Tony Abbott: Daring to Doubt

Tony Abbott, former PM of Australia, gave the annual GWPF lecture last night. The full text is on their site and Josh’s cartoon can be found at Bishop Hill.

He started with some general remarks about world politics and loss of trust in leaders before moving on to some climate-sceptic points. He acknowledged the role of carbon dioxide

Physics suggests, all other things being equal, that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would indeed warm the planet. Even so, the atmosphere is an almost infinitely complex mechanism that’s far from fully understood.

but despite this was labelled a “full-bore climate denier” by one of the idiots at ClimateHome. He talked a little about extreme events:

Contrary to the breathless assertions that climate change is behind every weather event, in Australia, the floods are not bigger, the bushfires are not worse, the droughts are not deeper or longer, and the cyclones are not more severe than they were in the 1800s.

and the potential benefits of warming:

Then there’s the evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (which is a plant food after all) are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields. In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heat waves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial.

Here, of course, he is in line with the early proponents of global warming, such as Arrhenius and Callendar, in the days before climate science got taken over by political activism.

But most of the talk was on climate policy, with particular reference to Australia, and the problems of renewables and the subsidies they require.

These are not new ideas of course, but I did like his introduction of “Ridley’s Paradox”:

In what might be described as Ridley’s paradox, after the distinguished British commentator: at least so far, it’s climate change policy that’s doing harm; climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm.

There are many examples of course – the German “Energiewende” has doubled electricity prices but done hardly anything to emissions levels; diesel cars were encouraged because they produced lower CO2, but this increased levels of dangerous pollutants; trees in the US are being chopped down, chipped, transported across the Atlantic and burnt at Drax, and so on.

Predictably, the talk has been attacked, thereby giving it lots of publicity, and equally predictably, there is no substance to the attacks. The Guardian felt the need to attack Abbot thrice – one article claims that Abbott denied “many of the central findings of the UN’s climate science body”, without giving a single example; another describes the talk as “loopy” and “weird stuff”, without saying why,  and a third says it was strange and sad. The Telegraph reports quite a bit of what Abbott said, but their headline news is that Ed Miliband described it as “idiocy”.

Updates: The video of the talk is now available (below).

And the number of Guardian articles attacking Abbott is now at least 4.

18 thoughts on “Tony Abbott: Daring to Doubt

  1. What’s weird about the Guardian articles is that all three treat the speech as a matter of internal Australian politics, even the one by the guy from Climate Home. The recently retired Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger used to boast that he had ten or eleven environmental journalists, but none of them comment. It’s true the Guardian was refused an invitation by the GWPF (Why? It seems poor PR to keep journalists out, even if they do lie contually about you.)

    After half a century of reading the Guardian, I think I’m beginning to understand their psychology. As a so-called radical centre-left publication, they do criticise the rich and the powerful (Trump, Wall Street, the Tories) but always with a strict regard for the truth. They only lie about subjects or people who pose a radical alternative to the status quo (Corbyn, Cuba, Brexit, and the GWPF.) I find that rather comforting.

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  2. Pingback: Tony Abbott, Green Hysteria And Ridley’s Paradox | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  3. ABC has an article up about Abbott’s speech: “Tony Abbott on climate change: How to provoke instant outrage to keep yourself relevant“, in which, James Glenday says “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a media outlet fighting for readers must be in want of a clickable headline quote.”

    It isn’t universally acknowledged, but it is broadly understood that a writer with more than a GCSE to his name, who opens by borrowing from Jane Austin isn’t a real writer, has no self respect, and is likely deeply prejudiced. Hack journalists at state broadcasters have the luxury of not having to worry too much about ‘clicks’, let alone good quality, original copy. The hollow pastiche of thought will dominate in the ‘marketplace’ by virtue of public funding and statue.

    Glenday’s words remind me of the Graun blogs, not so long ago, which claimed “Global warming deniers are an endangered species” and that ““No longer taken seriously, we’re seeing the last gasp of climate denial groups”. In other words, Dana Nuccitelli had made climate sceptics evaporate from the public’s consciousness by writing about them a lot.

    Nuccitelli was irritated that the GWPF had hired a function room from the Royal Society for the same event — its annual lecture — which last year was given by Matt Ridley. Nuccitelli believed that by hiring the function room, the GWPF had been given the respectability of the Royal Society. Climate warriors are obsessed with strategy, rather than argument.

    And so it is with Glenday, who teases out what he imagines to be Abbott’s tactics. “News websites led with the most controversial quotes that were then attacked by the Opposition, the Greens and environmental groups, kicking the story along further“, he says. Glenday, like Nuccitelli, seems to believe he is not ‘kicking the story along further’ with his own outrage. Climate warriors are not very bright.

