The travelling sceptical minstrel show
One of the greatest challenges of course if you are intent on propagating scientifically invalid concepts is public credibility. This probably provided some motivation by the denialist clique is to take the fight international and so a group of key ‘scientists’ initially set up the Carbon Sense Coalition of international climate denial pundits and headed by Australian coal millionaire, Viv Forbes. It was set up in 2007 to “defend the role of carbon on earth and in the atmosphere“, and challenged the listing of carbon dioxide as a pollutant in the Federal National Pollutant Inventory.
This was apparently renamed the Australian Climate Science Coalition, headed by now deceased, Bob Carter, an adjunct professor at Queensland's James Cook University. A look at the website now however finds it to be archived, perhaps as a result of the public exposure of its links to the Koch-funded Heartland Institute.
Undaunted, the climate warriors then helped establish the ‘International Climate Science Coalition’ (ICSC) headed by leading US, New Zealand and Canadian climate deniers, Tom Harris and Dr Jay Lehr, Brian Leyland and Terry Dunleavy. The Australian contingent on these websites comprises of Dr John Nicol, Stewart Franks, David Archibald, Professor Bob Carter, Professor Lance Endersbee AO, Dr David Evans, Viv Forbes, William Kininmonth, John McLean, Professor Cliff Ollier, Professor Ian Plimer, Dr Walter Starck, Warwick Hughes and Dr Tom Quirk.
Who are these scientists and do they have climate science credibility? Canadian Tom Harris is the executive director and for a number of years was teaching a ‘climate realism’ course at a Canadian University. Engineer by training but he wants students to take a ‘geological perspective’. He is a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute. Jay Lehr who is the senior policy advisor is an American who also worked for the Heartland Institute as a senior advisor and is still a ‘contributor’. His specialty is groundwater hydrology and he likes to jump out of planes.
Of the more notable of the Australian contingent are John Nicol, who from 1960 – 1965 he, “…worked outside the direct areas of Physics pursuing an interest in rainfall distributions in Western Queensland”. Stewart Franks is an associate professor from Newcastle University whose climate specialties are said to include hydro-climatology and flood/drought risk. David Archibald is a Perth-based scientist “…operating in the fields of cancer research, oil exploration and climate science”. It seems Mr Archibold however has spent his professional life working in oil exploration and then as a stock analyst. He has been the CEO of “ …multiple oil and mineral exploration companies”, has supposedly published a number of papers on the solar influence on climate, and is a director of the Lavoisier Society.
David Evans holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, California and made media attention when he left the Australian Greenhouse Office in 2005 amidst some acrimony. He was working on the forest and agriculture carbon exchange models at the time, though later admitted he was not a climate scientist. He is the partner of ‘science-writer', Joanne Nova and David now writes and speaks on the problems with climate science and his latest ideas on ‘Notch-delay Solar Theory’, which basically is stating that global temperatures will cool, “ …beginning 2017 or maybe as late as 2021. The cooling will be about 0.3 °C in the 2020s, taking the planet back to the global temperature that prevailed in the 1980s”.
Our mining CEO friend, Viv Forbes has degree in Applied Science, but in fairness, if you consider the hard work and commitment he has put in over the years to the climate denial cause, he should be regarded on equal merit with Hugh Morgan and Ray Evans as a far right person of renown. William Kininmonth on the other hand worked with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for 38 years in weather forecasting, research and applied studies. For 12 years until 1998 he was head of its National Climate Centre. He was also the Principal Consultant for ‘Australasian Climate Research’, a consulting firm though has no current website.
Professor Cliff Ollier is an Emeritus Professor and Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia whose main professional specialisation is as a geologist, geomorphologist and soil scientist. His main focus in relation to climate change appears to be debunking the sea-level rise hypothesis. Ian Plimer is a Professor of Mining Geology and an Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Currently his duties at The University of Adelaide are, “… more that of an entrepreneur, promoter, inspirer of young students and staff, university public face and political lobbyist rather than that of a traditional academic”, although he currently does teach 1st and 2nd year students in engineering and geology.
Dr Walter Starck is said to be one of the “… pioneers in the scientific investigation of coral reefs”. He received a PhD in marine science from the University of Miami in 1964 and has over 40 years worldwide experience in reef studies. Dr Rob Quirk’s qualifications are said to be an ‘SMP degree’ from the Harvard Business School, Master of Science from the University of Melbourne and Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford. He spent 15 years in the U.K. and USA as an ‘experimental research physicist’, a University Lecturer and Fellow of three Oxford Colleges. Warwick Hughes is an honours student who blogs about the IPCC, though his website is currently down.
So of this 14 man group of leading Australian climate scientists, only two have any professional specialisation on what may be on paper be broadly classed as climate science, with a couple more with some biological or weather knowledge. It is a fact that most people posing as climate scientists in Australia are actually geologists or engineers or have limited academic qualifications. So much for the ‘brain’s trust’ informing the public on the reality of climate change.
