Category Archives: Conservatives

The Climate Culture War enters a new phase in Australia

Abbott_Signs

It is telling that one of the very the first acts of the incoming Abbott government was the dismantling of Climate Commission and the sacking of Tim Flannery.

Moves are also under way to wind up the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and repeal the “carbon tax”. The freshly minted Environment Minister, Greg Hunt has dismissed the CEFC as as a speculative hedge fund:

Mr Hunt labels the corporation a green hedge fund, “borrowed in taxpayers’ name for investing in speculative ventures”

Without doubt this little piece of Orwellian cant is meant to associate investment in renewable energy with risky financial speculation.

As Michelle Grattan noted in The Conversation, a select few high-profile public servants have been the victim of their association with Labor’s carbon price:

“One of the strikes against [Martin] Parkinson was that he headed the then Climate Change department and was at the centre of Labor’s work on a carbon price. This was particularly in the mind of some in the Abbott office.”

Grattan also expressed a fear many in the science community must be feeling:

“The CSIRO comes under the Industry department. The scientists working in the climate area might be getting a little nervous.”

Indeed, however it is not just climate scientists who are nervous.

Cheering on the planet’s destruction: the sceptic response

Of course the denial movement has been in an orgiastic state of schadenfreude in response to these cuts.

The Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt demands Tim Flannery refund his salary for his “dud predictions”; conspiracy theorist Jo Nova calls it a “win for Australia”; American blogger Anthony Watts gloats in several posts, dismissing Flannery as a “high paid fool”.

There are of course many more examples of such thinly veiled pleasure in the misfortune of others.

Sitting above this scrum of sceptic bloggers and News Corp hacks, presiding over events like a bad caricature of Ann Ryan’s John Galt, is Rupert Murdoch:

RM_Tweet

Abbott, the LNP, Murdoch and the sceptics have turned back time. They desire nothing more than to wipe from Australia’s political and cultural memory the years 2007-2013.

It is as if the last five years didn’t happen: no first woman prime minister; no Labor in power; no price on carbon; no pesky scientists to remind us of the dangers of climate change.

Down the memory hole they go.

A great first day indeed.

Climate change as lighting rod for conservative anxieties in a changing world

The culture war fought over climate science has raged for more than three decades.

During this period the forces of obstruction had the upper hand in Australia, especially during the Howard years. But their ascendancy was broken in Australia in 2007 with Rudd’s election.

For a few brief years it seemed Australia might take substantive action on climate change: the signing of the Kyoto protocol;  the introduction of the carbon price; greater public acceptance of the science and the desire to act.

Thus 2007 represented a wrong in the eyes of the LNP and conservatives that had to be righted. In response we have witnessed five years of rage and fury. 

And while some may think these events are about climate change, they aren’t.

It is about the soul of the nation: it is what Australia could or should be.

Murdoch, Abbott and the gaggle of sceptics looked out at the world and the shift in our culture and feared what they saw. They are of course differences among all these individuals and the groups they represent. But what united and drove them was hatred of the scientific consensus on climate change.

Climate change has become a lighting rod for conservative anxieties and fears about a rapidly changing world. 

What do individuals do when they feel their “culture” is under attack? 

They mount a counter-offensive. 

This is what the 2013 Abbott victory represents, a cultural coup d’etat. 

Conservatives fear the evolution of Australia’s culture: one that embraces sustainability and equality; one that rejects the values of the past; one that places the market second to the needs of society; one that embraces a post-materialist world view. 

Expunging the heresy of climate science: why we should be concerned for science in Australia

Abbott is keen to project an orderly transition to power, but his targets demonstrate a quiet rage and considered preciseness.

As Flannery noted in his press conference following his sacking:

“As global action on climate change deepens, propaganda aimed at misinforming  the public about climate change, and so blunting any action, increases.”

This should send a chill down the collective spine of scientific community. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but the signs are ominous.

When the Canadian conservatives under Stephan Harper’ got into power they began a war on science and withdrew from the Kyoto treaty. A war on science was also a feature of George W. Bush’s Presidency, notably recorded by Chris Mooney in “The Republican War on Science”.

We may see similar events play out under the Abbott government: the heavy hand of Liberal Party apparatchiks in muting or censoring reports; the defunding of climate research programs; obstruction at climate conferences; more sackings; and pressure on the science community to remain silent on climate change.

Of course it will all be done in the name of savings, efficiency and small government. It will be done in the name of a “mandate”.

But the targets make it obvious.

Welcome to a renewed phase of the climate culture wars. 

John Howard’s faith vs climate science: former PM to headline talk at climate denial think tank

The first order of business for the incoming Abbott government has been to systematically dismantle Australia’s response to the challenge of climate change.

Whether that be “axing the tax”, cutting agencies such as the Climate Commission or dismantling the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Abbott & Co. are gleefully wrecking revenge on the very notion of climate change.

Not only were these actions anticipated, but they represent a return to the “glory years” of the Howard government.

Disdain for science and obstruction are once again the first order of business. Without doubt Abbott is clearly following the lead of his mentor – John Howard.

Thus it comes as no surprise to learn John Howard will be delivering the Global Warming Policy Foundations annual lecture in November titled “One religion is enough”.

Note the title: climate sceptics disparage the science as a “faith” in the exact same way creationists dismiss evolution as a “religion”. It betrays an almost medieval ambivalence to science and the challenge it presents to its authority.

There is an underlying similarity in the opposition to the science expressed by Australian conservative politicians such as Howard, Abbott and public figures such as Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell (a close confident of both).

All of them profess a deeply reactionary view of morality, the family, marriage and antipathy to science informed by their religiosity.

All of them disdain environmentalism, and regard it as a form of paganism or competing religion to the “one true faith”.

As Pell noted in an 2008 interview with the sceptic think tank, the Science and Public Policy Institute:

“It is true that some of the more hysterical and extreme claims about global warming appear symptomatic of a pagan emptiness, of a Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. 

Years ago I was struck by the fears that middle-class kids without religion had about nuclear war. It was almost an obsession with a few of them. It’s almost as though people without religion, who don’t belong to any of the great religious traditions, have got to be frightened of something. 

Perhaps they’re looking for a cause that is almost a substitute for religion. I often point out that some of those who are now warning us against global warming were warning us back in the 1970s about an imminent new ice age, because according to some criteria an ice age is a bit overdue. Remember the fuss about the millennium bug and our computer systems in the lead-up to the year 2000…”

Pell’s response is reminiscent of that Catholic Church when confronted by Galileo’s evidence for a heliocentric solar system.

Howard was a “late convert” to the science in 2007 as the election that spelt his demise loomed.

However, since being thrown out he has thrown his clout behind the deniers now freed from the constraints of office.

