Tag Archives: climate

News Ltd kicking more sand in the public’s face: just why are Murdoch’s papers recycling the old “CFCs not CO2” zombie climate myth?

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, which controls 70% of the Australian print media, are without doubt doing the Australian public a great disservice with their constant stream of climate disinformation.

It is not enough for News Limited to shape the narrative as “believers versus sceptics”, thus creating a sense of false balance. They take it a step further by willfully distorting the public’s perception about the causes of climate change while simultaneously undermining their trust in the scientific community.

Recent evidence of this can be seen across News Limited publications and websites these past two days.

Nearly every organ of Murdoch’s Australian media empire has been actively pushing the discredited theory that CFCs are to blame for warming (not CO2). Here is the audit trail:

  • The story first appeared in The Australian by Graham Lloyd on Monday 3 June (see here)
  • It then made it onto Andrew Bolt’s blog on 7:27pm the same day (see here)
  • A reference was made on Piers Ackerman’s blog on 4 June at 12:45 am (see at the end of the article)
  • Reference to it was published in the Cut and Paste section of The Australian today.

Note how the same message is weaved into different articles across multiple platforms?

Clearly the intent is to hit the broadest number of readers across all demographics: from the tabloid pages of the Herald Sun to the faux-paper-of-note pretensions of The Australian aimed at a more “elite” audience. Note they all appear within a day of each other.

Note also that in last night’s Q&A program, Senator Cory Bernardi referenced this News Limited generated fiction.

Cause and effect clearly demonstrated on national television.

Based on the uniformity of the message, tone and content it is clear the voice of the independent journalist is irrelevant at News Limited.

What matters is the message and broadcasting it on all frequencies to a mass audience. The resurrection of the “CFCs not CO2” myth is but a single example of propagating misinformation over a broad spectrum (News Limited papers and web platforms).

And the message is simple.

Climate change isn’t happening, don’t trust the scientists.

I’m not going to address the science, but simply direct readers to the refutation at Climate Science Watch. I also note Crikey have picked up on the errors contained in Graham Lloyd’s article as well (pay wall sorry).

However, upon reflection something has been missing in both my comments and Crikey’s analysis.

And it is not about focussing on the minutia of the debate, which this whole episode is merely another tedious example.

It’s time to consider the bigger picture.

The desperate last phases of the climate debate: throwing sand in our faces

When somebody is losing a fight, and they feel the tide of victory flowing against them they’ll resort to increasingly desperate tactics.

Consider the final moment of many films where the hero and villain square off to fight. Shots, punches and kicks are exchanged as the fortunes of both protagonists ebb and flow.

But there comes a moment when both protagonists and the audience recognise the villain is in the throes of their final and inevitable defeat.

What does the villain do?

They grab a handful of sand or dirt and throw it into the face of their opponent.

It’s a sign of desperation, a feint intended to stem defeat by distracting and irritating their opponent. Sometimes it works, but generally it signals they have nothing left to fight with but dirty tricks. The message to the audience is clear: “They are deceitful, even in their last moments”.

It’s a trope used countless times. In fact, my daughter’s favourite film The Lion King contains it. In the final confrontation between Scar, who has usurped the throne and Simba (the rightful heir to the title of Lion King) the villain scatters burning ash in latter’s eyes in a final act of defiance.

Which is exactly what News Limited is doing, they are throwing sand in the face of the public and scientists in desperation.

Welcome to this new phase in the climate debate.

In raising long discredited “zombie” climate myths News Limited is reaching for sand to throw in all our eyes.

One can see why this would be the case. Public acceptance of the science is overwhelming; most accept humanity has changed the planet. Did we forget to mention 97% of climate scientists accept the science?

Everyone but the climate sceptics recognise their increasing irrelevance and what is clearly the death throes of their movement.

But they have one more trick to play, one last desperate gamble…

They’re clutching for a handful of sand to cast into the faces of their opponents.

Lose the debate and lose the kingdom: for Murdoch the climate debate is about one thing, can you guess?

For the owner of News Limited and his army of minions the trajectory of public opinion must be troubling. So they are throwing everything at it.

Misinformation and zombie climate myths are their sand. But why? That is a question worth asking.

Murdoch is desperate to continue setting the political and social agenda within Australia and the English-speaking world. News Corporation is the agency of his will; they are his legions of flying monkeys.

Here is something we may not have considered in speculating over News Limited’s role in the climate debate.

Why is it that Fox News, The Australian, The Wall Street Journal and all other organs of the Murdoch empire are unanimous in their contempt for the science? Consider this…

The climate debate, from Murdoch’s perspective, is as much about forestalling action as it is about Rupert Murdoch.

It is about Murdoch’s king making and opinion making abilities. It’s about his power. It is about how much he has, and how effectively he can wield it.

It is about how media power shapes the conversations we have in political debates, around the proverbial water cooler and over the BBQ on a Sunday afternoon.

How much does it say about the power of Murdoch and News Limited (which fervently believes it can shape the tone of all political conversation within our nation) that it can no longer control the debate or public perception on climate?

What does it mean when public opinion slips from the control of the opinion makers?

Lose the ability to shape the debate, and you lose the kingdom.

All empires are fictions and all power is perceived.

This is especially the case today with the internet reshaping the media, rendering the traditional gatekeepers less relevant than they once were.

A king-maker who has built his empire on public perception, mass entertainment and sports broadcasting understands this intuitively.

From the Tampa Affair, the denial of the Stolen Generations and the climate debate, Murdoch has sought to shape our nation and values for decades.

Does it come as a surprise that public respect for the media in Australia is at all-time low? This is not a coincidence, nor some chance correlation.