Following the inception of the ICSC, in the typical Koch astrop-turfing style, the same group of climate ‘scientists’ then went on to form the ‘Clexit’ campaign and alliance of climate denialists from mainly the UK and Australia. According to the deSmog website, Climate Exit (Clexit) formed shortly after the UK’s decision to leave the EU and that many of the UK's leading ‘Brexit’ campaigners are also climate science denialists. They have a chilling message to the world, “The world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming crusade. Man does not and cannot control the climate,” (Viv Forbes, 13 July 2016).
Clexit boasts a team of “60 well-informed science, business and economic leaders”. This includes Australians, Hugh Morgan and Viv Forbes, who serves as secretary, Englishman and noted personality, Christopher (aka Lord) Monckton (who is President) and US-based Marc Morano (Vice President), long time Koch associate. In the US, the Koch-funded Heartland Institute has supported the objectives of this group. A list of key Clexit members can be found here.
An affiliate of the Heartland Institute, Marc Morano is a noted climate-denial speaker, often appearing on Fox News. Although he has no scientific expertise in the area, he was listed as one of 17 top “climate killers” by Rolling Stone Magazine, the Heartland website calls him a “global warming expert.”. He is executive director and chief correspondent of ClimateDepot.com, a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). CFACT has received funding from ExxonMobil, Chevron, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars from foundations associated with the Scaife Empire.
Lastly, there is one more climate denial group to mention, one headed by busy climate bee, Tom Quirk, the Climate Study Group, which has run expensive ads in the Australian. According to Graham Readfearn’s deSmog blog, ‘None of the members of the Climate Study Group appear to have any qualifications in climate science or any record of publishing peer-reviewed research on climate change”.
If this is the case, it’s a must you have good publicity. The leading advertising company in Australia used to promote the fossil fuel industry is Crosby Textor, now CT Group who have run campaigns for some of the groups mentioned here, strategist for the Liberal Party as well as for mining giants such as Glencore. A key person in this corporation at the time of these deals was Robert Champion de Crespigny, who held the position as chairman of market research. He was a member of the Foundation Council for the Australian Davos Connection and also a board member of the Centre for Independent Studies and a director of the Minerals Council of Australia. With Hugh Morgan and Ron Walker (former chairman of Fairfax Media Ltd and treasurer of the Liberal Party in Australia and manager of the Liberal Party funder Parakelia) they formed the company Australian Nuclear Energy. However, in 2006 our friends had to publicly denounce any moves to build a nuclear power plant in Australia. This company appears not to be listed today, though there is little doubt the fortunes for the nuclear sector have changed considerably.
There is no doubt that the Fairfax media has given fair hearing to the views of the Neocons on a range of issues over the years, though this trend is sure to rise with the new ownership of the organisation. But it is the Murdoch media empire which has given greatest service to the denialist cause, leading the way is the Australian with the Courier Mail. Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph, all papers still publishing daily articles on matters such as the climate hoax, the problems with renewables and just about any Neocon culture war you can think of.
Who are the journalists who propagate this material for public consumption and acceptance? Some of the notables on the current list of journalists is Bjorn Lomborg, Janet Albrechtsen, Greg Sheridan, Judith Sloane and Miranda Devine and Frank Shanahan who is the Australian’s religious freedonms crusader, linked to the Australian Christian Lobby.
Sloane and Devine are the culture war queens of the Australian, though with Miranda leaving, her place was filled by Janet Albrechtsen, who came with a glowing reference from fellow journalist at the Australian at the time, Tom Switzer. As he recounted at the IPA 75th dinner last year, “My boss told me he didn’t think she was one of us, I said, ‘I don’t think I am one of you either’!” Indeed. Janet, who is currently a director at the IPA, is an even better version of Devine, if that is possible, but with her intelligence and presentation skills, she has a long future with the cabal.
Sheridan of course is well known for has far right and pro-US views, including climate scepticism, but most credit here must go to their new journalist Bjorn Lomborg, who really is the unsung prince of global climate scepticism.
Danish-born Lomborg is a very interesting character, most would remember the attempt by Tony Abbott to establish a Lomborg Climate Centre at the University of Western Australia in 2015, though despite support from some, including the nuclear sector, his credentials as a self-confessed and prominent ‘environmental sceptic’ caused a public outcry and the project was abandoned.
He was the director if the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, until the Danish Government pulled its funding in 2012 and he subsequently set up a not-for-profit group with the same name in the US. It received considerable funding from ‘private sources’. Now with his job at the Australian, Lomborg can further his advocacy against the Kyoto Protocol and renewables. The nuance he brings is that he acknowledges climate change is happening but has a problem with the economic and political approaches to meet the challenge. This view point is being increasingly heard from some players and one we will be hearing more of in the future.