The CSIRO sold us a PUP

by Tony Thomas

September 9, 2012

The “Planet under Pressure” conference (PUP) in London in March, 2012, is now just a historical curiosity. It was meant to turbocharge the Rio + 20 eco-summit last June but that summit never quite took us to its poverty-ending, green global economy.

However, the London warm-up is worth a second look, if only because

More than 40 CSIRO people attended.[1] Assuming $6000 per head on fares, hotels etc, that’s a quarter-million dollars
Another 40 Australian scientists and academics also went along – make that a half-million dollars total.[2] [3] Did any attend the conference session on “Reinforcing sustainable travel behaviour”?
“Nut-jobs on the internet” claimed the London show pushed for Dr-Evil-style global climate government. I found coded remarks in the conference verbiage but then turned up a press interview by the conference’ co-chair, our CSIRO’s top climateer Mark Stafford-Smith. He called for a “sustainable development council within the United Nations that has the same level of authority as the Security Council.”[4] Not bad from a non-elected CSIRO politician. Pause to reflect that 55% of the 193 UN countries are dictatorships.[5]
More than 1200 “scientific” papers were showcased, of which only three or four expressed even a tiny doubt about dangerous human-caused warming (AGW). Yet even the IPCC is only 90% sure. Those papers of interest included “solving the cloud problem in climate models” and “solar forcing of winter climate variability”. The other 1197-plus papers went into third-order issues such as “Solving the problem of how to solve problems: planning in a climate of change”.[6] One I particularly liked went:
“To unite scientists and global publics in a climate change Quest, communicators need to attend rigorously to the narrative-dramatic dynamics of stakeholder sensemaking. The depth of fear and despair when fully engaged with the tragic Downfall plot should not be underestimated…We urgently need to develop the skills of reading and leading climate change plots. In so doing, we can build understanding of the social drama of data.”[7]

Since the purported AGW would change everything in the world, the 1200 papers at London could be multiplied ten-fold or thousand-fold as long as grant-money continues. An example from the conference of the proliferation: “Care and justice: the contribution of feminist and environmental justice approaches to counteract power in environmental governance.”[8]
The CSIRO claims that “almost all” of its 40+ attendees gave papers.[9] Since the conference was four days of 8.30am-5pm, plus a smidgen of slack or “unconference” time before cocktails and dinners, I thought I’d check.

A search elicits 11 CSIRO papers discussed at the conference. The conference also allowed 13 CSIRO people to put up on the wall, literally, a poster about their research, along with the other 1160 contributors’ posters, thus burnishing everyone’s CVs. Worthwhile? Taxpayers, you be the judge.

One CSIRO scientist scored an own goal in his paper on adaptation of Australian agriculture to climate change. Farmers were managing OK, “given that the climate change signal has not yet exceeded the ‘variability noise’ “.[10] Yet a CSIRO colleague had a paper: “Climate change impacts on farmer mental health: emerging connections”.[11] How can our farmers be going mad from AGW if it’s not yet detectable?

But I’m rambling. What about that world-governing conspiracy? Dr Stafford-Smith gave an interview from the conference to AAP on March 29:

Mark Stafford Smith, scientific director of CSIRO’s climate adaption flagship, says it’s no longer enough for individual nations to try to be sustainable.

Rather a new “planetary stewardship” is needed, he says.

“Something like a sustainable development council … in the UN system which has the same level of authority as the security council and which can drive a much more integrated approach,” Dr Stafford Smith told reporters via a phone hook-up from London…”

There was now a need for a “constitutional moment”, like that in the 1940s which saw the establishment of the World Bank and other institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, to drive the new UN council, he said.[12]

When the conference ended, Dr Stafford-Smith co-drafted with a Dr Lidia Brito the conference’s “Declaration”. As one breathless environment reporter from the New York Times introduced it, humanity’s anti-green obtuseness could hurt the earth as badly as “meteoric collisions”.[13] The key tract from the Smith/Brito manifesto is:

“Fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions is required to overcome barriers to progress and to move to effective Earth-system governance…Current understanding supports the creation of a Sustainable Development Council within the UN system to integrate social, economic and environmental policy at the global level.” [14]

Who is Dr Stafford-Smith, this Napoleon-scale environmentalist? He spent 30 years studying desert bushes and bugs, as a good CSIRO scientist should.[15]

But one of the bugs may have infected him with apocalypse fever. In 2009 he published, with CSIRO colleague Julian Cribb, the paperback “Dry Times: Blueprint for a Red Land”, priced at an alarming $49.95.[16] The book concludes,

“Australians use of the country’s resources, their demand for increasing material standard of living and now their contribution to global climate change [what? 1.5% of global emissions?] have wrought profound changes to this once isolated continent. The great cities of Australia are already experiencing water shortages. … In fact, the dry part of Australia is expanding. The entire continent is now subject to some disturbing trends, which are starting to resemble the desert drivers. The climate is moving into realms hitherto unexperienced: unpredictable and out of local control…” (p145)

Hardly had the CSIRO book hit the counter, than a vast sheet of floodwater travelled the length of the Eastern States. The rivers turned Lake Eyre into a bonanza for operators of inland sea scenic flights, which continue to this day. The rains replenished the dams of Brisbane and Sydney and even the parched Melbourne dams are now 77% full.

His co-author Julian Cribb, unabashed, put out another CSIRO paperback ($29.95) in 2010, “The Coming Famine”.[17] As CSIRO’s blurb puts it, “Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of an impending planetary crisis – a global food shortage that threatens to hit by mid-century – which, he argues, would dwarf any in our previous experience.” Deserts, floods, famine, whatever. CSIRO loves the dismal.

Dr Stafford-Smith also claims the scientific community is “thinly-stretched”, which seems a bit whiney after $US68 billion in US federal spending alone on climate research and development from 1989-2009.[18] [19]

After the conference, CSIRO’s Dr Smith told CSIRO interviewer Glen Paul more about his dreams for a supra-national UN council backed by the authority of the dictatorship-laden UN General Assembly.[20] The council would assemble some sort of “triple helix” as he put it, to combine economic, environmental and social engineering. This would lead to “a suite of universal sustainable development goals”, he said. CSIRO interviewer Paul then signed off, remarking that he too had just got a grant for a US study trip.

The conference recommendations have been passed on to the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, who has filed them ready for the next world-changing climate jamboree.

Meanwhile Dr Stafford-Smith has dimly realized that emission controls are going nowhere at any national and international levels. So he now spruiks for city-level policies “to protect their citizens and economies”, where, dare I say it, Green councilors have proliferated, especially in cities like Leichardt and Balmain.[21] Dr Smith, wearing his activist hat, continues: “These moves can be promoted here in Australia…and linked to other local movements.”

The patrons for the London conference were the usual UN apparatchiks, activist and industry reps, academics, and a couple of standouts: our own Climate Comedian – sorry, Climate Commissioner – Tim Flannery and Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy for Oxfam, a charity celebrated for its “75-million-climate-refugees” howler concerning Pacific islanders, whose population is only 7 million in the first place.[22]

A Professor Iain Gordon of the UK’s Hutton Institute told the conference that humans had upped the natural extinction rate by 1000 times, “based on reliable data”, and 10%-30% of mammal, bird and amphibian species are at risk of extinction. The “1000 times” factoid was a statistical raving from a tract by the activist International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the “10%-30% extinction” factoid from the 2007 IPCC report was exposed several years ago as a complete crock.[23] [24] How could Professor Williams be so credulous? Well, his previous career was with CSIRO, which is is too inward-focused even to take this clanger off its website:

“Australia has experienced the worst drought in recorded history, and as one consequence many cities and regions have faced severe water supply constraints. These issues have highlighted the reality of global climate change, the massive impacts that it is likely to have on our continent…”[25]

If the drought “highlights the reality of global climate change”, what do our recent floods highlight?

Still, climate conferences wouldn’t be the same without the CSIRO’s helpful inputs.

Coda: Conference-going in The Age of Stupid

Oh dear! The world’s climateers cannot understand why the public isn’t buying their story. This is evident from dozens of papers at the London “Planet Under Pressure” (PUP) conference last March. These were papers seeking explanations for the public’s stupidity. Here are some examples.

“Public perceptions of uncertainty in climate model predictions as barriers to mitigation policy”
“Addressing ‘climate change fatigue’ through experiential learning.”
“Psychological barriers to connecting people to the challenges of climate change.”
“Breaking the Deadlock: New approaches for climate change communication.”
“Competing accounts of climate change science: interviews with a sceptic and an advocate.” (Even a mere two interviews are grist to the mill of some academic at Adelaide University).
One of the most intriguing of the “what’s gone wrong?” papers reads: “Lights, camera… action? Stages of behavioral change and the impact of the climate change film The Age of Stupid”.

This film is set 40 years in the future, and actor Pete Postlethwaite, living alone on a devastated planet, asks, “Why didn’t we stop climate change [in 2007] when we had the chance?” In a bizarre line from the trailer, a UK newsreader reports: “101 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the hottest day ever recorded.” [Que?] Only a desperate academic could consider this celluloid farce worthy of earnest research.

No fewer than four CSIRO boffins collaborated to produce a paper, “‘Communicating climate change in the 2010s: the journey and ‘are we there yet?’” I assume they are not referring to their trip to London, whether in Business or Economy. Hence the answer would have to be “No”, they are not there yet. A “Yes” would mean their task was done and it’s time to find a real job.

Tony Thomas is a (sort of) retired journalist.

[1] http://www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Multimedia/CSIROpod/Planet-under-pressure.aspx

[2] http://www.smc.org.au/2012/03/background-briefing-planet-under-pressure-live-from-london/

[3] Actually, the cost of 38 Australian delegates’ trip to the UN Climate Change conference in Cancun last year was $360,000, including a lot of business class travel. The Australian, 8/9/12 p5

[4] http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/un-needs-a-sustainability-council-csiro-20120329-1w0ra.html

[5] http://www.eyeontheun.org/facts.asp?1=1&p=16

[6] http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/pdf/poster_session_3.pdf

[7] http://tinyurl.com/9r9esjf

[8] http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/pdf/poster_session_1.pdf

[9] Op cit, see 1

[10] http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/abstracts/D3010103.pdf

[11] Op cit see 5

[12] Op cit see 3

[13] http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/time-is-nigh-for-global-action-manifesto-warns/

[14] http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/pdf/state_of_planet_declaration.pdf

[15] http://www.csiro.au/en/References/Contacts/M/S/MarkStafford-Smith.aspx

[16] http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6070.htm

[17] http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6447.htm

[18] http://www.nature.com/news/change-the-approach-to-sustainable-development-1.10271

[19] http://joannenova.com.au/2009/07/massive-climate-funding-exposed/

[20] http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Multimedia/CSIROpod/Science-in-support-of-Rio-20.aspx

[21] http://www.ecosmagazine.com/?paper=EC12379

[22] http://www.gmagazine.com.au/news/1504/environmental- refugees-reach-75-million-2050-asia-pacific

[23] http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/html/Red%20List%202004/completed/Section3.html

[24] https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwKfjKsXaxaGYjNhYzM0ZDAtZWU5NC00MjllLTk4ZDQtNjg0NGU4OGRkYjg2/edit?pli=1

[25] http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Flagships/Climate-Adaptation-Flagship/ClimateAdaptationFlagshipOverview.aspx

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