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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68 thoughts on “Of sea ice & Andrew Bolt: freedom of speech under attack?

  1. Eric Worrall says:

    Its a dangerous game to set up an inquisition to determine what version of the “truth” is acceptable, because sooner or later you end up on the receiving end.

    If Abbott is elected (as most polls suggest he will be), he will be in a position to either abolish the press complaints body, or to stack it with his people.

    • john byatt says:

      That is just what the sceptics have been calling for, an inquisition of climate change by the current government,

  2. Great article but I humbly submit the use of the term “climate change skeptics” is a misuse of the word skeptic. A real skeptic is objective and forms an opinion after weighing all the evidence whereas a denialists ignores all evidence that conflicts with their belief.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Yawn. Let us know when the world starts warming again Blair.

      15 years, 10% rise in CO2, no significant change in global temperature. Looks bad for your theory. But then, thats just physical evidence, not as compelling as impressive computer models and concerned looking scientists.

  3. After your silly comeback to my last comment by pretending that, magically, political beliefs and ideology trumps science, and you will make the earth flat by claiming spheroids are a massive scientific hoax perpetuated for centuries and discovered in “Earthgate” e-mails, I am not surprised you have descended further down the rabbitt hole of dark, paranoid conspiracy theories.

    Denying science and reality is getting you nowhere, Eric.

  4. john byatt says:

    ERIC Eric Worrall says:
    November 21, 2012 at 8:31 am
    Don’t be a jerk John – I already said I don’t have $1000 to lose on backing my denial with cash.

    Its just random chance whether next year is slightly warmer or cooler than the previous year. Slight natural variations prove nothing.

    I will give you odds eric 2 to 1 .

    go for it man

  5. Eric Worrall, I haven’t posted here before – but you are obviously one of those people that would brush aside all evidence from all credible sources for political ideology. The fact that you would deliberately contribute to ensuring a miserable life for future generations including your own child through natural disasters and resource conflicts is as unbelievable as it is vile. I sincerely hope you life a long life and develop enough of a conscious to realize the contribution you are making.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Hi Peter, I’m confused. Are you accusing me of being mistaken, or being an agent of deception, someone so evil I would consign my own baby girl to a grim future which I believe will actually happen?

      • Frankly I waited for the response, and it was every bit as condescending as I expected. I won’t waste any more time with this. But at the end of the day yes – you are being evil in the very literal sense of the word. Go look at your daughter and keep telling yourself that you’re not risking any harm to her.

        • Eric Worrall says:

          My question was genuine Peter – in one statement you suggest I would brush aside all evidence from all credible sources for political ideology., then you go on to suggest The fact that you would deliberately contribute to ensuring a miserable life for future generations ….

          But I am getting the general impression you think I’m vile because I disagree with you.

      • Your arrogance of ignorance is a result of your profound denialism, Eric. There is no mystery how utterly blinkered you are to deny science to try keep your sinking ideological ship afloat.

        Remember what Neil deGrasse Tyson famously said: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

        You’ve already lost your war against science, Eric. Science always wins.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Same old recycled cr@p.

      Lets hope he doesn’t insist on inflicting this dismal view too frequently on his son – that his son finds some happiness in life despite the bizarre doomsday beliefs of his dad.

      Tell a kid the world is going to be hopelessly messed up when they grow up, that there is no reason to strive for anything, because the adults of today are ruining everything, that their life will be miserable and short – then wonder why they drop out of school, and start smoking crack.

      • john byatt says:

        This is a first for the conservative SCD, we are getting there, the tide is turning, time to whack Newman over the ears again.

        elated tonight

      • john byatt says:

        YOU probably missed the vote abbott and turnbull, it was about 30 to 31 with one person absent.

        Their climate change minister like turnbull accepts the science.

        abbot said that would respect kyoto,

        abbott only wants to dismantle the carbon price and instead spend your taxes on combating cg with the same outcome as labor over the next 8 years,

        His costs are much higher and his idea of biochar would require nearly all of australia used to sequester.
        If that is what you prefer, then vote for it,

        • Eric Worrall says:

          Given the ongoing failure to negotiate a new international treaty on Climate Change, the open defiance of Climate policies by countries like Canada and Japan, the growing backlash against climate policies in Europe, the feeble presentation of Climate issues in the American election, and the utter lack of interest by the world’s leaders in attending Rio, my point stands – even if I’m wrong about Abbott, Australia will get to the party just in time to see the last guest leave.

