tip off

The Big Oil-backed climate denier who hoodwinked Fairfax

Expert reviewer” John McLean wrote a climate denialist opinion piece in the Fairfax media — despite its papers vowing not to. Researcher Elaine McKewon asks: just who is John McLean, anyway?

  NOTE: A complaint to the Australian Press Council about this article was partly upheld. Read the full adjudication here.

Last October The Sydney Morning Herald announced it would not publish letters from climate change deniers that misrepresented the facts. So naturally I was shocked to see an opinion piece from right-wing think tank operative John McLean published on both the SMH and The Age websites earlier this month. Not only was the piece misinformed, but McLean was falsely presented as an expert on climate science.

It’s a veritable coup for the climate denial noise machine. Most people get their information about science from the news media, so it matters who is given a voice to speak for science in the media — and it’s equally important that their qualifications and expertise are presented honestly and accurately.

McLean’s opinion piece was followed by this impressive-sounding byline:

John McLean is the author of three peer-reviewed papers on climate and an expert reviewer for the latest IPCC report. He is also a climate data analyst and a member of the International Climate Science Coalition.”

But is that accurate? Who is John McLean? What qualifications entitle him to speak as an expert on climate science? What is the ICSC, and which groups, interests and agendas do McLean and the ICSC represent? What exactly does it mean to be an “expert reviewer” of IPCC reports?

McLean is not affiliated with any university or scientific organisation. He has no verifiable qualifications in the field of climate science. On his website McLean describes himself as a “computer consultant and occasional travel photographer”.

In 2006, McLean published his first peer-reviewed paper —  a “review” of CSIRO reports  — in the journal Energy and Environment. In the scientific community, E&E is regarded as a bottom-of-the-barrel journal. It is the journal of choice for loony papers, amateur enthusiasts and semi-retired climate sceptic scientists who have no credentials in the field of climatology. The journal’s editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, once told the Chronicle of Higher Education: ”I’m following my political agenda — a bit, anyway. But isn’t that the right of the editor?”

Two years later, and still with no verifiable scientific qualifications, McLean popped up as lead author of a paper with fellow ICSC think tank associates Bob Carter and Chris de Freitas. Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, it concluded the Southern Oscillation (the atmospheric component of El Nino) was the primary driver of global temperatures, not human activities. The paper was comprehensively demolished in a subsequent comment by nine leading climate scientists.

Which brings us to McLean’s latest paper, which he and de Freitas published in an open-access Journal of Scientific Research Publishing, a vanity publisher whose journals have reportedly re-published papers from reputable scientific journals without notification or permission of the author and listing academics on its editorial boards without their knowledge or permission.

Clearly McLean has no standing or expertise in the field of climate science. So why does he persist in publishing opinion pieces as an “expert” on climate change? His affiliation with the International Climate Science Coalition holds the key to this question.

Despite its name, the ICSC does not conduct scientific research. It is funded by the Heartland Institute, an American right-wing think tank historically bankrolled by Exxon to promote climate denial. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ICSC’s primary agenda includes discrediting authoritative science on climate change, opposing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and “educating” the public on the “dangerous impacts” involved in trying to replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Executive director Tom Harris is a former APCO public relations executive  — APCO being most memorable for launching the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (or TASSC), a lobby group and crisis management vehicle bankrolled by Big Tobacco in the United States to discredit scientific studies linking second-hand smoke to cancer, while achieving legislative outcomes favourable to the tobacco industry. APCO’s media strategy to launch TASSC included establishing the lobby group as a credible source for journalists, building a grassroots social movement that encouraged the general public to “fight” the science, and targeting sympathetic journalists who would run with the TASSC message unchallenged.

Similarly, the ICSC has “concluded that the general public is our primary target audience”, and its main objectives appear to be establishing the ICSC as “an unbiased, honest broker” of information, publishing op-eds and letters in newspapers, participating in radio talk-back shows, distributing and following up on press releases, and privately engaging “receptive media players”.

