Abbott’s ‘Daring to doubt’ – how does the science stand up?

Not well at all, according to the scientists. Actually it is a travesty of language to call Abbott’s position “science”. In this piece I’ll highlight the kind of thinking that unfortunately cannot be dismissed as an Abbott aberration, but has the Turnbull government in it’s thrall. Let’s start with David Rowe’s amazing cartoon from the AFR:

Here are four articles:

Experts Destroy Tony Abbott’s Stance On Climate Change [Updated] (Thanks to Ootz for the link.)

Tony Abbott dares us to reject evidence on climate, but reveals a coward from Graham Readfearn at Planet Oz.

Climate Scientists Attack Tony Abbott’s ‘Misleading’ Speech to Global Warming Policy Foundation from Graham Readfearn at Desmog.

Five charts that show Tony Abbott is the one who has lost sight of the science by Peter Hannam.

Bernard Keane identified Tony Abbott’s 17 different core climate change beliefs at Crikey. Here they are without the explanations:

    1. Climate change exists (2011)

    2. Climate change doesn’t exist (various)

    “The argument is absolute crap.” (2009)

    “And, I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.” (2009)

    “So far reality has stubbornly refused to conform to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s computer modelling.” (2017)

    3. The climate has been changing forever (2010)

    4. The climate has stopped changing (2009)

    5. The climate is getting colder (2009)

    6. Humans only play a small role (2009)

    7. It’s best to be prudent (2009)

    8. CO2 has no weight (2011)

    9. CO2 has enough weight to feed plants (2017)

    10. We need an Emissions Trading Scheme (various)

    “There is much to be said for an emissions trading scheme. It was, after all, the mechanism for emission reduction ultimately chosen by the Howard government.” (2009)

    “On the insurance principle you are prepared to take reasonable precautions against significant potential risks, and that’s I think why it makes sense to have an ETS.” (2009)

    11. We don’t need an ETS, we need a carbon tax (various)

    “If Australia is greatly to reduce its carbon emissions, the price of carbon intensive products should rise. The Coalition has always been instinctively cautious about new or increased taxes. That’s one of the reasons why the former government opted for an emissions trading scheme over a straight-forward carbon tax. Still, a new tax would be the intelligent skeptic’s way to deal with minimising emissions because it would be much easier than a property right to reduce or to abolish should the justification for it change.” (2009)

    “If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax? Why not ask motorists to pay more? Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more?” (2009)

    12. We don’t need a carbon tax, we need direct action (2010)

    13. International abatement targets are real commitments (2015)

    14. International abatement targets aren’t real commitments (2017)

    The Paris agreement is “aspirational only, it is not binding, it is not mandatory”.

    15. The Renewable Energy Target — a good thing (2011)

    16. The amended Renewable Energy Target — still a good thing (2015)

    17. The Renewable Energy Target — a bad thing (2017)

    “Our first big fight this year must be to stop any further mandatory use of renewable power.”

We were told by Peta Credlin that Abbott was basically playing politics on climate change.

As in my earlier post, I suggest that he has no reverted to his true beliefs, which are garden variety climate scepticism/denialism or if you like, contrarianism, but they are not science. In being asked to deliver the annual lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation he was following in the footsteps of Cardinal George Pell and former PM John Howard. His speech is a bit of a jumble, but I’ll start with his assertion that:

    Palaeontology indicates that over millions of years there have been warmer periods and cooler periods that don’t correlate with carbon dioxide concentrations.

Here, from my files, is a graph of temperature against CO2 from the Vostock ice cores for the last 400,000 years:

Here’s a more complex graph, I think from one of James Hansen’s publications, going back 800,000 years:

Abbott claimed:

    “Temperatures in Australia have only increased by 0.3 degrees over the past century, not the 1 degree usually claimed.”

Here’s the graph from the CSIRO State of the Climate Report in 2016, courtesy of Hannam’s article:

Abbott uses the tired arguments about urban heat islands and measuring methods, which are said to artificially boost temperature readings. Back in 2010 a Berkeley academic Richard Muller founded the Berkeley Earth Temperature Project (BEST), which was meant to correct all the wrongs and find the truth (discussion here). This is the first graph they came up with:

The last graph I’ve seen from BEST is a little high compared to most.

Abbott uses the old chestnut which I last heard about a decade ago, that the US had its hottest decade in the 1930s. I doubt that is still true, but in any case it is classic cherry-picking. The US represents roughly two per cent of the earth’s surface.

Abbott’s claim that the sea level has not risen, adducing photographs on Manly Beach as evidence, is particularly silly. Here’s the CSIRO graph:

He should read my Scoping long-term sea level rise and Ice sheet decay spells danger from sea level rise. I wonder which NSW electorate Winda Woppa is in:

Winda Woppa_ image-20150429-23372-ds05ix_600

This is from the second of my posts linked above:

    A new study suggests we could get close to two meters in total by 2100. Moreover the melting of ice on Antarctica alone could cause seas to rise more than 15 meters by 2500.

Abbott’s notion that climate change is good for us is particularly egregious in relation to recent studies and the concept of risk.

He claims that CO2 is good plant food. However, as one scientist points out CO2 can produce bigger leaves but they contain no more nutrition. If people want to follow up on whether climate change is good for humans, I suggest they read my post The folly of two degrees and some of the posts at the end, or check out the tag Dangerous climate change.

Professor Steve Sherwood, deputy director of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre, read the speech and said it was:

    “the usual mix of misdirection, falsehoods and tirades against ‘brigades’ who supposedly say this and that but are never clearly identified.”

This is from Professor Roger Jones who is a Professorial Research Fellow at the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University and a Research Leader at Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC:

    “I read the speech in full,” Professor Jones told Gizmodo. “Abbott is clearly quite unhinged from reality.”

