Archive for category sceptics
Maurice Newman, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pick as chairman of his business advisory panel, is back with yet more conspiratorial climate science denial in The Australian.
It’s full of the usual stuff about climate change zealots, global warming having stopped (it hasn’t) and how sceptics are being victimised.
But I just want to look at one point Maurice Newman makes.
In the op-ed, he says this:
We learn from a voluntary independent auditor, Ken Stewart, that after analysing 84 out of 104 Bureau of Meteorology sites, the effect of adjustments made to create the official Australian temperature record is an increase in the warming trend for minima of 66.6 per cent and 13 per cent for maxima… The data included 30 years of temperatures from Cobar airport from 1962, despite it not opening until 1993. Always, the trend is to warming.
The official Australia temperature record that Newman is referring to is called ACORN-SAT - it stands for the Australian Climate Observations Reference Network and is maintained and managed by the Bureau of Meteorology.
When Newman says “the data included 30 years of temperatures from Cobar airport” it can’t have, because the Cobar Airport monitoring station is not part of ACORN-SAT as anyone armed with an internet search engine can find out.
The BoM even has a document describing each of the sites that make up ACORN-SAT. The document describes the site at Cobar included in the ACORN-SAT.
Easy mistake to make though, no, if you’re not intimate with this particular central New South Wales town ? Not really. BoM says in the document:
There is a separate site (048237) at the airport which is not used in ACORN-SAT.
Elsewhere in Newman’s op-ed he also flails at people who “resort to authority” and “personal abuse”.
Newman then resorts to the authority of a scientist who claims there’s more evidence for creationism than there is for evolution and who says people who used the term “denier” to describe people who deny science should themselves be described as “global warming Nazis“.
Maybe instead Newman could have resorted to the authority of the BoM who could at least have pointed him at the intertubes?
Australia’s Attorney-General Senator George Brandis gave an interview a couple of weeks ago where he got all upset about people who say the science of climate change is “settled”.
Brandis said people who made this claim were “ignorant” and “medieval” and ventured further into the defence of climate science deniers over a few glasses of who-knows-what with Brendan O’Neill, the editor of the online magazine Spiked ( a new incarnation of a magazine that used to be called Living Marxism) .
On my Planet Oz Guardian blog, I went to visit Brandis to warn him he might have got his alternate and actual universes transposed.
Brandis had tried to paint climate science deniers as poor sidelined victims at a time when they’re all over Australia’s dominant media outlet, News Corp.
Peter Ellerton, a lecturer in critical thinking at the University of Queensland, put it succinctly when he wrote on The Conversation: “Brandis has confused the right to speak an idea with the non-existent right that the idea be given credibility.”
Brandis hopes that our natural repulsion at excluding a particular view from the public arena will be aroused in support of climate science denial. This, however, ignores a vital characteristic of public debate: when ideas suffer body blows of sustained scientific refutation any attempt to maintain their status by appeal to an equal right of hearing is also an attempt to exempt them from evidential requirements and argumentative rigour.
Brandis reserved particular disdain for Senator Penny Wong, who he has apparently crowned the “high priestess of political correctness”.
So I went back to some of the exchanges between Brandis and Wong recorded in the Australian Parliamentary Hansard. It turns out that nobody should have been surprised at what Brandis had said. Read the rest of this entry »
WHEN tobacco companies began to understand that science linking tobacco smoking to lung cancer could have an impact on their industry profits, they began to produce another product – doubt.
Spreading doubt about the science could water-down public concern, cut the motivation to act and reduce the risk of policies that affect your bottom line.
Video blogger and journalist Peter Sinclair – of Climate Crock of the Week fame – has put together this new video showing the at times startling similarities between the denial of the health impacts from smoking and the denial of the science of human-caused climate change.
IF you were a newspaper editor, who would you accept as a commentator on climate change science and the role of the media?
Perhaps a climate scientist? Maybe a journalist, editor or media academic? Maybe someone who has researched either of these fields?
If you’re The Australian newspaper, where more than half the comment columns are sceptical of the dangers of human-caused climate change, then apparently a professor of medicine specialising in Inflammatory Bowel Disease will do the trick.
