Professor Chubb’s speech focused on his vision for science in Australia and how he wants to achieve this through his role as Chief Scientist.
It’s a great pleasure to be with you today, for the fourth time, I believe, but this time in my new capacity as Australia’s Chief Scientist. I look forward to having my free membership of the Club renewed – and promise I’ll be back in a year looking for the same outcome.
Let me start by assuring you that after one month in the job I know that I am far down a learning curve with a steep slope in front of me. It’s a familiar place – I have been down here before. Different curves maybe, but way down nonetheless. So at least I know what to do – learn before you speak.
This afternoon, therefore, I will focus on a bit of ‘the vision thing’: my role, not statistics and not great detail.
First question then: why did I accept appointment as Chief Scientist? There is a simple response:
- The value of good science to our nation and the world is colossal – and I want to work for Australian science and its place in the world.
Science has got us to where we are today – many of the good bits and sometimes the bad; and it holds the key to our future.
It is the key to understanding and tackling the big issues we face as a nation and as a world.
Now, if science is so important – you may well ask – why does it struggle to cut through into the mainstream debate?
Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a world where sport, celebrity and the 24 hour news or, more accurately, a 24 hour commentary cycle sprinkled with news, seem to dominate relentlessly.
- Do any of us really believe that the future of the world depends on whether the Swans win this year’s flag?
- Does it really matter who wins MasterChef?
- And do we care if Shane Warne and Liz Hurley are about to get serious?
Of course, in the global scheme of things, none of these things matters much at all.
But science does.
Science can cure diseases. It has given us GPS and mobile ‘phones, and it has given us the ‘talking movies’ and the internet.
But because it’s everywhere, we don’t often seem to think about what science has done for us, just as we sometimes seem to take both the power and the potential of science for granted. As in, she’ll be right, it’ll be there when we need it.’
But make no mistake, our future as a nation, our prosperity, our quality of life and the well being of the entire planet, all depend very much on science.
And as the challenges we face become increasingly complex, the importance of science, and the understandings derived from good and properly conducted science, will become ever more important.
To address the big issues – which include sustainably securing our economic, cultural and social prosperity – we require the input, the expertise and the guidance of our scientists.
So we need them, and we need their expertise, in many fields and across many fields. To get them we have to continue to invest – in the right way, in the right place – and with the right amount and at the right time.
Unfortunately, expenditure on science is too often seen as a cost – something that is somehow taking away from other more pressing, more immediate needs. And its value gets lost in the ‘it costs a lot’ argument.
But far from being just another cost, expenditure on science is a sound and prudent investment. We must encourage the Government to continue its commitment: it will reach nearly $9.4 billion this financial year and includes a record investment in CSIRO, important provision for infrastructure, supporting better the indirect costs of research, growing PhD scholarships and other important elements. We need also to provide the Minister with the evidence to argue for growth.
And we have to make clear that we are in it for the long term. The dividends may be now, tomorrow, or they could be 10, or 20 or 30 years away. We need them whenever they come.
In that regard, does anyone really think that the public research funds spent over years on much of agricultural research or energy or the cochlear implant, the cervical cancer vaccine or the influenza drugs was not an investment?
Of course not.
In economic and in quality of life terms, for ourselves and others around the world, investments like these have been an unparalleled success.
Australia must continue to expand its scientific capabilities if we are to remain internationally engaged, competitive and relevant.
And sure… this costs money. And of course how much will always be a judgement call
But if we want that prosperous, healthy and secure future we must organise for it and continue to invest for it. It won’t just happen because some time out there we will wish that we had.
We don’t want to find ourselves in the situation of importing skills, technology and know-how – we don’t want to go back to what we used to be.
Let me remind you.
For the first half of the last century, there was little (not none, but little) research done in Australia. The CSIR (later CSIRO) was established in 1926 – but research was not seen to be a central function of universities. This was not true in Germany from about 1810, or the United States where teaching inspired by research on the German model flourished from the 1860s.
Britain was slow to follow: Oxford introduced the DPhil (PhD) based on the German and US model in 1914 (the first in the UK to do so).
We were like Britain, just slower: we produced our first PhD graduate from the University of Melbourne in 1948.
In a manner of speaking, Australia was then a mendicant country. We contributed little to the world’s stock of knowledge but we hoped to get what we needed when or whenever we needed it. Some would argue that we often got something, but not always what we needed.
