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Apr 4, 2014

A tough sell: can these spinners change your mind on climate change?

Australians just aren't convinced on climate change. So we commissioned some spinners -- who are not necessarily greenies themselves -- to sell the message on global warming.


The United Nations’ science body released a major report on climate change this week. But do you think it changed one single Australian’s mind?

You know the kind of report it is and what’s in it without reading it. Climate change is real and largely caused by people, it’s more serious than we thought, cue melting ice caps/rising sea levels/droughts/etc. Predictably, in Australia, Fairfax and the ABC gave the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report extensive coverage while it was largely ignored by News Corporation papers. So people who already think climate change is real had their views reinforced, and people who don’t didn’t hear about it.

There have been many such reports this century — from the IPCC (in 2001, 2007, 20014), universities, economists, NGOs, governments (green papers, white papers). Perhaps too many; Australians don’t seem to be listening.

Less than 50% of Australians think human-induced climate change is happening, according to extensive survey work by CSIRO. That number has dropped slightly in the last four years despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary. This was the result when the CSIRO interviewed 5200 people last year:

The CSIRO found Australians were more concerned about household rubbish than climate change. And to every activist or expert who talks about “climate mitigation,” here’s a news flash: 81% of Australians have no idea what that means.

So there’s a disconnect between the experts and the public. People are not listening. We decided to try an experiment: ask professional communicators who are not necessarily environmentally minded how they would sell climate change to a sceptical public …

Tom Russell, senior copywriter with Clemenger BBDO who has worked on campaigns for Fox Sports:

Russell, who doesn’t think climate change is harming the planet to the extent people claim, says the IPPCC report is unlikely to make a difference. “I think people look at the paper and they’re not reading the climate change story because they feel like they’ve heard it before … you’ve either picked your side or you’re not interested any more.”

Climate change is over-exposed, and that’s part of the reason people are tuning out, Russell says. He cautions against getting bogged down in a “fact for fact” debate because it bores people. And he cautions against apocalyptic rhetoric; “shock tactic after shock tactic after shock tactic doesn’t work”. Russell doesn’t think this kind of message helps (it’s from the ABC on the IPCC report):

Rather, Russell would run climate campaigns that think outside the square and are less earnest, like this well-known campaign against speeding:

How else would this ad man sell climate change? First, reframe the debate. “You need to hit reset.” Find a poster person for the issue, a “middle man”, someone the public can trust, not necessarily left-leaning. Labor has not been consistent, and Russell doesn’t think Tim Flannery is quite right.

Stop running campaigns that tell sceptics “you are wrong or an idiot” because that makes people defensive. Stop lambasting deniers and treating global warming like a religion. Start making the case in plain English and in a more measured way. “You’ve get to get more local, more personal, more targeted and get people talking about it again,” Russell said. Focus on how climate change affects “me and my children”.

Surveys show men and older people are less likely to think climate change is real. Russell says it’s difficult to directly change their minds, so advocates should arm younger people with the tools to convince their families, friends and colleagues, a tactic he describes as “softly softly”. Similarly, advocates on climate should cut their own emissions, as this lends credibility. When people rail against climate sceptics then fly to New York for a week’s holiday or drive to work every day, they may fail to convince others.

Russell is somewhat sceptical on climate change but says he has no problem with a government cutting CO2 emissions because that won’t hurt anyone. But he says go about it in a sensible way that doesn’t demonise those with doubts.

Tony O’Leary, former communications adviser to John Howard and Tony Abbott:

O’Leary says climate change became caught up in paying higher taxes, via Labor’s carbon price, and that turned people off the whole issue. “I think that people find it hard to make the connection between tackling the issue and paying higher taxes,” he told Crikey. “There’s a disconnect … nobody likes paying higher tax.”

The veteran Liberal press officer, now retired, says those trying to communicate on climate change had been “a bit unclear” in the past but are improving. “They have got to deliver the message in a balanced way, to convince people. I think they’re on that path now. But they haven’t always been on that path.”

O’Leary says Labor has conflated concern about climate change with support for its carbon tax, alienating people who wanted to tackle the issue but were not convinced on the tax. He points out that Adelaide had at least 12 days over 40 degrees this summer, “but you go and convince them that the carbon tax is the solution”.

Toby Ralph, former PR agent for the Liberals, tobacco companies and the nuclear waste industry:

“Did someone outsource climate change PR to the press team at Malaysian Airways? It’s been chronically mismanaged,” Ralph told Crikey. “It’s become a ridiculous argument that you believe or reject like religion, with gleeful fear-mongering and panic on one side and exasperated eye-rolling on the other.”

Ralph criticises climate advocates for dire warnings about extinction, bushfires and rainstorms. “But psychology 101 should make it obvious that cognitive dissonance will kick in, so alarmists effectively talk stridently to themselves and fail to persuade others. Persuasion isn’t about facts, scare campaigns and hectoring, it’s about conversations and carrying people with you.”

So what should advocates do? They should seek out the middle ground, Ralph says. “They need to look through the eyes of the unpersuaded, get humble, get moderate and get relevant if they want to get results. They need to open, genuine conversation and debate rather than argument. They need to appear slightly uncertain rather than saying the science is settled.” Ralph says Rupert Murdoch captured this when he said he didn’t know what the truth was but was inclined to give the planet the benefit of the doubt.

*Next week: experts who are more environmentally minded. If you’re a master in communications or political strategy with a view on how to sell climate change, get in touch.


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98 thoughts on “A tough sell: can these spinners change your mind on climate change?

  1. Tamas Calderwood

    “There have been many such reports this century — from the IPCC (in 2001, 2007, 20014), universities, economists, NGOs, governments (green papers, white papers).”

    All very true. It’s just that there hasn’t been any actual global warming this century.

  2. Brian Williams

    Absolutely the best article on this subject that I have read to date.

    The instant Gillard muttered the phrase ‘the science is settled’, I groaned because I knew the task of selling climate change would be a lost cause. Even worse when you had Tim Flannery making his apocalyptic forecasts in the years prior to that, and then almost the opposite of what he predicted came to fruition.

    Unless people can realistically envisage how a potential problem will directly impact them, and can actually see signs of the cause and effect, they’re not going to embrace what you have to say, particularly if it involves another tax on them.

  3. Tyger Tyger

    “They need to appear slightly uncertain rather than saying the science is settled.”

    Whaaaa? Even though the science IS settled?! Despite what you choose to “believe”. What’s lacking is the selling of the science.

    Where are the charismatic, articulate and measured climate scientists (there must be one or two out there!) willing to give up a few years of research time to get out in the community and explain the facts in a way that can be understood and digested by lay people? Who among them is even challenging the ludicrous notion that “belief” has anything to do with science? EXPLAIN!

    Where’s the leadership, co-ordination and funding from concerned, well-resourced organisations and individuals needed to mount a sustained education and publicity campaign? Why are there so few climate scientists writing to newspapers and participating in online discussions (with us plebs; not just between themselves) and taking on the deniers? Every denialist letter published in the papers should be met with a deluge of responses from those in the know. If they don’t get published, the scientists should band together and buy full page ads refuting the endless stream of hogwash we’re served up and protesting against the bias of the media. If the papers won’t run them that will almost certainly be an even bigger story. Want some funding to get that started? Try crowd funding. I’ve got $250 right here in my hand you can have right now; all you need to do is ask. ENGAGE!

    Why do scientists have this holier-than-thou attitude that won’t allow them to debate prominent deniers because it gives the latter credibility they don’t deserve? (Heads up, guys, these people already have great dollops of largely unchallenged credibility with significant sections of the community; your silence won’t change that.) Play them at their own game, because right now, it’s the winning game. TAKE ‘EM ON FFS!


    (And Rupert Murdoch captured the “uncertainty” about the science?! And doesn’t know what the truth is despite all the resources he has to hand? Yea, right. That would have to be Rupert Murdoch the avuncular, bit-dippy tweetaholic, not Rupert Murdoch the savvy, calculating media mogul, whose position as evidenced in his papers and on Fox News is crystal clear: deny, deny, deny. Rupert Murdoch has done more than any other individual on the planet to entrench this chimera of “uncertainty”.)

  4. Bart Tony

    In reply to Calderwood. Rubbish! NASA,NOAA, CSIRO, NIWA and every major national scientific body confirm that 10 of the warmest years have been this century with 2005 and 2010 being the warmest.

