Whatever it takes…

Let’s start with today’s tranquil dawn down here in The Gong.


Mind you, bad weather is coming, they say… But that’s tomorrow.

So I open the paper to find that Motormouth Abbott has sprayed his own side! This happens when you don’t really turn the brain on.

TONY ABBOTT has ridiculed as ”crazy” the emissions reduction goal of his own climate change policy as the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, assured worried Labor MPs she could fight her way through horror poll results and lead the government to the next election.

Mr Abbott questioned the logic of his own commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 as he was taking aim at Labor’s carbon tax, which shares the same goal.

”The other crazy thing about this is that at the same time that our country is proposing to reduce its emissions by 5 per cent, just 5 per cent, the Chinese are proposing to increase their emissions by 500 per cent,” he told a group of pensioners.

Both sides of politics agree on the 5 per cent target but argue over how to best get there.

Labor advocates pricing carbon while the Coalition supports direct action, in which polluters would be paid directly from the federal budget to reduce emissions….

Some have seen me as a touch shrill or one-sided on the issue of climate change, even if I haven’t actually said very much at all on the carbon tax. That I’d much rather leave to people like Ross Gittins who is eminently sane on the whole matter.

… The decarbonising of the economy won’t happen overnight. It will be brought about over the next 40 years. And much of it will happen relatively smoothly as electricity producers install more emissions-efficient generators as their old power stations come to the end of their useful lives.

Tony Abbott claims the scheme obviously involves the end of the coal industry because Treasury’s projections envisage coal accounting for less than 10 per cent of electricity production in 2050.

This is dishonest….

There’s a series of really excellent posts on the politics of it all on Jim Belshaw’s blog. Much better than anything I could come up with.

Pause for another calming scene from this morning:


And then on the other hand we have last night’s Media Watch – a corker, and a sad commentary on the nearness of the bottom of the barrel morally and intellectually to the actions and words of T Abbott in his current hard-hatted and horny handed phase. If you are looking for shrill then this report has some classic cases.

Breakfast host Alan Jones likes to air his listeners’ factual opinions about Julia Gillard too. Like this email from ‘Colin’…
Alan Jones: Another one says "please, please don’t have that lying bitch on your program again, I had to move the dial to another station. I guess it was worth the once to show us all what a beep lying, beep backstabbing, beep treacherous, beep beep she is."
Thanks Colin.
— 2GB, The Alan Jones Breakfast Show, 28th February, 2011

A couple of hours later Tony called in…
‘Tony’: The Australian taxpayer even pays for the toilet paper she uses.
Does she go down to the chemist to buy her tampons? Or is the Australian taxpayer paying for those as well? …
In my opinion Julia Gillard is a piece of crap …
Alan Jones: Ok, well you made a lot of valid points there. We’ve just got to avoid in our criticism the personal. We stick to the policy; we never deal with the personal.
— 2GB, The Alan Jones Breakfast Show, 28th February, 2011…

I’m left almost speechless – a condition that never afflicts Alan Jones.
Here’s how he relays to his listeners information from a source most people would regard as trustworthy…
Alan Jones: This is more Treasury modelling showing that real national income will grow – grow! – by 1.1% a year under the carbon tax. Treasury modelling.
They’ve got them everywhere, haven’t they? They’ve got all their little mates everywhere, trotting out the figures …
Look you can’t take these people seriously. It is rubbish, and it’s a hoax.
— 2GB, The Alan Jones Breakfast Show, 7th June, 2011

And so it goes on, day after day…

Yes, Julia Gillard has gone back on an election pledge. Yes, there are good reasons to be sceptical about the carbon tax policy. Yes, it’s unpopular. Yes, Jones and his colleagues have a right to their opinions. But this is a serious issue, and Mr Holland, what your station does is not…balanced…coverage.

On my way home from Sydney on Sunday I read the accounts of recent developments in Australia in both The Economist and New Scientist. Both journals were remarkably unexcited. As they should be. Compared with the above it seemed another universe altogether.

Here’s another image:

201106 (1)

And here is the neutral, cool language of a scientific report, a million miles from the febrile worlds of Alan Jones or Tony Abbott.

… Warmer-than-average conditions dominated the globe during June 2011, with the most prominent warmth present across most of Russia, Europe, and China, the Middle East, eastern Canada, Mexico, and the southern United States. Cooler-than-average regions included the northern and western United States, part of western Canada, and most of Australia. The monthly average world land surface temperature anomaly of 0.89°C (1.60°F) was the fourth warmest June on record.

