Category Archives: Institute of Public Affairs

James Delingpole Raising Cash for Australian Climate Sceptic Think Tank


James Delingpole Raising Cash for Australian Climate Sceptic Think Tank (via Desmogblog)

REPOSTED: James Delingpole is a UK columnist waging a long personal jihad against wind farms, environmentalists and climate science. A resident blogger and columnist at The Daily Telegraph, Delingpole is probably best known for being among the first mainstream columnists to declare, wrongly as it turned out… CLICK ON LINK TO READ FULL

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Body blow to the merchants of doubt: High Court decision upholds plain packaging, helps reverse one part of the neoliberal war on regulation

What’s with the Fifty Shades of Grey advertising campaign big tobacco? New target audience?

While not directly related to the climate change debate, the defeat “big tobacco” suffered in today’s High Court decision has profound ramifications as the Sydney Morning Herald notes:

The federal government has secured a big win over big tobacco with the High Court ruling Labor’s world-first plain packaging laws are constitutionally valid.

The decision is expected to have significant influence globally with both the United Kingdom and New Zealand considering plain packaging

“It is also the global tobacco industry’s worst defeat,” said Professor Daube, who chaired the federal government’s expert committee that recommended plain packaging.

”The global tobacco companies have opposed plain packaging more ferociously than any other measure we have seen.”

The companies knew that plain packaging would have a major impact on smoking in Australia – and that other countries would follow.

Professor Daube said the companies’ own internal documents showed that packaging was a crucial part of their marketing.

”Since we learned about the dangers of smoking, cigarettes have killed one million Australians, in large part because of the activities of the world’s most lethal industry.”

Say, I should go check the share prices of these companies – I believe this legal defeat might prompt some “sell” recommendations from brokers.

It’s worth noting that Institute of Public Affairs has been working hard to undermine public support for these laws indulging in its usual campaign of saturating the media with op-ed pieces and the like. The “meme” they’ve run with is protecting us from “the nanny state”:

In its latest attempt to derail the plain cigarette packaging legislation, Big Tobacco has pulled out one of its favourite pro-tobacco messages: say no to a nanny state.

Having failed so miserably in their attempts to reverse the legislation I wonder if the IPAs funding will take a bit of a hit?

The war on regulatory constraints: mining and carbon taxes

Bear in mind there are several other High Court challenges are either under way or threatened, each of which attack the Government’s ability to regulate, tax and govern:

Considered legal opinion holds neither of these poses a real threat to the legislation. But surely it’s a coincidence that all of the above parties are climate sceptics (or their political parties are hostile to the science)?

Or that the Institute of Public Affairs has worked over time to cast doubt on science, argue against both taxes and arguing against plain packaging?

Surely it is just coincidence

If we look at these three challenges: 

  • to plain packaging of tobacco products
  • the regulation of CO2 emissions
  • the government’s ability to tax on the “super” profits of miners

…we see the neoliberal agenda of limited government, free market fundamentalism and brushing aside “pesky” regulatory constraints.

It’s not just Big Tobacco that suffered a crushing defeat today: by extension the “neoliberal” war to remove important restraints – and desire to reduce government to the play thing of large corporations – equally suffered a setback.

The war for the North: the Rinehart Fairfax raid is a sideshow… what is really at stake?

How much of Australia does Rinehart want?

Reports that Gina Rinehart is looking to increase her political influence by increasing her stake in Fairfax media sent a chill down my spine yesterday.

Rinehart is buying influence, and no doubt hopes control of the media will give her that.

It is more than likely she has the IPA in her pocket as her unofficial ministry of propaganda – hence the reason for its dramatic increase in funding.

The question is why.

If you want a picture of the future – at least one envisioned by the likes of Ian Plimer, Gina Rinehart and their paid mouthpiece the Institute of Public Affairs – then consider a future in which wealthiest individuals lock up over a third of the Australian continent in a “special economic zone”.

Rinehart is pouring her monies and effort into the very Orwellian sounding Australian for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV).

Lead by Rinehart its members also include her favorite pet “climate sceptic”, Ian Plimer.

In this playground of the rich and rotund, companies will be able to operate freely from inconveniences such as “high taxes” and “green tape” and “high wages”.

The war for the north

This is the real battle, the “commanding heights” that Australia’s super rich and resource companies are fighting to obtain. The fights over the Resources Super Tax and the very modest Carbon Tax were merely side shows, part of the much broader “war” being fought. The prize is Australia’s mineral resources and who controls them.

Consider what Gina Rinehart and her troop of winged monkeys – err, sorry I mean the IPA’s gaggle of policy wonks and corporate hacks – are fighting for;

The creation of a ‘Northern Economic Zone’ that will offer tax advantages to attract and retain individuals and companies.

No Henry Resource “Super Tax” (or similar)

Lower personal income tax or tax rebates for those who live and work in the Northern Zone

Lowered / eliminated payroll tax

No FBT

Policies that welcome and attract investment

Policies that enable growth

The creation of attractive towns or cities in these remote zones away from capital cities that attract people and support businesses for the long haul.

It is nothing more than a desire to return to the “robber baron” days of the 19th century, free from the interference of unions, governments and legislation.

