Australia

Tue, 2013-04-16 13:08Graham Readfearn
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Just How Many Climate "Sceptics" Are There?

A version of this post first appeared at RenewEconomy.

WHEN Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that former Woodside gas company executive and lobbyist Gary Gray was Australia’s new energy and resources minister, questions turned quickly to his position on climate change.

Fri, 2013-04-05 05:00Graham Readfearn
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Whistleblower Claims Australian Govt Censored Environment Concerns Prior To Approving Mega Gas Projects

A WHISTLEBLOWER has claimed approvals for two multi-billion dollar gas export projects in Australia were waved through government despite warnings that key information on a range of environmental impacts were either missing or inadequate.

Environment assessment specialist Simone Marsh, who had been on secondment to the Queensland Government's Department of Infrastructure and Planning when the projects were being assessed in early 2010, has spoken of a process where approval of the projects was never in question. Commercial and economic interests were put above environmental concerns.

“All the scientific arguments in the world wouldn't have changed things in that situation,” Marsh told the ABC's investigative journalism documentary program 4 Corners. “They had decided that they wanted to go ahead with the projects and there was nothing stopping it.”

Documents obtained by 4Corners under Right to Information laws in Queensland also reveal how a state government department tasked with assessing the environmental impacts of the projects were looking to provide the state's co-ordinator general with a “bankable outcome” on which to approve the projects.

The 4 Corners program looked at two major projects costing US$38.9 billion that would drill thousands of wells into coal seams in Queensland and, with the help of hydraulic fracturing and 6500 km of access roads, extract gas and pipe it to a new export facility at Curtis Island beside the Great Barrier Reef. Some 26 million cubic metres are being dredged from Gladstone harbour for the export projects.

Thu, 2013-04-04 12:22Graham Readfearn
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Climate Science Denier James Delingpole Calls For "Alarmists" To Face Court With Death Penalty Powers

I IMAGINE only a small percentage of people reading this have had any journalism training, but don't let that stop you from pondering the following ethical question.

If you read a newspaper story that included a direct quote from someone - let's say, for instance, UK climate scientist Dr David Viner - would it be acceptable to put quotation marks on the headline of that story and claim it was a quote from Dr Viner? You can have a minute to think about it.

It might help you to know that the headline was not written by the reporter who interviewed Dr Viner and wrote the story, and certainly not by Dr Viner himself. In short, a third person - a sub-editor - wrote the headline.

You don't need a minute? Of course not: it would be unprofessional, unethical and factually wrong to pass off a sub-editor’s made-up words as Dr Viner’s.

The Australian newspaper has just published a column from UK-based climate science mangler and anti-wind farm activist James Delingpole that tries to argue that Australia's recent unprecedented heatwave and hottest month on record wasn't all that hot and that global warming “alarmists” should be answering to a court with the power to issue a death sentence (no, I don't exaggerate, but we'll get to that at the end).

Thu, 2013-03-21 23:16Graham Readfearn
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Climate Denial Think Tank's Plans To Abolish Climate Change Departments in Australia

A LEADING Australian free-market think tank with close ties to the country's conservative Liberal Party has revealed its plan for climate change - abolish it.

Aside from the current Labor-led government's mud-wrestling over its leadership, all opinion polls point to a landslide victory for the Tony Abbott-led Liberal Party at the next election, which has been set for September.

The Institute of Public Affairs, a leading promoter of climate science denial and misrepresentation, has revealed its recommendations for the next government in a document outlining budget cuts. The plan was written by Alan Moran, director of the think tank's deregulation unit.

The document made the pages of The Australian newspaper but the report did not mention the document's detailed plans to obliterate all climate change functions in the country's public sector. In one section the document outlines the think tank's recommendations for public sector departments. In delaing with the future of the “Climate Change and Energy Efficiency” department, Moran writes simply: “Abolish”.

