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Hamilton: ABC’s latest climate change doco another PR victory for doubters

The strategy of doubt-mongering has been highly effective for climate deniers at exploiting the media’s practice of presenting “two sides” to controversial issues. The media have an ethical commitment to provide “balance” and stories are more interesting if there is a conflict to report, whether that conflict is real or manufactured.

Which is why ABC TV’s I Can Change Your Mind … About Climate Change is yet another victory for climate denial even before it goes to air this Thursday. The documentary pits former Liberal senator Nick Minchin, who famously claimed that climate science is a communist plot, against youthful climate change activist Anna Rose, and just like 2007’s The Great Global Warming Swindle, the ABC will air a special panel devoted to the program entitled Q&A: The Climate Debate to discuss the documentary after it airs.

Minchin and Rose will be joined by mining magnate Clive Palmer, chief executive of the CSIRO Dr Megan Clark and social researcher and writer Rebecca Huntley.

The premise of the film, commissioned by the ABC, and the accompanying panel, suggests that there is a genuine debate about climate science. But as there is in fact no debate in the scientific literature about the main propositions of climate science, the ABC is hoodwinking its viewers.

If there were a real debate among scientists, then the climate deniers would be publishing their counter-evidence in the professional scientific journals. But they are not, because they do not have evidence that will stand up to scrutiny.

So they set out to do something else, to create the impression in the public mind that there is a serious debate among scientists about global warming. To do so they must shift the terrain away from the scientific journals and into the popular media, where they do not have to face the scrutiny of experts.

It’s certain that when asked last year to participate in the program, Minchin grabbed the chance with two hands. His denialist comrades have been patting him on the back ever since.

Several well-qualified scientists could see the program for what it was and refused the invitation to “debate” Minchin. But has Rose, who has been widely and rightly praised for co-founding the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, undone much of her good work by allowing herself to be enticed onto the television screen? Rose has written a book about the experience and she has told The Sydney Morning Herald, “I went into it with an open mind - but I answer the questions about climate change based on the science.

The ABC will argue that in presenting “both sides” viewers will be able to make up their own minds. For issues such as euthanasia, capital punishment or conflict in the Middle East, that is legitimate. But the subject of this debate is a complex body of science that only those with advanced training in a relevant discipline can properly understand and assess.

Would the ABC commission a program titled I Can Change Your Mind on … the Theory of Relativity? Is its next program I Can Change Your Mind on … Evolution in which an unqualified creationist debates the evidence with an unqualified “believer” in evolution?

Yet in this case — where the stakes are enormous, no less than the survival of the civilised world — the ABC takes the view that climate science is a fun topic for debate and has pitched against each other two people with zero expertise and no authority.

When the program goes to air, the bevy of deniers at the Lavoisier Group, the Institute of Public Affairs, and the Skeptics Party will be shouting “Sucked in ABC”. And they will have good reason to celebrate.

The ABC knows all of this. I and others have pointed it out many times. Scholars such as Naomi Oreskes have exposed the tactics of the climate deniers with a mass of documentary evidence.

Yet the ABC persists with the charade of “providing balance”. Some news organisations abroad have decided they will no longer fall for the doubt-mongering ruse. Professional pride now prevents editors and journalists from being manipulated by the denial machine.

The BBC would not air a program such as this. In the United States, National Public Radio has revised its ethics handbook. “Our goal,” it states, “is not … to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.”

When it reports on questions such as climate science its aim is not the spurious fairness of presenting “both sides”; instead NPR commits itself to be “fair to the truth”.

To be fair to the truth.” Once we simply expected that of the national broadcaster. This latest program tells us that the truth no longer carries so much weight at the ABC, not when it comes to climate science.

*Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra.

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  • 1
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Balance? That means giving knuckle scrapers and wishful thinkers equal time apparently.

    Imagine trying to change Nick Minchin’s mind on anything at all. Even he can’t change his mind. So I feel that poor Rose was set up from the start really.

    Still it’s a chance to get the facts out - to expose the sort of irrational notions and praying underneath the skeptic/denial position - which I’m sure Nick does most eloquently.

    I can’t bear to watch Q & A at the best of times … so much contrived “balance” it distorts the public debate … as if anyone could take a Blot or a Devine seriously enough to give them oxygen.

  • 2
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Great article. When you look at the panel the debate is resolved before they even opeen their mouths, the CSIRO on the side of climate change and Clive Palmer & Nick Minchin against, only one qualified opinion.

