IN a column this week in The Australian, writer Gary Johns tried to argue that the science of human-caused climate change was “contentious”, that climate change might not be that bad and that we shouldn’t bother to cut down on emissions.
The Australian newspaper has a record for favouring climate science denialism and contrarianism above genuine expertise.
Columns and coverage like this come along in the pages of the Rupert Murdoch-owned press with such regularity that you might think [blush] that they’ve got some kind of an agenda. Honestly, you could really think that.
In the latest column – “Let’s get realistic about reducing carbon emissions” – Johns writes approvingly of a project called the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) while finding disparaging remarks about the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
But in one section of Johns’ column, he quotes and paraphrases Professor Richard Muller, a respected American physicist who was once sceptical of human-caused climate change.
As reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, a couple of years ago Muller led a team based at the University of California which analysed more than 14 million temperature readings from 44,455 measuring sites from around the world going back to the mid 18th century.
Professor Muller found the world had warmed by 1.5C in the last 50 years and that burning fossil fuels and other human industrial processes were “almost entirely” the cause.
I emailed Professor Muller about the column to ask if he felt his words had been fairly represented.
SHELVES in popular book stores can be undiscerning little buggers, as can the book stores themselves.
For example, I recently had cause to wander through the tightly-bound and bulging aisles of my local Dymocks book store. They have some really quite “special” offerings both online and in-store.
Even though we essentially know that astrology is, for all intents and purposes, basically b******s, I can report that the paperback version of “Practical Astrology” is “in stock”.
Failing that, there’s also “Homeopathy for your Cat” within the pages of which you can find out how magic water can cure your ginger’s urinary tract issue.
Are you a book shopping parent who has “wished for a handbook on each child”? Well tough, because Dymocks has sold out of “Homeopathy and Your Child” so you’ll have to work out your kid’s “physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs” some other way (by the way, I’m not singling out Dymocks here – most of the big high street book sellers also hawk similar enlightenment-crushing garbage).
And there are the books on climate change.
Without any prior knowledge, it’s easy to see how the average punter might be easily fooled by the line-up of books cosying-up in Dymocks and elsewhere. As you can see by the image above, there’s some excellent stuff on offer from well credentialed authors and scientists.
There’s What We Know About Climate Change by MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel. Just beneath, is The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the front lines from Professor Michael Mann, director of Earth System Science at Penn State University, also in the US.
And sharing the same shelf space, is Taxing Air written by Dr Bob Carter, an Australian geologist and advisor to about a dozen climate science denial organisations around the world, and John Spooner, a cartoonist for The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.
Bob Carter’s fringe views on climate change (it’s all natural) make him a favourite of fossil fuel-funded propaganda unit the Heartland Institute and many, many other groups with similarly dismissive views on human-caused climate change and its risks.
Carter was recently let go by James Cook University in Queensland, where he had been an unpaid adjunct professor for over a decade, because he wasn’t pulling his weight.
Carter hinted – and his supporters screamed – that he had been booted out because he was a climate sceptic. I covered that case for DeSmogBlog and also summarised this and other recent goings on for the ABC Science Show.
But back to Taxing Air, which is yet another climate sceptic book with strong links to a conservative “think tank” – in this case, the Institute for Public Affairs, where Dr Carter is the Science Policy Advisor.
The IPA paid for copies to be sent out to Australian members of parliament and has also hosted a launch event for the book. Research has found that almost four out of five climate sceptic books published since the early 80s have links to conservative think tanks.
Dr Carter, it should be noted, has only written one scientific paper on atmospheric climate change, which claimed – wrongly as it turned out – to have found that recent global warming was down to natural cycles of water temperatures in the Pacific. One group of leading climate scientists who analysed carter’s paper concluded that the conclusions he and his co-authors drew were “not supported by their analysis or any physical theory presented in their paper”.
But is Taxing Air any good? Well, I have a copy which I’m still trudging through (I may not get to the end). But one academic who has finished it is Australian Ian Enting, and he is none too impressed. Mathematical physicist Enting (author of the Australian Mathematical Scences Institute book Twisted: The distorted mathematics of greenhouse denial) worked at Australia’s leading science agency, the CSIRO, for 24 years in atmospheric research and modelling of the global carbon cycle.
