Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
SELECT COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE POLICY - 15/04/2009 - Emissions trading and reducing carbon pollution

CHAIR —I welcome you to the first of two roundtable discussions on the Science of Climate Policy with Professor Robert Carter and Associate Professor Stewart Franks.

Prof. Franks —I should also say I am the president-elect of an international commission on the coupled land atmosphere system, which is essentially looking at the interaction between the atmosphere and land surface—the interaction between climate and hydrology.

CHAIR —Do you wish to make a brief opening statement?

Prof. Franks —A very simple but quite general statement would be that I have been concerned for some time about the nature of the science being done under the banner of climate change and the advocacy of individual scientists, both in the media and in their research articles. I do not believe we are talking about science here today; we are talking about the speculation of scientists, and that is very different. I am concerned that the global public, certainly in the western world, is being railroaded into this notion of disastrous climate change for which there is no empirical evidence.

Actually, there are very real consequences to many climate policies being put forward. We have seen this recently with the increase in biofuels and the use of good, productive agricultural land in producing biofuels for the decadent west, which it has been estimated has lead to a 50 per cent 70 per cent increase in food prices over the past year or two. That has killed people—not here in Australia, but in many developing countries where people live very marginal existences. We have doubled the price of their food, which they struggle to afford in the first place. So our climate policies here in the west are already killing people and climate change has never been shown to have killed a single person.

Prof. Carter —I come to you today also as somebody who has spoken in public a significant amount about this issue along lines that Professor Franks has mentioned, to the degree that a lot of the ‘science’ that we hear about is actually not sound science.

About a week ago, John Coleman, who is the doyen of US meteorologists—he started the first TV weather channel—made a comment to the US Congress, which as you probably know is investigating this matter at the moment, as indeed is the legislature in New Zealand. This is a popular thing to be looking at. John Coleman said:

I did not say that the activities of man do not alter the weather and climate, because it is clear they do. What I said there is no significant man-made climate change and none should be reasonably expected to occur in the future.

As an opening statement I cannot beat it. I agree that every word of it is exactly accurate. However, I add two further thoughts of my own: All competent scientists accept that global climate has always changed and that it always will, and that human activities, including carbon dioxide emissions, affect local climate. They also accept that carbon dioxide is a mild greenhouse gas. None of those are issues of contention. The true scientific debate is about none of these things; it is solely about the magnitude of any human global effect from carbon dioxide emissions and the likely danger of that effect, were we able to measure it, which we are not at the moment, when considered in the context of natural climate change.

So, if I were asked to explain a little later, I would give the committee what I would call ‘context’ of natural climate change, which is not the 150 year long temperature record that most of your scientific witnesses will put in front of you. That is a trivially short period of time to be considering climate change. The proper context is geological.

Finally, there are two questions that I personally would like asked, and I note that this is an economics committee, were I to be having an opinion on this subject. I have searched Minister Wong’s green paper and Professor Garnaut’s report, and I have looked at many of the submissions to this committee, but I cannot find answers to the two following questions: First, given Australia introduces an emissions trading scheme, what diminution of temperature will result in degrees centigrade from these measures you are putting in place? I do not see how you can make a decision on this unless you can answer that question. I am astonished that I cannot find that figure in any of the science advice that has come to this committee. The second question, of course, is the other half of the cost-benefit analysis. That would be an alleged benefit—the warming that is not going to happen if we do this.

But then the question is: What is the cost? What is the average taxpayer in Australia going to be paying extra because of this policy? I cannot find that for Australia. I have given you an additional sheet as an attachment to my submission which summarises what has been to the world’s press recently about costs overseas. I note that in the US it is estimated that it will $US4,500 per family per year for the cap and trade legislation that President Obama is considering. If you do a similar calculation for Australia you come up with a number like $3,000 per family per year at a carbon dioxide cost of $30 a tonne.

Professor Garnaut would like that to increase through the years to 2050 to $250 a tonne, at which point it will be costing the average Australian family $25,000 a year. Those figures may or may not be right. My point is that to make a decision on this you have to know what this is going to cost the average Australian family and what will it do in terms of the diminution of temperature. I cannot find the answer to either of those questions.

Senator BOSWELL —Professor Carter and Professor Franks, it might interest you to know that you are a very rare species. We have been told today that 99 per cent of scientists do not support your views. I am either a septic or a person who believes this, but I would like to know the science. However, I can never find out because I am told that there is a huge number of scientists who agree with you. I am also told that there is a huge number of scientists who have signed a declaration. Am I correct?

Prof. Franks —A declaration?

Senator BOSWELL —Yes. How many scientists have signed that?

Prof. Franks —There really is no poll.

Senator BOSWELL —Our secretary gave us these figures. I know he is a very reliable man and he would not make them up. Where did he get them from?

Prof. Carter —Can I check the figure?

Senator BOSWELL —99 per cent of scientists agree. You are 1 per cent of the scientists. Our secretary would not lie to us.

Prof. Carter —We should be so lucky.

Senator BOSWELL —Is he wrong or are you wrong?

