tip off

‘I’d rather slam my cock in a door than debate climate change’

The sum total of useful commentary on ABC’s stultifying I Can Change Your Mind About Climate, (herein ICCYMAC) was five minutes of British scientist and author Ben Goldacre. That the most edifying moments in the program included his admission that he’d rather slam his cock in a door than “debate” climate change probably tells those of you who missed it most of what you need to know. While apparently managing to restrain himself from threatened acts of penile self-mutilation, he made an obvious point.

Which was that climate change is not scientifically controversial.

John Tyndall first measured the radiative properties of CO2 in the 1860s (using this cool thing, the modern equivalent of which fits in a shoe box), and 150 science-filled years later, here’s that cauldron of leftist ferment, the US National Academy of Sciences:

Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

Almost every national science academy and professional scientific association on the planet support similar conclusions. Surveys of either the scientific literature or professional opinion lead to the same conclusion: there is near-unanimity on the broad nature and causes of climate change in the scientific community.

So by any fair measure, there is a scientific consensus on climate change. And consensus matters. The views of the self-styled climate “sceptics” lie nowhere within the window of plausible scientific contestability, and nowhere near it. This presents a credibility problem for contrarians, because when we’re not equipped to critically scrutinise complex issues ourselves, we take consensus among experts as a useful guide. This is not just eminently reasonable — it is indispensable. It underpins the basic division of labour by which society operates.

The payoff is that society as a whole carries far more knowledge than any one person could ever hope to, but the price of entry is a basic level of trust, not in individuals so much as in the institutions that keep them honest. The point is almost so obvious that attempting to articulate it unnecessarily complicates it — we almost all implicitly understand this. And in other disciplines — medicine, say — we apply it without controversy (as Paul Nurse memorably put to the UK Telegraph’s James Delingpole).

The response of those who deny the reality of climate change is the strawman rejoinder (exemplified by Delingpole), “Science doesn’t operate by consensus”. This little piece of misdirection is true, but irrelevant. It is precisely because science doesn’t “operate by consensus” — because it is undemocratic, regularly acrimonious and pitilessly Darwinian — that consensus, once gained, is so powerful.

So what was the point of ICCYMAC? To get to the bottom of why climate change is publicly controversial? In that case the documentary filmmakers ought to have taken their turn in front of the cameras, because the media has been central — sometimes as vehicle, sometimes as driver — to the spectacular distortion of public perception on this issue in the past two decades.

Daringly, the program’s voice-over commentary invites the audience to wonder: “Are programs such as this part of the problem?” Yes. Yes, you bunch of freaking NINNIES, freaking OMG YES! Yes, your program is assuredly part of the problem. A bit of non-committal introspection doesn’t get you off the hook, by the way. It just confirms that you half-assed knew what you were doing, but did it anyway.

The media can and should take a position on climate change — it should be a “truth vigilante”, because we are dealing with a question of fact, with the ultimate impartial arbiter: nature. That the topic is publicly controversial is no escape clause for the media, because as the intermediary between science and the public, it is one of the primary bearers of responsibility for that controversy. Of course a great deal of pressure has been brought to bear on the media by those with an interest in fostering public confusion, and to say, “Yes we bend like saplings in the wind, but there is enormous pressure,” may be an important reason. But it’s barely an excuse.

And ICCYMAC bent sideways, actually reading its format directly from the denialist strategic playbook. As Frank Luntz in the infamous Republican memo of 2003: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

Of course there is a lack of scientific certainty — this is science. The denialist strategy has been to utterly misrepresent that window of scientific contestability, to yank it across the spectrum from, “It’s happening, it’s us, it’s a problem,” to “Who really knows?” They don’t need to win. They just need to wrestle the issue to a standstill by promoting the illusion of controversy.

Regardless, this discussion is probably pointless. You knew what you thought before you began reading. I can’t change your mind about climate change. That’s OK, I don’t want to. I’m past that. I’d rather slam my cock in a door.