  • 3
    Michael
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you @CLIVE
    Any opportunity provided for the sensible majority to debunk your bullshit cannot be good for your business.
    Ignore, them, pretend they don’t exist & pray to Gaia that the cheques keep coming.

  • 4
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Crikey true to form- privileging this shallow, repetitive propagandist yet again.

    No mention on this website that James Lovelock disembarked at Cork from the ideological Titanic of climate millenarianism:

    (Lovelock) previously painted some of the direst visions of the effects of climate change. In 2006, in an article in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, he wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

    and

    It will also reflect his new opinion that global warming has not occurred as he had expected.
    “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

    “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

    He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.”

  • 5
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Frank - Let’s look at the quotes you have posted - ““The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium” & “carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” So thee climate has warmed since 2000, on top of considerable warming in the previous decades and carbon dioxide is rising.

    When you consider all credible scientists are predicting a 2 degree rise as being too much how does “not vey much” impact the climate and what is it’s quantity.

  • 6
    Simon Mansfield
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy - go read the full interview with Lovelock on MSNBC

    http:// worldnews.msnbc.msn. com/_news/2012/04/23/11144098-gaia-scientist-james-lovelock-i-was-alarmist-about-climate-change?lite

    Remove the white spaces.

    But like NASA’s James Hansen - Lovelock backs nuclear power as the key solution for baseload power - which makes him politically incorrect.

  • 7
    Simon Mansfield
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    The really scary thing about Hamilton is that he teaches public ethics despite being a fully badged member of the “Thought Police” .

    I’m guessing Madlands is a play on Gaslands making it a bad title for many reasons.

  • 8
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    SImon Mansfield - That would be the interview where he says the climate is still warming just not as fast as he orginally predicted.

    His original predictions were extreme, to say that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen so we don’t need to worry is naive. There are a lot of negative consequences of slower than expected warming before we get to virtual extinction.

  • 9
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I see Frank Campbell is regurgitating the latest denialist talking point. There is a concerted push by the denialists before the carbon-price comes into effect because after that all their scaremongering will be exposed as overblown.

    Lovelock is now 92 and was always a contrarian. His previous views didn’t represent the maintream opinion on climate-science anyway. I’m surprised Frank and Simon didn’t mention the vox-pop of retired NASA administrators and technicians - maybe that was last months meme to be discarded when the reality of their true level of expertise in climate-science was uncovered.

  • 10
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Think Big- From the interview all it seemed that he was doing was moving from his original extreme position to a more mainstream one anyway, he says he isn’t a denier, he says global warming is happening just not as fast as he originally thought, and he says humans can make a difference, hardly seems to be jumping of the Titanic as Frank claims.

  • 11
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    If there were a real debate among scientists, then the climate deniers would be publishing their counter-evidence in the professional scientific journals.”

    Lots of examples of skeptics publishing papers in scientific journals. For example, prominant skeptics like Roger Pielke Senior (meterology), S Fred Singer (atmospheric physics), Ross McKitrick (economics), Richard S. Lindzen (atmospheric physics), Willie Soon (astrophysics) , J Scott Armstrong (Statistics) and 100 others have all published multiple papers in legitimate scientific journals (Energy and Environment, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Geophysical Research Letters and Climate Research)
    There is still a lot of discussion going on in the scientific community regarding the science of climate change and the various feedbacks that influence temperature, especially cloud effects. Who ever says the science is settled doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  • 12
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Scott - I am not going to pretend I have read any of those papers but do an economist an astro physicist and a Statistician really have the qualifications to be considered experts (I haven’t ever heard of atmospheric physics so I assume they have the relevant knowledge)?

    To me it would be like backing Michael Clarke to win the brownlow, after all he is one of the country’s elite sportsmen.

  • 13
    James Hastings
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    @ Jimmy

    You Write
    “do an economist an astro physicist and a Statistician really have the qualifications to be considered experts”

    Experts in what? Climate Science I presume. So what if they aren’t ‘experts’ in Climate science. The history of science is littered with examples if the experts been proven wrong. Example Alfred Wegener who first came up with the theory of Plate Tectonics, was a meterologist not a geologist, and was widely ridiculed for his ideas. He was right and the ‘experts’ were wrong.

    Science is about evidence… not tallies of how many phd’s and experts support on conclusion or another.

  • 14
    ewaterford
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Scott - I don’t think anyone accepts that we understand Climate Change completely. The degree to which it will affect us is still ‘not settled’. But the concept that it isn’t real, or won’t affect us at all is settled - as a complete rejection of basic science.

