The Oz blows it again on global warming

The Australian continues its deplorable coverage of global warming, in this editorial which contains more errors and misleading claims than it is possible to count, following on from an equally bad news story at the weekend.

The factual basis of the story is that the IPCC has confirmed the reality of anthropogenic global warming, tightening the error bounds around its earlier estimate of a 3 degree warming by 2100. Obviously, when you tighten error bounds, you raise the minimum estimate, but the Australian manages to mention this once in passing in its news story and not at all in its editorial.

The rest of the editorial contains allusions to all the denialist claptrap the Oz has been pushing for years now: claims that climate change is really natural (the IPCC confirms that the change we are observing is anthropogenic), suggestions that the report refutes the ‘hockey stick’ (it confirms it, even more strongly than the 2001) report, misleading references to the Medieval Warm period and so on.

At least, having publicly relied on the IPCC, the Oz might stop publishing the conspiracy-theory opinion pieces suggesting that the whole thing is a hoax.

The Australian’s coverage of this issue has been a disgrace. As a paper, it cannot be taken seriously on any scientific issue.

122 thoughts on “The Oz blows it again on global warming

  1. Taust a number of points.

    Ok I would imagine regardless of our countries relative contribution- excluding our high contribution per capita- that from a diplomatic point of view one in all in.

    Next historically we and the rest of the West have had our share of polluting so to expect the developing nations to seriously curtail their wish to develop is morally hypocritical.

    Give them assistance both financial and technical instead of using a flawed argument concerning costing the economy and we could have been quite a lot further down the tract.

    Harm to the economy? Causing the local renewable sector -a sunrise industry- to go off shore while we look at trying to clean up our dirty sectors through costly tech is what I call harmful.

    If the same people sort of people that were first AGW sceptics now evolving to climate change adapters are so big on the benefit and cost to business why have they been so silent about the low fruit of energy and resource efficiency?

    Been around a long time help the bottom line and competitiveness. Where is that on the national agenda?

    Clean and green is the new businesses mantra learn or be left behind. Which looks like Australia will be if people like you and Howard have their way.

    The tired old jobs/economy vs environment argument is obsolete, read a bit about Natural Capita, Factor Four etc.

    Likelihood of Agreements
    Leadership. The world would be a far different place if Gore had got in, sorta hard to get any agreement when the only superpower won’t play ball. We’ll see once a few mega disasters start to hit then we’ll see how hard it is to get agreements.

    National security.
    Even the Pentagon realizes the seriousness of AGW you seriously think we can just sit it out and adapt while millions of people are displaced through AGW? Or that the world economy will be running smoothly while they clamour to get across borders?

    Last but not least I thought the dry economic types where being educated about the free services being contributed to the world economy by the environment?

    If you had been reading NewScientist regularly you would know that many of them are in decline and will find it difficult to adapt when that are already under stress.
    At the very least you should be advocating the low hanging fruit of efficiency and supporting high tech new industries that don’t have the negatives of coal or nuclear and see where that gets up as well as mitigation.

  2. Simonjm;

    the low hanging fruit of efficiency improvement has been around a very vary long time. If like me you believe that most people behave rationally most of the time you have to ask the question why is it rational behaviour not to go after efficiency improvements? I agree identify and remove the impediments people will then behave both rationally and in a manner you approve of.

    Now I understand and appreciate the USA’s leadership and capacity to influence the world. In large measure own my freedom to it.

    However the closest analogy to climate change mitigation is freeing up world trade. It is to every countries advantage to free up trade. The benefits to the poor of the world would after transition costs be vast.
    We have been at it since about 1945 and have still not succeeded (come a way I will admit but got about as far to go again and we are not even talking about free movement of people.).

    The USA produces I think some 25% of greenhouse gases that leaves 75% by someone else (Australia is 1% to 2%) all numbers are from memory.

    Australia and the USA trade and in particular feed a lot more people than live within our Borders. In your case you provide the demand for economic activity for far more people than live in you borders.

