Alan Jones on Climate Change and the Carbon Tax
On Monday the 20th of June, Alan Jones went to air on 2GB with this clip: http://www.2gb.com/index2.php?option=com_newsmanager&task=view&id=9196
I know a lot of people listen to him and find him very persuasive. More importantly, many many people think he is standing up for the common people, fighting the good fight against corrupt and incompetent government who just don’t have the facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change information, Alan Jones is not only misinformed, but I cannot seriously think he is anything other than ideologically driven to present his own perspective in spite of reality.
So I sat down, and spent the time to go through this radio clip, and respond to everything that was said. The following essay was the result:
Doctor Vincent Gray Can’t Measure the Earth’s Temperature
Alan starts off with his discussion with Dr Vincent Gray. Dr Gray is a chemist and physicist who Alan sells quite strongly. But the very first thing this guy says is just ridiculous – and Alan Jones blindly agrees with him (in that same way you hate people in the background nodding along to Julia Gillard etc) Alan Jones was uttering the occasional “Yep” and backing up what Gray was saying without even needing Gray to actually finish what he was saying. He was just making sure *you* know that Gray is right, whatever he says.
But what he was saying was ridiculous. The idea that “we know the temperature of The Moon, Venus and Mars” but not Earth. Seriously? Does that even sound sensible? Of course it doesn’t. The obvious reality here, is that we make simple statements about ‘the average temperature of Mars’ being around -55 °C – but this is just a simple number which is easy to round off, and not get too caught up in being exact, because, -45° – -60° – who cares? Right? It’s not an exact measurement of all parts of the planet, including day temperature, night temperatures, surface, altitude subterranean etc. It is just a simple measurement which we summarise for the purposes of practicality, and no one really cares either way.
Meanwhile, we actually do measure the local temperature over many many parts of earth, and then come up with an average MUCH more accurate than the average temperatures we give to other planets. Just because we can’t say with 100% accuracy measure ‘the exact’ average temperature of the whole planet (if such a thing is even possible) does NOT in any way discredit the fact that we have a lot of accurate local measurements from all over the planet which we can use to establish an average temperature.
And what is most important about this, is that the discussion here is about the CHANGE in temperature. So even if we didn’t get thermometers in all of the places we wanted to get them, it doesn’t matter so much. What does matter, is that the temperatures from the past (the discrete local ones and the averaged overall ones) are lower than the ones in the present.
This guy has left me immediately with a complete lack of respect for him, his knowledge and his credibility – just from what he has said. Trying to figure out who he is though – doing a search about his background reveals a lot though, and his position makes a lot more sense… You can’t expect much else from someone who is 1. Not a climate scientist, and 2. Involved in Coal Mining research, and 3. A member of an ex-lobbying organisation called the “Scientific Advisory Committee for the Natural Resource Stewardship” which refused to reveal whether energy companies are funding them or not. (http://www.desmogblog.com/vincent-gray)
Basically, these are the words of a politically and financially motivated individual who happens to have a doctorate.
Bob Carter, Can’t Find Evidence of Human Temperature Increase
I note that he carefully chooses his words when explaining his point, to be that after all of the spending (billions of dollars!) we haven’t been able to find a link between human actions and temperature increase.
First of all, I am certain that his assertion that “billions of dolars have been spent trying to connect” is just absolute rubbish. I am sure billions of dollars have been spent, but that is just research. Investing in scientific research is THE single most effective use of money in my opinion, and there is no central design to how that money is spent. It is just stupid to think that there has been all this money spent TRYING to achieve a particular outcome. We are talking about an international, inter-discipline consensus. It has nothing to do with spending money ‘trying’ to get a result.
Secondly, he doesn’t actually answer (in this small clip of him anyway) the question which Alan put to him: “Warming or not?”. He only addresses whether he thinks humans have had any affect. He only flippantly refers to humanity emitting ‘some extra’ CO2, but denies that we are causing a temperature change.