Enting has analysed the book, describing it as a “polemic” characterised by “half-truths and slanted misrepresentation” and “appalling hypocrisy”.
At one point, Enting’s document notes how one chart in Taxing Air is taken from a leaked draft of the not-yet-published United Nations IPCC Assessment Report 5 (due out in two weeks).
The chart has been altered, Enting’s document notes, removing a shaded area that shows the uncertainty range which, had it been left in, s
hows how climate models agree with the observations within the range of uncertainty. Enting finds dozens of other examples like this.
But my real reason for going into the Brisbane Dymocks store was to hunt out a copy of Killing the Earth To Save It, written by UK-based climate science denialist and wind-farm hater James Delingpole.
In the UK, it was published under the name Watermelons. There was something remarkable about the book which I had read and was keen to confirm.
The book was published by Connor Court, which has published several other climate sceptic books. The editorial board of Connor Court also includes the IPA executive director John Roskam.
The IPA also paid for Delingpole to tour Australia to promote his book in September 2012 – a favour which he returned by running a public appeal for people to donate cash to the Melbourne-based group, which doesn’t reveal its funders but has run a long campaign of climate misinformation.
But none of these are the “remarkable thing” I referred to earlier.
The remarkable thing was an entry in Chapter 8 – “Welcome To The New World Order”. Delingpole continues to spruik on his Daily Telegraph blog, most recently earlier this week. Here’s what Delingpole says on page 174 of my newly purchased copy:
Probably the best analysis of the Club of Rome’s tangible effects on global environmental policy comes courtesy of a website called “The Green Agenda”:
While researching […] and during my academic studies, I have come across many references to the Club of Rome (CoR), and reports produced by them. Initially I assumed that they were just another high-level environmental think-tank and dismissed the conspiracy theories found on many website claiming that the CoR is a group of global elitists attempting to impose some kind of one world government. I am not a conspiratorial person by nature and was faced with a dilemma when I first read their reports. But it’s all there – in black and white.
So what exactly is “The Green Agenda” which Delingpole tells his readers is offering this leading analysis? Here’s the source of the quote, on the website “The Green Agenda”. And who runs “The Green Agenda”? It is a sister site of The Watchman’s Post – which describes itself as a “Christian/ Messianic End Time Messenger!” based in New Zealand.
That’s right. Delingpole’s “analysis” of a jumped-up conspiracy theory about plans for a one world government come direct from a group of Christian fundamentalists who preach about second comings and “end times”. The watchman’s website details the coming of an “anti-Christ”, “times of distress and tribulation” and “Triads of evil”.
Here’s a taster:
True Christians will be seen at best as ‘insane’ and at worst as worthy of elimination. However, note; the period being introduced at that time and rightly called the ‘Time of Tribulation’ will quickly degenerate into a terrible time of trouble for almost everyone in the whole world, not just believers in Jesus. [We will explain more, later!] We can add with conviction, that we believe the ‘Time of God’s judgmental anger’ is a separate period of time as indicated by the pouring out of the ‘Bowls of Wrath’ when all true Believers will be sovereignly protected! [We will explain later.]
Perhaps it might be worth checking a few more of Delingpole’s sources in “Killing the earth to Save It” which is described by News Corp. columnist Andrew Bolt on the back cover as “wonderful” with “devastating facts and lacerating anecdotes”.
Not just devastating and lacerating, but potentially world ending – apparently – just not in the way Bolt and Delingpole might have expected.
Oh, did I say that Killing the World To Save It and Taxing Air are available in “all good bookshops”?
The Heartland Institute, a climate science denying fossil fuel-funded free market think-tank in the US, recently put the noses of the Chinese Academy of Sciences firmly out of joint with a spectacular piece of overreach.
Get the full and sorry tale over at my DeSmogBlog post, but the short story is that a library service of the academy took two of Heartland’s climate publications produced by its Non-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) project and translated them into one tome.
