An interesting reversal

Janet Albrechtsen, who previously endorsed Lord Monckton’s conspiracy theory that the draft Copenhagen agreement were designed to bring in a world government has backed away, admitting that his rants about Hitler Youth and similar make it unsurprising that neither Kevin Rudd nor Tony Abbbott would see him during his Australian tour (I delayed in responding to my invitation, and it was pulled).

Albrechtsen has previously shown more willingness to admit error than the average pundit, and this piece counts in her favour. Still, it’s disappointing to see her continuing to suggest that the utterly unqualified and ludicrously wrong Viscount is “powerful” when he talks about the science. She quotes him confronting an activist, and asking

whether she is aware that there has been no statistically significant change in temperatures for 15 years. No, she is not. Whether she is aware that there has in fact been global cooling in the past nine years? No, she is not. Whether she is aware that there has been virtually no change to the amount of sea ice? No, she does not.

Perhaps the activist does not know these things because none of them are true, at least not in the sense that is implied. For example, as predicted by climate models, the dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice has not not been mirrored in the Antarctic, so with a little ‘virtual’ fudge Monckton’s claim is, kind of, true. The point about statistical significance may be restated as saying that the variability of temperature about the upward trend is sufficiently great that 15 observations is not quite enough to reject the null hypothesis of no change with 95 per cent confidence (when I did stats, the standard number for a decent-sized sample was 30 observatons, but the trend in temperatures is strong enough that we don’t need so many). And the claim about global cooling is typical cherry picking, now out of date. 2009 was warmer than either 2000 or 2001, but Monckton was presumably using the relatively cool 2008 as his endpoint, or maybe the exceptionally warm El Nino year in 1998 as his starting point.

Albrechtsen is no more qualified than Monckton on these points. But she ought to ask herself whether it makes sense to rely on the statistical judgement of a former political advisor (to climate arch-conspirator Margaret Thatcher no less) whose political judgement is so obviously flaky.

43 thoughts on “An interesting reversal

  1. @Donald Oats
    Im with you and Megan on this Donald – Albrechtsen is a media moll for the hard right.

    Dont ever forget forget her role as a war monger for Iraq, her vicious verbal attacks on public institutions in this country such as the ABC and our universities and public servants in general (while happily sticking her hand out for a board position at the ABC along with the odious Windschuttle), academics, the national library, the arts industry.. dont forget her role in supporting and barracking for the starvation of funding to these public institutions in Australia under the now discredited neoliberal orgy.

    She also attempted to conjure up fear of “lefties” to sell the neoliberal agenda, creating an an enemy within whilst at the same time silencing those who disagreed with John Howards policies such as talk of selling off the ABC and the idiotic workchoices, in an ideological war of John Howards own creation along with her sister /clone /murdoch media queen, Miranda “the Divisive” Devine.

    The two ugly stepsisters? The two evil antiscientists? Or just the two evils?

    Like Huginn and Munninn, the two ravens who appraised the god Odin of what was happening on earth because he had given away his eye….. Albrechsten and Devine served their master well.

  2. @Donald Oats
    I fully agree Don – Albrechsten is a shrewd little raven and she is
    “she is actually trying to give Monckton some slack by saying that his propensity to exaggerate when attacking his perceived opponents, is of course regrettable”

    Yes, the propensity to exaggerate is a trite little foible Monckton has, a slip, an unfortunate stutter, a regrettable little tick (such a shame)….but we really should all be good little children and cross our hands over our hearts and listen to the lord when it comes to AGW.

    JQ – your view is too charitable I think. You have tried to see some signs of reason (?truth?honesty) in a person…. when in the case of Albrechtsen…it just aint there.

  3. I thought it was an odd article because it did seem to indicate a softening in attitude in some ways. However the attack on the poor person who didn’t know Monckton’s facts made me think that it was a deliberate ploy to get her readership back up again. The tenor of comments below her article suggests that the subtlety was lost on many readers.

    Like Donald I think that Planet Janet thought that the over the top nature of the Monckton comments may alienate people and they would dismiss his messages which she really agrees with.

    It isn’t necessary to go too deep into psychology to work out why the denialists exist. There are those who are making a nice living, thank you, from this stance because there are others who are deeply worried about what a change in behaviour requires and how it will impact on their personal fortunes. They will pay handsomely to be reassured. Snake oil salesmen are not a new phenomenon.

    The deep denialists are very likely at some distance from nature and natural cycles, like expensive toys and don’t like to be made to feel guilty. There are many who adopt the “whatever it takes” approach to life and its all about the economy. After all the frog in the cauldron doesn’t leave a warm, pleasant environment until it is too late because the change in temperature is incremental.

  4. I have to agree with Donald and others; this isn’t about acknowledging any kind of error or recognising the difference between science and attacks on science. She is just acknowledging that that Monckton is such a wingnut that he could actually do more harm to the cause than “good” without outright dismissing what he says. I suspect for Janet there is no such thing as genuine quality science, just science that supports (or in the case of climate science) shows up the gross inadequacies of a political ideology.

