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Apr 26, 2012

Hamilton: ABC's latest climate change doco another PR victory for doubters

Because it falls for the deniers’ tactic of doubt-mongering, ABC TV’s I Can Change Your Mind … About Climate Change is a victory for climate denial even before it goes to air .


The strategy of doubt-mongering has been highly effective for climate deniers at exploiting the media’s practice of presenting “two sides” to controversial issues. The media have an ethical commitment to provide “balance” and stories are more interesting if there is a conflict to report, whether that conflict is real or manufactured.

Which is why ABC TV’s I Can Change Your Mind … About Climate Change is yet another victory for climate denial even before it goes to air this Thursday. The documentary pits former Liberal senator Nick Minchin, who famously claimed that climate science is a communist plot, against youthful climate change activist Anna Rose, and just like 2007’s The Great Global Warming Swindle, the ABC will air a special panel devoted to the program entitled Q&A: The Climate Debate to discuss the documentary after it airs.

Minchin and Rose will be joined by mining magnate Clive Palmer, chief executive of the CSIRO Dr Megan Clark and social researcher and writer Rebecca Huntley.

The premise of the film, commissioned by the ABC, and the accompanying panel, suggests that there is a genuine debate about climate science. But as there is in fact no debate in the scientific literature about the main propositions of climate science, the ABC is hoodwinking its viewers.

If there were a real debate among scientists, then the climate deniers would be publishing their counter-evidence in the professional scientific journals. But they are not, because they do not have evidence that will stand up to scrutiny.

So they set out to do something else, to create the impression in the public mind that there is a serious debate among scientists about global warming. To do so they must shift the terrain away from the scientific journals and into the popular media, where they do not have to face the scrutiny of experts.

It’s certain that when asked last year to participate in the program, Minchin grabbed the chance with two hands. His denialist comrades have been patting him on the back ever since.

Several well-qualified scientists could see the program for what it was and refused the invitation to “debate” Minchin. But has Rose, who has been widely and rightly praised for co-founding the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, undone much of her good work by allowing herself to be enticed onto the television screen? Rose has written a book about the experience and she has told The Sydney Morning Herald, “I went into it with an open mind – but I answer the questions about climate change based on the science.

The ABC will argue that in presenting “both sides” viewers will be able to make up their own minds. For issues such as euthanasia, capital punishment or conflict in the Middle East, that is legitimate. But the subject of this debate is a complex body of science that only those with advanced training in a relevant discipline can properly understand and assess.

Would the ABC commission a program titled I Can Change Your Mind on … the Theory of Relativity? Is its next program I Can Change Your Mind on … Evolution in which an unqualified creationist debates the evidence with an unqualified “believer” in evolution?

Yet in this case — where the stakes are enormous, no less than the survival of the civilised world — the ABC takes the view that climate science is a fun topic for debate and has pitched against each other two people with zero expertise and no authority.

When the program goes to air, the bevy of deniers at the Lavoisier Group, the Institute of Public Affairs, and the Skeptics Party will be shouting “Sucked in ABC”. And they will have good reason to celebrate.

The ABC knows all of this. I and others have pointed it out many times. Scholars such as Naomi Oreskes have exposed the tactics of the climate deniers with a mass of documentary evidence.

Yet the ABC persists with the charade of “providing balance”. Some news organisations abroad have decided they will no longer fall for the doubt-mongering ruse. Professional pride now prevents editors and journalists from being manipulated by the denial machine.

The BBC would not air a program such as this. In the United States, National Public Radio has revised its ethics handbook. “Our goal,” it states, “is not … to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.”

When it reports on questions such as climate science its aim is not the spurious fairness of presenting “both sides”; instead NPR commits itself to be “fair to the truth”.

“To be fair to the truth.” Once we simply expected that of the national broadcaster. This latest program tells us that the truth no longer carries so much weight at the ABC, not when it comes to climate science.

*Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra.



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87 thoughts on “Hamilton: ABC’s latest climate change doco another PR victory for doubters

  1. Peter Ormonde

    Balance? That means giving knuckle scrapers and wishful thinkers equal time apparently.

    Imagine trying to change Nick Minchin’s mind on anything at all. Even he can’t change his mind. So I feel that poor Rose was set up from the start really.

    Still it’s a chance to get the facts out – to expose the sort of irrational notions and praying underneath the skeptic/denial position – which I’m sure Nick does most eloquently.

    I can’t bear to watch Q & A at the best of times … so much contrived “balance” it distorts the public debate … as if anyone could take a Blot or a Devine seriously enough to give them oxygen.

  2. Jimmy

    Great article. When you look at the panel the debate is resolved before they even opeen their mouths, the CSIRO on the side of climate change and Clive Palmer & Nick Minchin against, only one qualified opinion.

  3. Michael

    I agree with you @CLIVE
    Any opportunity provided for the sensible majority to debunk your bullshit cannot be good for your business.
    Ignore, them, pretend they don’t exist & pray to Gaia that the cheques keep coming.

  4. Frank Campbell

    Crikey true to form- privileging this shallow, repetitive propagandist yet again.

    No mention on this website that James Lovelock disembarked at Cork from the ideological Titanic of climate millenarianism:

    “(Lovelock) previously painted some of the direst visions of the effects of climate change. In 2006, in an article in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, he wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”


    “It will also reflect his new opinion that global warming has not occurred as he had expected.
    “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

    “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

    “The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

    He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.”

  5. Jimmy

    Frank – Let’s look at the quotes you have posted – ““The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium” & “carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” So thee climate has warmed since 2000, on top of considerable warming in the previous decades and carbon dioxide is rising.

    When you consider all credible scientists are predicting a 2 degree rise as being too much how does “not vey much” impact the climate and what is it’s quantity.

  6. Simon Mansfield

    Jimmy – go read the full interview with Lovelock on MSNBC

    http:// worldnews.msnbc.msn. com/_news/2012/04/23/11144098-gaia-scientist-james-lovelock-i-was-alarmist-about-climate-change?lite

    Remove the white spaces.

