Archive for category Climate change

Key Coal Mining Lobbyist Explains Why We Can Now Ignore Everything He Says

QRC boss Michael Roche, who according to him, you can ignore

Michael Roche is the executive director of the Queensland Resources Council – the powerful peak lobby group for the state’s coal industry.

Last night he went on the telly to explain a few things about why he thinks the federal government should remove the rights of environment groups in Australia to use the Federal court system to review decisions made under Federal environment laws.

The debate comes out of a case in which the federal court ordered that a decision by the Environment Minister Greg Hunt to approve Indian mining company Adani’s giant Carmichael coal mine should be set aside.

The ruling was on the back of a technicality, as the minister himself conceded. The upshot is that the decision to approve the mine will be delayed a few weeks, rather than be overturned.

Roche appeared on Lateline alongside Jeff Smith, the boss of the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office – the legal group that takes on cases on behalf of conservation groups.

During the debate, ABC host Tony Jones pointed out that “even coal baron Clive Palmer” didn’t agree that the laws should be changed. I just wanted to highlight Roche’s answer, which I thought instructive.

MICHAEL ROCHE: Can I just touch on Mr Palmer? Mr Palmer has a vested interest here. Mr Palmer would see himself as a competitor to Adani in terms of being the first mover in the Galilee Basin. So I set aside Mr Palmer’s comments as self-interest.

So Michael Roche says he can “set aside” Palmer’s view because he has a vested interest.

The last time I checked, the Queensland Resources Council gets something in the order of $13 million in membership fees and income (financial statement for year ending June 2013). QRC’s members include the state’s coal mining powerhouses, including Adani.

So if we take our direction from Roche on who we should and should not listen to, then surely we should all “set aside” the views of the QRC?


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The Australian misreports study on influence of sun on global warming

lloyd ice age

The p5 story in The Australian. Chances of story about climate science being wrong are on the rise if they appear in The Australian.

If you read The Australian newspaper the other day, you might be forgiven for thinking a new study into the amount of energy coming from the sun had found that the chances of the world experiencing another “little ice age” had gone up.

You might think that because that’s what the newspaper’s environment editor wrote.

Here are the first two paragraphs, under the headline “Chances of little ice age on the rise“.

The sun’s power is weakening at its fastest rate in 9300 years, doubling the odds of a return to little ice age conditions by mid-century, according to research by the British Met Office.

The chance of a repeat of conditions that last occurred between 1645 and 1715 when London’s Thames River regularly froze over and became the scene of winter fairs, was now rated at between 15 and 20 per cent, up from 10 per cent in 2010.

The big problem with these two sentences, is that the study did not look at the chances of the world, or even parts of the world, “returning to little ice age conditions”.

Rather, the study referred to the chances of the sun having a prolonged period of low solar activity similar to a period known as the Maunder Minimum, which coincided with the Little Ice Age but might not necessarily have actually caused it.

The study was published in Nature Communications and amazingly (or not surprisingly if you have followed much of Lloyd’s work over the years) it doesn’t even mention the Little Ice Age.  So what does it say?

The study looked at the chances of the sun falling into a lull and then asked what might happen to global temperatures if this happened. Here’s the relevant bit from the abstract:

An 8% chance of a return to Maunder Minimum-like conditions within the next 40 years was estimated in 2010 (ref. 2). The decline in solar activity has continued, to the time of writing, and is faster than any other such decline in the 9,300 years covered by the cosmogenic isotope data. If this recent rate of decline is added to the analysis, the 8% probability estimate is now raised to between 15 and 20%.

So the study says the chances of the sun falling into a long lull have increased significantly. It doesn’t say anything about a return to “Little Ice Age” conditions.  Why?

Because the main part of the study finds that any negative effect that a solar minimum might have on temperatures will be massively outstripped by temperature rises caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Using a series of climate models, the researchers based at the UK’s Met Office find that between 2050 and 2099, the drop in solar activity would have an impact of  -0.12C and -0.13C on global temperatures. The paper states:

This offsets or delays the global warming trend by ~2 years and is small compared with the modelled global warming.