  • 1
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    It seems that there are multiple questions we need to answer in this debate. Is climate change happening? The answer to that seems a pretty resounding yes. Are we going to try to prevent it from happening, or adapt to it? We seem to be focusing on the former. Whether in fact it is anthropogenic or not may well be irrelevant.

  • 2
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I know what I thought about science when I started reading this sanctimonious article, and that was, as Karl Popper proposed, that a hypothesis only stands while it can be tested, and while it withstands testing.

    Your “settled science” , beloved of the philosopher of choice of the military-industrial complex, Thomas Kuhn, sounds too much like the “religious truth is settled” proposal.

    Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in climate change, a couple of metres sea level rise in Sydney and I’m on a waterfrontage. Pass me that yachting magazine!

  • 3
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Both programs last night fell into the trap of calling one side the “skeptics” and the other “believers”.

    I call most who post against climate change “deniers” because it is clear that no amount of evidence will convince them to change their minds. They are not skeptical about climate change, they are grasping every straw that they can to support their denial.

    Another reason it is wrong to call them “skeptics” is that the deniers are never skeptical about the information they hear than then pass on. A classic example last night was Michen’s talk of the warming figures being wrong because they were measured in cities and at airports. If Minchen had been open minded or skeptical, it would have taken him only a few minutes on the internet to find that this had been full looked into and taken into account.

    It science that is always skeptical - each bit of new evidence is scrutinised, not only on its own, but in how it fits into the bigger picture. Science has a proven track record of discovering new evidence and making major advances.

    You don’t “believe” in climate change, you ACCEPT the evidence.

    But, as Ian says, as most of us are not experts, our accepting the evidence is based on having FAITH in the overall scientific process and its institutions.

    This is not mindless faith because when we want to ask why the scientists think something we are able to check things out for ourselves - firstly with good overview information aimed at the general public, going all the way down to the the key published papers.

    Perhaps the key lesson from last night’s programs is that we can no longer assume that people are rational. While the dominance of spin and irrationality will have long term consequences to our climate, I’m sure that we will get many more situations where major public policy decisions will be made based on spin and lies.

  • 4
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Of course the media could take a position on climate change - if they wanted - look at all the other matters they’re not backward in coming forward on. But on this most are more interested in reporting on the combatants - and circulating misinformation to keep the fire going.

  • 5
    Williams David
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Jean, you may have known what you thought about science when you started reading the article, but what you thought was wrong. Popper proposed that a hypothesis can be considered scientific if it is, in principle, able to be refuted by experiment. If it is not refuted after ‘sufficient’ efforts to do so, it achieves the status of a theory. A theory is a body of experimental evidence, which, while accumulated in the effort to refute the original hypothesis, has failed to do so. (Think ‘atomic theory’ or ‘Darwinian theory’ as examples.)

    The experimental evidence supporting anthropogenic global warming is now sufficiently large to be regarded as theory. This doesn’t mean that every prediction of the theory is true to three decimal places, but it does mean we have good reason to rely on the theory to a much greater extent than any ‘religious truth’ you care to mention.

    I think it’s unreasonable to describe Ian McHugh’s article as sanctimonious, in that he is stating only what people with a reasonable knowledge of science experience when they hear apparently intelligent people such as Nick Minchin espousing arguments that are illogical, irrelevant, or based on ignorance of the facts.

  • 6
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    We do not need further debate on whether or not global warming is happening unless additional credible scientific evidence emerges. Geologists no longer debate the truth of Continental Drift. Physicists no longer debate the validity of Relativity, Hubble expansion of the universe or Quantum Theory. Protestant fundamentalists in the Anglosphere debate the validity of Evolution; biologists don’t.

    There is still a fair bit of uncertainty among climate scientists about the detailed impacts of climate changes, including the geographical distribution of impacts and the timelines over which impacts will emerge. These will become clearer over the coming years and decades, but it is very likely that these impacts will be highly detrimental to most of humanity. What we should be debating in relation to climate change is what, if anything, we should be doing about it. There are many possibilities, e.g: do nothing and adapt, carbon tax / etc. But any further debate should be based upon theon science, not on the agenda of vested interests.

