Thursday, April 10, 2008


RESPECTED academic Don Aitkin has seen the ugly side of the climate change debate after being warned he faced demonisation if he challenged the accepted wisdom that global warming poses a danger to humanity. Professor Aitkin told The Australian yesterday he had been told he was "out of his mind" by some in the media after writing that the science of global warming "doesn't seem to stack up". Declaring global warming might not be such an important issue, Professor Aitkin argued in a speech to the Planning Insitute of Australia this month that counter measures such as carbon trading were likely to be unnecessary, expensive and futile without stronger evidence of a crisis.

The eminent historian and political scientist said in a speech called A Cool Look at Global Warming, which has received little public attention, that he was urged not to express his contrary views to orthodox thinking because he would be demonised. He says critics who question the impact of global warming are commonly ignored or attacked because "scientist activists" from a quasi-religious movement have spread a flawed message that "the science is settled" and "the debate is over".

Professor Aitkin is a former vice-chancellor at the University of Canberra, foundation chairman of the Australian Research Council and a distinguished researcher at the Australian National University and Macquarie University. Although not a scientist, he has brought his critical approach as an experienced academic accustomed to testing theories to a debate he says so far lacks clear evidence.

Professor Aitkin's speech cast strong doubt on the Rudd Government's plan to impose significant limits on carbon emissions as the key to combating climate change, while the developing economies of China and India become the world's biggest polluters. "I doubt the proposed extraordinary policies will actually happen," he said. "China and India will not reduce their own use of carbon."

According to Professor Aitkin, attempts to set carbon-use levels in Europe, to be emulated by Australia, have been laughable because of absurd errors involved in allocating quotas and the potential for fraud. He believes carbon trading will lead to rorts, and that the "bubble will burst" on enthusiasm for urgently containing the carbon-producing effects of burning coal and oil.

The story of the human impact on climate change, which Professor Aitkin calls Anthropogenic Global Warming, "doesn't seem to stack up as the best science", according to his own research. Despite thousands of scientists allegedly having "consensus" on global warming, he says there is an absence of convincing data: "Put simply, despite all the hype and models and the catastrophic predictions, it seems to me that we human beings barely understand 'climate'. It is too vast a domain." Much of the evidence of global warming, he says, is based on computer modelling that does not take account of variables, and does not cover the whole planet.

Professor Aitkin calls himself a global warming "agnostic", and his comments are a direct challenge to the orthodoxy successfully promoted by influential figures such as former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery, whose scientific expertise is paleontology, despite his popular writings on climate change. The basis of the Kyoto Protocol, signed by the Rudd Government, is unvalidated models that cannot provide evidence of anything, Professor Aitkin argues. But he says the Rudd Government is among policy-makers trapped, willingly or unwillingly, by the world view of climate change campaigners who take a "quasi-religious view" that the dangers of global warming cannot be doubted.

Professor Aitkin told The Australian last night that Kevin Rudd's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, was "a captive" because of the riding instructions he had been given to provide solutions that accepted global warming as fact. In his speech, he says: "The hard-heads may not buy the story, but they do want to be elected or re-elected. "Democratic governments facing elections are sensitive to popular movements that could have an electoral effect. I am sure that it was this electoral perception that caused the Howard government at the end to move significantly towards Kyoto and indicate a preparedness to go down the Kyoto path, as indeed the Labor Party had done earlier, and Kevin Rudd did as soon as he was elected."

Professor Aitkin says the earth's atmosphere may be warming but, if so, not by much and not in an alarming and unprecedented way. "It is possible that the warming has a 'significant human influence', to use the (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's) term, and I do not dismiss the possibility. "But there are other powerful possible causes that have nothing to do with us."

He says an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide over the past century is agreed, some of it due to fossil fuels, cement-making and agriculture. However, normal production of CO2 is not known, and it makes up only a tiny part of the atmosphere. "How does a small increase in a very small component have such a large apparent effect? The truth is that no one has yet shown that it does."

According to the professor, much of the inadequate policy-making on climate change is based on "over-certainty in the absence of convincing argument and data" and "over-reliance on computer models". "While governments can never ignore what they see as popular feeling, good policy cannot be based on moods," he says.