  • 15
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Have to agree wholeheartedly that the ABC’s charter is not to provide “balanced” coverage. It is to facilitate the public presentation of the evidence-based arguments of all sides in support of objective debate.

    How you could rate Minchin as even vaguely qualified to present science based evidence is hard for me to understand, but hopefully who ever is moderating this farce does hold both sides to account for presenting evidence rather than opinion.

  • 16
    bill.wilson
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Hamilton is on the money - the debate is little more than the same tired old contrarians engaging in mutual mass-debating. Why dont you mass-debaters take a gander at the editorial, and then a couple of the research papers, in Nature volume 484, 5 April 2012. For your convenience here are a couple of salient extracts:

    Two papers in Nature this week highlight the extent to which human activity is influencing global climate, and underline the need for continued scrutiny of the problem.”

    Jeremy Shakun and his Harvard colleagues show on page 49, carbon dioxide does drive atmospheric warming. Uncontroversial stuff, perhaps, yet the link continues to be be questioned by people who would play down the risks of human greenhouse-gas emissions.”

    Indeed, Hamilton is in very good company.

    As for you contrarians, I’ve changed my mind: Dont bother reading research papers in Nature - you wont understand them. Better to ask a scientist instead.

  • 17
    James Hastings
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    @ Think Big

    I’m a little unclear about you post. Are you suggesting that NASA administrators and technicians, retired or otherwise, don’t know anything about science? You see Vox-Pop means voice of the people as in a street interview with someone from the general public. I would think that interviews with Nasa admins and techs would not count as random opinions from the street, but rather as ‘expert’ scientific testimony.

  • 18
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Although I guess part of their charter is to entertain so maybe that’s what category they think this falls under. I enjoy Q&A sometimes but I actually dont believe it advances the debate diddlysquat.

  • 19
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Evidence of the climate shifting, by small amounts but rapidly, with the rising CO2 levels increasing at the fastest rate in millennia should be enough to give anyone pause, but the rightwing have decided it’s about politics.

    I agree with Clive, this is not about ‘balance’ of the scientific data, but a confected conflict of beliefs, mixed with the usual nasty shock jock sneering and ad hominem attacks.

  • 20
    Mark M
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    It all seems a little pointless and futile to me really. Is Nick Minchin going to change his mind, when he freely admits that he does not see this as a scientific discussion at all? Nick Minchin states very clearly that he sees the theory of AGW as an attack on the “industrial system” by the left wrapped up in environmental activism.

    For those who are interested, the video with Naomi that didn’t make the cut is worth seeing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZQNiDIBxO4&feature=youtu.be

    It’s a bit like Nick being told off by his mum for being a little short-sighted and biased.

  • 21
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Economics (specifically econometrics) and statistics are at the heart of time series regression analysis, which is being used in climate papers to estimate the relationship between the the various independent variables (i.e carbon dioxide levels) and the dependent variable (temperature). Hence very relevant to studies of climate.
    As for Atmospheric physics, its the study of energy moving through the various layers of atmosphere to the ocean and back again, which is at the heart of the prevailing theory of why c02 causes air temperatures to increase. Again, extremely relevant to climate.
    As for astrophysics, the sun (a star) is a major source of all energy to the earth so is pretty important to climate and temperature.

  • 22
    Mark M
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I should also mention that a number of actual experts in the field of climate science will be commenting throughout the documentary and Q&A show.

    For more information see here:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/ABC-documentary-demonstrates-how-why-climate-denial.html

    And for the likes of Frank Campbell and Scott. Think whatever you like about the “debate”, but the chances are you are not reasoning objectively about the science of climate change, you are simply rationalising your beliefs.

  • 23
    Rohan
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who has read merchants of Doubt would quickly recognise that Scott’s post is demonstrably wrong on so many levels.

    The “Lots”, The “legitimate scientific” Journals, the credibility of the characters he cites… it’s all garbage.

  • 24
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Scott. You missed the “smiley face” when you listed “Energy and Environment” as a legitimate scientific journal. It is a trade journal with no legitimate standing in the science community. Your “experts” are on the wrong side of science and their papers are consistently debunked.

  • 25
    Mark M
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    @Scott. I can only assume that you are not an expert in the field of climate science. One would have to know a lot about climate science to be considered an expert in that field as it is very complicated. If you were truly interested in getting to the bottom of the scientific debate (or lack of) on climate science as it relates to anthropogenic global warming , you would research what the experts in the field have to say on the subject.

