Climate Alarmism of the Greenest Hughes

For a lot of my lifetime Macquarie University’s Distinguished Professor Lesley Hughes has been an activist scientist running a jihad against the planet’s life-affirming CO2 emissions. Old hands might remember her on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Climate Commission from 2011, which morphed into the crowd-funded Climate Council two years later, Dr Hughes morphing with it.

Our big three warming warners have long been Hughes, the false climate prophet Tim Flannery and the not-always-right ANU doom-crier Will Steffen.[1] In 2014 Hughes trumped both of them, winning the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prize for 20 years’ worth of science (read ‘global-warming’) communication.[2] The museum’s CEO, Kim McKay, noted in passing that climate change science was “settled”. That was a brave call as no other scientific issue is settled yet. Even less likely, Macquarie University claimed that one alarm course by Dr Hughes “even received praise from climate sceptics—for them, what had been lacking was a clear explanation of the science.” Oh really?

Five years later she collected the same museum’s lifetime achievement award. Any time anyone has a climate-alarm prize to hand out, expect Hughes to be on the short list.[3]

I don’t want to carp, but climate-alarm “science” is all about what will happen in the future, as foreseen by the modellers’ crystal ball. Doom-criers like Hughes and Steffen might be right about 2050, though we oldies will all be dead. Or they might be wrong and that big sun overhead with its sunspot cycle might cool planet earth a bit and force the next ice age. In that case, people would look back on Hughes, Flannery, Steffen et al as a bit weird and their science as junk. So I’m not a fan of Hughes’ innumerable (60, 100, 200?) futurist papers about future warming impacts.

What I do admire is her early career as entomologist. From her student days she was fascinated by insects. If you wanted to know about aphids, grasshoppers, Christmas beetles, lantana leaf-miners, Hemiptera (“true bugs”), thrips, or ant-tended butterfly ejaculations,[4]young Lesley provides her tour de force. But in the 1990s, her focus changed from studying actual bugs to studying what hypothesised global warming might do to them in 2050 or 2100 or whenever, and I rather lost interest in her stick-insect papers. But it’s this later line of work – future impacts of imagined warming on plants and bugs – that has given Hughes so many clouds of glory to trail.

If you intuit that I’m peeved with Distinguished Professor Hughes, you’re right but for the wrong reason. My big beef is that she was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, agitators to re-christen global warming (latterly “climate change”) into “climate emergency” cum “global heating” cum “climate crisis” cum “climate breakdown” cum “climate disruption”.

This inane warping of the English language is now standard among second-rate environmental journalists and mock-scientists in academia. Just for starters, the UAH satellite-based global temperature readouts now show no warming – indeed a little cooling- for the past six years and two months. Maybe someone should tell the climate scientists! And that’s despite two big recent and natural El Nino warming bursts.

The only place you can find a climate “emergency” is in the dud computer-based forecasting relied on by Hughes et al. The IPCC itself in 2013 said 111 of 114 tested model runs overshot actual warming.[5] Real-world studies show that climate sensitivity to CO2 is only a half or a third of early IPCC estimates. The IPCC even today can’t make up its mind whether CO2 doubling will create 1.5degC of warming or 4.5degC of warming or somewhere in between — the same uncertainty range it started with 30 years ago – and that’s despite academics wasting taxpayer billions on climate research. The empirical (i.e. real world) studies these days put the sensitivity at a harmless 1 to 2degC tops.

I DISCOVERED Hughes’ seminal role in the Western media’s “climate emergency”while idly reading annual reports of Future Earth , whose recent follies include certifying that pseudo-Aboriginal Bruce Pascoe is the real deal. Hughes helps run Future Earth, which is a satrap of the green-left Australian Academy of Science. In Future Earth’s 2018 report, you can read (emphasis added):

Professor Lesley Hughes, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University, a climate change researcher for 25 years and climate science communicator for the last 15 years, professed shock at the level of ignorance of basic climate science. She pointed out the importance of using strong enough language—not using ‘change’ but words such as ‘disruption’, ‘emergency’ and ‘crisis’. In her view, the problem is that not everyone cares about the environment, but they care about other factors such as their own quality of life.[6]

Her crusade against sane language was endorsed a few months later by the United Nations avowedly-socialist secretary general, António Guterres, who talked of the “climate crisis” , adding for good measure: “We face a direct existential threat.” Among Dr Hughes’ other language crusaders is pint-sized seer Greta Thunberg, who a year after Dr Hughes’ rallying cry said:

It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?

Little wonder Hughes describes Greta as her “fellow Cassandra!”

Hughes’ and Thunberg’s verbal pyrotechnics were soon after picked up by the UK Guardian. Its environment editor, Damian Carrington, headlined, “Why The Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment”. He quoted the editor-in-chief Katharine Viner,

The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.

