Sunday, 20 May 2012

even worse lunacy by readfern re death threats

Ten Funniest Climate Change Videos Ever (that I’ve seen and can remember)

CAREFULLY plucked like dew-covered orchids from the garden of YouTube, I hereby present the ten funniest videos about climate change which have ever been made, ever, by anyone, anywhere, ever – or at least of those I’ve seen. Which isn’t many.
But anyway, I should say there’s swearing and stuff, so best turn the sound down. I think the phrase is “Not Suitable For Work” which generally means it’s suitable for sharing at work.
1. Worrying research from the coal lobby. Wind turbines could blow the earth off its orbit. The Onion discusses.
2 British comedian Sean Lock on mopping up oil spills with a seal pup and feeling generally helpless.
3. Will Ferrell as George W Bush on “global warmings” and increasing lava flows.
4. Help the homeless suffering from the cold. Pump more CO2 into the atmosphere. A fake ad for a petrol company, screened on ABC’s The Gruen Transfer.
5. Bill Maher gets generally naffed off about climate change deniers and asks if mainstream media could “please stop pitting the ignorant versus the educated and framing it as a debate”. As a bonus, watch Bill Maher interviewing late climate scientist Stephen Schneider.
6. Barely-a-Lord Christopher Monckton fails to spot that The Chaser “thinks” he’s a Sasha Baron Cohen character. My interview with Monckton’s interrogator, Craig Reucassel, is here.
7. David Mitchell on how climate change is just a “bit of a pisser” and while nobody enjoyed cleaning their room, we’ve just got to get on with it.
8. From Australian show The Hungry Beast, actual climate scientists slam one down. “Feedback,” apparently, “is like climate change on crack.” For a bit of background on this, read my interview with some of the scientists in question.
9. Whatever happened to global warming eh? Stop! The Armstrong and Miller Show warns you need to get to know the difference between weather and climate, or there’s a bar of soap and a prison block with your name on it.
10. Marcus Brigstocke wonders if the Pope is the right person to be preaching about ideological prejudice.

Hate campaign against climate scientists has not been debunked

WHEN you say that you have evidence to “debunk” something, then it is a good idea to make sure that the evidence you’ve got is actually up to the “debunking”.
Last week, The Australian newspaper reported that claims of climate scientists at the Australian National University receiving death threats as part of an ongoing email hate campaign had been “debunked”.
The evidence for the story, under the headline “Climate scientists’ claims of email death threats go up in smoke“, was a report from Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.
Mr Pilgrim’s report concluded that 11 documents which had been identified in a Freedom of Information request, could be released to the public.
Although the commissioner concluded that 10 of the 11 documents “contain abuse in the sense that they contain insulting and offensive language” they did not contain “threats to kill or threats of harm”. Even so, releasing the documents could “lead to further insulting or offensive communication being directed at ANU personnel or expressed through social media”, the commissioner’s report said.
A spokesperson for the ANU has told me that the university is “currently reviewing the report” and is “considering its options” which, presumably, are either to accept the ruling and release the documents, or to appeal.
The FOI request had followed reports in June 2011 that ANU researchers were facing the ongoing campaign and had been moved, The Australian said, to “more secure buildings” following explicit threats. As I’vepreviously written, a host of commentators and bloggers have used the report to dismiss the hate campaign entirely.
As the original Canberra Times story had pointed out, the newspaper had found evidence of a campaign against at least 30 climate scientists at institutions across the country.
Today, Canberra Times environment and science reporter Rosslyn Beeby, who broke the story, has called for a more mature debate, while outlining again the disturbing nature of the campaign. One researcher’s two young children were named and threatened.
Yet the FOI request was restricted in asking only for documents and correspondence between January and June 2011 and only those sent to six named academics at ANU.
But let’s go back to the The Australian and its original claim, repeated at popular sceptic blogs around the world, that the claims of death threats had been “debunked”. The report in The Australian claimed that Privacy Commissioner had been called in to “adjudicate” on FOI in relation to reports of the campaign which had led to staff being moved to more secure premises.
Professor Will Steffen, the director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, has now told me staff were moved to a more secure area in April 2010, well before the period covered by the Privacy Commissioners report.
He said: “I and my Climate Change Institute staff were moved to more secure quarters around March/April 2010 because of concerns my staff had about the very open and accessible premises we had at that time. I had a duty of care to my staff to respond to these concerns. The move was taken in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor and with the ANU security office. This, of course, is well before the Jan-Jun 2011 period that the FOI request is concerned with.”
I understand there were several incidents at the ANU in early 2010. On two separate occasions, individuals had walked into institute premises demanding to see particular staff members. Both individuals were acting “aggressively” Professor Steffen said. The institute’s offices were on the ground floor with open access with no security restrictions. The institute’s website had also been subjected to what Prof Steffen described as a “cyber attack”.
At the same time, other climate scientists at other institutions had been receiving abusive messages and emails.
Shortly after ANU staff were moved, there was an incident at an ANU public engagement event where a climate sceptic who had been invited to attend had become frustrated. During an exchange, the individual had showed what he claimed was a gun licence to people sitting at the table, before claiming he was a “good shot”. The individual is understood to have left voluntarily.
Whether or not any of these incidents constitute a “death threat” is, to me at least, beside the point.But you have to ask yourself. If you were their boss and the staff were concerned about their safety, what would you have done?

