And now for the inquiry into sceptics?

WE’VE now had four major reviews into climate change science, all of them prompted and demanded by deniers, sceptics, [insert appellation of choice here] or whatever other descriptor you choose.

Most of the grist for this mill came from the illegal hacking of emails and data from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, but other bits of raw material came via accusations of the methods of the IPCC.

According to the cacophony from some media commentators, climate scientists had tricked the global public, manipulated data, conspired to ban sceptics from peer-reviewed journals, killed Bambie, drowned one of the Care Bears and plotted to take over the world.

All four of the reviews have found the main thrust of the accusations to be without substance or, in other words, plain wrong.

Before a single review had made its conclusion, some commentators screamed it was the greatest science scandal of the modern age and proved that human-caused climate change was a conspiracy  made-up to scare people witless.

At the time, I claimed the scandal was the greatest since Darren from Year Seven torched the Year Nine science project with a bunsen burner.

After two independent reviews, a UK parliamentary inquiry and a Dutch government agency review, I think it’s fair to say my analysis was the closest. I’d like to call Darren, but we’re no longer in touch.

Continue reading “And now for the inquiry into sceptics?”

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Review finds IPCC science is sound. The Australian thinks different.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has just published its review into the main findings of the IPCC’s “latest” assessment report, which came out three years ago.

Here’s the report’s main conclusion on the science.

The foundations for thirty-two IPCC Fourth Assessment summary conclusions on the regional impacts of climate change have been investigated. These conclusions show examples of projections of climate-change impacts on food, water, ecosystems, coastal regions and health, for all the earth’s continents. These conclusions have not been undermined by errors, although one of the conclusions contains a minor inaccuracy: in hindsight, not 75 to 250 million people, but 90 to 220 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change in Africa, by 2020. Given the large uncertainties surrounding such projections, this difference is not significant.

Seems pretty straightforward. There are concerns expressed that the summary conclusions made by the IPCC put too much emphasis on “the main negative impacts of climate change” rather than, presumably, pointing out that it might be great for cane toads.

The thrust of the Netherlands review is obvious. It’s repeated in the press release, just in case anyone misses the point.

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency found no errors that would undermine the main conclusions in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on possible future regional impacts of climate change.

The Australian newspaper has written a story about the findings, but you’d be forgiven for thinking they must have read a different report. Continue reading “Review finds IPCC science is sound. The Australian thinks different.”

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Presenting the non-experts

IT’S fun when a scientific study confirms what lots of people already know. Scientists who deny that we should do anything about climate change don’t actually know very much about climate change.

New research in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS… no sniggering), has concluded that

… the expertise and prominence, two integral components of overall expert credibility, of climate researchers convinced by the evidence of Anthropogenic Climate Change vastly overshadows that of the climate change skeptics and contrarians.

The method of the researchers was to first take the names of scientists who had been co-signatories of statements supporting or questioning the science of climate change and the need to act (or not act), based on evidence.

The researchers list the source of those statements here, which include letters to prime ministers, public declarations and newspaper adverts such as this one from the Cato Institute, which was reported to have cost US$150,000 . Sourcewatch lists Cato’s alliances with fossil fuel money and tobacco denial here. Continue reading “Presenting the non-experts”

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Top Aussie carbonators and old men

ABC Carbon has just published a list of the 50 people in Australia contributing the most to awareness and action on climate change, conservation and green issues.

The list, which excludes journalists and politicians (there’s going to be another list of those types soon), has everything from world famous actresses to local campaigners, business people, scientists and activists, and a few who blur the lines.

Ken Hickson, author of the book ABC of Carbon and the excellent ABC Carbon newsletter, asked me to help review and shorten the long list of nominees – a process which made me realise just how many people really are trying to make a positive difference.

Boiling this list down a bit further, I’d be picking out the likes of the massive-brained author Clive Hamilton, the courageous climate activist Anna Keenan and Professor Will Steffen, the science advisor to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

I’ve just finished reading Clive’s book Requiem For A Species which examines why civilisation has failed to act on climate change and how, not to put too fine a point on it, we should all forget the notion of being able to “beat” climate change. You can buy a copy of Clive’s book all over the place, but in a plug for a local company you can also order it from Sustainable Insight.

Anna Keenan is a young women for whom I have the utmost admiration. No commitment issues for Anna, who managed a 40-day hunger strike in the run up to, and during, the ill-fated Copenhagen climate change conference. Here’s a blog she wrote for me in the middle of that ordeal.

