Is Garth George capable of original thought?

by Gareth on October 15, 2009

According to the Rotorua Daily Post, Garth George is “a veteran newspaperman living semi-retired in Rotorua”. Garth sallies forth from time to time to lend the benefit of his wisdom on climate policy to the readers of the NZ Herald, and on Thursday Oct 8th offered the following comment on reports of tax fraud in the EU emissions trading scheme:

For those of us who have known for years that man-made carbon dioxide emissions have nothing to do with global warming, and who recognise that an unnecessary international carbon trading scheme would be wide open to abuse, this comes as no surprise.

He then presented a few points “courtesy of Australia’s Carbon Sense Coalition”, beginning with:

There is no global warming crisis. The world is just emerging from the Little Ice Age, so naturally temperatures will be above those of last century.

There follow 317 words (yes, I counted them) lifted directly from this document (pdf), published in January by Viv Forbes of the aforementioned Carbon “Sense” Coalition. No quotation marks. No indication that this is a direct lift. But of the 800 words in Garth’s column, 37.5% were written by Viv Forbes. I wonder if Garth is forwarding a share of his cheque? The same column, in a slightly different form was reprinted in Rotorua the next day.

A sorry tale of lazy journalism maybe, but also the start of a little saga…

Jim Salinger, NZ’s best known climate scientist (last seen (that’s him on the left at the beginning) enjoying a sausage sizzle with Rhys Darby and Keisha Castle-Hughes), happened to read Garth’s column and was moved to pen a letter to the editor. It was published on October 12th, and said, in part:

The science of global warming is basic physics, well known since the late 19th century: Irish earth scientist John Tyndall in the 1860s found that greenhouse gases (CO2 and water vapour) block the earth’s heat escaping to space. In the 1900s, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius calculated that doubling CO2 would raise global temperatures 5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s best estimate is now 3°C. And only last week top climate scientists at the UK MetOffice warned that unchecked global warming could bring a severe temperature rise of 4°C by 2060. [...] I urge George to stop emitting a load of hot air and get serious about the future of our civilisation on this planet.

Jim’s blunt statement of fact piqued Garth in his sulphurous lair, and this morning there appeared a robust response from our grizzled veteran newspaperman:

After 13 years of writing this weekly column I have become inured to criticism, to which I rarely respond, but the letter by Jim Salinger published on the page opposite on Monday demands a reply.

Typical of patronising PhDs, Dr Salinger labels me a “climate change denier”. That is downright dishonest. However, it is understandable considering that those who peddle the CO2-is-the-cause-of-global-warming fallacy rely on pseudo-science which is in itself dishonest.

Sock it to him Garth! This time you’ll have done your research and will be ready with well thought out answers to Jim’s basic physics, won’t you?

Well, er, no. Garth’s been thumbing through the works of great communicator Bob Carter, and proceeds to quote him extensively in the remainder of the column. You guessed it. 335 words (mostly pompous bollocks), this time (mostly) properly in quotes, but still amounting to 41% of his article. Is this intellectual dishonesty or lazy journalism? In either case, why is he being paid for this nonsense?

And as for that doyen of patronising PhD’s, he’s considering a response… But he’ll write it all himself.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

RW October 15, 2009 at 11:03 pm

I knew George when he was at school – and he made more sense then than he does now.

IdiotSavant October 15, 2009 at 11:03 pm

But of the 800 words in Garth’s column, 37.5% were written by Viv Forbes. I wonder if Garth is forwarding a share of his cheque?

Have you contacted his editor? Plagarism is a serious business, especially for journos, and George is old enough and ugly enough to know better.

Gareth October 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm

I think we can assume that the Herald will find out… ;-)

georgedarroch October 16, 2009 at 12:05 am

You should also contact Media Watch and the Press Council.

Gareth October 16, 2009 at 12:09 am

I think professional embarrassment will be quite sufficient…

georgedarroch October 16, 2009 at 12:55 am

The man has no shame. He has the psychology of a denier, and feels like he’s the victim of a conspiracy against him. He won’t be embarrassed.