In this land of coal and honey, “attractive” employment policies will allow mining companies to substitute an Australian workforce – who expect to be paid reasonable salaries – with foreign workers who can be paid far less;

Consideration of the temporary utilisation of foreign workers for construction phases only; not longer term operations.

Don’t worry; they’ll only build the infrastructure. Of course they won’t stay: unless it makes very good business sense.

ANDEV: “Think of the children!”

What I personally find galling – if not sleazy – about the marketing of ANDEV is the attempt to sell this billionaires fiefdom for the benefits of “our” children.

If you examine their website you won’t find any pictures of the old, rotund billionaires and corporate hacks whose personal interests ANDEV is designed to serve.

Indeed, it is peppered with images of smiling, photogenic children excited about the prospect of their very own “special economic zone”:

“Daddy, can I have low taxes when I grow up?”

ANDEV is trying to convince you that it is all about “our kids future”:

Industry needs to take the fight to the government and media.  The guts to do the right thing by our children. It’s their future too.

Here we have the distasteful spectacle of billionaires hiding their greed and desire for power behind the “needs” of children:

Finger painting and open cut mines: the two always go hand-in-hand

I’m sure ANDEV is very concerned about children, and it has very little do with the desire for increased power and profits of a certain secretive billionaire:

Not on the ANDEV site Gina?

After all, it wasn’t that long ago children made some of the more effective – and cheapest – workers:

Kids and mining, a long-established tradition…

A picture of the future

To loosely paraphrase an author I admire:

We have seen a picture of the future; a world constrained by resource shortages, battered by increased extreme weather events and where millions of lives are diminished. In this world, nations and powerful companies will compete for the ever shrinking reserves of oil and gas.

And as the storms rage, cities flood and droughts bake once productive farm lands, the billionaires will employ their newly acquired media empires and think tank apologists to tell us it is not happening. Perhaps, this new world was meant to be – perhaps there are no alternatives and that it is will be the “best of all possible worlds”.

They’ll be nothing left but the thrill of increased profits and power, and the sensation of domination for those who trample the few that question their motives. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a newly built coal station – only recently constructed despite all the evidence it shouldn’t be – belching carbon into an increasingly chaotic climate; forever.

Dollars for denial: who has funded the threefold increase in IPA revenue since 2000?

How's that for a hockey stick?

How much does it take to fund a campaign of mis-information?

What resources are required to deceive the public about climate change?

Let’s ask the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the right-wing think tank at the centre of climate change denial in Australia.

There is little doubt the IPA can’t hide the incline in cash over the past few years.

Between 2000 and 2010 the IPA has witnessed a threefold increase in revenue.

A review of its annual reports over the past 10 years demonstrates (see reports here) a dramatic increase in revenue. Most of the IPA’s revenue comes from what it calls “subscriptions” – in reality cash injections from anonymous sources – and these have been growing at an extraordinary rate.

Famously the IPA refuses to disclose who funds it. We can speculate, but the IPA states that for “commercial in confidence” reasons it is not able to divulge this information.

Of course, the irony of the IPA attacking the “closed” world of scientists while steadfastly hiding its own sources of funding is impossible to ignore.

Fear of Labor and the IPCC

The increase in IPA funding coincides with the lead up to Labor taking power at the federal level, the acrimonious public debate over climate change and the “carbon tax” and the release of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) in 2007.

Between 2000 and 2003 there was marginal growth in IPA revenue – typically revenues hovered around the mid $600k mark.

However, by the end of the 2004/5 financial year revenues for the IPA started to dramatically climb. Total revenues for the IPA in 2005 were $859,781, a significant increase over past years.

And yet within a very sort time, the IPA would start to see a dramatic increase in funding, the timing of which more than a little suspicious.

IPA revenue grew into the millions – the timing of which is important.

The surge: fighting the CPRS and IPCC AR4

Revenue for the IPA exceeded $1.4 million in 2007 – the year Kevin Rudd came into office. It was also the same year that the IPCC released its fourth assessment report stated with a “high degree of confidence” that human activities were influencing the climate.

While we can only speculate as to why the IPA enjoyed this surge in funding revenue (if/when they come clean), but I would put forward the following hypothesis:

  • By early 2006 it was clear the Coalition government would lose the 2007 election
  • Labor under Kevin Rudd had strongly signalled its intention to sign the Kyotoa greement and “action” on climate change – such action would mean increased regulation and a price on carbon
  • The IPCC AR4 did much to convince the public climate change was real, therefore the denial movement needed to begin its attack on its credibility
  • Pubic support for action on climate change was very high, in part due to the success of Al Gore’s “An inconvenient truth”.

During the debate over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in 2010, revenue for the IPA reached its highest level in ten years.

The IPA is a critical player in the “war on science”, and its increased levels of funding may be seen as part of a broader campaign by vested interests to shape public opinion and stymie action on climate change.

Climate change denial: fuelling the IPA?

I’m fully aware that co-relation does not equal causation, however I would make the following argument:

  • IPA funding has grown significantly since Labor has been in power
  • The IPA is free-market libertarian think tank, and is heavily involved in coordinating the “denial” movement in Australia
  • Science has been increasingly certain that climate change is happening – thus efforts to cast doubt on the science by  the IPA have risen dramatically

The central question is just who is funding the IPA?

