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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  • 51
    Tamas Calderwood
    Posted Monday, 13 January 2014 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Guys - 1998 was the hottest year according to the satellites. There has been no warming trend since then. For these catastrophes to happen we need to see the world get a lot warmer but there is no sign of that happening.

    If another 2c of warming will doom us, when will we start to approach that? There’s been 0.8c of warming in since 1860. It stopped getting warmer 15 years ago. There is no crisis. Relax!

  • 52
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Tamas, this is the satellite data for the lower atmosphere:

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_December_2013_v5.6.png

    Do the years after 1998 look generally warmer or cooler than the years before 1998 ?

  • 53
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    This graph shows how five periods of cooling add up to a warming trend:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/Skeptics_v_Realists.jpg

  • 54
    Jon Jenkins
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    What a disgraceful article; I realise Crikey (like all commercial media) has to pander to it’s audience (in this case the lefty alarmists) but you really do yourself a dis-service publishing such vile personal attacks!

    It is typical of the non scientist climate alarmist (who understands nothing of the science) to attack the person because their view is driven by ideology. From the use of the term “denier” in the first paragraph to the association with “big oil” to the final attack McKewon puts on display the sad indictment of “modern journalism”: the abandonment of objective and balanced debate in favour of journalism simply as a tool for political ideology!

  • 55
    Already Burnt
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The abandonment of objective and balanced debate is demonstrated by the reporting of the recent University of NSW ‘Spirit of Mawson’ expedition. The Tele sums it up nicely:

    Before the $1.5 million expedition, the ABC reported Professor Turney and his team would “try to answer questions about how climate change in the frozen continent might be already shifting weather patterns in Australia.” Subsequent ABC reports make little mention of the expedition’s climate aims. A headline in the Sydney Morning Herald described the trapped vessel as an “Antarctic tourist ship”.

  • 56
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Jon if Mcleans original article had grappled with the substance of the debate you would have a good point. But it didnt. It was a misleading series of half truths and deceptions.

    He sought to diminish the authority of the IPCC by saying that its charter begs the question as to whether humans cause global warming. This is true. But he failed to mention that the alternative models for other drivers dont work. Human induced change is the best explanation.

    He claimed that the procedures of the IPCC permitted political influence. This is true. But such influence has always downplayed the risk.

    He claimed special authority to add credibility to what he was saying. An analysis of that authority is appropriate. The author of this article is also appealing to authority when she discredits Mcleans publications. If you think that her criticisms are unfair, tell us why.

  • 57
    Will
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    There is nothing vile about this article. The piece provides a valuable community service in debunking what was a highly disingenuous appeal to scientific authority in the byline given to McLean by Fairfax. This matters because Fairfax for inexplicable and inexcusable reasons decided to give McLean the last word on the matters arising from Maurice Newman’s utterances and the subsequent responses to them by David Karoly et al.
    McLean was held forth to Fairfax readers as a credentialed climate scientist who had a reputable peer-reviewed publication record – which suggested he had expertise and independence in assessing whether there was any case to answer in Mr Newman’s comments. But the fact is he has no relevant qualifications and no relevant publication record, and his funding from the IPA and the Heartland Institute makes him a highly partisan operator. This incident is just another disgraceful incident in the long running decline of Fairfax.

  • 58
    David Hand
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Will,
    Flannery is presented to the Australian as a credentialed climate scientist when he is not, and he has far more influence on public policy in Australia that McLean ever will.

    In an editorial in the New Scientist on 16 June 2007, Flannery said,

    Over the past 50 years southern Australia has lost about 20 per cent of its rainfall, and one cause is almost certainly global warming. …… by far the most dangerous trend is the decline in the flow of Australian rivers: it has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent decades, so dams no longer fill even when it does rain. …. I believe the first thing Australians need to do is to stop worrying about “the drought” - which is transient - and start talking about the new climate. ….. In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months.”

