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Jan 17, 2013

'But it was hot in 1790': Lib backbencher refutes climate change

A federal Liberal backbencher says a run of hot days 220 years ago shows Australia's recent heatwave should be more closely scrutinised for evidence of climate change.


The federal Liberal member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, has been ridiculed after he took to a climate change denial blog to compare Sydney’s recent heatwave to the oppressive experiences of the First Fleet.

The post, uploaded to fringe site “Watts Up With That” earlier this week, suggested the nation’s record-breaking run of hot weather wasn’t evidence of climate change because on several days in Sydney 222 years ago it was also hot.

Kelly cites the temperature records of First Fleet settler Watkin Tench to claim that because of a run of stinkers in 1790, there was no urgency to respond to the most recent national heatwave that has generated worldwide headlines and prompted a Climate Commission report making the link to global warming clear.

“I wonder if any of these people actually knew that Sydney’s so-called ‘record hot day’ on Tuesday 8th Jan this year, that had them screaming ‘Global Warming’, was actually COOLER than the weather experienced by the convicts of the First Fleet in Sydney way back in the summer of 1790/91?,” Kelly wrote.

And “the extreme heat wasn’t restricted to the 27th Dec 1790…the following day the temperature again surpassed the old 100 Fahrenheit mark, hitting 40.3C (104.5 F) at 12.30pm. And later that same summer, in February 1791, the temperature in Sydney was recorded at 42.2 C (108 F).”

Kelly quotes Tench’s report that the colonial hot air “felt like the blast of a heated oven”.

The southern Sydney backbencher defended his musings this morning, telling Crikey the measurements from “the Observatory under the pilings of the Sydney Harbour Bridge were the best standard of the day”.

“Two thermometers were given to them by the British authorities and they stopped in Rio and Cape Town on the way to Australia … both locations calibrated the instruments. There’s a good argument to say they’re fairly accurate,” Kelly said.

“You’ve also got the commentary on the numbers of dead bats and birds,” he added. “It’s important to remember the temperatures our ancestors and convicts went through 220 years ago were without the benefit of the modern marvel of airconditioning.”

Asked whether humans caused climate change, Kelly agreed that there had been a “small warming trend between 1970 and 1998” but the world was also warming in the 1930s.

Kelly — who told federal Parliament in 2011 that drinking chardonnay was one answer to global warming — said more analysis was required to gauge whether the issue was an urgent one.

“The question is how much warming has actually occurred, the second question is ‘is it dangerous?’ and the third question what can be done about it and whether that will have any effect.”

Last year, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned coalition MPs against “freelancing” on areas outside their portfolios that clash with the opposition’s official policy line. Party discipline will become all the more important as this year’s election campaign gathers pace.

Despite the Coalition’s bipartisan commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 5% by 2020 and a Renewable Energy Target of 20% by 2020, some Coalition caucus members struggle to accept that human-induced climate change may be real.

While climate scientists are reluctant to apportion blame for individual weather events directly to global warming, they are almost united on the core assumption that anthropogenic activity has increased the odds of such events occurring.

In its heatwave report, the Climate Commission said “climate change has contributed to making these extreme heat conditions and bushfires worse”.

Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery — who edited and introduced a reissue of Tench’s writings (1788) — told Crikey the report did not cite Sydney’s temperature at all.

“The record heat was recorded elsewhere. The national average temperature was also record breaking,” Flannery said. “Sadly the planet continues to warm. Myself and all the climate scientists I know wish it were otherwise.”

A spokesperson for acting Climate Change Minister, Senator Chris Evans, said the Member for Hughes is entitled to take his advice on climate change from a 220-year-old weather report.

“But the Gillard government prefers to listen to the advice of reputable scientific organisations such as the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, both of which are operating in 2013, not 1790.”

Controversy has continued to dog Kelly, who was elected to Hughes in 2010. Last September, Crikey revealed a tranche of New Zealand court documents showing he signed his name as a “director” of his collapsed family flat-pack furniture import business. Under Australian law, de facto or “shadow” directors are liable for claims by creditors, that in the case of the Kellys’ firm stretched to over $4 million.


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35 thoughts on “‘But it was hot in 1790’: Lib backbencher refutes climate change

  1. burninglog

    Where do the Liberals find people like this clown?

