Best of the blog: for new readers

Watching the Deniers has been running for three years now, which means there is a great deal of content.

There are some pieces I think worth of pointing out: these aren’t necessarily the most viewed entries, and sometimes not even the most polished. However I believe they will give new (and old) readers a taste of what to expect from me as a commentator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Toxic legacies: Malcolm Roberts and the anti-Semitic roots of the international bankers conspiracy theory

According to parts of the climate sceptic movement, the world is not as it seems.

The CSIRO is a tool of international bankers, who over the past century have also orchestrated every major financial boom and bust since 1913. The United Nations was created at the urging of international bankers, who are using it as a vehicle to usher in a New World Order.

The Rockefeller and Rothschild families have been working behind the scenes for centuries manipulating events. These same banking families instigated both the First and Second World War in order to profit from the chaos. Every Australian Prime Minister of the post-War period – except John Howard – was a Fabian-socialist-Manchurian candidate.

Or so claims Malcolm Roberts, project manager for the Alan Jones sponsored Galileo Movement.

To pilot a planet: the future of the climate change debate

“…Our role is not merely to debate the reality of climate change. I would suggest it is a far more expansive and nobler role than that.

We – the vanguard and the outliers of the debate – can be the mentors and teachers of the next generation. It falls to us to teach them resilience, tenacity and to trust the scientific method. In addition to fostering scientific literacy we should teach the values of compassion and empathy.

Climate change has taught us the need to rebuild our industrial civilisation from the ground up in order to avert the suffering of billions. Knowledge and compassion are inexorably linked – once cannot act without knowledge.

For me having this knowledge compels action.

I’m aware of the fact that I am consciously privileging some values over others. But there is good cause to do so.

We can do more than bequest future generations a broken planet; we must also teach them to pilot the planet and our civilisation. The generations that follow are accidental geo-engineers, a role neither asked for nor deserving. And while it may be impossible to forecast what our global civilisation will look like 1000 years from now, we can lay the seeds for its survival today.

Thus it falls to us to teach them the values that will guide them through the coming centuries of change: resilience in the face of adversity, compassion, empathy and a deep reverence for truth.

In essence, to lay the seeds of a humanist culture that recognises its place in the cosmos, appreciates the fragility of each individual life and our civilisation and fosters the hope we can guide it to better futures.

That is the legacy each of us holds in our hands, and has the power to pass on.”

The paper aristocracy: Jo Nova and David Evans bring the crazy

“Nova and Evans seem to believe that the current powers-that-be are intent on using fiat money to exert political control over the global population and have been working towards this end for centuries. As noted, fiat money is a particular obsession of “New World Order” fantasists who believe a shadowy cabal are trying to create a one world government through the UN, IPCC and international treaties.

This is truly the “paranoid style of politics”.

It clearly explains Nova’s rabid hatred of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which in her eyes is nothing more than a massive scam to create “false wealth” and yet another lever of power to be used by “them”.

Silence of the milestone: how humanity is greeting 400ppm with continuing indifference

History affords us lessons if we are prepared to pay attention.

To paraphrase, those who ignores the Earth’s geologic history seem destined to relive it.

Among those who follow such things (scientists, climate bloggers and the journalists chronicling this act of civilisational suicide) the passing of the 400ppm milestone was met with a mixture of resignation, calls for action and a hint of fatalism.

The last time the atmospheric concentration of CO2 was at this level was 3 million years ago during the mid-Pliocene. It was a very different world, with average global temperatures 3-4 degrees higher. Even more concerning, sea levels were at least 5-40 meters higher than today.

But what does 400ppm mean, if having nothing more than the arbitrary significance we assign?

The insiders: if climate change was a conspiracy, where are the whistleblowers?

“There are literally millions of scientists, engineers, software programmers, policy makers, activists, writers and members of the world’s military and business community working on climate change and related environmental issues. They have been toiling away on the research and policies for years.

And yet somehow we are somehow expected to believe these millions have managed to maintain a vast conspiracy of silence over decades. Just how probable that is?

