They tried to change my mind but I'm still a climate sceptic
WHEN film producer Simon Nasht approached me in 2011 about participating in I Can Change Your Mind, 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, conservative, late-50s male, against an attractive, articulate, 20-something female. Was this a set-up? Simon was persuasive, and as I was about to leave Parliament I figured I had nothing to lose. And, 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 on a round-the-world expedition with four film crew, as well as trips to Perth, Heron Island and the Flinders Ranges, the whole time with a camera recording my every action and utterance.
Anna Rose - a climate activist 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, Rose 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 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.
Rose 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 Gores and Flannerys, the drought has ended, our cities aren't being submerged, we still have polar bears and neither polar ice cap is disappearing. And temperatures haven't risen since 1998.
I think the most useful appointment I arranged was with Bjorn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre. Lomborg, unlike me, thinks human emissions of carbon dioxide 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 instead advocates significant global investment in green energy research and development in order to make green energy so cheap that 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 will 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 famous CERN research facility investigating the relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays and cloud formation, and the consequence for our climate. This is fascinating work that amply shows how much we don't know about what drives our climate, and that to claim ''the science is settled'' is simply a lie. If any of the visits I proposed had an impact on Rose and her convictions, this was it.
Conversely, neither Rose nor those whom she took me to meet could convince me that human emissions of carbon dioxide are driving dangerous global warming. Indeed, the absence of warming since 1998 despite rising carbon dioxide levels shakes the foundations of the alarmists' cause, as green icon James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, recognised this week when he backtracked from his alarmism. He now says: "The great climate centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is."
What I do know about science is that it is dynamic, that there are always unknowns and that there is much we don't know about Earth's climate. May the debate continue.
Nick Minchin is a former Howard government minister.