    Damage our economies we damage people outside our borders. Evidently it is now being postulated that one factor driving up corn prices at this time is the demand for corn to be converted into gasoline substitutes. I do not believe this at this time. However if it is true, to have an insignificant effect on climate change we are taking corn from the mouths of the poor. If it was happening I would not feel good about that. The poor of the world have a rough enough time not to have me making harder for nothing.

    This is not some rational economic idea it is what happens in the real world.

    Look at the predictions given even optimistic forecasts of mitigation success climate change is still going to happen. Very considerable adaptation is going to have to happen.

    I have a good feeling that the Pentagon has enough resources to worry about problems 50 or 100 years ahead. I was getting worried that it did not have enough resources so that after protecting you it could continue to protect me. ( Have you checked out the intelligence sources giving them the data. Is it the CIA?)

    The environment is changing albeit probably faster than is usual. Change for nature is not decline it is just change.

    If you check out Canada’s greenhouse emissions per capita you will find that they are much less than the USA’s or Australia’s. Why?

    They use hydroelectricity and nuclear power (as the USA does) and seem to be thriving.

    Put some first pass numbers to my questions and you will see I am arriving at a defensible position. It is not an all or nothing solution both strategies are needed. It’s an argument about getting the mix right. Something about putting all your eggs in one basket.

    We ignored the well known, scientifically, greenhouse effect for some 100 years. We need to develop adaptation strategies in very much less than that time. Meanwhile the mitigationists play a single string on their bow while Rome heats up.

  3. Carbonsink,

    did you listen to the SCIENCE SHOW on GAIA and Accelerating Climate Change? If you did you can’t possibly suggest that I think there is time to wait if we are to prevent very serious climate change to which we can adapt only in some aspects.

    What I was saying was that we are more worried about a pandemic than about climate. We have more experience of being ill than about conditions on a hostile planet. We were successful fighting off SARS when it was happening. We are less effective gearing up our economies and health system for a virus which is not killing us easily yet. Climate change is just not on the horizon for most people. And there lies the danger.


    I’d love to take apart the skeptics arguments. The last one is that temperature increases preceed increases of CO2 levels.

    Can’t we look at the bright side and see the warnings of a changing climate as an opportunity that could propell us to a richer and more peaceful world? Whenever we have switched to a new energy source it brought economic prosperity. The slight problem is that we need to do it together at once.

  4. Dear All,

    check out Andrew Bolt at Herald Sun. He believes he gave Gore a lesson.

    Blogs at

    The problem with skeptics like him is that they pull out old hats and ignore new evidence as its indeed an inconvenient truth. Such things like the centre of Antarcica is increasing in mass – I wish!

  5. Taust

    no a I would say people are rational only some of the time. I believe the bounded rationality model better describes our rationality; throw in the number of cognitive biases and we are a far way from it.

    Many of the conservatives and libertarian mindset see efficiency as some sort of hippy concept. No matter how rational it is they cannot get past their bias against anything that smacks of environmentalism.

    Until externalities are properly factored in and the big players can manipulate the rules to suite themselves free trade as some magic solution is pie in the sky.

    Funny thing is many countries have done exactly what the IMF asked them and their economies went to sh#t; often in the process screwing their own food sectors so they had trouble feeding themselves.

    That is the real world for you

    Oh if you are going to continue for Australia to play a leading role in food production think again your stance is exactly what is kill most of that sector off.

    I’d disagree many think if we took it seriously and implemented doable measures of efficiency, a mix of renewables, gas and some sensible lifestyle changes that would by 2050 stabilize our emissions and leave us with minor climate change that we could reasonably well adapt to.

    The basic science doesn’t change you cannot keep increasing the level of C02 in the atmosphere, at some stage we would reach a temperature change that is on the scale of mass extinction events. Unless you are happy with most human life dying it’s not an option.

    BTW the Pentagon realize they don’t want more trouble on their hands than they already have they don’t need nay more dumbass anti-environment politician giving them any more work.

    Hmmm Maybe Canada doesn’t have easy access to coal, methinks that may have something to do with it.