    But like NASA’s James Hansen – Lovelock backs nuclear power as the key solution for baseload power – which makes him politically incorrect.

  7. Simon Mansfield

    The really scary thing about Hamilton is that he teaches public ethics despite being a fully badged member of the “Thought Police” .

    I’m guessing Madlands is a play on Gaslands making it a bad title for many reasons.

  8. Jimmy

    SImon Mansfield – That would be the interview where he says the climate is still warming just not as fast as he orginally predicted.

    His original predictions were extreme, to say that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen so we don’t need to worry is naive. There are a lot of negative consequences of slower than expected warming before we get to virtual extinction.

  9. Think Big

    I see Frank Campbell is regurgitating the latest denialist talking point. There is a concerted push by the denialists before the carbon-price comes into effect because after that all their scaremongering will be exposed as overblown.

    Lovelock is now 92 and was always a contrarian. His previous views didn’t represent the maintream opinion on climate-science anyway. I’m surprised Frank and Simon didn’t mention the vox-pop of retired NASA administrators and technicians – maybe that was last months meme to be discarded when the reality of their true level of expertise in climate-science was uncovered.

  10. Jimmy

    Think Big- From the interview all it seemed that he was doing was moving from his original extreme position to a more mainstream one anyway, he says he isn’t a denier, he says global warming is happening just not as fast as he originally thought, and he says humans can make a difference, hardly seems to be jumping of the Titanic as Frank claims.

  11. Scott

    “If there were a real debate among scientists, then the climate deniers would be publishing their counter-evidence in the professional scientific journals.”

    Lots of examples of skeptics publishing papers in scientific journals. For example, prominant skeptics like Roger Pielke Senior (meterology), S Fred Singer (atmospheric physics), Ross McKitrick (economics), Richard S. Lindzen (atmospheric physics), Willie Soon (astrophysics) , J Scott Armstrong (Statistics) and 100 others have all published multiple papers in legitimate scientific journals (Energy and Environment, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Geophysical Research Letters and Climate Research)
    There is still a lot of discussion going on in the scientific community regarding the science of climate change and the various feedbacks that influence temperature, especially cloud effects. Who ever says the science is settled doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  12. Jimmy

    Scott – I am not going to pretend I have read any of those papers but do an economist an astro physicist and a Statistician really have the qualifications to be considered experts (I haven’t ever heard of atmospheric physics so I assume they have the relevant knowledge)?

    To me it would be like backing Michael Clarke to win the brownlow, after all he is one of the country’s elite sportsmen.

  13. James Hastings

    @ Jimmy

    You Write
    “do an economist an astro physicist and a Statistician really have the qualifications to be considered experts”

    Experts in what? Climate Science I presume. So what if they aren’t ‘experts’ in Climate science. The history of science is littered with examples if the experts been proven wrong. Example Alfred Wegener who first came up with the theory of Plate Tectonics, was a meterologist not a geologist, and was widely ridiculed for his ideas. He was right and the ‘experts’ were wrong.

    Science is about evidence… not tallies of how many phd’s and experts support on conclusion or another.

  14. ewaterford

    Scott – I don’t think anyone accepts that we understand Climate Change completely. The degree to which it will affect us is still ‘not settled’. But the concept that it isn’t real, or won’t affect us at all is settled – as a complete rejection of basic science.

  15. Mark from Melbourne

    Have to agree wholeheartedly that the ABC’s charter is not to provide “balanced” coverage. It is to facilitate the public presentation of the evidence-based arguments of all sides in support of objective debate.

    How you could rate Minchin as even vaguely qualified to present science based evidence is hard for me to understand, but hopefully who ever is moderating this farce does hold both sides to account for presenting evidence rather than opinion.

  16. bill.wilson

    Hamilton is on the money – the debate is little more than the same tired old contrarians engaging in mutual mass-debating. Why dont you mass-debaters take a gander at the editorial, and then a couple of the research papers, in Nature volume 484, 5 April 2012. For your convenience here are a couple of salient extracts:

    “Two papers in Nature this week highlight the extent to which human activity is influencing global climate, and underline the need for continued scrutiny of the problem.”

    “Jeremy Shakun and his Harvard colleagues show on page 49, carbon dioxide does drive atmospheric warming. Uncontroversial stuff, perhaps, yet the link continues to be be questioned by people who would play down the risks of human greenhouse-gas emissions.”

    Indeed, Hamilton is in very good company.

    As for you contrarians, I’ve changed my mind: Dont bother reading research papers in Nature – you wont understand them. Better to ask a scientist instead.

  17. James Hastings

    @ Think Big

    I’m a little unclear about you post. Are you suggesting that NASA administrators and technicians, retired or otherwise, don’t know anything about science? You see Vox-Pop means voice of the people as in a street interview with someone from the general public. I would think that interviews with Nasa admins and techs would not count as random opinions from the street, but rather as ‘expert’ scientific testimony.

  18. Mark from Melbourne

    Although I guess part of their charter is to entertain so maybe that’s what category they think this falls under. I enjoy Q&A sometimes but I actually dont believe it advances the debate diddlysquat.


    Evidence of the climate shifting, by small amounts but rapidly, with the rising CO2 levels increasing at the fastest rate in millennia should be enough to give anyone pause, but the rightwing have decided it’s about politics.

    I agree with Clive, this is not about ‘balance’ of the scientific data, but a confected conflict of beliefs, mixed with the usual nasty shock jock sneering and ad hominem attacks.

  20. Mark M

    It all seems a little pointless and futile to me really. Is Nick Minchin going to change his mind, when he freely admits that he does not see this as a scientific discussion at all? Nick Minchin states very clearly that he sees the theory of AGW as an attack on the “industrial system” by the left wrapped up in environmental activism.

    For those who are interested, the video with Naomi that didn’t make the cut is worth seeing:


    It’s a bit like Nick being told off by his mum for being a little short-sighted and biased.

