Herald gives de Freitas platform to smear climate science

Climate change denier and Auckland University geographer Chris de Freitas seems to have fast access to the dialogue pages of the NZ Herald. His latest effort this week is a long ramble ostensibly around the possibility of an El Niño this year, but at its centre contains a nasty slur on the honesty of climate scientists. He confuses, presumably deliberately, predictions of a weather event in the short term with the longer term predictions of climate change.

The short term prediction relates to the possibility of an El Niño event this year. He claims NIWA’s reported 50% chance of an El Niño is not a prediction at all, but more akin to tossing a coin. This observation doesn’t stand up. NIWA doesn’t say every year that there’s a 50% chance of an El Niño. They were drawing attention to current developments which point in the direction of an El Niño.

Nevertheless de Freitas presumably sees his observation as a useful build-up to his planned attack. His next step is to comment on how incredibly complex climate systems are, and to quote no less an authority than Albert Einstein who said of the weather that prediction for even a few days ahead is impossible. Incidentally I’ve never seen a climate scientist claiming to predict the weather next week. But in de Freitas’ mind this leads to a climax:

The problem is complicated by the fact that the public usually fear the worst, and fear sells. So, if the period for which the prediction is made is beyond the end of the climate scientist’s lifetime, such as with long-term predictions of human-caused climate change, or “global warming”, any scary prediction will attract attention and hopefully also research funds or job promotion.

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TV3’s The Nation: Antarctica and public understanding of climate change

antarcticaA few days have passed since Lisa Owen’s interview with Antarctic scientists Chuck Kennicutt of the US and Gary Wilson of New Zealand on TV3’s The Nation but I hope it’s still worth drawing attention to. Programmes like The Nation tend to focus on immediate political excitements. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see an interviewer who was reasonably well informed of the issues surrounding the effect of global warming on the Antarctic and who allowed the two scientists space to explain the far-reaching planetary consequences of Antarctic melting.

I won’t traverse the content of the interview here. It was familiar enough material to anyone who follows the science. The scientists were restrained and objective, almost to a fault. But their observations were stark enough. Gary Wilson observed that looking back in geological time we know that the last time carbon dioxide levels were at 400 parts per million the end solution of a prolonged period in that state was that the West Antarctic ice sheet retreated.

Beyond expressing pleasure at the quality of the interview and the fact that it was undertaken my main purpose in this post is to draw attention to the contribution of one of the panellists who subsequently discussed the interview (3 minutes in).

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When will they ever learn? Herald reprints Telegraph’s tawdry climate lies

Why would the New Zealand Herald choose to reprint a review of a book steeped in climate denial, under the headline The game is up for climate change believers in the week between two major climate reports from the IPCC? The review, by Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, an up-market British newspaper noted chiefly for its unwavering support of the right wing of the Conservative Party, appeared on the Telegraph’s web site over the weekend — over a year since the book was first published. Someone at the Herald clearly thought that Moore’s views on The Age of Global Warming by former banker and right wing think tank denizen Rupert Darwell, would add something to the paper’s coverage of climate matters. If they did, one wonders whether they bothered to read it first, because Moore’s review is little more than extended paean of praise to Darwall’s conspiratorial thinking — global green conspiracy, capture of science by politics — all the tropes that traipse through the “works” of Delingpole, Wishart and Lawson. Worse than that: it makes factual errors that anyone paying the slightest attention to the content of the Herald — which you might expect its own staff to do — should have been able to pick up. Even worse: the Herald failed to notice that the Telegraph‘s own Tom Chivers noted that Moore was talking nonsense:

…whatever the merits of the book, Charles has made a howling, awful error in his very first paragraph, quoted above. Let’s look at it again:

The theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more.

No, it isn’t.

It simply isn’t. Whatever your thoughts on anthropogenic climate change, and whatever your thoughts on hockey sticks and the IPCC and “watermelons” and Climategate and urban heat islands and all these vexèd things, there is simply no sense in which “the theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more”.

Chivers proceeds to demolish Moore’s review, and finishes his piece with this damning comment:

Charles has utterly misunderstood the issue, and told an entire scientific discipline that he knows best, and it’s important that someone points out that he’s got it wrong.

