Frank O'Shea says just because the overwhelming majority of scientists believe humans are changing the climate, it doesn't mean they're right; science, after all, is just a matter of opinion.
Some scientists claim that the earth is warming and that this is a result of human activity, while others say that the place is actually getting colder. Even when those who deny warming are laughed at, they insist that they are just as entitled to their view as the others, that it is their human right and that only totalitarian regimes interfere with freedom of expression, and if this country could only get a Bill of Rights, they might be able to find a lawyer to sue those who were laughing at them.
For more than 2,000 years people believed that the earth was the centre of the universe and they were able to quote Jewish folklore and Greek philosophers to support their argument and everybody was happy. Then a Polish priest suggested that everyone was wrong and the earth was actually just another planet. Mind you, he waited until he was on his deathbed before he said this because he knew that the establishment of the day would persecute him like they are doing to the climate deniers today.
Then came Kepler and Newton and they said that gravity was the cause of it all and that everything was attracted to everything else. When it was pointed out that this was crazy, that for example most people are repelled by other people and even prepared to go to war to show how repelled they are, no one paid them any attention. Science decreed that things were attracted and that was that, even though the only proof they could give was that an apple fell on Newton.
Then Einstein did an experiment in his head and told us that actually we were all like little balls sliding along the inside of a cosmic fishing net. That didn’t sound much better but people said that he was entitled to his view. And now they are saying he was right all the time, though I’m not sure how he explained the apple.
I give you those two examples of how people who buck the scientific establishment can sometimes be right and that we shouldn’t believe something just because everyone is saying it. One of the characters in Flann O’Brien’s classic The Third Policeman had a theory that the earth was not spherical at all, but sausage-shaped and he held that view with the same kind of determination as the climate deniers today.
Which brings me back to this whole climate debate. Scientists all over the world, with a few brave exceptions, are saying that we are producing too much carbon dioxide and this is warming the planet and one of these days the sea will come in and flood Sydney airport and parts of Wollongong.
Their argument is that ice in Greenland is melting and this will come down to us here and flood us. Don’t they have any idea of how far away Greenland is? And even if it does melt, the extra water will flood other places first. Like Ireland for example. For years people have been saying what a blessing it would be if part of that place was towed out into the Atlantic and sunk; now, global warming could save the European Union that expense as well as the fortune they are spending to keep the rest of Ireland afloat.
Anyway, look at the people who are proposing this climate catastrophe theory. They are all from universities and research institutes which depend on funding to keep going. And since most of those funds come from governments, of course they are going to say what the governments want to hear. Piper and tune come to mind.
As to where this carbon dioxide is coming from, they tell us it is from burning coal to produce electricity and from cows belching. They are researching other ways of getting power like using uranium or wind or solar panels, and they don’t expect us to notice that there are commercial issues involved in all of those things also. Some of them are even trying to breed cows that don’t belch; they will be genetically engineered with an extra stomach to keep the gas which can be tapped off while they are being milked and sent under pressure to huge storage tanks 20 km underground.
And when a few people in these research places show that there has been fiddling of the numbers – ok, we now know there was no fiddling but it’s a nice word so we will leave it there – they are condemned. The fact that some of these brave souls are privately funded by coal companies and farmers and the tobacco lobby is neither here nor there. Fortunately, they have support from a few politicians with constituencies in coal mining areas or farming areas or just Queensland and they are keen to point out that the two main proponents of climate change in this country are not scientists at all but an economist and a palaeontologist.
So I come back to my main point which may have been lost in the prose: just because the majority of scientists believe in climate change does not mean that we don’t have the right to disagree with them. Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce are in the same distinguished line of dissenters as Copernicus and Einstein and the earth-as-a-sausage people.