Category Archives: Culture war

John Howard’s faith vs climate science: former PM to headline talk at climate denial think tank

The first order of business for the incoming Abbott government has been to systematically dismantle Australia’s response to the challenge of climate change.

Whether that be “axing the tax”, cutting agencies such as the Climate Commission or dismantling the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Abbott & Co. are gleefully wrecking revenge on the very notion of climate change.

Not only were these actions anticipated, but they represent a return to the “glory years” of the Howard government.

Disdain for science and obstruction are once again the first order of business. Without doubt Abbott is clearly following the lead of his mentor – John Howard.

Thus it comes as no surprise to learn John Howard will be delivering the Global Warming Policy Foundations annual lecture in November titled “One religion is enough”.

Note the title: climate sceptics disparage the science as a “faith” in the exact same way creationists dismiss evolution as a “religion”. It betrays an almost medieval ambivalence to science and the challenge it presents to its authority.

There is an underlying similarity in the opposition to the science expressed by Australian conservative politicians such as Howard, Abbott and public figures such as Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell (a close confident of both).

All of them profess a deeply reactionary view of morality, the family, marriage and antipathy to science informed by their religiosity.

All of them disdain environmentalism, and regard it as a form of paganism or competing religion to the “one true faith”.

As Pell noted in an 2008 interview with the sceptic think tank, the Science and Public Policy Institute:

“It is true that some of the more hysterical and extreme claims about global warming appear symptomatic of a pagan emptiness, of a Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. 

Years ago I was struck by the fears that middle-class kids without religion had about nuclear war. It was almost an obsession with a few of them. It’s almost as though people without religion, who don’t belong to any of the great religious traditions, have got to be frightened of something. 

Perhaps they’re looking for a cause that is almost a substitute for religion. I often point out that some of those who are now warning us against global warming were warning us back in the 1970s about an imminent new ice age, because according to some criteria an ice age is a bit overdue. Remember the fuss about the millennium bug and our computer systems in the lead-up to the year 2000…”

Pell’s response is reminiscent of that Catholic Church when confronted by Galileo’s evidence for a heliocentric solar system.

Howard was a “late convert” to the science in 2007 as the election that spelt his demise loomed.

However, since being thrown out he has thrown his clout behind the deniers now freed from the constraints of office.

In 2011 Howard helped launched Ian Plimer’s “How to get expelled”, a nasty and error-riddled little tome designed to mislead school students:

Mr Howard attacked the one-sided teaching of climate change in schools.

“People ought to be worried about what their children are being taught at school,” he said.

“It’s a matter of real concern”.

As Michelle Gratton notes in The Conversation, one of Abbott’s most senior advisers is Maurice Newman, a noted climate sceptic and who recently dismissed climate change as a myth:

Newman chairs Abbott’s Business Advisory Group and this week wrote in the Financial Review of climate change “myths”.

“The new Coalition government is faced with enormous structural issues that have been camouflaged by effective propaganda and supported by well-organised elements in the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment,” Newman wrote.

“With a huge vested interest in the status quo, they will be vocal opponents of change. The CSIRO, for example, has 27 scientists dedicated to climate change. It and the Weather Bureau have become global warming advocates. They continue to propagate the myth of anthropological climate change and are likely to be background critics of the Coalition’s Direct Action policies.”

The CSIRO comes under the Industry department. The scientists working in the climate area might be getting a little nervous.

A war on science has begun.

Or should we say, has resumed?

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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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The sacrifices one must make: Gillard has to go to save the existing climate policy framework

“Her finest hour, and her greatest legacy”

The continuing speculation over the leadership of the Labor party is a distraction to the many challenges Australia faces. Like many Australian’s I am tired – so sick and tired – of it. A plague upon the major political parties, Labor and Liberal alike.

The Kevin Rudd “Will or won’t he challenge” drama is also a sickening distraction.

That News Limited has run a ferociously anti-Labor and anti-Carbon tax campaign across its entire media empire cannot be disputed.

That News Limited has crippled the policy response to climate change by casting doubt on the science is undeniable.

That Julia Gillard could have been a great Prime Minister, with an actual vision cannot be denied.

That Julia Gillard has been subject to horrific attacks based on her gender, the sexuality of her partner and even the death of her father should sicken a civilised society.

Clearly Australia has cast aside whatever thin veneer of civilisation it pretended to have. We have revealed ourselves to be a braying mob of coal baron sycophants and moral pygmies.

That we are about to see the election of a party under Abbott that will dismantle the foundations of Australia’s response to climate change – the ETS – is also certain.

That they will defund and stifle climate science research is a given.

That they will expedite the opening of every new coal mine proposal that falls across the desk Greg Hunt or his LNP peers at the state level is undeniable.

That we have at best a few decades to avert a crisis is also undeniable.

This is the critical decade, not just for emissions.

This is the critical decade to put in place the necessary policy framework.

Australia taking a leading role in placing a price on carbon should be celebrated, an act of courage and moral leadership. That China is to follow soon with their own carbon price, acknowledging Australia’s lead is a wondrous thing.

But if Julia Gillard remains as PM, she will help usher in more than a decade of LNP domination at the federal level of government.

Once Abbott is in, he will try to break the Senate by calling a double dissolution election to grab control of both houses.

The LNP will strip every environmental protection they can see across all levels of government. They will reduce government to a rump, investing those savings in naval vessels to protect us from people fleeing for their lives by towing them back to their deaths.

The election is not about Julia, or Tony or Kevin. I detest the over inflated egos of these three “leaders” (and how I use that term with a heavy dose of irony).

What matters is the choices we make now.

It is about our response to climate change and whether we as a nation remain brave, or to turn away from the challenge.

If the Labor Party, the Independents or the Greens want to think about the future, then think of the following decades.

So you hate Kevin? Well suck it up.

You hate Julia; well suck that up as well.

What is in the best long-term interests of the nation in the context of climate change?

Firstly, not giving control of both houses to a party that not only dismisses the science, but would destroy the fragile foundations we have just begun to establish.

The great work of adaptation will begin very soon: we will be starting from an every lower base should the LNP control every level of government from the Senate to the State’s and Territories.

So I say this with a heavy heart.

Julia, do the honourable thing.

This issue is bigger than you, Kevin, and Tony. It is bigger than the future of Labor.

It is about the future of humanity. Help us save the foundations of the policy response to climate change.

Step aside with the same grace and dignity you have shown throughout your political career.

You have exercised a moral leadership that towers above the sh*t storm of hate that infects our national debate.

We all wanted much more for our first woman Primate Minister. It could have a moment of political maturity for our nation. And yet how Australia has been shown to be lacking in maturity. I feel nothing but a deep sadness for the face we have shown the world.

There are hard choices to be made: what needs to be saved?

Policies that will assist future generations.

The ETS is that thing that needs to be saved.

Abbott has said the very first thing he will do once elected is begin dismantling the ETS.

There are many kinds of leadership, and not all of them are associated with a title.

What matters more than the trappings of office is the legacy a leader leaves behind them.

Moral leadership requires no position or title.

Give Abbott and the LNP the Pyrrhic Victory of the Lodge, and all the challenges they will no doubt fail to address.

Claim the moral victory.

Julia, save the ETS and the foundations of our response to climate change by stepping aside.

Down the memory hole: Heartland disappears fake claim about Chinese Academy of Science

HI_memory_hole

Remember the claim by Heartland Institute about the Chinese Academy of Science’s turning to climate scepticism?