Then in the mid-1940s, post-war reconstruction of Australia was planned and led by politicians and public servants with imagination and vision. They saw that it was time for a ‘new’ Australia, a different Australia that was socially, economically and culturally prosperous, and an aware and respected international citizen.
To that group, it was not an option to let Australia become again a country that depended so much on what others did. It was accepted that we needed to contribute to the world’s knowledge, and through that contribution help Australia assume its proper place in world affairs – as it was put. They sought to change the culture – and they did.
They established the ANU as a research hub; they encouraged other universities and now Australian universities educate students in a research-rich environment and are major contributors to research and development an innovation.
But sometimes prosperity breeds complacency. Now I sometimes hear: why? Why can’t we let others do the hard yards, do the investment and carry the cost, while we float by extracting what we want for a minimal effort? Not earn our place, just expect it. A free rider.
We are small in population terms. We are small in university terms. We are small in research terms. But we do make, in many fields, a major contribution to the world, partly through our publications and their quality, partly through the perspective that comes from being who we are, and partly through the particular perspective that comes with being where we are. And while we may contribute just 4 or so per cent to the world’s knowledge, we also must have people with the capacity to use some of the 96 per cent to our advantage.
I think that those planning reconstruction after 1945 can be proud of their legacy. Those of us who have inherited it need to make sure that it is not squandered. It is up to us to ensure that our contribution to knowledge is of a high order, and of high quality, so that Australia’s place in ‘world affairs’ is secure. It will be secure if we have something to say, and it will be because the world wants to hear what we have to say – because of what we do. And to paraphrase Simon McKeon because we do something more than look after ourselves. (The Age, 19 June 2011).
It does mean that we have to be serious. We can’t be unaccountable and we can’t just drift. We have to be considered and purposeful. And our work has to be of up there with the best. Our decisions and our policies must be made consciously on the basis of good evidence.
It is a simple fact that quality science can’t be done at low cost, and mediocre science is no more acceptable than a ‘begging bowl’ would be. We need to make hard decisions about what we can and cannot do – since we can’t do everything or support just anything. That means making one of the hardest decisions of all – selective investment.
I want the Office of the Chief Scientist to play a substantial part in providing the evidence that not just underpins the hard decisions, but encourages them to be made.
In Australia we have the capacity to do what has to be done – and steps have been taken. But we need to use our present wealth and invest it wisely, with foresight and for the long-term.
Being a quarry is not a wise or sustainable path for any nation to take.
Way back in 1990, one John Dawkins said: ‘More than ever before, the reservoir of talent in our people will have to eclipse our great natural resources as the determinant of our success. We will have to use our intelligence and our wit to cement the processes of change and to secure and improve our place in the world. This involves working better and smarter, scuttling mediocrity for quality and distinction. We cannot enter the next century rollicking on the sheep’s back or creaking and swaying in some coal truck.’’
True then, true (or even truer) now. Even if it is the trucks creaking along full of our present day assets that provide us with much of the wherewithal we need to invest wisely in our future, sustainable assets.
If we are to get there, it means continuing to invest in our intelligence and our wit: in Research and Development, amongst other things, and supporting innovation.
It means working with industry to develop and use new technologies.
It also means supporting ‘blue sky’ science where the benefits are less immediately obvious but are nonetheless critical because it provides much of the essential knowledge used for application-derived benefits.
The spinoffs are often unusual and unconnected to the original purpose but they can deliver massively.
- Think of Wi Fi technology – it is undoubtedly one of the most practical scientific discoveries ever – but it began with a group of radio astronomers listening to faint radio whispers from exploding black holes!
I’d also argue that whatever we do as scientists has to be acceptable to the community as a whole – and that means that science is conducted with, and in the context of, work in the humanities, arts and social sciences. These disciplines offer much to help us understand and change our world, and without them the full benefits from science as we know it could be lost.
Make no mistake; the successful and prosperous nations of the future will be those whose communities embrace science in its context and in all its forms.
I am not saying science has all the answers.
Science is not always perfect and interpretations of observations are not always unanimously agreed. Except in some fields of the more theoretical kind, science won’t often ‘prove’ things. There will be uncertainty. But good science will increase probability through the weight of evidence from ‘possible’ to ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and through its processes: ideas, critique, observation or experimentation, critique, publication in peer-reviewed literature for exposure to the world of peers; robust critique and debate of the results and their meaning, more experimentation or more observation, or replication or modification, critique … and the cycle repeats.
