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Environment

Dec 9, 2009

Hamilton at Copenhagen: Climate change science? Just google it.

While they pride themselves on their superior rational capacity, in truth the climate deniers are the least wise of the homo sapiens who’ve gathered in Copenhagen.

Climate change seems like an abstraction when it’s snowing outside, an imagined future rather than the kind of immediate danger we have evolved to react to.

As a test of our capacity for reason, the climate-change conundrum proves just how conceited it is to describe ourselves as homo sapiens. Perhaps COP15 should have been held in Cancun or Nairobi or Cairns, where the weather is more likely to help us be reasonable.

While they pride themselves on their superior rational capacity, in truth the climate deniers are the least wise of the homo sapiens who’ve gathered in Copenhagen. The crackpots, fringe-dwellers and engineers make up one side of the debate, speaking with a voice that has reached hysterical pitch after the theft of emails from the University of East Anglia.

UN officials have been stampeded into responding to “climategate”, although the stolen emails have political meaning only in the Republic Party in the United States and the right wing of the Liberal Party in Australia, in charge until the next election.

Climate denialism would barely register if not for the internet, the modern curse of communication that provides ready confirmation for every whacky theory or paranoid delusion.

The other day a study found that one in four Australians uses the internet to diagnose and treat their illnesses without the need to consult a medical expert. “It’s hard sometimes on the net to work out whether opinion is being portrayed as fact,” said the AMA president. Amen to that.

If a climate denier ignores expert opinion and uses the internet to diagnose and treat his cancer and dies as a result, it is regrettable. If he does the same for his daughter and she dies it is irresponsible. If he ignores the experts and uses the net to conclude the Earth is not sickening and other people’s children die then he is guilty of a crime.

Yesterday we learnt what we already knew — that the hackers were professionals. What we don’t yet know is who organised and paid for the hack. No doubt the money trail is well-hidden, so we must ask who benefits most. Cui bono? The finger points unwaveringly in one direction, the fossil fuel industry’s think tanks in Washington.

But it’s not only the sceptics who are repudiating the science in Copenhagen; most of the nations gathered here are doing the same, including the major emitters who cling to the fantasy that warming can be limited to 2°C above the pre-industrial average.

To have a good chance of that outcome, developed countries would need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and developing countries as a group would need to cut theirs by 15-30% below the “business-as-usual” levels expected by 2020. Only the European Union comes close to an adequate response.

Even if Copenhagen were to reach a binding agreement, current commitments would fall well short of these targets. Climate Analytics estimates that existing pledges would see global emissions continue to grow through to 2040, and warming would reach 3-4°C by before the end of the century.

A four-degree world is almost too intimidating to contemplate, yet that’s where we are headed.

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “Hamilton at Copenhagen: Climate change science? Just google it.

  1. Graeme Lewis

    Why do we have to absorb this stuff from Professor Hamilton every day? No substance – just emotive platitudes day after day.

  2. Robert Barwick

    Maybe Clive should go door-knocking in Copenhagen while he’s there. See if he does any better than in Higgins.

  3. David Coady

    Blaming the internet for climate change scepticism or people refusing to see their doctor is ridiculous. You might as well blame printing technology for all the false things people have come to believe as a result of reading books, since the 15th century. Of course new ways to disseminate information lead to some people believing some false things that they otherwise wouldn’t believe. But that’s the price we pay for free speech. It’s not as if restrictions on speech tend to promote the truth. On the contrary. It’s a pity Clive Hamilton can’t see that.

  4. stephen

    I’m sorry Graeme what do you mean?, are you saying that at the current targets the world is not likely to warm by 3-4 dgree by the turn of the century. I’m thinking must we day after day have to endure the likes of your ill-informed opinion, but we do.

  5. Graeme Lewis

    I am not saying any such thing, but neither Hamilton nor his “climate analytics” go anywhere near putting a convincing case. Just let’s blame the internet!!!!

    Maybe my opinion is ill-informed – that’s why I try to access stuff that has substance. Crikey does do well for me – but not contributor Hamilton.

  6. Frank Campbell

    Graham Lewis: Exactly. I’m tired of saying that Clive Calvin just emits the same paragraphs in random order. And editors pay for this cutting and pasting?

    Crikey editors should be looking for substance and balance.

    Don’t you love this bit? “Climate denialism would barely register if not for the internet, the modern curse of communication that provides ready confirmation for every whacky theory or paranoid delusion.” Hey Clive, we’re on the net right now- this para must be from the newspaper version of your generic article…

    The net is just the medium, Clive, and you can’t control it. Hence the rage.

    This is what Hamilton thinks of the opposition: “The crackpots, fringe-dwellers and engineers who make up one side of the debate.”

    And Calvin is always condescending: “Perhaps COP15 should have been held in Cancun or Nairobi or Cairns, where the weather is more likely to help us be reasonable.” Oridinary people are slow-witted and easily led, are they Clive? More sloths than home sapiens…

    This is Calvin’s world-view: torpid masses tempted by crackpots. Stunning arrogance.

    Pride comes before a fall in the polls, Clive.

  7. Johnfromplanetearth

    “And if you take cranberries and stew them in applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does” Groucho Marx
    “The Climate- change conundrum proves just how conceited we are to describe ourselves as homosapiens” “whacky theory” paranoid delusion” “climate denialism wouldn’t register if it wasn’t for the internet” What planet is Hamilton from? I just look out the bloody window at that huge big yellow ball up in the sky and i don’t need the internet to tell me it’s there and it has one huge effect on our lives.
    Conceit? Hamilton talks of conceit? The planet has been here 4 billion years or do some of you still believe Adam pinched the apple 6000 years ago? We have engaged in heavy industry 200 years. 4 billion v 200 years…mmm let me see now? Does Hamilton really have the conceit to believe that somehow we’re threatening nature? (Has anyone noticed how nobody ever uses the term Mother Nature anymore?) Whatever happened to her? Does he think that somehow we are going to place in jeopardy everything that has evolved for billions of years on this beautiful blue planet that’s just floating around the sun minding it’s own business?
    Nature will take care of everything in the future because that’s what nature does, it will take care of us some day too, we aren’t here forever folks. We are only here for a little while. I don’t need some madman to tell me we’re all going to fry by next Tuesday!!

  8. Frank Campbell

    And we’ll remember Clive who woke the Slimy Monster from the Deep. We thought we were shot of Abbott and the lying rodent…

  9. Evan Beaver

    Are you blaming Clive for a change of Liberal leader Frank? No doubt Clive is flattered by the overestimation of his powers, but through what mechanism is this occurring?

  10. Frank Campbell

    You’re SO literal Evan. Hop off yer bike and put down those twitcher binoculars while I tell you a story….

    I refer of course to The AGW Cult as a whole, of which Clive Knox is a kind of wind-up Savonarola, with 50 phrases. The Cult gave birth to a fanged succubus known as the ETS. The screams of this creature woke the Illiberal Dead (see the great illustration on the Crikey home page today) who consumed the flexible, networked and global Guy de Turnbull at a single sitting.

    It’s quite a simple mechanism, really.