Climate change:

Adam Rope writes: Luke Butler (yesterday, comments) linked to a BBC article yesterday, titled “What happened to global warming?“, and then stated the article “suggested” that “C02 is not the problem and rather indications point more towards climate change being down to sun spot/solar flare activity.”

Can I just point out that the article contains the following:

Sceptics argue that the warming we observed was down to the energy from the Sun increasing. After all 98% of the Earth’s warmth comes from the Sun. But research conducted two years ago, and published by the Royal Society, seemed to rule out solar influences.

The scientists’ main approach was simple: to look at solar output and cosmic ray intensity over the last 30-40 years, and compare those trends with the graph for global average surface temperature. And the results were clear. “Warming in the last 20 to 40 years can’t have been caused by solar activity.

Or there is this:

The UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre, responsible for future climate predictions, says it incorporates solar variation and ocean cycles into its climate models, and that they are nothing new. In fact, the centre says they are just two of the whole host of known factors that influence global temperatures – all of which are accounted for by its models.

In addition, say Met Office scientists, temperatures have never increased in a straight line, and there will always be periods of slower warming, or even temporary cooling.

What is crucial, they say, is the long-term trend in global temperatures. And that, according to the Met office data, is clearly up.

Then if you took a look around that BBC site, you could find another article, titled “‘Scary’ climate message from past” which reports that:

A new historical record of carbon dioxide levels suggests current political targets on climate may be “playing with fire”, scientists say. Researchers used ocean sediments to plot CO2 levels back 20 million years.

Levels similar to those now commonly regarded as adequate to tackle climate change were associated with sea levels 25-40m (80-130 ft) higher than today. Scientists write in the journal Science that this extends knowledge of the link between CO2 and climate back in time.

You see Luke, if you actually read some the scientific articles to which Andrew Bolt links, you might find they often contain information which is the complete opposite of his interpretation.

Simon Wilkins writes: Luke Butler does not supply his credentials, but his climate change comment is but one in a long string of Crikey commentary/rebuttal which has me asking “Why is it that so many people feel entitled to take on science and scientists but only where the science suggests general benefit will require personal inconvenience?”.

No one seems to contest gravity or special theory relativity in the blogosphere do they, even though the existence of the “gravity particle” is far from certain … Whoops, apologies if I just created the next campaign right there!

Seriously though, you can easily pick from environmental destruction, dietary/smoking/drinking habits, public health etc. and sure enough, angry people the blogworld-over feel perfectly qualified to argue with the professionals, despite any appreciation for scientific process (long, tedious, far from unanimous, but always held up to scrutiny by both self AND peers).

On the other hand, right when people are turning to scientists to answer the dilemmas intellectually honest people realise we are going to face in the next few decades, we are (or were until the GFC) told that the great minds of our generation have gone into banking and finance.

I am trained as a scientist, I don’t work in climate change research, but my training, and the trials and peer review process of publishing my own work, give me the confidence to accept that experts in the field of Climate Change Science have based their predictions on cautious, scrutinised, critical observation, as opposed to intellectually and morally bankrupt data skimming in a sad attempt to preserve an unsustainable lifestyle and political position.

Ben Aveling writes: A Typography of Climate Change Denialists:

  1. It’s not getting warmer.
  2. It may be getting warmer but it isn’t Climate Change.
  3. It is Climate Change but it isn’t man-made.
  4. It is man-made but there isn’t anything we can do about it.
  5. There are things we can do but they aren’t worth doing.
  6. There were things we should have done, but it’s all too late now.

Exercise for the reader (Greens excepted): find your own political party on this scale.


  • Type 2 includes: It was getting warmer but it magically stopped in 1998, so long as you look at only some of the statistics.
  • Type 5 includes: We all have to do something. This is something.

Therefore this is all we have to do.

Kieren Diment writes: Do we have a successor to the dismal nonsense of Tamas Calderwood in Luke Butler? For the likes of Tamas, Luke and Piers Akerman, no it hasn’t cooled since 1998. Of the last 10 years, 1998 has indeed been the warmest on record, with 2005, 2003, 2002 all warmer than 2009. 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2004 have all been warmer than 1997.

Hardly resounding proof of a long term cooling trend — here’s the graph. I seem to remember one of your regulars debunking this ridiculous notion that a cooling trend has started in the paper only a few days ago. Is the letters editor not paying attention?

Matt Andrews writes: Luke Butler trots out the climate contrarians’ favourite meme: that 1998 was the hottest year on record, implying that the world has been cooling since.

It’s true that the Hadley index (one of the two most respected global temperature indices) shows 1998 as the hottest year so far; however, the Hadley index did register a much stronger spike in 1998 than other indices. Probably the highest quality of all temperature indexes, NASA’s GISS, shows 2005 to be the hottest year so far.