The blog post where I dismiss climate science

I’ll admit I was very inspired by this very amusing post over at Genomicron and this brilliant piece over at the Guardian. In short, here is my guide to writing a blog post denying climate change.

In this paragraph I’ll attempt to appear a sincere seeker of truth

In this paragraph I’ll explain some of the basics of climate science, but with extensive use of “scare quotes”. It will be a highly distorted version of the science: the “big picture” may be correct, but wrong on more detailed aspects.

I’ll note that for years I’d accepted the mainstream consensus on climate change, however out of sheer intellectual curiosity I decided to look into the issue myself.

Fortunately, my background in engineering/economics/physics or some other non-climate science related profession that requires maths has given me an understanding of the scientific method.

This how I establish myself as an authority.

At this point I will make reference to my intellectual journey, which in most instances involves extensive Google searching. I’ll note that after several days of trawling the Internet I was amazed to find blogs and web sites offering alternative views on climate change.

My use of search terms such as “climate change and fraud” will prompt Google to produce only the most authoritative materials. I will then muse why such information is not more accessible to the general public.

Here I will take down the IPCC in a paragraph

At this point I’ll take cherry pick quotes from the IPCC report and/or actual scientific research:

[Cut and paste text here…]

In this paragraph I’ll feign mock surprise that the claims in the quote appear to be exaggerated, as my own careful reading of blogs offering alternative explanations cast doubt on the claims of “experts” (natch, more scare quotes of course).

This is probably the appropriate time to make reference to the work of Steve McIntyre, a retired physicist or professor of geology. I might choose to include an image showing the famous “Hockey stick” and question it’s reliability. I’ll describe it as “broken”, without understanding what that means. However, it is an effective meme, and it’s stuck in my brain.

I’ll then post a link to Watts up with That? post that tears down climatologist (boo hiss!) Michael Mann and his stick (Ha ha! Did you see my pun!), pointing readers to bloggers more qualified to dismiss the science.

This is how I help repeat the same discredited claims.

This title indicates my distrust of “science”

Here it is appropriate to mention the “liberated” Climategate emails as proof that the workings of science have been corrupted. I’ll quote some very selective parts of said emails:

[Oh look scientists said nasty thing…]

I’ll feign surprise that scientists could act so un-professionally.

I’ll then move on to discuss how the “peer review process” is now “totally corrupt”. I’ll talk about the government funding of science, and allude to the fact that research funded by governments must be tainted.

Sometimes I’ll resort to Latin phrases. Ipso Facto sounds good. As does Caveat Emptor. I heard a very prominent sceptic uses Latin, therefore my post will sound much more authoritative.

I’ll dismiss the notion of scientific consensus as a kind of popularity contest.

I will make exaggerated claims about the stifling of alternative views: that scientists questioning this new “orthodoxy” have been shunned, picked on and called nasty names. Over 1 BILLION [cough] scientists [cough] have signed the Oregon Petition, stating they do not believe the planet is warming! What further proof do you need!?!?

I’ll throw in the line “They laughed at Galileo!” – but never “They laughed at Darwin!”, because that would betray my genuine doubts about evolutionary theory.

Here I will talk about Nazis, because it always about Nazis!

It is now at this point I usually descend into complete and utter paranoia, claiming the IPCC is the tool of socialists, lizard people and shadowy cabals. I’ll resort to Godwin’s Law and compare scientists with Nazis.

Or communists.

Or Nazis.

Or maybe both.

Clearly both were bad, so scientists must be equally bad.

Or I could term scientists eco-fascists, eco-terrorists or warmists.

By now I’ve worked myself into a rage, demanding that scientists be charged with FRAUD!

I will resort to even more UPPER CASE!

People such as myself – angry, white males feeling threatened by a loss of status – ARE ANGRY AND NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS LYING DOWN!

Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun understands my rage, he writes articles carefully constructed to provoke my sense of grievance and entitlement.

DID I MENTION I WAS ANGRY!

Here I just MAKE STUFF UP because I’M SO ANGRY!

My conclusion will be an appeal to personal liberty, god and small government

I’ll note the age of the Earth – except of course if I’m a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) – and that the climate has always changed.

However if I am a YEC, I’ll note it is presumptuous to claim humanity has any control over the climate. After all it is THE LORD who RULES THE HEAVENS:

[Appropriate Bible quote here…]

But then I might tone down the crazy creationist talk, as drawing attention to my support for other forms of denial might undermine my credibility.

My post will then end with an impassioned defense of liberty and how global warming is really a scam designed to raise taxes and limit your/our freedom.

I’ll end my post with a question.

Shouldn’t we just hope for the best and do nothing?

Something wicked this way comes: October deniers conference and book launch

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes…”  

Looks like it is shaping up to be the October Carnival of Denial!  

I’ve already noted that the Heartland Institute, in conjunction with the Institute of Public Affairs, is hosting a Sydney conference this month.  

Well, it seems the boys and girls at the IPA have a very busy month planned.  