Pretty much every other federal government function to administer climate change policy, research global warming, ensure sustainable development or support renewable energy gets chopped under Moran's plan. Many publicly-funded research programs and agencies are either chopped entirely or cut to the bone.

Wed, 2013-01-09 14:00Graham Readfearn
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Australia Scorches In Record Heatwave As Warming Trends Bite

AUSTRALIA is baking in a heatwave which has broken all historical records for its geographical size and sheer number of extremes.

For seven days straight, the country's average maximum temperature has been above 39C (102F), beating a previous run of just four days of such temperatures set back in 1973.

The country's Bureau of Meteorology has issued a special statement outlining the unprecedented heat event and some of the records broken

Australia set a new record for the highest national area-average temperature, recording 40.33 °C (104F) and surpassing the previous record set on 21 December 1972 (40.17 °C). To date (data up to the 7 January 2013) the national area-average for each of the first 7 days of 2013 has been in the top 20 hottest days on record, with 6 January the fifth hottest on record and the first time 6 consecutive days over 39 °C (102F) has ever been recorded for Australia.

So hot have been the temperatures, that BoM was forced to add extra colours to its forecast maps so they could show temperatures beyond 52C (125F). Deep purple is no longer just a 1960s heavy rock band, but is now also a colour that beckons 54C (129F).

On consecutive days the country beat its previous daily mean temperature record, which had stood since 1972, with 32.36C (90F) set on 8 January.

Hobart in Tasmania reached 41.8C (107F), its hottest day by a full degree in a record going back 120 years. Eucla in Western Australia, more than 2500 kilometres away, also broke its record with a searing 48.2C (118.7F).

In Birdsville in outback Queensland, a place well used to extreme heat, the roads started to melt, sticking to residents' shoes. In Oodnadatta in South Australia, the town's petrol station stopped pumping because the heat was vapourising the fuel.

Aside from the effects of heat exhaustion and dehydration, the most immediate threat facing Australian in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria has been bushfires.

Thu, 2012-12-20 16:45Graham Readfearn
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Science Groups Call For Changes To Freedom Of Information Laws in Australia To Protect Climate Scientists From Harassment

TWO leading groups representing thousands of scientists across Australia are asking for changes to the country's Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to better protect climate change scientists from abuse and from deliberate attempts by climate sceptics to unfairly discredit them.

FOI laws are being used to “target and attempt to discredit individual scientists”, say the influential groups, with some applications under the laws resulting in climate researchers being subjected to abuse and harassment

Some scientists are cutting back on their use of email, a vital tool for scientific collaboration, as a result.

The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the leading professional association for meteorologists, oceanographers and climate scientists, and Science and Technology Australia, which represents the interests of 68,000 scientists and technologists, have outlined their concerns in a joint submission to the Attorney General's Department, which is currently carrying out a review of the Federal FOI laws. The submission says:

Wed, 2012-11-21 17:00Graham Readfearn
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Millions In Gas Industry Cash Poured Into Public Research In Australia

SO a major United States university has decided to pull the plug on a research institute focussing on energy from gas after questions were raised over its ties to the industry.

Bloomberg reports that the “potential conflicts of interest”  had created  a “cloud of uncertainty” over the work of the Shale Resources and Society Institute at New York's State University at Buffalo.

Investigations led by the non-profit Public Accountability Initiative alleged there were flaws in the institute's research, which had engaged in “industry-spin” while the authors of the institute's sole report had failed to disclose previous industry ties.

In closing down the institute, the university's president Satish Tripathi said in an open letter:  “Conflicts – both actual and perceived – can arise between sources of research funding and expectations of independence when reporting research results. This, in turn, impacted the appearance of independence and integrity of the institute’s research.”

DeSmogBlog has been rather less forgiving, placing the institute's research into a new category it has dubbed “frackademia” in reference to the controversial hydraulic fracturing technology used by the shale gas industry.

