Monckton Gets it Wrong Yet Again

We all know by now just how paranoid (of hidden Nazis and communists), self-indulgent (“I’m a non-voting member of the house of Lords” [UPDATE: David Beamish, the Clerk of the Parliaments has recently published this open letter to Monckton to clarify that he is NOT a member of the house]; “I was only joking about the Nobel prize thing…” [UPDATE: it seems this is inaccurate also, or else Chris has no control over what is said about him on his own site, h/t John Cook]; climate change “expert”) and warped this character’s understanding of the available scientific evidence is, so I won’t waste a lot of time on this post.

Adam Spencer (apparently another pawn of the socialistic ABC) interviewed Monckton this morning in what turned out to be a very heated argument (the man, quick to fall back on Godwin’s Law or to accuse academics of looking like crustaceans, is quite hostile when questioned about his own credentials – also rich seeing as he indulges in taking superiority over working scientists who are not strictly working on the sciences of the topic at hand, as demonstrated with Ben McNeil). You can catch the recordings (two, as Spencer hung up on Christopher at one point) on the ABC website, here.

Whilst Spencer struggled to come up with a decent reference (I’d have used Pinker et al. (2005) because the results were hilarious – see 13 mins of the video below) he eventually came up with Johannessen et al. (2007), when pressed for an example of misinterpretation.

The paper does show an accumulation of snow at high altitudes, which they state is likely to be largely the result of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). They go on to state;

“[T]he NAO can explain about three-quarters of the surface elevation changes, leaving us to speculate on other factors. A modeling study (30) of the Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance under greenhouse global warming has shown that temperature increases up to 2.7-C lead to positive mass-balance changes at high elevations (due to accumulation) and negative at low elevations (due to runoff exceeding accumulation), consistent with our findings, which implies that perhaps a quarter of the growth may be caused by global warming in Greenland (31) in our observation period. Furthermore, the observed elevation change implies that ice-sheet growth in the interior of Greenland may partly offset the freshwater flow of the retreating subpolar glaciers needed to explain the freshening rate of the world ocean, which can be explained almost
entirely by Arctic sea-ice melt (32)..”

In other words, the results of this interior high altitude accumulation of snow fits into the predictions of global warming – hardly a paper that at all supports Christopher’s hypothesis of hidden commies… (Potholer54 looks into this paper more towards the end of this presentation).

He goes on to discredit “Climate Scientists Respond” not because of the report’s content, but because it’s far larger than his initial report to which it responds, because Prof. Abraham co-authored it (whom he believes is inaccurate because of a reference to a later Jahannessen paper than the one discussed above – huge, I know…), other authors are part of the “climategate scandle” (“fiddling with data”) and one is under criminal investigation by the attorney general of West Virginia for defrauding tax payers.

It’s clear, now more than a year and a half later, that no number of investigations will ever be enough to such people as Christopher Monckton to dispel the myth of the climategate scandle until the scientists involved are found guilt – because people like Monckton know that they must be guilty. In short, none of this undermines the content of the report after all. (see this article from a year ago!)

The next error was a typical dishonest approach to pretend CO2 concentrations are too small to worry about. See the following video;

Changes in CO2 concentrations are known correlate with changes in species abundances and changes in concentration as being witnessed today are unparallelled in history (see chapter five of Climate Change, Ecology and Systematics).

Summing up, Zhuravlev and Wood (2009) state;

“The replacement of low-Mg calcite by aragonite was achieved in particular at the end-Permian mass extinction event, which occurred during an aragonite sea and both preferentially removed a substantial proportion of taxa bearing “unfavorable” low-Mg calcite mineralogies and allowed the selective radiation of clades with “favorable” aragonitic skeletons. This demonstrates the important of incumbency; that is, the persistence of organisms once established within ecosystems to override global oceanic changes in the evolution of skeletal mineralogy.”

The evolution and persistence of coral has not been as straight forward and as warm and fuzzy regardless of CO2 concentrations as Lord Monckton would like to pretend.

“It’s now quite clear, for instance,” Monckton goes on to claim, “that global warming is simply not happening at the rate which, um, it was predicted. Way, way below that… Even if there were as much warming going to happen as the IPCC and others have said, we can now, which is now very clear is not going to happen, even if it were, then it would still be six times cheaper to do nothing and to allow that global warming to occur and to pay for any damages that might arise than it would be to put in policies worldwide, eh, which are similar to those of the Australian government.”

It’s actually, his own “predictions” which are way higher than the IPCC’s predictions as is discussed in detail here, from this this graphic was pulled.

The rate of warming is still within the the IPCC’s predictions, but fall short of Monckton’s own graph – hence the possible source of this error.

As for it being cheaper to do nothing, I suggest reading Stern’s Blueprint for a Safer Planet, in which he suggests somewhere in the order of 1-2% of the global GDP is required to make headway on the challenges facing us with climate change. And then there are numerous insurance firms who don’t see doing nothing as the cheaper option: Association of British Insurers, Lloyds, and Munich Re. Also see this article in the Insurance Journal. [h/t ACN]

Update: Monckton states, “I was invited, first of all, by the University of Notre Dame to give the Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture…”

Another inaccuracy (does it ever end?). The invite had nothing to do with the university itself, but rather the venue was booked by Gina Rinehart’s mob who in turn offered a spot to Chris to pollute the air with his unique style of misinformation. In fact, the university has criticised his pseudo-science being given space on their grounds. More here.