Bob Carter, one of the very few qualified scientists who doubt climate change will be launching his bew book “The Counter-Consensus” in early October:

“The counter-consensus to quasi-scientific hype and induced panic on climate change is at last assembling. Climate: the Counter Consensus examines, with thoroughness and impartial expertise, the so-called facts of global warming that are churned out and unquestioningly accepted, while the scientific and media establishments stifle or deride any legitimate expression of an opposing view.

Professor Carter is an Emeritus Fellow of the IPA. He featured in the ‘Climategate’ emails as one of those brave enough to question the prevailing wisdom on climate change. Climate: The Counter-Consensus challenges the myths of ‘climate science’ that have been accepted by the media and the public.”

The book will be launched by NZ politician Rodney Hide:

Professor Carter’s book will be launched by the Hon Rodney Hide. Rodney is a minister in the New Zealand government, and leader of the ACT New Zealand Party. ACT New Zealand is an explicitly free market and small government party and has five MPs in the New Zealand parliament.

Further proof that the denial movement is supported by an international network of industry funded think tanks.  

 So why all the hub-bub?  

It’s possible be that they are trying to ratchet things up following the formation of the Gillard minority government.  

They are, after all dead set against a price on carbon. Says the IPA of thus much dreaded eventuality:

Rise up against the emissions trading scheme

The announcement by new Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Australia will not have an ETS before 2012, shows what a huge mistake the National Government has made by pushing ahead with our scheme in New Zealand…

We are now guaranteed to be at a competitive disadvantage with our closest major trading partner for at least another two years, if not more. How many jobs are we going to lose overseas and what damage will be done to our economy, before Australia, the US, Japan and China get on board – if ever?..

ACT believe the ETS should never have been implemented and will keep campaigning to at least have it suspended. This is a key issue for us. This is a key issue for New Zealand’s future prosperity and therefore for all New Zealanders who care about where this country is heading.

Yes, rise up ye patriots and lovers of liberty! Strike a blow for freedom!  

Give us LIBERTY or give us DEATH!  

The counter-counter-consensus  

I think we can easily dismiss Carter’s book as in the vein of “there is no consensus“.  

Sorry Bob, the counter to your counter-consensus is that scientists agree climate change is happening.  

A survey of over 3,000 earth scientists clearly indicates strong scientific support for climate change:

It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.

The debate is non-existent amongst the science community: the public debate is fuelled by professional disinformers such as the IPA and Bob Carter.

CSIRO hides the methane decline: or, propoganda in four easy steps

Evidence of a scandal?

As we noted earlier this year, the CSIRO and BoM released a document that made deniers furious (see “CSIRO forces the hand of the media” and “Rage against the science“). It conclusively demonstrated that temperatures had risen over the last century, and that this could be attributed to human activity.

However, for the last couple of weeks deniers niggling at it, trying to chip away at the credibility of both the report and the CSIRO itself.

Like creationists who attack scientists and museums, they can’t abide the what the science is telling us so they look for tiny inconsistencies and attempt to blow them up into scandals. This “anomaly hunting” is the stock in trade of all ant-science movements.

Recently, a new claim has been doing the rounds amongst the Australian denial movement. They are working very hard to try and manufacture a scandal. So far it’s failing. Apart from a few excited blog posts by the usual suspects (I’m looking at you Andrew Bolt), now one else seems to be biting. Still it’s worth investigating.

Here’s the claim (my words):

The Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research organisation (CSIRO) “hid” data about the level of atmosphere methane in their “State of the climate” report.

As one would expect, the CSIRO did no such thing.

But what we do have is a perfect, text-book example of how the denial movement attempts to manufacture controversy.

Leading the recent charge against the CSIRO is Tom Quirk, a member of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). The IPA is the think tank behind a great deal of denialist activity and propoganda in Australia. Recently Quirk has claimed the CSIRO had attempted to “hide the plateau” in atmosphere methane emissions in the State of the Climate report.

Step 1: Publish your “peer-reviewed” research” for credibility

Local deniers can’t abide that the CSIRO is one of the countries most trusted institutions. That the CSIRO is supportive of the science underpinning global warming is doubly frustrating. That thing called “science” is very frustrating when it’s results conflict with your world view, but gosh-darn-it denialists crave the authority and respectability that science bestows.

Indeed they crave it so much so that they have manufactued a alternative science with its own journals, conferences and blog sites.

Quirk has published some research – and I do use the term loosely – on atmospheric methane in the notoriously unreliable journal, Energy and Environment (E&E). E&E has a partisan editor who is sceptical of IPCC and sees their role to “balance” the opinion of the IPCC and scientists. It is also how many deniers claim to have published “peer-reviewed” research. [1]

The standards and reputation of E&E are so poor that genuine scientists avoid publishing articles in E&E.

E&E articles are widely cited by deniers, but hold very little weight in the scientific community because the quality of the papers are generally thought of a low standard.

Quirks paper, Twentieth Century Sources of Methane in the Atmosphere (Energy & Environment Volume 21, p 251, No. 3, 2010) was published early in the year.

Thus having established his “credentials” to talk about methane, Quirks then hits the denial blogosphere…

Step 2: Publish in well-known denial magazines

On May 19, Quirk published his views on Quadrant, a right-wing journal that frequently publishes the views of deniers. In it, Quirk claimed;

The CSIRO paper “State of the Climate” is as much a commentary on the state of the climate scientists who put the document together. The CSIRO has waded into a large government funded trough and is not inclined to publish anything that gets between it and the trough.