  21. Scott

    Economics (specifically econometrics) and statistics are at the heart of time series regression analysis, which is being used in climate papers to estimate the relationship between the the various independent variables (i.e carbon dioxide levels) and the dependent variable (temperature). Hence very relevant to studies of climate.
    As for Atmospheric physics, its the study of energy moving through the various layers of atmosphere to the ocean and back again, which is at the heart of the prevailing theory of why c02 causes air temperatures to increase. Again, extremely relevant to climate.
    As for astrophysics, the sun (a star) is a major source of all energy to the earth so is pretty important to climate and temperature.

  22. Mark M

    I should also mention that a number of actual experts in the field of climate science will be commenting throughout the documentary and Q&A show.

    For more information see here:


    And for the likes of Frank Campbell and Scott. Think whatever you like about the “debate”, but the chances are you are not reasoning objectively about the science of climate change, you are simply rationalising your beliefs.

  23. Rohan

    Anyone who has read merchants of Doubt would quickly recognise that Scott’s post is demonstrably wrong on so many levels.

    The “Lots”, The “legitimate scientific” Journals, the credibility of the characters he cites… it’s all garbage.

  24. Anthony David

    Scott. You missed the “smiley face” when you listed “Energy and Environment” as a legitimate scientific journal. It is a trade journal with no legitimate standing in the science community. Your “experts” are on the wrong side of science and their papers are consistently debunked.

  25. Mark M

    @Scott. I can only assume that you are not an expert in the field of climate science. One would have to know a lot about climate science to be considered an expert in that field as it is very complicated. If you were truly interested in getting to the bottom of the scientific debate (or lack of) on climate science as it relates to anthropogenic global warming , you would research what the experts in the field have to say on the subject.

    You would not skim around the edges and ask economists, statisticians or astro-physicists about climate science any more than you would go to a climate scientists to ask about plate-techtonics or cellular theory. They might know some stuff about it, but it seems a little pointless when you could just ask a geologist or biologist and get a more knowledgeable opinion.

    One can only assume, therefore, that you don’t want the expert opinion on this particular topic, probably because you have already decided that it cannot be true.

  26. Jimmy

    James Hastings- I query the experise of these authors as Scott has put them up as experts, he was the one who challenged the articles authors assertion that skeptics are not credible sccientists by putting forward these names. However if all these names are is uninformed people with degree’s in unrelated subjects then the original authors assertion remains, as Rohan suggests above.

    Scott – Many things are relevant to the studies of climate, however that does not mean that being qualified in one area makes you qualified to discuss the topic.

    Again Michael Clarke can run and catch and is elite in his field but will he win the brownlow?

  27. Uncle Mareko

    The theme of your argument suggests that the ABC is wrong because they are encouraging scepticism when science leaves no place for it. If that’s true, we are dealing with a new type of science from that which I studied.
    When I was a student, scepticism was the essential driving virtue of scientific endeavour. Without scepticism how is scientific truth tested? Without the proof of testing any widely held scientific opinion can become dogma.
    How about a debate to address “Can I Change your Mind on Computer Projections”, in which an individual, trained only in Excel Spreadsheet projections debates with a climate scientist. That might be useful because the science of climate change is essentially about predicting the future based on an analysis of the past. It is science based on computer modelling in which key data and calculations are assumed to always be correct.

  28. alex.rosser

    There are other scientific controversies which the ABC could also address.
    Flat earth. Whilst all scientists agree that the Earth is not spherical, there is ongoing debate as to its exact shape. To many of us it is obviously flat and we would like our view heard.

    There are other issues in doubt. Such as:-
    The moon landing was filmed in a Hollywood back lot.
    Hitler escaped to South America and lived there in comfort for many years.
    Shakespeare’s play were not written by Shakespeare, but by a different guy with the same name.

  29. Dan Cass

    Crikey readers are such elitists, using facts and information and logical arguments.

    Its a conspiracy against stupid.

  30. Scott

    You do realise James Hansen is an astrophysicist.

  31. Jimmy

    Scott – Being an astrophysicist does not exclude you from being an expert on climate science but it also does not mean you have an knowledge on the subject what so ever.

    Again there are cricketers who could of played AFL (Alex Keath currently) or actually did play AFL/VFL (Max Walker or Simon O’Donnell) but does that mean you would back Clarke for the Brownlow?

  32. LJG..............

    I’m keenly awaiting the show “I can change your mind about Evolution”

  33. Mark M


    You do realise James Hansen is an astrophysicist.

    who has been publishing peer-reviewed work in the field of atmospheric physics since the late 1960s. I am pretty confident he is considered an expert in the field. Do you refute James Hansen’s findings on AGW Scott? He’s a pretty smart guy. Lots of others do.

  34. Scott

    Jimmy – True, but the fact that the skeptics mentioned have published peer review papers in climate journals would seem to indicate some expertise in the field. I don’t think their research should be attacked just because their degree is not in climate science specifically. Treat it on it’s merits.

    I also think people need to realise that not many scientists working in the climate science field (both AGW supporters and skeptics) actually have doctorates in climate science (because the field is fairly new). It’s mainly physics, meterology, geology, oceanograpy, chemistry and mathematics (which are basically the pure sciences that make up climatelogy)

  35. Mark M

    Treat it on it’s merits.

    Is that what you do Scott, because a lot of those individuals and their work you mentioned earlier were taken on their merits, but then soundly refuted. There is, of course, enormous amounts of un-refuted material that demonstrates AGW is real that probably needs to be taken on it’s merits.

  36. Frank Campbell

    There’s an air of desperation among Believers…as there is among the small group of computer modellers who have driven this cult since the 1990s. The latter are feverishly constructing defensive hypotheses to explain the decadal plateau in global temps (Chinese sulphur emissions, etc).

    And nothing could be more predictable than the instant denigration of Lovelock- until lunchtime today an oft-quoted high priest of the sect. Now a heretic, to be excommunicated immediately.

    Here’s one comment from the list above:
    “Lovelock is now 92 and was always a contrarian.”

    So, the elder statesman is a geriatric, and an escapee from a Monty Python argument sketch…

    and there’ll be plenty of vacuous back-tracking like this:

    “There are a lot of negative consequences of slower than expected warming before we get to virtual extinction.”

