Much has been written about climate change in recent years. There seems to be a belief by some that it is possible to argue both sides of the debate, that both sides have great merit in their positions. What I present here are many attempts to downplay the reality of Climate Change in the mainstream media (MSM) and the way in which that position is an incoherent muddle of misinformation and contradiction. I add some science derived from Tony Eggleton in his book “A short introduction to Climate Change” (Cambridge UP, 2013).
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Ian Plimer, “Repeat after me: Carbon dioxide is good for you” (7/8/18).
Plimer emphasises two “fallacies”:
- human emissions drive global warming
- future climate can be predicted by computer models.
He goes on to elaborate.
There is no connection between temperature and CO2 emissions, but there is between solar activity and temperature. Climate models over the past 30 years did not predict what actually happened because they assume that CO2 had the pivotal role. Sun and orbit, he says, drive climate change.
Later he asks, “Why should Australia be the only country out of step and aim for an impossible bankrupting reduction of 26% or more of our 2005 CO2 emissions?”
In fact, we might ask why do we reduce any emissions at all if, as he claims, CO2 has nothing to do with climate change?
Giles Auty, in “Rainy Day Notes” (7/12/18), quotes from Plimer’s “Heaven+Earth: Global Warming – The Missing Science”.
“Despite our comfortable materialistic lives in the Western world there are many who ask is this all? They want a meaning to life and yearn for a spiritual life…a new religion has been invented to fulfil this need: extreme environmentalism. It is an urban atheistic religion disconnected from the environment.”
Auty goes on to say:
“The fact that ‘global warming’ caused by human CO2 emissions is a scientifically demonstrable myth has no bearing on the tenacity of beliefs which simply replace earlier forms of primitive or extreme religiosity.”
Tony Abbott has spoken of belief in global warming in terms of sacrificing goats to appease the gods. More recently he has flipped on his demand to leave the Paris Agreement. Not quite so sure now? Just political expediency?
John Howard has said he is an ‘agnostic’ with regard to global warming. He is more certain about his belief in ‘traditional’ methods of creating electricity – by which he no doubt means coal. But the religious word ‘agnostic’ is interesting, the use of coal is primitive – and as PM of Australia he should have had a better access to information. But his “agnosticism” gets in the way – or is it ideology?
Another person who should have had plenty of access to climate change information and who claims to be “agnostic” is Maurice Newman. But then he might have had closer association with actual deniers. He said, April 22, 2014, “…t here is no empirical evidence that man-made CO2, man-made emissions are adding to the temperature on earth. We have not had any measurable increase in temperature on earth in the last 17.5 years… no evidence that CO2 has driven climate change either… because Mother Nature is not complying”.
In Nov 2012, he said:
“When Mother Nature decided in 1980 to change gears from cooler to warmer, a new global warming religion was born…”
Already, we see some contradiction arising – there has been warming, but not now, he says. Newman remains “agnostic”.
On July 3, 2013, Maurice said:
“While CO2 may be a greenhouse gas, it seems that natural forces dominate climate change, not mankind’s emissions. Henrik Svenmark’s Theory of Cosmoclimatology (the role of cosmic rays) might be right”.
So he is willing to believe Svensmark’s catechism, but not the IPPC’s, because Svensmark’s avoids blaming the burning of fossil fuels. Yet there is this concession that “CO2 may be a greenhouse gas”.
But already in Feb, 2012, Svensmark had been “guest author” in a book called “Die kalte Sonne” (The cold sun) which espoused that ‘global warming over the past 150 years is part of a natural cycle that is characterised primarily by the sun”.
According to some sources (such as Zeit Online) the book contains numerous fallacies… these fallacies include the book’s claims that the Earth has not warmed since 1998, that the Hockey Stick graph was a hoax, that only the sun is to blame for global warming, that the IPPC has manipulated climate science, and that we are entering a period of global cooling due to solar activity”. Newman seems to have bet on the wrong horse. Perhaps he, too, has vested interests (an accusation he levels at IPPC scientists when he said, July 3, 2013, “… the science of human-caused climate change is a smokescreen for vested interests”).
(Source: desmogblog.com and see Eggleton, 2013, pp.34-35 re sun spots and re Svensmark).
For these people, climate change/global warming is merely something you believe in or you don’t. If you believe, they say, it is a primitive religion; if you do not believe, you must be a highly sophisticated scientist – or some such thing.