How could this enormous conspiracy, spanning the globe and generations, still exist without at least one conspirator breaking ranks and coming forth with the damning evidence? [2]

Perhaps we should follow the dictates of Occam’s Razor and look for the simplest, most rational answer: climate change is real.”

Coalition of the rational: a call to action

“Within Australia the number of those actively engaged in politics or supportive of environmental activism, science, atheism, and social justice would be in the hundreds of thousands – if not millions.

Over a million voted for the Greens: there is part of our base. Over 22% of Australians have no religious preference – the fastest growing “faith” (or lack thereof) in the country. The politics of those under 30 are in direct opposition to the frightened old men that staff the ranks of the Liberal-National Party. There are more, so many more.

Call it the Coalition of the Rational: those who value the truth, and wish to see public policies formulated in response to what science, reason and compassion tell us.

We can be the twenty-first century’s civil rights movement, its suffragette’s and Abolitionists. We can follow in the steps of the ANC and Indian Congress. Should we not continue the tradition of these social movements?

Could we not?

The evolution of these movements can be traced from William Wilberforce, Thomas Paine, Emily Pankhurst, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Rachel Carson to you. Yes, you.”

Rupert Murdoch’s legacy: a broken climate

“Murdoch the man has been found unfit to lead a company in the free market, while at the same time helping usher in the worst market failure in history.  History, if nothing else, has a refined sense of irony.

Murdoch’s legacy will not simply be the broken and dysfunctional culture of News Corporation. His most lasting legacy will be the damaged climate and a world of 2 degrees plus. For decades, News Corporation has waged a pitiless and deceitful campaign against scientists and the public’s understanding of the climate change.

Murdoch charged News Corporation with a missionary zeal to spread his free-market ideology. The doctrine was preached by his army of journalists and television presenters. Across the globe the likes of Andrew Bolt, Terry McCrann, Chris Mitchell and Glenn Beck spread the Word of Murdoch.

And the Word was: the market cannot fail.”

Google Galileo: five reasons we know you’re not a scientific genius

  1. You lack relevant qualifications or expertise in a highly technical discipline – most would be “Google Galileo’s” (99.99%) lack qualifications in climate science. They may have impressive qualifications in other fields (engineering, finance, economics) but the truth is they lack the decades of training in the field. Just as nobody can become an overcome expert in neurosurgery from reading Wikipedia, so you can’t “Google” the web and become an overnight expert on a highly complex area of science.
  2. Your references are restricted to blogs and Wikipedia (and cherry picked from freely available scientific papers) – most Google Galileo’s can’t make a distinction between genuine scientific research and a post from the well-known denial blog “What’s up with that?”. As far as they are concerned, information that supports their argument is valid. Information that contradicts is – by definition – suspect and tainted by its association with actual scientists.
  3. You think downloading raw data sets and running them through Excel constitutes “science” – this is perhaps the most tragic, and fruitless, exercise committed by the more committed Google Galileo’s. There are literally hundreds of blogs out there in which their authors have downloaded data from NASA’s Goddard Centre or Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and run it through Excel. Of course they find “stunning errors” and evidence of “tricks”. They are hunting for anomalies (another logical fallacy). Having enormous gaps in your understanding of the science ensures your results are flawed.
  4. You repeatedly state “They laughed at Galileo didn’t they! – the fallacy of association is the most common one made by these would be geniuses. The gales of laughter and derision of society have less to with their failure to appreciate your special insights than just how poorly conceived their version of “science” is.
  5. You gravitate towards online communities who welcome your wild (and incorrect) speculations – the Internet is wonderful for finding like-minded individuals. However it means individuals often close themselves off in a world where no facts or contradictory information can reach them. Thus, a person whose only understanding of climate science comes from reading Andrew Bolt and a few other blogs will receive a highly distorted view of the science. Just as likely, their interactions will be mostly confined to individuals with a similar world view. This is epistemic closure: the quarantine of communities in hermetically sealed “information bubbles’.