    So while you’re all pointing the finger debunking a denialist’s credentials, Flannery has driven the construction of about a dozen currently mothballed desalinisation plants that we are all currently paying for in our water rates.

    worse, his apocalyptic pronouncements about Brisbane’s water caused the operating protocols for the Wivenhoe dam to be changed to include water supply.

    Originally built after the 1974 floods to protect Brisbane flood events, the protocols now became contradictory where to protect against flood you need the dam empty but to protect against running out of water you need the dam full. This policy stuff up directly caused thousands of homes and businesses to flood as the dam was spilling at its maximum rate at the moment the peak of the flood occurred.

    Thank you Tim. Rest assured, you won’t see an expose of your scientific credentials exposed for us all through the vehicle of Crikey.

  • 59
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - There you go again with you Tim Flannery obsession - you whole argument appears to be “It doesn’t matter taht the climate change deniers on the whole have no qualifications and the weight of scientific knowledge shows their arguments to be false time and time again because Tim Flannery doesn’t have a qualification”.

    If anything your argument against Flannery only supports this article and what others on this site have to say - it’s time to ignore what all the talking heads have to say and focus on what those with expertise in the filed have to say - and that is that climate change is real, it is man made and that putting a price on carbon is the best way to tackle it and “direct action” is a massive waste of money.

  • 60
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted Tuesday, 14 January 2014 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    David Hand,
    You greatly overestimate the influence of Tim Flannery. His comments didn’t drive the construction of desalination plants; the drought did. He was merely restating an existing consensus. Not knowing how long the drought would last, it would have been irresponsible not to build desalination plants. Adelaide’s was built too big, but that was the result of politics not experts.

    The drying trend Flannery was referring to is real. And ITYF the Wivenhoe Dam was used for water supply long before he made those comments.

  • 61
    Stella
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I think anyone’s credibility goes out the window when they’re part of an outfit that includes Ian Plimmer - and the first thing you see on the website is the Skeptics Handbook.
    http://www.auscsc.org.au/about_us.html

    Here’s also someone from March commenting on “Perennial Phd Student” John McLean. http://roymustard.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/hypocritical-john-mcclean-is-a-hypocrite/

  • 62
    Russell Cook
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    … 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.”

    historically bankrolled’ - entertaining, isn’t it, that writer Elaine McKewon can’t bring herself to mention the actual fact here, that Heartland hasn’t gotten a dime from Exxon since 2006. That’s something around 7 whole years. Kinda deflates that whole accusation when anyone looks at it that way, and it gets massively worse since McKewon and not one other person making that accusation has ever bothered to provide any of us with one shred of physical evidence (full context document scans, undercover video/audio transcripts, leaked emails, money-transfer receipts, etc.) that skeptic scientists and places like Heartland were paid to fabricate demonstratively false science papers, reports, assessments or viewpoints.

    No need to trust me on that, look it up for yourselves in any variety of books out there making that accusation, or in any of the various web sites doing that. If such evidence is out there, folks on the IPCC / Al Gore side of the issue should have it at the ready in order to shut down guys like me. Li’l word of caution, though, prepare yourselves for disappointment if you go looking for it. Then ask yourselves why so many who accuse skeptics of industry corruption have let so many down with their enslavement to pure guilt-by-association stuff that would never fly in any country’s courtroom evidence hearings.

    When folks like McKewon still seek to plant worn out 20 year old ideas of corruption in readers’ heads but can’t back it up in any way, and they don’t have the expertise to refute skeptics climate science viewpoints, it should really make people wonder just how desperate the entire man-caused global warming movement is to stay alive.

  • 63
    max steinman
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s not an accusation at all, the ISCC is funded by the Heartland Institute which was historically bankrolled by Exxon to promote climate denial. So because there’s no evidence that Heartland has received money from Exxon since 06 we should what? Be entertained? Your argument makes no sense! Heartland is a front for denialist money and it always has been, it’s just so nice that the USA allows it’s non-profit organisations the legal right to hide their backers from public view.