But the paper does suggest that the impact of a solar minimum would be slightly larger in Europe. In a scenario where global temperatures in the region could rise by 6.6C, the drop in solar activity could shave between 0.4C and 0.8C off that warming.

Curiously, later in Lloyds story he actually contradicts his own introduction when he does state the research “found the impact from reduced solar output was a minor cooling effect of about -0.1C”.  Lloyd then quotes the met Office scientist Dr Ineson (the quote is the same as the one Ineson gave to a website called – perhaps that’s where Lloyd got it).

The UK’s Independent newspaper did actually speak to some the scientists. Ineson told The Independent:

This study shows that the Sun isn’t going to save use from global warming, but it could have impacts at a regional level that should be factored in to decisions about adapting to climate change for the decades to come.

The regional impacts of a grand solar minimum are likely to be larger than the global effect, but it’s still nowhere near big enough to override the expected global warming trend due to man-made change.

This means that even if we were to see a return to levels of solar activity not seen since the Maunder minimum, our winters would likely still be getting milder overall.

So the chances of a “little ice age” are not on the rise, as Lloyd’s story claimed, and the study that Lloyd said had showed this, didn’t show that.


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Is this what a Liberal party examination of #climate science might look like?

A climate science denialist rump within Australia’s Liberal Party is pushing for a parliamentary inquiry of some description on whether climate change might be caused by humans or not.

The party’s Federal Rural and Regional Committee, chaired by West Australian farmer Brian Mayfield, is pushing for the move ahead of Australia signing a new global deal in Paris in December to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Next week, the committee will push for similar inquiries into… oh shit I don’t know, let me think… the evidence linking the rise in drought conditions to the recent noted absence of fairies at the bottom of many farming paddocks.

What might an inquiry led by Liberals into the causes of climate change be like?

Maybe something like the Republican-led US House Science Committee’s hearing last year, when elected Republican representatives collected all the killer arguments from climate science deniers in an attempt to ping the White House Science Advisor Dr John Holdren. Here’s John Stewart’s review.


Does climate science denialist Nick Cater know the difference between an ice sheet and sea ice?

Nick Cater has written another of those climate science denialist columns that The Australian likes to print whenever anyone sends one in.

In his introduction, Cater writes: “Given our deference to experts in these technocratic times it’s troubling how often they get it wrong”.

With a hubris-soaked introduction like that, you’d better be sure you’re facts are spot on.  You wouldn’t want to look foolish now, would you? Cue next few sentences.

Take Matthew England, an expert on global warming, who on the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009 warned that the Antarctic was “losing ice at an alarmingly fast rate.”

Indeed England did say this to Lateline. OK so far.

“There’s a net mass loss of such a scale that Antarctica’s actually contributing as much today to sea-level rise as the Greenland ice sheet,” he told the ABC’s Lateline.

That seems OK too. The loss of ice from ice sheets on Antarctica has been accelerating rapidly, and it has continued to melt at faster rates, as I wrote on The Guardian recently.  West Antarctica is losing about 159 billion tonnes of ice a year. So what’s Cater’s point?

Five-and-a-half years later the continent remains stubbornly frozen. The sea-ice record has been broken for the third year running and fuel is being flown to Mawson base by helicopter because the icebreakers can’t get through.

Erm, what? The sea ice record?  But England wasn’t talking about sea ice.

When sea ice melts or sea water freezes, this has no impact on global sea levels.  But when ice that’s attached to the land melts, then this does raise sea levels. England was referring to ice sheet melting, not sea ice (the two issues are actually linked though – fresher water from the melting ice sheets freezes more easily, one of the probable reasons for the increasing sea ice in Antarctica).

Either Cater has deliberately confused the two to make England look like he was wrong, or the head of a key research centre for the conservative side of politics has made a very basic stuff up of his research.

The theme running through Cater’s polemic is that experts are sometimes wrong, and he uses his wrong-headed analysis of England’s statements as an example. The irony bleeds.

Cater also quotes former UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Robert Watson to insinuate that the IPCC authors might be biased.