Scientific consensus ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ – based on the weight of evidence, the collective judgment and the position of the majority of the relevant expert scientists – provides the best guidance we have for decisions that are informed and rational.
This all makes science too important to be left at the periphery of the decision making process.
It needs to be front and centre.
I am pleased to say that steps have been taken. Earlier this year, before I started in this job, the APS200 project was launched. It will start later this year and investigate the Place of Science in policy development in the Public Service.
Part of my responsibility is to ensure that the science is available; that scientific evidence is put in front of the politicians and policy writers in the public service. It may be from my office, or it may be because we know who to call to get it there – advice fully, frankly and directly available.
Quite rightly, politicians will take into account a wide range of considerations from a multiplicity of sources – and make their judgements and decisions accordingly.
My goal is to ensure they have no excuses for not having the relevant scientific advice in front of them.
Ultimately, what they do with that advice is their business. But if politicians consistently ignore scientific evidence they will be doing themselves and the nation a great disservice.
And ultimately they will have to answer to their constituents.
And this is why it is so important that science is also made accessible to the broader community.
The best way for science to have influence is for there to be a level of science literacy at all levels in the community.
This is the philosophy underpinning the national strategy for the coordinated science engagement and communication strategy –Inspiring Australia.
Inspiring Australia is important because it promotes science to all Australians.
If the community understands, appreciates and values science – this will inevitably be reflected in our political process and the decisions that are made.
And if as a nation we are to make bold, visionary and difficult decisions we need a scientifically literate community. One that understands that there will be uncertainty, but one that knows to give appropriate weight to the consensus and to the critic. One that knows the critic is not always right – if not always wrong. Galileo was right, for example, when he put science against dogma – observation against opinion – not the other way around.
Science properly conducted will always have room for alternative explanations deduced from properly conducted science. Progress is made when outcomes or observations from that science are debated and when they confirm or they change what we think. It is how science works, and it is how science advances our understanding – changing the consensus based on what science has revealed.
Too often the scientific discussion gets mixed up with the political debate – or with the political response to the scientific evidence.
But for it all to work, we need the right science and the right science education – the right profile of disciplines.
I want to take up this issue. One of my first tasks will be to carry out a thorough check of Australia’s science sector, its profile and its sustainability.
In particular we need to see how well we are preparing to meet the expected needs of the future.
At present the profile of Australian science, so much of which is in the universities, is heavily influenced by what undergraduate students choose to study. When universities respond to demand, as they must, Australia risks losing capability in, say, physics – losing staff, infrastructure and graduates – if fewer and fewer undergraduates study physics.
At some stage we need to make a judgement about what is going to be important and what will be needed. And knowing what is being done elsewhere in the world will be an important aid to judgement.
Then we need to decide how to invest in order to develop the science profile of the country in a strategic way – and not leave so much of it to student study patterns offset by some cross-subsidy.
As we contemplate the profile of science, we need to be attentive to academic and industry needs.
Increased linkages between researchers and industry, higher levels of R&D and the successful commercialisation of good ideas are all essential if we are to translate our scientific excellence into national prosperity.
Just as science needs to be accessible to politicians and the community – it also needs to be available to – and to contribute to – the business sector.
Science and innovation are the building blocks of a resilient and dynamic economy that boasts high wage, high skill and sustainable jobs.
We need to get this right – because if we want science to contribute to our lives in 5, 10 or 20 years we need to start producing the scientists. Or developing a highly targeted and attractive immigration program! Or both.
Finally, I want to reiterate just how important it is that we engage our young people in science
If we want to be a scientifically literate nation – we simply must inculcate the coming generations with an enthusiasm for the wonder, beauty and endless potential of science.
Science is awe inspiring – we need to stir the imagination of our youth so they pursue a career in science or, at the very least, grow into informed decisions makers who have some understanding of science and how it works.
Some of us in the room will remember the heady days of space travel and television as defining scientific images of our time.
The time has come to rekindle this type of excitement.
And there is no shortage of inspiration – the SKA and the Giant Magellan Telescopes, the Large Hadron Collider, the promise of commercial space flights, sustaining our environment and curing diseases are all big projects that stir the imagination and reinforce the importance of science to us all.
As part of raising an appreciation of science we need to make sure the coming generations are equipped to handle and make the most of the seemingly endless potential and applications of science in their lives.
We need science teachers and we need to support them through their careers. We need students. It won’t work without either. And to get them we will need to be careful, strategic and willing to invest.
To tackle and overcome the challenges of our time – we need science.
As Chief Scientist I will speak up and be an advocate for science. I know that some of my best work won’t be visible – I have never known a government to respond well to constant megaphone advocacy from people in positions like mine. But I’ll be around.
I haven’t taken the role on because I am hoping that people might start calling me ‘Chief’.
And I am not here because I can’t find anyone to play golf with, though the science of the game continues to elude me.
I am here on behalf of science.
I am here to help ensure the immense potential of science to create a better and more prosperous Australia is fully realised.
And for what it’s worth:
- The Swans were at $2.45 to win the flag – a couple of weeks ago and $24 after last weekend.
- Somebody was evicted from MasterChef last night.
- And Liz Hurley is now officially divorced, further fuelling speculation about her future with Mr Warne.
With the exception perhaps of the Swans, these things don’t matter.
INTERVIEW: Professor Chubb with Emma Alberici on ABC’s Lateline
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Reporter: Emma Alberici
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Ian Chubb was appointed Australia’s Chief Scientist two and a half years ago after a distinguished career in the higher education sector, most recently as the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University. He previously trained as a neuroscientist.
In more recent times he was appointed a member of the country’s Climate Change Authority. It was tasked with reporting on how the Government could best fulfil its carbon emission reduction targets. Next month the Authority’s due to hand down a draft report on whether the plan to scale back greenhouse gases by five per cent by 2020 is ambitious enough.
But that research might never be released. Tony Abbott has indicated that the Climate Change Authority, along with the Climate Commission and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, are to be abolished. Professor Chubb joined me from Canberra a short time ago.
Ian Chubb, thanks so much for joining us.
IAN CHUBB, CHIEF SCIENTIST: Pleasure, Emma.
EMMA ALBERICI: Tony Abbott has not appointed a minister for science, research and innovation. I understand it’s the first time in 50 years Australia will be without a science minister. Instead, those responsibilities will be shared across portfolios. Is there a benefit to having a specific minister for science?
IAN CHUBB: Well, Emma, I think the real benefit is when you’ve got a senior minister with influence and a bit of power who’s passionate about science and whether they carry the title or not is a separate issue, I think. So my hope is that we do get somebody who’s influential enough, influential enough to have an impact on the decisions that are made about science in Australia.
EMMA ALBERICI: Who might that be?
IAN CHUBB: Well, science itself, if you look at the Federal Budget, science is spread over 14 portfolios already. So putting another one in there doesn’t actually make a huge amount of difference. What we need is a strategic approach to the development of science. I’ve been talking about this now publicly for getting on for a year and I think that’s the way for us to go. Now, that would involve several ministers, certainly several portfolio areas and I would hope that we can do so with the support of the Prime Minister, build up that strategy, build up that strategic approach, take a different view from the view that we’ve traditionally taken in Australia and that is to be coherently strategic about science and its growth and development and have the Prime Minister on side.
EMMA ALBERICI: How can you be coherent in an approach without someone specifically driving it?
IAN CHUBB: Well, I’m hoping that’s the Prime Minister’s role. I think it’s a whole-of-government issue, basically and I think that I hope to be able to persuade the Prime Minister that the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, which has existed now since 1984 – some time around there – that it would actually take on the role, a different role from the one that it’s traditionally had, but it would take on the role of providing that whole-of-government overall strategic vision and development of science in Australia.
EMMA ALBERICI: Australia’s already trailing its Asian neighbours in the area of study in terms of science, technology, engineering and maths – and that’s at a tertiary level, I mean. Three times as many graduates in China, close to four times as many in Japan. Is that something the new Government needs to be paying particular attention to?
IAN CHUBB: Well, I think that they need to be very much aware of it and to work out what to do about it and I think that one of the issues for us is: how do we make those areas of study so compellingly interesting that more people want to do them? We’ve tended, I think, to take it a bit for granted. We’ve assumed that somehow there’s some market that will dictate what study options students choose, but people who argue that forget to tell you which market they’re talking about: the market today when students are making a choice in Year 10 of school; the market that’s operating in two or three years’ time when they go to university; the markets that are operating four or five years after that, that is prevailing when they’re going into the workforce.
So I think we’ve got to take a much more strategic, arguably interventionist approach, try to make it compellingly interesting, try to teach science, try to teach engineering innovation as it’s practiced, rather than as you might learn about it if you just read from a textbook.