When John Mclean publishes opinion pieces in Australian newspapers, he advances the agenda of the ICSC. In its media strategy the ICSC states: “To oppose climate alarmism effectively, the core messages of ICSC and its national affiliates must be simple and repeated often in as many public environments as possible.” And just what are these core messages? ICSC lists as its top two “core science principles” that “global climate is always changing in accordance with natural causes and recent changes are not unusual” and that “science is rapidly evolving away from the view that humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gases’ are a cause of dangerous climate change”.

Given the lack of science involved in the PR-dominated ICSC and the garbage trail that is McLean’s publishing record, how did he become an “expert reviewer” for the IPCC? It turns out that almost all you need to do to qualify is self-nominate on the IPCC’s website and tick a box saying that you have relevant expertise.

It seems appropriate to finally note that, as a “climate data analyst”, McLean predicted in 2010 that 2011 would be the “coolest year globally since 1956 or even earlier”. As it happened, 2011 was the coolest year since … 2008.

*Elaine McKewon is a PhD candidate in journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has published three peer-reviewed research papers (in reputable journals) on the Australian news media’s coverage of climate change.

John McLean responds:

I fear for Australian journalism if PhD candidate Elaine McKewon is typical of those who want to be journalists. She throws around epithets like “denier” without knowing what the disagreement is about, and she alleges that the Fairfax opinion editor was somehow hoodwinked rather than exercised professional judgement on the merit of a piece.

She says my piece was “misinformed” but fails to mention any errors of fact. She could hardly do that when a week later Mary Voice, former head of the National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology, repeated the IPCC charter that I quoted.

McKewon tries to assassinate my character by questioning my credibility but provides no evidence whatsoever that being an expert climatologist is a prerequisite for pointing out that despite the IPCC’s narrow charter the organisation has often been misrepresented as an authority on all climate matters. One needs qualifications and proven expertise to make such a simple observation? Of course not.

McKewon says nothing about my article and attacks only the byline. It seems to be the old story — if you can’t attack the person’s argument, attack the character of the person. I would have thought that PhD candidates in journalism were smarter and more professional than that, but apparently not. Let me take the red pen to McKewon’s article, which if submitted as a university essay would surely get a “fail”.

It takes her just 13 words before she uses the words “climate change deniers”. What are we supposed to deny? That climate changes? In the bigger picture she seems to either want to inflate a scientific disagreement to being on par with the systematic state-sponsored murder of over 6 million Jews, or to devalue those murders to make them equivalent to a scientific disagreement about the magnitude of the influence of carbon dioxide in the open atmosphere.

McKewon then tries to denigrate my published papers, but she does so with sophistry because all three papers have been published, as was stated, in peer-reviewed journals. McKewon’s opinion of those journals is utterly irrelevant. The 2009 paper to which she refers was a case where the journal broke several of its own regulations and, almost unheard of in scientific circles, denied us the right of reply to a criticism. My 2009 paper and its aftermath is discussed in a document on my website, which judging by her other comments she’s read, so why didn’t she read this document and mention it accordingly?

She claims that I am not affiliated with any university. That’s untrue. Like her I am a PhD candidate, in my case through a department of physics, and I will be submitting a PhD on climate issues. My background as a computer consultant is not a negative because it has allowed me to analyse climate data that those like McKewon probably take at face value.

If McKewon wishes to claim that scientists’ opinions can be bought by those who fund them she needs to be aware that I have never received one cent from the ICSC and whoever its backers may be (mainly privately donations). She also casts aspersions on the many scientists who receive government funding for research that somehow endorses the IPCC view, a corruption that’s more logical because one can argue that the significantly greater government funding forces any budding climatologist who wants employment into tacitly supporting the IPCC view whether he wants to or not.

Next McKewon denigrates my expert review (IPCC terminology). She has no idea of either the number of comments I raised or the subject of those comments and yet she somehow feels qualified to dismiss them. Her position is absurd and unsustainable. Finally, she dismisses a prediction that I was brave enough to make and for which I showed my reasoning. That my reasoning has failed has exposed further issues for detailed investigation.