No one expects experts to be perfect, but as Robert Watson — a former IPCC chairman — has pointed out, the errors follow a pattern. “The mistakes all appear to have gone in the direction of making it seem like climate change is more serious by overstating the impact,” he said after the failure of the Copenhagen conference. “That is worrying.”

That quote comes from a 2010 article in The Times. When asked about that article, Watson later complained that the reporters had “distorted” his views and that he did not believe IPCC authors were biased, as might be inferred from the story and also from Cater’s quote.

Cater also pulls out well worn insinuations that the planet is not warming without mentioning that the 15 hottest years on record have all occurred from 1998 onwards.  Last year, 2014, was likely the hottest of them all.

Cater quotes a 1988 conference in Toronto where, he says, “experts warned temperatures would rise by between 1.5C and 4.5C by 2050. With 27 years gone and 35 to go the rise is barely a quarter of a degree.”

Now here’s that conference statement:

There has been an observed increase of globally-averaged temperature of 0.5C in the past century which is consistent with theoretical greenhouse gas predictions. The accelerating increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, if continued, will probably result in a rise in the mean surface temperature of the Earth of 1.5 to 4C before the middle of the next century.

From the statement, it’s not clear if the writers were referring to an extra “1.5C to 4C” based on pre-industrial temperatures (the usual analogue for those sorts of statements), an extra “1.5C to 4C” from 1988 or an extra “1.5C to 4C” on top of the 0.5C.

The world has already warmed about about 0.89C since the the beginning of the 20th century.

Cater doesn’t mention that in the same section of the conference paper, the authors write that “natural variability of the atmosphere and climate will continue and be superimposed on the long-term trend” which is pretty much what’s been happening over the last decade or so – an issue which scientists have been keenly studying.

Another of Cater’s handpicked experts is Rupert Darwall – a fellow climate science denialist who is quoted via this 2013 column from the Wall Street Journal.

Darwall once wrote a climate science denial book, but is a former investment banker with no peer reviewed climate science publications to his name.  Darwall has also written a couple of reports in recent years for tobacco company Phillip Morris on the issue of plain packaging.

When it comes to anyone who writes about climate change in the opinion pages of The Australian, to quote Cater, “it’s troubling how often they get it wrong”.


University of Western Australia Cancels $4 Million Federal Government Contract For Bjorn Lomborg’s Consensus Center

lomborg clean coal

Bjorn Lomborg – cancelled

As you might know, I’ve written plenty about climate science contrarian Bjorn Lomborg.

I’ve investigated the funding of his US think-tank on DeSmog and also analysed – twicehis methods on The Guardian.

A $4 million federal government grant to bring his dubious methodology to the University of Western Australia kicked off a storm with protests among academics, students and the broader academic community.

News just in though that UWA has cancelled Lomborg’s contract.  In a statement from the university,  Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson defended Lomborg, but said:

Whilst I respect the right of staff to express their views on this matter, as all universities should be places for open and honest sharing and discussion of ideas, in this case, it has placed the University in a difficult position.

Therefore, it is with great regret and disappointment that I have formed the view that the events of the past few weeks places the Centre in an untenable position as it lacks the support needed across the University and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers.

I have today spoken to the Federal Government and Bjorn Lomborg advising them of the barriers that currently exist to the creation of the Centre and the University’s decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the government.

Mr Johnson sent the same statement out in an email to staff this afternoon.




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Vale Dr Michael Raupach

Mike RaupachJust heard the very sad news of the death from cancer of climate change scientist Dr Michael Raupach.

Mike was the director of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University and something of a giant among climate change researchers.

Over the years, I’ve called and emailed Mike many times to check this, that and the other. He was one of my first “contacts” on climate science.

From my perspective, I always appreciated his candour, lack of pretension and his unwillingness to speak outside his realm of expertise. I also appreciated his patience in explaining what the science did and did not say in the face of my barrage of often confused questioning.

Last year I asked a bunch of climate scientists about the state of the public discussion. What were the things that bugged them most?  Mike’s response was typically thoughtful.