Sceptics across the world crowed this development as an important turning point. Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart breathlessly reported the claim on Breitbart.com:

Lakely said that this could mark the turning point in the climate change debate, and that a global consensus was beginning to form against regulation of emissions. “The latest observable climate data, new studies from scientific academies around the globe, the peer-reviewed studies one can find in Climate Change Reconsidered, and its translation and publication by the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences is making life difficult for those who declare with certainty that man is causing catastrophic global warming,” he explained. “That’s the way it should be. No scientific discipline is ever ‘settled’ — especially a discipline as young, as complicated, and as diffuse as climate science. The Heartland Institute is proud to support and promote the pursuit of the classic scientific method that follows the data and continually asks questions about what is happening to the climate of our planet.

In case people try to claim it was all a simple misunderstanding, let’s have a look at how climate sceptics tried to spin the story:

Bcom

In response the Chinese Academy of Science came out with what is perhaps the most strongly worded rebuttal from a professional body I’ve ever seen.

The not only demanded Heartland apologise, but called them out for their lack of “academic integrity.”

In response, Heartland Institute have tried to disappear their false claim down the memory hole be removing it from their site (see above).

Speaks volumes.

Of ice ages, the view from nowhere and the value of one’s soul: Graham Lloyd, The Australian and the repackaging of fringe science

Not long ago Hollywood rediscovered the disaster genre, delivering to the movie viewers a spate of gloriously visualised, but implausible apocalyptic visions. As examples of the zeitgeist they’re fascinating examples of our existential fears made real.  

In what lovers of the genre call “disaster porn” the CGI wizards of Hollywood treated us to a variety of end time scenarios: from giant meteorites in the execrable Armageddon (1998); global pandemics in Outbreak (1995) and I am Legend (2007); the Godzilla inspired monster of Cloverfield (2008); the New Age eschatology implied by ending of the Mayan Long Count calendar in the film 2012 (made in 2009); to the current most-favoured harbingers of the apocalypse, the zombies of The Walking Dead.

My favourite of this genre has to be The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a film which imagines the globe caught in the grip of a sudden ice age which descends over a series of days rather than the millennia it normally takes. The film chronicles a series of extreme weather events, precursors to the Northern Hemisphere being blanketed in ice.

The film treats us to a touching father-son reconciliation, a trite love story and lots of ice.

Pure bunk of course – however scientists have long resigned themselves to the fact that Hollywood will choose spectacle over fact. Most of us can discern fact from film fantasy. But sadly, not all of us can make such distinctions.

Point in case The Australian’s Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, who recently published an article containing “facts” about as plausible as the script as The Day After Tomorrow.

According to Graham there is serious scientific debate about a coming ice age. No really, he argues such.

An ice age cometh: we’re about to enter a 30 year cooling period?

In an article titled Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age (May 4 2013), Lloyd rips his facts straight from the big screen and pages of fringe science blogs to suggest there is some debate over an imminent ice age:

In Russia, one of the world’s leading solar physicists, Habibullo Abdussamatov, says the planet is well on the way to another deep freeze. Abdussamatov is the head of space research at the Russian Academy of Sciences Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St Petersburg, and director of the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

In an interview with Principia Scientific International, Abdussamatov said results of research from the ISS had indicated a decline in total solar irradiance, which was having a dramatic effect on the global climate.

Data indicated the onset of a mini ice age.

If true, then all this fuss over global warming is actually distracting us from the actual (and in Graham’s view equally plausible) threat of an imminent ice age.

The impressively credentialed Habibullo Abdussamatov seems uniquely qualified to put forward such an argument. That is until one starts digging as Abdussamatov seems to hold some very strange views.

Abdussamatov: does not believe in any greenhouse effect

Abdussamatov is a vocal sceptic of global warming within the parallel universe the deniers inhabit, but as far as the science community is concerned he is relatively obscure.

He is not a leading solar physicist: this is merely another example of the old sceptic tactic of inflating the reputation and achievements of “experts” such as Abdussamatov. In fact, a quick search of the internet will find he has been making the same claims for several years.

His most unusual claim is that the greenhouse effect does not exist at all. In a 2007 article published on Canada.com (website of Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia Network) Abdussamatov is quoted as saying:

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. “Ascribing ‘greenhouse’ effect properties to the Earth’s atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated,” he maintains. “Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away.”

Such a claim would be news to the scientific community to say the least.

Actually, it is almost impossible to convey just how absurd his proposition is – it is the scientific equivalent of arguing the sun still goes around the Earth. His view of the behaviour of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere is pure fantasy without a shred of evidence.

Even the most extreme sceptics – Jo Nova, Lord Monckton and Anthony Watts – don’t subscribe to this view.

They acknowledge the greenhouse effect: they argue a doubling of CO2 will have a negligible impact on global temperatures. According to them, the heat trapping potential of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been overstated by the scientific community.

Thus Abdussamatov would be considered fringe even by their standards – which is saying a lot. If that is not bad enough, things go from bad to worse in Lloyd’s article.

Graham Lloyd plagiarizing content: word for word his article mimics a 2007 article from Canada Free Press

The practice of using material word-for-word without attribution or acknowledging the source is generally frowned upon by journalists. 

The more cynical call it plagiarism. Sadly, Lloyd appears to be engaged in this very activity.

Lloyd attributes the following quotes to Abdussamatov (italics mine):

Abdussamatov said there had been five deep cold periods in the past 1000 years – in 1030, 1315, 1500, 1680 and 1805.

 He said another cool period was due and would come about regardless of whether industrialised countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions.

“Mars has global warming – but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” Abdussamatov said.

“These parallel global warmings – observed simultaneously on Mars and on the Earth – can only be a consequence of the effect of the same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

 Abdussamatov said a new “little ice age” would start this or next year and hit a low around 2040, with a deep freeze that would last for the rest of the century.

The quotes Lloyd use mimic word-for-word quotes in the aforementioned 2007 article (italics):

Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” he told me. “These parallel global warmings — observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth — can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

Lloyd has merely broken the later paragraph up and substituted some words.

Perhaps Lloyd was sloppy, or merely forgot to correctly attribute his sources. We all make mistakes.

The more cynical of us would call it plagiarism.   

False balance: Lloyd’s view from nowhere is really the view from the fringes

Lloyd is a practitioner of the journalistic style of “the view from nowhere”.

He tries to eschew any editorialising in order to present “both sides of the debate” so that the informed reader can make up their own mind.

In reality, Lloyd’s view from nowhere is the view from the fringes of the scientific community: more specifically the view of a crank, Abdussamatov.

Lloyd elevates Abdussamatov to the level of one the world’s “leading solar physicists” and a voice we should be paying attention too. Lloyd frames the article in such a way to imply there is some debate amongst the scientific community that an ice age may very well be immanent.

Let’s be clear: there’s no debate: there are no concerns about a mini-ice age.

What we have is the spectacle of The Australian plucking fringe beliefs from the sceptic blogosphere and given them credibility.

The real story that needs to be told is not that of scientists debating about scenarios reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow.

The real story that needs to be told is just how partisan The Australian has become on the issue of climate change.

Lloyd’s article smells of desperation: it is the feeble clutching for facts in order to deny reality.

The planet is warming; climate change is real; humanity is the architect of this warming.

We all have a choice: one can accept reality or live in denial. Lloyd seems to have made his choice: he is a nowhere man living in an alternative reality of facts made to suit the opinions of Editor Chris Mitchell and owner Rupert Murdoch.

But what is cost of this?

Not only to Lloyd and the reputation of The Australian as a news source – but to us, the general public who needs to be informed? We may shake our heads at the antics of Lloyd, but ultimately it is a grossly misinformed public who suffers most.

At least Lloyd gets paid for his efforts: I guess I gain some satisfaction in correcting his falsehoods.

But again – at what cost?

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

Graham Lloyd and The Australian: rapidly fading credibility

It says a lot about the quality of a newspaper when their Environment Editor is either a) unable to distinguish fringe beliefs from actual science or b) happy to publish such tripe if it undermines the scientific consensus on global warming.

