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The Australian Brings You The Climate Science Denial News From Five Years Ago

“EXPERTS warn of a coming ice age” declared the headline in a story which appeared in last week’s The Australian newspaper.

In reality, the headline should have read something like this “One solar physicist in Russia who is a member of a climate science denial organisation says we’re heading for global cooling but all the other people we spoke to say he’s dead wrong”.

Not as catchy though, eh?

The story “Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age” was written by the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd and there are some very curious aspects to it.

Lloyd’s only “expert” warning of global cooling is Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov, a Russian solar physicist who has been claiming for at least four years that we’re heading for an ice age and we should all rug up. Abdussamatov says that climate change is all down to solar cycles and that the sun is in a quiet phase that will plunge us all into a deep freeze. Skeptical Science explains why this climate myth – one of the most popular – is wrong.

Lloyd tells readers that he is quoting Abdussamatov via an interview given to Principia Scientific International (Lloyd doesn’t say who they are, but I’ll have more about them in a moment). Here are Lloyd’s quotes

“Mars has global warming – but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” Abdussamatov said. “These parallel global warmings – observed simultaneously on Mars and on the Earth – can only be a consequence of the effect of the same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

Here’s the real news. The quotes which Lloyd uses from Abdussamatov are actually more than five years old and come originally from this interview given to the National Post in Canada in January 2007.

Lloyd quotes Abdussamatov as “the head of space research at the Russian Academy of Sciences Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St Petersburg, and director of the Russian segment of the International Space Station”.

This wasn’t accurate either. Principia Scientific International has already issued a correction saying that in fact “Dr Abdussamatov is actually head of space research of the Sun Sector at the Polkovo Observatory and head of the Selenometria project on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.”

Not quite so impressive as being the head of space research or the head of the Russian bit of the International Space Station.

Lloyd then goes on to provide some “balance” on his story leaving the reader with the impression that genuine experts actually are discussing the possibility of a coming ice-age, when they’re not. All they’re doing is responding to crank theories.

Lloyd quotes Frank Hill, a scientist at the US National Solar Observatory in Arizona. Lloyd writes that the quotes from Hill are from “last June”. This is also wrong. The quotes Hill gave were from June 2011 (here they are).

Irrespective of this, Lloyd quotes Hill like this

“We are predicting the behaviour of the solar cycle,” he said. “In my opinion, it is a huge leap from that to an abrupt global cooling, since the connections between solar activity and climate are still very poorly understood.

“My understanding is that current calculations suggest only a 0.3 degree C decrease from a Maunder-like minimum, too small for an ice age.”

Lloyd left out the beginning of Hill’s original quote, perhaps because it was so unequivocal. “We are NOT predicting a mini-ice age,” Hill pointed out, just in case anyone was wondering.

Hill’s understanding on the impact of a low point in the solar cycle reflects a paper published in 2010 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which found that if solar activity did drop to low levels, this would only take 0.3C off any global warming which we will have experienced by the end of the century. Several reports are now saying global average temperatures could be 4C higher or more by the end of the century.

Lloyd also gets a quote from Peter Stott of the UK’s Met Office.

“It is misleading to the public that other theories, such as that most of the warming is caused by solar changes, carry equal weight,” he says.

Except Lloyd probably didn’t get the quote from Peter Stott. Instead, it appears he took it without attribution from this article in April from the UK website Carbon Brief. The article explains just why the claims that we’re heading for a “mini ice-age” are misleading tosh.

Remember the headline at the top of Lloyd’s story? The one about how “experts warn of a coming ice-age”? Even though the first “expert” Lloyd cites does claim this, the other people quoted in Lloyd’s story say exactly the opposite. I should point out that Lloyd would likely not have written the headline.

Now back to our Russian physicist and the source of Lloyd’s story – the article on Principia Scientific International.  Graham Lloyd doesn’t say anything about who this group is, so allow me. PSI promotes some of the most widely debunked theories on climate change that exist on the internet (behind, possibly, magnetism) and it’s chief executive John O’Sullivan does not even accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet.

