Jan 28, 2010

Hamilton: Fran Kelly falls for Monckton’s media manipulation

Fran Kelly and the ABC are the latest victims to fall prey to notorious climate change sceptic Lord Monckton's media manipulation. Why did Kelly not question her controversial guest and his preposterous claims?

Fifty metres from where I sit at the ANU, 300 meteorologists and oceanographers are listening to the latest research on climate change at the annual conference of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.

But you wouldn’t know it. Instead of sending someone over to hear what the scientists are saying, Radio National this morning decided to give over its program to a charlatan, Lord Monckton, who expounded unchallenged his bizarre theories. He earnestly told Fran Kelly on Radio National that decades of climate science research could not be believed because the scientists are being paid by governments and governments want to cede national sovereignty to a “world government”. He compared climate scientists, like those at the conference next door to me, to the eugenicists of Nazi Germany and to the Soviet scientific fraud Trofim Lysenko. It was one of the most shocking slanders ever heard on the ABC. Fran Kelly allowed Monckton to present himself as a credible scientific voice, and could not challenge his repeated absurdities. She did not ask him what his qualifications were. She did not ask him why he lied about being a member of the House of Lords, or why he claims to be a Nobel laureate. She did not ask him about his preposterous claims to have won the Falklands war or to have invented a cure for Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV. Nor did she ask Monckton why Kevin Rudd, Barack Obama and the leaders of Europe, Japan and the developing world would participate in a process designed to relinquish national sovereignty to a communist world government. Monckton’s views are so extreme that even some of Australian’s hardened climate deniers will not go near him. Tony Abbott will not meet him. Even Barnaby Joyce regards him as too dangerous to associate with. Janet Albrechtsen, the Australian’s right-wing attack dog, laments the fact that “...while Monckton has mastered the best arts of persuasion, he also succumbs to the worst of them when he engages in his made-for-the-stage histrionics.” Most of Australia’s leading climate scientists have declined requests to debate Monckton on air because they understand that debating him on the science carries the implication that Monckton is a scientist with something worthwhile to say. They also know that what Monckton lacks in credibility he more than makes up for in showmanship. In a 10-minute radio or TV debate the showman who is willing to lie brazenly will usually come out on top, especially against a scientist hamstrung by the quaint belief that truth emerges from the careful presentation of the evidence. One of his former editors said of Monckton that he has the ability to talk nonsense in a very compelling way; some naïve members of the public lap it up. Fran Kelly is not the only journalist suckered by the denialists, although one would expect the ABC to have a better understanding of the scam than Channel 7’s Sunrise. Some in the profession have been known to express bewilderment at the rise and rise of climate denial. When Al Gore was interviewed on Lateline a while back, Leigh Sales spent the first half of the interview asking him to respond to the claims of the sceptics. She then asked “Why do you think the sceptics are so influential?”, apparently unaware that she had answered her own question by spending half of the interview talking about them. Over recent months we have witnessed a sustained assault on the reputation of Australian climate scientists led by the Australian newspaper, which magnifies and gloats over every real or confected mistake by the IPCC and promotes the opinions of every mad-eyed denier, including Monckton. Throughout this trashing of scientists, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have been missing in action. The Academies of Science have been silent too. It’s well past the time they roused themselves from their slumber and muscled up to those now ditching three centuries of science in favour of a fanatical belief.

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159 thoughts on “Hamilton: Fran Kelly falls for Monckton’s media manipulation

  1. philiseedogollomoo


    Firstly, there is no doubt that climatology is a “soft science”, secondly there is no doubt that to prove AGW beyond doubt we need more than 100 years of data to prove statistical significance.

    Yes, Costella seems to have uncovered some sort of conspiracy to fudge if his evidence is permissable, however this is outside his area of expertise B.E(elec.)Hons BSc Hons PHD Physics.

    (only on brief reading I didn’t wade through all)

  2. A government big enough to give you everything, is strong enough to take everything you have.

    Geeze allot of butthurt lefties.

  3. Julius

    On the lawyer’s principle that you wouldn’t be saying it if it wasn’t meant to be part of your argument I assume you are attaching importance to “this” (however you define what “this” is) being “outside his area of expertise”. If true it would no doubt tend to make his conclusions worth less weight. However I don’t think it is true.

    1. Physics is right at the heart of a lot of the most important aspects of climate science (and no discipline seems to make one expert in all aspects); cf. for example the peer reviewed and other papers of Dr Tom Quirk, a retired particle physicist.

    2. Costella’s claimed expertise in statistics and statistical method, though I wondered a bit at a couple of his assertions, is entirely relevant to much of the IPCC scientists methodology and reported results. You will see that he is very critical of the inability he detects of CRU people to handle statistical calculations he would expect a 16 year old to be able to do. An exaggerated jibe I suspect but, still, the point is the relevance of his areas of expertise. Likewise Monckton focuses on the mathematical modeling, the standards of evidence, and the extrapolations to be drawn from the IPCC’s own figures based on his one relevant area of expertise – though he is inclined to add his classical training in logic to his Applied Mathematics.

    Although heading in a sceptical direction I don’t know that I would go so far as to agree with your “secondly there is no doubt that to prove AGW beyond doubt we need more than 100 years of data to prove statistical significance”. However, I think I may have been confused by the conflation of two different elements there. “Proof beyond doubt” and “to prove statistical significance”. I suppose there are quite a few important elements in the understanding of and calculations for the great climate model which could be ascertained to a conventional point of statistical significance such as 95 per cent (two sigmas) without having 100 years of data. To be reasonably certain about a climate model which can explain almost everything from the Ice Ages (Ian Plimer says we are still in one of the Ice Ages and the earth was usually much hotter and moister!) to the African monsoon shifts which greened and dried out the Sahara etc. etc. we would presumably need far more than 100 years of data.