Regardless of which individual year was hottest, the suggestion that the world is cooling is wrong, wrong, wrong. Read and understand.

Asylum seekers:

David Gothard writes: Re. “Rundle: Rudd, Ruddock and the deep, dark currents of fear” (yesterday, item 1). Why does the Rudd Government always looks for the complex solution? Simple and certain solution is to make it a Criminal Offence to smuggle these people, and/or to come into Australian waters without correct documentation or to attempt to land other than at a normal Port of Entry. Penalty fine of $2000 (to cover cost of deportation) and maximum penalty of Five years imprisonment.

The first question on the Application for asylum should be…”Have you been convicted of an offence under Australian Law with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.” Answering “YES” to this question would automatically result in the application being refused and deportation to follow. This would automatically prevent any one coming via a People Smuggler and is a simple and foolproof solution to the People Smuggling problem.

Brett Gaskin writes: Was the inclusion of John Shailer’s comment (yesterday, comments) in relation to asylum seekers an effort in balance? I’m all for different opinions, but surely John’s contribution is more suited to the Andrew Bolt blog. It was simplistic, factually incorrect, and sensationalist. We can read News papers for this kind of tosh. There are no doubt many people with concerns about asylum seekers that can actually contribute to an intelligent debate. My only question for John — why are white skinned people arriving on planes ok?

A Kindle in the wings:

Malcolm Neil, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Booksellers Association, writes: Unfortunately for Sam Spackman (yesterday, comments) being “somewhat disingenuous” in this case is actually more precise than quoting the numbers supplied by Amazon.

We are on record as saying that Amazon have been leaders in growing the book market and in particular Internet retail so let’s put to bed the idea this is scattergun Amazon bashing.

A quick scan of the top 100 bestselling books in Australia and a comparison with kindle editions available to this market show many titles locked out due to rights restriction.

There are over 111,500 books released into this market every year, so the world market for new books is significantly larger than the 200,000 per year! The word “some” accurately captures the fact that only “some” new titles will be available here, and only “some” of the books Australian customers want will be available to them.

I’m sure Amazon will work on a fix to this issue, but right now that will be frustrating to the consumer.

Penny Wong:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Wong boring everyone to tears with detail of flawed CPRS” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Denniss attacks Penny Wong about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (which at least has a catchy anapaestic rhythm), but the real problem is with the whole concept of “carbon trading”, which is globally promoted by an unholy alliance of dogmatic economists and opportunistic ecologists.

A tax would be simpler. There are many examples of taxes changing socioeconomic behaviour, none of artificial trading schemes (correct me if I’m wrong). Better still, we could have a positive program supporting alternative energy practices. But that sounds like a different planet — or perhaps the much maligned China.

Financial services:

Tim Mackay writes: Re. “Labor’s super reforms have only just begun” (yesterday, item 11). Not all financial planners support the continued role of commissions.

I am a financial planner and recently made a submission and was asked to appear as a witness at the Parliamentary Joint Committee into financial services (i.e. the inquiry into the Storm debacle). We strongly advocated the banning of commissions, fee sharing, volume bonuses and all the other insidious, hidden kick backs.

Consumers don’t like or understand them, they reduce competition and their continued existence taints the entire reputation of the financial planning profession.

In my opinion, the only people and organisations who support commissions and the other insidious kick backs are those who have vested interests in profiting from these ongoing “rivers of gold”.

Efficient markets:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. “Ross Gittins’ efficient markets furphy” (Tuesday, item 22). If the Efficient Market Hypothesis were a horse it would have been put down long ago. Unfortunately an earnest and some would say ideologically closeted band of economists have spent the last 2 decades propping it up with spaghetti graphs, tranquilisers and stuffing. Unfortunately Professor Sinclair Davidson appears prone to the same kind of human “cognitive biases” that have struck at the heart of the validity of the EMH. To wit, how does the (albeit quaint and probably inefficient) principle of academic disinterest square with the role of “senior fellow” at a corporate sponsored think tank?

Small matters of probity aside, Sinclair ponders the issue of market regulation with about the same level of alacrity and commitment as a conservative Christian fundamentalist who has inadvertently been handed a joint at a party. It’s just not his scene.

Notwithstanding this, he makes the startling claim that proponents of the free market who have spent the last 30 years waging a war on most forms of regulatory interventions in the “spontaneous market order” were really pro regulation all along. Hell, even Hayek who expressly argued against non market interventions designed to help everyone from the poor and destitute to the old woman struggling with her shopping bags up the street was really pro-regulation since he believed in the rule of law. Some free marketeers even believe in human “co-operation” would you believe.