Not exactly scholarly language is it? His specific claim is this:

The insert of Figure 1 shows that the methane data is only plotted up to 1990. This is some ten years short of the carbon dioxide measurements. Yet groups within the CSIRO have been involved in measurements up to the present within international collaborations.

What has happened since that time? Figure 2 tells the story. Methane concentrations have plateaued. This does not fit the CSIRO storyline.

Shocking! If it was true…

Quirk is attempting to do is manufacture a controversy. He has found a tiny, insignificant anomaly and his trying to create a “hide the decline” scandal ala “Climategate”.

Step 3: Get “sceptical” bloggers to link to your article to circulate the meme

The next part is inevitable, and was actually brought to my attention my a reader of this blog [hat tip AS]. Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun mentioned Quirk’s Quadrant article on his blog on May 21:

Tom Quirk is puzzled. Why, in its State of the Climate report, did the CSIRO leave out the last 20 years of data of methane concentrations?

Is it because the concentration of this greenhouse gas has barely increased since, against the warmists’ theory?

Both myself and AS stopped by to point out the obvious flaws in Quirk’s article. Simply put, he played around with a graph (discussed in more detail below).

Step 4: Get “sceptical” journalists to paraphrase your arguments in a major daily

Terry McCrann, a business writer for Murdoch’s Herald Sun and The Australian joined the attack on May 29

In March, it joined with the Bureau of Meteorology to produce a “snapshot of the state of the climate to update Australians about how their climate has changed and what it means”. Although the pamphlet had a neutral title, “State of the Climate”, it was clearly designed to bring the great weight of the apparent credibility of these two organisations to bear against, and hopefully crush, those pesky climate change sceptics…

…In short, the CSIRO is a fully signed-up member of the climate change club. It wanted to project the horror story of continually rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. So it simply disappeared inconvenient evidence to the contrary, in the process announcing it cannot be trusted ever again to deliver objective scientific evidence.”

Quite the claim. Let’s hope we can trust CSIRO the next time a virus breaks out.

McCrann goes on:

Did the answer lie in the inconvenient truth that methane concentrations have plateaued since the mid-1990s? Yet here is the CSIRO, the organisation dedicated to scientific truth, pretending — even stating — that they’re still going up, Climategate style. This is bad enough, but just as with Treasury, real policies are built on this sort of “analysis”. The first version of the so-called carbon pollution reduction scheme included farming to address the methane question. But as Quirk has shown in a peer-reviewed paper, atmospheric methane is driven by a combination of volcanos, El Ninos and pipeline (mostly dodgy old Soviet) leakage.

Australian Climate Madness picks up the story later on May 30 here, claiming:

CSIRO, The Bureau of Meteorology, the UK Royal Society, the American National Academy of Sciences and hundreds of other organisations have all nailed their colours to the climate change mast, abandoning objective scientific enquiry in favour of environmental advocacy.

Between Quirk publishing an article earlier this year in the dodgy E&E and late May the “hide the methane” claim had become a truism in the denial community.

Andrew Bolt mentions it again on May 29, doing his usual tag-team effort with fellow Murdoch journalist McCrann. Bolt, in his usual style uses the stock-in-trade language of outrage and hyperbole:

“Meanwhile, a private citizen forces the CSIRO to (very quietly) fix up a very suspicious mistake. Tery McCrann describes the CSIRO’s latest shame…”

Somehow I think the shame rests elsewhere.

Note the use of language:  Quirk a director of the IPA become a “private citizen” who has fixed up a “suspicious mistake”. ”

Really, who can you trust to tell you the truth about climate change? Scientists? Hell no!

Better to trust “pesky” directors of think tanks who publish in journals of dubious quality.

Did the CSIRO “fudge” the data?

In the end it’s a silly claim, especially since there is peer-reviewed literature out there in which the CSIRO has stated that methane concentrations had been stable for some time (see below). CSIRO scientists helped author the following 2008 paper:

After almost a decade with little change in global atmospheric methane mole fraction, we present measurements from the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation networks that show renewed growth starting near the beginning of 2007. A similar growth rate is found at all monitoring locations from this time until the latest measurements.[2]

Methane concentrations did “pause” for 10 years in the early part of the 21st century, but a this recent paper shows concentrations are rising again.

Tha main claim is that the tend line in the CSIRO report for methane atmosphere concentration “stopped” in 1990, therefore “hiding” the plateau (see the above graph). CSIRO did amend the document after Quirk’s article to include more recent data. However, they did make clear if very clear why they did. Quadrant did graciously allow them to publish a response on their website:

The methane and carbon dioxide data shown in State of Climate are annual means up to and including 2009. The methane data were plotted by a non-CSIRO designer in a manner that resulted in about a 20 year lag at the end of the record, presumably to separate them visually from the carbon dioxide record. This should have been explained in State of Climate – unfortunately it was not, and this has lead to Quirk’s misinterpretation of the data. The data are now correctly plotted on the ‘snapshot’ web-site.

