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Oct 15, 2009

My 'Oh Shit' Moment: Crikey readers tell

We asked Crikey readers if they’ve ever experienced an “Oh Shit” moment on climate change. You know, when suddenly all the science becomes clear and the future seems quite scary.


This post on our environment blog Rooted is currently going off like a (slowly boiling) frog in a sock.

Crikey asked readers if they’ve ever experienced an “Oh Shit” moment on climate change. You know, that second the penny dropped, the article on page 13 that sent a little shiver through you, the study that lobbed that made you think hmm … maybe there’s something to this after all … the doco that gave you nightmares, the book you read that kept you up nights …

As Mark Hertsgaard in The Nation put it:

They say that everyone who finally gets it about climate change has an “Oh, shit” moment — an instant when the full scientific implications become clear and they suddenly realise what a horrifically dangerous situation humanity has created for itself.

Of course, you could be in the other camp, one of those Australians polled in the latest Lowy Institute survey who’ve pushed climate change down the list of concerns, to, oh, seventh — behind job security, the economy, terrorism and the threat of nuclear weapons…

But if you do buy into the idea that we’re in big trouble, it’s especially alarming to hear people who, ahem, know their shit and speak about their own personal “Oh Shit” moment.

Take Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chair of an advisory council known by its German acronym, WBGU, and a physicist whose specialty is chaos theory.

Speaking in July at an invitation-only conference in New Mexico, Schellnhuber divulged the findings of a study so new he had not yet briefed chancellor Angela Merkel about it. Schellnhuber and his WBGU colleagues’ study states that the United States must cut emissions 100% by 2020. Yep, that means quit carbon completely within 10 years. Germany, Italy and other industrial nations must do the same by 2025-2030. China only has until 2035.

The world as a whole must be carbon-free by 2050. This kind of timetable is light years from what the IPCC is proposing and failing to get agreement on.

But even this “brutal” timeline of the WBGU study, Schellnhuber admitted, wouldn’t guarantee staying within the 2C target. It would merely give humanity a two-out-of-three chance of doing so — “worse odds than Russian roulette … But it is the best we can do.”

To have a three-out-of-four chance, countries would have to quit carbon even sooner.

“I myself was terrified when I saw these numbers,” Schellnhuber said. Hans’ suggestion to push past that rising “Oh Sh-t” feeling and avert paralysis? “Wartime mobilisation.”

This is what commentors on the website have to say on the subject:

EnergyPedant says: “I saw the long-term rainfall pattern for the bottom corner of WA. Average rainfall in the last 30 or so years is dramatically less than the previous 100+ years of records.”

Evan Beaver: “I think mine was probably reading an article in New Scientist talking about the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet and stopping the gulf stream. I had just started understanding chaos theory and the implications in very big systems.”

Wyane: “… my real ‘oh shit’ moment is the the realisation these past 2 years or so that precisely 3 quarters of 4 fifths of bugger all is going to be done by governments, industry and us (collectively) to address CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.”

Scott Grant: “My own attitiudes shifted from ‘this will happen some time in the next hundred or so years’, to ‘this will happen in my lifetime’, to ‘this IS happening’, over a period of a couple of decades.”

Matt B: “I’ll admit it. I’m still not totally sold. I want to be! Honestly! But I’m just not … That said, I have had an ‘oh shit’ moment of my own. It was mostly in regards to the global security implications.”

HelenMac: “My Oh Shit moment was the evening I read The Road by Cormack McCarthy in one sitting.”

FredEx: “We live on a cliff top overlooking a 4-5 square km wetland backwater of the River Murray. Been here most weekends and holidays for 10-12 years then permanently for the last 7. The wetland is now gone, probably never to re appear. It one of 80 wetlands between Lock 9 on the river and the Lakes. All but one have been dry for more than 3 years. Why? Over irrigation along the river. Drought.”

michael james: “Mine came when I saw statements like “the science is proven” and “the evidence is in”, despite reputable scientists still questioning the analysis of the IPCC and their supporters. Until you can produce results of research that are replicable outside your own lab or computer model, the science is not proven. The mess over claims of cold fusion are a perfect example.”

Nigel Molesworth: …Durkin’s masterpiece The Great Global Warming Swindle was shown on the ABC at the behest of the Right wingers on the ABC board. I watched it, found it convincing, then watched the panel discussion afterwards where it was shown to be completely misleading. I remember David Karoly answering every point the denialists came up with. I remember the humiliating interview with Durkin where, when he was asked some quite reasonable questions, appeared to panic.

I also remember the graphs that Durkin produced and how they were shown to be a complete fabrication. His excuse for dropping the last 15 years off the graph and fabricating several hundred years of data was “an underling did it”.

As well as being annoyed at being misled by Durkin, I found myself thinking that if the denialists had to manufacture evidence then their argument can’t be very strong. And I was right. I started reading and now find the evidence pretty compelling.

But it’s Stephen Moreland’s post that’s got everyone talking. Here’s an extract:

… When it comes to climate change, the choices between positive action and business as usual are clear, but I bet most people, even the people posting here, aren’t willing to make the many, seemingly hard, changes to their lives that we really need ALL people on the planet to make. Have you given up hooved red meat? Wine and dairy products? Driving to work? Plans for that trip to Europe or Bali with the kids next year? Products from overseas? The dream of a beach house? Signed up to certified Green Power? Moved your superannuation over to an ethical fund? Decided not to breed? I bet you’ve not done half of those things. Do you think we can reduce co2 levels without considering doing the above?

The truth is, if we are going to keep atmospheric carbon levels below a catastrophic level, you, me, and every one of the 6.8 million other buggers here should have started doing those things 20 years ago. Oh, shit.