Prof. Franks —If you went to a caravanning club and asked them what the best leisure activity was they would tell you, probably 100 per cent, that it would be caravanning. That does not make caravanning fun. If you go to the CSIRO atmospheric research, the Bureau of Meteorology or the Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and ask them whether we should all be scared of climate change or whether they believe in it, they will, to a man or a woman, say yes they do. The scientific community is far broader than those who publicly advocate CO2 reductions and put fear in the community on climate change.

Senator BOSWELL —What percentage do you represent?

Prof. Carter —The answer is that there is a number of polls. The first point I make is that this is not the way you make a scientific decision. I understand why the question is asked, but science has nothing to do with consensus and what the most scientists think. Einstein was in a minority of one when he thought of relativity and so on. It is not a consensus issue. But if you are asking me as a professional scientist, remembering that I am a geologist, well over 50 per cent of my colleagues—and I suspect it is about 80 per cent—do not think that human-caused global warming from carbon dioxide emissions is a problem worth worrying about. As Professor Franks says, it depends on the group you are talking to. If you then generalise that to conferences I go to, I cannot make a statement—and with respect I do not believe your secretary can either. I do not believe anyone in the world knows what the majority of scientists think.

Senator BOSWELL —Is there a group of scientists—and I understand there is—who share your views.

Prof. Carter —Yes.

Senator BOSWELL —How many people support you?

Prof. Carter —There is a number of surveys. One that I would recommend to you is a letter to the United Nations Secretary General in 2007 at the time of the Bali conference; I think I have quoted from it in my submission. There are 103 signatories and they include people like one of the world’s most famous living physicists, Freeman Dyson, who has recently had a big article done on him by the New York Times. Of the 103 persons, 23 are emeritus professors in one branch or another of science relating to climate change. Emeritus professorships do not grow on trees. If that was the only group of people you could identify, that should stop this parliament in its tracks in passing this legislation. There are lots of other similar petitions I can give you. There are four or five. There are thousands of scientists who do not believe this is a crisis situation.

Senator BOSWELL —How do we get the number of scientists who do not agree? Is there a number you can get?

Prof. Carter —The biggest petitions has 34,000 signatures. It is a US petition. This figure is not exactly accurate, but about 12,000 of those have PhDs.

Senator BOSWELL —34,000?

Prof. Carter —But I stress that that is not the way a science question is resolved.

Senator BOSWELL —We have been given a figure today that the 99 per cent of people disagree with you. You are the 1 per cent. I said at the time that I thought that was a nonsense figure and I just want to prove it is a nonsense figure.

Prof. Carter —Well, I have to say that I agree with you.

Senator BOSWELL —It was said that 99 per cent of people believe in the Stern report.

CHAIR —I am not sure that statement was made.

Senator BOSWELL —Could you make some observation about the Stern report and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report?

Prof. Franks —The Stern report takes as an assumption that the climate models are correct. So its starting point is that climate change is real and disastrous. So it is an economic report based on the global climate model output. We know the global climate model is all wrong because they do not represent natural climate processes that we know affect places like Australia, things like El Niño, La Niña, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean. Very simply, the Stern report is an economic report based on an incorrect assumption that the global climate models are correct in predicting disaster for the planet.

Senator BOSWELL —What about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report?

Prof. Franks —It is a quasi scientific organisation. It is more political than scientific. There are 2,000 people on it and a typical statement is, ‘How can you argue with 2,000 scientists?’ First of all, they are not all scientist. It is actually run by a very small group of about six to eight leading members of the IPCC who all agree that scaring people about climate change is very good for their careers.

Senator BOSWELL —We will just stick to the facts here. We were given some facts that I thought were incorrect. As a group of senators.

Senator BOSWELL —As a group of senators we have on one hand people who represent your views and on the other hand people who represent different views, and we will be hearing from them. I am not a scientist. I made a living selling paint brushes before I came into this place. How am I to determine who is right?

Prof. Franks —A very good question.

0Senator Pratt interjecting

Senator BOSWELL —Do not you talk to me about intelligence.

Prof. Franks —There is a fundamental lack of an understanding lack of the philosophy of science in some of our major Australian authorities. In science you develop a hypothesis. Once you have that, it must be testable. If it is not testable, it is not a valid hypothesis. The only way you can test the hypothesis of climate change is to actually observe it. The scientists advocates who are saying we are seeing this now are actually confusing natural climate variability and using it as allegedly tangible evidence of climate change.

We have had a very bad drought in Australia. We know what caused it: El Niño, a completely natural phenomenon. That has not stopped the likes of Tim Flannery and many scientist advocating that this drought is fundamentally caused by carbon dioxide. It is compete rubbish.

Prof. Carter —I strongly support every word that Professor Franks has just said. The hypothesis of the day is that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming; that is, the science hypothesis. So we test that.

Senator PRATT —What is causing it?

Prof. Franks —What is causing it?

