“Trust me, I’m a historian”: sceptic Gerard Henderson in the hot seat on Q&A

Hat tip to reader Ian.

It would seem the issue of climate change and the floods was debated last night on ABC’s Q&A show:

The new Q&A season kicked off in fine style with a robust discussion featuring some of the biggest and most opinionated personalities on the political scene. It was no surprise that the devastation wrought by recent weather events, particularly in Queensland, was the major topic, especially with the Government’s proposed flood levy dominating the news.

Mitchell Watt raised the spirit of generosity in Australia and asked why 41 per cent of Australians, as measured by Newspoll, opposed the levy.

The issue exposed wide divisions among panellists, with Graham Richardson and David Williamson in favour of the levy and Amanda Vanstone, Gerard Henderson and Catherine Deveny opposed. Catherine suggested the money could be raised instead by removing the tax-exempt status of religion, because the floods were God’s fault.

Hayden Fletcher brought up Tony Abbott’s gaffe in seeking donations for a fund to oppose the levy, an action which was widely condemned although Gerard insisted it was an error made by the Liberal Party, not Tony Abbott.

In between skirmishes between Gerard and Catherine over religion the discussion moved on to climate change, with Luke Robinson saying the coal industry should be taxed more to pay for the damage caused by climate change.

Both David and Catherine suggested the intensity of recent weather events was linked to a changing climate, and that once in 1000-year events were becoming commonplace.

Gerard insisted, as a historian, that more severe floods, fires and cyclones had occurred in previous centuries.

Gerard is using the same, tired old canard all the deniers are trotting out at the moment (see Skeptical Science):

A common skeptic argument is that climate has changed naturally in the past, long before SUVs and coal-fired power plants, so therefore humans cannot be causing global warming now. Interestingly, the peer-reviewed research into past climate change comes to the opposite conclusion. To understand this, first you have to ask why climate has changed in the past. It doesn’t happen by magic. Climate changes when it’s forced to change. When our planet suffers an energy imbalance and gains or loses heat, global temperature changes.

As a historian Gerard, you should understand causation.

The climate is not magic: something forces those changes.

It just so happens the massive amounts of CO2e we are pumping into the atmosphere are forcing changes.

Gerard provides yet another example of Orwellian doublespeak:

“The climate has always changed. The climate is therefore not changing”

Would you take medical advice from Gerard?

Afterall, people got sick in the past.

Should we accept his word on climate science?


You can watch the show here.

The transcript is not up yet, and I need to find time to watch it all.

I thought it would be of interest to many.


18 thoughts on ““Trust me, I’m a historian”: sceptic Gerard Henderson in the hot seat on Q&A

  1. john byatt says:

    Remember while touring came across a small town with a big proud sign


    Asked at the local pub , why have you got AN HISTORIC on the sign?

    cause it is istoric mate

  2. lol

    I have to agree with Catherine – do away with tax-exemption for religions. If it’s “God’s Will” well his organisation should pay. If it isn’t, why are they tax-free? 😉

    You know, as weird as it sounds, I’m not really a fan of blaming the energy producers. It’s not the coal miners or the oil riggers fault, but all of ours. We should be working it out as a global community rather than trying to point the finger elsewhere.

    I’m not sure I can watch it – I get too riled up by climate doublespeak.

  3. john byatt says:

    I do not agree with Catherine, blame god, i am atheist but we have a lot of good devout Christians that not only do the science but support it also,
    however the “earth is ten thousand years old mob do need their science attacked but not their belief of god because in putting them down for that belief you are including the others even though it is unintentional

  4. john byatt says:

    We could tell Catherine that there was a letter in the local rag the other day that also blamed God, well blamed us for shaggin, homosexuals, porn etc and incurring gods wrath, a mad YECY of course,
    sure she would be delighted to discover that the crazies agree with her.

    yes cannot blame the workers just Koch exxon etc funding the anti science and lies without that the neurotic deniers would be on there own and get no credibility with the public

    the floodgates have opened on legal liability of the polluters no wins yet
    but many case pending, what happens in the future if scientists can ascribe climate change percentages to natural disasters , the polluters are shit scared in case emails and private info is called in , in fifteen years you wont be able to say i did not know if the emails say otherwise, interesting times ahead

    [PDF] Comment: Legal Liability as Climate Change Policy
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    change policy because they can expect to bear few costs. If the status quo included the possibility of climate change liability, and ex ante public policy …

  5. Watching the Deniers says:

    I tend to agree with many of the comments.

    It is a pity the whole debate is seen through the lens of progressive-conservative debate. You have the lion of the left, Williamson versus the conservative Henderson.

    @ John:

    “…the polluters are shit scared in case emails and private info is called in , in fifteen years you wont be able to say i did not know if the emails say otherwise, interesting times ahead”

    Future litigation will reveal the extent they funded, supported and cultivated the denial movement.

    I think in part this is why Shell’s CEO has recently made public noises about acting on climate change. It at least creates the impression Shell “changed teams”. Once climate related litigation opens the flood gates in the same way the tobacco litigation did, we will see the industry sued for billions.

  6. elsa says:

    “As a historian Gerard, you should understand causation. The climate is not magic: something forces those changes. It just so happens the massive amounts of CO2e we are pumping into the atmosphere are forcing changes.”

