Tony Eggleton’s A Short Introduction to Climate Change is an excellent account of climate science for the general reader. The author is a retired geology professor from the Australian National University. Two widely read climate change deniers, Ian Plimer and Bob Carter, are also retired Australian geology professors, but Eggleton is not of their ilk. He comes at the subject from a concern about climate change and a wish to explain to readers who are uncertain about the topic why there is reason for concern.
The book is grounded in the careful science which has contributed to our understanding of the danger in which we now stand. Eggleton has not worked in the field of climate, but recognises the authenticity of the findings of climatologists. His opening chapter, The Spirit of Enquiry, offers a clear account of the process by which science across all its fields advances. He highlights the fact that most climate science is done by groups, all of whom need to be confident of the reliability of their colleagues. He explains the rigorous process of peer reviewed papers and the comprehensive scrutiny from fellow scientists which follows their publication. He ponders the fact that some hypotheses are of the type that involves a choice between only two possibilities. If one is not true the other must be so. How will the theory of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels be viewed in 100 years from now? “Interpretations evolve, change and sometimes settle into accepted fact: the Sun is at the centre of the solar system, the continents have drifted and smoking does damage the lungs.”
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“A cliché,” according to the late Brian O’Nolan, “is a phrase that has become fossilised, its component words deprived of their intrinsic light and meaning by incessant usage. Thus it appears that clichés reflect somewhat the frequency of the same situations in life. If this be so, a sociological commentary could be compiled from these items of mortified language.”
O’Nolan is perhaps better known as Flann O’Brien, the author of such staggering works of comic genius as The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds, but for many years he contributed a column to the Irish Times under the pen name Myles na Gopaleen. One of the highlights of that column was the occasional appearance of extracts from Myles na Gopaleen’s Catechism of Cliché.
I was reminded of that catechism when I stumbled upon the “core principles” of the International Climate Science Coalition, a list of the doctrines the ICSC expects its members and supporters to believe and promote. Like Myles’ least favourite constructions, they are certainly fossilised and deprived of any intrinsic meaning but have the added attraction of being for the most part untrue.
A catechism, as the more literate (or Catholic) reader will know, is:
…a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized, a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. [Wikipedia]
Amongst the doctrinal manuals available for today’s climate sceptic there are the popular scriptures by Plimer and Wishart, the undergraduate philippics of Carter and Allegro, and the industrial grade biblical length blockbuster produced by Fred Singer and his Not the IPCC project. So much to choose from, such a lot to read. How is the would-be denier to thread their way through such a maze of doctrinal complexity, uncertainty and contradiction? Let us help them by preparing a climate crank catechism in the style of Myles…
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Today could be viewed as an historic day for Australia, where the carbon tax has just today been voted through the Senate. Historic, yes, because it’s taken 20 years for Australia to finally implement this legislation. Finally, a price has been put on carbon in Australia. O my, what a fight it has been. If the NZ Herald thought Robyn Malcolm’s attack on John Key at the weekend was “vitriolic”, I’m not sure how they’d label the toxic politics across the ditch.
Tony Abbott has vowed in blood to repeal the package. He’s been obsessed with blood, baying for Julia Gillard’s all year. But it doesn’t seem to have got him anywhere — his unpopularity has reached new heights today, according to a news poll today.
I’m not going to go into the details of the tax and how it compares with NZ, as Mr February has covered that far better than I ever could in two excellent blogs here and here.
The tax has rallied the right. And boy have they rallied, with anti-carbon tax rallies up and down the country, festooned with abusive placards like “ditch the bitch” – and much, much worse. At one point even Tony had to distance himself from these, his most avid supporters.
Continue reading “Baby steps: Australia’s carbon tax passes Senate vote”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a retired conservative politician with a penchant for writing opinion pieces and a limited understanding of certain issues will one day start talking bollocks — and that day has arrived with a vengeance for Michael Cox. The former National MP and Waipa district councillor let rip in the Waikato Times this morning:
Those who witter on (to chatter or babble on pointlessly or at unnecessary length) about emissions of green-house gasses, usually come from the left side of the political spectrum. They make me mad.
Mad? Yes, but perhaps not in the sense he intended. His political rage has led him rather a long way off the path of reason into the dark woods where lurk misdirection — and climate cranks.
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Dealing with global warming is difficult, but it shouldn’t be impossible. What we need to do is well understood. Yet a campaign to prevent and delay emissions reductions, which began in the 1980s almost as soon as science began warning there might be a problem, has been so successful that two decades later it seems that substantive action, the sorts of cuts required to leave us with a planet we can recognise, are impossible to put in place.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the people who coordinate and run that campaign are morally and ethically bankrupt (I’m being polite), but are they also criminally liable for the damage their actions will undoubtedly cause? Donald Brown, Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law at Penn State University, discusses the issue in a recent article: A New Kind of Crime Against Humanity?: The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Disinformation Campaign On Climate Change. Brown points out that the issue is much more than just a matter of science, it has moral and ethical dimensions:
Continue reading “Crime of the century”