Climate scientist rappers reveal why they did it

WHEN asked about the key climate change issues, IPCC lead author Professor Roger Jones echoed the concerns of colleagues by saying: “Feedback is like climate change on crack. Denialists deny this in your dreams, Coz climate change means greater extremes.”

“Shit won’t be the norm,” added others.

If only all interviews on climate change could be this colourful, this frank and this… well… lyrical?

Earlier this week, Australian ABC show Hungry Beast screened an original rap video staring nine actual climate scientists, complete with “mutha f******”, a slammin’ gangsta baseline and scores of peer-reviewed science papers and decades of research to back it up.

Since the original rap was posted on YouTube and other blogs (including this one) three days ago , the video has been viewed more than 56,000 times and reposted on sites in the UK, Australia and the US, including the Huffington Post, one of the world’s most popular blog sites.

For a viral online clip which features neither Justin Beiber, Charlie Sheen, Osama Bin Laden or the unlikely and hilarious antics of domesticated cats, this is a remarkable return.

Hungry Beast presenter, comedian Dan Ilic, co-creator of the clip, told me he had “basically blackmailed” the climate scientists several weeks ago into taking part by threatening to “burn a pile of 100 spare tyres” if they didn’t do it. Continue reading “Climate scientist rappers reveal why they did it”

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Climate scientists rap

STATEMENTS from actual climate scientists don’t usually come with a language warning, but this one does. Terribly rude words coming your way, courtesy of a sneak peek of the ABC’s Hungry Beast show, screening tonight, and some actual Australian climate scientists. Not a beard in sight.

Alan Jones impersonator: “The Greenhouse effect is just a theory.. sucker”
Climate scientists: “Yeh, so is gravity. Float away M***** ****”

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Monckton’s climate trickery revealed

CLIMATE Denial Crock of the Week video journalist Peter Sinclair offers some of the most lucid and clear presentations debunking climate change deniers available anywhere.

He’s recently turned his attention to Lord Christopher Monckton, who is heading back to Australia in late June 2011 for a second nationwide tour. See my piece on ABC’s The Drum, which shows how last time, Lord Monckton was backed by some of Australia’s mining royalty.

Sinclair finds that the best way to debunk Monckton, is to use the man himself. This video reveals Monckton’s tricks of cherry-picking data, misrepresenting science papers and using short-term trends. Sinclair forces Monckton to give up his sources and finds him wanting. Sometimes, Monckton seems to just plain make stuff up.

There are three more in Peter Sinclair’s series. Follow the links for parts two, three and four.

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Mining millionaires who supported Monckton’s climate change denial

This post originally appeared on The Drum.

DENIAL of the seriousness of human-caused climate change or the reliability of the science comes in many guises but none are more eccentric, more rhetorical or more consistently wrong than that manifested in the human form of Lord Christopher Monckton.

English hereditary peer Lord Monckton, the Third Viscount of Brenchley, is one of the world’s most charismatic and omnipresent climate change deniers, despite having no science qualifications. He’s coming to Australia. Again.

Among other things, Lord Monckton argues that attempts by Governments and the United Nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and burning fossil fuels are part of a conspiracy to install a world government. In Lord Monckton’s eyes, it’s all a socialist plot. Climate change is not caused by burning fossil fuels and, even if it was, the impact is negligible. No action is required.

Over the last few years as he has toured Australia, the UK and America, working climate scientists have examined and roundly debunked his unique interpretation of climate change science. The Australian science-based blog Skeptical Science currently lists some 75 “Monckton Myths“- each showing how Lord Monckton has misrepresented, misunderstood or misinterpreted the peer-reviewed science.

But as Lord Monckton’s credibility among working climate scientists continues to hover somewhere between zero and the negatives, plans are afoot to fly him to Australia for a repeat of his 2010 nationwide speaking tour, which received much media attention.