    In the next few days there’ll be a tsunami of attacks on Lovelock from the Third Class passengers on the Titanic..(.the officers will let the slum dwellers do the dirty work- the Hamiltons will simply airbrush Lovelock from history)

    I’m pleased that Lovelock now agrees with me- he’s not a Denier. The Denialist side of the cult is creation of…the Believers themselves. And just look at all the unintended, awful consequences: rule by a naked Jesuit, stagnation of the Greens, empowerment of the ALP Right, encouragement of toxic corporatism in all its forms- and neglect of the daily rape of the environment…

    Truly a ship of fools…

  37. Frank Campbell

    and don’t you just love this:

    “Author: LJG…………..
    I’m keenly awaiting the show “I can change your mind about Evolution””

    I’m always struck how divorced from the mentality of science climate millenarians are…in every thread you’ll find intellectual offal like this, along with “flat earth”, “smoking”, “gravity”….

  38. Frank Campbell

    Don’t miss tonight’s Tony Jones climate sitcom…with perhaps the most banal climate millenarian ever to make Crikey readers cringe- Anna Rose. Rose is also the ultimate carbon Yeti- forever flying around the world in order to save it.

  39. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    The question to ask any of the deniers above is “What would change your mind?”

    To me it all seems pretty simple.

    For the big picture the science is settled – global warming is happening due to humans. We have the ability to prevent warming, and if we don’t the consequences are going to be very bad.

    But it is now clear that the vested interests have been successful, and that humanity will fail to respond in time.

    Were did we go wrong? My view is that this all proves that human rationality was a myth.

    So tonight’s documentary and the Q&A that follows might be interesting to try to work out WHY the deniers are incapable of rational thought. If we are doomed, it would be nice (at least to me) to know more about why.

    So the social researcher and writer Rebecca Huntley may be the only person tonight who says something new.

  40. klewso

    And since when has Q&A been anything but light-weight pap?

  41. Simon Mansfield

    Jimmy et al – As the publisher of terradaily. com and other environmental and energy publications – I use to believe very strongly in climate change. However, in recent years I’ve seen too many science reports that claim to represent evidence of climate change when it’s clearly obvious that their results are well within the statistical noise signal of data results.

    On Terradaily we still publish most of the science reports on climate change – from memory we have led with such reports for most of the past month – as a rule we do not publish anything from the Heritage Foundation – or the Heartland Foundation or the IPA and their fellow travelers.

    We get abuse mail in pretty much equal amounts from both sides of the debate – though more from the anti’s as we tend to publish pro AGW warming material at a 9:1 ratio. If go out on a limb and publish something that questions AGW – there’s usually a few good whacks from the Green Thought Police.

    The whole notion that the science is settled is ridiculous. Hansen et al have made substantial changes in recent months to account for the flat line in the warming trend. Aerosols are believed to be mostly responsible along with a bigger uptake of carbon by the oceans for a slower warming trend.

    Hansen of course is very anti modeling and has spent most of the past few years working on the paleo climate record – the main problem with that is the Earth has never had a high atmospheric Co2 level and large scale glacification at the same time. So the actual feedback rates are going to be very different this time around.

    It may be that we are looking at a problem that will take a 1000 years to become serious rather than a century. If that is the case then it has huge public policy implications as technology will easily solve the problem over a time scale of a 1000 years – whereas if we have only a 100 years or so before the impact becomes very serious then the problem is clearly a lot more urgent.

    The idea that we should only listen to people graduating with climatology degrees is just plain dumb as if that was the case then we would never listened to any of the scientists like Hansen, Flannery et al who have led the science investigation for the past 30 years as none of these scientists were climatologists by training and instead entered the field from allied areas of science. [Most of science is interconnected and one of the big areas of concern in science today is over specialization and the inability to cross links different areas of science – leading to new science – an issue Hamilton should spend some time working on as it has huge ramifications for public policy]

    In the end, I remain skeptical that the climate is not changing as a result of Co2 emissions. The increases in PPM over the past century from 280/290 to 390/400 is a big jump – and it stands to reason that it will have an impact – the question for public policy makers is how fast and how much – and how much of the current mode of civilization should be disrupted to have an impact on CO2 levels.

    Hansen says we need to plant trees – lots and lots of them – to get the PPM level down to 350 asap. And use nuclear – preferably thorium reactors as the main baseload power system for this century. I agree with both of these approaches and would very much like Hamilton et al to come on board to promoting such solutions rather than berating the ABC for running a science program that dares to question the current status quo of climate science.

    For its part, Crikey by allowing the totally unqualified Keane etc to publish his diatribes against soil sequestration and reforestation has done nothing to promote a sensible debate on what to do about climate change. But given Keane spent much of 2008 and 2009 abusing Penny Wong for her work on the original ETS while lauding Bob Brown for voting it all down in November 2009 – nothing surprises me about this debate anymore.

  42. Rohan

    @Michael Wilbur-Ham.

    Am I correct in recalling that you were writing a book on this subject matter a year or so ago? What happened?

  43. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Rohan – No, I’ve never had any ambition on writing a book on this subject.

    My main contribution (apart from my posts to Crikey) was to stand as a Green’s candidate in the election which Howard lost. I stood against Costello. Costello won (and then quit shortly after).

  44. Ross

    In my opinion MWH poses the most interesting question – when confronted with evidence that is now overwhelming who do deniers persist?

    Some people say that it’s corporate capitalism – especially the fossil fuel industry. Yet it took over two hundred years for the Catholic church to ‘apologise’ to those scientists who proposed the earth rotated the sun rather than vice versa – and now just a very small Flat Earth Society persists in Alaska.

    In the United States, evolution and ‘ intelligent design’ usually have to be given equal time – and over 50% of the population do not accept evolution – and a staggering number believe that ‘saving the planet’ doesn’t matter because God will intervene. There is no corporate capitalism fuelling these beliefs.

