The Scientific Method: Hate, Spite, Spleen

As all who browsed the infamous Climategate emails will know, the men and women of science can go to almost any lengths to suppress, harass, slander and deride those whose theories are at odds with their own. Well guess what? It’s not just climateers who are at home in the gutter

dead dinoIn the trillion-dollar global warming controversy, how objective is the science community? Scientists claim to be a priestly and virtuous caste  concerned for truth and for the welfare of the planet. Ex-PM Kevin Rudd’s formulation went that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was the work of 4000 “humorless guys in white coats”.[i] Human-caused global warming is so contentious that it’s hard to step back and look objectively at the white-coated practitioners. So let’s switch to a less important science controversy and observe how scientists behave.

Here’s the case study: Was it an asteroid or volcanoes that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?  The topic doesn’t get anyone emotional. The arguments have nothing to do with electricity bills, there is no cause for dumping prime ministers, capitalism is not at stake, and world government is not required. My dinosaur-debate text is a 9000-word blockbuster by Bianca Bosker in the latest (September) issue of The Atlantic. which informs us that the dinosaur researchers’ behavior is appalling. Name-calling. Blackmailing over academic careers. Data-tampering. Boycotts. Grant-snaffling. Peer review corruption. Consensus-touting… As you discover the details, you might notice parallels with the climate wars. Just one tiny example: $444m taxpayer money thrown to purported Barrier Reef saviors, while James Cook University sacks Professor Peter Ridd who challenged the reef alarmists’ data.

Now back to dinosaurs. In 1980, Luis Alvarez, who had already won the 1968 Nobel Prize for physics, made his claim that an asteroid’s hit finished the big lizards. This pitted the “Impacters” against the “Volcanists”, who blamed eruptions. The Impacters say a 9km-wide asteroid hit at Chicxulub by the Gulf of Mexico with the force of about 10 billion Hiroshima bombs, creating fireballs, earthquakes and a long darkness: an Old Testament version of hell, as The Atlantic puts it. These Impacters insist the science is now settled to near-total certainty. It’s as settled as evolution, they say, “The case is closed.”

But the minority Volcanists continue to argue that colossal eruptions of volcanoes in Western India’s Deccan Trapscaused the extinctions. Their leader is Gerta Keller, 73, who has published about 130 papers on the extinction (and a similar number on other specialties). Her disruptive data has caused some Impacters to have second thoughts about Alvarez’s theory. The Atlantic’s Bosker writes,

 Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.”

Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.”

Keller endured decades of ridicule. But as one colleague told Bosker, “It’s thanks to her [Keller] that the case is not closed.” In the bitter feud’s most ugly aspects, dissenters feared for their careers. Bosker quotes other scientists complaining that “the feverish competition in academia coupled with the need to curry favor with colleagues — in order to get published, get tenure, or get grant money — rewards timid research at the expense of maverick undertakings…” Bosker puts it this way

Ground down by acrimony, many critics of the asteroid hypothesis withdrew — including two of the most outspoken opponents, [Dewey] McLean and [Chuck] Officer. Lamenting the rancor as ‘embarrassing to geology,’ Officer announced in 1994 that he would quit mass-extinction research.

Though McLean did ultimately get promoted, he said Alvarez’s ‘vicious politics’  caused him serious health problems and that he couldn’t research Deccan volcanism without ‘the greatest of difficulty’ because of fear or a health relapse… “I never recovered physically or psychologically from that ordeal.” Impacters had warned some of Keller’s collaborators not to work with her, even contacting supervisors to pressure them to sever ties. Keller listed numerous research papers whose early drafts had been rejected, she felt, because pro-impact peer reviewers “just come out and regurgitate their hatred.”[ii]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0n1-DoDA8E

The Impacters pushed their “consensus” — that word again — attested by 41 of them signing a paper to Science in 2010. But Bosker writes, “Although some might consider this proof of consensus, dozens of geologists, paleontologists, and biologists wrote in to the journal contesting the paper’s methods and conclusions. Science is not done by vote.” A blind test of fossil samples was organized for six researchers in 1997. They disagreed 3-3. Further, polls of scientists involved in the debate variously went 60-40 (Impacters) or 30-70, merely demonstrating that it’s a live issue. Keller’s group accused  Science of bias, favoring Impacters’ pieces by a tally of 45 to four articles. The editor denied bias.

The vituperation spread as different disciples, such as physicists got involved, and people couldn’t agree on standards of evidence. From The Atlantic

“Where the physicists trusted models, for example, geologists demanded observations from fieldwork. Yet even specialists from complementary disciplines like geology and paleontology butted heads over crucial interpretations.”

Keller claims Impacters tried to squash debate before dissidents could get a hearing. The acceptance of the Continental Drift theory of Alfred Wegener took 60 years but Alvarez was claiming settled-science within only two years, she said.[iii] Keller in her research suggests an analogy with Iceland’s Laki eruption of 1783, which blanketed the Northern Hemisphere with fumes and ash, causing three years of famine. She argues that a single eruption of the Deccan era was thousands of times worse, and those eruptions happened many times over 350,000 years before the dinosaur die-off. Bosker writes:

As Keller has steadily accumulated evidence to undermine the asteroid hypothesis, the animosity between her and the Impacters has only intensified. Her critics have no qualms about attacking her in the press: Various scientists told me, on the record, that they consider her “fringe,” “unethical,” “particularly dishonest,” and “a gadfly.” Keller, not to be outdone, called one Impacter a “crybaby,” another a “bully,” and a third “the Trump of science.”

