We experienced a ominous precursor to the Australian summer this week.
According to the NSW Rural Fire Service it was “unusual to have so many intense fires so close together”.
However over the past decades the Australian fire season has grown longer, beginning earlier and ending later – a direct consequence of a warming world.
As the planet heats, the Australian electorate saw fit to vote into office a party not merely opposed to the “carbon tax”, but riddled with sceptics.
One of the prime candidates to take on the science portfolio was the Liberal member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella. However it looks as though Mirabella will lose her seat to an independent, and thus not take on this role in the Abbott government.
Noted for her “caustic style”, Mirabella’s position on the science could at best be called “luke warm” as the blog No Fibs reports:
Asked about climate change at a Mansfield forum, Mirabella indicated her belief that the problem was largely caused by natural warming, but she conceded people were also having an impact.
[Note: The Age reports today it is over for Mirabella and she will lose her seat]
As the fate of Mirabella looks certain, another Liberal has put their hand up for the role: one Dr. Dennis Jensen.
In case there was any doubts about the Abbott government’s position on climate change it is worth noting that Jensen is a prominent climate sceptic. As the Sydney Morning Herald notes:
Dr Jensen has made headlines by questioning the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to global warming. Dr Jensen believes carbon dioxide is contributing somewhat to global temperatures, but not as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is suggesting. Moreover, Dr Jensen does not think governments should be taking urgent action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Jensen is also a fan of Lord Christopher Monckton, the climate sceptic who believes Obama’s birth certificate was faked and propagates the idea the UN and climate scientists are plotting to take over the world and establish a one-world-government:
The colourful Englishman, Lord Christopher Monckton, who toured Australia to debunk the “bogus science” of global warming, was closer to the mark, Dr Jensen suggested.
“Most of the stuff [Lord Monckton] says is entirely reasonable,” Dr Jensen said.
“Some of it I don’t agree with but on the whole a lot of what he says is in my view correct.”
Yes, because a science minister should be taking his views from a conspiracy theorist and someone known for fantasizing about secret plots.
Jensen makes no secret of the fact he rejects the scientific consensus. In a June 2013 blog entry on his website, Jensen dimisses the work of the scientific community:
Worse even than “pal review” is where editors and reviewers of a specific scientific predisposition will attempt to reject any paper with a contrary viewpoint. Phil Jones wrote of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report AR4 and of some peer-reviewed papers he did not agree with: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” This is quite stunning, and shows the potential for perversion of a process that even when operating without systemic bias has its problems.
Hopefully, this will give a bit of a better idea of the peer review process, and of some of the shortcomings of the process, and that caveat emptor exists even regarding peer-reviewed literature. Remember, the consensus view of the fraud of Piltdown Man as being the missing link was accepted science for decades.
Note the reference to Pltdown Man – a standard argument used by Creationists to discredit evolutioinary theory.
In a 2008 article in The Australian (where else) Jensen implied climate scientists acted like the mafia:
VESTED interests have hijacked the climate debate, and taken Australia’s future hostage. The ransom they demand? Simple agreement or, at the very least, compliance.
Voices of dissent face derision. Legitimate questions are met with ridicule. But with many of the squabbling forces of power in this country now apparently united in their enthusiasm for an emissions trading scheme, it is more important than ever that we go back and examine the basis of their campaigns.
Conspiracy theories, arguments used by creationists, contempt for the peer review process and scientists.
Yes, this is exactly the kind of person Australia must have to oversee the science portfolio.