  • 64
    max steinman
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Science that is “demonstrably false” is “not science”, and as such is rejected by the scientific consensus establishing anthropocentric global warming. Literally all of the denialist garbage published by fringe journals has been debunked extensively, there is no existing alternative model that fits the data better, and until denialists can create something equally as rigorous as the work of climate scientists they should be ignored entirely.

  • 65
    iced volvo
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Aidan Stanger @ 60 above says:

    You greatly overestimate the influence of Tim Flannery.”

    Are you serious? He was awarded HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars for his doomed “hot rock” fiasco! That money could have been spent on real research (just ask the Thorium reactor group at Sydney or the Solar Thermal group at ANU).

    His comments regarding water supplies of Sydney/Brisbane/Perth while head of the lefty junket “Climate Commission” (which actually only had one climate scientist on it!!) drove the further wasting of BILLIONS of dollars in desal plants that now sit idle and corroding!

    How about holding some of the failed climate Messiah’s like Flannery and Steffen etc responsible for the now almost 30 BILLION of wasted money just in Australia alone!

  • 66
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    iced volvo - I maybe wrong on this but I beli eve the desal plants were initiated well in advance of the creation of te climate commission.

    Also wasn’t the the aim of the climate commission wasn’t to conduct climate research per se but to collate all the various research being conducted arounf the world and present it in an easy to understand format - which if true means there would be little need for more than 1 climate scientist on it.

  • 67
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    iced volvo - Just checked the desal v climate commission timeline and while the climate commission only started in 2011 the Sydney Desal plant was conceived in 2008, the Melbourne one in 2007, the Perth one was completed in 2006 and the Gold Coast one was operational in 2009.

    Maybe they were built due the over decade long drought rather than the influence of the head an as yet non existant commission?

  • 68
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh and on the purpose of the commission it was “The Climate Commission was an independent body established in 2011 by the Federal Government of Australia to communicate “reliable and authoritative information” about climate change in Australia” - commuicate information not conduct research.

  • 69
    tonyfunnywalker
    Posted Wednesday, 15 January 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    John McLean
    Elaine McKewon stated her University and Phd Topic. If you claim to be mis- represented in your expertise in Climate Change you would have nominated the University where you are enrolled and the relevance of your topic to the argument. Until you do so you have no credibility. I congratulate Elaine for her investigative journalism because she did what Fairfax should have done.
    I do not think that Fairfax will be hoodwinked again in what they publish on this contentious topic.

  • 70
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    iced volvo @ 65 -

    Of course I’m serious! But are you? You seem to be blaming Tim Flannery for everything without any evidence, and your figures seem to have been pulled ut of thin air.

    When exactly was Tim Flannery awarded HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars? There were grants to Geodynamics, but AIUI they only totalled about a hundred million. We can now say the money could’ve been better spent, but it’s easy picking winners in hindsight. And althugh the remoteness of the Cooper Basin currently makes large scale geothermal energy recovery there uneconomic, thiere is still a lot of potential for geothermal energy in Australia (unlike nonbiological CCS schemes which will never be ecnomic in Australia).

    His comments regarding water supplies (made long before the Climate Commission existed) reflected the consensus of opinions among water engineers. He wasn’t resoonsible for the building of the desalination plants. But hypothetically if the government had been so negligent as to ignore what everyone else said and just listen to him, he would’ve been irresponsible not to make those comments. A reliable water supply is absolutely essential, and that means a diversity of sources was needed as existing sources were inadequate or failing due to the drought. There was no guarantee - indeed no indication - that the drought would break when it did, so gambling our future on that happening would be the dumbest policy imaginable!

    Desalination plants are designed to be mothballed when theylre not needed, so your comment about corrosion is just silly. And in Adelaide at least, just having a desalination plant reduces the amount of water we need to pump from the Murray, as knowing we can use it when required means we don’t have to keep our reservoirs as full as we otherwise would.

