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Tag Archives: IPCC

We have failed.

There is no need to spend more than a very few words on this post. For the first time in recorded history, probably the first time since our species’ primitive ancestors crawled out of the sea, we have reached the point of two degrees above normal. Two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Think about that for a moment. That’s the figure that the world’s scientists and politicians have agreed marks the advent of dangerous climate change. It’s the figure that has been the de-facto goal of global efforts to avoid, ever since the Kyoto agreement in 1997 and agreed and reinforced innumerable times since. Two degrees is the figure the world has come to view as the mark of success or failure of our efforts to halt climate change. It’s half a degree above the goal agreed at the recent Paris accords.

Two degrees is probably enough to trigger tipping points, starting a chain of unstoppable changes that will irrevocably, radically and rapidly change the planet we live on to something unrecognisable.

We have just reached two degrees of warming, and we show no signs of even making progress towards reversing the trend. The two degrees figure incorporates the effects of a powerful El Nino effect in record heat for February, the hottest month ever recorded. It is possible that heat readings for March may be less terrifyingly extreme than February. Perhaps we’re not yet permanently two degrees above normal. Regardless, the trend is undeniable.

Climate change continues. Climate change is accelerating. Mankind is making no real effort to stop it. We will not survive this. If this milestone does not spur governments to action, likely nothing ever will.

It doesn’t get any more stark than that. We have failed, we are failing, we will fail.

Why a 4 degree global temperature increase is the new game in town

By Dr Anthony Horton

Numerous recent initiatives intend to precipitate action on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the lead up to the Paris Climate Summit, which is now less than 2 months away. In recent weeks, approximately 2000 people and 400 organisations have made commitments to cease investments in fossil fuel producing companies. Countries were asked to nominate actions they would undertake to reduce GHG emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by October 1.

A US Clean Power Plan which was announced in August this year could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power stations by 870 million tonnes by 2030 (equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road). China has committed to peak emissions by 2030, and there are indications that emissions may peak before that. Two weeks ago on September 25, China announced that a national carbon emissions trading scheme would commence in 2017. Shortly after that, Brazil announced a 43% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

When the Paris Climate Summit begins, the parties negotiating a deal need to consider the extent to which global warming is already occurring. Global carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 were 58% higher than they were in 1990 and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have increased from approximately 340 parts per million (ppm) in 1980 to nearly 400ppm today. It is a commonly held belief that in order to limit warming to 2°C the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must stay below 1 trillion tonnes.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we were more than half way to 1 trillion tonnes in 2011 with a total amount of 515 billion tonnes in the atmosphere. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate of 140 billion tonnes each year, temperatures may rise by up to 4.5°C by 2100. Even if each country fully honours its Paris pledge, it is possible that global temperatures may increase by 3.5°C by then.

Global average temperatures are approximately 0.8°C higher than before the Industrial Revolution and a recent study in the journal Science showed that a suspected warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012 didn’t occur-the cooler temperatures arose from measurements from ocean buoys rather than ships. A subsequent study also found flaws in the statistical modelling in the research that pointed to the hiatus.

The world’s oceans are absorbing most of the heat which is being added to the Earth’s climate system. Arctic sea ice coverage in summer has reduced by more than 40% over the past 40 years, and mean sea levels have risen by approximately 20cm since 1880 and could rise by up to 1 metre more by 2100. The Kiribati Government has recently purchased land in Fiji to accommodate residents in the case of flooding.

Given that fresh water is less dense than salt water, melting sheets of ice interrupt oceanic circulation patterns. It is possible that Europe’s climate may cool slightly as a result of the Atlantic meridional driving cold salt water into the deep ocean and warm water northward. The changes in ocean currents may also be shifting jet streams and altering storm patterns.

According to Simon Lewis from University College London, forest fires in Indonesia could release up to 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Recent US fires have consumed more than 2 million hectares of forest. Alaska fared worst due to soot from the fires darkening the ice and reducing its ability to reflect solar radiation away from the Earth.

The Arctic region is reportedly warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth, and if the permafrosts (that store 1,700 Gigatonnes or 1,700 billion tonnes of carbon) thaw out, huge amounts of methane will be released. The big problem with that is the global warming potential of methane is 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

In a paper recently published in Nature Climate Change, researchers from Universities of Cambridge and Colorado estimated that the economic impact of both methane and carbon dioxide being released could be as high as 0.7% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2200 using environmental models. Their research did however include a high level of uncertainty.

A little more than a week ago Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney warned that measures necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change in the long term could result in huge losses  in the shorter term by rendering oil, coal and gas essentially untouchable.

See more on the 4 degree warming scenario here.

I have to say I admire Christiana Figueres’ persistence in urging immediate action-seemingly on a weekly basis. As overseer of the Paris Climate Summit in December she has an unenviable task in obtaining an unprecedented global agreement. Her task is not made any easier given the justification with which some countries are defending their Paris commitments (despite considerable pressure from others) and their apparent lack of understanding that we are all residents of the one Earth.

Most developed countries understand that the old “business as usual” approach simply won’t cut it anymore and that they have a responsibility to take the needs of people in developing countries into account, especially as the majority of these countries have made little contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Announcements are being made virtually every day on social media regarding renewable energy initiatives and/or countries, states or towns that are moving from a reliance on fossil fuels to larger and larger percentages of renewables in their energy mix.

Whether the global average temperature increase by 2100 is predicted to be 2°C or 4°C, it is inevitable that countries need to join together and help each other, including their nearest neighbours. Australia’s recent move to “throw its toys out of the cot” if the UN established an organisation charged with the responsibility of assisting people that are fleeing from the ravages of climate change surely flies in the face of the need to help those around us.

This article was first published on The Climate Change Guy.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

 

Calling “Game Over”

Human-induced climate change is real. The risks of inaction are real and mounting.” So Fairfax editorialised in this week’s papers. The gist of the article is that we still have time to mobilise and get our governments and policymakers to take real action on stymieing climate change. It is probably true, as the article claims, that we are witnessing a slowly dawning awareness of the Australian people and by the global economy. But by some measures, this is significantly too little – and way too late.

“Two degrees celsius.” How many times have you heard the “two degrees” target proposed as the benchmark? Almost every popular media outlet, when writing about climate change (when they’re not claiming it isn’t happening or isn’t worth our attention) includes a statement like “We can still keep warming below two degrees, but we have to start now.” So we talk about carbon budgets. We talk about carbon capture and storage. We argue about the merits of a cap-and-trade system, an incentives system, a carbon tax – as if we still have time to compromise, time to experiment and find the ideal balance between maintaining our treasured social systems and the rescue of the global environment.

The current climate change narrative is based on a series of mistruths and falsities. We are told that we still have time to turn the ship around. The truth is that we do not.

