WHEN it comes to climate change science, as with most things in life, it pays to listen to actual experts with a solid background in their field.
On Monday the Wall Street Journal
and, later, The Australian newspaper, ran an editorial from a group of climate science contrarians which claimed global warming had stopped and that CO2 was food for plants, rather than a potential pollutant.
In a scathing response in the WSJ
, also published by The Australian
, 38 genuine climate change scientists, explained the original WSJ 16 were "the climate-science equivalent of dentists practising cardiology."
"While accomplished," the response explained, "most of its authors have no expertise in climate science. The few who have are known to hold extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert."
The group also debunked the misleading notion that global warming had stopped. "Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade,'' the group wrote. "In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter."
Several journalists and bloggers, including Media Matters
, have also investigated the expertise of the signatories to the original op-ed, which included members of free market think-tanks, climate science denial organisations and even a former researcher for Exxon
One of the WSJ 16 in question, did appear on paper though to have some solid experience on his CV. William Kininmonth, a long-time sceptic of human caused climate change, was described in the WSJ editorial as the "former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology".
Now that sounds pretty impressive and lends Mr Kininmonth an air of credibility.
He is also an advisor to Australia's Galileo Movement
, whose patron, popular radio shock-jock Alan Jones, says global warming is a hoax.
Except, the bureau has now confirmed to me in an official statement that during his time as head of the climate centre at the Bureau of Meteorology, Mr Kininmonth's department didn't actually do any research on climate change - change being the operative word.
Rather, the department was engaged in gathering and improving weather observations which, as it turned out, established Australia had "significantly warmed" since 1910. Mr Kininmonth's former position, it now appears, is of very little to no relevance on the issue of human-caused climate change.
In the statement, the bureau confirmed that "William Kininmonth was Superintendent (’Head’) of the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre from 14 November 1985 to 8 January 1998."
So had Mr Kininmonth or his department been involved in any climate change research during his tenure? The full statement from the bureau reads:
Work undertaken in the National Climate Centre during the period 1985 to 1998 mainly centred on climate database management and climate monitoring activities, with the National Climate Centre responsible for the management of the national climate database known as ADAM (Australian Data Archive for Meteorology). Climate monitoring activities included improving the datasets for monitoring climate variability and change.
The processes and methodologies developed within the National Climate Centre have established that Australia has significantly warmed since 1910. A warming trend was established and published by the National Climate Centre during the period of 1985 to 1998. Mr Kininmonth was a contributing author for the observational chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Second Assessment, Climate Change 1995.
Aside from some limited research activity on historical observations, The National Climate Centre had no formal role in undertaking or directing climate change research during the period of 1985 to 1998. Specifically, the National Climate Centre did not have responsibility for climate change attribution work (i.e., linking observed climate change to CO2 emissions/concentrations). Such work in Australia was undertaken in the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, CSIRO and the University sector during the 1980s and 1990s.
The role of the National Climate Centre was, and still is, somewhat distinct from the Bureau's research operations, which were formerly managed through the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre (BMRC). The research centre has primary responsibility for climate change research. The BMRC is now part of the joint Bureau-CSIRO Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR). Scientists in CAWCR contribute significantly to international climate change research, including work on the link between increasing greenhouse gases and climate change.
Now that statement is as clear as the warming trend which Mr Kininmonth and his co-signatories attempted to deny.