  • 7
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Hear! Hear! Steve777

  • 8
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    And it is very annoying to see that on Crikey writing the word d e n i e r seems to get the comment held for moderation.

    My first post at 1:58 pm (being held for moderation) justified my use of this term, and said why I think it is misleading to call those who oppose skeptics and those who support the science believers.

  • 9
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The fossil fuel political lackeys have manage to delay renewable technologies and maximize profits from fossil fuel long enough that we are past the point of stopping widespread environmental disruption to societies.

    All we can do now is make plans to survive.
    How do we deal with mass migration from places like Bangladesh?
    How do we increase security in farming? What alternative fuel for tractors/truck transport/public transport?
    Do we bother trying to captive breed critically endangered animals & plants or do we just let them die out.
    What strategies are there for future super bush fires and super droughts?
    We are past the tipping point.

    Arguing with ostriches is a waste of valuable time and resources.

  • 10
    Omar Khayyam
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Great article! exactly to the point. Perhaps a d*ck slammers club will start up?

  • 11
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    As always, the same sleight of mind from climate millenarians: McHugh conflates the certainty of greenhouse gas basic physics with the intractable complexity of future projections.

    That’s the travesty of science they’ve foisted upon the world. The Royal Society (and many others) have cautioned that the interaction of chaotic climate systems- inlcuding many unknowns and Rumsfeldian unknowns) -cannot possibly be known with certainty. Therefore policy based on such projections is fraught with uncertainty.

    The arrogance of Goldacre, McHugh and Hamilton is of course self-defeating. They’re the best friends denialism could have…

  • 12
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    A question for McHugh:

    Assume you have a Lovelock conversion and become a sceptic (not a denier). How long would you survive in your job? Describe the likely reactions of your colleagues. What would your career prospects be as a “climate researcher”?

  • 13
    Robert Barwick
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    McHugh’s got it all wrong. ICCYMAC wasn’t about figuring out why climate change is controversial. It was about breathing life into a dead debate. The debate isn’t “over”, it is dead, because people don’t care. They care about real problems, like keeping their jobs and homes.

  • 14
    David Allen
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Ah, Frank, you’ll have to pen another eight posts for the comments to acheive ‘balance’. Perhaps Tamas could help?

  • 15
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    A question for Frank. I happily change my mind in the climate debate, very shortly after all the academy of sciences reverse their opinion. How about you?

    A question to Robert re “They (people)care about real problems, like keeping their jobs and homes.” You mean in the short term or in the long run?

  • 16
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Ian you’re kinda missing the point. The program last night wasn’t principally about the science, even if it showed how amateur bloggers like Jo Nova had been so convincingly destroyed by real scientific work by the likes of Muller’s Berkley group confirming the accuracy of the temperature record. What it was really about was attitudes, and why people hold them. What was clear was that rationality and logic have little to with it. And once we accept that as a reality, (and the failure of scientists to convince half the population ), then we can reframe the discussion and make it more productive.

    You offer only a failed strategy, repeating the mistakes of the past and hoping the outcome to be different. Didn’t Einstein call that the definition of insanity? Stick to this close-minded position, and you become part of the problem, not the solution. i’m sorry, those are harsh words and difficult to accept, I’m sure. But we have to do things differently if we are going to come close to making progress

  • 17
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Frank - If a scientist discovers something brand new to science which shows that climate change is wrong they will probably get the cover of Nature followed by the Nobel prize a year or two later.

    But to do so they need to come up with a theory which is supported by the evidence and explains the current measurements at least as well as all our current theories. This is so unlikely that the big picture of climate change is as good as settled.

    You have failed to provide any reason why anyone should not accept the science. In fact I’ve yet to see anyone post something on Crikey which casts any sensible doubt.

  • 18
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink


    If Nature or Science were to publish something that proved climate change was no threat, then I would not see anything wrong with Victoria continuing to burn its huge coal deposits.

    Accepting the science on climate change means that we need to make major changes and do so quickly. If climate change was no threat then there would be no reason for the changes to be big or to happen quickly.

    The scientists have done a good job in convincing people in most countries. It is only in places like the USA and Australia that it has become political and the MSM has become more lobbyists than reporters.