Prof. Carter —Natural carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming. That is the hypothesis; that is what this CPRS is all about. That is a testable hypothesis. Here is the test: Over the past 10 years global temperature has declined. Carbon dioxide emission content in the atmosphere, largely driven by humans, has gone up by five per cent. What was the hypothesis? More carbon dioxide, dangerous warming. Not only is there not dangerous warming, there is no warming at all, there is cooling. Now science, as Professor Franks has said, proceeds on testing hypotheses. That hypothesis has been tested by those simple facts I have given you. It has also been tested in at least half a dozen other ways. It fails every one of those tests.

Senator FIELDING —Let me interpose there. There is that old saying in politicians that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. Of course, it has been put to us that to use that figure of the past 10 years means that we look at a particularly acute El Niño year in 1998 and that it is easy to find a fall in temperature in the aftermath of that. However, when one takes a longer time sequence that in fact we do see a pattern.

Prof. Carter —That is a perfectly fair point. If you like, we can take from 2002, which is a shorter period. Over that period of time, temperatures decreased for not only in El Niño—the big 1998 one—has decreased and carbon dioxide has gone up by three per cent. That is a separate but overlapping test of the hypothesis and the hypothesis fails.

If we look at global temperature between 1940 and about 1965, it declined. That was the rate of fastest increase in CO2 during the post-war industrialisation of the western world that we know about. That is a third test of the hypothesis. It fails.

Prof. Franks —I can add that as well. The warming that has really created this whole scare in my view, and it is just that one global warming trend since 1975 going upwards, is almost perfectly mirrored between 1910 and 1945 when CO2 was not going up. We must acknowledge that CO2 was not responsible for the warming in the first half of the century and yet we are all convinced that it must be responsible for the warming in the second. What caused that warming in the first half? Obviously something else. There are other factors, potentially far dominant factors, than CO2 in our climate system.

Prof. Carter —Can I revert to Senator Boswell’s question about the Stern report? Might I?

CHAIR —Senator Milne wants to ask a question before she leaves at 2.45 pm.

Prof. Carter —I will make a quick point. Stern report and the Garnaut report in Australia are both reports by distinguished economists. They have no basis in scientific expertise. As Professor Franks said, those reports took the IPCC as the science base. They said that they would accept that as the scientific authority. It is never a good move to appoint someone to do a review who is not competent to judge the basis for the whole review. However, that is what both the British government and the Australian Leader of the Opposition at the time did. What is the IPCC? It is a branch of the United Nations and a political organisation, not a scientific organisation. Australia does not allow the World Bank to set its budget, so why does it let the IPCC set its environmental policy?

Senator MILNE —Can you tell me whether you have published anything in a peer review climate science journal? If so, can you cite those articles?

Prof. Franks —I have published about 50 research articles in climate-related journals.

Senator MILNE —Can you tell me which ones?

Prof. Franks —Water Resources Research, Geophysical Research Letters, Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres.

Senator MILNE —What were those articles in relation to?

Prof. Franks —In relation to the land surface boundary and how it is represented in global climate models, in relation to multi-decadal climate variability, paleo studies of El Niño and La Niña activity over the last 1,000 years. You name it, I have pretty much done it.

Senator CASH —Can you provide a list of those publications?

Senator MILNE —Professor Carter, have you published anything in peer review climate science journals.

Prof. Carter —I do not have as good a memory as my younger colleague so I cannot reel off all the journals, but I have published more than 100 papers in referee journals.

Senator PRATT —Climate science journals?

Prof. Carter —Most of the papers are reconstructions of past climate and environment. They include publications such as Nature and Science. If you want a full list of them, they are available on my website.

Senator MILNE —I come back to the issue El Niño. Is it not true that we would fully expect the El Niño and the Indian Ocean dipole and any other climate oscillation to evolve in time as global climate changes?

Prof. Franks —No.

Senator MILNE —Why not?

Prof. Franks —Because it changes anyway. Two of my studies were published two years ago—again in Geophysical Research Letters—detailing a 400-year reconstruction of multi-decadal changes in El Niño and La Niña. It is not a stable process; it is not truly random. There is structure there. We have clusters of El Ninos on anywhere between 20 year to 40-year time scales, which are then succeeded by clusters of La Ninas. This brings Australia its characteristic extremes of climate. We have 30 years of flood and 30 years of drought and it is driven by the Pacific Ocean and El Niño and La Niña. What we have seen in the twentieth century is that clustering of El Ninos and the clustering of La Ninas perfectly mirroring the warming and cooling in the global temperature records. At present it is uncertain whether the multi-decadal process known as the inter-decadal Pacific oscillation, otherwise known as the Pacific decadal oscillation is driving cluster of El Ninos and La Ninas or whether it is actually a function of it. But it is linked to warming and cooling epochs in the climate system. It could in fact be that El Niño and La Niña behaviour actually drives global temperatures rather than the other way round.

As the good senator mentioned before about the El Nino in 1998 and the La Ninas producing cooling now, that is right: El Ninos and La Ninas are associate with warming and cooling. That is far stronger empirical evidence than anything we have got for surface temperature.

Prof. Carter —I have co-authored a paper being refereed at the moment for an international journal which supports exactly what the professor has just said.

Senator CASH —In relation to one of the questions that you said you were looking for an answer to, why is it important to have an answer in terms of policy as to the diminution in temperature that will be achieved by the stated policy?

Prof. Carter —I am surprised by the question. As I see it, the answer is that you can not do a cost-benefit analysis on the taxpayers’ behalf unless you can answer that question.

Senator CASH —I am surprised I have had to ask the question as well. Are you saying that it has not been done?

Prof. Carter —I cannot find it anywhere in the Australian literature. If you look in the overseas literature from other countries and you have in my submission my estimate for Australia as less than one-thousandth of a degree. The idea we would spend tens of billions of taxpayers money, extra costs, revolutionise our energy supply system for a potential—and this is only theoretical; it is a computer model—that global climate might go down by one-thousandth of a degree. I cannot believe we can be considering legislation based on this sort of thing. Where is the scientist, I am looking for him, who is an expert in this field—and remember that I am not—who can tell this committee that I am wrong and we are going to get a degree in cooling for the cuts that Australia is going to make? I do not believe that is true for a minute. I make it quite plain that I am not an expert on this. I am looking for the answer and I cannot find it. I wonder why?

Senator CASH —You referred to those people who support anthropogenic climate change looking at, say, a 150-year temperature record. What do you say in the geological context is the appropriate time frame to look at to understand climate change?

Prof. Carter —I will distribute some figures. These figures are in my submission but it saves you hunting them out. I would like to look at the first and the last. The first is an answer to your question, Senator Cash.

Senator CASH —Thank you.

Prof. Carter —You will see that this is a diagram which summaries the temperature of the Pacific Ocean between six million years ago on the left and today on the right. You will see that the temperature scale on the right—that bar—is about 10 degrees. What we see first is that climate always changes. This idea that climate was stable until we came along with our industrial revolution and then it started changing is simply nonsense. Climate always changes; that is what it does. Climate is jigging and jogging along and if you look between six and three and half million years ago you will see that the temperature everywhere is about two to three degrees warmer than today. Where is the biodiversity crisis? Everything should have keeled over and died, should it not?

Senator CAMERON —What is the solution for this?

Prof. Carter —It is quoted above. That is publication of the world’s—

Senator CAMERON —What was that?

Prof. Carter —Then what you see is that the temperature starts to decline on average about three and a half million areas ago. Has that long slope down to the right. As it does that the zigzags of cold and warmer get bigger and bigger and bigger and we get into these huge glacial and inter-glacial cycles of the last one million years or so. We are very fortunate that we live today in one of the short warm periods during these climatic cycles. There is no question but that the next thing that will happen to the planet on a geological timescale is we are going to go into another glaciation. That is a significant problem. No scientist can tell you whether that has started already, because we have been cooling for 10 years. That might be the start—I am not suggesting that it is, but it might be—or whether it is in 500 years, 1,000 or even out to 20,000, but it will happen. For most of the last million years, over the 90 per cent of the time the climate of the planet has been colder, and mostly much colder, than today. So we homo sapiens were given a gift from which we developed modern civilisation. There is no coincidence that we learned to domesticate animals, farm crops and live in communities and finally build and industrial civilisation during this warm period. Warm equals good. That is the proper background to climate change.

Senator CASH —Thank you.

Senator CAMERON —Professor Franks, Professor Carter on his website says that he does not receive any funding from any industry groups. You say you got some industry grants. What industry grants do you receive?

Prof. Franks —At present, none. I have taken over a new role as Dean of Students, so my research is down to two days a week now. But I previously received funding from Macquarie Generation, which is responsible for about 45 per cent of New South Wales’ CO2 emissions. I would like, if I may, to qualify that. No funding from that went to me; it went to employ my rather wayward PhD student to do a post doctoral study while he was still writing up his PhD. The study was on the water availability for power generation. I do not know if you are aware, but we are about five weeks away from either having to turn all the lights off in New South Wales or actually basically ripping off the environmental flows for that river because fundamentally I think the politicians would have kept the lights on rather than insist on the environmental threshold.

Senator CAMERON —Can you go back to the question.

Prof. Franks —I do tend to digress. I apologise. My point is that I received no personal funding. My student was employed on a very valid hydrological study for which the industry sponsor was very grateful. I have had many other industry sponsors, including the Sydney Catchment Authority. They used my software to predict their reservoir levels. At the end of—

Senator CAMERON —Macquarie Generation is your answer, is it? We have limited time.

Prof. Franks —They are the only CO2 emitters if that is what you are aiming at.

Senator CAMERON —Professor Carter, you criticise some other scientists for being political, but you are not apolitical are you? You are a member of the Institute of Public Affairs and you write regularly for them, do not you?

Prof. Carter —You have to make your judgement on that, Senator Cameron. I cannot really look at myself. I cannot imagine a more unpolitical animal than me. I am a scientist.

Senator CAMERON —Are you a member of the Institute of Public Affairs.

Prof. Carter —The Institute of Public Affairs is a fine public think tank, and I am proud to be associated with them.

Senator CAMERON —That is good; that is fine. On one hand you both say this is all rubbish.

Prof. Carter —With respect, I did not say that Senator Cameron.

Prof. Franks —That was me.

Senator CAMERON —Professor Franks said it. Seriously, put yourself in the position where you have to make a decision about what to do about the argument for global warming. There seems to be from my perspective a consensus of scientific view—if I can put it as high as that—that global warming is taking place and all of these problems arise, icecaps melting, global warming, all the issues, and on the other hand you come and say it is rubbish, this is not a problem we need to worry about and that we should not spend a cent on it. What if you are wrong? Can politicians be totally adequately comfortable in your position? That is the dilemma we have.

Prof. Franks —I was asked to come here to speak on the issue of the science of climate change. I am not a politician. The Labor Party, and I guess the Greens, brought it as a policy to the election and the electorate voted. They are concerned, rightly or wrongly.

Senator CAMERON —That is not the question. I am asking you if your science is wrong—

Prof. Carter —It is not a matter—

Senator CAMERON —Wait a minute Professor Carter. You can answer the question in a second. If your science is wrong and the consensus of scientific view is correct and government does nothing, what is the implication?

Prof. Franks —I would feel really rather bad about it. But I think I would be first one to put my hand up and say that I got it wrong. What would be the implications? They would be that it would be getting warmer, presumably.

Prof. Carter —Senator, I do not see it as a matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of scientific objective facts. Objective facts do not support the hypothesis. That does not mean the hypothesis is not true. We can never disprove a hypothesis any more than you can prove it. You can only go on testing it. As of today, there is no evidence whatsoever for human-caused global warming.

Senator BOSWELL —What about the ice melting?

Senator CAMERON —I have got limited time.

Prof. Carter —I refer you to the last graph in the packet I gave you. This is basically the argument the IPCC now uses and is left with—it is left with one argument. There is no direct evidence for human-caused global warming. That is that the computer models say that there is going to be warming. Here is the diagram that summarises that. On the left we start in 1900 and through to 2005 the black line is the actual measurement.

Senator CAMERON —I do not need an hour dissertation about your theories. What I am asking is if you are wrong and the consensus of scientific view is correct and the government does nothing then the government was destitute in its obligations to the public, would it not?

Prof. Carter —Firstly, there is no consensus that can be demonstrated; there is only an alleged consensus. Secondly, science is not a matter of consensus, it is a matter of fact. I was just drawing your attention to the critical fact, which is, if you glance again at that diagram for me, between 2005 and 2008 and project it down a bit further there is a sliding down to the right. That is the present rate of global cooling. Two double lines either side of it are the error bar on that measure of cooling. Above in grey is the envelope of predictions—I should say projections—by the IPCC computer models. The models are utterly wrong; they are disproven. They are the only basis for CPRS legislation.

Senator CAMERON —But if government takes a decision not to accept your view on this or your theory or facts as you put them, and there is a cost to the community in terms of the processes we put in place, that means there is a cost to the community. We may be able to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. But if we do nothing and you are wrong, then icecaps melt, we will have huge problems, agriculture will decline in Australia. Where do we end up? What do politicians do?

Prof. Carter —No-one is arguing that we do nothing. Australia earlier this year had the best reminder it could ever have of the dangers of natural climate change. Of course, Australia needs a climate change policy. We do not have one. Instead we have a hypothetical or speculative global warming hypothesis. The proper national climate policy is to prepare for and adapt to dangerous natural climate events. They are going to go on happening no matter what this house determines to do. There will be dangerous bushfires, dangerous cyclones and dangerous floods in the future. The proper national climate policy is to be prepared for that. Across the Tasman is a little country called New Zealand. It has a national agency called GeoNet, which has as its responsibility geohazard planning. Senator Cameron, I could not agree more. Doing nothing is not an option. But plan A, which comes from the IPCC and says ‘Let’s try and stop climate change’, was always silly. It has not worked, it will not work and it cannot work. We need a plan B, and that plan has to be adaptation to dangerous natural climate events. If you are prepared to do that then should measurable human-caused warming suddenly appear—and it has not so far, but it might—you are ready to cope with it. I cannot understand why it is so difficult for people to understand that properly.

Senator CAMERON —Will they not be mutually reinforcing? If you reduce high carbon in the atmosphere you would do a lot of the things that you would be arguing for in the natural area.

Prof. Carter —If we stopped all Australia emissions tomorrow it will make no measurable difference to future temperature. None, zip, zero. It would be at the most a few tenths of a degree.

Senator BOSWELL —What If the rest of the world decided to implement a universal carbon reduction scheme and we reduced it by about, say, 20 per cent, what would be effect on temperature?

Prof. Carter —You have to ask experts in modelling, which neither Stewart nor I are. I understand the answer is disputed because it depends what you put into the model. My understanding is that for curtailing global emissions you will get a few tenths of a degree of cooling at the most. In terms of the natural variations that is trivial.

Senator FIELDING —Your opinion is that CO2 does not cause significant warming is not a widely held view. Is that a fair characterisation?

Prof. Carter —I do not have an opinion. I just say there are the empirical facts on this. The theoretical figure, and it is not in dispute, is that for a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial levels you will produce about a degree of warming. Then there are other estimates that say for various reasons that it will actually be only one tenth of a degree. There are estimates which the IPCC does which say that that will be three to six degrees. All of these estimates are scientifically possible; there is no probability to attached to any of them.

