Climate change and the war on error

There was a screening last night in the Parliament House cinema of Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” The film officially opens in cinemas around Australia from 14th September.

The screening was put on by Greg Hunt, who is the government’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment. Crikey has a piece on the flim screening and the climate change issue at this link. Obviously the federal government is open to a lot of criticism (quite rightly in my view) for their record on climate change, so Greg Hunt should be congratulated for promoting the film. In a brief contribution before the film started, he said he had arranged the screening to encourage debate on an important issue where the scientific advice from all Australian institutions consistently states that climate change is real. He also said he hoped it would prompt us to think more about what we need to do about it.

One thing I think is that, as with many of the big issues, the more we can take the partisan point scoring out of it, the better the chance of real change for the better. However, that can only work where there is some commitment to intellectual honesty, which is easier said than done.

The film is mostly a very straight documentary, but it is certainly very well put together and very watchable. One can’t help but wonder how different the world might be if the 2000 election in the USA had panned out differently (and ironically if Ralph Nader had decided not to run). However, pondering that doesn’t help in deciding what needs to be done now.

A quote from Al Gore in the film which struck me the strongest was (along the lines of) ‘once we know the facts, it is clear climate change is not a political issue, it is a moral issue’. We are talking about a potentially dramatically different future that our children – and indeed many adults alive today – will face. There is no doubt that the impact on human lives from climate change will be much wider, greater and potentially far more deadly than any threat that terrorism poses (assuming we don’t so mismanage those threats that we walk/talk ourselves into a nuclear war), yet it continues to be so difficult to get major and necessary changes happening.

That makes it all the more reprehensible that our national newspaper, The Australian, continues to run to such an intellectually (and morally) bankrupt line on the issue of climate change. There is plenty of room for different views on how best to address the situation we face, but the issue is far too serious to tolerate the prosecution of such a blatantly distorted agenda. This post on John Quiggin’s site, (along with the comments), contains further on some of the latest twists in The Australian’s editorial line, which has changed over time while always maintaining a position which argues against needing to take serious action to reduce emissions (unless it involves exporting uranium). Given the number of climate change sceptics is shrinking even faster than the planet’s glaciers, perhaps one could dare to hope that this latest bout of misreporting might be the last hurrah before reality finally sets.

It’s now over 18 months since the Kyoto Protocol came into force, despite the Australian government’s refusal to ratify it. Just imagine the progress Australia could have made in that time if our national newspaper had enabled an honest debate to be displayed in its pages, instead of a calculated agenda of running interference.

Despite similar antagonism from the Bush government in the USA, Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has had the courage and vision to sign California up to significant targets to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2020. California on its own is the world’s eighth largest economy, so it is a significant step, even though it certainly won’t be enough on it’s own.

PS Al Gore is appearing on Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope next week (Monday 11th Sept). Could be worth a look.

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156 Comments

  1. Did I say you have a problem with adaptation muzz? Have I said anything about not changing behaviour? No. In fact adaptation usually requires changes in behaviour.

    You keep the planet warm you stave off the Ice Age, (for a while) you cool it you bring it on.

    All I’ve ever said is that Nature is much bigger than us and we need to learn to adapt and prepare for whatever may come climate-wise.

    Politicians making stupid statements like Beazley about signing Kyoto and problems of drought won’t be fixed until we fix climate change are ridiculous. Kyoto won’t fix it.

    Climate change is with us and will always be with us. Droughts and floods are part of climate-change, part of Nature. Maybe Beazley and others should live in a completely enclosed air conditioned cubicle… that’s the only way they will control the weather.

  2. Yes (for some) unfortunately it’s not about solving the “problem” as some are want to call climate-change.

  3. Why not? Tell me where I’m wrong here?

    Isn’t Kyoto about limiting carbon dioxide (and other gases) in the atmosphere?

    Doesn’t carbon dioxide contribute to climate change?

    Doesn’t carbon change effect the way we live, causing us to spend large amounts of money adapting?

    Wouldn’t it be better to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions so that we don’t have to spend quite as much in the future adapting to a world we’re not even sure will look like?

  4. If kyoto was serious there would be no exemptions allowed.

    http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/1102199.html
    http://www.ct-yankee.com/manfctry/kyoto.html
    http://www-pub.naz.edu:9000/~nanatoli/

    We had massive warmings and coolings in the past before Industrialisation muzz.

    We’ve had massive natural events like Krakatoa that have effected global climate before too, and it pales into insignificance compared to the last supervolcano eruption.