    You would not skim around the edges and ask economists, statisticians or astro-physicists about climate science any more than you would go to a climate scientists to ask about plate-techtonics or cellular theory. They might know some stuff about it, but it seems a little pointless when you could just ask a geologist or biologist and get a more knowledgeable opinion.

    One can only assume, therefore, that you don’t want the expert opinion on this particular topic, probably because you have already decided that it cannot be true.

  • 26
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    James Hastings- I query the experise of these authors as Scott has put them up as experts, he was the one who challenged the articles authors assertion that skeptics are not credible sccientists by putting forward these names. However if all these names are is uninformed people with degree’s in unrelated subjects then the original authors assertion remains, as Rohan suggests above.

    Scott - Many things are relevant to the studies of climate, however that does not mean that being qualified in one area makes you qualified to discuss the topic.

    Again Michael Clarke can run and catch and is elite in his field but will he win the brownlow?

  • 27
    Uncle Mareko
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Clive,
    The theme of your argument suggests that the ABC is wrong because they are encouraging scepticism when science leaves no place for it. If that’s true, we are dealing with a new type of science from that which I studied.
    When I was a student, scepticism was the essential driving virtue of scientific endeavour. Without scepticism how is scientific truth tested? Without the proof of testing any widely held scientific opinion can become dogma.
    How about a debate to address “Can I Change your Mind on Computer Projections”, in which an individual, trained only in Excel Spreadsheet projections debates with a climate scientist. That might be useful because the science of climate change is essentially about predicting the future based on an analysis of the past. It is science based on computer modelling in which key data and calculations are assumed to always be correct.

  • 28
    alex.rosser
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    There are other scientific controversies which the ABC could also address.
    Flat earth. Whilst all scientists agree that the Earth is not spherical, there is ongoing debate as to its exact shape. To many of us it is obviously flat and we would like our view heard.

    There are other issues in doubt. Such as:-
    The moon landing was filmed in a Hollywood back lot.
    Hitler escaped to South America and lived there in comfort for many years.
    Shakespeare’s play were not written by Shakespeare, but by a different guy with the same name.

  • 29
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Crikey readers are such elitists, using facts and information and logical arguments.

    Its a conspiracy against stupid.

  • 30
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    You do realise James Hansen is an astrophysicist.

  • 31
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Scott - Being an astrophysicist does not exclude you from being an expert on climate science but it also does not mean you have an knowledge on the subject what so ever.

    Again there are cricketers who could of played AFL (Alex Keath currently) or actually did play AFL/VFL (Max Walker or Simon O’Donnell) but does that mean you would back Clarke for the Brownlow?

  • 32
    LJG..............
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m keenly awaiting the show “I can change your mind about Evolution”

  • 33
    Mark M
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    @Scott

    You do realise James Hansen is an astrophysicist.

    who has been publishing peer-reviewed work in the field of atmospheric physics since the late 1960s. I am pretty confident he is considered an expert in the field. Do you refute James Hansen’s findings on AGW Scott? He’s a pretty smart guy. Lots of others do.

  • 34
    Scott
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy - True, but the fact that the skeptics mentioned have published peer review papers in climate journals would seem to indicate some expertise in the field. I don’t think their research should be attacked just because their degree is not in climate science specifically. Treat it on it’s merits.

    I also think people need to realise that not many scientists working in the climate science field (both AGW supporters and skeptics) actually have doctorates in climate science (because the field is fairly new). It’s mainly physics, meterology, geology, oceanograpy, chemistry and mathematics (which are basically the pure sciences that make up climatelogy)

  • 35
    Mark M
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Treat it on it’s merits.

    Is that what you do Scott, because a lot of those individuals and their work you mentioned earlier were taken on their merits, but then soundly refuted. There is, of course, enormous amounts of un-refuted material that demonstrates AGW is real that probably needs to be taken on it’s merits.

  • 36
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    There’s an air of desperation among Believers…as there is among the small group of computer modellers who have driven this cult since the 1990s. The latter are feverishly constructing defensive hypotheses to explain the decadal plateau in global temps (Chinese sulphur emissions, etc).

    And nothing could be more predictable than the instant denigration of Lovelock- until lunchtime today an oft-quoted high priest of the sect. Now a heretic, to be excommunicated immediately.

    Here’s one comment from the list above:
    “Lovelock is now 92 and was always a contrarian.”

    So, the elder statesman is a geriatric, and an escapee from a Monty Python argument sketch…

    and there’ll be plenty of vacuous back-tracking like this:

    There are a lot of negative consequences of slower than expected warming before we get to virtual extinction.”