Terri Jackson, who is credited with writing the story about Abdussamatov, has also written a pamphlet in which he claims that the greenhouse effect is bogus and that carbon dioxide “cools the earth”.

Principia recently got into a row with climate science denial pin-up boy Lord Christopher Monckton. Monckton does at least accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which was seen as a step too far for Principia.

When you are sourcing information from an organisation too fringe even for Lord Monckton that promotes positions which only the dark corners of the internet could sustain, then you know you are in trouble.

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Time to overhaul Queensland’s opaque lobby system

SO there’s this minister in Queensland whose son is a lobbyist who may or may not have made approaches to his dad’s office which his dad may or may not have asked him not to do.

So far, the confusing back-and-forth regarding Public Works Minister Bruce Flegg‘s department’s dealings with son Jonathan have failed to reveal any improper conduct on anyone’s behalf, besides an accusation that Mr Flegg had failed to disclose some meetings which he had promised to do.

While this entire circus is probably not the sort thing which keeps many Queenslanders up at night, it should. But not because Mr Flegg may or may not have done something he shouldn’t.

But rather, because it shows just how opaque the state’s lobbying system is to voters. The state has hundreds of lobbyists, working for hundreds of firms paid by hundreds of businesses, some of them among the biggest in the country.

But what they do, how much they are paid and the influence they are having on public policies is as close to a mystery as any of Scooby-Doo’s many encounters.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Comment policy

DUE to a recent glut of nonsense and abuse that some people commenting appear to think is a valid part of daily discourse, I now have a comment policy, of sorts.

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Sshhhh!

I’ll be away for the best part of a month taking a break, so it will be all quiet here. For some recommended reading, check out some of the other blogs I link to on my blogroll (down there and right).

G

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Hugh Morgan in charge of climate policy? You must be joking.

IF you were going to have a serious high-level discussion about, say, improving science teaching in schools, then who would you invite to chair the meeting.

How about an astrologer? A purveyor of crystal healing, perhaps? Maybe a creationist, a fortune teller or a spiritual healer?

Well of course not. This would be ridiculous. But just hold that thought for a minute.

A few days ago, the Commonwealth Business Council brought its high-level bi-annual forum – hosted in Perth, Western Australia – to a close.

Among those in attendance were the Australian Prime Minister, senior Australian cabinet members, ministers from South Africa, the UK, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Rawanda and the Caribbean.

There were senior representatives from international energy and mining companies, including BP, Woodside, RioTinto, Shell and Hancock Prospecting.

With all of that power and influence in the one place, organisers promised that the meeting would likely spawn many multi-million dollar international business deals.

But the meeting also broke-up with the news that, among other things, it had failed to reach any kind of agreement on tackling climate change.

According to a report in The Australian, the London-based council’s director-general Mohan Kaul said this lack of an agreement was down to the “diverse views” of those businesses in attendance.

Mark Barnaba, the forum’s steering committee co-chairman, said the lack of consensus was “unsurprising”.

Indeed, this lack of agreement was unsurprising. Even an astrologer could have correctly predicted it.

The three-day forum had only one session devoted to the issue of climate change. Titled, “Tackling Climate Change and Energy Challenges: A Government Business Partnership” the session’s contributors included Australia’s Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and ministers from the UK, South Africa and Bangladesh.

I now ask you to recall those astrologers and fortune tellers, because the chair of the session was businessman Hugh Morgan, a denier of the science of human-caused climate change.

Quite how, or why, he was given this gig is almost as unfathomable in its stupidity as the idea that the motion of a distant planet can somehow influence whether or not I’m going to win at the lottery (which I’m not, because I don’t enter).

Morgan is a founder member and current president of the Lavoisier Group, launched in Victoria in 2000. The group was set-up chiefly to oppose any regulation on greenhouse gases.

In his latest “President’s Report” on the Lavoisier Group’s website, Morgan concludes: “We have been doing everything possible in recent years to destroy our coal-fired electricity industry in the superstitious belief that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.”

Also on the website, you can enjoy articles such as “Is the Western Climate Establishment Corrupt” and “Nine Lies About Global Warming”.