  2. Microseris

    Apparently people vote for this sort of stupid. Go figure.

  3. Recalcitrant.Rick

    I wonder what he will say to his Grandchidren when they ask “what did you do about climate change Grandpa?” Then again, he’ll probably just lie!

  4. jchercelf

    they may be right about Captain Cook’s arrival in hot weather, but there were not the ninth billion people there will be this year on plant earth to feel hot with him ??

    JC Herself

  5. jchercelf

    the majority of bridge players at my bridge club, do not think Glabal Warming is real, and do not think our world is in danger … but most of them beat me at the bridge table!

    JC Herself

  6. klewso

    This was “Fact-Packed” Kelly? Say no more.

  7. klewso

    Log, they get them made up and pre-programmed overseas and “flat-packed overhear”, by the containerful (check his own family company for the instruction manual).
    Then they just screw them together (after they’ve screwed their constituencies) and insert the batteries.

    [Do you think Cousin Jethro is natural?]

  8. Mike Smith

    Too much Chardonnay, I’d say.

  9. zut alors

    Kelly should take his own temperature before engaging in any more blogs.

  10. sparky

    The fellow is making some awfully big assumptions saying “It’s important to remember the temperatures our ancestors and convicts went through 220 years ago were without the benefit of the modern marvel of airconditioning.” Did the convicts not reproduce or is he speaking to a select audience?

  11. Serenatopia

    Kelly brings his extensive experience and qualifications as an export manager to science!

  12. Mike Flanagan

    An export manager for what pray tell!!
    Perhaps for our most direputable export, the murdochs ???

  13. Mike Flanagan

    The poms got rid of him and it won’t be long before the ‘septics’ are demanding a refund.

  14. Mike Flanagan

    And I might add, after checking the Bills of Lading and supporting export documents the two of them were sent without warrantee.
    Caviat Emptor mate!

  15. Achmed

    High temperatures have always been a feature of the north west. I take readings outside my office and regularly find they are well above the official temp for the area. The official reading are taken closer to the coast whereas I work further inland.
    One thing that has been noted as unusual is the water temperature off Perth/southern areas of the Indian Ocean 4c above the norm.
    If you had noted the Cyclone Narelle and how far south that moved, cyclones follow the hot water. The number of cyclones heading further south than I can recall has been happening over the last 7 years. (I’m 60 yr old and N/W resident for most of that time) Less and less are making landfall in what have always been recognised cyclone prone areas.
    I don’t know if this is the result of natural climate change or man-made climate change…even the scientists can’t agree…but its a hell of risk to take by doing nothing. If those who don’t believe in man-made climate change have their way and we do nothing in 50? 100? years it could be to late.
    It would be like ringing the insurance company to insure your house against fire after it has burned down

  16. floorer

    god help me you’re smug bunch

  17. Steve777

    I think it’s utterly bizarre that one’s belief in climate change depends upon one’s politics. It’s as if you could choose whether or not you want to believe in quantum theory or plate techtonics depending upon whatever ideology you support. Of course religious fundamentalists often don’t believe in the latter.

    But the evidence is there for anthropogenic global warming whatever people wish or believe. One heateave in 1790 or 2013 does not prove it one way or another but the weight of evidence accumulated round the world in the last few decades.

  18. floorer

    So where does that leave me the atheist humanist pro gay marriage pro choice leftie subbie capitalist climate change sceptic recycling enthusiast who steps over ant trails? In a bind? Ha ha.

  19. Mike Flanagan

    As an aging leftie who is as indifferent about gay marriage as he is about colour, stamps on intruding ants and devotes his sceptism to his misgivings of the current expressions of human nature, and is perhaps an “agw ideologue”, I think we are both in a bloody pickle mate.

  20. oldskool

    So where does that leave me the atheist humanist pro gay marriage pro choice leftie subbie capitalist climate change sceptic recycling enthusiast who steps over ant trails? In a bind? Ha ha.

    Do not use the word sceptic, as that is not what you are.

    Why do you not believe in anthropogenic climate change? The facts are irrefutable- Carbon Dioxide is a green house gas, we are pumping vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, there has been a marked increase in atmospheric, land and ocean temperatures- even at times where a solar minimum and volcanic activity indicate they should actually have lowered.