News Limited’s reporting on climate change is at odds with people’s everyday experiences of a changing planet. Should you believe Andrew Bolt or the evidence of your home burning to the ground over Australia’s “Angry Summer”?

Remember how the Carbon Tax was going to be the ruin of us all?

The disconnect between what News Limited wants the public to believe, and what the public experiences is growing further apart. A crisis of credibility is engulfing News Limited, and they’ve failed to recognise it.

And their response to this growing disconnect?

The recycling of this old zombie climate myth (CFCs not CO2), a desperate attempt to throw sand in our faces. The whole CFC meme of the past few days is merely to distract the public with an irrelevant fact, while also enraging activists and scientists with its stupidity.

It is as if Murdoch has thrown sand in our eyes and is screaming in our faces: “See, see! I still set the agenda!”

How much time and energy will we expand on countering the “CFC not CO2” zombie myth one more time?

Stop focussing on the sand in your eyes, irritating as that may be.

Look at who is throwing the sand.

Advice to the scientific community: well, not that “you” asked

At the heart of scientific practice is error reduction: detecting, and correcting errors. Both your own and that of your peers. It is a valid means to ensure research results support theories; that theories reflect the actual state of the world.

However, in the climate debate a focus on error reduction – for example correcting people or journalists on the “CFCs not CO2” issue – is counter productive.

We will forever be chasing down errors, and attempting to correct people’s misconceptions. It is a rabbit hole we have spent too much time dwelling  in – chasing down a misconception here and another piece of disinformation there.

We are Red Queens, forever running as fast as we can in a vain attempt to merely stay in the same place.

Yes, we can catch one error and force a correction printed in the pages of The Australian. We can get the Australian Press Council to issue a statement against the likes of Andrew Bolt. But in that time, ten thousand errors have flown from the pages and blogs of News Limited.

We catch an error and declare it victory. Time to consider the bigger picture.

Think of the climate debate like this…

Until recently we thought the universe was the solar system with the Earth at its centre. Then we thought the universe was no more than our home galaxy, The Milky Way.

Our perception was stunted, limited to the local.

Then Hubble took his famous images of red shifted objects…

… and the Universe exploded into view, revealing its immensity and majesty. Our view of the universe and ourselves was profoundly changed.

We need to think about the climate debate in this manner: broader, deeper and more sophisticated.

No more error correction please: turn your big brains to more profound questions.

Back to Murdoch, the King Lear of the Anthropocene.

The King Lear of our time: Murdoch

To return to the film The Lion King (no really!) you may be surprised to learn it is loosely based upon Hamlet. Shakespeare’s tale is a cautionary one about those who usurp thrones and marriage beds, and the tragic consequences of those actions.

But I’m reminded of another of Shakespeare’s plays when I consider Murdoch and his need to control the climate debate in our politics and in our private conversations.

King Lear, the dying king who divides his kingdom among his ambitious children. It is a decision that begins a chain reaction of events ending in ruin.

Murdoch is that monarch whose time is coming to an end; he is the king who divides the state among his children. Like Lear, it is his selfish, ego driven decisions that precipitates the ruin of all.

King Murdoch – the Lear of the early twenty-first century – would rather let our planet burn then admit he no longer sets the agenda on the climate debate, nor countenance being wrong.

Rub the sand from your eyes, ask why it has been thrown.


[A few errors in first draft got through, fixed]

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Graham Lloyd you’ve done it again! Every article requires a mandatory correction

Pretty much anything written by Lloyd on climate needs a correction

As I’ve noted recently, The Australian’s Environment Editor Graham Lloyd has a habit of misrepresenting the work of scientists. He has also shown a fondness for citing the work of cranks.

A few months back he cited  material from  Principa Scientific International. This crank outfit is so extreme that even Christopher Monckton has distanced himself from them. And yet Lloyd believes they are a source of information worthy of a national daily.

Earlier this year The Australian was forced to issue an embarrassing correction after claiming sea level rise was not linked to warming – which it is.

Lloyd shamelessly cherry picks quotes, as this example clearly shows.

So desperate is Lloyd’s attempts to cast doubt on the science, he is now scraping the bottom of the barrel by citing junk “research” in his latest article:

The peer-reviewed research by Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry at Waterloo University, was published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B.

The findings of Professor Lu’s paper – Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules: Culprits for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change – are at odds with the consensus view that climate change is driven by increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Waterloo University said Professor Lu’s research provided “new fundamental understanding of the ozone hole and global climate change”. Critics said it might be “nothing more than coincidental correlation”, but it warranted further study. 

Chlorofluorocarbons are known to deplete ozone, but conventional thinking is the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide had mainly contributed to global warming.

The claim that CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are the real culprit behind global warming is a tired, old debunked sceptic myth

The journal, International Journal of Modern Physics B is pretty fringe. Climate Science Watch has already addressed Lu’s paper and notes how he recycles discredited claims.

Still, let’s ponder the implication’s of Lu’s claims. If Lu is correct he has just overturned the scientific paradigm and worthy of a Nobel Prize.

That, or he is a crank with an obsession to prove a discredited theory.

How sad and tawdry.

The Australian has become so partisan on the issue they’re willing to give voice to even the silliest claims.

It seems Lloyd has decided facts and journalistic ethics are for those with a sentimental attachment to reality. 

How sad.

How tawdry.

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Orwell’s 1984: the greatest environmental novel of last century, even if author didn’t intend it as such

Our imagination allows us to create all versions of Hell; and Heaven too

Our imagination allows us to create all versions of Hell; and Heaven

All art is theft.

Thus it comes as no surprise that aspiring writers with an interest in politics and the environment fall under the spell of George Orwell. Not just his novels 1984 and Animal farm, but his majestic essay Politics and the English Language.

