Tag Archives: andrew bolt

Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: how Andrew poisons the well (part 2 of 11)

Putting Andrew's claims to the test

Putting Andrew’s claims to the test

Part 2 of a line-by-line examination of the claims made by Andrew Bolt in his article The death of global warmism.

Summary of Bolt’s argument in the opening paragraphs: The claims of scientists don’t stand up; they have engaged in dubious, if not illegal activities and need to be held to account.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt’s opening is a text-book example of a logical fallacy – poisoning the well. He prefaces his article with an attack on the credibility of scientists, implies their activities are both self-seeking and perhaps even criminal. He cherry picks his sources and employs a number of logical fallacies.

Logical fallacies present: Poisoning the well (x1); argument from personal taste (1); guilt by association (x2).

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Introduction: poisoning the well

Andrew Bolt is a master of employing rhetorical devices to prejudice his audience against those he sees as his opponents – in this case scientists and those accepting the scientific consensus on climate change.

The death of global warmism opens with the (informal) logical fallacy known as poisoning the well.

He is priming the reader by preemptively attacking the credibility of scientists and ridiculing the science of climate change. A writer employing this rhetorical device will employ emotive terms, typically negative.

An example of poisoning the well would read thus:

“You may not wish to listen to the evidence of my opponent, as they have been proven time and again to be a liar and fraud”

Or:

Any claims made by person X cannot be relied upon because of Y

The following is a deconstruction of the opening paragraphs.

Bolt: “The 10 signs of the death of the scare are unmistakable. Now it’s time to hold the guilty to account.”

Response: The choice of words helps prime the audience: “scare” and “hold the guilty to account” strongly imply scientists are engaged in something illegal or morally dubious. A text-book example of poisoning the well.

Bolt: “Just why did we spend the past year paying the world’s biggest carbon tax, which drove our power bills through the roof?”

Response: There is very little evidence to support his claim – and Bolt offers none. While Australian electricity prices have been increasing, the impact of the carbon tax has been negligible. Six months after its introduction the government reported a 9% reduction in emissions from power generators. As I noted earlier, the Australian economy has not collapsed with 50,000 jobs added in the last quarter.

Bolt: “Why were our children forced to sit through multiple screenings of Al Gore’s dodgy scare-flick An Inconvenient Truth?”

Response: Bolt implies the forced watching of Al Gore’s film was a form of child abuse. He offers no evidence to support the claim it was a negative experience for children.

Bolt: “Why did we scar the most beautiful parts of our coast with ludicrously expensive wind farms?”

Response: Wind power is a rapidly growing source of energy in Australia: in the five years prior to 2011 the annual rate of growth in installed capacity grew by 35%. In South Australia wind power accounts for 21% of electricity production in the state - it is neither a marginal source of power, or “ludicrously expensive”.  Bolt’s main objection appears to be based upon his own aesthetic values: however to quote the old Latin maxim “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”.

Bolt: “And why did so many people swallow such bull, from the British Climatic Research Unit’s prediction that “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” to ABC science presenter Robyn Williams’ claim that 100m rises in sea levels this century were “possible, yes”.

Response: The quote “children just aren’t going to know what snow is” was cherry picked from an article published by the Independent in 2000. It misrepresents the words of  Dr David Viner (CRU). Viner prefaced this statement by saying snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event” - he did not claim snow would stop falling.

In 2007 episode of the ABC’s Science Show, Robyn Williams spoke about how coral reefs have helped science understand how sea level rises and falls in response to global temperatures.

He noted:

“How are ancient sea levels determined? It’s with corals. They act as bathtub rings. Ancient reefs now exposed can be dated and placed in time. Sea level has been 100m higher than present, when there were no ice sheets, and about 120m lower than present during glacial periods.”

Bolt took this to imply Williams was arguing we would see a 100m sea level rise this century.  Bolt and Williams argued this point in a heated exchange on The Science Show on (10 March 2010):

Andrew Bolt: I ask you, Robyn, 100 metres in the next century…do you really think that?

