I was as surprised as anyone when I saw that the Age had given Bob Carter some of its precious column inches for him to make the argument against the AGW proposition and the Carbon Tax. What surprised me less was that their resident Warminista Jo Chandler should write a piece denouncing Carter. With a hypocrisy that seems to be consistent with her other writing on the subject of climate change this piece finds her not addressing the points made by Carter which went to the very fundamentals of the theory, in other words he went to the basis of science, the evidence, as the basis of his argument. No what this piece does is use the old favourites of the acolytes of the Warming faith, namely the ad hominem attack and the blind appeal to authority. This morning I will go through her argument and show just how shallow and facile her argument is.
June 29, 2011
The myth of Climate-gate has endured because of media failings.
GEOLOGIST and long-time climate change denialist Bob Carter materialised on this page on Monday, reprising a weary routine – tiptoeing through the scientific archive to find the morsels of data that might, with a twirl here and a shimmy there, contrive to support his theory that global warming is a big fat conspiracy.
Talk about pinning her colours to the mast right from the beginning! Chandler opens with a misleading headline , a dodgy proposition as a subtitle and then an ad hominem attack upon the scientist she wishes to denounce. Its not exactly a piece of balanced journalism, now is it? Well balanced journalism would not be her style on this subject, especially as she has a book that relies upon the Warminista faith for its commercial success.
Meanwhile, in real news, the journal Nature Geoscience published a paper by American and British scientists that found West Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier is now melting 50 per cent faster than in 1994.
In an effort to better understand the hidden mysteries of ice sheet dynamics, which have obvious implications for every coast on the planet, the team also sent a submarine beneath the floating portion of the ice. It found the glacier had broken free from the ridge that once grounded it, allowing warmer waters to circulate and melt it from beneath. This had long been the theory – now they had some observed evidence.
The hastening retreats of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers have been closely monitored by scientists for decades. Their collapse is a nightmare cited as one of the tipping-point scenarios scientists most fear – potentially pulling the plug to drain the western ice plateau, and possibly even destabilising the sleeping giant next door: the East Antarctic ice sheet.
The uncertainties of these processes are to blame for the wide, wild variations in anticipated global sea level rise – the hottest, most disputed topic in forecasts for a warmer world. So you might imagine that this latest insight would merit a mention. But it didn’t make the cut for publication in any Australian newspapers.
What we are given next is the very old and surprisingly effective technique of “Bait and switch”. As I remember Carter’s piece he does not dwell at all upon Antarctica. In fact I have just re read it and he does not even mention Antarctica So what is clear is here is that Chandler is trying to create a sense of crisis to demonstrate that the worst case scenario of the AGW theory is actaully happening now. Surely as a “Senior writer” she should have made a point of addressing what Carter actaully argues in his piece rather than using it as an excuse to go on a rather tawdry cavort dragging out the same old Warminista memes that she has employed in previous writing on the subject.
The murky, under-the-waterline mysteries of media dynamics are no less confounding than those determining the movement of glaciers, and no less potentially catastrophic in terms of implications for informing policy debate and climate action.
But there are no laws of physics or nature to provide a framework to explain the vagaries of the media machine, which seems utterly overwhelmed by the task of telling the story on climate science. There is, in truth, nothing very scientific about the processes that determine what makes news in this critical debate. It’s a crap shoot. Often, you get crap.
I must confess that were I a crueller man I might make a great deal of her closing sentences, and relate it to the author of thsi piece from the Age’s “Senior writer” but this part of Chandler’s piece is meant to tie in her bait and switch strategy to Carter’s argument, Sadly all she gives us is the suggestion that she thinks that his article is “crap”. Its her old pal “ad hominem”, the weakest rhetorical tool in a writer’s armoury,sadly a favourite of this author on this subject.
At the heart of Carter’s argument against the science is the claim that the credentials of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and hence its authority in underpinning policy such as a carbon tax – were ”badly damaged by the leaked ‘Climate-gate’ emails in November 2009”. He’s right – terrible damage was wrought by the accusations that scientists had behaved without integrity or honesty.
Well No that is not the heart of Carter’s argument at all, in fact I think the heart of his argument is the dot point fact that he presented in the article that Chandler is supposedly critiquing here. Let just see what they are:
This is important because what Carter was clearly trying to do was to argue that the Carbon tax proposed by the Gillard/Brown Government was worse than pointless of course that is something for which Chandler and her ilk have no answer. She certainly does not address this in her piece.
What Carter fails to then mention is that, at last count, there have been eight separate inquiries by British and US government agencies, independent panels and universities. Their findings have consistently upheld the honesty and integrity of the scientists. None have identified wrongdoing, and the science was unassailed.