Sinclair’s logic seems to go like this: the law or any kind of binding rules are forms of regulation. Free market zealot types of the kind presumably targeted by Ross Gittins believe in the law (i.e. they are not “anarchists”), therefore free market zealots believe in regulation. Presumably Hayek was pro-regulation since he believed that anybody who knocked the old lady with her shopping bags over — even an efficient and spontaneous market actor — should be arrested.

If I were in his class I’d be exercising some rational choice and putting all my concentration and efforts into the far more rewarding project of doodling

Obesity research:

Zachary King writes: Re. “Growing profit on the fat of the unfortunate” (yesterday, item 4). Sigh. I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help myself — just once more, I promise. So David Gillespie’s theory is that obesity research is just done for the funding and is therefore can’t be trusted, despite the fact that scientific journals are subject to independent peer review prior to publication and disregarding the integrity of people who dedicate their lives to medical research.

I am sure that this doesn’t apply to your work though David — with respect to the book proudly displayed in your byline, I am sure that you wrote your book to enlighten the world and despite the fact you profit directly from the sale of your writing, this would never cause you to sensationalise your findings or make melodramatic statements on your pay per view website.

Seriously though, take a seat David for I am about to tell you something that may shock you to your core. Something that may keep you busy for the rest of your natural days, shining an investigative light into the evil world of scientific research. Every single pharmaceutical therapy and medical device used on humans utilizes research that is either directly funded or indirectly supported by industry.

Every single one. (So the 54,000 odd products listed by the RTA should keep you busy for a while). This is because we live in a capitalist world, and the funding for development of new products comes from industry. Where else is it going to come from, Government? They can barely keep up with enough to fund basic discovery science.

So with that in mind, your article then becomes something about the government looking at funding a program that could dramatically improve the health of one of our unhealthiest groups. How shocking.

Disclosures: once again I have never had dealings with Allergan, and unfortunately don’t profit from my writing.


David Hardie writes: Re. Jeff Ash (yesterday, comments) who wrote “Don’t tar us all with the same brush — some of us voted for Daylight Saving and Deregulated Trading Hours, it just the luddites and the nanny-staters are in the slight majority.”

Damn straight! Premier Barnett should not let a minor thing like democracy stand in the way in his bid to extend trading hours.

Ben Lexcen:

Christian Kent writes : So the rumours of the Toyota Lexcen just being a Holden Commodore ripoff were true!!

Ship trails:

Jenny Warfe, Blue Wedges, writes: Re. “Ship trails stop rainfall in its tracks” (yesterday, item 16). Ben Sandilands’ analysis of what the dirty old shipping industry is doing to our global atmosphere sounds an alarm for what the same dirty mob is doing to our local air quality.

As Ben points out, ships burn the dirtiest fuel (basically the remains of dinosaurs and ancient vegetation) producing high levels of SO 2 and sulphate particulate matter. What’s more, CO2 emissions from shipping is double aviation, could rise by 75% in the next 15 to 20 years if world trade continues to grow and no action is taken, is currently double Britain’s total emissions and more than all African countries combined.

Current port expansion plans here and around the world entrench the problem too, and uunlike aviation, where airlines can be identified and regulated by country of origin, the shipping industry hides behind flags of convenience, so its emissions are immune from any regulation.

But, as well as all these appalling global atmospheric impacts, shipping emissions are linked to high rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer and asthma. In April, The Guardian reported US research which found pollution from the world’s 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone, and costs up to $330 billion per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. A new Danish study suggests that shipping emissions cost the Danish health service almost £5 billion a year, mainly treating cancers and heart problems. A previous study estimated that 1000 Danish people die prematurely each year because of shipping pollution.

Melbournians and bayside residents must be exposed to the same or worse risks from the thousands of shipping movements every year in Port Phillip Bay. In Australia — we have advanced as far as “doing a study” on the emissions from shipping in twp port regions. The ports of Fremantle and Brisbane have studies underway, due for completion later this year.

Californian legislation now requires ships burning bunker oil to stay at least 22 miles off shore, and must burn cleaner, more expensive fuel when closer to shore and the US EPA estimates the coastal buffer zone will save more than 8000 lives a year. But, it seems the Port of Melbourne Corporation, with its business right in the heart of Melbourne and its shipping lanes only a few kilometres from the shore in many parts of the Bay – and even closer in the Yarra — is yet to address this major issue. It is however more than happy to spend $4+ million on its recent advertising campaign boasting of being the largest and busiest container port in the nation.

It’s time for a much closer look at the so called “benefits” from having a massive port in the middle of our fair city.

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