In 2011 Howard helped launched Ian Plimer’s “How to get expelled”, a nasty and error-riddled little tome designed to mislead school students:

Mr Howard attacked the one-sided teaching of climate change in schools.

“People ought to be worried about what their children are being taught at school,” he said.

“It’s a matter of real concern”.

As Michelle Gratton notes in The Conversation, one of Abbott’s most senior advisers is Maurice Newman, a noted climate sceptic and who recently dismissed climate change as a myth:

Newman chairs Abbott’s Business Advisory Group and this week wrote in the Financial Review of climate change “myths”.

“The new Coalition government is faced with enormous structural issues that have been camouflaged by effective propaganda and supported by well-organised elements in the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment,” Newman wrote.

“With a huge vested interest in the status quo, they will be vocal opponents of change. The CSIRO, for example, has 27 scientists dedicated to climate change. It and the Weather Bureau have become global warming advocates. They continue to propagate the myth of anthropological climate change and are likely to be background critics of the Coalition’s Direct Action policies.”

The CSIRO comes under the Industry department. The scientists working in the climate area might be getting a little nervous.

A war on science has begun.

Or should we say, has resumed?

War on science to begin? Climate sceptic angling for science portfolio in Abbott government

We experienced a ominous precursor to the Australian summer this week.

Over 1200 firefighters battled 60 fires in New South Wales as temperatures reached the low 30’s. Sadly seven fire fighters were injured fighting the blazes and a number of homes were lost.

According to the NSW Rural Fire Service it was “unusual to have so many intense fires so close together”.

However over the past decades the Australian fire season has grown longer, beginning earlier and ending later – a direct consequence of a warming world.

As the planet heats, the Australian electorate saw fit to vote into office a party not merely opposed to the “carbon tax”, but riddled with sceptics.

One of the prime candidates to take on the science portfolio was the Liberal member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella. However it looks as though Mirabella will lose her seat to an independent, and thus not take on this role in the Abbott government.

Noted for her “caustic style”, Mirabella’s position on the science could at best be called “luke warm” as the blog No Fibs reports:

Asked about climate change at a Mansfield forum, Mirabella indicated her belief that the problem was largely caused by natural warming, but she conceded people were also having an impact.

[Note: The Age reports today it is over for Mirabella and she will lose her seat]

As the fate of Mirabella looks certain, another Liberal has put their hand up for the role: one Dr. Dennis Jensen.

In case there was any doubts about the Abbott government’s position on climate change it is worth noting that Jensen is a prominent climate sceptic. As the Sydney Morning Herald notes:

Dr Jensen has made headlines by questioning the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to global warming. Dr Jensen believes carbon dioxide is contributing somewhat to global temperatures, but not as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is suggesting. Moreover, Dr Jensen does not think governments should be taking urgent action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Jensen is also a fan of Lord Christopher Monckton, the climate sceptic who believes Obama’s birth certificate was faked and propagates the idea the UN and climate scientists are plotting to take over the world and establish a one-world-government:

The colourful Englishman, Lord Christopher Monckton, who toured Australia to debunk the “bogus science” of global warming, was closer to the mark, Dr Jensen suggested. 

“Most of the stuff [Lord Monckton] says is entirely reasonable,” Dr Jensen said. 

“Some of it I don’t agree with but on the whole a lot of what he says is in my view correct.”

Yes, because a science minister should be taking his views from a conspiracy theorist and someone known for fantasizing about secret plots.

Jensen makes no secret of the fact he rejects the scientific consensus. In a June 2013 blog entry on his website, Jensen dimisses the work of the scientific community:

Worse even than “pal review” is where editors and reviewers of a specific scientific predisposition will attempt to reject any paper with a contrary viewpoint. Phil Jones wrote of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report AR4 and of some peer-reviewed papers he did not agree with: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” This is quite stunning, and shows the potential for perversion of a process that even when operating without systemic bias has its problems.

Hopefully, this will give a bit of a better idea of the peer review process, and of some of the shortcomings of the process, and that caveat emptor exists even regarding peer-reviewed literature. Remember, the consensus view of the fraud of Piltdown Man as being the missing link was accepted science for decades.

Note the reference to Pltdown Man – a standard argument used by Creationists to discredit evolutioinary theory.

In a 2008 article in The Australian (where else) Jensen implied climate scientists acted like the mafia:

VESTED interests have hijacked the climate debate, and taken Australia’s future hostage. The ransom they demand? Simple agreement or, at the very least, compliance.

Voices of dissent face derision. Legitimate questions are met with ridicule. But with many of the squabbling forces of power in this country now apparently united in their enthusiasm for an emissions trading scheme, it is more important than ever that we go back and examine the basis of their campaigns.

Conspiracy theories, arguments used by creationists, contempt for the peer review process and scientists.

Yes, this is exactly the kind of person Australia must have to oversee the science portfolio.

Desperately seeking paradigm shifts: sceptics looking for new ways to attack consensus

Lu_paper

Paradigm shift, really?

Anti-science movements evolve: new sceptic lines of attack

The recent paper by John Cook et.al. clearly showing 97% consensus among scientists that the globe has warmed in response to human activities over the last 150 years seems to have rattled large parts of the sceptic movement.

And while they have been bitterly complaining about the paper, their criticisms have failed to spill over into the mainstream media. Their counter arguments remain firmly lodged within the alternative knowledge sphere they have constructed for themselves.

Failing to gain any real traction in undermining the Cook paper, their tactics are now shifting.

The new line of attack is to undermine the idea that a scientific consensus is stable. Drawing on popular notions of the lone scientific genius (aka The Galileo Gambit) and the history of science, they are beginning to stress the instability of scientific consensus.

How effective that is remains to be seen. It may not be enough to dissuade the public from their growing appreciation a scientific consensus exists, but they’re going to give it a good try.

The hullabaloo over Lu

This may explain why of late sceptics and papers such as The Australian have latched onto the deeply flawed paper by Qin Bin Lu claiming CFCs are to blame for global warming, not CO2. Their strategy is simple:

  • Claim the Lu paper has overturned the 97% consensus
  • Suggest that even if the Lu paper has not overturned the 97% consensus, then consensus can be changed at a moments notice
  • Therefore it would be foolish to act on climate change given these scientific uncertainties.

Whether they continue to champion Lu’s paper or not is besides the point. The tactic is designed to achieve two outcomes. Firstly, continue to undermine the public’s understanding a consensus exists. Secondly, undermine the idea of a stable and enduring consensus on any issue.

This in fact may be even more dangerous than previous lines of attack if one considers the implications of such thinking.

If the public understands there is consensus, they’re more ready to accept the science

While the public has mistakenly thought a debate between scientists has existed this is starting to change. That their attitudes can shift matters.