  5. Tyger Tyger

    Tamas, nine of the ten hottest years on record have occured this century, the other just prior, in 1998, while January 2014 marked the 347th consecutive month in which global average temperatures exceeded the 20th century average. Those are the facts. Your source?

  6. Tamas Calderwood

    Bart, Tyger – you are mistaking the rate of change of the temperature (warming) with the temperature itself.

    yes, the world is warmer (temperatures have risen by just 0.8C in the past 150 years). But the world is not WARMING. The rate of change is basically zero. It stopped warming in 1998.

    It’s like mixing up speed and acceleration.

    You have heard about the temperature “pause”, right? It’s pretty commonly accepted now.

  7. Tyger Tyger

    “Absolutely the best article on this subject that I have read to date.”

    Really, Brian? Perhaps you need to read more. You could start with this defence of what Tim Flannery actually said, rather than parroting Andrew Bolt’s distortions:


  8. Rohan

    More idiots with zero self-awareness or sense of irony transmogrifying science and shit their feeble minds can’t handle into “religion” and “fearmongering”.


  9. Bart Tony

    Tamas it is only accepted by global warming deniers like yourself. Again NASA, CSIRO, NIWA and every major national and international scientific organizations disagree with you.

  10. dropBear

    where do your facts come from calder?
    you’ve made this claim twice in a very short discussion.
    How about some proof?
    You get paid for these posts after all.

  11. Tyger Tyger

    “You have heard about the temperature “pause”, right? It’s pretty commonly accepted now.”

    I have, Tamas. I’ve heard all the denialist garbage in all its increasingly sophisticated, well-resourced forms. Pity for you it’s not as commonly accepted as you pretend.
    Leaving aside the risibility of suggesting the hottest 10 years on record occurring in the last 16 tallies with your claim there has been no warming in that period, there is no pause. The rate of atmospheric warming has SLOWED, NOT PAUSED, in the last decade and a half, but it’s nothing to be smug about.
    Firstly, it’s not statistically significant. Climate scientists require a minimum 30 years to establish trends. Secondly, much of the extra heat that has been trapped in recent years has gone to warming the oceans, in particular significant warming at far greater depths than previously detected. The impacts of this and whether it will continue thus, aren’t fully understood, although it’s known that warmer waters are less able to absorb CO2, so long term it can hardly be good news. Thirdly, if you ever bothered to look at a graph of global average temperatures over the last 150-odd years (the extent of reliable records) you’d see it’s not a straight line, thus warming could be said to have “paused” on a dozen previous occasions in that time. Again, none of these “pauses” was statistically significant.
    If you want to reduce “noise” in stastical analysis, extend the data sample. Do so with temperature data and the trend is apparent. On the other hand, if you want to misinform, obfuscate and deny, cherry pick.

  12. Tamas Calderwood

    I have done a linear regression on the uah satellite temperature data. It shows warming stopped in 1998.

    NASA and many others have discussed the temperature ‘pause’ I am Amazed you guys haven’t heard about it.

    Google: global warming temperature pause, then take a look at the links. There are plenty of articles on it.

  13. Tyger Tyger

    Where’s the moderator? The conversation is stalling here.

  14. Tyger Tyger

    “NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.
    With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record have all occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record.”

    NASA Website, 21/1/14.

    Over to you, Tamas.

  15. Tamas Calderwood

    Tyger – did you google the warming pause? Try that out.

    And again, you are mistaking a level with a rate of change, which is pretty basic mathematics. I’m surprised you can’t understand the difference.

  16. zut alors

    Last night Tony Jones asked Palmer his response to the latest IPCC report produced by 309 scientists from 70 countries. It reads like a reply scripted by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

    Palmer: Well I think it’s a – camels were designed by a committee. With so many people, you’re really not going to get anything worthwhile. You need to have a proper report with people that can do something.

  17. Tyger Tyger

    Don’t have to, Tamas. I’m up with the topic and know who’s propagating the pause nonsense, who isn’t and where they’re coming from. You cited NASA, who, as I’ve just demonstrated, say “… a long-term trend of rising global temperatures” is continuing. I’ve also answered your arguments more fully but we await the moderator. I’ll just repeat one thing I’ve already posted that hasn’t yet been published: if you want to reduce “noise” in statistical analysis, extend the data sample. On the other hand, if you want to misinform, obfuscate and deny, cherry pick.

  18. Tyger Tyger

    Tamas, I keep responding and keep being stymied by, “Your comment is awaiting moderation”. You’ll just have to wait too.

  19. Tyger Tyger

    PS, Tamas: While we wait, why don’t you try Googling “global warming pause myth”, or is that one word too many?

  20. Geoff Russell

    Imagine if we had a scientifically literate media and Parliament. Then the situation would be rather like influenza or polio. The problem is outlined scientists are chosen (one way or another) to prepare vaccines and other treatments. A PR company does one or more media campaigns. The treatment is rolled out and the problem is tackled as well as it can be. It isn’t discussed ad-nauseum in Parliament and never becomes a political football. There may be disagreements of all kinds about vaccine types, effectiveness, rollout regimes, and so on … this stuff is really complex … but they are mainly confined to journals and there are no “sides in a debate”.

    But that isn’t happening. Instead, all manner of people who wouldn’t know CH4 from CO2 or one end of a probability density functional convolution from the other have an uninformed opinion that they reckon should be taken seriously.

  21. Tyger Tyger

    Agreed Geoff Russell, so what do we do about it? It’s pretty obvious from my post @3 I’m pretty frustrated by just what you’re talking about. How do we get this debate on a scientific footing and where are the scientists who, to my mind, should at least be attempting to make this happen?

  22. Cathy Alexander

    Goeff Russell, this is an excellent point. There are almost no scientists in Parliament (and almost no parliamentary staffers, of which there are several hundred, have a science background). They are all lawyers with a firm eye on their own career prospects, the opinion polls, and the margin in their seat.

    Tyger Tyger I read your posts with interest too. I have had this discussion with scientists. They – understandably – say things like ‘I’m a scientist and I’m busy on research / teaching, I’m not a PR professional and I don’t have the time to spend communicating extensively with the public on this issue, and if I try, I get pilloried by climate sceptics.” I wonder if the points raised by the comms professionals interviewed for this story are more apt for conservationists and advocates of reducing greenhouse gases, rather than the scientists?

  23. Cathy Alexander

    Also Tyger, the Climate Council (Flannery’s mob, now independent of govt) would see itself as doing this function of translating science into plain English for the public. Are they doing a good job? Is the job too hard?


  24. David Hand

    Now Tyger, in calling for the moderator, you’re not trying to shut Tamas up, are you? You’re not suggesting that the only views allowed here are those of the green/left?

  25. Tyger Tyger

    Cathy Alexander, I hear you.I understand where the scientists are coming from and what they’d expose themselves to if they stuck their necks out. On the other hand, it’s just too easy for denialists to rubbish “conservationists and advocates of reducing greenhouse gases” as hysterical tree-huggers and the like. I’m inclined to think it would be more helpful if an articulate spokesperson with impeccable climate science credentials could be found to front a sustained education campaign.

  26. Michael Cowling

    As a man in the older demographic, I am NOT less likely to think that climate change is real. Instead, I think it makes sense to act on the advice of the experts I.e., scientists which partly explains why we’ve got solar panels on our roof. Why would I take on board the opinions of the commentariat, especially the people in this article?

  27. Tyger Tyger

    No, David Hand, I’m not and never would. Had you read my post @18, which wasn’t held back for moderation, you’d know that.

  28. David Hand

    It would be nice to hear from scientists. The problem is that the scientists do not have the firm absolutist views the climate PR machine spruiks. So when Flannery goes on ABC and says, “Drought is our new climate, blah blah scientific stuff, the dams will never fill again, blah blah, scientifically proven, blah blah, build desalinisation plants immediately, blah blah because the proven science says so”, people like you believe the science is settled.

    He said all that in 2007 and then the dang awkward La Nina arrived so all the dams filled, Brisbane flooded because the climate activists got the Wivenhoe dam operating protocols changed and all the desalinisation plants on the east coast were mothballed.

    So what science is settled? I guess we all agree the earth is warmer. Hey even Tamas agrees with that. Will it rain? Well I watched the drought reports on the ABC with distressed farmers experiencing drought and the climate cult once again banging on about settled science. They are quiet for now. I wonder why?

    The IPCC has a lot to answer for. Just the bastardisation of the phrase “peer reviewed” is a great example. It gives the report an aura of scientific certainty.