Best to discredit him in as many respected forums as possible – the aim isn’t to make him change (impossible), but to show others what a pathetic figure he is.

ericd February 7, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Compare GG 4 Feb 2010 (in which he equates child abuse with cruelty to domestic animals) and GG 4 Oct 2006 where he advocates drowning kittens. The Fypocrite.

Le Chat Noir October 16, 2009 at 1:09 am

While I detest GG and his sanctimonious rants I think he will bluster his way out of this one by (appropriately) pointing to his colon – the article reads “it’s time once again to make these salient points, courtesy of Australia’s Carbon Sense Coalition:

Gareth October 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

by (appropriately) pointing to his colon

How apt, as he’s talking out of his posterior orifice.

Dappledwater October 16, 2009 at 7:35 am

Georgedarroch is right on the mark. All deniers have no sense of embarrassment. How could they?, they’ve already convinced themselves the whole world, including nature, is part of some great conspiracy.

Doug Clover October 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

What is it about these semi retired people who mistake age for wisdom?

They are all over the denial sphere. They claim that as they retired they are independent but the quality of their work/comments consistently show they are just lazy, bigoted and if a scientist past their best work.

By bigoted I don’t necessarily mean racially but bigoted against scientists (who are smarter than them), bureaucrats (because government is evil) and anyone that does not have the same politics as them.

I normally don’t comment on personalities but there is a definite trend.

S2 October 16, 2009 at 9:24 am

But Garth George is a master of alliteration! I guess his name helps.
I especially liked his use of “patronising PhDs”. :)

Christopher Monckton would be proud of him.

Garth George is a strange sort of sceptic
Who wantonly goes apoplectic
When scientists say
“It is warmer today”
He disproves them by using polemic.

Sorry, I’m in a strange mood. This is my own work, but I’m sure it can be improved on.

Gareth October 16, 2009 at 10:10 am

I rather prefer the Clerihew form:

Garth George,
Should have stuck to his forge,
Hammering Salinger,
Could cost him a finger.

(Free PDF of Hot Topic to the best…)

Mike October 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Oh oh Well I’d better out myself then Gareth, from time to time I use material of your site on our website
Its a not for profit site that aims to bring the message to Maori communities, hope that’s ok with you, have a look at the site and if you’re not happy let me know.
Keep up the great work!

Gareth October 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

No worries, Mike. As long as you give us a credit (author and link to original post at Hot Topic) there’s no issue. Some of our articles already get cross-posted at Celsias, and of course we’re now part of the Sciblogs network too… I’ve been looking into using a creative commons license, just need to finalise it.


hpe October 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Some people may remember Brian Priestley’s Fourth Estate 70s TV programme mainly devoted to critical analysis of NZ newspapers. When I was living in Australia earlier this year I discovered that the ABC still has its Aussie equivalent Media Watch on ABC ( which I made a habit of watching. Oz is full of local papers with Garth George clones blathering on about their pet hates and guess what – they are regularly outed on Media Watch for taking their copy word for word from overseas publications (usually conservative US columnists) with no attribution whatsoever!

In other words, Garth George is just being true to (intellectually lazy) type.

uroskin October 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Fisking Garth Vader George used to be fun but not lately.

Mike October 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Cheers Gareth , hey could our website be included in your side menu of networks working on the issue?

Gareth October 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm
FlatFish October 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

For many years I ignored Garth’s senile ramblings and then, not so long ago, I chanced upon something he wrote about the Auckland SuperCouncil and Iwi.

This caused me much consternation for it made sense to me!
Was I becoming Garth like?!
Was I becoming senile??

Oh no! Is this old age? Is this derangement?
A point of reference was shifting. Confusion.

But no. Thankfully I happened to read Garth again and yes he is senile and I can see this.

Oh happy days again!

Thanks Garth.

Rob Taylor October 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Unfortunately, deniers like GG “win” just by having their material published in a major daily, as it supports the meme of an on-going “climate change debate” amongst the experts.

To the general public, Prof. Carter and Dr. Salinger sound equally authoritative. To counter this, I believe we need to bring the conversation back to consequences that are readily apparent to all, e.g. melting ice, rising water, wildfires and drought.

By way of example, here is a letter I wrote in response to GG’s latest diatribe:

“As an elderly middle-class Kiwi, Garth George may have the luxury of burying his head in the sand over climate change, but millions living on the front lines of global warming today have no future but endless struggle and loss.

“These include farmers in the low-lying deltas of Egypt and Asia whose land is being swallowed by the sea and poisoned by rising salt; the victims of communal warfare in Darfur as the deserts expand, forcing nomadic herders onto pastoral lands; and, closer to home, many Pacific Islanders and Australian farmers.

“As Mr. George professes to be a Christian, I am surprised that his compassion does not appear to extend to the victims of the developed world’s addiction to fossil fuels; instead, he repeats the long-discredited snake oil of those pretend to know more about climate change than the world’s leading scientific authorities, including our own Dr. Jim Salinger.

“The science of climate change is settled; what remains is the urgent need for action before we and our children also fall victim to rising seas and a world of ever-increasing famine, pestilence and war.”

AGW-Denier October 17, 2009 at 11:48 am

Rob Taylor says the consequences of global warming “are readily apparent to all, e.g. melting ice, rising water, wildfires and drought”. Eh?? What a load of tosh. What rising water? Where? Drought? There’s always a drought. Melting ice? For every retreating glacier, there’s another one advancing. Wildfires? Oh you mean the recent Australian bush fire. Right they’ve never had them before. Yeah bush fires are a new and recent phenomenon in Australia. You hysterical hand-wringing alarmists blame EVERYTHING on global warming! Here’s a complete list:

But there’s just a teeny wee problem: There hasn’t been any warming for ten years now and the solar physicists are warning temperatures could be in decline for the next few decades as well, if the sun’s low activity is anything to go by. Yes that big bright thing in the sky you loopy alarmists haven’t noticed yet. So now what? You’ll have to find something else to blame every flood, hurricane, snow storm, “pandemic” and bush fire on. How are you going to feed your Hobgoblin now that ‘global warming’, such as it was, has stopped? I mean, 0.6 oC over a century. WOW!! It’s amazing we all survived such a horrendous temperature increase!

but you’re not alone because the climate modelers are panicking as well:

“According to State of the Climate in 2008, a special supplement to the August, 2009, issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, greenhouse warming has been stopped in its tracks for the past 10 years. The HadCRUT3 temperature record shows the world warmed by only 0.07°C (±0.07°C) from 1999-2008. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who have led the global warming disaster circus for the past two decades, had predicted 0.20°C. Just a temporary setback claim the true believers, global warming will be back with a vengeance. Add a mad scientist’s cackling laugh and you have a story fit for a comic book villain.”

“A survey of the many new predictions being generated by the world’s climate research groups produces at least one set of prognostications for every imaginable scenario. The whole enterprise is reminiscent of Medieval mystics claiming to predict the future while spouting gibberish. Palm readers and fortune tellers stand as good a chance as any in this game. Lean and Rind are calling for global warming to reassert itself next year, run hot for five years and then go quiescent for another five—add that to the list of predictions. We will see how their prediction fares, because the future outcome will be decided by the ultimate arbiter in science, nature itself.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.”

You bet!

Gareth October 17, 2009 at 12:11 pm

There hasn’t been any warming for ten years now

AGWD: You needn’t have bothered with the rest of your comment, because this is one of the oldest, most debunked of the sceptic arguments around. I debunked it in the book, and it’s been debunked many times since. It isn’t true. Geddit?

Skeptical Science explains.

The rest of your comment is just wibble.

AGW-Denier October 17, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Oh right, it’s been ‘debunked’ by Gareth who says “it isn’t true”. Ipso facto it can’t be! Thousands of scientists disagree, but Gareth has “debunked” it.


Laurence October 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

You might want to check this out sunshine, get it from the horses mouth rather than pulling it out of your …..

“Hot topic around the world as countries from Spain to Greece and most recently America face mega fires. Everyone wants to know why these fires are becoming more ferocious and more frequent”

RW October 17, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Stop wasting everyone’s time with your ignorant rants.