McKewon, for all her verbiage, fails to refute my argument, one that could be made by anyone with a modicum of intelligence. She labels me a “denier” but fails to show anything that might be disputed in my article. Indirectly, she accuses the Fairfax opinion editor of incompetence for allowing the publishing of a well-reasoned argument not about climate per se but about the role of the IPCC. 


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  • 1
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    And yet even the IPCC now admits there hasn’t been any global warming for 15 years…

    I just thik it’s important to keep that point in mind when talking about “denialists”.

  • 2
    illywhacker
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Important article. Has a response been sought from Fairfax?

  • 3
    Boerwar
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Elaine

    Congratulations on an excellent analysis of the sicknesses at the heart of denialism.

    And, while I am on the topic…

    Tamas

    You could always try to address the substance of the article.

  • 4
    Chris Hartwell
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Tamas, can you please provide proof of your claim?

  • 5
    Will
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for doing this routine garbage collection – unfortunately it is necessary. I would have been flabbergasted that Fairfax allowed such a disingenuous byline if their record wasn’t already burnished by providing an accountability-free platform for hacks from the IPA.

  • 6
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Tamas,
    I would also like to see some evidence for your remark - the point you make in your first line is exactly the sought of misinformation the aritcle is talking about.

  • 7
    Dawson Colin
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    @Tamas, where did the IPCC make that admission? Given the recent run of worldwide record average temperatures, that is an astonishing claim.

  • 8
    JohnB
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Chris, please don’t feed the troll.

    Crikey diminshes its own credibility whenever they publish certain contributors’ stuff… somewhat akin to Fairfax being damaged through associating with such as John McLean.

  • 9
    Don
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    so what has fairfax said?

  • 10
    Chris Hartwell
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Sorry JohnB, I’ve seen on several other sites (news and blogs) where if an inaccurate comment isn’t called out and either proven or disproven in a timely manner, someone else will repeat it further along, complete with the “Ah ha! I’ve seen this written somewhere before, so it must be valid!” reasoning.

  • 11
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Chris - I am with you, these false arguments need to be exposed at every opportunity.

  • 12
    Andybob
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Thankyou Elaine, I remember feeling angry when reading the article by Mclean because of his reliance on rhetorical devices rather than grappling with the central issue. His assertion that the IPCC reports have less credibility because politicians influenced the wording was most disingenuous given that such influence has always downplayed the threat posed by climate change.

    I would expect that Tamas’s comment is based upon the misinterpretation of the following paragraph from the IPCC Summary for Policymakers; Working Group 1 of October 2013:

    In addition to robust multi-decadal warming, global mean surface temperature exhibits substantial decadal and
    interannual variability (see Figure SPM.1). Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade)5. {2.4}”

  • 13
    The Pedanticist
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Tamas. You are either uninformed or disingenuous. To quote from the IPCC document: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis : Summary for Policymakers (located at http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGI_AR5_SPM_brochure.pdf)

    The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a
    warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C, over the period 1880 to 2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist. The total increase between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the 2003–2012 period is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C, based on the single longest dataset available.”

  • 14
    Grumpy Old Sod
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I suggest all those who object to trolls to try to discover the antecedents of the troll. It appears that a very large investor in hydrocarbons is Barclay’s Bank (notorious for its contribution to the GFC amongst other things) and at least two years ago a person with the same name as our favourite troll was listed as a director of that bank. So I’m just wondering whether they are one and the same?

  • 15
    Rohan
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I was beginning to worry that the as-always valuable contributions from Mr Colderwood were gone for ever.

  • 16
    George Montgomery
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Tamas’s comment is part of the false narrative from skeptics and an uninformed media which reverberates around the sceptical universe on numerous misinformation blogs. Temperatures continue to increase in La Nina and neutral years, in years with declining solar insolation, … albeit less quickly as per Andybob’s comment.