Christopher Hitchens, perhaps one of the greatest essayists of the last decade, was an enormous fan of Orwell. One can consider Hitchens writing a long exercise in paying tribute to – and wanting to be – Orwell.

Fortunately for Hitchens (and us) he found his unique voice. Hitchens has the same command of language, clarity and sense of justified outrage found in Orwell’s work. Read Hitchen’s God is not Great to see his righteous anger filtered through a powerful prose style.

A recent piece on The Conversation about the value of art in understanding the environmental crisis got me thinking about which novels and films we regard as having an “environmental” theme.

Novels like Cormac McCarthy’s biblical The Road paint a bleak world – the product of some unknown apocalypse. It depicts the journey of the unnamed father and son. They are simply called The Man and The Boy – through this world to the perceived safety of the coast. It is both nightmarish and grueling.

And yet it ends with hope.

Indeed, the ending of The Road is poetic and uplifting: its prevailing mood of pessimism is sharply punctuated by hope. Maybe it is just a glimmer, but it burns all the more brightly in contrast to the ash and death of the world painted by McCarthy.

McCarthy affirms a truth we all know – the human spirit can endure the worst horrors, provided we retain our humanity.

For “the Man” of McCarthy’s novel, it is not enough to merely survive: retaining one’s humanity in a world that has gone to literal Hell becomes the central question, far more important than finding the next meal.

This is also the core of Orwell’s 1984.

The focus of 1984 is Winston Smith’s struggle to retain his humanity in a world that may not be Hell, but is something very akin to it. He has only the vaguest memories of his childhood and mother. All he recalls is loss and horror, and some snippets of a song.

Winston implicitly understands the world is not as it should be – that it does not have to be this way. He suspects he exists in a counterfactual nightmare; a parallel universe to what might have otherwise been. As the reader, we know the world is better than what Winston experiences. But for us, that increases the horror, not reduce it for we step into the world of Big Brother.

Winston can imagine better worlds. He may not know where they are or what they look like, but he is convinced they exist. The tragedy is Winston’s failed struggle to find this world and retain his humanity. We all know how 1984 ends.

The facility to imagine a better world, despite the evidence before our eyes, is a crucial component of our moral imagination. This is what makes us human: to reflect on all possible worlds, and hope to create one closer to Paradise than Hell.

Perhaps this Utopian impulse is unrealistic. At times this impulse has been dangerous, as the distorted racial and economic utopias of Nazism and Stalinism of last century taught us.

However, at times this impulse has been liberating for humanity: Martin Luther King had a dream.

It is my firm believe this impulse resides within all of us, and this is a good thing. We should cultivate it, but temper it with realism, compassion and dare I say it – a dose of conservatism? At least the kind of Edmund Burke who feared the horrors the French Revolution unleashed.

But fear of change? We should embrace change, for that is the permanent state of the universe.

Thus, reflecting on the great “environmental novels” mentioned in The Conversation article it struck me Orwell’s 1984 contains implicit environmental themes.

Ostensibly Orwell’s novel is about politics, the dystopian future of Big Brother and the creation of a monstrous and intrusive police state. It is Stalin’s Russia writ large across the globe and taken to logical extremes. For good reason Orwell was signalling the dangers of totalitarianism.

But the politics of the world Orwell creates shapes the fictional environment, even if the author did not recognise this.

We now know Soviet industry made a polluted wasteland of large parts of Russia and regions of the Soviet Empire. The industries of the Eastern Bloc countries were technologically backwards and polluting. Their  collapse increased the air quality and well-being of the environment of those countries, but at great economic cost and social dislocation.

Does not the political process and the choices our society make shape the environment of today? If you doubt that claim, merely look at our failure to act on climate change.

Are today’s coal-fired generators soon to be the equivalent of the shuttered and empty factories of Eastern Europe – relics not merely of a failed industry, but a failed world view?

It is unlikely Orwell would view his work as an environmental critique. However, authorial intent is often at odds with the perception of readers.

Environmental themes are there in the details of the world of Big Brother and Oceania.

The streets of Airstrip One (the renamed England) are strewn with refuse – everything is ruin.

The universe is in a state of entropy, of falling apart. And yet everyone is indifferent to this state of affairs. They are too preoccupied with the basic questions of survival: of having enough food to eat and avoiding the worst aspects of the security state.

All is ruin.

All live in indifference.

All avoid the truth before them.

All seek the safety of anonymity.

All live in denial: even those in the elite of The Party.

However, don’t let your imagination stop there: dwell on the image of the world Orwell created in 1984.

It is run down and exhausted.

Look in the corners of his world and you will see the poverty and shambolic social services.

What else do you see?

The exclusive use of resources by the military and political elite at the expense of the populace; the stifling of voices who question this status quo; every organ of the state exists to control the use of resources and keep the people compliant through violence, language and surveillance.

People are distracted by a vast political-entertainment complex, the “proles” living on an information diet of sensationalist news and pornography.

How very prescient of Orwell – no doubt unintentional – to paint the picture of an exhausted and run down world, in which the elites squabble over the remaining scraps.

How very much we risk the creation of such a world.

All art is theft.

All art is truth.

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Children, to have or to have not: be childless for the environment?

WtD's garden: winter vegetables on display for every passer by to see

WtD’s garden: winter vegetables on display for  all to see

The topic of children frequently comes up in the climate discussion.

Not merely about the kind of future the children of today – and future generations – will inherit, but should people be even having children at all?

Such thinking stems from the belief there are “too many people” on the planet; if we simply reduced our numbers it will mitigate our species environmental impact.

It’s a fraught debate to say the least.

However I wanted to write as a parent concerned about climate change, but also sympathetic to those who express this view.

