Climate change in Fairfax op-ed: a response

John McLean writes: Re. “The Big Oil-backed climate denier who hoodwinked Fairfax” (yesterday). I fear for Australian journalism if PhD candidate Elaine McKewon is typical of those who want to be journalists. She throws around epithets like “denier” without knowing what the disagreement is about, and she alleges that the Fairfax opinion editor was somehow hoodwinked rather than exercised professional judgement on the merit of a piece.

She says my piece was “misinformed” but fails to mention any errors of fact. She could hardly do that when a week later Mary Voice, former head of the National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology, repeated the IPCC charter that I quoted.

McKewon tries to assassinate my character by questioning my credibility but provides no evidence whatsoever that being an expert climatologist is a prerequisite for pointing out that despite the IPCC’s narrow charter the organisation has often been misrepresented as an authority on all climate matters. One needs qualifications and proven expertise to make such a simple observation? Of course not.

McKewon says nothing about my article and attacks only the byline. It seems to be the old story — if you can’t attack the person’s argument, attack the character of the person. I would have thought that PhD candidates in journalism were smarter and more professional than that, but apparently not. Let me take the red pen to McKewon’s article, which if submitted as a university essay would surely get a “fail”.

It takes her just 13 words before she uses the words “climate change deniers”. What are we supposed to deny? That climate changes? In the bigger picture she seems to either want to inflate a scientific disagreement to being on par with the systematic state-sponsored murder of over 6 million Jews, or to devalue those murders to make them equivalent to a scientific disagreement about the magnitude of the influence of carbon dioxide in the open atmosphere.

McKewon then tries to denigrate my published papers, but she does so with sophistry because all three papers have been published, as was stated, in peer-reviewed journals. McKewon’s opinion of those journals is utterly irrelevant. The 2009 paper to which she refers was a case where the journal broke several of its own regulations and, almost unheard of in scientific circles, denied us the right of reply to a criticism. My 2009 paper and its aftermath is discussed in a document on my website, which judging by her other comments she’s read, so why didn’t she read this document and mention it accordingly?

She claims that I am not affiliated with any university. That’s untrue. Like her I am a PhD candidate, in my case through a department of physics, and I will be submitting a PhD on climate issues. My background as a computer consultant is not a negative because it has allowed me to analyse climate data that those like McKewon probably take at face value.

If McKewon wishes to claim that scientists’ opinions can be bought by those who fund them she needs to be aware that I have never received one cent from the ICSC and whoever its backers may be (mainly privately donations). She also casts aspersions on the many scientists who receive government funding for research that somehow endorses the IPCC view, a corruption that’s more logical because one can argue that the significantly greater government funding forces any budding climatologist who wants employment into tacitly supporting the IPCC view whether he wants to or not.

Next McKewon denigrates my expert review (IPCC terminology). She has no idea of either the number of comments I raised or the subject of those comments and yet she somehow feels qualified to dismiss them. Her position is absurd and unsustainable. Finally, she dismisses a prediction that I was brave enough to make and for which I showed my reasoning. That my reasoning has failed has exposed further issues for detailed investigation.

McKewon, for all her verbiage, fails to refute my argument, one that could be made by anyone with a modicum of intelligence. She labels me a “denier” but fails to show anything that might be disputed in my article. Indirectly, she accuses the Fairfax opinion editor of incompetence for allowing the publishing of a well-reasoned argument not about climate per se but about the role of the IPCC.

Privatisation never the answer

Les Heimann writes: Re. “For sale? Tony Abbott’s potential privatisation hit list” (yesterday). Haven’t we learnt by now that selling government enterprises is always the worst thing to do? Ask anyone whether they are financially better off with privatised power and water. Are toll roads better for the economy? Is public transport better where it has been privatised? Is banking better since we sold off the Commonwealth Bank? Do our airports run better and at a fair cost since Macquarie Bank got hold of them?

The list is endless, and the evidence always points to the fact that a privatised “business” has to make a profit; therefore, by definition it has to be more costly to the consumer. The naysayers point out that private businesses are cheaper to run. Well, they are not. Cheaper to the business owners and more expensive to the consumers. Like when we had a power outage in pre-privatisation times it was fixed in, say, 30 minutes. Now it takes two hours because the companies use fewer staff and so other businesses and consumers are inconvenienced both financially and in time.

I suggest Crikey gets a good economist/accountant to cost the provision of services in a privatised business enterprise in say 2013 as against the same costs before privatisation — and those costs need to include efficiency and effectiveness from the stand point of both the enterprise and the consumer. Let’s call it the Crikey Commission of Audit into the benefits of Privatisation. I confidently predict that the capitalist myth that private is better would be blown to misty pieces. By the way, after everything is finally sold off, what then? Higher taxes of course.

Duncan Peattie writes: “Chris Aulich, professor of public administration at the University of Canberra, warned Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation of the UK railways did not work.” Margaret Thatcher privatised many organisations in the UK, but its railways were not one of them. “Credit” belongs to John Major, who was desperate for something to dispel his “grey” image.  Had we known then that he was having an affair with Edwina Currie, perhaps Britain’s railways could have been spared.

The best office-mates

Allison Finley-Bissett writes: Re. “Saville’s shout: Syd Festival picks … the open-plan office … futility of resolutions …” (yesterday). Cat supervision re: Ms Saville’s article:

Peter Fray

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