    In the case of smoking causing cancer, certainly tobacco companies behaved exactly likely the mining industry is doing now. But the argued effect happened and it became undeniable – and then media stopped debating the issue, and instead put big tobacco on trial – although the Tobacco Industry remains large donors to the Republican Party and gives large donations to some Liberal parliamentarians in Australia. Of all the ‘science’ versus ‘irrational belief’ arguments change here happened relatively quickly, despite corporate capitalism.

    The problem in global warming is that the effect happens some time after the cause – ie. even if we reduced carbon emissions drastically from next year there is still a lot of ‘stored heating’ to come – and by the time it becomes obvious it will be too late – we will probably have passed tipping points and it would take centuries to reverse the heating. At some point we have to decide debating with deniers is not useful – there is nothing that will convince them – and that the ethical standards of the mining industry – prepared to destroy the planet for profit – are so low we can’t engage with them. But if rational argument does not work, the big question that MWH poses is what might work. Sadly, in the face of what’s coming, doing nothing while there is still hope seems to be not an option.

  45. Rich Uncle Skeleton

    I’m always struck how divorced from the mentality of science climate millenarians are…in every thread you’ll find intellectual offal like this, along with “flat earth”, “smoking”, “gravity”….

    You take the word of James Lovelock over climate scientists and accuse others of being “divorced from the mentality of science”?

    Typical Frank Campbell alarmist hyperbole.

  46. Frank Campbell

    W-Ham: “So tonight’s documentary and the Q&A that follows might be interesting to try to work out WHY the deniers are incapable of rational thought. If we are doomed, it would be nice (at least to me) to know more about why.”

    Just look in the mirror.

  47. Frank Campbell

    Another tasty morsel from the Crikey trollbook:

    “You take the word of James Lovelock over climate scientists…”

    Y’all took his word as gospel until lunchtime today…now Lovelock’s just another flat-earther to you…

  48. Frank Campbell

    Ross: see my post above (5.52pm). Uncanny prescience, innit?

  49. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Frank – calling a person names is the last resort of those who have no serious points to make.

  50. James Hastings

    @ Bill Wilson

    You’re an AGW proponent and the most damning quotes you could find in nature magazine to support your cause were

    1. – Two papers in Nature this week highlight the extent to which human activity is influencing global climate, and underline the need for continued scrutiny of the problem.


    2. – Jeremy Shakun and his Harvard colleagues show on page 49, carbon dioxide does drive atmospheric warming.

    My response to 1 that the quote doesn’t say anything on way or the other. Just that we need to “highlight” the extent of human activity on the climate. But what is the extent that we are highlighting? Humans are having no effect, Humans are having a moderate effect, Humans are having a severe effect, or Humans are having a catastrophic effect? I don’t which one of these it is because your quote Doesn’t specify anything…. just that we need “more scrutiny” of the problem….. whatever that is.

    Mr Response to 2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Duh. No one disputes that. The question is how strong is its effect ie some say it is having a negligible effect others a catastrophic effect. Knowing the difference between the two is key to how the world deals with AGW… if at all.

    Was that it?

  51. Russell

    Most Crikey stories get 5 or 6 comments at most. This one has 43. On Punch or The Drum on the same topic, there would 250 or so. The reason they programmed it is obvious. People on both sides of the climate change “debate” need to examine why they are so obsessed. The ABC program is on now and no, I”m not watching it. No, I haven’t read any of these comments. In 25 years times, no one will even remember what anyone was arguing about. It will all be someone’s treatise, a curious footnote in social history.

  52. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)


    In 25 years time they will take a big interest in what we are saying now.

    If we have failed to act in time then they will wonder why (given the overwhelming evidence and the economists saying that acting is cost effective).

    And if, which I very much doubt, climate change is found to be wrong, it will be such a scandal that this will not be forgotten.

  53. geomac

    I,ll give Q&A a miss tonight as its obviously comedy night with Palmer on the panel . Amateur comedy might be ok with a few beers at a club but not at home with a coffee .

  54. pedro

    I totally agree with Clive’s analysis. With 97 per cent of the world’s scientists agreeing that all those little arrows (fields of climate study) are pointing at the same thing, the time is over for ‘balance’ in the debate.

    But nothing will be done in time. Other excuses will ensure we reach tipping points.

    An extinction event will occur. Humans of course, but the planet will endure.

    Might as well party. The cold fact is that every species on this planet extincts eventually.

  55. bill.wilson


    LOL. I hardly went trawling for damning quotes; that particular Nature edition simply happened to be open on my desk and it made for a quick response (I usually dont bother engaging in these sorts of exchanges; its a pointless exercise).

    The point is publications such as Nature or Science is where the best science is published and their editorials provide convenient summaries of our current understanding of many natural phenomena. Have a look.

    Make no mistake, AGW is supported by a vast array observations and scientific disciplines ranging from ecology informed by rapidly changing biological distributions, through palaeoecology and palaeoclimatology, to atmospheric dynamics and oceanography as well as basic physical chemistry; and a whole lot more. In this way AGW is not unlike biological evolution; a rich and diverse tapestry of phenomena all pointing in the same direction.

    Like evolution the evidence is overwhelming and those that do not see it are either making a political stand or simply don’t understand rather complex science.

  56. Frank Campbell

    wil-ham: I didn’t call you anything. Don’t verbal me.

    I said “just look in the mirror”.

  57. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Having just finished watching the ABC’s proof that they are all about entertainment pretending to be balance, one thing did become clear.

    I think it is true that every climate change denier in the two hours said at least one thing that I knew was wrong – either a scientific, economic, or political distortion.

    The deniers uncritically pick up on anything which supports their wish that climate change is bunk. There tactic is that if you throw enough mud then at least some of it will stick.

    But when anyone says one (or more) things that you know are wrong, how can anyone be expected to treat the rest of what they say as if it might be sensible?

    It is also interesting to note how the deniers, as proven above, think that one person on the science side saying one thing that is wrong seems to prove that the whole thing is bunk, yet every denier says at least one thing that I know is bunk.

    What is sad is that the tactics of the deniers is working.