In a barely disguised fundraising advertisement, journalist James Massola wrote in his Capital Circle column for The Australian earlier this week how “funds are needed” to finance the tour. Massola helpfully linked to a website with account details for people to deposit money.

But even before the tour’s schedule is established, Lord Monckton has secured his first engagement with a spot at the annual convention of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies in Perth at the end of June. His presentation is titled “Maths Lessons for Climate-Crazed Lawmakers”.

But support for Lord Monckton’s unique brand of climate denial is nothing new for the Australian mining community. At key stages in Lord Monckton’s 2010 tour of Australia, wealthy and respected mining figures were there to lend a hand, provide a forum and, in some cases, to give cash support. Continue reading “Mining millionaires who supported Monckton’s climate change denial”

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The 7PM Project and a dose of climate misinfotainment

This post originally appeared at Crikey.

LAST Monday evening between 7pm and 7.30pm about 755,000 everyday Australian television viewers were told by two people that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels wasn’t worth worrying about.

Two other people, told them that it was.

During the four-minute segment on Channel Ten’s flagship “infotainment” show The 7pm Project, there was claim and counter-claim about the role of carbon dioxide on the greenhouse effect.

“Will the estimated $863 annual bill [from a carbon tax] actually see temperatures fall any time soon,’’ asked host Charlie Pickering, with no hint of irony.

After the segment was shown, on-air panelist Tracey Curro, a communications consultant and Al Gore-trained climate presenter, turned to her three co-presenters with a look of despair. “You would think from that sort of reporting that the evidence was equally divided… and it’s not,” she said.

Almost everything that is wrong with the way climate change is being presented for public consumption was condensed into those four minutes of pre-recorded material.
Continue reading “The 7PM Project and a dose of climate misinfotainment”

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Cardinal Pell’s mine of climate misinformation

THE director of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayers must surely possess the patience of a saint or, if you don’t believe in saints, then the patience of my wife who has been waiting for me to fix the hole in the bathroom ceiling for well over three years.

Dr Ayers has finally gained some closure on an issue concerning Cardinal George Pell, the head of the Catholic church in Australia who while believing in saints, doesn’t believe in human-caused climate change.

Dr Ayer’s unloaded his frustrations on a senate estimates committee this week, saying he believed Cardinal Pell had been “misled” by a book called Heaven + Earth, written by Australian climate sceptic and mining director Professor Ian Plimer.

Back in October last year, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to table a letter from Cardinal Pell which quoted heavily from Heaven + Earth to claim there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.

After an early battle with Senator Ian McDonald, who didn’t want to give Dr Ayers time to respond, the bureau’s director finally managed to get his frustrations off his chest and onto the Hansard record. Dr Ayers’ explained how Cardinal Pell’s views on climate change were not only unsupported by the science but in some cases directly contradicted some of its core understandings. For example, he pointed out that Cardinal Pell had miraculously given nitrogen a new physical property.

At one stage [Cardinal Pell] lists greenhouse gases. Included in the list is the gas nitrogen. That is not a greenhouse gas; it is 78 per cent of the atmosphere. You cannot have people out there telling the public that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas, because it is not.

You can read Dr Ayers’ very full response to Cardinal Pell on Hansard here. The fact that Dr Ayers’ response is now there and that I can now point to it, illustrates why he argued so forcefully to be allowed to have his views put on record in the first place.

But as well as being a correction to the cardinal, Dr Ayers’ also critiqued the book which Cardinal Pell had drawn from (Professor Plimer, look away now).

The cardinal I do not anticipate would be an expert in these fields of science, so he has quoted very heavily from this book and the book is, frankly, misleading to all Australians in terms of what it represents.

Why would I say this book is not science? It is not me who says it so much, although I have read it myself; it has been widely reviewed by people in the scientific arena and it has been very heavily criticised for not presenting science but presenting a polemic from one individual. It has not been scientifically peer reviewed.