  • 71
    iced volvo
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Aidan Stanger @70

    Of course I’m serious! But are you? You seem to be blaming Tim Flannery for everything”

    No just wasting BILLIONS of dollars!

    without any evidence,”

    Plenty of that

    and your figures seem to have been “pulled ut of thin air.

    Public record

    When exactly was Tim Flannery awarded HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars? There were grants to Geodynamics, but AIUI they only totalled about a hundred million.”

    Flannery was a shareholder/advisor to Rudd and GD; but there are other grants not only to GD but to other “related” entities as well. Origin also lost $~200 million (just passed onto consumers as electricity price rises i.e. another ” carbon tax”).

    We can now say the money could’ve been better spent, but it’s easy picking winners in hindsight.”

    No! it will not work for very good chemical reasons which were well known beforehand (related to the hydrogen/salt at the depth needed). There were much more promising areas of research at both Sydney and ANU which were just ignored.

    His comments regarding water supplies (made long before the Climate Commission existed) reflected the consensus of opinions among water engineers.”

    BS! He made the comments starting from about 2005 until 2012. His political appointment as AotY gave him press coverage and his appointment as Climate Commission was farcical (he was a museum curator FFS). Thankfully the media and politicians now ignore him.

    He wasn’t resoonsible for the building of the desalination plants.”

    In 2007, Flannery (as Australian of the Year and Rudd advisor) predicted global warming would so dry our continent “that desalination plants were needed to save three of our biggest cities from disaster. …. In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months.”

    Desalination plants are designed to be mothballed when theylre not needed, so your comment about corrosion is just silly.”

    The white elephant on the Gold Coast is almost trashed and the centre of a massive lawsuit (do a quick search). Now who’s silly!

    Again the point is that while lefty cultists like MCKEWON take their vicious ad hominen attacks to McLean they leave revere their precious Messiahs (like Flannery, Steffen, Hamilton etc etc) on the quasi relgius pedestal no matter how false their prophecies of doom are shown to be! Remember what this was about: objectivity and balanced debate in journalism.

  • 72
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Iced Volvo - “In 2007, Flannery (as Australian of the Year and Rudd advisor) predicted global warming would so dry our continent “that desalination plants were needed to save three of our biggest cities from disaster. …. In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months.” At the very least the Gold Coast and Perth Desal plant decisions to go ahead predated 2007 and given Melbourne’s was announced by June 2007 after “The total average inflow into Melbourne dams from 1913 to 1996 was 615 GL per year, whilst average inflow 1997–2009, during the most severe drought ever recorded in Victoria, was 376 GL per year” and “Reserves in the state’s water storage dams decreased from 1998 to 2007 to around a third of maximum capacity” it would be a brave man who attributed the decision down to comment made by Flannery alledgedly at some point in 2007.

    And you are right Flannery was Australian of the year in 2007 - but Rudd didn’t win power until October 2007 - so it was Howard who elevated Flannery’s opinion.

  • 73
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Iced Volvo - “In 2007, Flannery (as Austral ian of the Year and Rudd advisor) predicted global warming would so dry our continent “that desal ination plants were needed to save three of our biggest cities from disaster. …. In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water suppl ies are so low they need desalinated water urgentl y, possibly in as little as 18 months.” At the very least the Gold Coast and Perth Desal plant decisions to go ahead predated 2007 and given Melbourne’s was announced by June 2007 after “The total average inflow into Melbourne dams from 1913 to 1996 was 615 GL per year, whilst average inflow 1997–2009, during the most severe drought ever recorded in Victoria, was 376 GL per year” and “Reserves in the state’s water storage dams decreased from 1998 to 2007 to around a third of maximum capacity” it would be a brave man who attributed the decision down to comment made by Flannery allegedl y at some point in 2007.

    And you are right Flannery was Australian of the year in 2007 - but Rudd didn’t win power until October 2007 - so it was Howard who elevated Flannery’s opinion.