  • 17
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    This article is a tired effort to attack the credentials and expertise of a climate sceptic but contains an amazing admission - that “It turns out that almost all you need to do to qualify is self-nominate on the IPCC’s website and tick a box saying that you have relevant expertise.”

    Yep, the “peer reviewed”, “sober scientific”, UN sponsored body that has had such an enormous imfluence on the issue of climate change and driven so much policy action by governments across the world gets its “expertise” from self-selecting box-tickers. That must be how bodies like WWF was able to get howlers like the amazon drying up and the Himalayan glaciers melting into previous reports.

    Speaking as someone who accepts the basic theory that global warming is being strongly influenced by man made carbon emissions, the lunatic fringe that I worry most about is the lefty climate lobby starting with Flannery.

    You could write an almost identical piece about Flannery but I wouldn’t expect a campaigning publication like Crikey to consider issues of balance.

  • 18
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Exactly right andybob. Ipcc ar5 report states: As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decaded).

    That means it hasn’t warmed for 15 years, despite all their qualifications. And remember, just 0.8c warming in the past 150 years.

    So where is this dangerous global warming?

  • 19
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - You misinterpret or misrepresent the quote - the IPCC does not get “its” expertise from self selecting box tickers - the people who claim to “review” its work are self selecting box tickers - there is a massive difference and it is this flaw that makes it necessary to check the credentials of the talking heads who the lazy media get to on as experts to interpret the IPCC’s work.

  • 20
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Tamas - When we are talking about a 2 degree rise being catastrophic a 0.8 degree rise is dangerous.

  • 21
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    From the “WORKING GROUP I CONTRIBUTION TO THE IPCC FIFTH ASSESSMENT REPORT
    CLIMATE CHANGE 2013: THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE BASIS”

    Bottom paragraph of page 10, “During the last decade the trend in the observations is smaller than the mean of the projections of AR4 (see Section 9.4.1, Box 9.2 for a detailed assessment of the hiatus in global mean surface warming in the last 15 years).”

  • 22
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy,
    When someone suggests something has been “misrepresented” it usually means the allegation is essentially truthful.

    Somehow, your “experts” had the Himalayan glaciers melting in the next 30 years and the Amazon drying up. And the IPCC shamelessly uses “hundreds” and “thousands” of “scientists” in its spruiking of its credentials.

    But I absolutely agree with your view that the credentials of the talking heads need to be checked.

    Starting with Flannery and working down from there.

  • 23
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I suppose if you are a denialist idiot and your work is being reviewed by other fossil fuel industry funded ideologues, with an extremely limited grasp of climate reality, then technically, you are ‘peer reviewed’.

  • 24
    JMNO
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I must say I was surprised not that the article was published but that the author seemed to be accorded a high level of legitimacy and credentialled as an expert. I know a number of climate scientists and they are clear that those with actual scientific expertise are almost unanimous in their view that climate change is happening and that it is anthropomorphically-caused. It seemed strange that someone who claims to be an expert could be writing the opposite. It seems that Fairfax was ‘had’.

  • 25
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - “When someone suggests something has been “misrepresented” it usually means the allegation is essentially truthful.” That is some very twited logic then - when I say you are misrepresenting a quote it means you are deliberating saying the quote means someting other than what the author intended it to says.

    The definition of misrepresent is - “1. give a false or misleading account of the nature of.”

    So in short no the allegation is not essentially truthful in fact it is the exact opposite.

  • 26
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Lovely circular argument JMNO.

    A number of experts believe postulate A. Therefore anyone who disagrees with postulate A by definition can’t be an expert.

    This is a beautiful summary of all that is wrong with the climate change industry.

  • 27
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy,

    The IPCC on its own website states that, “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a huge and yet very small organization. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis as authors, contributors and reviewers.”

    So from the article above, John McLean is one of those “scientists”. The IPCC shamelessly spruiks the number of contributors to add gravitas to its reports and announcements and the howler in the article, that most of them are self-selecting box-tickers, is truthful.