    I place a lot of the blame on Labor, as I think the evidence shows that they never believed in taking real action on climate change. When both major parties don’t want real action it is not surprising that many Australians no longer think that action is needed.

  • 19
    Patrick Brosnan
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    ” What was clear was that rationality and logic have little to with it. And once we accept that as a reality” … we’ve pretty much lost. You can’t have an answer to a problem like AGW with using rationality and logic. This has been the wonder of modernity, that we have been able to describe our environment in such detail that we are no longer afraid of it. pre-moderns suffered under a pall of ignorance. Is this where we want to go?

  • 20
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Scientists brought us DDT, it was the saviour of the world until it was discovered to be a carcinogen. It was withdrawn from use everywhere but here.

    Organophosphates were then the new saviour of the world, we dropped millions of gallons of the stuff on Vietnam, people are still dying but it is still being made in

    All sorts of things brought to us by scientists have proved in the long term to be deadly and they are withdrawn.

    All start with an idea and tests on lab rats.

    How about we put those who think that too much CO2 is a good thing in a closed tank like lab rats and they can tell us all about the lovely effects of suffocation when and if they survive.

    What I hate though is the use of the word “denier”. “There is no reason ever to force people to agree with anything, they have to learn from experience.

  • 21
    Patrick Brosnan
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    sorry “without”

  • 22
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    See what I mean by paranoia?:

    Author: Barbara Boyle
    Has the ABC ever claimed to seek the truth? Rather it appears to act as a sounding board or echo chamber for the more powerful interests.”

  • 23
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink


    I strongly agree that without rationality and logic we are lost.

    Not only is rationality and logic key to accepting the science, but we need it to effectively respond.

    Unfortunately most of what Australia has done so far has been more greenwashing than effective response.

    A great example of this was when the Rudd government found that the Howard scheme for solar cells was costing too much, so they changed the way the scheme was funded so that, at that time, installing solar would result in MORE greenhouse gases being emitted. Fortunately this has been fixed since.

  • 24
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink


    How about using some rationality and logic to evaluate what people say?

    I think it is very easy to make the case that the ABC now gives much more voice to extreme conservative views, and gives much less voice to views to the progressive side of Labor. For example, it is now usual on ABC radio to hear from the IPA, yet rare to hear any voice saying that Labor should be more progressive.

    It seems to me that Barbara Boyle’s view is a statement of fact, which can easily be confirmed by looking at who gets a say on the ABC and who does not, as well as who gets to say something that is clearly wrong which remains unchallenged.

    Whether you think that this is a good thing or a bad thing comes down to your values. But Barbara’s claim is not paranoid because what she says is true.

  • 25
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    MWHam: “If a scientist discovers something brand new to science which shows that climate change is wrong they will probably get the cover of Nature followed by the Nobel prize a year or two later.”

    Again the familiar naivete about the history and sociology of science- not to mention climate science itself: overturning such a ferociously defended hypothesis will not be easy. Scientists and many others have been cowed into submission, first by the messianic zeal of the proponents- and then by the power of the counter-cult. Denialism (not scepticism or doubt) has evolved into a cult exactly where you’d expect: the USA. Denialism has sucked nutrition from the partisan divide everywhere, but in the US it’s truly pernicious. Try being a modestly Warmist Republican…The US is an exceptionally brutal, essentially insane society. The feral Creationist, gun-stuffed, racist, war-mongering, segregated, class-ridden, god-soaked 18th century primitives who make up a large minority of the population have seized on global warming belief as a Sign of the Devil, a cloak for commos etc etc. Corporate America is well pleased, as they can sit back and ker-ching their members…

    The local variants of the anti-cult are also where you’d expect them. Rejoyce! You’ve nothing to lose but your Labour Member…

    Expect many more Labour members to be slammed in the door…

    But the real obtuseness of MWH et al is that they don’t realise that the complexity of climate and the long lead times mean that either confirming or rejecting AGW is bound to be incremental. Observational science will decide the issue, not computer models or Savonarola Hamiltons. Two recent studies for example: one showing the resilience of corals to warmer water, the other to the lowering of cloud levels (and hence temps). This will go on for decades. Nobels will go to both sides, and the “answer” will probably be “none of the above”.