The greatest cause for sorrow is the widespread inability of the public discussion to recognise the whole picture.

Much of the political discourse reduces the complexities of climate change to political football (“axe the tax”); much media reporting sees only the hook to today’s passing story; many interest groups want to use climate change to proselytise for their particular get-out-of-jail free card (nuclear power, carbon farming).

All of this misses or trivialises the real, systemic significance of climate change: that humankind is encountering the finitude of our planet, confronting the need to share and protect our endowment from nature, and realising that much will have to change to make this possible.

The Australian Science Media Centre is posting tributes to Mike. Thoughts with Mike’s family, colleagues and friends.


Coal is super awesome, says coal industry spokesman

Coal - one of the greatest products of all time.  Better even than leaf blowers.

Coal – one of the greatest products of all time. Better even than leaf blowers.

THE Australian newspaper has run a free advertisement today for the coal industry in the form of an op-ed column by a leading industry figure that says that coal is one of the best things ever.

And no I’m not exaggerating.

New South Wales Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee, a former advisor to several high-ranking Liberal Party politicians including the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott, writes in The Australian that coal is “one of the greatest overall products in ­history” and is just totally awesome (he didn’t use the word awesome, that was me).

Galilee’s column is the latest repetition of the industry’s favourite PR line that coal can end global poverty.

Tony Abbott,  the environment minister Greg Hunt and the Treasurer Joe Hockey have all used this coal industry line in recent weeks.

I’ve written about the industry’s attempt to lobby the G20 for The Guardian and looked at Hockey’s recent contribution for DeSmogBlog. You should go and read those pieces because they are among the greatest overall products blogs in history.

In The Australian, Galilee uses the issue of indoor air pollution in developing countries to try and push his case that coal is super-awesome and is an entirely ethical investment for people to make. He writes:

Affordable and reliable, coal-driven energy is the best answer to global poverty. Almost three billion people have no access to electricity. For these people, “clean energy” means not having to cook their food or heat their homes using gathered wood or animal dung. Cooking in this way emits black soot, damaging air quality inside homes, with associated health problems and millions of premature deaths each year.

Cooking indoors over an open fire or with a crappy stove is a major health problem.  The World Health Organization says about three billion people in the world are cooking and heating their homes like this, and it’s responsible for about four million deaths annually.

Here’s the “key fact” as it is presented on the WHO’s information page about health and indoor air pollution, which refers to the burning of wood and animal dung. But see if you can spot the key detail that Galilee studiously left out.

Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.

That’s right.  The burning of coal indoors in the developing world is actually a part of this environmental health problem. Perhaps Galilee thought that this fact might muddy his argument somewhat?  Best to leave it out.

But actually, the immediate solution for people dying and suffering from indoor air-pollution is not to hook them up to a coal-fired power generator, but to provide those people with an efficient cooking and heating stove that reduces exposure to harmful pollutants – regardless of the fuel they use.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves says:

Clean, efficient, durable, safe, and affordable stoves are – along with clean fuels and other products like chimneys and heat retention cookers – central to most solutions to the health, environmental, and other risks inherent in cooking with fire.

Galilee’s argument is disingenuous. The problem of indoor air pollution is not really the fuel at all – whether that be dung or wood or coal – but the way that it is being burned.

Later, Galilee has a brief moment of pragmatism when he writes that a “full range of energy sources” will be needed to meet the rising demand for energy in developing countries. He writes:

All have their impacts and risks, including coal. Hydro requires the building of dams to harness rivers. Solar and wind need large scale manufacturing pro­cesses, steel, chemicals and other inputs, as well as back-up power systems, and large land areas for panels and turbines. Oil and gas have impacts, as does nuclear.

They do all have their impacts, but those impacts don’t all become equal just by putting them in the same paragraph. Anyone thinking climate change yet?  The World Bank is:

Climate change is a fundamental threat to development in our lifetime. If we do not confront climate change, we will not end poverty

Galilee has to somehow work out how his totally awesome product can end poverty at the same time as being the chief contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that are a “fundamental threat to development in our lifetime”.