Let me begin: the decision to have, or not have, a child is one of the most significant decisions an individual can make. I know, I’m the parent of a 5-year-old.

To have a child – or not – cannot be labelled a selfless or selfish act. We all have the right to control our life and bodies – regardless of gender, age, race, and sexual orientation. The question about having children is personal. No one should answer it for you.

But the question people sometimes ask is how much difference will it make to the environment if they remained childless? And is that the only course of action?

To answer this question, let’s start with some perspective.

All organisms – regardless of the species – leave an imprint and shape the Earth. Humanity does, so do ants and so do microbes. All life shapes the biosphere – life is an integral component of the climate system itself. Consider the role of plants in regulating the climate. But also consider the impact humanity is having: changing the atmosphere and ushering one of the six major mass extinction events of the last 560 million years.

Those who understand the deep history of the Earth and the climate know how radically different the planet has been over the vast eons. Remove humanity from the planet, and the climate will continue to change.

What matters to us – today – is the type of change we are inducing. How fast, how disruptive and how much potential suffering will these changes induce?

Thus to my mind, the question about having children is framed incorrectly.

Let me rephrase it thus: is having any impact negative?

My response: no, not at all.

Even if we substantially reduce the individual carbon footprint of every person on the planet, we will continue to have an impact at the local, regional and global level.

What matters is the scale of the impact an individual or community has. It is not the numbers of individuals that matter, it their level of consumption and resource use. 

If you move through world disregarding the impact you have, thoughtless about the harm you are inflicting it does not matter if you have a child or not.

A childless CEO flying from point to point in their Learjet, driving a SUV and investing in the fossil fuel industry will do more harm than 1000 families living modestly and within environmental constraints.

Help life find the places to grow

Car park converted into productive space for growing food

Car park converted into productive space for growing food

Let me tell you a story.

A few weekends back my five-year old daughter and I were tending our vegetable patch.

We started growing it with neighbors in the front yard of our apartment, right on the street. Anyone who walks past can see the vegetable patch (see the photo above). I’ve seen people grab a sprig of rocket – and that’s OK.

As we tended our garden people stopped to talk. Others smiled as they walked past. My daughter helped, but really she spent a couple of hours playing in the mud. I planted an olive tree. I’m hoping it will fruit in a few years so I can start preserving my own home grown olives.

Out the back of the apartment complex you’ll find the spaces for the residents cars – a grey, flat and dull expanse of concrete. But in places the concrete is cracked, exposing the soil beneath.

A neighbor planted a cherry tomato plant in one of those cracks – it flourished, yielding the most delicious fruit. All during summer my daughter and I ate cherry tomatoes fresh of the vine. Food from a place were the only plants normally to be found are invasive weeds.

And why shouldn’t we plant food in that space?

It is merely a matter of perspective and convention that tells us certain spaces are for certain things.

Life can grow anywhere: sometimes it is our role to help life find those cracks in the pavement. In doing so we make something wonderful.

Through this simple activity of helping the garden grow I’ve come to know my neighbors; my daughter learns something about where food comes from; we all share fresh food.

This is what it means to be human: we are social creatures. We flourish when we belong to a community.

As a parent you experience both joy and hardship: but overall, children bring delight. Children bring joy. This is part of being human.

And yet I would stress (just as strongly) one can also live a joyous and flourishing life without being a parent. I know many such people, and regard their choices as valid. The lives they live are just as flourishing. At times, especially when parenting is hard, I envy their freedom from the responsibility of child rearing.

But that makes me human.

You can tread lightly: even as a parent

I live in the inner city: I use public transport, I sometimes walk to work and have a hybrid car. I cycle to social engagements. I’m active in the climate discussion.

I’ve changed my life in accordance to my values: but I’ve not made myself poorer in any way.

I work for a large company, but I restrict flying for meetings: I video-conference. I enjoy my role in a large professional services firm and receive a decent salary; I do not reject the free market outright, though I believe it needs to be appropriately regulated.

Ditching a large mortgage and most of the trappings of consumption was liberating. I don’t have a TV.

I’ve not sacrificed – I’ve gained.

I save more, have less stress and more time by having a smaller place.

In doing so I’ve rediscovered the insights philosophers over the centuries have extolled – live modestly; reflect on your actions; act ethically; the rest will follow.

What matters is the life you wish to lead – what will make that a flourishing life?

Only the individual can answer that. Picture that life, work towards it.

You can tread lightly – that can be done as a parent, or by making the valid choice not to be.

Remember, to have a child is not to commit oneself or your child to a life of mindless consumption.

You have a choice – you can teach your child to have the skills to make valid choices.

What better legacy is there but teaching your child about the universe, their responsibilities to others and the environment?

When they grow up, they may go into the world and teach others.

The legacy we leave does not have to be one of abstinence, or sacrifice only.

What matters is what you choose to value.

There are many paths and options open to you: don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The rest will follow.


[Note: I will watch the comments on this post carefully, NO debates about how climate change is a conspiracy between Greens and those advocating a radical eugenics program to de-populate the Earth. If comments becomes too “heated” offending posters will be banned.]

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Global climate agreements: useful, next to useless or completely useless? (Reprint)

A very interesting article on The Conversation today by Luke Kemp at the ANU – insightful, and very much in line with my own thinking. Enjoy!

Universal and useless? The 2015 global climate agreement

By Luke Kemp

It looks as though everyone will be happy to sign the next global climate agreement, due in 2015. Why? Because there will be very little in the agreement that will force countries to act on climate change.

The most recent climate negotiations in Germany – which I attended as a researcher to observe negotiations and interview negotiators on the topic of decision making and climate governance – focused on designing the next global climate agreement. The negotiations gave some worrying signs on where the international community is going.