A study published last year in Nature Climate Change demonstrated that if informed a scientific consensus exists, the average member of the public is more likely to accept the science of climate change:

Although most experts agree that CO2 emissions are causing anthropogenic global warming (AGW), public concern has been declining. One reason for this decline is the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by political and vested interests, which often challenge the existence of the scientific consensus. The role of perceived consensus in shaping public opinion is therefore of considerable interest: in particular, it is unknown whether consensus determines people’s beliefs causally. It is also unclear whether perception of consensus can override people’s ‘worldviews’, which are known to foster rejection of AGW. Study 1 shows that acceptance of several scientific propositions—from HIV/AIDS to AGW—is captured by a common factor that is correlated with another factor that captures perceived scientific consensus. Study 2 reveals a causal role of perceived consensus by showing that acceptance of AGW increases when consensus is highlighted. Consensus information also neutralizes the effect of worldview.

Such acceptance cuts across the left-right political spectrum. For obvious reasons, the very idea of a consensus is considered anathema to the sceptics.

But if the average person can be primed to accept the science in response to understanding a consensus exists, what lines of attack can we expect from the sceptics?

Enter Lu and the idea of consensus being inherently unstable.

The would-be paradigm shifter: Lu at Waterloo

For those unfamiliar with this weeks drama in climate science, Qing Bin Lu at the University of Waterloo (NZ) claims to have overturned the scientific consensus on global warming.

It is CFCs, not CO2 to blame. As noted, this theory has long been discredited.

Lu’s paper has been championed by The Australian, other sections of the conservative press and politicians as evidence the scientific paradigm on global warming has been “overturned”.

His claims have been examined and dismissed numerous times, yet Lu persists promoting his discredited theory [for good commentary see Eli Rabett here and here].

I suspect it’s revival and championing by sceptics has something do with the success of the Cook et.al paper and shifting public attitudes. 

Luntz Mark II: desperate attempts to keep the debate going

For those with long memories or an appreciation of the history of the climate debate, maintaining public confusion was one of the central strategies suggested in the notorious Frank Luntz memo.

Luntz, a Republican operative during the Bush years suggested Republican politicians push the idea the scientific debate remained open. In 2002 Frank Luntz instructed Republican politicians to question the scientific consensus:

Luntz

Thus, if the public comes to understand there is a 97% consensus, their views on global warming and the policy options available to them will change. Right? We crack what is the hardest nut in the debate. 

But the merchants of doubt have a new product. With the Lu paper they are attacking the idea of a stable scientific consensus. They are tweaking their long running strategy of claiming scientific issues (not merely the consensus) remains open

It is Luntz Mark II.

Consensus: a stable ground for policy formation, or not?

The climate debate in the public sphere is not about the science: it is about policy formation.

Policies designed to mitigate climate change have been effectively stalled for decades in large parts of the world at the global level.

The sceptic position, unlike that of the IPCC or scientists is not policy neutral. In fact, sceptics and their backers are specific on policy: keep taxes on industry low, constrain or dilute environmental regulations and ensure markets remain “free”.

But if the public, and by extension politicians, accept the consensus then movement within the policy arena shifts from inaction to action.

So what are the sceptics doing in response to this perceived shift in opinion?

Shifting the debate from being about the percentages of scientists accepting a theory to that of a consensus position being insufficiently stable to form the basis of policy formulation. 

It is well-known scientific uncertainty is a problem within the policy making sphere. One just has to look at how delayed the social response and regulation over the risks of tobacco smoking significantly lagged the scientific consensus.

Thus the sceptics are re-formulating their line of attack to influence both public perception and the policy sphere with this new wedge strategy.

Lone-genius-scientific-paradigm-busting-superstar: re-framing the question of scientific uncertainty and consensus 

Rather than suggesting the scientists are at odds over the science, they’ve taken it a step further. They are now re-framing the question of how stable a scientific consensus can ever be

It is the Galileo Gambit, the idea that all it takes is one individual (or one paper) to radically transform our understanding of the world.

Lu is this weeks would-be climate sceptic Galileo. Next week, next month it will be some other obscure scientist with an equally improbable hypothesis.

They’re looking for someone – anyone – to shift the scientific paradigm. Because if the paradigm “shifts’ (or has the possibility of shifting) then climate change is “not real”. Then the sceptics can continue to argue the debate is not over.

This new line of attack needs to be given consideration.

Anti-science movements don’t fade away they evolve: the long debate has barely begun

The_cow_pock

The vaccine debate is 200 years old

I appreciate not everyone will find the following prognosis cheery, but I think there is some validity to it.

Anti-science movements never truly fade away, their popularity ebbs and flows. Their arguments and tactics evolve and adapt.

They are long-lasting, multi-generational movements that sometimes fade into obscurity (as far as official keepers of knowledge are concerned) and re-emerge in periods of crisis.

Take vaccination as but one example.

The above cartoon by James Gillray from 1802 captures the fear that inoculation against cowpox would lead to cow like appendages sprouting from a person’s body. Indeed, it was produced for the anti-vaccination movement of the day.

Two centuries later, despite the obvious benefits and success of mass vaccination, serious doubt has crept into the public’s consciousness. We are now seeing a resurgence of diseases such as measles and whooping-cough once thought under control. As fewer people vaccinate their children, herd immunity decreases and we’re faced with resurgent pathogens. Children die.

Let us consider another example.

The Creationist movement of the 1920s started out with a very primitive set of arguments against evolution derived from criticisms stemming from the mid-to-late 19th century opposition to Darwin. The Scopes Monkey trial of the 1920s saw them suffer a setback.

The movement was dormant for several decades, as it faded into the background, a tenant of a variety of Evangelical churches in the United States. But slowly in the 1950s it began to re-emerge. In the 1970s advocates renamed Creationism “Creation Science” and gained success in promoting it as an alternative theory to the Evolutionary consensus.

Suffering a number of setbacks in a series of court tussles, creationists again reformulated the basic tenants of creationism and labelled it Intelligent Design.

The climate sceptic movement is no different. They will adapt and reformulate their lines of attack.

This broad trend needs to be given consideration.

 

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The Maginot Line Defence and moral imagination: climate change isn’t real; maybe it is; we should all give up!

Give_up

Mark Lawson is a journalist at the Australian Financial Review noted for his climate scepticism and frequent posts on any climate change thread on The Conversation. Indeed, he is the frequent target of criticism by other posters for making basic errors of fact.

Be that as it may, in the comments section of the post reprinted on WtD, Mark made the following comment in relation to the challenge of establishing global agreements:

I have no quibbles with the article but the main surprise is that anyone seriously thought that an enforceable, global system for limiting emissions could be put in place in the foreseeable future. The immense difficulties were apparent before the Copenhagen conference in late 2009. Activists are only now reluctantly acknowledging this reality.

