Insider

May 16th, 2007

Andrew Bolt picks up the Davidson-Robson piece I mentioned here. I know Bolt mainly from his writing about global warming and (to a lesser extent the Iraq war) where he is about as wrong as it is possible to be, in every possible way. He gets basic facts wrong, recycles long-exploded propaganda exercises like the Oregon Petition and commits just about every kind of logical fallacy known, all in an attempt to push a position that has literally no credible scientific defenders left*. He compounds all this by explaining the virtually unanimous verdict of the scientific community, including such bodies as the US National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of the UK, Australian Academy of Sciences and so on as the product either of a crude conspiracy to scare up grant money or a quasi-religious cult.

Fortunately, in the case of global warming, anyone with access to the Internet can easily check the facts, so the only people deluded by Bolt on this topic are those complicit in their own delusion, believing an implausible story because it suits their ideological or cultural/tribal prejudices. But Bolt’s opinions on general politics are routinely featured on such programs as the ABCs Insiders. As the name of the show indicates, we are supposed to accept on faith that Bolt has access to facts and insights not available to the rest of us, except through the intermediation of Bolt or his fellow-insiders.

The obvious question is why anyone should pay attention to someone who has shown such a monumental capacity for deluding himself and others. If wishful thinking can lead him to reject science wholesale (global warming is only one example where Bolt’s views on scientific issues are clearly derived from his own prejudices), how likely is it that his treatment of political questions is any better?

I note that Bolt finally seems to be facing some questioning from fellow-insiders on this, but it seems to me to be too little, too late.

The interesting question is whether Bolt, the Oz and others who have got this issue so badly wrong will suffer any long-run penalty for it or whether they will just bounce back and opine, with equal dogmatism, on other topics.

* There are a few credible scientists who dissent from some aspects of the mainstream consensus, but none who back the wholly delusional position espoused by Bolt.

Categories: Environment, Oz Politics Tags:
  1. May 16th, 2007 at 19:55 | #1

    As a regular on Bolt’s blog (don’t ask me why, I’m like a moth to a flame) I can confirm that he is seriously deluded. He seems to believe that the tide is turning against the global warming “alarmists” despite all evidence to the contrary. You’d reckon the recent change of heart by Murdoch would have given him a clue.

    To borrow a line from Michael Moore, when you’ve got the Queen and Arnold Schwarzenegger against you, your time is up.

  2. mugwump
    May 17th, 2007 at 01:27 | #2

    Global warming is the ideal 21st religion for a guilt-ridden middle-class in desperate need of good-old catholic-style forgiveness.

    You have purgatory (the hell we’re all going to live in if we don’t stop CO2 emissions) and salvation through austerity (just turn out those lights and put in a solar hot-water system and everything will be A-OK).

    Of course, the rubbish spewed forth by self-promoters such as Tim Flannery and Al Gore in the name of saving us all (has Gore given up anything yet? his 25,000 sq ft house? His chartered flights? I thought not…) is far worse than any errors made by Bolt, but you won’t hear any criticism of alarmist statements around here.

  3. May 17th, 2007 at 07:41 | #3

    JQ – “The interesting question is whether Bolt, the Oz and others who have got this issue so badly wrong will suffer any long-run penalty for it or whether they will just bounce back and opine, with equal dogmatism, on other topics.”

    Oh-no then they will write columns denouncing the scientists for not doing anything in time completely forgetting the last 10 years of denouncing the same scientists for scare mongering.

  4. rs
    May 17th, 2007 at 09:47 | #4

    With the 500+ comment 2006 argument here (before 4AR) on if water is a greenhouse gas or not, or if carbon dioxide absorbs IR, that takes almost a year and never has a resolution is any indication, I’d say we have a long way to go.

    (For those of you that don’t remember that…. lol)

    Somebody could have pointed out what the US EIA said in 1994 in appendix D about Greenhouse Gas Spectral Overlaps and Their Significance:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/alternate/page/environment/appd_d.html

    “One of the difficulties in measuring the GWP of GHGs is that GHGs absorb infrared radiation at a variety of wavelengths. Some GHGs have common absorption bands. Table D1 shows how the GHGs absorption bands overlap.” And then conveniently posting or having the reader look at D1. Gee, both water vapor and carbon dioxide (and ozone etc) absorbtion info. Wild!