So it’s hardly surprising that the column from earlier this week, written by Professor Tim Florin of the University of Queensland, should be littered with errors and misrepresentations.
Under the headline “We must be open to climate views“, Florin starts with a made-up quote attributed to me and then goes rapidly downhill from there.
He then goes on to accuse The Guardian of engaging in censorship and that the newspaper, together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is only “subtly different” from the kind of thing that went on in Stalinist Russia.
Florin appears to have been sparked into his diatribe by a piece I wrote recently on my Planet Oz blog, where I discussed a recent decision by the LA Times to file in the rubbish bin any letters from readers claiming there’s no evidence that humans cause climate change.
In the very first line of the column, Florin writes:
LAST month, The Guardian’s Graham Readfearn lamented that “wrongheaded and simplistic views on climate denialism are a regular feature on the letters page of many newspapers”, including The Australian.
But here’s the thing. That sentence – the one in quote marks – appears nowhere in my original story. I didn’t say that views on “climate denialism” appeared in letters. What I actually wrote, after providing an example of a letter in The Australian from a climate science denier, was this
Wrongheaded and simplistic views like this are a regular feature on the letters page of The Australian newspaper and no doubt hundreds of other newspapers around the world where readers respond to stories about climate change.
Doctoring quotes which change the meaning of what was originally written is considered very bad form in journalism. But then, Florin’s not a journalist, so how would he know? At least he left a second quote alone, where I asked an open-ended question about whether or not newspapers had a responsibility to keep pseudo-science off its pages.
Here are some things which Florin then goes on to pontificate on, from his lofty position as an expert on neither of the subjects he is writing about.
The Guardian should be leading discussion, not playing the censorship card.
The Guardian should desist from using “denier” when describing those people who disagree with the current paradigm as broadcast by itself, the IPCC and other media outlets.
Had Florin checked, he might have found that since writing my original Planet Oz blog, The Guardian’s Letters editor Nigel Willmott has actually addressed the issue of publishing letters from people who deny the evidence of human-caused climate change. There is no blanket ban, but rather a sensible editorial policy. He said:
So I would be unhappy about an absolute ban on those who might be grouped together as climate change deniers, but would need to see a strong case to run anything from them (and know something about what commercial interests they might be linked to).
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Letters editors Julie Lewis and Marc McEvoy have also since outlined their views on publishing letters from people who deny the existence of evidence. They wrote
Climate change deniers or sceptics are free to express opinions and political views on our page but not to misrepresent facts. This applies to all our contributors on any subject. On that basis, a letter that says, “there is no sign humans have caused climate change” would not make the grade for our page.
Florin then goes on to attack the concept of a scientific consensus on climate change, claiming that “consensus is not the way that the scientific method works” and that “consensus is anathema to the scientific method”. This is a common argument from climate change sceptics.
Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society (founded in 1660), tackled it in conversation with climate science denier and blogger James Delingpole. When Delingpole tried to tell Sir Paul Nurse that “science has never been about consensus”, Nurse responded that consensus was just simply “the position of the experts at the time.” He then offered an analogy:
Say you had cancer and you went to be treated – there would be a consensual position on your treatment and it is very likely that you would follow that consensual treatment because you would trust the clinical scientists there. Now the analogy is that you could say you had done your research into it and I disagree with that consensual position – but that would be a very unusual position for you to take. I think sometimes the consensual position can be criticised when in fact it is most likely to be the correct position.
Florin then offers a list of “reputable climate scientists” who he says disagree with the “IPCC paradigm”. Included in the list are Nigel Calder (not a climate scientist, but a journalist), Freeman Dyson (not a climate scientist, but a physicist) and Stephen McIntyre (not a climate scientist, but does have 30 years in the mining industry).
Florin also lists another Ivar Giaever, who isn’t a climate scientist. Giaever did win a Nobel prize in Physics, even though Florin says he won the laureate for “chemistry”.
Also on the list is atmospheric physicist Professor Richard Lindzen, who is Jewish.