A few weeks ago, Professor Will Steffen was brave enough to say publicly what most other climate scientists must surely be saying privately all the time when he described the manufactured debate over climate change to be “infantile”. Here’s a great profile of the Professor here, on The Age.

And now to the second bit of the headline for this blog (look up there), the bit about old men, because they came up in a seminar I attended last night hosted by Professor Steffen.

His main 45-minute speech covered the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to research on climate change adaptation, but it was an off-the-cuff remark made during questions which prompted the biggest round of applause of the evening.

He was talking about the general need for everyone in Australia to be innovative in finding ways to adapt to climate change. And why isn’t this happening now?

There’s a blockage caused by old men who largely block innovation.

So there you go. We can now add “old men” to the list of climate change foes which includes fossil fuels, money, consumerism and political cowardice.

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Climate blogging

ECOS magazineCHEERS go to bloggers Tim Lambert at Deltoid and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg at Climate Shifts for giving a nod to a feature of mine just published in ECOS magazine.

The feature looked at climate blogging and had input from Ove, Tim and also John Cook at the excellent and world famous Skeptical Science website (well OK, maybe not world famous, but if you’ve been featured on the websites of The Guardian and the New York Times, then I reckon that’s as close as you’re going to get in this line of work).

All three of the blogs featured have done as much, if not more, to communicate the science of climate change than any politician has been able to manage, perhaps because it does actually take more than a 30-second news grab to explain the complexities.

Anyway, the feature is available free here.

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After first break, we’ll have some dogma

FROM an open letter penned by 255 members (including the President of the Australian Academy of Sciences Professor Kurt Lambeck) of the US-based National Academy of Sciences.

Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence.

From Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition in Australia, to some  year five and six kids at a school in Adelaide.

OK, so the climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now.

So which to choose – political dogma, religious dogma or the special interests? In this case, we can have all three.

The first telling of this classroom story came from The Australian which made no attempt to check the scientific validity of Abbott’s statement with any reputable working climate scientists. If it had, the story would have read more like the version told here by The Age, in which Professor David Karoly of Melbourne University has this to say.

It seems strange to me that the leader of a political party would be seeking to disagree with Australia’s chief scientist, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists and Australia’s support of the work of the IPCC. He obviously knows better.

Karoly suspects Abbott’s statement is derived from the book Heaven + Earth, written by mining director and denialist geologist Professor Ian Plimer. In 2008 and 2009, IR Plimer made $306,000 from his directorship with CBH Resources (see annual report here). Likewise, over the same period he made a whopping $475,579 from his directorship with another mining company, Ivanhoe Australia. That’s more than three quarters of a million dollars of special interest!

Then there’s the political dogma as espoused to ABC Four Corners by Liberal Senator Nick Minchin, the man who helped broker the deal that put Tony Abbott in his now unfortunately influential position.

NICK MINCHIN, SENATOR, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: For 10 years the left internationally have been very successful in exploiting peoples’ innate fears about global warming and climate change to achieve their political ends.

NICK MINCHIN: For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.

Special interests meet political and religious dogma, all wrapped up in Tony Abbott. Those poor kids in Adelaide never stood a chance.

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Climate voodoo nation?

Fairies anyone?LATE last year there was an opinion poll knocking around from Nielsen which suggested that some 56 per cent of Australians believed in a heaven.

There’s a lot to like about pearly gates, permanently-white linen smocks, fluffy clouds, twinkly escalator music, never ending lines of chilled carbon-neutral beer or whatever it is that people think a heaven might be.

Aussies like miracles too – 63% believed in those. Astrology got 41%, angels 51% and psychic power  gets 49%. Miracles score 63% but evolution came in at 42% – go figure.

But an interesting phenomenon which this survey, albeit on a small sample, revealed was the way many people are far more prepared to sign-up to fluffy stuff than they are the nasty or challenging bits.

Because while heaven scored 56%, hell only got 38%. Angels beat witches by 51 to 22.

I wonder how much of this is at play in the recent opinion polls suggesting increasing numbers of Australians think humans have had little or no effect on our climate.

The latest poll out today suggests a little over a third accept that humans are changing the climate (although it was commissioned by right-wing think tank and climate change deniers the Institute of Public Affairs).

So an issue backed by decades of peer-reviewed science and observations of the climate is less convincing than psychic powers, astrology, gods, angels and miracles.

Mumbo-jumbo trumps science.

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