Over the years we’ve witnessed The Australian publish some appalling misinformation on climate change: this without doubt is the nadir of their reporting on climate change.

For a paper which likes to think of itself as the “voice of the nation” this is an appalling lapse in journalistic standards.

We – the reading public – have a right to expect better than this. This is the very impulse that motivated me to start this blog. We are all ill-served by the mainstream media if this is the best they have to offer.

Perhaps there is a circle in Hell for once good journalists who have turned away from the ethics of the profession: if so it must be full of News Limited journalists who felt compelled – or were coerced – to publish pieces such as Lloyd’s.

For good reason many of us are exhausted auditing the self-proclaimed auditors of science. We’ve been engaged in this activity for over thirty years when the “debate” first emerged.

I believe there is a more important question to address: the question of why. Of why elements of the media – who have the power to shape public opinion and debate – have granted themselves permission to distort the truth and mislead the public.

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

[Note: see also Graham Readfearn’s piece on the same topic – what can I say? Great minds think alike. Readfearn does some great detective work on finding all the sources Lloyd uses.]

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[Disclaimer: This article contains both original research and some elements of satire. Every effort is made to ensure the validity of the claims made by the blog’s author. ]

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Let’s end the pseudo debate: ask your politician if they accept the scientific consensus on climate change

“Belief” is a troubling word when used within the context of the climate debate.

Frequently people will ask me “Do you believe in climate change?” as if it is a matter of personal opinion.

I always answer (politely of course) “I accept the 97% consensus of climate scientists”. My personal views are of no consequence to the reality of climate change – it is simply what the overwhelming evidence has told me.

Facts are independent of opinion. And while every one has a right to accept or reject the evidence of climate change, personal belief does not alter the robust and well-tested scientific theory (not hypothesis) that humanity is changing the planet’s atmosphere.

Within the scientific community this fact is a no longer controversial – nor has it been for decades. The fact that the science is settled has been obscured by the denial movement, sceptical politicians and the Murdoch press. In doing so they have impeded action on climate change.

As we head into Election 2013 climate change will be front and centre once more with Tony Abbott swearing a “blood oath” to axe-the-tax. The Coalition’s attack on the “carbon tax” has been central to undermining the Gillard government’s legitimacy. Their scare campaign – in addition to Labor’s own incompetence and failure to explain their policies to the electorate – has more than likely delivered them office in September.

However, the Coalition’s climate policies are now coming under increasing scrutiny – especially from business who regard their ‘Direct Action Plan” as either inadequate or a bit of a joke. The business community prefers an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change is central to discussions about our nations future; it will impact business, individuals and communities. Thus we should be asking our politicians if they accept or reject the scientific consensus.

It is time for the pseudo debate to end.

Let’s stop talking about whether or not global warming has “paused” for 17 years or if climate change is a Marxist/Rothschild plot to take over the globe.

We should ask our politicians “Do you accept the consensus of 97% of climate scientists?”

Australia’s politicians in the spotlight: uknowispeaksense survey

I highly recommend the research on the acceptance or rejection of climate science of our politicians by Mike from uknowispeaksense. See his work here:

He has represented this a couple of graphs. What is surprising is that most politicians accept the science, as indicated in the following pie charts.

House of Representatives:

all-members-2

And in the Senate:

all-senators

However if you dig into the numbers, far less conservative politicians accept the scientific consensus. Still, it is worth noting both the majority of voters and politicians accept the science.

So why the hold up?

The denial movement has created a powerful aura of invincibility around itself and that we should all pay attention to their arguments. However, the reality is that they are tiny in numbers but extremely vocal. What they lack in numbers they make up for in the vehemence in prosecuting their anti-science campaign.

The article below from The Conversation is also relevant to this discussion and proposes eight questions we should be asking of all our politicians (see below).

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By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; Fiona Armstrong, La Trobe University; Karen Kiang, University of Melbourne, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

As we head into an election, you’d be justified in asking what your local member is basing their climate change decisions on.

If your MP says “I don’t support policies to prevent dangerous climate change” because “I don’t believe climate change is occurring” or “I’m not sure climate change is human caused” is this position justifiable simply because it’s his or her personal opinion?

While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, are our elected leaders being ethically responsible when they justify inaction on climate change based on personal opinions? Sustainability ethicist Donald A. Brown, from Widener University School of Law, emphatically argues, “no” – they are not.

In a recent widely republished blog post on ethicsandclimate.org, Brown argues government officials have an ethical responsibility to understand the state of climate change science. Politicians hold crucial leadership positions where they can enact policies that can prevent or minimise great harm. These policies, to put it bluntly, affect millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Governments and elected officials cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uninformed opinion or ideology instead of the scientific consensus.

The long-standing consensus of climate scientists and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence warn us that constituents and governments are causing great harm through greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Brown says, politicians may not appeal to their personal opinions on climate science. They are not justification for not taking action.

Brown refers to a number of US politicians who hold the position that they don’t support climate policies because they are not convinced by the science. Brown argues that the media has largely failed to hold them accountable.

The same issue afflicts many Australian politicians – and the Australian media. Very rarely have politicians who reject climate science in Australia been asked to explain their justifications on scientific grounds.

According to the Political Leaders and Climate Change Index (PLCCI) published in 2010 by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the number of politicians in the parliament who either don’t or won’t accept the science of climate change in Australia is significant.

Of course, this can change over time. Recently the new Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray renounced his previous position that climate science was “pop science” and a “middle-class conspiracy to frighten schoolchildren”.

However, there are many other politicians who have not changed their opinions as Gray has done. In 2010 around 40% of Liberal/National politicians held the view the world could warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius before the situation became dangerous. The actual scientific consensus is a mere 2 degrees. Another 40% professed not to know what a safe global average temperature increase might be.

The likelihood of a Coalition government winning in 2013 makes the public statement of personal opinions on human induced climate change an issue of national and global importance.

The risks posed to the Australian and international communities by the uninformed opinions of our national leaders are significant. They cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uniformed opinion or ideology instead of science. Because of those risks, the role of responsible and well-informed media is crucial. The media has the civic and moral obligation to be a watchdog on society and its institutions.

Journalists have a duty to question politicians who oppose action based on uninformed opinions. The public has a right to be informed, and to question, a politician’s justification for putting current and future generations at risk.

Following Brown, we propose a series of questions that journalists (and the public) should be asking politicians on global warming, and how governments should respond to it.

  1. Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?
  2. Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  3. Do you accept that the human population is making a substantial contribution to climate change via our greenhouse gas emissions? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify going against the scientific consensus?
  4. Is it your position that Australia and the rest of the world need to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  5. Are you aware that the impacts of climate change in terms of increased risks to human health and climate change related deaths is already being measured by medical and public health professionals worldwide?
  6. Do you accept that anyone who argues that we continue with business as usual and emit greenhouse gases beyond levels that the consensus of climate scientists says is dangerous for humanity (and the ecological system on which humans depend) should bear the burden of proof to show that this is safe?
  7. Do you accept that, in light of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and the long-standing consensus of climate scientists, politicians have a responsibility to immediately implement strategies to prevent dangerous climate change?
  8. Given that climate scientists have been advising the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases for decades, do you accept that politicians who fail to implement policies to prevent dangerous climate change should be held responsible for harm that results from this inaction?

We might ask politicians a few of these ourselves. Have a go yourself – and let us know how you get on. We’d be pleased to write about it.

Karen Kiang is affiliated with Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Brad Farrant, Fiona Armstrong, and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

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

In June of 2012 I wrote a post on the politics of climate change in Australia and what to expect in 2013 and 2014. At the time I thought it overly optimistic, if not risky given that most predictions turn out to be spectacularly wrong.

