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Mar 28, 2011

The Bishop’s Gambit: cutting and pasting denialist errors

A group of bloggers has again sprung Julie Bishop using material from other sources - including some howling errors.

Two and a half years after being embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, Julie Bishop has again been found using material from other sources.

In a post last week on her Fairfax blog Bishop criticised the Prime Minister over her suggestion that credible scientists didn’t question climate change by reeling off several names and quotes in a climate denialist document presented to the US Senate. However, a number of commenters at Tim Lambert’s Deltoid blog recognised the material and began digging.

In her blog, Ms Bishop referred to…

…comments from legendary atmospheric scientist the late Dr Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA, who authored more than 190 studies and described as one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the last 100 years who said: “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organisation nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly . . . As a scientist I remain skeptical . . . The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.”

Tim Lambert investigated the quote and found an immediate problem. He dug out the original piece from Simpson to see what the ellipses in the Bishop quote hid. In a section of the original article not quoted by Bishop, Simpson says:

“What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable.”

But one of Lambert’s commenters spotted the resemblance to quotes posted on a blog by a climate denialist financial trader, where not merely was the exact quote used by Bishop posted, complete with misleading ellipses, but the exact same description of Simpson.

In fact, if you Google the text, it appears routinely on a list of quotes that has appeared on a number of climate denialist blogs, even on blogs by people who (like Ron Boswell) think we’re in danger of global cooling. Bishop also used the quotes and descriptions of scientists Kiminori Itoh and Stanley Goldenberg that appear on the list.

But as the Deltoid bloggers dug deeper, they found that Bishop’s cutting and pasting had led her into further trouble. She also quotes scientist Robert B. Laughlin as saying “Please remain calm: The Earth will heal itself — climate is beyond our power to control.” But as commenters pointed out, Laughlin never said any such thing. The quote Bishop used is actually from a review of Laughlin’s article, by Canadian Neil Reynolds. Indeed, as you can tell from phrasing, it’s actually the title of the review.

Why? The quote used by Ms Bishop appears to have been taken, again complete with ellipses, from elsewhere – a climate denialist piece written in December that makes the same mistake of attributing the review quote to Laughlin himself. Bishop’s quote is exactly the same as that of the December piece.

In fact, if Bishop had bothered to check Laughlin’s original article, she’d have read that he says:

“Carbon dioxide from the human burning of fossil fuel is building up in the atmosphere at a frightening pace, enough to double the present concentration in a century. This buildup has the potential to raise average temperatures on the earth several degrees centigrade, enough to modify the weather and accelerate melting of the polar ice sheets.”

Ms Bishop told Crikey this morning “the theme of my blog was freedom of expression and freedom of thought in this country. The quotations were from a report to the US Senate, which I referred to in the blog.”

She rejects Crikey’s “interpretation” of the Simpson statement. “I am aware that the late Dr Simpson stated that she remained sceptical,” she said.  “As to the other [Laughlin] quote, the report is on the US Senate website so I am happy to add a link to the source US Senate. The blog was not about climate change science, and I pointed out that the Coalition has a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach the same targets as Labor by 2020.  It was a response to the Prime Minister’s attempts to crush any views that differ from her own.”

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40 comments

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40 thoughts on “The Bishop’s Gambit: cutting and pasting denialist errors

  1. Jimmy

    It’s funny that the coalition continues to state it’s position that climate change is real but also continues to suggest that the science isn’t settled, seems to be trying to have a bit each way to make sure they keep their denier base on side while trying to fool the moderate swinging voter.

  2. Holden Back

    And she’s a moderate.

  3. drmick

    In every way Holden, in every way

  4. Frank Campbell

    Bishop gets what she deserves- much the same as usual.

    But the real story is the bizarre obsession with “climate”. National politics has degenerated into farce, with neither side able to escape the consequences of climate millenarianism. A one-item agenda. Bernard Keane’s daily wordage reflects this.

    Nothing Australia does will have the slightest effect on global climate. You all know this. Even Lostradamus Keane. With 1% of global CO2 emissions (which are bound to rise spectacularly in the next few decades -another uncontroversial fact) Australia is just one fart among millions.

    Yet we’re earbashed about “proycing caaahbun” and Abbott’s Algae as though “climate” was the only thing people cared about. The NSW (and last Federal) election made it clear that climate obsession is NOT what people want to hear about. They know that this moralistic crusade is expensive and that it distracts politicians from real issues, not least the daily rape of the real environment.

    The Green Left is headed for oblivion unless we recapture it from the cult. So if there any other Green Lefties out there who don’t want to follow the Very Revd. Bob Brown into the wilderness, get off your arses now.

  5. klewso

    Ahhhh, “Barbie Scissorhands” you’ve done it again?

    Fair go, Jimmy, they’ve got a few constituencies to play to, if they want to win government, we’ll just have to wait til after we elect them to find out what the mandate is we gave them – just like “Non-core Pormises” all over again. You can’t really expect them, with their record to be “honest before an election”, can you?
    Ever see a game of “Twister” – that explains it all.

  6. Jimmy

    Frank Campbell – “Nothing Australia does will have the slightest effect on global climate” If we applied this argument to income tax evety individual in Australia could argue that the amount of tax they pay is a miniscule amount of govt revenue and therefore it would make no difference if they paid it. However this would be ignoring their social obligation’s and that it is everyone doing a small amount that makes the whole. Plus it is hard to tell someone else to do their bit when you refuse to do your own.

    I would alos point out that as citizens of the world Australians are close to the worst, it’s just that there aren’t as many of us.

    “The NSW (and last Federal) election made it clear that climate obsession is NOT what people want to hear about.” How is this true? The NSW polls have been predicting the carnage from the weekend long before a carbon tax was even mentioned (in fact the result might actually end up being better than some polls predicted not so long ago) and the last federal had both parties promising action on climate change (one that works and one that doesn’t) and there was no clear winner so how does that prove your assetion?

  7. Frank Campbell

    Jimmy: income tax vs Co2 emissions. False analogy. If we don’t pay tax, we all suffer. If Australia does nothing about CO2, nothing changes, whether we’re the “worst in the world’ per capita or not.

    Secondly, the “caahbun tax” is just the latest version of what we’ve been hammered with for several years. The polls show a steady decline in climate millenarian belief since 2006. All elections are polluted these days by CO2. People are sick of it. We all know what bothered voters in NSW: transport, health, sleaze….these things trumped “climate”- which is why the Greens couldn’t capitalise on the ALP collapse.

  8. SageBarnOwl

    Jimmy, couldn’t have said it better myself. Just because Australia produces such a small amount of carbon pollution in the world doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to cut it – we are one of the worst per capita for carbon emissions and it’s about time people stopped taking modern conveniences for granted.

  9. GocomSys

    @Jimmy
    Good try!
    Let’s face it mediocre Australians deserve a mediocre media and mediocre politicians!
    The danger is that it can get worse in “Mediocrity Land”. What did the mediocre NSW voters do? They removed a mediocre government and replaced it with one that is going to be worse! OOps! Replacing the mediocre federal government with one led by someone like Abbott @ Co. Unimaginable! If the concentrated effort to undermine the national psyche persists we’ll nostalgically look back to the times of mediocrity. Difficult to see us getting out of this quagmire since any attempt to buck the trend is quickly nipped in the butt by the usual suspects!
    Very sad really, because in so many fields individual Australians are doing exceptional work!

  10. Jimmy

    Gocomsys – “I would also point out that as citizens of the world Australians are close to the worst, it’s just that there aren’t as many of us.” I was talking in terms of carbon pollution only, on rereading I see it sounded much worse, sorry I will put it down to being Monday.

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