Tag Archives: science

Tony Abbott’s blood oath to repeal tax in trouble…. (reprint)

For over a year now I’ve been arguing Abbott and the LNP have a growing problem on their hands. Their opposition to the carbon price (Ax the tax!) and Abbott’s “Blood oath” is a trap they have made for themselves.  While ditching a price on carbon may be to the liking of far-right-wing columnists such as Andrew Bolt and eccentric mining billionaires, it turns out the vast majority of business in Australia is happy with an emissions trading scheme (see below).

While “Ax the tax”. “Ju-liar” and “Ditch the Witch” were effective (but ugly) slogans they lacked substance. Simple opposition and the proposed Direct Action Policy are now being seen as lacking substance. Abbott has a growing problem, and it is a problem of his making.

I suspect the vicious opposition to the “carbon tax” will prove to have been useful in giving the Coalition a useful short-term tactical advantage, but in the end a strategic blunder. China and now America are now moving towards more vigorous action. This now leaves Australia and Abbott the laggards. The world is moving, and Abbott is still thinks it is 1955.

My advice: watch this space. 

I’m growing increasingly confident that Abbott may have to breach his “blood oath”. The moment Abbott baulks he is in deep trouble: the hypocrisy will be obvious to all.

Here’s another thought…  imagine what Malcolm Turnball, the man Abbott deposed with the backing of climate sceptics, is thinking after watching the return of Kevin Rudd.

Still busy with work and study however I thought it worth while reprinting the following from The Conversation which supports my contentions.

Coalition plays chicken with first non-core promise

By David Adamson

Australian climate change inaction is often excused with “unless China and the US do something, why should we?”. But, with China’s recent introduction of a cap-and-trade system and Barack Obama’s move against the “Flat Earth Society”, the rules of the game have radically changed – globally and locally.

The Coalition, still tipped to win the Federal election, may find the game has also changed for its Direct Action policy as domestic pressure heats up too.

Calls to keep carbon pricing have begun emanating from the business community, with many in favour of international emissions trading. This week, the industry group Businesses for a Clean Economy released a survey that showed only 3.3% of the 180 business respondents didn’t want a carbon price. Another 3.3% were unsure. Energy suppliers are also reportedly nervous about the Coalition’s policy, calling for more detail.

In the face of such global and local ructions, the Coalition’s Direct Action policy and the dismantling of the carbon price policy is likely to be one of the first “non-core” policy shifts after the release of the inevitable white paper excesses, when the true cost of purchasing the current property rights are realised.

Core of the matter

Every new government has a set of ideal policies that it sells to get elected. However, the difference between the rhetoric and reality of election promises has been defined by the idea of “core” and “non-core”, made infamous by John Howard. And I predict that the Coalition’s stated abolition of the carbon price is a furphy.

There are two ways to deal with a good that creates externalities in policy. The first is to create a market-based solution where a price is introduced, which allows the market to build in the real cost of the resource usage. This is done primarily via a tax or a transferable right to pollute such as a cap & trade system. The market responds to this by either introducing greater efficiency and/or passing the price of this increase along the consumption chain.

This system is improved by adding a supply constraint (below current levels), which prevents the resource being consumed at the same previous rate and allows the consumer to bear the cost. This then allows enterprise to determine the best use of the resource at the least cost. By allowing trade between larger groups – like a multinational trading system – greater savings are made.

The second approach is the command and control. In this case, the policy determines the ideal world and sets rules for individuals – like cash for clunkers. This mechanism then by-passes the market, preventing enterprising individuals from adapting to the new state of the world at the least cost solution.

The coalition has announced that it wishes to abolish the market system in favour of the second approach, calling the policy Direct Action. “Action” may signify something is happening, but the system creates far greater public costs and business uncertainty.

Business deals with markets daily: they know that prices rise and fall. They know how to manipulate markets to their advantage and that their portfolio of rights to pollute has a value. This market value then provides a degree of certainty about how they conduct business and, through time, the scarcity value of these rights increases, especially when stock is removed from the market. Even in the depressed carbon market, these rights have a value that business can leverage.