Titled The coming disappointment: how the deniers are about to get a harsh lesson in realpolitik I suggested:

  • 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 should have also added it would signal the death knell of the sceptic movement as a cultural and political force in Australia. Abbott may shut down the Climate Commission as a symbolic act, but it will be no more than that – a sop for the more rabid elements of the Murdoch Press.

Now that Abbott is assured the Prime Ministership both he and the LNP are distancing themselves from climate change scepticism.

Abbott has just recently indicated that once he becomes Prime Minister he will work with China and the United States to formulate a global agreement and (believe it or not) raise their emission reduction targets:

The coalition will consider ramping up the national target for reduced emissions as part of its Direct Action policy, The Australian Financial Review reports.

According to the newspaper, Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt told an audience in Canberra last night Australia would “easily meet” the already set target of reducing emissions by five per cent by 2020.

Mr Hunt conceded his confidence was rooted in a future coalition government’s willingness to consider raising the emissions reduction target as early as 2015.

Mr Hunt’s concession comes as opposition leader Tony Abbott unveiled plans to play a lead role in convincing China and the United States to sign up for a global climate change deal if he wins government.

Mr Hunt said under a coalition government Australia would still be part of a UN climate change process but would also pursue action with key members of Group of 20 nations.

“Where a real global agreement will come is when China and United States reach a point of common position and when that’s backed up with India and the EU,” Mr Hunt told ABC TV on Thursday.

Mr Hunt said Australia would chair the G20 summit in Brisbane next year and it was in a unique position “to bring together the G4 as the basis for a global agreement”.

“I think (Tony’s) a fantastic negotiator,” he said

Yes that’s right – a global governance regime and working with the UN. The very things the likes of Christopher Monckton, Jo Nova, David Evans, Andrew Bolt and James Delingpole fear. Does this make Abbott an agent of the New World Order?

Hunt also recently appeared on the Andrew Bolt show arguing the case for global action:

GREG HUNT: If we act with China, the United States, India and the EU, that can be a positive. But acting alone, and at the moment, the Government is acting alone in a way where we have a higher tax than anybody else in the world is ultimately not effective, particularly when you are simply sending the emissions and the jobs to China, to India and to Indonesia. 

ANDREW BOLT: Can you explain to me why, and I always ask the question of you whenever I see you as you know… 

GREG HUNT: You do. 

ANDREW BOLT: And I always try to ask that of the Government when they don’t come into the studio anyway. But why is that I don’t get an answer anyway on that? I mean it’s quite a, scientists have got the figure, and they put it out there, this is the difference you will make and you guys never tell us, yes or no. 

GREG HUNT: The answer is we will make a difference of 155 million tonnes… 

ANDREW BOLT: No in temperature. 

GREG HUNT: Acting alone the difference is minimal but… 

ANDREW BOLT: Everyone watching us now has just seen me asking you the question a couple of times and everyone watching this now has seen you dodge it and they will say he’s not answering it. 

That’s what really strikes me, why do politicians never answer the very basic question. For all this pain what is the gain in temperature? 

GREG HUNT: There are different views on the impact. 

ANDREW BOLT: And what’s your view? 

GREG HUNT: My view is that alone it is minimal. With others you can have some sort of impact but above all else, we’ve got an environmental policy which is about clean air and clean land, things that you can support irrespective of where you stand on the science.

The LNP’s pivot back to the centre: ditching the crazies

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.

Where’s the love Tony? Sceptics feel the cold shoulder

This reality is only just dawning on Australia’s more vocal sceptics. Evidence of this can be seen in a recent post by Jo Nova in which she lashes out at Abbott and the LNP.

Titled Australian conservatives going Labor lite – pandering to the “green vote” or just confused? she states:

Tony Abbott has a plan to try to convince China and the US to sign up for the “global climate change deal.” As if the world’s number one and two economies, with a population of 1.6 billion combined, will be waiting for instructions. And as if the global climate needed “a deal”. Hey but we do have 22 million people. squeak. squeak.

To make matters worse, Greg Hunt — the opposition spokesman for the environment — said a Coalition Government might not wipe out the emissions reductions target but… wait, they might lift the target instead. Thus taking something useless, expensive and ineffective against a problem-that-doesn’t-exist and making it moreso [sic].

It’s a mistake every which way. The Liberal Party could play them at their own green game and beat them, just by applying common sense. Instead its appeasing the politically correct namecallers [sic] (who wouldn’t vote for them anyway), and the price they pay is to look weak, irrational and lacking in conviction.

Jo can’t understand why Abbott and Hunt accept climate change as real:

If the Liberal Party were serious about protecting the environment, they would promise to drop funding for pointless fantasies and token do-gooder projects and get the science right first. A government that was serious about the environment would use some saved funds to set up an entirely new climate science research unit — one that aimed at predicting the climate (inasmuch as it is possible). Better climate models would help farmers, town planners, tourism operators, emergency services, dams and water catchments. It’s not just green, its a productivity thing too. Better than a wind-farm…

The new unit could compete with the BOM and CSIRO and may the best scientists win.

A real green policymaker would audit our temperature records independently. How can we be serious about managing Australia’s climate if our records have biased and inexplicable adjustments, that are described as “neutral”? Why would anyone who cares about the environment be prepared to accept shoddy data, bugs, and mysterious black box methods that no one can test?

Put aside her fantasy of creating yet another scientific institution – at great expense to the taxpayer – the necessary competition between scientists has already happened: it’s called the peer-review system. Over 95% of climate scientists agree humanity is changing the atmosphere of the planet.

Abbott and the LNP have accepted that scientific consensus: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Abbott’s coming political challenge: Australia’s business community want’s a price on carbon

A recent article in the Australian Financial Review stated both power and multinational firms are signalling their strong desire to see a price on carbon is maintained:

Power companies are demanding the federal opposition rethink its “direct action’’ plan for reducing carbon emissions, warning that its company baseline approach could be more difficult to operate than Labor’s trading scheme.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia said falling demand for power meant the Coalition must review its energy and climate change policy if it gains power at the September 14 federal election.

The warning comes amid growing support by multinational companies and major business groups for a market-based scheme, such as an emissions trading scheme, linked to the currently low prices set in European and other international markets.

ESSA, which represents big power companies such as Origin, TRUenergy and International Power, has long supported an emissions trading scheme.

“What we are seeing is the conditions in the market moving so quickly that there is a need to rethink the rules with a view to resetting or rethinking Direct Action,” ESAA chief executive Matthew Warren told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday.

But the Coalition is refusing to budge. The opposition’s spokesman on ­climate action, Greg Hunt, said on Tuesday that it was committed to dumping the carbon tax.

“We remain completely committed to the policy as it removes a costly tax on business,” he said.

After the 2013 election the LNP will face enormous pressure from business to shift its position.

The hard sell will be trying to convince the voting public retaining a price on carbon is not a price on carbon. But a price on carbon is here to stay.

Would not the public see that as a cynical ploy, thus hurting freshly minted Prime Minister Abbott’s approval ratings? More than likely.

But the LNP will have a sizable majority in the lower house and the potential to ride out initial voter backlash.

Cynical? Perhaps.

But that is how the game is played.

Realpolitik triumphs: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Ironically it is Tony Abbott driving some of the final nails into the coffin of the climate sceptic movement –  the same man who famously called climate change “crap” and ran a tawdry scare campaign against the carbon “tax”.

There are times when politics creates situations of exquisite irony.

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Cut and cherry-paste: The Australian shamelessly cherry picking the words of scientists

Pity poor Tim Lambert.

