Mr. Fielding decided to vote against climate-change
If you haven't heard of this politician, it's because he's a member
of the Australian Senate. As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares
to pass a climate-change bill, the Australian Parliament is preparing
to kill its own country's carbon-emissions scheme. Why? A growing
number of Australian politicians, scientists and citizens once again
doubt the science of human-caused global warming.
the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are
so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is
because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore
and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little
too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as
"deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back
to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.
In April, the Polish Academy of Sciences published a document
challenging man-made global warming. In the Czech Republic, where
President Vaclav Klaus remains a leading skeptic, today only 11% of the
population believes humans play a role. In France, President Nicolas
Sarkozy wants to tap Claude Allegre to lead the country's new ministry
of industry and innovation. Twenty years ago Mr. Allegre was among the
first to trill about man-made global warming, but the geochemist has
since recanted. New Zealand last year elected a new government, which
immediately suspended the country's weeks-old cap-and-trade program.
The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma
Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with
the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate
summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to
receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement
last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her
nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist
who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the
worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel
Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of
54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the
American Physical Society revise its position that the science is
settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the
physicists' open letter.)
The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The
inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined
since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed
research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps,
hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial
crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would
require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.
Credit for Australia's own era of renewed enlightenment goes to Dr.
Ian Plimer, a well-known Australian geologist. Earlier this year he
published "Heaven and Earth," a damning critique of the "evidence"
underpinning man-made global warming. The book is already in its fifth
printing. So compelling is it that Paul Sheehan, a noted Australian
columnist -- and ardent global warming believer -- in April humbly
pronounced it "an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy,
including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware
of ideology subverting evidence." Australian polls have shown a sharp
uptick in public skepticism; the press is back to questioning
scientific dogma; blogs are having a field day.
The rise in skepticism also came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,
elected like Mr. Obama on promises to combat global warming, was
attempting his own emissions-reduction scheme. His administration was
forced to delay the implementation of the program until at least 2011,
just to get the legislation through Australia's House. The Senate was
not so easily swayed.
Mr. Fielding, a crucial vote on the bill, was so alarmed by the
renewed science debate that he made a fact-finding trip to the U.S.,
attending the Heartland Institute's annual conference for climate
skeptics. He also visited with Joseph Aldy, Mr. Obama's special
assistant on energy and the environment, where he challenged the Obama
team to address his doubts. They apparently didn't.
This week Mr. Fielding issued a statement: He would not be voting
for the bill. He would not risk job losses on "unconvincing green
science." The bill is set to founder as the Australian parliament
breaks for the winter.
Republicans in the U.S. have, in recent years, turned ever more to
the cost arguments against climate legislation. That's made sense in
light of the economic crisis. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi fails to push
through her bill, it will be because rural and Blue Dog Democrats fret
about the economic ramifications. Yet if the rest of the world is any
indication, now might be the time for U.S. politicians to re-engage on
the science. One thing for sure: They won't be alone.