The Renewable Energy Myth

It is beyond bizarre that activists prattle about freeing the world from the “tyranny of oil”, the most cost-efficient and convenient of all energy sources. The phrase makes as much sense as the “tyranny” of physics

oil windSmaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong
by Robert Bryce
PublicAffairs, 2014, 400 pages, US$27.99

Green-minded people hate coal, because of all its carbon pollution, as they call it. They also hate natural gas, especially the fracked variety, partly because it poisons water supplies and all that, but mainly because it’s so cheap and plentiful. Nuclear power? It’s straight from the devil. Ditto hydro power. So of course we must switch to “renewable” energy, that is, wind farms and solar panels.

Global energy analyst and journalist Robert Bryce demolishes such fatuous thinking. He is the author of Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper, an intriguingly cumbersome title for his fifth book on energy.

Bryce was a guest of the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne in September. As a cogent and entertaining speaker he is also a class act.

oil goodRead his book and marvel that the developed world is now spending countless billions on renewables for no rational reason. Gaining significant (as distinct from token) power from renewables is a pipe-dream. Bryce does the maths, and renewables add up like 2 + 2 = 3. Renewables are not a good basis for policy, as the Germans—the foremost proponents, with a third of the world’s nameplate (peak) solar capacity—are discovering. The German power grid totters towards crisis. Would you believe, 38 per cent of German “renewable energy” now comes from chopping down forests for firewood to burn in otherwise coal-fired power plants, medieval-style.

Bryce says he is agnostic about the global warming debate, and makes his case purely as an energy analyst. He foresees the cost-per-watt of solar panels falling steeply as global production ramps up, but notes that in 2012 solar was meeting only 1/625 of global energy needs. Solar and wind combined produced only 1 per cent of global energy.

The fundamental problem with wind and solar is their low energy “density”, meaning output per unit of area or weight. The newest GE jet engine produces 15,000 watts per kilogram and fits on the wing of a B-787. In contrast, a typical wind farm produces a puny one watt per square metre, meaning that enormous land areas must be set aside for the whirling blades. To hammer the point home, Bryce remarks that Siemens’s biggest wind turbine has 154-metre diameter blades that sweep an area equal to three times a soccer pitch.

Green enthusiasts are avid users of computer communications, which are surprisingly power-hungry. Planet-friendly Apple announced in 2012 that it would use solar to help power its cloud-computing centre in North Carolina. Sadly, to power it all with solar would have to involve seventeen square kilometres of panels, and this area would have to be completely bare of shadow-casting trees and structures, Bryce says.

Facebook is the Green youngsters’ tool of trade. Using wind-power, just to service the twenty-eight megawatts needed by Facebook’s Prineville, Oregon, data centre, Mark Zuckerberg would need to install twenty-eight square kilometres of wind farms—half the size of Manhattan Island.

US data centres alone consume 2 per cent of total US electricity, equal to the total electricity of the Czech Republic, or forty-seven times the total US solar power output. It’s not easy for smart-phone users to be Green.

Bryce really gets into his stride calculating what the vaunted (by warmists) low-emission world will require. For the US alone to switch out of coal-fired power and substitute wind power, it would need to set aside an exclusive area of the US equal to the area of Italy. Moreover, no one could live in that area because of the blade noise.

Switching from coal towards biofuels is even more absurd. Highly-placed and awarded US guru Amory Lovins has called for biofuels to meet 23 per cent of total US energy needs by 2050. Bryce does the maths and finds that would require as much US land as Texas, New York and Ohio combined, or three times the area of Italy.

Bryce’s narrative covers not merely energy but also the mainsprings of American innovation—about which he remains enthusiastic. This innovation is exemplified in the natural gas industry. Thanks to a myriad of factors including land-owners’ ownership of sub-surface resources, the American drilling industry enjoys economies of scale which lead to ceaseless innovation and progress, especially now in gas fracking. I had not known that the US invention of the roller-cone drilling bit (by the father of Howard Hughes Jr) made possible cheap gasoline and the auto industry.

Nowadays the drilling industry in the US spends as much per year putting down oil and gas wells as the entire rest of the world spends on so-called “clean energy”. Far from dwindling, US oil output in 2013 was up by a million barrels a day, its biggest rise since its 1859 inception. Bryce mocks claims about “peak oil”, which I have been sceptical of ever since I heard Labor’s Rex Connor forecasting in 1973 that Australia would see the last of its oil production in 1984. Bryce predicts that US oil production will soon match that of Saudi Arabia. Right now the USA is producing as much gas as the whole of the Middle East and Africa combined.

It is beyond bizarre that US activists prattle about freeing America from the “tyranny of oil”, the most cost-efficient and convenient of all energy sources. The phrase makes as much sense as the “tyranny” of physics or density.

As Bryce told his Melbourne audience, and spells out rigorously in this book, cheap electricity liberates humankind not just from poverty but—when morphed into information technology—from oppression. Would that his book could be put in front of intelligent secondary school students.

 

It’s Official: Warmism Drives You Crazy

Citing authorities as reliable as Australia’s very Clive Hamilton, a US author bares the depression and shocking psychological impacts afflicting climate activists whose warnings of imminent catastrophe go unheeded. For alarmists, blue is the new green

sad faceThis is from the Department of You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up. Reporter Madeleine Thomas (no relation), writing for Grist, has described how climate scientists are driving themselves into depressed states over their climate forecasts. One solution she suggests is that relieve their incredible stress by shouting out “F—k!” and other dirty words*. Her piece can’t really be satirised so I’ll give it to you straight.

The heading is, “Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist“.

The piece instances Professor Camille Parmesan at the University of Texas , who became so “professionally depressed” that she questioned abandoning her research in climate change entirely. But she soothed her anxiety by shifting from the US to the UK, where the grant money was easier to get.

The reporter emphasised Parmesan’s tragedy by noting that the distraught professor “shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007. Sorry, Madeleine, she didn’t.

In 2009, The Atlantic named Parmesan [note to self: refrain from cheesy puns] one of its “Brave Thinkers” for her work on how climate change is harming species. But despite these accolades “she was fed up” because no-one was paying attention to her catastrophism.

“I was really thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” the professor told the Grist reporter. Things are so bad that, whenever she gives a talk, she complains of having to devote the first half to persuading people “that climate change is really happening.” [For the past 18 years, it hasn’t happened]. She decamped from Texas to Plymouth University.

Reporter Ms Thomas moves on to say that climate change, according to the “new field of psychology of global warming”, is causing depression, substance abuse, suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder. She adds that Parmesan certainly isn’t the first to experience some sort of climate-change blues: “For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties.”