Carrington announced that The Guardian‘s style book for its reporters now recommended such “scientifically precise” terms as climate ‘crisis’, ‘heating’ or ‘breakdown’. No, I’m not making that up. The new style guide also rules out use of “climate sceptic” in favour of “climate science denier”, and advised its “journalists” against ever again seeking comments from sceptics. Such sceptics would include Professor Judith Curry, who has published 200 papers on atmospheric physics compared with, say, climate scientist Dr Hughes’ zero in that field.

The call to arms by Dr Hughes, Greta Thunberg and The Guardian has been further taken up by more than 400 unprofessional and partisan news outlets globally, with an alleged reach extending to two billion people. They’ve all signed on to a “climate emergency pledge” to ratchet up the warming scare (truth and the scientific method be damned!) and suppress any contrary scientific views. This shameful group includes (at last count) seven Australian media outlets and eleven in New Zealand. The ABC, while not a signatory, by policy ignores climate sceptic’s views and research.[7]

When I was young and naïve, like Julia Gillard during her liaison with light-fingered beau Bruce Wilson, I thought all the scientists on the IPCC were conscientiously objective about their deliberations. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, bless him, viewed them as “humourless people in white coats”. Dr Hughes was a lead author for both the fourth and fifth IPCC reports.[8] Yet she and her acolytes have never made a secret of her activism and in 2013, the same year she signed off on her pages in the IPCC’s Fifth Report, she stepped up to join the board of green-Left lobbyists WWF Australia. (Barrier Reef doom-crier Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who sometimes co-authors papers with Dr Hughes, is another IPCC Australian scientist with WWF Australia connections). If you lift up any rock at the IPCC headquarters in Geneva, you’re likely to find green lobbyists wriggling about.

Hughes was well-known to WWF for years. In 2009 WWF and Earth Hour cited her as a reviewer of their 30-page report on cute animals like penguins and orang-utans at risk from global warming. (The apes are actually endangered by palm oil expansion to make supposedly greener fuels). Polar bears got a guernsey too – and contrary to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) doom-crying in 2009 reviewed by Dr Hughes et althey’re absolutely thriving today.

Maybe you think WWF does only pure good in the world, so what doess it matter if it gets a few things wrong for the right reasons? Well, our WWF is a loose affiliate of the global WWF or World Wildlife Fund. “Fund” is right – the WWF’s US boss Carter S. Roberts draws pay of $US1.4 million and 20 per cent of the fund-raising is leached off just in fund-raising expenses. These do-gooder groups include the Red Cross, which disappeared $US500 million for Haiti earthquake relief in 2015. It claimed to have resettled 130,000 Haitians when the number of permanent homes it built was six.

That was just a peccadillo compared with what cuddly-panda WWF (not the Australian arm) got up to in the Congo, funding and equipping anti-poachers in Salonga. The rangers whipped and raped four women carrying fish by a river. Two of the women were pregnant and one later had a miscarriage. The eco-guards tortured male villagers by tying their penises with fishing lines.

WWF commissioned an independent review by a UN human rights bigwig who reported late last year that WWF did “especially weak” oversight in the Congo, fearful of Congo government backlash and ignoring horrifying allegations even by its own low-level officials.WWF in response expressed “deep and unreserved sorrow for those who have suffered,” and said that abuses by park rangers “horrify us and go against all the values for which we stand.”Conveniently, the review did not review the culpability of top WWF officials.

I’m not of course suggesting that our WWF and Dr Hughes were implicated in torturing Congolese – just that scientists seeking public trust ought to keep activist lobbies at arm’s length. Au contraire, Dr Hughes actually shared the “Activist of the Year Award” from the Ngara Institute in 2019, jointly with diagram-challenged Will Steffen. What the dickens is the Ngara Institute? “A not-for- profit activist think tank which puts people, communities & the planet before increasingly predatory capitalism.” Karl Marx would be disappointed that, rather than destroying capitalism, the Institute was destroyed by capitalism, or anyway, “Ngara Institute anti-liberal think tank has sadly now closed.” Locally, WWF Australia is merely striving to destroy the beef and sugar cane industry, as Queensland growers’ group Agforce has demonstrated.[9]

DID I mention disturbed teen Greta Thunberg? Well Dr Hughes is more than happy to be mentored by Greta, whom she calls “a beacon of light”. Dr Hughes was out on the Sydney streets with her offspring in 2019 during the Greta-inspired School Strike 4 Climate. From the horse’s mouth:

I was there in Sydney, with my own two kids. Listening to the speeches triggered two very different emotions – deep shame for my own generation, and enormous pride for theirs.

I have since had the privilege of working with several of the rally organisers and they are some of the brightest, most mature, and most committed people I have ever met. If there is such a thing as passion bringing about change, we are in good hands, at least, just as soon as they are old enough to vote.

