According to The Australian’s letter writers, the prestigious Royal Society now has "serious doubts" about the science of climate change leading it to a "startling retreat" from previous statements. Yet if you go to the Royal Society’s new short guide to climate science, you will find a straight restatement of the science as laid out by the IPCC. It reaffirms that:
  • Warming of 0.8° has occurred since 1850, mostly since 1975
  • The planet is still warming, the 2000s were hotter than the 1990s and warming will continue
  • Warming is mostly due to human influence
  • A doubling of CO2 concentrations is most likely associated with warming of 3°
  • The effects include a long-term decline in the extent of Arctic summer sea ice
  • "Further and more rapid rises in sea-level are likely, which will have profound implications for coastal communities and ecosystems".
Which raises the question: if the letter writers did not get their information from the Royal Society’s guide, where did they get it from? From The Australian itself, of course. On Saturday, the newspaper carried a prominent story verballing the Royal Society in the most shameless way. Leading off with the declaration that the Royal Society claims "climate change and sea level rises cannot be predicted" and trumpeting a "retreat from politics" by the society, the story by Graham Lloyd and Matthew Franklin claims that the new guide "under-cuts many of the claims of looming ecological disaster" and goes on to quote leading climate denier Ian Plimer describing the report as "a wonderful breath of honesty". Lloyd, the paper’s environment editor who is a worthy successor to Matthew Warren, makes sure readers do not miss the point with an embedded comment piece in which the word "honest" appears four times, in order to distinguish the new guide from all of those other, dishonest reports. There was the inevitable crowing editorial too claiming without a shred of evidence that the authors of the new guide "now believe the society’s previous position was too strident" and, having seen the light of day, endorse the "cautionary, responsible approach long advocated by The Weekend Australian". Risibly, it claims that those "with a sophisticated view of science" always understood that that the IPCC’s recommended targets were valueless because they were based on assumptions fed into "computer models", unwittingly recycling one of the deniers’ favourite bogeys without realising that no projection about the future of the climate (or the weather, or the economy, or financial markets, or the budget, or just about anything else) can be made without "computer models". Perhaps "those with a sophisticated view of science" believe that the models can be solved without computers (pencil and paper?) or maybe they just don’t believe in models, i.e. systematic attempts to represent complex systems. But this is nit-picking. After all, The Australian achieved what it set out to do -- win one more battle in its war on science by pulling the wool over the eyes of its more gullible readers. Having published many stories aimed at trashing the reputations of climate scientists and endless opinion pieces from the most inflammatory and vicious deniers (Christopher Monckton, Andrei Illarionov and so on) the paper now expresses, with its customary hypocrisy, the hope that the new guide will help restore "civility" to the discussion. Readers may have missed reports of the tragic spectacle of John McCain, once the most prominent Republican defender of climate science and advocate of a strong policy response, reduced by the Tea Party to grovelling disavowal of everything he once believed. Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt is Australia’s McCain. Once one of the strongest Liberal Party advocates for taking the science seriously, Hunt now defends climate deniers, claiming they are being "vilified" and should have the right to make up their own minds about the veracity of atmospheric physics. Is there no limit to the venality of humans?