Command and control

The problem with command and control is that if the first command step doesn’t work, then another command is issued, and so on. In this case, a degree of uncertainty exists for long-term investment, either about providing the service that allows control and/or wondering which new command may impact on their business structure.

The Chinese government realised that their former approach of command and control was the least efficient system and launched a cap and trade system on June 18. The US proposed policy is one of command and control that directly targets those who emit CO2; however, the desire for bilateral cooperation allows for the inevitable switch towards trading permits.

But what is clear is that the world has turned on a dime in a matter of weeks, with a radical shift in the rules of the global Climate Change game and a redrawing of the line between rhetoric and reality on local carbon pricing.

David Adamson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

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2/3 Australian don’t want carbon price scrapped, or why debate on the carbon price is set to intensify

From today’s Age, confirmation Tony Abbott will have an uphill battle trying to repeal the Emissions Trading Scheme:

Tony Abbott’s insistence that the election will be a ”referendum on the carbon tax” has been undermined by polling showing that just a third of voters support the Coalition’s plan to abolish it.

Fewer voters want to see the carbon tax removed now than before it took effect on July 1 last year. Nearly half, or 48 per cent, wanted the tax scrapped a year ago.

But a poll of 1009 people, conducted by JWS Research for the Climate Institute, found just 37 per cent of them now supported the Coalition’s intention to wind the tax back in favour of its ”Direct Action” policy, which involves paying companies to reduce emissions.

Even fewer people – 34 per cent – would back an Abbott government calling a double dissolution election to fulfil its ”pledge in blood” to repeal the tax.

Fewer than half the Coalition voters would back Mr Abbott taking Australia back to the polls.

JWS pollster John Scales said the Opposition Leader had failed to convince people that carbon pricing should be scrapped because two-thirds of Australians believed climate change was real.

Climate change believers accounted for 66 per cent of voters, compared with 64 per cent a year ago.

As I have been saying for some time, a crisis for Abbott and the LNP is looming: 

- 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 suspect the LNP is going to find climate policy just as complicated, if not more so once in office.

One needs real policies then, nor four word slogans.  The debate over a price on carbon is far from over: if anything it is going to intensify.

As noted above, the public don’t understand nor want the Direct Action Plan proposed by the LNP.

Nor does it seem they willing to give control of the Senate to Abbott. However, the Coalition have locked themselves into silly “blood oath” giving themselves little to move.

The question is what happens when they can’t “ax-the-tax” what compromises an Abbott led government will be forced to make.

Hang on for the ride, as climate politics is going to get wilder.

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The sacrifices one must make (part 2): should Gillard resign for the good of the nation? Yes.

My post on whether or not Julia Gillard should stand aside  as Prime Minister got a little attention. But it was not an easy thing to suggest, especially given the vitriol and hatred the Prime Minister has experienced. I do not wish to “let the bastards win”. No one does.

But what matters now is the future of nation, the skeletal climate change policy framework we have only just begun to implement and a genuine contest of ideas.

There are times when personal careers have to be sacrificed.

This is such a time.

The editors of The Age have come to similar conclusions, arguing for “the good of the nation” Julia Gillard must stand aside:

It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, as Prime Minister of Australia, so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again. Ms Gillard should do so in the interests of the Labor Party, in the interests of the nation and, most importantly, in the interests of democracy. The Age’s overriding concern is that, under Ms Gillard’s leadership, the Labor Party’s message about its future policies and vision for Australia is not getting through to the electorate. Our fear is that if there is no change in Labor leadership before the September 14 election, voters will be denied a proper contest of ideas and policies – and that would be a travesty for the democratic process.

And that:

The opposition under Tony Abbott has contentious policies on the carbon tax, the mining tax and schools funding; these are just the start of it. Yet Labor under Ms Gillard has been unable to step up to the contest. Mr Abbott is being allowed to run almost entirely unchallenged with his preposterous claim that a Coalition government would ”stop the boats”, in part by turning back the pathetic trail of rickety vessels laden with asylum seekers. This is a potentially dangerous and deeply dispiriting approach. Labor’s inability to unscramble this sloganeering is damning.