    Because you can’t say, “No David, it’s not true” you use the word “misrepresent”

  • 28
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Tamas, you seem to be succumbing to the usual denialist problem, of thinking that poor comprehension skills, are somehow a sign of superior argument. In this case, I think you’ll find that the paragraph that Andybob was pointing out, was actually a comment on the folly of beginning your data set at an exceptional starting point; in this case, the super El Nino year of 1998. As anyone who has completed even a high school science subject should know, it is about following long term trends, not short term fluctuations. The link to the NASA website, should help you see the clear upward trend, despite the short term ups and downs.

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/Fig.A.gif

  • 29
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - Again a misrepresentation - JMNO - said “that those with actual scientific expertise are almost unanimous in their view that climate change is happening and that it is anthropomorphically-caused” - so his emphasis is on the “those with actual scientific expertise” part not what they believe. What he is in fact saying is that those who are actually experts
    (ie those with qualification is the field) have found climate change to be a fact and man made - those who disgree with them tend not to have any expertise due to their lack of qualifications not their opinion.

  • 30
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I want to be clear, I’m not defending John McLean’s expertise or non-expertise. I am challenging the attack on a climate sceptic’s credentials when nothing, absolutely nothing, appears in this publication about Flannery and the climate lobby’s so called expertise.

  • 31
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - No I used the word misrepresent because 1) It is the most accurate word for the circumstance, 2) because I was being gernerous towards you and 3) the word L - i - a- r gets moderated.

  • 32
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy - since 1979 there has been a temperature range of 1.3c (of average global temp). this is much greater than the warming trend over the past 150 years!

    So how is a 0.8c rise in 150 years dangerous?

    And why did it stop warming 15 years ago?

  • 33
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    No Jimmy, you’ve missed it again. “Those with actual scientific expertise” is such an affirming notion when of course, someone with an opposing view merely “claims to be an expert”

    Tell me again, where is the university, governing body or whatever that bestows the status “actual scientific expertise”?

  • 34
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    No David you missed it again - “Those with actual scientific expertise” is a verifiable fact - you either have a qualification or you don’t. It is the same way that a doctor has medical expertise but a the bloke who claims to cure cancer through realigning your aura and ingestion of pig urine only claims to have medical expertise.

    Tamas - read the report for the reasons for the results of the last 15 years and as for the danger 0.8 degree rise go and ask the low lying island nations.

  • 35
    wally atkinson
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Fairfax wasn’t “had”. Fairfax is going down the gurgler and appeals to the denier demographic in an effort to stay afloat. The Conservative top management direct assistance to anti-Labor journalists and proof of this is the sudden disappearance of the faux-balance articles critical of the Labor governments of the last six years. Where are the critics that crawled all over Rudd and Gillard and why are they not crawling all over the Abbott mob?

  • 36
    Andybob
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Tamas, remember the statistician who drowned fording a river of average 4 feet depth ? The effects of climate change are not accurately modelled by simply adding the average projected increased temperature to current temperatures. Maximum temperatures and droughts making up that average will be more extreme.

    Climate change to date of 0.87 degrees may not have been particularly dangerous, but if trends continue as our best estimates predict, it will be very dangerous.

    The Earth did not ‘stop warming’ 15 years ago. 1998 saw a very large El Nino event which resulted in exceptionally warm surface temperatures for that year. If you use that hot year as your base, you get different results than if you use 1997 or 1999 as your starting point.