We are told that two degrees is a hard and fast target, beyond which everything turns to disaster and before which we will be okay, if slightly uncomfortable. The truth is that there is no safe limit, that two degrees is not a magic number, and that two degrees is likely already beyond our prevention. The truth is that we have already emitted more than enough carbon to take us to two degrees and well beyond, and we’re showing no signs of slowing.

We are told that even if we go beyond two degrees, the disruption that results will come in the form of hurricanes and bushfires and rising tides. The truth is that while increased frequency and severity of hurricanes and bushfires will be a part of the outcomes of climate change, this is the merest tip of the iceberg. These visible disasters can be constrained and understood as freak occurrences that interrupt the status quo and from which we can recover. Less so is the permanent loss of arable land, the global starvation that may result, and potentially the tipping of our environment into a hellish morass incapable of supporting human life. That we are now seeing reputable sources raising the spectre of near-term human extinction in public narratives is telling of both how far the public discourse has gone ahead of public policy, and of the potential import of the fact that we’ve been so slow to act.

Whilst we have seen that the public and the media are far more accepting of the urgency of action on climate change than any of our leaders are willing to countenance, the public narrative is nevertheless generally years behind the science. Science has been telling us for the better part of a decade that two degrees is both insufficient and unattainable. Meanwhile the news media, and through them the general public, have been absorbed by the question of the reality of climate change, a question that climate researchers put to bed decades ago.

Only in the last few months have we started to see the global narrative start to catch up to reality, which is at the same time optimistic and disheartening. The truth that the media are slowly coming to understand is that two degrees might be possible, but not in the world that we know and live in now. As the media have finally started to catch on that yes, climate change is happening; yes, climate change is deadly serious; and no, we have not acted as quickly and as desperately as required; it begs the question. What is the current state of scientific understanding and how long will it take for the world to catch up to that?

An inevitable outcome?

There are reasons for the lag in public understanding. In years to come the placing of blame might become a hobby, but while attributing responsibility to various groups and individuals is easy, it is also simplistic. The long answer is that our inaction on climate change has been driven by the systems within which we work and live. These systems are well designed to order society and to offer freedom and opportunity to some. They are not effective, however, at providing for philanthropy. Our current systems of democracy and capitalism reward selfishness and self-interest and they pander to our genetic weaknesses. And the unstoppable forces of consumerism encourage and reward immediate gratification not only as a personal pleasure but a social good. The system requires us to buy and consume in order to sustain the order of things. More fundamentally, we need to buy and consume in order to feel good, and we are rewarded by a sense of accomplishment, we are rewarded by social approval and we are rewarded by endorphins. The same psychological tendencies that cause us to become fat and unfit also put barriers in our way to accepting bad news.

Bad news is a climate scientist’s stock in trade. Scientists are conservative by nature – they have to be. Crying wolf leads to a loss of respect and credence, and inevitably to a loss of funding. For a scientist or scientific organisation to decry an oncoming disaster, a high level of proof is required, and this takes time. The rumbling on the tracks isn’t enough: they need to be able to see the oncoming train’s lights before they’re willing to commit.

Scientists are not to blame for their reticence. One of the most constant criticisms of the IPCC’s work is not that the work is flawed, but that the resulting reports are universally conservative. They err on the side of caution. IPCC reports contain a range of projections, using a selection of different assumptions and resulting in very different outcomes, but they do not advise on the relative likelihood of being able to meet these curves. The effect is to allow policymakers to treat each projection as equally possible, and when one or more of the scenarios results in a temperature rise under two degrees, the opportunity arises to claim that this is still in reach. Scientists would say that the contents of the reports are reliable as a best-case scenarios, but that’s not how the reports are received in practice. The policy makers who must take IPCC reports into account largely consider them to be worst-case scenarios, and the urgency of the problem is diminished.

Tempting as it may be to do so, politicians also cannot be blamed for their inaction. Politicians are rewarded (in electoral popularity) for populist messages of hope and optimism. Politicians are punished, severely, for being the messenger that tells their people that they will have to make sacrifices (financial, creature comforts, lifestyle changes) for the sake of the public good. Far worse awaits those who attempt to impose these sacrifices. It is entirely reasonable to expect politicians to clutch at any straws offered, be they a possible solution that doesn’t carry electoral cost (e.g. direct action) or a skerrick of doubt about the science. In an environment filled with lobbyists arguing that there will be consequences to climate action, and think tanks and vested interests obscuring the science with manufactured doubt, motivated by a kind of economics that cannot afford to take climate change into account, it takes a special kind of political courage to take a stand. As we saw in the case of the 2013 election, all too often The People will punish such presumption.

We can’t even blame The People. The truth is that our evolution has not equipped us well to handle the kind of challenge that climate change presents. Humans are an immensely adaptable species, and when we cannot adjust our environment to suit our needs, we can adjust our own lifestyle to suit. However, we almost always need to be spurred into action. We evolved from hunter-gatherers who would gorge in the good times, in preparation for the long stretch of privation that would follow. At our core, we’re not prepared to leave the carcass on the ground.

Too little, too late

However it happens, whatever the cause, we are caught by it. Humanity is having a cook-out in a tunnel and we’ve ignored the rumblings underfoot for too long. It’s not until we see the lights of the oncoming train that we even start the engine of our getaway car and there’s no way we’re dodging this express train.

We read that we have, at most ten or fifteen years to turn the ship around. Here’s the thing, though: they told us this ten or fifteen years ago, too. If the problem was that urgent then, if the need for change was so pressing then, how can we still have a decade left to act now? The explanation is that the definition of “action” is changing. Climate scientists, pressured to give an optimistic outcome – to avoid calling “Game Over” – move the goalposts. They adopt increasingly unrealistic assumptions and expectations in their models of climate action. They invent ever more fanciful future technologies – magic bullets, couched in scientific-sounding terminology.

It is finally reaching the point where normal people – journalists, activists, even politicians – are calling them out on it. The likelihood of us being able to meet a trajectory to keep temperature increases below two degrees is presently somewhere between none and laughable. But so long as it is still technically possible to succeed at halting global warming, we keep hearing the “we still have time” message. So let’s have a look at what is actually required to stave off the kind of climate change that runs an even risk of killing every human on the planet.

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/12/two-degrees-will-we-avoid-dangerous-climate-change/ : “In order to get back on track, emissions need to peak and then fall by between 40 and 70 per cent by 2050, the IPCC says, with unabated fossil fuel burning almost entirely phased out by 2100… That would require a never-before seen global effort to be sustained for a generation.”

http://www.vox.com/2015/5/15/8612113/truth-climate-change : “Holding temperature down under 2°C — the widely agreed upon target — would require an utterly unprecedented level of global mobilization and coordination, sustained over decades. There’s no sign of that happening, or reason to think it’s plausible anytime soon.”

