BEN CUBBY, the environment editor at Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, admits he has an unusual problem - “how does one critically analyse a pile of horse shit?”
The horse excretion in question is a report - CSIROh! - Climate of Deception or First Step to Freedom - sent to Cubby by one of Australia's most tireless - and some might say tiresome - climate science deniers, Malcolm Roberts. But more of Ben Cubby's response later.
Malcolm Roberts is the volunteer project manager for the Galileo Movement - a climate science denial organisation whose patron is popular Sydney radio shock-jock Alan Jones who himself thinks human-caused climate change is a “hoax” and “witchcraft”.
Roberts' “report” appears to have been sparked by an email from ABC Brisbane radio presenter Steve Austin back in February 2010.
“For some time now I have been receiving a barrage of your unsolicited emails about climate change and your analysis of IPCC flaws,” wrote Austin, who attached a copy of a CSIRO report on climate change and suggested Roberts respond. Austin promises he'll send that response to the CSIRO and provide any feedback he gets.
Roberts is a former coal miner and management consultant and in a declaration of interests writes: “For extensive work performed in the mining industry I was paid money by mining companies (including three government-owned coal mining companies)….” He claims to have foregone more than a million dollars in earnings for his unpaid work researching climate change.
Part of that research involved him travelling to the US to attend the Heartland Institute's climate skeptics conference in New York in 2008, co-sponsored by Australian free market think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Well, three years pass since the exchange with Steve Austin and finally Roberts sends him the report, which he must have been hanging out for.
But here's a prediction. Whatever the CSIRO or any other reputable research institution says to Malcolm Roberts about human-caused climate change, Roberts will not accept it. Why?
Because if you scan the hundreds of pages of “appendices” attached to Robert's report, you'll find he regards the whole human-caused climate change thing as a conspiracy. It's a hoax devised by international bankers and socialists hell bent on installing a New World Order.
In short, the motivation for the whole science of human-caused climate change is down to a heady mix of “international bankers”, “socialists” and a desire for “global control”. There are 19 completed appendices. One of them, Appendix 14, is 135 pages long and seeks to explain the motivation behind what Roberts habitually describes as the “climate fraud” being committed by scientists across the world, by a “fraudulent” United Nations. “Nature alone determines levels of CO2 in air,” he claims, ignoring the 33 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted in the last year alone from burning fossil fuels and making cement.
“The core problem is massive over-government through international bankers seeking to control,” writes Roberts. “We now know WHY they push climate fraud. They’re pushing global control.”
Roberts wraps this whole global conspiracy theory neatly into a heading for one section: “The objective is global control through global socialist governance by international bankers hiding control behind environmentalism”.
At one point, Roberts claims that “it’s likely that during John Howard’s (Australian) prime ministership socialist bureaucrats pulled the strings” which leaves you wondering why these evil socialist puppet masters failed to get Howard to sign the United Nations' Kyoto protocol?
What else have the New World Order been up to? According to Roberts, “key American Presidents and bureaucrats have spent billions of dollars on killing or injuring hundreds of millions of people and brutally forcing sterilisation and/or abortions on tens of millions of people”.
Now, the Galileo Movement says on Twitter that the report wasn't an official Galileo Movement document. They are distancing themselves from the work of their own project manager. News Ltd commentator and climate science mangler Andrew Bolt has already pulled the pin on his “advisor” status with the Galileo Movement over what Bolt claimed was Roberts' “anti-semitic” conspiracy theory over Jewish bankers ruling financial systems. Roberts insists he is not anti-Jewish.
There is at least one group happy to align itself with Roberts' version of climate change science. The Mine Managers Association of Australia writes appreciatively on its website how Roberts, a “long-standing member”, has been “waging 'war' against politicians for allegedly misleading the public on the issue of anthropogenic global warming”.
The association provides its members a link to one of Roberts' previous reports and then describes as “nonsense” the idea that carbon dioxide might be linked to climate change.