    The effect of CO2 emissions etc re climate change is still being debated in scientific circles.
    Eg;
    http://www.lavoisier.com.au/papers/articles/kinin-fox.html

    Now some like to link greenhouse and climate change and warming etc… Some like to confuse the acceptance of warming and climate change with the acceptance that man is the major cause. But it isn’t correct to do so… the debate is ongoing and the subject is so complex it will continue on for a very long time.

    There is of course that other major player that everyone seems to ignore; The Sun.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2000/climate_change/1026375.stm

    You should see the diversity of opinion in the scientific community on that.

    Someone told me the other day that the poles are melting on Mars… damn if that’s so, do you think man is to blame? Nature… it’s huuuuge.

  5. The poles are melting on Mars???

    Today I saw Dr David Suzuki do the National Press Club address. I wish someone had asked him about that.

    He had some terrible things to say about John Howard in relation to his unwillingness to sign Kyoto, even using the “A” word.

    He also said nuclear energy is not only the most dangerous form of energy we could use (both immediate and projective) – but also the most expensive.

  6. Yes even on the ad Suzuki assigned some quotes to Howard that he never said. Obviously he’s been fed some political doo doo.

  7. Geoff, you conceded earlier that human activity affected climate, so why not do what we can rather than say that nature is just too big and we can’t do anything?

    I know we’ve had times when the earth has been warmer and colder, but human civilisation was not the same as it is now. It’s a lot harder and more expensive to accommodate mass movements of people given the levels of infrastructure required.

    And should we ignore Kyoto simply because it is flawed? A rudimentary starting point is better than doing nothing.

    I googled the Mars polar ice caps melting. A NASA site says this is a seasonal (annual) thing, and that when the south one melts, the north one grows. I think that’s a little different to an ice age.

  8. Yes it is seasonal, but the people who told me said this is more than the usual. Hell they even mentioned Pluto. I don’t know, I’m not into Astronomy much.

    Gee, muzz, I’m being as sussinct as I can be without writing tomes on climate change. But it is big you know.

    All i can say is if you think the human element is so major a part of climate change and that kyoto is the complete answer or even a major part of the answer, your kidding yourself.

    BTW humans are part of nature.

  9. Geoff, don’t know why you keep giving us these links from the climate change sceptics, the few people (who are usually paid to dissent) are being given more credibility and weight to what they say because of a ‘reporting balance’ bias.

    As you well know, scientists are overwhelmingly in consensus on climate change.

    from Tim Lambert’s blog, Deltoid:

    http://timlambert.org/2004/11/lavoisier/

    “The Lavoisier group is an Australian astroturf operation. John Quiggin observed that:

    This body is devoted to the proposition that basic principles of physics, discovered by among others, the famous French scientist Antoine Lavoisier, cease to apply when they come into conflict with the interests of the Australian coal industry.
    Melissa Fyfe has an interesting profile in The Age on the Lavoisier group. Some extracts:

    At 401 Collins Street on Monday night, 50 men gathered in a room of plush green carpet, pottery and antique lights to launch a book about the science of climate change. Some of them were scientists. But many were engineers and retired captains of industry. Presiding was Hugh Morgan, president of the Business Council of Australia and former Western Mining boss. The master of ceremonies was retired Labor politician Peter Walsh.

    Climate change is about science, but not just about science. It’s about business and politics and wielding influence. The men—there was just one woman present—were all climate change sceptics, members of an organisation called the Lavoisier Group that argues global warming is nothing to worry about…”

  10. The entire purpose of the global warming deniers ‘create a debate when there isn’t one’ from the sceptics lobbyists is to confuse the public and continue to make record profits.

    from the same blog:

    “The only problem for the sceptics is that the vast majority of scientists think they are the ones that are deluded. “There’s a better scientific consensus on this than on any issue I know—except maybe Newton’s second law of dynamics”, Dr James Baker, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, has said. …”

  11. Geoff, I just think that the addition of human factor may be enough to make a significant difference or create a tipping point – so I’ve adapted my own lifestyle as I can.

    But I can see that we’re just arguing in circles, no one is likely to change their mind, and I have end-of-semester assessment to complete, so I’ll leave this debate alone for the moment.

  12. Lots of people think I’m an ididot to.

    The lead letter in todasy Sydney Morning Herald is very worthy of reading on this and the realted matetr of drought.

  13. Deb… who are the “deniers”?
    Not me…
    Most people I quote acknowledge climate change which obviously includes warming and cooling.