I hesitate to suggest perhaps we have a case of fallacy turrets syndrome, but there it is.

Spencer deserves a round of applause for holding in there and even suggesting to continue to conversation after his broadcast.

For more on this infamous character, check out;

UPDATE: Deltoid has continued the look into the Spencer interview, here.

Monckton’s rap sheet

All five of Potholer54’s presentation [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

John Abraham’s presentation

Various Climate Crock presentations [1] [2] [3] [4]

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Australia prepares to swallow Monckton yet again

[h/t OveHG]

GRAHAM READFEARN from the ABC Drum Unleashed; May 6 2011

Graham Readfearn

Denial of the seriousness of human-caused climate change or the reliability of the science comes in many guises but none are more eccentric, more rhetorical or more consistently wrong than that manifested in the human form of Lord Christopher Monckton.

English hereditary peer Lord Monckton, the Third Viscount of Brenchley, is one of the world’s most charismatic and omnipresent climate change deniers, despite having no science qualifications.

He’s coming to Australia. Again.

Among other things, Lord Monckton argues that attempts by Governments and the United Nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and burning fossil fuels are part of a conspiracy to install a world government. In Lord Monckton’s eyes it’s all a socialist plot. Climate change is not caused by burning fossil fuels and, even if it was, the impact is negligible. No action is required.

Over the last few years as he has toured Australia, the UK and America, working climate scientists have examined and roundly debunked his unique interpretation of climate change science. The Australian science-based blog Skeptical Science currently lists some 75 “Monckton Myths“- each showing how Lord Monckton has misrepresented, misunderstood or misinterpreted the peer-reviewed science.

But as Lord Monckton’s credibility among working climate scientists continues to hover somewhere between zero and the negatives, plans are afoot to fly him to Australia for a repeat of his 2010 nationwide speaking tour, which received much media attention.

In a barely disguised fundraising advertisement, journalist James Massola wrote in his Capital Circle column for The Australian earlier this week how “funds are needed” to finance the tour. Massola helpfully linked to a website with account details for people to deposit money.

But even before the tour’s schedule is established, Lord Monckton has secured his first engagement with a spot at the annual convention of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies in Perth at the end of June, which includes the CSIRO among its official supporters.  His presentation is titled “Maths Lessons for Climate-Crazed Lawmakers”.

But support for Lord Monckton’s unique brand of climate denial is nothing new for the Australian mining community. At key stages in Lord Monckton’s 2010 tour of Australia, wealthy and respected mining figures were there to lend a hand, provide a forum and, in some cases, to give cash support.

In Queensland, the Brisbane Institute hosted a debate which was filmed and later broadcast by the ABC’s Big Ideas program and was covered in newspapers and on television news (I was on the debating panel).

But the Brisbane Institute ‘debate’ would likely not have gone ahead had it not been for the intervention of mining entrepreneur Bob Bryan. As one organiser stated in an email obtained by this writer, Mr Bryan underwrote the event to cover the $16,000 deposit required by the venue, the Hilton Brisbane.

Mr Bryan is as close to mining royalty as miners can get in Queensland. In 2009, he was inducted into the Queensland Government’s Business Leaders Hall of Fame for “outstanding entrepreneurship in the mining industry significantly contributing to Queensland’s economic development”.

Mr Bryan is also the inaugural “Honorary Life Member” of Queensland’s peak mining industry body, the Queensland Resources Council. He has a successful career as a director of mining companies and co-founded and chaired coal seam gas company Queensland Gas Company until it was sold in 2008 to UK-based BG Group for $5.6 billion.

In Perth, it was the turn of another of Australia’s mining elite to back Monckton’s climate denial tour. Mining magnate and Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart, chairman of Hancock Prospecting, offered a donation to the cause. She also made available a member of her own Hancock Prospecting staff to help co-ordinate the event, held at the Parmelia Hilton.

Accompanying Lord Monckton as a speaker at many of the venues, including Perth and Brisbane, was the University of Adelaide mining geologist Professor Ian Plimer, who is also non-executive director at CBH Resources and Ivanhoe Australia, a director of UK-listed Kefi Minerals, a director of Australia-based coal gas company Ormil Energy and chairman of tin mining company TNT Limited.

Appearing on several online lists of contacts and supporters of Lord Monckton’s 2010 tour was Ian Runge, a director of the Brisbane Institute. Mr Runge is a founder of Runge Limited, which the Brisbane Institute says is “one of Australia’s leading mining technology services organisations” working with 18 offices in 10 countries “with sales to major resource companies worldwide”.

Whatever the motivations of climate change deniers, the result of their activities is to generate doubt in the minds of the public, whether that be doubt about the greenhouse properties of carbon dioxide or doubt about the need or impact of legislation to try and reduce fossil fuel burning.

The idea that anyone should take Lord Monckton seriously is treated with puzzlement in his native UK. Former Conservative MP John Gummer, who was Mrs Thatcher’s environment minister, commented to the ABC in March that Lord Monckton “isn’t taken seriously by anybody.” He added: “I mean he was a bag carrier in Mrs Thatcher’s office. And the idea that he advised her on climate change is laughable. The fact of the matter is, he’s not a figure of importance and has made no difference to the debate. We always find it rather surprising that he should come (to Australia).”

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, says a recent claim by Lord Monckton that Europe’s emissions trading scheme had doubled the cost of electricity was “utter rubbish”. Analysis by the UK’s electricity regulator ofgem in March showed that environmental costs amounted to just eight per cent of energy costs for consumers.