    While you are looking for a climate scientist, you should note that the chairman of the IPCC is a mechanical engineer and probably has as much expertise on the matter as you or me.

  29. David Hand

    Apologies Tyger.
    My comment is also in moderation.

  30. Tyger Tyger

    Cathy Alexander @27, point taken, and I’m aware of the great work they’re doing along with many others, but then, having failed to get any sense of what was going on from the msm I began a study of the topic about six or seven years ago, was convinced by the science and make an effort to keep up with the latest findings. I’m just worried about the cut-through for people who, for whatever reason, haven’t dug beneath the confusion. Meantime, all of those great organisations and individuals are mostly preaching to the converted, as this article and evidence such as that showing the declining number of people who “believe” the science, make clear.
    I don’t profess to know the answer or whether I’m even on the right track, but I’d like to see climate scientists taking on denialists in these blogs, in the Letters pages of newspapers, in town hall meetings, on Q&A, etc. If they still can’t get a hearing I’d like to see them make a fuss about it. Again, I understand their professional objections to such things and their just wanting to get on with their jobs, but what’s all of that ultimately going to matter if the public understanding and backing of their conclusions continues not to eventuate?

  31. Tyger Tyger

    No dramas, David.

  32. Scott Grant

    I just came across this piece today: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says

    Another in the continuing series of “Americans are stupid”, except you would probably find similar results in Australia.

    Yes, I agree with the thrust of this article. Facts and science are not going to cut it. It needs the professionals who know how to sell an idea in a way that connects with the gut.

    I find it difficult to avoid being “alarmist” because I find the truth truly alarming. But there is little I can do about it if the majority don’t want to listen.

  33. Cathy Alexander

    Michael Cowling, allow me to express myself more clearly. A higher proportion of men, and a higher proportion of older people, think that human-induced climate change is not happening (when compared with other demographics). But of course there are definitely older men who think that yes, it is happening – look at Ross Garnaut, Tim Flannery, David Karoly, Nicholas Stern …

  34. David Hand

    From article 1 on the google search you have suggested, we get this. “The IPCC attributes the recent slowing of surface temperatures to a combination of external and internal climate factors. For example, solar activity has been relatively low and volcanic activity has been relatively high, causing less solar energy to reach the Earth’s surface.”

    Now I accept that the article is attempting to debunk the significance of surface temperatures as opposed to ocean etc, but you cannot escape the fact that the IPCC is attempting to explain an unpredicted pause in surface temperature rises.

    I want to emphasise that I accept the view that AGW is real. What I think has really done the damage regarding action on climate change is not the colourful characters on the sceptic side that the ABC and Crikey love mocking but the religious cult among climate activists to whom no new data, no examination of what is essentially uncertainty due to the failure of models relied on in the past, is acceptable.

    We are hectored into abandoning ocean front property, put wind turbines up everywhere, pay $23 a tonne in penalty charges for power, suffer public transport, be bullied into turning the lights off for an hour as a public statement of our belief in the cult, all by a bunch of people whose predictions are consistently wrong.

    Their language changes monthly. It used to be global warming. Then climate change. Suddenly is was extreme weather events. Pity about all those hurricanes Queensland endured this summer. Oh… dang.. Err maybe there’ll be one next week to save all our embarrassment and we can go on Lateline and tell Emma that the latest drop of rain in Queensland is yet more proof of the coming apocalypse.

  35. Electric Lardyland

    So, essentially the point of these three alleged experts, is that people who have spent around forty years of gathering, publishing and publicising evidence, that says climate change is real and a serious problem, should be nice to the people who are ignoring and/or contradicting that forty years worth of evidence. Pleaaase!

  36. Liamj

    Next up: Col. Oliver North & GW Bush on how to create peace.

    Really i don’t mind if Crikey consults highly paid tory deceivers for free advice on how to achieve something they don’t want to happen, but don’t expect me to take it seriously.

    Anyone genuinely interested ought to read up on denial (it is basic to humans not a flaw, see ‘Denial’ by Varki & Brower), and recent essay My Environmentalism will be Intersectional or it will be bullshit by Adam Ramsey.

  37. malcolm

    Can we please give up on the climate change is real no it’s not argument, it’s being going on for far too long is getting very boring.
    Anybody who pollutes the environment should pay to clean up that pollution or compensate the community so that the community can afford to clean up the pollution for them. Any unwanted output whether liquid, solid or gaseous from human industrial activity is pollution unless contained, including carbon. For far too long the cost of disposal of industrial waste has not been included in economic assessment of the wealth of nations. The carbon tax fulfils that requirement in regard to the production and output of unwanted carbon. There should be taxes on business for all sorts of other pollution created as a result of human activity. It’s about time we stopped hiding the real costs of pollution as a result of our activity across the board.

  38. Tyger Tyger

    David Hand @32, you’re nitpicking when you say the science isn’t settled. Science, unlike theology, ideology and the like, never speaks in absolute terms, rather probability, is open to new information and works on the basis of “thesis, antithesis, hypothesis”. Thus science will never claim with certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow, nevertheless the scientific probability of its not doing so is so minute as to be negligible. It is science and the scientific method’s greatest strength that it operates so.
    In the case of AGW, the accumulated evidence and the way predictions made by climate scientists for over 50 years have been borne out clearly confirm that, while it may not be as “certain” as the sun rising in the morning, the probability that the observed warming trend is anthropogenic is overwhelming.

    On Flannery, I suggest you take the time to read the linked article I posted @7, rather than repeating the slanders of Bolt, the IPA, et. al. as if they had even a shred of credibility. (And you sit in judgement on science and scientists! You might want to find some better allies.)
    Furthermore, adducing evidence of extreme weather events such as the 15 year “drought of the millennium” and its subsequent breaking by two and a half years of biblical rain as if this somehow excoriates Flannery and supports your nothing-to-see-here “argument” is probably not the best path to go down.

    Peer review? In what sense have the IPCC “bastardised” the term? Idiotic.

    Finally, what has the Chairman of the IPCC being a mechanical engineer have to do with anything? Libraries are run by “mere” librarians. Does it follow they contain nothing of value? I imagine the man’s an excellent administrator and need be nothing more. It’s hilarious how people who make that point, unless they are themselves climate scientists, which you clearly are not, don’t immediately exclude themselves from the debate. Hoist with your own petard.

  39. Scott Grant

    The moderators ARE a bit slow today. It must be the carbon tax. I originally thought it was because I commented too close to knock-off time. But I see others are getting through after me. Was it that “s-” word?

  40. Michael Jones

    This article is about obstructing action on climate change while pretending to do the opposite.

    It presents myths about selling the issue, that are actually designed to sabotage efforts to sell it.

    Idiotic fake advice like ‘appear uncertain’ and ‘don’t mention that it will destroy the world’ are actually intended to cripple efforts to alert the public to the threat of climate change.

    In addition, their attacks on the ‘strategy’ serve as cover for the vicious attacks that have been made by the other side of this conflict.

    The myth is that people aren’t supporting action because the people calling for action have not persuaded them. (There’s also a bunch of fake language about how climate action advocates have been too aggressive, too critical, and other bare faced lies to that effect).

    The reality is that people aren’t supporting action because
    a vicious campaign of misinformation, threats, censorship and exactly this kind of myth-making, has been waged against the public by not only the conservative Murdoch press, but others who should know better, such as the abc, and it seems, crikey, who buy into these self-sabotaging myths and allow conservatives and denialists to control the discussion.

    If you ask a bunch of conservatives, of course they will give you ‘good advice’ about how best to lose to them in this debate. If you ask a bunch of spin doctors, of course they will promote their deliberately dysfunctional approach to dealing with serious issues. The last thing spin doctors want is anyone talking about facts or evidence!

    I mean for crying out loud, one of them worked for the tobacco industry, which invented the denialist and ‘fake debate’ tactics that climate change deniers have used to such success.

    If you want good advice on how to sell climate change, do the OPPOSITE to what is advised here. The purpose of this propaganda is to pull people AWAY from effective strategies that have never actually been put into action (despite popular myths to the contrary).

  41. Tamas Calderwood

    Cathy – my point is a serious one. The warming pause is widely acknowledged. Surely it makes climate change a harder sell?

  42. Glen

    So, Ms Alexander, you help with this by publishing “absolute crap” like that from Ken Lambert yesterday, then refuse to run rebuttals?

    (BTW, I can never quite tell where Tamas is coming from, but on a simple reading of the data warming has actually accelerated this century. Ask yourself why he’s so determined that you should think otherwise.)