Comment policy

DUE to a recent glut of nonsense and abuse that some people commenting appear to think is a valid part of daily discourse, I now have a comment policy, of sorts.

What role for politics in science denial?

ONE  enormous field of inquiry which had its veneer scratched in the recent ABC documentary “I Can Change Your Mind About… Climate” was the emerging understanding of why some politically-aligned people are able to accept or deny scientific facts.
Two books published recently in the US have begun to examine this science of ideology and how it plays out in politics. Chris Mooney (a fellow DeSmogBlog contributor) is the author of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality. Jonathan Haidt is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided.
Watch their fascinating discussion on the msnbc show Up with Chris Hayes on the politics of science denial – touching on evolution and human-caused climate change. At one point the discussion becomes frustratingly circular, but to me it tells us something about why the climate change debate has become so polarised. The advert’s annoying.. sorry.
Visit for breaking newsworld news, and news about the economy

Heartland billboards strike grubby new low

IN a promotional video for the upcoming Heartland Institute’s climate change sceptics’ conference in Chicago, the think-tank’s president Joseph Bast said the scientists coming together for the shindig “deserve a lot of attention”.
So how would Joe Bast help them to gain that richly deserved attention?
How about sticking a picture of murderer and terrorist Ted Kaczynski – a.k.a the Unambomber – on a giant billboard next to the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
According to a Heartland press release, this would be the first in a series of ads which would feature Osama Bin Laden, Fidel Castro and Charles Manson, who Heartland says all “believe” in global warming.
In a press release, Joe Bast said:
Heartland’s first digital billboard…  is the latest effort by the free-market think tank to inform the public about what it views as the collapsing scientific, political, and public support for the theory of man-made global warming. It is also reminding viewers of the questionable ethics of global warming’s most prominent proponents.
There’s not much point in spelling out why this campaign is mind-numbingly dumb and stupefyingly offensive, but then let’s be pointless for a moment. I wonder if the unabomber, or Castro or bin Laden accept evolution too and if I should then feel dirty and grubby for having that in common with them. On the picture used for the billboard, Kaczynski can clearly be seen wearing clothes. I wear clothes too. Am I turning into some sort of nutcase?
The Guardian’s Leo Hickman called the campaign “possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns”.
Bast, with his hypocrisy-booster now turned up well past eleven, justified the posters by saying: “We found it interesting that the ad seemed to evoke reactions more passionate than when leading alarmists compare climate realists to Nazis or declare they are imposing on our children a mass death sentence.”
Perhaps climate science denier Lord Christopher Monckton should give Mr Bast a call to set him straight, given he has cornered the market in Nazi name-calling.
Heartland has now pulled the digital billboard after a stream of protests from those which it would consider to be on their side, although Joe Bast said he would not apologise. Climate sceptic Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the conference speakers, threatened to pull out if the ads were not removed. Another speaker, climate sceptic Ross McKitrick, called the ads “fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory” and believed the campaign “sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited”.
Heartland last made headlines when a small cache of documents, deceptively acquired from its headquarters by scientist Peter Gleick, revealed the institute was planning to devise a new curriculum to teach climate denial in schools. The documents also revealed it was paying some academics thousands, including James Cook University’s Bob Carter, who is a speaker at the Chicago conference at the end of the month. Professor Carter is an advisor to a string of climate science misinforming organisations, including the Institute of Public Affairs, a sponsor of previous Heartland conferences.
Professor Carter isn’t the only Australian connection to the conference. Among its “silver sponsors” are theAustralian Libertarian Society and the Carbon Sense Coalition.
The ALS treasurer is Tim Andrews, the executive director of the new Australian Taxpayers Alliance which has stated its first mission to campaign against Australia’s carbon price legislation. Andrews is a veteran of the Koch Associate Program in the US, a project of the oil industry billionaire Koch brothers who have been pouring millions into climate denial campaigns.
The Carbon Sense Coalition is a small-time climate change sceptic organisation founded by coal industry veteran Vivian Forbes, a current director at Brisbane-based Stanmore Coal.
Presumably after this episode, the 19 corporations which – along with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil – have helped fund some of Heartland’s projects over the years will now be considering whether they’re happy to ever again have their names associated with a think-tank which juxtaposes climate science acceptance with the morals of mass murderers.
After the Heartland leaks earlier this year, GM Motors said it was severing all ties with Heartland. Will the likes of PepsiCo, Pfizer and Time Warner Cable now follow?

