The Australian's War on Science XXVII

The Australian seems to have realized that their delight over Rudd's ETS was a giveaway and they are trying to provide some cover. Today we have a piece from Henry Ergas opposing the scheme:

As for the emissions trading scheme, if the main emitters are not reducing their emissions -- as the Government's 5 per cent target assumes -- why go it alone?

And a piece from Bob Carter with some almighty whoppers about the science.

First, global temperature warmed slightly in the late 20th century and has been cooling since 2002. Neither the warming nor the cooling were of unusual rate or magnitude.

But in 2006, he was saying that it had been cooling since 1998. How strange.

Second, humans have an effect on local climate but, despite the expenditure of more than $US50 billion ($70 billion) looking for it since 1990, no globally summed human effect has ever been measured. Therefore, any human signal must lie buried in the variability of the natural climate system.

It's one thing to dispute the evidence. It's another to completely deny that it exists. Here's Figure SPM-4 from the IPCC's Fourth Assessment report. The blue bands show temperatures if you just include natural forcings and natural variability. The red bands include the effects of human activities. The black lines shows actual temperature averages.


Now, maybe there's something going on here that the scientists don't understand, but for warming not be caused by humans, there would, despite extensive scientific studies, have to be a completely unknown natural cause for it AND a completely unknown factor that was stopping our activities from causing any significant warming. What are the odds?

Third, we live on a dynamic planet; change occurs in Earth's geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and oceans all the time and all over the world. No substantive evidence exists that modern rates of global environmental change (ice volume; sea level) lie outside historic natural bounds.

Well yes. At the end of the last Ice Age sea level rose at 5 metres per century. Such a rate of sea level rise would, however, cause some problems for our civilization because we have built all these cities at sea level.

Last, cutting carbon dioxide emissions, be it in Australia or worldwide, will likely result in no measurable change in future climate, because extra increments of atmospheric CO2 cause diminishing warming for each unit of increase; at most, a few tenths of a degree of extra warming would result from a completion of doubling of CO2 since pre-industrial times.

Says who? The only cite that Carter gives is "Independent science", which I guess means science you won't find in peer-reviewed science journals. Maybe he's thinking of Christopher Monckton error-filled paper? Who can tell.


More like this

The link to the larger version of that set of graphs does not work for me.

*[Fixed. It was supposed to go to the SPM. Tim]*

Independent of whom?

Why, scientists, of course.

bi and Boris- perfect set up and punchline delivery.

FWIW, the last 10 years of Hadcrut3 data now show a positive trend, if you force a straight line on it. Only 0.7C per century (p=0.03), but now that the peak of 1998 has dropped off the back of the bus, what's left is trending up.

Independent of whom? That's the question.

No Frank, the question is "Independent of what?" That would be independent of evidence, logic or an ounce of sanity.

"Neither the warming nor the cooling were of unusual rate or magnitude."
Only a 1 in 10,000 chance event according to statisticians. But what would they know about what's unusual? After all, Bob is the 1 in 10,000 scientist who disagrees with global warming, so he must think chances like that come up all the time!

By James Haughton (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Does anyone know where the US$50B figure came from?

It does not seem credible that internationally we have spent that much on climate science. Perhaps they are folding in other expenditure that could be linked to CC e.g research into renewables, CCS, and nuclear.

If so I think that much of this research would be occurring in the absence of CC (the exception being CCS, which in my opinion is a non-viable technology and a smoke screen by the FF industry).


By Doug Clover (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Maybe he's thinking

Doesn't really seem like it.

The Australian mucked-up is first response. The 5% target means moving from a +2%/annum to a -2%/annum emission trajectory. This is huge if your waste product is CO2.

By Hot &Bothered (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

As an order-of-magnitude check, the US government spends around $4 billion a year on basic research of all kinds. Based on Australian experience and casual observation, medical research would get at least half of that. If all the rest went to climate science, and the other developed countries added half as much again, the total since 1990 would just reach Carter's $50 billion.

By John Quiggin (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink


It still doesn't seem credible to me.

I know how much competition for Govt research funding occurs in NZ. While CC research was a stated high priority under Labour it still only received a fraction of the funding of agricultural and industrial research.


