Archive for June 8th, 2011

June 8, 2011

Solve climate change by smoking some camels?!

Ok, the UK Financial Times is a truly great newspaper.
And this is a a great article….

Australia poised to allow camel cull

By Pilita Clark in London

Published: June 7 2011 18:55 | Last updated: June 7 2011 20:55

Killing a camel to earn a carbon credit may seem a curious way to tackle climate change, but one country is poised to allow investors to do precisely that.

The camel culling plan is one of the first to arise under the Australian government’s new “carbon farming initiative”, a scheme that lets farmers or investors claim carbon credits if they can show they have cut greenhouse gas emissions.


Disclaimer re: Animal Rights: ACN is merely reporting, not endorsing, the scheme. Please don’t get the hump with us.

June 8, 2011

Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery interviewed

Adelaide Climate News was fortunate to get a few minutes of Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery’s time before last night’s event in Elizabeth.

A blog post about the event, which was both well-attended and well-organised will appear here later toda. For now, here’s a transcript of the interview, with a few appropriate hyperlinks thrown in.

Could you explain a little bit about why the Climate Commission has come into existence and what you would like to see it doing over the next year or two.

Tim Flannery: The Climate Commission came about as the result of an election promise by the Gillard government, at the last election. We’re an independent commission, so even though we’re funded via the government, we don’t take direction from government. We started work in February this year, and our brief is pretty simple: it’s to get out among the Australian public and discuss aspects of climate change, whether it be the science behind climate change, the economic options that a country like Australia has available to it, or what’s happening internationally in terms of action to address climate change. We don’t speak about policy, we’re not briefed to speak about government policy, and we don’t want to speak about opposition policy. But we feel that there is a real need for a group like this that people can interact with, who can give unbiased and objective advice on where things stand. So that’s really our role.
So we’ve been going around the place, every fortnight or so now, to a different part of regional Australia, visiting business places, industry places, meeting with opinion leaders, having community consultations and so forth. It’s been extremely interesting.

And how long with this work continue for?

Tim Flannery: The Commission has a lifetime of four years. Who knows what will happen in the future; it’s very difficult to say. But we feel that’s appropriate, because this is an issue Australians will be struggling with decades from now, it’s not going to go away. When you look at what needs to be done to get to a point where we’re secure globally from dangerous climate change. It’s four decades at least of transformation ahead of us.

I just yesterday wrote a piece that ended with ‘this problem’s been two hundred years in the making, it’s not going to be solved in two years.’

Tim Flannery: Exactly. And we’re not going to get anywhere in a democracy without a well-informed public. So it’s very important that people understand the basics.

And have you been surprised at the attendance and the kinds of questions at the events, or have you been pretty much getting what you expected?

Tim Flannery: Better than what we expected. We’ve been having quite large attendances, full houses by and large. What surprised me the most has been the diversity of people attended, from welded-on climate skeptics through to people who are passionate about the subject but with a very large number of people in the middle, which is really good. So I think that’s probably the group that benefits the most from the interactions. And we do poll people as they leave, they fill out the little form and we ask how the event went. And 80 to 90% have been saying that it was valuable and they learnt something, so that’s good.

There’ s nothing like the Climate Commission in England, which is the country I know, and I don’t think in the United States. Are you aware of anywhere else that has done this sort of thing?

Tim Flannery: I think you have a Climate Commission in the UK but it’s got a very different objective – to keep the government accountable legislatively. No, I think it’s a novel model for Australia. I think it’s quite an interesting one. The other thing we do that I didn’t mention was issue reports. And I was very pleased to see that our science report that was release two weeks ago in the Federal Parliament received bipartisan report [The Critical Decade]. That speaks to our independence and the credibility of the information in the report.

Final question – you’ll be aware that there have been, unfortunately, death threats against climate scientists, and I don’t want to overplay this. There is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek campaign that Friday 10th June should be “Hug a Climate Scientist” day.

(Flannery chuckles)

I personally feel that’s a bit maybe tokenistic, and I have stronger opinions myself on what climate activists and people who are concerned about the issue could do to support climate scientists. I’m wondering what you would like to see individuals and groups concerned about climate change doing that they’re not already doing around things like peer-to-peer education and so on.

Tim Flannery: I think that the death threats come from psychologically deranged people. People don’t normally threaten to kill other people over a difference of opinion. There’s a psychological problem there. And I think part of the issue is the sort encouragement that they receive from various quarters, for lunatic views and the way people egg each other on and this sort of thing. So I tend to just not comment on such things publicly because I think commenting on them just encourages them, but that’s my view.

Do you want that on the record or off the record?

Tim Flannery: That’s on the record.

And what would you like to see – I’m not asking you to be a guru, I know it’s very difficult, you don’t want to tell other people what to do – but what sorts of things do you feel support climate scientists in their work and the things like the Climate Commission in its work. Because you’re only six people, with a scientific panel behind you it’s true, there’s only so many events you can hold, so what else do you think would help in the broader mission?

Tim Flannery: I think helping to create a calm space where we can discuss these things logically and fairly is very very important. And I think everyone who’s interested can play a role in that. So I wouldn’t dismiss those with a contrary view, but instead engage them in a reasoned sort of debate and ask them why they believe the particular things they believe and where they get their information from and so forth. At the end of the day that’s the only way to change these views, is to engage with people rather than dismiss them.

Thank you very much.