But for climate scientists “on the front lines of trying to save the planet, the stakes can be that much higher”:

“The ability to process and understand dense climatic data doesn’t necessarily translate to coping with that data’s emotional ramifications. Turns out scientists are people, too. Climate scientists not only wade knee-deep through doomsday research day in and day out, but given the importance of their work, many also find themselves thrust into a maelstrom of political, ideological, and social debate with increasing frequency.”

Climate scientists are trying to do their jobs, “quietly measuring ice cores, running global climate models and studying ocean acidification”, she continues, but their findings “are putting their own well-being under huge pressure.”

She quotes American anti-capitalist author, fabulist and globe-trotting climate-industry guest speaker Naomi Klein, who in turns quotes Australia’s leading public intellectual ethicist Clive Hamilton, whom Ms Thomas cites as a ‘climate expert’. Hamilton, she informs her readers, says that climate scientists have been ‘unwittingly destabilizing the political and social order’” by breaking the unwelcome news that mankind has stuffed the planet.

Ms Thomas also quotes a National Wildlife Federation 2012 report whose title says it all, “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.” The report’s author, Lise Van Susteren, a Washington DC forensic psychiatrist, diagnoses a “pre-traumatic stress disorder,” a term she coined “to describe the mental anguish that results from preparing for the worst, before it actually happens.” Ms Thomas continues:

“What’s even more deflating for a climate scientist is when sounding the alarm on climatic catastrophes seems to fall on deaf ears. ‘How would that make you feel? You take this information to someone and they say they don’t believe you, as if it’s a question of beliefs,’ says Jeffrey Kiehl, senior scientist for climate change research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. ‘I’m not talking about religion here, I’m talking about facts. It’s equivalent to a doctor doing extremely detailed observations on someone and concluding that someone needed to have an operation, and the person looks at the doctor and says, ‘I don’t believe you.’ How would a doctor feel in that moment, not think, but feel in that moment?’ ”

But if climate scientists would only loosen their famed objectivity, the quoted Kiehl says “such honesty would just provide even more fodder for climate deniers.”

Ms Thomas says that “ many climate scientists and activists” [tautology alert!] often feel an extreme pressure to keep their emotions in check, even when out of the spotlight. Activists suffer a big personal toll from having to keep mum about threats to the planet. One activist, Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is quoted on the dreadful emotional toll that being right about everything imposes on warmists:

“You don’t just start talking about unbelievably fast sea-level rise at a cocktail party at a friend’s house. So having to deny the emotional need to talk about what’s on your mind all the time … those are some of the burdens that climate-aware scientists and activists have to endure… and world governments still aren’t doing shit.”

So, Ms Thomas wonders, how does a climate scientist handle the stress? Her forensic psychiatrist,Van Susteren, offers several “climate trauma survival tips”.

“Meditation and therapy are two, as are taking particular care to reinforce boundaries between work and one’s personal life. But she also says being honest is just as important. ‘[Don’t] believe that you are invulnerable … In fact, admitting what you are going through makes you more resilient.’”

Ms Thomas continues,

Back in March, Grist’s Brentin Mock wrote that in order to really drive home the urgency of global warming and not just view ‘climate change only as that thing that happened one year on television to those poor communities in Brooklyn,’ maybe it’s OK, when appropriate, to ditch a very limited ‘just the facts’ vocabulary in favor of more emotional language. In other words, he argues that scientists should start dropping F bombs. ‘Forgive my language here, but if scientists are looking for a clearer language to express the urgency of climate change, there’s no clearer word that expresses that urgency than FUCK,’ Mock writes. ‘We need scientists to speak more of these non-hard science truths, no matter how inconvenient or how dirty.’”

In concluding her piece, Ms Thomas continues to score own goals with every line: “Climate deniers aren’t going away anytime soon,” she sighs, “but with global organizations like the IPCC reinforcing facts, like ‘the 95% certainty’ that humans are driving global warming, the research is sticking.” This time she quotes psychologist-psychosocial researcher and consultant Renee Lertzman, a member of the Climate Psychology Alliance.

‘There’s a taboo talking about it,’ Lertzman says, adding that the tight-lipped culture of the scientific community can be difficult to bridge. ‘The field of the psychology of climate change is still very, very young … I believe there are profound and not well-recognized or understood psychological implications of what I would call being a frontliner. There needs to be a lot more attention given to frontliners and where they’re given support.’

The first commenter on Ms Thomas’ piece wraps it up: “Thank you to the brave and dedicated scientists who have put themselves out there for us in this battle for the truth and have had to put up with sometimes even personal attacks from desperate deniers who are running out of other arguments. Should we win this and survive, let’s hope they are all remembered as heroes.”

* When it comes to shouting dirty words, climate scientists in Australia are world leaders. In 2011, they made a rap video including terms like ‘bitches, suckin’ d— in Copenhagen’, ‘shit’, ‘mutherf—r’ and
‘I’m a climate f——g scientist’. It should come as no surprise that their efforts were featured as ‘entertainment’ by the ABC.

Named participants were Tim Leslie, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW; Dr Jason Evans, ditto; Dr Katrin Meissner, senior lecturer there; Tristan Sasse, PhD student there; Prof. Roger Jones, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies; Dr Ailie Gallant, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne; Dr Leanne Armand, Climate Futures Research Centre, Macquarie University; Arnaud Tatin, Ecole Polytechnique; and Dr Linda Beaumont, Climate Futures, MacQuarie University.

Tony Thomas blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com

Patrick Moore Goes to War

The co-founder of Greenpeace left his Melbourne audience in no doubt that the so-called ‘environmental organisation’ is a not only an enemy of progress, it regards the waste of human life as collateral damage in its crusade to hector, harass and hobble all who oppose its ambitions

It was 1978. Young Greenpeace leader Patrick Moore, hair Afro-style, was interfering with the annual baby fur-seal hunt off Newfoundland. He jumped on a baby seal to shield it with his body but found it was, as he put it, ‘a tough little bugger’ who didn’t want to be jumped on. He hung on to it for dear life, his film crews’ cameras whirring, but was arrested and dragged off. Two sealers bashed the pup’s head in and skinned their little victim.

At least Greenpeace had its ‘mind bomb’ – the term Greenpeace used for irresistible media airplay. But when the film got to CBC studios in Montreal, it was exposed and useless, either by carelessness or sabotage. But the still photos made it into 3000 newspapers.

It was a bit hard to reconcile that Greenpeace warrior with the balding, conservative 67-year-old at a Melbourne podium last Friday. He quit Greenpeace in 1986 after 15 years as a co-founder, saying the organisation had become anti-science and anti-human. He now runs consultancy Ecosense Environmental as “The Sensible Environmentalist”, combating what he calls green sensationalism, misinformation, and pop-environmentalism. His Melbourne talk was sponsored by the Galileo Movement, and based on his book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout (Beatty Street, 2013).

