One of the United States’ most visible climate science denialists, Marc Morano, has a new movie coming out that he claims will “rock the climate debate”. It won’t.
What it will do, though, is apparently rehash some old climate science denial talking points.
Hiding away on the website of the documentary’s producers was a segment destined for the film. The segment put some slick graphics to the old myth that because carbon dioxide is only a small part of the atmosphere, that it couldn’t have an effect on the climate.
So I asked some leading climate scientists to look at it, and then produced a bit of a critique of my own.
Anyway, here’s the vid. UPDATE:Marc Morano has contacted DeSmog to say the clip was not in the final version of the film. I’ve clarified this in the YouTube clip and the clarification also appears on the DeSmog story that went with it. I also apologise. The clip was on the public website of Climate Hustle’s production company, CDR Communications (screenshot here) , and was marked “Climate Hustle”. As of right now, 7 Jan 2016, the clip remains there. I should say also, that Mr Morano and CFACT executive director Craig Rucker both told me outside their Paris screening that they would have welcomed me to see the film, but that it was full. People in the screening later told myself and DeSmog editor Brendan DeMelle that the theatre was in fact only about 70 per cent full.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
Just 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.
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 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.