    “The environment is changing albeit probably faster than is usual. Change for nature is not decline it is just change.�

    That if nothing else tells me you have no idea what you are talking about in regard to the current state of the environment. From water, biodiversity, fish stocks , forests, soils are getting worse and you want to give me some libertarian head-in-the-sand view that the global environment is just changing? Do some basic research before you post again.

    One string to our bow? The eco sustainable movement is already many steps ahead of you. We are already designing in more robust and resource efficient human habitation and systems but we coming up against the old anything eco is bad for business. This helps with adaptation with the bonus its fights AGW as well.

  6. having done the research you should be able to put very good guestimates into my questions

    the probability of achieving an effective global agreement to mitigate climate change (my assessment very low); and

    the probability that even with mitigation we will experience significant climate change (my assessment very high).

    Depending upon your assessment of the above you then factor in what difference to climate change will Australia’s çontribution make (my assessment very small).

    The IMF is a creature of economists set up by Governments and subject to the leadership of the USA.

    It bears some comparison with the central planned economies of the Marxists

    One possible net positive benfit of climate change (after transition costs) is that it makes it likely that governments will not be able to stop the free movement of labour.

    Once that happens robber baron governments will find it much harder to survive, people will just vote with their feet and leave that area.

    Bounded rationality isnt that just rational behaviour in the face of no or costly information?

    Just help me a little with my understanding of nature.

    If all vertaebrates dissapeared by how much would the genetic diversity of the earth decrease?

    What value does nature place on preserving a species and how does it demonstrate this value?

    What reasonable evidence have you got that the worse climate change with a probability significantly different from zero of occuring (ie no Venus scenarios real science has to be used) will place the existence of H sapein at risk?.


  7. pt1

    JQ and others here have covered the different models whether you think it is a cop out google debates don’t really impress me, especially someone who won’t acknowledge mainstream science like current view of the state of the global environment.

    Anyway it would take to much time to get to even get first base and find out the parameters of your scenarios especially when you are asking vague questions with political aspects where you couldn’t get clear cut answers.

    Under current circumstances with Bush in Whitehouse and no really technology or financial assistance for China or India why should they change their policy?

    Which scenario which policy measures, I’ve posted on similar threads two academics one Australian and one UK who think that the stabilizing emission targets are quite possible for both our countries.

    Lets put it this way if the West can spend billions on defense to manage global security if the were serious and diverted some of these funds we wouldn’t be having this argument.

    Again have a few more Katrina seasons and what is unlikely now will become more

    but anyway for your questions little chance at the moment and no very low but this is depending on the feedbacks like methane peat bogs and forests which if they contribute then we are totally screwed and you can kiss most of the worlds population good bye.

    Free movement of labour? You think 20 million people fleeing Bangladesh is going to assist the economies of neighboring countries.

    Look up bounded rationality at wiki. From my understanding while still somewhat on the fringe it is gaining ground. It will have to overcome some institutional inertia giving up the bone of rational agents isn’t going to be easy.

    JQ what say you?

  8. Pt2
    I’d be more worried about the loss of insect esp the pollinators google for what effects that would have.

    Since you seem know where the NewScientist site is use it ask and expert and read the Endangered species page , go through past news. The ABC InConversation site and look for biodiversity you still might catch some of the audios.

    What evidence? Sorta like the refrains of the Global warming scpetics where’s the evidence.

    Sorry I’m not going to dig for you if you are going to simple state that the degradation of the global environment is just a matter of change, I’m not going to waste my time digging info for you that is readily available.

    Lets put it this way if the G8’s leading scientific institutions come out and say AGW is real and a mater of real concern wouldn’t you think something was up apart from any other evidence.

    One I will say is significant, when looking at past climate variation the proposed AGW change is in the range of the difference between now and the last Ice Age. A change of 5 to 10 is in the range of past mass extinction events related to climate change.