  43. nullifidian

    Tamas – the warming pause is not widely acknowledged by climate scientists, nor indeed by scientists in general. This assertion belongs to denier trolls, and those whose ideology does not allow the acceptance of overwhelming evidence. To which class do you belong?

  44. David Hand

    Hey Tyger,
    Thanks for agreeing with me that the science of global warming isn’t settled. I’m glad you understand the scientific method. Please cite one, merely one example of the scientific method being applied by anyone in the production of any part of any IPCC report. Just one will do mate.

    You will find that the science backing climate change is statistics. High temperatures this century are statistically significant. They are not random and something is causing them. I, and probably you, believe that carbon put into the atmosphere by humans since the industrial revolution began has probably caused it. But that’s as far as you can go. Your contention that “the science is settled” exposes you and the climate cult to ridicule when predictions are proven wrong. Like Flannery’s sad piece in the New Scientist on 16 June 2007.

    So I don’t need News Ltd to tell me. I get it from the man himself. The link is “sciencearchive.org.au/nova/newscientist/105ns_001.htm” You can read the man himself. And weep. See how he deftly published it in the “new scientist”? Must be true then, eh?

    Peer review.
    If the IPCC adopts peer review in the way scientific journals do, how did the World Wildlife Fund report predicting the Himalayan glaciers melting in 30 years get published in the 2005 edition? It caused huge embarrassment. What I think the IPCC does is send drafts of its report to people who have registered for them to read it and comment. Then they call it “peer reviewed” This is not how scientific journals do it. Someone tell me I’m wrong.

    The chairman’s qualifications is just a smart-arsed poke at believers who suggest that scepticism is unscientific because this climate change stuff is published by scientists, when it’s not.

    In my view, the most effective way of the scientific community to get the story out about the risks humanity faces with global warming is to sack the activists and fundamentalists, do not be concerned about the uncertainty, trust the public with raw data, don’t be afraid to change position when new data emerges and stop treating us all like children.

  45. Tyger Tyger

    David Hand@38, the article is not trying to “debunk” anything; it’s explaining the science. If you say you accept the view that AGW is real – and for argument’s sake I’ll take your word for that -you’ll hopefully know the fundamental reason why: the near-200 year old theory, long since confirmed, that certain atmospheric gases – CO2, CH4, N2O, water vapour, ozone, etc. – allow heat in the form of white light from the sun to pass through, yet absorb and re-emit lower energy infrared heat escaping from the Earth. It’s why the Earth, with its atmosphere rich in these gases, has a 30 deg. higher global average temperature than the atmosphere-free Moon, despite their being the same mean distance from the Sun. It’s why Venus, the apparent victim of a runaway greenhouse effect, with its 96.5% CO2 atmosphere, is by far the hottest planet in the solar system despite being much further from the Sun than Mercury, which again, has no atmosphere. In the words of the article you’ve just cited:

    “… it all boils down to physics and conservation of energy. We continue to increase the greenhouse effect by burning more and more fossil fuels. The extra energy trapped in the Earth’s climate system by that increased greenhouse effect can’t just disappear, it has to go somewhere.”

    Your claim about no new data being acceptable is preposterous. The IPCC’s latest report emphasises that there has been a doubling of evidence since the 4th AR and that this has only served to reinforce their conclusions that AGW is real, happening now and that we must act to reduce GHG emissions immediately or face climate disaster. How on earth does that constitute a “religious cult”? And what evidence would you prefer climate activists consider “acceptable”, if not the overwhelming SCIENTIFIC evidence?

    You DON’T pay $23 a tonne in penalty charges for power. The big polluters do and you are compensated for the resultant increase in energy prices. The Abbott government want to remove the tax yet keep the compensation. So much for “budget responsibility”. (BTW, keep your ocean-front property by all means, though I’d recommend you look into what the insurance industry thinks of AGW or it might come back to bite you.)

    And you do yourself no favours uttering ill-informed inanities such as “Pity about all those hurricanes (sic) Queensland endured this summer. Oh… dang.. “, etc.
    Do some research. Then you might learn things like:

    “Global warming may mean fewer cyclones in far north Queensland but they could get stronger, scientists say at a national climate change conference in Cairns.
    One study from the CSIRO predicts that rising temperatures could halve the frequency of tropical cyclones.”



  46. Andrew Dolt

    Two of the world’s most eminent scientific organisations, the Royal Society of London and the US National Academy of Sciences, with 80 and 200 living Nobel laureates among their members respectively, have issued a joint plain language statement on climate change for laypersons. But of course Tamas Calderwood and his fellow deniers know all there is to know about climate change and don’t need to listen to a bunch of Nobel prize-winning scientists. Metaphorically speaking, they don’t need clothes either, and are perfectly happy to run around in the nude with their idiot bits flapping in the wind, under the impression they are very snappily dressed. http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/policy/projects/climate-evidence-causes/climate-change-evidence-causes.pdf

  47. CML

    Cathy = I wouldn’t worry too much about finding the right ‘spin doctor’ with the correct message. In another ten years or so, the effects of AGW will be overwhelmingly apparent to all except the extremely stupid, or those who want to die for the denialist cause!!
    While ever we have a conservative government, and an extreme, right wing dominating media, only the intelligent people who educate themselves on this matter, will ultimately be proven correct. Suck it up, Tamas!

  48. Tyger Tyger

    I think it’s the latter, nullifidian@47. Check out his blog – http://tamascalderwood.com
    There’s some funny stuff in there. My favourite is a copy of comments he made in Crikey and the responses to them headed, “ex Labor MP Steve Gibbons can’t explain why we need the carbon tax” (Posted Oct. 11 2013) in which his “arguments” are torn to shreds by a number of people who know what they’re talking about. The best bit is his response in the comments upon being told warming in the oceans has increased:

    “Oh, ok Richard: An atmospheric gas is heating up the deep oceans before it’s heating up the atmosphere. This was unpredicted and remains unexplained.”

    So, just another denier utterly convinced by ideology, yet who doesn’t understand even the first principle of AGW – the greenhouse effect – or know that far from being “unpredicted” and “unexplained”, the warming of the oceans is routinely cited as the reason for more than half of the observed rise in sea level due to thermal expansion. And he proudly posts this stuff! Ya gotta laugh.

  49. Richard Dunn

    It’s surprising to read an article in Crikey that only quotes doubters. Is climate change something that that can only addressed when a popular majority has been convinced, like voters in The Voice, as seemed be that case before Abbott went on the rampage about a so called tax? Or is this something that requires leadership, which we don’t seem to have. The climate change ‘debate’ is not about the world’s climate any longer, or about the science, but is about politics and money. But I notice that everyone is an expert, except it seems the authors of the IPCC report and 95% of scientists,

  50. AR

    I agree that asking the flaks & shills for some of the most egregious abusers of public health for their opinions was nauseating it is necessary to take the B>Pogo stance – “I have met the enemy…”.
    However it bothers me that commenters above critical of giving space to these amoral creatures seem to have missed (probably blinded by fury and/or tears)seem to have missed the italicised final paragraph.
    I have long advocated the point Malcolm@41 made – from the daze of the rise of the Nu-Rite in the 80s with their talk of free enterprise & personal responsibility to which I said “Wonderful idea – pay the full cost of your activity, including all torts” but, alack & alack, they wuz just kidding – what they meant was rapacity & devil take the hindmost.
    If you piss in my gruel, I get to eat your filet mignon and if you pollute my air, soil or planet then you give me yours – fair’s fair in the personal responsibility world.

  51. Tamas Calderwood

    It’s interesting that many of you refuse to accept the warming pause.

    Here is the IPCC report from last September – “The Physical Science Basis”, Summary for Policymakers, Part B1, page 3.

    In addition to robust multi-decadal warming, global mean surface temperature exhibits substantial decadal and interannual variability (see Figure SPM.1). Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming
    over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade).

    They are saying the world has warmed, but not for the past 15 years. This is what’s commonly referred to as the warming pause.