“I am amazed that anybody in Australia takes Monckton seriously,’’ says Mr Ward. “He is not a scientist, but the deputy leader of a fringe UK political party. Frankly his credibility in the UK has sunk to near-zero since the broadcast of a documentary on the BBC earlier this year, during which Monckton was filmed on his last hilarious visit to Australia.”

So what is the motivation of the mining industry in Australia to support climate change denial of any kind? Do they fear that climate legislation such as a carbon price will simply hurt their bottom line? Do they see a public confused or apathetic about climate change as a potent part of their lobbying efforts in Canberra?

Who knows? But as the donation plate for the Lord Monckton 2011 Denial Tour is passed around their offices they should ask themselves this: Can we fool the Australian public a second time?

Graham Readfearn is a freelance journalist and writer covering the environment and sustainability.

Elsanasser’s Insidious Clone War on Reason

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a fairly pathetic (if not entirely sick) behaviour to troll around the blogosphere under a series of different pseudonyms to bolster one’s support. You must surely know how weak your argument is if it’s only ever supported by yourself, logging out as one person to log is as another to agree with your original self! It’s basically virtual split personality disorder that one actively decides to indulge in. It really says a lot about a person who goes to such lengths to support themselves and for a host of a blog, dealing with clone trolls as well as trolls is a nightmare.

It’s for this reason, I wish that I had paid more attention to both names discussed in Graham Wayne’s excellent post, Climate change deniers: give ‘em enough rope, and guess what happens?

I was initially drawn to the main character of focus – rogerthesurf – for he has been an occasional irritant of irrationality on this site and Graham explained in very great detail the style of rogerthesurf and why it is a pointless action to engage with this man (which ultimately leads rogerthesurf to celebrate himself on his own space).

I completely over looked the other name mentioned – Elsanasser (or Elsa as her screen name appears) – at my own loss. Elsa appeared on my site soon after this time and started hounding me that the science behind AGW was in fact unscientific. Silly me – I indulged her with explanation, to no avail. The “debate” was stuck on a loop.

Soon “Colin” appeared to support Elsa and I tried again to explain to him also. And then “roger” and then “spyglass”…

For 'My Very Own Clone' group, By Mr Bultitude

I stupidly didn’t look at the IP’s.

Elsa actively trolls the net under various guises, forever asking the same questions and forever ignoring the same answers. This has got to be one of the more insidious and despicable trolls – rendering rogerthesurf and Pete Ridley more garden variety pests.  Recent comments on WtD, where “Elsa” has also been lingering, demonstrated that I’m far from the only one who has tried to have a sensible conversation with her. That she bolsters herself as mentioned above is behaviour I simply cannot comprehend as much as her absurd conclusion that no-one answers her after recent discussions on WtD.

Once and for all, I will make sense of her question as best I can and from here on in, she and her many clones (those which I spot) will be banned from commenting on this site entirely.

Today, her “Spyglass” alias again asked the same, endless question;

“The question remains: how would you debunk the theory if it is held to be consistent with the world getting cooler as well as warmer?”

Her obsession lingers around the 20yr period from the 1940’s which didn’t show much of a warming trend. It is, in truth the exact same argument employed by the likes of Monckton and his fans about much of the first decade of the 21st century and is of course, simply cherry picking. It sounds better to say that there wasn’t significant warming for much of the last decade than to say it was the warmest decade on record, doesn’t it? Hence why short term interpretations can give you the wrong idea.

For this “experiment” I took;

Seeing as Elsa is obsessed over a 20yr period, I uniformly divided to data into 20yr blocks, which gave me group A: [1891-1910, 1911-1930, 1931-1950, 1951-1970, 1971-1990, 1991-2010], however, this “disguises” Elsa’s “cool patch”, so I also created group B: [1880-1899, 1900-1919, 1920-1939, 1940-1959, 1960-1979, 1980-1999].

It should also be noted short term trends are misleading – picking “arbitrary” (actually, the start and finish dates selected by deniers is hardly arbitrary, but rather those specifically designed to provide the most misleading trends) points and exploring the trend over that time period will have no comparable meaning to other trends as discussed above (compared to the standard moving trend approach usually employed). It is for this reason that the values for the 20yr blocks were averaged and expanded for the block so as short term weather events (such as the ENSO among others) did not contaminate the short term interpretation.

This data was then thrown into a graph (fig. 1) – yeah, this is hardcore science on the fringe of our understanding alright!

Fig. 1. An amazingly complicated interpretation of the temperature and CO2 data 1880-present

There is indeed a period over the mid 20th century where temperature values seem to remain fairly stable and in group B, an actually decline observed between the 1940-1959 (0.007oC) block and the 1960-1979 (-0.0075oC) of exactly 0.0145oC (dramatic, no?). There is also a small, but noticeable change in CO2 trends over this time span (also a time coinciding with WWII activity and the subsequent depression – ie. lowered productivity) which matches (dare I say, proceeds before?) the path of both temperature groups A and B.

Far from showing very little relationship, the trend is quite noticeable and coupling it with what we know about the greenhouse effect (such was what occurs to IR when it passes through CO2 gas,  or that night warming trends are expected to be greater than day warming trends, for instance) global warming is acting exactly as you would expect. What troubles me most is the very recent data, which coincide with a prolonged solar minimum – what should we expect as solar activity picks up again?

