Australia’s new energy minister Gary Gray – a brief climate history

Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray on ABC’s Lateline

AUSTRALIA has a new energy and resources minister in the form of Gary Gray, who was elected to the Federal Parliament in 2007 after six years as an adviser and corporate affairs director for gas company Woodside.

This is a piece of Gary Gray’s history which is uncontested, given that it appears on his biography on his ALP home page.

But one aspect of Gray’s history which has been contested, are his views on climate change and an apparent association with a climate science denial organisation.

Just minutes after Prime Minister Julie Gillard announced Gray’s appointment, a handful of people I follow on Twitter were pointing to claims that Gray had been a founder member of the Lavoisier Group.

On Climate Spectator, Tristan Edis also reported that Gray was a founder member of the “Lavoisier Institute [sic]“.

But after looking into the Lavoisier archives and reviewing some documents sent to me by journalist Bob Burton, it’s pretty clear that Gray wasn’t even a member, never mind a founder member

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Climate Scientists Pursued By Sceptics Through Courts Of Law And Public Opinion

THE climate science denial industry doesn’t like Penn State University’s Professor Michael Mann very much.

Mann is the scientist behind the famous “hockey stick” graph that first appeared in the journal Nature in 1998.

Mann and two other scientists Professor Raymond Bradley and Professor Malcolm Hughes had reconstructed temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere from the year 1400 to present day using data mainly from tree rings, ice cores and modern temperature readings.

The following year, the same three scientists extended their study to reconstruct 1000 years of temperatures and published this in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Each time the team plotted their data on graphs and each time the plots showed what is the now famous “hockey stick” shape with a sharp uptick in temperatures towards the end of the century.

What really got the ire of the climate science denial industry and its cheerleaders was that this second study showed that modern day temperatures were likely hotter than they had been in the so-called Mediaeval Warm Period.

This negated a key argument from sceptics – which they continue with today – that it’s been warmer in the recent past before the industrial revolution caused the westernised world to fall in love with fossil fuels.

Incidentally, it was never a very convincing argument anyway. Even if it was warmer in the past, it doesn’t challenge the multiple lines of evidence which point to burning fossil fuels and deforestation as the main cause of the rapid warming, ocean acidification and sea level rises we see now.

But anyway, enough of the climate science history lesson. Back to Michael Mann.

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Greg Hunt’s unusually cool US winter that wasn’t

OPPOSITION spokesperson on climate change Greg Hunt has been quoted across the news wires today as saying that while Australia has experienced its hottest summer on record, it’s been unusually cold elsewhere.

The story is based on an interview with ABC Radio, where Mr Hunt is commenting on a new report – The Angry Summer – from Australia’s Climate Commission. The report points out the role that climate change is playing in heatwaves, bushfires and floods.

The report comes just a week after the Bureau of Meteorology declared that Australia’s summer of 2012/2013 was the hottest on record. January 2013 was also Australia’s hottest month on record.

If you listen to the interview, Mr Hunt makes a point of saying that when considering global warming, we need to look at the long term trends rather than pick single events. Quite right.

To demonstrate this, he said that “we have had record cold temperatures in Russia, parts of the United States and China” over a similar period to Australia’s hottest summer on record.

Even in a warming world, you’ll still get record cold events – it’s just that the hot ones are outnumbering the cold ones. In Australia, for example, for every record cold temperature there’s three record hot ones. In the US, a 2009 study found record high temperatures were outstripping record colds by two to one.

I had a quick look at this unusually cold US winter which Greg Hunt alludes to. The government’s National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has all the figures. Incidentally, January 2013 is the 335th consecutive month where global average temperatures have been above average.

Final rankings for the US winter are not expected to be out for a week or so yet but, so far, the chilly winter turns out not to have been that chilly after all. In fact, the period November 2012 to January 2013 ranks 109th (with a rank of 1 indicating the coldest and 118 the warmest) in a record going back 118 years.

So there you go. As Mr Hunt says, best to check with the experts.

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Climate change, the New World Order and spam-weary journalists

BEN CUBBY, the environment editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, admits he has an unusual problem – “how does one critically analyse a pile of horse shit?”

The horse excretion in question is a report – CSIROh! – Climate of Deception or First Step to Freedomsent to Cubby by one of Australia’s most tireless – and some might say tiresome – climate science deniers, Malcolm Roberts. But more of Ben Cubby’s response later.

Malcolm Roberts is the volunteer project manager for the Galileo Movement - a climate science denial organisation whose patron is popular Sydney radio shock-jock Alan Jones who himself thinks human-caused climate change is a “hoax” and “witchcraft”.

Roberts’ “report” appears to have been sparked by an email from ABC Brisbane radio presenter Steve Austin back in February 2010.

“For some time now I have been receiving a barrage of your unsolicited emails about climate change and your analysis of IPCC flaws,” wrote Austin, who attached a copy of a CSIRO report on climate change and suggested Roberts respond. Austin promises he’ll send that response to the CSIRO and provide any feedback he gets.

