Doug digs denial

Waikato farmers who deny human-caused climate change will be cheered by the support lent by a real live scientist in an interview prominently reported in the latest issue of the Waikato Farmer, a monthly feature supplement of the Waikato Times.  Admittedly not a climate scientist – a soil scientist actually – but one who has done much reading on the subject, including Nigel Lawson’s A Cool Look At Global Warming.  Thus fortified he is able to substantiate the opinions of the 99 percent of the farmers consulting him who he says think global warming is a hoax and the Emissions Trading Scheme unnecessary.

Doug Edmeades is his name.  He’s not listed as a member of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, but his “coming out” as a sceptic was posted on their website. To be fair, in his statement on his joining the ranks of the sceptics he acknowledges that he does not read the scientific literature on climate change and cannot be considered as an authority on the subject. Indeed he says he’s a layperson who must rely on the views of others who specialise. However those whose views he then goes on to cite don’t include any climate scientists. Willem de Lange and Bob Carter are the two scientists he mentions, and they are buttressed by Bjorn Lomborg, Ross McKitrick and, yes, Christopher Monckton who demonstrated there is no scientific consensus.

Back to the Waikato Farmer interview. It’s the usual farrago. Climategate was a scandal which confirmed most farmers’ suspicions that global warming is a politically driven theory. Phil Jones has admitted there was no global warming in the past 15 years, calling into question the reliability of climate models and temperature records. Water vapour is the biggest greenhouse gas; why aren’t we taxing it? Doubled carbon dioxide will increase food production by about 30 percent. Carbon dioxide doesn’t determine global temperatures.  Humans and the natural world are good at adapting to survive.  Even if the alarmists are right and the average temperature increases by 2-4 degrees the likelihood is that we could be better off. And so on.

Edmeades’ expressed views are mostly wrong or reckless or silly. There’s nothing in what he says to deserve time spent countering it here. But it’s depressing that views of this nature should be regarded as worth highlighting in a farming publication and are evidently nourishing the opinion of many farmers that global warming is a matter of no great moment or still under dispute.  The edition of the Waikato Farmer in which the interview appears is much concerned with the cost of the Emissions Trading Scheme to farmers.  One can understand that this should be a matter of concern and debate.  But to couple it with denial of the seriousness of climate change is a different matter.  One of the farmers reported didn’t go as far as that, but said, “The science is not robust enough. Some of the research has been a bit shaky.”  This is perception, not knowledge. It’s high time the NZ farming community discovered that the essentials of the science are established and did its thinking about the ETS or other mitigation schemes without dallying with the idea that perhaps there’s nothing in climate change to be worried about. Then people like Edmeades can be valued for their soil science and ignored for their rejection of climate science.

33 thoughts on “Doug digs denial”

  1. Bryan
    It seems the denial streak runs strong in the Waikato. A couple of days ago I spotted a Waikato Times article where one of your Regional Councillors was trotting out a few denialist talking points around the introduction of the ETS.

    Perhaps a reflection of the strong dairy lobby.

    1. Yes, I've written a letter protesting at the ignorance of the said Councillor, who maintains a steady stream of denialist letters to the paper, along with a group of others who come up with letters with considerable frequency. Some of them used to be directed at me when I was writing an occasional column in the Times, but they're mostly centred on the ETS at present. It may be related to farming. I don't know who most of the authors are. I sometimes wonder if they've got a duty roster going.

      1. Yes, I notice that idiot De Lange from Waikato University mentioned. My youngest son attends Waikato University and he was absolutely gobsmacked by the denialism of AGW among the students studying Earth Sciences there. I pointed him to the drivel posted online by De Lange and it all became clear.

        1. If de Lange is actively teaching crank nonsense, he could get himself into trouble. Teaching scepticism is fine, but if he's actively promoting nonsense to his students, that is academically unacceptable. A maths tutor who taught his students that 2+2=3 wouldn't last long…

          1. Yup, I can understand perhaps someone as unknowledgeable as Steve Wrathall being employed by Massey University in the Chemistry Dept, getting away with crank ideas on climate, but someone who teaches Earth Sciences?. Whether it's university time or not, his students are getting silly ideas from somewhere, and De Lange looks a prime suspect.

            1. Same with Auckland University and "you know who"! My eldest daughter attended in the mid 90's had to suffer much the same.

            2. Wow! Get the pitch forks out, it sounds like a few people here are ready to do some lynching!

              Lets leave it up to the head chancellors at the Uni’s to decide the merit of the teaching eh. I don’t think it is possible to judge someone’s teaching credentials on their belief, or lack of, in human caused global warming.

              My understanding of De Lange is that he teaches one lecturer during one course where he shows the alternate view. Students are presumed intelligent enough to make their own minds up. Plenty of Waikato science students fall into either camp on this contentious subject. It should not be expected that educational institutions aim to ensure all students leave with a uniform orthodox view on all contentious subjects. I commend Waikato Uni for taking a neutral stance, it must be a difficult thing to do with the likes of you guys crying heretic every time someone in the community proposes an alternate view.

            3. And no doubt you're totally happy with creationism being taught alongside evolution and that the moon is made of cheese in astronomy.