    This is what the IPCC actually says from the report earlier cited:

    Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere 1983-2012 was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1400 years.”
    (page 3)

    The surface temperature warming from 1998 to 2012 was not as great as predicted by models. This is what the IPCC says:

    The observed reduction in surface warming trend over the period 1998 to 2012 as compared to the period 1951 to 2012,
    is due in roughly equal measure to a reduced trend in radiative forcing and a cooling contribution from natural internal variability, which includes a possible redistribution of heat within the ocean (medium confidence). The reduced trend in radiative forcing is primarily due to volcanic eruptions and the timing of the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle. However, there is low confidence in quantifying the role of changes in radiative forcing in causing the reduced warming trend. There is medium confidence that natural internal decadal variability causes to a substantial degree the difference between observations and the simulations; the latter are not expected to reproduce the timing of natural internal variability. There may also be a contribution from forcing inadequacies and, in some models, an overestimate of the response to increasing greenhouse gas and other anthropogenic forcing (dominated by the effects of aerosols)”
    (Page 13)

    The IPCC report is persuasive. It makes falsifiable claims and provides the evidence for those claims. The arguments attacking the IPCC report do not do those things.

  • 37
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Andybob - don’t give me the ’ high baseline’ argument. I’ve done the maths. A regression shows a flat line - no warming for 15 years.

    But then you seem to accept the natural variability argument put forward by the ipcc to explain the. So any pause in warming is natural variability, but this can’t account for the tiny bit of warming in the past 30 years? Or 150 years?

    You do see the asymmetry, right?

  • 38
    George Montgomery
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Ipcc ar5 report states: As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decaded). That means it hasn’t warmed for 15 years, despite all their qualifications. And remember, just 0.8c warming in the past 150 years.”
    No it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t warmed for 15 years. What you’ve quoted is the 95 percentile range i.e. there is a 95 per cent chance that the warming lies between -0.05 and 0.15 (centred around the mean of 0.05). That’s the way that scientists report their results, the mean plus or minus the possible statistical error within the measurement i.e. they’re a cautious lot.
    And remember (a) that it has warmed 0.8 deg C in the last 130 years (b) a rise of 3.0 deg C, if uniform around the globe, would turn Sweden’s weather into that of the present-day Mediterranean (the English would holiday in Finland rather than Spain) (c) in the past geological epochs, a rise of 0.8 deg C has taken more than 100,000 years and, most importantly, (d) an increase of 0.8 deg C in global mean temperatures pushes the upper outlier temperatures of the “bell-shaped” curve of possible temperatures further into the extreme high temperature range - like those currently being experienced in Australia, Scandanavia, Siberia, … (So the times between cold snaps is getting longer as in the recent US and Canada polar-vortex induced cold spell i.e. the last similar cold snap was in 1996).
    PS The recent cold snap in the US and Canada did not set any monthly cold temperature records.

  • 39
    rhonaj
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    i think the terminology i.e. “warming” and “change” allows the deniers/detractors their argument. What we have is more severe intensification of the weather we have always had. As far as the deniers go its the Big Tobacco argument all over again,harmless, who is paying the climate deniers?

  • 40
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    That’s great Jimmy. ““Those with actual scientific expertise” is a verifiable fact - you either have a qualification or you don’t”

    I look forward to an article any day pointing out that Tim Flannery is not a scientific expert in the field of climate change. Except I will never see it in Crikey.

  • 41
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - What is your obsession with Tim Flannery? Have I or any one else here mentioned Tim Flannery?

    Does the fact Tim Flannery doesn’t have a degree change the statement made by JMNO?

    The fact is that those with qualifications in the relevant filed overwhelming beli eve climate change is real and man amde and those who oppose those things overwhlmingly don’t have any qualifications.

  • 42
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    TAMAS CALDERWOOD. Anyone listening to the ABC news will be familiar with the weather presenter citing days of high temperature, followed by the announcement that it was the hottest Jan/Feb in fifteen years, twenty years, ever. I guess these guys are making it up, but I don’t think so.

  • 43
    haines
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    And John Cook is a…
    Cartoonist from the arse end of Ipswich.
    Surplus train carriage anyone?

    .

  • 44
    AR
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    One eyed Tamas & one Handed David are perfect examples on the basement troll - note that Tamas posted within minutes of Crikey hitting our email boxes and ole One Hand does his usual obscurantism, never engaging with substance.
    One must wonder whether they do it due to a lack of owt else in their barren lives or are paid astroturfers. If the latter then i would suggest the paymaster consider value for money.
    Far more likely though is the sad, social inadequate in the family spare room, fed beneath the door.

