The Bureau fights back

The idea that the Bureau of Meteorology is part of a global conspiracy to destroy Australia’s economy impose communist world government (or in some more prosaic versions, to increase its funding[1]) sounds like the basis of a bad comedy sketch. But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, this claim is put forward, in apparent seriousness, by numerous anti-science advocates in Australia (Andrew Bolt, Jennifer Marohasy, and Warwick Hughes are leading examples) and implicily accepted by many others.

Now, as Graham Readfearn (h/t Tim Lambert) points out, the Bureau is fighting back.

Back in October last year, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to table a letter from Cardinal Pell which quoted heavily from Heaven and Earth to claim there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.

The Director of the Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayers has now responded at an estimates hearing, demolishing Plimer’s bogus claims and pointing to numerous scathing reviews of his trashy and dishonest book. Ayers is great value, but the real fun in reading the Hansard transcript comes from the frantic attempts of Senators MacDonald and Boswell to stop him talking.

Update This post was critical of the Australian Academy of Science for what I’ve seen as a “missing in action” response to the attacks on climate science in Australia. In response, Martin Callinan of the Academy points me to this ABC Radio Interview with AAS President Kurt Lambeck, in which he gives a very critical review of Plimer’s book. I’ll also link to the AAS pamphlet, which is very good. That said, I don’t retract my main point which is that the Academy needs to take a much more vigorous line against the attacks on science and individual scientists which have become a pervasive feature of Australian political commentary.

It’s great to see the Bureau taking a leading role in the defence of science. Sadly, some of those who should be speaking out, most notably the Australian Academy of Science, have been missing in action. The AAS has issued a fairly bland statement of support for the mainstream scientific consensus, but has failed to defend its members against the scurrilous attacks mounted on them, let alone to expose people like Plimer, who use the status derived from (highly profitable) research in geology to boost the credibility of their utterly bogus claims about climate science.

It’s also amusing to see leading figures on the political right like Pell, McDonald and Boswell expose themselves as gullible fools, along with most of the rightwing commentariat. While not everyone on the right thinks this way (as witness Turnbull’s near-victory over Abbott a year or so ago), the number willing to raise their voices in defence of science remains tiny.

fn1. Advocates of the conspiracy theory tend to shift between global communist and grant-grubbing theories, in a manner reminiscent of the (possibly apocryphal) Tasmanian politician who promised voters that, if they supported Federation they would build a glorious new nation under the Southern Cross and get higher prices for their apples.

37 thoughts on “The Bureau fights back

  1. @Chris Warren

    To be clear I commend tree planting as a restorative measure however this seems to be the only plank to the Libs platform. There is also a failure rate in tree planting that needs to be quantified.

    Trees need to be managed and as each year progresses more trees need to be planted to offset emissions. That then brings into the equation – where are they to be planted? Most forested lands are already being managed as forests, inland country was always lightly timbered and residential street trees are prohibitively expensive and ultimately destined to failure. One way would be to compulsorily acquire residential or lightly farmed coastal land, but I can’t see that being popular with constituents.

    You end up by going to the source – carbon.

  2. Ritual Disemvowelment?
    Phwoar, can hardly stand to watch the gory event.
    Tony, that you are scientifically incompetent as well as in other things brings the rest of us great relief, for obvious reasons. Must of us have had to work hard to be incompetent at just some things; to achieve a clean sweep across the board, we regard as a monumental achievment and humbly salute due diligence.

  3. Pr Q said:

    Poe’s Law at work.

    Poe was not the original legislator and he has changed the ideological signs to suit the times. He cribbed “his” law from Malcolm Muggeridge, whose eponymous law, passed in the late fifties, was originally aimed at the more ludicrous elements of the liberal intelligentsia. The law states that:

    there is no way that a writer of fiction can compete with real life for its pure absurdity.

    May I make a constructive suggestion: the only people who should be considered as authoritative sources on science are those who have completed university level statistics course. I just fall over the line on that score. I daresay Pell doesn’t.

    Of course that leaves Plimer to continue his Quixotic campaign against mainstream science. Perhaps compassion is the best response to his folly.

  4. I suppose a weakness for fairy tales, fancy dress and flagellation (the bible, religious attire and Opus Dei) could lead to a measure of AGW skepticism.

  5. Test

    » » double right angle quote
    « « double left angle quote
    < single right arrow
    • • bullet
    ♥ or ♥ ? black heart
    ♦ or ♦ ? black diamond
    ♣ or ♣ ? black clubs (shamrock)
    ♠ or ♠ ? black spade
    ∞ ? infinity symbol
    — — long dash

  6. PR Q your AFR article today on this was excellent. It gave credit to Director of the Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayer (who really stands out in Australian discourse by actually speaking as a Public Servant – not as a government’s servant). The skewering of the anti science right in Australia was very amusing. Importantly not only did the article not retreat to the partisan simplicity of tarring all on the right with the same brush it called for the pro-science right to speak up.

  7. @stockingrate
    The Hansard (pdf) John linked to is worth reading too. Search for Ayers to skip to the action. It’s quite an interesting look at the detail of an interface between climate science, politics, and parliamentary committee process. Ayers plays a very straight bat – as a public servant appearing before a parliamentary committee must – but produces some direct and forceful hits, sounding almost naive while appearing to have carefully studied The Art of War.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S13568.pdf

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