    Seems to me you just want to believe one side of the argument and ignore the other, by disparaging those who dissent from your pov.

    muzz… thank heavens. :-)
    ken.. a link mate, a link?

  14. So Geoff, if politics has no place in science, why has the Lavoisier Group appointed a former Federal Minister as their president?

  15. Feral, do you think I’ve visited the group site before Deb mentioned it?

    What makes you think people are only capable of “wearing one hat”? Or that everyone is incapable of differentiating science from politics?

    Where does any of what you say refute the fact that I don’t believe politics has a place in science?

    Now the big question is… did you actually read any of the articles on the site? Or does your particular bias run so deep you didn’t.

  16. Gee mate, you don’t have to gloat about me choosing not to argue anymore. Some of us have other things to do than carry on endless circular debates.

  17. Geoff, even a cursory look at the Lavoisier Group’s site shows that these people are primarily concerned with protecting the economic interests of carbon-based industry.

    It is also clear that the Group values power and influence above all. Look at the list of office bearers – 1 ‘The Hon’, 3 AOs and an AM. No BSc (Hons), no MSc’s, no PhD’s. And presided over by a man who likes to portray himself as The Macho Economist.

  18. Over time, I have learned that all subjects, disciplines and interests work together on an interactive basis, often when we are unaware of it.

    I recently told a very clever man that Statistics was not a purely mathematical science and therefore often gave the wrong result. He laughed at me.

  19. I wasn’t gloating muzz…. I guess it’s all about interpretation eh. That’ll teach me to be friendly.

    Much like ferals interpretation of people who obviously dissent from his pov. I gather he/she still hasn’t read anything from that site re the actual topic.

    As some of you have posted in high dudgeon in the past… your shooting the messenger. (And ignoring the message)

  20. Geoff, I’d come across LG a couple of years ago. Can’t say I’ve read all of their pronouncements, but I’ve seen enough to know where they are coming from. Besides, they are upfront about their objectives.

    This is not about whether I agree or disagree with them, but about whether or not they constitute a reliable and unbiased source of information. If I want to find out about something scientific, I go to scientific sources. If I want to find out what Australian carbon-based industry wants the public to know (and not know) about climate change, I go to LG or Jennifer Marohasy’s blog.

  21. Sincere apologies Geoff for misinterpreting your comment. I do try my best to be polite and target the content rather than the person (unlike some bloggers).

    Still not sure what you meant by thank heavens though.

  22. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20690289-7583,00.html

    NICHOLAS Stern is a distinguished economist. Climate change is a complex, uncertain and contentious scientific issue. Have you spotted the problem with the Stern review yet?
    An accomplished cost-benefit analysis of climate change would require two things: a clear, quantitative understanding of the natural climate system and a dispassionate, accurate consideration of all the costs and benefits of warming as well as cooling.

    Unfortunately, the Stern review is not a cost-benefit but a risk analysis, and of warming only.

  23. Geoff, you linked to William Kininmonth, who is also a renowned climate change sceptic, associated with, you guessed it, The Lavoisier Group.

    “The Lavoisier Group distributes the work of geologist Bob Carter, Ian Castles, William Kininmonth, Ian Plimer and a few other Australian sceptics. The Institute of Public Affairs, which receives funding from companies such as ExxonMobil, the most sceptical of the world’s fossil fuel giants, also engages in the debate, scouring the web and email groups for evidence that climate change is natural.”

    “…Many, like the Lavoisier Group, are concerned about the cost of Kyoto to Australia’s resource-intensive economy. Others, such as William Kininmonth, have found fame in sceptic circles in the twilight of their careers.”

    http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/11/26/1101219743320.html

  24. Doesn’t mean he’s wrong Deb.
    I don’t keep trying to knock those groups you quote as if that’s relevant.
    The science is relevant.
    The fact that there are many scientists that don’t think what you do is also0 relevant.

  25. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20876,20696551-28737,00.html

    Leading Australian economist and Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin emerged after a few hours alone with the report with a worried look on his face. “There are big errors in the Stern report and I’m worried that it’s going to be deemed to be far too extreme,” he said.

    McKibbin’s worries are many. He says Stern uses only worst-case scenarios for climate change; the methodology is faulty, with the effects measured on a single, simple model that is simply inadequate to incorporate complex interrelationships spanning decades. He fears that by seriously overstating the potential consequences of climate change, the Stern report risks undermining rather than progressing debate on climate change, all but inviting critics of climate change science to use this much vaunted and publicised report as yet another example of agenda driven analysis.