    But the cult will not survive. It is already in its death throes. It’s own extremism cost it scientific credibility- and “climate” policy fiascos have killed it politically.

    The next step is to detach AGW from Left / Right partisanship. No easy task, given that for several years the climate cult intimidated all progressive opinion, casting the Right as anti-Christ. Now Bob Brown is in the wilderness, while naked, grinning Satan approaches…

  • 26
    Patrick Brosnan
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Indeed. Yet despite the incredible advances in technology, largely driven by basic scientific research, that we’ve seen in the last 30 odd years, I believe there is an observable increase in the irrational and illogical. Perhaps the inherent complexity of these technologies causes this reaction. As Clarke said:
    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”

  • 27
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Here here!

    When one looks at the various PR organizations who started this whole “controversy” and the tactics used, we see the same familiar faces and tactics behind the whole “Teach the controversy” thing with creationism and anti-tobacco-legislation people.

    The idea is simple, if people think theres a controversy they’ll tend to side with whatever side is most comfortable to them. So if you say “Hey this isn’t happening, heres a public-relati….errrr…scientist who says so!” people will side with that because it seems less worrying than “We have to change some of the way we live or we’re in trouble”.

    The reality is the debate was over 130+ years ago when Fourier demonstrated the greenhouse effect in the laboratory. He pumped CO2 into a room and shone light in, and the place heated up, proving the contention that CO2 traps heat from the infra-red spectrum. At the time scientists started worrying that CO2 from the coal powered industrial revolution would cause climate changes, although their modelling capacity pre-computer was obviously much more limited. As time went on we where able to add a bunch of new pieces to the puzzle from satelite data collection, new science on how CO2 interacts with oceans, and so on, to the point we are now where we can fairly accurately predict broad trends. There are *tens of thousands* of separate studies that all agree on the same point;- We’re in trouble.

    We need thus to take a cue from the biologists in the US who concluded that arguing with creationists simply promotes the idea that theres something to debate about climate changes reality. Its not. We know its not.

    The thing is , there IS stuff we need to debate. Like how do we go about fixing it. How much discomfort , both from climate change and from measures to try and stop it, are we comfortable with? If things go too far, can we cope with macro-engineering projects to try and reverse it? And so on……

    But whilst we sit around arguing with public relations hacks and clueless conservatives who have been led by the nose to the stupid-stall of the farm , the more the clock ticks past 11 and on to midnight.

    We need to stop debating fools and start mocking them. Seriously. This nonsense has gone on far too long.

  • 28
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Addendum to my previous comment: My memorys a bit sifty. Joseph Fourier proposed the greenhouse effect in 1824, not the 1870s, and it was somewhat confirmed in experiments in 1859 and 1896 respectively by John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius respectively. Sorry about that. I’m a bit crap at history!

  • 29
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Ok, apologies for my multiple replies!

    What I hate though is the use of the word “denier”. “There is no reason ever to force people to agree with anything, they have to learn from experience.

    No I think its appropriate. Skeptics are people that apply the scientific method to guard against humbug and pseudoscience. This is not what the denialists are doing! As a Skeptic and science dude, it offends me to be lumped in with this.

    Heres what a skeptic does when confronted with some science he thinks might be wrong. He designs an experiment, or an investigation of data that can in a *falsifiable* manner show than an earlier assumption was premature , mistaken or unwarranted. He then publishes them in the mainstream scientific literature where it will be reviewed by experts in the field, and if his research is any good, its published and all the boffins then read it and either go “Woooo!” or they try and refute it by the same process. Thats skeptical science in action.

    A scientific “skeptic” does not buddy up to an oil funded public relations firm for money to fly around the world doing talks aimed to cast fear, doubt and uncertainty against hard working scientists whilst promoting a belief system that requires *fundamental laws of physics* to be wrong for the belief system to be right.