By Doug Clover (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

At the same time Doug, Govt research funding is a tiny fraction of GDP, it's crazy, tell talk about energy supply, but only invest a few dollars research into it.

BrendanH :

FWIW, the last 10 years of Hadcrut3 data now show a positive trend, if you force a straight line on it. Only 0.7C per century (p=0.03), but now that the peak of 1998 has dropped off the back of the bus, what's left is trending up.

That won't stop Denialists from cherry-picking the juicy February 1998 as a starting point for as long as they can. The trend from then probably won't turn positive (in Hadcrut3) until after June 2009. Expect to see the statement:

"There has been no global warming for the last 11 years"

in February 2009.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Some of the funding estimates include the costs of the operational weather observation systems, which serve a lot more purposes than climate research.

By Harold Brooks (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

At the bottom of page 4 of State Department document it gives a bit more of information on the spend.

the $37B covered climate science (what we are interested in), technology (which may or may not have been funded anyway) international assistance (not sure what this is but the cynic in me thinks this might involve promoting US energy tech overseas), and incentive programmes (for what?).


By Doug Clover (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Would'nt it be nice the next time a Carter piece appeared in the media, if a disclaimer appeared at the bottom of the article stating, "the views expressed above are not necessarily the views of James Cook University." I am sick and tired of snake oil merchants like Carter, being allowed to use their association with a university, to lend credibility to their junk science. Academic freedom is fine up to a point. With academic freedoms also come responsibilities. Such as the duty of care academics and universities, surely have to the wider community. Carter and others in the denial industry, display a reckless disregard for such a concept. If Carter is telling whoppers about the science, as claimed by Tim Lambert and others, why is James Cook University doing nothing about it ?

By Richard McGuire (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Carter: "First, global temperature warmed slightly in the late 20th century and has been cooling since 2002. Neither the warming nor the cooling were of unusual rate or magnitude."

This is the shortest possible period from present to get a linear regression showing a decline. Go any further back and it's a warming trend. So we've had (nearly) 6 years of global coling by that metric. But there are many instances of 6 year cooling periods and even longer in the record of the last century, which Carter says shows overall warming.

But that metric isn't a good one either, unfortunately. 2003 and 2005 were both hotter than 2002. If you run a 2nd order polynomial over the period (a curve instead of a straight line, which is a better metric when there's no clear linearity in the data), the peak is around 2004/2005. So we might be able to say that the globe has been cooling for (nearly) 3 or 4 years. In either case, we're not talking about a climate trend, we're talking about weather.

It would seem that Bob Carter's estimate of the costs of studying climate change (a) are as laughable as his analysis of the climate (b)!

a) $US50 billion US since 1990
b) global temperature.., has been cooling since 2002. Plus the point that Tim L made that BC claimed in 2006, that it had been cooling since 1998.

If anyone needed evidence that either BC doesn't know what he's talking about or he is being less than honest - there it is! Has BC no shame?

We have to pity him, all that hard work to earn scientific credibility and respect, and then he throws it all away!

Why would he do this?

Is there evidence of him being paid to say this stuff? What other reason could he have?

By ScaredAmoeba (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

"If anyone needed evidence that either BC doesn't know what he's talking about or he is being less than honest-there it is ! Has BC no shame?" Why the need to feel shame when Bob Carter can represent himself as an "adjunct research fellow at James Cook University?"

By Richard McGuire (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Has BC no shame?

You really need to watch the video linked here. Carter is a past master at the plausible presentation of perfidious paradiddle.

I think it has something to do with notoriety.

Who'd heard of 'pre-sceptical' Bob Carter? Only other geologists and folks in related Departments at Universities or faculty at JCU.

How likely was he to get into the newspapers, radio or TV as a marine sedimentologist? Buckley's, unless he landed a Nature/Science paper.

What's 'post-sceptical' Bob got? All the above, and the adoration of a thronging crowd of disciples. What else could a moderately successful now-retired academic who still yearns to strike the 'big league' want?

That's my theory anyway - I can't rationalise he or Ian Plimer any other way...

Bob Carter is a creep. The interview starts off with a very good question from the journalist. Bob Carter has a quick thought, and comes up with an answer that completely ignores the question asked, and completely derails the interview to follow his own agenda.