    In Glenday’s mind, it is as if the GWPF don’t hold an annual lecture every October. And it is as if they don’t ask figures who are notable, internationally, for their comments. But perhaps the GWPF did set itself up in 2009, and planned to put on an event every October, just so that, eight years later, Abbott could rescue himself from irrelevance. But perhaps more likely, it is Abbott’s critics who worry about their own grasp. Because it is as if Abbott spoke no words. By exposing what they imagine the tactics to be, Nuccitelli and Glenday excuse themselves from the debate with GWPF speakers. Those are the tactics.

    We know this to be the case, not by speculating, but because we can see that the GWPF’s critics cannot summon up an answer to the arguments put forward by the GWPF’s speakers or writers, much less even summon up those arguments to report with any accuracy. Glenday can borrow from Austin, verbatim, but he dare not take any one of Abbott’s arguments at face value. Climate change causes the shutdown of the faculties we’d expect people in public life to have mastered. Outrage is all they are left with. I’ve never met, nor even read a climate warrior of a different disposition.

    The outrage does not subside as one moves up the climate ranks. Gawker spinoff, Gizmodo asked climate scientists for their thoughts on Abbott’s speech. These turn out to be bad-tempered, tone-deaf mini-rants about the challenge to their authority. E.g.

    Professor Sherwood calls Abbott’s comments as “the usual mix of misdirection, falsehoods, and tirades against ‘brigades’ who supposedly say this and that but are never clearly identified.”

    “Even if all of Abbott’s statements were true, they would not add up to a coherent argument that we are better off continuing to promote 19th-century technologies that will drastically and permanently change our atmosphere, when we have practical alternatives,” he says.

    Professor Sherwood points out that scientists don’t know everything, but what we do know “tells us unequivocally” that we would be in for massive warming of the planet if we continued on the current course.

    “This judgment of the global scientific community is based on known scientific principles and evidence For example, the palaeotological record supports this judgment, in contrast to Abbott’s claims.”

    Professor Sherwood says Abbott’s most important false claim is probably that models have been wrong.

    “In fact models are nearly dead-on in predicting overall global warming so far,” he confirms. “They don’t predict every detail, but were never expected to.”

    Anyone who follows the debate at all knows that Sherwood’s claim about model’s is controversial, even in mainstream, consensus circles. Miller et al’s recent re-estimates of climate sensitivity were intended to rescue the Paris “agreement” targets. But to do so, had to admit that models significantly over-estimated climate’s sensitivity to CO2.

    And since then, Ed Hawkins and his team of CGI scientists have taken time out of their graph-pushing, to notice a fundamental omission from the Paris agreement.

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process agreed in Paris to limit global surface temperature rise to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.” But what period is preindustrial? Somewhat remarkably, this is not defined within the UNFCCC’s many agreements and protocols. Nor is it defined in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in the evaluation of when particular temperature levels might be reached because no robust definition of the period exists.

    Such an admission about the omission puts to rest any argument that the UNFCCC was “based on science”, much less that it was formed from “unequivocal” messages “from science”.

    A 30 minute speech is never going to be able to cover the detail Sherwood, and the other scientists demand from him, and which they palpably have to bluster through, in defence of their authority. They take their own shortcuts through debate, and reveal in their temper, tone, and bluster something far worse than Abbott’s putative climate denial. The outrage comes from their authority — not the “science” — being challenged.

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  4. Would I be right in think the ‘peer reviewed paper’ is essentially an opinion piece with vaguely appropriate references but no hard relevance and it’s been rubber stamped through peer review? Just guessing.

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  5. Tiny, here is a sentence, of sorts, from the abstract:

    “Here, I characterise these understandings as alternative mental models of climate change and extremes, with one informed primarily by personal perceptions (The Natural Variability Concept), and the other (The Probabilistic Change Concept) informed by evidence of the physical climate system (i.e., high-quality observed temperatures and a suite of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) climate models).”

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  6. Paul. I must say that “sentence” looses something when you take it out of context.

    Has no one heard of Basic English? I once tried writing a short paper in it. Didn’t actually succeed but my paper benefited from my trying.

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  7. If she used basic English it would have obviously been sphericals; danglers; external sperm recepticals; temperature controlled reproductive storage devices.

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  8. Tiny, I don’t believe the words you suggest are within Basic English that incorporates only around 850 words.
    http://ogden.basic-english.org

    At the time I attempted to write my paper I was working with Egyptian academics and research students who complained about the difficulties in translating some technical papers. So as an exercise I tried writing in Basic. Every time I now try reading sociological climate fantasy these days I understand those Egyptians’ problems. Today these social “science” oiks write in their own language. I audited a class in environmental politics at UEA, but find that since then the terminology and language has much devolved.

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  9. Pingback: Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York Principle 9: Ridley’s Paradox – Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York

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