For some time he kept us amused with his series The Australian’s War on Science, keeping News Limited’s flagship paper honest by pointing out its frequent distortions of science.

Tim blogs less frequently on Deltoid, nor have seen an entry for the War on Science for some time. Before I started Watching the Deniers I was a frequent reader of Deltoid: I credit his work as one of influences and inspirations for this blog.

I blame Chris Mitchell – editor of The Australian – for Tim’s silence. How so you say?

The distortion of science has reached such prodigious proportions at “The Oz” you’d need a veritable army of winged monkeys locked in a science library, each one furiously researching and cataloging that paper’s ongoing misrepresentation of science. Cataloging the breadth and depth of the misrepresentation of science and scientists within the pages of The Australian is now beyond the capacity of a single individual.

Tim did the smart thing: he came, he saw, he captured their many distortions and then preserved his sanity by moving on. In doing so he has left us an invaluable record.

No doubt, Tim is experiencing far less moments like this:

Still every now and then it is worth revisiting how Mitchell and his merry band of scribblers happily ensconced in their Surrey Hills bunker like to play at “science”.

Cherry picking: four-for-four misquotes

The no warming for almost 17 years myth got a healthy push today across News Ltd today, with both the Cut and Paste section of The Australian and Andrew Bolt pushing this falsity. 

Green Senator Christine Milne was the subject of today’s ritualized skewering of dissidents (i.e. those voices the editors of Murdoch’s publications deem enemies of unfettered free markets) for expressing the view climate change was “accelerating” on Channel Ten’s Meet the Press:

TORY Maguire: One of the ongoing, really damaging things for Julia Gillard politically, has from the very beginning continued to be her backflip on the carbon tax. Are you starting to look now at the fact that you, the Greens, pushed her so hard in 2010 to make that deal, when, really, it is going to end up being counter-productive, because she’s going to get absolutely obliterated at the next election, and Tony Abbott has promised to overturn it.

Christine Milne: Well, the key thing is that global warming is accelerating.

In the style typical of Cut and Paste, Milne’s comments were juxtaposed with four seemingly authoritative quotes that both undermined her view while implying the science community had reached a new consensus on climate change: that the warming had “stopped”.

In case you were in doubt, today’s Cut and Paste was titled “Isn’t it terrible when people insist on denying the consensus about climate change.”

The four quotes are as follows:

[Quote 1] Professor Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, January 8:

A LOT of people (not the IPCC) were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought. What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends. We did see unexpectedly fast warming from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, but the IPCC, quite correctly, did not suggest this was evidence for acceleration.

[Quote 2] Dr Richard Allan, reader in climate science at the University of Reading, January 8:

GLOBAL warming is not at a standstill but does seem to have slowed down since 2000 in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s.

[Quote 3] Professor Brian Hoskins, the director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London:

THE current news item that the Met Office now predicts no global warming in the period up to 2017 is based on the latest five-year forecast run with their new climate model . . . One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017. This is consistent with a multi-decadal fluctuation in temperature that presently opposes the continued upward trend.

[Quote 4] David Shukman, science editor, BBC News, January 8:

THE UK Met Office has revised one of its forecasts for how much the world may warm in the next few years . . . If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.

Of course, I could not resist going to the original sources. Let us examine the quotes and see if the experts cited in Cut and Paste agree with the implication that global warming has come to a standstill.

Quote 1: Myles Allen “It is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends”

The source of the Allen quote can be found in an interview with the Science Media Centre (SMC) in an article published online on January 8 2013.

Here is the full quote – note, I’ve highlighted the text cited by Cut and Paste in blue and the critically omitted text in red:

“That said, a lot of people (not the IPCC) were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that ‘warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought’. What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends. We did see unexpectedly fast warming from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, but the IPCC, quite correctly, did not suggest this was evidence for acceleration. 

“While every new year brings in welcome new data to help us rule out the more extreme (good and bad) scenarios for the future, it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened since the early-2000s as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

Note the crucial sentence that follows on from the quote used by The Australian: “it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened… as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

So far, the first example of what can only be described as blatant cherry picking.

Quote 2: Richard Allan “Global warming is not at a standstill but does seem to have slowed down…”

Once again we can turn to the same SMC article, where Allan’s quote is provided in full:

“Global warming is not ‘at a standstill’ but does seem to have slowed down since 2000 in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s. 

“In fact, consistent with rising greenhouse gases, heat is continuing to build up beneath the ocean surface: 

http://www.ncas.ac.uk/index.php/en/climate-science-highlights/284-warming-over-the-last-decade-hidden-below-ocean-surface 

“This indicates that changes in ocean circulation are in part responsible for the recent slower rate of surface warming. The way the ocean distributes the extra energy trapped by rising greenhouse gases is critical in determining the new Met Office forecasts of global surface temperature over the coming decade and is an area of active research. 

“These decadal forecasts are very much experimental – they are at the cutting edge of the science and are technically very challenging. The Met Office are being open and transparent by making the forecasts available to allow a proper validation to occur. The Met Office is one of about 10 groups performing these type of forecasts worldwide and all predict a warming over the coming decade. 

“Nothing in their data leads me to think that global warming due to human influence has stopped, or is irrelevant. It hasn’t, and it isn’t.”

Is it me, or are we beginning to see a pattern here? Allan’s careful comments and clarification of the science are completely misrepresented.

Note the final sentence: “Nothing in the date leads me to think that global warming… has stopped.”

Quote 3: Brian Hoskins “One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017…”

Does it seem a rather odd co-incidence that the Hoskins quote also appears in the same SMC article as the previous two? Fortunately the full quote is also available:

“The current news item that the Met Office now predicts no global warming in the period up to 2017 is based on the latest 5-year forecast run with their new climate model. Such forecasts are at the frontiers of the subject and form part of a research programme in this area in the Met Office and elsewhere, but should not be considered to be predictions. 

“One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017. This is consistent with a multi-decadal fluctuation in temperature that presently opposes the continued upward trend. However the two supported one another during the rapid warming in the 1990s and can be expected to do this again in the future, leading to another period of rapid warming. 

“The forecast results also suggest that half the years in the period to 2017 would be expected to give new record global temperatures.”

I’m shocked – shocked I tell you!

How could the editor of Cut and Paste miss the critical sentence that follows on where Hoskins states we can expect to see “another period of rapid warming” and that “half the years in the period to 2017 would be expected to give new record global temperatures.”

Surely a simple and honest mistake by the editor of Cut and Paste?

Quote 4: David Shukman “If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.”

At this point one hopes to be surprised, and that perhaps the BBC has changed it’s view from warmist to sceptical. But once again, when one goes to the article by Shukman one finds the following:

If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades. 

Blog suspicions

An apparent standstill in global temperatures is used by critics of efforts to tackle climate change as evidence that the threat has been exaggerated. 

Climate scientists at the Met Office and other centres are involved in intense research to try to understand what is happening over the most recent period. 

The most obvious explanation is natural variability – the cycles of changes in solar activity and the movements and temperatures of the oceans.

A Met Office spokesman said “this definitely doesn’t mean any cooling – there’s still a long-term trend of warming compared to the 50s, 60s or 70s.

“Our forecast is still for temperatures that will be close to the record levels of the past few years.

“And because the natural variability is based on cycles, those factors are bound to change the other way at some point.”

The fact that the revised projection was posted on the Met Office website without any notice on December 24 last year has fuelled suspicions among bloggers.

However the Met Office says the data had been published in a spirit of transparency as soon as it became available from the computer that produced it.

Again, note the most critical information that provides context is in no way referenced by Cut and Paste.

Four-out-of-four quotes cherry picked.

Three scientists and one BBC journalist completely misrepresented.

That’s cut-and-cherry-pasting The Australian way.