Tripathi said that given the university's “geographic situation” in the line of sight of the booming shale gas industry, it was important the university played a role in research into energy and the environment.

But it seems that even the perception that the university might be funded by the industry (it has claimed the institute hadn't received industry cash) was enough for the “cloud of uncertainty” to overshadow work it was doing.

In a similar geographical situation is the University of Queensland in Australia, one of the leading research institutions in a state where a $60 billion boom in the coal seam gas industry is currently underway. 

UQ also has a centre launched to research the coal seam gas industry. Yet the difference here is that the university has openly welcomed millions of dollars of coal seam gas funding.

Fri, 2012-10-19 15:09Graham Readfearn
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Climate Denialist Aussie Radio Host Must Take Fact-Checking Course, Says Authority

IT'S not been a great few weeks for Alan Jones, arguably Australia's most influential radio personality who believes global warming is a hoax and that climate change science is “witchcraft”.

In a humiliating episode, Jones and his Sydney radio station 2GB have agreed with the country's radio broadcasting watchdog to undergo training in fact-checking after complaints about a statement Jones had made about climate change.

Jones' most recent episode of self-inflicted misery began a few weeks ago, when the veteran broadcaster issued a half-hearted apology to the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard after telling a meeting of young Liberals that Ms Gillard's father had “died of shame” over what Jones described as her “lies”.

In the wake of Jones' invective, helped along by a social media campaign, dozens of advertisers pulled support for Jones, who will lose the use of a Mercedes-Benz car loaned to the station by the car maker.

Now the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a government agency which regulates radio broadcasting, has revealed that it has agreed a series of measures with Jones and 2GB over his fact-mangling on climate change.

Wed, 2012-08-01 13:47Graham Readfearn
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Victory Declared For The Climate Science Denialists

A VICTORY has been declared in the field of climate change but the lap of honour is not being run by research scientists or renewable energy bosses, or by coral reefs, drought-stricken farmers or the citizens of low-lying countries.

Rather, if you accept as valid this declaration of victory from one of Australia’s leading thinkers, then those popping the champagne corks are the fossil fuel lobby.

Standing by the track cheering this triumph, are the conservative think tanks and the free market ideologues that believe the world should be run on their terms. To follow the analogy through to the bitter end, the losers are everyone else.

Professor Robert Manne, a political philosopher at La Trobe University, is making this declaration in a 7000-word essay published tomorrow in The Monthly magazine – its cover screaming “Victory of the Denialists: How Climate Science Was Vanquished”.

Manne’s essay charts the decades-long effort to spread doubt and confusion about the science of human-caused climate change, focusing on the think tanks and corporations that created and backed a “relentless” campaign in the United States which has infected other parts of the western world, including Australia.

Manne draws on already published books and research papers about the climate denial industry, and so in that respect close watchers won’t find anything new. But it is his declaration that climate science denialists have won which will stick in the throat of many climate change campaigners and science communicators.

I asked Professor Manne why he had come to that conclusion.

Tue, 2012-07-24 19:07Graham Readfearn
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Climate Science Denier Debunks Greenhouse Theory With Two Fish Cooler Boxes And A Roll Of Cling Film

cling film, useful for wrapping food and debunking climate change, apparently

SOMETIMES in the world of climate science “scepticism”, things can become a little surreal. A bit odd, if you will, to the point where you need to inflict a sharp pain upon your person to confirm you've not drifted off into an alternate reality.

Like the time, for example, when Australian mainstream TV station Channel Seven chose a “climate expert” who once wrote a book called “Pawmistry” detailing how to read your cat's paws. 

Or the time when a Christian fundamentalist claimed the Victorian bushfires were his god’s revenge for the state’s “incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb”. 

Then there was the time when US free market think-tank the Heartland Institute said “the people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

To me, the odd thing about these instances is not that they actually happened or that there are people with enough arrogance and ideology to believe their own fantasies. What's odd, is that people in positions of influence still associate themselves with them.

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