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.

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

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.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

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

  1. Tyger Tyger

    [email protected]: “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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.’

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details