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What The Australian edited out of their report linking fossil fuel burning to climate extremes

Please see update below before you read the post below.

The Associated Press is one of the world’s biggest and oldest news agency’s providing copy to papers and media websites all over the world.

Earlier this week they filed a report about a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Association which carried 22 studies looking at the link between 16 extreme weather events around the world and human-caused climate change.

I’ve written about five of the studies that looked at Australia’s record hot year of 2013 for my Planet Oz blog on The Guardian.

But anyway, back to AP, which ran a news story about the special edition earlier this week.  The AP report had 19 paragraphs. Paragraphs eight, nine and 10 read like this.

The report seeks to find how much and how man-made warming has influenced the weather, said NOAA research meteorologist Martin Hoerling, an editor of the report.

The influence on Australia’s hottest year in more than a century is glaring, the report’s editors said.

“It’s almost impossible” to explain Australia’s hot 2013 without climate change, said Peter Stott of the United Kingdom’s meteorology office, another report editor.

Now you might know (because I’ve written a fair bit on it) that The Australian newspaper has been on a bit of a mission of late to publish the non-peer-reviewed musings of a climate science denialist who claims Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has been fiddling its temperature record to show warming.

It just happens to be the same temperature dataset that BoM used to declare 2013 the hottest year on record and the same record that shows Australia has warmed almost a degree in the last 100 years or so (it’s not the only data set that shows this and it’s not the only analysis that shows this either).

So when The Australian ran the Associated Press story about the studies it decided to leave out a few paragraphs. See if you can guess some of them. Go on, I dare you. I double dare you. I double denial dare you to guess.

OK, I’ll tell you.

They left out those three paragraphs above, two of which were the only ones exclusively discussing Australia.

You might think those paragraphs would be the ones most relevant to readers in Australia, seeing as they are the bits talking about Australia, and The Australian is published in Australia (the clue is in the masthead).

But what do I know?

UPDATE: OK – I owe someone an apology.  My criticism was unwarranted (on this occasion) but I’ve kept the post as is rather than delete it, just to show I’m able to eat humble pie when required. Seth Borenstein from Associated Press says that The Australian ran an earlier take of his AP story before the comments from scientists were added.



The Australian Newspaper’s War On The Bureau of Meteorology

In the space of a two weeks, The Australian newspaper has published 10 stories attacking the Bureau of Meteorology with claims the government agency has been fiddling its temperature data to show more warming than actually exists.

BoM scientists have been doing this, according to the chief protagonist of the story climate sceptic Jennifer Marohasy, because it fits more neatly with the narrative that the world is warming.

It’s a conspiracy.

Now ten stories is a lot of reading, so allow me to summarise what’s been going on for you.

The Australian newspaper has published the claims of climate science sceptics that government scientists are fiddling temperature data with the express purpose of making things appear warmer than they are and that BoM is being secretive.

The Australian newspaper doesn’t tell readers that almost every single claim being made has been discussed at length in previous journal papers and technical reports, published or written by BoM, leaving only the thinly veiled suggestion of a conspiracy, which nobody has any evidence for because it’s not there.

As I’ve explained before, Marohasy is a former free market think tank researcher who is now at Central Queensland University with her work paid for by the foundation of a climate science sceptic.

None of the claims made by Marohasy have been published in a peer reviewed journal, despite the fact that since January she has found time to write repeatedly to government ministers, has spoken at the Sydney Institute and flown to a conference for climate sceptics in Las Vegas – all the while making the same accusations.

Lloyd’s reporting, some of it branded “Exclusive”, has been full of curiosities (I’ve documented a few in a previous post and on The Guardian) some of which give the reader the impression that there’s more to a particular aspect of the story than there actually is.

For example, he has used quotes and reported speech to suggest that BoM has not published particular details about methods used in its ACORN-SAT temperature series, when, as I demonstrated here, it clearly has.

In Lloyd’s first story on 23 August headlined Heat is on over weather bureau revising record, Lloyd wrote that: “In correspondence, Marohasy was told by NASA the Amberley data was adjusted to take account of historic temperature records at nearby stations.”