Prof. Franks —It is worth pointing out that the CO2 forcing in the IPCC models is only the start of their chain of disaster. It is actually the qualitative feedback with the clouds that generates the extreme disasters of runaway climate. It is not CO2 at all; it is a knock-on consequence. That has no empirical or scientific justification whatsoever. They could very much easily have built in negative feedback and found that the warming was actually reduced.

Senator BOSWELL —Or cooling.

Prof. Franks —Exactly. Because of the cloud feedback. There is no scientific evidence. We do not actually monitor what is the most important parameter for this planet; this is, its reflectivity—its albedo. We do not even measure that. A very small changed in the planetary albeit it would completely swamp any additional forcing by CO2 and we do not even measure it. How can we say CO2 is a scientifically proven theory of disastrous climate change? We cannot. We can be concerned about the future, but until it shows itself demonstrably there is no empirical evidence of CO2 leading to this runaway climate change.

Senator CAMERON —It is a bit like asbestos-related cancer. Wait until it appears. The scientists argued that asbestos would not hurt you.

Prof. Franks —Would you have banned it before it killed anyone?

Senator CAMERON —If we had known.

Prof. Franks —You have to have some negative consequences.

Senator CAMERON —Scientists actually argued it would not hurt and scientists have actually argued that cigarette smoke does not hurt.

Prof. Franks —I have no argument that every scientist is good. Quite the reverse. I am here to argue that they are advocates for CO2.

Prof. Carter —I would like to return to the carbon dioxide question and make one really important point. We live on this planet at the moment in a time of relative carbon dioxide starvation. During the glaciations, those big swings I showed you, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes down to 180 parts per million. At 150 parts per million plants start struggling. At 380 parts per million, which is where we are, having added about 100 to the natural warm period, we are still starved of carbon dioxide. Commercial tomato growers use about 1,000 parts per million in their greenhouses. At all times in previous planetary history for the past 600 million years while we have had advanced life on the planet, carbon dioxide levels have been greater, and mostly two to three times or more greater than today.

Senator BOSWELL —I find Senator Cameron and I in agreement.

Senator CAMERON —That is a scary.

Senator BOSWELL —It is scary. I trying to ascertain who is right.

Senator CAMERON —I would like that expunged from the record.

Senator BOSWELL —I would like a record of the number of people who agree with you. You said that 3,000 signed a petitions and there is another 120.

Prof. Carter —I will provide that.

Senator BOSWELL —Will you provide the evidence of people who agree with you?

Senator FIELDING —We should get away from the point that this is a ballot among the scientists.

Prof. Franks —The problem is as I have stated before. We actually do not measure things that we need to know to be able to settle that. We can design experiment to test this hypothesis but they have not been done. Instead, scientists have become advocates, they have speculated on the causes of this drought. We know the causes of this drought. They have said the bushfires are due to CO2. They have not done what they have to do; we are not measuring the parameters that we need to measure. We need to know the planetary albedo and how it changes. CO2 is not a broadband absorber and emitter. It actually absorbs and emits long wave radiation at particular wavelength bands. It is feasible that with some very advanced physical measurement equipment we can detect how much download long wave radiation is coming from CO2, how much is coming from water vapour, how much clouds are affecting the energy balance of a given location. That has not been done.

Senator FIELDING —So you reckon we can model it.

Prof. Franks —No, we cannot model it.

Senator FIELDING —That is the problem.

Prof. Franks —The GCMs do not represent that selective emitter and they do not have the computational capacity to actually break down the spectrum into its various components. They just plug the gaps to give them results that they want. That is that CO2 is bad for the planet—according to the models, not according to the observations thus far.

Prof. Carter —I cannot stress too strongly the importance of that diagram. That shows you what the models predict and what the planet is doing. The models are incompetent. They have no predictive power—zero.

CHAIR —We are often confronted with the correlations between CO2. I suppose my question goes back to the long-term measurements of that back through these periods. How do we deal with that as decision makers? We are confronted with these graphs that provide us with the correlations, particularly recently, over the past 100 or so years with respect to CO2 atmospheric levels. How do we judge that and where does that sit in the context of the first graph that you showed us that goes back six million years?

Prof. Franks —My response would be that you cannot judge this issue on the basis of that graph. There needs to be far more detailed science and that has not been done. The correlation is not enough; it is a correlation starting point, granted. But it is of itself insufficient to establish any cause and effect.

CHAIR —So the evidence that comes of ice cores and things of that nature that go back—

Prof. Carter —It is very important what comes out of the ice cores. As I hope you know, one of the things it shows is that temperature changes in parallel with the carbon dioxide changes in the ice cores. That is absolutely unchallenged. It is equally unchallenged that the carbon dioxide change happened 600 to 2,000 years before the temperature change.

Prof. Franks —The other way.

CHAIR —Are we arguing about or after?