According to the China Meteorological Administration, June 2011 was the second warmest June for the country since records began in 1951. The temperature was 1.0°C (1.8°F) above the average of 19.5°C (67.1°F). The northwestern province of Gansu had its warmest June on record.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research reported that New Zealand had its third warmest June since records began in 1909, with the temperature 1.5°C (2.7°F) above the monthly average. However, temperatures in Australia remained below normal across most of the country during the month. According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, it was the eighth coolest average minimum temperature on record for June. The Northern Territory had its coolest average minimum temperature and also the eighth coolest average maximum temperature for June since records began in 1950. Australia reports average monthly maximum and minimum temperatures instead of general monthly averages.

The warmth across China contributed to the third warmest June average land temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. In contrast, the cooler-than-average temperatures in Australia contributed to the 19th warmest June average land temperature in the Southern Hemisphere.

Following the dissipation of La Niña in May, the worldwide average ocean surface temperature during June 2011 was 0.47°C (0.85°F) above the 20th century average—the 10th warmest June on record. The warmth was most pronounced across the central north Pacific, equatorial west Pacific, the Labrador Sea, the equatorial Atlantic, and much of the mid-latitude southern oceans. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions are likely to develop into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2011. Globally, the combined worldwide land and ocean surface temperature was the seventh warmest June since records began in 1880…

Now of course Alan Jones will ignore that, or follow the exceedingly strange Lord Moncktonnot a member of the House of Lords — and say the whole enterprise is some kind of commie plot based on bogus science. Monckton likes the word “bogus”. He should, given how appropriate a descriptor it is for his own spiel. Monckton has been so thoroughly discredited only the desperate and dateless would give him ten seconds. God knows why the Press Club is. Let’s hope he’s the main course and not the guest speaker.  There is an excellent episode on Monckton on Radio National’s Background Briefing.

The Scottish peer Lord Monckton has been raising hell against the carbon tax in barnstorming rallies and public meetings around the country. But just who is Lord Monckton and who are the forces behind him? Chief amongst them a mysterious group called the Galileo Movement and mining magnate and now media player Gina Rinehart. Reporter Wendy Carlisle.

The patron of the Galileo Movement is Alan Jones, that paragon of objective science and balanced opinion, that bright star of our southern firmament, that tireless saint, that…. Oh shut up!

Meanwhile, here is a lord worth listening to – one of the greatest scientific minds and greatest academic achievers this country has produced*.

What would he know? And apologies for the laryngitis.

That is what a voice of reason sounds like – husky voice apart. See also Climate change: Facts, uncertainties and the way forward. Lord May.

Nothing bogus there. Nor anything hysterical or alarmist.


Confessions of a Climate Change Convert

More recently, Conservative writer D.R.Tucker wrote a widely noticed piece in the FrumForum, (former George W. Bush assistant) David Frum’s conservative blog, “dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement.” Tucker’s piece is reposted below in its entirety, with permission…

Since reconsidering climate science, I’ve had a number of debates with conservative and libertarian friends, who oppose government regulation of carbon emissions in part because they believe those regulations will cost too much. Of course regulations cost; limiting ecological damage and preserving public health requires money. The issue is whether those costs are moral to impose. If no entity has a constitutional right to pollute, and if the federal government has a compelling interest in reducing carbon pollution, then how can those costs not be moral?

In the months following my acceptance of the conclusions in the IPCC report, I’ve had a change in my emotional climate. I go back and forth between disappointment and hope—sadness over seeing Republicans who once believed in the threat of climate change (such as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty) suddenly turn into skeptics; optimism about efforts by such groups as Republicans for Environmental Protection and Citizens Climate Lobby to sound the alarm about the need to combat climate pollution. I struggle with the urge to give in to cynicism and bitterness, to write off the American right for its refusal to recognize scientific facts. Thankfully, there’s a stronger urge—an urge to keep working until the American right recognizes that a healthy planet is required to have the life and liberty that allows us to pursue happiness.

You know, most of the shrill and overheated language on this topic comes from the denialist camp. Not to mention death threats to scientists.

And no-one can outdo Tony Abbott these days on Chicken Little impersonations. He smells blood in the water now and will do whatever it takes… Think about it.