Robyn Williams: It is possible, yes. The increase of melting that they’ve noticed in Greenland and the amount that we’ve seen from the western part of Antarctica, if those increases of three times the expected rate continue, it will be huge, but the question…

Williams notes it is possible that if we see warming of 3-degrees this century, we may see a significant increase in seal level rise. I will not argue whether or not Williams is correct: but I will note he is drawing his conclusion based upon the paleoclimate record.

In choosing these two quotes Bolt is employing the guilt by association fallacy - citing these as examples of poor predictions by scientists, he implies all the claims made by scientists are equally poor.

To given another example of the guilt by association fallacy:

Bob has a black beard, he also has a history of robbing banks: therefore all men with black beards are bank robbers.

Given that thousands of papers on climate change are produced every year supporting the scientific consensus, Bolt’s conclusion is as absurd as the claim all men with black beards are bank robbers.

Bolt: “Yes, we may yet see some warming resume one day.”

Response: Bolt makes a concession – warming may resume.

Bolt: “But we will be wiser. We have learned not to fall so fast for the end-of-the-world sermons of salvation-seekers and the tin-rattling of green carpetbaggers.”

Response: In this final sentence of the article’s introductory paragraphs Bolt implies scientists and activists have a hidden agenda: either converting people to a set of beliefs (salvation-seekers) or venal self-interest (green carpetbaggers).

This is a variation of the climate sceptic myth that scientists are perpetrating a hoax for funding, while green activists are employing the global warming “scare” to destroy capitalism and usher in a one-world-government.

It is yet again an example of the guilt by association fallacy.

Next: Part 3, Andrew continues to claim the world isn’t warming despite the overwhelming evidence.

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Breaking: Australian Press Coucil release on Andrew Bolt misrepresenting science

Below is the full adjudication made by the Australian Press Council based on three separate complaints made against News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt. The complaints related to claims Bolt misrepresented key facts about global warming.

Bolt states will respond to the ruling, but it will not be published until next week. I’ll provide some analysis shortly – but my initial response is the ruling favours the complainants. But it is no “knock out blow”.

Full text below:

The Council has considered several complaints about an article by Andrew Bolt, “Time that climate alarmists fessed up”, in the Herald Sun on 1 February 2012. The same article also appeared in Mr Bolt’s blog on the Herald Sun website under the heading, “Open your eyes. Where’s that warming?”. The article opened by saying “let’s see how the great global warming scare is panning out, shall we? First, the planet hasn’t warmed for a decade – or even 15 years, according to new temperature data from Britain’s Met Office”. A later sentence began: “Sea levels have recently dipped, the oceans have lately cooled, Arctic ice has not retreated since 2007 …”. 

Three people complained separately to the Council that the article contained a number of misrepresentations. A key complaint related to the assertion that the Met Office data showed no warming in the last 15 years. The assertion had been made on 29 January in an article by David Rose in the UK newspaper Mail on Sunday. The Met Office responded on the same day that “for Mr Rose to suggest that the global temperatures available show no warming for the last 15 years is entirely misleading”. The complainants also said that because the changes in sea and ice conditions mentioned by Mr Bolt were relatively short-term and minor they did not refute the longer-term trends in the opposite direction. Therefore, they said, his statements gave a misleading impression.

The newspaper said that although Mr Bolt had drawn on the Rose article he had been unaware of the Met Office response. In any event, it said, that response was not incompatible with his statement that average temperatures were now no higher than 10 or 15 years ago. The newspaper said that data provided by one of the complainants actually supported Mr Bolt’s assertions about recent changes in sea and ice conditions, even if there had previously been trends in the opposite directions. It added that the assertions were clearly expressions of opinion, which Mr Bolt was entitled to express. It said that a letter from one of the complainants criticising the article had been published a few days afterwards, and some criticisms had been published in the blog’s comment section.