Another scientist who has criticised the IPCC stance on Climate Change was the late Bob Carter writing in his book “Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies about Climate Change” (2011). The fatuous title, the cartoons and the Credlin confession that Gillard’s carbon ‘tax’ was not a tax reveal a great deal.
Carter tells us that CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas’ and Greenhouse gases play a key role on controlling temperature (p 90). But then he goes on to say that the more CO2 there is, the less effective it is. He claims this according to a “projection, using the MODTRAN standard atmospheric model (University of Chicago).
All of which is very interesting because Carter contradicts Plimer on both counts: CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the failures of computer driven climate models.
Another writer on things climate change is Jo Nova at joannenova.com.au: “Townsville flood maps reviewed as more houses go under”.
Nova tells us:
“If we had better climate models, perhaps we might have been able to empty the dam before the downpour instead of during it…
“The local Government Guru must be flummoxed. He (Hallam) even protests they used the ‘Monte Carlo’ risk analysis ‘as recommended in 2012 by experts’. What could possibly go wrong?
“How about basing a $1.5 trillion global industry, agriculture, energy generation and national wealth on models one hundred times more complex which also use a ‘Monte Carlo’ analysis.”
She goes on to recommend a certain “Assessing Climate Change under Uncertainty: a Monte Carlo Approach” by Jeeyoung Park, submitted “in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the Master of Environmental management degree at Duke University, 2008.
Notice Nova’s use of the word ‘perhaps’ and the snide comment about a Guru expert – and “What could possibly go wrong?” Experts are regarded by deniers as deluded elites(?)
Remember that Plimer said climate change cannot be predicted by computer models. And that carbon dioxide has nothing to do with global warming. He is contradicted by Bob Carter with regard to carbon dioxide and computer modelling. Jo Nova speaks about a ‘one hundred times more powerful computer model to do the job. Note also how her modelling is to rescue a highly profitable economy. Yet Nova has also been very sceptical of computer modelling [Eggleton p. 181].
Perhaps it is the economy which needs to be changed. Perhaps it is the economy which is wrong, not the IPCC science.
The Townsville floods of a year’s rainfall falling in a week is an extraordinary event. Around the world people are seeing weather events of magnitude and power they have never seen before. And as for the Park computer model, “one hundred times more complex’, have we seen it at work at all? And if it is our coal-driven economy is the cause of Anthropogenic Global Warming, is that economy worth saving or are humans bound to find another way?
Graham Lloyd writes that:
“Weather has always been wild: don’t assume it’s part of a trend” as a by-line for his article “Latest forecasts: Climate of fear” (2/9-10/2019).
In the middle of his essay, he quotes Judith Curry as saying to the US house natural resources committee hearing:
“Based on current assessments of the science, man-made climate change is not an existential threat on the timescale of the C21st, even in its most alarming incarnation. If we believe the climate models, any changes in extreme weather events would not be evident until late in the C21st. The greatest impacts will be felt in the C22nd and beyond.
“… extreme damage from recent hurricanes plus billion-dollar losses from floods, droughts and wildfires emphasise the vulnerability of the US to extreme events.”
“Vulnerability”? So that is the problem, not climate change and extreme events per se. She might very well have mentioned Australia as well – and all the world, perhaps?
She goes on: “It’s easy to forget that US extreme weather events were actually worse in the 1930s and 1950s”. This is the old distraction: ”Oh, look over there! Climate change has always happened!”
But has it really? Is there something different about the present global warming? Something about the rate of change – far different from Curry’s predictions of far off consequences? Are we not seeing consequences now?
Later Curry explains we can do nothing, or we can eliminate fossil fuels. She finds both ideas inadequate:
“A third option is to re-imagine the C21st electric power system, with new technologies that improve energy security, reliability and cost while minimising environmental impacts.”
“New technologies”? Unfortunately, if she is not referring to renewables, it is a pipe dream which kicks the problem down the road and offers no solution at all. It is of the Bjorn Lomborg kind which also tells us that climate change is real, that we cannot afford to reduce emissions but we could tackle other priorities such as TB and malaria until some technological solution arises to tackle climate change!
Jennifer Marohasy’s “solution” is: “… rather than existing climate models, which are unable even to predict events such as the Townsville flood even weeks beforehand, climate science should pay more attention to artificial intelligence systems that can include cycles.”