  • 74
    iced volvo
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    At last we get down to arguing small details.

    Beattie and Rudd were close allies and Flannery was the darling of the left (yes there are left in the Libs as well; I made no mention of Howard etc or of Perth!) swooned over by the ABC and Fairfax who printed every ludicrous utterance from Gaia to his predictions of Sydney and Perth as Ghost cities by 2010.

    As to Desal plants; most were constructed after the doomsday comments:

    GC: 2009
    Sydney: 2010
    Vic: 2012
    SA: 2012
    WA#2: 2012

    at least in part initiated by the panic created by hoarde of gravy train non scientists: Flannery was only one of several high profile but he’s the pin up boy!

    Again the debate is about the way the lefty journos like MCKEWON approach the media and debate!

  • 75
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Iced Volvo - Your whole argument is the small details -arguing over flannery’s comments is just a minor point and the main game is whether climate change is real and man made - and it is this main game where the scientific community is almost enitrely in agreement.

    And I am not sure whterh you know much about constructing a desal plant but you have used completion dates - the decision to build one was made well in advance of the completion date - for example Vistoria announced in June 2007 that they would build a Desal plant - it wasn’t completed until 5 years later.

    And given that you are referring to WA’s second Desal plant wouldn’t they make their decision for a second one based on their experience from the first?

  • 76
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    The thing about Flannery is not so much what he said on a specific matter on a specific date, though his 2007 editorial in the New Scientist is a damning commentary about his knowledge and lack of expertise on climate science.

    I introduced Flannery to this thread as an example of flaky non-expert thinking that has had actual impact on our lives through its influence on government policy since the global warming industry got going in the mid 90s.

    It’s all very well to point to McLean’s credentials or lack of, as Elaine McKewon has done here. My point is that there is a real story in the activist set on the warmist side that is unscientific, almost faith based in its thinking and having real direct negative impact on our lives. They get away with it by hiding behind the widespread consensus, that I share, that global warming is real and contributed to by humans.

    Flannery’s influence, along with his fellow travellers, pre-dates his 2007 utterances by about a decade.

  • 77
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - Flanery’s “flaky non - expert thinking” was at least going in the same direction as the expert consensus - it may have had the volume tunred up to grab a headline but it was essentially in line with the expert opinion - McLean and other deniers are runnning in hte exact opposite direction to the experts (both scientific and economic) and they are having an actual impact on our lives through their influence on govt policy - and the impact of their influence will be far more profund thanthe supposed waste of a few hundred million dollars.

  • 78
    Andrew Dolt
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Crikey should just follow Reddit Science and ban AGW deniers. Let them stick to publications which welcome them and their tinfoil hats, the rest of us have run out of time for this nonsense. To quote “These people were true believers, blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking. They had no idea that the smart-sounding talking points from their preferred climate blog were, even to a casual climate science observer, plainly wrong.” http://grist.org/climate-energy/reddits-science-forum-banned-climate-deniers-why-dont-all-newspapers-do-the-same/

  • 79
    David Hand
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s the election of a government that has a different view about action on climate change that will influence government policy but I don’t think climate sceptics et al had much influence on the election. You’re giving them too much gravitas mate. Labor got thrown out of office because of a veritable smorgasbord of policy failures.

  • 80
    tonyfunnywalker
    Posted Thursday, 16 January 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Instead of pillorying Tim Flannery and what he said or did not say in 2007 that’s old history and has been peddled by the spiteful Wikipedia Hunt.
    Perhaps more pressing is the deal that Robb is involved in - the TPP in Salt Lake City and the concern in the US about its implications with threats already by some states to open defiance.
    This is not a trade deal it is not only going to threaten our biodiversity it is also going to threaten the whole issue of food safety - where Australia has been successful in quarantining itself from the worst.
    So the denialists have a broad agenda of corporate control and reads a bit like the Old Soviet Union and its relationship with the its satellites - you can regulate but if the US is disadvantaged in any way then we will ignore it and sue you for loss of profits along the way.
    This is not a FTA to save the sugar industry as Robb suggests it is a complete sell out of our sovereignty over our environment.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/16/dark-money_n_4604839.html?ref=topbar

    I note the Australian media and politicians have been quiet about the whole process of the TPP and its implications.

