Senator WATERS: Moving now to what might be very controversial and ill-informed comments from Maurice Newman, the head of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council. In an op-ed presumably written by him, published under his name a few weeks ago, he said: Global warming is the hook.
CHAIR: Senator Waters, you are probably a little close to the wind there. Would you like to keep your comments to the facts. By making the statement that it presumably has been written by him you are making an inference it was not written by him.
Senator WATERS: I am astounded that anybody holds those views. But it purports to be an op-ed in his name.
CHAIR: If it purports to be an op-ed in his name I think we can assume that he wrote it. Maybe we can start from that premise.
Senator Birmingham: I do not think Mr Newman contests that they are his views or that it is his op-ed.
Senator WATERS: More the pity. His quote was: Global warming is the hook. It's about a new world order under the control of the UN. He makes other disparaging remarks about climate science in the course of that opinion piece, which I hope you have had a look at. Can you give me the bureau's scientific perspective on that view?
Senator Birmingham: You might like to rephrase the question. I am sure Dr Vertessy will happily answer factual questions in relation to the bureau's scientific work and analysis. But you have made a sweeping generalisation: can he comment on Mr Newman's op-ed? While Mr Newman is entitled to his opinion, everybody is entitled to contest that opinion. Dr Vertessy appears at Senate estimates to answer questions on matters of fact, not on matters of opinion. If you want to ask him questions on matters of fact I am sure they can be addressed.
Senator WATERS: Thank you. Does the climate science support Mr Newman's views?
Senator Birmingham: If you want to put a statement, a particular statement, and ask Dr Vertessy whether climate science, as he understands it, accords with that statement, that is fine. Let us not generalise Mr Newman's views and then seek Dr Vertessy's response.
Senator WATERS: I can spend the next eight minutes reading the op-ed into Hansard, if you like, but I figured that would not be a good use of anybody's time.
Senator Birmingham: I would have hoped you might have come prepared for questions with particular comments that you might want Dr Vertessy to respond to.
Senator WATERS: I have put a comment that I am seeking comment on.
Senator Birmingham: A claim that you might want him to respond to.
Senator WATERS: You have not let him speak yet.
Senator Birmingham: You have not put to Dr Vertessy a properly formed question for Senate estimates.
Senator WATERS: Dr Vertessy, I asked before: Global warming is the hook. It's about a new world order under the control of the UN. Does the climate science support that global warming is simply about a new world order under the control of the UN?
Senator Birmingham: I am sorry but I do not think Dr Vertessy is here to comment on Mr Newman's great rhetorical flourish in his op-ed, whatever the merits of the facts, whether they are informed or not, or on the rhetoric of Mr Newman's arguments about whether or not this is a UN conspiracy or the like. If you want to ask him about the climate science, that is fine, but not about the UN.
Senator SINODINOS: Isn't that the province of DFAT, international conspiracy?
Senator Birmingham: That is right. Ask DFAT whether they think there is a conspiracy operating in the UN, if you want, but not the Bureau of Meteorology.
Senator WATERS: I am sure Mr Newman is not your friend, minister. I am sure he is not your adviser or friend, Senator Birmingham.
Senator Birmingham: I have met with Mr Newman. I respect his business credentials.
Senator WATERS: If I can review my question, please.
CHAIR: Excuse me, Senator Waters.
Senator WATERS: Pardon me, I am being interrupted.
CHAIR: I am the chair and I am in control here. So what I would respectfully suggest to you is that if you have a statement of scientific fact or a science statement that Mr Newman has made and you wish to question the validity of that statement in terms of climate science, then maybe ask it now, otherwise we might move on because this is not serving any purpose at all.
Senator WATERS: Thank you, Chair. There are multiple statements which assert facts about climate science that I am intrigued to get the bureau's view about. Given the invitation to do so, I shall go through them all, starting with: It's a well-kept secret, but 95 per cent of the climate models we are told prove the link between human CO2 emissions and catastrophic global warming have been found, after nearly two decades of temperature stasis, to be in error. What is—
Dr Vertessy: That is incorrect.
Senator WATERS: That is incorrect. Thank you.
Senator SINODINOS: Does Newman source his material?
Senator WATERS: No, there are no references in this piece. Another states: We have been subjected to extravagance from climate catastrophists for close to 50 years. Is that correct?
Senator Birmingham: It depends how you define 'extravagance'.
Dr Vertessy: I would need something a bit more specific. That is talking about the dialogue that occurs rather than any scientific fact.
Senator WATERS: Indeed. Another is: In January 1970, Life magazine, based on 'solid scientific evidence', claimed that by 1985 air pollution would reduce sunlight reaching the Earth by half. In fact across that period sunlight fell between 3 per cent and 5 per cent.
Dr Vertessy: I am not familiar with that work at all but I do not think it is relevant to climate change.
Senator WATERS: It is not of significance in determining whether climate change is indeed anthropogenic or not?