    In the next few days there’ll be a tsunami of attacks on Lovelock from the Third Class passengers on the Titanic..(.the officers will let the slum dwellers do the dirty work- the Hamiltons will simply airbrush Lovelock from history)

    I’m pleased that Lovelock now agrees with me- he’s not a Denier. The Denialist side of the cult is creation of…the Believers themselves. And just look at all the unintended, awful consequences: rule by a naked Jesuit, stagnation of the Greens, empowerment of the ALP Right, encouragement of toxic corporatism in all its forms- and neglect of the daily rape of the environment…

    Truly a ship of fools…

  • 37
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    and don’t you just love this:

    Author: LJG…………..
    Comment:
    I’m keenly awaiting the show “I can change your mind about Evolution”“

    I’m always struck how divorced from the mentality of science climate millenarians are…in every thread you’ll find intellectual offal like this, along with “flat earth”, “smoking”, “gravity”….

  • 38
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Don’t miss tonight’s Tony Jones climate sitcom…with perhaps the most banal climate millenarian ever to make Crikey readers cringe- Anna Rose. Rose is also the ultimate carbon Yeti- forever flying around the world in order to save it.

  • 39
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    The question to ask any of the deniers above is “What would change your mind?”

    To me it all seems pretty simple.

    For the big picture the science is settled - global warming is happening due to humans. We have the ability to prevent warming, and if we don’t the consequences are going to be very bad.

    But it is now clear that the vested interests have been successful, and that humanity will fail to respond in time.

    Were did we go wrong? My view is that this all proves that human rationality was a myth.

    So tonight’s documentary and the Q&A that follows might be interesting to try to work out WHY the deniers are incapable of rational thought. If we are doomed, it would be nice (at least to me) to know more about why.

    So the social researcher and writer Rebecca Huntley may be the only person tonight who says something new.

  • 40
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    And since when has Q&A been anything but light-weight pap?

  • 41
    Simon Mansfield
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy et al - As the publisher of terradaily. com and other environmental and energy publications - I use to believe very strongly in climate change. However, in recent years I’ve seen too many science reports that claim to represent evidence of climate change when it’s clearly obvious that their results are well within the statistical noise signal of data results.

    On Terradaily we still publish most of the science reports on climate change - from memory we have led with such reports for most of the past month - as a rule we do not publish anything from the Heritage Foundation - or the Heartland Foundation or the IPA and their fellow travelers.

    We get abuse mail in pretty much equal amounts from both sides of the debate - though more from the anti’s as we tend to publish pro AGW warming material at a 9:1 ratio. If go out on a limb and publish something that questions AGW - there’s usually a few good whacks from the Green Thought Police.

    The whole notion that the science is settled is ridiculous. Hansen et al have made substantial changes in recent months to account for the flat line in the warming trend. Aerosols are believed to be mostly responsible along with a bigger uptake of carbon by the oceans for a slower warming trend.

    Hansen of course is very anti modeling and has spent most of the past few years working on the paleo climate record - the main problem with that is the Earth has never had a high atmospheric Co2 level and large scale glacification at the same time. So the actual feedback rates are going to be very different this time around.

    It may be that we are looking at a problem that will take a 1000 years to become serious rather than a century. If that is the case then it has huge public policy implications as technology will easily solve the problem over a time scale of a 1000 years - whereas if we have only a 100 years or so before the impact becomes very serious then the problem is clearly a lot more urgent.

    The idea that we should only listen to people graduating with climatology degrees is just plain dumb as if that was the case then we would never listened to any of the scientists like Hansen, Flannery et al who have led the science investigation for the past 30 years as none of these scientists were climatologists by training and instead entered the field from allied areas of science. [Most of science is interconnected and one of the big areas of concern in science today is over specialization and the inability to cross links different areas of science - leading to new science - an issue Hamilton should spend some time working on as it has huge ramifications for public policy]

    In the end, I remain skeptical that the climate is not changing as a result of Co2 emissions. The increases in PPM over the past century from 280/290 to 390/400 is a big jump - and it stands to reason that it will have an impact - the question for public policy makers is how fast and how much - and how much of the current mode of civilization should be disrupted to have an impact on CO2 levels.

    Hansen says we need to plant trees - lots and lots of them - to get the PPM level down to 350 asap. And use nuclear - preferably thorium reactors as the main baseload power system for this century. I agree with both of these approaches and would very much like Hamilton et al to come on board to promoting such solutions rather than berating the ABC for running a science program that dares to question the current status quo of climate science.