Moore is not exactly being rushed by ABC interviewers, unlike, say, Green catastrophist Naomi Oreskes. He suspects his one scheduled interview appointment will involve a hostile host wanting to know about his Big Oil funding. (editor’s note: Moore was set to be interviewed by Jon Faine, of the ABC’s radio 774, but the host called in sick that day.)

In Melbourne, Moore began by narrating his small group’s original campaigns against nuclear testing on remote islands, with success at least against Richard Nixon, who cancelled the H-bomb test series in the Aleutians in 1972. The French were more aggressive, beating up a Greenpeace activist at Mururoa in 1973 and sinking the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland in 1985. Moore was on the wharf and dealt with the aftermath of the death of the Greenpeace photographer, who after the first blast ducked down to his cabin to get his expensive gear and was killed by the second blast.

Moore also helped organise various successful Zodiac-boat campaigns against whaling by Western countries, including Greenpeace’s sally down to Albany and Cheynes Beach whaling station in 1977.

His fellow directors were unqualified in science, whereas he has a PhD in ecology and environmental science. When they decided, against his advice, to campaign to ban chlorine, he split. “I told them, ‘Adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health. Most synthetic pharmaceuticals and medicines are made with chlorine.’ But Greenpeace had drifted away from science and logic, and its tools now were misinformation, sensationalism and fear, all designed to get public donations.”

Moore’s main campaign today is the promotion of genetically modified rice, called “Golden Rice” which involves added Vitamin A through beta-carotine from corn. Beta-carotine is a natural element of green plants and is even in wild rice’s inedible leaves, as distinct from the seeds.

He says Greenpeace is fighting against introduction of Golden Rice, which could save the lives of up to two million children dying each year from vitamin A deficiency. This toll is as bad as malaria and AIDS. “Greenpeace advertises with skull and crossbones as though Golden Rice is going to kill the kids, not cure them,” he says. “The reality is that 250,000 to 500,000 kids go irreversibly blind from the deficiency each year and half die within a year . These kids are in the poorest families who can’t supplement their ordinary rice with other vitamin-rich foods.”

A co-inventor of the Golden Rice, Dr Ingo Potrykus, has described the Greenpeace campaign as a crime against humanity that should be dealt with by an international court.

Greenpeace’s campaign is largely based on a supposition that Golden Rice is both part of an alleged Monsanto conspiracy and could somehow out-breed into other species and ‘contaminate’ them with the corn gene, Moore says. Even if that were true, would it be worse than 500,000 blinded and dying children? Moreover, there is no issue of price-gouging of the poor, because subsistence farmers would get Golden Rice seed free.

I checked the Greenpeace official pamphlet “Golden Illusion” and found it unconvincing. It claimed that the world’s poorest farmers should seek out a more diverse diet, but unassisted by any donations from Greenpeace’s bulging $400 million-a-year budget:

“The tens of millions of dollars spent on this project [Golden Rice] would have been better spent on VAD (Vitamin A Deficiency) solutions that work. Golden rice is simply the wrong approach and a waste of money. Golden rice diverts significant resources away from dealing with the real underlying causes of VAD and malnutrition, which are mainly poverty and lack of access to a more diverse diet. Indeed, it is a risky distraction from solutions that are already helping to tackle VAD and malnutrition more effectively without subjecting the population to unknown health risks.”

Cosmos magazine this year began a story:

The sickly toddler is about two years old. Holding the hand of her thin, ragged mother, her eyes are horrible to behold, just a bluish membrane where eyes should be. She is, of course, blind and will probably not live beyond her third year. Like 500,000 other children born in poor countries, her blindness is a result of vitamin A deficiency, a problem that could have been fixed by a diet adequate in vegetables such as carrots or tomatoes… But in the rural east of India, while rice is affordable, year-round vegetables are not… [After 22 years research effort] Golden Rice was trialled in the Philippines last August. You might think the trial would have been met with celebration. Instead a mob of anti-GMO activists, bussed in from the city but claiming to represent farmers, tore into the crop. Globally their actions were championed by Greenpeace and plenty of others.

Moore believes Greenpeace’s real motive is that success for Golden Rice would undermine its absolute position that all genetically modified food is harmful. Every major Academy of Science supports genetically modified foods to combat malnutrition, he says.

As a test, I checked with the Australian Academy of Science, and found that it had recommended on December 6, 2007:

Gene technology can play a role in the alleviation of malnutrition, enhancing sustainability and securing yields worldwide. Its potential must be harnessed. Sometimes, the lack of full certainty, in an environment of manageable risk, should not be used as the reason to postpone measures where genetic modification can legitimately be used to address environmental or public health issues.

Moore grew up in a community of foresters. He is adamant that the forestry industry is a force for sustainability because it depends on replantings, whereas crop farming permanently removes trees. In Australia, farmers are often afraid to plant native trees because Greens will find ways to prevent the trees ever being cut. Hence farmers plant pine monocultures instead of native trees that could support a whole renewable ecosystem.

Australia has the world’s most variegated and beautiful native wood but is a timber importer because of Green opposition to the forestry industry. Australia ought to be a world powerhouse for sustainable native timber exporting, he says. Greenpeace successfully blackmailed the 2000 Sydney Olympics into banning native timbers in Olympics infrastructure, enabling Sydney to use the slogan “Green Olympics”. The result was use instead of steel, concrete and imported timber.

Building on its Sydney success, Greenpeace in 2002 managed to control the Sustainability Committee for Toronto’s 2008 Olympics bid. The committee specified that infrastructure should shun wood, PVC and even cadmium and tin. Greenpeace seemed unaware that cadmium was essential to laptop and smart-phone batteries, and that tin was needed to make the Bronze Medals. (Beijing won the Games). By contrast, the entire interior roof of the Vancouver Winter Olympics speed skating rink in 2010 was made of native timber.

Greenpeace campaigns against native timber in buildings, even though timber would lock up CO2 emissions for years to come and encourage timber plantings. Instead, architects specify energy-intensive steel and concrete, he says.

He quotes the 2007 IPCC report,

“In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber… will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”

Moore says, “It’s a sad state of affairs in Australia, it’s not as bad in other parts of the world. Put 20% of native forests in national parks and encourage sustainable forestry in the rest. Do this for emissions reasons, even disregarding the employment and trade benefits.”

Moore makes fun of Greenpeace hypocrisy, instancing Greenpeace’s campaigning ship, Rainbow Warrior 111, which was built in 2011 for $US32 million and supposedly powered by electrics and wind in the sails. Its first mission was to protest at Holland building a coal-fired power plant to back up wind power. Not in video view was the Rainbow Warrior’s 1850HP Volvo diesel “back-up” engine, nor the main diesel engine.

He also expresses amazement that Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo had the brass to announce this month that there was nothing wrong with using celebrities “to move the agenda forward” for Greenpeace — even if the celebrities like Leonardo diCaprio happen to own lavish houses and private jets. Moore says such sentiments would normally be confined to closed-door internal strategy sessions, being so unethical and immoral.