The idea that Marohasy has been communicating with NASA lends an air of credibility.

But it turns out that the extent of that “correspondence” was an exchange that Marohasy had on Twitter with Gavin Schmidt, who is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies but who’s Twitter feed isn’t an official NASA account.

During the exchange, Schmidt told Marohasy: “Assuming change => ‘corruption’ w/o need to deal w/inhomogenieties is simply posturing”.

This part of the non-existent “NASA correspondence” didn’t make it into Lloyd’s story.

Few are following Lloyd’s story, although there was some support from the cat whisperer Ken Ring with a post on his Yahoo NZ blog.

Much of Lloyd’s content appears to be being prompted by claims from climate sceptic bloggers.  If this is The Australian’s modus operandi, then Graham Lloyd could publish an entire newspaper every day based on unfounded and repeated claims of climate sceptics that are made on denialist blogs.

One of those bloggers, Perth-based JoNova, even says as much in a blog post that appeared an hour after The Australian published its latest story. Nova wrote:

Behind the scenes emails are abuzz among the independent BOM audit team at the moment, and it’s remarkable how quickly they are being converted into the media stories.

Emails from climate science sceptics being converted into stories for the Murdoch-owned News Corp Australia’s flagship newspaper.  Cutting edge stuff eh?

In the latest story – Bureau of Meteorology ‘adding mistakes’ with data modelling – Lloyd bases his article on quotes from David Stockwell, who we are told is a “widely published expert” who “has been recognised by the US government as ‘outstanding’ in his academic field.”

Lloyd doesn’t say that this acknowledgment, according to Stockwell’s LinkedIn profile, was given by the US Immigration Service, perhaps because then readers might wonder why this is relevant?

And “widely published” where, exactly?  In some leading journals?  Science perhaps? Nature maybe? And published about what?

Stockwell’s Google Scholar page lists many publications, but those relevant to temperature and climate change appear to have been mostly published either by Stockwell himself, or the journal Energy and Environment.

Energy and Environment is known as the go-to journal for climate science sceptics and has an editorial board that is stacked with contrarians.

One of those is Dr Benny Peiser, the head of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a UK-based climate science denialist group which recently restructured to enable it to engage in political lobbying after complaints about its activities were made to the UK’s Charities Commission. Peiser is a former co-editor of the journal.

There’s no mention either of Stockwell’s role, alongside Marohasy, as a contributing author and/or reviewer for a Heartland Institute project – the NIPCC report.  Stockwell’s affiliation as an adjunct researcher at Central Queensland University, where Marohasy also works, is left out too.

Heartland, for those that don’t know, is a free market think tank in the US that once ran an infamous billboard campaign with a picture of terrorist and murder Ted “unabomber” Kaczynski beside the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?”. Heartland told us:

This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.that suggested people who accepted the science of global warming

Perhaps readers might heavily discount Stockwell if they knew this information?

In Lloyd’s article, Stockwell calls for an audit of the BoM’s temperature record. That’s not new either – Stockwell was saying practically the same thing back in 2012.

But what’s particularly interesting about Lloyd’s coverage is just how many of the complaints made by sceptics in his stories have already been addressed by BoM.

BoM has outlined in a technical report on its website how the homogenisation technique it employs has impacted on the observed warming since the beginning of the last century to the tune of about 0.2C.  Overall, Australia has warmed by 0.9C since 1910.

If BoM is trying to hide things, it’s plainly not doing it very well.

Professor Neville Nicholls of Monash University, who worked at BoM for 35 years with responsibility for making the temperature records more robust, has pointed out that temperature stations historically move or the conditions around them change (vegetation grows, for example, or buildings go up or come down) and this can artificially change the temperature readings. He told me on Planet Oz:

Are we supposed to just ignore that? A scientist can’t ignore those effects. It’s not science to just go ahead and plot that raw data.

In a response of sorts, Nicholls has written a story for The Conversation where he points out how easy it is for anyone to take a look at the raw data because it is all still available on the BoM website.