I mention this only because Florin complains that when I and others use the term “denier” to describe – well – people who deny the existence of evidence, that in fact this is being done to make some comparison with Holocaust denial.
This, from a writer who only a few sentences earlier had said the IPCC and The Guardian were only “subtly different” to the ideologically driven anti-science approach adopted by Joseph Stalin in the early to mid-20th century.
Lindzen isn’t quite so concerned with the term “denier”. When asked in a BBC interview about such labels, Lindzen said:
I actually like denier. That’s closer than sceptic.
Later on, Florin claims that the IPCC “has little to say ” on the scientific question of whether the rate of climate change is increasing. It is hard to understand how anyone who had read the most recent IPCC reports could come to this conclusion. Here are a few statements from the latest IPCC Summary for Policy Makers (SPM)
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.
Changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950. It is very likely that the number of cold days and nights has decreased and the number of warm days and nights has increased on the global scale. It is likely that the frequency of heat waves has increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia. There are likely more land regions where the number of heavy precipitation events has increased than where it has decreased.
The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence).
Florin also asks “is a significant portion of climate change determined by human activity?” The answer, according to the studies which were reviewed by the IPCC, is that pretty much all of the warming observed since the 1950s was caused by human emissions. Here it is in IPCC speak:
The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.
Florin also states confidently that computer modelling cited by the IPCC “has consistently grossly overestimated its (CO2) effect on warming”.
This illustration from the SPM shows how computer models reconstruct the 20th century climate. Notice how the actual measurements (the black lines) sit “grossly” somewhere in the middle of the model estimates.
You might also notice the blue parts. This shows that when you remove human influences from the models, they fail to recreate the warming.
Florin’s column is, of course, just one in a long line of stories published in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Australia newspapers which misrepresent what the actual science says on climate change.
Research from Wendy Bacon, Professorial Fellow at the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at Sydney’s University of Technology, has found that just over half of all the comment articles published in The Australian either reject or suggest there is legitimate doubt about the central consensus of climate science.
Professor Florin has decided to venture into the realm of climate change science and journalism to offer a poorly informed opinion.
I suspect if a climate scientist or a journalist wandered into his surgery rooms and started to offer advice about gastroenterology, he’d rightly tell them to shove it somewhere.
A LEADING association for climate scientists has called on one of Australia’s highest profile business leaders to apologise for accusing their profession of lacking integrity.
David Murray, former head of the Commonwealth Bank and Australia’s Future Fund, told the ABC Lateline television news programme earlier this week that “there’s been a breakdown in integrity” in the science of climate change.
The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society has issued a statement saying it was “disturbed” by the remarks of Murray, who was in charge of $75 billion of government assets during the final year of his six years as the chairman of the Future Fund.
Mr Murray said he believed “the climate problem is severely overstated” which led interviewer Emma Alberici to point out the strong findings of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In an open letter, AMOS president Blair Trewin writes:
The Society regards the remarks of Mr. Murray as being a serious slur on the integrity of the many Australian and international authors of the IPCC report, and views them as highly offensive to those authors and to the profession at large. The Society calls upon Mr. Murray to withdraw the remarks.
During the segment, Mr Murray was asked what it would take to “convince him” over the science of climate change. Murray responded:
When I see some evidence of integrity amongst the scientists themselves. I often look at systems and behaviours as a way of judging something, and in this case, to watch the accusations that fly between these people suggests there’s been a breakdown in integrity in the science.
The letter from AMOS added:
The IPCC reports are an outstanding example of international science co-operation, rigour and transparency. They are subjected to multiple levels of review by experts both inside and outside the climate community, with all review comments and the authors’ responses to them being made publicly available.
In 2011, Murray was reported to have said that there was “no correlation” between carbon dioxide and global warming and that the world’s glaciers were not melting. The latest IPCC report found that between 1993 and 2009 about 275 billion tonnes of ice were melting from the world’s glaciers every year.
Murray is being touted as playing a lead role in a Federal government inquiry into Australia’s $5 trillion finance industry.
To read the full transcript of the interview, visit ABC Lateline. No doubt there’ll be more to come on this story.