  • 81
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    David Hand - Let me get this straight - Tim Flannery’s comments & appointment as Australian of the year allowed his largley scientifically backed opinions to drive govt policy at every level in a negative direction but the writings of various News Ltd employed sceptics and Abbott’s “Axe the Tax” mantra (that was he pushed despite previously supporting a price on carbon) had no influence? Are you saying that the oppostion to a price on carbon didn’t effect the repotring of other so called “policy failures”?
    Don’t forget one of these “climate sceptics” is also “the nations most read columnist” who has his own TV show - I think that gives him much more influence than Flannery - and he is just one of many.

  • 82
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an example of Flannery at work.

    Point’s 1 and 2 in their latest report on bushfires.

    • Extreme fire weather has increased over the last 30 years in southeast Australia.”

    • Hot, dry conditions have a major influence on bushfires. Climate change is making hot days hotter, and heatwaves longer and more frequent. Some parts of Australia are becoming drier. These conditions are driving up the likelihood of very high fire danger weather, especially in the southwest and southeast.”

    There’s their comments about the data to back it up on page 36 of the report.

    Furthermore, few datasets on fire activity spanning multiple decades are available in Australia (Cary et al., 2012), so our ability to measure long-term trends is limited.”
    “At a regional level, the most comprehensive analysis of fire trends available points to a complex picture. Analysis of a 35-year dataset … for 32 bioregions in southeast Australia shows that for seven of the eight forest regions examined, the area burned has increased significantly … However, in the drier woodland and more arid regions, trends were far more variable, with either declines or no change shown. These results are consistent with predictions that in areas where water availability limits productivity, no trends or even decreases in fire activity might be expected during periods in which long-term drying has been observed.”

    So the ABC widely broadcasts the unqualified statements by Flannery from page one, but when you go to the data you find

    1. It’s not in the report.
    2. It only goes back 35 years.
    3. The report specifically states that lack of datasets limits our ability to measure trends.
    4. They even try to explain a decrease in fires in the limited data they have.

    The ABC didn’t bother to give any coverage of page 36.

  • 83
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - Sounds more like sloppy journalism from than poor form from Flannery.

    And also when people post quotes with some … in them it is what fills the … parts that interests me more than what was actually posted.

  • 84
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Well you can go and have a look if you like Jimmy.

    I was merely trying to make my post shorter by removing irrelevant information.

    For your info, the first ….. was (1973-2009) and the second was (Bradstock et al., 2013).

    It’s not just sloppy journalism. Flannery has yet again made grandiose statements that have been widely reported but he does not have the data to support them. At best he can talk probabilities and levels of confidence. He’s an activist campaigner, not a climate scientist.

  • 85
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    DAvid Hand - Sorry I should of thanked you for making your post 8 words shorter - it made all the difference.

    And yes Flannery is an activist and yes his claims are grandiose and designed to grab a headline - I agreed with this point days ago and I said we should listen to those with expertise - and those with expertise say climate change is real, it is man made, it is a threat and a price on carbon is the best way to fix it.

    Flannery while making grandiose statements is at least on the side of the argument that is supported by science - the sceptics like the one discussed in this article are not only making grandiose statements designed to grab a headline don’t even have probabilities or levels of confidence to talk about - their arguments have been repeatedly shown to be false not just through exaggeration but to the very root.

  • 86
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Oh and David - “It’s not just sloppy journalism. Flannery has yet again made grandiose statements that have been widely reported but he does not have the data to support them” That is the very definition of sloppy journalism - had any journalist bothered to check the facts or ask Flannery to support his argument the problem would of been solved.