Science is a self-correcting process, and State of the Climate was intended to present data to a lay audience. One tiny error fuels suspicion and paranoia.

In the end there is no scandal.

However, it shows how the denial movement will cherry pick tiny inconsistencies and try to magnify these. This is very much a case of creating scandal when none exist. Given that our old friends the IPA are behind this push it’s not suprising.

Six aspects of denial

I’d nominate the following “Six aspects of Denial” that characterises the latest attack on CSIRO:

  • Question the motives and integrity of scientists – without question this is a direct assault on the CSIRO and it’s scientists. The language of Bolt, Quirk and McCrann is inflammatory and they directly accuse them of “wading” into the government-funded trough. Never mind that CSIRO received funding under the conservative Howard government to conduct research into climate change.

[1] See Wikipedia article for background. The editor of E&E is on record saying “I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway. But isn’t that the right of the editor?”

[2] Renewed growth of atmospheric methane, M. Rigby et.al GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 35, L22805, doi:10.1029/2008GL036037, 2008

The paranoid style of the IPA part 2: examining the claims of John Roskam’s letter

The idea of climate change has "been fashionable"

  [CLICK IMAGE TO READ FULL LETTER]  

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) Execute Director, John Roskam, forwarded this letter (dated 12 April) with the following materials to a number of Australian politicians:        

  • Climate Change: The Facts (CCTF), a 140 page book containing a series of essays
  •  Order form for the above
  •  An IPA media release titled “ETS SHOULD BE SCRAPPED, NOT DELAYED SAYS FREE MARKET THINK TANK” (4 May 2009)
  •  A copy of an article written by Herald Sun journalist Terry McCrann titled “Climate Policy failure” dated 11 November 2009 

In his letter, Roskam makes several claims about the science of climate change, the potential harm an emissions trading scheme (ETS) could cause to the Australian economy and that “Climategate” had exposed the “fraud” committed by the scientific community.  But first some background on Roskam, and his deep ties to the Liberal Party (conservative) in Australia and his past activities.    

Roskam: conservative ideologue?      

Firstly some background on Roskam.    

According to both his profile on the IPA website and Sourcewatch, Roskam has very deep ties to the Liberals. He also has ties to the mining industry, having acted in a PR role:        

John Roskam has been the Executive Director of the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs since 2004. Before joining the IPA he taught political theory at the University of Melbourne. He was previously the Executive Director of The Menzies Research Centre in Canberra, has been a senior adviser and chief of staff to federal and state education minister, and was the manager of government and corporate affairs for a global mining company. (IPA website)   

He also a regular columnist in the Australian Financial Review (AFR), a business daily published by Fairfax media. I believe we can sum up Roskam’s views on climate change as a product of his neo-liberal worldview.          

His main concern appears to be the financial and economic impact of any policies to mitigate climate change on industry. He is also an advocate of the “small government” school of thinking.     In a article of his, titled “Where have all the conservatives gone?”, Roskam states his main fears related to any government policy or legislation that “cuts into growth”:  

The consequences of Australian political conservatives’ having gone missing are profound. Increasing regulation that hands decision-making powers from individuals to government means that company directors can’t run their businesses, farmers can’t manage their land, and consumers can’t make choices. The gains of two decades of economic reform are being undone by regulation. The community simply cannot afford to have political conservatives missing from the public debate.      

Government initiatives such as the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) are seen as a hindrance to economic growth. Because of this, climate science must be wrong for Roskam.      

It is also clear that Roskam belongs to the Australia’s carbon lobby: the cluster of mining and energy think-tanks, PR hacks and lobbyists promoting the interests of those industries.  

His career is in PR, mining, lobbying and journalism.       

Assessing the claims of Roskam’s letter      

In his letter Roskam makes some very bold, yet easily refuted, claims about the science of climate change.I will address the most important of these claims by citing the exact text of the letter. Readers are advised to read his covering letter in full, however the thrust of his argument could be summed up thus:        

  • here is no scientific consensus
  • therefore the costs of mitigating climate change are both destructive to the economy and unnecessary. 

Let us address his individual claims.    

Claim 1: “no reputable authority” accepts the science        

On pages 1-2 Roskam makes the following claim:      

“The claims that humans are the cause of harmful and potentially catastrophic global warming has been fashionable for some time. No reputable authority claims the science of the matter is settled.”           

Of the many claims that Roskam will make in his letter, this is perhaps the most boldfaced “lie”[1]. In stating that ‘no reputable authority” accepts the science, Roskam not only waves away the consensus of the IPCC (who they mistrust), but nearly every scientific body and organisation on the planet which has issues statement supporting the science.

Wikipedia provides a very good summary of the bodies supporting the science:     

Since 2001, 32 national science academies have come together to issue joint declarations confirming anthropogenic global warming, and urging the nations of the world to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.       

The world’s largest association of scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, issued an official statement in support of the science in  2006:      

“The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a critical  greenhouse gas, is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years.

The average temperature of the Earth is heading for levels not experienced for millions of years. Scientific predictions of  the impacts of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and deforestation match observed changes.”        

One can’t image a more clearer statement on the issue. That Roskam dismisses the world’s scientific community (on a science issue!) as not being reputable is incredible.        One wonders if Roskam actually believes the sentence he wrote, he that was simply a throw away line not given any real thought.          