  6. Chris W says:

    Sorry to be a bit lengthy and a bit OT but I thought I’d provide a little context on that ice.

    The all-time record Antarctic sea ice extent was 22 September 2012 with 19.45418 million sq klm. Anyone can download the southern hemisphere data from the data National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and inspect it for themselves. The NSIDC dataset also shows 21 September 2012 through 26 September 2012 were the top six record days for Antarctic sea ice.

    Out of idle curiosity I also downloaded the northern hemisphere datasets and combined NH and SH data to see what the daily ice extent aggregate was for both hemispheres – a simple daily ‘global’ picture if you like (no trend, no anomaly, just a raw aggregate created in Excel).

    Anyway, this aggregation gave me 10,761 daily NH+SH sea ice extents running almost continuously from 26 October 1978 to 29 September2012 (here and there, days are missing from the raw data).

    So where does the record Antarctic sea ice extent for 22 September 2012 come in the scheme of things when it is combined with that day’s (declining) Arctic extent? The NH+SH aggregate for that date was 23.04595 million sq klm and you might reasonably expect that that would be in the top five for record ice cover but you’d be wrong. Top twenty? No. Top five hundred? Nup. Not even close. Ranked out of 10,761, September 22nd 2012 came 6,417th … but ninnies like Eric and Bolt and co think that disproves AGW !!??

    Deniers … wilfully blind, utterly clueless, and incomparably dishonest.

    FWIW: The top fifteen years for ‘global’ sea ice extent (as per my spreadsheet) all occurred before 1981.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Remember to cast the tea leaves while you’re at it, there’s a good chap.

      • Chris W says:

        Weak as piss Eric. Weak. As. Piss.

      • zoot says:

        Eric, there’s more than meets the eye.
        If you look at the last 12 years there’s an apparent warming trend:
        But what is more important for you, if you look at the last 7 years there is a cooling trend!

        You’re on a winner. Why won’t you accept John’s bet??


        • Eric Worrall says:

          No, the temperature trend since 97 is essentially flat – as you pointed out, depending on which year you pick, you can either get a warming or a cooling trend.

          15 years with no warming, despite a 10% increase in CO2, is at the very least rather embarrassing for alarmist theories which postulate a climate sensitivity of 3c+ / doubling. With 3c / doubling, there should have been at least 0.3c of warming. The lack of warming at the very least suggests alarmist theory is incomplete.

          Thats why diehard alarmists like Travesty Trenberth are scrambling trying to explain away the lack of warming, or creating ever broader bands of “95% confidence”, and former supporters like James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis, have thrown in the towel and admitted their predictions were overly alarmist.


          RE John’s bet, I only gamble with money I can afford to lose. I did offer John a counter bet, based on reputation rather than money, so far he hasn’t accepted it.

      • Chris W says:

        Impressive Eric. You’ve effortlessly proven the ‘How “Skeptics” View Global Warming’ case. http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

        Blind, clueless, and dishonest.

      • john byatt says:


        • Eric Worrall says:

          I told you, I don’t have $1000 to spare.

          But I tell you what.

          If each of the next 3 years is warmer than this year, according to Hardcrut 4 series (I don’t trust Hansen’s GISS at all), then I’ll apologise for wasting everyone’s time, and stop posting on this site.

          If one of the next 3 years is cooler, then you can apologise for calling me a denier.

      • john byatt says:

        you want to be careful, hadcrut has el nino years warmer than giss even though it only counts the high arctic as warming at the same rate as the rest of the world
        giss counts the arctic only warming as fast as the nearest stns

        this is why the arctic is going down, sea level is going up droughts and floods are increasing and this is a flat period you say, we seem to be from some real shit when you declare that is warming again

        • Eric Worrall says:

          All the series are bad John – if you read some more Climategate emails you’d get an idea of how bad. So I’m taking quite a risk.

          But NASA / Hansen’s GISS seem to stand head and shoulders above just about everyone else in terms of alarmist zealotry – Hansen has been arrested twice FFS during climate protests. Hardly someone I feel I can trust to provide impartial advice on this issue.