Hate campaign against climate scientists hits the denier spin-cycle

RIGHT now, as I type, we’re in the middle of the global dissemination of a gross misrepresentation of facts.
The line currently being spun by climate change sceptic commentators and bloggers is that climate change scientists have lied about getting death threats.
At the same time a campaign of systematic abuse of climate scientists in an attempt to get them to withdraw from public debate is being ignored.
This spin-cycle started yesterday in The Australian, with a story reporting the findings of a report from thePrivacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.
Mr Pilgrim ordered that 11 documents turned up through a Freedom of Information request to the Australian National University could, against the wishes of the university, be released to the public.
Mr Pilgrim concluded that 10 of the 11 documents “contain abuse in the sense that they contain insulting and offensive language” but did not contain “threats to kill or threats of harm”.
Oh. Well that’s OK then?
One email, the commissioner said, described an “exchange” during an “off-campus” event. The commissioner said the exchange “could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat”, adding that the “danger to life or physical safety” was “only a possibility, not a real chance”.
In the report, Mr Pilgrim added: “In my view, there is a risk that release of the documents could lead to further insulting or offensive communication being directed at ANU personnel or expressed through social media. However, there is no evidence to suggest disclosure would, or could reasonably be expected to, endanger the life or physical safety of any person.”
Climate sceptic commentators and bloggers have taken this decision to mean that climate scientists have not received death threats and, on the face of it, that might seem like a fair conclusion.
Except they’ve ignored two key facts which undermine their conclusion.
The first, is that the FOI request only asked for correspondence covering a six month period from January to June 2011. What’s more, the request only asked for correspondence regarding six ANU academics. The report from the Privacy Commissioner made this clear.
Secondly, the original investigation which sparked the FOI request, published in The Canberra Times, found more than 30 climate scientists had received threats or abuse of one kind or another at universities across Australia and that this campaign had been going on for years. It wasn’t news to some of us. None of the emails I published on my blog were from scientists at ANU.
Despite the narrow nature of the FOI request and the foul nature of the campaign, sceptic blogger Jo Novawas utterly beside herself claiming the Privacy Commissioner’s report had shown that the campaign of intimidation didn’t exist.
Anthony Watts wrote the claims were entirely “manufactured” with “not a single document” to back it up.
James Delingpole said there had been no death threats “whatsoever” during the campaign, and then went on to trivialise reports that Professor Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia, had considered suicide.
At Catallaxy Filessenior IPA fellow Sinclair Davidson, said the threats “never happened” and were a lie.
All of these reports, no doubt hastily compiled but with a total lack of care or compassion, failed to take into account that the FOI request was so narrow that it couldn’t possibly back up their conclusions.
Sounds to me a little bit like cherry-picking one particular piece of climate data to try and construct an argument, while ignoring all the other evidence around them.
We still don’t even know what the documents in this selective trove actually say because the ANU has not yet released them, saying instead that it is “reviewing the report” and “considering our options”.
The question of whether the abuse constitutes a “death threat” is a red herring.
When climate researchers have their children threatened with sexual abuse, have their cars smeared with excrement and get emails telling them they’re going to “end up collateral damage”, then what else is it but a hate campaign.
In my view, the campaign of abuse is designed to intimidate climate scientists, discourage them from engaging with the public and discourage them from carrying out their research. Failing to condemn it shows just how low the climate change debate has become.