Claim 2: global warming as a means to “make money” and as part of a “anti-capitalist ideology” 

Within the same paragraph Roskam states the following:       

Some people have espoused global warming as a means to make money, while others have adopted it to fill a void in the anti-capitalist ideology left by the collapse of communism. 

Roskam links the two favorite bug-bears of the denial movement; the “follow the money” argument, and the belief that the Greens/socialists are trying to destroy capitalism.       

I find it curious that an advocate of neo-liberal orthodoxy takes umbrage with an companies or individuals making money. If one accepts the science, as I do, one can easily see the opportunities for companies and industries to develop new products, services and forms of energy.      

Yes, coal and oil as sources of energy need to be phased out.

But this is not the end of industrial civilisation as we now it. New industries will replace them, that’s all. This is innovation, and exactly how the market should work: “creative destruction”.

This is not about protecting capitalism, it’s about protecting they multi-billion dollar duopoly of oil and mining interests in Australia.        

Instead, Roskam is part of the carbon lobby’s rearguard, fighting to protect the very lucrative interests of energy companies. The irony is that the actions of climate change ‘sceptics’ such as Roskam stifle innovation, the very life blood of a dynamic capitalism.   

Ironic? 

Yes.

But when you’ve worked in mining and are funded by mining and oil interests, it’s very easy to mistake digging “stuff” out of the ground” for actual innovation.

The last charge is simply a paranoid fantasy. Yes, there are elements of the environmental movement openly hostile to “capitalism”. However, that has nothing to do with the science.      

One can be against smoking because of the health risks associated and suggest we regulate it’s consumption without being “anti-capitalist”.        

Claim 3: Global warming is a “belief”         

Roskam plays climate science is a “belief” card:       

“The numerous errors, cover-ups, and mistakes of those who believe in human induced catastrophic global warming have caused the public to question what it was told about climate change. The scientific fraud revealed by ‘Climategate’ has further shaken the confidence of the public in the so-called ‘scientific consensus’ of global warming’.         

Note the use of the phrase “those who believe…”     

That would be the thousands of scientists around the globe whose work informed the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (in addition to the numerous scientific bodes we listed above). Deniers love to state that “global warming” is a religion. Indeed, the various hate email and posts I get repeatedly stress that point: “It’s YOUR religion!” they scream again, and again at me.    

I don’t “believe” in climate change: I accept the scientigfic consensus.

It’s also curious that this is the exact same charge creationists throw out evoutionary biologists: they claim “evolution is a religion” and has no basis in fact:       

Evolution is basically a religious philosophy. We in creation ministries are explaining to people that both creation and evolution are religious views of life upon which people build their particular models of philosophy, science or history. The issue, therefore, is not science versus religion, but religion versus religion (the science of one religion versus the science of another religion).     The problem is that most scientists do not realize that it is the belief (or religion) of evolution that is the basis for the scientific models (the interpretations, or stories) used to attempt an explanation of the present. Evolutionists are not prepared to change their actual belief that all life can be explained by natural processes and that no God is involved (or even needed). Evolution is the religion to which they are committed. Christians need to wake up to this. Evolution is a religion; it is not a science!      

How does this argument differ from that of the denial movement?     

Substitute he words “evolution” with “climate change” and you have the IPA’s argument.       

Those who don’t agree are individuals like Roskam who are untrained in the discipline and have a mining/PR background.       

Seriously – who are you going to trust?    

The scientists or the words of a PR hack (Roskam)?       

 Claim 4: Climategare reveals scientific “fraud”      

No, it did not Mr. Roskam.        

Conclusion     

Roskam’s letter is a collection of disingenuous misrepresentations of facts and a distorted view of the science.

One is amazed at some of the bold faced “lies” stated in the covering letter[2]. But then again, the entire argument of the denial movement is built a carefully constructed misinformation campaign.     

That the fact’s Rokam so freely throws around can be checked and refuted so easily demonstrate his deep, ideological, hostitility to any science that conflicts to his worldview.       

[1] In the sense that is conveys a false belief, it may not be a deliberately falsehood but Roskam’s postion is easily refuted by the facts.       [2] Ibid

The paranoid style of the IPA part 1: exposing the lies and distortions of their latest campaign

100% Pure Denial

“The IPA is proud to be sceptical of climate change…” – Climate Change: The Facts, page.1

In April I received a copy of materials sent to Australian politicians by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) as part of their concentrated push to influence the debate on climate change. Central to this campaign was the publication of the book “Climate Change: The Facts” (CCTF).

In addition to this, a new website was also launched: http://climatechange.ipa.org.au/

Since then I have reviewed the materials. Over the coming week I will be examining both the covering materials sent to politicians and individual chapters of the text in a series of posts.

I believe this is important: not only it will it highlight the specific arguments of the denial movement, but more importantly shows how they attempt to shape the political debate.