Dr Ayers’ goes on to describe in detail the great many scientific errors in Professor Plimer’s book. As I’ve personally pointed out many times – including during a face-to-face debate in Brisbane in 2009 – Professor Plimer has never written a peer-reviewed paper on climate change in his life.

Ian Plimer

But what neither Cardinal Pell nor Dr Ayers nor the media coverage has pointed out, is Professor Plimer’s role as a director and chairman with several mining companies, an occupation which he has recently expanded. These same energy-intensive operations are those which would be hardest hit under any plans to price carbon.

Professor Plimer has long-standing roles as a non-executive director with Australia-based mining companies Ivanhoe Australia and CBH Resources, which mainly dig up silver, gold, lead.copper, zinc and other minerals. Professor Plimer is shown in company reports to have earned about $270,000 from Ivanhoe in the last two years. He earned more than $300,000 from CBH Resources over the same period. He is also a director of UK-listed Kefi Minerals, where he recently disposed of 2,400,000 shares worth about $350,000. He has recently taken on the role as chairman of an unlisted tin mining company, called TNT Limited.

Professor Plimer is also a director of Ormil Energy, which is currently engaged in a $3.2 million commitment to investigate coal seam gas and coal mine gas in the Sydney basin, pending government approvals.

But back to Dr Ayers and the senate estimates hearing, where Nationals Senator Ron Boswell pleaded unsuccessfully that Professor Plimer should also be allowed to appear to answer the criticism.

Senator Boswell should already have been well aware of the scathing criticisms of Heaven + Earth, because he launched that very same book in May 2009, a good two weeks after a swathe of scientists had attacked its integrity.

Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald, who is also sceptical of human-caused climate change, was pressing for Professor Plimer’s views to be placed on the record and encouraged Ayers to “go and listen to Professor Carter some day” referring to Professor Bob Carter, another of Australia’s confirmed sceptics of human caused climate change.

Senator Macdonald also suggested he would be tabling an article which recorded how the US house of representatives had recently voted to pull all funding to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Given that the oil and gas industries have been found to have donated more than US$21 million to the current US Congress, should we be surprised that it has now decided to pull the US$2.3 million funding for the IPCC?

The calls for an appearance by Professor Plimer didn’t impress Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who claimed that all Professor Plimer needed to do to get himself heard was to “publish another work of science fiction”.

While the retort was obviously meant as a joke, there’s no fun in knowing that Australian Senators and the head of the Catholic church seem happy to take their views on climate from that piece of “science fiction”.

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Is The Australian addicted to Monckton’s denial?

HIS choice of the Gershwin song “It Ain’t Necessarily So” was unfortunate, if not a little ironic.

In an opinion article published in The Australian, professional climate change denier Christopher Monckton tried his hardest to convince readers that “thoughtful” politicians were beginning to ask “privately, quietly” if a supposed climate crisis was not “necessarily so”.

They were beginning to ask the “Gershwin question” mused Monckton, referring to the song in the 1935 musical Porgy and Bess – a song delivered, ironically, by the musical’s drug dealing character Sportin’ Life.

An addiction to a drug can be a terrible and debilitating experience and just as it is in the case of The Australian‘s apparent addiction to climate denial, it can be degrading, embarrassing and professionally damaging.

Christopher Monckton is one of the world’s most charismatic climate deniers, yet he has no qualifications at all in climate science. Among his beliefs are that the UN is attempting to create a world government and  young climate campaigners are like Hitler youth. Others have also examined Monckton’s creative CV.

This lack of genuine expertise and tendency towards conspiracy theories don’t in themselves deny Monckton the right to an opinion, but the thrust of his views have been roundly rejected by practically every climate scientist currently researching and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Over and over, scientists working in the field and opening their own research to the rigours of peer review (which Monckton has never done) have gone to great lengths to debunk Monckton’s “analysis” of climate change (small selection of examples here, many here and here). They have explained his persistent misrepresentations and errors in calculations, but still Monckton repeats them and still – after alarm bells have been ringing for half a decade – The Australian provides him a forum. Continue reading “Is The Australian addicted to Monckton’s denial?”