“We can point the finger at the likes of Exxon, the Koch’s and the conservative think tanks for fostering “climate change skepticism. But I think the roots of denial are much deeper than that.

As the above examples show, the fear that other “forces” are going to diminish the power, status and authority of individuals (and by extension the industries they work for or the companies they run) fuels denial.

It explains why behind every new scientific discovery – from evolution to relativity – religious and social conservatives react with such alarm. Many of those who opposed Einstein’s theory felt their status and achievements where being swept away (Stark).

Others, whose fears were grounded in ignorance and fear, recast their concerns as a political issue. Thus, those opposed to fluoridation where already anti-communist, and therefore assumed what they did not like must have it’s roots in communism.

However, another key feature of all these movements and their reactions to science was a conspiratorial world view.”

“Creationism has provided the template for the denial movement, as their strategies are almost identical. Generations of Americans, Australians and people around the world have been taught to distrust science, and place their faith in fast-talking intellectual hucksters.

Is it no surprise that the Herald Sun, home to Andrew Bolt, gave over two full pages to disgraced former footballer Gary Ablett to attack evolution?

Isn’t any wonder that Christopher Monckton, the pompous self-styled ”Lord” speaks the language to Creationism?

Are we not surprised that (now former) Family First Senator Steve Fielding not only doubts climate change, but also rejects evolutionary theory?

Is there not a pattern emerging?

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos.”

One thought on “Best of the blog: for new readers

  1. gregfullmoon says:

    Hiya, this is interesting.. I found my way here through Tyson Adams reference to your articles on Aussie Politicians position on CC, from ‘The Conversation’.

    I’m firmly on the side of those who propose that human activity is the root cause in the Earth’s Climate becoming heated and volatile.

    I also find myself having disagreement with those who feel that the CC agenda is a Elitist Conspiracy. However as I go further with your primer I have some disagreements;

    I sense that in the same way that the elites and bankster classes, seek to profit from other misfortunes and so-called natural disasters, they seek to profit from the financializtion of Climate Change with Carbon Credit schemes. This is the thesis of Naomi Kline in her book ‘Shock Doctrine’;

    Also Matt Taibbi’s ‘Griftopia’; and others reveal the extent to which the Money Power negatively influences the ability of ‘the people’s representatives’ do their job representing the people’s interests.

    And whilst the denialists conflate Global Warming as a scam with the ‘Shadow World Government’ and ‘New world Order’, their conflation provides no logic or rationale as to why you would dismiss the deeper concern of the extent that there may in fact be a Conspiracy to ‘exert considerable control over the World’ by those in the know.

    In your various comments you disparage those who offer expertly on areas outside their field of expertise. In this area you might be guilty of the same charge.

    The West and here I posit the so-called Anglo-American alliance has been at war with the rest of the World since; on the British side centuries and the American all last century with no let up in this one. In fact warfare is the means by which the cancer of economic neo-liberalism is spread.

    I’m Aussie born and now reside in New Zealand so still under the Corporate yoke of the Crown;

    I am as aware as any that the Climate Change denialists themselves muddy the waters with wild claims, however if the scientific community itself then responds with similar blanket swipes which hit unintended targets they are as guilty in denying forces that are in operation in our shared World.

    I also appreciate that it is large corporate entities that control research funding whether these are Enterprises or Governmental. Thus science itself is ever negotiating it’s way through a minefield in it’s mission to reveal truth.

    I’m also indebted to Professor Charles Pigden of Otago University for his paper, ‘Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom’;

    The next couple of years will be telling as to the extent we can alter the momentum of human development toward a benign Climate Outcome. I am deeply aware that if we ceased all burning of fossil fuels as of now the momentum of change already locked into the Climate System will be dramatic in its effect on our human landscape.

    Critical to changing the momentum is changing the Power Structures and belief paradigms we operate within. Critical to positive change will require tearing down the entrenched Money Power that keeps us locked into a wasteful and violent system.

    Another way to look at that Centralized Power Structure might be through this study.. James Glattfelder, ‘Who Controls the World’;

    Finally thank you for a brilliant resource, cheers greg

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