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Jun 9, 2009

Senator Fielding ventures to the climate sceptic heartland

Steve Fielding's climate change scepticism pilgrimage to Heartland, USA, won't change the ETS vote.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Well the Heartland Institute is certainly doing its job. The right-wing American think-tank explicitly aims to influence politicians and, while they normally aim at state legislators in the US, doubtless they’d be chuffed that such an influential Australian political figure as Steve Fielding has been giving their climate change scepticism a detailed hearing.

Heartland has extensive links with the tobacco industry and has previously received extensive financial support from Exxon Mobil. The Institute’s sloppy, biased approach to climate change is best summed up by an incident in 2007 when Heartland published on its website “500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares”.

Dozens of the scientists named on the Heartland list subsequently demanded the removal of their names, saying they had not been contacted by the Institute and had views diametrically opposed to those presented by Heartland.

Heartland refused to remove any names and declared “they have no right — legally or ethically — to demand that their names be removed,” although it did amend the title of the page to “500 Scientists Whose Research Contradicts Man-Made Global Warming Scares”.

Heartland also typifies the “fallback” approach of climate sceptics — as each aspect of the debate is lost, they fall back to other positions that justify taking no action on climate change.

After decades of rejecting climate altogether — a position still clung to by some local dills — they appear to have reluctantly accepted that some “moderate warming” has occurred but that, variously, either it is nothing to do with human activity — it’s the fault of solar flares (the Fielding argument) or natural climatic variation, or that it is in fact a good thing — a warmer climate will enable people to live longer because old people tend to die in winter, and increase food production in currently hostile northern latitudes.

The fallback argument from that position is, even if humans are responsible for climate change, developed countries should take no action.

In Washington, Fielding attended a conference with the splendidly-named Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. Sensenbrenner — literally heir to the Kotex fortune — actually agrees that climate change is happening, but isn’t sure how much is caused by humans.

He believes technology will provide the solution (although he thinks regulations for greater fuel efficiency in US vehicles is hurting the American economy) and is in a good position to push that agenda as the lead Republican on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming — although he voted against its establishment.

Sensenbrenner opposes any climate change agreement that doesn’t include China and India and, he told Fielding, the entire issue is about “the Third World using the collective guilt of the First World to have a massive transfer of wealth to help them fund their development.”

Climate scepticism has been enjoying something of a local renaissance, primarily at The Australian, long the house organ of greenhouse denialism, which gave extensive publicity and op-ed support for Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth, although it did run at least one review demolishing Plimer’s sloppy conspiracy theories.

The fallback argument here is the same one that has been trotted out for decades, that there is no scientific consensus on climate change. This “lack of consensus” is best summed up by Tom Baker’s sea-captain in Blackadder, who claimed there was no consensus about how necessary it was for sailing ships to have crews. “All the other captains say it is; I say it isn’t.”

It was such commitment to balanced coverage that earned Chris Mitchell the fossil fuel lobby’s JN Pierce Award for Media Excellence in coverage of climate change policy.

The refreshing irony of The Australian’s climate scepticism is that it is The Oz which for years has — commendably — railed against the relativism and obscurantism to be found in modern — or should that be post-modern — academia. But when such willingness to debase science, ignore intellectual rigour and elevate all claims to equal status regardless of merit are employed by climate sceptics, they get direct backing on The Oz’s editorial page.

Fortunately Fielding’s solar-flare-powered vote won’t be crucial in the ETS debate. Fielding was never likely to vote with the Government anyway, so his trip to the US looks a lot more like self-promotion than a genuine attempt to enter the debate. He hasn’t explained why he felt it necessary to skip Senate Estimates for the trip, or why he waited until now to apprise himself of the “facts” about climate change.

The ETS will either pass with the support of the Liberals or it will go down with only Labor senators standing up for it.

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29 thoughts on “Senator Fielding ventures to the climate sceptic heartland

  1. jchercelf

    How ridiculous for us to fund this ‘influential’ odd ball politician to visit the other proven odd balls at Heartland. Are they not a discredited group.? How can we allow our Parliament to be hostage to the wayward impulse of this ‘stupid’ man who can’t think for himself?

  2. Paul Ferraro

    @JCHERCELF: Apparently it was a self-funded trip.

    Either way, it was clear from his ten minute chat on ABC local radio this morning that his trip was a total waste of money. His conclusions sounded simplistic and his noteworthy points included the basest of climate denier clap-trap (i.e. ‘the no global warming since 1998’ meme).

