Election 2013 Senate

In addition to my other page highlighting the position held by each Member of the House of Representatives on the science underpinning climate change, I have decided to examine our Senators as well. For those not familiar with our voting system here in Australia, come September this year, every seat in the lower house, the House of Representatives will be vacant and up for grabs, while in the upper house, the Senate, half of the 76 seats will be up for grabs. That said, I have decided to highlight the position held by all current sitting Senators regardless of whether they are facing re-election or not as it highlights the differences between the parties, and based on the results of this investigation, I cannot imagine the result after the election would be any different in terms of the politicisation of climate science.

As I stated on the other page, recent climate change is real, it is happening now, it is caused by humans and it is serious. This is not up for debate because the science is settled. Every major national scientific body in the developed world and the tens of thousands of scientists researching the climate accept this as fact. In my opinion, and many others, it is hands down the most important global issue and challenge facing humanity, and urgent action is required…now. In order for global initiatives to be implemented to tackle the threat of climate change we must have governments who are prepared to act, and that means we must first have governments that accept the science.

To find out where our elected Senators stand, I took a similar approach to that as I did for the House of Representatives. At first, I searched every speech and utterance recorded in Hansard by each member for the term “climate change”. I then sifted through the results until I found a definitive statement or passage that demonstrated that the member accepted the science underpinning climate change. If no such statement was found, I then extended my search to party and private webpages, media releases, interview transcripts and Facebook pages. If no statement was found, the member was classified as “rejecting the science”. I realise this is a broad definition or perhaps black and white and I make no apologies for that. Anyone with grey statements have been placed in the “reject” category. The science is settled, so wishy washy feel-good statements about “having to act” or “giving Earth the benefit of the doubt” without a qualifying statement as to why, just don’t cut it.

An example of a definitive statement demonstrating acceptance is this one from Western Australian Liberal Party Senator, Dean Smith…

In opposing this legislation, it is not that some oppose the science of climate change. That is the classic spin that others on the other side would wish to put to the community. Based on the evidence available, climate most definitely is changing and we are all united in our view that we should do our best to reduce carbon emissions. Dean Smith

An example of a definitive statement demonstrating rejection is this one from New South Wales, National Party Senator, John Williams…

So why did the climate warm and why did the Thames stop freezing over when the CO2 levels were obviously not rising? The reason is climate change—climate change that we have had for millions of years. And, no matter what we do, we will never change, alter, prevent or do anything to stop nature running its course. That is the fact of the matter. John Williams

To be fair, here is an example of a grey statement that sees the member thrown in with the rejects. This one comes from National Party Senator for New South Wales, Fiona Nash…

I agree with what my colleague Senator Eggleston said before when he said he believed in climate change. So do I, absolutely. The climate has been changing for millions and millions of years. It is about the cause and, far more importantly for farmers, it is about adapting to change and making sure that they have got risk management practices in place to adapt to that change. Fiona Nash

When you question the cause, you reject the science. On that note, three Liberal Party Senators have been placed in the “no data” category because despite extensive searching I was unable to decide where to put them. So, now for the results….

All Senators and the acceptance or rejection of the science underpinning climate change n=76

All Senators and the acceptance or rejection of the science underpinning climate change n=76

Proportionally, the overall level of acceptance of the science of climate change in the Senate, is not that different to the House of Representatives. This is not surprising given the level of representation in each house is reasonably similar and further highlights the politicisation of this issue.  Here they are side by side.

Comparison of the Lower and Upper House Members in terms of their acceptance of the science underpinning climate change.

Comparison of the Lower (left) and Upper House Members in terms of their acceptance of the science underpinning climate change.

As with the House of Representatives, the conservative parties are more likely to reject the science underpinning climate change.

Position on the science underpinning climate change in the Australian Senate by party affiliation.

Position on the science underpinning climate change in the Australian Senate by party affiliation.

As with the House of Representatives, the conservatives are really split however where it was roughly 50/50 in the lower house, in the Senate, rejects outnumber the acceptors by 2:1. Also as with the lower house, National Party members are more likely to be  rejects than their coalition partners, the Liberals as we can see below.

Conservative acceptance or rejection of the science underpinning climate change in the Australian Senate. n= 33. The 3 "no data" are Liberal party members.