A lot of creeps have an excellent talent for coming off as being very reasonable.


Thanks to Barry & also Ruddiman PPP, Chapter 18.

The usual caveats apply, i.e., this is not about normal scientific skepticism and arguments, but where the science is denied/attacked for extra-science reasons.


Economics, ideology, politics, psychology
ECON -1, -2, -3 (professional) -4 (public)
IDEOL -1 (professional), -2 (public)
POL -1 (professional), -2 (public)
PSYCH -1 (professional), -2 (public), -3 & -4 (either), -5 (professional)

ECON-1 long-term major direct economic interest
Some fossil fuel companies and some family foundations whose wealth was derived from them.
Do not usually write/speak directly, but through ECON-2 and ECON-3. FF companies have mostly stopped direct public claims against AGW. FF companies vary widely, and should not all be tarred with the same brush.

This is a special case of companies that want to "privatize the benefits, socialize the costs", starting with asbestos, cigarettes, some chemical companies, sometimes extractive industries (especially coal).

ECON-2 long-term, less direct economic interest, but get some funding from the some of the previous.
Thinktanks & front organizations.

Funding may be used to *start* an organization, or an existing organization may seek these funding sources. Some of these clearly compete for funding.]

ECON-3 personal, direct economic interest
Consulting, writing, speaking, lobbying.

This is for someone who has some relevant experience; money from ECON-1 or ECON-2.

ECON-4 fear (reasoned or unreasoned) of personal economic impacts from CO2 regulation
Many people in the public.

IDEOL-1 "Anti-regulation" professionals, i.e., sometimes get called free-market fundamentalists*
Some thinktanks, economists, some editors/writers, i.e. like WSJ OpEds, but not news, so far. May or may not get money from ECON-1. This should not be read as the business community in general, but emphasized by that subset described in ECON-1.

IDEOL-2 "Anti-regulation" public
Many people. As far as I know, nobody *likes* higher taxes or dealing with cumbersome regulation... the legitimate argument is about the appropriate levels, and reasonable people can disagree.

POL-1 "X says it,therefore it's wrong", professional
Some politicians & IDEOL-1, used as a wedge tactic, in their own self-interest, sometimes helps raise money.

Common are "Al Gore says it" or "job-killing left-wing greenie tree-huggers say it". This is slightly different from IDEOL-1, in that it's a negative tactic.

POL-2 "X says it, therefore it's wrong", public
Many people, in this case, some of whom may well be acting in ECON-1's self-interest, but against their own.

PSYCH-1 "I like publicity, and being contrarian helps, especially if my career isn't what I want it to be", professional.
This is what Barry hypothesizes for BC, and akin to Bill Ruddiman's descriptions in Chapter 18 of PPP. It might well fit Bjorn Lomborg, who didn't really get much attention until TSE.

PSYCH-2 "I like being a contrarian", professional or public
Many people, in extreme cases verging on conspiracy theories.
For public, it is ego-gratifying to believe you know more than supposed experts, even if you don't get a lot of publicity for it.
For the professional, it may just be a personality trait, as opposed to a "get attention" trait, and of course, sometimes contrarians are right. [Thomas Gold, on some things.]

PSYCH-3 "High-bar, low bar", professional & public
Serious work in science ~ pole vault in track.
One can be contrarian by stepping across a line on the pavement.
For a professional, this maybe related to PSYCH-1.

See my favorite Dunning-Kruger Effect.
In general, many people want to believe their expertise is higher than it is, and resent the idea that others' expertise might be much higher.

As per how to learn... and following discussion, I said I was a 2 of 10 on my whimsical climate expertise scale. I've refined the scale a little, and I now think I'm a 3, although having had dinner with James Hansen this week, maybe not :-)]

PSYCH-4 ambiguity-intolerant personality
See ambiguity tolerance, which says:

"The converse, ambiguity intolerance...was defined in 1975 as a "tendency to perceive or interpret information marked by vague, incomplete, fragmented, multiple, probable, unstructured, uncertain, inconsistent, contrary, contradictory, or unclear meanings as actual or potential sources of psychological discomfort or threat."

