Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Climate Change

7:00 pm

Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I cannot let my colleague's contribution go without some comment. I am very pleased to have significant Scottish blood flowing through my veins and I am equally pleased not to be a trade unionist. It is win-win. I am not going to rush out and buy this book, because I rather suspect that in about two weeks time it will be in the $2 bin anyway. I will wait until then and then I will circulate it in our party room to allow those of my colleagues who are remotely interested to read it.

That was not the reason I stood up to speak tonight. I want to talk about an article in the Australian by Graham Lloyd, the environmental editor, on 10 February. It is very interesting reading. It says:

Himalayan glaciers are back on the frontline of climate change controversy, with new research showing the world's greatest snowcapped peaks lost no ice at all over the past 10 years.

Claims the Himalayan ice peaks would disappear by 2035 instead of 2350 cast doubt over the credibility of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2009 report. Now even the 2350 estimate of disappearing ice is open to question.

Research published in the scientific journal Nature showed satellite measurements of the ice peaks from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan have come to an unexpected conclusion.

While lower-altitude glaciers were melting over the past eight years, enough snow was being added to the peaks to compensate.

The research published in Nature was designed to show the contribution of melting glaciers to rising sea levels.

  …   …   …

Scientists previously believed about 50 billion tonnes of meltwater were lost from the Himalayas each year and not replaced with snow, but the research shows that is not the case, with the amount of water melting into the sea being replaced with snow at higher altitudes.

The finding was described by Bristol University glaciologist Jonathan Bamber as "very unexpected".

I thought I should go and have a look at this article in Nature and at the analysis by the said Professor Jonathan Bamber of Bristol University in relation to the study led by Professor John Wahr of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Professor Bamber's analysis of those findings made for fascinating reading. In fact it was so fascinating I thought I would share it with the Senate tonight. Since 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment—or GRACE—satellite has provided monthly data on changes in the Earth's gravity field. This in practice means that scientists can monitor variations in mass on the Earth's surface. Using data from between January 2003 and December 2010, Professor Wahr's study considered the changes in mass of the Earth's large, ice covered areas, known as the Glazier and Ice Cap—or GIC—regions. What they found, in Professor Bamber's words, were two unexpected facts:

First, the contribution of GICs (excluding the Antarctica and Greenland peripheral GICs) to sea-level rise was less than half the value of the most recent, comprehensive estimate obtained from extrapolation of in situ measurements for 2001–05 (0.41 ± 0.08 compared with 1.1 mm yr−1). Second, losses for the High Mountain Asia region—comprising the Himalayas, Karakoram, Tianshan, Pamirs and Tibet—were insignificant. Here, the mass-loss rate was just 4 ± 20 gigatonnes per year (corresponding to 0.01 mm yr−1 of sea-level rise), compared with previous estimates that were well over ten times larger. By a careful analysis, the authors discounted a possible tectonic origin for the huge discrepancy, and it seems that this region is more stable than previously believed.

Professor Bamber asks what the significance of all this is. He says:

Understanding, and closing, the sea-level budget (the relative contributions of mass and thermal expansion to ocean-volume change) is crucial for testing predictions of future sea-level rise. Estimates of the future response of GICs to climate change are, in general, based on what we know about how they have responded in the past. A better estimate of past behaviour, such as that obtained by Jacob and colleagues, will therefore result in better estimates of future behaviour.

The study, in Professor Bamber's words, has:

… dramatically altered our understanding of recent global GIC volume changes and their contribution to sea-level rise. Now we need to work out what this means for estimating their future response.

What does this mean? It means that the alarmists who were running the line that the Himalayan ice peaks would disappear by 2035 and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2009 report have been completely discredited.

In fact, as Graham Lloyd reported in the article from the AustralianI mentioned earlier:

In 2010, the head of the IPCC was forced to apologise for including in a 2007 report the claim that there was a "very high" chance of glaciers disappearing from the Himalayas by 2035.

Mr Lloyd goes on to report that:

… the chairman of the IPCC conceded in January 2010 that "the clear and well-established standards of evidence required by the IPCC procedures were not applied properly" when the claim was included.

What does all this mean? It means that those who are running the Chicken Little line in relation to global warming have again been shown up by the sort of work that we see in this Nature research article. We need to have a sensible debate about these issues without having the views of the Chicken Littles of this world—who will never, ever do the necessary work to substantiate their claims—shoved down our throats.

What we do know is that the big lie of Australian politics in the last three years that 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead' is premised on the sort of false material that we have heard before. That material is used to substantiate this toxic carbon tax. We read today that this carbon tax is going to put us at such a massive disadvantage compared to the rest of the world that the only thing which will suffer is this country's standard of living. Those responsible for putting this on the Australian community refuse to acknowledge what they are doing. It is fascinating that the man who is supported by a third of the Australian Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, was actually prepared to do something about that. Apparently, it was indeed the pitch that he gave in his bid.

We need to have a sensible debate about these matters. We do not need to have a government which refuses to acknowledge the economic damage that will be done to this country by driving an agenda that is about wealth distribution and that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the environment. That is the great tragedy of this debate: it is about wealth distribution, not the environment.

Surely, sooner or later, and hopefully before 1 July, those opposite are going to realise the nature and extent of the lie that has been perpetrated and the nature and extent of the damage that they will do. I encourage honourable senators to read this material in the Nature research article. It is absolutely fascinating. For those of you who do not know about Nature, it is a very highly regarded research magazine. I encourage everyone to read it. As Professor Bamber said, the results of this research are surprising and mean that we should no longer be prepared to put up with what has been shoved down our throats in relation to this matter in order to justify a completely unjustifiable and toxic tax.