Science an exercise in doubt, but no doubting climate is changing

Science an exercise in doubt, but no doubting climate is changing

Science is, at its heart, an exercise in doubt.

Scientists doubt their findings, challenge them until a theory can be proven, and move on to the next uncertainty about the world we inhabit.

Some of those looking to discredit scientific work use this doubt in arguments against even proven theories, such as the phenomenon of climate change.

Despite the scientific consensus around anthropogenic climate change, there remains uncertainty around individual events and whether they should, or can, be attributed to global warming.


Such it is that a whopping great 3000 square kilometre iceberg is expected to cleave off the Antarctic Larsen C ice shelf.

Such events have happened in the past, and both perspectives can be argued, but surely it must raise concerns among the climate science community that it may be yet another sign of things to come.

Climate change is already affecting the globe, with one of the world's most renowned locations, and delicate indicators of change, at threat.

Yes, the Great Barrier Reef is already feeling the changes, and some organisms that call it home may have begun to adapt.

Yet, this change alone - one reflected globally - was not enough to satisfy this week's UNESCO meeting to list the reef as an "in danger" environmental asset.

The federal and Queensland governments are working, somewhat, to address the problem, although much more could be done if greater political willpower was applied to the task.

Indeed, several notable researchers, responding to the UNESCO decision, have reiterated that plans to build projects such as the controversial Adani coal mine in central Queensland could only exacerbate the existing threats facing the reef.

But Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg maintains the decision is only a positive, a "big win" indicative of the government's work on the Reef 2050 project.

Indeed, his sunshine state counterpart Steven Miles claimed last week the Queensland government was "doing the heavy lifting"

But, while saying the decision supported the Commonwealth's agenda, Mr Frydenberg also used a radio interview on the reef to hit out at his backbench colleague, Tony Abbott, and his continued forays in public debate.

Mr Abbott has had a spotty record on climate change, as many observers have noted, as does the current government.

But he remains a powerful, if on the nose, figure in the conservative rank and file of the Liberal Party, and his position against action on renewable energy generally serves only those seeking to create further doubt around an established issue.

This position is not unlike that of United States President Donald Trump, whose actions, or lack thereof, on the Paris agreement, have led to an uprising among the individual states and major cities of the Union.

There is unlikely to be another spill for the leadership of the Liberals with Mr Abbott as a challenger - indeed an empty chair has already beaten him.

But there are those who sit in the conservatives and on the crossbench of a like mind to the former prime minister on climate change.

The government is treading a thin line already between acting to the extent needed to meet the Paris targets, and not doing enough.

Perhaps we may yet see an uprising similar to that in the US among the states, a path already well-trodden in the ACT.

Or even residents and willing investors funding solar farms and similar infrastructure, particularly as the energy system falls into deeper crisis.

In Canberra, they could cleave a lesson or two from Jeff Layton Thompson, his partner Deb Cleland and the 500-odd others putting their money where their mouth is.

Our governments may yet do the same.

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