    Try to mitigate and we gave something in that Ice age range let it go and inevitably it leads to the mass extinction temperature range. I don’t know about you but if you have a temperature range that has caused massive extinction events in the past I think it would be safe to expect a serious result for humans. You can dig for that one from ABC’s Catalyst

  9. Annamaria Talas the trouble is it is like feeding trolls. The science is in it’s now onto the solutions and costs.

    Even if they reinvent themselves like taust is doing going from skeptics to adapters or Nuke supporters its like an creation scientist become a Intelligent design advocate it’s just a smokescreen.

    Any forum would point out first what problems the world already faces paying particular notice of water-including the importance of the monsoon rains- and its relation to global security concerns, then include the forecasts.

    BTW there has been info published on the global water crisis recently google for it. You can also match it up to a projection on which regions are forecast to have populations increases and put 2 & 2 together.

    Might help you also taust.

    Throw in the feedback loops of the methane, forests and peat bogs.

    What we should have is a white paper on the different energy scenarios –including nuclear -including energy efficiency and let the facts speak for themselves.

    Get some biologists and the climate forecasters together to give us some scenarios and then throw in what sort of problems that could eventuate from climate and sea level rises.

    Give the PM something to chew on.

    PS Bolt is a boffon on the environment when he tried to link the Greens with Nazis proved that.

  10. Simonjm

    You avoid answering my three questions. Why?
    For my climate science I like Real Climate
    50 years ago a science teacher taught me both about continental drift and the greenhouse effect. Both of them in a good scientific manner suitable for my age at that time.

    You are incorrect in your assumption that I am a recent convert to greenhouse believer.

    The fact that it took scientists some 100 years to wake up to the implications of the greenhouse effect is a measure of the inherent caution of the scientist and therefore both their value and the downside of using them as policy advisors.

    Have you read Popper on the dangers of belief system ‘the Open Society and its Enemies’?

    Ponder this also. The world is roughly in water balance. What gets evaporated has to come down sooner or later. If the world warms up the evaporation rate will increase, there will be a transition while the atmosphere water content adjusts for temperature but then the water starts falling as rain. Thus world wide there will be more rain falling in a warm world. It may fall in different regions from now but there is not a large degree of freedom in this.
    Water shortages due to population increase cannot be an effect of climate xchange in my opinion.

    I agree the scientists very much belatedly have given their advice. Good advice on the science. But just as I would not in general ask a politician about science I would not in general ask a scientist to give advice on the best actions to take to respond to the scientific advice.

    You should read the UK Royal Commission Report into the Mad Cow Disease to see scientists at their best in giving action advice. There is one section which I remember as being in my opinion that the counsel assisting the Royal commission carefully got a very senior scienntific advisor to the Government to give all the resons why he had given advice to the Government that it was OK to keep eating beef. The counsel then ask the VSSA having all this information and consulting with all the other experts and carefully considering all the factors to give the advice to the Government; did this knowledge change the behaviour of you and your family in any way. VSSA said he and his family stopped eating beef.

    What society are you pushing us towards . It is going to be a society with very much higher energy prices than now for the forseeable future.

    The age of affordable long distance transport will be over. International travel will only be for the rich. Human muscle power will once again become cheap to use. we will return to overworking the less advantaged section pf the population.

    It will require a World Commission. Welcome to a bigger and more wonderful, and more corrupt body than the UN and EU Commisssion.

    Not only do I think adaptation should be favoured over mitigation as a matter of rationality I also do not want to give up my freedom.

  11. Taust

    “the probability of achieving an effective global agreement to mitigate climate change (my assessment very low);
    Depends on situation now unlikely later more likely.

    the probability that even with mitigation we will experience significant climate change (my assessment very high).
    Low to low/medium

    Depending upon your assessment of the above you then factor in what difference to climate change will Australia’s çontribution make (my assessment very small).
    Low buts that’s not the point on the same grounds a person littering complaining about a fine because hew only dropped one piece of paper.

    BTW I’m well aware of biases.

    “Water shortages due to population increase cannot be an effect of climate xchange in my opinion.�

    No if you do a little research even without climate change many places are at or approaching their available water limits. What climate change could do is shift delay or make more extreme to use and access of this resource.

    Rich countries will have the resources to adapt but even if they do try doing that in a global situation of hundreds of millions of people in Asia having even greater trouble with it.

    The scientists can frame the policy options and politicians in god times have the choice to ignore it. This won’t be one of those time. BTW as far as Mad cow that had thought that was situation that there was political interference but regardless you seem like you want to throw the baby out with the bathwater if you think so little of the worth scientists give towards framing policy.

    PLS Spare me the Libertarian tripe!

    I was once hard core green but came to the realization that in the end the world will have to become more green/ethical in the end, climate change, unsustainable use of resources will eventually catch up esp with China and India wanting our first world lifestyles whether like want to or not.

    I’m more optimistic but still think it will take a few disasters to get the political will moving then maybe the world will in fact be living smarter more ethically and sustainably

  12. Would you agree that if we put no more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from now we would still experience a likely 1-2C rise in world average temperature by 2050?

    Would you agree that the changes due to climate change both beneficial and adverse are already occuring?

    Picking up a piece of litter has a low cost for me and is unlikely to have unintended adverse consequences on any other person.
    Significant reductions in CO2 emssions within Australia will cost or else it would be going on now, will have adverse unintended consequences on the disadvantaged in australia and will do nothing for climate change.

    How are you going to get to your future world?

    How are you going to get the indian population and the Chinese Government to become members of your future world.

    The worrying issue with liberty is that for me to have freedom I must assume that on average the rest of the world is as successful at living their lives in their environment as I am in mine.
    If I wish their behaviour to change, I need to convince them to change their behaviour. Otherwise I am in effect going to use force to change their behaviour.
    Coming from a green background you probably in the past found it OK to shoot people to save elephants.

    How many people are you prepared to shoot to save us from climate change?

    I am glad we agree on the facts of the percieved shortage of water. In Australia I believe the water shortage could be addressed by development in our tropical regions.

    If you take a clove of garlic, a cross and have wooden nails on hand you could well find Popper OSE an interesting read if you have not yet read it.

  13. taust



    The other point about the litter was when you need global cooperation or even just from India and China saying we don’t make a difference is a cop out plus ignores the fact we have already been a historical developed polluter.

    BTW people don’t like paying the full cost if they get away with for free they will, and unless there are forced many will continue to do so.

    Its also about the cost now or larger cost latter take your pick.

    I’d first go for a global energy and resource efficiency drive, coupled with sensible lifestyle changes through better design of communities and life style eg not basing our lives around the car.

    Technology and financial aid to both India and China, incremental policy changes to switch to the sustainable use of energy and resources – proposals are already being put forward.

    Libertarian rhetoric is so obsolete, no I don’t have to shoot people to save elephants or the environment. As I said the old people/jobs vs the environment is so old hat one wonders do you people ever bother to read anything outside your particular square box.

    Many modern programs combine economic social and conservation aspects. The Far Trade movement is part of this.

    The thing is if you are so big on the market stop distorting it and pay the real cost of your goods and services, the world isn’t an open dump.

    Again, why I don’t take many hard core libertarians seriously they don’t even back the win /win of resource efficiency plus they are quite happy to dismiss mainstream science and back fringe lobbyists.

    I’m more than happy for instance to see nuclear on the board but let all the facts speak for themselves and accept what the science is telling you.

  14. PS as to your first will there be a rise i’m not sure exactly by how much and whether that range is 100years

  15. The suggestion that, because Australia makes an insignificant gross contribution to world CO2 emissions, we should continue on our merry way, is both laughable and offensive.

    Fact is we’re per capita very heavy emitters. Our offsets can probably done with the least cost to anyone (actually most people think we’d be far more efficient and save money if we reduced emissions).

    We’re all in this together. If Australia says “oh no we’re not important” and all the other minor emitters say the same thing, that would add up to a very substantial level of emissions. We cannot just expect India, China, the US and Russia to reduce all of the emissions. The only way you could expect that would be if you had no grasp of politics, human psychology and ethics. Only the most narrow view of rationality would suggest Australia should go without reductions.