    Respected European economist Richard Tol was less polite. “The Stern review can (therefore) be dismissed as alarmist and incompetent,” he wrote in a stinging paper this week. Tol also accuses Stern of selectively emphasising the most pessimistic studies on the effects of climate change, of misinterpreting results, of claiming a cost-benefit analysis was carried out, when it was not.

    Tol is not a climate change sceptic but, like McKibbin, he has expressed concern the Stern report’s desire to force progress on climate change risks being counterproductive. “This is not to say that climate change is not a problem, nor that greenhouse gas emissions should not be reduced. There are sound arguments for emission reduction. However, unsound analyses like the Stern review only provide fodder for those sceptical of climate change and climate policy,” he writes.

  26. A couple of hot days in a peiod of drought and the warmingmongers cry it’s the end of the world… give me a break.

    Here’s what your “correct” side of the debate have been doing Deb.

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220

    “Global Warming has become more than just a scientific issue and has been portrayed as nothing less than the End of the World by some. However, despite all the hoopla from Hollywood, Politicians and Science Bureaucrats, there is another side, but it’s being suppressed according to Richard Lindzen, an Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. From the article: ‘Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.'”

  27. Yes I’m bored…
    Andrew hasn’t commented on the NSW Muslim “crisis” over the last fortnight or on the latest re Multiculturalism policy coming from Canberra.

    http://mclean.ch/climate/Eye_opening.htm

    The critical information from Greenland was not only that conditions had been WARMER but that the world had also COOLED.

    The Vostok data shows that carbon dioxide levels usually rose AFTER a increase in temperature, not before. There was no way that any increase carbon dioxide was the cause of a rise in temperature.

    About 1,000 years ago average temperatures were about 1 degree higher than today (which makes our concern about an 0.4 degree rise since 1980 rather minor).

    About 2,100 years ago average temperatures were about 2 degrees higher than today.

    About 3,300 years ago average temperatures were about 3 degrees higher than today. (The data from Greenland ice-cores goes back far beyond this time so despite what some people say, it looks like it takes a lot more than 3 degrees to melt the ice cap!)

    For almost all of the last 4,000 years temperatures have been higher than today. More precisely, apart from a brief period 1200 years ago, it is only the last 750 years that have been at or below current temperatures. On this evidence it is more reasonable to assume that warmer weather is the natural condition – in so far as we can claim any stability or consistency in something that is constantly changing.

    It is clear that carbon dioxide has not caused the change in temperature because the changes in carbon dioxide have lagged behind the temperature changes. To put it another way, something caused the changes in temperature but it wasn’t carbon dioxide.

  28. Geoff, you’ve already demonstrated that you are a climate change denier – so determinedly so that you even deny being a denier. That’s fine, you’re entitled to your view. But people in Parliament have a responsibility to consider the facts and evidence and to act in the community’s interests, rather than take whatever position best shores up their own ideological dogma.

    As I mentioned in another post, the federal government has been presented with ample evidence and many cost-effective options since at least 1991. The Democrats first mentioned the need to act on climate change about 20 years ago. Ever since, some people have sought to prevent effective action being taken by muddying the waters with a range of assertions, most of which insist there are still uncertainties. There will always be uncertainties about specifics, but the general facts about the ecological consequences and the economic and social harm have been quite clear for some time, and failing to act on this using the excuse of uncertainty about the details is simply irresponsible.

    This failure to act because of short-term political interests and dogmatic ideology is now nothing short of culpable negligence on the part of the current government. Of course, the previous Labor government failed to do much about it either and haven’t always done much to put the pressure on from Opposition. We all now have a responsibility to remedy that failure urgently. There are still debates to be had about the best ways to do that, but there is no time to waste on those who refuse to be socially responsible on this issue.

    BTW Geoff, I have commented a number of times on the so-called crisis confronting the Muslim community – I’ve done it here, here and here for starters. In short, I’ve condemned the Sheik’s comments but also criticised those who are deliberately fanning another wave of Muslim bashing for being unfair, counter-productive and hypocritical. But this thread is not about that issue.

  29. I have never denied climate change Andrew.I just don’t like the one-sidedness of the debate here.

    You of course can deny the other side of the debate which many of your ilk try to pass of as people denying warming and climate change when in fact they don’t… all they dissent from and note the word isn’t deny… it’s DISSENT… is the cause/s of it.

  30. I think Geoff is on the right track.

    Jonathan Lowe:

    Here is scientific proof that it is getting warmer. I own a thermometer and know how to read it.

    During the last few winters, I have washed very few jumpers, cardigans, trackpants and coats. The shops are having difficulty selling them.

  31. No model of climate change argues that the world will universally get warmer (which is why they use the term climate change rather than global warming). Some areas will get colder, some will get warmer, some will get wetter, and others dryer.

    One such example is if the Gulf Stream stops (as it did for 10 days last year), the warm currents that currently ensure Britain’s relatively balmy climate will stop, and Britain is likely to get colder as a result.

    And Geoff, it seems you’re increasingly isolated. Even Rupert Murdoch now considers global warming a problem that needs to be addressed. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20714144-601,00.html

  32. muzzmonster:

    I guess I must be isolated as well. I never believe very much of what I read. I mostly try to work things out for myself.

    Mars is the fourth rock from the sun. Are we earthlings affecting its climate as well?

  33. Geoff, from my readings, you always talk about adaptation to, rather than addressing climate change.

    And CORAL, if you don’t believe much of what you read, why do you believe that Mars is getting warmer?

  34. I think there’s a great difference between doing what we can to cut carbon emissions now because of what might happen, than building a wall to keep out the sea in 10 years time. Or confronting the thousands of people who are trying to find arable land because the place they’ve lived for generations no longer supports them. Or providing anti-malarial medicine for people because malaria-bearing mosquitos can now live in different areas. I won’t go on with other possibilities for the sake of space.

    The whole point about the Stern Report is that it’s so much cheaper to act now than later. You seem to disagree that there is nothing we can do now to stop what might happen later so why bother to do anything now.

  35. Well prepare for disappointment muzz because you may just find that even with cutting our carbon emissions the climate will still continue to change.

    The next Ice Age will not be man made… the last one wasn’t. Nor was the last period of warming.

  36. It seems we’re going around in circles here Geoff.

    As I may have said before, I’m of the opinion that human behaviour may be enough to alter the climate more than would normally be the case, and thus change my patterns of behaviour.

    Yes, another Ice Age will come and I’ll be long dead by then. In the meantime, I’ll continue to buy efficient appliances, ride my bike and take public transport. If I’m wrong, I haven’t lost anything (except occasionally getting wet in the rain which is of no great consequence).

  37. muzz:

    You could be dead in 2 years when the water supply runs out.

    In our home, we’ve been on voluntary Level 5 water restrictions for the last 3 years. We bought water saving devices, including a washing machine which reuses its own water, 10 years ago.

    We are at the warm end of an Ice Age. Can you prove that Mars isn’t warming up also?

    I agree with strategies to manage the planet better. I believe in a multi-pronged approach.

    It can’t do any harm, can it?

  38. Totally right Coral, in fact in NSW there’s more chance of us running out of water due to poor water management and infrastructure development than through any other cause.

  39. Geoff, I think my opinion is indeed close to yours as you suggest – a horrifying thought!.

    This thread is going around in circles because it is located on a false dichotomy between denialists and true believers and I believe you have been unjustly charachterised as a denier, which you have clearly and repreatedly denied.

    As I mentioned on the other thread there is an illusion that if we reduce carbon emmissions we can stop climate change. We cannot, for both the natural cycles of the earth as well as the human made factors of the last 300 years of fossil fuels and thousands of years of land clearing are just kicking in now and will continue under their own momentum for hundreds of years more.

    I believe very strongly we have to reduce fossil carbon emmission, but the benefit of this will not be significant for a few hundred years. There is no quick political fix!

    However it is this long term vision and concern for our descendants that is missing in both the true believers and the denialists perspectives.

    The new “sky is falling” ethos, now embraced by everyone from little four eyes to Bob Brown is just the fear mechanism to justify nuclear power. The nuke industry has used ju-jitsu on greenies – using the power and momentum of greenies to deliver profits to the most toxic industries on earth.

    The real money is in the stock exchange. The recent hysteria has sent uranium shares rise significantly in value – this is the short term game, to whip up this hysteria so that nuclear power becomes acceptible to a public that has been terrified of it until now, for good reasons.

    What could be a bigger threat than 250,000 years of cancers and genetic mutations? Climate change! – problem solved, back to business with the toxic paradigm that will kill us all long before we run out of drinking water through climate change.

    another prediction – nuclear power will be subsidised through carbon credits from coal power, ensuring maximum share prices all around.

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