              If that is in fact what De Lange is involved in, how do his students reconcile the fact that the simple physics says the Earth will warm when you increase a potent greenhouse gas some 37%?. Hmmm, he must be leaving out a fair chunk of the science involved if they can't work that out for themselves.

              As for the lynching, heck that's something I look forward to in future years!.

            4. "My understanding of De Lange is that he teaches one lecture during one course where he shows the alternate view."

              What alternate view? Sounds like popping a lecture on intelligent design into a course on evolution.

              Oops, I see Dappledwater beat me to it.

            5. Well no, as long as De Lange is only teaching alternate scientific theory (rather than getting into religious views on climate – do you have any evidence for this?) then it is not like that at all. It is more like a cosmologist lecturer discussing the merits of alternate theories to the big bang – yes the big bang is the orthodox view, but as it can never be proven 100% there will always be alternate theories from scientists and theologians – a lecturer should discuss the alternate scientific view but not the alternate theological view. So no, your analogy is a bad one.

            6. OK let's leave analogies to one side and you tell me what alternate science theory he is presenting. Anything like the stuff dealt to in this Hot Topic post?

            7. "Well no, as long as De Lange is only teaching alternate scientific theory" – C3

              And therein lies the problem, the "scientific" bit, you know supporting observations and measurements.

              Given the silly denier zombie arguments De Lange's students are spouting, it's clear evidence that whatever he is teaching them it has little basis in actual science. See my previous comment about the 37% increase in atmospheric CO2 caused by humans.

              So yes, the analogy is spot on.

            8. Well no, it seems you are the one spouting crap talking points. First of all even calling someone a denier shows you have no real interest in debate – if they disagree with the conclusion you have reached it must be because they havent read the evidence.

              37% is irrelevant (it’s not the percentage but the aggregate increase in the gas that matters). CO2 is not potent (compared to any other gas), it simply more abundant than other gases. You are the one spouting ‘zombie arguments’. Your are the one degrading the debate. All I am doing is defending a scientist’s right to free speech and institutions right to freedom of material. All De Lange is doing is exercising that right. Don’t make baseless accusations unless you have a real example of De Lange teaching inaccurate material.

            9. Trouble is we haven't any idea what he's teaching and you haven't enlightened us. You said the alternate scientific view. What is it, and why does de Lange have to be given his own slot in a course to present it?

            10. Willem was in my class throughout high school. He's no fool but even then he took the occasional stance outside mainstream positions.
              That said, you can't take any seriously who is happy to publish alongside Roger Kerr.

            11. Richard, read some of his comments on sea level for instance, De Lange is indeed a fool.

            12. "Well no, it seems you are the one spouting crap talking points." – C3.

              Dude, are you typing into a mirror?. You spend all your time here defending fellow cranks and don't even bother to try to understand all the science. For example:

              "37% is irrelevant (it’s not the percentage but the aggregate increase in the gas that matters)." -c3

              WTF?. Did you think that sounded all sciencey?. Do you not understand anything about the carbon cycles?& the Greenhouse Effect?.

              "CO2 is not potent (compared to any other gas), it simply more abundant than other gases." -c3

              Ha, at least that contradicts the common denier canard about the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

              "Your are the one degrading the debate" -c3

              What debate?. You mean about how bad things are going to get?. Read the scientific literature on climate, it's bad news I'm afraid, no debate on the direction of change i.e. warming, only debate is how much, and how soon.

              "Don’t make baseless accusations unless you have a real example of De Lange teaching inaccurate material." -c3

              Read my comments above. If De Lange was doing his job, his students would know AGW denial is a sick joke.

            13. C3Po – well it depends on whether this is an "alternate scientific point of view", disinformation, or crank (MisKolczi, G&T,etc.). The point of science is that unlike say political opinion, you can tell the difference (at least scientist to scientist). Without knowing what is being taught, who can tell? Rumours of long-debunked disinformation dont bode well, but what are the facts?

            14. Phil, I'll ask my son when he's home next time, some of his friends take De Lange's classes, that's how he knew about the zombie arguments first hand. Oh, and someone from the Waikato University organized a climate crank conference there last year. Yup, mighty suspicious……….

  2. Bryan,
    Perhaps the Waikato cockies should read the Garnaut Review 2008 produced out of the Aust. Nat. Uni. for the Oz Govt. (Not that the Ozzies have taken much notice of it).
    Its a fairly simple 59 page document so most may be able to handle it without reader assistance and ends with this summation.
    " On a balance of probabilities, the failure of our generation on climate change mitigation would lead to consequences that would haunt humanity until the end of time."

  3. It seems many people can't read or don't want to read if it does not say what they want to hear. Some farmers have seen the light – I am in the forestry world and have many farmer clients busy planting forests. Last week we sold over $600,000 of credits – they are really clicked onto planting more land, reserving larger areas of indigenous forest, enhancing and growing wetlands for biodiversity. Putting a price on does motivate and change actions. The end result is people get rewarded for improving the natural environment. The ETS has the potential to save hill country farmers, neraly all are making no money and going backwards fast, and produce massive climate, environmental and branding benefits to all of NZ. The cost of this in overall terms is low and all helps to improving carbon and the environment.