      • john byatt says:

        1998 and all the sceptics were claiming that it was the hadcrut data that was corrupt and would only accept the noaa giss temps, only sat data can be trusted was the chant then, you lot will just select the lowest temp each year and declare that as the only reliable data

        been there done that


      • john byatt says:

        i think that is getting near time that i got arrested for protesting,

        • Eric Worrall says:

          Why would you need to go and do that, if the war is over, and you have won?

          Be careful what you do in the name of your cause. A global crisis is a moral slippery slope – there is nothing which cannot be justified in the name of preventing the destruction of the world.

      • john byatt says:

        living in a state in which a person called the climate change minister does not even understand the basics, i ridicule and insult him weekly in the papers and he is too gutless to reply,
        remember the franklin, many were arrested including bob brown, even now we have people including farmers being arrested over csg mining

        seems some people just give a damm.

        nearly the entire state was arrested during the joh years, clive palmer believes that this newman gov is even more corrupt,

        do not know about corrupt, stupid ignorant dumb morons yes, i will reserve judgement on corrupt

  7. john byatt says:

    even the author came in on this one to thank us all for our open minds
    gotta love em


  8. Craig King says:

    Mass Gains of the Antarctic Ice Sheet Exceed Losses

    Zwally, H. Jay; Li, Jun; Robbins, John; Saba, Jack L.; Yi, Donghui; Brenner, Anita; Bromwich, David


    During 2003 to 2008, the mass gain of the Antarctic ice sheet from snow accumulation exceeded the mass loss from ice discharge by 49 Gt/yr (2.5% of input), as derived from ICESat laser measurements of elevation change. The net gain (86 Gt/yr) over the West Antarctic (WA) and East Antarctic ice sheets (WA and EA) is essentially unchanged from revised results for 1992 to 2001 from ERS radar altimetry.

    Imbalances in individual drainage systems (DS) are large (-68% to +103% of input), as are temporal changes (-39% to +44%). The recent 90 Gt/yr loss from three DS (Pine Island, Thwaites-Smith, and Marie-Bryd Coast) of WA exceeds the earlier 61 Gt/yr loss, consistent with reports of accelerating ice flow and dynamic thinning. Similarly, the recent 24 Gt/yr loss from three DS in the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) is consistent with glacier accelerations following breakup of the Larsen B and other ice shelves. In contrast, net increases in the five other DS of WA and AP and three of the 16 DS in East Antarctica (EA) exceed the increased losses.

    Alternate interpretations of the mass changes driven by accumulation variations are given using results from atmospheric-model re-analysis and a parameterization based on 5% change in accumulation per degree of observed surface temperature change. A slow increase in snowfall with climate warming, consistent with model predictions, may be offsetting increased dynamic losses.

    Click to View PDF File [PDF Size: 256 KB]

  9. Eric,

    It must be fun to live a life unburdened by reality. But reality nails you regardless:


  10. Craig King says:

    Have a look here instead of that ridiculous propaganda site . . .


  11. Joh of Kingaroy says:

    Bolt says I am an alamist
    I say Bolt is an Idiot
    I also say idiots attract and excite other idiots

    enuf said … move on

  12. James says:

    In the 1950’s a hole in the Ozone layer over the Antarctic that had previously been predicted was proved to exist. In 1979 the first satellite data about the hole (or depletion) started to appear and the changes evident from that data from 1979 to 1986, gave the world a good enough reason to change from CFC;s to other non Ozone depleting gases. The cost to the world was relatively small and the potential for damage huge, considering what they didn’t know about the science even if they had been wrong it was still worth it.

    CO2 driven climate change is the inverse of this. The cost in lives of telling the poorest people in the world not to use cheap energy, considering what we don’t know about the worlds climate, will far exceed the cost impact of any but the most extreme predictions of the IPCC. (which even they say are unlikely)

    We are at peak oil now by most counts, the UN predicts global population (the biggest driver for increased CO2 emissions) to peak around 2090. As the Oil and Gas get rarer the drivers of supply and demand will cause the cost of renewable energy to drop relative to fossil fuels, probably meaning people in 2150 will wonder what the hell we were all on about.

    In the meantime millions of actual children are actually dying right now due to actual preventable diseases, malnutrition, and war.

    Maybe global warming isn’t the greatest moral challenge of our time, maybe the greatest moral challenge of our time is to stop pontificating about what may happen and deal with what actually is happening.

    Merry Christmas.

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