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119757/two-degrees-climate-change-no-longer-possible : “To be sure, the IPCC noted, it’s conceivable the world still could stay below that level – but only if governments immediately imposed stringent and internationally uniform carbon limits, and if a host of new low-carbon energy technologies proved able to scale up. Those are massive “ifs,” and though the IPCC wasn’t so impolite as to say so, there’s little to suggest that perfect trajectory will play out.”

In order to achieve the goal, humanity as a species must put aside national partisanship, untrammelled economic growth as a priority, and our current industrial machinery. Advanced economies must immediately and radically decarbonise their economies, at the same time as effectively building first-world economies in less advanced nations who would otherwise strive to catch up to “modern” standards of living via their own industrial revolutions. Humans in the affluent West must accept a curtailing of their profligate lifestyles and their aspirations.

Some have likened the effort required to the mobilization of the West in the early days of World War II, when entire economies were retooled to face an existential threat. But these similes were raised half a decade ago, and the problem has become even more dire since then. We must, as a species, put the good of the planet and the environment ahead of our own short-term interests. This is something that goes against our very nature.

But even our best intentions are not enough. At this point, there is enough carbon in the atmosphere to blow through two degrees and well beyond – potentially setting off the feedback loops and tipping points that bring us to a very final The End. In order to limit temperature rise to two degrees, current models include assumptions about negative carbon emissions – capturing carbon from the atmosphere and putting it into the ground or into trees. This requires either huge swathes of territory to be converted to forests – and only good, arable, important-for-feeding-seven-billion-humans land will do – or the widespread adoption of technology that doesn’t even exist yet.

Is it time yet to call game over?

You can’t get there from here

There are a number of good reasons to declare “Game Over” on climate change.

Because there is a point beyond which hope becomes denial.

We see an example with Australian farmers in northern Queensland. Devastated by crippling floods in early 2013, it did not take long before large portions of Queensland were back in the Long Dry. By March 2014, the State’s largest ever drought had been declared, following the failure of the “wet season”. Drought is a largely artificial definition, designed primarily to enable governments to provide assistance to affected areas, predicated on the understanding that this is a “natural disaster” and will come to an end. The terminology of “drought”, at core, assumes that there is a normal state of being, and the lack of rain is an exception, an aberration, on par with storms or cyclones.

More than a year later, the rains have failed again and the drought has not broken – it has become worse. All this in advance of a predicted severe El Nino. The signs are not looking good for relief for our beleaguered Queensland farmers any time soon. And still we hear politicians State and Federal talking about drought assistance, of getting the farmers through the hard patch before the rains return.

According to my calculations, most of Queensland has been officially in drought for fifteen of the last twenty-five years. An El Nino can run for up to seven years, so we may be in for a significant period before the end of this cycle. If you’re living under drought conditions for more years than under wet conditions, can it really be called a drought any longer? At what point do we bow to the inevitable and admit that, rather than being a drought, this is the new normal? That climate change has made these areas untenable for ongoing agriculture? That continuing to support farmers with “drought assistance” is a never-ending battle that cannot be won?

Admitting defeat would mean the departure of farmers from these lands and force an alteration to the economy and markets of the State. It could be argued that reclassifying land as non-arable will destroy the lives of farmers trying to eke out a living on it, but it could as well be argued that those lives are destroyed anyway and farmers seeking support are modern-day King Canutes who will eventually have to move anyway.

Sometimes, it makes more sense to just admit defeat, rather than throwing good money after bad.

Because denial makes us focus on the actions that we need to take to win, rather than getting started on the actions required upon losing

As long as electors are told that two degrees is possible if only we find the right balance of punitive and reward policies the longer the policy debate remains mired in detail and technicality. It allows governments to hold out policies like Direct Action as a valid approach to climate change. It allows an ETS to include a variety of loopholes and concessions designed to protect vulnerable industries at the expense of the scheme’s effectiveness. This author has been a critic of the Greens’ approach to Labor’s ETS, scuttling a plan that might have gotten a foot in the door because it wasn’t ideal at the outset. But that was then, and this is now. It is far too late for half-measures. Unfortunately, we will never see full-strength climate policies as long as politicians can still argue that all will be well if we just cut our emissions by “five percent over 2000 levels”.

Because reality

If for no other reason, it might be valid to call an end to the charade of climate change action because it’s a colossal waste of time and money on the basis of a lie. It’s a lie, because none of those arguing loudly that we can still save the world are taking the next step and adding “only if we do what the world has never managed to do before and only if all the cards fall our way”. This is a lie of omission, and those telling it are often not even aware of it because they themselves have not been shown the sheer unlikelihood of what they’re proposing. If we reframe the argument in the appropriate terms, at least we can start talking about things with a sense of truth and reality rather than what we hope might be the case.

Reasons not to declare “Game Over”

Because it might not be

There may still be time – if atmospheric sensitivity is lower than modelled, and if we can invent and distribute carbon capture technology, and if the world radically reverses direction. Under the IPCC’s optimistic models, there is still time. Meeting these optimistic assumptions will be a heroic task, but we won’t get there if we don’t try and we won’t try if we’ve already thrown in the towel. An important first step would be the support of research into carbon capture / atmospheric cleaning technologies that will be absolutely fundamental to any kind of success from here.

Because it’s too important

Declaring “game over” sends the message to those who’d be most harmed by climate change that they aren’t worth saving.”  Our mythologies are full of humans in dire circumstances not giving up on hope. If there has ever been a cause around which the world could rally, that has the immediate threat to human survival on a global scale and the fortunes of small groups of people in specific, this is it. To give up on climate action is to give up on a large part of the world, raise the fences around the wagons and wait out the next great Human Extinction. Those most badly affected will be those who contributed to it the least and are least deserving. For the advanced nations to give up while there is still even the ghost of a chance is to add insult to lethal injury.

Because we need the urgency

We need urgency; we need the seriousness. There’s a fine line between panic-inducing immediacy and threat, and inertia-generating fatalism. World War II, in its size and ferocity and its immediacy, was enough to jolt the western world into action. We will see, over the next decade, increasingly dire climate outcomes. At some point, public attitudes and governmental policies will catch up with the exigencies of climate reality. The media and the government may always be a decade behind in understanding the threat, but action taken now on the basis of last decade’s threats will still have a beneficial effect on this decade’s crisis. We don’t know for sure that we can salvage the silverware, but we can be absolutely certain that nothing will survive if we stop fighting for it.

Because game over isn’t necessarily “game over”

We will miss two degrees – but the story doesn’t end there. “Everyone agrees on the general point — risks and damages keep piling up as the world gets hotter. So if the world can’t prevent 2°C of warming, it’s still a good idea to try and avoid 3°C of warming. If we can’t avoid 3°C of warming, it’s still a good idea to avoid 4°C. And so on.” The world doesn’t end at 2 degrees. Tipping points and reinforcing cycles may mean that the world is more fragile than it appears, but every extra degree of warming increases the inhospitability of our future world far more than the degree before it. If we can halt warming at three degrees, it’s still worth doing.

Because victory ain’t what it used to be

In the end, we may be forced to move the goalposts of what constitutes success. The two degrees scenario is aimed at preserving our current civilization. Restrain global warming to two degrees and we may be able to retain our present way of life, our creature comforts, our technology, and our populations. It may be – it probably is – too late for that: our world will change and our way of life must change to suit the new, hotter world we are creating.

But the end of our current, comfortable civilisation does not have to be the end of the human story. If the worst case scenarios are true, then the game is no longer about salvaging a world for our children: it is about salvaging a world for ANY children. If it is too late for current nation-states to survive, it’s not yet too late for modern life somewhere, somehow. If it becomes too late for capitalism as we know it, it’s not yet too late to preserve some kind of civilisation. If it is too late for us, it is not yet too late for humanity. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but however far beyond the point of no return we may have gone, we know that there is more road yet to travel. In the end, the best reason not to call Game Over – not to just stop trying and learn to love the bomb – is that there may yet be time to salvage some kind of future for some of us.

Just probably not all of us.

 

The political economy of climate change

I'm by 'I fking love science'

Image by ‘I fcking love science’

Environment writer and academic Nicole Clark looks at how climate change sceptics’ views are promoted in Australian print media, concluding that the content generally reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite.

In the mass media, the political economy perspective is centred around the principal notion that the media is owned and run by elites that seek to mandate the distribution and dissemination of media content, in accordance with their own ideological values. Most notably, those values that reflect a more right wing political sentiment (Herman and Chomsky, 2008). Therefore, political economy is synonymous with the view that corporate news structures own the right to media content and therefore own the right to the message. Under these pretences, corporate news bodies are able to frame content according to the best interest, concerns and needs of the elite (Herman, 2009).

Freedom to act and freedom to promote autonomous views provides news bodies the propensity to perpetuate and distort information of an untruthful nature (Herman, 2009). News bodies therefore, have the power to distort the public perception and promote views that consequently transcend the decision process of modern polity (Gamson et al, 2013). The production of media content, infers the beliefs that dominate state and private activity in society. The way the media is propagated, is central to society (Herman, 2009); therefore, the nature of media content informally legitimises political decision. In brief, the nature of media content holds an influence unlike any other and any information that is distributed from corporate news bodies truthful or not, will always influence a core component of political discourse.

Propaganda is a phenomenon that aims to influence the thinking and attitudes of individuals in a population or society. Propaganda is most consistently linked to events in history that are associated with war and religious freedom (Jowett and O’Donnell, 2011). The ways print media is a propagated and produced can more often than not, intervene with the political economy perspective and take on characteristics that demonstrate agenda setting properties reserved for propaganda delivery (Black, 1977).

Climate change is scientific fact and humans are to blame. Humans must act to reduce carbon emissions. Action requires injecting money into the global economy at all costs- to all financial and economic institutions, to prevent further damage to the earth (IPCC, 2011). In Australian 59% of the print media is owned by News Corp, the remaining 30% represent the independent channels (Bacon, 2011). Print media owned by News Corp include, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. In Australia, an unusually high concentration of sceptics’ views on climate change are routinely observed in print media, such content rivals that of scientific fact and most notably appears to reflect the views for the best interests and concerns of the elite (Bacon, 2011).

Herman and Chomsky, (1988) adhere to the views that the political economy of mass media holds a crucial function that links political economy to the media; where media owned adversaries construct their views in ways which can be attributed to propaganda techniques. This article examines the Australian media and draws parallels to an Australian context, for content that displays a sceptic’s view of climate change. It will examine content from a report published in 2011 entitled: ‘Sceptical Climate’ by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (Bacon, 2011) the report includes a highly detailed analysis, in which the study teased out inconsistencies that were noticeably reflective of the sceptics’ viewpoint of climate change in print media.

Using examples from the report by Bacon (2011), this article will determine whether suspected techniques of propaganda outlined by Herman and Chomsky (1988) are evident in the Australian print media. In order to establish how climate change sceptics’ views are published in the print media, it will draw parallels to sceptics’ views expressed, views of which may be strongly associated with propaganda phenomenon witnessed elsewhere in the world. It will examine the propaganda influence through three filters: ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology; as described by (Herman and Chomsky, 1988).

Ownership

  • Print media ownership in Australia is concentrated and News Corp owns 56% of the print media (Bacon, 2011). Ownership ranks very highly among those who reflect the liberal or right wing political stance (Gantzkow and Shapiro, 2010). This is not only reflective of the political economy principles described above but Boykoff, (2008) notes; this is synonymous with a content analysis of print media that was distributed from news corporations in the UK in 2008. Corporations, which were also owned by News Corp. Herman and Chomsky (2008), state, high concentrations of media ownership, tend to exhibit characteristics that represent propaganda tactics. This therefore, also confirms, (that) media ownership is a strong template for analysing content with suspected propaganda substance.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate Change Rebel Fights back – The Daily Telegraph, (2010); “I am writing to offer personal briefings on why “global warming” is a non-problem to you and other party leaders during my visit. You say I am one of “those who argue that any multilateral action is by definition evil”. On the contrary: my first question is whether any action at all is required, to which the objective economic and scientific answer is – no”– an example of interconnections with elite actors and the need to maximise profits and denial of climate change, to push an agenda for no-action which is in the best interests of elites.

News sourcing

  • Journalistic professionalism in the Australian print media influences public policy. Whether journalists in the media exclude some sources in favour of others, or they simply forego the inclusion of other any sources at all, they are likely to display one dimensional characteristics (Bacon, 2011). Such characteristics were also found in the Gulf of Persia, (Nohrstedt, et al 2000). Herman (2009) states, such characteristics also demonstrate a strong tendency towards propaganda tactics commonly attributed to instances where media is both owned and run by the elites; rendering it synonymous with the political economy of mass media perspective.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate change not caused by humans: academia – The Sydney Morning Herald, (2007); “In these circumstances it is incredible that some leaders of scientific societies and academies have tried to use their authority to demand acceptance of the IPCC report.”– example of using the role of experts and intellectuals in an opinion piece from a one dimensional perspective of a journalist to construct a sceptic’s view of climate change.

Convergence in the dominant ideology

  • Reinforcement of views and ideas, using the anti-factor; that are in the best interest of the elites positions and interests is also a phenomenon that is displayed in the Australian media. High paid journalist Andrew Bolt, also an elite and climate change sceptic, published more opinion pieces on carbon pricing in Australia than any other (Bacon, 2011). Antilla, (2005) also notes the framing of climate change sceptics’ views to be a theme in the USA and demonstrates, that it was also a predominant notion that was shown in the US media over and over again. Good (2008) through extensive content analysis- discovered that, reinforcing elite views was a prominent theme and also attributes these characteristics to reflect tactics that show distinct similarities towards propaganda.

Print media example

  • Title: With Climate scientists like this no wonder we doubt – The Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt (2014); “It’s farce like that which helps explain why the CSIRO reported last week only 47 per cent of Australians buy its spin that the climate is changing and we’re to blame”. An example of how elite journalist Andrew Bolt, is reinforcing a sceptic’s opinion of climate change toward existing sceptics and those individuals who have not yet formed an opinion on the matter to invoke fear and the anti-factor, implying a government institution is the enemy-in order to push an elite agenda.

Conclusion

In Australia, by the virtue of autonomy, print media in Australia has been allowed to produce false information on false pretences to formally and informally describe scientific consensus on climate change that is neither true nor conclusive. The absolute truth of climate change has been masked. Through the wrongful disclosure of media sectors, the facts of scientifically diagnosed climate change, are wilfully and wrongfully promoted from a sceptic’s viewpoint.

Since print media, is owned by elites, it is clear climate change action is not in their best interest. In high concentrations in print media, content reflects the opinions and interests of the elites and hence the truth is subject to improper representations that inherently reflect propaganda techniques. Most of the sceptics’ viewpoint on climate change were sourced from Australia’s most powerful media body, News Corp. The techniques of propaganda present in content evidently coincide with media ownership and propaganda filtration from media ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology.

Most, or all content, reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite which exist in conjunction with media owned adversaries, who spread their own message, of un-truthful claims, and henceforth are clear signs of propaganda initiatives. These messages are constructed in the context that is congruently linked to the political economy perspective and reveals a sceptic’s view of climate change in the media is therefore, right wing slanted; un-moderated and freely distributed at will for the purpose of influencing political discourse.

References

Andrew Bolt, The Herald Sun (2014) http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_with_climate_scientists_like_this_no_wonder_we_doubt/

Antilla, L. (2005). Climate of scepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change. Global environmental change15(4), 338-352.

Bacon, W. (2011). A SCEPTICAL CLIMATE Media coverage of climate change in Australia 2011.

Black, J. (1977). Another perspective on mass media propaganda. General Semantics Bulletin44(45), 92-104.

Boykoff, M. T. (2008). The cultural politics of climate change discourse in UK tabloids. Political geography27(5), 549-569.

Gamson, W. A., Croteau, D., Hoynes, W., & Sasson, T. (1992). Media images and the social construction of reality. Annual review of sociology18(1), 373-393.

Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What drives media slant? Evidence from US daily newspapers. Econometrica78(1), 35-71.

Good, J. E. (2008). The framing of climate change in Canadian, American, and international newspapers: A media propaganda model analysis. Canadian Journal of Communication33(2), 233.

Herman, E. S. (2009). The propaganda model after 20 years: Interview with Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture6(2), 12-22.

HERMAN, E. Y. C., & Chomsky, N. N. 1988 Manufacturing consent: the political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon.

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2008). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (Eds.). (2011). Propaganda & persuasion. Sage.

Mitigation, C. C. (2011). IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation.

Nohrstedt, S. A., Kaitatzi-Whitlock, S., Ottosen, R., & Riegert, K. (2000). From the Persian Gulf to Kosovo—War journalism and propaganda. European Journal of Communication15(3), 383-404.

 

Bringing Science back from the brink

In the field of communication, the transaction of important information is an integral part of society. Nicole Clark demonstrates, that the future of the scientific profession in Australia also relies heavily on communication practice, for delivering important and critical information regarding the emphasis of Climate Change.

Image courtesy of smh.com.auIn today’s modern society, in Australia science is failing to communicate to the broader social perspective. It is with a fervent attitude that we can only deduce that somewhere along the lines, the realism of scientific consensus has been misrepresented in social discourse. External influences, such as conglomerate media structures and political organisations, have distorted the relevant complexity of science, leading to an overt perversion of scientific reverence.  So how can we bring science back from the brink? And, as it is said on the Australian five dollar bill – (“The greatest question which we have to consider is”) . . . What among all influences is the most crucial foreground for science to regain its lost confidence in social discourse?

Climate change is absolute, the globe is warming and long-term weather patterns are being altered (IPCC, 2011). Now in the era of irreversible change – never has it been more appropriate, or more important to communicate scientific consensus. The purpose of this aricle is not to investigate why scientific consensus is currently being ignored, but to identify which existing barriers in science communication methods could be adapted, to become effective at bringing science back from the brink and back into the slipstream of society. In this article, I evaluate the nominal pathways in which scientific knowledge is distributed – both internally among peers and externally among the public; to further highlight the complexities and barriers scientific professionals are faced with regarding effective communication of climate change science. I then offer possible solutions as to how such barriers may be overcome, by demonstrating which approaches are most likely to succeed and which approaches are most likely to fail.

Information about the workings of the world falls under the profession of science. Scientists report implicit logical arguments through the use of mathematics, statistics and physical evidence (Manly, 1992) and therefore, have a unique way of communicating which is abstract from mainstream society and traditional literature (Dawson et al, 2010). Literature often contains jargon and complex mathematical equations and often does not adhere to a broader range of audience (Knight, 2006).

Scientific literature is put into context in a scientific report. The format forms the basis for all scientific fields and includes: a title, an abstract (summary), aims, introduction, methods, results (findings) discussion and conclusion (Dawson et al, 2010). Scientific reports do not serve a purpose in the public eye. Information is compiled, analysed and reviewed dictating complex concise information. Reports in science assist with studies being repeated by fellow scientists, without bias (Manly, 1992). As it is generally accepted, communication is a learned practice in society (West and Turner, 2010) and scientists learn to communicate effectively among each other for the purpose of expanding knowledge for an internal profession.

Existing Pathways: Public barriers

External

Occasionally, scientific concern requires broad range perception. Science, as any other written or spoken communication, is likely to become lost in translation, if not properly transcribed. For instance, a road repairman probably would not know that the critical issue between long wave radiation and depletion of the allotrope: ozone; is just another way of discussing chemical reactions that cause a hole in the ozone layer and global warming, adversely changing the climate. In this instance, the ineffective communication path results in scientists failing to convey a message of critical importance. Only a clear message is effective through communication channels to reach all audience (written communications that inform and influence, 2006). Therefore, complex scientific jargon and scientific language creates a barrier and the message is misunderstood. The result: the road repairman likely did not get the critical message about climate change.

Internal

Unique communication within science is both important and necessary, because it allows complexities to be explained in critical detail, helping scientists to work together (Dawson et al, 2010). Critical information and knowledge is internally communicated. For example, a biologist does not have a universal name for all bacteria. The name ‘bacteria’, is not enough information for the ecologist, a colleague to understand. There are many different species of bacteria, and if not specified the ecologist would not know what specific species to study. Further information is required in order to conduct a study on chemical reactions in prokaryote bacteria communities.  An internal pathway such as this, allows specific knowledge to be passed on, from one scientist to another. Without such explicit communication, future external understanding can never eventuate. The result of this specific pathway: the biologist can conduct the study in a concise and highly detailed manor using explicit scientific jargon, which is then communicated to the associate ecologist, who then repeats the study and adds to the findings on this complex topic. With the internal pathway the result, through effective communication- the ecologist is able to bring to light a solid scientific theory. However necessary the internal pathway may be, it too can be identified as another public barrier.

Adapting pathways

In external public understanding, the method in which information is passed on is critical, failure to pass a message on, leads to a receiver that is unclear as to what information they are given (West et al, 2010). The external pathway mentioned above in this case, became lost in translation and created a barrier, despite the attempted communication of the concept (ozone depletion), was critically important for general public understanding. Hence, the use of jargon precariously added complexities in this nominal pathway.  Knight (2006), suggests, scientists can both send a message and still tell a story; all without the use of complexities. Therefore, adapting this pathway though removal of jargon – while still explaining the causality of ozone depletion and global warming, may allow the public to gain understanding- without the complexity of science; where it is hoped they will still interpret the broader perspective of the concept.

Internal pathways, allow for effective communication among peers and among different scientific disciplines. In this pathway of communication- when studying bacteria communities, we can see that information regarding this scientific knowledge, will experience innate problems with translation to the public. While the internal communication is extremely critical to the progression of modern science, it leaves little avenue for appropriate public distribution. Wray et al (2008) explain, to overcome a barrier it is important to understand that end products, when properly transcribed can still be translated. Therefore, by re-developing an internal pathway, there is no loss of those fundamental and core components of the concept. In this way, scientists do not remove a concept, they adapt the pathway for the public only; while internally, the progression of modern science continues.

Connecting the public to science

Keys (1997) explains, people are more likely to respond to a scientific concept if it appears to effect them more directly. Therefore, relatable interactions are a good way to bridge the gap in communication barriers. Scientists can relate to their audience by developing a pathway from the internal communication and adapting the external communication pathway. With these adaptations and with the exclusion of jargon and or complexities, they can still relay complex information in a readable yet comprehensive format. As a result, a likely pathway between scientists and the public can be established. It is also important to understand that the outcome of scientific studies, though developed internally, can and should be later transformed to meet public comprehension. However, the scientist should still keep close eye to communicate the fundamental and core components within the scientific discipline. However, it should also be rigorously monitored, as they are scientific concepts and should always be addressed as such.

Nisbet and Scheufele (2009) explain, scientists should be looking at adapting a foreground of communication that is firmly grounded in the construct of society, one that aims to inform the notion of complex concepts in a simple yet thought provoking format. It is important to understand, that this extends further than just telling the public as if a news story. It goes beyond this format, to the substratum of audience interaction. If scientists adapt pathways of communication, they can interact with a broader audience and then transgress these elements to business and or possible political relationships, including social and education conventions and public information sessions; which lead into the formation of interpersonal relationships with possible stakeholders. To further adapt these concepts, it is important to establish a communication in which the public can relate to these relationships- forming relationships that aim to establish a meaningful connection with all involved. Individuals and groups are more likely to respond to relationships when they notice a propensity (behavioural tendency) for a meaningful purpose or idea connected to them (Wray et al, 2008).

Science, Climate Change and the future

Scientists are renowned for adapting methodology and study design. The study of climate change science is by no means any different from any scientific discipline. As I outlined above, adapting the means of communication pathways  in science are by far the best method for communicating complex scientific concepts such as climate change. But in lure of what has been discussed above, we are left with inherit complexities in the notion of communicating this imperative concept. So now, we are left to decide which adaptations will work best in the critical need to communicate the foundations of climate change science? How can we create communication pathways that will bring to light the innate problems society faces with immanent changes to climate? There is no doubt that as I write this – I am faced with my own complexities, but from an outspoken perspective as it has always been said, the most important communication method is establishing an effective pathway. Below, I give my personal explanation as to how communication pathways to the public can be established.

Image courtesy of econews.com.au

Image courtesy of econews.com.au

First and foremost, I feel it is extremely necessary that science communication pathways to the public, seek to remove the inherit complexities associated with jargon and complex mathematical concepts- as well as removing the notion of trying to translate too much information. Information, which is not connected to the key concepts in a vital way. For example, going back to the concept of the hole in the ozone layer, to effectively translate this idea on climate change, scientists should err on the side of caution when using jargon. Firstly, let’s imagine the road repairman is a community stake holder, in this case it would be important to form a strong interpersonal relationship with the individual (the road repairman). I feel this scientific concept would better be described, by explaining to the individual, how climate change will affect him and his respective community; and just how important the idea of climate change is to future generations in his community. Furthermore, it would be important to translate this information in a simple format. A format that eliminates, the need to express any concepts that should only represent communication avenues of an internal nature.

Therefore, ‘what not to do’ in this instance would be, explaining the concept using too much jargon and complexities, or discussing scientific names of chemical species. For example: ‘Ozone, Carbon Dioxide and Chlorofluocarbons are reacting with OLR in the stratosphere, they cause the global temperature to rise, influencing the global weather patterns which regulate high and low pressure systems. Consequently, this sort of level of relation is inappropriate to establish a meaningful connection with this particular individual, and the respective social structures in which the individual represents. At the most, the road repairman probably recognises key words such as: carbon, stratosphere and systems, but using complex jargon together with complex explanations is inadequate, because this is internal communication used among science professionals and is unfit for public consumption. The explanations are too detailed and saturated in explicit scientific consensus. This automatically creates a barrier, which is ineffective to create a pathway whereby public understanding is achieved. Therefore, it is highly important to avoid that internal pathway used by scientists, in favour of something more appropriate such as the external. At this point, if such a barrier is not overcome an individual is unable to relate themselves to the concept in a meaningful way.

The alternative, explain that ‘scientists are certain that the interactions occurring inside the atmosphere have been impacted since the industrial revolution. These impacts are warming the globe, which causes the climates to shift and change, which affects the wet and dry periods we experience in the weather’. Lastly, explain ‘reducing these impacts will allow for a reduction in these climate shifts’. If at least some relationship is established, a communication pathway may be opened, and through the use of these adapted external communication methods, this may create meaning for the individual. They may then notice the propensity to connect with the concept of climate change science; and develop an idea of individual purpose for understanding the inner workings of climate change – as they can then relate to how it will impact them on an individual and or community/stakeholder level.

Conclusion

The innate problem that surrounds the perversion of public discourse in the field of science, is surrounded with complexities in its self, and undoubtedly requires rigorous scientific study. That being said, from a discussion stand point only, I have outlined a few key concepts which I feel are most effective for the nature of translating this complex scientific idea – climate change. Clear communication is essential. Therefore communication that is free from jargon, complex scientific information, as well a removal of unnecessary explanations of scientific relationships (not connected to foundational concepts) – will help bridge the gap between barriers which we currently see plaguing the view of scientific emphasis in public discourse.

Removing such barriers, will allow for the establishment of relationships that will seek to improve the communication pathways, forming relatable aspects of science that connect the individual to the concept to provide purpose and meaning to the broader social perception. These interactions must be centred around meaningful relationships that always seek to obtain a strong connection with scientific professionals. They must provoke audience interaction and always be centred around simple translations that all social participants can understand.

Such pathways, will allow for science and critical science concepts, to be incorporated back into Australian society. These methods alone, will undoubtedly assist scientific professionals to illustrate the critical need for climate change initiatives, and bring science into the slip-stream, thus- back from the brink.

References

Dawson,M,M., Dawson,B,A.., and Overfield, J,A., (2010), Communication Skills for the Biosciences.Wiley-Blackwell publishing, United Kingdom

Keys, C. W. (1999). Revitalizing instruction in scientific genres: Connecting knowledge production with writing to learn in science. Science Education83(2), 115-130.

Knight, D. (2006). Public understanding of science: A history of communicating scientific ideas (1st ed.). USA and Canada: Taylor & Francis e-library.

Manly, B. F. (1992). The Design and Analysis of Research Studies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Mitigation, C. C. (2011). IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation.

Nisbet, M. C., & Scheufele, D. A. (2009). What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany96(10), 1767-1778.

West, R., & Turner, Lynne, H. (2010). Introducing communication theory: analysis and application (Ch.5) Symbolic interaction theory(pp.76-91). New York, N.Y.: McGraw Hill.

Wray, R. J., Becker, S. M., Henderson, N., Glik, D., Jupka, K., Middleton, S., … & Mitchell, E. W. (2008). Communicating with the public about emerging health threats: lessons from the Pre-Event Message Development Project.American Journal of Public Health98(12).

(2006). Written communications that inform and influence. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

This article was first published on “Science in Australian Society” and reproduced with permission.

Climate change: we don’t need no stinkin’ advice!

The United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris, France in 2015.  The conference objective is to achieve a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

One of the world’s foremost climate scientists, James Hansen,  has suggested that

“If leading nations agree in 2015 to have internal rising fees on carbon with border duties on products from nations without a carbon fee, a foundation would be established for phaseover to carbon free energies and stable climate.”

Head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, told a conference in February

“Overcoming climate change is obviously a gigantic project with a multitude of moving parts. I would just like to mention one component of it—making sure that people pay for the damage they cause.  We are subsidizing the very behaviour that is destroying our planet, and on an enormous scale. Both direct subsidies and the loss of tax revenue from fossil fuels ate up almost $2 trillion in 2011—this is about the same as the total GDP of countries like Italy or Russia.”

In recent weeks UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim have all called on countries and business to take the threats posed by global warming more seriously. Jim made what many believe was an historic call for investors to consider ditching holdings in fossil fuel companies.

The IPCC released a paper on 30 January, 2014 stating

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.

Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system.  Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

On 4 March 2014, a new report released by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO concludes the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising, and left unchecked further emissions will cause more warming this century.

“The report found that since the 1970s there had also been an increase in extreme fire weather, but predicted worse was to come.  More extreme fire-weather days are slated for southern and eastern Australia, areas devastated by bushfires this spring and summer, with longer fire seasons in these regions to drag on.  In bad news for farmers, a likely increase in drought frequency and severity is predicted as average rainfall in southern Australia decreases.  Cyclones are expected to be fewer, but fiercer, while more extremely hot days and fewer cool days remain a reality on the horizon.  The BoM and CSIRO said the record-breaking heatwaves like the kind that swept Australia the past two summers were “very unlikely to have been caused by natural variability alone”.  Cutting global emissions would be crucial to preventing the worst global warming has in store, but that alone wouldn’t be enough, the science agencies warn.  Adaptation is required because some warming and associated changes are unavoidable.”

The latest Global Legislators Organisation (Globe) study shows 64 out of 66 countries had put in place or were establishing significant climate or energy legislation in 2013, with almost 500 laws to tackle climate change being passed in countries which account for nine-tenths of global emissions.

“The organisation’s president, Lord Deben, who is also the chairman of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change which advises the government on the issue, said: “It is by implementing national legislation and regulations that the political conditions for a global agreement in 2015 will be created.

“We must see more countries develop their own national climate change laws so that when governments sit down in 2015 they will do so in very different political conditions to when they did in Copenhagen.”

I could go on quoting scientists, economists, experts, world leaders…the evidence is overwhelming, scientific consensus has been reached, and the warning has been issued along with a plan of attack.  We can ask no more from our scientists.  They have done their job.  We now have to fight those increasingly rare fossils who would ignore the warning for short term gain for a very few individuals.

Rather than listening to experts and the rest of the world, Tony Abbott, to quote Lord Deben, relied on the “very dubious” work of a small minority of climate analysts, and his was “the last example of a government coming to power on the basis that really all this [climate change] is nonsense”.

In 2009 on Four Corners , Abbott described scientists from the IPCC as

”the people who will tell you as if it’s as obvious as night following day that we have a huge problem and that unless we dramatically change the way we live, life as we know it will be under massive threat. As I said, there’s an evangelical fervour about those people which you don’t normally associate with scientists.

I think that in response to the IPCC alarmist – ah, in inverted commas – view, there’ve been quite a lot of other reputable scientific voices. Now not everyone agrees with Ian Plimer’s position, but he is a highly credible scientist and he has written what seems like a very well-argued book refuting most of the claims of the climate catastrophists.”

When Tony Jones asked Tony Abbott in a Lateline interview in November 2009 if he had read the IPCC report on global warming he replied “No, I don’t claim to have immersed myself deeply in all of these documents. I’m a politician. I have to rely on briefings – I have to rely on what I pick up through the secondary sources. “

When asked if he’d read Plimer’s book he said “I’ve quoted a couple of passages, and I confess I’m probably more familiar with the book through people who’ve written about it than I am through having read it myself.”

You will hear Ian Plimer quoted by Tony Abbott, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Gina Rinehart, and pretty much everyone that thinks climate change is crap.  As with all supposedly “reputable scientific voices” in the denial camp, following the money always leads to the same place.

