The Australian regularly shows its contempt for science, scientists and the scientific method, titling an article “Respect the science and don’t call CO2 a pollutant” is more than little hypocritical. You might think from the title that the author, Ziggy Switkowski, presents some sort of scientific argument why CO2 is not a pollutant, but he doesn’t. The closest he comes is this:

Many cold regions in the northern hemisphere welcome global warming. Think of Scotland, parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada. To them, increasing CO2 is not a problem. Is it possible for CO2 to be a pollutant in the southern hemisphere but beneficial in large parts of the north? What previously unknown principle of chemistry is at work here, which changes the character of a molecule depending on location?

Let’s see: ground-level ozone harms people’s lungs, while ozone in the stratosphere protects us from UV radiation. Is Switkowski going to object to references to ozone pollution as well?

CO2 is a pollutant because increasing CO2 in the atmosphere harms the environment. And that’s according to one Ziggy Switkowski in an article published in The Australian (my emphasis):

Deepwater Horizon dramatically reveals the hazards of oil exploration in hostile environments. But it also hints at the magnitude of the global climate challenge: the enormous volume of fuel required by our energy hungry society and the mass of emissions that is produced. We may be devastated by the environmental damage of a deep-sea oil spill, but our atmospheric pollution is longer lasting and more consequential.

Comments

  1. #1 Alex Harvey
    July 20, 2011

    –noun
    1.
    something that pollutes.
    2.
    any substance, as certain chemicals or waste products, that renders the air, soil, water, or other natural resource harmful or unsuitable for a specific purpose.

    Anthropogenic carbon dioxide, however central its role in global warming, doesn’t satisfy this definition.

    You say that it is a “pollutant” because it “harms the environment”, but you must know that is not really the definition of the word “pollutant”, so it is not really a “pollutant”. It may not be the science that is disrespected per se, but it is certainly an abuse of language.

    -Alex

  2. #2 Wow
    July 20, 2011

    > Anthropogenic carbon dioxide, however central its role in global warming, doesn’t satisfy this definition.

    Really?

    1. something that pollutes.
    2. …that renders the air, soil, water, or other natural resource harmful or unsuitable for a specific purpose.

    If you don’t think it’s polluting, please seal yourself in an airtight room.

    The only abuse is your abuse of assertion by assertion.

  3. #3 dhogaza
    July 20, 2011

    What previously unknown principle of chemistry is at work here, which changes the character of a molecule depending on location?

    Toss him into the deep end and keep him there until he begins drowning, and perhaps he’ll understand that a large number of molecules necessary for life can also cause death, depending on where in the body they’re located …

  4. #4 Rocco
    July 20, 2011

    Shorter Alex Harvey: I can’t beat them with science, so let’s try lawyering instead!

    Guess what, too late.

    Wow: It doesn’t even need to be an airtight room, see here. Harmless plant food for everyone, right?

    Now stand by for more abuse.

  5. #5 Jeremy C
    July 20, 2011

    Zigggy,

    hmmmmm,

    *Many cold regions in the northern hemisphere welcome global warming. Think of Scotland, parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada. To them, increasing CO2 is not a problem.*

    Lets compare that with Australia, the country you live in, and see where it goes. Suppose 4 degrees of warming occurs and Scotland becomes a warm sunny place to live, on par with Sydney, but this is more than likely to mean Australia becomes unviable to live in except for parts of Tasmania. Now will Scotland, Scandanavia etc welcome 22 million, nay perhaps 35 million climate refugees from Australia? If you find you can no longer stand the heat in Australia do you think those countries will allow you to move there just because you are Ziggy Switkowski? I actually think you will have the influence and connections, at this stage, to do that but that may not work what about the rest of us?

  6. #6 jrkrideau
    July 20, 2011

    Is this guy nuts?

    “Many cold regions in the northern hemisphere welcome global warming. Think of Scotland, parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada. “

    Well, in Canada, we are having the permafrost melt with the very likely result of mammoth disruption of infrastructure and wildlife in the Arctic.

    So far, it looks like half the forests in British Columbia and, now Alberta are being eaten by the Western Spruce Bud Worm, and Lyme disease is spreading northward from the USA. There apparently a good chance kudzu the plant that ate the American South will be in Canada in roughly 20 years.