What Marohasy means by “cycles” is not clear, something about understanding “relationships in historical data”. Sounds like pie in the sky wishful thinking that such cycles exist, created in her own mind already without the aid of artificial intelligence. No examples are given, of course. She is merely trying to avoid blaming carbon dioxide as the culprit and instead proposes some arcane blend of cycles, such as orbits, Milankovic cycles, the carbon cycle, the sunspot cycle, Earth rotation, perhaps…anything but carbon dioxide?
What we see is how deniers are not able to compile a coherent denier science about the origins of Climate Change and frequently contradict each other and themselves.
Chris Mitchell: “Finding Facts: the Left often ignores the story to create its own story narrative” (4/2/19)
(And the Murdoch media doesn’t?)
“… generally the Left media loves to accuse those dissenting from fashionable views of being stupid…People on social media do it to get ‘likes’ on Twitter and Facebook. But for the thought leaders of the Left it is a deliberate tactic.”
Which explains why the Murdoch media publishes denier nonsense daily to comfort its adherents.
Mitchell goes on to say that Abbott, who
“used to write editorials… former Rhodes Scholar, volunteer lifesaver … (is being regarded as) a poor local member because of his position on climate change”.
Now there we have indeed a bit of ‘identity politics’ and ‘virtue signalling’ (favorite Murdoch phrases). The former PM, known for his poor judgement and sacked by his Party, is criticised for his view of climate change, on which he has recently flipped? Nothing about the lies, the lack of judgement, the wrecking of the NBN … and the sniping and treachery exhibited from the back bench in his bid to be PM again?
Furthermore, Mitchell has the obligatory shot at the ABC:
“The ABC took the cake for moral posturing on Wednesday when the ABC local radio’s Country Hour carried a report saying farmers needed federal subsidies to plant trees on grazing land to provide shade for live- stock… Average temperatures in Australia have risen 0.7 of a degree C since the start of the Twentieth Century”.
The average temperature has risen more than that. Besides, no mention of successive hottest years in the C21st, nor of the years of drought. It is just the ABC’s ‘moral posturing’.
In more recent times, we have seen the failures and falsities of the Coalition’s Green Army program and revelations of massive land clearance in Queensland and NSW. A report in The Conversation (11/3/19), written by a team of authors, tells us that in Queensland in the three years to June 2018, the equivalent of 570,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds were cleared. That is, 1,138,000 hectares including 284,000 hectares of remnant (old growth) forest.
Tree reduction in parts of eastern Australia has increased surface temperatures by up to 2 degrees C.
In the SW corner of Western Australia only 7% of the natural flora still exist. Only 2% of rain forest still exists on the east coast.
In Tasmania this summer there have been terrible fires, raising fears for the survival of some specific trees, such as pencil pines. Emeritus Professor Aynsley Kellow has said the trees are “fire adapted”. Other scientists say they are not. Why is there this discrepancy?
So we come to Dr Peter Ridd, for example, who has written that coral is the ‘least endangered of any ecosystem to future climate change’.
He also tells us that he ‘raises almost all his research funds from the profits of consultancy work which is usually associated with monitoring of marine dredging operations’. Consequently he reports that the Great Barrier Reef is in fine shape and thrives in heat. As well, silt flowing through the Reef has no bad effects. No conflict of interest there? Who pays the piper?
He has been director of the Australian Environmental Foundation which has promoted the rejection of human-caused climate change since 2005 (desmog.com/peter-ridd).
Meanwhile, as reported on the ABC, scientists at the James Cook University have demonstrated that coral is affected by temperature. One of the scientists went to Hawaii to see how scientists there are breeding hybrid corals to resist heat. Another scientific contradiction.
Environment is referred to in a piece by Bella D’Abrera: “Young eco-warriors not taught about how we power democracy”. A by-line says: “Many teachers and lecturers see themselves as agents of change, not instructors” (15/3/2019). D’Abrera is director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation program at the IPA.
She claims that “From their first day at school until their last they are taught an environmental determinist view of human civilisation…’ and she seizes upon the word ‘sustainability’ in the curriculum that claims ‘humans and the natural environment are interrelated.”
She goes on:
“They are essentially being taught that it is our civilisation, Western Civilisation, that is failing both the Earth and humankind…
“However, few students are taught about the costs that come with climate action…deliberately omitted from their education.”