A recent trend in politics and academia has been to look at the next global climate agreement in terms of three aspects: ambition, compliance and participation. But all is not well with this holy trinity. Tensions exist, particularly between participation on the one hand, and ambition and compliance on the other.

Simply put, trying to get complete global participation could lead to a weak laws and low emissions-reduction targets.

New Zealand observed this tension on the opening day of negotiations. If there is a top-down agreement where emissions reductions are scientifically determined and then distributed among countries, New Zealand worried it would be difficult to get all parties involved. But a bottom-up model in which countries choose their own targets won’t create the ambition to stop the dangerous impacts of climate change. They quickly declared participation was of “first and foremost” importance for the 2015 agreement.

Universal participation, flexibility and respect for “national circumstances” are quickly becoming the commandments of international climate negotiations. These are also the main priorities for Australia and its allies in negotiations.

Along with others such as Canada, the US, New Zealand, Norway and Japan, Australia is part The Umbrella Group of industrialised non-EU countries. The group is renowned for being a “spoiler” of negotiations and has been exceptional in influencing the international dialogue and outcomes on climate. The discussions on the 2015 agreement have been no exception.

The Umbrella Group’s primary goal is making sure any future agreement has the right aspects to allow Umbrella Group parties to join. This is clear from their submissions to the climate negotiations.

A few ideas tend to reappear throughout the official submissions of Umbrella Group members. Norway emphasises the importance of guaranteeing “broad participation“ through having flexible arrangements for countries to meet their emissions targets.

The US has renewed calls for its “pledge and review” system by declaring that if parties choose their own “nationally appropriate” targets it will actually increase ambition. The idea that self-determined targets will lead to ambitious mitigation defies both logic and the history of the climate negotiations. But Australia is pushing the same argument, putting forward the idea of “national schedules” where countries can inscribe their own targets along with timelines and policies for meeting them.

From the Australian perspective, insisting on a bottom-up approach is logical. It keeps us close to the US and fits our own domestic circumstances.

The Liberal party is highly favoured to win the next federal election. Tony Abbott has promised to repeal the carbon tax and dismantle the Department of Climate Change (which just so happens to contain Australia’s negotiating team).

Even if Abbott fails to abolish the carbon tax, Australia will not be looking to increase its national emission targets anytime soon. The man who once described climate change as “absolute crap” is unlikely to be open to ratifying a progressive global climate agreement.

Some other members of the Umbrella Group find themselves in similar positions. The US already has major institutional hurdles in ratifying any international treaty that doesn’t involve trading things or blowing them up. On top of that they have oppositional political system which can’t even agree to background checks on gun buyers, let alone a global climate deal. Even Australian economist Ross Garnaut told diplomats during a special workshop at the negotiations that no-one could really believe the US would ratify a legally binding climate deal in 2015.

There is a common thread among most members of the Umbrella Group: domestic constraints are severely limiting what they can agree to internationally. So, instead they want their national realities to shape the next global agreement. From their perspective, national concerns should shape the global regime, not vice versa.

Trying to appease and include parties such as Australia will likely lead to a lowest-common-denominator outcome. It happened with Kyoto when the protocol was significantly weakened to accommodate the US who could then not ratify it.

If we are not careful then history may repeat itself. We need to be aware that getting everyone on board may very well sink the next climate agreement.

Luke Kemp receives funding from an Australian Postgraduate Award and a DAAD Research Grant. He is affiliated with the Earth System Governance Project and the Fenner School of Environment and Society.

The Conversation

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

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Crank alert! Organisers of the Oregon petition also have a cure for cancer


The recent paper by Cook et.al demonstrating the 97% consensus among the climate scientists has generated considerable angst among climate sceptic movement.

However, rather than accepting the research they’ve resorted to denial – see here for Anthony Watt’s particularly amusing response.

Perth sceptic and conspiracy theorist Jo Nova has pulled out the old Oregon Petition Project arguing that 31,000 scientists don’t agree with the consensus:

You want authority? Skeptics can name 31,500 scientists who agree, including 9,000 PhDs, 45 NASA experts (including two astronauts who walked on the moon) and two Nobel Prize winners in physics.

I won’t bore you with yet another dissection of this deeply flawed petition, but simply direct you to DeSmogBlog.

However, what I find curious is the credentials of originators of the petition project: the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM).

Firstly, this grandly named organisation operates out of what can only be described charitably as a shed:


Ok – perhaps it is not fair to judge a book by its cover.

They could be doing some amazing, cutting edge research in their shed in rural Oregon (not to disparage what is most likely a charming part of the world).

So let’s be fair and evaluate the bona fides of the OISM by the quality of the research they conduct. After all they claim to conduct research into the following:

Current projects include work on the deamidation of peptides and proteins as it relates to fundamental biochemistry and to protein aggregation diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease; research on improved techniques for medical diagnosis; improvement in precollege education curricula, especially in the sciences; and improved civilian emergency preparedness.

In other words they sell kits to survive a nuclear war.

More interestingly they claim to have found a cure for cancer. No really they do.

Let me step you through this discovery of mine.

First, let’s start at the OISM homepage:


Note the left hand navigation menu and the option “Nutrition and Cancer”? This is what you get after clicking on the link:


Note the text:

This website presents a paper on Nutrition and Cancer that may well be the most important information a cancer patient can find to help him fight this dread disease.

Clicking the link takes you to yet another page:


Let me say for the record, this is really bad web design: three-click-rule be damned.

They’ve buried the “most important information a cancer patient can find” in a thicket of interlinked pages lacking a consistent design or user experience. It’s like they don’t want you to find it!