The lesson I’ve learned is clear: when it comes to a choice between principle/social equity/sacrifice/effort versus self-interest/consumerism/fear/convenience, most people choose the former. Nations and governments choose the former. Obviously businesses, corporations, special interest groups (i.e. unions) choose the former. You might find a politician or two who might lip-sync support for the latter, but not at election time. Oh, shit.

In fact, in the political sphere, we don’t even have a language suitable to seriously debate short term self-interest and long term shared well-being. Have you heard Krudd or the Wongster mention the word “sacrifice”, or the phrase “changing our life styles and expectations”, or “live simply, so others (including non-vertebrates and plankton) can simply live”? They know that the ideas simply would be incomprehensible to the electorate, which has been born and raised on the (false) expectation of more more more and right now, thank you very much.

How would a political party go to an election as “Things are bound to get worse, but slightly less worse, under us”? Do you think cool Todd from The Gruen Transfer could sell the idea of Gandhi or David Suzuki as a pin-up boy to the X-Box generation via a stunning Labor Party TV ad campaign? Sh-t, yeah.

Homo sapiens are genetically and socio-politically incapable of weighing up long term versus short term and choosing long term. We’re not bred to think and act any further ahead than one generation. We can’t help ourselves from wanting more.

So the reality is this: We will experience runaway climate change. There will be mass extinctions. There will be millions, if not billions, of environmental refugees. In the end, it doesn’t matter what school one sweet four-year-old boy goes to next year, as long as I teach him the really important stuff — how to survive in a much harsher world.


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48 thoughts on “My ‘Oh Shit’ Moment: Crikey readers tell

  1. Adam Barker

    I think Steve Moreland hit the nail on the head. I haven’t had an ‘Oh Shit’ moment yet, and, if I can be completely honest, for just a moment, without getting a bottle thrown at me, I don’t care about climate change. There, I said it, I’m sorry, maybe it makes me an evil person, but I just don’t care.

    If I want 20 minute showers I will have them. If I want to drive my car down to the shops or run my A/C all night, I do it. I pay the bills so I decide how I use my power etc.

    On the other hand I get public transport to and from work everyday, and myself and my wife will not have children, but those are more financial decisions, and ‘what is best for us’ than ‘what is best for the environment’.

    The way I see it is, you only get one life, and mankind has been in a state of change ever since they got here. I only get one life and I’m living it for me. We will learn to adapt and change and deal with it, or we will die out. Either way, I will still run my heater tonight.

  2. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Nice one Adam, but in the end you caved in. You were honest for a moment…. “I only get one life and I’m living it for me”, but having hung out on the wild side for that moment you got a glimpse of the future and decided to swing right back in with the mob, viz. “We will learn to adapt and change and deal with it, or we will die out”. I suggest that when we (the mob) choose to do the learning, adapting and changing, you’d better get inside the tent – with or without a heater, 20 minute showers or aircon. And end the bravado.

  3. Roger Clifton

    Usually the oh-sh1t moment belongs to a crash, where realisation is immediately followed by impact. However with AGW we do have time to react, to mobilise, to fight back and to win. In our own personal moment of truth, each of us can say “Oh sh1t, now what can I do?”

    For the moment, let’s not stampede ourselves in the belief that the world is following us. It is not. In between disasters, people are enjoying the unusual sunshine and basking in the belief that all is well with the world that they will bequeath to their children.

    When they take to the streets, it will be after a series of worldwide horrors that alarm even the most complacent. That day is somewhere ahead of us, a Pearl Harbor day for which we should be preparing:

    Every profession must have something to offer. Lawyers for example, could frame a court for International Crimes against the Environment for the UN to install when the time comes.

    As a voting public, we certainly need to advise both sides of government that whatever fears we had of nuclear energy, they have paled against the greater threat. It is time for uranium policy to shift from aversion to proaction.

    As a mining nation, Australia can offer to supply an international energy organisation with nuclear fuel to supply the world. To that end, we need to survey the resource in the interim.

    In the darkening storm, it is a time for prophets, poets and musicians. Beat the drum softly…

  4. Adam Barker

    @Hugh – when I said learn to adapt and change and deal with it, I meant the changing climate, droughts, warmer temperatures and the associated problems.

    Not pull up stumps and go back to living in a cave to cut emissions, which quite frankly doesn’t interest me. If people in the future have to wear stillsuits and run from Sandworms, so be it.

  5. MichaelT

    Schellnhuber (is he real or did someone make him up?) is proposing that governments shut down the car industry, make car-use illegal, shut down all our current base load electricity generation, which would lead to the consequential shutting down of much of the rest of our industry. It would be impossible to sustain our industrial civilisation on a zero-carbon basis within ten years. No government in the world will take this kind of crazy action on the basis of contestable predictions of the future based on computer modelling, so it is a completely academic debate. In other contexts, these sorts of demands would be regarded as extremism. Get real!

  6. john2066

    I still remain angry at the people have been dying in the recent heatwaves, particularly in Melbourne in January. These ‘deaths’ are an obvious scan perpetuated by the ‘global warming lobby’ to convince us it’s real.

    As well, these people complaining about the entirely normal and natural process of Victoria becoming a baking filthy desert that can’t feed itself, are also just whingers.

    Thank god the brave skeptics have stood firm at the science, logic and bloodshed now happening in front of their faces to make sure we do nothing.

    Its going to be really great in 15 years time, when the results are in, and we can give the climate skeptics the full, rich , credit they so rightly deserve. I mean, there’ll be so much gratitude!!!