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A Sunrise climate cock-up and reading cat’s paws

SO you’re the news producer on a prime time Australian television breakfast show that’s been breathlessly covering the devastating affects of the Queensland floods and you’re looking for a new angle. How about a crack at climate change?

For television, the floods are the epitome of the story that has everything. Dramatic footage, a constantly evolving story with several drawn-out climaxes and a literally captive group of people with genuine against-all-odds tales of sadness, stoicism and bravery in the face of adversity.

In towns including Rockhampton, Emerald and Bundaberg hundreds of homes and businesses have been inundated with water. The Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, believes the clean-up bill could top $1 billion, saying the disaster has now taken on “biblical” proportions.

But back to Channel Seven’s Sunrise show, which earlier this week decided it was time for a segment which asked whether or not all this “crazy  weather” has anything to do with climate change. A fair and important question to ask but, unfortunately for the few hundred thousand viewers of this flagship show, Sunrise instead served-up an overcooked and unappetising “Greenie vs Sceptic” breakfast TV segment which was well beyond its best before date. Watch it here.

The first mistake was to make no genuine attempt to answer the question they posed. Rather than speak to experts in climate science to answer the question, they chose two people who were predisposed to present two sides of an argument – something the producers must have known. Predictably and almost instantly the segment came down to two opposing sides arguing that climate change was, or wasn’t, real. False balance in all its unedifying glory.

On one side was Nick Rowley, a climate policy consultant and one of a number of former climate change advisors to Tony Blair. There’s no doubt Rowley knows a lot about the subject, but why not ask a scientist?

But the real error was in their selection of New Zealand “weather expert” Ken Ring who has no formal training either in meteorology or climate. I suspect had they known what I’m about to tell you about Ken Ring they would have pawsed for thought before booking him.

Ken Ring was a new name to me, so I thought I should find out a little more about him. That’s when things started to get a little surreal. A chance web-hit coughed-up this little hairball. In 1998, a book was published by Penguin Books New Zealand with the title Pawmistry: How To Read Your Cat’s Paws and Ken Ring was listed as the co-author.

On the back of the book, it says

Ken Ring is a mathematician and a long-time magician, mind-reader and public speaker with a passion for the ancient discipline of palmistry. Ken stumbled upon his peculiar calling at a psychic party several years ago, where he was able to deliver a reading of a cat’s paw that proved to be uncannily accurate.

Now surely this couldn’t be the same guy Sunrise chose as a weather expert, could it? To be sure, I called Ken Ring in New Zealand to ask him and he confirmed he had indeed written that book. He claimed, however, that he had written the book “as a joke” and it had “nothing to do with my work in weather” which is comforting to learn.

You can still buy the book on several online stores and there’s nothing which immediately would suggest that it was in any way a joke. The book has been re-printed at least once. Among other things, the book reveals that cats have seven different types of paw and those bearing the “Earth Paw” are courageous, spontaneous and should not be cornered because they become “disorientated and confused”, the latter part of which brings us neatly back to my conversation with Ken Ring. He went on

I’m not sorry I wrote it. I am willing to discuss it with people and people still ring me up and I’m happy to help them where I can. I’m pleased that they have found something in life to give them pleasure. If the book works then that’s fine. It’s a part of my life that’s finished… just like my clowning and school magicianing.

No, that’s not a misquote. Ken Ring also revealed that before being a “weather expert” he was a school teacher and also a clown and a magician. He was a school magician at the time of writing Pawmistry. I asked on what basis was he now a weather expert? How do you go from being a school magician to being an “expert” on the weather with several dozen books behind him? He explained he was making a living fishing when he “started to realise” that tides seemed to coincide with storms. He constructed a theory from that point.

Ken Ring uses moon and solar cycles to try and predict the weather and his predictions carry little to no respect among serious forecasters or climate scientists. On Sunrise, he dismissed the notion of anthropogenic climate change as having “no proof” and claimed that a solar minimum was to blame for “the cold” that we’ve been seeing in the last two years. Neither of the Sunrise hosts bothered to point out that 2010 is likely to be among our planet’s top three warmest years on the instrumental record, adding a big full-stop to the warmest ever decade.

I asked why he hadn’t bothered to mention that it’s widely known that the current flooding in Queensland has been caused primarily by the La Nina weather pattern in the southern Pacific Ocean. He said he only had a couple of minutes on Sunrise, but added

It’s got nothing to do with La Nina. That’s a name that they dreamt-up in order to identify a new anomaly in the weather to get research funding for, and to issue reports on.

Back to the Sunrise segment, where host Natalie Barr made the observation that both sides of the argument seemed compelling and  “I think this is why people are confused… ” about climate change.

Well yes, Natalie. But the reason people are confused is because your treatment of the issues has just confused them. One of the most serious challenges facing world leaders and currently facing thousands of flood victims has been handed over to a man who once wrote a book about how to read cat’s paws.

One for the litter tray, wouldn’t you think?

For a simple and reliable explanation of La Nina in the context of the floods, watch the video on this link produced by the BBC. As far as understanding the link between single extreme weather events and climate change, that will have to wait for another post.

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Australia’s very own Merchants of Climate Doubt

AS a celebrated historian, Professor Naomi Oreskes is interested in the origin of things – where ideas start from, what drives them and ultimately who propagates them.

Oreskes, Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California San Diego, has just arrived in Australia on a whistle-stop speaking tour promoting her new book, co-authored with Erik Conway, titled Merchants of Doubt – How a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming.

The book, five years in the writing, ultimately concludes that much of the world’s scepticism on climate change – whether that be over the validity or certainty of the science of climate change, its causes or the need to act – is chiefly driven by a paranoid ideological fear of socialism and an unbending faith and belief in free-markets.

Put simply, free-market think-tanks such as the George C Marshall Institute, the Heartland Institute, The Science and Public Policy Institute and the Why-Can’t-You-Just-Leave-us-Alone-While-We-Make-Oodles-of-Cash Institute (not a real institute) don’t like industry to have to be held accountable.

Oreskes spoke to the ABC’s Lateline program on this brand of scepticism which also drove shoulder-shrugs over acid rain, tobacco smoke and ozone depletion

It’s part of this whole ideological program of challenging any science that could lead to government regulation, because it’s part of an ideological conviction that all regulation is bad, that any time the government steps in to ‘protect’ us from harm, that we’re on the slippery slope to socialism, and this the ideology that you see underlying a kind of almost paranoid anti-communism. So even after the Cold War is over, these people are seeing reds under the bed.

But before we all shake our heads at the audacity of these US think-tanks, muttering under our breath phrases like “only in America”, we should acknowledge that Australia has its own Merchants of Doubt, some of which have long-held associations with the US denialist machinery and share its habits.

In last night’s speech to the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, Oreskes even went as far as to list Australia’s The Institute of Public Affairs alongside other free market think tanks including the George C Marshall Institute (a focus of her book), The Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

On its website, the IPA says it “supports the free market of ideas, the free flow of capital, a limited and efficient government, evidence-based public policy, the rule of law, and representative democracy. Throughout human history, these ideas have proven themselves to be the most dynamic, liberating and exciting.”

The IPA’s researchers and fellows are prolific in their writing and are virtual ever-presents in the op-ed pages of newspapers and on popular web opinion sites such as The Drum and The Punch. But given their open support for free markets, small governments and minimal regulation, they’re “research” and “analysis” is always designed to come to the same predictable conclusion.

Let me demonstrate.

Continue reading “Australia’s very own Merchants of Climate Doubt”

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