COMEDIAN, musician, performer, atheist and other labels Tim Minchin was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Western Australia a few days back.
In his address to the audience, he had this to say about climate change, his cousin Nick and Australia’s newish prime Minister Tony Abbott:
The idea that many Australians – including our new PM and my distant cousin Nick Minchin – believe that the science of anthropogenic global is controversial, is a powerful indicator of the extent of our failure to communicate. The fact that 30 per cent of the people in this room just bristled, is further evidence still. That fact that that bristling is more to do with politics than science is even more despairing.
Watch Minchin’s full address below. For a bit more on Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott and the “politics” of climate change denial, go over to DeSmogBlog for my latest.
IN a column this week in The Australian, writer Gary Johns tried to argue that the science of human-caused climate change was “contentious”, that climate change might not be that bad and that we shouldn’t bother to cut down on emissions.
The Australian newspaper has a record for favouring climate science denialism and contrarianism above genuine expertise.
Columns and coverage like this come along in the pages of the Rupert Murdoch-owned press with such regularity that you might think [blush] that they’ve got some kind of an agenda. Honestly, you could really think that.
In the latest column – “Let’s get realistic about reducing carbon emissions” – Johns writes approvingly of a project called the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) while finding disparaging remarks about the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Johns doesn’t mention that the NIPCC is run by the fossil-fuel funded Heartland Institute in the United States, which advocates free market ideology within which businesses should be allowed to do pretty much whatever they like, such as using the atmosphere as a free waste dump.
But in one section of Johns’ column, he quotes and paraphrases Professor Richard Muller, a respected American physicist who was once sceptical of human-caused climate change.
As reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, a couple of years ago Muller led a team based at the University of California which analysed more than 14 million temperature readings from 44,455 measuring sites from around the world going back to the mid 18th century.
Professor Muller found the world had warmed by 1.5C in the last 50 years and that burning fossil fuels and other human industrial processes were “almost entirely” the cause.
I emailed Professor Muller about the column to ask if he felt his words had been fairly represented.
First, I asked Professor Muller about this section of the column. Read the rest of this entry »
Questionnaire for wannabe science minister Dennis Jensen – which of these Lord Monckton statements do you actually agree with?
DENNIS Jensen, recently re-elected Liberal member for Tangney, wants to be Australia’s new science minister, telling Fairfax Media that he has some “unique attributes” that he can bring to the new but not-yet-announced Tony Abbott ministry.
One of those attributes is that he doesn’t accept the position of the world’s science academies and Australia’s CSIRO that climate change is caused mainly by humans burning fossil fuels and chopping down trees and that this might be bad.
Jensen told interviewer Jonathan Swan that just because 97 per cent of research papers published in scientific journals agree that humans are causing climate change, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right.
“The argument of consensus is a flawed argument,” Jensen said.
When fellow climate science denier James Delingpole tried to make this very same argument to Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, it didn’t turn out too well for Delingpole. Let’s watch.
Anyway, in Dr Jensen’s pitch to be science minister, he also spoke in approving terms of climate science denier Lord Christopher Monckton, saying that most of the things which Lord Monckton has said are “entirely reasonable”.
“Some of it I don’t agree with but on the whole a lot of what he says is in my view correct,” Jensen said. Now I’m curious. Which of the things that Lord Monckton has said, does Dr Jensen agree with?
So here is an open invitation going out to Dr Jensen (hi Dennis – this is just for you) to answer this little questionnaire I’ve put together. These questions are all things which Lord Monckton has said in recent years. Which of these do you agree with, Dr Jensen?
- Science should only be practised by people who adhere to a religion, preferably of the Christian variety – yes or no?
- The former ABC chairman Maurice Newman is “shrimp-like” – yes or no?
- The “expert reviewers” for the IPCC are “appointed” to carry out that role by someone other than the person themselves – yes or no?
- The world’s climate scientists and advocates for action are just trying to “stamp out democracy” – yes or no?
- The cleanest form of energy is “coal” – yes or no?
- Lord Monckton is a Nobel Peace Laureate – yes or no?