    It’s getting too warm for shippers to use the ice roads as they are not freezing enough which poses some very nasty problems in the North

    Oh and did I mention a fairly major part of our tourist business is winter or cold weather based?

    I’m sure we welcome global warming.

  7. #7 P. Lewis
    July 20, 2011

    Perhaps Ziggy and Alex might like to read this Royal Society publication [pdf download link].

  8. #8 lord_sidcup
    July 20, 2011

    Many cold regions in the northern hemisphere welcome global warming. Think of Scotland, parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada. To them, increasing CO2 is not a problem.

    It was pretty darn hot in Russia last summer – peat fires, crop failure and excess deaths resulted. I don’t think many Rassians want to go through that again.

  9. #9 MartinM
    July 20, 2011

    Many cold regions in the northern hemisphere welcome global warming. Think of Scotland…

    Bollocks. I for one like our current climate just fine. Also our current coastline, which Switkowski oddly fails to mention. Or does he think that some regions would also welcome parts of their land ending up underwater?

  10. #10 Chris O'Neill
    July 20, 2011

    Ziggy should have stuck to being a failed telco CEO.

  11. #11 Neven
    July 20, 2011

    So first Ziggy Switkowski writes CO2 is pollution, but then he writes it’s not pollution. Whatever sells, eh, Ziggy?

  12. #12 Byron Smith
    July 20, 2011

    Scotland is so enamored with a warmer climate that it has some of the world’s most ambitious carbon reduction legislation and a First Minister who has said he intends to set a course for 100% renewable power by 2025.

  13. #13 Daniel J. Andrews
    July 20, 2011

    jrkrideau (@6) already said what I was going to say regarding parts of Canada welcoming global warming. The ice roads are lasting half the time they used to, and last year it was so short the First Nations declared a state of emergency as there wasn’t time to bring in the necessary supplies by truck. This year wasn’t much better.

    Ice melt, which used to be beginning of June, is now end of April. Freeze-up sometimes doesn’t happen till late December, January when it used to be end of October and November. It also takes a lot longer to get the solid thick ice as temperatures aren’t cold enough, and it is not good blue/clear ice, but white ice which isn’t as strong (for snow machines, bush planes) so travel to trapping areas is curtailed.

    Then there is the whole forest fire situation, the spread of spruce and pine beetles, permafrost melting and tipping communities into the bog.

    Perhaps Ziggy would like to take a tour of the northern regions of Canada, and see how many of the people there want global warming. I’ve worked there for the past few years now and I’ve not run into anyone who wants things warmer. Instead I’m asked, “What is wrong with our weather?”, followed by a litany of “we used to be able to…”

  14. #14 Holly Stick
    July 20, 2011

    The people in Slave Lake, Alberta who had their homes burnt probably see a problem with increasing CO2, if they are aware of the connection between global warming and more forest fires.

  15. #15 Chris O'Neill
    July 20, 2011

    Ziggy:

    Finally, our 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target smoothly and uncritically has shifted from -60 per cent to -80 per cent. I guess one fanciful goal is as good as another.

    I guess Ziggy is now in the third stage of denial (first stage – there is no warming, second stage – CO2 doesn’t cause warming, third stage, the warming is not necessarily harmful).

  16. Some slogan ideas:

    1. Respect the science! Ignore a climate scientist today!
    2. Respect the science! Quote-mine a climate scientist today!
    3. Respect the science! Publish a climate scientist’s e-mail address today!
    4. Respect the science! Threaten a climate scientist today!
    5. Respect the science! Rape a climate scientist’s child today!

    — frank

  17. #17 JoeG
    July 20, 2011

    And some people thought he was appointed to the inquiry into nuclear energy because he was a man of science!

  18. #18 bill
    July 20, 2011

    ‘Switkowski Jumps the Shark’, as Joe Romm would say.

    It’s amazing the great steaming dollops of pure, sticky ignorance that can be served up to us by the supposedly great and good as they cozy up to the dire and tendentious Murdochracy.