  58. Ken Lambert

    When the ‘scientific consensus’ can explain the current stasis in temperatures over the last 14 years or so, despite steadily increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere – when they can explain why the energy imbalance at Top of Atmosphere is shrinking according to Hansen and hidden somewhere in the deep oceans according to Trenberth – when they can explain why ENSO is being now classed as a forcing external to the biosphere in trying to justify the current stasis – when they can explain why a measured satellite imbalance of +6.4W/sq.m can be adjusted to +0.9 W/sq.m to fit a computer model and then be called a supporting satellite observation -WHEN these things can be explained to the many technically literate skeptics quietly moving amongst us – THEN we might take some notice of the scientific consensus.

    For now, CSIRO ‘brand’ manager Megan and enthusiastic kiddie Anna Rose have as much credibility as a 20 year old Lovelock prediction.

  59. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    I’ll admit that I don’t know enough to answer Ken’s post.

    But perhaps Ken will let us all know why, if his points really do cast serious doubt on the big picture of climate change, the vast majority of climate change scientists in EVERY COUNTRY, many of whom I would expect would know what Ken is talking about, still support the big picture view of climate change.

    Are the majority of the world’s scientist who study this topic just incompetent? Or is it some huge conspiracy?

    Most likely is that Ken’s points have already been debunked, and the information is available on the internet if Ken had bothered to look for it.

  60. wendybacon1

    Thanks Clive for this useful and timely article. The new ethical statement by the NPR is extremely important. Most journalists do realise that the goal is to seek the truth – and that fairness (rather than balance) is an important strategy is achieving this goal. You don’t have to promote or publish statements about science , you believe ON THE EVIDENCE to be false. You are right to point out that climate science is not a moral question – as for example, euthanasia – it is a scientific issue. Science is evidence based. Once you develop a view of the evidence then you can talk about political responses to that evidence. It is important to distinguish between these two arguments.

    While I have not talked to them, I expect that the ABC journalists involved in this project have mixed views on why they are doing this – in some cases they will be using ‘balance’ to justify their actions, others will be arguing and hoping that the evidence for the climate change prevails by the end of this programming – i.e truth will out – while others may themselves be confused or be skeptics. I would like to see someone draw them out on the way the program developed and the arguments about whether to do it or not. Either way, you are right – this would not be happening not only in the UK but in nearly every other country. We have to ask why ? The answer lies in politics, including ABC politics, not science.

  61. Mark M

    In my opinion MWH poses the most interesting question – when confronted with evidence that is now overwhelming who do deniers persist?

    There is a very good psychological explanation for why people chose to hangd on to beliefs when they have been proven to be false. It is called motivated reasoning and I think anyone who denies the scientific consensus is having a lend of themselves if they think they are being truly reasonable on this subject. This is not a patronising statement – everyone is guilty of this.

    Nick Minchin is a perfect example. He freely admits that his immediate reaction when he first heard of AGW was to associate it with what he believes to be a left wing attack on capitalism. Since then, more evidence has made little difference to his opinion. Apparently the smarter you are, the more clever you are at rationalising your beliefs.

  62. Mark M

    @Ken I think you underestimate, or misunderstand the concept of a scientific consensus. Perhaps mistaking it for some kind of collusion or conspiracy? It does mean that there is overwhelming evidence for AGW and and overwhelming number of scientists in the field agree on AGW. All of the bits and pieces in your little diatribe either have good scientific explanations (look at the oceans for evidence of warming over the last 14 years for example) or that have been dismissed as being irrelevant.

    Ask yourself honestly, would you ever believe even if you were to sit down with an expert in the field who could work through some of the issues you mentioned in your comment?

  63. gapot

    Great to see how the ABC can do their money on this Australian content again. Why does the ABC make programs aimed at the lowest level of viewers. For the last 10 years under Mr Scott the ABC has been after the 7 9 10 audience with great success. When will the ABC stop trying to get Logies and make better TV. The BBC dont make rubbish why does our national broadcaster

  64. klewso

    Mark M – it’s also called prejudice.

  65. Mark M

    @Frank Campbell

    There’s an air of desperation among Believers

    Nah. Not really at all. I suspect it is easier for you to frame this as an emotional debate. That way you can appear on the side of reason and rationality. You can dismiss the “believers” as too emotional to see good sense.

    driven this cult

    And there you go again. Defining the opposing side as irrational believers by defining them as cult followers. I am sure this makes you feel comfortable, but it’s not correct.

    And very few have taken Lovelock’s word as gospel (yet another link to AGW as some kind of religion – you’re good at this are you not). His work is interesting, but pretty fringe really.

    Finally – the debate on evolution continues, particularly in the US. How can you not see analogies here

  66. Frank Campbell

    Hamilton is a proto-Fascist.

    Every utterance exposes his Manichean world-view: he represents Truth and the rest of us are a vile blend of ignorance, selfishness and/or machiavellian vested interests.

    Therefore we have to be marginalised and silenced.

    Therefore it is acceptable that we be censored, verballed, insulted, ostracised, and abused.

    Hamilton also believes that democracy should be suspended- because doubters and deniers impede the triumph of Truth.

    Hamilton’s core deception is the same simple device which drives climate extremism everywhere: Science has spoken. The results are in. Catastrophe is inevitable. But we can save the world.

    Psychologically, it’s the perfect recipe: catastrophe, authority, solution. The same recipe as any messianic religion.

    Armageddon is imminent. The science is simple (CO2). The solution is simple (remove CO2).

    Therefore anyone who stands in the way must be neutralised.

    “Deniers” imperil the world. “Deniers” are flat-earthers who confuse and mislead the gullible masses, masses stuffed with fat, prejudice, greed, ignorance…

    There’s no mistaking the Olympian contempt proto-fascism has for the benighted populace.

    Hamilton traduces science. The key deceit of climate millenarianism is to treat hypotheses and extrapolations based on computer modelling as proven science.

    Only a handful of people deny that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or that there has been some observed global warming in the past few decades. But no one can be certain of the complex causes of this. And no one has any clear idea (let alone proof) of the future direction of global temperatures- and even less comprehension of the impacts of temperature changes.