    So I *refuse* to call these people skeptics. They are pseudoscientific charlatains and snake oil sales men, and they are wasting precious time where we could be spending trying to fix this damned problem.

  • 30
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I think that there has been a move towards irrationality over the last 20 years, and this has been worst in countries where politics has encouraged spin over substance - Australia and the USA.

    I worked for Telstra for 25 years, and it was very apparent that the Australian business view was that technical expertise was not highly valued. Working at the Telstra Research Labs for most of my career covered the rise in the internet. How did Telstra respond? From a position where they had a relationship with every business in Australia and a huge consumer base, and technical expertise of world class status, they are now a provided of internet services of about the same calibre of any other provider in Australia. I’ve not used a Telstra service on the internet for ages. Even looking up a business I’ve found quicker and easier on google than using Telstra on-line.

    This lack of understanding of the power of science and technology was made very apparent when Rudd got the first Garnaut report and said something like “this was just one input”.

    I’ve yet to find one Labor supporter on Crikey who admits that the Rudd/Wong CPRS would have locked in failure, and thus The Greens were right to oppose it. Not one of them has looked into the facts - they just blindly support their political team.

  • 31
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    How interesting that a “climate researcher” would rather mutilate his ***k than discuss and argue for his specific area of research. Surely you would take very opportunity to explain to the “deniers” why they are wrong.

    Perhaps Ian should give it a try.

    Perhaps he could tell us why it hasn’t warmed since 1998?
    Perhaps he could explain why the warming spurts from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were all of the same magnitude despite higher human CO2 emissions in the latter periods?
    And why has the world only warmed by 0.7C since 1850? Don’t the models suggest it should have been much more?

    Come on Ian - responding to a few simple questions has got to be better than slamming your ***k in a door, right?

  • 32
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink


    The reason I call people like you d….. and not skeptics is that if you were to do a quick internet search on all of the questions you asked you will probably be able to find how a mainstream climate change scientist would respond.

    Usually those who oppose climate change just repeat things that have already been debunked (Minchen choosing a person who claimed that warming was due to the temperatures being measured at airports, etc, is a classic example of repeating a claim that had long since been debunked).

    And Tamas, would you like to give us all a reference that justifies your claim that the world hasn’t warmed since 1998?

    The interesting question for Tamas is why she has chosen to believe the claims she has written without doing any research into the truth? Why does she believe these claims and yet ignore the publicly available evidence that she is wrong? And what, if anything, might convince Tamas that climate change is a real threat?

  • 33
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    MWH -

    1) I’m a bloke.
    2) The ‘no warming since ‘98” claim is based on a linear regression on the UAH satellite data that I did myself.
    3) If it’s so easy to answer these questions with a bit of googling, then go ahead! When those questions were asked in Crikey’s “Ask a climate scientist” series the scientists could not answer the questions. So please, tell me how I’m wrong.

    How is 0.7C warming in 150 years (and none since 1998) a crisis?

  • 34
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I say this as someone who is convinced that AGW is real and poses a significant threat to our future.

    I laughed out loud when I read this, “much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

    Very likely. I’ll say it again in case all you cock door slammers missed it “VERY LIKELY”.

    How about that, some uncertainty slips through the shoulder to shoulder solidarity to people considering mutilation of their penises.

    I am with Frank. There is significant uncertainty about the future extrapolation of agreed, scientifically reviewed observations and indisputable measurements about what has occurred in our recent atmospheric past.

    When people like Flannery warn of the likelyhood of the Brisbane water supply running out, to the extent that the Queensland government changes the operating peocedures for the flood protecting Wivenhoe dam, and look what happened then, it is reasonable for people to ask again if such draconian changes demanded of climate activists are truly needed.

    Most of the predictions are from people who are making it up as they go along.

  • 35
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for getting your sex wrong.

    Where did you publish your analysis? If you didn’t publish this in a peer reviewed journal, why should anyone take your claim seriously?

    And how do you explain that your views differ from that of every university in every country and every scientific academy in every country? Are all these scientists incompetent? Or is this some world-wide conspiracy?

