Message From Australia

March 27, 2011 at 1:41 pm

In the words of Aussie blogger Joanne Nova, Australia is currently “up in arms.” Last summer, on the eve of a national election, the incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared that while her government might explore market-based mechanisms to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, some measures were not on the table. In her words: “I rule out a carbon tax” (backup link here).

She made that declaration on the 19th of August. But by the 16th of September she was already backtracking:

I just think the rule in, rule out games are a little bit silly. These are complex questions of public policy,” Ms Gillard said when asked if she would exclude a carbon tax as part of the talks. [bold added]

The most likely reason for her change of heart is that she leads a minority government that depends on the support of a handful of Green Party members of Parliament for its survival. Last month, therefore, Gillard announced that she is “determined to price carbon” and that this will become the law of the land beginning July 2012. In the words of The Australian newspaper (backup link here):

Australia will have a carbon tax for three to five years before a full emissions trading scheme is introduced.

The same news article discusses the role of the Greens with respect to this development:

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said the deal would not have occurred without the party’s input. “It’s happening because we have shared power in Australia,” she said.

Majority governments would not have delivered this outcome. It is because the Greens are in balance of power working with the other parties to deliver not only the aspiration but the process to achieve it.” [bold added]

In recent weeks, outraged Australians have been organizing protest rallies. Plenty of discussion about these activities may be found on a number of blogs, including Australian Climate Madness, and those authored by Andrew Bolt and Jennifer Marohasy.

Yesterday Jo Nova reprinted on her blog the text of a speech delivered by a gent named David Evans to a protest last week. Evans’ story is a fascinating one. He holds six university degrees and spent the better part of a decade working for the Australian Greenhouse Office modeling carbon emissions. He describes himself this way:

I am a scientist who was on the carbon gravy train, understands the evidence, was once an alarmist, but am now a skeptic.

Let us all keep in mind that by stepping out of the lab and onto the stage at a political rally Evans must now be regarded as an activist scientist. I’m not keen on this phenomenon. Anything any scientist – on any side of any debate – utters at a political rally must be taken with a grain of salt. It should not be automatically trusted, but approached with a measure of skepticism.

That being said, if climate change is a matter to be decided by expert opinion, we have a right to hear from experts who hold a variety of perspectives. It is then our job to draw our own conclusions regarding the strength of the various arguments that have been presented.

I urge you to click over to the full text of Evans’ speech here. It isn’t long.

Some of the language strikes me as counterproductive (one can disagree without labeling other people liars and cheats). But Evans’ essential point is that while the dangerous-global-warming-hypothesis has been proved wrong, powerful vested interests seem incapable of admitting it.

This is the sort of informed dissent we’re all entitled to hear.

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UPDATE: I’ve heard Australian geologist Bob Carter speak twice. I think he’s a good man, a smart guy, and an exceptional scientific communicator. Within an hour of posting the above, I stumbled across this recent article by him. I also highly recommend his book: Climate: The Counter-Consensus.

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