Posts Tagged sceptic

The curious tale of Lord Monckton, Gina Rinehart, media ownership and Christian fundamentalists

IT was an extraordinary response, but then it was an extraordinary video revealing some extraordinary alliances.

Two weeks ago I posted a story on my blog about a YouTube video featuring one of the world’s least media-shy deniers of human-caused climate change – British hereditary peer Lord Christopher Monckton, the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley*.

In the video, the Viscount was in the boardroom of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a free-market think-tank founded by west Australian mining magnate Ron Manners.

The video had been watched only 130 times when I clapped eyes on it following a Twitter post from journalist Leo Hickman, of the UK’s The Guardian.

In the video, posted by Mannkal (but since removed… and then reinstated… but possibly removed again by the time you read this), Lord Monckton suggests a good way to get free-market, climate science-denying views into the mainstream media, is simply to find some “super-rich” backers to buy the mainstream media.

As I watched the video last Tuesday evening, news was just emerging that mining billionaire and Asia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, had bought $192 million worth of shares in Fairfax (the publisher of Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and many regional newspapers and city-based radio stations) to take her share in the company to about 14 per cent.

To me, these two events were intrinsically linked, and not just because Mr Manners is a personal friend of Ms Rinehart’s.

When Lord Monckton went on a speaking tour around Australia in 2010, the organisers admitted that Gina Rinehart had offered to put up some of the cash. Ms. Rinehart also made one of her Hancock Prospecting staff available to organise one of the events in Perth.

When Lord Monckton repeated his junket around Australia in 2011, Ms Rinehart was again a supporter.

When ABC presenter Adam Spencer asked who had invited him to Australia, Lord Monckton answered he had been invited to deliver a lecture at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University. The university’s Dean of Business School Chris Doepel had already told me that this lecture, dedicated to Ms Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock, had been organised after discussions with her iron ore and coal company, Hancock Prospecting. Ms Rinehart attended the lecture.

In another interview, this time with the ABC’s Wendy Carlisle, Lord Monckton claimed he didn’t know who had paid for him to come, although the boss of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies had told me they had helped pay some of his costs.

Lord Monckton’s 2011 tour was mired in controversy before it even started after it emerged that during a conference speech in America he had compared one of the Australian Government’s climate change policy advisors, Professor Ross Garnaut, to a fascist.  He also displayed a huge Nazi swastika next to Professor Garnaut’s name. He “unreservedly” apologised for his “catastrophically stupid” remarks, but a few months ago changed his mind and said they were “very mild”.

In short though, the evidence would strongly suggest that Lord Monckton has close ties to Ms. Rinehart and that they have spent time discussing ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is a misleading climate change op-ed in the Wall Street Journal really news?

WHAT’S news these days when it comes to climate change?

Could it be the news that rising temperatures could severely affect the world’s wheat crops maybe?

Or how about how human emissions of carbon dioxide have “raised ocean acidity far beyond the range of natural variations

Nah. Well, at least not if you’re The Australian newspaper, which just loves to send reality spinning down rabbit holes when it comes to climate change.

What’s news for The Australian, is that 16 “scientists” with outlying views on the risks of human-caused climate change have dusted off their previously debunked talking points for an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

So confident was The Australian about the “facts” contained in the editorial, that they didn’t bother to get a single response from an actual working Australian climate scientist. So let’s do a quick fact check for ourselves. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Monckton not in control of his own biography

ON ABC radio 702 Sydney this morning, host Adam Spencer engaged in what you might describe as a relatively lively chat with climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton.

Spencer challenged Lord Monckton on his qualifications, questioned his links to mining squillionnaire Gina Rinehart, pressed him on his misrepresentations of the science and asked him to clarify whether he is, or is not, a member of the House of Lords.

Lord Monckton wasn’t too pleased and told Spencer to “shut up” which, obligingly for some listeners but not to Monckton, Spencer ignored.

There’s much to chew over in the interview, but one of Lord Monckton’s claims jumped out like an environmentalist at a mining conference. His claim to be a Nobel Laureate.

Spencer: Are you a Nobel Laureate as is claimed on many websites?

Monckton: I don’t know what websites… there is no website that I control that says any such thing.

Really? No website that you control? This, from Lord Monckton’s biography on the Science and Public Policy Institute‘s website, where Lord Monckton is Chief Policy Advisor.

His contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 – the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise – earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate. His Nobel prize pin, made of gold recovered from a physics experiment, was presented to him by the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, USA.

And just in case you think I’m making this up, a screen grab from the same page.

I should just point out that there’s nothing too revelatory about this incident. Journalist Hugh Riminton pointed this out when Lord Monckton was last in Australia, in February 2010.

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Skeptically threatening

You will be chased down the street with burning stakes and hung from your f****** neck until you are dead, dead, dead.

ANY academic these days who chooses to speak publicly about the impacts or the implications of human-caused climate change can expect to come under attack.

The above note was contained in an email sent to one of these academics, but it is just one example. There are many scientists who over recent years have been receiving notes and communications like this.

Last Saturday, The Canberra Times revealed it had discovered abuse, threats and intimidation of at least 30 scientists working on climate change across NSW, ACT, Queensland, WA, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

In most instances, the abuse had been in the form of emails. There were other incidents which were not reported.

One researcher, The Canberra Times reported, had received “threats of sexual assault and violence against her children” after she was pictured in a newspaper at a tree-planting event. Read the rest of this entry »

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Climate scientist rappers reveal why they did it

WHEN asked about the key climate change issues, IPCC lead author Professor Roger Jones echoed the concerns of colleagues by saying: “Feedback is like climate change on crack. Denialists deny this in your dreams, Coz climate change means greater extremes.”

“Shit won’t be the norm,” added others.

If only all interviews on climate change could be this colourful, this frank and this… well… lyrical?

Earlier this week, Australian ABC show Hungry Beast screened an original rap video staring nine actual climate scientists, complete with “mutha f******”, a slammin’ gangsta baseline and scores of peer-reviewed science papers and decades of research to back it up.

Since the original rap was posted on YouTube and other blogs (including this one) three days ago , the video has been viewed more than 56,000 times and reposted on sites in the UK, Australia and the US, including the Huffington Post, one of the world’s most popular blog sites.

For a viral online clip which features neither Justin Beiber, Charlie Sheen, Osama Bin Laden or the unlikely and hilarious antics of domesticated cats, this is a remarkable return.

Hungry Beast presenter, comedian Dan Ilic, co-creator of the clip, told me he had “basically blackmailed” the climate scientists several weeks ago into taking part by threatening to “burn a pile of 100 spare tyres” if they didn’t do it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cardinal Pell’s mine of climate misinformation

THE director of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayers must surely possess the patience of a saint or, if you don’t believe in saints, then the patience of my wife who has been waiting for me to fix the hole in the bathroom ceiling for well over three years.

Dr Ayers has finally gained some closure on an issue concerning Cardinal George Pell, the head of the Catholic church in Australia who while believing in saints, doesn’t believe in human-caused climate change.

Dr Ayer’s unloaded his frustrations on a senate estimates committee this week, saying he believed Cardinal Pell had been “misled” by a book called Heaven + Earth, written by Australian climate sceptic and mining director Professor Ian Plimer.

Back in October last year, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to table a letter from Cardinal Pell which quoted heavily from Heaven + Earth to claim there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.

After an early battle with Senator Ian McDonald, who didn’t want to give Dr Ayers time to respond, the bureau’s director finally managed to get his frustrations off his chest and onto the Hansard record. Dr Ayers’ explained how Cardinal Pell’s views on climate change were not only unsupported by the science but in some cases directly contradicted some of its core understandings. For example, he pointed out that Cardinal Pell had miraculously given nitrogen a new physical property.

At one stage [Cardinal Pell] lists greenhouse gases. Included in the list is the gas nitrogen. That is not a greenhouse gas; it is 78 per cent of the atmosphere. You cannot have people out there telling the public that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas, because it is not.

You can read Dr Ayers’ very full response to Cardinal Pell on Hansard here. The fact that Dr Ayers’ response is now there and that I can now point to it, illustrates why he argued so forcefully to be allowed to have his views put on record in the first place.

But as well as being a correction to the cardinal, Dr Ayers’ also critiqued the book which Cardinal Pell had drawn from (Professor Plimer, look away now).

The cardinal I do not anticipate would be an expert in these fields of science, so he has quoted very heavily from this book and the book is, frankly, misleading to all Australians in terms of what it represents.

Why would I say this book is not science? It is not me who says it so much, although I have read it myself; it has been widely reviewed by people in the scientific arena and it has been very heavily criticised for not presenting science but presenting a polemic from one individual. It has not been scientifically peer reviewed.

Dr Ayers’ goes on to describe in detail the great many scientific errors in Professor Plimer’s book. As I’ve personally pointed out many times – including during a face-to-face debate in Brisbane in 2009 – Professor Plimer has never written a peer-reviewed paper on climate change in his life.

Ian Plimer

But what neither Cardinal Pell nor Dr Ayers nor the media coverage has pointed out, is Professor Plimer’s role as a director and chairman with several mining companies, an occupation which he has recently expanded. These same energy-intensive operations are those which would be hardest hit under any plans to price carbon.

Professor Plimer has long-standing roles as a non-executive director with Australia-based mining companies Ivanhoe Australia and CBH Resources, which mainly dig up silver, gold, lead.copper, zinc and other minerals. Professor Plimer is shown in company reports to have earned about $270,000 from Ivanhoe in the last two years. He earned more than $300,000 from CBH Resources over the same period. He is also a director of UK-listed Kefi Minerals, where he recently disposed of 2,400,000 shares worth about $350,000. He has recently taken on the role as chairman of an unlisted tin mining company, called TNT Limited.

Professor Plimer is also a director of Ormil Energy, which is currently engaged in a $3.2 million commitment to investigate coal seam gas and coal mine gas in the Sydney basin, pending government approvals.

But back to Dr Ayers and the senate estimates hearing, where Nationals Senator Ron Boswell pleaded unsuccessfully that Professor Plimer should also be allowed to appear to answer the criticism.

Senator Boswell should already have been well aware of the scathing criticisms of Heaven + Earth, because he launched that very same book in May 2009, a good two weeks after a swathe of scientists had attacked its integrity.

Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald, who is also sceptical of human-caused climate change, was pressing for Professor Plimer’s views to be placed on the record and encouraged Ayers to “go and listen to Professor Carter some day” referring to Professor Bob Carter, another of Australia’s confirmed sceptics of human caused climate change.

Senator Macdonald also suggested he would be tabling an article which recorded how the US house of representatives had recently voted to pull all funding to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Given that the oil and gas industries have been found to have donated more than US$21 million to the current US Congress, should we be surprised that it has now decided to pull the US$2.3 million funding for the IPCC?

The calls for an appearance by Professor Plimer didn’t impress Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who claimed that all Professor Plimer needed to do to get himself heard was to “publish another work of science fiction”.

While the retort was obviously meant as a joke, there’s no fun in knowing that Australian Senators and the head of the Catholic church seem happy to take their views on climate from that piece of “science fiction”.

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Is The Australian addicted to Monckton’s denial?

HIS choice of the Gershwin song “It Ain’t Necessarily So” was unfortunate, if not a little ironic.

In an opinion article published in The Australian, professional climate change denier Christopher Monckton tried his hardest to convince readers that “thoughtful” politicians were beginning to ask “privately, quietly” if a supposed climate crisis was not “necessarily so”.

They were beginning to ask the “Gershwin question” mused Monckton, referring to the song in the 1935 musical Porgy and Bess – a song delivered, ironically, by the musical’s drug dealing character Sportin’ Life.

An addiction to a drug can be a terrible and debilitating experience and just as it is in the case of The Australian‘s apparent addiction to climate denial, it can be degrading, embarrassing and professionally damaging.

Christopher Monckton is one of the world’s most charismatic climate deniers, yet he has no qualifications at all in climate science. Among his beliefs are that the UN is attempting to create a world government and  young climate campaigners are like Hitler youth. Others have also examined Monckton’s creative CV.

This lack of genuine expertise and tendency towards conspiracy theories don’t in themselves deny Monckton the right to an opinion, but the thrust of his views have been roundly rejected by practically every climate scientist currently researching and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Over and over, scientists working in the field and opening their own research to the rigours of peer review (which Monckton has never done) have gone to great lengths to debunk Monckton’s “analysis” of climate change (small selection of examples here, many here and here). They have explained his persistent misrepresentations and errors in calculations, but still Monckton repeats them and still – after alarm bells have been ringing for half a decade - The Australian provides him a forum. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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