    Or

    Carbon dioxide adds 12 percent to radiation trapping, which is less than the contribution from either water vapor or clouds. By itself, however, carbon dioxide is capable of trapping three times as much radiation as it actually does in the Earth’s atmosphere… Given the present composition of the atmosphere, the contribution to the total heating rate in the troposphere is around 5 percent from carbon dioxide and around 95 percent from water vapor. In the stratosphere, the contribution is about 80 percent from carbon dioxide and about 20 percent from water vapor….

    Nobody even thought of um like, oh, I don’t know, looking at the TAR WG1 Technical Summary.

    CO2 is the dominant human-influenced greenhouse gas, with a current radiative forcing of 1.46 Wm-2, being 60% of the total from the changes in concentrations of all of the long-lived and globally mixed greenhouse gases.

    Or at Chapter 3 all about Carbon Dioxide.

    Then in the 4.2 section on atmospheric chemistry and greenhouse gases (other than carbon dioxide)

    Methane
    Nitrous Oxide
    Hydrofluorocarbons
    Perfluorocarbons and Sulpher Hexaflouride
    Montreal Protocol Gases and Stratospheric Ozone
    Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen
    Volitile Organic Compounds
    Nitrogen Oxides
    Tropospheric Ozone
    Stratospheric Water
    Ah, there it is, 4.2.5 “Water vapour in the lower stratosphere is a very effective greenhouse gas.”
    Tropospheric Hydroxyl Radical and Photochemical Modelling

    Or maybe chapter 6 on the Radiative Forcing of Climate Change where even water can be one!

    It should also be noted that if the changes in water vapour were a result of CH4 oxidation, the changes in H2O would be a forcing. However, if they result from changes in tropical tropopause temperature change or in dynamics, then they should be viewed as a feedback (as defined in Section 6.2). Additional measurements and analyses are clearly needed to explain the observed trends.

  5. Bruce Everett
    May 17th, 2007 at 13:22 | #5

    I think a critical (and perhaps qualified) recantation, rather than a reversal of position by stealth, would do the most for Andrew’s long term credability. It would set him apart and above a number of his News Ltd stable mates (IMHO).

  6. wilful
    May 17th, 2007 at 14:42 | #6

    It pains me greatly that a person that pig ignorant can be so well paid and so supposedly influential. But is he really? I wonder how many people actually give a rats arse about him. Equally, I think that Insiders is far less influential than the blogatariat believes. Most people have far more important things to do on a Sunday morning than tune in to ABC.

  7. jquiggin
    May 17th, 2007 at 14:46 | #7

    I hope you’re right, wilful. I never watch Insiders myself (a short exposure was enough to turn me off for good), so my assumptions about its influence come mainly from references in the media and in other blogs.

  8. Paul Norton
    May 17th, 2007 at 19:22 | #8

    Andrew Bolt has, on his blog, invited his readers to speculate on the identities of the greenhouse sceptics within the Federal ALP.

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/spot_the_seceptics_on_labors_front_bench

    Some of the guesses are on the money (e.g. Martin Ferguson) but some are hilariously inaccurate. Lindsay Tanner would be mortified to learn how many have included him in their lists of Labor denialists. Tanner, like other modernising social democrats and modernising left-liberals such as Tony Blair, David Miliband, Al Gore and Geoff Gallop, is as big on greenhouse as anyone can be outside the Greens. As for the nominations of Peter Garrett, one wonders whether this is the work of deep green trolls seeking to brand him a total sellout.

  9. Paul Norton
    May 17th, 2007 at 19:50 | #9

    And the other interesting aspect of the speculation on Labor sceptics is that nobody picked Gary Gray as the potential frontbencher, despite Gray’s prominent role in the denialist Lavoisier Group.

  10. jquiggin
    May 17th, 2007 at 20:30 | #10

    (Marn) Ferguson and Gray are obvious, and both are dead losses to the party in every other respect as well. Ferguson is an illustration (one of many in Oz politics) of the weaknesses of the hereditary principle. I doubt there would be many others left, although who knows what people say to Bolt in the hope of getting good press.

  11. mugwump
    May 17th, 2007 at 22:18 | #11

    Bolt performs a great service questioning the rubbish spewed by the alarmist camp. Someone has to. Eg, this latest claim from Stern:

    “But even at low levels of warming, there are already significant impacts on vulnerable
    communities. Rapid warming is causing serious challenges for indigenous communities in the Arctic Circle, and some low-lying tropical islands have already been evacuated.”

    Unmitigated rot. No low-lying tropical islands have been evacuated due to sea-level rise. And we’re supposed to believe what this self-serving **** says on economics?