“We don’t believe ‘the science is settled’. As a think tank committed to the idea of free and open enquiry and debate we are not afraid to stand against the mainstream of prevailing elite opinion. Time and time again, the mainstream opinion of elite opinion has been proved wrong…”

– Climate Change: The Facts page.1

The IPA proudly declares itself to be “sceptical” of the science, but that it does so in the spirit of true scepticism:

“Scepticism should be the hallmark of science. A ‘sceptic’ was once defined as someone who asked questions. Science should be about asking questions. Unfortunately when it comes to the ‘science’ of climate change, those who dare ask questions are too often labelled ‘deniers’…”

– CCTF page.1

Indeed, scepticism is the hallmark of good science, and critical thinking.

However, the book CCTF is anything but good science.

The IPA declares the book to represent the thinking of “the world’s leading scientists and economists”. And yet in reality, the list of authors is a roll call of the same individuals closely associated with the denial of science:

  • Ian Plimer
  • Christopher (Lord) Monckton
  • Richard Lindzen
  • Willie Soon
  • Richard Tol
  • Alan Moran (IPA)
  • John Roskam (IPA)

Without any sense of abashment, the directors of the IPA not only contribute to the text, but boldly declare themselves amongst the world’s leading economists and scientists.

The IPA published this selection of ‘sceptical’ viewpoints in Climate Change: The Facts because there has been so little debate about the science of climate change…” CCTF page.2

CCTF (re)packages long debunked “arguments” that mainstream science has already addressed. It presents no new evidence, no original research or a “fresh” perspective on the debate.

It is a primer for the committed sceptic.

It is intended to provide talking points, factoids and factually incorrect statements on climate science.

What I hope you will learn along the way

All journeys begin with a single step: we begin our journey into the very heart of the denial movement.

CCTF is the ideology, worldview and methodology of the denial movement distilled into 140 pages.

It represents the thinking of their most qualified members. Its their “best arguments”.

CCTF has it all: Climategate, the rejection of the peer-review process and the dismissal of consensus science.

Noted “sceptical” scientists such as Plimer, Soon and Linzden have contributed. The globe trotting “Lord” Monckton provides an essay, as do senior staff of the IPA. These are the “big guns” of denial in Australia and internationally, and it was carefully packaged and sent directly to Australian politicians.

When neoliberalism and science collide: the objectives of the IPA

This is not a small, insignificant publication that should be ignored: it represents a major assault on the reputation of science and scientists.

Considerable time and effort has gone into presenting a range of “acceptable forms of denial”.

However the IPA’s intention is not to dismiss climate science, it presents a spectrum of denial from the outright denial of Monckton and Plimer, to the more nuanced ‘scepticism’ of Richard Tol who accepts climate change but argues it’s effects are overstated. The pseudo attempt it introduce “balance” into the debate masks the real agenda of the IPA.

The IPA wants to cause just enough uncertainty in the science in order to stall, delay or halt any response to the threat of climate change that conflicts with the interests of energy and resource companies.

The IPA views any response to climate change as a threat to industry or to “liberty”. They focus obsessively on the supposed “astronomical” costs of responding to climate change, believing they will destroy “free markets”.

Their neoliberalism is at odds with the science. But rather than adjust their economic position, they would rather dismiss the scientific consensus on climate change.

A plea to the reader

I ask that you stay with me over the coming week as we dissect CCTF. Along the way I hope to illustrate the following:

  • How CCTF epitomises the denial movements misunderstanding – and distortion – of the science
  • How the IPA’s donations have grown extraordinarily over the last few years on the back of their campaign to deny the science
  • How the IPA is one of the leading members of Australia’s denial movement
  • How CCTF represents the “paranoid” style of politics that has dominate the conservative movement and is a function of “epistemic closure”.

Along way please challenge my analysis, provide additional insights and correct any mistakes I may make (either factual or typographical).

Next: Part 2 of this series of posts will be an analysis of the covering letter sent by the IPA’s Executive Director, John Roskam to Australian politicians. In it Roskam states “no reputable authority claims the science on the matter is ‘settled’ and that the scientific community has committed ‘fraud’.

The failure of Rudd’s ETS – strangely – does not vindicate the deniers

Following the Rudd government’s announcement that the ETS will be delayed until “at least 2013”, Murdoch papers such as the Herald Sun and The Australian have swiftly denounced the “fat cats” in government.

Other deniers and think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs have joined in what can only be described as an orgy of self-congratulation calling out Rudd for his failure.

Yesterday’s HUN attacked the Federal Government’s Department for Climate Change & Energy Efficiency for having “nothing to do” now that the ETS has been delayed. It also questioned both the staff numbers and salaries of staff attached to the office.

This is classic “old school” media trope: government “fat cats” living off the back of the tax payer. It plays right into the stereotype of public servants as corrupt, out of touch and “bludgers”.

They continued to editorialize about Rudd’s failure:

The latest policy to be abandoned is the Emissions Trading Scheme, which was to confront what we were told was “the greatest moral challenge of our time”.

The Prime Minister wanted to lead the world, but the world didn’t listen at the failed global warming conference in Copenhagen. His call to arms was ignored.

Now, to use the overblown terminology of the Prime Minister, he has laid down his shield and surrendered by saying the ETS is off the agenda until 2013.

Not that that’s such a bad thing. It was always better to wait to see whether the world would follow.

A nice example of schadenfreude, as the Editors glee that the ETS – and by extension our response to climate change – is seen to fail is barely masked.

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