A major country is getting media debate on the science of global warming for the first time ever - thanks to Australia's Senator Steve Fielding. As one of a half-dozen swing votes on Prime Minister Rudd's massive carbon tax bill, Fielding recently spent his own money to attend an international conference of climate skeptics in Washington, D.C.

"It seems every Australian has an opinion on the Rudd government's emission trading scheme," wrote Senator Fielding in The Australian on June 8th, "The one question, however, that no one seems to be asking, is whether or not we even need an emissions trading scheme at all?"

Fielding now has an appointment to talk warming theories with Australia's Environment Minister, Penny Wong. He wants to know how Minister Wong can be sure that humans have caused the recent warming - since global temperatures are now cooling though CO2 levels are still rising.

Senator Fielding says 500 years ago the whole world "knew" the sun revolved around the Earth. Galileo dared challenge the prevailing dogma anyway - and was put under house arrest for the rest of his life.

Galileo's story reminds Fielding of the present debate on climate change. "Opponents of the popular opinion that global warming is a direct result of carbon emissions, a group that includes many notable and distinguished scientists, are often derided and quickly dismissed. As an engineer, I have been trained to listen to both sides."

Minister Wong said in a recent media interview: "We've had 13 of the 14 hottest years in history in the last 15 year." This isn't quite true; but even so, she is talking about recent history. Fielding is talking about the Medieval Warming 700 years ago, and the Roman Warming 2000 years ago - and more than 500 previous global warmings before that. The ice cores, fossil pollen and seabed sediments tell us those warmings were hotter than today.

I know, because I met Fielding at the skeptics' conference, and gave him a copy of the fully-referenced best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming - -Every 1,500 Years.

After Fielding returned home, he wrote, "The question of whether global warming is a new phenomenon or something that is just part of the naturally occurring 1500-year climate cycle was never raised in any of the discussions I have had with the Rudd government."

"After speaking to a cross-section of noted scientists, including Ian Plimer, author of Heaven and Earth, I quickly began to understand that the science on this issue was by no means conclusive. I plan to put some of these question to Penny Wong and her advisers when we next sit down to discuss the carbon pollution reductions scheme, just as I did when I spoke to climate change experts in President Obama's administration" during the week of June 1 - 5.

"Has the Minister seen [data] which shows that solar radiation is highly correlated to global temperature change, and if so, why can this not be a plausible alternative explanation for global warming?"

Senator Fielding has been harshly treated by Australian interviewers, but says the carbon emission reduction scheme "will unquestionably lead to thousands of Australians losing their jobs, more than 23,000 in the mining industry alone. It is a scheme that will send the cost of basic goods and services upwards at a time when we can least afford it and will leave the state governments $5.5 billion worse off by 2020. As a federal senator, I would be derelict in my duty to the Australian people if I did not even consider whether or not the scientific assumptions underpinning this debate were in fact correct."