  12. melanie
    May 17th, 2007 at 22:26 | #12

    Actually, mugwump, it is true that some low lying tropical islands have been evacuated. I recently read about one such island in the Solomons that has been cut into two islands and, due to having their houses washed away, the islanders were transferred to another one.

  13. melanie
    May 17th, 2007 at 22:27 | #13

    Sorry everyone, I just read mugwump’s first comment and it seems he’s a troll.

  14. mugwump
    May 17th, 2007 at 23:09 | #14

    Which island in the Solomons has been evacuated due to AGW, melanie?

  15. Jill Rush
    May 17th, 2007 at 23:41 | #15

    Wilful,
    You make a good point about Insiders and Sunday Morning. I did watch it once but the overbearing and patronising manner of Andrew Bolt made it impossible to continue.

    There is altogether too much creedence given to the man who has so little intellectual depth and so little personal appeal.

    He does serve a useful purpose in making others feel more intelligent and this may be where his appeal lies. He is like a modern day lonely King Canute. However he will not be able to stop the oceans rising over the many low lying Pacific islands.

    Melanie, I hadn’t heard that there had been an evacuation in the Solomons. However it is not surprising after the devastation that occurred as a result of the recent tsunami.

  16. Peter Wood
  17. melanie
    May 18th, 2007 at 10:26 | #17

    Mugwump, Thanks to Peter Woods I didn’t have to google. It was the Carteret Islands and they are in PNG, not the Solomons. I see, from the Wikipedia entry however, that there may be an alternative explanation.

    Tuvalu, is still in the evacuation planning stage. Not a volcanic geology. It will be the first entire nation to go under.

  18. mugwump
    May 18th, 2007 at 13:25 | #18

    I stopped at Peter Wood’s first example: http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article2099971.ece

    It turns out Lohachara (the island in question) is in a delta, and disappeared through erosion, not rising sea levels. Of course, that didn’t stop the Independent (UK) publishing a breathless, but completely bogus story.

    Once again, the rubbish that comes from the pro-AGW side far exceeds the errors by sceptics.

  19. jquiggin
    May 18th, 2007 at 13:55 | #19

    As I think I pointed out to one of your previous avatars, mugwump, there is rubbish on both sides. The difference (noted in the post)) is that there is nothing but rubbish on the anti-AGW side (the term ‘sceptics’ is of course a ludicrous misnomer for these credulous believers). All the serious research concludes that the reality AGW is established with high (90 per cent plus) or very high (95 per cent plus) probability, depending on exactly how your define your terms.

    Of course, you know all this – I wonder if Bolt does too, or if he really believes his nonsense. Most probably he adopts a sort of postmodernist/pragmatist view that his truth works for him.

  20. May 18th, 2007 at 14:02 | #20

    I think JQ is correct when you notes that people have an intinct towards believing new information that re-enforces their pre-existing thoughts. How else can you explain the constantly re-occuring belief that many people have in AGW-caused island evacuations?

    Not everything on the skeptic side is rubbish — e.g. debate about Stern, hurricanes, hockey stick, influence of sun, questions about feedbacks etc.

    Of course, both sides are inclined to see more clearly the errors of their adversary. Bolt and Quiggin share this problem and perhaps take it further than most.

  21. Pappinbarra Fox
    May 18th, 2007 at 15:20 | #21

    I did research into sea level rise and land loss on islands with Professor Bhagwan Singh of Montreal University on Trinidad in 1998. The research had been onging for several years. Trinidad is losing about 2 metres off its eastern shore every year. This is not an island likely to go under real soon as it has a high hill range on its western side. But it does demonstrate that islands are at peril. These include the Trobriand Islands in PNG with about 37,000 inhabitants.I investigated the Trobriansd on site for three years 2001-2004. These are coral atols no more that a metre and a half above sea level at the highest point. Wugwamp you are clearly wrong and the evidence is there if you care to look

  22. chrisl
    May 18th, 2007 at 16:54 | #22

    Melanie, thinking about sea level rise and islands being inundated, either all the islands would be inundated or none of them. It is the same ocean isn’t it? If only one island was inundated and an adjacent island wasn’t,then surely there is another explanation.
    By the way your Solomon island reference was to an island rising and exposing(and killing) coral reefs.
    Volcanoes giveth and volcanoes taketh away.

  23. Bruce Everett
    May 18th, 2007 at 21:27 | #23

    BTW, I loved this quote;

    Fortunately, in the case of global warming, anyone with access to the Internet can easily check the facts, so the only people deluded by Bolt on this topic are those complicit in their own delusion, believing an implausible story because it suits their ideological or cultural/tribal prejudices.