The Press Council has concluded that Mr Bolt was clearly entitled to express his own opinion about the Met Office data but in doing so he needed to avoid conveying a misleading interpretation of the Met Office’s own views on its data. In a blog posting two days earlier (29 January) he had quoted Mr Rose’s assertion about the lack of warming and a reader then posted a comment referring him to the Met Office’s description of that assertion. The Met Office description should have been mentioned in Mr Bolt’s print article and blog of 1 February, even if he then rebutted it as unconvincing. It was not sufficient in these circumstances to assert ignorance of the response or to rely on the reader’s previous posting to inform other readers about it. Accordingly, the complaint is upheld on that ground.

The Council has concluded that the statements by Mr Bolt quoted above in relation to sea and ice conditions were likely to be interpreted by many readers as indicating that the longer-term trends had ceased or were reversing. It agrees with the newspaper that Mr Bolt’s assertions about recent changes in sea and ice conditions were statistically compatible with the key data sources put forward by the complainants. But it agrees with the complainants that those data were also statistically compatible with continuance of the longer-term trends in the opposite directions from the shorter-term changes to which he referred. Pauses and even reverses in direction do not necessarily signify the end of a long-term trend and have occurred in earlier stages of the trends in question here.

Given the great public importance of these issues, Mr Bolt should have acknowledged explicitly that all of the three changes in question were comparatively short-term and were statistically compatible with continuance of the long-term trends in the opposite direction. On the other hand, the article referred to the possibility that global warming has merely “paused” and it emphasised the need to “keep an open mind” on these issues. Accordingly, despite concerns about the manner in which the available evidence is presented, the Council’s decision is not to uphold these aspects of the complaint. 

The Council emphasises that this adjudication neither endorses nor rejects any particular theories or predictions about global warming and related issues. It observes that on issues of such major importance the community is best served by frank disclosure and discussion rather than, for example, failure to acknowledge significant shorter- or longer-term trends in relevant data.

Supplementary note (not required to be published):

The separate complaints on this article were received from Gary Ellett, Tony Mahoney and Bob Thomas. 

Relevant Council Standards (not required to be published):

This adjudication applies part of General Principle 6: “Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion. Relevant facts should not be misrepresented or suppressed.”

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Of sea ice & Andrew Bolt: freedom of speech under attack?

Pity Andrew Bolt who seems to be under some form of “investigation’ by the dark forces of censorship.

In a November 20 blog post titled Record ice around Antarctica Blot hints that he – and indeed the very notion of freedom of speech – is under attack:  

I am in a dispute with a free-speech regulator which fancies putting out a statement declaring this freezing essentially patchy, small and recent and proposes to find fault in me not quoting warmists who make irrelevant arguments…

All very sinister by the sounds of it. One wonders if Andrew was dragged out of the Herald Sun’s South Bank tower in the middle of the night, and like Galileo shown the instruments of torture. What has our fearless commentator now said that has sent the forces of darkness against him?

Bolt has been pushing the old denier canard that the growth of sea ice in Antarctica somehow disproves climate change. Bolt references an article from that august scientific publication from the UK The Daily Mail. Titled Now there’s more ice at South Pole than ever (So much for global warming thawing Antarctica!):

Ice around the South Pole has expanded to cover a record area, scientists revealed yesterday – a month after saying that the North Pole had lost an unprecedented amount of its ice.

Researchers say – rather confusingly – that both occurrences are down to the ‘complex and surprising’ effects of global warming.

The record Antarctic sea ice cover was revealed in satellite images from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado….

At the end of the southern winter in September, ice covered 7.51million square miles of sea – more than at any time since records began in 1979. For the last 30 years the amount of Antarctic sea ice has been increasing by 1 per cent each decade.

One assumes a complaint was made to Australian Press Council (APC) about of one of Andrew’s many lies misrepresentations concerning climate change.

And no, it wasn’t me – but I’ve often thought about it. Still I have little doubt what conclusions such an investigation would find: Andrew got his facts wrong. Again.