On the point of ‘emitting some extra’ CO2, as he puts it, my first question is “How much is ‘some extra’?” Because the way he says it, it sounds insignificant. Wikipedia’s entry on country based human emissions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions) has it at 29,321,302,000 metric tons per year. And this article: http://www.skepticalscience.com/human-co2-smaller-than-natural-emissions-basic.htm goes in to great detail on how much CO2 humans release per year in comparison to natural sources.
What is relevant here, is that even Bob Carter agrees that ‘we all know’ that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. This is not disputed. More CO2 will cause temperatures to rise. The question is whether the amount that human activities are increasing CO2 by, are enough to cause a large enough change to global climate to warrant concern. Well, measurements of CO2 indisputably show how much CO2 we have added to the atmosphere: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_the_Earth%27s_atmosphere shows that over the past 200 years we have increased CO2 concentration from a very stable 260-280ppm to about 390ppm currently. So we have increased the CO2 concentration by about 50% – and I say we, because the timing of the increase, after such a long period of stability – at least 10,000 years, does match perfectly with the industrial revolution, where humanity started pushing CO2 in to the atmosphere. It seems absurd to claim that the sudden increase is not connected to our activity – if you have a problem with this assumption, say so, and I will see if I can find some sort of research which validates or contradicts the assumption.
So, CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it influences temperature upwards. Human activity has increased CO2 significantly, and continues to do so. Temperature has been increasing for quite a while now (http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-temperature-correlation.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming).
So, is there is connection between human activity and global temperature increase? Well, there is nothing conclusive there, but the implication is obvious. The correlation is clear. The theory makes sense. If we know CO2 causes warming, and we see CO2 increase, then temperature start increasing after it….well, it makes sense. Unfortunately, science doesn’t make the absolute assertions which political commentators and lobbyists do – as far as I can tell, Bob is fundamentally right on that one carefully worded point – there is no proof that human activity CAUSES the temperature increase.
But I, and pretty much every qualified climate scientist thinks you would be mad to assume we don’t.
(side note, unrelated to his statements in this little clip, but I found this information about Bob Carter interesting: http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/bobcarter.html)
Doctor Timothy Ball, IPCC Only Look at Man Made Climate Change
This just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, of course the IPCC is set up to look at man made climate change – there is nothing any government can do about natural climate change, we can only influence human behaviour, and thus can only control climate change which happens at the hands of humanity.
But the assertion that the science done which the IPCC refers to is done without consideration of the natural cycles and influence is just absurd. This is true conspiratorial thinking at its worst – this implies that all of the climate scientists who do research in the field are either 1. Idiots, or 2. Part of a global organisation determined to make people pay more tax. Both of which are just nonsense (particularly when you consider that these climate scientists come from the complete spectrum of all of the first world countries, from developing countries and from numerous political persuasions). Scientists do science. For the most part, they don’t give a shit about politics in general – which is part of the problem every time a scientific principle becomes the target of political discontent – The SCIENTISTS, the ones who know what they are talking about, don’t get involved (they just keep doing their work), while all of the political nutjobs and agenda driven cranks come out of the woodwork and start claiming to be specialists in fields they are only loosely (in time or knowledge) associated with in order to make their political opinion known. (and of course the organise themselves into lobby groups and political activity groups in order to get their perspectives heard better).
Anyway, I’m rambling on this points. What I am trying to say, is that the research that the IPCC uses, surely, is the research done by climate scientologists, from universities all over the world. No scientist is going to ignore the complexity of the global climate when trying to research the impacts of human activity. Of course natural elements will be considered (and usually normalised, so that the impacts of human activity can be clearly seen!)
In order to reply to this lunacy any more clearly, I would need Dr Ball’s evidence for the claim in the first place.
Richard Lindzen Supposes Why The Government Would Introduce a Carbon Tax
This guy, a very respectable looking scientist, has one hell of a track record: http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lindzen.htm
But the excerpt here is just about his guess as to why we would be introducing a carbon tax, obviously assuming that the reasons given (to disincentive carbon usage, and promote non-carbon based energy sources) aren’t real. So in order for that guess to even make sense, you need to look at how the carbon tax ‘income’ is going to be used by the government.