  • 87
    David McRae
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Lots of deniers here - may we get one to volunteer a finger of theirs to be placed in front of a CO2 laser?

    Can a denier of physics with Infrared and CO2 be burnt by a CO2 laser?

  • 88
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    There may be deniers here but I’m not one of them.

  • 89
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    No David - You just hate Tim Flannery and apologise for the deniers.

  • 90
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t hate Tim Flannery. I think he is just as good a candidate for exposure of his lack of science credentials as McLean, particularly because he has so much more influence.

  • 91
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - You keep saying Flannery has “more influence” but where is the evidence? If Flannery had more influence than the sceptics the anti carbon tax campaign wouldn’t have been as succesful as it was.
    Flannery’s role has been more to push public opinion than shape policy - the fact that policy has moved in the direction Flannery advocated for has been because the science (and economic) evidence has supported his side if not his claims. However we now have a situation where policy is moving towards the sceptics side without any scientific or economic support whatsoever - so wouldn’t this point to the fact that the likes of McLean and Blot have more influence?

  • 92
    iced volvo
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Flannery Smannery … Don’t you people get it? He is just an example of the non scientist (a museum curator is not a “scientist” when it comes to climate physics!) paraded as Messiahs by the lefty media (i.e. Fairfax, ABC etc).

    The original theme of the discussion was that instead of debating the actual issues raised in McClean’s article MCKEWON took the vicious ad hominem attack method so characteristic of the left.

    But of special interest is that she claims to be a “journalist” and as such should at least make a superficial attempt at balance and objectivity: no one couls argue that she makes the slightest attempt whatsoever to be objective and balanced!

  • 93
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 17 January 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    The anti-carbon tax campaign has been driven mostly through Julia Gillard’s massive blunder in saying “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” and then selling out to the Greens in order to win government. The cynicism in the electorate about that sort of bastardisation of the political process is why Labor is not in power any more.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that Flannery’s campaigning in the early 2000s helped build the mothballed desalinisation plants and the Wivenhoe fiasco was brought about by politicians becoming convinced that big rains had gone for ever.

    When you have an influential Australian of the year splashed prominently across all media, making apocalyptic pronouncements with words like “science” and “scientific” liberally spread through them, it focuses a politician’s mind. Hey it even got Howard to propose an ETS.

    Now that’s influence for you.

  • 94
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    David Hand - “I have no doubt whatsoever that Flannery’s campaigning in the early 2000s helped build the mothballed desalinisation plants” “When you have an influential Australian of the year splashed prominently across all media, making apocalyptic pronouncements with words like “science” and “scientific” liberally spread through them, it focuses a politician’s mind.” Except he wasn’t Australian of the year until 2007, after the decision to build most of the plants was made. What is more likely is that it was the wieght of scientific opinion - which Flannery represents (even if he does embelish for effect) that got the plants built.

    The anti-carbon tax campaign has been driven mostly through Julia Gillard’s massive blunder in saying “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead” and then selling out to the Greens in order to win government.” That did have a impact on the debate, even though she did not actually introduce a “carbon tax”, but this just demonstrates that the anti climate change campaign has been devoid of scientific fact and all about petty politics.
    I mean is Gillard the only politician to change her position - how many has Abbott had on the topic?

  • 95
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Well Jimmy,
    You’ve touched the central issue at last.

    If it was really scientific opinion that said the drought was here to stay and desalinisation plants were needed, then it is scientific opinion - you know, those qualified scientists you have so much respect for - that has egg on its face in 2013.

    At best, qualified scientists would most likely have given facts to the governments of the day who would then make up their policy response. I would be amazed is a climate scientist would have gone so far as to say “you must build desalinisation plants”. Their policy response was influenced by the activists of the day. That’s the non-scientists like Flannery.

  • 96
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    David Hand - Just becasue the desalination plants aren’t required right now doesn’t mean they weren’t needed - there is no point waitng until they are needed to build them because by the time they are built they might not be needed (as has happened this time).