Time is running out. Labor needs to refresh its public face and present a compelling, united and inspiring voice. It is capable of doing so. Now it must find the will. There may only be one chance to minimise the damage that appears inevitable in September. To do nothing would implicitly weaken the democratic choice. If it is to be done, it is best done now. But it must be an unequivocal and energising change for the better.

There was nothing prescient in what I wrote, nor do I think the MSM pays much attention to bloggers such as myself. Farifax’s Sydney Morning Herald said the same thing a few weeks back.

It is simply that I am not alone in reading the situation or the risks should Labor continue to be led by Julia Gillard. Commentators across all sections of the media and on both sides can see the writing on the wall.

Is it fair? No.

Did Gillard deserve to be treated with respect? Yes.

Was she handed an extraordinarily difficult situation? Yes.

Was overt sexism a feature of the attacks on her? Yes.

Was the malice of the shock jocks and News Limited a factor? Yes.

As a nation, we need to reflect on just how toxic the level of debate has become these past few years. I lay much of the blame on News Limited and the Coalition. But the blame also rests with the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan.

The nexus for all this strife began when the “kitchen sink” cabinet that included Swan and Gillard convinced Rudd not to take us to a double dissolution election on the carbon price. At that time the public and mood of the nation was with them.

But they blinked, they thought they could ditch a policy which helped deliver them office in 2007. Since then Labor has been paying the price for the failure of the first iteration of the ETS under Rudd.

They thought we lived in a time of “politics as usual”.

Politics has been reshaped by climate change: it is time to acknowledge that reality.

This is the new normal on so many fronts.

If you want to proportion blame then start with this decision. 

Julia’s finest hour, and the speech that will be her enduring legacy:

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Arctic permafrost: sleeping giant, or ticking time bomb?

Arctic permafrost melting – a 2004 photo

For those with some understanding of the climate system, and the danger of amplifying feed backs (or positive feed backs) the CO2 and methane currently buried under the Arctic permafrost is of concern. Now it seems it is leaking – out gassing – in greater quantities. Science Daily reports

Permafrost (perennially frozen) soils underlie much of the Arctic. Each summer, the top layers of these soils thaw. The thawed layer varies in depth from about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in the coldest tundra regions to several yards, or meters, in the southern boreal forests. This active soil layer at the surface provides the precarious foothold on which Arctic vegetation survives. The Arctic’s extremely cold, wet conditions prevent dead plants and animals from decomposing, so each year another layer gets added to the reservoirs of organic carbon sequestered just beneath the topsoil.

Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon — an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 petagrams of it (a petagram is 2.2 trillion pounds, or 1 billion metric tons). That’s about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth’s soils. In comparison, about 350 petagrams of carbon have been emitted from all fossil-fuel combustion and human activities since 1850. Most of this carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 10 feet (3 meters) of the surface.

But, as scientists are learning, permafrost — and its stored carbon — may not be as permanent as its name implies. And that has them concerned.

“Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures — as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years,” Miller said. “As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.”

Current climate models do not adequately account for the impact of climate change on permafrost and how its degradation may affect regional and global climate. Scientists want to know how much permafrost carbon may be vulnerable to release as Earth’s climate warms, and how fast it may be released.

Research is under way:

CARVing Out a Better Understanding of Arctic Carbon

Enter CARVE. Now in its third year, this NASA Earth Ventures program investigation is expanding our understanding of how the Arctic’s water and carbon cycles are linked to climate, as well as what effects fires and thawing permafrost are having on Arctic carbon emissions. CARVE is testing hypotheses that Arctic carbon reservoirs are vulnerable to climate warming, while delivering the first direct measurements and detailed regional maps of Arctic carbon dioxide and methane sources and demonstrating new remote sensing and modeling capabilities. About two dozen scientists from 12 institutions are participating.