    So how do you know that? Gerard is absolutely right, the climate has changed in the past. frankly we do not know why. It is quite breathtakingly arrogant of the warmist lobby to state their assumption – that it is CO2 that has “forced” the climate – as though it were fact when there is no evidence at all that that is the case. What you say is a bit like something from the pre scientific age when some “experts” opined that whatever disaster had befallen mankind must be the result of bad behaviour “forcing” god to punish mankind.

    • Of course you wouldn’t have the foggiest clue why climate changes with so much cotton stuffed in your ears…

    • Ross Brisbane says:

      Let get this one fact straight here:

      There is no no proof whatsoever within Australian weather and any other patterns of cyclones historically that the catastrophic events in TOTALITY that hit QLD, NSW, VIC, SA and TAS were not events on a scale NEVER recorded before. This culminated in one singular one off acts of nature’s fury never seen since occupation of Australia by whites!

      This guy Gerard is doublespeak media spin doctor of the former Howard government. He is an ultra ultra right wing with some very bizarre viewpoints even for right wing moderates.

      His take on climate I would treat with grain of salt.

    • Elsa . . .It is hard to believe that such flat-earthist, climate-change denier meatheads as yourself are still wandering the savannah. Or still have your heads in the sand . . .still it gives people with an IQ above 90 someone to feel superior to. Keep up the good work

  7. john byatt says:

    Elsa to say, we do not know why, is denial

    Gavin Schmidt NASA
    “In the climate field, there are a number of issues which are no longer subject to fundamental debate in the community. The existence of the greenhouse effect, the increase in CO2 (and other GHGs) over the last hundred years and its human cause, and the fact the planet warmed significantly over the 20th Century are not much in doubt. IPCC described these factors as ‘virtually certain’ or ‘unequivocal’. The attribution of the warming over the last 50 years to human activity is also pretty well established – that is ‘highly likely’ and the anticipation that further warming will continue as CO2 levels continue to rise is a well supported conclusion. To the extent that anyone has said that the scientific debate is over, this is what they are referring to. In answer to colloquial questions like “Is anthropogenic warming real?”, the answer is yes with high confidence.”

    • John, I can already hear Elsa’s reply, “Of course he would say that. AGW is right if the temperature goes up or down, it doesn’t prove that it’s scientific.”

      I dismantled her nonsense yesterday. She cherry picks a small part of the observed data and produces a trend – at the expense of the larger data set.

      Of course when you look at short term data, the effects of weather events (such as the ENSO) will cloud the results and quite conveniently, her obsession circulates around a time period which saw WWII and the great depression (gee, the high points of production that they were!). If you analyse the data more sensibly, to remove the weather spikes and look at bi-decadal averages, you get the same thing as you do with the moving average trend typically used – a temperature trend that matched CO2 levels.

      Elsa will avoid reality at all cost to continue to perpetuate her rubbish.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Deniers focus on the statistical noise, and eschew any thought of trends and probabilities.

      • Exactly Mike, and as far as deniers go, Elsa has got to be one of the most severely one-sided I’ve come across..

        There is that US reporter bloke that said, “they can take my ice, after they take my gun.” (or words to that effect – I saw it one of Peter Sinclare’s excellent presentation), but somehow Elsa with all her sock puppets is somewhat more disturbing.

      • john byatt says:

        Carter, ‘Looky, when I remove the warming trend ENSO is the cause”

        Denialists “argue with that Warmists”

        Warmists ” is it safe to take our heads out of the vice yet”

  8. adelady says:

    It’s not on their website yet, but I’m dying to see the whole of the Lateline segment on climate science from tonight, I only caught the last 90 seconds or so. Anyone who missed it should catch up with it, it looked terrific.

  9. john byatt says:

    You are not going to believe this at ABC unleashed
    john byatt :
    10 Feb 2011 1:26:10pm
    ” You ain’t seen nothing yet”

    By 2200, the PCF strength in terms of cumulative permafrost carbon flux to the atmosphere is 190 ± 64 Gt C. This estimate may be low because it does not account for amplified surface warming due to the PCF itself and excludes some discontinuous permafrost regions where SiBCASA did not simulate permafrost. We predict that the PCF will change the Arctic from a carbon sink to a source after the mid 2020s and is strong enough to cancel 40–88% of the total global land sink. The thaw and decay of permafrost carbon is irreversible and accounting for the PCF will require larger reductions in fossil fuel emissions to reach a target atmospheric CO2 concentration.” Kevin Schaefer, Tingjun Zhang, Lori Bruhwiler, Andrew P. Barrett, 2011, Tellus B, DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0889.2011.00527.x.

    Reply Alert moderator

    scotty :
    10 Feb 2011 2:59:38pm
    “We predict that the PCF will change the Arctic from a carbon sink to a source after the mid 2020s”

    And correspondingly, the Antarctic will become a sink, as Antartic ice is at record levels on the majority of its landmass, and Antartic ice grows when Arctic ice recedes (and vice versa).

    Selective analysis to prove your pre-determined point isn’t scientific, in fact that’s the precise problem with much of the climate ‘science’ that is out there.

    what can you say?

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