    “He tells the GWPF the lesson he has learnt, from being in, then out of government, is to speak his mind. And what a strange, bizarre place it is. Surrounded now by a big fence that clearly refuses the entry of facts and the egress of any sense, just like our Federal Parliament House.”

    Professor Jones says Abbott does “an interpretive dance through every denialist talking point he can muster”.

Many scientists are saying that the climate has already become dangerous.

I always think the figure in this image looks like Tony Abbott:

Unfortunately, Abbott is far from alone. He represents the prevailing view within the Coalition in our national parliament, and also in Queensland LNP state politics. His ideas are so widely spread in the National Party, let alone One Nation and Senator Bernadi’s conservatives, that our prospects of bipartisan climate policy approach zero in the foreseeable future.

19 thoughts on “Abbott’s ‘Daring to doubt’ – how does the science stand up?”

  1. Brian,

    I recommend you see an animated display of global CO2 concentrations that can be seen in Engineers Australia Big Conversation video beginning at time interval 0:29:15 here:


  2. Brian,

    Abbott’s notion that climate change is good for us is particularly egregious in relation to recent studies and the concept of risk.

    I’m wondering how more 40°C+ days are good for humanity, particularly if there a several consecutive days of these maximum temperatures. The elderly, young and sick/weak don’t tolerate this too well. There’re only so many clothes that can shed – perhaps down to only swimming gear/undies? And it’s much harder to sleep at night if the overnight temperatures are elevated. Not everyone can live within sight of the coast where the sea moderates the air temperature, like perhaps the Federal Member for Warringah.

    And how are higher temperatures good for crop yields? Temperatures above about 25°C (depending on the type of crop, some are more resistant) begin to lower yields and quality. Higher temperatures still, begin to cause leaf shrivel and/or blackening.

    Then there’s increased evaporation, higher risk of wild fires, etc.

    Is Abbott really that stupid and/or ignorant, or is it just politics to wreck Turnbull out of spite, at Australia’s expense?

  3. Just one small point, Geoff Miell….

    I would have thought that a bloke like Mr Abbott, who volunteered with a NSW fire brigade, would be aware of risk factors and typical precursors and/or accompaniments of bush fires in Australia (and in Europe, North America): several days of extreme heat, very low humidity, strong winds.

    Dries out the fuel, Mr A. Then the winds increase the fire intensity and the speed of its spread.

    If you didn’t attend the briefing sessions on fire risk, Mr A, why not read a few newspapers or look at bush fire prevention websites? Internet, Mr A.

    Or ask your old mates at the brigade.

    MATE!!!

  4. Is Abbott really that stupid and/or ignorant, or is it just politics to wreck Turnbull out of spite, at Australia’s expense?

    I can answer that.
    Yes.
    And yes.

  5. The only folk responsible for Tony Abbott are the voters in Warringah, got a beef with that take it up with them.

  6. It’s true the voters of Warringah are responsible for Abbott’s current employment status. However, his cynical, grasping, self centred stupidity is all his own work.

  7. The last thing to do about someone who is suffering from a extreme case of attention deficit disorder is to give them attention when they misbehave.
    Praise when he does something sensible like retire from parliament and stunning silence when he is being bad.

  8. That’s a sensible suggestion, John D.
    Any chance the Press and TV might take it up???

    I’d say not.
    I think they can still smell the blood of Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott in the water, and they’ve been circling ever since.

    Cheerio.

  9. My only comment is that Abbott was articulating what is in the heads of a distressing percentage of our pollies. Craig Kelly says warming is good for us up to two degrees, it’s only then that there may be a few problems.

    I think now that Martin Ferguson is gone Labor is largely free of this kind of thinking.

    We know what Malcolm Roberts thinks, but has anyone asked Barnaby Joyce and received a straight answer?

    From their policies, I’d suggest that Qld LNP at state and Commonwealth levels are just about wall to wall contrarians, to use the nice term.

  10. The was a discussion on ABC that I only caught a part of where it was being considered of the name for a new party. It made me think that we need a body of politcal scientists under the banner of “The Science Party”.

    That is what we tend to think of from the Greens where in fact what we get is really the “Bleeding Heart Party”. Not that that is a bad thing but the outcome is very little about good technical administration and more about issues adminstration.

    What we need now is a serious science based phase of government which we are not going to get from ideologues, bleeding hearts, or the toxic masculines.

  11. Someone told me of a recently broadcast chat Philip Adams had with former Science Minister, Barry Jones.

    Barry said he and the late Malcolm Fraser had discussed the possibility of a new party…..

    Sounded as if Barry had been displeased by the ALP, and Malcolm had been unhappy about the Liberals. Whatever any of us might think about them, at least those two had extensive experience of Party affairs; and being in government, as well as in opposition.

  12. Bilb: Back in the Menzies era we had a competent, stable public service that was able to give governments good advice that was largely listened to. More to the point we had a public service that knew how to make things happen and how to govern. The key people in these depts were experienced operators. There were problems during the Gough era because key public service people wanted to block rather than help bring in a new era and had a bloated sense of their authority.
    Since then there has been an erosion of the public services’ capacity to their job properly. Part of this is related to the constant vilification of public servants and the constant playing around with public service structures, dept heads and the systems to develop future public service. We see things like changes to public service dept heads when governments change and governments who measure their worth in the cuts they make to the public service.
    What we really need is a general consensus re what the public service is all about and what we have to do to drive the changes that need to be made to Australia.

  13. Tony Abbott , our fully effed in the head ex pm and the idiot who destroyed our car industry and lowered the engineering standard of our country several levels in the process, has got a hide claiming…

    ” we are more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little effect”.

    ……implying that the loss of the car industry was due to climate action. EffingTBS.

    Angry???? YES I am!

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