What Chandler fails to mention was that Carter only mentions “Climate Gate” in passing and that the point he makes is an entirely uncontentious one about how the scandal has undermined the public’s previously unquestioning faith in the pronouncements of “climate scientists”. For those of us who think that mindlessly genuflecting to the wearer’s of the blessed white coat is a bad idea the scandals at The University of East Anglia and the IPCC have been a not unexpected revelation that the saints of “climate science” have feet of clay. Now they have to do the actual work of convincing the public that their dire claims about our future are based on real scientific principles, like ones based upon empirical facts rather than the sort of faith that Chandler has.
The great scandal of Climate-gate is the failure of the media to recognise and report the findings of these inquiries. That failure allowed the shadow of Climate-gate to endure, and it has been identified as a powerful, albeit hollow, thief of public confidence in critical, evolving science.
No that is not the scandal here at all, The inquiries were all very well reported (especially in the Age and the UK’s Guardian) and they were all rather flawed designed to get a particular result without even looking at the scientific questions raised by the Emails.
Climate-gate, a triumphant moment in the machinery of manufactured doubt, continues to be used to obscure where the live debate is actually occurring. If you want a taste of the fiery end of it, you might like to pay heed to a gathering in Melbourne next month of international experts contemplating a future with 4 degrees or more of warming. (fourdegrees2011.com.au).
She is approaching her word limit here and still Chandler has not even come close to the substantive argument made by Bob Carter in the piece she is ostensibly critiquing. That is not a good look for a “Senior Writer”. Further she throws in yet another implicit ad hominem by claiming that any doubt in the AGW theory is falsely manufactured by some dark conspiracy. 🙄
It might be argued that the devotion of scientists to identify consensus on climate forecasts – and the sensitivity of the media to brokering anything that might be labelled alarmist – has also nobbled debate.
There is something that I almost agree with here and that is her implicit admission that “consensus” is not such a strong argument for any scientific proposition, but what she is clearly trying to say is that now that the Warministas have to actaully argue their corner rather than just have a gullible public accept their propositions with out question they are not doing so well. 😉
The valiant efforts of scientists to deliver to policymakers and the public a coherent, consensus voice on climate change moderates the messages, substituting worst-case for best-guess, itself a distortion. As veteran British climate writer Fred Pearce reflected in the wake of the 2007 IPCC report, ”some people accuse the IPCC of being alarmist. On the contrary, my reading is that [it] worked so hard to assuage the concerns of its critics that it left out all the things its authors really fear.”
Seems to me that Chandler really wanted more of the outrageous worst case scenarios front and center because that is what she believes in and through her book hopes to profit from.
Further distortions in the debate are rendered by clumsy efforts of the media to achieve ”balance”, or contrived efforts to drum up controversy. But as new Chief Scientist Ian Chubb argued last week, ”if 99 people say one thing and one person says another thing, the one person has a right to have their view on the table, but they don’t have a right to be given the same amount of time and space as the 99 without qualification”.
Oh hang on, didn’t Chandler just say that “It might be argued that the devotion of scientists to identify consensus on climate forecasts – and the sensitivity of the media to brokering anything that might be labelled alarmist – has also nobbled debate.” ? which is an argument against “consensus” being given too much weight in a scientific case and here she is swinging 180 degrees claiming that those in the majority should be more heard in the public debate than those in the minority. Hmm , am I the only one who thinks that Chandler may just have mastered Orwell’s “double think” here?
Recent surveys of active climate scientists (those publishing in the area) calculate that 97 in every 100 have views which reflect those of the international academies of science: the planet is warming, this is human caused, and it is dangerous. Most are unlikely to ever have the gift of this page to explain their findings.
This is just more “argument from authority” nonsense it would not matter a jot if 999 scientists out of a thousand were to argue that we are living on a flat earth an only one were to say that our world is a sphere, what matters is the empirical evidence that can test the proposition according to the scientific method.
Therefore, a more balanced, rigorous and honest rendering of their work is critical to elevating the political and public debate on climate. ”The media has a particular and important role to play,” said Chubb, ”and the sooner they play it better, the better.”
Jo Chandler is a senior writer and author of Feeling The Heat, which tracks climate science field work.
Hang on this is Chandler’s conclusion and yet she has not even addressed the most important proposition that Carter made in the piece in question which is this:
Voters now recognise that in the absence of an international agreement no action that Australia takes can ”stop global warming”. But natural climate hazard in Australia is so dangerous that nonetheless a need remains for a politically feasible, environmentally sensible and cost-effective climate policy. That policy should be to prepare for and adapt to all climatic hazards, as and when they occur and whatever their cause.
Its truly sad that someone who is a “senior writer” at the Age should write something that is ostensibly a response to a very rare appearance of a pro AGW scepticism at Fairfax with such a sloppy argument that fails to even address a single substantive part of the argument put by Bob Carter. Instead she has delivered a rather shallow bait and switch rant that is loaded with the usual ad hominem attacks upon scepticism in general and a reiteration of so many of her previous rants on the subject of climate change. There may well be some good arguments against the ideas put forward by Carter in his June 27 article but the ones mounted by Chandler here are certainly not anywhere near the topic let alone any concept of sound counter argument or for that matter journalistic virtue either.