A retired scientist Bill Johnstone entered the comments section of Nicholl’s story.  Johnston was quoted in an earlier Lloyd that claimed one of the temperature sites – Rutherglen – had never moved, even though its data had been through a homogenisation process at BoM.

Marohasy called for “heads to roll” and claimed she had evidence that the temperature station there had “never been moved”. In The Australian, Johnston was quoted to support Marohasy’s claim because Johnston had worked at the place in question.

But on The Conversation, Johnstone wrote that in fact he only worked at Rutherglen on and off for a few years at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s. It seems he wasn’t even based there.

I’m aware that the bureau has documentary evidence that the Rutherglen site moved sometime before the 1970s.  So Marohasy is calling for people to be sacked based partly on the word of a retired scientist who worked there four decades after the period in question.

Again in today’s story, BoM makes clear that it has a policy of not commenting on scientific claims made about its work that are published outside the peer reviewed literature.

Graham Lloyd and his happy band of climate denialist cheerleaders and content providers seem to want the science to be carried out on blogs instead.

Here, for the record, is the extent of the coverage so far.

August 23 – Heat is on over weather bureau revising records (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

August 26 – ‘Amateurs’ challenging Bureau of Meteorology climate figures (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

August 27 – Climate records contradict Bureau of Meteorology (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

August 29 – Bureau of Meteorology told to be more transparent (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

August 29 – Groupthink reigns in climate change research (Maurice Newman, The Australian)

August 30 – Weatherman’s records detail heat that ‘didn’t happen’ (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

August 30 – Distorting the data on our changeable climate (Adelaide Advertiser, The Australian’s Chris Kenny)

September 2 – Bureau of Meteorology defended over temperature records by climate scientists (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

September 3 – Heat off Bourke after Bureau of Meteorology revision (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

September 4 – ‘More time’ to find Rutherglen temperature record (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

September 5 – Bureau of Meteorology ‘adding mistakes’ with data modelling (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)

No doubt there’ll be more to come. I’ll try and keep the list updated.

UPDATE: BoM has released a second media statement in response to the attacks from The Australian. It includes the graph below that shows what happens when you overlay the “homegenised” data and “unhomogenised” data. It’s a graph that rips a considerable chunk of guts from the Marohasy’s central argument.

Average temperatures in Australia from 1910 through 2013 using temperature readings that have been both homogenised (red) and unhomogenised (blue).

Average temperatures in Australia from 1910 through 2013 using temperature readings that have been both homogenised (red) and unhomogenised (blue).


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Climate change conspiracy theories and the ABC radio interview with John Cook that never was

a radio

A radio yesterday, which didn’t broadcast an interview with University of Queensland climate change communication fellow John Cook

In the space of six days, The Australian newspaper has published five news stories and an opinion piece attacking the credibility of the Australian government’s weather and climate agency, the Bureau of Meteorology.

I’ve covered the guts of the early stories over on my Planet Oz blog for The Guardian.

But the core of it is that Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a former Institute of Public Affairs free market think tankerer, is claiming that the BoM has, in her words, “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”.

Marohasy is a researcher at Central Queensland University with her work funded by another climate change “sceptic”.

She has has not published her analysis in any journal, yet The Australian’s Graham Lloyd has deemed the claims of a climate science sceptic on blogs worthy enough of five news pieces.

I just want to deal with his latest story, that comments on the BoM’s process of transparency.  The story includes this bit:

The bureau has been under fire for not making publicly available the methodology used for homogenisation.

Michael Asten from the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University said confidence in BOM’s data would increase “if and when BOM publishes or supplies its homogenisation algorithms, a step which would be quite consistent with existing ­requirements of the better peer-reviewed journals.’’

BOM said its methods had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals but did not say where or in what form.

This claim is – oh what’s the word – bollocks (sorry kids).

algo bom

Click to engorge this algorithm

Here is a page on the BoM’s website which goes to great lengths to provide information on how the agency deals with the data from its hundreds of temperature stations.