  52. John Boyd

    Pretty depressing really. I notice that our professional ‘spinners’ can’t help using terms like ‘alarmists’ when referring to scientists trying to explain what the science is telling us, for instance ‘that while you cannot ascribe a single event (such as a record heat wave) to global warming, the fact is that the frequency and intensity of such events is increasing and will continue to increase’. I think that we have a number of eminent scientists attempting to present a reasoned and calm assessment of the situation; David Karoly at Melbourne University and Will Steffan at the ANU come to mind; but they don’t get much prime time exposure.
    A huge problem is that it is easy for the T Calderwoods of this world to make sweeping and unsubstantiated statements, as above, but it takes a lot of space to demonstrate the fallacy contained in those statements. For instance, it is true that there has been a pause in the rate of warming of the atmosphere over the last several years, largely due to the large LaNina event which appears to be just winding down. However, the amount of heat energy retained by the whole global system has increased unabated, with 90% being absorbed by the oceans. Presumably someone will come up with some psuedo science that shows that the oceans are not warming either….and so it goes.

  53. Liamj

    Yes, John Boyd.

    Even when Calderwoods own quote doesn’t say what he says it does (smaller rate of warming is not no warming), theres no making the moron see it or admit it. We should expect nothing else when people are egocentrically justifying their lifestyles.. denial is us.

  54. David Hand

    I’m being moderated out of this discussion. Ah well, I can go out then.

  55. JohnB

    Hang around, David. You have made better sense than most.

  56. Tyger Tyger

    They’re not saying any such thing, Tamas@53! Just as on your blog, you make and reproduce comments that outright contradict your obsessive wrong-headedness and show just how ignorant you are of the facts.

    “In addition to robust multi-decadal warming, global mean surface temperature exhibits substantial decadal and interannual variability.”

    Note the “IN ADDITION TO ROBUST MULTI-DECADAL WARMING…” and the “SUBSTANTIAL DECADAL AND INTERANNUAL VARIABILITY…” Do you even begin to understand the difference between AGW/climate CHANGE and climate VARIABILITY? The effects of solar cycles, volcanic activity, the ENSO cycle and so on? How these factors can affect the balance between surface and ocean warming, or, in the case of volcanic activity, block sunlight from reaching the Earth? After all, it was the denialist community who, in years gone by, told us climate was so complex we’d never be sure what’s going on. Now you’ve no time for complexity?

    “Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends.”

    Which is precisely what is meant by “noise” in statistical analysis and why you need to look at a larger data set to establish long-term trends. You sneer at people elsewhere in these posts for not understanding “simple mathematics” – perhaps simplistic would have been more apt – yet you can’t get your head around the basics of statistical analysis.

    While engaged in the act of cherry-picking a paragraph from this report – rather badly for your purposes (Hint: when cherry-picking, don’t serve ’em up complete with the branch) – you seem to have missed the conclusions. Given they’re boxed and in big, bold colourful type I’m not sure how you managed that, but I’ll help you out by reprinting the ones relevant to your “argument”:




    Somehow, to you, that reads, “They are saying the world has warmed, but not for the past 15 years.” You have no idea.

  57. Tyger Tyger

    The following from an interview with World Bank head Jim Yong Kim in The Guardian, 4/4/14, while not specifically related to “selling” AGW and speaking more generally of the “climate change community”, does underline what I’ve been saying about the lack of leadership from climate scientists:

    ‘Jim Yong Kim said it was possible to cap the rise in global temperatures at 2C but that so far there had been a failure to replicate the “unbelievable” success of the 15-year-long coalition of activists and scientists to develop a treatment for HIV.
    The bank’s president – a doctor active in the campaign to develop drugs to treat HIV – said he had asked the climate change community: “Do we have a plan that’s as good as the plan we had for HIV?” The answer, unfortunately, was no.
    “Is there enough basic science research going into renewable energy? Not even close. Are there ways of taking discoveries made in universities and quickly moving them into industry? No. Are there ways of testing those innovations? Are there people thinking about scaling [up] those innovations?”
    Interviewed ahead of next week’s biannual World Bank meeting, Kim added: “They [the climate change community] kept saying, ‘What do you mean a plan?’ I said a plan that’s equal to the challenge. A plan that will convince anyone who asks us that we’re really serious about climate change, and that we have a plan that can actually keep us at less than 2C warming. We still don’t have one.”‘


  58. Owen Carington Smith

    They need to appear slightly uncertain rather than saying the science is settled.”

    The 2013 IPCC report alluded to the “no warming in this century findings” and now states it is because the oceans have moderated or abated global warming. Now there is a concerted rush to ocean science funding. However many climate scientists are claiming that global warming is still happening ? The IPCC is giving out a very confused message but still claiming catastrophe awaits. One thing is clear their sophisticated modelling got it wrong.

  59. Tamas Calderwood

    Liamj – why is there a ‘smaller rate of warming’ just when Co2 emissions really took off? Emissions are at unprecedented levels, yet warming slows down. Curious, no?

  60. John Boyd

    The last two entries, from OW Smith and T Calderwood illustrate the sort of confusion that can arise. Global warming refers to the whole atmosphere-ocean-land system of the earth. About 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases goes into the oceans;8+% into the atmosphere, and the last little bit is retained by the land surface. During the last LaNina event, an increase in ocean turnover caused the oceans to absorb a bit more than average, with the result that the rate of warming of the atmosphere slowed. Perhaps this point has not been made clearly in the public scientific explanations,and arguments, which have focussed almost exclusively on atmospheric temperatures. As I mentioned above, the total rate that heat is trapped by the whole system has continued to increase as the concentration of CO2 has increased.

  61. Tamas Calderwood

    John Boyd – there is no data to show the oceans are warming. How does and atmospheric gas warm the oceans before it warms the atmosphere? Why isn’t the atmosphere warming like the models predicted?

  62. John Boyd

    T Calderwood…I do not know what sources you use, but can you demonstrate with credible scientific evidence, that the following statement, a direct quote rom the IPCC Working Group 1 report page 24,is wrong?
    ‘Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence).
    It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010 (see Figure SPM.3), and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971. {3.2, Box 3.1}’.
    I know the truth is scary, but we all have to face up to the realities that we and our children are going to face in the not too distant future.

  63. David Hand

    Hey Tyger,
    Thank you for providing the link to that ABC story. It contains a refreshing dose of adult level uncertainty. The opening statement says,

    “Global warming may mean fewer cyclones in far north Queensland but they could get stronger, scientists say”. Note the words “may” and “could”. These are words you never hear the activists say.

    My point about the absence of a tropical cyclone this year was not that it proves global warming wrong or actually about the climate change debate. It merely pointed out that we were saved from a shrill true believer going on the ABC and blaming the Abbott government for causing it by trying to repeal the mining tax because “the science is settled”.

    Mate, you are challenging my comments by arguing for the case of global warming when I am not actually arguing a sceptic case. What I am arguing is the abject failure of the scientific and political community to make the case and I believe it is the religious fundamentalism that has captured the warmist side that is responsible. Your original comment where you hotly maintained how the science is settled is a good example of what I’m saying.

    While you hold that view, you cannot examine objectively awkward new facts that challenge absolute dogma spruiked by the cult. Examples in this thread are the pause in surface temperature rises that even the IPCC acknowledges. How can we learn what has caused it when climate cultists run screaming from the room shouting that the science is settled?

    Then there’s Flannery’s awful prediction of eternal drought in 2007.

    If the scientific community cannot discuss these issues, that simply cannot expect the public to tke them seriously.

  64. Tyger Tyger

    David@68, what is settled – and irrefutable – is the greenhouse effect (@49).
    FACT: Increases in atmospheric levels of GHGs lead to more heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere.
    FACT: That heat has to go somewhere.
    FACT: This theory was formulated by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and confirmed by experiment 30-odd years later.
    FACT: Scientists – and they’re who I take my lead from in this debate – say “may” and “could” all the time. That’s because they often deal with complex systems like climate.
    A list of what you won’t hear them using those words in relation to includes the three facts listed above.
    I have no problem with “awkward new facts”. I love them because I love learning and am always open to new ideas.
    I abhor all forms of “spiritual” rubbish including religion – and religious fundamentalism in particular. Your using those terms is a typical denier’s distraction – though of course you’re not a denier, just a “sceptic”.

  65. Tyger Tyger

    “A huge problem is that it is easy for the T Calderwoods of this world to make sweeping and unsubstantiated statements, as above, but it takes a lot of space to demonstrate the fallacy contained in those statements.”
    And the only solution to that problem is to take the space – and time, John@56. There’s no sense in a “what can I do” shrug of the shoulders.The denialist lobby has proven to be extremely well-connected, well-resourced and, above all, dogged.
    The “climate change community” has no choice but to match that effort. Not to try and convince the Calderwoods of the world – that will never happen – but to convince the reasonable people in the community following and participating in this debate who are trying to make sense of it amid the misinformation, deception and obfuscation.
    As Jim Yong Kim (@62) points out, a sustained, concerted effort is required to deal with this issue. There won’t be a second chance, so there is no other choice.