Prof. Carter —Sorry it is the other way. You are quite right, the temperature changed 600 to 2,000 years before the carbon dioxide changed. In other words, it cannot be caused by the carbon dioxide change. To argue that is to argue lung cancer causing smoking. It just does not happen. There is a correlation between lung cancer and smoking, but the cause and effect has to be in that order. The ice cores are critical evidence, but they are never presented to committees like this in that light.

Senator CAMERON —What are all those scientist doing in Copenhagen? Is there some mass hallucination going on when they all go to Copenhagen and they all say, ‘There is a problem with C02’, and you come here and say it si bullshit.

Prof. Franks —A quote academics like to use about each other is that Henry Kissinger once said that academics fight so hard because the prizes are so small. One can actually turn that on its head and say that scientist actually all agree with each other when the prizes are so great. There are many successful Australian scientists who have built their careers on the assumption of climate change and have never attempted to actually test that hypothesis. Yet they are all leading climate change experts. Frankly, that scares me.

Senator CAMERON —What will this appearance do for your careers?

Prof. Carter —A very important point of your question is that the same week that those 2,000 people, not 2,000 scientists, were meeting in Copenhagen, 700 people, mostly scientists, were meeting at another climate conference in New York that came to diametrically the opposite conclusion to the Copenhagen conference.

Senator BOSWELL —Can we put that on the record that the 700 people—

Prof. Carter —It is referred to in my submission, but I will provide you with a statement.

Senator FIELDING —In relation to CO2 in the atmosphere, do you have a table that bears that out?

Prof. Carter —Changed through time. You would like a diagram of that?

Senator FIELDING —Yes, please.

Prof. Carter —CO2 changed through time?

Senator FEENEY —Yes, demonstrating your point that we are now in a period of C02 starvation.

Prof. Carter —I refer you to another diagram, which again is in my submission. I have only put it here for convenience today. It is the third one.

Senator FIELDING —Yes.

Prof. Carter —There is a widespread misapprehension that the relationship between increasing carbon dioxide and increasing temperature, which is a true relationship because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, is a linear relationship. That is not the case; the relationship is logarithmic. Why is that important? On left you have of this diagram you have zero carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You put the first 20 parts per million and you get a degree and a half of warming. You put the next 20 parts per million in and get about half a degree of warming and so on. It is the same as painting a window with white paint to stop illumination. The first coat cuts more than half of the light, the second coat cuts a little bit more, but after the fifth and sixth coat—where we are today—with another coat of paint you have to have a very sensitive instrument to measure the change in illumination through the window. That is what a log relationship does. That means we can double carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and get only tiny incremental extra warming down here of about a degree for a doubling. If we double it again we have about one-third of a degree.

Senator FIELDING —I do not understand how this table is consistent with your earlier comment about how we are in a period of relative CO two starvation.

Prof. Carter —This is not through time.

Senator FIELDING —I get that, but there is a little mark there ‘claimed natural range’.

Prof. Carter —That comes from the ice core evidence. The ice core evidence suggests that during a glacial time the level is 180 parts per million on average. That is a good number. During interglacial time, before the industrial revolution, it is about 280 parts per million. We have added industrially, so we are now at 380. To go to a full doubling of 280 parts per million, we have to go to 560 parts per million and we would have to burn all the fossil fuel on the planet to do that.

Senator FEENEY —How does 380 equal a period of relative CO2 starvation?

Prof. Carter —That is the diagram you have asked me for, which is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere through time.

Senator FEENEY —Yes.

Prof. Carter —When I provide you with that you will see that we live in a time, even at 380 parts per million, of carbon dioxide starvation.

CHAIR —Could you overlay that with the cycle of temperature and carbon dioxide?

Prof. Carter —From the ice cores?

CHAIR —Which is the information we talked about before. You said that the—

Prof. Carter —The change in temperature happens first.

CHAIR —I am interested in the relativity of those two.

Senator PRATT —I have a quote here. I think it is from an article in the Age newspaper, which states that climate change sceptics have had an influence on public policy to the extent that they really have been able to bat above their weight and slow down our response to climate change, and that industry has levied in and used the arguments of climate change sceptics to suit their own ends and they have used that so-called scientific discussion for their own political ends to delay action on climate change that other people like myself say that we so urgently need. What do you say to that proposition?

Prof. Franks —That may be true. I do not label myself a sceptic. I am a scientist; it is as simple as that. I see things as I investigate them. That is one point of view. It is surely true of the other side as well. Many scientist are funded by people like the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. Surely the argument applies equally there. I would hope Senator Cameron would ask the advocating scientists similar questions about their research funding sources.

Senator CAMERON —I will.

Prof. Franks —Okay.

Senator CAMERON —I will ask the question for you.

Prof. Franks —Thank you very much. That is one point of view. But the opposite applies equally. This is a diverse community. People who want something will be put out by people who appear to be getting in their way.

Senator PRATT —I would like to ask you both about the acidification of the ocean. Clearly, as part of climate change the ocean is acidifying. We can see documented evidence that an increase in the acidification is going to Australia’s coral reefs quite dramatically. Are you saying that that is something that would have happened without human anthropogenic contribution to greenhouse gases?