Roberts is a former coalface miner and management consultant and in a declaration of  interests writes: “For extensive work performed in the mining industry I was paid money by mining companies (including three government-owned coal mining companies)….”

He claims to have foregone more than a million dollars in earnings for his unpaid work researching climate change. Part of that involved him travelling to the US to attend the Heartland Institute’s climate skeptics conference in New York in 2008, co-sponsored by Australian free market think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

Well, three years pass since the exchange with Steve Austin and finally Roberts sends him the report, which he must have been hanging out for. But here’s a prediction. Whatever the CSIRO or any other reputable research institution says to Malcolm Roberts about human-caused climate change, Roberts will not accept it. Why?

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Carbon bombs scrubbing Australia’s emissions cut

I’VE got a blog post up at The Guardian having a look at Australia’s current and future arsenal of “carbon bombs” – those massive multi-billion dollar projects to extract and mainly export fossil fuels.

But before you go off and lose yourself in The Guardian’s website (it’s got electric bees and Mark Hamill for goodness sake), I thought it worth dwelling on a load of numbers about CO2 (you’ve all gone already haven’t you?).

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Andrew Bolt is still on the fringes, whether he stands with Lord Monckton or not

Lord Monckton at the launch of Rise Up Australia. Credit: ABC footage

A FEW weeks ago I wrote a story for DeSmogBlog looking at how Lord Christopher Monckton – a poster child of the climate science denialist movement – had agreed to launch a new Australian political party fronted by an anti-Islamist Creationist preacher.

The party in question is called Rise Up Australia and its messianic front man, Pastor Danny Nalliah, believes that only God can control the climate and that Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which killed more than 170 people, were God’s punishment for Victoria’s laws allowing abortion.

Well, Lord Monckton’s deed has been done and duly covered on the ABC’s flagship news program 7.30 Report.

The rented room at the National Press Club in Canberra was chock-full of Pastor Danny’s enthusiastic, God-fearing supporters and Lord Monckton whipped their evangelism until the froth was soaking the carpet. Reporter Hayden Cooper went through Nalliah’s beliefs, including his claim that he had brought a couple of people back from the dead.

As I exlained on DeSmogBlog and also on Crikey, Pastor Nalliah actually launched the party in May 2011 (and again a couple of months later) and registered the party with the Australian Electoral Commission 12 months ago. But the launch made for good telly.

One of Lord Monckton’s longest-serving supporters is Andrew Bolt, the climate science mangling News Ltd columnist  and blogger who is, as we’re often told, the country’s most influential political commentator. He’s none too chuffed by Lord Monckton’s endorsement of Pastor Danny, and wrote on his blog:

Why on earth was Christopher Monckton endorsing the nationalist Rise Up Australia Party? Great chance for warmists to paint climate sceptics as fringe dwellers.

So rather than denouncing the extremist views of Pastor Danny Nalliah, Andrew Bolt instead is most immediately concerned that Lord Monckton’s endorsement of Rise Up Australia might be bad PR for climate sceptics.

But Andrew Bolt is an awful long way behind the climate science denial 8-Ball here, given that Lord Monckton was endorsing Pastor Danny Nalliah’s position as long ago as July 2011 when Monckton was invited to speak at Nalliah’s extremist Catch the Fire Ministries.

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Give us a break on the climate science denial

Flooding in Bundaberg, January 2013. Credit Instagram/ABC News

“GIVE me a break,” said the premier of the Australian state of New South Wales Barry O’Farrell when asked if recent devastating floods might have something to do with climate change.

“Let’s not turn this near disaster, this episode that has damaged so many properties and other things, farm properties and other things, into some politically correct debate about climate change,” said Mr O’Farrell.

Let’s just all reach for the “pause” button for a second.

Mr O’Farrell now thinks the issue of climate change is one of “political correctness” which sits alongside debates about the appropriate language to describe homosexuals or whether Christmas trees might offend one religious group above another.

Not to degrade those important debates, but political correctness doesn’t flood thousands of people’s homes, threaten water and food supplies or machine-gun the economy leaving a scattering of billion dollar-sized bullet holes.

The flooding concentrated in Queensland has so far killed six people, devastated several towns and cities and thousands of people’s homes, in particular in Bundaberg, and sparked food supply fears after crop damage.

The disaster has come just weeks after the longest and most widespread extreme heatwave in Australia’s recorded history, causing life and livelihood-threatening bush fires. In all likelihood, January 2013 will turn out to be Australia’s hottest ever month on record. Queensland still remembers the 2011 floods which put a dent in the country’s GDP of an estimated $30 billion.

Mr O’Farrell’s fellow Liberal, Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott, was similarly dismissive of climate change when he was asked by a journalist if he thought that climate change had played any role in the recent floods. He broadened his answer to include the role of climate change in droughts and fires.