With appropriate reservations on personality theory, it is some people are are comfortable with fluid, ambiguous ideas, and quite often view propositions via probability distributions, error bars, etc.
Other people are *very* uncomfortable with this, *needing* "It's A or B", sometimes called all-or-none thinking. In really weird cases, people can flip between A or B without spending time in between!

PSYCH-5 Retired scientist off the rails. Professional.
Rarely, even brilliant scientists near/at retirement, start opining (but not in peer-reviewed journals) about some other domain, directly opposite the mainstream. This is sad, and seems to happen for any of a variety of other reasons. Fortunately, many top scientists remain quite sharp, and if they shift areas, go study first.


I'd suggest that a relatively small number of people [ECON-2, ECON-3, IDEOL-1, maybe POL-1] actually get paid for this,and actually, I (weakly) conjecture that more of the money for thinktanks comes from the family foundations, although it's really hard to find out.

In some cases [PSYCH-1], I think the dominant motivation is that, although some may hope to also manage ECON-3.]

I conjecture that most people with anti-science websites, incessant anti-science posts, etc are in one or more of {ECON-4, IDEOL-2, POL-2}, not getting paid for it, and possibly with some of the PSYCH attributes.
I've discussed this with psychologist friends, who mentioned the ambiguity-intolerance thing.

If you draw a graph:
a) funders
b) thinktanks/fronts
c) individuals & some politicians
d) public

$$ flows from a=>b=>c, and sometimes from d=>c) politicians

Mis/disinformation flows (b+c) => d, usually not publicly emitted by a).

Of course, lack of knowledge helps anti-science views, but clearly, even people who have knowledge can argue against science for such reasons.


There is a wide mix of reasons for anti-science positions, and very few people actually get paid for it. Most do it for free. Some pay to do it.


* And before somebody says "Anti-free-market, leftwing, greenie, fellow-traveler dedicated to downfall of American capitalism" (don't laugh, someone has said something like that :-)...

If that fit me, it would fit most of Silicon Valley, including a lot of business people and venture capitalists that I know / work for / invest with in the world center of high-tech capitalism :-)

By John Mashey (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

Nice summary John. I always enjoy your posts, because you have an excellent capacity for arranging and summarising the context of a subject.

In this case I can't help but wistfully wonder, as I did a few months ago, what an inclusive representation of the networking of AGW denialism would look like.

With respect to the Psych-5 category, it's the one where I always picture an old professor in waders and a fly-bedecked hat, rod in hand, hanging a sign on his gate that says "Gone emeritus"...

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

You can debunk Bob Carter, until the cows come home. Unfortunately blogs like this will make little difference while Carter is allowed to tout his association with James Cook University #18. According to Barry Brook #23, Carter is retired. If so how was he able, in the Australian piece December 19th, to represent himself as " an adjunct research fellow at James Cook University who studies ancient climate"? How long has he been retired ? In the NZ television interview April 20th (see video link #22) Carter was introduced as a Professor at James Cook University Marine Geophysical Laboratory. While Carter is able to represent himself in this way, his opinions will enjoy undeserved credibility. When is James Cook University going to say enough is enough ?

By Richard McGuire (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

Could there also be an element of sour grapes in Bob Carter's behaviour? "New Matilda" published an interview with him (by Robyn Williams) a couple of years ago. His anti-climate-science-comspiracy stuff started at about the same time as his Ocean Drilling Program funding got cut. Perhaps he blamed the climate-science conspiracists for this?

By Neil White (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

Richard when I poked around a little I think I remember having found the Dean of Carter's once-was faculty at James Cook to be at least as keen a loud mouthed climate troll as the great man himself. Yeah, I was a bit unpleasantly surprised by that.

Richard at #27.

It's not uncommon for emeritus academics to retain links with their old institutions, and to continue to work or to collaborate in their old fields. Generally they do so with great respect for these privileges, and the arrangements are mutually beneficial.

However, the University will have a policy on academic behaviour, and on maintaining the reputation and the good standing of the institution, and it could well be that Carter might be using his current academic credentials in a way that violates the University's policy.