Prof. Carter —I will answer your first question first, which was about skeptics. Like Professor Franks, I am not a sceptic and I do not actually know many people in the group that I talk to who have similar opinions to mine who see themselves sceptics. They are scientists and they are agnostics. They have no axe to grind on this issue. I have no axe to grind. It is quite possible—

Senator PRATT —Is it a good thing if you contribute to delaying action on climate change?

Prof. Carter —It is a very good thing if I contribute to the setting of good public policy. I have given you advice earlier that the proper public policy in the situation we are in is a climate change plan B that is to adapt to natural climate change.

Prof. Franks —If this leads to more expensive access to energy for developing nations, which will impact on global poverty—which actually does degraded the environment and does kill people—then, yes, let’s delay it. That is great. Acidification could be a real environmental issue, but we are not talking about the end of the planet. The point is that climate change is beyond real environmental issues, with are being neglected because of this.

Senator CAMERON —There is something I cannot understand. Given that you say there is this powerful scientific argument. When you have companies like Ford, who I met with two years ago in London in a different role, say that they have fully accepted the issue carbon in the atmosphere and global warming. This is a company that stands to gain a lot from accepting your arguments. They have gone completely the other way and said, ‘Yes, it is a problem. We argue about how much we are responsible for putting the carbon in the atmosphere and we are going to do all these design changes, engine changes, technological changes.’ Ford has said that it accepts it and BP says that it accepts it. Why would anyone, even in the hardnosed business world, not listen to you guys?

Prof. Franks —You do not think that is necessarily true. Every company has a corporate image. The world’s population—at least the western population—is convinced of climate change. You guys are here because of it. Ford wants customers, so it does what its customers want. Is that not the economics of it?

Senator CAMERON —Should we do what we did with Work Choices and just scrap that?

Prof. Franks —I cannot comment on that.

Senator CAMERON —The Science of Climate Change from the CSIRO—

Prof. Franks —I notice it is a very thin document.

Senator XENOPHON —You obviously disagree with your colleagues who say that anthropogenic climate change or activities is causing climate change. But from a risk management point of view or a risk basis, even if there is a 100 or a one in 1,000 chance that your colleagues are correct, surely you would at least take steps to mitigate the risk?

Prof. Carter —It is indeed a question of risk analysis, but I must pull you up on your use of the words ‘climate change’, because I do not believe you mean climate change. I think you mean dangerous human-caused climate change. That is an entirely different matter.

Senator XENOPHON —Sure.

Prof. Carter —The risk analysis that we need to address is the range of natural climate changes. They include the bushfires we had in Australia this year and the floods we had in the north of Australia. Alongside those certain—and it is not just a matter of risk, it is certain those sorts of events are going to continue in the future—we need a national climate policy, plan B, to deal with them. That policy will at the same time deal with any emerging human effect should one occur.

Senator XENOPHON —And you do not see any need to reduce CO2 emissions?

Prof. Carter —No, because I see no point in standing under the shower tearing up billion dollar notes to do something that will have no measurable impact on future climate.

Senator XENOPHON —That is assuming that you are 100 per cent certain that your position is right; that even if there was a small element of doubt then that would itself lead to risk management measures to deal with the contingency that there could be a very real risk of the consequences of climate change as outlined by some of your colleagues.

Prof. Carter —There is no projection even by the IPCC of warming produced by human effect that will be outside the bounds of previous natural warming. So if you prepare for natural climate change, by definition you have covered the risk of human-caused climate change. You have not removed the risk. I will be returning to Townsville from whence I came, I have to catch a plane. I am aware there is a risk that the plane may crash. That risk is so small that I will get on the plane anyway. So it is with human-caused climate change compared with natural climate change. The elephant in the room is natural climate change. Ask the people in Victoria who lost their houses in February.

Senator FIELDING —The issue that is being debated, not here but out in the suburbs, is that they see the devastating fires and the floods and they believe that the CPRS that the Rudd Government is putting in place will say us from seeing those again. That is what a bulk of the people believe. That is not the debate happening here, but that is what they believe out there. You are saying that we are going to hold onto the CPRS, maybe do it, but we are not going to actually see fewer fires and floods.

Prof. Carter —Absolutely not.

Senator FIELDING —Is that what you are saying?

Prof. Franks —In the past 10 years or so one of the key areas of research has been the clustering of key climate extremes in Australia. Australia has always had 30-year periods of extreme floods, 30-year periods of extreme drought, bushfires and that will continue. The CPRS, whether it is there or not, will make no difference. The people do believe that the CPRS is going to make a difference. That is because they have been hammered over the head with this issue of CO2 for so long in the absence of any real empirical evidence. People will believe what they are told if they are told it often enough.

Prof. Carter —But your summary was exactly right, Senator

Fielding. That is the perception and that is the problem and that is the problem this house has. You are dealing with a public that has been thoroughly propagandised to believe what you have just said. There is not a shred of scientific evidence that introducing carbon dioxide emission cuts will effect future Australian climate.

CHAIR —That might be a good place to end our—

Senator CAMERON —Let’s hope you are right.

CHAIR —Thank you very much for attendance here today and for your evidence.

Proceedings suspended from 3.20 pm to 3.51 pm