The answer would be to the Elsa clone army that debunking the theory of AGW would require just one of above points of evidence to fall flat on their arse, but so far, the trends do what we expect with an atmosphere with increasing CO2 concentration. The world hasn’t cooled, unless you use cheap tricks to hide the incline (comparing a short term trend to the rest is, as I stated above, illogical). If people like Elsa want to bitch about the difference in the blocks 1940-1959 and 1960-1979 in group B, why not compare 1920-1939 to 1940-1959 (+0.1165oC) or 1960-1979 to 1980-1999 (+0.252oC) of the same group?

I already know the answer to this, however; that doesn’t prove the point that they push beyond all reasonableness. They know the science behind AGW is unscientific, just as anyone from the anti-vaccination groups know vaccination is behind autism, just like creations know God created everything in a stable unchanging state. You cannot reason with somehow who just knows because they just know.

Therefore, I’ve had enough of Elsa and her clones and the broken record in her that keeps repeating the same silly question. I recommend anyone who runs into Elsa, “spyglass” or any other clone who asks a similar question to that quoted above to link back to this page rather than bothering to try to be reasonable. There is no point answering this person.

Eventually, perhaps, she will have to build her own blog where she can have deep and meaningful discussions amongst herself.

History Deniers Vs. AGW Deniers

Sometimes you just know. It’s not luck or coincidence – you just know.

I had a moment like that this evening, when I mused over history-deniers, such as the hard workers of Answers in Genesis (only a couple weeks ago I actually stumbled upon the files for a site I created around a decade ago in which l responded to AiG as I do today with AGW denial, but like I’m currently finding with AGW denial, I grew bored of that nonsense as well). I had a thought. I wondered if, like this veteran group of reality deniers, do AGW deniers rely on the same obvious tactics? The first of which came to mind was Donna Laframboise’s handful of ‘smart people who beg to differ on global warming‘.

And would you know it? Not five minutes of investigation led to AiG’s list, ‘Some modern scientists who have accepted the biblical account of creation‘.

I make no apologies when I say that I don’t care what a person’s credential are – unless they’ve provided their criticism of the relevant theory up to peer-review and it’s been reviewed by the scientists activity working in the field, it’s simply not valid scepticism, but merely personal belief.

While flipping through the pages of wisdom, I stumbled upon Creationwise Comics, which bared a number of similarities to another AGW denier who also feels that scientists and those who accept the science without necessarily knowing the finer details of that field (as anyone of us are on a number of scientific topics), are deluded, arrogant, ignorant and ultimately leading us to our own destruction under the guise of reason.

Remind anyone else of Nova’s work?

And I cannot count the number of deniers whom have said, “I use to believe AGW was true, but now I don’t…”

Surely, in this example, the ‘biblical creation’ could be Monckton’s One World Government (run by the UN) and Intelligent Design the fringing papers that question climate sensitivity.

There is no doubt that the history deniers are the true legions of refuting reason. They also serve as a good reminder that when someone wants to believe something strong enough absolutely nothing anyone can possibly do could alter their perception. That elegant and well informed public speakers, such as Dawkins, have in some respects been unsuccessful in reaching certain communities should be a reminder to us all; not everyone is reasonable.

I might invest some time in cross-denial investigation – more to demonstrate to the reasonable that actively engaging such people is not always a wise option, but rather time wasting and ultimately disheartening. The reasonable are generally on board and now we should focus on genuine action and personal initiative – leaving the Jones effect to gravitate the less open-minded to an innovative, prosperous and positively modern outlook.

The Freeway of Unacceptable Risk

A dreary Friday morning. The speed limit on the Mount Barker freeway, city bound direction, are reduce, although no-one around me seems to have noticed. Suddenly, around the next bend, traffic has come to a near standstill and those around me test their breaks suddenly.

For the next 10kms, we move an average of 20km/h. The reason; a two car collision on the lower side of the tunnel. On the uphill side of the road, one lane has also been made useless, so as a fire truck can park while an assessment of the scene can be made. Luckily, in this situation, no-one seems to have been severely injured. I’ve often said, “from driver to idiot: just add water!”

However, this is not the entire case. It seems almost as likely that a crash can occur in dry conditions. What we have on the freeway is a perfect example of one of the major dysfunctions of society that ultimately makes life worse for everyone else.

The reckless speeding, shoving into partial gaps and tail-gating are only too frequent on the freeway.  It’s a ridiculous combination of arrogance and ignorance. Even while we’re all reduced to a snails pace, some bozos sneak down the closed lane as long as possible, to jump the cue. Self-importance prevailing.

In a better world, each of us would have well maintained vehicles, adhere to the speed limits and keep safe braking distances between us and the car in front (in a perfect world, the need for a personal vehicle would be greatly reduced by Transit/Pedestrian Orientated Developments). We would all get to where we’re going with greatly reduced personal risk and tardiness.

However, in the real world, we accept far too much abuse of reasonable policies, designed to make life better for all, in the name of the individual.

I’m late / in a hurry!”

“It’s my money and my car, why should I get the car serviced?”

Me Me Me: another fatality.

We wouldn’t shove our way through a crowded mall, even if it got us to our destination sooner, because we are made more accountable for our actions. Yet, behind the wheel of a 1.5ton heap of metal, hurtling down the road at 120km/h, many of us feel sufficiently removed enough to become selfish. One persons act of arrogant, self-importance / bravado, raises the likelihood of negatively effecting the lives of countless others around them.

Fear of being late for work could very likely lead to being absent from work for yourself and others while making many hundreds of others late at the same time. It also raises the risk of fatality, altering the lives of many others forever.

Yet, why am I saying this? It’s all so perfectly simple that it shouldn’t need to be explained. I witnessed another needless collision this morning and am no stranger to having another vehicle less than 2m behind my own whilst travelling at 110km/h. I know that my life may not be worth much to them, but it means a great deal to me. For that reason, I’m not one to risk my own life, but are subjected to risk because of the thoughtless actions of others.

The reason I raise this point on my blog is because it seems to fit hand-in-hand with the unreasonable objection to environmental management. We often hear that, “greenies are trying to take the rights away from the individual.”

This is of course, complete nonsense. Arguing that it’s silly to exploit that land, fish communities, ground water or forests as quickly as possible, to make cash quick and, “boost the economy”, is nothing more than suggesting that we should abide by the road rules, so we all get to work on time, with lower risk of mortality. Grabbing it all up, as quickly as we can right now, will lead to unrecoverable environments that are of no worth to future generations. Working with the land, rather than forcing it into submission leads to a resource that continues, year after year, to provide valuable returns. It also provides environments that are healthier and more enjoyable.

While I crept past the two ruined vehicles, police, fire and ambulance vehicles and the relating people, I couldn’t help but feel that their scene was a metaphor to the future that creators of hot air, such as Christopher Monckton, Donna Laframoise, Jo Nova, Andrew Bolt, Anthony Watts and many others would lead us to. They argue that the scientific evidence threatens your freedom; your rights. You have, they tend to say, the right to go as hard and fast as you want. Just as with the evidence behind roadway safety, the science holds up compelling evidence to suggest that the risk is simply too great – and also there’s already an unacceptable rate of roadkill because of our driving (ie. extinction and habitat loss rates).

By not servicing and improving the car, not abiding by suggestions of what is acceptable and unacceptable risks, all in the name of self-importance, in getting to work a mere 3mins earlier, we’re simply asking for a crash. Who the hell would want to be responsible for that?

Am I an Alarmist?

The following idea has been stewing around in my head for a little while now, but as I referred to it in a comment on WTD, I figure that I might write it up now.

What is an Alarmist?

Wikipedia tells us that “alarmism is excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat”.

So, to be an alarmist, one is said to be inflating a potential threat beyond anything realistic.

I cannot speak for all the writers out there, however I know that those who I link to, as well as the work that I provide here, are all based on the wealth of science available. Where others have referred to the 4th IPCC report, it’s even likely that potential risks in continuing mismanagement of resources and pollutants are somewhat played down. From experience with working on scientific governmental reports, I know that there is a push to find some positive spin of everything.

If you care to look through the posts on this blog or those in the blogs that I’ve linked you, you will find thoughtful, evidence rich pieces (ie. lots of references to relevant scientific literature and explanations) that lead to concern. You don’t find anyone invoking fear or rallying up the readers into outrage against some establishment.

This is quite clearly NOT the work done by alarmists.

Now, if we look at the opponents of reason; from the misinformation of WUWT or Monckton, to the rally-talk of Donna Laframboise or Jo Nova and then to all those who spread out from such resources, once sufficiently inspired, to parrot off their work in various other comment threads; we see something else.

Here, the treat is a Green Agenda. The IPCC reports, Mann and co. and over a century and a half scientific investigation are all designed to one day, shift the masses into a perpetual state of poverty, with others excelling to dizzying heights of wealth, all under a single communistic world government.

Their evidence? A few mined quotes, some confused interpretations of the data (by unrelated scientists, reporters and whatever Monckton can be called), which have continuously been shown to be wrong and most importantly – a whole heap of emotions (mainly anger).

While concern expressed at this blog and those I link to, try to remain level-headed and focused on what recent studies have revealed, our main opposition is a non-technical group who simply holds up some emails, re-interpreted IPCC graphs and insane conclusions (such as the Urban Heat Island effect or solar activity being the cause of the change to the global temperature anomaly over the past century) all while demanding that we should be angry that our free speech is at risk.

Honestly, how could the IPCC lie about the findings of so many scientists? We wouldn’t need this band, “willing to stand up [against reason, if the truth be known]” , for every single scientist involved would have made a stand against the misinterpretation of their work.

If there was a plot to take over the world, would this one small band be all that stands between democracy and oppression? Of course not (every time I think of this bloody silliness, I’m reminded of that WB’s cartoon, “Pinky and the Brain” – I can’t help but laugh).

No, quite frankly “alarmism is excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat” and as far as I can tell, those who label the rest of us alarmists are the only group that hold onto imagined threats. The rally style of Nova and Laframoise is nothing but excessive alarm of this imagined threat.

It’s obvious that the same group that deny the validity of the scientific evidences are the true alarmists.

Climate Change Denial is Not Grief

It’s winter in the south east Victoria. The year is 1986. The rolling green fields beneath a dark grey sky; the giant skeletons that hold the power cables, seemingly in frozen march across the landscape; the lonely tree near a few grazing cattle; all of this cold, undulated rural land seems a world away to the children rugged up on the back seat of a white Ford Cortina. The windows up, the radio and heater on; the boy is more interested in his transformer. No doubt when they reach their destination, their cousins will smell the cigarette smoke on their clothes, but they can’t. They’re used to their home and the family car smelling of smoke.

Twenty years on it’s appalling to witness someone smoking in the vehicle – even with the windows down – especially with children on board. Twenty years even the guilty mother above regrets ever smoking in the vehicle (now 15 years free from that addiction).

Reflecting on this situation and how the views of my mother changed over the years (from carefree smoker through pregnancy – the doctor said that it would only lead to slightly smaller offspring – to anti-smoker), I’m somewhat sceptical of argument put forward that Anthropogenic Climate Change [ACC] denial shows the hallmarks of the stages of grief. It just doesn’t seem to fit to me.

Grief that a previous paradigm just doesn’t work and is leading us to increasing hardship unless addressed? Please, the industrial revolution has taught us that we’re not powerless.

Ignoring climate change for a moment, another related issue is even more disturbing – grief over peaking oil supply? Sure, I’d agree that many people would deny that oil is peaking  (but that is more the result of misinformation), however few would deny that oil prices have been on the rise over the past decade.

It’s easy to say that many are only too eager to bury their heads in the sand to avoid discussing a changing world, but it’s only easy to say as much because it is wrong.

Long before the end of my mother’s addiction to nicotine, she was well aware of the health threats to herself and those around her – but it was so damn hard to stop. The science behind cigarette related illness was strong and the campaign to inform the public had done it’s job for her. However, how to change her habits? How to overcome the desire to light up again? Eventually, with the help of science and a bit of will power, she met change.

The problem with ACC and peak oil is that the relating science is being attacked. There is no real need for grief of what would be lost (except if you’re one who makes profits from business as usual), because there is ample evidence that new paradigms can lead to greater general standards of living across the globe, instead of the great inequality between the successful and forgotten people of the industrial revolution. It’s not even a case that the information has failed to be provided – I remember the early to mid years of this last decade; look at ICLEI for instance. There are ample case studies of companies, governments and individuals who have been years in front of the pack to achieving low carbon practices.

However, all this enthusiasm changed in the last few years.

Sure, the think tank behind ACC denial has been hard at work for many years – but something change more recently. Had western prosperity created the enthusiasm and the GFC brought concern back to ones personal situation over long-term and environmental concerns? Did the emergence of  global terror slowly retreat the average view to a more conservative outlook? I’m not sure.

I am sure, however, that part of the success relates to a more deeply held suspicion. Something that is occasionally stirred to entice outrage and unjustified scepticism. This is of course the idea that there is something wrong, evil or corrupt with science.

That Climategate and minor errors of the 4th IPCC report probably got more coverage than the actual message of the 4th report is an example of this.

That the deniers jumped with joy at snow storms in the northern hemisphere winter of 09-10, screamed in outrage when the Russian fires and Asian floods of 2010 were suggested to be related to ACC and that in fact, the sudden frequency of freak events in general is probably the most telling sign, which is largely ignored in the press is yet another example.

That the advice of unrelated scientists are taken more seriously, in some groups, than relevant working experts is yet another example. If I wouldn’t trust a geologist to diagnose my illness, why should I trust them to understand all the processes behind climate science over more relevant experts?

Environmental sciences have always faced some unfair radical-left criticism*. Nowadays it’s not uncommon for any field related to climate science to be labelled neo-fascistic, eco-communistic etc, equally common is the plea that such scientists are out to send the masses to poverty. In years when living expenses are becoming too much for many families and terrorism seems on the doorstep, it seems easier than ever to utilise some think tank to paint reason in the same light as the “enemy”. The breathless alarm of Christopher Monckton’s tone when he finally reaches this “hidden plot” in his presentation clearly demonstrates this tactic – even if you know enough to know what you’re hearing is utter nonsense, you cannot help the sinking feeling in this “sudden realisation”. Much like hell and the devil that the church used to push to maintain a following and sell rubbish like Indulgences, the old fear propaganda technique finds itself just as useful in our time of uncertainty.

People are not denying ACC because it threatens how they saw the world. If anything, it’s empowering. Look at the wonders of the modern world. Look at what we know about the environment and climate – we are a force of nature! We have as much ability to change our activities and stop degradation as to maintain business as usual and continue depleting resources and changing the climate. We have a custodial obligation to choose the former and grief is not enough to account for this paralysis.

Maybe my mother wouldn’t have given up smoking if my father was one of those bozo’s who denied the scientific basis behind cigarette related illness and wouldn’t shut up with harping in her ear about it. Worse – what if he convinced her that the tobacco industry was the only thing holding back communism and poverty? It would be surprising if she didn’t start smoking more! But why would he do that, other than if it was somehow beneficial to him? Of course, my Dad’s a champ and did all he could to help my Mum through quitting.

No, denial of ACC is not one of the stages of grief. Denial of this nature comes from employing fear propaganda. Many of the individuals who deny the science do exactly that – they deny the validity of the evidence regardless what is said about it. The reason for this denial is because they are scared of the future, but not the end of business as usual, rather a hidden and unrealistic enemy. Evidence won’t help them. Reason will not sway them. Even debunking their heroes of denial is merely seen as oppressive.

I guess we really need to focus on answering the question, “What’s in it for the people that propagate fear nonsense?”

Maybe then, showing their true colours, we can simulate planning that will benefit progress of all societies and ecosystems and not simply line the pockets of a few trumpets for business as usual.

*As a side note, it’s perhaps surprising that an industry traditionally opposed to many fields of environmental science, agriculture, has actually begun to make a radical shift; exploiting ecological functions and increased biodiversity to improve their plot, yield, running costs and long-term sustainability.

Monckton and the Confusion of Stage Show Denial

I hadn’t realised, until this ever day, an interesting fact regarding the posts of the Moth Incarnate Blog. Of all the many thousands of words and various graphics that I have produced over the past nine months, by a large stretch, the posts of enduring popularity – which on lazy days can count for nearly my entire hit count – are the couple of commentary posts relating to John Abraham and Christopher Monckton. Were I a shallow, stats-driven writer (believe me, the readership here is, unfortunately, low at best), I could easily focus on more sensational spits between reason and misinformation, highly dramatising each blow sent, each eye poked and each dirty word said, or implied… but I may as well use such skills (or in truth, lack there of) for producing scripts for some brain-melting midday soap. Hell, at least I’d be getting paid, I suppose.

Is there any clearer indication that this “climate debate” is nothing more than an entertaining past-time for a large proportion of the blogosphere than that the Abraham vs. Monckton episode still works the search engines?

Anyone who still holds any delusions of Christopher Monckton’s credibility in climate science has either been living under a rock for much of 2010 or is so deep within some paranoid fantasy that Christopher seems sensible… as sensible as little green men controlling the UN to lead the world into new age of oppression, slavery and ultimately part of the spread placed out for our galactic overlords (enter L. Ron Hubbard…). In that regard, I’m a much happier bloke than I was when I set out on this blog – that people where taking Monckton seriously was incredibly disturbing to me. However, as much as many others have wasted so much time going to great lengths to untangle his lies, we see no real ramifications to Chris, personally, for his spread of misinformation. But enough of that.

Over at Watching the Deniers, in a comment stream the other day, an individual whom I can only describe as a troll said something that actually struck me as being dead right, “…the public is saturated and they don’t want to hear about it anymore. So perhaps the deniers are losing now, but the war is already won.”

Indeed, I’ve been wondering where the interest has gone. For, with the scandals debunked (ie. Climategate, exaggeration of the errors in the IPCC’s 4th report etc) and with the aggressive, self-righteous louts of denial de-fanged and dismissed, why is it that the science is now communicated to a much emptier and unenthusiastic space? Most Aussies roll their eyes when they hear about Gillard’s ridiculous climate change committee, but otherwise, few seem to want to talk about climate change at all – or even sustainability. This is incredibly concerning seeing as we’re witnessing many records being broken this year; be it ice loss, coral bleaching events, the global temperature anomaly… We’re also around the apex of peaking oil – probably the most important of the fossil fuels for current human activities. The picture should merit for more action than a simple shrug of the shoulders.

Yet, the bozo troll above most likely got one thing right about the denial movement. Many celebrated deniers probably knew, at least at a subconscious level, that eventually they would be found out – I mean, the hero of denial was a bloody puzzle maker (and what a horrid puzzle he developed to keep many great minds busy for many months). Yet the whole affair, especially over the past year, did it’s job in smothering the public in the climate debate. I think the weak will that we witnessed in Copenhagen and closer to home (Rudd’s back-flipping on tackling climate change, for instance) also helped to provide disillusionment. In short, most felt let down, confused and eventually fed-up with talking about climate change altogether.

Yet, I do not feel that we few who continue to discuss the host of challenges facing this coming century are merely beating a dead horse. A better analogy would be that we’re trying to push a stubborn mule. Sure, the blasted animal might move if it saw the dust storm on the horizon, but at that point, it would be unlikely to outrun the wall of fast approaching sand.  What we need to do is get the ol’ carrot on a stick. Again, I make the call that industry is the only major driver left capable of providing the carrot.

The prevailing paradigms all come back to fast-turnover consumerism. This exposes itself in everything – from electrical devises that have a short lifespan than a pair of shoes, well, from tires having a shorter life span that most peoples shoes if the truth be known, to excessive personal waste and poor quality housing (cheap, pretty, thin-walled suburbia that employs none of the learnt tricks of yesteryear passive heat management and durability, but instead increases the rate of sprawl and requires almost constant climate control). Buy up! Buy up fast!

There are numerous ways around this.

Would people pay more, at least over time, for higher quality, durable technology that is upgradeable and ultimately reclaimable/recyclable (may also include some reward to the user, not unlike the bottle return depots of South Australia)? I believe so.

Would people pay less (at first, possibly a small amount more, but within a decade definitely less) for locally grown produce and other produce that reduces manufacturing costs by reducing and simplifying packaging? I believe so.

If local councils, instead of forking out for new infrastructure in new development plots, paid to upgrade the infrastructure of the neighbouring developed area, promoted apartment construction, localising of industry, better public transport to other close by business districts and used that undeveloped area for minor agriculture, manicured parks and rehabilitated native environments, would they provide an area more attractive, liveable, and economically healthier than the current sprawl mentality? I believe so.

The following graphic always stuck in my mind:

The suggested energy curve of our species, but certainly a good representation of our relationship with fossil fuel oil

This also should represent the current consumerism paradigm. The ideas are already around us, but seemingly as distant to the general public as the buzz of discussions that enriched many European coffee houses of yesteryear. Unfortunately what has created this rift is a stage show, as ludicrous as Monty Python’s ‘Confuse a Cat’, that came in the form of Christopher Monckton, Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Donna Laframbiose, Andrew Bolt and many others. Now, not only are the general public uninterested, but we who still discuss the problems facing our future seem to feel the need of going around in circles, continuously addressing the same tired lines of denial.