The best thing to do would be to write a letter to the administration of JCU, and ask whether they support Carter's use of the University's name in making comments on climate change that are not consistent with the consensus of scientific experts. If you provide examples of Carter's scientific malfeasance, and especially if you provide references explaining why he is wrong in his pronouncements, they really should pursue the matter.

To make it a little more interesting you could CC copies of the correspondence to the appropriate geological and general science societies in Australia - university admin becomes a little more sensitive when they think that they have someone looking over their shoulders.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

Further to my previous post, I should have added that the University should not be interested in 'silencing' Carter, but merely concerned only that he takes explicit care to ensure that any non University-mandated claims are publicised as his personal opinion, and not that of a University-supported scientist.

Where Carter has not taken due care to separate his personal opinion from Univesity-mandated material, he should be required to ensure appropriate correction is subsequently made.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

Bernard J @ #26
Thanks for the kind words.

Regarding a good network model, I don't know of any such, although I know a few pieces and interesting lists.

1) The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism by Peter Jacques, Riley E. Dunlap, and Mark Freeman is interesting, analyzing the various thinktanks and authors of books.

2) I asked Riley if he had an overall matrix, akin to the one I did for SPPI on the last page of Monckton/Oreskes, but he said he didn't yet, but were gathering more info.

3) You can try Exxon Secrets, noting of course, that it's a Wiki, for whatever that's worth.
Bob Carter is mentioned on one of the graphs.

4) DeSmogBlog has a database that lists some associations, by person, including Bob Carter.

5) As usual, what's hardest to find are the actual $$ routes.

If people know more good sources, I'm interested to hear of them.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

re: #31
Yes, for sure.

"Silencing" people is fraught with problems.
Recall the Bush administration's handling of James Hansen...

By John Mashey (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

In response to Bernard J #30. Unfortunately Bernard I do not have the scientific qualifications to be writing letters to universities and citing references, others however do. Why aren't they doing so? I took another look at the NZ television interview Carter did in April (see video link #22) In the interview Carter claimed mainsteam science, including the IPCC agreed, that a doubling of pre industrial CO2 levels would only result in a temperature rise of one degree...... Hello !...... If and when qualified concerned scientists take up the Carter issue with James Cook University maybe they could cite that video..............In response to John Mashey #33, no one is talking about silencing Carter. He is at liberty to line up with the other cranks and ideologes, and publish his pseudo science in the Australian, under his name, without citing his association past or present, with James Cook University. James Cook University is after all a publicly funded institution. Governments trying to reign in greenhouse pollution could do without the Carters of this world undermining their efforts.

By Richard McGuire (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

re: #34
Sorry, the phrase silencing was used earlier in the sequence, and I've seen it elsewhere. I agree completely that the university should be alerted, and it certainly has rights with regard to Carter's current association.

On the other hand, you said "without citing his association past or present". If an article has a little bio, as many do, it sounds like you'd wish that he not be allowed to mention even a past association. In such a bio, is he disallowed to mention any university at which he's worked? Hmmm. I don't think you'll have any luck getting that to happen.

But, if he has an adjunct job, and uses the university's name currently, that is something on which action might be taken.

needless to say, in no way do I support the silly stuff Carter says ... but he's all yours down there, although he does have US connections, sadly.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 20 Dec 2008 #permalink

re:#35 Perhaps you are right John Mashey, in that James Cook University can do little to stop Carter citing past associations with it. If however Carter does have a profesional relationship with JCU, the university would be failing in their duty to the wider community, in refusing to either reign Carter in, or cut him loose. Either way the time has come for James Cook University to go public, making it clear, the views expresed by Bob Carter, are his own, and not those of James Cook University. Over to you JCU.

By Richard McGuire (not verified) on 20 Dec 2008 #permalink

The Australian mucked-up is first response. The 5% target means moving from a +2%/annum to a -2%/annum emission trajectory. This is huge if your waste product is CO2.

By Hot &Bothered (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

The Australian mucked-up is first response. The 5% target means moving from a +2%/annum to a -2%/annum emission trajectory. This is huge if your waste product is CO2.

By Hot &Bothered (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

The Australian mucked-up is first response. The 5% target means moving from a +2%/annum to a -2%/annum emission trajectory. This is huge if your waste product is CO2.

By Hot &Bothered (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink