An Australian Tale Unfolds

Published July 14, 2009

A fascinating story about politics and science is unfolding in Australia that may conclude in the fall of the governing party Down Under – and may foreshadow the story line for the United States’ global-warming legislation as the U.S. Senate takes up the debate.

The Australian story plays against a backdrop of a proposal by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to create a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The scheme is similar to one contained in the Waxman-Markey bill that squeaked out of the U.S. House on a 219-212 vote last month.

Enter Australian Senator Stephen Fielding, the man whose vote could determine the bill’s fate. On June 2, he attended at his own expense an international conference on climate change in Washington, DC produced by The Heartland Institute. He returned to Australia with heightened doubts about the need to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, and he submitted three questions for clarification to Penny Wong, the Australian minister for climate change.

Sen. Fielding was underwhelmed by Ms. Wong’s responses, which were cut-and-paste jobs from the wobbly conclusions in the reports of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Four science advisors to Sen. Fielding responded to Ms. Wong with a withering rebuttal, and not a single assertion in her response was left standing.

Subsequently, Sen. Fielding said he will vote against the cap-and-trade bill. But the bill may never be called in the Australian senate. Given the nature of parliamentary politics in Australia, the defeat of such a key bill could trigger the dissolution of the Rudd government, and the setting of new elections.

The following documents lay out the details of this fascinating story:

This article by two Australian journalists in RealClearPolitics reports on the background.

This article summarizes Sen. Fielding’s questions, Minister Wong’s response, and the rebuttal by four scientists.

This article is the full 50-page rebuttal of Minister Wong’s response to Sen. Fielding’s queries.

This article is the 2009 report from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, “Climate Change Reconsidered,” which in 880 peer-reviewed pages of science rebuts not only Minister Wong’s assertions but the whole of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports.