The ABC Rights a Wrong


No need just yet to hug your kitties and pups one last time. Climate change is still a mortal peril, according to the national broadcaster, which has admitted in one of its rare posted corrections that soaring temperatures and rising seas will take longer to kill Fido and Fluffy than originally thought

abc errorHooray! I’ve forced the ABC to correct one of its  howlers in global warming reportage. On September 2,  I wrote in Quadrant Online about Harvard History of Science Professor Naomi Oreskes and her forecast that global warming would kill everyone’s puppies and kittens in 2023, followed by the entire population of Australia. Admittedly, her book was supposedly written looking back from 400 years into the future, but as she put it, it was all based on genuine Climate Change Science ™.

Science Show host and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science Robyn Williams loved the pet-holocaust idea, saying:

“Yes, not only because it’s an animal but it’s local. You see, one criticism of the scientists is they’re always talking about global things … And so if you are looking at your village, your animals, your fields, your park, your kids, and the scientists are talking about a small world that you know, than it makes a greater impact, doesn’t it?”

 Oreskes responded:

Well, exactly. It was about bringing it literally home, literally into your home, your family, your pet, the dog or cat that you love who is your faithful and trusted companion.”

If you go to the ABC Science Show site at you will now find this correction:

Editor’s note: The original introduction stated that “Earth’s climate is changing at the highest of predicted rates, scientists have given up on the much talked about two degree ceiling …”  In context these words telegraphed the premise on which Prof Oreskes’ work of fiction is based; however, it has been interpreted as a statement of incontrovertible fact and has therefore been removed to prevent any further misunderstanding.

This is an almost-OK response by the complaints department. Timing-wise, the show was aired on 16 August, my complaint was on September 1, and the correction posted on September 23 — expeditiously by ABC standards. My only quibble is that Williams and the ABC still cannot bring themselves to admit publicly that saying “earth’s climate is changing at the highest predicted rates” is flat-out wrong, the opposite of the truth, whether or not the assertion is real or made “fictively”.

My suggestion is that, now the ABC has begun behaving almost like an impartial taxpayer-funded news institution, we should use the complaints mechanism on every occasion the national broadcaster  falls into error on climate and/or politics.  No one can now say such complaints will be frivolously dismissed or ignored.

My complaint read:

The introduction [to the Science Show’s Oreskes interview] says, “The Earth’s climate is changing at the highest of predicted rates.”

The IPCC in its final draft for its 5th Report, showed actual temperatures running below the lowest bound of the IPCC forecasting.

This graphic (re-produced below) was omitted  in the published report,tisdale graphic

replaced by this account:

However, an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 [modeling] historical simulations   reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations  [forecasts] show a GMST [global mean surface temperature]  trend over 1998-2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 [actual temperature] trend ensemble  ” Chapter 9, WG1, Box 9.2

In other words, actual temperatures are running lower than  97% of the forecast runs, not at “the highest of predicted rates” as claimed by   the Science Show.

I would like to see this false and misleading statement corrected on The Science Show.


Tony Thomas

The ABC’s reply  reads,

Dear Mr Thomas,

Your complaint has been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of content making areas within the ABC. Our role is to review complaints alleging that ABC content has breached the ABC’s editorial standards. These standards are explained in our Editorial Policies which are available here –

The intention had been to convey Naomi Oreskes’ view but having been alerted to your complaint, the program acknowledges that the sentence read on the website as an incontrovertible fact and have undertaken to remove it.  An Editor’s Note has been added to the page.

Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that these steps are adequate and appropriate to remedy the cause of your complaint and accordingly we consider it resolved.

Thank you for giving the ABC the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Kirstin McLiesh
Head, Audience and Consumer Affairs

I say modestly, no, don’t give me credit for this virtually unprecedented backdown by the ABC on global warming catastrophism. Credit belongs to level-headed sceptics everywhere  in what Shakespeare once described as “a naughty world.”

And, if I may say so, Long Live the ABC!

Tony Thomas blogs at

Obama’s Man Runs Cold on Warming

Steven E. Koonin (left), Undersecretary for Science during Obama’s first term, sees “climate science” as a tangle of arrogance, conjecture and dubious methods that cannot withstand the scrutiny of any reasonably sharp mind. His former boss remains an ardent believer

kooninPresident Obama is so convinced about dangerous human-caused global warming that he describes sceptics as ‘flat-earthers’ who think the moon is made of  cheese. Actually, sceptics include three astronauts who have walked on the moon — Buzz Aldrin, Charles Duke and Jack Schmidt — and four other Apollo astronauts. But let’s not quibble with the president, who claims to have the weight of the science community behind him.

Or does he? Dr Steven E. Koonin (inset) was Undersecretary for Science in the Energy Department during Obama’s first term. Koonin is sceptical about the alarmist case, so much so that he calls for serious independent reviews of the IPCC’s forecasts and methodology, along with a close look at other scientists’ prognostications.

He says, “A transparent rigor would  be a welcome development, especially given the momentous political and policy decisions at stake. That could be supported by regular, independent, ‘red team’ reviews to stress-test and challenge the projections by focusing on their deficiencies and uncertainties; that would certainly be the best practice of the scientific method.”

Koonin’s previous positions include professor of theoretical physics and provost at Caltech, as well as chief scientist of BP, where his work focused on renewable and low-carbon energy technologies.

Writing in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal on Saturday Koonin debunked warmism, saying it would be a long time before science could give validly  emphatic advice to the political community. The certitude of the orthodox climate scientist was not only misguided, he continued, but was distorting the debate on energy and CO2 emissions.

Koonin’s arguments are basically a primer of the sceptic position: Yes, climate is always changing. Yes, humans influence climate through CO2 emissions and other activities. Human activity may even have a climate impact comparable to natural climate variability. Koonin continues, “The crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, ‘How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?’

“Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%.

“Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.”

Koonin says that a second challenge to “knowing” future climate is today’s poor understanding of the oceans, which strongly influence the atmosphere. Unfortunately, precise and comprehensive observations of the oceans are available only for the past few decades; the reliable record is still far too short to adequately understand how the oceans will change and how that will affect climate.

“A third fundamental challenge arises from feedbacks that can dramatically amplify or mute the climate’s response to human and natural influences. One important feedback, which is thought to approximately double the direct heating effect of carbon dioxide, involves water vapor, clouds and temperature.

“But feedbacks are uncertain. They depend on the details of processes such as evaporation and the flow of radiation through clouds. They cannot be determined confidently from the basic laws of physics and chemistry, so they must be verified by precise, detailed observations that are, in many cases, not yet available,” Koonin says.

A further fundamental problem with climate science involves the complex computer models used to project future climate. “While some parts of the models rely on well-tested physical laws, other parts involve technically informed estimation. Computer modeling of complex systems is as much an art as a science,” he observed. The models require many assumptions to be inputted to ‘tune’ the models to reality, such as assumptions about cloud cover and past historical changes. “We often hear that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ about climate change. But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences.”

The latest 2013 IPCC report uses an ensemble of 55 tuned models. Konin points out that “the marked differences in their details and projections reflect all of the limitations”. For example,

“The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.”

On the halt in warming this century, Koonin says that although the Earth’s average surface temperature rose sharply, by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit, during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%. “This surprising fact demonstrates directly that natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.

“Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.

“The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

“The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that ‘hot spot’ has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.

“Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.

“A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.”

Koonin says that these and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not ‘minor’ issues to be ‘cleaned up’ by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.

“Yet a public official reading only the IPCC’s ‘Summary for Policy Makers’ would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that ‘climate science is settled.”

While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem, he says.

Koonin says that we can and should take steps to make climate projections more useful over time. An international commitment to a sustained global climate observation system would generate an ever-lengthening record of more precise observations. The science is urgent, since we could be caught flat-footed if our understanding does not improve more rapidly than the climate itself changes.

Because the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences.

“Rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.

“Society’s choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

“But climate strategies beyond such ‘no regrets’ efforts carry costs, risks and questions of effectiveness, so nonscientific factors inevitably enter the decision. These include our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity.

“Despite the statements of numerous scientific societies, the scientific community cannot claim any special expertise in addressing issues related to humanity’s deepest goals and values. The political and diplomatic spheres are best suited to debating and resolving such questions, and misrepresenting the current state of climate science does nothing to advance that effort.

“Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.”

Tony Thomas blogs at

Coal: there’s just no alternative!

“Ban coal!” demand those of the green persuasion, demonstrating once again that the gulf between warm-and-fuzzy thinking and real-world needs is darker than a candle-lit Third World hovel. As US author and energy specialist Robert Bryce noted this week in Melbourne, nothing banishes poverty like cheap, reliable power

kids with lightRobert Bryce at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne on September 9 might have been stressing the ‘bleeding obvious’, as business-press guru Terry McCrann put it in his thank-you speech. Bryce’s HV McKay lecture at the RACV was titled “More Energy, Please: How Increasing Energy Use Promotes a Richer, Freer World.”

It is indeed bleeding obvious to the sapient that there is currently no viable substitute for coal-fired electricity generation. But throughout the Western world other people are campaigning to ‘save the planet’ by shutting coal-power down and thus reducing purportedly dangerous C02 emissions.

Bryce’s energy analyses have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly and National Review. Texas-based, he’s the author of five energy books, the latest being Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong. Bryce didn’t discuss the merits of the catastrophic human-caused global-warming hypothesis. He just delineated the irrationality of draconian global and national targets to cut CO2 emissions, given the developing world’s determination to use electricity to lift its people from poverty:

“I’m a resolute agnostic about the climate issue. Tell me CO2 is good, tell me it’s bad. I’m bored with the nastiness.

“The question that too few people are willing to ask is this one: where, how, will we find the energy equivalent of 27 Saudi Arabias and have it all be carbon-free?”

He began by remarking that Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia have a total population of 400m. Since 1985, Indonesia and Malaysia have both piled on coal consumption by more than 5000%. Vietnam has increased electricity use by nearly 2500%; Thailand has had the world’s fastest growth of CO2 emissions at 603%. Yet their per capita GDP is still only $6000, one-eleventh that of Australia. “The residents of Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia don’t need less energy, they need more,” he said.

“It’s apparent to me from the levels of energy poverty and the continuing growth in global energy consumption, that the countries of the world, cannot, will not, ever agree to cut hydrocarbon use to the levels that the IPCC claims are necessary to prevent major climate change.”

Globally there are still more than 1.2 billion people without electricity at all.

Over the past decade alone, global energy consumption has increased by about 28 percent, or 56 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, that’s an increase of nearly seven Saudi Arabias. Total daily global energy use is now about 31 Saudi Arabias of oil production per day. About 21 Saudi Arabia’s worth, or 87%, is from hydrocarbons.

Despite the campaigns against CO2 in the past decade, global CO2 emissions have increased by about 29%. CO2 emission in the Middle East is up by 58%; Asia, up 74%; 
Africa, up 30%. But
Europe is down by 4% and US down 6.5%. The hard reality is that the path to electrification — the path to increased wealth — depends on hydrocarbons. Countries with cheap, abundant, reliable supplies of electricity can grow their economies and educate their citizens. They can build their manufacturing bases and export goods.

“The countries that lack electricity can’t. Period. Full stop,” he said.

Between 1990 and 2010, about 100 million Indonesians gained access to electricity – and coal provided more than half of that growth. Over that same time period:

Indonesia’s per-capita GDP rose by 442%.
Life expectancy increased by 8 years.
Infant mortality fell by 45%
Child malnutrition fell by 65%
Illiteracy declined by 77%
None of this is a coincidence. And yet, today the average Indonesian uses only about 630 kilowatt-hours per year. The average American uses that much electricity in three weeks, he said. The average Australian uses about 9,600 kWh of electricity per year — four times greater than the average resident of Thailand (2500 kWh/yr.) That’s eight times more than the average Vietnamese (1,125 kWh/yr). and fifteen times more than the average Indonesian (629 kWh/yr.)

Australia GDP: $1.5 trillion. Indonesia: $828B. Australia’s population: 23 million. Indonesia: 247 million.

“You have one-tenth of the people of Indonesia, and yet you have twice the GDP .Why?” Bryce wondered.

One clear factor is electricity use. in 2013, Australia generated about 245 TWh. Indonesia produced about 216 TWh. Electricity is a reliable proxy for wealth and wealth creation, as Bryce noted. “If I put a slide up here, showing the top 20 countries ranked by GDP and the top 20 ranked by electricity generation, the two columns would match almost identically,” he said.

Given the dire need for more electricity, it’s no surprise that Indonesia is building more generation capacity. Indonesia is planning to build at least four gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity.”

Texas has about one-seventh of Pakistan’s population, but four times as much generation capacity. That translates into wealth. The GDP of Texas is roughly $1.4 trillion. Pakistan’s GDP is one tenth of that figure: $138 billion. Pakistan is planning to build 15 new coal-fired power plants, with a total capacity of about 15 gigawatts. The new capacity is needed to alleviate dire electricity shortages and blackouts. Urban areas in Pakistan routinely have blackouts lasting ten hours per day; rural areas often face power outages lasting 15 hours per day. Shortages of electricity are imposing heavy costs on the Pakistani economy — as much as $12.5 billion per year, or 6% of the country’s GDP.

Africa is the dark continent. Why? Because it’s dark.

There are 1.1 billion Africans today. They use about the same amount of electricity as 35 million Canadians. The GDP of Africa is $2.3 trillion. Canada’s GDP is $1.8 trillion. Africa has 30 times as many people as Canada. And yet, Canada’s GDP is nearly as large as Africa’s.

“Moving beyond electricity, let’s look at natural gas and geopolitics. Ukraine is one of the poorest members of the old Soviet bloc and Putin and his band of kleptocrats want to keep them poor by making their energy more expensive.

Meanwhile, Germany has hitched its economic wagon to the Kremlin. At the same time, it has implemented a renewable-energy strategy that is crippling its economy.

Europe, needs more energy. More specifically, it needs more cheap energy, if it wants to remain competitive. But it is instead, largely doing the opposite.”

The global energy story of today is coal.
Since 1973, coal use has grown faster than any other form of energy. Indeed, in absolute terms, it has grown faster than oil and natural-gas consumption, and it continues to grow at a remarkable clip. In 2013 alone, coal use rose by 2 million barrels of oil-equivalent per day. That was about 50% more than the growth in petroleum and nearly three times the growth seen in natural gas last year.

Further, it was three times the contribution of ALL global solar.

“I’m adamantly pro natural gas. I’m adamantly pro nuclear.

But the global energy story is coal. And it has been the story for the last four decades.”

By 2018 or so, according to the IEA, coal consumption is likely to increase by about 12 MMbbloe/d. If that occurs, global coal use will total about 92 MMbbloe/d, or nearly 10.4 Saudis of coal.

If that occurs, coal could surpass oil in total share of global energy. “That’s a stunning development. The last time coal consumption in the US was greater than that of oil was in 1949.”

Coal demand is growing because the fuel is abundant, deposits are widely dispersed, supplies cannot be manipulated by any OPEC-like entities. And more than any other factor, it’s cheap. Between 1990 and 2010, about 1.7 billion people gained access to electricity. Of that number, about 800 million gained access due to coal, while some 65 million gained access due to solar and wind.

Coal will remain a major player in the global electricity mix for decades to come. And given that, we need to be encouraging the most advanced combustion technologies, super critical, ultrasupercritical and other techniques. The punchline is obvious, as Bryce noted:

“We cannot rely on renewable energy to supply the vast quantities of electricity that are needed to bring the billions of people who are now living in dire energy poverty in the modern world. We will need hydrocarbons. And lots of them.

And that takes me to the Big Fib. What is the big fib?

It’s the repeated claim by the big environmental groups and lead environmentalists that we can quit using hydrocarbons over the next couple of decades and replace them with renewables.”

Greenpeace claims that renewable energy, “smartly used, can and will meet our demands. No oil spills, no climate change, no radiation danger, no nuclear waste.”

Sierra Club has a campaign called “beyond coal,” another called “beyond oil” and another called “beyond natural gas.” has launched a campaign called “fossil free” and it is aiming to convince colleges, universities, and entities that have pension-type investments, to divest their portfolios of companies that produce hydrocarbons. They are welcome to push that agenda. But the reality is that renewables can’t even keep up with the growth in global electricity demand, much less displace significant demand for hydrocarbons. “That’s not an opinion,” said Bryce. “It’s a fact.”

Over the past three decades or so, global electricity generation has been increasing by about 450TwH per year. That’s the equivalent of adding one Brazil (which used 485 TwH of electricity in 2010) to the electricity sector every year. And the International Energy Agency expects global electricity use to continue growing by about one Brazil per year through 2035.

What would it take to just keep up with the growth in global electricity demand – 450 terawatt-hours per year — by using wind? The global wind industry would have to nearly match its current existing capacity in a year, and it would have to do so every year. That would mean covering a land area of about 240,000 square kilometers every year. That’s a land area roughly the size of the United Kingdom. And remember, it will have to do so every year. Put yet another way, in order to merely keep up with the pace of growth in global electricity use, the global wind industry will have to cover nearly 660 square kilometers, or about 11 Manhattan Islands — with wind turbines, and it will have to do so every day.

What would it take to just keep up with the growth in global electricity demand – 450 TwH per year — by using solar?

“Well, Germany has more installed solar-energy capacity that any other country, with about 36,000 megawatts of installed photovoltaic panels. In 2013, those panels produced 30 terawatt-hours of electricity.

Thus, just to keep pace with the growth in global electricity demand, the world would have to install 15 times as much photovoltaic capacity as Germany’s total installed base, and it would have to do so every year.

We have to move past the Big Fib and accept the reality that hydrocarbons are here to stay.”

Bryce says that iteration means innovation.
To improve something, you have to do it a lot. That’s true whether you are talking about a golf swing, a backhand in tennis, or manufacturing solar panels.

“Why did the shale revolution happen in the US? The shortest explanation is that the US is drilling lots of wells. Since about 1950, the US has been drilling an average of 41,000 wells per year.

Shale is the most abundant form of sedimentary rock on the planet.

Lots of other countries have shale. China, Argentina, Algeria, Canada, Mexico, and Australia have huge shale gas (and shale oil) resources.

But the rest of the world is a decade, or maybe two decades behind the US when it comes to shale because the US is drilling lots of wells.

With each well that’s drilled, the companies that do the prospecting are learning things and applying them to the next well. And they learn a little more, and they apply that learning to the next well.

The coal industry keeps improving its processes, cutting costs, because it has not just a decade of experience, but centuries of experience. It is iterating.

I’m adamantly pro-nuclear. But one reason why we aren’t seeing much improvement in nuclear technology is that we aren’t building reactors.”

Construction on the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, began in 1973. In 1988, work on the project was stopped. Bechtel resumed work on the reactor in 2007, with a projected cost of $4.2 billion to finish the reactor. The aim is to begin producing electricity at Watts Bar Unit 2 at the end of 2015. That’s 42 years from start to finish.

There are two other nuclear plants underway: Vogtle and Summer, in Georgia and South Carolina. They might be finished by 2018 or so.

“Thus, in the next four or five years, the US will finish five reactors. Over that same time, we’ll drill maybe 200,000 oil and gas wells.

And with each well, each iteration, the industry improves, just a little bit.”

Wind and biofuels both desperately need subsidies and/or mandates. And both take too much land. The power density of wind energy is only 1 watt per square meter.

“Here in Australia, you have roughly 30 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity. To replace that coal-fired capacity with wind, at 1 watt per square meter, would require 30 billion square meters, or 30,000 square kilometers. That’s a land area two and a half times the size of Greater Sydney.

“And here’s the kicker: because of the noise the turbines make, no people could live on that land.

“The energy sprawl that comes with wind has spawned a backlash in countries around the world.

“Despite what you hear from the wind industry boosters and groups like Friends of the Earth Australia, noise is a real problem.

“Biofuels? I’m a long time critic of corn ethanol. The fundamental problem with biofuels, besides the fact that their use means taking farmland out of food production and into motor-fuel production, is low power density. The power density of biofuels is fractions of a watt per square meter. The biofuel boom is over.

So what is the frontier for some type of disruptive energy innovation? Clearly, as Bryce observed, it’s in nuclear, solar and batteries.

“I am pro-nuclear. If you are anti-carbon dioxide and anti-nuclear, you are pro- blackout.

“I’m anti-blackout. I’m in favor of cold beer and air conditioning for everybody.

“But there are two key problems with nuclear: First and foremost: It’s WAY too expensive.

“Second, we aren’t building reactors.

“We have a multitude of promising designs – molten salt reactors, modular reactors, thorium-fueled reactors, integral fast reactors. And we are seeing new venture capital investment in the nuclear sector, with companies like Terra Power, NuScale, and Transatomic.”

The frontier area for renewable-electricity deployment will be solar and storage. If panel prices can be made far cheaper, and batteries get far cheaper, then the deployment of electricity to energy-poor economies will be accelerated.

Bryce is bullish on solar:

“I have 3,200 watts of solar panels on the roof of my house. I’m opposed to subsidies. Unless I am getting them.
Why did I put solar panels on my house?
 Because I got a big fat subsidy. The city of Austin paid 2/3 of the cost. The price of solar panels is falling dramatically.

Since 1980, we’ve seen the cost of photovoltaic panels decline from more than $20 per watt to less than $1/watt. The largest PV producer in the US, First Solar, claims that it will be producing solar panels for $0.40/watt by 2017.”

In a recent report, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected that solar will be the fastest-growing form of generation capacity through 2030. BNEF expects some $2.5 trillion will be spent globally on renewables. And solar is going to be the big winner. Asia alone will add 800 GW of solar PV. The US and Japan alone are projected to spend about $350 billion on rooftop solar.

“Thanks to the ongoing boom in solar, we will see a lot of iteration. Thousands of homes and businesses will add solar panels to their roofs. And with that iteration will come innovation, which in turn, should allow better performance and lower costs.

“Batteries are still too finicky and their energy density is too low. On a gravimetric basis, gasoline contains about 80 times as much energy as the best lithium-ion batteries.

“Furthermore, batteries don’t like extreme hot or cold and they aren’t very durable.

“We can store large quantities of coal, oil, and natural gas with relative ease. But our ability to store electricity is laughably small.”

Globally, people are now consuming 22,000TwH every year.

“If we could somehow collect all of the world’s car batteries – there are about 1 billion automobiles on the planet – and string them all together, the amount of electricity they could hold would only provide about 30 minutes worth of our global electricity needs.”

The global market for batteries is huge because the global market for electricity is enormous. Global electricity sales are worth roughly $1.8 trillion per year. Given the value of the electricity market, we will see lots of iteration in batteries, big and small. And as solar improves, as batteries improve, we will be able to bring more people out of the dark and into the light.

“Over the past few years, we have been inundated by claims that we are using too much energy. This is wrong. If we are interested in promoting wealth and freedom, we should be focused on providing more energy to more people, everywhere.

“We have to move beyond this single-minded concentration on reducing emissions to one which recognizes that energy availability is the key to human fulfillment and freedom.”

That cheap and freely available energy is the cornerstone of wealth should not have to be stressed. Yet today, as green nostrums dominant policy, hike electricity prices and bring the threat of blackouts, it is a near-revolutionary idea. Strange days indeed.

Tony Thomas blogs at

Amid the Glenn Beck Phenomenon

Glenn Beck is one of those conservatives that US liberals love to hate. When you see, as I recently did, how his words and ideals resonate with Americans in what leftists sneeringly dismiss as ‘flyover country’ it is very easy to understand why the left has declared him a public enemy

old glory mikeIt was July 5, the day after Independence Day. We pulled into the parking lot of a community hall at Dayton, Idaho (population 450), for an evening with religious-Right media phenomenon Glenn Beck. I opened the car door and we were buffeted by a pig-manure stench from working barns nearby.

We came from Logan, Utah, a larger town thirty-five miles south in the beautiful Cache Valley, bordered by purple mountains running north–south on each side, home to occasional mountain lions. My car companions were Mormons. So is Beck (and so are failed presidential aspirant Mitt Romney and 2 per cent of Americans). Two nights before we’d also been part of Beck’s audience, that time at the “Freedom Fire” pre-Independence Day entertainment at Utah State University’s football stadium.

This article is largely about Glenn Beck (below), the apotheosis of religious-Rightism, but it’s also about ways of thinking in middle America, unfiltered through the “progressive” media, where sneer is the default mode.

glenn beck

To a normally sceptical Australian, US religious-Right ways can be confronting. But the locals would probably view Aussies as unpatriotic, lackadaisical and sacrilegious.

Utah and Idaho are among the “fly-over states” of the USA, states beyond the pale for the east- and west-coast liberal intelligentsia. Utah and Idaho are two of the most Republican states, with 73 per cent and 65 per cent support respectively in presidential voting. The philosophy in these parts is patriotism, piety, states’ rights and bearing arms. Utah and Idaho are second and third-ranked (behind Kentucky) for gun ownership. One of my Mormon friends owns sixty guns (including muskets)—but he hunts and traps for a living.

At the Deer Cliff family restaurant, a waiter turned out to be a young son, a US Marine machine-gunner on leave. We chatted about deployments, machine-gun types and grenade launchers. I wasn’t sure how much to tip him.

As for Beck, he talked about ninety minutes at Dayton, delivering the most accomplished oratory I’ve ever heard. He’s been living off his eloquence for more than thirty years. My friends warned me he’d cry, and he did, at least six times.

When we entered the hall, two formidable black-clad police were off to one side. “Why are you here?” I asked them. “Mr Beck requested it,” one of them replied, deadpan. It turned out that Beck was using a table-full of historic mementos worth more than $1 million as props for extempore history lessons, and they needed guarding.

Aged fifty, and six feet two inches, Beck is homely and bespectacled. He wore brown shirt, faded jeans and suede shoes. He held the audience of 700 spellbound, me included. No Australian speaker of any persuasion gets even near Beck’s magic.

Beck is much loved in the mid-West, and last year he bought a family ranch at nearby Weston, Idaho (population 440). When he lards his speeches with prayers for crops and tales of his neighbour’s horse eating Beck’s grass, it rings authentic.

Most of his long speech was ad-libbed, but he may have cued parts of it from an iPad. No hired speechwriter could come up with such personal stuff. He began with a parable about his family life. He was building a small mountain home and insisted on junking the planned $1500 doors and matching cabinetry. Instead he scrounged a dozen mismatched $100 doors from saleyards, along with tired old dressers and vanity units. Beck was recreating the emotional feel of his grandfather Janssen’s homestead, built from odds and ends: “Nothing matched, but in a way, everything did.”

Janssen, he continued, was illiterate but a top machinist at the Boeing plant at Seattle—he used tricks to read the blueprints. Beck as a kid would do unpaid work for Janssen all summer vacation, feeding chickens, gathering eggs and cleaning out the coops. He slept in the hot attic with Janssen, who would tell Beck wonderful stories.

Beck then cut to the present, describing how on a hot night on July 2 he and his son (adopted) Raphe chatted about the day’s events—rounding up cows, mending a fence, chasing badgers, Raphe trying his first ride on a horse. “I kissed my son good night as he snuggled close by my side, safe, content and sleepy. As I lay there smiling, I reflected on just how much I love and miss my grandfather.” Here Beck cried. “It was at that moment with the help of the moonlight I could just make out my mismatched door.” Here we cried.

Beck painted himself successfully as an everyman. He knows how to connect with a crowd. In reality, his main home in Dallas is on two acres and has seven bedrooms, and his childhood was not idyllic. But Beck at Dayton was inspiring his audience with the good stuff from his family life.

With his audience captivated, he moved on to messages of religion, morality and patriotism. He read from original letters penned by Abe Lincoln, flourished a Puritan’s Tyndale English-language Bible, held up a bogus Swedish citizenship certificate issued to a Jew by Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest in 1944, and a violet star worn by less lucky Bible scholars in the camps. He also showed us the map used by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong to pick a landing spot on the moon—it was covered in Xs for unsafe and Os for safe. (His point was that Neil Armstrong’s success was in the wake of selfless preparatory work by earlier Apollo teams.)

He had the microphone used by “Tokyo Rose” (Iva Toguri) to broadcast to US troops. It turned out that she was actually a patriot sending them coded warnings of Japanese bombing raids, and was secretly giving medicines to prisoners of war in Japan. But she was scapegoated by the US press and jailed for six years. When he first told this story on his broadcast channel last year, he actually used that seventy-year-old mike.

Beck was pushing back against the liberals’ harping on America’s dark past. Beck acknowledges the grim episodes—indeed, in 1866, only five miles from Dayton, US troops massacred several hundred Shoshones at Bear River, violence exceeded only by the massacre at Wounded Knee. But Beck emphasises the heroic and benevolent traits in America’s story. Beck’s history adviser is minister and Republican stalwart David Barton, whom Beck calls “The Library of Congress in shoes”. Barton runs a case that America was founded as an explicitly Christian nation. He lacks credibility among academic historians.

I’ll fast-forward to the ending of Beck’s speech, skipping an hour on an emotional rollercoaster. He had an easel on stage still covered with a white cloth. He praised the global role and bravery of the American armed forces. (Why in daily Australian life are our own troops and veterans so invisible and unremarked?) He spoke of the uncertainty of success as the first boats hit the Normandy beaches in 1944. He said only one American flag survived the landing, the one on LST 493. Then he whipped away the cloth from the easel, and on it, in a gold frame, was that flag, with about a third of it missing, shot away. We all gasped. (I later found he’d paid $350,000 for it at auction.) Beck grew tearful. “I’m such a girl!” he confessed, and the audience laughed with him.

Beck’s final words were the quotes from Lincoln’s second inaugural, “with malice toward none, with charity for all” and Beck produced a bloodstained piece of sheet from Lincoln’s deathbed.

Then aides with roving mikes took questions. The first was from a woman nearly 100 years old, who said her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were all Beck fans. “Thank you for what you have done and showed us, for leading us and motivating us to think for ourselves about important things we need educating about to understand. Thank you!” she said.

Someone asked him when he would create a public museum for his historical items. He said when he had $20 million to spare, but it was slow going because he rated other charities higher priority, including charities based on loving children who are not born. The audience applauded. Beck, by the way, earns $90 million a year from his media outlets, even more than Oprah Winfrey.

On the other side of the hall, another woman took a mike. She had lost a son serving in Afghanistan, she said (here another tremor went through the audience), and she was grateful to Beck for his patriotic messages helping to unify her country. She had two copies of the book Lone Survivor signed by Navy Seal author Marcus Luttrell and she said, “I want you to have one of them.” Were those questioners pre-selected? I don’t know. But the whole hall was in a mood of inspiration.

Beck gave the proceeds of the evening ($28,000 gross) entirely to local arts charities, and didn’t charge either for his July 3 speaking stint at Logan. A year earlier, speaking at nearby Preston, Idaho (a metropolis of 5000) he raised $120,000 for local charities.

Beck has made foot-in-mouth comments in the past (much dwelt on by the media) but here’s a positive anecdote. Some 60,000 Central American children have poured into the USA illegally in the past year as a result of Obama offering amnesties against deportation—much as Kevin Rudd’s relaxing of border controls led to 50,000 asylum seekers flooding in here. Beck has condemned Obama’s amnesty, but in mid-July he organised and led a million-dollar relief effort for the interned children at McAllen, Texas, involving truck-trailer loads of food and toys.

It was heartfelt Beck, alienating some supporters who thought he should let Obama’s crisis fester. Mormons are by far the most anti-Obama religious group in the USA, giving Obama an 18 per cent approval rating, compared with 37 per cent approval by Protestants and 72 per cent by Muslims.

Another action example is that Beck, like many middle-aged Americans, loved Levi jeans. In 2011, Levi’s creative directors came up with a television commercial featuring teenaged males in Levi’s braving police riot lines, to the voice-over of poetry by Charles Bukowski: “Your life is your life, don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission … You are marvelous, the gods wait to delight in you.” Beck took the view that Levi’s was celebrating leftist rabble. He not only gave Levi an on-air pasting but launched his own US-made designer jeans, on patriotic themes and selling, online only, for $130. Levis quickly pulled its edgy ad. Beck’s critics overlooked the fact that Beck’s clothing profits go to his charity Mercury One.

The mainstream media is no friend of Beck. The Independence Day fireworks organisers at Logan invited him at the last minute as a ten-minute patriotic speaker. Several Logan councillors objected that Beck was too “divisive” for such a role, which became the lead story for the valley’s Herald Journal. The Journal painted Beck as a demagogue and twice in two days mentioned that Beck had got so angry on-air at his ranch that he once stepped outside to fire a gun in the air. The organisers responded by offering money back to any ticket-holder who objected to Beck. The day after, theJournal reported only three money-back requests. Then it ran a correction that even those three requests were unrelated to Beck.

As happens in small towns, we bumped into the Logan mayor Craig Peterson in the street, and he remarked that to have uninvited Beck to mollify three liberal councillors would have created a national furore.

At the event, Beck avoided speaking politically, apologising for every divisive statement he had ever made. The audience cheered his message about patriotism and unity.

The Journal led its report next day by saying that Beck received “an apparently warm welcome”—the first time I’d seen such an equivocal phrase. Running a ruler over the Journal’s report, I found there were twenty-three inches hostile, twenty-two inches “straight”, and under two inches positive. The Letters page and on-line comments ran hot with Beck defenders.

This slanted reporting is nothing unusual. On July 29, 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a guest feature by arts academic Alexandra Karl headlined, “Glenn Beck’s nazi exhibit”. She had probably never attended Beck’s show, as she named the venue wrongly. Her conclusion was that because Beck owned and displayed Nazi memorabilia, he was part of the Hitler personality cult and “a sympathizer rather than a critic … It reveals more about Tea Party sensibilities and Beck’s personal values than I dared thought possible.” She highlighted one allegedly Beck-owned souvenir, “a satin handkerchief browned with Hitler’s blood”. This was in fact a napkin from the meeting room blown up by anti-Nazi plotter Count Stauffenberg in 1944, and Beck didn’t own it, he’d borrowed it. He never claimed it was Hitler’s blood.

More to the point, Beck was showcasing two themes of exhibits. One set involved seminal Americana from the country’s struggle for independence and freedom, such as Abraham Lincoln’s desk and a Bible brought to America on the Mayflower. The other set involved items related to tyrannies, as a “never again” moral lesson. The Tribune defended the indefensible by saying that Ms Karl was merely a guest columnist, as though her piece had appeared in the paper by magic.

The highlight of Beck’s career is his “Restoring Honor” rally at Washington Mall on August 28, 2010. Beck’s purpose was to honour US servicemen, who he considered were being disparaged by liberals. American conservatives—including my Mormon friends—swarmed to the event from all over the country. Beck and Sarah Palin (who prayed for ten minutes) spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Monument. They gave an award to (among others) Marine Sergeant James “Eddie” Wright, who lost both hands in a firefight in Iraq but now teaches hand-to-hand combat at the marines base at Quantico, Virginia. The rally raised $5.5 million for wounded veterans.

The crowd crammed the three kilometres of the Mall. The size of that crowd was the political take-home point, so how did the media handle that? I made my own estimate by comparing an aerial picture of an MCG grand final crowd (100,000) with the aerial of the mall crowd, and got a result something like four times, or 400,000. CBS News hired helicopter-borne crowd-count professionals and got a curious result of about 90,000. Associated Press ran an equally ludicrous figure of “tens of thousands”. NBC ran an irrational number of “tens to hundreds of thousands”, while the liberal New York Times was too embarrassed to mention any figure and settled for “enormous”. Top estimate (Sky News) was 500,000. Beck joked that there was “over a thousand people”.

A month later, US progressives staged a counter-rally called “One Nation”. Despite unions busing in their members, the rally gathered a far smaller crowd which, unlike Beck’s crowd, departed leaving the Mall covered in rubbish. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin was the first person to notice that the rally organisers, which included the Communist Party of the United States, had later substituted, for their own rally, a picture online of the huge Mall crowd at the 1963 Martin Luther King “I have a dream” rally. The mainstream media didn’t pick up on that great scoop.

Beck has come to national fame from a troubled background. At eight he began self-training as a talk-show host by playing back his improvised radio shows. He went on-air for real at thirteen when he easily won a competition for an AM radio gig, and at seventeen he successfully applied for a weekend FM job in Seattle, to the surprise of his new employers who found that they had hired a schoolkid. By twenty-one he was on a salary of $70,000.

But his home life was mess. His mother suffered alcoholism and depression and divorced when Beck was thirteen. Her new lover, according to Beck, was an abuser. Mother and lover went out on a small boat on Puget Sound and both drowned. Beck, who was fifteen at the time, has claimed it was a suicide pact.

Beck moved back in with his father. Beck says that his paternal grandfather sexually abused Beck’s father, and Beck’s father was later abused by a series of carers, mentors and preachers. This made the father dysfunctional and unloving, but not a sexual abuser. “My family was a shipwreck,” he weepily told his radio audience.

Beck became an alcoholic and a drug addict, and says that he was high every day for fifteen years (allow for some hyperbole). His first marriage failed after producing two daughters. One suffered cerebral palsy. By the age of thirty he was washed up spiritually, a radio has-been, and suicidal. He was saved by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1994.

Beck met his second wife Tania in 1998 when she walked into the New Haven radio station to pick up a Sony Walkman prize. Here’s Beck’s description:

I apologize, but guys will understand this. My wife is hot and she wouldn’t have sex with me until we got married, and she wouldn’t marry me unless we had a religion. I’m like, ah, you’ve got to be kidding me! I’ve got to go to church for this?

The result was that they tested various religious creeds and settled on the Mormon faith. Their quest also brought them to militant conservatism. His polemical style, especially after 9/11 and the Obama election, took him to top rating at CNN, then Fox News.

He scandalised liberals by, for example, calling Obama an anti-white racist, which gave his opponents ammunition for a boycott of Fox advertisers. Beck and Fox separated in 2011. (Obama had butted in to take the side of a black professor, Henry Gates, arrested by a white police sergeant. Both Obama and Beck backed down.)

Instead of hawking his talent to a new employer, Beck created his own branded channels, with the motto, “The truth lives here”. These channels are run by his company Mercury Radio Arts, offering subscriber and streamed television, radio, publishing, stage and web content. Beck has also written twenty-two books, eleven of which have made the Times best-seller lists, half a dozen hitting the number-one spot. Typical titles include The Real America: Messages from the Heart and Heartland andCowards: What Politicians, Radicals, and the Media Refuse to Say.

His stage shows are his one-man-band tours. They are also filmed and run in 300 to 400 theatres nationwide, much as New York Met operas find a global audience via film. His movie Man in the Moon, with an historico-political message, sold out 20,000 seats at the launch.

Barely sleeping at nights, he arrives at work on any morning with enough philosophical, entrepreneurial and political energy to keep his staff in turmoil for a week. He tosses off hours of radio and television chatting and sermonising per day.

Beck’s a man to be loved or hated. There’s not much in between. I stayed nine days in Utah, survived a wine-free family barbecue, and, unusually, attended church on Sunday. I stayed with people who overtly take pride in their religion, their community and their country. It was just luck that I twice got to hear their favourite son Glenn Beck speaking and to feel his impact.

Tony Thomas, a retired financial journalist, is a frequent contributor to Quadrant.

We’re Doomed … Kittens and Puppies Too

If you have a bill of climate goods to peddle, as Naomi Oreskes always does, what better foil than ardent warmist and Science Show compere Robyn Williams? When flogging a book, it is handy to have a radio pal who has never encountered an alleged peril too silly to inspire a raised eyebrow — not even the mass extinction of household pets

Global warming is going to “wipe out” every Australian man, woman and child, according toNaomi Oreskes, the much-quoted Professor of the History of Science at Harvard. Revered by catastropharians the world over, she was a guest on a recent edition of Robyn Williams’ Science Show on Radio National.

The glum forecast is in her latest book, The Collapse of Western Civilisation (co-author Erik Conway). She is so globally famous that her previous book, Merchants of Doubt, about the great warming-denialist conspiracy, is now being made into a movie by Sony Pictures Classics. This film-to-be is being touted as the successor to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, which may be an ironically apt comparison, as Gore still hasn’t amended his flick to correct the nine howlers identified in a UK High Court judgment.

Robyn Williams doesn’t seem to have read Oreskes book about Western civilisation’s collapse, because its forecast of Australians’ extinction (at 464/1172 on my Kindle version) went unmentioned on his Science Show.

What Oreskes predicts is that some people in northern inland regions of Europe, Asia and North America, plus some mountain people in South America, wil survive the killer warming. These lucky ones are able to “regroup and rebuild. The human populations of Australia and Africa, of course, were wiped out,” she says, writing from a viewpoint some 400 years into the future.

I have to wonder: will some future Pat Dodson arrive and plant the Aboriginal flag on our climate-scoured terra nullius?

But Oreskes forecasts something much worse than the death by climate for every Australian human. She prophesises the climate deaths of puppies and kittens. One reader, she says, “started crying when the pets die, so I didn’t mean to upset people too much…I was just trying to come up with something that I thought people wouldn’t forget about, and I thought, well, Americans spend billions of dollars every year taking care of their pets, and I thought if people’s dogs started dying, maybe then they would sit up and take notice.”

I looked up that bit in the book, and found the Great Kitten & Puppy Extinction occurs in 2023, along with the incidental deaths of 500,000 people and $US500b financial damage. Oreskes writes,

“The loss of pet cats and dogs garnered particular attention among wealthy Westerners, but what was anomalous in 2023 soon became the new normal. A shadow of ignorance and denial had fallen over people who considered themselves children of the Enlightenment.”

To make sure no-one misses the pet die-off, she repeats it in a bold-type breakout.

Radio National’s Williams was delighted with Oreskes’ pet-panic strategy. He chimed in,

“Yes, not only because it’s an animal but it’s local. You see, one criticism of the scientists is they’re always talking about global things…And so if you are looking at your village, your animals, your fields, your park, your kids, and the scientists are talking about a small world that you know, than it makes a greater impact, doesn’t it.”

Oreskes responded:

“Well, exactly. It was about bringing it literally home, literally into your home, your family, your pet, the dog or cat that you love who is your faithful and trusted companion.”

As I type this, I look down at my faithful (but not always trusted) spaniel companion, Natasha, and let my own tears fall.

Oreskes doesn’t think she’s writing fiction. She told the admiring Williams, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, no less:

“Well, it’s all based on solid science. Everything in this book is based on the scientific projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. All we did was to add to the social and human aspects to it … and to ask the question; what does this really mean in terms of what its potential impacts would be on people and its potential impacts on our institutions of governance?”

Oreskes starts The Science Show by reading from her book. Be afraid:

“By 2040, heatwaves and droughts were the norm. Control measures—such as water and food rationing and Malthusian ‘one-child’ policies—were widely implemented. In wealthy countries, the most hurricane- and tornado-prone regions were gradually but steadily depopulated…

“In poor nations, conditions were predictably worse: rural portions of Africa and Asia began experiencing significant depopulation from out-migration, malnutrition-induced disease and infertility, and starvation…

“Then, in the northern hemisphere summer of 2041, unprecedented heatwaves scorched the planet, destroying food crops around the globe. Panic ensued, with food riots in virtually every major city. Mass migration of undernourished and dehydrated individuals, coupled with explosive increases in insect populations, led to widespread outbreaks of typhus, cholera, dengue fever, yellow fever, and viral and retroviral agents never seen before.

“Surging insect populations also destroyed huge swaths of forests in Canada, Indonesia and Brazil. As social order began to break down in the 2050s, governments were overthrown, particularly in Africa, but also in many parts of Asia and Europe, further decreasing social capacity to deal with increasingly desperate populations.

“As the Great Northern American Desert surged north and east, consuming the High Plains and destroying some of the world’s most productive farmland, the US government declared martial law to prevent food riots and looting. A few years later, the United States announced plans with Canada for the two nations to begin negotiations toward the creation of the United States of North America, to develop an orderly plan for resource-sharing and northward population relocation.

“The European Union announced similar plans for voluntary northward relocation of eligible citizens from its southernmost regions to Scandinavia and the United Kingdom…”

The ever-credulous Williams, instead of asking Oreskes, “Mmm, you’re smoking something good?” merely observeds that all of the above is “fairly shocking”, further wondering why it is only Western civilization that collapses, leaving the Chinese in charge. Oreskes gave two reasons. One, Chinese civilization is more durable, and two, authoritarian regimes are better able to deal with climate catastrophes.

It’s no surprise that Oreskes is a fan of our very own Professor Clive Hamilton, ethicist and leading public intellectual. In Collapse, she cites approvingly his book Requiem for a Species, in which he says that combating climate change will impose moral obligations superior to mere obedience to the law. Hamilton has also welcomed the prospect of emergency measures, such as the suspension of democratic processes. If you are as smart as Hamilton thinks he is, what need to take the views of lesser mortals into account?

Oreskes’ other Australian bestie is former Greenpeace International CEO Paul Gilding, of Tasmania, author of The Great Disruption. Gilding doesn’t quite forecast the extinction of all Australians, but he does say:

“I do believe it’s going to be catastrophic by today’s standards. Potentially, billions will die in famine, there will be conflict between nations, there will be a dramatic change in lifestyle enforced by a war-like effort in response…We should be on a war-footing…”

Oreskes seems to share the same authoritarian yearnings. She said last February that sceptic groups ought to be prosecuted via the Racketer-Influenced Corrupt Organisations (RICO) statutes that have been wiely used in the US to convict leaders of criminal syndicates for helping third parties to commit crimes. In Merchants of Doubt, she notes with approval how RICO, conceived to de-rail the Mafia, was later used to prosecute tobacco-industry executives for suppressing knowledge of health impacts.

Oreskes, the frequent object of Williams’ gushing admiration, — insists ‘no one’ in the ‘scientific community’ now thinks global warming can be confined to 2degC.

“Things that only a few years ago scientists thought were unimaginable, almost unspeakable, like a four-degree or a five-degree temperature range, now we realise we have to speak about them because that is where we are heading.”

Given there’s been a warming halt of between 14 years and 18 years, depending on whose charts you consult, it’s hard to see why her climate scientists are suffering such rising panic. The halt even seems to have penetrated Williams’ warm brain, since his next (excellent) question was:

Williams: How much sympathy do you have for the ordinary person who picks up bestselling daily papers and sees that there hasn’t been a temperature rise in 15 years, who sees that the IPCC is quoted as predicting that sea level will hardly change at all, that the temperatures won’t go up beyond two degrees and they are quoting all this stuff, as if (and you use the word in your book) people like yourself are just alarmists?

Oreskes: “Well, I have tremendous sympathy for the ordinary citizen…. We have been victims of two things really; a systematic and organised disinformation campaign … and then we’ve also been the victims of a tremendous amount of false equivalence in the media…

“There are hundreds of millions of people around the globe… who will say to me, ‘Well, I read in the New York Times‘ or ‘I read in The Australian’ and then they will spout some nonsense, something that we know is factually incorrect, and yet it has been presented in the media as if it were somehow equivalent to actual scientific data…The media has done a huge disservice by perpetuating what are really lies—lies, misinformation, disinformation—that ordinary people read and think are true.”

Well said, Naomi, except that you’re now calling the IPCC crowd liars, since they’ve acknowledged the 15-year hiatus. (5AR, Policymakers Summary).

Williams, or the ABC (the official website isn’t specific) introduced the Oreskes episode on the Science Show with a big fib:

“The Earth’s climate is changing at the highest of predicted rates.”

In its draft for its Fifth Report, the IPCC showed actual temperatures running below the lowest bound of the IPCC forecasting. This graphic conveniently disappeared from the published report, replaced by this account:

However, an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 [modeling] historical simulations … reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations [forecasts] show a GMST [global mean surface temperature] trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 [actual temperature] trend ensemble …” Chapter 9, WG1, Box 9.2

In other words, actual temperatures are running lower than 97% of the forecast runs, not at “the highest of predicted rates” as claimed by The Science Show. Expect a correction from Robyn Williams any day (as I’ve put in an official complaint).

Oreskes finished her interview by claiming, improbably, that some readers of her Collapse wanted her bok to be longer. She explains,

“We didn’t want it to be too depressing, we didn’t want to go on and on and on, like 300 pages of misery, that really wouldn’t be any fun. So we are sort of hoping that the book, despite the fact that it’s a depressing topic, it’s actually we think kind of a fun read.”

Apart from the dead kittens, she means.

Flannery Rattles His Climate Cup


Remember how the Climate Council was going to work pro bono to counter sceptics, deniers, carbonistas and all the other planet-fouling monsters in the warmists’ bestiary of evildoers? It seems volunteer efforts now come with a price tag


beggarMore than a million dollars raised by crowd-funding late last year was clearly not enough for the non-taxpayer-funded Climate Council. The Council is successor to the taxpayer-funded Climate Commission, which ran on about $1.6m a year. Hence former Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery now stars in an expensive-looking video for the Climate Council, rattling the can for more donations.

His goal, he says, is to counter the ‘unprecedented rise in climate denialism’ and respond with ‘the facts to call out these fringe views’. That’s why, he says, he wants urgent public donations “to support me and discredit deniers in the media”. Here is the full transcript of Flannery’s cup-rattling spiel:

“Right now we are witnessing an unprecedented rise in climate denialism in  the Australian media and politics. [Cuts to shot of ex-ABC chair Maurice Newman saying,  ‘I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence’.] Personally, I have never seen anything like it. [Montage of skeptic-looking press headlines]. Which is why the most powerful thing I can do is respond with the facts.

The Climate Council is the best placed group to call out these fringe views on all sides of the debate firmly and publicly. Which is why I am asking you to make an urgent donation to support me and discredit deniers in the media. It means we can add more capacity to our small group of staff and volunteers to rapidly respond  to misinformation in the daily media cycle with press releases, calls for corrections, fact based responses and briefings for journalists. We are at such a critical time, our action now will decide the kind of world our children will grow up in and as a father, this is what  drives me to keep fighting and this is why I am asking you to join me to make a difference.”

At first glance, the phrase ‘support me’ seems innocuous. He doubtless means, ‘support my cause’.  After all, Climate Council  councilors are working pro bono, according to Flannery last September. Notice him in the video below, gesturing to Climate Council offsiders Will Steffen and Gerry Hueston, and saying, “My two colleagues here, sitting on the bench –  three ugly mugs — we are volunteering our time to make all this happen.”

It’s an act of selflessness referenced on Wikipedia:

“In a YouTube video released on 24 September, Flannery revealed that the Council members were working pro bono. Flannery had previously been criticised for his $180,000 a year salary from the old Climate Commission.”

I am only a young-at-heart, perpetually naïve reporter for Quadrant Online, and it never crossed my mind that Flannery might be seeking your money for any but the most altruistic purposes. However, trolling through the Climate Council’s website, I came across this update (emphasis added):

“8. Are the Councilors volunteers or do they get paid for their time?
When the Climate Council was first set up, all Councilors committed to volunteer their time for six months, to ensure we could continue to produce authoritative, independent information about climate change following the abolition of the Climate Commission.

After the first six months, our Board decided that Councilors would receive remuneration for time spent on Council activities. This ensures we can continue to draw on the knowledge and experience of world-class experts to provide Australians with the best possible information on climate change.”

So there  it is. When Flannery asks you to support “me [Flannery]” he seems that he really does mean “me, Flannery.”

So what might Flannery be worth, or more correctly, what might he be paid by the Climate Council? As Chief Climate Commissioner, he trousered $180,000 a year from the Labor Government for three days work a week. Back-of-envelope calculation  and allowing for holidays etc, that’s $1300 a day.  And well deserved, too. As a climate celebrity/entertainer/all-round, world-class expert, he has entertained us with statements like,

The Australian Academy of Science was so impressed by these and other of the paleontologist’s climate-related revelations that it immediately made Flannery a fellow.

I admit, I don’t know what pay and expenses Messrs Flannery, Steffen and Hueston are drawing from the Climate Council. Nor do I know what percentage of supporters’ donations go towards keeping the councilors in the style to which they were accustomed under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd regime. But to coin a phrase, your donations are fungible.

I hate to be self-referential, but this Quadrant Online piece is exactly the sort of misinformation that Flannery needs to combat with crowd-funded ‘fact based responses and briefings for journalists’.

Tony Thomas is available for climate briefings at the Flower Drum in Market Lane, Melbourne, any lunchtime well-wishers care to pay his bill. He blogs

A Letter From Naples: on graffiti

A trio of vandals deface a crowded train platform, raising neither eyebrow nor protest from the Italian commuters who watch them do it. Australians have reason to admire Italian culture — the museums, the history, the gilded palaces — but let us hope such indifference is one aspect we choose not to ape

naples train smallYesterday I was returning to our nice flat in a very run-down part of Naples near Garibaldi Square, after half a day at the Naples National Archaeology Museum. I decided to detour via the subway system to Montesanto because my map insisted there were some nice palaces there. This detour proved a damp squib because those palaces had disappeared centuries ago, although their names remained.

Eventually, I arrived at the right Montesanto platform for the trip home. It was packed with commuters, as it was about 5pm, and the subway trains are not at all frequent, every 20 minutes or so. The platforms on both sides were  clean, but youths were using my platform edge as seating, dangling their legs above the tracks. After a while one of them,  in his late teens and with red hair, pale skin, a New York University sweater and baggy pants, stood up and joined two mates. One was thin but very tall, the other swarthy and clad in a camouflage top. They were all only a metre or two from me.

The redhead was clutching some tubes, about half the size of a relay runner’s baton. One tube was giving him trouble as he tried to do something with the lid. Was something edible inside? Apparently not, as I next noticed a wad of cotton fall to the platform. He put it back in the tube. I was standing against the station’s  light-green Perspex-style wall. There were dozens of other would-be commuters around me, some standing and others filling seats against the wall.

Still struggling with the cap, the redhead moved to a rubbish bin inches from where I stood  and ground the top of the tube against it. He looked pleased when something blue came out. He took two steps towards the wall, between the bin and the first row of seated commuters.  This was a wall gap of only a metre.

With practised movements, he waved his arm at the wall (I couldn’t quite see what he was doing), stepped back, admired the wall, and took a few steps to the left to rejoin his two friends. They all seemed quite merry and animated.

Someone moved and I could see the wall. Previously pristine for the whole length of the platform, on it now was one of those mindless ‘tags’ — the scribbled letters P,W and C, in a squiggly pattern about half-a-metre square. I now saw that at least two of the trio were carrying handfuls of these tubes, king-sized felt-tip markers.  They made no attempt to conceal them.

I looked at the commuters to see how they were reacting to the wall being defaced at peak-hour right next to them. They would all be fully aware of what had happened but they studiously minded their own business, and acted as though the trio of graffitists was invisible. The trio was clearly on a graffiti mission, and my surmise was that they had been active for an hour or two. Surely, I thought, some of those studying their smartphones would tap out an alert to the station police? Obviously this wasn’t happening.

At that moment the train arrived and those still sitting on the platform edge pulled up their legs.

I found myself sandwiched among the three youths as we boarded. Thankfully they moved down-carriage a bit. From there they kept up a loud banter. I tried unsuccessfully to work out from their talk if they were native Napoli citizens or just visiting. I did make out some variant on ‘chi uccide’ — croaker, killer, zaps or some other unpleasant jargon.

When I stood up to get out at Central Station, once again I was sandwiched among the trio. They ignored me and formed a knot in the crowds heading for the stairs.

naples train

A typical Naples train carriage.

Even now, at Naples’ main station, they flourished their graffiti tools of trade. They moved purposefully, I guessed to some other line where they would continue their evening’s fun. Whatever police or officialdom was present, the trio obviously had no fear of them.

I wonder about it all. They did not seem particularly tough or threatening, although that’s not to say the other train-goers weren’t intimidated: who knows what else besides giant Textas they were armed with? Or were my fellow train-riders utterly indifferent to vandalism on their subway, in broad daylight among crowds?

Melbourne also has its train graffiti vandals, daubing their horrid tags on platforms and carriages and rigorously scratching train windows into an opaque mess. I recall a case a year or two ago where three  such vandals were caught and prosecuted — they had come from Adelaide on a spree  — and in a week or two, had vandalised hundreds of places on our train system. They had operated late at night.

Let’s hope Melbourne never gets to the pass where graffiti vandals do their work openly.

Tony Thomas, frequent contributor to Quadrant Online, is jaunting about Europe, More of his dispatches will follow