  7. Alex Campbell

    The observations offered by Matt, Stephen, Adam and Hugh would, I think, form a pretty accurate cross-section of opinion and thought regarding Climate Change in this country. Trouble is that while most have gone some way to acknowledging the existence of Climate Change and its almost universal threat to humanity, people still feel the prospect of individual response to be limited in value when measured against the gargantuan nature of the problem facing them. It’s easy to be discouraged when the options available amount to turning against everything you’ve been conditioned to expect as an average citizen of the Western world; consumerism and wealth founded on relentless and cheap development, together with the exploitation of natural resources and offshore labour. Whatever the case, we had best not continue to wince at the prospect of more modest and appropriate living standards, as this will us inordinately worse-off when action to save humanity becomes unavoidable.

  8. Adam Barker

    Maybe this is supposed to happen. Like a mass level extinction from which will emerge a new world, the strong will survive and thrive type of thing. I dunno. At the end of the day how are we gonna feed 6 (or is it 7 now?) billion people without the social and economic construct we have now.

    And if we just turn that off, well, then you’ll see trouble. Cannibalism and hordes of marauding bandits on every continent. I don’t think I’ll live to see the day though.

  9. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Adam B and MichaelT want what nearly everyone else in the world wants: That adaptation and change to meet a supposed terminal climate crisis can be strung out over a couple of generations or more so that none of us has to change very much very quickly, if at all. And if that isn’t enough well, whatever!
    Schellnhuber (made up or not) and quite a number of other well credentialed and well intentioned people, including a considerable lump of the Australian electorate – bless its beating heart – are urging the governments of the world to lift the pace of change. They think that slow change or no change will actually be the death of us – or some unfortunates somewhere not quite identified yet. MichaelT says ten years to get to zero carbon emissions is completely out of the question, extremist and unreal. But doesn’t deny the necessity to get atmospheric carbon under some control.
    So now we’ve got a proposition – we just need the timing defined. It might be true that no government in the world will wreck its economy and society on a computer generated whim but history tells us that World War One started on less than that and WW2 was little more than a dispute over the spoils of the first. We are well and truly capable of extremism if we want to lift our hand to it. The pressure has tripled since those days. Things could happen real fast whether we like it or not. Then we won’t have the luxury of a choice, let alone an armchair to spectate and speculate from. In or out of the cave Adam B.

  10. GreenGuy

    My ohshit moment was in Nusa Dua Bali at COP13 in Dec 2007 when lining up to meet Rudd post his Kyoto speech (8 days in power!), I looked over his shoulder to find the coal, aluminium and other vested interest reps standing there smug and comfortable. I realised that no credible climate scientists (correction no scientists) were on the official delegation and that vested interests would continue to dominate and misrepresent climate policy as they had under Howard.

  11. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    ADAM BARKER is, in my opinion, evil in that he does not care about the future of others. But at least he is honest.

    ROGER CLIFTON says “As a voting public, we certainly need to advise both sides of government ..”.

    Roger seems to have a strange view of democracy (a strange view which is shared by almost everyone else). He seems to think that if we elect a politician who promises to do “A”, then we need to “advise” them that they really should do “B”.

    Most people and the media (including Crikey) are so locked into the two party system that the fundamental concept that if you want “B” you should vote for someone who promises to do this passes them by.

    Government is doing nothing much about climate change because over 80% of Australians voted Labor or Liberal, and both have policies of doing next to nothing (except for some world class spin).

    My “Oh shit” moment (post #34 in the original thread) was when I realized that politically climate change is now a certainty because even those lobbying for action are wasting their time talking about individual action and in trying to get Rudd to change his mind. Any rational analysis will show that this lobbying will not lead to the cuts needed to prevent bad climate change.

    The only solution is to elect new politicians who are committed to making the big changes needed. Yet next to no-one is promoting this view.

    I was not surprised that when Sophie Black summarized the postings in the original thread my comments were not included. Much easier to focus on the almost irrelevant issue of “personal sacrifice” in our individual lifestyle than to suggest a complete change in the way people vote.

  12. sean hosking

    My Oh shit moment was listening to the scientist James Lovelock basically pronounce that our capacity to address climate change in any meaningful way was pretty much nil and that this century will be one of great human suffering. Stephen Moreland’s post on this thread was of a similar ilk. I think we need more of this – anything to punch through the deafening cacophony of white noise that substitutes for debate in this country and which ultimately leaves most people where they were in the first place- hopelessly passive, willfully ignorant.

    Humans have a limited capacity to conceive of the extraordinary…to change on a profound scale .we’re geared to the everyday….to normalising and standardising our lives. What we know we’re comfortable with…To do otherwise would be to invoke psychological trauma. Much better to take a pill or fall in with the soothing cadences of whatever the dominant ideology tells us is ‘real’. Who nowadays talks about the big picture. The global picture is the biggest picture of them all. We can’t even agree about health care funding or what hair care product works best let alone the planet. No…If the sun comes up tomorrow, and last week it was unseasonally cool and the ABC news still features story’s of cats stuck up trees then everything must be alright.

    We’re not intrinsically judicious, rational or wise – human history tells us that…the programing of commercial tv tells us that, the whole advertising industry is testimony to that. If aroused we can easily be calmed by the reassuring naysaying of the small band of climate sceptics. Its the reassurance we crave, not the argument, not the facts. In a world raised up on the cult of the expert, a world given over to submissive compliance to whatever the ’specialist’ advises us is true, the fact that Over 90% of environmental scientists subscribe to AGW is not good enough when the implications are so incompatible with our lives as big dumb consumers. No need to worry ourselves with abstract and complex concepts for a generation brought up on sound bites, pop riffs and text messages. And for those who have a nagging feeling that its all true, there’s Kevin the dentist with his tank of nitrous oxide, he’s impenetrable but soothing bureaucratic speak which placates bot our conscience, our need to be responsible to the planet and future generations, and our craven desire to have it all and keep it all.