What’s more, it appears neither Lloyd or Asten are prepared to actually look at the peer reviewed literature where the “homogenisation algorithms” are hidden away in plain sight – or at least in the sight of anyone interested enough to want to look for it.

Here, in the peer reviewed journal International Journal of Climatology, is a paper from BoM’s Blair Trewin discussing the methodology and the mathematical tools (algorithms) that the bureau has used as part of their method to construct their high quality data set, the ACORN-SAT.

If you really don’t believe me, here is grab passage on the right from the actual paper in question.. you likely won’t understand it, but this matters not. It’s the details of the algorithm in a journal, linked to from the BoM website, that some people apparently can’t see.

I argued in my Guardian post that Marohasy and, by extension, Graham Lloyd were spreading little more than a conspiracy theory.

I say this because what’s necessary for Marohasy’s claim that “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming” is important to dwell on.

For her claim to be true, she needs evidence that lots of scientists have got together – perhaps under a tree or in a secret bunker somewhere – and hatched a plan to throw away all of their scientific integrity and just fiddle the numbers.

Marohasy has no evidence for this happening whatsoever and so is left with innuendo.

Marohasy gave an interview with ABC Goulburn Murray where she discussed her claims. But part way through the interview the line goes dead. She called back and continued the interview, continuing her claims of a “cover up”.

Marohasy has written about this on her blog.

I was cut-off, before I got to explain too much.

I waited, assuming the line had dropped out. But after no one phoned me back I rang back myself. I phoned ABC Goulburn Murray and was put on hold. Guess whom Bronwen (O’Shea) was now interviewing?

Answer: the infamous John Cook, a faux sceptic from the University of Queensland.

Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.

Now for those that don’t know, John Cook is the founder of the Skeptical Science website and the Climate Communication Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.

Another sceptic blogger JoNova also commented on the ABC interview with Cook.

“We’re looking forward to seeing John Cook explain that on his blog,” she wrote.

One commenter said:

The plug would have been pulled by the Producer (the person who sits in the glass box and fiddles with the knobs and sliders), who obviously panicked when the interview, based on the Producer’s questions, did not go according to plan.

Making the second mistake, of asking John Cook to say anything sensible, was the icing on the cake, that hopefully will cost the Producer their job (although I doubt it).

On Marohasy’s blog, another commenter wondered:

John Cook gets media dispensation everywhere. One can’t imagine why; his consensus paper is drivel; and did he really say this:

“Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.”

One can only hope it is different from everywhere else; that’s the point; even the AGW scientists [sic] admit to great regional variation; or at least they use to; who knows what they are saying.

One also wonders whether Cook rang in and Jennifer was shunted to give way to this VIP [sic] or whether the ABC rang him?

Well, I was keen to know if John Cook had been looking at the issue of temperature records. I called John to ask him about his ABC interview.

The conversation went something like this.

Me: How was the interview on ABC Goulburn Murray?

John: What interview…?

That’s right. John Cook was not interviewed by ABC Goulburn Murray and he has apparently never met or spoken to the host in question, Bronwen O’Shea.

John even offered an alibi! He was with his mum and before anyone asks, no I’ve not called John Cook’s mum to verify that the person she was with that morning was actually John Cook, her son.

Just to be doubly sure, I asked the ABC for a response.

I was told that they did not interview John Cook, but did have a talkback caller who came on the line after the phone dropped out and this was “David from Sandy Creek” which… well… sort of sounds like John Cook… but not much!

Cook is the bête noire of climate sceptics due to his research showing 97 per cent of climate science papers agree it’s caused by humans. Cook apparently looms so large in the minds of some sceptics that they hear him when he’s not even there.

The sixth story in The Australian comes from Maurice Newman, the Prime Minister’s top business advisor, headlined Groupthink reigns in climate research.

Newman’s piece is the usual bilge but it does include this specific claim about the United States, where Newman hints that the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also fiddles its temperature data.

Now, 1998 is the hottest on record in the US.

Actually no.  The hottest year for continental United States was 2012, smashing the previous hottest year – 1998 – by a whole degree fahrenheit.

You’re shocked by these errors aren’t you? Shocked I say.


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