Eventually you get to the following essay subtitled “Beating cancer with a diet of raw fruits and vegetables.”

Let me quote:

A surgeon telephoned me to ask some questions about this diet. During the conversation, he told me why he had become interested in it (to the great displeasure of his colleagues).

A patient had come to him in whose throat was growing a completely inoperable and soon-to-be-fatal cancer. He told the patient that there was nothing he could do for him and that he would soon die.

The patient, however, went to Ann Wigmore’s establishment and started eating their initial diet of strictly raw fruits and vegetables. He pursued this fanatically, however, and never switched to Wigmore and Hunsberger’s phase-two diet including additional staples.

Many months later, the patient returned to the surgeon. The surgeon told me that there were three things that were unusual about this patient.

1. He was back. He should already have been long dead.

2. There was not a trace of cancer in his throat.

3. He looked like he had just stepped out of a Nazi or Communist concentration camp. The patient was almost dead of malnutrition. He was a walking skeleton.

The surgeon nursed him back to good nutritional health – but the cancer never returned.

Note the anecdotal and highly suspect nature of this claim: neither the surgeon nor patient is named. As far as personal testimonials go, that’s pretty p*ss weak.

Oh and the cancer – like totally gone.

Like it was never there…

Wooooooooooh waaaah woooh!

Amazing right?

Just so you know, the “raw fruit and vegetable” diet is pure alternative-medicine crapola.

What they are suggesting is a version of a macrobiotic diet: as far as science is concerned, it is totally implausible as a cure. Actually, it may be dangerous to cancer patients who elect to follow it.

It is one of the many alternative cures to cancer sold by hucksters who prey on those dealing with a life threatening disease.

This is yet another variation of the “extreme diet” cure, which the Cancer Council of Victoria (CCV) notes:

There are hundreds of alternative cancer therapies. You may hear about them from friends and family, or come across them in books, on the Internet or on radio, TV, etc. There is no science-based evidence to prove they can treat, control or cure any type of cancer.

There is some evidence a balanced diet – that includes raw fruit and vegetables – can help reduce the risk of some cancers.

But what our friends at the OISM claim is what experts in the field call “woo”.

To quote the CCV, promoters of such therapies are acting unethically:

Unfortunately, there are people who falsely promote treatments which don’t work or are even dangerous as ‘cancer cures.’ There are also people who wrongly claim that mainstream or conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapies don’t work. These people are acting unethically.

Whose opinion do you trust?

The peer-reviewed work of John and his team, or the “We have a cure for cancer!” woo from the cranks at OISM?


[Note: I will not be sanctioning a discussion on the merits alternative treatments: the evidence against them is compelling. Nor will I allow this bog to be hijacked by promoters of therapies known to be dangerous to people undergoing treatment for cancer and/or other serious illnesses.] 


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Stopped clocks, bad debts and climate sceptics: or why the latest paper on climate sensitivity does not vindicate the sceptics (nor suggests complacency)


For those who pay attention to minutiae of the climate debate, you may have noticed the denial-blog-sphere is all-a-flutter with claims of “Sceptics proven right.”

This source of this self-congratulation among the sceptics is a recently published paper in Nature Geoscience titled Energy budget constraints on climate response by Alexander Otto et al [doi:10.1038/ngeo1836].

I was able to source a copy of the paper and took the time to appraise how it could possibly be the source of so much sceptic excitement.

Let me quote from the paper so that you may judge whether-or-not the sceptics have been vindicated:  

“The rate of global mean warming has been lower over the past decade than previously. It has been argued that this observation might require a downwards revision of estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity, that is, the long-term (equilibrium) temperature response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations…”

The paper notes:

“The most likely value of equilibrium climate sensitivity based on the energy budget of the most recent decade is 2.0 °C, with a 5–95% confidence interval of 1.2–3.9 °C…”

From this, sceptics have claimed the death knell of climate science. Having read it, the take home points are for me are:

  • the oceans have been sequestering a great deal of heat – much more and much more rapidly than we thought 
  • that will come to an end at some point in the future, with the heat coming back out as the climate system tries to reach a point of equilibrium (note: as the atmosphere and oceans exchange heat)
  • the rate of warming for the last decade has been at the lower end of model projections
  • thus in the short-term the climate may warm 20% more slowly than previously expected (i.e. transient climate response)
  • even though we may not see some of the extremes predicted in earlier models, a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration opens the door for an average temperature increase of +/- 4.0C.

Good news story and the death knell of the climate conspiracy?


The research is not that a radical departure from the results of climate science, but consistent with other work within the field.

It is also worth noting the paper does not take into consideration tipping points or other anticipated positive feedback mechanisms such as increased methane emissions – the release of vast quantities of this most potent greenhouse gas from beneath the Arctic tundra due to warming.

A small and maybe irrelevant point? Must likely not.

Indeed there are a quite few nasty surprises like methane out-gassing lurking out there – things known but generally avoided in many models (the planets decreasing albedo effect as the extent of the Arctic ice decreases anyone – anyone?).

It will be worth watching the research on climate sensitivity over the coming years: at least form the perspective of how policy makers, sceptics and the public react to this informaiton.

Just how fast, and how extreme, will the warming be?

A very interesting question indeed.  

Bad “climate” debts accumulating: no time for complacency

A 2.0C-4.0C increase in average temperatures will have a significant impact on large parts of the globe, if not devastating large swathes of it.

As the oceans draw down heat it will fuel their thermal expansion, a major driver of projected sea level rise. Nor will the oceans continue to do humanity a favour by acting as endless sink for the additional heat we’re adding to the climate system.