    And when Kevin isn’t there handing out no fault absolutions, there are that motley crew of sceptics, inspiring in their bold everyman appropriation of the arcane language of science – wandering into the laboratories of the world like a bunch of slack jawed hillbillies wandering around a big city, making it all intelligable to the masses, exposing the scientific community as self interested charlatans just like Hanson exposed the cultural elites with her folksy please explain language. ‘If its too hard to understand then its probably bullshit’. Out there as always out of their worn old kit bags comes that year again, that year 1998! Like a primitive totem warding off the evil spirits. You can just imagine the way their child like gaze was drawn to it. The allure of the simple paired back fact, big, dumb, accessible. ‘It was warmer that year 10 years ago than it is now’

    I suspect the climate sceptics are actually more horrified than most people – conservatism is an ideology founded on fear, denial of any ‘trend’ is their pavlovian response to anything which isn’t about safeguarding their own material priviliges. Its why there’s a clear correlation between political conservatism and climate scepticism. Its not about the science for them, you wont find Miranda, Piers, Bolt et al consulting a resident new age herbal crackpot if they notice a lump in their groin, or angrily ranting about the child immunisation ‘industry’. They’ll go with the consensus of expert opinion every time. No, for them its about their entrenched psycho pathology masquerading as a ‘political conviction’ that the great unwashed masses are gonna rise up and take their stuff. That the hordes of trendy lefty rent seekers forever in search of an ‘issue’ have finally arrived at the big one. That the filthy industrial wheel of production which funnels massive priviliges to them and the (usually corporate) interests that they represent is going to grind to a halt and they’re gonna find themselves on the streets with all the other desperate johnies. If there’s a positive side to global warming its that its exposed the craven pathological selfishness of this class and their willingness to stoop to any level to protect their (material) interests. No need to listen to all the other tosh they dish out in disproportionate volumn about life, society, politics, the welfare state, the chardonay set, and postmodernism etc etc.

    But, this unhinged cohort aside, other than that its exposed us as a society for what we are – not children of the enlightenment, not ‘the most informed and educated generation in human history’ , not creatures of reason, but something altogether more complex and meagre. Kevin Rudd knows all about it. Analysing his strategic efforts to keep himself electable tells the story. Until we accept this, then we won’t be moved by the better parts of out nature.

  13. Michael James

    My moment was not so much environmental as economic. I read an article (by Ross Gittins I think) describing how the Brits are hastening cautiously to make themselves the world carbon tradinghouse. Oh Shit, the rest of the world are already building the post-carbon economy and positioning themselves in it. Australia is the most vulnerable country (that stands more than 2 metres above sea level) is carefully positioning itself to illustrate what happens to unbelievers. Consider; if God preserves hell a a warning to sinners, should Queenstown Tasmania (it looks like a slag-heap) be preserved as a warning to polluters?

  14. BahUnfair!

    My “Oh Shit” moment was going on google earth and seeing the extent of farmland and paddocks in regional Victoria. It wasn’t a climate oh shit, (similar to Michael’s moment) more a sheer mouth dropping moment as I tried to wrap my head around just how extensively we’ve changed the landscape for our own uses. The visual demonstration is a bit more of a shock than a bodiless statistic claiming that we’ve cut down most of our rainforests.

  15. jack jones

    I’ve had a couple:
    1.The lake where I grew up hasn’t been dry in over 100 years, probably more, possibly in living memory. Its dry now.
    2. Working for a state governemnt in the follow up to the big peak in climate change awareness in Australia and globally, and realising that all they gave a shit about was protecting large resource companies and that there was no way state governments were going to be part of the solution.
    3. Coming out of a briefing by a highly experienced CSIRO scientist who had just discussed temperature projections over the next 30-50 years and for the first time feeling nauseous.
    4. Realising that Rudd being a politician first and a leader way down the line simply lied about his intentions in seriously tackling climate change prior to the election and will now possibly take us back further than Howard when he had the mandate to really initiate reform.
    I just wish the greens would pick up the vote enough to capture the senate at the next election and possibly swing more marginals in the lower house. Like them or loathe them they are the only chance politically we’ve got short of mass civil action-which isn’t on the horizon. Im going to be giving them money for the next election. Other suggestions welcome but I confess to now feeling that the ETS is going to convert my voluntary actions into free money for large coporations and no nett greenhouse reductions.

  16. MichaelT

    I wish people wouldn’t go with this simplistic equation of climate sceptic = conservative = defender of established thinking (and at the same time denier of ‘the science’). Some of us poor deluded sceptics are not conservatives, but more free-thinkers who are trying to make a stand against the greatest explosion of group-think I have ever seen. If everyone thinks scientists are immune to groupthink then we are lost indeed!

  17. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    Labor went into the last election without any reduction target for 2020.

    Last election they made no promises on real short term action. They just promised to do some reports, and decide once these reports were written.

    At once stage, just before the last election, thebigswitch.org.au (a coalition of Environment Victoria, Greenpeace, GetUp! and others) rated the environment policies of The Greens as 4.8 out of 5, with Labor at just 1.8).

    I believe that it was always clear that Rudd had in reality promised nothing of substance, and a vote for Labor was a vote for inaction.

    Unfortunately many people were misled by Labor’s spin, and the environmental groups failed to get across that a vote for Labor would make little difference to what Howard would have done.

    The Australian people voted for inaction, and we are seeing democracy in action.

  18. Michael Wilbur-Ham


    Your posting says you are “trying to make a stand against the greatest explosion of group-think I have ever seen”.

    What makes science (and engineering) different from most other areas is that it should be evidence based. So while there is a very small possibility that it is all just group-think, if you look at the scientific papers, each should be based on something connected to reality (the data).

