I have been on an interesting journey through the world of climate change denial and I would like to share some of my travel highlights with you.
I started with my favourite video of well- known climate change denier and world government alarmist, Lord Christopher Monckton (a must watch if you haven’t seen it). He is the pin-up boy of the mining industry, a man whose “expert” opinion is often quoted by Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt. The meeting is in the boardroom of the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a free-market think-tank founded by west Australian mining magnate Ron Manners. Monckton explains how they need to control the media to achieve their goals. Interestingly, not long after this meeting took place, Gina Rinehart bought $192 million worth of shares in Fairfax (the publisher of Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and many regional newspapers and city-based radio stations) to take her share in the company to about 14 per cent.
Monckton applauds the work of Andrew Bolt, and also Joanne Codling who is better known by her stage name, Jo Nova, which she adopted in 1998 when she was preparing to host a children’s television program. Jo Nova is married to David Evans and she and her husband joined Lord Monckton on a speaking tour in Australia in 2011. The advertising for the tour describes Nova and Evans as “leading Australian scientists” who will, along with headliner Monckton, explain how “the carbon tax will bankrupt Australia” and show how “the science does not justify it.”
Let’s start with Monckton, the third Viscount of Benchley, a hereditary title in the United Kingdom. Contrary to Monckton’s claims, he is not a member of the House of Lords in the Parliament of Britain. In fact, when Monckton persisted with the lie, the House of Lords took the unprecedented step of publishing an open letter to him, demanding that he cease and desist.
Monckton is not a scientist. He has a degree in classics and a diploma in journalism. Nevertheless, the Heartland Institute lists him as an expert with their organization, where they publish his posts on climate change. He is also a frequent speaker at the Institute’s annual International Conference on Climate Change. He is listed as a “scientist” in American Senator Inhofe’s report claiming more than 1,000 scientists disputed there’s a scientific consensus on climate change. He has TWICE been asked by Republicans to testify about climate change before committees of the U.S. Congress
Monckton is the Chief Policy Advisor to climate change denial lobby group Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI). His bio on their site stated that:
“His contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 – the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise – earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate. His Nobel prize pin, made of gold recovered from a physics experiment, was presented to him by the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, USA”
When Christopher Monckton was challenged about this during a visit to Australia in early 2010 he conceded that “it was a joke, a joke” and “never meant to be taken seriously”. The Sydney Morning Herald noted that despite this, he had made the same claim with a “straight face” on the Alan Jones show one day prior, and the claim remained on the SPPI website until 2012.
He also describes himself as a “chief policy advisor” to former British PM Margaret Thatcher, and frequently introduces himself as her “chief science advisor” when interviewed by the conservative media.
Monckton has been quoted as saying “I gave her advice on science as well as other policy from 1982-1986, two years before the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded”, that he was “the only one who knew any science” and that “it was I who – on the prime minister’s behalf – kept a weather eye on the official science advisers to the government, from the chief scientific adviser downward”. Bob Ward in the Guardian investigated these claims and found them to be false.
Monckton claimed that he has developed a cure for Graves’ Disease, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, the flu, and the common cold. This is no joke–he actually filed an application to patent a “therapeutic treatment” in 2009.
I could go on and on, including when he dressed up in Arabian clothes and pretended to be a delegate from Myanmar at the UN climate change talks (from which he has since been permanently banned), or when he described Professor Ross Garnaut as a fascist and said in a German accent “Heil Hitler! on we go”, or his launch of the fringe political group Rise Up Australia, or when he threatened to sue the University of Tasmania, but I think you already get my drift on the credibility of this “expert”.
Moving on to Jo Nova. Nova received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Australia majoring in micro and molecular biology. She also received a Graduate Certificate in Scientific Communication from the Australian National University in 1989, and went on to host children’s science shows. She loves to do the denier shuffle on her blog but seems to not care at all about the validity of her sources.
Ms Nova’s husband David Evans “attended the University of Sydney for five years from 1979 where he did science and engineering, and then spent a further five years at Stanford University at Palo Alto in California, doing a PhD in electrical engineering”. According to his biographical note, Evans rhetorically describes himself as a “Rocket Scientist”. While Evans use of the term was rhetorical, one article on a website for the conspiracy-minded took it literally and headed an article about Evans claiming “Top Rocket Scientist: No Evidence CO2 Causes Global Warming”.
Evans has made a number of claims about the role of banking institutions throughout history and subscribes to the conspiracy theory that “climate change is merely a cover for a massive power play”.
I fail to see how these two could be described as “leading Australian scientists” or what their qualifications are to join the climate change denial talk circuit as experts. This excellent article from Watching the Deniers details the claims made by Nova and Evans over the years. And they call US alarmists! Paranoia anyone?
So who pays these people to present their “expert” views? That trail leads to people like Gina Rinehart and Ron Manners, and groups like the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), and the Galileo Movement.
The Galileo Movement was started by two retired men, one was formerly paid by mining companies and the other is a former engineer who owns an air-conditioning company. They apparently formed with the express intention of stopping the carbon tax. Alan Jones is their patron and the usual suspects are named as “expert advisers”, a list which until recently included Andrew Bolt. (When Bolt dumps you you KNOW you are out there.)
The Galileo Movement are advertising an upcoming talk by radio talkback personality John MacRae, a regular on Alan Jones show, about how banks and governments are ripping you off, and Malcolm Roberts, their project manager, who “will speak for 20 minutes on government abuse of taxpayer funding through corruption of climate science”. It seems Roberts is also heavily embroiled in the banking conspiracy theory.
So my tour has really been a circle, revisiting the same places again and again. Gina Rinehart, Lord Monckton, Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, David Evans, Alan Jones, the Galileo Movement, Malcolm Roberts. The resources that are being devoted to this misinformation campaign are formidable. The arguments go “round, like a circle in a spiral and a wheel within a wheel”. Lies and obfuscation, cherry-picking data and repeating any claim regardless of its credibility or source.
The mad monk even appeared as a speaker with the even madder Monckton in Perth. If these are the people that our current government goes to for climate change advice, Lord save us. And I don’t mean the feathered loon variety.
Author’s note: This is one of a series of articles looking at the people who advise Tony Abbott. Others include AIMN articles, Who do you admire, Has anybody seen Tony’s envoy, Putting our First People last and Tony’s tame expert.