- The BBC once had an Argentinian service and Lord Monckton used this to help the UK win the Falklands War – yes or no?
- Some “super rich” sceptics should be encouraged to buy into media organisations so that climate sceptics can get more coverage – yes or no?
- The number of people being killed by a misplaced belief in climate change is, if anything, greater than the number of people killed by Hitler – yes or no?
- President Barack Obama’s birth certificate published on the White House website is a fake – yes or no?
- The chances of Barack Obama being born in the United States are “no better than 1 in 62,500,000,000,000,000,000” – yes or no?
- Hospital staff who perform abortions are “butchers” – yes or no?
- Young climate change campaigners are like the “Hitler youth” – yes or no?
- Professor Ross Garnaut’s views on climate change are “fascist” – yes or no?
- Climate change scientists should be prosecuted and locked up – yes or no?
- (added this one an hour after publishing) NASA blew up their own emissions-monitoring satellite – yes or no
I could have asked you a few more questions, Dr Jensen, but I think these will suffice.
I do find it puzzling that you would choose to endorse Lord Monckton in some way, given you once wrote to the Chief Scientist complaining about the state and tone of the climate change debate.
It would be great if you found time to answer these questions. I know that Lord Monckton has said much more on the science of climate chnage, even though he doesn’t bother to put his “theories” to the test through proper peer-review. Skeptical Science has a good summary of Lord Monckton’s science “myths” which you might want to take a look at.
Oh, and congratulations on your re-election.
SHELVES in popular book stores can be undiscerning little buggers, as can the book stores themselves.
For example, I recently had cause to wander through the tightly-bound and bulging aisles of my local Dymocks book store. They have some really quite “special” offerings both online and in-store.
Even though we essentially know that astrology is, for all intents and purposes, basically b******s, I can report that the paperback version of “Practical Astrology” is “in stock”.
Failing that, there’s also “Homeopathy for your Cat” within the pages of which you can find out how magic water can cure your ginger’s urinary tract issue.
Are you a book shopping parent who has “wished for a handbook on each child”? Well tough, because Dymocks has sold out of “Homeopathy and Your Child” so you’ll have to work out your kid’s “physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs” some other way (by the way, I’m not singling out Dymocks here – most of the big high street book sellers also hawk similar enlightenment-crushing garbage).
And there are the books on climate change.
Without any prior knowledge, it’s easy to see how the average punter might be easily fooled by the line-up of books cosying-up in Dymocks and elsewhere. As you can see by the image above, there’s some excellent stuff on offer from well credentialed authors and scientists.
There’s What We Know About Climate Change by MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel. Just beneath, is The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the front lines from Professor Michael Mann, director of Earth System Science at Penn State University, also in the US.
And sharing the same shelf space, is Taxing Air written by Dr Bob Carter, an Australian geologist and advisor to about a dozen climate science denial organisations around the world, and John Spooner, a cartoonist for The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.
Bob Carter’s fringe views on climate change (it’s all natural) make him a favourite of fossil fuel-funded propaganda unit the Heartland Institute and many, many other groups with similarly dismissive views on human-caused climate change and its risks.
Carter was recently let go by James Cook University in Queensland, where he had been an unpaid adjunct professor for over a decade, because he wasn’t pulling his weight.
Carter hinted – and his supporters screamed – that he had been booted out because he was a climate sceptic. I covered that case for DeSmogBlog and also summarised this and other recent goings on for the ABC Science Show.
But back to Taxing Air, which is yet another climate sceptic book with strong links to a conservative “think tank” – in this case, the Institute for Public Affairs, where Dr Carter is the Science Policy Advisor.
The IPA paid for copies to be sent out to Australian members of parliament and has also hosted a launch event for the book. Research has found that almost four out of five climate sceptic books published since the early 80s have links to conservative think tanks.
Dr Carter, it should be noted, has only written one scientific paper on atmospheric climate change, which claimed – wrongly as it turned out – to have found that recent global warming was down to natural cycles of water temperatures in the Pacific. One group of leading climate scientists who analysed carter’s paper concluded that the conclusions he and his co-authors drew were “not supported by their analysis or any physical theory presented in their paper”.
