The Lavoisier Group

The Lavoisier group is an Australian astroturf operation. John Quiggin observed that:

This body is devoted to the proposition that basic principles of physics, discovered by among others, the famous French scientist Antoine Lavoisier, cease to apply when they come into conflict with the interests of the Australian coal industry.

Melissa Fyfe has an interesting profile in The Age on the Lavoisier group. Some extracts:

At 401 Collins Street on Monday night, 50 men gathered in a room of plush green carpet, pottery and antique lights to launch a book about the science of climate change. Some of them were scientists. But many were engineers and retired captains of industry. Presiding was Hugh Morgan, president of the Business Council of Australia and former Western Mining boss. The master of ceremonies was retired Labor politician Peter Walsh.

Climate change is about science, but not just about science. It’s about business and politics and wielding influence. The men—there was just one woman present—were all climate change sceptics, members of an organisation called the Lavoisier Group that argues global warming is nothing to worry about.

The book they launched—the latest weapon in the tussle for hearts and minds over global warming—was by Melbourne climate change sceptic William Kininmonth, former head of the National Climate Centre, part of the Bureau of Meteorology. He argues that global warming is natural and not caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

The book, Climate Change: A Natural Hazard, blasts the models used by climate scientists to predict and simulate what is happening. They are flawed, he says. “Climate change is naturally variable and it poses serious hazards for human kind,” he writes. Focusing on man-made global warming is “self-delusion on a grand scale”.

The only problem for the sceptics is that the vast majority of scientists think they are the ones that are deluded. “There’s a better scientific consensus on this than on any issue I know—except maybe Newton’s second law of dynamics”, Dr James Baker, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, has said. …

While William Kininmonth is respected by his former colleagues at the Bureau of Meteorology and they agree about the climate’s natural variability, they disagree that recent warming is natural. In a review to be published in March in the Australian Meteorological Magazine, University of Melbourne associate professor of meteorology Kevin Walsh will argue that Kininmonth has failed to present the case for natural warming. “Some of his detailed arguments are a little bit curious,” Dr Walsh told The Age. “Some of his statements actually contradict well-accepted work.”

But strangely enough, the Lavoisier Group heard that message on Monday night. In what seemed like a coup, Hugh Morgan had secured the respected John Zillman, former head of the Bureau of Meteorology, to launch the book. Dr Zillman agreed, but made it clear that there were significant parts of the book that he disagreed with. Dr Zillman, who is known to be quite conservative about climate science, said he was concerned about appearing at a Lavoisier Group book launch, but did so in the interests of debate.

He says he is not aware of any sceptic argument that has invalidated the mainstream science, and is now convinced—although would not have been 10 years ago—that it is mostly humans changing the world’s climate. “I won’t be expecting to be invited back as a regular,” he said.

From Zillman’s speech:

I believe that Bill goes much too far and, for whatever reason, misinterprets and/or misrepresents some important aspects of the science of climate change that are now pretty well understood. At least thirty times in the book he asserts, albeit in slightly different language in each place, that what he refers to as the one-dimensional IPCC construct of radiative forcing of climate change is fundamentally flawed. He makes much of the well known three-dimensional structure of atmospheric processes and energy flows in the climate system and implies that these have been overlooked by the IPCC. I offer two specific comments on Bill’s characterisation of the IPCC:
  • The IPCC is not, as Bill implies and many appear to have been lead to believe, some ideologically committed group of scientists with a particular position or perspective on the science which they seek to promote. Rather it is a highly transparent process, supervised by governments, which enables the contemporary state of knowledge of climate change as it emerges from the peer-reviewed published literature to be summarised and assessed by a representative group of the internationally acknowledged experts in the field with their summary assessment subject to one of the most exhaustive processes of peer review and revision that I believe has ever occurred in the international scientific community. The IPCC doesn’t have a construct, a model, an ideology or a pre-determined position. It is simply an inter-governmentally coordinated scientific assessment mechanism for producing in summary form, for use by policymakers, a synthesis of the state of the science as it appears in the literature with particular attention to the identification of points on which there is a high level of scientific agreement in the literature and those on which there is little agreement or little confidence in what is agreed.
  • Bill is wrong to assert or imply that the model results on which the IPCC assessments are based don’t take account of all the various three dimensional energy transfer processes that he argues are so important. He is seriously misleading in his belittling as ‘one-dimensional’ of the IPCC’s use of globally averaged versions of the energy budget (which, have the tremendous advantage of making it possible to focus in on only those considerations that capture the essential physics of global warming—the enhanced greenhouse effect) as a pedagological device for helping non-experts to understand the basic mechanisms of global change.

Also of interest is Kinninmonth’s speech at the book launch and this handy chart contrasting the positions of the sceptics with those of mainstream science.

Comments

  1. #1 John Frankis
    November 29, 2004

    That’s a courageous and graceful performance by Zillman, which must have lead to some confusion and consternation among an audience primed to hear their natural prejudices “scientifically” affirmed for them.

    You’d want to give the Lavoisier Group credit for his invitation to speak … if you thought there were any chance of Zillman being invited again and if you were fairly sure that they weren’t even now likely to be looking for someone to blame for his having been handed the platform this time :)

  2. #2 \/\/ebster |-|ubble Telescope
    November 30, 2004

    And this think tank, the International Policy Network.

    My favorite quote: “He added that his $1 million budget is small compared to those of international groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.”

    I wish I had a 1 million dollar budget to come up with a result that was a big fat pre-ordained “NO”. Really, how do these people end up spend their “research” money, on marketing?

  3. #3 \/\/ebster |-|ubble Telescope
    November 30, 2004

    And this think tank, the International Policy Network.

    My favorite quote: “He added that his $1 million budget is small compared to those of international groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.”

    I wish I had a 1 million dollar budget to come up with a result that was a big fat pre-ordained “NO”. Really, how do these people end up spend their “research” money, on marketing?

  4. #4 \/\/ebster |-|ubble Telescope
    November 30, 2004

    And this think tank, the International Policy Network.

    My favorite quote: “He added that his $1 million budget is small compared to those of international groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.”

    I wish I had a 1 million dollar budget to come up with a result that was a big fat pre-ordained “NO”. Really, how do these people end up spend their “research” money, on marketing?

  5. #5 \/\/ebster |-|ubble Telescope
    November 30, 2004

    And this think tank, the International Policy Network.

    My favorite quote: “He added that his $1 million budget is small compared to those of international groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.”

    I wish I had a 1 million dollar budget to come up with a result that was a big fat pre-ordained “NO”. Really, how do these people end up spend their “research” money, on marketing?

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    November 30, 2004

    Ah yes, the International Policy Network, I wrote about them earlier, because as well as claiming that global warming isn’t a problem, they also reckon that Open Source is no good. It’s odd how often those two positions go together at think tanks.

  7. #7 Ken Miles
    December 2, 2004

    Zillman’s speach was great. I get the impression that Kininmonth is arguing, not against modern climate models, but rather against the climate model constructed by Svante Arrhenius in the late 19th century.

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