  • 45
    Interrobanging On
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Tamas,

    Even the smart 11 year old could quickly understand the point about arbitrary starting dates. Sorry, but yours is willful idiocy, to coin a phrase. The “1998 is the hottest year, therefore global warming (*magically*) stopped in 1998” meme is facile at best.

    It isn’t even properly established statistically that 1998 was the warmest calendar year (it isn’t the warmest 12 month period), and it was a strong El Nino year. And a global average is of course a poor measure, when one consistent projection is that the climate will become more extreme. The average could stay exactly the same, even with wild fluctuation.

    The implication that everywhere will ease up the same temperatures across the globe in lockstep is fatuous. The climate system isn’t simple. A polar vortex breaks up over North America bringing a freeze, while at the same time bears come out of hibernation early in Finland because of the warmth and rain instead of snow…nothing unusual there, as the ICSC claims? No reason to worry at least a touch about how the jet stream is reacting?

    David,

    You will find some who criticise the IPCC as too conservative. And there is a little irony, because the usual denial slur is that the IPCC is part of the conspiracy (and so by definition is closed), but here you are using the fact that its review policy is relatively open to criticise it.

    Of course there are cynics who will want to rort the review selection process to gild the lily about their qualifications, along with their feeble publication record (the peer review equivalent of buying a PhD over the Internet). But apparently that is alright. Defending the indefensible if they are on your side.

    The Himalaya and Amazon things are fleas on the elephant’s back. Just the sort of noise the article alludes to and one of the defined tactics deniers use.

    Here is two back from your mob: Whyalla will be wiped out by the carbon tax and Rio Tinto’s absurdist claim its Warkworth coal mine expansion (which they promised in a legal Deed of Agreement they would not pursue) will generate 44 000 jobs. Are we even?

  • 46
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    AR.
    I am absolutely engaging with substance.
    The article attacks the credentials of John McLean. That’s what it’s about. At no point does the article actually engage with what John McLean said.

    I am not defending John McLean. I know very little about his views. What I am banging on about on this thread is the stupidity of attacking the credentials of a climate change denialist when the entire climate change media machine in Australia, of whom Flannery is the leading light, is open to exactly the same analysis as Crikey has done on McLean.

    I know it’s hard for most people here to understand but I accept the view that global warming has occurred in the past 150 years due to human climate emissions.

    What I am completely and utterly over is the vacant, shallow, pointless and insubstantial propaganda put out by the climate change activist lobby, of which this article is a great example.

    What is needed is sober science, not activist drivel. After all, it is driving government policy at every level and we have a responsibility to get it right.

  • 47
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Interrobanger,
    Don’t be too jubilant about Whyalla. Just because Emerson made some good PR on 1 July about the failure of the town to be “wiped out” on the day the carbon tax came in, the prosperity of the town is utterly dependent on the steelworks there and its future is by no means secure.

    The demise of the car manufacturing industry in Australia will merely add more pressure. Maybe the repeal of the carbon tax will help.

  • 48
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Hey, David,
    Although the steelworks is still a very important part of the Whyalla economy, Whyalla’s dependence on it is decreasing. It is the mining industry that Whyalla’s future prosperity most depends on.

  • 49
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Tamas,
    Hypothetically if this year turns out to be hotter than 1998, will you:

    a) admit you’re wrong about no warming having occurred since 1998?
    b) still claim that no warming occurred between 1998 and 2013 but claim that the sudden rise this year shows global warming to be an extremely serious problem?
    c) as with b, but then in subsequent years claim that there’s no problem because there’s been no warming since 2014?
    d) claim that it must be a measurement error or something because AGW can’t possibly be real?

  • 50
    Jimmyhaz
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure why you would bring up the carbon tax at all, given that the head of Holden himself stated that it had no effect on their decision to leave Australia

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