  66. David Hand

    This is my last effort to make the point you don’t seem to want to hear, Tyger. Scientists say “may” and “could” about climate because that is as far as the science can take them.

    That’s it mate. To scientists, the science of climate change is not settled.

    Stick to your name calling from a position of absolute certainty mate.

    I’m out.

  67. Tyger Tyger





    IPCC 5thAR. (i.e. Scientists.)


  68. David Hand

    Stop shouting Tyger. That sort of behaviour is why people don’t listen.

  69. Tyger Tyger

    Back again, David. Frankly, I couldn’t give a rat’s about your hurt feelings. Do as I’ve done and go on one of the many rabid right-wing denialist sites talking about the science if you want to see some real name-calling in action. And you don’t listen because you’re a cloth-eared ideologue masquerading as a “concerned sceptic”, not because I posted that in upper-case. You ignore the wealth of evidence in these posts and elsewhere that clearly demonstrate there is no pause; you continue to slander Flannery on the basis of what your right-wing mates say he said rather than what he actually said (@7); and use classic denier tactics at every turn. You claim not to be a denialist but as far as I’m concerned if it looks like a denialist, walks like a denialist and quacks like a denialist – it’s a denialist.
    It’s pretty obvious from all your posts you voted for Abbott – the most abusive, name-calling street fighter of a politician this country has yet seen. Don’t have a problem with that, do you? So if you can’t piss, get off the pot.
    And don’t call me mate. I am not your mate.

  70. Tyger Tyger

    @David again, not sure how I missed your post @48, but there you have it. You seem pretty sure about how peer-review works at the IPCC, but as usual you’ve got it wrong. The following extracts are from an IPCC “Procedures” document titled “The Preparation of IPCC Reports”:

    “The authors will work on the basis of peer reviewed and internationally available literature, including manuscripts that can be made available for IPCC review and selected non-peer reviewed literature. Source, quality and validity of non-peer reviewed literature, such as private sector information need to be critically assessed by the authors and copies will have to be made available to reviewers who request them. Disparate views for which there is significant scientific or technical support should be clearly identified in IPCC reports, together with relevant arguments. Expert meetings and workshops may be used to support the preparation of a report.”

    “Review is an essential element of preparing IPCC reports and is governed by three principles. First, IPCC reports should represent the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic findings and be as comprehensive as possible. Secondly, a wide circulation process should aim to involve as many experts as possible from all regions of the world. Thirdly, the review process should be objective, open and transparent.
    Review generally takes place in three stages:
    1. Expert review of the first draft of the report
    2. Government/expert review of the second draft of the report and the draft Summary for Policymakers
    3. Government review of the revised draft.”


    Note the government involvement in the process. Unless you’re prepared to make the sort of stretch climate deniers used to rely on (before they got sophisticated and adopted the, “I’m not a climate change denier, but…” strategy) and claim their’s some sort of massive conspiracy between the entire climate science community and just about every national government on the planet, I’d say your claims look a mite ridiculous.

    BTW, I entered that “link” you provided re Flannery and got squat. But I’ll attempt to hunt the article down and get back to you.

  71. Tyger Tyger

    Ok, David@48. Found it! Had to subscribe to New Scientist but hey, it’s a good mag. – lots of climate science! – and the online subscription is very reasonably priced. Oh, and I still believe you’ve twisted and misrepresented what Flannery said, which begins:

    “OVER the past 50 years southern Australia has lost about 20 per cent of its rainfall, and one cause is almost certainly global warming. Similar losses have been experienced in eastern Australia, and although the science is less certain it is probable that global warming is behind these losses too. But by far the most dangerous trend is the decline in the flow of Australian rivers: it has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent decades, so dams no longer fill even when it does rain. Growing evidence suggests that hotter soils, caused directly by global warming, have increased evaporation and transpiration and that the change is permanent. I BELIEVE THE FIRST THING AUSTRALIANS NEED TO DO IS TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT “THE DROUGHT” – WHICH IS TRANSIENT – AND START TALKING ABOUT THE NEW CLIMATE.” (my emphasis)

    He goes on to advocate a new energy economy, not just to cut emissions but also to save water; a more efficient irrigation system; the drought-proofing of cities through the use of water tanks on the basis that the decline in river flows is three times that in rainfall; and the building of desalination plants powered by renewables. All eminently sensible stuff I’d have thought.
    The fact that an extreme weather event like the 2010-11 floods, following the extreme weather event that was the 15 year “millenium drought” did see the dams fill again, hardly changes the thrust of his argument, given he’s talking about an ongoing process which began over 50 years ago.
    Perhaps he should have added – even if only to keep the cherry pickers at bay – that dams will of course fill in cases of flood, or perhaps he credits his readers with enough intelligence to figure that out for themselves. In any case it wouldn’t change the overarching point he’s making, which is that THE CLIMATE, as distinct from THE WEATHER, which always varies within the climatic parameters and always will, is changing irrevocably. Saying we should be concerned about and adapting to a decline of 70% in the flow of rivers IN RECENT DECADES by doing things like building desalination plants is hardly invalidated by two years of flooding in twenty.
    The way you interpret it is precisely what’s meant by “cherry picking”. You seize on the tiniest thing to support your “argument”, magnify it and ignore the rest. You also did it @48 in the case of the Himalayan glacier mistake in the 4th IPCC AR. Thousands of well-funded deniers trawl through a 2,800 page report and find one mistake – to which the IPCC has freely admitted – and for you that’s it, the whole thing is rubbish. Why don’t you apply the same standards to your own utterances, like, “What I think the IPCC does…” in relation to peer review? (@48) WHAT YOU THINK!?! That’s unsubstantiated nonsense, but in your strange world it’s perfectly ok for you to throw hand grenades, while your opponent farting out of turn trashes their entire argument.

    “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

    (And yes, before you latch on to that and ignore everything else I’ve said, I remain an atheist. Doesn’t stop me valuing The Bible for the great work of literature it is.)

  72. rhwombat

    Tyger: well done. As the consequences of the climate change process becomes more evident, even to the entrenched, anti-scientific denialists like Calderwood and Hand, the venality of their bullshit – and the desperation of their attacks on the good guys (like Flannery and Mann) will stand out like the legacy of the Cheney Gang.

    The election of the Rinehart/Murdoch coalition here has demonstrated precisely the level of careful and long term wisdom we can expect from the denialist side of this argument, and the reframing of the problem as a PR industry problem by the same propagandist Merchants of Doubt who were paid to manufactured the “debate” in the first place may seem like a capitulation, but it does have the virtue of exposing the useful idiots (like C & H) for what they are.

  73. Sophie Benjamin

    Sophie Benjamin here, Crikey website producer.

    There is some robust debate in this thread but can I please ask people to move the tone of the discussion to something less personal. At Crikey we endorse the technique “play the ball and not the person.” In other words, please don’t attack each other. Please keep this in mind and consult our code of conduct for more info.

  74. Cathy Alexander

    CML and rhwombat, yes, I wonder if it will take the effects of climate change reaching a certain threshold to convince more Australians that it’s worth taking action on / paying money to combat? … and if so, that threshold is likely to come too late. As in, by the time people decide that yes it is happening and is a major issue, greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will have reached a pretty high level (ie above 2 degrees warming).

    As someone has mentioned in the comments, scientists like David Karoly and Will Steffen are well-respected and are out there in the media quite regularly on climate change. But if you look, they often get just a few sentences. Whereas the information / knowledge they have to impart is hard to compress. Casting doubt on scientific evidence is easier to do in a few sentences …

    The point of this article, for those who seem to have missed it, is not that anthropogenic climate change is not real. It’s that despite the mounting scientific evidence, Australians remain unconvinced, as the CSIRO has found. So it seems people aren’t listening to the science (or that the only people who are, are the ones who already think human-induced climate change is real …)

  75. David Hand

    I’m a glutton for punishment!

    Thanks for reproducing part of Flannery’s sad piece from 2007. By expressing a strong view that the dry years up to 2007 are “the new climate”, Flannery was pushing policy makers to enact policy on the basis of indefinite drought.

    As a result of this, we have hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in mothballed desalinisation plants that we are all paying for in our water charges. Thanks, Tim.