“The Arctic is warming dramatically — two to three times faster than mid-latitude regions — yet we lack sustained observations and accurate climate models to know with confidence how the balance of carbon among living things will respond to climate change and related phenomena in the 21st century,” said Miller. “Changes in climate may trigger transformations that are simply not reversible within our lifetimes, potentially causing rapid changes in the Earth system that will require adaptations by people and ecosystems.”

Image source: Arctic Science Journeys

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The new normal: Europe hasn’t seen flooding this bad since the middle ages (you read that correct)

The River Danube flooding (Austria):

danube_floodwall

…welcome to the Anthropocene and the new normal.

Dr. Jeff Masters:

A historic multi-billion dollar flood disaster has killed at least eighteen people in Central Europe after record flooding unprecedented since the Middle Ages hit major rivers in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Slovakia over the past two weeks. The Danube River in Passau, Germany hit the highest level since 1501, and the Saale River in Halle, Germany was the highest in its 400-year period of record.

Numerous cities recorded their highest flood waters in more than a century, although in some locations the great flood of 2002 was higher. The Danube is expected to crest in Hungary’s capital city of Budapest on June 10 at the highest flood level on record, 35 cm higher than the record set in 2006. The flooding was caused by torrential rains that fell on already wet soils.

In a 2-day period from May 30 – June 1, portions of Austria received the amount of rain that normally falls in two-and-half months: 150 to 200 mm (5.9 to 7.9″), with isolated regions experiencing 250 mm (9.8″). This two-day rain event had a greater than 1-in-100 year recurrence interval, according to the Austrian Meteorological Agency, ZAMG. 

Prior to the late May rains, Austria had its seventh wettest spring in 150 years, which had resulted in the ground in the region becoming saturated, leading to greater runoff when the rains began.

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RIP Iain Banks: a humanist with a vision of the future

“On Earth one of the things that a large proportion of the locals is most proud of is this wonderful economic system which, with a sureness and certainty so comprehensive one could almost imagine the process bears some relation to their limited and limiting notions of either thermodynamics or God, all food, comfort, energy, shelter, space, fuel and sustenance gravitates naturally and easily away from those who need it most and towards those who need it least. Indeed, those on the receiving end of such largesse are often harmed unto death by its arrival, though the effects may take years and generations to manifest themselves.” – Iain Banks

Not climate related, but a moment to remember a great novelist – Iain Banks.

Bank’s passed away from cancer at age 59. I’ve been reading Bank’s works since his first published novel The Wasp Factory.

Bank’s Culture novels are not merely Sci-Fi space operas, but meditations on what is to be human, the nature of artificial intelligence and the use (and misuse) of power. Ultimately, Bank’s was a humanist who used his fiction to explore politics, economics, violence and technology.

Bank’s history of the universe in three words:

“The History Of The Universe In Three Words

CHAPTER ONE
Bang!

CHAPTER TWO
sssss

CHAPTER THREE
crunch.

THE END”

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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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Denying, not waving: image of the day and the fate of island nations

A wonderful cartoon from yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Source: Fairfax Media

Source: Fairfax Media

Even more important, an article highlighting the plight of small island nations:

The delegation of parliamentarians from four tropical Pacific Islands nations braved the Canberra cold last week, and that wasn’t the only climate shock they suffered. 

They watched the impressive intellectual exchange of question time in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and then moved on. But almost as soon as they left, Parliament started to debate a motion on whether the science of man-made climate change was real. This came as a bit of a jolt to the legislator visiting from Kiribati, a country of about 100,000 people on 33 small, low-lying islands strung along 5000 kilometres of the equator. 

“Climate change is real in our places,” Rimeta Beniamina, a government MP and vice-chairman of his parliament’s climate change committee, told me, expressing surprise at what was going on in the chamber a few metres away. 

“A few years ago it was not taken very seriously. But now quite a few villages are experiencing hardship. Beaches are eroding, houses are falling down, crops are damaged and livelihoods are destroyed. 

“The intrusion of salt water is very evident. The sea level may be rising millimetres a year, but it is still rising. The strong winds and rising tides are the worst part. Once the salt water enters the land, that’s it. Trees are falling along the coast, crops dying, pigs and chickens are affected.” 