  5. Mind you, Pr Q’s point is valid, in the sense that she is more willing to admit error than the other neocons and gaggle of similarly opined op-article writers. Take Bolt for instance – just what would it take for him to not only have some doubt over his faith that AGW is bollocks (his opinion, not mine), but to also freely acknowledge that in one or more of his articles? Short of a few decades of balmy 60C days in his town of Melbourne I can’t think of anything likely to do the trick.

    [Some possibly sarcastic remarks follow: (MA)]
    I know I’ve said this before but boy I just can’t fathom JA – and the gaggle – in their need to attack scientists and public servants day in, day out. They cry from the rooftops that the (relatively poorly remunerated, compared to Monckton, Plimer, etc) academically employed climate scientists are somehow rolling back the Enlightenment through their “almost religious belief in AGW” (JA and the gaggle’s sentiment, not mine). Since the Enlightenment was in large part the work of scientists of the day, it eludes me how they come to the conclusion that today’s scientists are the errant ones, not the ones drawing massive talking fees for false facts and the like.

    Perhaps JA and the gaggle feel that the funding arrangements of today’s crop of academic scientists tie them too strongly to the whims of the funding source(s). JA and others have certainly implied that by the big deal they make about it, eg “scientists are only after the grant money”, and “they have to say AGW is serious otherwise the government won’t fund them”, and other similar hypotheticals. Well, in Australia, the irony is that the economic rationalists in Labor, led by John Dawkins, were responsible for plonking our universities into the free market cauldron – and then fanned the flames! I would have thought JA and company would have applauded climate scientists chasing new “contracts”, new “clients”, and buying and selling data to the highest bidder, subject to confidentiality to protect the seller’s product, of course. I guess not.
    [End of sarcastic remarks]

  6. @Donald Oats
    Good point made in final para Don…yes, academics do have to chase grant money and private sector money and all those free market gods (any market for any knowledge at all will apparently do..even false knowledge and bad knowledge, lies and misprepresentaions.. as the university of Adelaide proves by providing a perch for and promoting Plimer.

  7. Agree with Donald and Alice.

    There is a stinking hypocrisy here from the neo-liberals free marketeers. They demand academic science engage more directly with the markets, but indulge in hyperbolic accusations of said scientists being compromised by chasing the dollar (but only, of course, when they produce scientific results the neo-libs don’t like).

    Pretty shabby, hollow nonsense.

    And as to Albrechtson herself and her views on, well, anything really… Meh. Been ignoring her nasty ideological drivel for years, and stopped buying The Oz nearly ten years ago, don’t even read it when offered a free copy.

  8. @Peter Wood
    Seriously – did anyone see Monkton on the ABC tonight saying “climate scientists are scaring the children”…bug eyed and a real loony aristocrat…

    Thats what all those centuries of inbreeding produces…!!

  9. @Peter Wood
    Yes, I saw that too, and was rather grumpy after that!
    On the other hand, perhaps if I ever get another letter published in the Neocon Gazette – something I said about their newspaper might have upset the letters editor 😛 – I may well sign off as a CEO or President, maybe as Chief Economist for the RBA (in a non-operating, unofficial capacity). Just make it up, who cares anyway!

    @Alice, I missed that but now I’ll walk around all day with the mental image of a severe close-up of the Lawd, eyes wild and hair unkempt, going “…Climate scientists are scaring the children!”
    The horror, the horror!

  10. Our ABC was running Monckton stories on the radio the other day in a very straight way which would lead the listerner to assume he was a credible authority on the subject. They ran some Monckton audio dismissing the IPCC report because of the glacier error. In the same way I might say that if your car has a dent in the bumper then cars do not exist!

    Good going ABC.

  11. @David Allen

    The ABC was running so much of Monckton you would have thought they were sponsors of his tour or had an interest in its financial success. The ABC nowadays has a decidedly Liberal bias, no doubt the result of Howard successfully eliminating its ‘Labor bias’.

    The journalism on ABC radio can also be quite poor. For example, when promoting Monckton the ABC described the Himalayan claim in the IPCC report as a “key finding”. They are so stupid that they seem to believe whatever the last person they talked to told them.

  12. Perhaps the activist does not know these things because none of them are true

    LOL, those were my thoughts exactly when I read that!

  13. Michael Tobis’s essay Not Evil, Just Wrong (Mostly) at “Only In It For The Gold” may interest

    The first is the presence of evil in the climate debate. That is the topic of this essay.

    The second is the distinction between the nature of evil in science vs its nature in politics. I will return to this question later.

    Let me be clear. As the movie title (incorrectly I think) claims about President-elect Gore, it is possible to be “not evil, just wrong” about issues of substance. I believe most of the people who are participating in the attacks on climate science are doing so more or less in good faith, having been led down a path of bizarrely twisted interpretations of who we climate scientists are, what we do, and how we got to where we are. The question is who has been doing the leading.

  14. in the herald today i read miranda devine describe monckton as “the world’s most effective global warming sceptic” and oh how i laughed.

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