On Lord May

* Robert, Lord May of Oxford, OM AC Kt FRS, holds a Professorship jointly at Oxford University and Imperial College, London and is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He was until recently President of The Royal Society (2000-2005), and before that Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Head of the UK Office of Science and Technology (1995-2000). He is also, amongst others things, a member of the UK Government’s Climate Change Committee (an independent body established by the Climate Change Bill, to advise on targets and means of achieving them), a Non-Executive Director of the UK Defense Science & Technology Laboratories and until recently Chaired the Trustees of the Natural History Museum. His career includes a Personal Chair in Physics at Sydney University aged 33, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and Chairman of the Research Board at Princeton, and in 1988 a move to Britain and Oxford as Royal Society Research Professor. Particular interests include: (i) how populations are structured and respond to change, particularly with respect to infectious diseases and biodiversity; (ii) the structure and dynamics of ecosystems (and – more recently – other networks, such as banking systems), with particular emphasis on their response to disturbance, natural or human-created He was awarded a Knighthood in 1996, and appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1998, both for “Services to Science”. In 2001 he was one of the first 15 Life Peers created by the “House of Lords Appointments Commission”, which was established as an independent mechanism for appointing non-party-political Peers following the removal of the voting rights of hereditary Peers. In 2002, The Queen appointed him to the Order of Merit (the fifth Australian in its 100-year history). His many honours include: the Royal Swedish Academy’s Crafoord Prize (bioscience and ecology’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize); the Swiss-Italian Balzan Prize (for “seminal contributions to [understanding] biodiversity”); and the Japanese Blue Planet Prize (“for developing fundamental tools for ecological conservation planning”). He is a Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, an Overseas Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and several other Academies and Learned Societies in the UK, USA and Australia. In 2007 he received the Royal Society’s Copley Medal its oldest (1731) and most prestigious award, given annually for “outstanding achievements in research in any branch of science”.


17 thoughts on “Whatever it takes…

  1. See also Deltoid on Radio National’s Backround Briefing on Monckton. He has transcribed some choice bits.

    Still on the fascist theme, at 41:20 Monckton declares that ABC represents fascism. Why? Because of the Adam Spencer interview, the questions “an appalling woman called Wendy Carlisle” asked him, and because The Chaser interviewed him. Monckton’s conclusion:

    The ABC has shown its credentials as supporters of totalitarianism , of socialism and of fascism. Let us use that word again.

    I do have a message for your Liberal and National coalition. Within three months of the next general election, DEFUND the ABC!

    Carlisle was in the crowd at the time and was jostled by angry Monckton supporters.

    I think the totalitarian here is the one who wants to silence a news organization for asking impertinent questions of a British aristocrat….

    Lord M: head case or what?

  2. Interesting collection Neil. But I wondered about this:

    “In contrast, the cooler-than-average temperatures in Australia contributed to the 19th warmest June average land temperature in the Southern Hemisphere”

    – like you I’m a layman as to the science, but this is just beyond my limited understanding.

    I was also thinking, reading your deft cuts on Mr Jones, that he is much like GetUp, in that if there was no contoversy able to be twisted into rage, he’d sort of wither away on the vine, bereft of life… a deceased parrot, he would cease to be.., etc. etc.

    The other weird thing is that it snowed in Bowral today, and all the way through to Fitzroy Falls. Which is where Mr Jones’ country retreat is situated. I bet tomorrow’s diatribe will mention that fact several times.

    • Wonder how close that snow is to The Gong then. I can remember snow at Robertson in the past. But we do well to recall that weather is one thing and climate quite another. Climate is really seen only in averages over around a thirty year period.

      Funnily enough I have no problem grasping that cooler than average June temperatures in, shall we say Bowral? could coexist with a Southern hemisphere high — the hemisphere being much more than Bowral. NZ had a warm June, I think, for example. The words “contributed to” may cause a temporary double-take.

      Looking at the photo at the head of this post and my bad weather forecast: I should have recalled “red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning” shouldn’t I?

  3. Well, I have re-read both your cuts and the source document, and I think what the writer is driving at is that the contrast is between the Northern Hemisphere’s 3rd warmest, and the Southern’s 19th warmest (out of 132 reporting years). I think that they are saying that if Aus hadn’t been quite so cold, the SH would have been pretty warm too. And that’s fair enough.

    The other thing which should be noted is that the actual range – never mind the ranking within that range of 132 years – appears to be something less than 2 degrees-C. I dunno what one/132nd of 2 degrees is; nor do I know what the 19th upper position is – but I do understand the difference between climate and weather (thank you) and wonder why results are presented in such a disingenuous fashion.