June 8, 2011

#TiserTosh 8 June: Denialist letter

I’m only doing this because it’s good practice and I want to show other people just how easy (though time-consuming) it is to dismantle denialist tripe. The Advertiser, if it were a proper newspaper, would invite local climate scientists (Barry Brook seems like a good example) to have a right of reply when people who don’t know what the heck they are talking about come up with regurgitated denialist talking points. That wouldn’t be an infringement of anyone’s freedom of speech, just a newspaper acting responsibly on what is the central issue of the 21st century.

Here’s today’s drivel.

When computer modelling was used to predict average global temperature rises, sea level rises and ice extents, the real world decided not to take any notice.
Argument appears to be that the only evidence for climate change is computer modelling. Epic Fail.
So much that the opposite occurred: the world cooled, sea level stopped rising and ice extent stayed about the same.
World cooled? Um, no.
Sea levels stopped rising? Um, no.
Ice extent static? Um, no.

Now we are expected to believe Labor Government modelling that we will all be better off after the imposition of a carbon dioxide tax (The Advertiser, yesterday).
Will we be richer in the future? Unless you believe the economy will shrink, then we will. It’s interesting that the writer is worried about a carbon tax but seems NOT to be worried about the effect of a strong dollar on the non-mining portion of the Australian economy, something that is keeping Premiers and economists and lots of other people awake at night…
This is a tax where half goes to the Government, of which 10 per cent goes to the UN, and will have no measurable affect [sic] whatsoever on C02 levels.
10 percent goes to the UN? Um, citation please?
Effect, not affect. (Sorry, it’s the grammar snob in me).
And if C02 isn’t a problem, why are you worried – you’re just concern trolling.
Why would any Australian ever believe that we will each be thousands of dollars better off?
James Hein, Hackney

Why would any Australian ever believe that doing nothing is an option? Oh, because the newspapers keep publishing stupid fact-free letters, that’s why.

It probably took Mr Hein less than ten minutes to compose his letter. He certainly didn’t have to do any research (and it shows). Composing this reply has taken approximately 40 (including a computer freeze, probably in protest at its processing power being taken up with such a waste of electrons). This is an example of a gish gallop – it’s quick and easy to throw out a series of nonsense arguments, while rebutting them takes longer and is less fun for everyone.

June 8, 2011

Clive Hamilton: “Climate science the target in a culture war”

The death threats received by Australian climate scientists such as Will Steffen, Andy Pitman and David Karoly haven’t come out of the blue.

They are an extension of the vicious attacks on climate science and climate scientists that can be found in the mainstream media, mostly news outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch.

The virulence of the recent attacks on Cate Blanchett, who did no more than publicly back a carbon tax, is precisely the kind of rhetoric that encourages threats of violence from climate deniers.


The conclusion to this piece, full of disturbing details of death threats against US climate scientists, is worth noting.

Like those whose opinions they value — shock jocks and television demagogues — climate deniers are disproportionately older, white, male and conservative —those who feel their cultural identity most threatened by the implications of climate change.

While the debate is superficially about the science, in truth it is about deep-rooted feelings of cultural identity. This makes deniers immune to argument. Their influence will wane only as they grow old and die.

June 8, 2011

#TiserTosh June 8: OMG, Kenny killed me

There is an extraordinary piece today [not online that I could find] by Advertiser hack Mark Kenny – endless pejorative adjectives and nouns (“spat”, “mini-tantrum”) and attempts at humour so clumsy they make Benny Hill look like Dorothy Parker (“Massive sun-obscuring edifice of egos”? Is this what they teach at the Murdoch laughing academy these days?)
Kenny builds his, um, story, around the fact that the Greens and Independents on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee were miffed that Treasurer Wayne Swan trailed bits of a Treasury report to the media rather than letting them see it first.
If the Liberals were on a committee (and remember, they turned down the MPCCC invite) and felt they were being rolled like this, then on such point of parliamentary procedure, does anyone doubt that Advertiser hacks would be told to fulminate about it and bang on the table? Normally Labour would cop a kicking for the use of spin (“parliament insulted” etc etc -), but on this occasion the desire to give the Greens and Indies a smack has trumped that. The enemy of my enemy and all that…

It’s also a bit alarming that the senior analyst at the Tiser seems unable to understand how parliamentary legislation comes into existence. He writes “A fait accompli on the carbon tax delivered by a committee elected by almost no one.”
Yes, that’s right – the MPCCC is going to produce its findings and then THE VERY NEXT DAY everyone’s 4WD is taken away and their children sold into white slavery to give Cate Blanchett a tax break for her next island hideaway. No legislation will introduced into parliament, debated and haggled and so on like, um, any other law.

Mr Kenny has an opportunity here. He could show us how transparency is done. He could invite MPCCC members to sit in on the editorial meetings of various Murdoch rags (and frankly, the Tiser barely rises to even that description), where decisions are being made by unelected Murdoch goons (two can play that game!). Decisions about what? Well, about which democratically elected politician who doesn’t support gerontocratic plutocrats (see how easy it is?) is going to get it in the neck on in the next day’s waste of dead tree.

UPDATE 8/6/2011. If you want to see how it could (and should) have been done, check out Laura Tingle, political editor of the Australian Financial Review. Taking the same basic events, she manages to explain what is going on, point to specific facts that help you understand the possible ramifications. Her piece, “Swan appeases as tempers flare” on page 16 of the AFR 8.6.2011, is sadly behind a paywall. It concludes “It appears the government is loading in as much wriggle room as it can ahead of difficult negotiations.”