EMMA ALBERICI: There’s also not going to be a climate change ministry in the Abbott Government. In fact, one of the first areas of the Canberra bureaucracy slated to be cut are the Climate Change Commission, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and you’re in fact a member of the Climate Change Authority which is also to be scrapped. Has there been a value in these bodies that will be lost in your view?
IAN CHUBB: Well, I think there has been a value. I think that the reality is when you bring the different perspectives to bear to look at the evidence, to tease out the evidence, to put it back together and give advice, then I think there’s value in that. I mean, these sorts of issues are not going to go away just because we ignore them. They are things that we’re going to have to deal with and grapple with and understand better and then make informed choices, rather than go out there sometime and guess at what we might do or worry about what we didn’t do when we had the opportunity and we have to make decisions on the basis of less knowledge than we would otherwise have.
So I think those bodies – I mean I can’t speak for them all, I was only on one of them – but the one I was on I thought diligently, constructively, coherently did good work and will produce good advice.
EMMA ALBERICI: So will it be a loss to have that removed from the Government?
IAN CHUBB: Well, yes, it will, in my view, but it will doubtless be compensated for by other bodies and groups and, doubtless, individuals who will be offering advice. The one advantage the Climate Change Authority had or has is that the advice that it gives will be made public and I think that a public disclosure of the sorts of advice you’re giving and the reasons you’re giving that advice, the evidence on which the advice is based – regardless of which side of the argument it goes – but the evidence that you’re presenting is out there for people to have a look at and doubtless argue about.
EMMA ALBERICI: Well, specifically, Tony Abbott has previously signalled that he intends to sack Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery. What’s your view on Professor Flannery’s contribution to the country’s understanding and responses to climate change?
IAN CHUBB: Well, Emma, he’s been one of those people who’s been out there and been vocal about it for quite some time and I think all of those contributions are valuable. I think that people will bring their different perspectives to bear, they will bring their perspectives to bear on the basis of their own background, their own information, the work they do, the research they do and they will make commentary about that and I think all of that commentary, whichever side of the argument you happen to fall on, but all of that commentary is valuable.
EMMA ALBERICI: As Chief Scientist, what did you make of the ‘Australian’ newspaper’s front page yesterday attacking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and claiming they drastically overestimated rising temperatures?
IAN CHUBB: Well, I’m a scientist, or I used to be a scientist. I’d like to think that I base my arguments on evidence. I haven’t seen the leaked report, the leaked draft report. I don’t know as a consequence what it says and I don’t know how the final report, when it’s eventually released, will compare with the draft report. Draft reports are put out there for people to comment on, to make comments on, to add evidence to or to argue about evidence as presented. And they change. So I wouldn’t comment on a newspaper report that’s on a leaked draft report when I haven’t seen the leaked draft report and I know that draft reports change.
EMMA ALBERICI: But I understand that the new IPCC report due out Friday week will confirm that, while there has been an unprecedented surge in the level of human generated heat-trapping gases like CO2, temperatures have been roughly steady for the past 15 years. Does that give you cause to doubt the science of longer-term warming?
IAN CHUBB: No, it just means that the system is very complex and there are many factors involved and many reasons why certain things might happen at certain times and I’ll need to have a look at the report to find out what they believe the explanation is. But atmospheric temperature is one measure. Ocean temperature is another measure. There are all sorts of things going on in this extraordinarily complex system and we need to take them all into account before we draw really hard conclusions, firm conclusions, dogmatic conclusions.
EMMA ALBERICI: The Coalition has previously promised to cut carbon emissions by five per cent on 2000 levels by 2020. But the PM-elect Tony Abbott now says that if his $3.2 billion Direct Action policy doesn’t manage to reduce emissions by the five per cent, there’ll be no more money poured into that particular scheme. What do you think about that?
IAN CHUBB: Well, a very personal view and I can’t speak for the climate scientists and so on around the country or around the world for that matter, but a very personal view is that we do have to do something about mitigating carbon dioxide emissions without destroying the place. So the real question is: how do we do that sensibly? How do we make the case to do that sensibly? How do we bring forward the evidence that’s persuasive, that says we do have to do something and we do have to do it sensibly? And by sensible, I mean at an appropriate level and by reducing it by an appropriate amount. And I think all of those factors have to be put on the table and politicians will make their decisions and that’s where politics intrudes into the science and they will make a political decision.