    For its part, Crikey by allowing the totally unqualified Keane etc to publish his diatribes against soil sequestration and reforestation has done nothing to promote a sensible debate on what to do about climate change. But given Keane spent much of 2008 and 2009 abusing Penny Wong for her work on the original ETS while lauding Bob Brown for voting it all down in November 2009 - nothing surprises me about this debate anymore.

  • 42
    Rohan
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    @Michael Wilbur-Ham.

    Am I correct in recalling that you were writing a book on this subject matter a year or so ago? What happened?

  • 43
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    @Rohan - No, I’ve never had any ambition on writing a book on this subject.

    My main contribution (apart from my posts to Crikey) was to stand as a Green’s candidate in the election which Howard lost. I stood against Costello. Costello won (and then quit shortly after).

  • 44
    Ross
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion MWH poses the most interesting question - when confronted with evidence that is now overwhelming who do deniers persist?

    Some people say that it’s corporate capitalism - especially the fossil fuel industry. Yet it took over two hundred years for the Catholic church to ‘apologise’ to those scientists who proposed the earth rotated the sun rather than vice versa - and now just a very small Flat Earth Society persists in Alaska.

    In the United States, evolution and ’ intelligent design’ usually have to be given equal time - and over 50% of the population do not accept evolution - and a staggering number believe that ‘saving the planet’ doesn’t matter because God will intervene. There is no corporate capitalism fuelling these beliefs.

    In the case of smoking causing cancer, certainly tobacco companies behaved exactly likely the mining industry is doing now. But the argued effect happened and it became undeniable - and then media stopped debating the issue, and instead put big tobacco on trial - although the Tobacco Industry remains large donors to the Republican Party and gives large donations to some Liberal parliamentarians in Australia. Of all the ‘science’ versus ‘irrational belief’ arguments change here happened relatively quickly, despite corporate capitalism.

    The problem in global warming is that the effect happens some time after the cause - ie. even if we reduced carbon emissions drastically from next year there is still a lot of ‘stored heating’ to come - and by the time it becomes obvious it will be too late - we will probably have passed tipping points and it would take centuries to reverse the heating. At some point we have to decide debating with deniers is not useful - there is nothing that will convince them - and that the ethical standards of the mining industry - prepared to destroy the planet for profit - are so low we can’t engage with them. But if rational argument does not work, the big question that MWH poses is what might work. Sadly, in the face of what’s coming, doing nothing while there is still hope seems to be not an option.

  • 45
    Rich Uncle Skeleton
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m always struck how divorced from the mentality of science climate millenarians are…in every thread you’ll find intellectual offal like this, along with “flat earth”, “smoking”, “gravity”….

    You take the word of James Lovelock over climate scientists and accuse others of being “divorced from the mentality of science”?

    Typical Frank Campbell alarmist hyperbole.

  • 46
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    W-Ham: “So tonight’s documentary and the Q&A that follows might be interesting to try to work out WHY the deniers are incapable of rational thought. If we are doomed, it would be nice (at least to me) to know more about why.”

    Just look in the mirror.

  • 47
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Another tasty morsel from the Crikey trollbook:

    You take the word of James Lovelock over climate scientists…”

    Y’all took his word as gospel until lunchtime today…now Lovelock’s just another flat-earther to you…

  • 48
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Ross: see my post above (5.52pm). Uncanny prescience, innit?

  • 49
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    @Frank - calling a person names is the last resort of those who have no serious points to make.

  • 50
    James Hastings
    Posted Thursday, 26 April 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    @ Bill Wilson

    You’re an AGW proponent and the most damning quotes you could find in nature magazine to support your cause were

    1. - Two papers in Nature this week highlight the extent to which human activity is influencing global climate, and underline the need for continued scrutiny of the problem.

    AND

    2. - Jeremy Shakun and his Harvard colleagues show on page 49, carbon dioxide does drive atmospheric warming.

    My response to 1 that the quote doesn’t say anything on way or the other. Just that we need to “highlight” the extent of human activity on the climate. But what is the extent that we are highlighting? Humans are having no effect, Humans are having a moderate effect, Humans are having a severe effect, or Humans are having a catastrophic effect? I don’t which one of these it is because your quote Doesn’t specify anything…. just that we need “more scrutiny” of the problem….. whatever that is.

    Mr Response to 2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Duh. No one disputes that. The question is how strong is its effect ie some say it is having a negligible effect others a catastrophic effect. Knowing the difference between the two is key to how the world deals with AGW… if at all.

    Was that it?

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