    Yet you have somehow decided that the scientific consensus is not based on evidence, but just based on group-think.

    This would make some sense if there was good evidence that the science was wrong. If real evidence was found I have no doubt that this would make headlines. But so far, there is no good evidence that they are wrong.

    I define “free-thinker” as someone who looks at the evidence before making up their mind. Someone who ignores all the evidence just because they think it might be the result of group-think is certainly free, but not, in my opinion, a thinker.

  19. MichaelT

    It is a matter of looking at all the evidence, Michael W-H, not just the evidence that reinforces one’s predeliction. At the level of individual studies there is a diversity in the evidence that does not justify the common assertion that ‘the science’ is some kind of monolithic block that universally demonstrates that we are all doomed. A good corrective for this is the excellent Climate Debate Daily site: http://climatedebatedaily.com/.

    While the contributions featured there certainly include polemic on both sides, they also periodically report good science on both the right and the left-hand side of the ledger. I recommend to all contributors to this discussion that they follow up these diverse studies for about two years as I have done and then come back and lecture me about looking at the evidence first.

  20. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    MICHALT – Rather than me (and other readers) going through two years of this site, perhaps you can give us a summary of what real scientific evidence there is that that climate change is not a problem.

    Note that there is no “left or right” in climate science. There is only right or wrong. And right or wrong should be decided by examining the data.

    It is true that for the vast majority of experts in climate science there is no longer any debate about whether or not climate change is real and man-made. This is like there is no longer any debate about whether or not smoking is bad for you or pedophilia is bad for children.

    In all of these cases it is possible (albeit very unlikely) that new evidence will come up that shows that the established view is wrong. But, overall, until such revolutionary evidence is found, it is a waste of time to carefully consider every crack-pot who thinks smoking is a safe, etc.

    So please tell us the possibly Nobel prize winning research which casts real doubt on climate change.

  21. jack jones

    Michael H,
    re Rudd, of course you are right however I don’t think even cynics like me thought he would actually be this bad, bordering on worse than Howards mob (given the compensations/delays he’s making under the ETS). The key problem now is that to some degree there is still a perception out there amongst the punters that he is serious, hopefully that will be further eroded come next election.
    To the other Michael T, its ludicrous to think there is some kind of 50-50 debate on climate change. There is a crushing majority of scientific data, opinion and anlalysis in the peer reviewed literature supporting the evidence of dangerous climate change. Then there is a fringe of bloggers, contrarians and fossil fuel sponsored stooges supercharged via media space and money. Just because there are people skeptical that the earth is really flat or that man ever made it to the moon doesn’t create a ‘debate’. True skeptics look at the information and evidence rather than cling to their fringe ideas against the weight of mainstream conservative science. Of course science is not a monolithic block, but continuing to deny reality in the face of towering evidence to the contrary does not constitute skepticism. The vast body of mainstream climate science is not a lefty plot my friend.

  22. Tom McLoughlin

    A small self referential clarification: Stephen Moreland’s excellent point is a long (winded) version of my comments this many weeks for instance to Clive Hamilton’s piece – ‘good luck with direct action changing people’s genetic programming’. This comes from my sense of boom and bust studies of North American voles in a uni essay way back in 1983 or so at ANU in my zoology degree. The point being evolutionary ecology and the selfish gene and procreation. We could transcend that, we could, but we won’t because we are at heart animals.

    That’s also why I’ve been playing with an intellectual and emotional tactic pioneered by Rod Qantok against Jeff Kennett late 90ies – the give up manoeuvre, it’s over, we lost the war. Only to see big Jeff hit the skids.

    And secondly though I’m a failed vegetarian it happens to be the case I have constantly made career and personal decisions that lead to poverty – deliberately. Because as Singer says – every $200 of discretionary spending is another life not saved in a poor country because that’s all it costs to lift one doomed individual out of grinding life of misery forever. Think the infamous image of the child’s corpse outside the city gates picked at by a dog. A real image by a famous photo journalist.

    In short my barely suppressed catholic guilt won’t allow me to pursue wealth, not even to give it away. It’s a Gandhi thing too. And this attitude is so confronting to the general greed and careerism around – including the welfare and green sector actually (and this is Moreland’s strongest point for me because he is understanding something I’ve observed for a good 15 years now how the dominant paradigm infects even the ostensibly most idealistic bodies and staff). Indeed it’s hard to even get a decent job suitable to my skills and education anymore and I don’t seem to even care: As Nick Whitlam once said on crikey here it gives me alot of time to prosletise leading to endless amusement, indeed blood sport at times, and some generally useful insights/research IMHO.

    And because I’m only human, I know there will be some others taking the same road consciously as me. But not many in my experience. There’s nothing like poverty to attract sneers and fear. But it’s all relative – as expressed here previously how much is enough when even on less than $10K a year you can still live better than a king or queen of only a few hundred years ago. It’s the competitive streak to be unsatisfied by comparison that is our species’ downfall.

    But here’s the utility of this group therapy – I’ve understood for a while now, like 3 years maybe, that the psychological effects of civilisation unravel will be perhaps the biggest deal. Some will be in denial. Some full of wrath. Some panic. Hysteria. Wicked violence and numbing selfishness. The nihilists and hedonists. And then there will be the practical cool headed constructive adaptable centred peaceful types who will want to build a future of some kind that is better. We are going to need alot of those last lot of people.

    This therapy is probably a necessary phase to avoid acting out all the negative stuff and nurturing the alpha group of ecological people.

  23. MichaelT

    Right, Jack, so you have completely ignored the contrary evidence some of which I pointed you towards – and you claim to be on the side of science?