    We know this from the very perpetrators of climate extremism: the Mann/Jones group itself. They admit temperatures have plateaued in the past decade. They are frantically pursuing new, defensive hypotheses to explain these recalcitrant observations.

    So Hamilton’s Jihad is bogus. It is also self-defeating. The very evangelism of this millenarian cult destroys it. This is the fate of all cults. But as they shrink, they become more paranoid and more virulent. Climate extremism has now reached this stage. For several years there was not a mention of climate scepticism in the “respectable” media (apart from ridicule). This began to change in late 2009. Now we see bitter attacks on the ABC and Fairfax by climate extremists…not least Hamilton’s piece here.

    It is entirely predictable that climate millenarianism would implode when it imposed actual policy. The raft of tokenistic, expensive, rorted, useless Gillard “climate policies” were dumped after the 2010 election- and replaced with a killer app, the “carbon” tax. Solely at the behest of my party, the Greens. At a stroke, the future of both the ALP and the Greens was jeopardised. I wrote this at the time right here on Crikey, repeatedly. The carbon tax cannot possibly achieve its object, but will certainly cause some economic damage and is cruelly anti-working class.

    In his propaganda piece, Hamilton is true to form: he lambasts the ABC for allowing sceptics equal time with Believers. In fact the program exacerbated the partisan divide because Minchin is Right-wing and Rose is vaguely Left.
    Climate millenarianism depends on the fiction that there is no Left-Green critique of climate extremism. This deceit enables a net to be cast around all progressives- the message is that “deniers” are reactionaries, rightists, neocons etc. Who wants to be bracketed with Murdoch, Palmer, Rinehart, Abbott…?

    We know now that most of the population is aligned with the Right, many unwillingly. Climate millenarianism has not only self-destructed, it has empowered the Right. The unintended consequences are already upon us: cattle in national parks, expanded logging…

    Last night’s program no doubt accelerated this drift: Minchin was fluent and had some idea of climate science. Rose was irritatingly childish, and remarkably ignorant of climate science. She relied on moralistic slogans. It was a mismatch.

  67. Mike Flanagan

    The ABC has not covered themselves in glory with this production. Their senior management have displayed a wanton desire to promote a controversy rather than attend to their responsibility to inform their audience as to the facts of the matter.
    The ABC’s use of cliché driven self promoters as a counter to peer reviewed science and scientists displays a ‘Murdochian’ shallowness in their senior editorial management. Well done Mark Scott and co.

    Bloomberg News report the last NOAA meaurements indicate that we have reached 396+ppm CO2e accumulation. These figures indicate the projections of the last IPCC are conservative and we are heading for the worst case scenario. If the exponential increase, our science bodies are measuring in our production of CO2e since 2008 continue, it won’t be the next generation that wiill experience the effects, but many of us that have ignored the empirical evidence.

  68. Jimmy

    I didn’t see the doco and only saw the last 1/2 of Q&A but I was impressed that they had experts miked up in the crowd who could point out when Palmer & Minchin were using incorrect figures and peddling untruths.

  69. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Did anyone else note how the denialists seemed to win the point last night that talk of the effects of climate change should be downplayed in order to win public support?

    Of course the moment the scientists say that it won’t be as bad as we said it would the denialist will claim this as proof that the whole thing is bunk.

    But would we expect to hear a watered down version of possible consequences in any other situation? I would always want to know “If we are lucky there is a 20% chance this will happen.” and “If we are unlucky there is a 20% chance that this could happen”.

    Also we are used to paying money to protect us from unlikey events (house and car insurance). So even if climate change were a situation where there was a 20% chance of something very bad happening, but an 80% chance of little effect, then it might be very prudent to invest in preventing the very bad thing from happening.

    The ABC last night also did a great job of presenting political spin without challenge. We heard that Gillard only wants the carbon tax to balance her budget (which is factually wrong because we know that the money in will go out). Palmer gave the impression to the average person that did not want government action on climate change that all will be well if Gillard goes – yet Abbott is promising the same cuts and is going to use taxpayers money to do this in a less efficient manner.

  70. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Another interesting point about the Q&A last night is that the CSIRO is banned from talking about policy. That is why they had their leader on the panel and not a climate expert.

    That is also why we also did not hear anything from the CSIRO about what cuts need to be done by what time in order to do our part to prevent warming of over 2 degrees.

    The CSIRO lady even said that it might take decades to convince the public that the science is right. She failed to add that if we wait this long then it will be far too late to prevent warming far greater than 2 degrees.

    And relevant to Clive, have you noticed how Clive is accused of calling for the end of democracy when all he did was point out different scenarios.

    It is all very sad.

  71. Jimmy

    MWH – Yes there were a few statements that got through unchallenged but there were also a few that got slammed down, Minchin claiming the earth has stopped warming in the past decade for example.

    And I didn’t think they were saying we should down play the effects, just not make the worst case example to be a foregone conclusion. There have been plenty of claims of immminent apocalypse that are now doing more harm than good to the cause. All the deniers like to trot out the “Tim Flannery said the dams would never fill up again” line for example.

  72. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    But which scientist has claimed a worst case being a foregone conclusion? None I suspect.

    As the deniers will always trot out the same old lies (note how last night so much of what Minchen used to question climate change had already been well and truly debunked) and will also repeat things taken out of context, such as Flannery’s dam claim, and the MSM will report them saying this again and again, I doubt that there is any way to counter them.


    The ‘he said, she said’ format is not science, and judging from the misuse of facts (ie outright falsehoods) dropped so frequently by the ‘deniers’, it seems unlikely that the actual science would ever change their minds. So this debate is futile. But looking at the rise of CO2, we have a serious problem planet earth, and we do need to move away from burning carbon, but we are junkies, and a lot of us know its continued use is only going to do one thing: kill this planet and take a lot of the biosphere with it.

    With the science settled, as in the IPCC has it that human activity is almost certainly warming the planet, what will the deniers be saying in 5 yrs, or 10yrs, or 20yrs? Like supporters of the ‘tobacco doesn’t cause cancer’ cult, they’ll dwindle in number until none but the lunatic fringe will be denying the obvious.