Hugh Morgan, 71, is also a former director at the Institute for Public Affairs, a free-market think-tank which promotes climate science denial and consistently attacks the efficacy of the renewable energy industry.  He was also the former boss of the Western Mining Coproration.

Morgan, a former board member of the Reserve Bank and President of the Business Council of Australia, is currently a member of the lobby group Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision, which wants to create a separate economic zone in the north of Australia with low-tax and low-regulation to promote mining industries.

ANDEV was established by Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart, chairman of Hancock Prospecting and promoter of climate science denial. Rinehart has twice supported tours of climate “sceptic” Lord Christopher Monckton. Also an ANDEV member is climate sceptic and mining entrepreneur Professor Ian Plimer, who Rinehart passed-off as a climate expert in front of another influential audience earlier this year.

Morgan is also on the advisory board of the Tony Abbott-led Australian Opposition’s climate policy advisory board.

Putting a man like Hugh Morgan in a position of influence on climate change is a bit like.. well.. asking an astrologer how we should teach science to kids.

The act is irresponsible and the result will be highly predictable.

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IPA’s John Roskam responds

MY previous post discussing the historian Professor Naomi Oreskes’ theory on the motivations of climate change sceptics was reposted over at the ABC’s The Drum a couple of weeks ago.

The last time I looked, the comment community had amassed more than 600 thoughts on the story and the issues it raised.

In the article, I mentioned one of Australia’s very own little dens of climate doubt, the Institute for Public Affairs and, quite fairly, the ABC granted one of its senior research fellows, Sinclair Davidson, a response.

I’ll not bore you with the tit-for-tat over his response, which is mostly wrong and largely a repeat of the modus-operandi of misrepresentation which Oreskes’ highlights in her book.

What was rather odd though, was that the IPA’s executive director John Roskam chose not to respond on the ABC’s The Drum, or even in the comments on the original blog post. Instead, he chose the comments section of one of the least-read and hardest to find page on this website (and a page I rarely update).

So I thought it only fair to bring you John Roskam’s considered response.

Hello Graham
Thank you for your piece publicising the work of the IPA. We’ll use it in our fundraising efforts.
There was one thing you missed however in what you wrote – in May The Sydney Morning Herald said that ‘Roskam has done more to fuel doubt about climate change than almost anyone in Australia.’ It would have been great if you had mentioned it.
regards John

For more reaction to the post, you can go and read Jo Nova’s denialist blog and the comments there. I especially like the one calling me a “little green communist hitler” and several false and defamatory comments stating that I was sacked from my role as a feature writer at The Courier-Mail.

There was also a response to my post from the US-based Science and Public Policy Institute. If you must, you can read the article from the institute’s president Robert Ferguson on American Thinker.

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10 climate policies from around the world that Julia or Tony could steal

THE Australian Government’s permanently jack-knifing and stalling emissions trading scheme is one of the most divisive public issues since… oh I don’t know… the separation of church and state or the day Greg told his brother Trevor to bowl underarm so the Kiwis couldn’t hit a six.

Already that attempt to put a cap on Australia’s emissions and create sellable carbon permits has helped to win one federal election (Kevin 07) and claimed at least one, and maybe two, opposition party leaders.

As things stand, if Labor leader Julia Gillard gets back in to Government then it’s going to be at least 2013 before Australia has a price on carbon. If Tony Abbott gets in, he won’t even be bowling underarm. He just won’t bowl.

No wonder then that it feels as if cap-and-trade is the only way out of this sorry mess. So to that end, I went looking for climate policies that are already in place in other parts of the world.

There are literally hundreds of them, from Brazillian mandates on biofuels, to carbon taxes, climate levies and even a national rewards scheme for buying low carbon products. There’s heavy rebates on cleaner cars, taxes on burning fossil fuels, feed-in tariffs for renewable energy and yes, there are emissions trading schemes across Europe and New Zealand.

It’s a rich policy landscape. To see the final 10 policies, have a look at my feature on the ABC Environment portal and leave your thoughts here or there.

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