  24. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    MICHAELT – If the American right thought that quantum mechanics was a leftish plot there would be a similar site giving “a balanced view on quantum mechanics”. And if the American religious organizations thought that Einstein’s theories threatened their religious views there would be another website giving a similar “balanced view on relativity”.

    Fortunately quantum mechanics and relativity are not attacked by religious or political loonies.

    If there is some new real evidence hidden amongst all the rubbish please let us know. And contrary to your expectations, I’m sure that all of Australia’s leading climate change scientist would also like to know.

    TOM MCLOUGHLIN – You say “We could transcend that, we could, but we won’t because we are at heart animals.”

    I wish I could think of something to show that you are wrong, but I cannot. But I do think that for some, like me, it is important to keep trying just in case we do succeed.

  25. MichaelT

    Michael W-H – the Climate Debate site site has links to reports of credible *studies*, not just ‘views’.

    It is really annoying that you guys simply refuse to look at evidence that doesn’t fit the majority view. Other good sites from credible scientists are those of Dr Roy Spencer (http://www.drroyspencer.com/) and our very own Professor Bob Carter (http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/new_page_1.htm).

    This cannot be reduced to ideological simplicities of left v right or people-bashing. It is about intellectual rigour.

  26. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Professor Bob Carter is a member of the conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. It would be hard to find a better example of an ideologically aligned scientist.

    MICHAELT – The link you gave to Bob Carter did not work, but I did quickly find a site which said “ Bob Carter is famous for saying global warming ‘stopped in 1998’ “. This claim has been debunked many times. If Bob Carter says anything of more substance then please let us know.

    Wikepida presents Dr Roy Spencer’s views on creationism and intelligent design, saying:

    On the subject of Intelligent design, Spencer wrote in 2005, “Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as ‘fact,’ I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism. . . . In the scientific community, I am not alone. There are many fine books out there on the subject. Curiously, most of the books are written by scientists who lost faith in evolution as adults, after they learned how to apply the analytical tools they were taught in college.” He further states “I finally became convinced that the theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, for the creation model was actually better able to explain the physical and biological complexity in the world… Science has startled us with its many discoveries and advances, but it has hit a brick wall in its attempt to rid itself of the need for a creator and designer.”

    I’m sorry, but I cannot take anything else this man says seriously.

  27. john2066

    Hi Skeptics!

    Of course you’re right! This weather is normal!

    The revolting heatwave and 500+ ‘deaths’ from heat stress in Melbourne in January 2009 were totally natural.

    The 47 degree day we had on black saturday, wiping out all previous temperature records by a record margin was also healthy and normal.

    Also normal is the slow descent of Victoria into a baking filthy desert.

    I can’t believe that people would take unprecedented high temperatures and heatwaves and somehow spin that into global warming ‘evidence’.

    In fact, it doesn’t really matter what happens. We could have a 55 degree day, and you’ll say that’s normal; the more the corpses from heatwaves stack up, the more its just business as usual!

    Thank god wise and sober people such as yourselves can see through the ridiculous climate ‘scientists’ and their ‘scientific papers’ to see the pure unvarnished truth.

    I just love being part of this science experiment, and unlike other, more boring experiments, there is no opting out!

    And imagine the interesting feedback you’ll get in 10-15 years, when we can look around at the weather and thank you for it……

  28. Evan Beaver

    Hi Michael
    “This cannot be reduced to ideological simplicities of left v right or people-bashing. It is about intellectual rigour.”

    With that in mind, it is worth remembering that science is not done in books, nor on the internet. It is done in scientific papers, with references and peer review. Writing a book is no more scientific than writing a newspaper article.

  29. scottyea

    When I think of an ‘intervention’ into the incredibly complex system that is the Earth’s climate, based on science that will sometime down the track be declared mistaken just like all the other ‘science’ has been over the years…

    I think “Oh, Shit.”

  30. Altakoi

    One of the things which bothers me about the skeptics argument is that it picks at the minutiae of climate change science while ignoring the big ticket items. This strategy will be familiar to anyone who has argued with a creationist and had the argument that all evolutionary theory hangs on whether science can explain the origins of the eye, or wings or flagellae or somesuch.

    The issue is the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, not the exact point at which these become dangerous, or the exact amount we can get away with, or indeed exactly when bad becomes really bad. While current climate change initiatives are attempting to keep CO2 levels below 350 ppm, you can ignore all the modelling and just extrapolate CO2 levels of 500ppm+ on current observable emmissions. So really, saying that 400ppm or 425ppm is safe because the modelling is off is not a skeptical argument. To make a skeptical argument you have to be able to say you believe that doubling or tripling of levels is safe because that is where inactivity is heading. And once we get there, of course, further inactivity will continue the increase. Anything else requires action pretty soon and pretty drastically.

    I personally think the opinions of skeptics over about 60 on climate change are about as biased as the views of the late middle aged on the glories of sending 18 y.o to war. Perhaps there should be requirement to disclose your age in all debate about climate change (41)because the main thing which seems to determine whether you have an “oh sh-t” moment is the difference between the date of the worst scenario you consider plausible occuring and your estimate of the date of your death.

  31. MichaelT

    OK Michael, so if they are on the conservative side they must be wrong about everything – is that it?

    I believe we need to listen to dissenters who espouse unpopular causes or who take issue with the way the herd is going.

    Sorry about the dead link. You need to go to Bob Carter’s home page: http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/

    Then click on ‘Comment and Opinion’.

    Then try and consider the arguments and data that he presents instead of pre-emptively dismissing them because they don’t fit with the dominant view.