  4. Logger

    Can I ask, if you have been working with the different schemes, what schemes are being preferred, AGS, PFSI, or straight ETS? For example, there is discussion that the Afforestation Grant Scheme might be preferred over Permanent Forest Sink Initiative.

    For those interested there is this excellent resource at Tane's Tree Trust:

    The trust has the amazing objective:

    "To see the majority of New Zealand landowners successfully planting and
    sustainably managing indigenous trees for multiple uses by 2020."

    I was blown away to find out that it existed.

    My recent post Travel industry imagines a world with far fewer flights

    1. We have some AGS – this just funds the planting and after 10 years the applicant can then apply for credits. AGS is now oversubscribed and finishing in @2 years. The rest is self funding and joint ventures with investors. PFSI imposes a 100 years covenant and virtually no emitters see any differnece between ETS and PFSI so ETS gives more flexibility. The main point is that people would like to plant but need cash to survive. ETS provides this and is actually way more profitable than traditional farming. Fed Farmers may say it costs $80 mill year but farmers could get back $200 mill a year from planting. No stock to chase and a good return to them to stay on the land. They then guard carefully the planting and sites as it means a livelihood. With the 100s of land owners our company works with in around 2 years I wouldn't want to change the ETS – there will be farmers demanding it be enhanced and strengthened. In effect the market will pay to grow and enhance flora, fauna and biodiversity. I can't think of a more enyoable job!!!

  5. FWIW, I run an ag-related Web site (AgTalk) and I have heard all of those denier talking points and many more. I do my best to inject a little science into the discussion but about 95% of users will have none of it. Providing a generous amount of evidence and reasoning has had little effect, as this is not about logic. Instead, intelligent and otherwise very perceptive people are blinded to the obvious by an ideology based more in tradition than critical inquiry. Turning that around, if such is even possible, will take long time. Many are still upset that "Darwinism" is taught in schools.

    1. This is exactly what we find. Interestingly you get the "noise" from the tradtionalists – these people are more frightened really as the world as they knew it has gone. This is really a cultural issue – someone who is a 3rd or 4th generation farmer finds it very hard to see the world change. This is something everyone needs to understand. Its like we have stripped them bare and stood them in the middle of Queens St. Once the noise goes the quiet thinking farmers are willing to change – in fact many of the older farmers are the first to change. They have been through the grinder and anything must be better to save their families from repeating going through the mincer. Now that we are actually getting cash back to clients the change is profund. Will still be squealing but the slient majority will vote with their feet. They just need to do it carefully in their communities as they have to live amongst them

      1. I think that's a good point, Logger, and I certainly see that amongst my local farming community. There are a lot who are resolutely sceptical about climate change and an ETS (in many cases "traditionalists" or what I call the "great and the good"), but plenty more who are quietly getting on with addressing sustainability and planning to improve resilience. And that includes planting trees… (Aside: I'm reviewing a really interesting proposal at the moment that has farmers and offsetters working hand in hand — there will be a post in due course…)

      2. Part of the problem, Logger, is that traditionalists see science as playing the role of spoiler — taking from them something they cherish and replacing it with something "less." Less appealing, less reassuring, and certainly less absolute. Would you rather accept something provisionally that can be demonstrated empirically with 95% confidence or believe in an eternal truth that requires only unwavering faith? How one answers that will go a long way in explaining acceptance of evolution, anthropogenic climate change, or any other issue that hits close to home.

  6. Re Edmeades point that doubled carbon dioxide would increase production by 30%, is there any science to back this up? If one doubles the amount of water given to already well watered plants I doubt it increases production. Or is this just some random made up "fact"?
    Either way it doesn't counter the effect that doubling carbon dioxide would have on the climate, sea level and water availability etc.

    1. CO2 is recognised as having a fertilising effect, as studies such as this from the FAO indicate. But it seems to be variable and selective and I've not seen anything to match Edmeade's confident assertion. He hasn't made it up out of nothing, but he's played it for all it's worth and then some. And as you point out it's scant comfort in the light of the negative effects of a high CO2 level. It's not as if all increased CO2 is doing is enhancing plant growth. Melanie Lenart’s book Life in the Hothouse reviewed here makes the point that increased growth in forests will help soak up some of the excess CO2, but this is by way of encouraging mitigation by forest preservation and afforestation rather than assuring us that there's nothing to be worried about.

  7. If anyone is in Hamilton and want to hear and debate Doug Edmeades then he will be presenting at a NZIAHS meeting this thursday (20 May) at 4pm. The title of his seminar (sic) is: “The Ten Reasons I have Become a Climate Skeptic.”
    > When: Thurs 20 May at 4 pm
    > Where: Ruakura Campus Club, Ruakura Research Centre

    It would be good to have a few more people to counteract the denialist talking points so if anyone wants to drop by then feel free, the invitation was sent to a general audience so it is open to the public. Plus the Campus Club has an excellent beer selection so you’ll be able to have a good microbrew to wash out the unpleasant taste of pseudo-science afterwards.

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