A US study published at the weekend in the journal Nature Geoscience found the global sea level had risen by 16.8 millimetres between 2005 and 2011. 

Clark Wilson, a co-author of the study and geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, says: “There was an increase in the melting rate in Greenland starting in 2005 and that is probably the underlying story why,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The academic study was funded by NASA and the US National Science Foundation. 

The rising seas are whipped up by increasingly severe El Nino weather cycles, damaging the coastlines of countries including Kiribati, pronounced kee-ree-bas. 

“Some communities have been forced to move backward from the coast,” Beniamina says. “The problem is, there is not much land to move back to.” 

People are jamming into the overcrowded main island, Tarawa. Its centre has a population density estimated at three times that of Tokyo, says an April report by Australian journalist Bernard Lagan in the Global Mail. Fresh water supplies are at risk and there is not enough land to bury the dead. 

Kiribati President Anote Tong has declared a policy of orderly evacuation that he calls “migration with dignity”. The nation is a proverbial canary in the carbon emission coal mine, and the prognosis is unhappy.  

 

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News Ltd kicking more sand in the public’s face: just why are Murdoch’s papers recycling the old “CFCs not CO2″ zombie climate myth?

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, which controls 70% of the Australian print media, are without doubt doing the Australian public a great disservice with their constant stream of climate disinformation.

It is not enough for News Limited to shape the narrative as “believers versus sceptics”, thus creating a sense of false balance. They take it a step further by willfully distorting the public’s perception about the causes of climate change while simultaneously undermining their trust in the scientific community.

Recent evidence of this can be seen across News Limited publications and websites these past two days.

Nearly every organ of Murdoch’s Australian media empire has been actively pushing the discredited theory that CFCs are to blame for warming (not CO2). Here is the audit trail:

  • The story first appeared in The Australian by Graham Lloyd on Monday 3 June (see here)
  • It then made it onto Andrew Bolt’s blog on 7:27pm the same day (see here)
  • A reference was made on Piers Ackerman’s blog on 4 June at 12:45 am (see at the end of the article)
  • Reference to it was published in the Cut and Paste section of The Australian today.

Note how the same message is weaved into different articles across multiple platforms?

Clearly the intent is to hit the broadest number of readers across all demographics: from the tabloid pages of the Herald Sun to the faux-paper-of-note pretensions of The Australian aimed at a more “elite” audience. Note they all appear within a day of each other.

Note also that in last night’s Q&A program, Senator Cory Bernardi referenced this News Limited generated fiction.

Cause and effect clearly demonstrated on national television.

Based on the uniformity of the message, tone and content it is clear the voice of the independent journalist is irrelevant at News Limited.

What matters is the message and broadcasting it on all frequencies to a mass audience. The resurrection of the “CFCs not CO2″ myth is but a single example of propagating misinformation over a broad spectrum (News Limited papers and web platforms).

And the message is simple.

Climate change isn’t happening, don’t trust the scientists.

I’m not going to address the science, but simply direct readers to the refutation at Climate Science Watch. I also note Crikey have picked up on the errors contained in Graham Lloyd’s article as well (pay wall sorry).

However, upon reflection something has been missing in both my comments and Crikey’s analysis.

And it is not about focussing on the minutia of the debate, which this whole episode is merely another tedious example.

It’s time to consider the bigger picture.

The desperate last phases of the climate debate: throwing sand in our faces

When somebody is losing a fight, and they feel the tide of victory flowing against them they’ll resort to increasingly desperate tactics.

Consider the final moment of many films where the hero and villain square off to fight. Shots, punches and kicks are exchanged as the fortunes of both protagonists ebb and flow.

But there comes a moment when both protagonists and the audience recognise the villain is in the throes of their final and inevitable defeat.

What does the villain do?

They grab a handful of sand or dirt and throw it into the face of their opponent.

It’s a sign of desperation, a feint intended to stem defeat by distracting and irritating their opponent. Sometimes it works, but generally it signals they have nothing left to fight with but dirty tricks. The message to the audience is clear: “They are deceitful, even in their last moments”.