    The nub of the matter is that there is abundant evidence that climate changes, on local, regional and global levels over time. The proponents of the greenhouse gases theory need to calculate the amount of global warming that would have been taken place anyway at this stage in the global temperature cycle and then demonstrate that there is some unpredented additional amount of warming and that this could not be produced by the natural drivers of temperature change that have produced major shifts in the past. Most of the things that have happened have happened before. Open sea at the North Pole is just one example – see: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/26/ice-at-the-north-pole-in-1958-not-so-thick/

    Beyond that all we have is computer modelling.

    There is also the inconvenient truth that global temperatures have been tracking within a stable range since the beginning of 1998. See: http://www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/MSUvsGISTEMP.html

    That’s it from me – time to move on!

  32. Evan Beaver

    Scottyea, did you really just say that “[all the science will] be declared mistaken just like all the other ‘science’ has been over the years…”

    What utter nonsense. Name some science that has been declared mistaken.

  33. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Scottyea accepts that the earth’s climate is an incredibly complex system, but makes that common mistake of thinking that it is the reduce emissions side that is wanting to make a change.

    It is the putting huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere which is the action.

    If something might be poisonous do you keep eating it until you are certain that it is poison, or is the prudent action to stop eating it until you know that it is safe?

    ALTAKOI – Some very good points. Bringing things back to the big picture is a great way to get “skeptics” to either fully deny climate change or to have to accept it.

    And I have also found that the climate change “debate” feels very similar to discussing evolution with a creationist!

  34. AR

    This thread was for personal “Oh Sh1t” moments but, as usual, the rabble-soothers sidled in to derail with denial. I thought there was a cage-match for that elsewhere?
    Sooo, my “Oh Sh1t” took place >30yrs ago on John Bull’s Other Island (off-shore of an island off-shore of Europe) trying to make hay. My neighbours had been doing so in July-August for generations (living memory extended back nearly a century) but by the late 70s it was almost unknown to have more than a week of rain-free days to cut, dry & stack.
    Then the real “Oh DAMN!” moment came as the 60s generation got fat & lazy and turned to thatchereagonomics.
    The simple reason the Right denies AGW is that it threatens their entire psychic structure.
    The phrase “Who dies with the most toys, wins” arose in the greedy, grasping 80s and now the bills are due.

  35. scottyea

    @ Evan Beaver:

    Advancement of science literally means uncovering mistakes in old, assumedly conclusive truths. Science is a search, not a set of concrete colnclusions.

    My point is that climate (we’re talking about the the transference of the sun’s energy here, not a little thing) is so utterly complex and interrelational that I dont trust that anyone has a sufficiently adequate handle on it to justify their messing with it, pious protestations notwithstanding. And when its media driven and polticised, well then I really have to say ‘Oh Shit.’

    More to your point, current science can’t even explain the Sun correctly – e.g. why the temperature on the sun’s surface is orders of magnitude less than the temperature one million miles above the surface, or in the case of the solar wind, why these particles are not only unaffected by the Sun’s gravity, they continue to accelerate away from the Sun?

    So science is proposing to intervene in an incredibly complex system (so complex that it takes our most powerful computers to attempt to model it), the main driver of which is not properly understood. I say, “Oh Shit.”

    The difficulties facing non-mainstream scientific researchers (and I’m not talking about ‘way-out’ researchers here) to have their findings published for further examination are well known and documented.

    It appears that for many, orthodox ‘science’ has become their only shelter in the face of climatic and other uncertainties. Climate change I can deal with – I’m a man and I can look ahead and take steps… But media-driven mass hysteria posing as rationality and based on blind faith in what passes these days for science….? “Oh Shit.”

  36. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Really ScottY, where would you be without the rest of the world to lean away from? When you state, “… I’m a man and I can look ahead and take steps…”, what is the sensation that is coursing through your mind at that exact moment? Can you see something up ahead? Have you got a “step” or two in mind based on what you can see in the future? Will the rest of us need to get out of your way when you make your move or will you just shoot first in blind faith and step over whatever sheltering mass hysterical was in front of you.
    You seem to be saying that all this science stuff is irrelevant crap which you have already dismissed. But not a word about what you can see with your alternative periscope. Have you been looking at the sun for too long?

  37. Altakoi


    As a point of clarification, are you objecting to intervention in the climate, such as would be the case with geo-engineering by injecting particles into the upper atmosphere to induce cooling, or do you think its dangerous to stop intervening in the climate, as would be the case if we stopped producing enormous amounts of CO2.

    In the case of geo-engineering I am minded to agree the consequences are far to unpredictable.

    In CO2 emissions, its pretty clear that the intervention is producing the stuff. There is no basis for arguing the climate is somehow dependent on us continuing do so – it got on fine for a few million years without us.

    Just checking, as I am a tad confused.

  38. scottyea

    @ ALTAKOI: Yes, I consider that further intervention, even well-meaning, in the climate sytem is utterly foolhardy.

    @ Hugh… ‘steps’ simply means taking personal responsibility for my own wellbeing and those I’m responsible for – based on my own judgement. You seem to have taken major objection to my posting without explaining exactly why.. you’ve even painted me as reckless. Why?

    I don’t think ‘science’ is crap and its definitely not irrelevant.. I see it as a work in progress and that’s all, and definitely not as ‘the answer’. It is a questioning process, using the rational method. Hooray for it, but to me its just one out of a lot of ways of progressive thinking that deserve a big Hooray.

    I’d like to see more emphasis put on personal responsibility and less on quasi-institutional ‘saviours’.

  39. Altakoi

    Still a bit confused about exactly what you are advocating, perhaps you would care to expand a little.

    As I understand it, if you feel any intervention in the climate is inappropriate then either a) you don’t think the climate is deteriorating b) you think it is deteriorating, but we can’t do anything about it or c) you think it is deteriorating, and we should do something other than try to intervene in the climate about it.