There’s more — much more — that Moore gets wrong. Here’s a sentence from his penultimate paragraph:

Last week, the latest IPCC report made the usual warnings about climate change, but behind its rhetoric was a huge concession. The answer to the problems of climate change lay in adaptation, not in mitigation, it admitted. So the game is up.

Utter tosh. Next week sees the release of the third part of the IPCC’s fifth report, devoted in its entirety to mitigation. It will undoubtedly point to the need to urgently reduce emissions. The Herald news pages will, I’m sure, go to some lengths to ensure that they provide good coverage of this important news.

But no notion of “balance”, or of reflecting a range of opinion can excuse printing factually incorrect propaganda from overseas. The Herald‘s foolish editorial team (or an ideologue hiding therein) made the paper look stupid today. It would be funny, if it weren’t so seriously wrongheaded — and dangerous for sensible public discourse on this crucial issue.

[Update 9/4/14, 8:45am: In the last hour the Herald has published Tom Chivers’ response to Moore’s review, but there is no link from Moore’s review to the riposte, or any other acknowledgement that it is clearly factually incorrect. At least it proves someone at the Herald is awake and following Twitter…]

Roughan’s relaxed, world drowns

rising seaInsouciance is the new face of climate change denial. John Roughan’s column in Saturday’s New Zealand Herald was a typical example. Half a metre sea level rise by the end of the century? What’s there to be concerned about in that, he scoffs. A bach at the water’s edge might no longer be a good idea, but that’s about all it amounts to.

At a century off, the predicted disaster of climate change is a slow burn.

“It is plenty long enough for people to move if necessary, for crops to change, fresh water to be managed much more efficiently. Human life will adapt if it has to…”

It’s hard to credit the nonchalance, let alone the implicit inhumanity. Roughan settles for the lower sea level rise estimates, I notice.  No mention of the metre or more which is now commonly advanced by scientists. But there’s not much need to be too closely acquainted with the science if you can brush it all away with the assertion that humans will adapt if they have to.

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Risible Rodney rides again

Rodney Hide’s regular opinion slot in the Herald on Sunday has often provided the former ACT Party leader with a platform to spout his trademark climate denialist nonsense, but yesterday’s has to take some kind of biscuit1 for purveying unsubstantiated, completely made up nonsense. He starts by riffing on new research that suggests that an increase in Pacific winds has acted to slow down global temperature increases, and then goes completely off his trolley:

Scientists predict that when the Pacific trade winds slow global warming will take off with a bang. Armageddon remains on.

Climate scientists say the best policy is still one that bombs us back to feudal times.

Not to put too fine appoint on it, that is distasteful nonsense; a misrepresentation at best, a lie at worst — but either way the opinion editor of the Herald On Sunday should be ashamed for permitting it to appear in the paper.

Hide’s statement is wrong on many levels. Climate scientists seldom directly advocate for policy (beyond the need for urgent cuts in carbon emissions). And nobody outside of a looney right-wing think tank has ever suggested that cutting carbon will “bomb” anyone back to the middle ages. It’s cheap and easy rhetoric from a man with a column to fill, and no fact checker on duty at his newspaper.

To get a better perspective on the research Rodney is attempting to spin to his cause, check out this commentary by Mike Mann, or Dana Nuccitelli’s excellent explanation at The Guardian. It’s fascinating stuff, and deserves better than a once-over lightly from an ideologue with an agenda.

Hide then hops onto another pseudo sceptic hobbyhorse: the climate models:

One hundred years is a long time to have to wait to see if the models are correct.

The poor results so far don’t prove anything. And none of us will be alive to see if the models are actually correct.

He’s wrong about that, too. For an example of just how good the models can be, check out this blog post by professor of computer science Steve Easterbrook which compares the EUMETSAT year of weather video noted at Hot Topic recently with a visualisation of a year’s weather patterns from the atmospheric component of NCAR’s CCSM climate model. Run the the two animations side-by-side.

That’s how good our general circulation models are, and that’s how wrong Rodney Hide is. Again2.

  1. Girl Guide, perhaps, or Garibaldi? []
  2. Construction adopted to please @davidslack []