It’s a trope used countless times. In fact, my daughter’s favourite film The Lion King contains it. In the final confrontation between Scar, who has usurped the throne and Simba (the rightful heir to the title of Lion King) the villain scatters burning ash in latter’s eyes in a final act of defiance.

Which is exactly what News Limited is doing, they are throwing sand in the face of the public and scientists in desperation.

Welcome to this new phase in the climate debate.

In raising long discredited “zombie” climate myths News Limited is reaching for sand to throw in all our eyes.

One can see why this would be the case. Public acceptance of the science is overwhelming; most accept humanity has changed the planet. Did we forget to mention 97% of climate scientists accept the science?

Everyone but the climate sceptics recognise their increasing irrelevance and what is clearly the death throes of their movement.

But they have one more trick to play, one last desperate gamble…

They’re clutching for a handful of sand to cast into the faces of their opponents.

Lose the debate and lose the kingdom: for Murdoch the climate debate is about one thing, can you guess?

For the owner of News Limited and his army of minions the trajectory of public opinion must be troubling. So they are throwing everything at it.

Misinformation and zombie climate myths are their sand. But why? That is a question worth asking.

Murdoch is desperate to continue setting the political and social agenda within Australia and the English-speaking world. News Corporation is the agency of his will; they are his legions of flying monkeys.

Here is something we may not have considered in speculating over News Limited’s role in the climate debate.

Why is it that Fox News, The Australian, The Wall Street Journal and all other organs of the Murdoch empire are unanimous in their contempt for the science? Consider this…

The climate debate, from Murdoch’s perspective, is as much about forestalling action as it is about Rupert Murdoch.

It is about Murdoch’s king making and opinion making abilities. It’s about his power. It is about how much he has, and how effectively he can wield it.

It is about how media power shapes the conversations we have in political debates, around the proverbial water cooler and over the BBQ on a Sunday afternoon.

How much does it say about the power of Murdoch and News Limited (which fervently believes it can shape the tone of all political conversation within our nation) that it can no longer control the debate or public perception on climate?

What does it mean when public opinion slips from the control of the opinion makers?

Lose the ability to shape the debate, and you lose the kingdom.

All empires are fictions and all power is perceived.

This is especially the case today with the internet reshaping the media, rendering the traditional gatekeepers less relevant than they once were.

A king-maker who has built his empire on public perception, mass entertainment and sports broadcasting understands this intuitively.

From the Tampa Affair, the denial of the Stolen Generations and the climate debate, Murdoch has sought to shape our nation and values for decades.

Does it come as a surprise that public respect for the media in Australia is at all-time low? This is not a coincidence, nor some chance correlation.

News Limited’s reporting on climate change is at odds with people’s everyday experiences of a changing planet. Should you believe Andrew Bolt or the evidence of your home burning to the ground over Australia’s “Angry Summer”?

Remember how the Carbon Tax was going to be the ruin of us all?

The disconnect between what News Limited wants the public to believe, and what the public experiences is growing further apart. A crisis of credibility is engulfing News Limited, and they’ve failed to recognise it.

And their response to this growing disconnect?

The recycling of this old zombie climate myth (CFCs not CO2), a desperate attempt to throw sand in our faces. The whole CFC meme of the past few days is merely to distract the public with an irrelevant fact, while also enraging activists and scientists with its stupidity.

It is as if Murdoch has thrown sand in our eyes and is screaming in our faces: “See, see! I still set the agenda!”

How much time and energy will we expand on countering the “CFC not CO2″ zombie myth one more time?

Stop focussing on the sand in your eyes, irritating as that may be.

Look at who is throwing the sand.

Advice to the scientific community: well, not that “you” asked

At the heart of scientific practice is error reduction: detecting, and correcting errors. Both your own and that of your peers. It is a valid means to ensure research results support theories; that theories reflect the actual state of the world.

However, in the climate debate a focus on error reduction – for example correcting people or journalists on the “CFCs not CO2″ issue – is counter productive.