    The fact is that the weight of scientific opinion has Auistralia getting hotter and drier going forward - scientists would of advised govts of this - and given Melbournes water storages were at 30% capacity and severe water restriction were in place - no govt should of sat on their hands waiting for rain - or allowed the situation to arise again.

    You clearly think flannery is all powerful and politicians incapable of understanding and accepting scientific fact or even realising that some sort of water security is important - these positions are illogical to sya the least.

  • 97
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    No Jimmy.
    I’m not discussing the merits of desalinisation plants or whether or not Flannery is credible.

    I’m actually commenting on McKewon and Crikey saying “Hah! Look! There’s a climate denier publishing his views in Fairfax! He’s not even an expert! He’s misrepresenting his expertise!

    My point is that there aren’t very many credible voices on the warmist side either. Your comment that the desalinisation plants were built on the advice of highly qualified expert scientists shows that they don’t know much about it, do they. That’s not to say their advice was wrong, it’s just that this attacking the credentials of people rather than discussing the merits of what they are saying is classic lefty green religious fundamentalism writ large.

    Outcomes are not what climate models predicted and the green left is scared shitless of anyone asking why.

  • 98
    tonyfunnywalker
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The discussion on Flannery and what he said and did not say has cluttered my inbox for days.

    1. This article was not about Flannery in the first place.
    2. It was about John McLean and his claimed credentials - when challenged to name the University / thesis topic and title - he has failed to do so so I assume that he is like so many deniers a charlatan.
    3. If you question Flannery’s integrity - I would love to have your opinion on Ian Plimer especially as he is a Gina Reinhardt Board Member - Perhaps a discussion on his book which as a fellow geologist I can assure you is equally flawed.
    4. Parliaments approved the desalination plants not Flannery - they made the decision - they need not have done so and voted the proposal down - we do live in a democracy although the actions of the deniers suggests totalitarian strategies funded by vested interests are being deployed to both de-fund and discredit climate change science.
    Hitler used the same tactics to discredit academia and closed the universities. The Cultural Revolution in China did the same; setting Chinese Science and technology back decades as a result.
    It was Islam and China that during the great period of denier domination in Europe maintained learning without prejudice and persecution which the West then plundered for their own benefit in particular the printing press / gun powder and the compass.
    It was the printing press that promulgated science and scientific thinking — now it is setting out to destroy it — by building a culture of fear of vilification by misinterpreting data and facts to create a no go area of investigation by the brightest and the best.
    Are we entering a new era of the Inquisition — - it would seem based on Climate Denial? With Creationism in the ascendancy in the US and in Pyne’s new curriculum you never know.

  • 99
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Monday, 20 January 2014 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Yes Creationists wouldn’t be very impressed by Tim Flannery, (who is a Palaeontologist?).
    So how does one get to be a palaeontologist without first studying geology?
    And how does one get to study geology without studying climate, scientifically?
    Yep, it looks very much like creationism on a crusade against science.
    Gee, what would a palaeontologist know about changing climates, extinctions and the fossil record; we’d better look for an “Expert”.
    Try Tony Abbott, he’ll do as an expert, because it is not science at play, but politics, right?
    Better start paying closer attention to John Howard on this one, Politics trumps Science, OK?
    And there is only one religion, and it isn’t science, right?
    Those who don’t credit this, just look at what is the leader of this country, and ask why he doesn’t need a Science Minister.

  • 100
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    David Hand - And finally we have got to the crux of the matter - after spending most of this thread claiming not to be a denier you finally admit you don’t bel ieve the science!! Despite almost the entire scientific community being in agreement on the existence of climate change and that it is man made you still cling to the bel ief that “there aren’t very many credible voices on the warmist side either” - you are deluded.

    And if you don’t think water security is important and if you think that we will be able to continue to rely solel y on dams and rain fall to meet our ever growing water needs you are a fool.

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