    The most egregious change in policy due to Flannery et al spruiking of eternal drought was the awful decision to redefine the operating protocols of the Wivenhoe dam. The dam was built after Brisbane flooded in 1974 with the express purpose of protecting Brisbane from future flood events.

    By the time the climate cult had had its effect on policy, the Wivenhoe operating protocols were changed to include water supply for Brisbane. At the time of Flannery’s sad piece, the dam was very low. Now to protect against flood, you need the dam to be empty but to ensure water supply, you need the dams full. So the engineers, thanks to “scientifically proven” influence from the climate druids, had to work with opposing objectives.

    Guess which protocol the dam was being managed under when Brisbane flooded?

    SMH 11 Mar 2012: “Releases from Wivenhoe Dam raised water levels in the Brisbane River by up to 10 metres during January’s flood, a panel of independent hydrologists has found.

    The hydrology report, commissioned by the Insurance Council of Australia and published yesterday, ruled the Brisbane flood to be a “dam release flood”.

    Flood events in lower Lockyer Creek, in the lower Bremer River and in the lower Brisbane River were dwarfed by the subsequent water level rise associated with releases from Wivenhoe Dam

    It named the release of water from Wivenhoe Dam as being the “principal immediate cause” of the riverine flood, as rain ceased about 6pm on January 11, more than 24 hours before the Brisbane River peaked overnight on January 12-13.”

    This is what I’m talking about regarding science not settled. I’m not saying that the world is not warming. I’m not saying that no action is necessary. I’m saying that when a climate cultist goes on TV and says that we have about 10 minutes left to dismantle our civilisation or we will all become extinct, the public has reason to be sceptical. It’s all very well to lament that “casting doubt on scientific evidence is easier to do in a few sentences” But that’s why Flannery’s overstatements are so damaging. Doubt is actually cast by apocalyptic predictions being spectacularly wrong.

    And that’s not unscientific. Or denialist. Or unsubstantiated nonsense.

  76. CML

    Thank you for your comments, Cathy. Unfortunately, I think you are correct – by the time the realisation hits the majority of the population, it will, indeed, be too late and much of the damage will be irreversible.
    A tragedy in the making, and IMHO inevitable. Too many people don’t want to hear the truth. The ‘big end of town’ has much to answer for.

  77. rhwombat

    Cathy (& Sophie). The personal tone is a product of the overt and covert linkage of climate denialism with one side of the commercial/political axis in the Anglophone world. Look at the identity and standing of the denialist partisans both cited and commenting: intellectual prostitutes who twist science and personally attack scientists (see Mann, Hanson, Flannery et al) for the benefit of their corporate master’s profit and influence.

    The evil here is wholly asymmetric, with the well organised and funded Denial Industry using the tools and strategies developed for the tobacco, nuclear and arms industries: straight denial, biased reporting (like The Australian and Fox News), false equivalence (ibid), smear (like “Brown’s Bitch” and the location of Tim Flannery’s house as promulgated by Hadley), trolling (like Hand & Calderwood), promotion of rabble rousing demagogues (like Monckton, Jones-the-Parrot & his army of the incontinent) and the carefully seeded poison of pseudo-independent ‘think tank’ propaganda agencies (like the IPA and CIS). The tactic that really rankles is the constant projection: the Climate Change Industry (like the equally pernicious Public Health Industry that BK keeps banging on about) consists of a pitiful few green/left scientific dinosaurs who conspire delude the honest consumer with manufactured guilt while waltzing between conferences on gigantic tax-payer funded salaries topped up with enormous research grants aimed at decrying the minimal profit of the fossil fuel industry profits and the insignificant pittances paid to the honest information brokers of the PR industry.This is not only bullshit, the purveyors know it is bullshit, and are now being given an opportunity to pretend that the anti-bullshitters just aren’t trying hard enough to counter the bullshit. The only option left is to call the bullshitters at every opportunity – and that is what Tyger has done. There is no valid counter-argument to climate change, there are only self interested profiteers, professional liars and their deluded dupes trying to deny responsibility.

  78. Andrew Dolt

    David Hand, unfortunately apocalyptic predictions are very likely to be spectacularly right. But rich old billionaires won’t feel the pain, so it’s all ok if you are one. http://blogs.law.widener.edu/climate/2014/04/05/crimes-against-humanitythe-genocidal-campaign-of-the-climate-change-contrarians/
    And Sophie Benjamin, the tone of the debate is always going to be heated because
    a) some of your commenters are well aware of the planetary disaster being created by humanity for itself, and are understandably upset about it, and
    b) the rest of your commenters are highly emotionally invested in not realising how wrong they are about it, both because it’s very upsetting in itself (see (a) above) but also because they don’t want to notice the egg on their faces.

  79. Tyger Tyger

    Forgive my cynicism, David@79, in not putting my trust in a report commissioned by the ICA, which clearly has a vested interest in finding precisely what it did.
    To begin with, Wivenhoe dam was planned in the early 1970s as BOTH a flood mitigation and water storage dam.

    The Queensland Flood Commission report (link below) contains this, from the Manual of Operational Procedures for Flood Mitigation at Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams:

    “The preface also makes clear the primary objectives of the procedures. They are, in order of importance, to:
    – Ensure the structural safety of the dams
    – Provide optimum protection of urbanised areas from inundation
    – Minimise disruption to rural life in the valleys of the Brisbane and Stanley Rivers
    – Retain the storage at Full Supply Level at the conclusion of the Flood Event
    – Minimise impacts to riparian flora and fauna during the drain down phase of the Flood Event.”

    Furthermore, far from the engineers operating under some Green/Left – in Queensland! – protocols determined by an editorial Tim Flannery wrote for The New Scientist, the Commission found that the engineers did not operate according to the manual full stop:

    “On 8 January, Mr Ayre [Senior Flood Operations Engineer] made no conscious change to the strategy in which the dam had been operating when he took over his shift: strategy W1. He did contemplate the possibility of a strategy change over the following days: to strategy W2. There was no change of strategy between his shift and the engineers’ conference, when the fact that the flood event was increasing in seriousness was discussed. The prospect of higher flows from the Lockyer and Bremer was recognised, as was the possibility of reducing releases from Wivenhoe to contain the flows. It was then acknowledged that the dam operations were on the cusp between W1 and W2 (not W3). That night, though, at about 7.00 pm, it was recognised that the release rate from Wivenhoe would have to be elevated. No actual strategy change was documented; at best, it can be said that the actions taken were consistent with strategy W3. It follows that Wivenhoe Dam was operated in breach of the manual from 8.00 am on 8 January 2011 until the evening of 9 January 2011.”

    The Commission went so far as to make the following recommendation:

    “16.1 The Crime and Misconduct Commission should investigate whether the conduct of Mr Tibaldi [Flood Operations Engineer], Mr Ayre and Mr Malone [Flood Operations Engineer] relating to:
    • preparation of documents surrounding the January 2011 flood event, including the 17 January 2011 brief to the Minister, the 2 March 2011 flood event report, and statements provided to the Commission
    • oral testimony given to the Commission
    evidences offence/s against the Criminal Code, and/or official misconduct under the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 committed by any, or all, of them.”

    Despite the above, modelling done for the Commission on the effects of the strategy implemented found that:

    “…in light of the information available at the time, that, allowing for the limits of the strategies in the Wivenhoe manual, the flood engineers achieved close to the best possible flood mitigation result for the January 2011 flood event.”

    Nowhere in the report is there a single mention of any of what you have said about the dam levels maintained prior to the flooding event. I’m guessing Sth East Queeensland’s demand for water has increased somewhat since the 1970s given it’s been the fastest growing area of Australia for much of that time; that may have something to do with it.
    Nor does the report mention any “…egregious change in policy due to Flannery et al spruiking of eternal drought.”


    BTW, my reference to “unsubstantiated nonsense” was in relation to what you said about the IPCC’s peer review process, nothing to do with this issue. Further evidence of a bit of a pattern at work in the way you frame your responses, don’t you think?

  80. Tyger Tyger

    rhwombat@81: KAPOW!

    With apologies to Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler:

    I wish I’d said that – and I probably will!

    Cheers and Thank You.

  81. David Hand

    Hey Tyger

    You may have all that time to research all sorts of information, that still, incidentally fails to support your point. You’re quoting version 7 of the manual, authorised in November 2009. It would be interesting to see what the 1974 manual says.

    The fact I pointed out remains unassailably true. At the time of flood event in 2012 the dam was full and it was spilling water at its maximum rate at the height of the flood event.