Prof Plimer is a geologist who currently serves on the board of stock exchange-listed miners Ivanhoe Australia and Silver City Mines, and has held previous board roles at CBH Mining and a number of other Australian mining companies.  The companies he is involved with mine minerals including gold, zinc, copper and uranium, in Australia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

According to disclosures made to the Australians Securities and Investments Commission, Professor Plimer was appointed by Gina Rinehart to the boards of Roy Hill Holdings and Queensland Coal Investments on January 25 2012  which plans to export 55 million tonnes of iron ore a year through Port Hedland when it is up and running at full capacity.

He is also listed as a member of Mrs Rinehart’s Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV) lobby group, which has taken strong positions on corporate taxation and climate change initiatives.

Aside from Mr Plimer, we have had Cardinal Pell give a submission on climate change to the Senate, and then give the 2011 annual Global Warming Policy Foundation speech in London that was described by climate researchers as  “dreadful”, “utter rubbish” and “flawed”.

“Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.”

Cardinal Pell’s ‘evidence’ all comes from The Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, June 2011 delivered by none other than Lord Monckton and sponsored and attended by Gina Rinehart.  Monckton is a fruitcake that is always good for a laugh, but hardly someone who should be advising on anything other than propaganda machines.

And then of course, we have Maurice Newman, Tony’s business adviser, who as head of the ABC in 2010, decided that denialists needed more airtime and so Monckton flooded the MSM, especially the ABC, all of whom basically ignored James Hansen who was touring at the same time.

In January this year, Mr Newman, in a column published in The Australian newspaper wrote that the

“climate change establishment (whatever that is) is intent only on exploiting the masses and extracting more money. The United Nations has applied mass psychology through a compliant media (he really did write that) to fool the world into thinking  the activities of industrialised countries have changed the climate. The scientific delusion, the religion behind the climate crusade, is crumbling,”

Who needs a Climate Change Authority or Department of the Environment when you have Plimer, Pell, Newman and Monckton?  We also have Greg Hunt’s Direct Action Plan to look forward to if they ever decide to introduce it.

So shut up all you tree-hugging socialists….

We don’t need no stinkin’ advice!

Crap, Hogwash, Wikipedia and Other Strong Evidence

Abbott

“I mean in the end this whole thing is a question of fact, not faith, or it should be a question of fact not faith and we can discover whether the planet is warming or not by measurement. And it seems that notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped. Now admittedly we are still pretty warm by recent historical standards but there doesn’t appear to have been any appreciable warming since the late 1990s.”

Tony Abbott: A REALIST’S APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE Speech – July, 2009

From Abbott’s Interview with Andrew Bolt:

Bolt: (Volunteering to fight) the fires. Was there an element of running away from the office?

PM: Ha! Mate, I got up to the station at 4pm Saturday and I got back to the station at 10 Sunday morning. So there’s no question of running away from the office, because the office is closed then. The office is closed.

AB: I’ve been struck by the insanity of the reaction in the media and outside, particularly linking the fires to global warming and blaming you for making them worse potentially by scrapping the carbon tax.

PM: I suppose, you might say, that they are desperate to find anything that they think might pass as ammunition for their cause, but this idea that every time we have a fire or a flood it proves that climate change is real is bizarre, ’cause since the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, we’ve had fires and floods, and we’ve had worse fires and worse floods in the past than the ones we are currently experiencing. And the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn’t prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events … The one in 500 year flood is always a bigger flood than the one in 100 year flood.

Bolt: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.

Abbott: That is complete hogwash.

Bolt: It is time to really question the bias of the ABC?

Abbott: But people are always questioning the “bias” of the ABC.

Later in the same interview:

PM: I would say that there tends to be an ABC view of the world, and it’s not a view of the world that I find myself in total sympathy with. But, others would say that there’s a News Limited view of the world.

     From “The most depressing Discovery about the Brain, Ever”

“In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions.  It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem.  The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are.  We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalize what our emotions already want to believe.

For years my go-to source for downer studies of how our hard-wiring makes democracy hopeless has been Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth.

Nyan and his collaborators have been running experiments trying to answer this terrifying question about American voters: Do facts matter?

The answer, basically,  is no.  When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously.”

And just in case you missed it at the time:

“I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.” (Tony Abbott, quoted on the “ABC 7.30 Report” (27 July 2009).

People are entitled to their own point of view. We all accept that. It’s a free country, after all. I’m sure that Andrew Bolt would agree that we’re all entitled to express a point of view. Even if it’s demonstrably wrong. For goodness sake, if Bolt had to rely on facts for his point of view, he wouldn’t have a column.

The trouble with the exchange of opinions is that it very rarely goes beyond, “You’re wrong and  I’m right, therefore nothing you have to say could change my mind.”

And so I find our beloved leader’s comments – the ones I highlighted – in the Bolt interview disturbing. Tony Abbott seems to be saying that extreme events aren’t evidence of anything, and it doesn’t matter how many we have, that’s just the nature of things. Records are made to be broken, after all.

This is fairly consistent with the way in which climate deniers view things. One extreme weather event is just the exception. Two is just coincidence. Three, well, that’s the norm – we have weather like this all the time.

Now, I think that there is a discussion to be had about how much of a link can be drawn between climate change and the current bushfires. And I have some sympathy for the view that maybe Adam Bandt could have timed his comments a little more sensitively. I can accept that we’ve always had large bushfires and that, in the distant past, some of them even occured in October.

However, I think that we need to actually look very closely at the evidence – even if it means hours on the computer looking up Wikipedia. To say, as one person wrote in response to the Climate Council’s Bushfires and Climate Change in Australia – The Facts (which suggested that bushfires in the last thirty years had been more frequent),  that we had large bushfires in the past too. The person then went on to talk of three over the space of sixty years prior to 1983.

It’s difficult to argue about climate change when people like Bolt and Abbott seem to suggest that every event can be taken in isolation and therefore nothing is part of any pattern. Bolt may be right. There may be no significant warming. But he is no more of less qualified to assert his position than the bloke down at the pub who tells me that Greater Western Sydney will make next year’s Grand Final. He is not an expert and lacks formal training in the area – something that he is quick to point out about those he disagrees with. After arguing for years that the climate is actually cooling, Bolt jumped on the IPCC report which suggested the planet wasn’t WARMING as fast as they predicted, completely ignoring the fact that this went against his contention.

So, records are always being broken, according to the Prime Minister. Linking the fires to climate change is “complete hogwash”. We don’t need a Climate Commission to look at evidence. We know these things. Who needs a Science Minister? It’s either part of trade, or something you do at school. Science, itself, what’s that?

As for the Audit Commission, who thinks that they may recommend delaying or scaling back the Liberal’s Direct Action initiatives?

 

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