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. Julius


    1. I doubt that the police were involved or even that those using the word “theft” were concerned to use it in a legal sense rather than moral. It was used by all and sundry who did not want the scandal to be taken seriously as a count against the IPCC or a major part of its network (as the CRU at East Anglia is). I don’t suppose anyone would have wanted to call in the police rather than taint the users of the information as people handling stolen goods (A bit like the German purchase of names from a former Swiss bank employee who has undoubtedly stolen information about Germans who may have used the Swiss bank for tax evasion. I doubt if those who used “theft” about the CRU emails would object to the German government’s receipt of stolen goods! And I don’t think I do either).

    So the reason why police weren’t called in, if they weren’t, is obvious in the context of what was really at stake.

    In view of your apparent doubts about the “reliability” of the email horde that Costella has done a job on – by which I take you to mean their authenticity and the accurate reproduction thereof – I emphasise that the apologists use of the word “theft”, also used by Dr Phil Jones, he head of the unit, is logically an affimation that the leaded emails are the real thing.

    As it happens, I think those emails might well have been leaked to a Russian organisation in order to give a bit of cover to the leaker. It could appear that a hacker had somehow got access.

    2. Nothing you had said made it clear to me that your “main point was [that] Costella [might not be] the best man for this job”. I am not sure what your criterion would be for “best man”.

    He is seems, on the face of it, admirably well qualified and to have done an excellent job though it would be great if there were a Royal Commission or equivalent with several highly qualified commissioners and counsel to assist. It is just that, as far as I am aware, no one has hitherto done such a thorough survey and analysis of the emails and published it. So far, therefore, he stands in possession of the field. By all means, someone, read his book and give an honest critical review of it without relying on the sort of quibbles that anyone can easily generate to waste the time of those who suspect that they are trivial or a misrpresentation but feel forced to chase them down.

    3. Then you ask “If you provide evidence for your case of dubious nature, should you not expect cross examination?”.

    Of course. So what is your point?

    I was explaining a major part of the rationale for the rule against hearsay evidence of which you seemed to have an imperfect grasp. It has little to do with “the evidence for [anyone’s] case [being] of dubious nature” because all material evidence should be considered carefully to see whether it needs testing by cross-examination if only to elucidate its meaning and implications and have its detail confirmed with proper accuracy. So, of course, the cross-examination that you would want to apply to the evidence is much more restricted if you are ahearing what A saw and heard from B to whom A allegedly told it.

    As I said, that has nothing much to do with this case because it is not Costella that you would want to cross-examine – unless you found major discrepancies between what he has printed of the emails and the originals. You would want to examine, cross-examine and re-examine the senders of the emails, and their recipients, as to what they were up to. Ideally, it should be part of a Royal Commission or equivalent inquiry into the “reliability” of the IPCC’s science and the data used so that, when counsel assisting the inquiry gives a fair summary of how bad those emails look when measured against the IPCC’s mission and supposed standards and the standards of scientific method and ethical conduct the counsel for the persons impugned, and the CRU – and even the IPCC – will be able to call their witnesses to explain what they really meant and what it all means when put in context. Then their witnesses would be cross-examined.

    At no point would Dr Costella come into it for questioning. His relevance is simply that his book would probably be the foundation document for putting together counsel assisting’s opening address after he or she has deputed to junior counsel the task of going over the same ground to ensure that relying on Costella’s work is sound, and improving on it or clarifying it as need be.

    So far we are stuck with Costella’s book being the best way of understanding what was in the East Anglia/CRU emails and what their significance is. Anyone who cares whether some scientists dealing with an aspect of science which is very important, if only because of the amount of money which could be wasted if they are wrong, are a disgrace to science, or anyway, dangerous to our economic welfare, should read the Costella book.

  2. Julius


    I missed your “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 ?”

    And you have missed the point that the only people characterising them as “favourable or harmless” were apologists for the CRU emailers who couldn’t deny that they were genuine even if they wanted to muddy the waters by referring to them as stolen. Of course I don’t interpret them that way, or does Costella – if that is the person you refer to as “a number cruncher” (though why you would I don’t know, since little of his number crunching abilities are needed for what he has done). Anyone who took an interest in the reporting of the email leak here and overseas would be well aware of the numerous attempts by apologists for the CRU to characterise the whole corpus of emails as nothing but petty storms in the staff room type stuff, and in cases like the “trick” to invent an explanation which doesn’t stand up.

  3. Flower

    Hello Clive

    Have a look at the latest shenanigans of the fossil fuel criminals. Their seeds of deception make the hapless CRU scientists look like Mother Teresa and Einstein rolled into one!


    Hey – perhaps Poppa Bolt and his devotees would be interested in the article?

  4. philiseedogollomoo

    Royal commission ?

