22/10/2009 - 00:00

Theory’s great, but what of facts?

22/10/2009 - 00:00


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It’s time for some critical analysis in the climate debate.

THROUGHOUT the 1980s and 1990s, while working at another media outlet, I regularly wrote about the sinking of HMAS Sydney off Carnarvon by the German raider, Kormoran, on November 19 1941.

That meant having contact with many learned and well-informed people, who offered a range of explanations and anecdotes worthy of reporting.

Like so many military engagements, Sydney’s loss remained a challenging, unresolved issue, in part because all 645 hands perished.

However, as time passed, a trickle of individuals surfaced with what are best described as weird views, including that HMAS Sydney was sunk by a Japanese submarine that was secretly plying Western Australian waters before the outbreak of war in the Pacific, which started after Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7 1941.

Others referred to strange items hidden on desolate north-west beaches, and transcripts of radio messages that allegedly existed, although none was ever produced.

All one could do when encountering such conspiratorial theorists was request evidence for confirmation.

Alas, such “evidence” existed only in the informants’ minds.

So pitiful were encounters with these pedlars of fantasy that I eventually stopped returning telephone calls.

They responded by contacting other journalists at the newspaper, managing to get their conspiracies publicised this way.

The Australian War Memorial describes those days thus: “The lack of eyewitness accounts from Sydney’s side – there were survivors from Kormoran – has allowed a number of other theories to be proposed, one of the most persistent being that a Japanese submarine was involved.

“The issue became so heated that in 1997 a parliamentary committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, was asked to conduct an inquiry into the affair.

“The committee published its report in March 1999.”

That report was prepared by a team of experts after hearing more than 200 witnesses who were carefully cross-examined and their evidence thoroughly sifted.

The War Memorial’s HMAS Sydney website describes it thus: “The conclusions drawn provide no comfort to the many proponents of conspiracy theories.

“All the theories that have appeared over the years were again rehearsed in submissions and evidence, as were the rebuttals.

“The committee’s constant refrain is that ‘no evidence’ for the far-fetched scenarios that have been advanced; it also cautioned that many of the claims made were ‘both malicious and distressing to family members of those lost on Sydney’.”

So, after 20 or so years, one naturally felt somewhat vindicated with respect to those pedlars of hoaxes.

Saying this doesn’t mean every aspect of the Sydney-Kormoran clash is today fully resolved.

But the inquiry’s report most definitely and thankfully has rid us forever of the hoaxes and those who concoct them.

Is there a lesson here about the way the various claims that the world is set to be frazzled like a cinder – dubbed “climate change” – should be treated by those now governing Australia?

Anyone seeking the truth, after years of being subjected to apocalyptic contentions promoted by battalions of political activists, journalists, film and pop stars, and even by some claiming to be scientists, would surely agree that there is.

Surely it’s time that the clash of contentions about mother earth’s fate has reached the point where they should be subjected to thorough and objective scrutiny, like HMAS Sydney’s loss was during 1997-99.

We’ve had the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pedalling a line for years alleging mother earth was on the brink of something resembling a suffocating disaster. But the IPCC is no longer as trusted as it may have been when first convened.

Last year, for instance, I heard a lecture by Canadian energy and environmental writer, Lawrence Solomon, who revealed he’d contacted the IPCC to obtain the names of the claimed 2,000 scientists who that panel said had contributed to its reporting.

And I was surprised to hear Mr Solomon say the IPCC’s head office had refused to provide him with those names.

Why the secrecy?

If the IPCC’s approaches and contentions were valid, surely its members and contributors would wish to be identified.

Independent confirmation is a crucial ingredient of science, of true or empirical science.

Yet here was a bone fide inquirer being stonewalled.

Another experience I had was after a lecture on climate change, sponsored by the Council for the National Interest.

After that lecture I told a Perth scientist in attendance that it seemed problematic to me the atmosphere now had about 370 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide.

He replied: “You realise that that’s dangerously low – we need more to help enhance agricultural output.”

That comment certainly surprised me and indicated my ignorance.

I’ve since learned that the scientist’s contention has much to commend it.

American geologist, Leighton Steward, and author of the book, Fire, Ice and Paradise, is presently lobbying Washington-based congressional leaders on this very point, since it’s central to the Obama administration’s efforts to impose a mega-tax upon so-called emissions.

The CO2 question is also central to Australia’s leaders, who are claiming CO2 levels are becoming catastrophically high.

On the contrary, says Mr Steward.

He says that efforts by people such President Obama, and Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull here in Australia, to impose upon their economies and people emissions trading schemes “could actually hurt the environment by reducing CO2 levels”.

Higher CO2 levels simply aren’t harmful to humans, he added.

“As an example, he said, that earth’s atmosphere currently has about 338ppm (sic, it is currently 370) of CO2 and that in Navy subs, the danger level for carbon dioxide isn’t reached until the air has 8,000ppm of CO2,” one report states.

“Steward is part of a non-profit group called PlantsNeed CO2 that is funding pro-CO2 ads in two (American) states represented by two key lawmakers involved in the energy debate.”

Let’s not put too fine a point on this; the CO2 question is most certainly crucial since it pertains to life and death, possible famine or humanity’s survival.

State Scene highlights the Solomon and the CO2 instances to underline the point that we’ve been bombarded for decades now with shock-horror claims and it’s time such contentions were thoroughly and objectively examined and assessed.

The disgrace is that Messrs Rudd and Turnbull, true believers both of them, have not even thought of instituting an independent empirical investigation, like the HMAS Sydney one, into the climate issue.

But that’s precisely what’s needed.

It’s high time all political quackery that’s emerged from the climate question was thoroughly investigated.

It’s time real knowledge was allowed to blossom with all contentions publicly and empirically assessed, so they can be validated or otherwise.

Anyone wanting to present their case should be welcomed before such an inquiry.

But all those giving evidence should do so under oath and should back all their claims with scientific sources and reasoning, not with propagandistic ballyhoo to which we’ve been subjected for so long.

That inquiry’s findings should then be released to the public and after a year a nationwide referendum held so all can vote on whether Australia adopts Messrs Rudd’s and Turnbull’s proposed mega-tax that’s been deceptively marketed as an emissions trading scheme.

Only then will Australians be able to say they live in an empirically founded, not hoax-based, true democracy.




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