Top Leftist politician caught lying

TASMANIA'S Deputy Premier Steve Kons has resigned from the front bench, after last night admitting he had misled parliament over the Simon Cooper appointment scandal. Premier Paul Lennon this morning informed State Parliament Mr Kons had decided to "take responsibility" for his actions yesterday. But Mr Lennon said "there was a way back" for Mr Kons, who would remain a "good representative" for the North West seat of Braddon. "As far as I am concerned, Mr Kons is a good man," he said.

Mr Kons yesterday denied signing a document recommending to Cabinet that lawyer Simon Cooper be appointed the next new magistrate. Greens MP Kim Booth later tabled the shredded document, which had been pieced back together from the strips taken from a rubbish bin.

State Opposition leader Will Hodgman said "something was sick" with the Government to lose two deputy premiers in two years. Greens leader Peg Putt is questioning what Mr Lennon knew and if he "evaded questions" yesterday and "aided a cover up".

Mr Kons replaced deputy premier Bryan Green in 2006, when Mr Green was charged over the Tasmanian Compliance Corporation scandal. Two juries failed to reach a verdict in the Green case.


Wimpy baggage handlers

This is just "industrial action" designed to coerce higher pay, of course

THOUSANDS of airline passengers could have their trips disrupted by a union ban on baggage weighing more than 20kg. The work bans - which could be implemented at any time - means Australians on domestic flights would have their 32kg baggage limit slashed to 20kg. The current 40kg cap for first class international passengers would be halved. Qantas baggage handlers voted yesterday to implement the bans on all domestic and international flights unless the airline bowed to their demands.

A spokesman for the 300 workers said the bans could be enforced as early as today. Handlers said the current limit was crippling them. They said an estimated 80 per cent of checked baggage weighed more than 20kg. The union said almost a third of handlers had been hurt in the past year and one in seven had had to take time off work because of injury in the last year. "On a regular shift we could be lifting about 600 bags and most of those weigh well over 20kg," one worker who did not want to be identified told The Daily Telegraph. "What Qantas management are asking baggage handlers to lift is crippling guys. We need some relief to keep us safe at work. If Qantas won't take any action to protect us at work then we need to look at putting this limit on baggage."

Another handler said injuries could be all but eliminated by reducing the limit. "We could reduce about 95 per cent of the injuries if the baggage was limited to 20kg," he said. Qantas's own partner British Airways recently reduced its baggage limit to 23kg, meaning a passenger to London could arrive with almost twice as much luggage as he or she was allowed to take home.

The Transport Workers Union said the campaign was also in line with the national code of practice for manual handling, which noted a significant increase in back injuries for people handling objects over the 16kg to 20kg range. TWU secretary Tony Sheldon said Qantas had repeatedly failed to address safety concerns and staffing shortages at Sydney airport.

"The current maximum baggage weight at Qantas domestic terminal of 32kg is just too much for one person to carry," he said. "How many Qantas baggage handlers will have to watch a colleague sustain a serious injury that dramatically impacts on family and work life before management choose to address the serious safety issues. "Management have left the baggage handlers with little choice but to campaign for the new weight limits." The 32kg limit is standard for most Qantas domestic flights, excluding smaller planes.


Chocolate ban

A prize example of pissing into the wind

CHOCOLATE made using child slavery will be banished from Parliament under a plan by South Australian MP Christopher Pyne. Mr Pyne was inspired by World Vision chief Tim Costello and U.S. ethics professor Dr David Batstone, who are attempting to abolish slave labour by removing the market for goods.

In Adelaide this week Mr Costello said Australians were helping to finance international child slavery. He highlighted the plight of children enslaved to provide coffee, chocolate and clothing to the West. "Chocolate is cheap for us because of trafficked children and child labour," he said. "Seventy per cent of the world's cocoa comes out of the Ivory Coast and Ghana (where it is harvested by child slaves [child labour is indeed common in poor countries but "slaves"?])." Mr Costello said many other products, including iron, coffee and clothing come from a supply chain that included children. "The great need is actually for the consumer to really demand transparency in the supply chain," he said.

After meeting Mr Costello and Dr Batstone, Mr Pyne decided to write to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his plan to remove all non fair-trade chocolate from vending machines in all Parliamentary offices. "I think this is a very worthy cause," he said. "I think most constituents in my electorate would be horrified to know that there are 27 million slaves in the world today, many are children, and they're being used."


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