    I thought we had just conducted one, where do we apply for payment ?

    What I hear you say you need some findings etc. tell that to the people of NSW

  5. Julius

    @ Flower

    What possible relevance to the credibility of the IPCC/CRU et al. who are rightly squirming at the picture painted by the leaked emails to point to yet another example of industry (allegedly) trying to minimise environmental constraints in order to maximise profit. If anything, it only serves as a reminder of the difficulty of finding wholly honest, reliable, courageous people anywhere. No doubt the coal industry that wants to market coal ash has plenty of scientists backing them and spruiking for them.

    Who do you think would be more likely to tell a lie to save his job: a PR person who can easily obtain employment elsewhere if he is good at his job; or a scientist in a specialised field who, despite being good at his job, is not likely to find it easy to get employment elsewhere?

    On reflection, I think you have added to the reasons for regarding the soft-science clique connected to the CRU as more likely to be corruptible than an industry spokesman, at any rate no less corruptible by self-interest.

  6. Flower

    Poppycock Julius and the bobbing and weaving quickstep is rather pitiful.

    The UK Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee has announced an inquiry into the unauthorised publication of data, emails and documents. The Independent Review is inviting written submissions from the public therefore rather than bore us witless with tedious iteration and repetition, why not address the terms of reference?


    What I can anticipate from the pending outcome, is that the forces of evil do not reside at CRU.

    Furthermore, I anticipate a McClimategate enquiry in the not too distant future. One of the outrageous lie spewed f rom the toxic Wind in the Willows – Toad at Toad Hall, is that the US was responsible for millions of deaths from malaria because they “banned” DDT.

    William Sanjour spent 30 year as a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and more particularly during the restrictions on DDT. He responded to claims in the New York Times, years before we had the displeasure of receiving Toad of Toad Hall in Australia, however, his letter was not published – more subterfuge from the forces of evil:

    “Half Truths About African Effort to Cut Malaria:

    Your June 29 article “Business Joins African Effort to Cut Malaria” contains the half truth: “Fears that uncontrolled outdoor spraying of DDT would contaminate ecosystems led many nations, including the United States, to ban the pesticide.”

    ‘The half not included is the fact that EPA, in 1972, only banned the crop use of DDT. Public health uses, such as cited in your article for preventing malaria, were explicitly exempted from the EPA ban. This point is important because opponents of the ban on crop use of DDT in the United States have frequently and incorrectly cited the EPA ban as contributing to the spread of malaria in Africa.’


    Obviously you have no idea about environmental toxicology. Flyash is radioactive, contains heavy metals and is an ideal resting place for PCBs and dioxins but that is nothing for the “corrupted” denialist to worry about, is it?

  7. Julius

    @ Flower

    No doubt your toxicology point is correct. But what’s the point? Of course polluters and people who may gain from an activity which is polluting are likely to argue against some or all restraints on them and some of that argument may be dishonest.

    And what’s your point about the parliamentary inquiry into the leaked emails and their implications?

    Presumably it has been set up because preliminary assessments of the emails, a lot less thorough than Costella’s “Climategate Analysis”, has already shown what a blow the affair is to the credibility of the whole IPCC enterprise and the political and commercial commitments and careers which have been hung on it.

    I am only advocating that people expose themselves to the evidence. The Costella book is only indirectly about the science but it seems to have the merit of being unassailable in the factual truth of what it relies on.

    As I have already said, I am open to seeing Monckton proven to be an eloquent charlatan and, if I followed up on collateral matter such as what he has actually said about DDT, malaria etc. and why and whether he can justify it I might find that anything he says on any subject requires even more scrutiny than it would otherwise deserve. For the moment I prefer to focus directly on the climate science related matters.

  8. Ben Aveling

    People. We are all aware that Lord Monckton has on occasion been less than totally honest and open. That alone doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Likewise, we are all aware that the IPCC have on occasion been less than totally honest and open. That alone doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. And anyway, this isn’t Monckton vs the IPCC, there are many other players.

    On this and on all other posts on this topic, could we please keep the conversation a bit more focused on the science and a bit less obsessed with personalities.

    Many, perhaps most of you, on both sides of this know far more about the science that I. But it’s reached the point where I no longer know why you think the other side are wrong, they just are, they just must be.

  9. Julius

    From the 7.30 report transcript of Kerry O’Brien’s interview of Prof Michael Oppenheimer who was intended, presumably, to balance or squash the rather inadequate representation of Monckton’s case:

    “It’s a complicated problem, but that’s what we elect political leaders for, to take the evidence, sort it out and make sensible policy. We don’t elect people to be daunted by scientific complexity.” That was from Oppenheimer. With those views what criticisms would he have of Monckton taking part in a political debate on the subject?

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