Crop production around the mid-latitudes is going to be hit hard, which incidentally is where most of humanity resides. Remember the aforementioned sea level rise? Many millions in the mid-latitudes will be forced to relocate.

But hey, wheat production will increasingly shift to Canada and the Arctic circle. You win some, lose some right?

Like avoiding a bad debt by taking out another high interest credit card to cover your repayments, this warming is going to raise its ugly head in the future. One may avoid paying your debts in the short-term, but at some point the Sheriff will come a-knocking and take the keys to your car and what personal property you have.

Likewise, the climate will come and “ask” us for the debt we “owe it”.

Things like coastal cities and productive farmlands will be the collateral confiscated to service the “warming debt” our species is accumulating.

Perhaps we’ve gained a little extra time – a tiny window of opportunity really – to bring down greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps we have more time to plan adaptation measures.

Whatever the case, the window for action is still narrow: this research is not cause for complacency.

Sadly I fear laggard policy makers and the mischievous will see it as such, and continue to push the cause of inaction.

Deep time, deep history, climate change and living through interesting times

Let’s also place this “pause in warming” in context.

In geologic terms, the rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 and the warming trend is unprecedented in the planet’s history.

It is vital we stop thinking in terms of a climate change as the up-or-down temperature swings of a particular decade. We accuse sceptics of cherry picking; likewise we need to remove our own myopic filters.

We need to pay far closer attention to the paleoclimate record: as James Hansen has recently argued, we cannot fully appreciate the profound changes the planet is undergoing without drawing on the lessons of the geologic past.

Nor should we disregard the warming oceans, the decline of Arctic sea ice and the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere – and the many other metrics – all point to the same conclusion: warming has not stopped.

Perhaps it is the own cognitive limitations and the transient nature of how we experience time that creates such a short-sighted and myopic view of climate change.

I suggest we think in terms of both deep time and deep history.

2.5 billion years from now, should our descendants or a successor species of comparable intelligence dig into the Earth’s crust they’ll find evidence of our civilisation: but not in artifacts or fossils.

Instead they will note the abrupt disappearance of species in the fossil record (evidence of a mass extinction event) and the changed chemical composition of ocean floor and terrestrial sediments.

The evidence will point to a warmer world relative to other periods within geologic history. Billions of years into the future, a faint but still distinguishable trace of humanity’s impact will be evident. 

That’s how profound and long-lasting the changes humanity has wrought are.

We’ve not seen this level of CO2 in the atmosphere in millions of years: most recently during the mid-Pliocene (5.3-2.5 million years ago).

At that point the average temperature was 3.0C-4.0C higher, while sea levels were 25 meters higher.

However, we won’t have the luxury of billions of years of perspective to ponder what happened: we’ll be living through those profound planet-shaping and epoch-defining changes.

Actually, we are living through those planet-shaping and epoch-defining changes.

Of stopped clocks and claims the planet is no longer warming

What also interests me is the sceptic response.

As anticipated, they’ve misinterpreted the paper and claimed it as vindication of their views.

My response to that is even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day.

It’s well understood the rate of temperature change has varied over the last 150 years: to claim such a pause is evidence against warming is to merely be right by chance, and not for the reasons the sceptics likes to claim.

The sceptics are in no way vindicated: a slower rise in land temperatures does not imply climate change has stopped, or was “exaggerated”.

Indeed, lead author of the paper Alexander Otto makes that point in an interview with The Guardian:

“Otto said that this most recent pattern could not be taken as evidence that climate change has stopped. “Given the noise in the climate and temperature system, you would need to see a much longer period of any pause in order to draw the conclusion that global warming was not occurring,” he said. Such a period could be as long as 40 years of the climate record, he said…”

Sage advice the sceptics are won’t to ignore.

Which of course they do…

Perth’s resident climate sceptic and conspiracy theorist Jo Nova is the most self-congratulatory, breathlessly announcing they (sceptics) where right all along:

I think the climate sensitivity figure is still too high but it’s good to see estimates being revised in the right direction. Reality bites back. The deniers were ahead of the climate experts. We said the models were exaggerating and we were right.

Andrew Bolt in his usual fashion is not even close to being wrong claiming “alarmists” have finally admitted defeat:

Sure, warmists exaggerated the temperature rise so far, The Age finally admits. But we still have to believe they’ll be right about the apocalypse to come:

The rate of global warming caused by rising greenhouse gas levels could be slower than previously thought, but will still result in the same eventual higher temperatures as earlier forecast, new research has found.

Note also the story suggests there has been a “rate of global warming” over the past decade, without actually telling you what it is. If the reporter did, he’d have to admit there’s been no warming at all…

Bolt completely misrepresents the results of this paper; his view that there has been no warming is completely contradicted by Otto’s statements – whose work Bolt seeks to misappropriate to support his fallacious argument.

Bolt also gets it spectacularly wrong in his first sentence: no one is revising historical temperature increases down (as his wording implies), they are revising the short-term (i.e. transient) rise in the global temperature average slightly down over the coming decades.

Global warming has not stopped; it just may have hit a very small and minor speed bump. It is virtually certain to pick up speed again. 

Thus it would seem Mr. Bolt is struggling with such basic concepts as the past and future. But, hey like whatever Andrew: us warmists have always got it wrong.

I’m sure he got his “facts” from Watts up with That? or some other climate sceptic blog and they fitted nicely with his prejudices – he tags the post “Dud predictions” without fully appreciating what he is posting.  

Sorry to disappoint Andrew, but we’re still heading towards a much warmer world.

The sceptic response: the enemy of my enemy is the fact we can cherry pick

What’s remarkable here is not the paper itself, but the sceptic response. Indeed, their response is ripe with irony.

For decades sceptics have claimed the models constructed by climate scientists are unreliable and not to be trusted.