We recognise here the ideas of Lomborg and those economists who are intent on business-as-usual. It seems to derive from the Biblical idea of humans being given dominion over the Earth. It also reveals why school curriculum Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) was so vilified by the right-wing media. The environment for them is there to be bought and sold for the benefit of infinite growth and wealth. If there are increases in global warming, it is too expensive to do anything about it and humans must simply endure it to survive.
We might ask, then: What is the cost of cooking the planet? What are the consequences of not acting sufficiently to Climate Change?
So how do all these ideas play out in the thinking of readers of right-wing media? Following are some Letter to the Editor written by readers echoing the articles on Climate Change appearing in the newspaper.
(1) This letter is about CO2 emissions from volcanoes based on a statement from the US Geological Survey in the newspaper. The writer asks: “If the emissions from volcanoes never causes global warming then logic would say that man-made CO2 emissions also never cause global warming”.
Looking at articles published by the Survey, I could not find the quotation referred to. But Climate.gov. response to the question, Which emits more CO2: volcanoes or human activities? says: “In fact, several individual US states emit more CO2 in a year than all the volcanoes on the planet combined do’.
The question raised by the correspondent is very like a question raised by Ian Plimer: “Can you show me how 3% of annual emissions of carbon dioxide, that is the human emissions, drive climate change and the other 97% do not?”
The falsehood is in the question. Eggleton points out: ‘All the CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to the establishment of the basic global temperature level…’ not just some of it  That is, a global level of14 degrees C . Plimer refuses to acknowledge that natural CO2 at 280 ppm has maintained that basic global temperature level for at least the past 10,000 years . Many deniers refuse to admit this role for CO2. If volcano CO2 emissions were to match the human emissions, they would have to emit at 30X their current annual rate . Currently, the CO2 level in the atmosphere is 410 ppm, the highest level of carbon dioxide for at least the past 24 million years .
“At present the world is warming at the rate of 1 degree C in 60 years; that is, 20 times faster than any previous sustained rate of temperature change .
No point in trying to equate past climate changes with the current climate change. They do not equate.
We need to look carefully at figures used in newspapers. The article referred to by the correspondent claims volcanoes emit at the rate of 600 million tonnes per year. Eggleton says 300 million tonnes per year on average .
(2) This letter comments on a claim by the CSIRO that “recent warming can only be explained by human interference”. The reply given by the correspondent is that the climate has changed for millennia, but he does not seem to understand that reasons for change are not always the same. The response goes on the say that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is only 0.04% – and this is supposed to be the reason why it could not possibly cause global warming even if it were to be doubled or tripled.
Yet he is happy to claim that 0.04% CO2 is “the gas of life and without it we could not exist.”
That is, it is capable of supporting life on Earth, but like Plimer, the writer refuses to acknowledge the part played by CO2 at 280ppm in also keeping the average Earth temperature at 14 degrees C .
(3) This letter attacks the ABC for showing film of ice breaking off into the sea, bushfires, storms and floods. These are events which have occurred before, it is claimed, but there is no explanation about to what degree. (People are saying across the world that they have never seen anything like it.) But he wants the ABC to show how “higher levels of CO2 do not drive up the temperature. In fact, the reverse is true”.
So are we to believe that in fact the Earth is cooling, despite the recent years being the hottest recorded?
The idea of more CO2 having less effect is very much like Carter’s claim. But the CO2 does have an effect as more is emitted into the atmosphere. “Doubling the amount of CO2 or water vapour does not double the heat absorption; fortunately, it increases it by only about 30 percent” . It does increase the heat, not the reverse. It is still a heating effect and not a cooling.
So the writer goes to solar activity and releasing CO2 from the oceans. But if CO2 has nothing to do with global warming, why claim the release of CO2 into the atmosphere? We know that by far the greater influential CO2 is that produced by the burning of fossil fuels. And we can see the extent of that kind of CO2 in the isotopes of carbon found in the atmosphere .
If by solar activity the writer is also referring to sunspots, Eggleton tells us: ”…Judith Lean of the US Naval research Laboratory concluded that the 11-year sunspot cycle causes a temperature fluctuation of about 0.1 degree C, and that since 1850 a gradual overall increase in the Sun’s irradiance has added perhaps another 0.1 degree C to the global temperature” [34-35]. Maurice Newman, take note.
