temperature had gone down since 1960 instead of having gone up. The lead author on this aspect and the leading authority on proxy data is a guy called Keith Briffa. He has this to say about divergence:

In the absence of a substantiated explanation for the decline, we make the assumption that it is likely to be a response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing. On the basis of this assumption, the pre 20th century part of the reconstructions can be considered to be free from similar events and thus accurately represent past temperature variability.

In other words, we have got divergence; the proxies do not relate at all to the temperatures. But we will just make the assumption that it is human beings and therefore, because we have made that assumption, we will just say that the rest of it is correct. What a load of hooey.

Then we have got the rate of temperature change: the rate of temperature change is unprecedented. Well, folks, you only have to go back 12,000 years to the end of the Younger Dryas and the rate of temperature increase was 15 degrees per century. It makes the increase of approximately 0.7 degrees over the last 150 to 160 years seem pretty trivial. It is important also to note that, according to all temperature repositories, global temperatures have come down this century and what we are looking at is merely a short period of time. Model hindcasting is the curve-fitting of previous models to sort of say, ‘Well, this shows that it is human beings that have caused it.’ The problem is that their projections have been lousy. All of the IPCC models, all 23 of them for all scenarios, including where carbon dioxide is held constant at year 2000 levels, indicate that temperatures should have increased this century, certainly not decreased. There is no explanation of it by the IPCC.

In terms of sea ice, essentially there has been no change over the last 30 years in the area of the planet that is covered by sea ice, which is different from what people hear. Indeed, Antarctic temperatures have gone down over the last 30 to 50 years—not up, as people think. The only area of the Antarctic that has gone up in terms of temperature is the Antarctic Peninsula.

Sea level rises are just showing normal rates of increase since the end of the last Ice Age. There is certainly no acceleration in sea levels at the moment. All there is right at the moment is a bounce-back, if you will, from the Little Ice Age.

On storm intensity, global tropical cyclone integrated intensity is the lowest for 33 years. We keep hearing all these horror stories about how dangerous it is going to be, but there has been no increasing trend for hurricanes in over a century.

In terms of scientific certainty, the IPCC fourth assessment report has got a group of radiative forcing components, nine of them, and they ascribe a level of scientific understanding. Two are high, one is medium, two are medium low and four are low—not exactly settled science. For instance, the Indian Ocean dipole was discovered in 1999 but only this year they have actually realised that there is a correlation between the Indian Ocean dipole and droughts in Australia. This was well after the so-called science had been settled. This is a huge issue, yet it was not recognised until this year. In fact, Dr Susan Wijffels, Chief Scientist of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, has this to say:

We need to really be keeping track of the system so that our children really do have a proper understanding of what’s going on and they’re not dealing with an inadequate set of information the way we are.

An inadequate set of information. Many scientists, including the IPCC, are sceptical, as are many papers. Indeed, I have got to tell you that I am pretty tired of hearing some of the members opposite talking about deniers and sceptics in derogatory terms when I know damn well from personal discussions with them that they are sceptical.

The Chief Scientist, Penny Sackett, is an exceptionally competent astrophysicist. The interesting thing is that she is making all these religious pronouncements about the effect of climate change—‘We’ve only got six years before we reach the tipping point’ and all the rest of it—yet in discussion she was not even aware that the response of temperature to carbon dioxide concentration is logarithmic. This goes back to 1896 with the original Svante Arrhenius paper, which was called ‘On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground’. This was confirmed by Callendar and others, and the IPCC acknowledges this. The problem is that the constants associated with the logarithmic aspect are all over the place. But a very competent scientist, our Chief Scientist, is making dire pronouncements without actually knowing the details of the science. This is very concerning.

As I have said, models have been hopeless at predicting 10 years into the future, but suddenly they know what is going to happen a hundred years in the future, and in fact the IPCC will even tell you what is going to happen in a thousand years time! Have a look at the report.

There is an issue of prudence—and I will use the example of asteroid strike. Obviously if an asteroid struck earth the results would be absolutely catastrophic and far worse than any climate change that is envisaged. Does this mean that we should be spending very significant fractions of our economy to defend against asteroid strike? Clearly not. The probability of asteroid strike is very low. However, it would be prudent to put money aside to have a sky watch so that we can actually track the asteroids. This is a similar issue with climate change and emissions trading. It is a matter of risk assessment, fundamentally a benefit-risk analysis.

We get certainty from the likes of Stern and Garnaut on the economy in a hundred years time. As I have said, the science is certainly not settled. As to the economics, they say they can tell what will happen in a hundred years time—but they could not foresee the financial crisis a mere four years ahead.

If you have a look at the details of the emissions trading system designs of Europe and the United States, you will find that they are suited to their individual circumstances. If you had the entire globe adopting, for instance, the European model, it would significantly advantage Europe over other countries. The same thing goes for the US model. We are the only country that is looking at designing a system to damage our own economy in competition with others. We hear all about these dreams of how we can generate almost all of our electricity by using renewables but, if you have a look at it, Denmark uses 30 per cent renewables and it is very expensive. They are integrated into the European market and that is the only way they can deal with 30 per cent.

We also hear all about these great economic times that we are going to have as a result of using renewables and this green industry that is going to create so many jobs and be so beneficial to the economy. If that is true, why bother with an ETS? Industry would do it anyway. The fact that we need to introduce an ETS indicates that there is going to be significant damage and significant costs.

We need to see what happens in Copenhagen to ensure that we are not relatively disadvantaged for the sake of no improvement in global carbon dioxide emissions. This is something that the government does not seem to have considered. It is interesting that sceptics led by an Australian, Bill Kininmonth, are included in the Copenhagen meeting. It is now part of the formalised process, and this is a good sign.

Finally, on the precautionary principle: given the low certainty of the science but the certainty of losing jobs with an ETS, we must make sure that what we do causes the least damage possible. We should go for the low-hanging fruit, from which we can gain benefits for virtually no cost. We certainly must not go it alone if competitors do nothing and so end up not achieving anything in net global terms apart from shipping Australian jobs overseas.