  • 36
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    @David Hand,

    I’m not from Brisbane, so I’ve not followed their dam issue closely. So could you please provide the full quote where Flannery warned of the likelihood of the Brisbane water supply running out, and provide some evidence that his comments resulted in changes to the operating procedures to the dams.

    If you look at the major reports which report on what might happen (IPCC, Garnaut, etd) you will find that they all include probabilities. You will also find that there is some pretty good research underlying these probabilities.

    A rational examination of the best evidence to hand says that it is sensible to act (Stern, Garnaut). This is not based on certainty, but on risk and the cost of reducing that risk.

    One of the reasons that those who oppose action on climate change are easily dismissed is that they attack every step of the process. So when someone says they are convinced that AGW is real but then dismisses all that logical follows, I suspect that it is much more likely that this is just part of the campaign against action rather than a well thought out view.

  • 37
    John Newton
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Goodonyer sport.

  • 38
    Jim McDonald
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    The moment the media breathlessly publishes the FACTS of climate change - that global warming is about increasing temperature TRENDS and the effect does NOT mean that everywhere on earth swelters at the same rate at the same time, that extremes of weather accompany global climate warming and that extremes of cold are part of the global system; and the moment they take up the cudgel for ensuring a national food security policy is an absolute imperative instead of allowing good farming soil to be dug up by foreign mining interests with front men like Clive Palmer and to be degraded along with the aquifers by CSG interests - we will know that the media has gone back to its core business: that is, publishing what is instead of baseless and compromised opinion.

  • 39
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Tamas you deserve a Nobel for single handedly saving civilisation from itself, magnificent work.

    Verily a champion of humanity and a boon to abused genitals!

  • 40
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I am with Frank. There is significant uncertainty about the future extrapolation of agreed, scientifically reviewed observations and indisputable measurements about what has occurred in our recent atmospheric past.

    Thus raising the question: what evidence is going to convince you to change your mind from “do nothing” to “do something” ?

  • 41
    Posted Friday, 27 April 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    The media love a good culture war, it sells.

  • 42
    David Allen
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 6:48 am | Permalink


    I’ve yet to find one Labor supporter on Crikey who admits that the Rudd/Wong CPRS would have locked in failure”

    Well, here’s an ex Labor supporter, if that counts.

  • 43
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Frank Campbell and others - the uncertainty of the science is part of the problem. The earth is about 30-33 deg warmer than it otherwise would be because of the natural concentration of greenhouse gases. Humanity has increased the concentration of a major greenhouse gas, CO2, by about 28% since the Industrial Revolution, and this increase continues. By measuring the distribution of isotopes we know that is extra CO2 came from fossil fuels rather than volcanoes or the oceans. There is strong evidence (in retreating glaciers and polar ice for example) that warming has occurred and is occurring.

    Science is not able to determine in detail what effect this will have, but there is certainly enough evidence to be strongly concerned that humanity will be seriously impacted. The climate system is extremely complex, with positive and negative feedback loops, vicious and virtuous circles. It is possible that it may all work out OK but this seems to be a heroic assumption upon which to base our response. On the other hand the effects could turn out to be a lot worse than anyone is expecting. We don’t know. As to alternatives explanations of climate change over the centuries, e.g. solar activity cycles, the effect on the Earth’s climate is far from understood and those pushing these explanations seem to be assuming that additional CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere has no effect.

    Much of the debate has been clouded by people on both sides of the issue claiming dramatic weather events - floods, droughts, heatwaves, a cool wet summer - as support for their side. Of course you can never prove this, any more than you can prove that a particular case of lung cancer was caused by smoking. But I believe that science has given us their best assessment of the big picture, and it doesn’t look good.

  • 44
    James Hastings
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink


    A common argument used by AGW proponents is that we must take action to avert AGW because the risk of doing nothing is too great. I find this argument weak on many fronts. Here’s why.

    1. Its seems weird to trumpet the overwhelming evidence in support of AGW and then fall back to saying that its “too dangerous not to act”. Either the evidence for catastrophic AGW is overwhelming or it isn’t. Saying that its too dangerous not to act is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a reasonable probability that the predictions of catastrophic AGW are wrong.