    Presumably (c) is where the personal responsibility comes in.

    Making some assumptions, which may be wrong and feel free to set me right, but there is a school of thought which feels that its possible for the world to go to hell in a handbasket but for the intelligent, motivated and ‘responsible’ to survive. Into this camp I would put survivalists, people who plan to move to Tasmania and shoot anyone who tries to join them and religious people who feel that Jesus/Mohammad/Buddha etc will save the righteous just before the end.

    So, if you are not one of the above I’d really like to hear an alternative to intervening in the climate because, frankly, its a pain in the a-rse and I am more than happy not to if its not necessary.

    But anyone who thinkgs they are going to take their shotty and keep 5.9 billion of their fellow humans at bay by pure manliness is kidding themselves. Testosterone can acheive many good things, but it is a dangerous drug.

  40. scottyea

    I hate picking nits, really, but

    a) You say “climate is deteriorating”. What you mean here is that (for some reason) climate patterns are changing in a way deleterious to the status quo. In this view any attempts at intervention are actually an attemopt to ‘customise’ the climate to suit us. I favour adapting.

    b) “Can’t do anything about it” well yes, or rather and worse, attempts to ‘do something’ will be likely to backfire. And its the whole climate were talking about here…

    c) Yes. climate is changing. The causes, to my knowledge, aren’t fully and properly understood even for the natural state, what to speak of when human inputs are added. Therefore a ‘fix’ will likely be utterly disastrous, catastrophic and/or a waste of valuable resources. Resources which would better be spent on fostering personal responsibility and readiness to adapt in a personally and socially responsible way.

    The scale of modern society, and the primacy given to economic imperatives over and above social ones – including, sadly, within government – shows that only individual efforts can be reliably trusted in the present scenario. That’s all. Some people are going to retreat to their half buried shipping containers, others will integrate into local comunities for strength in numbers, and yes, still others will turn to their internal world through prayer – the scale of society means that responses will differ markedly. Bravo!!

    But as I’ve said before, seeing masses of people leaving it to ‘science’ makes me think, “Oh Shit.”

  41. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    SCOTTYEA – You seem to think that the natural state of the world is for humans to continue to add new greenhouse gases. Continuing to do so is intervening in the climate, and leads who knows exactly where.

    Significantly slowing down our emissions may have economic and social consequences, but it is not in any way putting the climate at risk.

    What do suggest is a better way than science to try to predict the likely consequences of climate change?

  42. john2066

    Of course, pouring giagatons of additional Co2 into the atmosphere from cars and power plants is totally normal and healthy! How silly to stop doing this.

    I’m sure the 500+ people who snuffed it in Melbourne in Jan this year will be pleased to know that the unprecedented heatwave was normal, as was the 47 degree day.

    In fact, by your logic, it just doesn’t matter how hot it gets – its all normal and part of the natural cycle. Let it bake baby – its all good!

    Its going to be really good to see you get the full rich credit you deserve in 10 years for stopping us doing anything. Imagine the grateful feedback from the people who are left!

  43. john2066

    Of course, pouring giagatons of additional Co2 into the atmosphere from cars and power plants is totally normal and healthy! How silly to stop doing this.

    I’m sure the 500+ people who snuffed it in Melbourne in Jan this year will be pleased to know that the unprecedented heatwave was normal, as was the 47 degree day.

    In fact, by your logic, it just doesn’t matter how hot it gets – its all normal and part of the natural cycle. Let it bake baby – its all good!

    Its going to be really good to see the skeptics get the full rich credit they deserve in 10 years for stopping us doing anything. Imagine the grateful feedback from the people who are left!

  44. scottyea

    Michael Wilbur-ham & John2066, there’s no need for hysterics… its interesting that you assume that my position allows for continuation of environmental idiocy.. of course it doesn’t. crikey!

  45. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    SCOTTYEA – Why not make your position clear in the first place? (I’m still not sure what it is.)

    It would save us all time and effort.

    Double crikey!

  46. scottyea

    well crikey, I was just adding some food for thought and people started criticising my omissions!

  47. Roger Clifton

    I routinely convert jargon into international units, that is, the units we were all taught at school, so that people can see for themselves what is happening. When you convert the 100 ppmv of extra CO2, it becomes 1.6 kg/m2, over every square metre of land, sea and ice. By itself, that is evocative of a blanket wrapped around the Earth, with the implication that the irremovable blanket is going to make it hotter still.

    Some people are able to take the news that the heating is accelerating: the blanket has been thickening for decades at about 20 g/m2 per year.

    Wait, it gets worse. When you convert the rate at which the blanket is thickening, that figure itself has worsened. Smoothed over the five years around 1983 the measurements convert to 22 g/m2/a, much as in long-published papers. However the rates are continuing, rising through 32 g/m2 in the five years around 2005. The facts are shouting at us that the rate of increase of warming is itself accelerating.

    I now explain to people that the atmosphere is getting warmer because of the CO2 that is already up there. If they can take it I then explain to them that the rate of warming is going to get worse because of the extra CO2 that everyone continues to put up there.

    I rarely get the chance to tell them that even that is accelerating away from us. They have said “oh shit!” already.

  48. FunkyJ

    My Oh shit moment was reading this article and seeing some moron denigrate video games and those that play with by mentioning “the x-box generation” as self involved gits who need advertisers to sell them celebrity before they understand the issues they find themselves in.

    I realised “oh shit, these people are self involved wankers”.

    Do the world a favour and throw yourself off a bridge, Stuart Moreland.

    Your pathetic generalisation of the generation who will save the world is not helping your cause, which if it’s as dire as you claim, needs all the help it can get.

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