He finished with a useful point: the only religion practicing good science is Roman Catholicism, while Anglicans are aboard the Greens’ bandwagon. Pope Francis gave his personal blessing to Golden Rice last November, while in 2010 leading members of the Pontifical Academy of Science reported:

“There is a moral imperative to make the benefits of GE (genetic engineering) technology available on a larger scale to poor and vulnerable populations who want them and on terms that will enable them to raise their standards of living, improve their health and protect their environments.”

“They are pretty smart guys, they’ve had some Nobel Prize involvement,” Moore says of the Vatican’s boffins. “The Anglican Church doesn’t have an academy of science; as far as I know the Muslims don’t either.”

The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stacked audit deck

TONY THOMAS

The ABC’s Stacked Audit Deck

To allay criticism of its science coverage in general and climate change in particular, the national broadcaster convened a panel to take the measure of its efforts. Well, guess who will be doing the appraising? Alarmists Jonathan Holmes and Fiona Stanley, and that’s just for starters

scaleUnkind people say that science coverage on the ABC is not up to scratch. For example, in October, 2013, Catalyst ran a two-part “investigation” called “The Heart of the Matter”. It promoted the notion that taking cholesterol-reducing statins doesn’t help heart disease. Watched by an estimated 1.5 million, the series may well have helped claim the lives of viewers who trustingly abandoned their medications.

The show and resulting outcry were too much, even for the ABC, which decided Catalyst had not been impartial, removed the program from its website and tried to set the record straight.

On the biggest scientific issue of all, the trillion-dollar catastrophic global warming conjecture, the ABC’s top science staffer Robyn Williams in 2007 suggested we are in for 100m sea level rises this century. Last August, the Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science thought it an excellent idea to give catastropharian fabulist Naomi Oreskes the run of his microphone. A fearmonger almost without equal, she seized the taxpayer-funded moment to warn that our puppies and kittens would be killed by global warming by 2023.

Well, all this ABC science tosh is going to be a thing of the past, at least according to the ABC. To that end it has set up a slightly independent “ABC Science Reference Panel”, which has been meeting this year in fulfilment of a promise made by ABC Chair Jim Spigelman back in mid-2013.

Just as the SMH and Age like to bang on about Fairfax Media scoops, my researches can be categorised as a scoop for “Quadrant Media”, as I have winkled the names of the ABC science auditors out of the national broadcaster:

Chair:  The ABC’s Board Member, No 1 ABC fan and bumbling climate-change eco-warrior Professor Fiona Stanley AC. For more about Stanley, see below.

… and the members  (drum-roll, please!):

Jonathan Holmes, the former Czar of Smug on ABC’s Media Watch (2008-13), who wrote in The Age last July that it was nonsense for former ABC Chair Maurice Newman to insist there has been no global warming since the mid-Nineties. That halt, the one Holmes declines to acknowledge, has now extended to 18 years, but charts and graphs and satellite readings, not to mention the IPCC’s po-faced admission that warming hasn’t lived up to its dire expectations, cuts no mustard with Holmes. No, as he wrote, “the climate scientists I know tell me it is drivel”, and for Holmes no more evidence is needed.

Adam Spencer, maths geek, ex-ABC Triple J comedian, ex-host ABC QuantumFAQSleek Geeks, and Breakfast on ABC Sydney Radio 702 (until last December). Affronted by climate sceptic Lord Monckton’s views during a July, 2011, interview, Spencer hung up on him.

Dr Jim Peacock AC,  Federal Government Chief Scientist 2006-2008, and ex-chair of the Academy of Science. His appointment must be some sort of ABC mistake, as Peacock has been favours nuclear power and genetically modified foods.

Julie WeberScience Teacher of the Year 2013, Australian Science Teachers Association. She looks OK.

Linden Ashcroft, program manager at Earthwatch Australia. She believes in the IPCC climate models, 111 out of 114 of which run too hot.

Matthew Bird, PhD candidate, paediatrics, University of Melbourne. Seems OK.

Professor Peter Høj, Vice-Chancellor University of Queensland and CSIRO boardmember with a background in biochemistry/genetics.  Høj this month heaped lavish praise of UQ colleague and much-quoted catastropharian Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg for defending the Great Barrier Reef against climate change. On the plus side, Høj was awarded a medal for services to the wine industry, so can’t be all bad.

Peter Yates AM, Chair RiAus (Royal Institution of Australia, a science promotion not-for-profit) and Australian Science Media Centre. A corporate heavyweight (PBL, Macquarie, Morgan Stanley, Crown, Foxtel, Nine, you-name-it).   Fireworks possible if Stanley, Spencer and Holmes try to patronise him, although an intimate familiarity with Robyn Williams may have inured him to supercilious smirking. Williams serves as Yates’ deputy chair at RiAus.

Getting back to Fiona Stanley, she’s been distinguished in epidemiology, paediatrics and public and Aboriginal health. But she earned deserved  ridicule for her ventures into ABC sucking-up and climate catastrophism. As the ABC’s chief scientific auditor put it last month, wearing her ABC Board hat,

“From the age of five when I was an Argonaut, the ABC has been a force for good in my life and work.  It has educated, informed, entertained and excited me for over 60 years.  It is a fantastic resource for this nation.

“Unfortunately,  many of us have taken the ABC for granted. My hope is that readers will realise how valuable our public broadcaster is and fight to save it from further cuts and harassment. 

“If you only read The Australian, or listen to the views of some politicians, you would think that the ABC is struggling to provide fair coverage of events, is biased in its politics and its science, and that it is wasting tax-payers’ dollars. Have you noticed that journalists critical of the ABC have started to call it ‘the taxpayer-funded ABC’?”

Heavens! Why would ABC critics note that the broadcaster is funded by the taxes of all Australians, yet has not a single conservative host or compere (with the possible exception a breakfast radio host in Perth, Eoin Cameron, who is a former Liberal MHR but anything but partisan in his presentations)?

Stanley went on to claim, wrongly, that the ABC was making do in 2012-13 on $825m when the fact is that it was allocated $1.22 billion. In the interests of fact-averse consistency, she also claimed that The Australian had demanded the ABC be privatised. Good thing that she’s not an engineer designing bridges.

“As a scientist”, as Stanley described herself, she believes the ABC is doing a great job, insisting it is “crucial because  we are poorly served by other parts of the media.”  The ABC’s new auditor continued,  “We are now in a situation where a major commercial news organisation [i.e. News Corp] is denigrating the ABC with a vicious, sustained campaign which is extremely damaging to our public broadcaster and to the nation.”

In April, she told Radio National that if we didn’t reduce global warming – time was running out –  then kiddies (as distinct from Robyn Williams’ kittens) would starve and sicken. “I’m not a climate change expert,” she gushed, “but I do trust the incredible scientific evidence … We don’t actually know if it is on the rise [warming, she means] but all the risk factors for it are on the rise.” Perhaps, in addition to rejoicing that Stanley did not make a career building bridges, we should also be glad she does not teach English and clear thinking.

The Abbott government was bad for sacking the Climate Change Department. Climate sceptics made her “anxious and angry” because they were dissing scientists and hurting generations as yet unborn. Such injustice makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, as the greenies’ Monster Climate Petition explains in its preamble:

“My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams, what did you do while the planet was plundered? What did you do when the earth was unravelling?”

Stanley was rested enough, however, to sign on as ‘lead petitioner’.

Spigelman, as author of the audit idea, is no slouch on law (ex-chief justice, NSW) and science history (co-author of tome on nuclear energy). He announced in mid-2013 that it was time to put ABC science coverage to the test, as per the ABC Charter for accurate and impartial journalistic presentation.

Spigelman said he’s not a climate sceptic. But he said ABC journalists needed “to hold scientists and technologists to account for their claims and conduct”.

“What I believe needs most work, is to develop our capacity to appropriately challenge scientists, not least those whose work is distributed by press release from organizations with a vested interest in favourable publicity. That includes, these days, universities [and Tim Flannery’s Climate Council – TT].

“I would hope we can further develop the scientific literacy of our news and current affairs staff. In this…  we must go beyond PR handouts, or what has been called ‘churnalism’.”

The panel, he said, would be set up to

  • Develop benchmarks against which to judge ABC science coverage
  • Take as a litmus test 10 major ABC science stories in the past year and judge their breadth and depth (I hope the statins scare and the kittens-and-puppies stories got up).

After the panel reports, it will then run a private symposium with ABC staff on science coverage. The ABC will then issue a public report on the whole exercise. Later, other non-science ABC subject areas will get similar scrutiny, using the ‘quality reference panel’ idea. (Might I suggest the ABC’s political coverage is a topic brimming with potential?).

Spigelman told the Academy, loftily, that science reporters were a dying breed outside the ABC, whose Robyn Williams and Karl Kruszelnicki were paragons. ABC science coverage stands “head, shoulders, thorax and abdomen”  above other broadcasters, he boasted. Kruszelnicki, by the way, claimed last year that global warming since 1997 was six times more than the British Met Office had calculated, then compounded that monumental falsehood by abusing Andrew Bolt for getting the figure correct.

Spigelman said “impartiality” included  giving opportunities over time for key points of contentious issues to be covered, but ‘balance’ involved following the weight of evidence on topics such as climate change.  He finished with a tongue-in-cheek tribute to our local News Corp headline writers: “Primarily because of the expansion of the News Corporation internationally, Australian sub-editors have made a disproportionate contribution to the punch of tabloid newspapers, particularly in London and New York.”

Meanwhile, I can hardly wait to read Professor Stanley’s criticisms of the ABC. Fiona, don’t hold back! (Hire her as your  next conference speaker, $15,000 minimum)

Shooting Santa to Save the World

TONY THOMAS

Shooting Santa to Save the World

If you ever doubted that warmism endorses a preening, totalitarian disdain for the lives and rights of others, take up a copy of “Climate Change” by graphic novelist Philippe Squarzoni, who imagines how virtuous it would be to go berserk with an assault rifle in a shopping mall. And yes, he’s not joking

smoking gunA top scientist of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Jean Jouzel, is lauding a comic publication which has the heroine gunning down three Santa Clauses in a supermarket with a military assault rifle. The realistically-drawn massacre in Climate Changed by Philippe Squarzoni (Abrams, New York 2014) is meant to symbolise the need to reduce consumerism and CO2 emissions.

The book was written a year before the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall massacre in September, 2013, in which gunmen killed or wounded 240 people in the name of Islam. But the fictional massacre in the cause of reducing CO2 emissions is retained in this year’s English translation.

The book, 480 pages and 1.2kg, is in the ‘graphic novel’ genre, now a serious literary form. The book won the Jury Prize at the Lyon Graphic Novel Festival in 2012. (A graphic novel, Maus, by New Yorker cartoonist Art Spigelman,  won a Pulitzer in 1992).

In the massacre sequence, Camille, the  beautiful partner of the comic’s hero, Squarzoni himself, arrives at the “Nuclear Power Christmas Market” with what looks like a Belgian FN assault rifle slung over her shoulder.

The next frame (below) shows her in the supermarket aisle amid shopping trolleys, lifting the sights to her face.

santa must die1

The caption reads: “Today, choice about energy issues has been stolen from the people. The decisions are all in the hands of politicians or big multinationals. Economic motivations prevail over environmental needs.”

Frame three (below) shows she is sighting on three men in Santa costumes, one holding bottles of Coca-Cola, and another taking a gift-wrapped parcel from a shelf. The caption: “We produce more so we can consume more.”

santamustdie2

Next frames,  she opens fire and the Santas scream in death agonies as bullets rip into their bodies, with blood spattering. She continues firing as they start collapsing to the ground, while a stream of  ejected shellcases tumble in the foreground and Cokes and Christmas parcels fly  in the air. One Santa lifts his right hand as if to shield himself.

Their suits are riddled with bullets and gore continues to spout. The bland caption for this bloody mayhem reads: “On the demand side, it’s up to individuals, households, and local communities to evaluate their own needs themselves, with an eye to conservation.”

The final frame shows shows Camille and author Squarzoni standing over the corpse of one Santa, Camille still training her rifle on him. The caption reads: “Making conservation a positive factor in the future would require a huge change in political direction.”

Their couple’s massacre is not followed by any repercussions as the book goes on to lament the Copenhagen summit failure and excoriate “climate deniers”, who are drawn as dung beetles pushing a ball of excreta with their hind legs.

The IPCC’s Jouzel has been

  • A vice-chair of the IPCC’s prestigious Working Group 1 (“The Physical Science Basis”) since 2008.
  • A drafting author, WG1 Summary for Policy-Makers of the 5th IPCC report
  • Review editor, sea level chapter, 5th report.
  • Bureau member, WG1, 4th report, 2007.
  • A drafting author, Summary for Policy-Makers, WG1 4th report.
  • Lead author, WG1, 4th report
  • Review editor, Paleoclimate chapter, 4th report.
  • French expert delegate to the IPCC 2nd and 3rd reports.

On the book’s back cover,   Jouzel writes,

“What a marvellous way to convey the knowledge accumulated by our scientific community … I am truly admiring of Philippe Squarzoni’s great scholarship on all facets of the climate problem…An extremely well-documented work – which is, of course, essential for the perception of the message that it delivers. But its principal merit is, in fact, in the quality of the narrative and the art.”

Earlier, the book’s Santa figures personify fossil-fuel use and smoke British American Tobacco cigarettes.

Author  Squarzoni damns sceptics as “relying on scientists who worked for the tobacco industry in the 1980s to put the science in doubt.” This theme is similarly promoted by Naomi Oreskes in her 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, now being made into a Hollywood film by Sony as something of a sequel to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

I googled for IPCC climate scientists who have taken  benefits from Big Tobacco. Who should  turn up after five minutes but Squarzoni’s guru, Jean Jouzel himself,  a recipient of a 1992 climatology prize from  the Philip Morris tobacco corporation.

It gets better, or worse. Squarzoni’s second-ranked advisory source is Herve Le Treut, a coordinating lead author in the 5th IPCC report. It’s taxing my schoolboy French, but under his “Prix et distinctions”, one notices, “Prix Philip Morris (1992)”.  Merde, alors!

Nature complained in April, 2001, that the German arm of Philip Morris had been awarding annual research prizes since 1983 without controversy: Around 100 researchers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have received the Philip Morris prize…,” it noted. “This year’s winners, announced last week, each take home around US$100,000.”

Even if not identical, the Philip Morris Prizes that went to Jouzel and Le Treut clearly had a family connection to the US$100,000 Philip Morris Prizes offered in the German context.

Jouzel blurbs about the comic book, “Great scholarship on all facets of the climate problem…a true feast”. The book  extensively features Jouzel as a talking head and wise dispenser of IPCC scientific platitudes. He is described on the front and back covers and in the source-list as sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — which is flat-out wrong as the IPCC itself in late 2012 banned members from making such claims:

“The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.” Pulp the book, publisher.

The book’s narrative is how Squarzoni educates himself about climate by interviewing nine experts, who broadly compete to push catastrophism. Three are IPCC sorts. Another three, for some reason, are all eco-economists associated at a high level with a French group called ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens).   To only select three economists of that ilk is bizarre. Another of the artist’s talking heads is an eco-journalist with Le Monde, the author of European best-seller  How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth.  The eighth source is a French nuclear industry scientist (France gets three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear). The ninth source is a corker, Helene Gassin, who ran Greenpeace Energy campaigns in France for eight years. In 2001 her activists scaled the Exxon Mobil building in Paris during rush hour, and Gassin announced, “Greenpeace is going to give warnings in the entire world to companies who support this [anti-Kyoto] decision.”

The book contains almost 100 pages of talking-head advice from these impartial sources. Unusually for a comic, the book has a comprehensive index so that its, ahem, “science” can be easily looked up, e.g. “ice melting, acceleration of, 113, 200-203”.

Under “climate change, denial of, 414-19” we discover that the Melting-Himalaya-Glaciers howler in IPCC 2007 was “the only [error] in the 3000 page report” (the truth: nine errors on that single page alone!) and that it came from a mere typo,  the year “2035” for the glaciers all to melt, instead of “2350”.

IPCC chief Pachauri and UN boss Ban Ki-Moon hardly called in the auditors (the InterAcademy Council) on the basis of one typo in its 3000-page report.

This reality was this: The IPCC took the year 2035 correctly, but unwisely, from a popular Indian science magazine which had done the inverting of 2350 to 2035, and invented and garbled its own material. The IPCC also pretended its source was a WWF report (also garbled) and not the magazine. The IPPC page and its genesis were a mockery of science and scientific rigor.

The porkies in Climate Changed follow thick and fast. The IAC, the author claims, “concluded that the work methods were solid and the conclusions of the IPCC were correct.” In fact the IAC concluded there were significant shortcomings in every major step of the IPCC process. (p13). It also said at the outset that the report “does not examine climate change science or the validity of its representation in the assessment reports.”

We also discover that Climategate’s famous ‘trick’ email of Phil Jones was just a method of splicing proxy and real temperature data “to make the results more accurate”.  In fact, the infampous ‘trick’s’ purpose was to conceal that the proxy series was worthless.

Climategate, Squarzoni concludes, was a smear campaign, “just a series of trumped-up scandals, slander and false accusations.”  He scoffs at a supposed internet myth that global warming stopped in 1998, and says it arose by comparing a hot year 1998 with a cool one in 2008. (The IPCC people now acknowledge the 15-18 year halt and are arguing about what’s caused it).

Among these 480 pages one finds every example of green zealot mythology. I’ll cite just one: the magical ‘climate refugees’. The index helpfully takes one to page 239, where it is stated that 250 million people could be victims of coastal flooding and 60 million could migrate from arid zones by 2020 (hey, we’re nearly there!). The cartoon frame shows a line of climate refugees trudging forward with bundles on their backs.

A boatload of people departs from a tropical island: “From the Maldives to Kiribati to the Carteret Islands, people are already fleeing the rising sea level” [no they’re not, Maldives is building long-term tourist infrastructure]. “It is estimated that there are already 25 to 50 million eco-refugees fleeing from drought, hurricanes [huh?], floods…and their migration is accelerating,” the comic insists. The frame shows an Arab-looking climate refugee sheltering under an umbrella from global warming.

What seems like 150 pages of frames are authorial self-indulgence, showing Squarzoni himself agonizing over his personal task to save the planet. He gets offered a trip to Laos for an artist’s residency, but this will add to jet-trail pollution. After soul-tearing deliberation across many pages, he rejects the trip. The epiphany of Saint Squarzoni is marred by his incidental jet-setting here and there, including sight-seeing to New York.

Being the product of French intellectuals, perhaps the book’s conclusion  — that Western democracies must be  transformed into a Greens’ playground — is no surprise. The French, it must be remembered, also regard Jerry Lewis as a comedic genius..

The author’s cited sources think  Al Gore’s  emission-cutting prescriptions don’t go far enough. One of Squarzoni’s quoted sages, journalist Herve Kempf, chin resting on right fist, intones, “People like Al Gore are very sincere. Their knowledge and concern are real. But all they promise as a solution is “green recovery”; new technology, hybrid cars and so on…” Even Obama is a green wimp: he “stays within the ideology of economic growth, and that will not resolve the problem.”

Squarzoni concludes lugubriously, “At the end of the day, climate skeptics were able to undermine the [Copenhagen] consensus on global warming.”

In technical skill, Squarzoni’s illustrations are first-rate, drawing on cinematic and advertising styles while avoiding formulaic Manga-style visual cliches.  Publisher  Abrams — “The art of books since 1949” –  meant well. Its blurb says of the book: “This groundbreaking work provides a realistic, balanced view of the magnitude of the crisis that An Inconvenient Truth only touched on.” It adds, “Climate Changed is printed on FSC-certified paper from responsibly-managed, environmentally-sound sources.” But Abrams could hardly say no Santas were hurt in production of the book.

UPDATE (it gets worse): Climate Changed New York publisher Abrams has issued a “Teacher’s Guide to Climate Changed for 15-18 year olds. It was written in June, 2014, by  Peter Gutierrez, curriculum developer and graphic novels expert for the US National Council of Teachers of English.

The guide does not discuss whether the supermarket Santa slaughter offers a role model for armed American teenagers. The guide begins:

“Philippe Squarzoni’s  rigorous presentation of the relevant science and thoughtful reflection on the implications for policy, both public and personal, allow teachers to integrate economic, political, and individual responses to the realities of climate change that students will experience in their lifetime. 

“The fact that Climate Changed is also a highly expressive work of graphic nonfiction rich in text features, and thoroughly capable of functioning as a primary and secondary source, make it an optimal text for students at various levels …

“For your convenience, this guide is aligned with the Common Core  [US] State Standards (CCSS), specifically the ‘Literacy in Science & Technical Subjects’ strand, and the framework of thematic standards of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).”

In the questions for students, the first is,  “What convincing evidence exists for anthropogenic climate change?”

Students are asked to evaluate “which evidence is most compelling, and why?” On p429, the comic’s captions say:

“Over the last two decades, the world has experienced the hottest years since 1880. The summer melting of the Arctic ice packs happened 40% faster than predicted. Greenland’s glaciers and the Antarctic are also melting so fast that even specialists in these regions are surprised…

“2008: Hottest October Ever Recorded. We’re probably approaching that level of warming, the 3.6 to 5.4 Degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 3 Degrees Centigrade), where the tipping points are. Climate High Alert…that we’re better off not approaching.” 

The final frame shows a cauldron boiling under a fire.

Next question – somewhat loaded:

“How do the experts represented in the book consider, and refute, evidence for counterarguments?”

Another question:

“How might the lack of scientific understanding among the general public contribute to unfounded optimism (e.g., climate change will be far in the future—there will be tech solutions by then), often through the manipulation of data (p. 416)?”

That page refers to ‘trumped-up’ Climategate scandals, the skeptics’ ‘smear campaign’ creating public doubt, and skeptics deceiving the public about temperatures halting in 1998. The guide finishes with an essay question:

“ According to the author, how does media coverage of climate change, including its current consequences,hamper the ability of societies to take necessary steps?”

Teachers are then told:

“Answers will vary. Examples include the gradualness/ distribution of climate-related deaths (pp. 250–51) as well as the “shoddy journalism” shown during the so-called “climategate” incident (pp. 418–19)”

The comic’s says on page 250:

“Global warming causing 300,000 deaths per year” including, curiously, in Vietnam. The captions say, with intended irony, “The victims of climate change die slowly, one after another – no drama, no media coverage – scattered over the whole year over the whole planet. If only they had the good sense all to die on the same day, like the victims of the 2004 tsunami, that would catch our attention.”

A few of the questions in the teacher’s guide are reasonable, e.g.

  • “Consider this statement: “The beginning of the end of the world is beginning” (p. 304). Does it belong in a book about science? Does it make the discussion more authentic and/or state clearly what’s at stake in terms of climate change? Does Squarzoni sufficiently prove this point? Why or why not?”

and

  • “Does writing from the perspective of a French citizen enhance or undermine the author’s critique of the ‘American way of life’? Do you detect any cultural or political biases in the book? Support your opinion with relevant text evidence.”

Tony Thomas blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com

Fight begins for top IPCC job

 

 

 

By Tony Thomas

Belgium’s Jean-Pascal van Ypersele 57, has thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Rajendra Pachauri 74, as chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Given the trillion-dollar global commitments to CO2 emissions reduction, the IPCC chair position would rank as one of the world’s most powerful.

Dr Ypersele will be a strong candidate, having served as one of the IPCC’s three vice-chairs since 2008, and with almost 20 years in IPCC roles.

The election will be at the 42nd session of the IPCC, probably in September-October next year, location yet to be decided.

IPCC headquarters in Geneva confirmed Ypersele’s nomination by email to me last night. Under IPCC rules, rival nominations are required within six months of the 42nd session.

Ypersele is a physics PhD whose research was on the effect of global warming on Antarctic sea ice – an interesting topic as right now Antarctic sea ice is at a record extent for the satellite era. (Ypersele tweeted on October 7: Scientists explain why record-high Antarctic sea ice doesn’t mean global warming isn’t happening”). He later specialised in climate modelling. He was a lead author for the third IPCC report,   and for the fourth report chaired plenaries for the three Working Groups.

Ypersele’s fellow Vice-Chairs are Ismail Elgizouli (Sudan) and Hoesung Lee (Korea). They cannot stand again for Vice-Chairs but could stand against Ypersele for Chair.

Even for the IPCC, the prospect of being chaired by a Sudanese (with an M.Sc.) might be a bridge too far. But Hoesung Lee if he stands would be a   heavyweight. Elected vice-chair in 2008, he’s been a president of the International Association for Energy Economics, and a director of Hyundai and Korea Petroleum Development Corporation. It wouldn’t hurt his chances that his compatriot Ban Ki-Moon runs the UN.

 

 

Pachauri, an economics and industrial engineering PhD, was voted in as chair in 2002, after five years   as vice-chair of the IPCC’s Asian bloc. He won the Chair by 76-49 votes against the incumbent, Robert Watson, whose roles included work with NASA, the World Bank, the White House, and the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall climate centre. Watson was chasing a second term but was opposed by the George W Bush administration and, allegedly, ExxonMobil.

The IPCC’s shared Nobel Peace Prize of 2007 gave Pachauri such prestige that he was re-elected by acclamation in 2008. Current IPCC rules bar him from a third term.

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) audit of the IPCC in 2010 emphasised four times that the Chair should serve only a single term. But the IPCC Panel (i.e. general assembly) in 2012 declined to make the recommendation retrospective, allowing Pachauri’s second term to run to completion.

Other top IPCC slots are now also limited to one term in the same position, but the IPCC has retained the power to make individual exceptions.

Voting for the Chair is by secret ballot on a one-country/one-vote system for the 194 IPCC members. The US vote is worth no more than the vote of Vanuatu.

This could make for some vigorous factional manoevres. A win requires a simple majority. If no majority occurs on the first voting round, the top two candidates are put to a run-off vote.

The chair position is voluntary (as are all the elected and co-opted roles) but the job drips with prestige. Pachauri has picked up The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold & Silver Star (Japan); the Aztec Eagle (Mexico); La Legion D’Honneur (France); Commander of the White Rose of Finland; and India’s second-highest civilian honor the Padma Vibhushan.

Pachauri’s biggest moment was being handed the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize (shared with Al Gore), as figurehead of the IPCC. To be fair, Pachauri asked the first IPCC chair (1988-97) Bert Bolin to do the Oslo acceptance, but Bolin was unavailable.

Voting for the rest of the Bureau positions involves quotas. IPCC members are arranged into blocs as follows: Africa, 54 countries with 5 guaranteed positions on the 31-member Bureau; Asia (32 countries, 5 positions); South America (12, 4); North/Central America (23, 4); SW Pacific (22, including Australia, 4); and Europe (52, 8). Note that USA and Canada have no more seats than the Australasia/SEA axis. All these arrangements are less about scientific clout than   ensuring third-world blocs are prominent, as they are in the UN itself. The Sudanese vice-chair of the IPCC Bureau has been on the Bureau for 12 years. #

Free Speech and the Fight to Save It

Philosopher and author Frank Furedi amused and appalled a Melbourne audience with his update on the ongoing war of attrition with the forces of political correctness — a conflict in danger of being lost for want of leaders prepared to tear off the gag

furedi2The other day, sociologist and philosopher Frank Furedi was woken by a call from a journalist seeking comment  on “unacceptable values” in the Tom & Jerry cartoon series. Hungarian-born Furedi told a gathering of 120 at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne on October 6 that he thought at firstthe call must be a practical joke.

But no, it was anything but. The reporter explained that Amazon.com has put a disclaimer on copies of the classic comedy videos it is selling — a warning that the cartoons exhibit “ethnic and racial prejudice” which was “wrong then and are wrong today”.

Furedi is the author of 17 books, including Wasted: Why Education Isn’t Educating, plus other titles  on free speech in the West. He spoke at the IPA with Nick Cater, executive director  of the Menzies Research Centre. When the time came for questions, Furedi was asked to compare current Western censorship with that of Communist-era Hungary, where he spent his childhood. Stalinist censorship was easier to deal with, he replied, because everyone knew the score and could see through the official lies.

furedi with klara“My dad just told me, when I was eight, ‘Whatever you hear, don’t believe it’,”  recalled Furedi, shown at left with mum Klara. “Most of us knew right from wrong. But today censorship is driven by powerful and insidious cultural forces for self-censorship, for self-denial. In the UK, the classic example is the Rotherham child-abuse scandal, where many knew but none had the courage to denounce ethnic men destroying a generation of children.”

Asked about his political journey away from the far Left, Furedi recalled being raised in a high Stalinist period, when his father was imprisoned. After his release, and before the family migrated to Canada, his dad committed himself to getting rid of the Stalinists and took part in the 1956 revolution.  The message instilled in the young Furedi was simple, ‘Never trust the State’.

Furedi’s memories of Canada in the 1960s are of having a nice time as a member of the Far Left — until he realized his red-raggin’ pals had no problem with state interventions in people’s lives. They couldn’t handle the notion that democracy and freedom are non-negotiable.

In his speech, Furedi  gave another instance of self-censorship: a London play was cancelled because, despite being a theatrical production inspired by anti-racism, it included a black person in a cage. This politically correct censorship made no headlines, he noted, being marked only by the silence of embarrassed leftists staring at their shoelaces.

Nick Cater added the observation that, just a generation ago, the Left campaigned for freedom of expression during the Oz trials in London, and closer to home for the freedom to take one’s clothes off in movies like Alvin Purple. Those campaigners had turned full circle to become replicants of the censorious and humourless elite they once excoriated.

Furedi asked, “How long before TV and books also go in for their own soft and quiet censorship? It assumes we are children to be protected. As with your Section 18c law, it assumes that if someone says something insulting to me, I will pee my pants. This idea of people being weak and vulnerable is an invitation to the State to come in and hold our hands, saying, ‘We, the State, are here to support you’.”

The West – especially academia – is now beset with speech codes, like the ever-expanding definitions of what constitutes  “workplace bullying”, and the Left has armed itself with the weapon of sanctions to be used against those judged to be inflicting “hate”, or merely “inappropriate” views and speech, on others. “An editor told me I couldn’t use the word ‘brainwashing’ because it could offend epileptics,” Furedi laughed, before urging resistance. “We need to gift ourselves some courage and, instead of looking the other way, ridicule these attempts to regulate our personal lives.”

Nick Cater lamented that even conservatives are becoming selective about how far freedom of speech should reach, thus ceding the moral high ground by diluting and compromising what should be an absolute and sacred principle. Section 18c, he noted, had been on the books for almost 16 years, during which time it was used against Holocaust deniers. There were few objections, however, until the statute was used against Andrew Bolt in  2011.

Furedi even defended the right of jihadists to preach their hate, since they were better dealt with by trenchant debate than by gagging their critics. There are laws, anyway, about threats to the person, so further refinements and additions to the law in regard to “hate speech” are superfluous.

Academics in particular were averse to engaging Muslim radicals in free, open and unfettered debate, he said, citing a woman who had argued that Dutch anti-Islamist Geert Wilders should be silenced because he was so eloquent and persuasive. He told the woman to learn the art of public speaking. Furedi also recalled a recent visit to Poland, where he argued against State restrictions on on free speech. Many in his audience were amazed, he said, to hear him say openly what they had been thinking but were afraid to utter.

Another question sought Furedi’s opinion of the female police superintendent who attended a recent Rotary breakfast in Melbourne in civilian dress after an official edict announced that being seen in uniform on the street might incite radical Muslims to opportunistic violence. There was nothing new or surprising about that attitude, he sighed, nor did it signify a particularly Australian species of cowardice. In the UK, soldiers have been similarly discouraged from wearing their uniforms after the murder of Guardsman Lee Rigby.

“Why should those soldiers go to Afghanistan or Iraq to fight for human rights when they come home to be treated like second-class citizens?” he asked. “Even wounded soldiers in Birmingham hospitals have been given a hard time by Muslim doctors and nurses saying ‘This is a bad thing you have done’. People are embarrassed to talk about these dark little secrets. If I were a soldier I wouldn’t shut up about it.”

Furedi said moral compasses were becoming blurred. He knew a priest who was more proud of a degree in welfare counseling than his theological studies. Moralising was replacing morality, with parliamentarians taking their cues from focus groups and polling data, rather than conviction. It was the green parties in the West that led the field in using a subverted morality to promote their causes, such as the campaigns against McDonalds and the dubious concept that recycling is virtuous in and of itself.

Family First Senator Bob Day, thanking Furedi and Cater, used the analogy of a stonemason striking repeatedly at a block of granite to describe the need for perseverance and endurance in the ongoing fight to defend free speech: after 100 fruitless blows, the 101st strike of the hammer split the block. In Parliament, he said, several senators, including Liberals Dean Smith  and Cory Bernardi, who had added their own blows to the granite by supporting the need to delete ‘offend and insult” from Section 18c.”

It will take many more blows than that, along with many more hammers, to dislodge politically thinking from public fora.

Tony Thomas blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com