    2. Whatever the probabilities of various AGW predictions coming right are, there is a guaranteed outcome if we undergo the drastic action necessary to stop all fossil fuel production in the world. That is economic destruction.
    Think about it like this… if the worst AGW predictions come true then it will be like the worst bits of the bible. To stop that from happening we must stop using all fossil fuels right now. Not everyone installs solar panels and drives hybrids, but we stop using electricity pretty much at all. That sounds just as bad if not worse than rising sea levels and melting polar icecaps. I’d rather be in a world that’s too hot with aircon, refrigeration, functioning hospitals, internet, cheap clothes and food, and cars, than a world without all those things.

    So you’d have us swap a small probability of world destruction for a guaranteed one? Doesn’t seem sensible to me.

  • 45
    David Hand
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    What was there about my post that led you to believe I think we should do nothing? Yours is a classic faith based response. I am saying the green left lobby is as in the dark about global warming as the rest of us and you call me an unbeliever.

    I accept the science that says AGW is real and humans are contributing to it. My favoured policy response is an emissions trading scheme.

    I just don’t believe in Flannery’s / McHugh’s / Rose’s religeon. And the Brisbane floods are a great example of what happens when society follows the utterings of prophets. Give me a sober, science based risk assessment any day.

    Let there be plenty of debate about the correct policy response to climate change and if a few fools mutilate their penises along the way, that’s their choice in a free country.

  • 46
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    @James Hastings - you put a good summary of a position opposing action on climate change - basically that the cure is worse than the disease. Fair enough, this is what we should be debating, not whether or not there is a disease.

    Still, you are mis-stating the position of those who argue for action. No one except fringe elements of the environmental movement are saying that we should stop using electricity, but rather that we should be moving to reduce our dependence on fuels that emit greenhouse gases. Personally, I believe that nuclear energy, for all of its risks, needs to be part of the mix, at least for the next half century or so.

    And we rarely have full information, let alone certainty, when we have to make a crucial decision, whether as individuals or as a community. I always thought smoking was a good analogy. For an individual, smoking does not guarantee lung cancer and early death, but it greatly increases their probability. Giving up smoking guarantees the loss of the pleasures of smoking but makes it much more likely that the individual will enjoy better health and longer life.

    Is the cure worse than the disease? If it just means we need more air conditioning, maybe not. But the effects are far more subtle. Likely effects include widespread changes to the distribution of rainfall, both geographically and seasonally. That would severely disrupt the economy of a wealthy country like Australia and bring famine to many less fortunate countries. And the downside of taking action? We end up switching to renewable sources of energy a few decades (oil) or centuries (coal) earlier than we had to, with what turned out to be some unnecessary taxes and bureaucracy. On the balance of risks, I support action.

  • 47
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting responses James Hastings and David Hand.

    I agree that the economic impacts of the proposed ‘solutions’ will be catastrophic. And I agree that the alarmists have weakened their case by trying to be prophets despite the great uncertainties.

  • 48
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The alarmists with their facile argument (we musn’t do anything, it’ll be economic ruin!) are laughable. Minchin, Calterwood etc are the real alarmists - their argument goes something like: Hey ignore the scientific evidence, think of the political economy, that’s far more important. Failure to treat changes to the political economy as of primary importance, and failure to be super conservative about changes to the PE will create DISASTER, OMG WE’LL ALL BE RUINED THINK OF THE POOR PEOPLE.

    Laughable :) Happy alarmism delusion boy!

  • 49
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    The alarmists with their facile argument (we musn’t do anything, it’ll be economic ruin!) are laughable. Minchin, Calterwood etc are the real alarmists - their argument goes something like: Hey ignore the scientific evidence, think of the political economy, that’s far more important. Failure to treat changes to the political economy as of primary importance, and failure to be super conservative about changes to the PE will create disaster, omg, we’ll all be ruined, think of all the poor people.

    Alarmists indeed.

  • 50
    James Hastings
    Posted Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    @ KD

    What scientific evidence?