But is Taxing Air any good? Well, I have a copy which I’m still trudging through (I may not get to the end). But one academic who has finished it is Australian Ian Enting, and he is none too impressed. Mathematical physicist Enting (author of the Australian Mathematical Scences Institute book Twisted: The distorted mathematics of greenhouse denial) worked at Australia’s leading science agency, the CSIRO, for 24 years in atmospheric research and modelling of the global carbon cycle.
Enting has analysed the book, describing it as a “polemic” characterised by “half-truths and slanted misrepresentation” and “appalling hypocrisy”.
At one point, Enting’s document notes how one chart in Taxing Air is taken from a leaked draft of the not-yet-published United Nations IPCC Assessment Report 5 (due out in two weeks).
The chart has been altered, Enting’s document notes, removing a shaded area that shows the uncertainty range which, had it been left in, s
hows how climate models agree with the observations within the range of uncertainty. Enting finds dozens of other examples like this.
But my real reason for going into the Brisbane Dymocks store was to hunt out a copy of Killing the Earth To Save It, written by UK-based climate science denialist and wind-farm hater James Delingpole.
In the UK, it was published under the name Watermelons. There was something remarkable about the book which I had read and was keen to confirm.
The book was published by Connor Court, which has published several other climate sceptic books. The editorial board of Connor Court also includes the IPA executive director John Roskam.
The IPA also paid for Delingpole to tour Australia to promote his book in September 2012 – a favour which he returned by running a public appeal for people to donate cash to the Melbourne-based group, which doesn’t reveal its funders but has run a long campaign of climate misinformation.
But none of these are the “remarkable thing” I referred to earlier.
The remarkable thing was an entry in Chapter 8 – “Welcome To The New World Order”. Delingpole continues to spruik on his Daily Telegraph blog, most recently earlier this week. Here’s what Delingpole says on page 174 of my newly purchased copy:
Probably the best analysis of the Club of Rome’s tangible effects on global environmental policy comes courtesy of a website called “The Green Agenda”:
While researching [...] and during my academic studies, I have come across many references to the Club of Rome (CoR), and reports produced by them. Initially I assumed that they were just another high-level environmental think-tank and dismissed the conspiracy theories found on many website claiming that the CoR is a group of global elitists attempting to impose some kind of one world government. I am not a conspiratorial person by nature and was faced with a dilemma when I first read their reports. But it’s all there – in black and white.
So what exactly is “The Green Agenda” which Delingpole tells his readers is offering this leading analysis? Here’s the source of the quote, on the website “The Green Agenda”. And who runs “The Green Agenda”? It is a sister site of The Watchman’s Post - which describes itself as a “Christian/ Messianic End Time Messenger!” based in New Zealand.
That’s right. Delingpole’s “analysis” of a jumped-up conspiracy theory about plans for a one world government come direct from a group of Christian fundamentalists who preach about second comings and “end times”. The watchman’s website details the coming of an “anti-Christ”, “times of distress and tribulation” and “Triads of evil”.
Here’s a taster:
True Christians will be seen at best as ‘insane’ and at worst as worthy of elimination. However, note; the period being introduced at that time and rightly called the ‘Time of Tribulation’ will quickly degenerate into a terrible time of trouble for almost everyone in the whole world, not just believers in Jesus. [We will explain more, later!] We can add with conviction, that we believe the ‘Time of God’s judgmental anger’ is a separate period of time as indicated by the pouring out of the ‘Bowls of Wrath’ when all true Believers will be sovereignly protected! [We will explain later.]
Perhaps it might be worth checking a few more of Delingpole’s sources in “Killing the earth to Save It” which is described by News Corp. columnist Andrew Bolt on the back cover as “wonderful” with “devastating facts and lacerating anecdotes”.
Not just devastating and lacerating, but potentially world ending – apparently – just not in the way Bolt and Delingpole might have expected.
Oh, did I say that Killing the World To Save It and Taxing Air are available in “all good bookshops”?