Here is an e-mail my father (a retired project engineer) sent to Julia Gillard [in reference to her email about why we need a carbon tax.]
Thank you for your message. As a self funded retiree I will happily receive whatever allowances your plan provides for me. However, I despair over the way your carbon tax issue has arisen. I think your conclusions are premature.
Despite what your advisors say, the SCIENCE IS NOT SETTLED. In the case of climate science there is a lot of evidence that global temperatures have stopped rising (despite the continuing rise in CO2 levels) and that the impact of CO2 may not be as severe as the IPCC would have you believe.
Before using the state of knowledge as it is currently known in order to make far reaching policy decisions, you need to carry out Due Diligence studies in order to verify that what you are being told is correct. The level of detail required to execute proper Due Diligence for something as complex as the dynamics of climate change is truly enormous. Peer review is not due diligence. Neither are the IPCC reports. Certainly not the Garnaut reports.
Peer reviewers are unpaid experts… They seldom see all the basic data, the computer codes, the corrections, deletions and adjustments, the instrument calibration details, full details of all assumptions, etc, and their judgments are often coloured by their personal prejudices.
Peer review of published papers is in general a coarse filter to ensure that if the evidence which the paper examines is valid and if the writers have done their sums correctly and if the results appear to make sense and add to the body of human knowledge then it’s OK to publish. Peer reviewers are unpaid experts in the same field as the writers of the paper. They seldom see all the basic data, the computer codes, the corrections, deletions and adjustments, the instrument calibration details, full details of all assumptions, etc, and their judgments are often coloured by their personal prejudices. Also they don’t get to see the experimental equipment and test environments or the actual samples that form the basis for the paper being reviewed. Usually none of this matters because scientific progress is self correcting. If a rocket scientist gets it wrong the rocket may crash or wander off course or fail in some other way. Oh dear, what a shame. Well, we’ll get it right next time round.
Predicting climate change is not rocket science. It’s much, much more difficult. And the consequences of getting it wrong may be much, much more costly. So what do you do, given that there may be something happening that could cause humanity immense harm unless we change something? You conduct proper Due Diligence studies – engineering quality, not academician quality.
You need to get the protagonists – those who claim we have a severe, looming problem – to assemble their best arguments and evidence to support their case. They should only offer papers which have been published with full public disclosure of all the data and computer codes so that the claims made within the paper can be reproduced by others. Then you appoint a Due Diligence Team (DDT) and give it a proper briefing (a Scope of Work). In the commercial world DDTs are usually independent disinterested contractors. They will need to see all of the things that peer reviewers usually don’t see as described above. In fact for proposals which will cost the community billions, the DDT will want to see a lot more. For example, many academic papers cite other previously published papers. These citations may have to be examined too. They will want to see the ‘bad’ data as well as the ‘good’. Also, published papers and other evidence may be invited for positions purporting to be contrary to the protagonists case. There is plenty of evidence which appears to throw doubt on many aspects of the IPCC case for climate change (the politically acceptable expression for AGW) and this will need to be subjected to DDT examination too.
In the business world, if a financier were asked to commit billions for some project on the basis of a report of the quality of any of the IPCC Assessment Reports he would tell you to “Go away – don’t waste my time”.
Unlike the authors of the IPCC reports who are nearly all climate scientists, the DDT should comprise physicists, economists, engineers, mathematicians (especially statisticians), geologists, biologists and climate scientists. But no more than 25% of the team should be climate scientists. It’s doubtful if the DDT will ever be able to achieve certainty on any matter but they should be able to come much closer to the truth than has the IPCC.
Contrary to what you may have been told, the IPCC reports comprise the assessment by no more than 40 or 50 climate scientists, of all the published papers that in their opinion support in some way, climate change outside the realm of natural variation. Reviewers of each chapter in the reports were not permitted to see data which was not expressly provided in the relevant papers. In fact one reviewer was threatened with dismissal because he kept asking to see data. There is no audit trail for positions taken by authors of each chapter. None. In the business world, if a financier were asked to commit billions for some project on the basis of a report of the quality of any of the IPCC Assessment Reports he would tell you to “Go away – don’t waste my time”.
I’m a retired engineer with a background in project management. Many of my peers agree with me about this.