“Droughts, fires, floods have been a part of this country’s experience since records were kept,” Mr Abbott said. “Now, I think that climate change is real and humanity does make a contribution and we must have a strong and effective policy to deal with it, but I don’t think anyone could credibly say that this kind of thing has only happened since man made carbon dioxide increases started.” Read the rest of this entry »
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The Australian admits it misinterpreted research on sea level rise linked to climate change

A FEW days ago The Australian newspaper ran a story on its front page with the headline “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’” which was supposedly based on the findings of research published in a peer-reviewed journal late last year.

The problem with the story, written by the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd was that, as I showed a couple of days ago, the scientific paper published in the Journal of Climate made no such claim and came to no such finding.

The paper discussed at length the role of humans in rising sea levels. In short, Lloyd had the arse of the story where the face should have been.

This morning, The Australian has issued a correction, which is buried away on page two.

It reads

A report in the Australian on Tuesday (Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’, page 1) said a paper by JM Gregory with a contribution from John Church had “found no link to global warming and no increase in the rate of glacier melt over the past 100 years”. In fact, the paper found the effect of anthropogenic global warming on the rate of sea level rise would have been greater in the 20th century but for volcanic activity. It found that in the past two decades the rate of sea level rise had been larger than in the 20th century.

Lloyd’s story ran on January 15, the day after he had decided to criticise the national broadcaster for the way it was covering climate change in a week-long series of stories from the ABC’s environment correspondent Sarah Clarke.

Essentially, Lloyd’s rather churlish argument seemed to be that Clarke hadn’t interviewed the people he would have interviewed and cited facts in the way that he would have cited them.

Discussing an ABC report on sea level rise, Lloyd wrote: “But the ABC did not mention recent scientific findings that there was no firm link to sea-level rises and climate change in the 20th century.”

Oh the irony, it burns. To me, it seems a little rich for a journalist who is able to invert the findings of a science paper to feel confident enough to publicly lecture other journalists.

Lloyd didn’t quote a single author of the paper which he misrepresented, but he did at least quote from the actual paper (rather than just the abstract) in a second follow-up story.

I understand Lloyd did attempt to contact John Church, one of the world’s leading sea level experts and a co-author on the paper, but Church didn’t respond.

He did respond indirectly in an IPCC press conference by saying Lloyd’s story was wrong. Perhaps the reason Church didn’t reply to The Australian was that he had taken a leaf out of the book of Michael Coughlan, formerly Australia’s most senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

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Senate inquiry looks at Australia’s extreme weather and asks if we’re ready

This is a longer version of a story which appeared yesterday in Crikey.

CLIMATE change adaptation has always been seen as the science of preparation – a pre-emptive strike to protect humans and property from the ever more extreme heat waves, rising sea levels, more intense rain events and various other undesirables that scientists have warned are coming our way thanks to our profligacy with the old fossil fuels.

But recent Australian summers of floods, mega-cyclones, bushfires and heat waves have seemingly bought those future warnings of climate change into the here and now.

As Australia’s unprecedented 2013 heat wave continues, the deadline for submissions to a Senate inquiry into Australia’s readiness for both the future and for the here and now of climate change is coming to a close.

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Murdering a scientific paper on sea-level rise – the Graham Lloyd way

UNRAVELLING the causes of rising sea-levels across the globe is a little like one of those Agatha Christie TV murder whodunnits that you might have sat through while your Sunday lunch disappated through your system.

There are all sorts of co-conspirators that come together in the plot that’s causing sea levels to rise.

There’s thermal expansion of the oceans – which basically means as the oceans warm up the body of water gets larger and pushes higher. Then there’s water from melting glaciers and water melting from ice-sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

There are also events that have a mild cooling effect on the climate, such as volcanic eruptions and the amount of energy coming from the sun as it moves through its cycles.

But according to The Australian newspaper, a new piece of research on sea levels “has found no link to global warming and no increase in the rate of glacier melt over the past 100 years”.  Now that seems to be pretty categorical doesn’t it?  Just in case you weren’t sure, the headline states even more clearly “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’, says report

The Australian’s environment editor Graham Lloyd reports on a paper published in the Journal of Climate and points out that one of the globe’s leading expert on sea level rise, Dr John Church, is a co-author. This lends some degree of credibility to the paper.

Strangely, The Australian doesn’t quote Church, which is perhaps just as well given that he told reporters this morning that Lloyd’s story was misleading. “Sea level clearly is linked to climate change, it clearly is linked to greenhouse gases and that was in the paper quoted by The Australian. The quote is, I am sorry, inaccurate,” The Conversation reports.

Now we could simply leave it there, with Lloyd hoisted on his own petard. But let’s have a look at how The Australian has misinterpreted – or perhaps even misrepresented – what the paper, published in November last year, actually says about the role of humans in rising sea levels and how it in no way concludes what Lloyd says it concludes.

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