But let’s be clear about one thing: freedom of speech is not under attack.

Andrew Bolt is a privileged member of the media elite; he commands a large audience, gets paid handsomely and seeks to influence the political debate within Australia. Bolt is not an outlier – despite posing as a gadfly or intellectual rebel. He is simply one of the more prominent members of News Limited’s stable of conservative journalists.

Unlike Mr Bolt, most ordinary individuals lack the backing of a global media giant that generates billions in revenue and armies of lawyers to represent you in court when you get basic facts wrong.

Regulators such as the APC and ACMA help provide a level playing field. Checks and balances are essential to limit abuses of power. The APC and ACMA are merely part of a system of checks and balances.

Let’s be honest these aren’t vast, monolithic agents of totalitarian repression. They’re rather toothless really: they’re primary role is help foster standards.

Standards such as getting the facts right.

What Andrew Bolt and many of the other hyper-sensitive climate change sceptics frequently overlook is that criticism and having you claims critically examined by a neutral third-party is not censorship.

It rather simple really: when you fail to play by the rules of evidence, you’re going to get caught out.

And if you’re wrong – as Andrew is so very often on climate change – then it is only reasonable to expect repercussions. If you’re wrong, you are going to be called on it. Indeed, this debate and validation of claims are an essential part this whole “freedom of speech” thing Andrew wishes to make himself the poster boy for.

Freedom of speech is not just shouting at the world your own point of view, which is what Andrew seems to believe. There is the freedom for others to answer back and challenge claims.

Andrew Bolt is free to lie, misrepresent and distort the facts about climate change.

But no amount of chest-pounding and hyperbole is going to change the fact that he is consistently wrong about the science of climate change.

However in a rather grandiose fashion, Bolt conflates criticism of his many factual errors with an attack on free speech, liberty and democracy.

He simply can’t admit error; therefore he turns these episodes into little mini-dramas in which he is the victim of a vast conspiracy of leftists, warmists, socialists and nasty environmentalists.

How else can he explain to both himself and the diminishing ranks of climate sceptics these “attacks”?

Surely HE can’t be wrong… surely it’s the fault of those scheming “warmists” making “irrelevant arguments”.

And the sea ice?

Yes it is true the sea ice has been growing 1 per cent each decade. But Bolt and the denial cheer squad exclude some key facts.

Overall, Antarctica is losing ice: sea ice may be increasing due to the complex interplay of winds, a declining Ozone hole and natural variation.

But Bolt and the deniers overlook – deliberately – the fact that land ice is declining.

As this National Geographic article points out, Antarctica is warming but at a slower pace than the Arctic:

Q. While Arctic sea ice is decreasing, the Antarctic is now slightly increasing. Why is there so much variation between Arctic and Antarctic ice?

Well we have a continent on the South Pole. On the North Pole we have nothing but ocean. In the Arctic you see full-fledged warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, plus increased ice transport [out of the region, which removes cold air and water]. So all of these effects contribute to reduce the sea ice cover in the Arctic.

In the Antarctic, you have to think of it as its own climate system. It’s a big continent isolated from the rest of the world. It has ocean all around it. It has wind regimes that blow clockwise around it and isolate it. It acts differently from the Arctic, which is completely connected to the rest of the North Hemisphere.

Q. Considering we regularly hear about the planet’s stressed climate system, is this good news?

Really, it’s consistent with our understanding of a warming world. Some of the regional details are not something we can easily predict. But the general trends of decay of the sea ice cover and decay of the Greenland ice sheets and ice caps is in line with what we expect.

The Antarctic has not been warming up as fast as the models thought. It’s warming up, but slower. So it’s all consistent with a warming planet.

What I suspect happened is this: Bolt, like most deniers, cherry picked some facts about Antarctica’s sea ice growing, alluding that climate change wasn’t real. Bolt has been called on this, and deeply resents the fact he has been made accountable.

The “irrelevant arguments” by warmists Andrew is desperate to dismiss are no doubt facts that challenge his world view.

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