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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Tyger Tyger

    Forgive my cynicism, [email protected], 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?

  4. Tyger Tyger

    [email protected]: KAPOW!

    With apologies to Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler:

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

    Cheers and Thank You.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Tyger Tyger

    [email protected]: “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.


  9. Tyger Tyger

    [email protected]: 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.

  10. 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.

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