Simon Nasht tells me why he made that ABC climate documentary

“I HOPE it’s a circuit breaker,” Simon Nasht told me, the morning after the night before.
The night in question was the screening of his documentary – I Can Change Your Mind About… Climate” – to about 700,000 viewers on prime time ABC.
The circuit which Nasht was aiming to break, is the one providing voltage to an increasingly toxic debate in the media and in the public about the root causes and consequences of human-caused climate change.
Before the show had even gone to air, the program was causing controversy with commentators – myselfand others including Clive HamiltonStephan Lewandowsky and Michael Ashley – pointing out its format gave the false impression of there being a legitimate scientific debate about fossil fuel burning causing climate change.
In brief, the show took a climate skeptic, former Liberal senator Nick Minchin, and a climate change campaigner, Anna Rose, and flew them around the world. Each could introduce the other to anybody they liked, in an attempt to change the other’s mind.
“We set out to see who Nick relies on and who Anna relies on. That’s a valid approach,” Nasht said.
As I had already written, the program gave an airing and, in turn, some
credibility, to pseudo-scientists, outlying views and consistently wrong bloggers. My argument wasn’t that they didn’t have the right to an opinion, but that the show would legitimize their debunked views.
Nasht, whose company Smith&Nasht partners him with entrepreneur Dick Smith, contacted me asking if I’d be happy to hear and communicate his side of the story. I wanted to know why he thought the format was a good idea, when I clearly didn’t. So in the interests of fairness, here we are.
“The truth is that we need new ways of framing this because we don’t have any time,” he told me.  “We have to face reality that standing on a high horse of scientific purity is not working.  The 700,000 or so people that watched the show to revisit the climate change issue were forced to consider their own point of view.”
Nasht said the show was as much about examining the social science – the reasons why the debate has become publicly polarized – as it was about examining the climate science.
“It was a thought-through strategy and we took a lot of time to think about what we were doing,” he said.
“Our great friend Stephen Schneider [the late climate scientist] came to stay with us – as he often did when he was here. We had a long chat about the program and we talked through the risks and what benefits it offered. Stephen was convinced that the debate had so spun out of control that we had to find a way to drag it back and to have some form of constructive discussion.  When ABC journalists are jostled for doing their job and nooses get held up in front of visiting scientists then things have gone nuts.  You have to find some space where there’s time for reasonable discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

I Can Engage In A Flawed Debate About Climate Change

APPARENTLY, science writer and academic Ben Goldacre would rather slam his “cock in a door” than engage in a phony debate with climate change deniers.
At least, that’s what he told former Liberal Senator and climate sceptic Nick Minchin and climate change campaigner Anna Rose during the filming for this Thursday evening’s ABC show “I Can Change Your Mind About… Climate”.
The concept of the show is simple. Get a climate sceptic and a climate advocate together and let them take each other around the world to meet people in an attempt to change each other’s mind.
Nick Minchin laid out his own position during an interview with the ABC’s Four Corners program, back in 2009. Basically, it boiled to “lefties” exploiting people’s innate fears about climate change “to achieve their political ends”.
Be warned, Mr Minchin, as secret lefties like British Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and that famous anti-capitalist Richard Branson are also in on the socialist plot.
I should admit I’ve known about the program for many months, as I was approached to act as an advisor in the planning stages. Nothing materialised. I also spoke many months ago to Anna Rose about the show.
In both instances, I said that in my view the show’s format was flawed in that it would put non-peer-reviewed, pseudo science conducted by largely unqualified non-experts alongside decades of genuine peer reviewed scientific research. It might make for engaging telly, but it creates a false sense of balance.
If I were a climate sceptic activist or a fossil fuel lobbyist designing a format for a TV show, this show is what I’d probably come up with.
In an excerpt broadcast on radio national’s The Science Show, Goldacre explains why he thinks the show’s format is questionable and how, as part of the broader treatment of the climate change issue in mainstream media, it is a “gift” for the likes of Minchin. Read the rest of this entry »


I’ll be away for the best part of a month taking a break, so it will be all quiet here. For some recommended reading, check out some of the other blogs I link to on my blogroll (down there and right).

How the lobby door spins for Swan’s vested mining interests

THERE’S a revolving door outside state and federal government offices that has been spinning for decades.
Entering the door are former ministers, MPs, senior advisers and public servants with years of experience behind them on the intestine-like inner workings of governments, politics and policy making.
As they exit the door, many become part of the opaque and mostly unreported world of corporate and industry lobbying.
Treasurer Wayne Swan has publicly questioned the power and influence wielded by vested interests in the mining and resources industries.
In his recent essay for The Monthly, Mr Swan chose to name three people in particular – Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forest – as representing this undue power which is shaping public policy for the narrowest of interests.
Vested interests had worked together to undermine climate policy and mining taxation, he wrote.  Australia’s success was in “jeopardy”, vested interests were a “poison” threatening the future prosperity of the “great mass of good hearted Australians”.
Mr Swan picked on a small number of super-rich mining magnates, leaving multi-billion dollar corporations and industries that work equally as hard for their own interests wondering what they’d done to escape the Treasurer’s wrath.
The essay was brave and most likely, in my view, broadly accurate. But it was heavy on the rhetoric and light on solutions.
Mr Swan could have taken the opportunity to call for more transparency and openness in the systems that regulate lobbying and political donations.
He could have supported the calls in the just-closed Senate inquiry into lobbying for stronger oversight of lobbyists.
He did neither.
Yet it is the same industries that Mr Swan is criticising – fossil fuels and resource extraction – that can afford to scoop up the talent from the public service and put them to work in a system that allows them to operate largely unseen.

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