 

Note: hat tip John for Skeptical Science article that global warming has “accelerated”.

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Toxic legacies: Malcolm Roberts, his CSIROh! report and the anti-Semitic roots of the “international bankers” conspiracy theory

CSIROh!_2

Conspiracy theories for sceptics?

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 .

In early February Roberts published a report titled CSIROh! Climate of deception? Or first step to freedom? (CSIROh!). I would point readers to Graham Readfearn’s brilliant post detailing Robert’s activities and his strange exchange with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Ben Cubby.

CSIROh! is only 25 pages in length, however it is accompanied by 30 frenzied, barely comprehensible and obsessively detailed appendices.

Roberts has distributed electronic and hard copies of his report to politicians, journalists and scientists across Australia. Those lucky enough to receive the fruits of Robert’s research include David Karoly, Tim Flannery and Ross Garnaut. Many prominent members of the media have also received his report: Andrew Bolt was on the distribution list, as well as many ABC and Fairfax journalists.

The patron of the Galileo Movement Alan Jones also received CSIROh! Indeed, in an email dated 8 February 2013 Jones thanked Roberts for his report, calling him a “magnificent” worker. We know this because Roberts published the email from Jones on his website.

What is going on here?

Background: the perceived antisemitism of Roberts conspiracy theories

For those readers not familiar with Roberts, he is the project manager for the climate sceptic group the Galileo Movement. The mission of the Galileo Movement is to see the “carbon tax” repealed and to cast doubt on the science of climate change.

Last year in an interview with Sydney Morning Journalist Ben Cubby Roberts claimed a cabal of international bankers were behind the climate change “scam”. This revelation ultimately lead to conservative columnist Andrew Bolt repudiating both Roberts and the Galileo Movement due to the implied whiff of antisemitism of his claims.

Since then Roberts has clearly been smarting, and in CSIROh! he attempts to set the record straight and vindicate his claims.

However, CSIROh! is not an ordinary report. In it Roberts creates an alternative history of the world, in which the Rockefeller’s and Rothschild’s have been working behind the scenes to wreck and profit from financial chaos, incite major wars and build the foundations of a tyrannical world government.

The international bankers conspiracy to control the world

Most of CSIROh! and its supporting documents contain the usual dross generated by the climate sceptic movement: CO2 is not a pollutant, the globe stopped warming etc. There is little need to review these claims as they are easily debunked.

But it is not his attacks on the science we should be concerned about: it is the motivations he ascribes to the dark satanic forces allegedly behind the entire “scam”.

The most telling document is Appendix No. 14 titled Why? Motives driving the climatefraud (Why?). In it Roberts makes the following claim:

The UN’s forty-year campaign fabricating climate fraud used strategies and tactics proven 100 years ago. They’re similar to those used by international bankers in their thirty-year campaign from the 1880’s to gain control of the USA’s money supply, finances and economy. Their campaign succeeded in forming the USA’s Federal Reserve Bank in 1913.”

In this document Robert sketches out the links between the CSIRO, international bankers, the IPCC and every government, financial and non-government organisation (NGO) in existence today:

Such power is extended through the bankers’ global creations including the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Through these the European-American banking alliance controls global finances. The alliance’s global organisations dictate to other nations outside America and Europe, including Australia. (Why? pg.13)

This is conspiracy theorizing on an epic scale. Indeed, Roberts rewrites the entire history of the world since the late 19th century. Presidents and Prime Ministers have either colluded or been manipulated by the international bankers:

Both Woodrow Wilson and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt benefitted from support from this cabal of narrow financial and political interests. Woodrow Wilson later regretted his reliance on their favours and entrapment into doing their bidding under their control.” (Why? pg.14)

According to Roberts the international bankers have manipulated every financial boom and bust since 1913:

With this tight and complete control over national economies the international bankers have used their power to create every boom and every bust since 1913. They have wreaked havoc and misery on millions and now billions of people. In every boom and every bust they have profited enormously. They do so at the expense of the people.” (Why? pg.15)

Roberts also taps into problematic tropes about Jewish banking families:

“…as a result of deceit over many years involving secret meetings led by prominent German bankers colluding with the influential Texan Colonel Edward Mandel House, congress delegated it to a group who they did not fully understand: a group of European and American bankers. The alliance featured Germany’s Warburgs and London’s Rothschild’s. Passage through congress of The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was achieved when many congressmen were absent prior to their Christmas break. The President at the time was Woodrow Wilson who owed bankers a favour for funding his 1912 electioncampaign.” (Why? pg.16)

Ah yes, the Rothschild’s.

Not content with taking over the globe via financial means, Roberts claims the Rothschild family and other international banking families have corrupted the American education system in order to create a subservient class of serfs – or sheeple in conspiracy language:

In The Underground History of American Education (2000), educator John Taylor Gatto traces how Rockefeller, Morgan and other members of the financial elite influenced, guided, funded, and at times forced compulsory schooling into mainstream America. They needed three things for their corporate interests to thrive: (1) compliant employees, (2) a guaranteed and dependent population, and (3) a predictable business environment. It was largely to promote these ends, says Gatto, that modern compulsory schooling was established.” (Why? pg.17)

Roberts also recycles some of the most shameful myths of the last century, that international bankers were behind the world wars and profited from them:

Increasingly investigators and historians are discovering that international bankers played a major and highly destructive role in initiating and benefitting from wars, genocide and devastation in the twentieth century. The century was mankind’s bloodiest with more deaths than in all preceding centuries.International bankers own major armament manufacturers and made fat profits financing both sides in World War 1 and again in World War 2.” (Why? pg.54)

The same bankers are also behind communism:

As Anthony Sutton, Gary Allen, Ellen Brown and others have revealed, international bankers funded, enabled and drove communism.” (Why? pg.58)

Putting aside the absurdity of his claims, Roberts has done us all an enormous favour by citing his references. At the very least it gives us the opportunity to evaluate his claims based upon the evidence he presents.

Indeed, reading through Roberts turgid conspiracy theory is beneficial as he cites the texts, articles and YouTube videos that inform his world view.

And what a read it is. Roberts synthesizes nearly every conspiracy theory and canonical text of conspiracy culture from the last 100 years. No conspiracy stone is left unturned by Roberts in his monomaniacal pursuit of “the truth” – or at least, his version of it.

Most disturbingly he uses one most notorious antisemitic texts of the 20th century to buttress his arguments.

Roberts and The Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins

Roberts has repeatedly claimed he is not antisemitic – we should accept his claim on face value. Thus I do not claim Roberts is anti-Semitic.

However, throughout Why? Motives driving the climate fraud Roberts quotes The Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins as an important source that underpins his arguments:

The cabal of international bankers wield massive financial power across industries internationally. They control all three American TV networks through direct ownership and/or through cross-directorships. They own the major and most influential American newspapers. They own many of America’s major corporations and control others through cross-directorships. Please refer to references by Gary Allen and Eustace Mullins above and to the book entitled The True Story of the Bilderberg Group by Canadian investigative reporter Daniel Estulin.” (Why? pg.16)

Next to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Secrets of the Federal Reserve is one of the most notorious antisemitic texts of the twentieth century.

More than likely Roberts has weaved together a vast array of conspiracy literature, real world facts and the hackneyed plots of B-grade thrillers and fused them into CSIROh! and its 30 appendices.

This is how conspiracy theorists work – they are completely indiscriminate in their use of materials, often ignorant of their historical context of sources.

Roberts may not be a bigot, but he is clearly a fool when it comes to basic historical research and evaluating source materials. It is why he is unable to correctly read the intent of tone of works such as The Secrets of the Federal Reserve. Indeed, Roberts appears completely tone-deaf to the blatant antisemitism of Mullins work – who by the way was completely open about his prejudices.