    I just don’t like language used this way; the writer has started from the (probably correct) viewpoint that the planet is warming, then biased all reporting from that frame. I mean, quite honestly I have no argument with the over-reaching point, just, why bother with the cute semantics?

    • You’re much more language sensitive than I am, David. Perhaps it’s just that these state of the climate summaries have been reporting overall rises year after year for so long they have come almost to take it as given.

      The map is for me very eloquent,

      • Yes, the map is eloquent; all blues (cold) and red (heat, danger!) and I’ve no legitimate argument with it. Who would? It would probably be way too hard to provide the same message with maybe different shades of blue and red to reflect the deviations which must exist – I guess. And possibly wouldn’t reflect the point being made?

        I’m surprised you dismiss the importance of language? I’d have thought it would have taken a much higher priority with your background. And yes – I am very language sensitive, and your criticism is accepted in all goodwill.

        • Red for hot and blue for cold aren’t surprising.

          I haven’t said language is unimportant — far from it, It’s just that I didn’t see the issues you did. To me the report is fairly bland and functional. We all bring things to reading of course, as well as take things away.

        • Well, that only leaves me to ask what you understand by “with respect to a 1971-2000 base period” and also to say that since the only blue (=good?) bit of the globe appears to be Australia, I am not going to feel in any way guilty by chucking an extra log or three on the fire. Expect a large red dot just south of you…

        • I don”t agree that red and blue carry the value judgements you are assuming: to me they are just conventions representing hot and cool. Australia is blue because we had a cooler than average June,

          The 1971-2000 base period is a thirty year period whose averages are the “normals” against which measures are higher or lower. Thirty year averages are typically regarded as climate rather than just weather. Clearly there has to be some measure of what climate expectations actually are so that anomalies in shorter time frames like months or individual years can be defined.

          I gather new normals have just been calculated for 1981-2010 and they are apparently generally higher than 1971-2000 though in some areas they are cooler.

    • I don’t quite see the fancy semantics you refer to, I’m afraid.

      Rather than it being the case that the writer — or committee that compiles these reports — starts with a VIEWPOINT that the planet is warming, they start with the FACT that the planet has been warming — with blips of course — steadily and inexorably for several decades now. No-one denies this, though there is a common furphy based on drawing short lines across the data from 1998 or 2000 to the present that there has been a significant cooling in recent years. The following video by a science journalist who long worked for New Scientist very clearly deals with that furphy.

      Second, the size of the increase is indeed very small — or so it seems. But as Robert May points out in his full 2010 Lowy lecture, the difference between now and the height of the ice ages is just 4C or at the most 5C. Small changes may have big consequences. The other point is that a very small average world increase can involve very much larger increases at the poles, for example. That patterning can even be seen at the month level on the June 2011 map.

      None of these points is really controversial. But this is stuff you can read in any standard presentation of climate science. It really is common knowledge and is not really among the genuine areas of uncertainty in the science.

      • Sorry Neil – forgive rudness in not replying sooner. I went to bed last night to get warm and to watch as much as I could of the Murdoch-Brit Parliament thing.

        I reiterate that we don’t much differ on the science, just – I have this irrit regarding the presentation of same. I won’t repeat it here but there was a very old paper given suggesting that scientists had the obligation to present all sides apparent to them arising from their research. I think that has been – still is – missing from the information given we laymen. I think that detracts from the strength of the case being set out, and I really don’t think it is good science to ignore, sometimes even bury, results or possibilities which might “distract” from whatever viewpoint is being pushed.

        A side issue:

        Have you noticed just how inconsistent these comment threads are? I’m answering your 10 p.m. comment, which seems to sit between my 5 p.m. and my 3 p.m. entries. It just makes it hard to follow the sense of the evolving discussion, I think.

      • addendum: I think I’m confusing the levelling which arises from the ability to either directly comment upon your reply, or comment/reply on the ‘head entry’ of the discussion.


  4. I have changed the comment settings, doing away with nested comments which seem to be more trouble than they are worth on the options WordPress gives me. I have also restored chronological order.

    I have looked again at the NOAA State of the Climate reports. I really can’t see what you do in terms of semantics or indeed semiotics — as in that red/blue thing you note. They seem to me very clear digests of masses of information, albeit with a to-be-expected US emphasis. I quite literally don’t see what you have seen. I respect the ease of use they have achieved. It is very easy, I find, to find the key information for each month.

    Since, as you say, we don’t actually disagree about the science I remain quite happy to be more pleased than you with the colour of the box it comes in!

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