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All can agree on green energy, but the rest is alarmist

Date

Nick Minchin

Let's work to make green energy a realistic, affordable alternative, instead of stupidly trying to make conventional energy so incredibly expensive that we'll stop using it ... Nick Minchin.

Let's work to make green energy a realistic, affordable alternative, instead of stupidly trying to make conventional energy so incredibly expensive that we'll stop using it ... Nick Minchin. Photo: David Mariuz

When the film producer Simon Nasht approached me about taking part in a documentary on climate change for ABC TV, I was just a little sceptical.

While I trusted Simon, this was the ABC, not renowned for its balance on this subject. And he wanted to pit me, a grey-haired, late-50s conservative male, against an attractive, articulate, 20-something female. Was it a set-up?

Simon was persuasive, and since I was about to leave Parliament, I figured I had nothing to lose. Importantly, it might be an opportunity for opinions not normally aired on the ABC to get a run.

So began an odyssey involving 10 cities in 21 days with four film crew - to Perth, Heron Island, the Flinders Ranges, the whole time with a camera recording my every action and utterance. I look back on the experience with affection, and I congratulate the production team on the finished product, and the ABC for broadcasting it.

Anna Rose - whom I like and respect - deserves commendation for being part of it despite the pressure she was clearly under not to give a platform to dangerous and evil sceptics like me and those I took Anna to meet.

And of course Anna was a worthy opponent, and it was never going to be easy to change her mind. She has a strong conviction that mankind's use of fossil fuels will cause dangerous global warming, and brings great passion and eloquence to her advocacy.

I'm sure that I did not change her mind, but I hope she saw that not all sceptics are mad, bad and dangerous; that there remains a lively scientific debate about the drivers of climate change, and that scaremongering about global warming is backfiring on the warmists.

Professor Michael Ashley, in yesterday's Herald, expressed the usual denunciation of sceptics like me: the experts are on the global warming side; I am a cynical former politician who doesn't understand ''the science''; they have found ''the truth'' about climate - debate over.

Oddly, what he doesn't argue is exactly the science - and that is because reality has got in the way of the theory. Indeed, the absence of warming since 1998 - despite rising CO2 levels and contrary to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predictions - shakes the foundations of the alarmists' cause, as the Green icon James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, recognised this week.

It is the arrogance of the Professor Ashleys of the world that has turned public opinion against his ilk, and prompted Lovelock to say recently that ''the great climate centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is''.

Anna and those of her persuasion need to recognise that public concern about global warming peaked in 2007 and has been in decline ever since, partly because the credibility of alarmists has sunk. Despite the hype of the Al Gores and Tim Flannerys, the drought has ended, our cities aren't being submerged, we still have polar bears and neither polar ice cap is disappearing.

Perhaps the most useful appointment I arranged for the documentary was with Bjorn Lomborg, the head of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre. Lomborg, unlike me, thinks human emissions of CO2 are causing global warming, but like me he thinks carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes are a stupid, costly and ineffective way of dealing with the issue. Lomborg advocates significant global investment in green energy research and development in order to make green energy so cheap everyone will want it.

Now that I can support. If there is to be any common ground between sceptics and warmists, this surely must be it. Let's work to make green energy a realistic, affordable alternative, instead of stupidly trying to make conventional energy so incredibly expensive that we'll stop using it.

One other significant appointment I sought - the footage of which lies on the cutting room floor - was with Professor Jasper Kirkby in Geneva. Kirkby is leading a team at the world-famous CERN research facility investigating the relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays and cloud formation, and the consequences for our climate. This is fascinating work which amply demonstrates how much we don't yet know about what drives our climate - and that to claim ''the science is settled'' is simply a lie. I felt that if any of the visits I proposed had shaken Anna in her convictions, this was it.

Conversely, neither Anna, nor those whom Anna took me to meet, could convince me that human emissions of CO2 are driving dangerous global warming.

What I have learnt about science recently is that it is dynamic, that there are always unknowns and that there is in particular much that we don't know about the Earth's climate.

May the debate continue.

Nick Minchin is a former Liberal senator.

354 comments

  • My disappointment in former Senator Minchin could not be greater, it appears after all these years I had no idea of the calibre of the man.

    Commenter
    J. Fraser
    Location
    Queensland
    Date and time
    April 27, 2012, 8:28AM
    • LOL

      And you are proud of Anna Rose?

      She had no counter argument. She had to resort to the dirty tactic of discrediting her opposition.

      Nick acted with far more intelligence and integrity

      Commenter
      Norman
      Location
      Socialist Republic of Australia
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 9:58AM
    • @Norman

      Not LOL at your second hand smoke.