    A ‘weed’ is any plant growing in a place where some group of humans don’t judge it should be. There are no intrinsic ‘weed’ plants – there are just ‘weed’ contexts. ‘Pollution’ is any entity, the production of which causes us problems either directly or indirectly at the local, regional, or global ecological level. It’s intrinsic properties don’t enter into it. Pig shit is another great part of nature’s cycle; lakes of it spewing out from factory farms is pollution.

    The whole ‘but it’s plant food / a natural part of life’ golly-gee schtick is just a sign of how disconnected many supposedly ‘sophisticated’ urbanites are from reality.

    It’s out of control and producing results that are causing significant grief; it’s pollution. As one of their heroes says ‘get used to it.’

    This is the deniers reaching desperation having no real argument to make – just as their only response to ocean acidification is to quibble at meanings in the hope that the terminally thick will perceive this as some sort of actual debate. Sadly, there’s a lot of thickies about…

    And as for all this Pollyanna-ish crap about the Scots and Scandinavians ‘welcoming’ warming; well, I’ve just had to revise my opinion of Ziggy’s intelligence down markedly.

    We are dealing with people who do not understand ecological processes. At all. That is very, very scary.

  19. #19 David Irving (no relation)
    July 20, 2011

    Actually, Chris O’Neal @ 10, I used to know a bloke who worked at Telstra, and he said the consensus there was that Ziggy should’ve stayed in the laboratory – as a telco CEO, he makes a great nuclear scientist.

  20. #20 john byatt
    July 20, 2011

    Ziggy could take it up with the US EPA, NH i think

    EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

    On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

    EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by scientists in the United States and around the world

  21. #21 Post hoc
    July 20, 2011

    No need for the US EPA, closer to home

    NSW Protection of the Environment Operations (POEO) Act

    Air Poluution is “means the emission into the air of any air impurity.”

    Air Impurity “includes smoke, dust (including fly ash), cinders, solid particles of any kind, gases, fumes, mists, odours and radioactive substances.”

    I assume C02 is a gas, correct me if I am wrong ;)

    Therefore co2 entering the atmosphere is pollution according to the NSW Government in 1997

  22. #22 Chris O'Neill
    July 20, 2011

    as a telco CEO, he makes a great nuclear scientist

    That’s probably what “failed telco CEO” means.

  23. #23 Scribe
    July 20, 2011

    Ha! I see obsessive denier Alex Harvey is posting here. I had a long argument with him a few years ago —which I documented here — showing the futility of arguing with deniers.

    I still think nobody would do the sort of “work” Alex does without some sort of pecuniary emolument. If I’m right, more shame upon him!

  24. #25 Vince whirlwind
    July 21, 2011

    Alex, one of the “purposes” of our atmosphere is to allow outgoing radiation. Excess CO2 inhibits this, causing undesirable warming. Thus, CO2 is “pollution” in this context.

    Interesting that the deniers, unable to gainsay the science, and no doubt bored of issuing death threats to scientists, no try their hand at meaningless, pointless semantics. Nothing of value from the deniers, then, as usual.

  25. #26 Ken Fabos
    July 21, 2011

    Is this the same guy arguing that CO2 pollution is the non-problem that nuclear is the best solution to ? In any case if it’s presence will lead to harm it’s a waste of time arguing semantics about it’s status as a pollutant. We know that dumping it the atmosphere is a problem, whatever we call it.

  26. #27 Jadehawk
    July 21, 2011

    What previously unknown principle of chemistry is at work here, which changes the character of a molecule depending on location?

    that’s so stupid, I don’t even know where to begin. As every gardener and farmer should know, a “weed” is any plant growing where it shouldn’t. “pollutant” works the same. the “character of the molecule” (or plant, in my example) has fuck-all to do with this.

  27. #28 rhwombat
    July 21, 2011

    SteveC: I was just going to post this:

    We interrupt this thread with breaking news (H/T to dodgyknees in BKs latest “elite leftist group hug”) :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj6vKrDFE5s

    Isn’t it funny how all the dots seem to link up. Must be my primate pattern projection reflex, ’cause it really couldn’t be that all these fine upstanding journo’s really are engaged in an interlinked trans-national conspiracy, could it?

  28. #29 bill
    July 21, 2011

    …very interesting indeed, wombat. Could anyone be surprised if it turned out it was a Murdoch minion that was responsible?