Dr Vertessy: Not that I am aware of. There is one related thing that I could talk about a little and that is the so-called process of global dimming, which is the accumulation of pollutants in the atmosphere, which is actually reducing the amount of sunlight that is coming to earth and which, to an extent, is actually suppressing the effects of global warming. And should that pollution be removed we would expect actually an increase in the warming process.
Senator WATERS: I continue, as the chair has allowed me to: Fast forward to March 2000 and David Viner, a senior research scientist at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, told The Independent: 'Snowfalls are now a thing of the past.' In December 2010, the Mail Online reported 'Coldest December since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10C bringing travel chaos across Britain'.
Dr Vertessy: I am not familiar with that particular article but I think it is referring to a bit of an old red herring that suggests that just because you are getting cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere it somehow discredits the fact that there is global warming occurring. There is a perfectly good explanation for that. The theory in global warming does not hold that there will be no cold weather anywhere. In fact there is evidence to suggest that global warming will actually intensify the onset of some cold weather due to the effect of the changing behaviour of the jet stream which wanders around a hell of a lot more latitudinally than it used to as a result of changes to the global climate system. That has the effect of actually bringing more polar air down into some populated areas in the Northern Hemisphere as well as bringing up some hot weather. It is by no means any kind of proof that global warming is not occurring.
Senator WATERS: Another is: Weather Bureaus appear to have 'homogenised data to suit narratives'.
Dr Vertessy: I reject it.
Senator WATERS: I am quoting here from Maurice Newman: We've had our own busted predictions. Perhaps the most preposterous was climate alarmist Tim Flannery's 2005 observation: 'If the computer records are right these drought conditions will become permanent in eastern Australia.' Subsequent rainfall and severe flooding have shown the records or his analysis are wrong. We've swallowed dud prediction after dud prediction.
Dr Vertessy: It is someone else's opinion and it is a very broad canvas of ideas in that. I am not quite sure what I could say about that, other than to say that there is already a climate change effect on the rainfall of southern Australia.
Senator WATERS: Another is: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which we were instructed was the gold standard on global warming, has been exposed repeatedly for misrepresentation and shoddy methods.
Dr Vertessy: I would reject that.
Senator WATERS: And then he goes to his real agenda which is concentrated political authority. 'Global warming is the hook'. And the UN is apparently trying to take over the world. He then goes on and on and on. I will not continue. Thank you for clarifying that his statements were variously not correct, not relevant, an old red herring rejected on multiple occasions. Did you offer Mr Newman a briefing on the state of climate science?
Dr Vertessy: No.
Senator WATERS: Have you since?
Dr Vertessy: No.
Senator WATERS: Will you?
Dr Vertessy: No.
Senator WATERS: Have you offered the Prime Minister a briefing on the state of climate science?
Dr Vertessy: No, I have not.
Senator WATERS: Is that something that you might consider doing?
Senator Birmingham: I think, as with all governments, prime ministers, their departments, ministers, their departments, members of the executive request briefings when and where they need them, and they are provided that in the context of certain decision-making processes. I have no doubt that, as matters would have gone through government around the construct of, for example, the highly successful emissions reduction fund, the department would have crystallised within its advice whatever information was relevant from Dr Vertessy and other arms of government in relation to climate science.
Senator WATERS: Thank you. Dr Vertessy, does the climate science support the statement that coal is good for humanity?
Senator Birmingham: One—
Senator WATERS: If you are allowed to respond.
Senator Birmingham: Once again, I would note that the Bureau of Meteorology, through its experts in its field, its experts in the field of climate and weather, is not a scientific agency like the CSIRO that has a range of scientific projects into the causes of climate change and that is a scientific agency looking at the occurrence of climate change. But if you want to try asking Dr Vertessy about causes of emissions, then again I am sure he would be quite happy to answer those where he can and otherwise refer you to CSIRO or elsewhere, where that is appropriate, but not to comment on rhetoric once again.
Senator WATERS: So just to be clear, Dr Vertessy is not permitted to answer the question of whether the climate science supports the statement by the Prime Minister that coal is good for humanity?
Senator Birmingham: You are asking Dr Vertessy for an opinion on a rhetorical statement.
Senator WATERS: Based on climate science, correct.
Senator Birmingham: You are asking for an opinion on a rhetorical statement. If you want to ask him about causes of emissions, go your hardest.
Senator WATERS: No, he really did say that. Our Prime Minister really said that.
Senator Birmingham: If you want to ask Dr Vertessy about causes of emissions, go your hardest.
Senator WATERS: Is there anything you feel you are able to contribute?
Dr Vertessy: What I can say is that the primary cause of global warming is the emission of CO2 and the primary reason CO2 emissions are increasing is the burning of fossil fuels. Coal is a fossil fuel.
Senator WATERS: Thank you. I think that is fairly self-evident to many of us. Apparently it is not to the Prime Minister. But thank you for your clarity