Gareth October 17, 2009 at 10:00 pm

“Repeatedly debunked” means just what it says. Not just me. Try reading my reference. There are many more…

Rob Taylor October 17, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Out trots, yet again, the tired old playbook of corporate PR spin.

Anyone interested in the long and sordid history of climate change denial and its origins in Big Tobacco and right wing US politics in the 70s should read the following paper to the London School of Economics: “How Climate Science Became a Victim of the Cold War”, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

Here is the YouTube version:


S2 October 17, 2009 at 1:09 pm

and the solar physicists are warning temperatures could be in decline for the next few decades as well, if the sun’s low activity is anything to go by

As an amateur astronomer, I’d like a link to your source.
I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. 2009 will probably be in the top five warmest years on record (and certainly in the top 10), despite the low level of solar activity.

madjack October 17, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Ah, Garth George.
When I find the time and remember his column is out on a Thursday, I often take the time to see just which side of the line of madness he’s treading this week.

The thing is, he often disappoints me in that a fair few of his columns are relatively reasonable and I suspect the number of these have increased since he moved to Rotorua from the ratrace known as Auckland. Very disappointing. But occasionally the crusty madness breaks through and I enjoy it very much ( I suspect there may be a pattern here as well, possibly lunar?)

Regards his take on climate change, don’t forget that this is the man who wrote (in a national newspaper no less) that;

‘I know that’s codswallop, and every time I see a rainbow I have it confirmed for me. It tells me that God is keeping the promise he made to Noah after the world-drowning flood thousands of years ago recorded in Genesis.’

So kind of hard to top that.

Rob Taylor October 17, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Hi AGWD, here’s Andrew Leonard in Salon, explaining why denialists are out in force at the moment:

“…the near certainty that legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gases is imminent has driven the special interests whose oxen will soon be gored into a last-gasp fever-driven explosion of propaganda that is day by day ever further divorced from reality. This boiling over of paid-for-and-delivered climate-skeptic insanity is hard to ignore…”

AndrewH October 17, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I’ll play the glacier game with AGWD. Maybe this should have its own thread ‘cos it might get a bit boring here – then again there aren’t too many advancing so perhaps it won’t take long….so here goes….


Gareth October 17, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Funnily enough, one of the few parts of Garth’s second screed that seems to be vaguely original is the following:

My scepticism grows when I note the fact that the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are increasing in ice, that the ice melt across the Antarctic during the summer (October-January) of 2008-09 was the lowest ever recorded in satellite history, that western Antarctica has had a major increase in ice lately, and that there are 200-odd peaks in the Himalayas that are increasing drastically in ice and snow.

I think Garth should be required to name all 200. Meanwhile, Jim Salinger (who has been working on NZ’s ice for decades) will point out why he’s wrong about the rest…

Doug Clover October 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Cherry Picking is a favourite sport of deniers and if not followed up it can be deceiving to the lazy. Anyhow the abstract of this article provides some insight as to why the specific case (west coast of NZ) cannot always be extended to the general (pretty much everywhere else)

Not that this information will make a difference to tthe deniers as it was written by scientists who are of course part of the Conspiracy (TM).

Mike C October 18, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I was unfortunate enough to read Garth’s Hearld piece when it came out and at the end was struggling to think of the last time I read so many errors and misrepresentations in so few words.

To my mind Garth’s ranting seems pretty typical of a lot of deniers, who, despite having little or no knowledge of the science seem to think they know more than the expert scientists, characterising them as “patronising PhDs” for daring to publicly express scientific knowledge.

Alan November 18, 2009 at 10:38 am

I read Garth’s columns infrequently but I stopped after a particularly moronic screed. He strikes me a blinkered fundy bible-basher and I have no further interest in his senilistic wibble.

Richard April 26, 2010 at 12:04 am

Patronizing PHDs have earned this moniker because they have studied, and thus, presumably know what they are talking about but I love it when people call them out…because many of these "PPs" are riding on the coattails of their doctorate rather than their knowledge of the topic!
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