Clive Palmer's shaky grasp of science
CLIVE Palmer, who will attempt to reshape Australian politics today by winning control of the Senate through the Western Australian election rerun, has put himself at odds with the world's scientific community over his position on climate change.
Mr Palmer has dismissed the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change report with a homily on the Irish ice age and has shown an at best shaky grasp of the science with his claim that carbon dioxide reduction should focus on the 97% produced by nature.
Speaking on the ABC's Lateline program Thursday night, Mr Palmer debated economist and carbon tax architect Ross Garnaut, claiming that efforts to reduce emissions were wrongly focused.
Speaking yesterday, a Sunshine Coast scientist who contributed to the IPCC report said the reluctance of politicians and governments to act on climate change would compound the cost for future generations.
Professor Tim Smith, director of the University of the Sunshine Coast's Sustainability Centre, said if action wasn't taken to curtail emissions the economic and social impacts of climate change would increase into the future.
He said there were complex interactions at play between biological, physical, social and economic levels.
Those long-term processes of change were incompatible in a policy sense with the short-term nature of political decision making.
Mr Palmer contends it would be better to focus on solutions that could be provided in nature rather than through any impost on business or the economy.
The position is at odds with established science that emissions from nature equate to less carbon dioxide than that absorbed by natural systems.
Prof Smith said while there were a number of different contributors to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, human inputs had substantially altered inflows.
"You have to recognise the alteration to the natural processes through fossil fuel burning," he said.
Prof Smith said the political process was not the only institution slow to react to new knowledge.
"Legal, social and political structures have difficulty dealing with contemporary knowledge," he said.
The IPCC report made clear that climate change was happening and would continue to cause increasing impacts on life on Earth.
Only serious steps to reduce emissions could curtail the level of impact into the future.
"Now we know that 97% of the world's carbon comes from natural sources," Mr Palmer told Lateline.
"Why don't we have money to look at how we can reduce the overall carbon signature by reducing it from nature, not just from industry? It's entirely wrong-focused."