Conservative acceptance or rejection of the science underpinning climate change in the Australian Senate. n= 33. The 3 “no data” are Liberal party members.

What is it with the National Party? I wrote a post about the disconnect within the National Party yesterday as it pertained to the lower house. The same applies for the Senate.  So, as I did with the House of representatives, here is the list of Senators and their positions.

Full listofcurrent sitting Senators and their position on the science underpinning climate change.

Full list of current sitting Senators and their position on the science underpinning climate change.

I’m not going to rehash how disappointing it is to see all those National Party Members whose viewpoint is at odds with the threat facing the very people they are supposed to represent. But look at all those Liberal senators! Since when did Liberal Party members become so anti-science? These are supposed to be intelligent people. Anyway, here’s what some of them had to say…

I remain open to changing science. In an area where technology and knowledge is developing as quickly as this, it cannot be deemed by a government or any institution as settled—other than to suppress its further development. I do not claim to make a definitive statement on climate science, but I know that any attempt to suppress debate can only constrain its future development. Scott Ryan

Yes, Scott, science is an ongoing process and advances are always being made. Scientists themselves always keep an open mind in case new evidence comes along that sheds new light on a Theory or overturns existing hypotheses, but at the same time, one must move forward with the existing information. It’s all about probabilities and when the overwhelming scientific evidence from multiple streams and disciplines (think atmospheric physics, biology, ecology, organic chemistry, geology, cryospheric science, glaciology, geomorphology, oceanography etc etc etc) are all saying the same thing,  you should probably take notice. I am betting you rely on the expert opinion of your mechanic when he informs you that you need new brake pads and he’s just one person. The same might apply to your GP  telling you that you have the flu. To ignore the expert opinion of tens of thousands scientists is completely irrational. Keep an open mind about the Theory of Relativity next time you’re standing on the edge of a cliff. You never know, the science might be wrong.

In a democracy, people must have the right to query and question decisions made by their leaders that will affect them. Indeed, it is vital that they can do this. If they cannot, the power of the state can grow to a level that is unhealthy for its citizens. It is a great irony to me that those who dare to query and examine the issue are labelled by climate alarmists as flat-earthers, while those who blindly accept what the government, environmental movements and many of the mainstream media feed to them are considered to be contemporary thinkers.  David Bushby

Yes David, yes indeed. In a democracy we do have the right to question our “leaders” and we also have the right to question scientists. But here’s the catch, anyone can be a politician, you are a prime example of that, there is no minimum standard of education required. You just have to be able to talk and appeal to whomever your demographic is that will elect you. I always think back to a careers counsellor in high school who had a chart with a long list of professions and they were colour coded by the level of education required to become one. So, doctors, lawyers, most scientists all fell into one colour group. Plumbers, electricians, mechanics were grouped together…you get the picture? Guess who politicians were thrown in with? Used car salespeople and door to door salespeople. Apologies to any in those two groups, I didn’t make up the chart. If I did, I wouldn’t have thrown you in with politicians. So, in order to question the scientists, it might help if you first have some sort of scientific training, then you can go and do your own research, subject it to peer review and have it published. That is the way the world of science works. Otherwise, it is usually wise to accept expert opinion, especially when the vast majority of actual experts are all saying the same thing.

The science is not settled. The planet’s climate has been changing since day one. Shame on those opposite, shame on the Greens and shame on the Australian Labor Party for having vilified ordinary Australians who dare to voice their views and, yes, their scepticism. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

I’ll keep this reply short. Connie, the science is settled. In the words of Tim Minchin, “Just because your ideas are tenacious, doesn’t mean that they’re worthy.” Disregarding the overwhelming evidence for climate change and accepting the opinions of paid shills and non-experts is not scepticism, it is denial. Finally, is it vilification to call you a moron when it is patently true?

I’d like to finish by inviting any senators who believe they don’t fit into the categories in which I have placed them to email me with a definitive statement to the contrary. I will of course publish it and update this page accordingly.

So, there you have it. I thought I might share with you one final picture that sums up some of the ostriches in the conservative ranks.

climate change doesn't exist....not even the words.

climate change doesn’t exist….not even the words.



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