This explains why Andrew Bolt ran a mile from the likes of Roberts and the Galileo Movement: Bolt may be a dunce on the science, but he is not an idiot.

However, as stated context is important. Thus, what follows is an examination of the historical context of the claims of Roberts and the sources he draws upon.

Toxic legacy: international bankers and antisemitic roots of the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory

As I noted last year, the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory originated in the early to mid-twentieth century. Indeed, I speculated that the likes of Roberts were drawing upon texts such as Secrets of the Federal Reserve. Roberts confirms my initial hypothesis.

Until 1945 such claims were the staple of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. After the Second World War and the Holocaust such overt antisemitism was impossible due to its association with the barbaric crimes of the Third Reich. Later incarnations of the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory have shed their overtly antisemitic overtones, however to this day it remains popular among the extreme right and conspiracy crowd.

The earliest manifestations of this claim first surfaced in early 1920′s in the writings of Henry Ford. Ford – yes the Ford of Model T fame – was notorious for his antisemitism, publishing his rants and material from Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the weekly newspaper he owned, The Dearborn Independent.

In 1921 Ford published an article titled Jewish Idea Molded Federal Reserve System in which he claimed:

The Federal Reserve System is a system of private banks, the creation of a banking aristocracy within an already existing autocracy, whereby a great proportion of banking independence was lost, and whereby it was made possible for speculative financiers to centralize great sums of money for their own purposes, beneficial or not.” (Henry Ford, The International Jew, pg. 361)

And that:

Certainly enough has transpired to render it desirable that the American people look again into the purposes of those Jews who were instrumental in reorganizing our financial system at a most critical time in the world’s history.” (Henry Ford, The International Jew, pg. 371)

As prominent conspiracy scholars Chip Berlet and Mathew Lyons note in their work Right-wing populism in America: too close for comfort, this theory was prevalent in the 1930s:

The overt British-Jewish conspiracy theory continues to be pursued in many publications, based primarily on tracts “written by British fascists in the 1930s, according to Denis King… The most energetic purveyor of this theme is Eustace Mullins, the antisemitic author of the 1952 book Mullins on the Federal Reserve and the 1954 book The Federal Reserve conspiracy. Mullins writes in two styles, one ostensibly focusing on banking practices, the other expressing open and vicious antisemitism.” (Berlet & Lyons, Right-wing populism in America pg. 195)

Mullins took the conspiracy ball and ran with it: to this day his work remains influential.

Old wine in a new bottle: repackaging old conspiracy theories

Move forward to the early 1950s, and the immediate post-War period.

The Cold War is heating up, while McCarthyism and “Reds-under-the-bed” paranoia is gripping large sections of the American public and political elite.

The genesis of contemporary conspiracy culture took place in the period between 1950-1960. Conspiracy theorists not only feared communists, but the United Nations as a precursor of a coming one world government. Many of the motifs used in conspiracy culture today were germinated in this intense period of Cold-War conflict and paranoia, including ideas about the New World Order, banking conspiracies, secretive Communist plots and that the US Government itself had been infiltrated and held captive by demonic forces.

During this period conspiracy theorists started to examine the works of Ford and other conspiracy theorists of the pre-War period and re-purpose their theories. In order to make them more palatable to a post-War audience they shed the overt references to Jews and replaced them with references to international bankers.

Into this intense political environment comes Library of Congress researcher, one time helper of Senator Joseph McCarthy and anti-Semite Eustace Mullins.

[Note: For further background see this 2012 WtD post on some of the materials being created in the 1950s and 1960s by conspiracy theorists.]

Mullins and the Federal Reserve

Mullins, born in Virginia in 1899, served in the armed forces during the Second World War and obtained a number of college degrees. In 1950 he became a researcher at the Library of Congress and worked with Senator Joseph McCarthy in investigating the sources of funding for the Communist Party.

Prior to this Mullins became intrigued with and befriended the poet Ezra Pound. Pound is one of the great poets of the twentieth century, but he was also an anti-Semite and turned to fascism during the 1920s.

In 1924 Pound decamped to Italy and became infatuated with fascism and Mussolini’s regime. During the war Pound broadcast on Rome Radio in support of the Axis war effort. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the war in 1945 Pound was arrested for treason by the US government.

In 1949 (seriously, are you following this?) Mullins decides to visit Pound in an insane asylum where the latter is being incarcerated and they strike up a friendship. Pound then sets Mullins off to research the Federal Reserve. Mullins details the event himself;

In 1949, while I was visiting Ezra Pound who was a political prisoner at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. (a Federal institution for the insane), Dr. Pound asked me if I had ever heard of the Federal Reserve System. I replied that I had not, as of the age of 25. He then showed me a ten-dollar bill marked “Federal Reserve Note” and asked me if I would do some research at the Library of Congress on the Federal Reserve System which had issued this bill. Pound was unable to go to the Library himself, as he was being held without trial as a political prisoner by the United States government. After he was denied broadcasting time in the U.S., Dr. Pound broadcast from Italy in an effort to persuade people of the United States not to enter World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt had personally ordered Pound’s indictment.” (Mullins, Secrets of the Federal Reserve)

Mullins tootles off to research the Fed and Pound’s claims, and voila, in 1952 produces the book that becomes Secrets of the Federal Reserve. As Wikipedia explains:

Like Pound, he had sympathy for Fascism, because of its apparent anti-Usury and anti-Communist measures, though he later withdrew that sympathy, as he came to believe that without the Nazis, Zionism would never have been a powerful force, and that the Nazis were puppets of Jewish bankers, specifically Max Warburg, who he claimed financed them to build up the Nazi war machine, as well as the leaders of the J. Henry Schroeder Bank, who were facilitated by the Dulles brothers, and that Nazi opposition to these bankers, insofar as it went beyond rhetoric, occurred only well after they had ascended to power. In his book Secrets of the Federal Reserve, he also claimed that World War One was contrived and managed by a triumvirate consisting of Paul Warburg, Bernard Baruch, Eugene Meyer, and to a lesser extent, the leaders of Morgan banks, in the United States, and men like Max Warburg in Germany, so that they might increase their profit and power.” (Wikipedia)

Secrets of the Federal Reserve is riddled with anti-Semitic claims and freely borrows from the work of Henry Ford (the full text of it can be seen here) and other pre-War anti-Semitic literature.

Mullins text is freely floating around the internet, a favorite of conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, neo-Fascists and the like. It is worth noting that Mullins also denied the Holocaust, and stated America owed Hitler a favor for instigating the Nazi “war” on Jews:

America will never forget that the Jewish International bankers, together with Franklin D.Roosevelt, their tool, led us into World War II. Why? Because Hitler drove the economic leeches of the Rothschild and Warburg families out of Germany. The Jewish “refugees”poured into America and enlisted us as cannon fodder and errand boys in Europe. Hitler warned America in 1945, that we would have to face the ultimate battle against the Jewish Frankenstein Monster of Communism alone. America had helped created the monster, now it would destroy her…” (Mullins, Hitler an appreciation)

This brings us back to today – and the conspiracy theories of Roberts in CSIROh! His work is peppered with the same claims about the Warburg and Rothschild families working behind the scenes:

Yet as a result of deceit over many years involving secret meetings led by prominent German bankers colluding with the influential Texan Colonel Edward Mandel House, congress delegated it to a group who they did not fully understand: a group of European and American bankers. The alliance featured Germany’s Warburgs and London’s Rothschilds. Passage through congress of The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was achieved when many congressmen were absent prior to their Christmas break. The President at the time was Woodrow Wilson who owed bankers a favour for funding his 1912 election campaign. (Why? pg.16)”

Roberts absorbs and retells the conspiracy narrative of Mullins.

