The inaugural event of the National Humboldt Lecture Series took place in Townsville at James Cook University in April. Dubbed the Great Global Climate Debate it involved Prof David Karoly from the University of Melbourne and Prof Peter Ridd of James Cook University. The evening was chaired and mediated by JCU Prof. Robert Robson, President of the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows.
Prof. Karoly opened with his talk titled Climate Change: an Update on the Science. Using much of the data presented in the IPCC Report 2007, Prof Karoly gave on overview of the broad evidence supporting its conclusions that the climate has warmed over the past 50 years, mostly as a result of human activity. He looked at the low impact of water vapour in initiating climate change, highlighted the difficulty of using experimental techniques to verify if CO2 is affecting the Earths temperature, and detailed how computer modelling may not be very good at predicting the weather on your next birthday, but has been very good at simulating climate observations since 1990.
Prof. Peter Ridd took an interesting tack in his approach to the debate; he chose to advance his arguments against human activity causing climate change as though CO2 were on trial and then proceeded to make his case. Prof Ridd asked the audience to consider that the physics and mathematics of climate modelling is far more important than the environmental science. He outlined the problem with instabilities in the air mass, and the use of imprecise parameters, significantly affecting the efficacy of climate modelling. Prof Ridd also raised questions about the process of funding scientists and in the IPCC itself. He ended on a humorous note stating that CO2 should be released on bail until we can organise a retrial.
The event was attended by over 200 members of the public, many of whom had pointed questions in the follow up session afterwards. The lecture was sponsored by James Cook University and the Australian Association of von Humboldt Fellows
An audio file of the lectures in mp3 format can be downloaded here (9.8 Mb)