Ahead of time, the translators pointed out to Heartland that this didn’t mean that they in any way endorsed what the reports said, but was simply a translation exercise.
This message didn’t register prominently enough with Heartland, who made a right old song and dance about the affair quoting its President Joseph Bast as saying this was a “a historic moment in the global debate about global warming”.
The academy and its library division, which carried out the translation, both issued strongly-worded statements.
Heartland’s implication that CAS was endorsing their report was groundless, misleading and “went way beyond acceptable academic integrity”. An apology followed and much deleting of Heartland web pages ensued.
Robert M. Carter, Ph.D., a marine geologist and research professor at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia and author of Climate: the Counter Consensus
Now this description of Bob Carter’s affiliation with James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, might have been in the ball-park of being accurate back when he co-authored the reports in question, but it certainly isn’t now. Bob Carter had been an adjunct professor at James Cook for at least two years. Adjunct means he isn’t paid.
Professor Paul Dirks, head of school at JCU’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences where Bob Carter’s affiliation was held, has told me that since 1 January 2013, Bob Carter has had “no official status” at JCU. He said Bob Carter’s previous adjunct status ceased on that date.
Heartland is one of a number of think-tanks and institutions that I work with. Sometimes I’m paid an honorarium, sometimes expenses and sometimes I do it pro-bono.
As well as working with Heartland, Bob Carter has a long string of affiliations with think tanks and organisations which promote climate science denial or advocate a “do nothing” position on climate change. Some also promote sceptism and scare campaigns against renewable energy. Some have been set up or have accepted cash from fossil fuel corporations.
Perhaps there’s more, but these 10 groups – all with pretty similar positions on climate change – will do for now.
Several of these groups still describe Bob Carter as having an affiliation with James Cook University, which, as I’ve just clarified, ended six months ago. I’m sure they will all be diligently edited to reflect Bob Carter’s actual non-status with James Cook University.
I mean, we wouldn’t want anyone being misled now would we?
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”.
“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)….”
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?
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.
ANYONE who places any stock in safeguarding the current and future climate (and for that matter anyone who doesn’t) should prepare themselves for the risk that very soon, climate science deniers, contrarians and sceptics will be running the show.
All the polls suggest that a Liberal-led coalition will sweep to power at next year’s Federal election. Current Liberal leader Tony Abbott, if we care to remember, once described climate change as “crap“.
Instead the Newmans and Abbotts of this world would rather stake the future of their constituents, our economies, our food supplies and our coastlines on the ideologically-blinkered pseudo-science of narrow vested interests and free market fundamentalists.
The latest snapshot on this inglorious race to the bottom came last week during the Queensland LNP state conference with a motion proposed by the Noosa LNP member Richard Pearson.
Pearson’s motion called on the state’s education minister John-Paul Langbroek to “remove environmental propaganda material, in particular post-normal science about ‘climate change’, from the curriculum and as adjunct material at exam time”. The motion was passed with party members overwhelmingly in favour.
As reported on Brisbane Times, Pearson said: “Few people understand that the so called science of climate change is really what can be defined as ‘post-normal’ science,” before apparently arguing that climate change went beyond traditional understanding of science based on experimentation and falsifiable theories.
To Pearson and others, the experiments of John Tyndall in 1859 which established the warming properties of what we now know to be greenhouse gases just didn’t happen. Not in existence either, are the reams of scientific papers over many decades which have attempted but failed to falsify the “theory” that burning fossil fuels is causing the world’s average temperature to rise, the oceans to become more acidic, the sea levels to rise and the ice at the poles to melt.
So far, Premier Newman has clarified that while Pearson’s motion has been passed by the party, this doesn’t mean it will be adopted by the parliamentary group which he leads.
“We will always do the right thing by Queenslanders ahead of the LNP”, he said, forgetting that just a few weeks ago he told Queenslanders the state was actually “in the coal business”.
Regardless, reaction to the motion has been damning. Anna-Maria Arabia, the chief executive of Science & Technology Australia, which represents almost 70,000 scientists and technology experts in Australia, described it as “extremely harmful”.