Roberts other influences: Gary Allen and the New World Order

Simular claims can also be found in the work of conspiracy theorist Gary Allen (None dare call it conspiracy, 1971), another author Roberts approvingly cites.

Allen, an American conspiracy theorist, was a prolific writer producing many books and articles between the late 1960s and 1980s. Allen specialised on writing about the plans of the “global elite” and that hoary old favorite of contemporary conspiracy theorists, the Bilderberg Group.

Unlike Mullins, the writing of Allen is not normally classified as anti-Semitic. J. Byford and Michael Billig in 2001 paper titled The emergence of antisemitic conspiracy theories in Yugoslavia during the war with NATO(Patterns of prejudice, 2006) note:

A distinction can be made between the conspiracy theories of Gary Allen or Avramov, that concentrate on organizations such as the Bilderberg Group, and more mystical, quasi-religious theories, such as those being propounded in Yugoslavia by Đurđević. The former have a more ‘reasonable’ appearance: they cite existing organizations as the hub of the world conspiracy. They do not necessarily see these organizations as ciphers for the hidden esoteric workings of Jews, Freemasons or the Illuminati. Most crucially, Gary Allen and others have not identified an ethnic group as being in control of organizations like the Bilderberg Group. (Byford & Billig pg. 312)

However they do note troubling and problematical nature of Allen’s writings:

However, on closer examination, the differentiation between nonantisemitic,‘reasonable’ conspiracy theories and antisemitic theories is not hard and fast, especially as the ‘reasonable’ writer attempts to understand the present political situation in terms of a longer history of conspiracies. To do this, that writer often draws on earlier theories, including those belonging to the antisemitic tradition….” (Byford & Billig pg. 312-313)

Byford & Billig are writing about the emergence of anti-Semitic theories during the NATO conflict with Serbia, when extreme Serbian nationalists drew upon older conspiracy narratives in their attempts to make sense of the conflict. Some did so unwittingly, while others were more explicit in their anti-Semitism.

This point is worth emphasising: in times of crisis, conspiracy theories flourish. Again and again, we see the same pattern.

Roberts has committed the former sin: driven by a conspiracy world view and ignorant of historical methodologies when it comes to using sources, Roberts unwittingly draws upon the most toxic legacies of conspiracy culture.

This is par for the course for all conspiracy theorists: no matter how toxic or stigmatized their original sources are, they will find a way to weave them into the alternative reality they create.

Fusion paranoia: pseudo-history, climate scepticism and the failure to evaluate sources

Roberts has stepped outside climate scepticism and into the realm of pseudo-history in constructing an alternative narrative of world events since the late 1800s. He unwittingly draws upon narratives and materials associated with the world view found within anti-Semitic literature.

In the world constructed by Roberts, historical events are tied together to prove the carbon tax is not a tool designed to reduce the amount of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, but one of the cudgels wielded by a global cabal wishing to usher in a world government.

Roberts failure is common to all pseudo-historians and conspiracy theorists: he fails to understand source materials and their context. Even to the most casual reader, the Mullins text is a deeply paranoid piece of crack-pottery.

Like its source materials, CSIROh! is a muddled and paranoid re-imagining of world history. However Roberts takes old myths and filters them through climate scepticism.

Today’s conspiracy theorists fuse contemporary paranoia with myths and older conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain the world. Sometimes they know what they are doing, dropping in coded references to “international bankers” as dog-whistle racism for the knowing.

More often than not, conspiracy theorists look back to the previous ideas within conspiracy culture and fuse them with their own interpretation of world events.

Roberts takes preexisting conspiracies and weaves them together with climate scepticism. It is a textbook example of what scholars of conspiracy culture call fusion paranoia.

Times of crisis, toxic legacies and pathways to hate: why I’m not laughing

Sceptics will see this as merely another attempt to besmirch their good name. Thus I stress I do not equate climate scepticism with antisemitism or holocaust denial. However, I would argue that much of the climate sceptic narrative is framed in terms of conspiracy.

Many will see this as an opportunity to laugh at Roberts expense. But honestly, I’m not laughing.

What terrifies me is the new life given to some of the worst ideological excesses of the last century. Roberts and his patron Alan Jones are helping – inadvertently or not – to inject the ugly intellectual baggage of the twentieth century into contemporary politics.

Conspiracy theories are toxic to democracy: they are not merely the product of the fringe. They distort public debate, and even worse lead to the scapegoating of individuals and groups.

They can also act as pathways to hate: by demonizing one group within society (scientists, environmentalists and international bankers) it makes it permissible and acceptable to hate others.

In times of crisis – war, economic downturns and massive societal changes – conspiracy theories flourish. That we are seeing an upsurge in conspiracy theories in relation to climate change and mitigation policies is to be expected: climate change is a time of crisis.

Hence, we should expect the flourishing of conspiracy theories as equal, if not more, lurid as those propagated by Roberts.

What I fear in coming years is the rise of a vicious form of right-wing populism, with demagogues riding a tide of conspiracies and hatred to positions of power. Our public debates are toxic enough when it comes to refugees and marriage equality. The climate debate is equally toxic, if not more so.

The work of Roberts falls squarely in the tradition of both conspiracy culture and right-wing populism: for this reason I’m neither laughing nor dismissive.

CSIROh! is gaining an audience and is bound to become the accepted truth by numerous individuals. It will be picked up and promoted in areas of our culture most politicians, journalists and academics never see. The criticism Roberts receives will only drive him to greater efforts to promote his theory and reinforce his belief about a grand conspiracy: this is the pattern of all conspiracy theorists.

Without doubt, his words will flourish in the dark corners of the internet. Don’t believe me? Then look at how CSIROh! is already being embraced by the conspiracy community of Australia here, here and here. Or perhaps this glowing review of CSIROh! by the Climate Sceptics Party?

How did the climate debate come to this?

We like to imagine that our society is the product of the Enlightenment. Because our society is so dependent upon science, we hold fast to a naive faith that reason will prevail over ignorance and the old primitive hatreds.

And yet we stare in transfixed horror and disbelief at the coming storm. We watch aghast, or avert our eyes, in a state of disbelief as this familiar beast, its hour come again, slouches once more towards Bethlehem.

The sleep of reason produces monsters; it opens the gates for old hatreds. 

Here – here is the genesis of future monsters.

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Monckton Enjoys Lunch and Sings a Pretty Song for the Australian Financial Review (Reprint)

Lord Monckton, the climate denier who believes Obama’s birth certificate was faked and likes to associate with the wilder fringes of conspiracy culture (he is a regular on a  show hosted by 9/11 Truther, Alex Jones) recently scored an interview with The Australian Financial Review.

Tim at New Anthropocene takes the article apart in a great post: Monckton Enjoys Lunch and Sings a Pretty Song for the AFR.

“It’s of no surprise to learn that the Australian Financial Review interviewed Chris Monckton, for his message is surely the sweetest lullaby to many of its readers. In the interview, titled, Lunch with the AFR | Christopher Monckton, Chris Short recorded an illuminating interview.

At least in this interview, Monckton made it clear; his is purely a political fight. Thank you very much for that.

It’s of course interesting that Monckton has taken a fondness to Chinese philosophy – a country overrun by his worst nightmare, Communists… I must actually look up on these philosophical principles to learn if this topic, unlike so many others he waxes lyrical upon, is represented correctly.

On that, Monckton makes the point that his was the last generation taught not to be credulous… Please, dear Lord, muse through my offerings on New Anthro. As a bloke half your age, I’m certain you will find many examples of a young man with a nasty habit for fact checking.”

Enjoy.

via Monckton Enjoys Lunch and Sings a Pretty Song for the Australian Financial Review (Reprint).

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