      It appears those who believe in climate change are imbued with , according to Abbott, "evangelical fervor" but those who do not believe are somehow righteous.

      "Nick acted with far more intelligence and integrity" .... then why did he spit the dummy at a mere slip of a girl .... less then half way through the program.

      As stated previously "Nick Minchin is not the calibre of man I originally thought he was".

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 10:26AM
    • Minchin and these other denialists below are fixated on out-of-date data. 1998? History! Keep up, people!

      "Nine of the top ten warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000. Last year was another one of them, coming in at 9th warmest since 1880."
      Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=76975

      "Nine of the ten hottest years on record have been since 2000."
      Link: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/01/20/2011-the-9th-hottest-year-on-record/

      Commenter
      Charlie Foxtrot
      Location
      Thunderbird 5
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:04AM
    • Didn't you read my response? Nick was right to spit the dummy because Anna Rose resorts to dirty tactics. If she is arguing the 'truth' she should be able to defeat her opposition based on the merits of her argument, and not by resorting to the dirty tactic of trying to discredit her opposition.

      The truth is that this is routine for the Left. They don't see anything wrong with it any more. You cannot debate the Left because if you disagree with Leftist ideology, they label you a 'bigot'

      For the left, this suffices as a valid intellectual counter argument.

      Commenter
      Norman
      Location
      Socialist Republic of Australia
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:12AM
    • She had plenty of counters, she was the one whose opinion was trying to be converted for some reason.
      Discrediting her opposition ... yea right! (democracy?)
      Economists may want to keep destroying the planet in the name of finance & greed .... does it even make economic sense. No it doesn't because when we lose out in the end, all the money in the world cannot save us.
      Humans seem to love to do self harm ... its strange really.
      The unfortunate reality of Minchin admitting that there should be investment in green & low emissions technology, is that they just don't do it.... or they do far too little. Howard was proof of a good sound liberal conservative. He was taxing alternative fuels at higher prices & giving more money to mining/coal & conventional fuel companies.
      Liberal conservatives seem to think that we can keep, unsustainably funding negative fuel & energy sources to keep prices low & public happy short term ... but then what. A new government has to come in & look bad trying to change the problem for the future.
      Crazy, absolute madness!

      Commenter
      Yuppy
      Location
      Yuppy Ville
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:17AM
    • Norman
      I suppose that's why a scientific issue has been shunted into a partisan one? Since when are ecology and biology political issues?
      Alarmists, warmists, AGW zealots, leftists - all labels concocted as a response to the legions of people who take scientific evidence at its value rather than twist themselves into conspiracy theories to support their fear-based filtering.
      Funny how ideology only resides with those you disagree with. I'll take science with mine, thanks.

      Commenter
      TP
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:27AM
    • Nick displayed little intelligence until towards the end. He did not give the correct weighting levels on each anti-GW and Green point.

      He mostly ignored all the rational arguments with minor excuses (like when talking about China's budget on green energy). Due to confirmation bias, he gives high weightings to folks already tainted after having proven to be deceptive.

      All the same I agree with him (and one could tell Anna) about what Bjorn Lomborg was saying. Concentrate on making green energy more affordable, not the science.
      I accepted the carbon tax because it was morally right, and a significant catalyst in the right direction, but I do not think the details of the policy are as cost effective as they should be. I DO NOT want an ETS, due to the ease in which such systems are manipulated by ticket clippers who make determining future value very uncertain (so they can sell hedging derivatives and siphon the money out).

      btw. Electricity in NSW has double in 8 years or thereabouts. Know what the main cause is? A denial by governments both state and federal of the need to plan and pay some costs for Distribution infrastructure now in order to spread costs over a much longer period. Essentially it is a demonstration of how we pay when immediate VESTED interests are more highly valued than future needs.

      It is exactly the same problem as we are facing with the carbon tax.

      Commenter
      Jimhaz
      Location
      Occupy Cronyist Governments
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 11:44AM
    • Norman
      You might only be a denier because you support the right and blindly follow wherever they lead you, but to categorize those who accept climate change reality as being the "left" is nonsensical. Millions on the right (ie Murdoch) accept the reality of change. There may well be ideological differences between the left and right as to what best to do about it, but to deny change merely because your "club" does is simplistic and ignorant. We are humans first, political followers second, or at least most of us are!

      Commenter
      rext
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 12:53PM
    • Norman
      It's for sitting on, not talking out of!

      Commenter
      fred
      Date and time
      April 27, 2012, 1:06PM

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