    One the one hand one could say “yes, and we should insist on that great climate model being established so we won’t have to turn round and acknowledge that we have overlooked some long cycle such as the 2400 year Halstatt[zeit] cycle (had to Google for it and found another 2400 cycle as well) and have to acknowledge therefore that there could easily be some causal factor about to change our world unexpectedly”.

    On the other hand we could say “yes, that’s all very well, but the immediate question is whether the IPCC’s models are valid and reliably predictive which all depend on a high degree of positive feedback from the extra water vapour they suppose to result from the initial extra warming from CO2 increases.” We would then proceed to focus on possible falsifications of those models which are the basis for worrying about the next few decades. As I travel in a sceptical direction I see those models falling before the work of David Evans (which Monckton claims originated with him), Lindzen and Choi, Douglass, Pinker et al.

    My predictions, on which I would place modest bets, are that variations in cloud formation will be discovered to be the most important variable within the next five years. Even money on that one. And as a missing part of the explanation of recent warming and of changing cloud formation I would take 3 to 1 on “The Chilling Stars” explanation which depends on cycles of solar magnetism affecting the showers of cosmic radiation which play a big part in cloud formation.

    Saying you have drawn me to express myself “in the language of insult” because I have used the word “mongrels” seems a rather convoluted and uncertain way to make a point of dubious merit. It is not as though I referred to or addressed anyone involved in the current discussion as a mongrel (not, anyway, by any means a word which is always an insult). I wonder why you would regard it as less insulting if I had made my point more prosaically by saying that an MIT professor would be less likely to display the mob behaviour and conspiratorial aggressiveness of those whose rise to power and influence from the ranks of the second rate or traditionally less esteemed. But that makes a legitimate point, even if a speculative one, and the fact that it suggests a lack of esteem for the emailers is merely and essential consequence of the judgment made or adumbrated.

    I do think you ought to read what Costella has written before you can expect someone to take seriously anything you say which hinges on a view derived from reading it. I do think Costella has made a good case for serious misbehaviour by most of those involved in the CRU based scandal. Good if you want to take that from me. But I am 200 per cent keener on others actually reading the book if they are otherwise disposed to take IPCC science on trust.

  4. baal

    @Julius: Actually I am not commenting on Costella whom I sure I should read like so many other treatises about so many issues that befuddle so many of us; but I am not really arguing the climate change case at all, merely commenting on the style of those who are trying to discredit the scientists. Do it convincingly or not at all. Use language well, ditto. That’s all really.

  5. Julius

    @ BAAL

    You are obviously capable of nice discriminations so I think you really understand that I am not “trying to discredit the scientists” in the ordinary sense of producing facts and arguments which show that they should be given no credit.

    Literally I suppose you could say that I was clearly enough suggesting that giving credit to them just because they were scientists working in the field or fields of climate science was not necessarily justified. And… once I had read about a third of Costella’s analysis I was willing to give it as a source of at least secondary evidence on the question whether those involved in the emails which were leaked were trustworthy.

    What I have done and all I intended to do was the approximate equivalent to advising a young friend with a bit of money to invest “That project of Jones’s that you describe certainly sounds attractive on the face of it but you ought to have a word to McTavish who might tell you a few stories about his experience with Jones’s schemes”.

    I don’t want to do too much work myself on this “Jones’s scheme” but don’t think I should support others in trusting it.

  6. philiseedogollomoo

    I am not in any way questioning his statistical analysis, merely his ability to analyse emails and draw conclusions from them.

    One must also look seriously at how these emails were obtained because heresay evidence is not usually acceptable.

  7. philiseedogollomoo


    As we have recently learnt from the “ute gate ” affair, emails are not secure, and there is no guarantee of reliability.

  8. Julius

    @ philiseedogollomoo

    You seem to question whether the email hoard is truly what it appears to be. Really?

    Within a few days of the leak (as it presumably was, rather than some hacker’s work) no one from CRU was trying to deny that the emails published were all genuine and untampered with. The need for defence against the attack they invited was such that all the efforts by everyone from Phil Jones down were to characterise the leak as theft and to put favourable or at least harmless interpretations on the emails. Remember the immediate attempt to say that the “trick” was a bit of mathematical cleverness.

    Next point in what you seem to be saying is that you regard them as “heresay(sic)”. I am afraid your understanding of the evidentiary concept of hearsay is as dodgy as your spelling of it. What makes hearsay second best evidence, if allowed in legal proceedings at all, is that the facts are not related directly by witness A who observed them but by witness B who was told by A about the observation of the facts. It is A that you need to cross-examine in order to make sure that none of the usual problems of observation or memory or veracity have sullied the evidence, but you can’t because you only have B to question.

    None of that has anything to do with the current question unless you want to say that Costella has not reliably copied the emails that he analyses. He is quite explicit about his procedure and offers means of checking where he has given a summary.

    I don’t understand what relevance the “utegate” affair has. True, Turnbull found himself waving around an email which was real but, unfortunately, really concocted and sent by the wretched Grech. There appears to be absolutely no parallel with the East Anglia University/ CRU emails. As I have pointed out no one concerned has denied that they are genuine and accurately reproduced. None of the apparent authors has denied authorship to the best of my knowledge. So what is your point and in what direction does it take the argument?

  9. philiseedogollomoo

    @ Julius

    You say the leaks were characterised as theft, were the police involved in an investigation of such theft, if not, why not?

    You say that they were then characterised as “favourable or harmless” really, is this how you would have interpreted them or do we rely on advice of a number cruncher ?

    I get back to my main point being was Costella the best man for this job?

  10. philiseedogollomoo


    If you provide evidence for your case of dubious nature, should you not expect cross examination?

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