The secretary of the Queensland Teachers’ Union Kevin Bates told The Australian that it was important schools taught children to have an “open mind” (but presumably not so open that your brain falls out). “Our greatest concern is that this is a government that is going to interfere in the education process,” he said.
At the launch, Professor Plimer said “one of the aims of this book is to maintain the rage, because we have an election coming”. Clearly, Professor Plimer sees his book as a political tool.
While consistently claiming that school children are being brainwashed by climate change “propoganda”, those who push this line rarely (if ever) produce any actual evidence. Pearson didn’t define what he meant by “propoganda” or “post normal science”.
Plimer’s genuine piece of propaganda was described by the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, which analysed his book, as “misleading” and based on “inaccurate or selective interpretation of the science”.
It should not be forgotten that Tony Abbott isn’t afraid of pushing his own misinformed climate dogma on young schoolkids when given the chance.
Nobody should be surprised that conservative politicians are unable to accept climate change science. A survey of political representatives at local, state and federal level carried out in late 2009 found that acceptance of climate change science was divided along political lines.
The University of Queensland survey found only about one third of Liberal/National politicians accepted the world was warming because of human activity. This compared to nine out of ten Labor politicians and practically all Greens.
Then there’s the “conservative white male effect” discovered by scientists (yes, them again) in the US linking the described demographic to the denial of human-caused climate change.
The Australian conservative political movement’s lurch towards the denial of human-caused climate science is like a mirror-image of the same enlightenment-crushing ideas of many US Republicans.
None of the recent candidates for the Republican presidential nomination (excusing possibly John Huntsman) were able to publicly back climate change science, with some reverting to scepticism after previously accepting the issue.
Also in common with the US, is the existence of Tea Party-style “grassroots” activism in Australia helped along by free market think tanks that claim regulating greenhouse gas emissions is an attack on our freedom.
But rather than have an honest debate about a policy response to a real world risk, they sink to trying to discredit climate science while telling the public that carbon dioxide from burning coal is just “food for plants”.
Earlier this week the climate sceptic organisation the Galileo Movement, founded by two retired Noosa (!) businessmen, tweeted a link to a document written by Viv Forbes claiming coal was not dirty and CO2 was plant food. No mention anywhere in the document that Forbes is a director of Stanmore Coal.
Galileo’s patron is Sydney radio host Alan Jones, who recently told a crowd that climate science was “witchcraft” and a “hoax”.
Our descent into the deluded world of pseudo-science occupied by astrology, creationism, crystal healing and homeopathy is almost complete. It’s a place where progress dies and business-as-usual thrives.
CLIMATE change denier Lord Christopher Monckton has described the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Maurice Newman as a “shrimp-like wet little individual” in a speech given in Melbourne.
In the outburst on 20 July, Lord Monckton said he had written to Mr Newman to demand he be allowed to respond to an episode of the ABC Radio National documentary Background Briefing, produced by Wendy Carlisle, which heavily criticised Lord Monckton.
In audio of the Melbourne speech obtained by this blog and available at the bottom of this post, Lord Monckton says:
“I have written to the chairman of the ABC who is a shrimp-like wet little individual and I have said to him, right mate, I warned you about this woman (Wendy Carlisle) orally over breakfast – I then wrote to you saying she is going about my friends pestering them and then she produces and broadcasts this garbage because you did nothing about it. Now I want the right of reply to these lies by the ABC or I will sue. So watch out ABC”
Shortly after Lord Monckton’s previous visit to Australia, Mr Newman told senior ABC staff that some were guilty of “uncritical group think” in accepting that serious climate change was being caused by humans, despite the firm evidence that this is the case.
Lord Monckton caused controversy before arriving in Australia, when it was revealed he had displayed a quote from Australia’s former climate change policy advisor Professor Ross Garnaut beside a large swastika.
The outburst was widely condemned and prompted Lord Monckton to apologise, only for him to then claim that the term “climate change denier” was a reference to Holocaust denial, which it isn’t.
Earlier this week, the House of Lords took an unprecedented step of posting an open “cease and desist“-style letter saying the Lord should stop referring to himself as a member of UK’s upper house of Parliament.