That’s not all on the Greta-Lesley Nexus to Reform the World. Way back in 2013 a climate fringe-dweller at the ANU called Joe Duggan of Science Circus Program at ANU/Questacon solicited hand-written missives from 40 of the usual climate-alarm suspects, including Dr Hughes, about their inward agonies researching the impending death of the planet. It backfired because Duggan managed to traumatise himself as well:

The results upset and unsettled Duggan whose partner was expecting a child. He withdrew into himself and put the project on hold for about three years. Recently, however, he returned to the project and asked the scientists to write again: had their feelings changed during the intervening years?

To read on, click here for the original


  1. Judithy Curry – a good post re rhetoric on climate change…

    The lower end of the equilibrium climate sensitivity sensibility is not covered by the climate models, resulting in temperature projections for the 21st century that are biased high. Regarding sea level to date, most of the locations vulnerable to sea level rise have not been inundated by rising seas, Local sinking from geological processes and land use have dominated over sea level rise .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth. I have been privately preening with pride about the number of bloggers that liked my third recollection about Climategate (17), only to be firmly brought down to Earth by the number liking Judith Curry’s magnificent diatribe against the toxic language of climate change activists (49) that you reference in your 2,47am post. Am suitably chastened.


  3. To those who think “climate heating” might be a scientific term, it isn’t. Climate scientists still blush to use it, as a search of Google Scholar makes clear. Meanwhile, one environmental panic treads on another’s heels, or it will if this chart appears:


  4. While it’s useful and insightful to track the nexus of particular terms and promoting individuals, there are very many more people involved for such terms to become established in common usage, first by elites and then (for some terms) by publics, or at least large swathes of publics. Ultimately, it is an (age old) process that can also very usefully be viewed in absence of personalities, whereby the more emotive terms propagate better and drive the overall narrative in this direction. This in turn leads to further insights: eg1 that there has to be a populational balance between stronger and weaker emotive terms in circulation (the stronger ones garner more recruits but simultaneously create more instinctive rejection, the weaker ones keep many more waverers aboard); eg2 the overall narrative (through long gene-culture co-evolution) creates group behaviours that will actually surface ‘most appropriate’ proselytizers, such as Greta for instance.

    I’ve long used the Joe Duggan letters as part of the narrative analysis of Catastrophic Climate-Change Culture. Absolute gold-mine resource. It’s so insightful as to emotive motivations, I’ve long feared it would be disappeared. Fortunately not so far, and indeed the recent additional activity came as a surprise.

    My point above emphasizes that it is not any of the individuals ‘in charge’, so to speak, whatever their varied backgrounds and motivations appear to be. Ultimately, it is *the process* that’s in charge, and reading the letters to Duggan gives an overwhelming sense of this; they are fervently ‘religious’, absolutely all about passionate belief and nothing to do with science or reason. They remind me of dark-age or medieval writings from those whose Christian passion drove them to succeed in establishing some new order against impossible odds, or at least failed after such spectacular efforts that they still managed to become saints. Neuro-scientist Michael Gazzaniger’s book “Who’s in Charge”, about the social nature of thinking, springs to mind too. [For the avoidance of doubt, strong belief is not a means by which responsibility is removed when judging whether genuine wrongs or law-breaking has occurred by individuals, as it isn’t for ethnic war-crimes for instance, though it is sometimes considered in mitigation, for instance regarding cult membership. However, most behaviour prompted by fervent belief is neither illegal or dishonest, yet still a slave to the cultural process].

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a serf-like belief Beth. The world fortunately is replete with instances where belief in oneself (or in others) has achieved near miracles. You need to seek more than just turnips and perhaps plant flowers and herbs, believing they will grow.


  6. In the formal social psychology sense, Beth is absolutely right. It is indeed the reverse. Emergent group narratives that are coupled with emotive belief *must* be very distanced from reality to best fulfil their purpose (as bequeathed by evolution), which is merely to hold the group together. The further distanced from reality, the better. Hence flat wrong, as regards the realities of the domain the narrative purports to represent, is ‘best’. Interestingly, the fact that they are flat wrong doesn’t stop individuals passionately holding such beliefs from achieving near miracles, in fact actual miracles according to the recorded tradition of some such narratives, and indeed it is the belief that has inspired the effort. This underlines the paradoxical nature of cultural beliefs; we both need them still, and yet they can drive us to very bad places.


  7. Andy. Fortunately I’m not a formal social psychologist so I can still believe in unlikely outcomes arising from deeply held beliefs and effort. Without those happenings the world would truly devolve into a turnip field devoid of herbs or flowers.


  8. Alan; passionate beliefs and the efforts they inspire that are *not* part of a group cultural belief system, for instance an internal belief in oneself not stemming from religious or extremist political or catastrophic climate-change dedication, are not subject to the social-psychology rules. Hence all of us can very much still believe in our dreams, while nevertheless the rules about narrative falsity remain true for the cultural domains (and also as noted above, even within those domains much that is spectacular as well as terrible comes from them). I think Beth’s comment at 12:42am echoing mine, was very much meant in the cultural context though.

    Liked by 1 person

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