    John, you’ve earned the (perhaps dubious) title of my first ever Quote of the Week.

  24. melanie
    May 18th, 2007 at 22:06 | #24

    chrisl #23, Hello? Whether an island is inundated or not depends on its height above sea level. Therefore, not all islands disappear at once. My Solomon Island reference was wrong – you are right, the news was about the one that got pushed up by the earthquake – it was in PNG and, as I said in response to Mugwump, there may be a different explanation. That doesn’t mean the phenomenon doesn’t exist.

    Another thing. El Nino causes sea level to be higher in the Western Pacific than in the East. So no, sea level is not the same everywhere and we are getting more, and more prolonged El Ninos.

    Mugwump, erosion is often caused by rising sea level, particularly in the case of deltas – where one would normally see silt deposits building up the land mass, not the other way around. This is Geography 101.

  25. mugwump
    May 18th, 2007 at 23:19 | #25

    melanie – you should publish your findings.

    jquiggin: “The difference [between sceptics and alarmists] is that there is nothing but rubbish on the anti-AGW side”

    Your “sceptic” is a strawman. To you he is a complete and utter denier of even the possibility of AGW. Maybe such people exist, but I have never met one.

    I am a sceptic. I have no doubt humans can affect climate through CO2. I also know a lot about the science and know that the science and its consequences are an awful lot more uncertain than the Sterns, Gores, Flannerys, etc would have us believe.

    I also know that AGW has become the ideal platform for the envirofascist movement to push their ideology on the rest of us, something every proponent of individual freedom is morally bound to resist.

  26. Bruce Everett
    May 19th, 2007 at 02:19 | #26

    Your “sceptic� is a strawman. To you he is a complete and utter denier of even the possibility of AGW. Maybe such people exist, but I have never met one.

    Then you must not be paying attention.

    One: Andrew Bolt.

  27. mugwump
    May 20th, 2007 at 05:12 | #27

    Bruce, can you back up your claim? Bolt’s main contribution to the GW debate is poking holes in alarmist nonsense. I have never seen him claim AGW is impossible.

  28. Bruce Everett
    May 20th, 2007 at 15:01 | #28

    My claim, reclarified (and I conceed that I should have made this clearer) is that Bolt is not a sceptic, and that he is a denialist.

    He choses his conclusions first, then twists and cherry picks evidence to match. This is not scepticism, this is denialism.

    I do not contend that Andrew claims that AGW is impossible. I can see how it appears that I was making this claim however; I cited your comment without addressing some of it’s vacuous content.

    I have the habbit of ignoring straw man red herrings such as “To you he is a complete and utter denier of even the possibility of AGW.” This was not JQ’s definition of “denier”, but rather your own straw man version of JQ’s argument.

    I should have stated that I was going with JQ’s definition, not your side-tracking fabrication. With the way I wrote my last responce it appears otherwise.

    For that, I apologise.

  29. Bruce Everett
    May 20th, 2007 at 15:24 | #29

    “Habit” rather. I’ve had the Lord of the Rings (Hobbit) on my mind lately.

  30. SimonJM
    May 22nd, 2007 at 14:39 | #30

    Not much has changed has it, always at least one denialist troll on the board.

    Anyways if you missed them there were two intersting Radio National talks on the subject:

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/counterpoint/default.htm
    Monday 14 May 2007
    Science and public policy
    How do we approach formulating public policy on such issues as climate change?
    Professor Aynsley Kellow has taken part in the process as a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and offers his view of the process and how it could work.

    Global Warming debate
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2007/1913498.htm

    In February this year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report with some of their strongest statements to date on global warming. The view of the IPCC was unequivocal – the consensus – that global temperatures are on the rise and being driven overwhelmingly by fossil fuel emissions. But there are some among the scientific community, albeit a relatively small group, who challenge this ‘consensus’ and think that the debate is far from over.

    Professor Bob Carter
    Marine Geophysical Laboratory
    James Cook University
    Dr Stephen Schneider
    Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies
    Department of Biological Sciences
    Stanford University

    As far as Carter it would seem applying scientific knowledge outside your discipline can be a flawed exercise when you aren’t up to date or familiar with the work.

    Why is it that some geologists have a harder time of it with AGW? Since their discipline doesn’t deal with human influences or time frames does this blinker them to think it must be so in other disciplines?

    I’d be interested to hear others take on Professor Aynsley Kellow.

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