  3. Robert Barwick

    The “consensus” argument originated from the climate change lobby, Al Gore et. al., who jumped the gun two years ago to say there was a scientific consensus, and “the debate is over”. You can cite Blackadder all you wish, but you’re squealing because that claim has been smashed, and the climate change agenda is being exposed to analysis that it cannot stand up to.

  4. David1

    So Robert Barwick you support the fool Fielding? If you do then you are as stupid as he is. If you do not why pick on one point in Bernards excellent article to use as your rebuff and leave it there.
    Sen Fielding has been sloping around this nation proclaiming and promoting the most absurd, idiotic agendas, written for him by his religious masters. The man is a puppet. To use a well known Christian phrase in the Fielding context..’Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.’
    It is a joke that this individual has in many cases the destiny of legislation in his vote. Such power in the hands of an intelligent, level headed, clear thinking person would be dangerous in itself, that Fielding has it, is tantamount to catastrophe.
    The sad side of this is Fielding acts like he knows what he is talking about, a sad pathetic little man.

  5. Kerry Lovering

    It’s time these climate alarmists stopped playing the man and looked deeply at the science.
    Scientific theories are NEVER consensus driven. Gallileo was punished for the rest of his life by the church-led scientists of his day, because he believed the world was not the centre of the solar system but went round the sun.
    To-day people like economists who no longer have credibility in their own discipline are supporting the climate alarmists because it suits them to develop new economic products like the emissions trading schemes.
    Almost everyone believes the earth is constantly changing–No one can stop it as King Canute illustrated when he could not control the tides.
    The sun, the earth and the planets in our solar system have a very complicated relationship which is constantly being explored by astronomers, physicists and geologists.
    To say the argument is over reveals the arrogant ignorance of many of the climate alarmists and their political friends.
    Certainly it is a good idea to find alternate sources of energy and to reduce pollution but not to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of Australians.

  6. Robert Barwick

    Hey David1, I hit a raw nerve, huh? The most honest thing about Bernard’s “excellent article” is its total lack of pretense of objectivity. Consensus is the key point in the article, because only if people accepted that claim, would the climate change agenda be successful. It’s similar to the way fundamentalist religions rely on their followers’ unquestioning belief in the infallibility of their written scriptures. Whatever people think about climate change, they now know their is no consensus, and that means there can be an honest debate.

  7. Richard Wilson

    Is “climate change sceptic” a label like “conspiracy nut” or “flat earth protagonist”?
    Is it not possible to believe that there could be other reasons for variations in the earth’s temperature? I note that the “carbon dioxide is bad and is responsible for climate change and probably everything else people” use the French Taunter strategem as they chief form of argument.

    I am completely anti pollution as I believe it to be a violation of the rights of every human being on the planet; yet I cannot quite buy the argument that carbon dioxide is worse than soot or poisonous gas or plastics or chemicals in general or microwaves or a dozen other things murdering mother earth. Can someone enlighten me on this? Does this mean that one day I can expect to be taxed for breathing out?

    In my view this is only about tax and who collects it. Call me cynical?

  8. David1

    Robert the only thing you hit was my funny bone. I note you avoid all mention of Fielding, while I can understand your reluctance to admitting you agree with him, at least be honest enough to say so. But then honesty is not a trait the Libs sit easily with. 12 years of Howard was proof of that.

  9. James Bennett

    Gee David1 ,

    What have you got against Fielding?
    After all his belief in religion is probably not too much different from yours in Climate Change. You both need a fair bit of trust and a closed mind to keep to the path.

    As for Bernard ,he just has to write a couple of columns each day on lots of stuff he knows bugger-all about and while he can’t always be wrong , he is making a good effort.

    If a consensus of scientists is 20% ,what is a consensus of media alarmists and what would they fill their pages with if they didn’t have the Climate Change or the currently super dangerous Swine Flu to excite us about. How many million deaths is it now?

    God forbid they find some real news..

  10. Stuart Moore

    T’is only the unquestioning braindead whom accept that the primary cause of variation in global temperature is the (relatively) trace gas that is carbon-doxide – more commonly mistakenly labelled as carbon, which for some reason is now demonised by the enviro-congergation.

    Bernard needs to move aside from the Arts Faculty (where ‘climatology’ is taught alongside Geography) and into the realm of Science Faculty, where he will rapidly appreciate how the influence of CO2 declines logarithmically with increasing concentration; such that any impact is essentially swamped by water vapour. Failing this can Bernard please outline to us all the fundamental thermodynamic change that must recently have occurred. No, as an Atheist I am not typically a devotee of Sen. Fielding; however this is one issue where he is correct and it is appropriate to confront the ‘Carbonistas’.