In recent weeks, Roberts has been sending out copies of his report to every Australian member of parliament, state premiers, scientists he doesn't like, journalists he doesn't like, journalists he does like (Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones among them), the bosses of media organisations and the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Some politicians are singled out for special attention. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Shadow Minister for Broadband and Communications Malcolm Turnbull are among those sent letters demanding they “resign from parliament immediately”.
In a letter to ABC managing director Mark Scott, Roberts says unless the ABC can give him “empirical scientific evidence and logical scientific reasoning proving that damaging warming was/is/will be caused by human CO2” then the ABC should retract every story on human-caused climate change they've ever done.
Ten prominent scientists also get a copy of Roberts' report, which includes the faintly narcissistic demand that if they fail to prove that human-caused climate change exists to his satisfaction, then “by Friday, March 1st, 2013 I will assume you do not disagree with my report.”
Some journalists, including Ben Cubby, SMH columnist Mike Carlton and ABC identities Robyn Williams, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Wendy Carlisle, have had “lawful noticies” demanding they “withdraw” any past claims about CO2 damaging the climate. “If you continue making such claims and fail to retract past claims you will be knowingly misleading the public and parliament,” writes Roberts, expectantly. Roberts has started posting responses on his website. He either hasn't had too many, or he's a bit slow on the upload.
In any case, the only reply of any substance so far comes in two emails from a fawning and grateful Alan Jones, who was recently told by broadcasting authorities to take fact-checking lessons on climate change. Jones describes Roberts as a “magnificent worker” and an “inspiring individual” and adds: “The hoax is more obvious today than it ever was.”
Which brings us back to Ben Cubby, one of the journalists who has been on the receiving end of reams of conspiratorial theorising from Roberts. Cubby's response hasn't been posted yet, but I'll provide it here in full. In my view, it affords these conspiracy theories the contempt they deserve.
In considering your request that I identify errors in the report you sent to me - CSIROh! Climate of Deception? Or First Step to Freedom? - I find myself confronting an unusual problem: how does one critically analyse a pile of horse shit?
Even by the exceedingly low standards of Australia’s climate skeptic community, your report is dire. You direct me to Appendix 13. It is littered with errors of all kinds: a mish-mash of muddled conjecture, impossible leaps of logic, fundamental misunderstandings of the scientific method, misread and misquoted research that has been poorly cited, internal contradictions, confused dates, spelling mistakes, and strangled grammar. It is, in all respects, a dud.
I am not going to comply with your demand that I ‘‘identify, specify and justify’’ all the errors in your report. There are too many. However, this should not be read as a reluctance on my part to address your complaints. You will recall that, many months ago, you asked me to provide you with some empirical evidence of human-induced climate change, and I immediately sent you a series of peer-reviewed papers that did just that.
You responded, a month later, after lengthy consultation with your science advisor Tim Ball (not ‘‘Tim Tall’’, as you call him in your report). You advanced an unpublished and frankly bizarre theory about underwater volcanoes. Apparently these hidden volcanoes conveniently rumbled to life at just the right rate to mimic both the rise and isotopic signature of human-generated atmospheric CO2. With theories like this, it is not difficult to see why even other climate skeptics have distanced themselves from your work.
Your report tries to allege that there are factual errors in my reporting. If you honestly believe this, there is a fairly simple way to deal with it: request a correction from the newspaper. Your requests will be independently considered on their merits by people other than me. It is remarkable that you allege thousands of errors, spanning a period of several years, yet have not sought to address them in this straightforward, transparent way.
You demand I declare my ‘‘personal financial interests in advocating the claim that human CO2 should be cut’’. First, I’m not advocating anything in particular, apart from fact-based reporting. Second, I have no financial interest in any industry related to emissions cuts. Nor have I worked for coal companies, as you have.
As I’ve made clear in earlier replies to your many emails, I don’t mind a civil discussion about environment reporting or climate change. But until you start to ground your opinions in fact, I will continue to regard your correspondence as amusing spam.