Getting the US to agree to anything nationally is simply impossible for the reasons the author sets out. Even the well-supported multi-state programs are largely tokens. As for the Chinese, there is big talk but mostly it’s all just hot air. A pilot program for emissions trading in a few cities doesn’t even apply to power stations.

Basically forget it. Come back in a few decades.

Yes – let’s just “basically forget it”.

Indeed, let’s do nothing at all.

Let’s be like Mark and throw our hands in the air and say, “To hell with you humanity, I can’t be ars*d!”

I’m certainly not underestimating the challenges climate change presents – it is truly a problem from hell.

Indeed, there is a real possibility it is beyond humanity’s collective efforts to respond adequately.

However there is a difference between articulating the complexity and scope of the problem and giving up.

Mark employs what I call the “Maginot Line Defence”: it is not so much an argument but the psychological process of moving from denial and/or indifference to defeatism:

Climate change is not real! > Climate change is not real! > Climate change is not real! > Climate change is not real! > Maybe it is real? > Oh cr*p it is real! > It seems like a hard problem… hmmmm > We should all give up!

The Maginot Line, for those who don’t know, was a line of fortifications built by the French between the First and Second World War to protect themselves from another feared German invasion.

When war broke out again, the Germans simply – and quite literally – drove around it.

This led the dispirited French armies to collapse in confusion. France fell in a matter of weeks, and the rest they say was history.

At the time the French army was regarded as the most effective fighting force in the world, however the French national psyche had been badly mauled during WW1. Millions had died in the trenches.

Those losses haunted the French in the decades following the Armistice of 1918.

And so, the idea of fighting another such bloodbath was intolerable to many of the French populace.

So they built a wall and hid behind it, feeling safe behind the imagined security it offered.

The rise of Hitler, new developments in military technology and the innovative combined land-air tactics of Blitzkrieg (not a term the German’s used themselves by the way) was a reality many people did not want to face and refused to even see.

Hence the inflexible, supposedly invulnerable, wall of defence built to shelter them from a threat without having to directly confront it.

Those who employ the Maginot Line Defence in the climate debate are doing likewise, but at the individual level – primarily to protect themselves from the uncomfortable thoughts about the future (something akin to terror management theory) or having to address thorny questions about justice and lifestyle change:

“Climate change real? That’s a change not worth thinking about!”

For many, the response is to hide behind a reflective – and reflexive – wall of indifference in order to avoid disquieting feelings.

But reality can only be kept at bay for so long: eventually it circumnavigates even the most artful defences.

It is then people can resort to defeatism:

“Climate change!” you now hear many sceptics and defeatist cry “…even it if was real, way too hard to solve! What are going to do about it?”

The solution they offer:

“Forgot about it – give up! Come back in a few decades!”

Perhaps these people won’t ever personally know someone forced to relocate due to rising seas, floods or collapsing regional economies in drought-impacted areas.

They may regard these as other people’s problems.

Do not they not have the right to ignore the suffering of others and prohibit such trivia punctuating their consciousness?

Of course they do: there is not – nor should there be – any compulsion for them to do so.

The garden of our soul is for us alone to tend.

But should we only consider our own well-being and short-term needs?

Is that an ethical way to move through the world?

Denial is not so much the refusal to accept scientific facts, but a failure to employ the moral imagination.

Those who employ their moral imagination have the capacity to imagine different futures and the suffering (or flourishing) of others; to pay attention to the pull of their individual conscience; and to acknowledge the impact they have as they move through the world.

Or – we could all just give up.

Of ice ages, the view from nowhere and the value of one’s soul: Graham Lloyd, The Australian and the repackaging of fringe science

Not long ago Hollywood rediscovered the disaster genre, delivering to the movie viewers a spate of gloriously visualised, but implausible apocalyptic visions. As examples of the zeitgeist they’re fascinating examples of our existential fears made real.  

In what lovers of the genre call “disaster porn” the CGI wizards of Hollywood treated us to a variety of end time scenarios: from giant meteorites in the execrable Armageddon (1998); global pandemics in Outbreak (1995) and I am Legend (2007); the Godzilla inspired monster of Cloverfield (2008); the New Age eschatology implied by ending of the Mayan Long Count calendar in the film 2012 (made in 2009); to the current most-favoured harbingers of the apocalypse, the zombies of The Walking Dead.

My favourite of this genre has to be The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a film which imagines the globe caught in the grip of a sudden ice age which descends over a series of days rather than the millennia it normally takes. The film chronicles a series of extreme weather events, precursors to the Northern Hemisphere being blanketed in ice.

The film treats us to a touching father-son reconciliation, a trite love story and lots of ice.

Pure bunk of course – however scientists have long resigned themselves to the fact that Hollywood will choose spectacle over fact. Most of us can discern fact from film fantasy. But sadly, not all of us can make such distinctions.

Point in case The Australian’s Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, who recently published an article containing “facts” about as plausible as the script as The Day After Tomorrow.

According to Graham there is serious scientific debate about a coming ice age. No really, he argues such.

An ice age cometh: we’re about to enter a 30 year cooling period?

In an article titled Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age (May 4 2013), Lloyd rips his facts straight from the big screen and pages of fringe science blogs to suggest there is some debate over an imminent ice age:

In Russia, one of the world’s leading solar physicists, Habibullo Abdussamatov, says the planet is well on the way to another deep freeze. Abdussamatov is 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.

In an interview with Principia Scientific International, Abdussamatov said results of research from the ISS had indicated a decline in total solar irradiance, which was having a dramatic effect on the global climate.

Data indicated the onset of a mini ice age.

If true, then all this fuss over global warming is actually distracting us from the actual (and in Graham’s view equally plausible) threat of an imminent ice age.

The impressively credentialed Habibullo Abdussamatov seems uniquely qualified to put forward such an argument. That is until one starts digging as Abdussamatov seems to hold some very strange views.

Abdussamatov: does not believe in any greenhouse effect

Abdussamatov is a vocal sceptic of global warming within the parallel universe the deniers inhabit, but as far as the science community is concerned he is relatively obscure.

He is not a leading solar physicist: this is merely another example of the old sceptic tactic of inflating the reputation and achievements of “experts” such as Abdussamatov. In fact, a quick search of the internet will find he has been making the same claims for several years.

His most unusual claim is that the greenhouse effect does not exist at all. In a 2007 article published on Canada.com (website of Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia Network) Abdussamatov is quoted as saying:

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. “Ascribing ‘greenhouse’ effect properties to the Earth’s atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated,” he maintains. “Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away.”

Such a claim would be news to the scientific community to say the least.

Actually, it is almost impossible to convey just how absurd his proposition is – it is the scientific equivalent of arguing the sun still goes around the Earth. His view of the behaviour of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere is pure fantasy without a shred of evidence.

Even the most extreme sceptics – Jo Nova, Lord Monckton and Anthony Watts – don’t subscribe to this view.

They acknowledge the greenhouse effect: they argue a doubling of CO2 will have a negligible impact on global temperatures. According to them, the heat trapping potential of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been overstated by the scientific community.

Thus Abdussamatov would be considered fringe even by their standards – which is saying a lot. If that is not bad enough, things go from bad to worse in Lloyd’s article.

Graham Lloyd plagiarizing content: word for word his article mimics a 2007 article from Canada Free Press

The practice of using material word-for-word without attribution or acknowledging the source is generally frowned upon by journalists. 

The more cynical call it plagiarism. Sadly, Lloyd appears to be engaged in this very activity.

Lloyd attributes the following quotes to Abdussamatov (italics mine):

Abdussamatov said there had been five deep cold periods in the past 1000 years – in 1030, 1315, 1500, 1680 and 1805.

 He said another cool period was due and would come about regardless of whether industrialised countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions.

“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.”

 Abdussamatov said a new “little ice age” would start this or next year and hit a low around 2040, with a deep freeze that would last for the rest of the century.

The quotes Lloyd use mimic word-for-word quotes in the aforementioned 2007 article (italics):

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

Lloyd has merely broken the later paragraph up and substituted some words.

Perhaps Lloyd was sloppy, or merely forgot to correctly attribute his sources. We all make mistakes.

The more cynical of us would call it plagiarism.   

False balance: Lloyd’s view from nowhere is really the view from the fringes

Lloyd is a practitioner of the journalistic style of “the view from nowhere”.

He tries to eschew any editorialising in order to present “both sides of the debate” so that the informed reader can make up their own mind.

In reality, Lloyd’s view from nowhere is the view from the fringes of the scientific community: more specifically the view of a crank, Abdussamatov.

Lloyd elevates Abdussamatov to the level of one the world’s “leading solar physicists” and a voice we should be paying attention too. Lloyd frames the article in such a way to imply there is some debate amongst the scientific community that an ice age may very well be immanent.

Let’s be clear: there’s no debate: there are no concerns about a mini-ice age.

What we have is the spectacle of The Australian plucking fringe beliefs from the sceptic blogosphere and given them credibility.

The real story that needs to be told is not that of scientists debating about scenarios reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow.

The real story that needs to be told is just how partisan The Australian has become on the issue of climate change.

Lloyd’s article smells of desperation: it is the feeble clutching for facts in order to deny reality.

The planet is warming; climate change is real; humanity is the architect of this warming.

We all have a choice: one can accept reality or live in denial. Lloyd seems to have made his choice: he is a nowhere man living in an alternative reality of facts made to suit the opinions of Editor Chris Mitchell and owner Rupert Murdoch.

But what is cost of this?

Not only to Lloyd and the reputation of The Australian as a news source – but to us, the general public who needs to be informed? We may shake our heads at the antics of Lloyd, but ultimately it is a grossly misinformed public who suffers most.

At least Lloyd gets paid for his efforts: I guess I gain some satisfaction in correcting his falsehoods.

But again – at what cost?

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

Graham Lloyd and The Australian: rapidly fading credibility

It says a lot about the quality of a newspaper when their Environment Editor is either a) unable to distinguish fringe beliefs from actual science or b) happy to publish such tripe if it undermines the scientific consensus on global warming.

Over the years we’ve witnessed The Australian publish some appalling misinformation on climate change: this without doubt is the nadir of their reporting on climate change.

For a paper which likes to think of itself as the “voice of the nation” this is an appalling lapse in journalistic standards.

We – the reading public – have a right to expect better than this. This is the very impulse that motivated me to start this blog. We are all ill-served by the mainstream media if this is the best they have to offer.

Perhaps there is a circle in Hell for once good journalists who have turned away from the ethics of the profession: if so it must be full of News Limited journalists who felt compelled – or were coerced – to publish pieces such as Lloyd’s.

For good reason many of us are exhausted auditing the self-proclaimed auditors of science. We’ve been engaged in this activity for over thirty years when the “debate” first emerged.

I believe there is a more important question to address: the question of why. Of why elements of the media – who have the power to shape public opinion and debate – have granted themselves permission to distort the truth and mislead the public.

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

[Note: see also Graham Readfearn’s piece on the same topic – what can I say? Great minds think alike. Readfearn does some great detective work on finding all the sources Lloyd uses.]

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[Disclaimer: This article contains both original research and some elements of satire. Every effort is made to ensure the validity of the claims made by the blog’s author. ]

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Let’s end the pseudo debate: ask your politician if they accept the scientific consensus on climate change

“Belief” is a troubling word when used within the context of the climate debate.

Frequently people will ask me “Do you believe in climate change?” as if it is a matter of personal opinion.

I always answer (politely of course) “I accept the 97% consensus of climate scientists”. My personal views are of no consequence to the reality of climate change – it is simply what the overwhelming evidence has told me.

Facts are independent of opinion. And while every one has a right to accept or reject the evidence of climate change, personal belief does not alter the robust and well-tested scientific theory (not hypothesis) that humanity is changing the planet’s atmosphere.

Within the scientific community this fact is a no longer controversial – nor has it been for decades. The fact that the science is settled has been obscured by the denial movement, sceptical politicians and the Murdoch press. In doing so they have impeded action on climate change.

As we head into Election 2013 climate change will be front and centre once more with Tony Abbott swearing a “blood oath” to axe-the-tax. The Coalition’s attack on the “carbon tax” has been central to undermining the Gillard government’s legitimacy. Their scare campaign – in addition to Labor’s own incompetence and failure to explain their policies to the electorate – has more than likely delivered them office in September.

However, the Coalition’s climate policies are now coming under increasing scrutiny – especially from business who regard their ‘Direct Action Plan” as either inadequate or a bit of a joke. The business community prefers an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change is central to discussions about our nations future; it will impact business, individuals and communities. Thus we should be asking our politicians if they accept or reject the scientific consensus.

It is time for the pseudo debate to end.

Let’s stop talking about whether or not global warming has “paused” for 17 years or if climate change is a Marxist/Rothschild plot to take over the globe.

We should ask our politicians “Do you accept the consensus of 97% of climate scientists?”

Australia’s politicians in the spotlight: uknowispeaksense survey

I highly recommend the research on the acceptance or rejection of climate science of our politicians by Mike from uknowispeaksense. See his work here:

He has represented this a couple of graphs. What is surprising is that most politicians accept the science, as indicated in the following pie charts.

House of Representatives:

all-members-2

And in the Senate:

all-senators

However if you dig into the numbers, far less conservative politicians accept the scientific consensus. Still, it is worth noting both the majority of voters and politicians accept the science.

So why the hold up?

The denial movement has created a powerful aura of invincibility around itself and that we should all pay attention to their arguments. However, the reality is that they are tiny in numbers but extremely vocal. What they lack in numbers they make up for in the vehemence in prosecuting their anti-science campaign.

The article below from The Conversation is also relevant to this discussion and proposes eight questions we should be asking of all our politicians (see below).

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By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; Fiona Armstrong, La Trobe University; Karen Kiang, University of Melbourne, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

As we head into an election, you’d be justified in asking what your local member is basing their climate change decisions on.

If your MP says “I don’t support policies to prevent dangerous climate change” because “I don’t believe climate change is occurring” or “I’m not sure climate change is human caused” is this position justifiable simply because it’s his or her personal opinion?

While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, are our elected leaders being ethically responsible when they justify inaction on climate change based on personal opinions? Sustainability ethicist Donald A. Brown, from Widener University School of Law, emphatically argues, “no” – they are not.

In a recent widely republished blog post on ethicsandclimate.org, Brown argues government officials have an ethical responsibility to understand the state of climate change science. Politicians hold crucial leadership positions where they can enact policies that can prevent or minimise great harm. These policies, to put it bluntly, affect millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Governments and elected officials cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uninformed opinion or ideology instead of the scientific consensus.

The long-standing consensus of climate scientists and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence warn us that constituents and governments are causing great harm through greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Brown says, politicians may not appeal to their personal opinions on climate science. They are not justification for not taking action.

Brown refers to a number of US politicians who hold the position that they don’t support climate policies because they are not convinced by the science. Brown argues that the media has largely failed to hold them accountable.

The same issue afflicts many Australian politicians – and the Australian media. Very rarely have politicians who reject climate science in Australia been asked to explain their justifications on scientific grounds.

According to the Political Leaders and Climate Change Index (PLCCI) published in 2010 by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the number of politicians in the parliament who either don’t or won’t accept the science of climate change in Australia is significant.

Of course, this can change over time. Recently the new Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray renounced his previous position that climate science was “pop science” and a “middle-class conspiracy to frighten schoolchildren”.

However, there are many other politicians who have not changed their opinions as Gray has done. In 2010 around 40% of Liberal/National politicians held the view the world could warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius before the situation became dangerous. The actual scientific consensus is a mere 2 degrees. Another 40% professed not to know what a safe global average temperature increase might be.

The likelihood of a Coalition government winning in 2013 makes the public statement of personal opinions on human induced climate change an issue of national and global importance.

The risks posed to the Australian and international communities by the uninformed opinions of our national leaders are significant. They cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uniformed opinion or ideology instead of science. Because of those risks, the role of responsible and well-informed media is crucial. The media has the civic and moral obligation to be a watchdog on society and its institutions.

Journalists have a duty to question politicians who oppose action based on uninformed opinions. The public has a right to be informed, and to question, a politician’s justification for putting current and future generations at risk.

Following Brown, we propose a series of questions that journalists (and the public) should be asking politicians on global warming, and how governments should respond to it.

  1. Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?
  2. Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  3. Do you accept that the human population is making a substantial contribution to climate change via our greenhouse gas emissions? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify going against the scientific consensus?
  4. Is it your position that Australia and the rest of the world need to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  5. Are you aware that the impacts of climate change in terms of increased risks to human health and climate change related deaths is already being measured by medical and public health professionals worldwide?
  6. Do you accept that anyone who argues that we continue with business as usual and emit greenhouse gases beyond levels that the consensus of climate scientists says is dangerous for humanity (and the ecological system on which humans depend) should bear the burden of proof to show that this is safe?
  7. Do you accept that, in light of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and the long-standing consensus of climate scientists, politicians have a responsibility to immediately implement strategies to prevent dangerous climate change?
  8. Given that climate scientists have been advising the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases for decades, do you accept that politicians who fail to implement policies to prevent dangerous climate change should be held responsible for harm that results from this inaction?

We might ask politicians a few of these ourselves. Have a go yourself – and let us know how you get on. We’d be pleased to write about it.

Karen Kiang is affiliated with Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Brad Farrant, Fiona Armstrong, and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

How Tony Abbott killed the Australian climate sceptic movement and schooled them in realpolitik

In June of 2012 I wrote a post on the politics of climate change in Australia and what to expect in 2013 and 2014. At the time I thought it overly optimistic, if not risky given that most predictions turn out to be spectacularly wrong.

Titled The coming disappointment: how the deniers are about to get a harsh lesson in realpolitik I suggested:

  • Tony Abbott and the LNP would win the 2013 Federal election
  • Abbott would look to “axe-the-tax” (price on carbon) in name only, introducing a face-saving sleight-of-hand in but still maintain a price on carbon
  • The climate sceptic movement would be bitterly disappointed, as the realisation began to dawn on them that Abbott played the populist hand against the carbon tax in order to undermine the Gillard government’s legitimacy
  • For the climate sceptics (deniers) it would be an object lesson in realpolitik.

I should have also added it would signal the death knell of the sceptic movement as a cultural and political force in Australia. Abbott may shut down the Climate Commission as a symbolic act, but it will be no more than that – a sop for the more rabid elements of the Murdoch Press.

Now that Abbott is assured the Prime Ministership both he and the LNP are distancing themselves from climate change scepticism.

Abbott has just recently indicated that once he becomes Prime Minister he will work with China and the United States to formulate a global agreement and (believe it or not) raise their emission reduction targets:

The coalition will consider ramping up the national target for reduced emissions as part of its Direct Action policy, The Australian Financial Review reports.

According to the newspaper, Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt told an audience in Canberra last night Australia would “easily meet” the already set target of reducing emissions by five per cent by 2020.

Mr Hunt conceded his confidence was rooted in a future coalition government’s willingness to consider raising the emissions reduction target as early as 2015.

Mr Hunt’s concession comes as opposition leader Tony Abbott unveiled plans to play a lead role in convincing China and the United States to sign up for a global climate change deal if he wins government.

Mr Hunt said under a coalition government Australia would still be part of a UN climate change process but would also pursue action with key members of Group of 20 nations.

“Where a real global agreement will come is when China and United States reach a point of common position and when that’s backed up with India and the EU,” Mr Hunt told ABC TV on Thursday.

Mr Hunt said Australia would chair the G20 summit in Brisbane next year and it was in a unique position “to bring together the G4 as the basis for a global agreement”.

“I think (Tony’s) a fantastic negotiator,” he said

Yes that’s right – a global governance regime and working with the UN. The very things the likes of Christopher Monckton, Jo Nova, David Evans, Andrew Bolt and James Delingpole fear. Does this make Abbott an agent of the New World Order?

Hunt also recently appeared on the Andrew Bolt show arguing the case for global action:

GREG HUNT: If we act with China, the United States, India and the EU, that can be a positive. But acting alone, and at the moment, the Government is acting alone in a way where we have a higher tax than anybody else in the world is ultimately not effective, particularly when you are simply sending the emissions and the jobs to China, to India and to Indonesia. 

ANDREW BOLT: Can you explain to me why, and I always ask the question of you whenever I see you as you know… 

GREG HUNT: You do. 

ANDREW BOLT: And I always try to ask that of the Government when they don’t come into the studio anyway. But why is that I don’t get an answer anyway on that? I mean it’s quite a, scientists have got the figure, and they put it out there, this is the difference you will make and you guys never tell us, yes or no. 

GREG HUNT: The answer is we will make a difference of 155 million tonnes… 

ANDREW BOLT: No in temperature. 

GREG HUNT: Acting alone the difference is minimal but… 

ANDREW BOLT: Everyone watching us now has just seen me asking you the question a couple of times and everyone watching this now has seen you dodge it and they will say he’s not answering it. 

That’s what really strikes me, why do politicians never answer the very basic question. For all this pain what is the gain in temperature? 

GREG HUNT: There are different views on the impact. 

ANDREW BOLT: And what’s your view? 

GREG HUNT: My view is that alone it is minimal. With others you can have some sort of impact but above all else, we’ve got an environmental policy which is about clean air and clean land, things that you can support irrespective of where you stand on the science.

The LNP’s pivot back to the centre: ditching the crazies

Mainstream politicians don’t win elections pandering to extremists and conspiracy theorists. The Republicans failed to learn that lesson in 2012.

However Abbott & Co. is doing what the GOP and Mitt Romney failed to do in the final stages of the 2012 US election: swing back to political centre to capture moderate and undecided voters. Abbott learnt the lesson the GOP failed to learn – ditch the crazies.

The carbon tax protests of several years ago demonstrated to most Australians the sceptic movement is a collection of intellectual fringe dwellers and conspiracy theorists. Only 6% of the Australian public identify themselves as climate sceptics. It is a demographic the Coalition and LNP and Abbott would do well to ditch – and so they are.

Conservative commentator (and George W. Bush speechwriter) David Frum recently wrote the harm extremist views can have on the electoral prospects of a political party. Reflecting on the reasons for the GOP’s defeat in the last US Presidential election he noted the toxic role the “conservative entertainment complex” played :

“The alternative information system built by conservative elites imprisons them as much as it does the movement’s rank and file. Exactly at the moment when realism and restraint are most needed, those qualities are spurned by a political movement that has furnished its collective mind with pseudo-facts and pretend information.” (Why Romney Lost, 2012)

The climate sceptic movement is just that: an alternative system of knowledge. If you recall, every GOP presidential candidate stated they were a climate sceptic: not one of them became the President of the United States.

Abbott and Greg Hunt are smart enough to start freeing themselves from the grip of the sceptic movement: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Where’s the love Tony? Sceptics feel the cold shoulder

This reality is only just dawning on Australia’s more vocal sceptics. Evidence of this can be seen in a recent post by Jo Nova in which she lashes out at Abbott and the LNP.

Titled Australian conservatives going Labor lite – pandering to the “green vote” or just confused? she states:

Tony Abbott has a plan to try to convince China and the US to sign up for the “global climate change deal.” As if the world’s number one and two economies, with a population of 1.6 billion combined, will be waiting for instructions. And as if the global climate needed “a deal”. Hey but we do have 22 million people. squeak. squeak.

To make matters worse, Greg Hunt — the opposition spokesman for the environment — said a Coalition Government might not wipe out the emissions reductions target but… wait, they might lift the target instead. Thus taking something useless, expensive and ineffective against a problem-that-doesn’t-exist and making it moreso [sic].

It’s a mistake every which way. The Liberal Party could play them at their own green game and beat them, just by applying common sense. Instead its appeasing the politically correct namecallers [sic] (who wouldn’t vote for them anyway), and the price they pay is to look weak, irrational and lacking in conviction.

Jo can’t understand why Abbott and Hunt accept climate change as real:

If the Liberal Party were serious about protecting the environment, they would promise to drop funding for pointless fantasies and token do-gooder projects and get the science right first. A government that was serious about the environment would use some saved funds to set up an entirely new climate science research unit — one that aimed at predicting the climate (inasmuch as it is possible). Better climate models would help farmers, town planners, tourism operators, emergency services, dams and water catchments. It’s not just green, its a productivity thing too. Better than a wind-farm…

The new unit could compete with the BOM and CSIRO and may the best scientists win.

A real green policymaker would audit our temperature records independently. How can we be serious about managing Australia’s climate if our records have biased and inexplicable adjustments, that are described as “neutral”? Why would anyone who cares about the environment be prepared to accept shoddy data, bugs, and mysterious black box methods that no one can test?

Put aside her fantasy of creating yet another scientific institution – at great expense to the taxpayer – the necessary competition between scientists has already happened: it’s called the peer-review system. Over 95% of climate scientists agree humanity is changing the atmosphere of the planet.

Abbott and the LNP have accepted that scientific consensus: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Abbott’s coming political challenge: Australia’s business community want’s a price on carbon

A recent article in the Australian Financial Review stated both power and multinational firms are signalling their strong desire to see a price on carbon is maintained:

Power companies are demanding the federal opposition rethink its “direct action’’ plan for reducing carbon emissions, warning that its company baseline approach could be more difficult to operate than Labor’s trading scheme.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia said falling demand for power meant the Coalition must review its energy and climate change policy if it gains power at the September 14 federal election.

The warning comes amid growing support by multinational companies and major business groups for a market-based scheme, such as an emissions trading scheme, linked to the currently low prices set in European and other international markets.

ESSA, which represents big power companies such as Origin, TRUenergy and International Power, has long supported an emissions trading scheme.

“What we are seeing is the conditions in the market moving so quickly that there is a need to rethink the rules with a view to resetting or rethinking Direct Action,” ESAA chief executive Matthew Warren told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday.

But the Coalition is refusing to budge. The opposition’s spokesman on ­climate action, Greg Hunt, said on Tuesday that it was committed to dumping the carbon tax.

“We remain completely committed to the policy as it removes a costly tax on business,” he said.

After the 2013 election the LNP will face enormous pressure from business to shift its position.

The hard sell will be trying to convince the voting public retaining a price on carbon is not a price on carbon. But a price on carbon is here to stay.

Would not the public see that as a cynical ploy, thus hurting freshly minted Prime Minister Abbott’s approval ratings? More than likely.

But the LNP will have a sizable majority in the lower house and the potential to ride out initial voter backlash.

Cynical? Perhaps.

But that is how the game is played.

Realpolitik triumphs: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Ironically it is Tony Abbott driving some of the final nails into the coffin of the climate sceptic movement –  the same man who famously called climate change “crap” and ran a tawdry scare campaign against the carbon “tax”.

There are times when politics creates situations of exquisite irony.

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Dear Miranda Devine: the tabloid press is killing children by discouraging vaccination, not climate scientists

The claims made by the opinion writers of Murdoch’s News Limited about climate change normally follow a predictable script: there has been a “pause in warming”; climate change is a hoax; it was slightly chilly this morning, ergo climate change is not real.

Barely a day goes by without these myths being repeated within the pages of The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and The Australian or the blogs of News Limited journalists.

However there are times when the conservative culture warriors of News Limited not merely get the science wrong, but create an entire parallel universe of facts.

Case in point, a recent article by Miranda Devine of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

In it she claims climate scientists are directly responsible for parents refusing to vaccinate their children:

ONE of the consequences of the bastardisation of climate science has been the damage to the credibility of science across the board. 

the general public has watched scientists being co-opted by the climate industry, as money and perks flow to those who toe the alarmist line. 

Having been frightened by the doomsday predictions that drove political action when Australia was gripped by drought, people then saw that the warnings were bogus and pushed by green authoritarians…. 

Which of course means people have stopped vaccinating their children:

In Vaucluse and Mosman, among the very people who drank most heartily of the climate Kool-Aid, are parents who reject the evidence that vaccination saves lives. They prefer to believe hocus pocus claims that immunisation against once-lethal childhood diseases leads to autism or brain damage. 

And they are so selfish that they don’t think they have any responsibility to contribute to the “herd immunity” that keeps the whole community safe. 

So now, when we had all but eradicated scourges like measles and whooping cough, they are making a comeback. 

By all means we should do as the Australian Medical Association suggests, and ban unvaccinated children from attending school. 

But we should also sheet blame for the rise of irrational beliefs where it belongs, to those who corrupted science for ideological purposes. 

If I understand correctly, Miranda’s logic runs like this:

Preposition A: Scientists claim the planet is warming due to increased greenhouse gases released through are industrial activity. 

Preposition B: Scientists also claim vaccination is safe and will prevent the spread of diseases. 

Conclusion: Therefore people do not trust science and have stopped vaccinating their children. 

However, the people of Mosman and Vaucluse accept the science of climate change. Would that not make them more predisposed to accept science’s claims about vaccination? Has any climate scientist cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccination? Did I miss that story?

Help me out guys, but I’m struggling with Ms. Devine’s tour-de-force of reasoning?

Looking at the first and second prepositions, one has to ask how she make the astonishing leap to the conclusion “climate scientists stopped parents vaccinating their children”?

Look I get it – climate scepticism is waning. Indeed, it is pretty much a spent force. Thus the claims of sceptics are getting more and more ridiculous as they desperately try to garner attention.

Of course her claims having nothing to do with reality.

How sections of the population came to fear a link between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism is actually well documented. Indeed, it is a text-book example of zealous anti-science activists and a partisan media undermining the public’s confidence in science. 

For those not familiar the history of the MMR controversy it is worth revisiting. Just over a decade ago, a researcher by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a study claiming a link between autism and the MMR vaccine in the Lancet. However it turned out Wakefield faked his results. Since then his research has been retracted and he lost his medical license.

It was the conservative tabloid press in the United Kingdom, in particular The Daily Mail and not climate scientists, that spread the lie that a “link” between MMR and autism existed.

As Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal wrote of the whole sorry saga:

“The original paper has received so much media attention, with such potential to damage public health, that it is hard to find a parallel in the history of medical science. Many other medical frauds have been exposed but usually more quickly after publication and on less important health issues.”

As evidence see this:

And this:

And this:

Following these and other articles, the rate of vaccination fell in the UK and across the developed world. This of course lead to an increase in diseases such as measles. Children died. Their deaths were preventable.

So Ms. Devine, can we really hold climate scientists responsible for a drop in vaccination?

What we actually have is the spectacle of a tabloid press casting doubt on science, championing the claims of cranks and misinforming the public.

Sound familiar?

Climate sceptic, retiring Czech president, Vaclav Klaus charged with “high treason”

While Vaclav Klaus may not be a name familiar to most Australians, amongst the denial crowd he is a superstar.

Klaus, currently the President of the Czech Republic, is frequently touted as a world leader doubting climate change. Klaus has been a frequent guest on Andrew Bolt’s program and a regular speaker at functions hosted by the Institute of Public Affairs.

His term as President expires shortly, however Klaus has already planned out a busy retirement by joining forces with the Cato Institute, the notorious libertarian think tank and one of the principal agents in denying climate change. He is both a Eurosceptic (against the European Union) and climate change sceptic.

Klaus, a trained economist with a strongly libertarian bent, was President between 1993 and 1997. It is worth noting that he didn’t retire gracefully from the Presidency in 1997: his resignation came to an end when colleagues forced his resignation over claims of funding irregularities.

A controversial figure to say the least, Klaus claims that climate science and socialism are not merely similar, but the same thing and a vehicle for the New World Order:

“Environmentalism is indeed a vehicle for bringing us socialist government at the global level. Again, my life in communism makes me oversensitive in this respect. The argumentation of various environmentalists is very similar to what we used to know in the past.”

Now it seems Klaus is being charged with high treason. The Financial Times reports:  

“Prague – Václav Klaus, the Czech Republic’s conservative president, is facing high treason charges over his amnesty of thousands of prison inmates and others, an unprecedented case that is tainting his final days in the post after a rocky decade.  

Lawmakers in parliament’s upper house, which is dominated by the left-wing opposition, voted on Monday to file charges at the Constitutional Court…

Mr Klaus had already polarised opinion during his two terms in the normally ceremonial post with his strident views questioning the EU, gay rights and global warming, but frustration with him has since ballooned. About 73,000 Czechs have signed a petition backing the charges, while Mr Klaus’ portrait has been torn down in schools and offices across the country.

The anger his marred his legacy as a finance minister and prime minister who oversaw the Czech Republic’s post-communist transition to free markets in the 1990s.” 

How the mighty do fall.  

Imagine the outcry if Al Gore was subject to similar charges – the climate sceptic movement would be in uproar.  

Here we have one of the more “reputable” names in climate scepticism, transformed into nothing more than a disgraced politician facing charges of high treason in his home country.

I’m looking forward to sceptics and deniers claiming the charges against Klaus are merely one more example of the grand conspiracy.

 Hat tip: Dr No

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