The troll made a valid point. We all fell for the side show of denial. It’s not a new technique; we who employ scientific reasoning encourage debate and free-speech and thus must make time for other ideas. Stephan Lewandowsky made an excellent point yesterday about the contradictions in denial and to adopt another Monty Python quote, we must “stop it! It’s just getting silly!”

It’s clear that denial is baseless and we should feel the right to ignore nonsensical arguments and instead move on to the next phase (a place that we were arguably at already a few years ago) and start asking how are we going to meet this future?

~

Talking Climate Scepticism: Changing the Language of Science

It seems that the science community is finally ready to address “scepticism” appropriately, but so far this has deniers celebrating.

Last week, in Between Science, Media and Sceptics: Do we have a chance? and Honesty, Climate Change and Forgotten Rewards: Meeting a Changing World, I discussed this requirement for re-evaluating just how science is communicated to the public – especially with topics as politically sensitive as climate change. Since the release of the forth IPCC report, we’ve seen a massive movement against science, which has employed countless tactics to confuse and misinform the public, all to stir up and induce paralysis, in a time where change is requires. As an excellent example, this whole strange affair has rightly been associated in Australia to the rise and fall of Kevin Rudd.

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) has just released this review of the IPCC, providing with it numerous suggestions to improve upon what amounted to weaknesses within the politically motivated public arena (another review here, by Gareth Renowden). The hope of these suggestions is to provide a fifth report that is as scientifically compelling (if not more so) as the former reports, but also avoids as many errors, inconsistencies (ie. addressing scientific uncertainties) and ambiguity (to a lay audience) as humanly possible. As we saw with Climategate – one sentence out of millions can lead to a novel of doubt. If we are to be effective in addressing climate change and changing energy sources to maintain our standard of living into the foreseeable future, we need to reduce the room available for Misinformers to exploit for business-as-usual promotion.

I would suggest also a public summery version of the report, which draws heavily on the technically rich full report, but only to a level that is necessary to inform a general reader (but also direct the reader to the technical explanation within the full report, if further information is required). But that’s just my suggestion.

With the style of the IAC review, however, I anticipate people like Jo Nova will soon report a “win for the sceptics”, as she has done in Head of Australian Science Academy issues decree from Pagan Chieftans of Science. Here, Jo has found in the The Australian, an article titled Humans affect climate change. That The Australian publish Andrew Bolt is, in my opinion, a detrimental mark on the paper’s credibility, but that’s beside the point (this article isn’t so bad).

The article points out that the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) has put it’s experts up against anthropogenic climate change (ACC) sceptics, which Nova retorts with, “They finally admit (by inference) that there is a debate. Since we amateurs are beating them in the debates and asking questions they can’t answer…”

Of course there is a debate, as the IAC review also states, “an increasingly intense public debate about the science of climate change…”

The key word here which cannot be overlooked is that the debate is a public debate, rather than scientific in nature. If it were a scientific debate, you would see greater engagement between the participants and stimulating discussions amounting from that. The reason that answers cannot be provided is because the rules applied to both sides are uneven (see Dr. Gliskon’s argument regarding this here). To further illustrate this, Jo later mocks the AAS for attempting to produce a document to clear up common misconceptions (which again stresses the opening point to this post and the call for improved scientific communication) and later she writes, “explain why you are right. Present any evidence. Convince us.”

However, anyone familiar with Jo Nova is also aware of her Skeptics Handbook as well as John Cook’s reply, A Scientific Guide to the ‘Skeptics Handbook’, which Jo, bizarrely, concludes failed to address her questions (I compare both handbooks here). If anything, I feel that Jo has provided an excellent example as to how science has been fallen short in communicating ACC with the general public and allowed people like herself to confuse and misinform in a way that cannot, by scientific debate, be addressed, which returns us to the IAC review.

From the review:

“Operating under the public microscope the way IPCC does requires strong leadership, the continued and enthusiastic participation of distinguished scientists, an ability to adapt, and a commitment to openness if the value of these assessments to society is to be maintained,” said Harold T. Shapiro, president emeritus and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University in the United States and chair of the committee.

At no other time has effective science communication been more imperative to meeting the challenges that face our future and as such, it’s good to hear that many establishments are beginning to discuss how to avoid misinformation from corrupting the general message. The first aspect, however unfortunate it is, is to accept the reality of Misinformers – which, as Jo Nova demonstrates, they will celebrate in being acknowledged. As Dr. Glikson discusses and both Jo Nova and Christopher Monckton demonstrate, a public debate cannot follow because one side of the debate is restricted by rigorous rules and the other just doesn’t care about (or understand) the science. What needs to happen is a shake-up on how science and scientists are seen in the general public, how the work is done (ie. to clear up what the peer-view process is, funding etc) and what the conclusions drawn through investigation actually mean (as I discussed late week – we need to explain uncertainty better and on what basis the a scientific consensus can be drawn etc). There is little doubt remaining that non-medical sciences can expect the same level of trust as the local GP, for instance and whatever “ivory tower” that may exists needs to be demolished.

Clearing up the confusion over what climate science is telling us begins with clearing up what science is. Jo Nova doesn’t call to be convinced by the results (although she may not be aware of this), but rather the legitimacy of climate science itself.