And yet, when a model or a piece of research shares the barest hint of concordance with their views they proclaim it as a victory for sceptics.

It seems the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies. 

To paraphrase in sceptic terms, “the enemy of my enemy is the facts I can cherry pick”.

Sceptic victory?


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Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: Plimer’s book sold 40k copies, ergo climate change not true (part 4 of 11)


More convincing then Plimer’s Heaven+Earth (if you go by sales)

[Part 4 of 11]

Summary of Bolt’s argument: Climate sceptic Ian Plimer sold lots of copies of his book Heaven+Earth. Ergo climate change is not real.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt commits a classic logical fallacy – the argument from popularity. If truth was based solely on the sales of a book, then the Da Vinci code must be extra true for selling 80 million copies.

Logical fallacies present: Argumentum ad populum (x1)

I’m going to jump ahead to Andrew’s 10th sign as it is the easiest to dispel – and perhaps the most farcical.

Bolt’s claim: “That wall is now breaking. Dissent is being heard, with Professor Ian Plimer’s sceptical Heaven and Earth alone selling more than 40,000 copies here. Yes, the world may start warming again. Yes, our emissions may be partly to blame. But, no, this great scare is unforgivable. It’s robbed us of cash and, worse, our reason. Thank God for the 10 signs that this madness is over.”

Response: We can easily dispatch Bolt’s last claim as an example of a logical fallacy: argumentum ad populum. To translate form the Latin, “appeal to the people”.

By claiming the popularity of a belief Andrew argues it must be true.

Dan Brown’s conspiracy tome the Da Vinci Code sold 80 million copies and was made into a film. Compared to Plimer’s paltry sales of 40,000 the Da Vinci Code must be extra, extra-true. After all, how could 80 million Dan Brown fans be wrong?

Putting aside Andrew’s argument it is worth noting that Plimer’s book is riddled with errors. Scientists who have reviewed it have dismissed it as case study in “how not to be objective”.

Ian Enting, a mathematical physicist from the University of Melbourne reviewed Plimer’s book and found over 100 errors.

In a review published in The Australian, astrophysicist Michael Ashely stated Heaven+Earth contained “no science” and noted Plimer drew upon some ludicrous examples of pseudo-science:

Plimer probably didn’t expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn’t help noticing on page 120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.

It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Selling 40,000 copies of Heaven+Earth must make Plimer’s claim about the sun true.

One million people visit Andrew Bolt’s blog: that makes everything Bolt says true. 

Justin Bieber has sold over 15 million albums: this makes him the greatest artist in the history of the world.

I mean, who can argue with 15 million Bieber fans?

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Obama retweets Cook paper finding 97% scientists agree AGW real to 31 million followers

John Cook and his team should be congratulated:

Now that is making a difference to the public understanding of science.

John is also interviewed on CNN“The opponents of climate action have been really good at amplifying…. the voices of the 3%”



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Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: false claims about the planet not warming and cherry picking his facts (part 3 of 11)

Summary of Bolt’s argument: The world has stopped warming; a famous scientist states this; even the IPCC makes this claim.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt cherry picks his data.

Logical fallacies present: Cherry picking (x2); association fallacy (x1).


Bolt’s claim: “Yes, the planet warmed about 0.7 degrees last century, but then halted. Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world’s most famous climate scientist, has argued for two years that “there has been no warming since 1997″. Others date the pause as late as 2000.”

Response: Andrew begins his list of 10 signs the global warming scare is “over” with an egregious falsehood which has been debunked more times that can be counted: the myth that warming stopped in 1997.

One of the sources for this myth is a 2012 Mail on Sunday article by David Rose. I won’t cover the same ground so many others already have. However I would point readers to the following:

As Gleick’s article notes, it is an example of cherry picking facts – its both a logical fallacy and intellectually dishonest.

Bolt – and sceptics who make the same claim – ignore the even more compelling evidence of a warming planet: rising levels of ocean heat content.

Bolt only refers to land temperatures, data that pertains to only 29% of the planet’s surface.

The other 71% of the planet is covered by water.

As this graph from Skeptical Science indicates warming has not paused, but is accelerating:

Note the warming of both oceans to 700 metres and below.

Bolt tries to bolster his claim by associating it with the views of “the world’s most famous climate scientist” Richard Lindzen.

Once again, Andrew Bolt employs another logical fallacy – the fallacy of association. His argument is no more valid than this:

Richard Lindzen likes cheese flavoured corn chips: Richard is famous. Therefore, cheese flavoured corn chips are the tastiest.

By associating a value with Lindzen – his fame – Bolt hopes to persuade the reader that his argument that the world stopped warming in 2007 is factual.

Lindzen’s fame has nothing to do with the truth of the claim: it is no more persuasive than stating Lindzen enjoys a particular kind of corn chip.

Even the IPCC admits the world has stopped warming?

Claim: “Even the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted in its latest draft report that while its usual measurements of global temperature found some warming trends since 1998, “none of these are statistically significant”.

Response: The last sentence contains a blatant example of cherry picking. While it is now difficult to obtain a copy of the leaked documents, the IPCC did not “admit” the planet had stopped warming.

If anything AR5 further confirms humanities role as virtually certain in causing climate change, as this article from The Conversation notes:

“The draft report, which was still undergoing a peer review process, said that “there is consistent evidence from observations of a net energy uptake of the earth system due to an imbalance in the energy budget.”

“It is virtually certain that this is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations…”

Bolt has merely lifted a single phrase from thousands of pages and used it to misrepresent the conclusions of the IPCC.

Cherry picked facts, falsehoods and logical fallacies.

And this is only the first of Bolt’s ten signs.

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