    The dam was full when it should have been empty.

    To any reasonable person, the operators stuffed up because they were following a management plan designed to keep the dam full to protect Brisbane from drought rather than flood.

    My opinion is that the climate cult exerted a lot of pressure on governments to focus on water security because activists like Flannery were saying with fundamentalist zeal that no or low rain were “the new climate”.

    They were wrong. Spectacularly wrong.

  82. David Hand

    Hey Wombat,
    Love your screenplay draft for Avatar 2. It should be a box office smash.

    What may help you sell the script is to ensure that the plucky warriors for the environment, as they battle the evil behemoths of evil corporations and their dupes (like me), should be factually correct.

    They’ll get their message across much more effectively then.

  83. fractious

    rhw @81
    “There is no valid counter-argument to climate change”

    Exactly so. Data is data. The laws of thermodynamics are beyond refute. Any true sceptic would be equally as suspicious of the claims made by any party, yet would inevitably have to accede that the model that best fits the facts is that the planet’s climate *is* changing, is changing *much* quicker than any previous natural change, and that the only likely cause is human activity.

    All of which demonstrates the futility of even considering airing the views of Russell, O’Leary and Ralph, let alone arguing the toss with the likes of Calderwood and Hand.

  84. Tyger Tyger

    David@85: “My opinion is that the climate cult exerted a lot of pressure on governments to focus on water security because activists like Flannery were saying with fundamentalist zeal that no or low rain were “the new climate”.”

    Your opinion. That says it all. Prove to me that an “…egregious change in policy due to Flannery et al spruiking of eternal drought” caused the Brisbane floods. That Seqwater changed their operating protocols on the basis of an editorial Tim Flannery wrote in The New Scientist in 2007. Because that is the claim you are making and I am contending.


  85. Tyger Tyger

    fractious@87: I disagree on the futility of arguing the toss with the likes of Calderwood and Hand. I’m presuming they’re not the only people reading this and that any reasonable person who is and has doubts about climate science, will see how they operate and what they stand for. Am I right or am I wrong? I don’t know, but I feel like I should be doing something.

  86. Tyger Tyger

    And why would it be interesting to see the manual from 1974, David? What possible relevance could that have given Queensland’s population in 1975 was just over 2m and today is over 4.7m?
    In your world, they couldn’t possibly hold more water in the dam because all those additional people need it, rather because Tim Flannery said so. Mind-boggling logic.

  87. Tyger Tyger

    David@85: “The fact I pointed out remains unassailably true. At the time of flood event in 2012 the dam was full and it was spilling water at its maximum rate at the height of the flood event.”

    “The Wivenhoe Dam when full to the top of the wall has a storage capacity of 2.6 million megalitres (ML)… This is divided into two sections. There is a water storage compartment of 1.15 million ML… On top of that sits a flood mitigation compartment of 1.45 million ML.
    By convention the dam is deemed 100% full when the level is 1.15 million ML. At 2.6 million ML it is therefore 225% full. You will hear that these compartments are split 40:60. The simple application of a calculator will tell you that should be 44:56.
    At 225% full the dam wall is threatened, so the managers try to keep the levels below 200%, at which time the sluice gates are ineffective and they have to open a series of valves which leads to an uncontrolled release. DURING THE LATEST EVENT THE LEVEL PEAKED AT 191%, I think,* which is as close as they’d want to go for orderly operation. At that point they were pretty much obliged to release an amount equivalent to what was coming in. Hence we had a flood but we would have had a flood anyway, because the Wivenhoe only controls 40% of the Brisbane River catchment. There was plenty coming down the Lockyer Creek, which joins the Brisbane about 5km below the Wivenhoe wall, and the Bremer River, which enters further down via Ipswich.” (my emphasis)


    “Unassailably true”, eh? And they were never at any time “…spilling water at its maximum rate…” Have a look at the Commission report @83 and you’ll see that they never reached the highest rate – W4 – and that there was some contention as to whether the rate they were operating at was W2 or W3.

    As for the “dam-caused flood”:

    “According [to] the managing authority, SEQ Water Grid Manager, the Wivenhoe dam was designed to reduce the level of a 1974-sized flood by 2 m. Given this flood’s peak of 4.46 m (1 m less than 1974), without the dam, the river would have risen much higher, inundating many more areas.”


    * In fact it was 190%. I checked. Please note the word “peaked”. Oh, and thanks for conceding I have the time to do the research and you don’t.

  88. Tyger Tyger

    From the article on the ICA Inquiry referred to @79:

    “The report does not apportion any blame to dam operators, pointing out Wivenhoe was forced to collect massive inflows from surface runoff from the upstream catchment area, releases from Somerset Dam and direct rainfall…
    “It may be more appropriate to assign flood causation to ‘succeeding storm events over the catchment area of the dam, each characterized by exceptionally heavy [rain] and massive surface runoff volumes’.”

    SMH, March 11, 2012

  89. Tyger Tyger

    “In March 2010, the Liberal National Party were calling for the government to stop releasing water from the Wivenhoe, and to conduct an inquiry into whether such a large flood buffer was still needed.
    Queensland’s metro consumption, including industry, is about 430,000 megalitres a year.  The plan estimates that if the Wivenhoe dam level falls below 40% they will have difficulty meeting this demand. The Wivenhoe spent nearly all of the period from 2005 to 2009 well below 40% capacity.
    At the time opposition water spokesman Jeff Sweeney cited a 2005 state government report, which he said showed that 2m of extra storage (and 2m less of flood buffer) would add 228,000 megalitres of drinking water. With the Wivenhoe running above 90% capacity since March, it’s likely that much or all of this increase would have been added to the flood.
    Queensland Water Commission acting executive director Dan Spiller responded by saying that more research would be needed and that authorities were preparing for “events much worse than anything on record”. ”Flooding and rainfall remain very unpredictable and that is the reason why the dam sensibly contains a buffer for flood mitigation,” he said.”

    Crikey, 13 Jan. 2011

  90. Tyger Tyger

    “In December 2007, Wivenhoe Dam was at a critically low 15 per cent. By the end of the next year it had climbed to 32 per cent, and by the end of 2009 it had doubled again to 62 per cent. [of 225%]
    Now with so much water the State Government has no option but to send it out to sea in case of more flooding.
    Authorities had been planning to empty the dam of its flood storage compartment much earlier, but had to hold off because the Lockyer Creek and Brisbane River were already overflowing from the rain.”

    Queensland Times, 30 Dec. 2010

  91. David Hand

    Hey Tyger,
    You’re losing sleep, mate. I certainly don’t have time to trawl through the inquiry about the floods where every party involved was trying to shift blame. So this is my last comment.

    I’ve made my point, that the global warming activist cult was saying to anyone who would listen back in 2007 that the drought was here to stay due to climate change, and were then proven spectacularly wrong.

    That was my original point to support a view that the science of climate change is not settled.

    Get some sleep mate.

  92. fractious

    Tyger #89
    “I disagree on the futility of arguing the toss with the likes of Calderwood and Hand”

    My take – and I would never insist anyone who disagress is wrong – is that those who happen to have dropped in on this conversation (and millions like it) who really *are* interested in the facts will go find out more for themselves anyway. The Calderwoods and Hands aren’t remotely interested in the facts (as their posts here and elsewhere plainly demonstrate), except insofar as they can select certain of them and use them (usually bereft of their original context) to “prove” something. Consequently, they’re simply not worth the expenditure of time and energy.

  93. Tyger Tyger

    @95: You said “Flannery et.al. spruiking eternal drought” led to Wivenhoe dam containing more water than it “should”, thus worsening the impact of the 2010-11 floods. It’s there in black and white. I have clearly demonstrated the falsity of that claim. I’ll leave it to others to make up their own minds as to what that says about the veracity of the other claims you make on the topic of climate change, and your motive for making them. I rest my case.
    Meanwhile, your pretended, “humorous” concern for when and how much I sleep is instructive. Is that the best you’ve got left?

  94. Tom Hartney

    Interesting how all of these ‘experts’ use the opportunity as a soap-box to reinforce their own climate misinformation campaign. They accuse those who take a science-based approach to this topic of ‘religious’ zealotry; they accuse those who simply relay the warnings of scientists as ‘alarmists’; they tell us to find a poster person, but vilify any public figure brave enough to act as the face of the campaign. Nevertheless, there are some valuable suggestions, like holding off on the scare-tactics and focusing on ‘me and my kids.’

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