    No reputable climate scientist will refute the notion that anthropogenic forcing accounts for a large percentage of the noted climate change.

    Do not use the word sceptic, as your position is entirely not evidence based- at best you can call yourself a contrarian, but in actuality, you are ignoring the science and therefore in denial.

  21. AR

    LOG What puzzles me is less “where” do they find these people but “WHY?”.

  22. Mike Flanagan

    Cheap entertainment sir, cheap entertainment!
    It is far better than the politically incorrect “Black and White Minstrals”.

  23. Mike Smith

    @OldSkool: Do not use the word believe, belief has no place in science, it’s all about religion. If OTOH, you’re saying AGW is an article of faith, you’re giving contrarians another stick to beat you with.

  24. phil Marinus

    Well…. Lets look at some reality here…. Global warming is really happening and has done so from the last Ice Age.. and Humans have been going gangbusters at helping it along .

  25. owlcode

    See they do care about boat people.

  26. Achmed

    Having noted on other blog sites that there has been an increase in the number of Abbott/Liberal supporters saying Direct Action will not be implemented I wonder if having a backbencher make the comments isn’t the thin end of the wedge.
    We all know that Abbott has previously stated human influence on climate change is “crap” then he backflipped and came up with Direct Action. He also stated that the best way to price carbon would be with a tax. So is Direct Action just a ploy so he has a different position to Labor?
    It will be interesting to see if the policy is removed before or after the election or if he actually does implement it. I look forward to the excuses and reasons that he could come up with for not implementing if he goes into the election with it as a policy.
    If he goes to the election with Direct Action and then not implement it…would that mean he lied to the voters?

  27. Altakoi

    Someone who doesnt see a distinction between occassionally insufferably hot and on fire, and always insufferably hot and on fire, is not a good candidate for high office.

  28. Mike Flanagan

    “Direct Action” is to facilitate prevarication, not to react to climate change.
    The char soils and funding of the polluter to remedy their ways has been debuncked by most of the reputable scientists as being totally inadequate to meet the challenge.
    No, the Aggott’s policies are to bow to the demands of the Tea party clique pf Bernadi, Kormann, Abetz, Pyne and Hunt et al, that dominate his party’s support, and prevaricate in adopting any policy that may interfere with ‘business as usual’ and to hell with the rest of mankind.

  29. klewso

    Steve 777 – “plate tectonics” and “quantum theory” don’t come with a cost to the bottom line of wealthy, critical, fundamental constituencies like mining companies, with their self-interests ….. and party funding.

  30. Steve777

    Klewso, your right, of course. The science is there – human activity has increased the concentration of a major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by about 28% and counting. We don’t know the detailed effects this will have but they are unlikely to be benign. But they won’t kick in until beyond the typical 5 year contract of a senior executive of, say, an oil company, whose only concern is the bottom line. They are acting like Big Tobacco. Don’t these guys have grandchildren? Meanwhile, I think the honest position of many on the Right is that the cure to Global Warming looks too much like Socialism and they’ll take a few degrees warming. After all, it’s only the poor who’ll suffer, they’ll be OK.

  31. Steve777

    ‘Direct Action’ is a figleaf thrown together following the Coalition’s reneging on the deal they negotiated with the Government to support the ETS. This was before they realised that they could work with their business and media allies to spread enough disinformation to convince a large tranche of the electorate that it was all a socialist plot. Expect ‘Direct Action’ and the Coalition’s commitment to the bipartisan 5% emission reduction target to be quietly dropped should the Coalition win this year’s election.

  32. floorer

    I don’t know if there is a market for “earnest” but if there is an Crikey can bottle it maybe they can update their moderating software?

  33. john byatt

    The Gergis paper as linked at WUWT gives rose hill as the place where the bats and birds dropped dead, two months later

  34. John Hargrave

    There is no such thing as Climate Change!-It’s a product of a Left Wing, navel gazing, cave dwellers with nothing between their ears.

  35. Achmed

    John – so there was never an ice-age etc…interesting.

    And that’s why the right wing Liberals have a carbon reduction policy to combat it

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