(4) This letter asks how Australia can go it alone in influencing the climate. He says we cannot afford it. This is of course the argument of Lomborg and a number of people who are adherents to fossil fuels.
The truth is that we do not have to ‘go it alone’. That is the purpose of agreements such as Paris. It is why we have the United Nations.
But the myopic approach which thinks only of the sovereignty of Australia and its wealth beneath the ground and thinks only of the rest of the world as a market for its coal, is sure to lead to disaster
The big question to ask the author is: What is the cost of not reducing emissions?
Then there is the matter of gas. “Expanding gas mining threatens our climate, water and health” by Melissa Hastwell and David Shearman (The Conversation, 21/3/19) tells us: “Yes, burning gas emits less carbon dioxide than burning coal. Yet the ‘fugitive emissions’ – the methane that escapes, often unmeasured, during production, distribution and combustion of gas – is a much more potent short-term greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide…
“Current gas expansion plans in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, where another 2,500 coal seam gas wells have been approved. Harvesting all of WA’s gas reserves would emit more CO2 equivalent than Australia’s total domestic energy-related emissions budget…
“Chemicals found in gas mining wastewater include volatile organic compounds such as benzene, phenols and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, as well as heavy metals, radioactive materials, and endocrine-disruptive substances – compounds that can affect the body’s hormones.”
There are risks to health, climate, water and food security.
Reading such a list of problems reminds us of the details associated with the smoking of tobacco.
So we have numerous individual people and organisations warning us of the dangers of carbon dioxide (and methane) emissions. The IPCC. The Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO to name a few. Sir David Attenborough, individual scientists such as Tim Flannery, writers and intellectual such as Judith Wright, Richard Flanagan, John Kinsella and Tim Winton lament the ravages of human activity on the environment. Numerous fine Indigenous writers lament the destruction of country. Even a farm worker poet, John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) noticed the loss of birdsong as trees were cleared in the Mallee region. Too many to name: poets, politicians, scientists, farmers, journalists, ordinary citizens.
I remember years ago reading the work of William Blake and the ‘dark satanic mills’. And of William Wordsworth’s ‘getting and spending we lay waste our powers’.
More recently, there have been legal judgements made, such as the NSW Land and Environment Court decision blocking the Rocky Hill mine in the Hunter Valley region (Feb, 2019).
Or the US judgement blocking mining in Wyoming for not quantifying climate change impacts of oil and gas leasing.
Naomi Klein and Noam Chomski have written extensively.
The IPPC has written lengthy reports.
So much information and opinion available. Yet the Murdoch media (“For the informed reader”, self-ascribed “Brand of the year”) and other media outlets, as well as independent denier sites, espouse their own home-made thought bubbles or repeat snippets they hear at the bbq or front bar – but have no scientific basis. Too often judgement is blurred by vested interests. And some of those are very rich.
Take for example Rupert Murdoch’s involvement in Genie Energy, which makes claim to fracking shale oil in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights in Syrian territory taken by Israel in 1967. “Covering and distributing news has been my life’s work,” said Mr Murdoch . “If Genie’s effort to develop shale oil is successful, as I believe it will be, then the news we’ll report in the coming decades will reflect a more prosperous, more democratic, and more secure world.” (source: nationofchange.org, 2017/01/15).
Yes, yes. Great news for the world! Great news about climate change, great news about fracking for oil in occupied territory.
To finish, a quotation from the essay by Stephen Muecke, Jury Chair of English language and Literature in the School of Humanities at the University of Adelaide, “A fragile civilisation: Collective living on Australian soil” (From the Griffith Review 63, “Writing the Country”, Text Publishing, 2018)
“The country doesn’t know where it came from or where it is going. It still falsely claims that its heritage is white (those more than 50,000-year-old civilisations count for nothing much except tourist revenue), and it is deluded into thinking it continues to profit from an ever-expanding global economy. Certainly, this situation has been developing for half a century, but it is the threat of environmental disasters that has suddenly introduced a weird reversal of time. We can’t rely on past forms any more. Now it is an actually knowable climate-changed future that is crashing back onto the present with an argument that we must make sensible policy changes. It is this that has opened the fault lines of denial in what I want to call our ‘fragile civilisation’ (pp 56-57)
And I have not even mentioned the all-pervasive and destructive presence of plastics, a petro-chemical product.
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