Feb 5, 2009

Flip-flop Flannery is a climate change opportunist

Flannery’s ability to write engagingly about climate science has led some to believe he must have something sensible to say about the solutions to global warming. Not so, writes Clive Hamilton.

Malcolm Turnbull’s new climate change plan is another in a long line of diversionary policies aimed at taking the heat off the coal industry.

His emphasis on biochar -- turning agricultural waste into charcoal and spreading it onto paddocks -- is reminiscent of attempts by the Bush Administration to sabotage the Kyoto Protocol by allowing fossil pollution to be ‘offset’ by changes in agricultural practices.

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18 thoughts on “Flip-flop Flannery is a climate change opportunist

  1. Ray Barker

    Tim Flannery ‘professes’ to know a lot about climate change.

    To back up his theory that the world is warming, and the seas are rising, Flannery reminded viewers of Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope series that thousands of years ago you could walk from Tasmania to Victoria.

    Once upon a time, inland Australia was covered by sea. So, according to the straws of science grasped by the professor, this would prove the world is actually cooling!

  2. Rod Campbell-Ross

    It is disappointing that Crikey publishes articles that are climate and peak oil skeptical.
    Some learning would be a good idea.

    As to the specific question posed: there are no silver bullets. As usual the biggest part of the solution was not even proffered: use less. So nuclear, etc are all important, but using less is critical too.

  3. expiscor

    Time Flannery seems like a really nice guy, bursting with ideas who naturally wants to share them with everyone. He was initially an English major who moved into science. However some of his closest biology colleagues and mentors refer to him privately as Flim Flannery. Apparently there is a bit of a lack of rigour in his scientific approach, a fair dash of opportunism, and a preference for the rhetorical flourish. He’s worth listening to, but proceed with caution. He’s a bit more interested in being agreeable, not really challenging the fundamental causes of the environment crisis.

    Clive Hamilton espouses a consistent, compassionate and courageous vision for Australia based on sound universal principles of fairness and equity. He cops it from both sides sometimes (e.g. latest net censorship debate), and he rubs some people the wrong way (he was once a little rude to my wife), but his vision has much more substance because it doesn’t avoid addressing the basic underlying economic and political causes of environmental degradation.

  4. Graemel

    All Clive H ever does is sling s..t. A bit of scientific substance might persuade someone but it is never there in any of his writings

  5. Tom McLoughlin

    A little morale booster for Flim Flam – as a teenager I might have played for the VFL but contact lenses pursuaded me to get an education instead. Then as a science graduate I was a better lawyer. But as a lawyer I was a much better political activist.

    Which is a long way of saying according to my judgement, Flim Flam got the freezer stare from Howard start of 2007, and refused to baulk. He went at it and made himself really very unpopular with that dinosaur regime. This was a great achievement Timbo, no risk. And that’s despite my childhood buddy Ben McHenry later at South Australia museum being quite uncomplimentary.

    Just as Peter Garrett for his many sins also surely helped thwart the Howard vision of a domestic nuclear … weapons capacity here either of our own or via a US military base.

    It’s a swings and roundabouts sort of reality methinks.

  6. mike smith

    Flip-Flopping? Yeah, right. It’s now become a derogatory adjective apparently. When it really indicates the ability to think flexibly, and admit you were wrong. Something many scientists seam reluctant to do, especially in this field.

  7. Colin Bower

    Clive Hamilton has hit the nail on the head. As a biological scientist I have never been a fan of Flannery and his outpourings. Flannery is an ‘ideas’ person, rather than a deeply analytical scientist. His career success is based on the development of headline-catching, often controversial conjectures that capture the popular imagination. His writings scratch together evidence that supports his ideas, ignoring everything that doesn’t. He seems to have little interest in testing his own hypotheses scientifically, leaving that to others. In the process misconceptions are propagated that become fixed as facts in popular culture. A good example can be found in the Journal Cunninghamia (Vol 5 No 4 1998) in which Benson and Redpath expose his breath-takingly superficial scientific approach in The Future Eaters. It is interesting that Flannery’s response in that case was also to claim to have been misrepresented and misquoted. Flannery is full of helium. It’s time his balloon was pricked.

    (By the way, I was utterly appalled some years ago when words similar to ‘Foreword by Tim Flannery’ were placed on the cover of a book in larger type than that of the author!!!)

  8. Frank Strie

    May I suggest Clive Hamilton should do his homework on the issue of Biosequestration. He is doing us no favour with such cheap attached, as I he had actually listened to the interviews provided via podcast by community groups such as beyondzeroemmissions.org he would know by now how urgent the combined action of various carbon negative initiatives combined with the at best carbon neural other renewable energies. Readers and Crikey could also assist by exploring the issues via websites like the very informative international website: http://biocharfarming.wordpress.com

  9. allen

    Wasnt it Flannery who a half dozen years ago ripped a new one in Micheal Crichton when he came out and was sceptical of global warming?
    I may be wrong but If memory serves me correctly wasnt Flannery’s big claim that Chricton was only an MD and fictional authorTherefore he had no “expertise” or authority to talk on climate change.
    Apparently anthropologists are allowed to write and speak adnauseum on the subject though.

  10. Tom McLoughlin

    Love your work Alen … Greer (related to Germaine?), another idealistic science tough guy.

    Noting in http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/letters/index.php/theaustralian/comments/only_privatisation_can_solve_the_mess_in_our_water_system/

    dated 27 January 2007,

    “LONG-time environmental ambulance chaser and now Australian of the Year Tim Flannery may anticipate conflict with John Howard over federal Government action on climate change, but that will be of little concern to the Prime Minister, who has just seen the electoral light on climate change.

    What Mr Howard needed and got from this choice in an election year was a celebrity environmentalist who advocates consideration at least of nuclear energy as a climate change solution.

    Allen Greer
    Mudgee, NSW

    Ouch again.

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