We will forever be chasing down errors, and attempting to correct people’s misconceptions. It is a rabbit hole we have spent too much time dwelling  in – chasing down a misconception here and another piece of disinformation there.

We are Red Queens, forever running as fast as we can in a vain attempt to merely stay in the same place.

Yes, we can catch one error and force a correction printed in the pages of The Australian. We can get the Australian Press Council to issue a statement against the likes of Andrew Bolt. But in that time, ten thousand errors have flown from the pages and blogs of News Limited.

We catch an error and declare it victory. Time to consider the bigger picture.

Think of the climate debate like this…

Until recently we thought the universe was the solar system with the Earth at its centre. Then we thought the universe was no more than our home galaxy, The Milky Way.

Our perception was stunted, limited to the local.

Then Hubble took his famous images of red shifted objects…

… and the Universe exploded into view, revealing its immensity and majesty. Our view of the universe and ourselves was profoundly changed.

We need to think about the climate debate in this manner: broader, deeper and more sophisticated.

No more error correction please: turn your big brains to more profound questions.

Back to Murdoch, the King Lear of the Anthropocene.

The King Lear of our time: Murdoch

To return to the film The Lion King (no really!) you may be surprised to learn it is loosely based upon Hamlet. Shakespeare’s tale is a cautionary one about those who usurp thrones and marriage beds, and the tragic consequences of those actions.

But I’m reminded of another of Shakespeare’s plays when I consider Murdoch and his need to control the climate debate in our politics and in our private conversations.

King Lear, the dying king who divides his kingdom among his ambitious children. It is a decision that begins a chain reaction of events ending in ruin.

Murdoch is that monarch whose time is coming to an end; he is the king who divides the state among his children. Like Lear, it is his selfish, ego driven decisions that precipitates the ruin of all.

King Murdoch – the Lear of the early twenty-first century – would rather let our planet burn then admit he no longer sets the agenda on the climate debate, nor countenance being wrong.

Rub the sand from your eyes, ask why it has been thrown.

—————-

[A few errors in first draft got through, fixed]

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Graham Lloyd you’ve done it again! Every article requires a mandatory correction

Pretty much anything written by Lloyd on climate needs a correction

As I’ve noted recently, The Australian’s Environment Editor Graham Lloyd has a habit of misrepresenting the work of scientists. He has also shown a fondness for citing the work of cranks.

A few months back he cited  material from  Principa Scientific International. This crank outfit is so extreme that even Christopher Monckton has distanced himself from them. And yet Lloyd believes they are a source of information worthy of a national daily.

Earlier this year The Australian was forced to issue an embarrassing correction after claiming sea level rise was not linked to warming - which it is.

Lloyd shamelessly cherry picks quotes, as this example clearly shows.

So desperate is Lloyd’s attempts to cast doubt on the science, he is now scraping the bottom of the barrel by citing junk “research” in his latest article:

The peer-reviewed research by Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry at Waterloo University, was published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B.

The findings of Professor Lu’s paper – Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules: Culprits for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change – are at odds with the consensus view that climate change is driven by increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Waterloo University said Professor Lu’s research provided “new fundamental understanding of the ozone hole and global climate change”. Critics said it might be “nothing more than coincidental correlation”, but it warranted further study. 

Chlorofluorocarbons are known to deplete ozone, but conventional thinking is the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide had mainly contributed to global warming.

The claim that CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are the real culprit behind global warming is a tired, old debunked sceptic myth

The journal, International Journal of Modern Physics B is pretty fringe. Climate Science Watch has already addressed Lu’s paper and notes how he recycles discredited claims.

Still, let’s ponder the implication’s of Lu’s claims. If Lu is correct he has just overturned the scientific paradigm and worthy of a Nobel Prize.

That, or he is a crank with an obsession to prove a discredited theory.

How sad and tawdry.

The Australian has become so partisan on the issue they’re willing to give voice to even the silliest claims.

It seems Lloyd has decided facts and journalistic ethics are for those with a sentimental attachment to reality. 

How sad.

How tawdry.

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