The wikipedias entry on Carbon Tax has a section for Australia, and states that the current negotiations on the carbon tax “included commitments to ensure all funds collected go back to homes and businesses to assist in the transition to renewables.” So ‘collecting taxes’ cannot be the purpose of introducing a carbon tax, if all of the money collected is already redirected to a new expense. There is no net gain to the government in this, and thus their provided reason – “because CO2 causes global warming, and we need to do our part as a nation to reduce our outputs” fits perfectly in line with this course of action.
Of course, you could argue that the government is useless and/or corrupt and what they say can’t be trusted. But that has nothing to do with Climate Change, and is another issue entirely. All I know, is that the science says anthropogenic climate change is real, and we need to do something to stop it, and the government has proposed a way of doing something about it. Doing something is definitely better than nothing.
Also, my experiences thus far have taught me, that for all of my frustrations at our own government, I do not think they are corrupt (on the whole), nor do I think that they are that incompetent. I have also come to realise that an average government is much better than no government (visiting Madagascar really helped me to see this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QDv4sYwjO0).
John McClean on the Data
This was fun listening to Alan introduce this one. Talking about how important the data is in science and how so much of science is done with data analysis etc. So I was expecting to hear that John McClean had gone through the scientific research on CO2 influences on global temperature and the science that matters on this issue – I was very surprised when Alan instead started describing how John spent has “PAINSTAKINGLY” spent his time analysing the data of how the IPCC came together. Wait. What?… OK, lets see where this goes….
OK, so Alan talks about John McCleans research. One of which was about how El Nino Southern Oscilliation can account for warming trends. That paper is extensively critiqued here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=162 – it is probably hard to understand, but basically, John used data manipulation to remove long term trends and highlight noise in the data in order to get his conclusion. So Alan’s claim that “John cannot be sensibly refuted, because he merely presents the data of the IPCC” is simply false. Data can be manipulated – specially selected start points, certain filtering methods (which are necessary – but need to be used correctly!), and other techniques can all be used to make data look to say something which is doesn’t. I think it is worth looking at this page again, which makes this point very well: http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-temperature-correlation.htm where the first graph looks like there is no correlation, even though it is the same data over a longer time frame clearly shows there is a correlation.
Now, for the rest of this discussion, it is just rubbish. Scientists citing the own work. Completely normal. Scientists in a very specific field of research regularly working together – of course this is normal! Who else are they going to work with? Creationists? You work with the people who work in the same field! No one else is qualified to work with you!
Chapter 9 – the only chapter that deals with anthropo-climate change. All of the Authors come from only one field? The most appropriate one for the job by any chance? Alan uses the derogative term “Computer Jockeys” to make it sound like they are just unskilled labourers only makes me distrust Alan even more… As if the facts aren’t enough – he has to make sure you emotionally disconnect from these qualified climate modellers, and think of them as mere computer using slackers who don’t know what they are doing. This is not an honest method of inspection of the facts. They also try to paint the picture that they are just doing it to maintain funding for their position – as if climate modelling was just made up as part of the climate change propaganda system in order to give jobs to 50 people? Insane…
Alan tries to make it sound like “Only one chapter of the whole report tries to link global warming to human causes” as if that is a negative thing. But this is how arguments work!! You make a claim, argue the position, and then move on. You don’t argue a position, and then argue it again, and then try again just in case people don’t believe you. When it comes to a formally constructed argument, as is the case in any sort of scientific publication, the argument is a linear process. You make a claim, present your evidence and argue the logic for the evidence leading to the conclusion, and then move on to the next claim. Hence why there were 8 chapters before the human connection, and two chapters after it, which assume it was correct. This is elementary stuff, and Alan ‘should’ know better. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t now that I have heard him).
The Bit That Matters
So John reviewed the reviewers of chapter nine, and has reached the conclusion that only 5 of the reviewers support the claim. Well this report here SLAMS McClean very thoroughly: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/12/john_mclean_and_the_nrsp.php
That is a must read, because obviously McClean is the main focus of this interview, and his review of the IPCC methodology is what this interview is all about, so that article is the most important response I can post.