But the scientist’s role is to put all the evidence that they can compile, the pros and the cons, the pluses and the minuses, the whatevers – put it on the table so debate can be informed. And it will also involve what the rest of the world is doing. I mean we’re not acting alone. Not everybody is acting. So in five years’ time I wouldn’t speculate what the rest of the world will be doing because I think there are quite substantial changes afoot.
EMMA ALBERICI: Many scientists and climate change mitigation experts now believe that direct action can’t work to bring down emissions by five per cent by 2020. How damaging for Australia will it be if we don’t meet that target?
IAN CHUBB: Well, I think one of the things for us is that we have to play a part in the global attempts to reduce CO2 emissions or to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. And it’s important for a country like Australia, in my view, it’s important for a country like Australia to play a role in that and indeed to play a leading role in that. Now, I don’t think we should expose ourselves to dramatically negative consequences simply to say we’re leading, but I do think that it’s important that we don’t put our head under our wing and pretend that there’s not an issue simply because we’re not looking at it anymore.
EMMA ALBERICI: As Australia’s Chief Scientist and someone who believes the science in this area of climate change is settled, what do you make of the PM-elect’s chief business adviser Maurice Newman today describing climate change as a myth?
IAN CHUBB: I think it’s a silly comment.
EMMA ALBERICI: He goes onto say that the money spent on agencies and subsidies pursuing these myths has been wasted.
IAN CHUBB: Well, he still uses the word “myth” so it’s still a silly comment.
EMMA ALBERICI: Well, presumably one of the agencies considered to be wasting taxpayers’ money was the Climate Change Authority of which you were or are a member. I understand the Authority was due to release a draft report next month on whether five per cent was, in fact, ambitious enough a target. Are you clear on whether the Government intends that report to be completed?
IAN CHUBB: No, I’m not. You’d have to ask the people who run the Climate Change Authority and that’s not me.
EMMA ALBERICI: You are a member of it though?
IAN CHUBB: I am, but I don’t know where it’s up to today.
EMMA ALBERICI: How important is it that that work is continued, in your view?
IAN CHUBB: Well, I think it’s important work. I think that it’s carefully analytical, very rigorously done, very carefully done and it will present a view and I think it’s then up to people to judge it. It’s up to politicians to respond to it one way or the other, but I think it’s important work to put out there so again, the debate is informed rather than toss words around like “myth”.
EMMA ALBERICI: Finally, former Prime Minister John Howard’s been booked to deliver this year’s Global Warming Policy Foundation lecture in November. The title of his address is One Religion Is Enough.
IAN CHUBB: (chuckles) Oh, yeah.
EMMA ALBERICI: Is it helpful to the debate to paint climate change science as a quasi-religion with believers and nonbelievers?
IAN CHUBB: Well, Emma, there are believers and nonbelievers, I suppose. Personally I’m not a believer, I just look at evidence and I see where the balance of the evidence is going. I think one of the unfortunate things in this area is that it’s turned out to be a sort of belief, you know, do you believe in or do you not believe in. I don’t, as I said, I don’t subscribe to that view of belief. I think that it’s important that we put all of the evidence that we can gather on the table. Some of it will be strongly on one side of the argument, there may well be stuff strongly on the other side of an argument. It’s always like that in science. And scientists will work out what the balance of probabilities are.
And I think that when we understand that we are talking about the balance of probabilities, we put that evidence out there, we argue that point, people can then turn that into a belief system if they want to. But I don’t think scientists do. I think scientists base their argument on evidence rigorously analysed, hotly debated, allowing for as many sides of the argument as you can that are legitimate and legitimately put forward, based on evidence, and they draw some conclusions from it on the balance of probabilities.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We do that for most of the things in our lives. We work out the balance of probability when we get on an aeroplane or when we cross the road. It’s our life and science is based on evidence designed to increase the level of probability that allows us to draw certain conclusions from which we can make, take certain actions. And I think that’s the important part of it. And I don’t think about this as, you know, “I believe”. I mean, what would that tell you? I mean, it doesn’t tell you very much. It just is a waste of your time and mine for me to do that, quite frankly. I think that it’s much better for me to say: I think the evidence is heading in this particular direction and if you want to know about it I’ll get as much of it to you as I possibly can.
EMMA ALBERICI: Professor Chubb, I appreciate the time you’ve taken to speak to us this evening. Thank you.
IAN CHUBB: Okay, Emma, thank you.
EDITOR’S NOTE (25 September): Lateline would like to clarify a comment referring to an article written by businessman Maurice Newman. It should have more clearly specified that he regards anthropogenic climate change as a myth.