  16. Willful
    1. Offensive to whom? Laughable to whom? Should Australia be concerned by the offence or laughter?
    2. Australia is a per capita very heavy emitter only because unlike most other developed nations we have not used nuclear fission to produce electrical power e.g Canada, France etc etc. We are respectable in the efficiency of our use of fossil fuels.
    3.Why does adapting to climate change prevent us from mitigating?
    4. Why is adapting çontinuing on in our merry way?
    5 What measures are you going to adopt to protect the poor from the adverse effects of the change to our economy wrought by mitigating climate change? Or will they have to make do with the benefits of a mitigated climate change only? I remember the young and old people the policy elite threw on the scrapheap through a needed change to our economy.

  17. simonJm

    You do like to put me in a pigeonhole.

    I do acceot the science.
    I do accept that people are going to have to be forced to change their lifestyle especially when the new lifestyle is more costly and or less convenient.

    I do not accept that people being forced can be done without the use of force. That worries me. People in China are not going to be executed (after donating their organs) in order to achieve a better environmental outcome?

    When the price of energy goes up áre we are not going to use human muscle more and long distance travel become too expensive for even more people etc etc etc. ?

    If being a libertarian means that I empathise with fellow human beings more than I empathise with a human concept (the environment) then I am a libertarian but I much prefer the term human being.

    Why for some 400 years has capitalist economic organisation survived competiion with various forms of so called mutual economic organisation? Because it fails to satisfy the economic needs of human beings?
    (see Braudel Civilisation and Capitalism).
    I promise you ,you will not need the garlic, cross and wooden nails for Braudel although Popper would still be interesting to you if you have yet to read him.

  18. Taust do you accept the science? If you did you wouldn’t have come out with the line Change for nature is not decline it is just change.
    as it ignores most of what mainstream science is saying, either that or just plain ignorance.

    As far as forcing I think it will be the other way round a few more Katrina’s and large natural disasters and the political leaders will be forced by the people to act. As it is in China they are walking a very fine line, with some commentators saying that officials recognize that even a fall of growth to 6% could cause unrest. Throw in a few natural disasters and it could go below that.

    Yes the ancient Romans thought their economic system -where they could rape the environment- would last forever, North Africa proved them wrong. The West has had the whole globe to plunder, it just meant it would take somewhat longer.

    Some environmentalists are indeed hard core green but in my opinion they are in the minority, other are more moderate in that we should value both and in fact to safeguard the wellbeing of humanity we have to safeguard the environment if for no other reason that it supplies services and resources we need for survival.

    I find you take on Libertarians interesting especially regarding those who see tax as theft and would leave their fellow man to sink or swim

    Lastly the only economic work I want to read is when they include pollution externalities.

  19. “Would you agree that if we put no more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from now we would still experience a likely 1-2C rise in world average temperature by 2050?”

    No. Increasing the CO2 from 280ppm to 380ppm with a 3C sensitivity per CO2 doubling gives an ultimate total temperature rise of 1.3C. So far we’ve had a rise of 0.7-0.8C so the remaining rise would be no more than 0.6C.

  20. Chris;
    thanks for the correction.
    I am suitably angst ridden about not checking my memory before posting.

  21. Taust,
    No need to be angst ridden about that. A similar mistake was made in the recent CSIRO report for the Business Roundtable on Climate Change (Ben Preston and Roger Jones, “Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Emissions”).
    The report says on p. 8 “If one assumes that atmospheric composition was held constant at today’s levels, the Earth would still be committed to an additional warming of … 2.0-5.5 C at climate equilibriumâ€? (p. 8).
    The authors appear to have confused Wigley’s estimates of constant-composition (CC) commitments with those for constant-emissions (CE) commitments.
    Incidentally the citation for Wigley’s paper is incorrect – the reference should be to Science vol. 310, not vol. 18.

  22. Chris;
    I note I am in good company. i suspect that my mistake was the same, except I would hope my mind held generalised conclusions a little better. I still do not enjoy the feeling.

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