    But of course, by then, the cost of dealing with it will be monstrous, and what we lose on this planet, that’s taken millennia to evolve, will be irreplaceable. That’s the tragedy of this ‘debate’; doing what is necessary now is being delayed by ignorant braying, and the true cost will be dumped on the generations to come.

  74. Mike Flanagan

    The dictum to not scare the punters may have had some validity some years ago if we had attended to the scientific advise we had been given. Unfortunately the inate conservatism in the scientific projections has only served to entrench an apathy and facilitate the obfuscation that vested interests have engendered into our necessry responses.
    The gathering evidence of Artic and West Antartic Ice sheets retreat, together with overwhelming evidence from other sources, does point the fact it is time to awake the populace and industry to the calamitous consequences we face if ‘business as usual’ is allowed to continue. A number of international science conferences, that our MSM ignore, are indicaing alarmingly projections if we don’t attend to our emmissions within a very short time frame.
    As some of our scientists have suggested, maybe it is time we tell the facts as they are and maybe it is time to be scared.

  75. Jimmy

    Mike – Tell the facts yes, claim that 97% of farm land in Australia will be unusable by the end of the century no. All the second thing does is get people to say “we’ve heard all that before and it didn’t come true” and laugh it off as whacky.

    I am all for action and I am more than convinced about the science but dooms day prediction don’t help, we need measured considered and rational information that is in easy to digset formats. While I wish the CSIRO had started their 3 yearly updates 20 years ago the idea is correct.

  76. Mike Flanagan

    I do agree the facts without hysteria are important. But the facts that I am reading, being pronounced by scientific bodies, are alarming.
    On NOAA’s latest measurements of CO2e (396ppm) and NASA’s projections of a 6% annual growth in these emissions that they have identified since 2009, we have less than 10 years before we reach 450ppm CO2e concertration in our atmosphere. That concentration is projected as a crucial tipping point of irreversible climate change and is beyond general human adaptiveness and control.

  77. Ootz

    The show decisively proved one point, the relevance of our National Broadcaster to ask incisive questions and inform on the stark choices we as a nation should be facing, is rapidly diminishing or should I say ‘unfolding’.

  78. nerk

    @MWH – the CSIRO is not technically ‘banned’ from commenting on policy, but would be foolish to do so. Its role is to provide independent, impartial, quality science without fear or favour. The minute it engages in political commentary is the minute it opens itself to allegations of being partisan – which cheapens its brand and actually lessens its influence. Its role in supporting the real science is too valuable to risk that. It’s the same principle behind the separation of judicial, executive and parliamentary powers – and is why you rarely hear judges or senior public servants directly voicing opinions on government policy. Their purpose and value (and freedom) lies in their impartiality. The CSIRO has a fearsomely strong brand in the community and is rarely attacked by any side of politics or business. You only lose that trust once – just look at the ABC.

  79. Jimmy

    Ootz – I did like the bit where Tony Jones asked the social researcher what she thought their online survey meant and she answered “Well it’s not a survey, it’s not worth using as toilet paper”

    Mike Flanagan – Yes that is true but let’s just say that, not the world will end in 2050 or whatever.

  80. Frank Campbell

    One example of several attacks on the ABC above- which illustrate the desperation of climate millenarians as their media control crumbles: Flanagan smears the ABC by likening it to the career criminal Murdoch:

    ” (ABC) senior management have displayed a wanton desire to promote a controversy rather than attend to their responsibility to inform their audience as to the facts of the matter.
    The ABC’s use of cliché driven self promoters as a counter to peer reviewed science and scientists displays a ‘Murdochian’ shallowness in their senior editorial management.”

  81. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Thanks for posting the Flanagan quote Frank.

    I agree with what Tim says 🙂

  82. calyptorhynchus

    Just in case anyone was thinking that Ken Lambert’s points have any validity:


    Frank Campbell, your argument is

    1. I assert that Lovelock has said something that casts doubt on AGW
    2. I assert that Lovelock has a wide following amongst environmentalists
    3. Therefore AGW is a myth

    Two assertions and a non-sequitur aren’t very much of an argument.

  83. Frank Campbell

    A museum-quality example of ideological threat (from “Nerk” above)

    “The CSIRO has a fearsomely strong brand in the community and is rarely attacked by any side of politics or business. You only lose that trust once – just look at the ABC.”

    We can sure see the odium piled by climate millenarians on the ABC- but Nerk is out of date on CSIRO. True, the good name of CSIRO is decaying slowly- there are decades of goodwill and independent values to corrode. And it’s alsotrue that CSIRO tries to minimise excommunication by avoiding comment on policy etc. But it is compromised by corporatism exactly as universities were…The CSIRO would never fund research which would undermine its corporate interests- and given the virulence of climate extremism we can expect no deviation from orthodoxy there…

    The CSIRO is a nasty, thuggish, conformist corporation. Just ask the victims.

  84. Barbara Boyle

    Has the ABC ever claimed to seek the truth? Rather it appears to act as a sounding board or echo chamber for the more powerful interests.

  85. Recalcitrant.Rick

    I think the denialist are just scared of Capitalism. The idea that environmental science is some left wing conspiracy is a joke! Real entreprenuerial capitalism is about being at the cutting edge, accepting expert opinion, (or don’t Palmer/Rhinehart/Forest use Geologists?) investing in new ideas, creating new jobs with new technology. Deniers are just gutless, too scared to embrace the new, like most conservatives and pretending climate science is all about left wing socialist conspiracies, when it’s really about accepting the science and moving into the fast growing markets. I recently heard Peter Costello (I think) condemning Seimens for their environmental program. I guess that makes Seimens and other companies like them Socialist Ratbags. Yeah, right! or just a bit smarter than your average bear! Denialists are just to scared to get into a new game!

  86. Liamj

    I think you’re right Rick – the deniers are scared of the new reality, and partly that is generational. Its a fascinating phenomenon how 99% of the deniers are older anglo men, i blame feminism, lol.

  87. Recalcitrant.Rick

    Oh, be careful, I’m a 63 year old Anglo male 🙂

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