I loved this bit:
Scientists were declared to have a vested interest if they were an IPCC author, or an IPCC author of a previous assessment, or if any of their work was cited by the report, or if they worked for a government, or if they work for an organisation that gets government funding, or if they have a “possible commercial vested interest in the claim of man-made warming”
Basically – anyone who might know what they are talking about will have a vested interest. Hilarious. Again, as stated just above, when you are talking about a specialised scientific field, there are only a small group of qualified individuals who are capable of analysing and reviewing the information. It isn’t collusion – it is necessity! You don’t get Chemical Engineers to check over the work of Quantam Mechanists, and you don’t get Architects to check over the work of Climate Scientists. You only use climate scientists! This is just obvious! So the fact that you have the same group (somewhat large group imo) of people authoring papers, and reviewing papers and referenced in the papers – is just a bloody obvious consequence of specialisation!
Then Alan comments about how Gillard and Rudd say that over 4000 scientists support man made global warming, as if this ’5′ number contradicts that. Ignoring the fact that the 5 number is wrong, how many scientists participate in the review panel on a specific government report is almost completely irrelevent when it comes to how many accredited scientists agree with a scientific conclusion. This is an ongoing problem I am finding as I work through all of these professionals that Alan has on his show – they are repeat performance spokesmen of the denial establishment. While some of them are actually scientists, it seems like the spend most of their time touring and talking to people about how their science background justifies them to tell everyone how wrong all of the scientists are – MEANWHILE, the bulk majority of real climate scientists DONT tour around telling everyone how right the science is, they just do their bloody jobs. That is why every now and then there is a special little commission made, or paper published etc, which SHOWS, UNEQUIVOICALLY, that the bulk majority of all climate scientists (virtually all of them) agree that climate change is man made. Because that is the best they can do, to show their concensus. Because they aren’t all going to start going around talking to talk show host, and getting press coverage etc. They are just bloody scientists. (http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm AND
is a must view piece. Just browse the list of Scientific Organisations which agree global warming is a man made event. And then try to justify any position which claims the whole thing is a fabrication, orchestrated by governments trying to get more tax money. It doesn’t make sense. No one, no organisation, and certainly no government can possibly influence so many different scientific organisations, across so many countries, and so many fields. It is just ludicrous.
My favourite was this section:
Statements by dissenting organizations
Since 2007, when the American Association of Petroleum Geologists released a revised statement, no scientific body of national or international standing rejects the findings of human-induced effects on climate change.
Not ONE. Not even the PETROLEUM geologists disagree anymore. And Alan Jones is doing his best to get every vested interest ‘scientist’ to come on his show, and represent his own opinon, acting like the whole thing is some sort of bizarre ‘government’ controlled thing to get tax money out of people!!! And yet the national academies of science from countries as diverse as China, the USA, Kenya, Russia and Senegal all agree that it is man made! How on earth is that a governmental conspiracy???
It is all Based on Models
“it is all models, it isn’t real, just models”. Well, the whole point of models, is to reflect reality. So just dismissing them offhand doesn’t do them justice. A little evidence wouldn’t go astray here….
And then they go on to make ridiculous implications about the peer review process, making poor old John McClean sound like the victim of the evil peer review process.. poor baby had to respond to peer review comments, and clarify points etc on his paper… Like every other scientists who ever published in a scientific journal! I haven’t bothered to look up to see whether his assertion that IPCC doesn’t require authors to respond to reviewer comments is true or not, because the IPCC is NOT a peer reviewed Journal. It is a panel! It is a different thing.
So no, this whole radio interview and bit, was a complete sham and fabrication of media hype. Hollow rhetoric framed to make it sound far more scandalous and conspiratorial than it really is. Even a little digging shows that these guys are a strict minority of politically motivated media attention seekers, who have no right to wave their ‘science credentials’ around the way they do.