    It’s also interesting to listen to the Guardian staffers discussing the whole issue, not least because they highlight that it’s all close to unbelievable – if this was a thriller plot, you wouldn’t credit it. It transpires one of the journalists involved actually writes thrillers, and reckons his publisher would knock the plot back as too unlikely!

    And, just to add to the bizarreness of the whole thing, let’s not forget, Julian Assange told Philip Adams –

    we were responsible for the climategate emails, um although it appears that our sort of right wing sympathisers in the United States have forgotten all that

    (And if you should be thinking that’s unlikely you should watch this, which should nip any potential debate on the matter in the bud. Students of uncomfortable body-language should enjoy this one.)

    So he openly claims he was first publisher. Could Assange really have got it all from inside the evil empire itself? Could this story get any more bizarre?

  29. #30 jrkrideau
    July 21, 2011

    Holly Stick @11 I forgot Slave Lake! There is the fact that we’re evacuatiing a few thousand people from Northern Ontario fly-in communities because of fires as I type.

  30. #31 Jimmy Nightingale
    July 21, 2011

    Tim,

    Here’s number 65:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/sea-level-rises-are-slowing-tidal-gauge-records-show/story-e6frg6nf-1226099350056

    The paper in question doesn’t quite support the claim they are making:

    http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00141.1

    Would be interesting to get in touch with Phil Watson and see if he agrees with the Oz’s interpretation of his paper (and Howard Brady’s analysis of it).

  31. #32 Mikem
    July 21, 2011

    Ziggy emphasises that CO2 is colourless and cannot be considered a pollutant.

    Ergo, CO cannot be considered a pollutant either (it’s odourless too), and I strongly suspect CO is yet another scam about to be blown wide open by intrepid and fearless blog scientists.

    Also, so-called “mainstream” scientists are trying to tell us that high radon levels in the soil around a house can be harmful over time, but radon is colourless and odourless.

    Is there no limit to the depths to which scientists will sink to scam money from people? It’s despicable, I tell you!

  32. #33 Craig Thomas
    July 21, 2011

    As I have posted to The Australian –

    “So, the sea level rises that The Australian has been telling us for years are not happening, are now deccelerating?”

  33. #34 Jimmy Nightingale
    July 21, 2011

    Craig,

    I’ve made a couple of posts over at the Oz, however neither has appeared as yet. A bit of digging around into the background of Howard Brady, climate researcher at Macquarie University, reveals that he is nothing of the sort. Dr Howard Brady is one time CEO of Mosaic Oil, with a career spent mostly as a geological consultant to the mining industry (according to his bio in the ASX announcement for Mosaic Oil NL dated 2 Sept 2003). His doctorate was in Antarctic geology and I think the Oz has been more than a touch disingenous in their reporting.

  34. #35 Mikem
    July 21, 2011

    Your post just appeared Jimmy.

    The problem of course with the home-grown sceptics making the comments on these articles and similar blogs is that there is a copious amount of Dunning-Kruger going on.

  35. #36 MikeM
    July 21, 2011

    _The Australian_ is at it again, with a report [“Sea-level rises are slowing, tidal gauge records show”](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/sea-level-rises-are-slowing-tidal-gauge-records-show/story-fn59niix-1226099350056):

    “ONE of Australia’s foremost experts [Phil Watson] on the relationship between climate change and sea levels has written a peer-reviewed paper concluding that rises in sea levels are ‘decelerating’.”

    I might have given it more credence had it not quoted an “expert”, Dr Howard Brady, former CEO of Mosaic Oil, as saying that CSIRO’s projections were “dead in the water” and “ridiculous”.

    I might have been less suspicious that Watson’s findings were somehow being twisted if I hadn’t found a separate presentation by Watson on sea level rise that showed figures [consistent with CSIRO and IPCC](http://www.pittwater.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/34620/Phil_Watson.pdf) projections.

  36. #37 hankroberts
    July 22, 2011

    > Sea-level rises

    http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/media/DecMedia11072205.htm
    Letter to the Editor …

    “I refer to today’s article titled, Sea-level rises slowing: tidal records.
    Your article has misrepresented our Mr Phil Watson’s research …”

  37. #38 Lotharsson
    December 16, 2011

    More spam at #39