Meanwhile the impact theory solidified, and volcanism was largely abandoned, Bosker writes. The dispute, she says, shows how the science process, while “ostensibly guided by objective reason and the search for truth, is shaped by ego, power, and politics.” Both sides claim their respective camps will win only after their opponents have literally died off.

I have no idea which of the dinosaur theories is right. But I’ve certainly learnt from Bosker that scientists, like everyone else, don’t deserve automatic trust. For what it’s worth, Keller is a CO2 warming catastrophist, believing the dinosaur-extinction story is template for our own demise. This notion “terrified” her interviewer.

Afterthought: Like to know more about Gerta Keller? Try these biographical details:

  • She grew up hungry with 11 siblings on a farm in Switzerland. Her mother stewed a pet cat and another time gave Keller’s older sister some “mutton” comprising Gertha’s pet dog.
  • When Keller came to Australia in 1965 as a young woman an “Australian official” tried to put her in a rag-trade sweatshop, attempting to negotiate a cut of Keller’s pay “in perpetuity”, Keller claims rather implausibly. She stayed here three years.
  • Returning from a picnic near Sydney’s Gap cliffs, she crossed paths with a fleeing bank robber who casually shot her near-fatally through the chest. She woke in hospital with a priest administering the last rites. The SMHheadline was, “Woman Shot for No Reason”.

Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be pre-ordered here.

[i] For the crucial chapter of the Fourth IPCC Report (WG I chapter 9), which claimed to attribute warming to human activity, there were a mere 53 authors, 40 of whom were either work or academic associates, or were joint co-authors of published papers. The crucial second draft was reviewed by just 55 reviewers and seven governments. The other 2900 authors and reviewers (not 4000 as claimed) largely accepted chapter 9 at face value, the other authors doing so before chapter 9 was written so they could write their own chapters in parallel.  As Donna LaFramboise has shown, not all IPCC authors were recognised experts in their fields, some were yet to obtain their PhDs.”

[ii] Compare with two of the most famous Climategate emails between scientists Phil Jones and Mike Mann when sceptics were published in peer-reviewed journals. Mann to Jones, 11/3/2003: This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a    legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate    research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal…

Jones to Mann, 8/7/2004: The other paper by McKitrick and Michaels is just garbage—as you knew. De Freitas is the Editor again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well—frequently, as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC Report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the “peer-review literature” is!

[iii] The global warming scare got under way only a few years after the end of the ‘global cooling’ scare of the 1970s, long before any serious research was undertaken.

COMMENTS [6]

  1. Lewis P Buckingham

    The last thing I saw on the Dinosoar extinction event controversy is that they could both be right.
    A bolide triggered volcanoes.
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/meteorite-killed-dinosaurs-also-triggered-underwater-volcanoes-180968106/

    Although the birds made it out of the flames.

    • ianl

      Yes, the combination of a massive meteorite impact triggering extensive mid-ocean ridge and subduction zone vulcanism has been offered as explanation for quite a while. Ffrom the collected empirical evidence, I tend to credit it.

      Another example is the mass extinction that marked the end of the Permian and its’ interface horizon with the overlying unconformable Triassic is ascribed to widespread vulcanism. Perforce, I’ve mapped a great many kilometres of that horizon – absolutely barren of fossils (especially plant imprints) but remnant eroded “pools” of claystone (lithified volcanic ash) are often found. The proximate cause of the massive eruptions is still keenly argued, although perhaps not as vociferously as the dinosaur extinction.

      My own explanation for the psychology of the dinosaur extinction issue with its’ intense rivalry as detailed above by Tony Thomas is simply the fame and worldwide acclaim attached to the resolution of the issue. Dinosaurs have become big Hollywood – yet another Jurassic Park is currently filling the cinemas – so world attention is easily focussed on the drama of their demise.

      Imagine then the intensity of “saving the planet”. Separating hard scientific fact from noble cause corruption is now impossible, as Climategate shows us.

  2. en passant

    Tony,
    Gerta almost persuaded me until she praised someone by calling them “the Trump of science.” (thus mistaking commonsense for an insult. Also, as she is clearly so stupid as to believe the ridiculous hoax that CO2 is a problem, her credibility and reasoning powers are suspect.

    Two years ago (when I had nothing better to do) I took a course in Paleontology through Hong Kong University. I don’t know what killed off the dinosaurs so rapidly, but it was unlikely to be an asteroid. There are several other super volcanoes that are contenders from Yellowstone, to Siberia and the Deccan Traps.

    I won’t take up the space, but the composition of the atmosphere is another possibility as CO2 plummeted, plants died off and the dinosaurs might just have starved.

    • ianl

      Reptiles are poikilotherms, as I’m sure you know. A deep and long-term drop in temperature, such as may be caused by large scale air-borne ash or dust from vulcanism and/or massive asteroid impact, would contribute to reptilian metabolic failure. That is, they may have slowly frozen to death, unable to forage efficiently, while food became increasingly scarce ?

      After 11 years of legal slugfest, the Uni of Arizona has finally agreed to release huge email tranches from scientists heavily involved in Climategate (notably Overpeck and Hughes). A measure of the depth of rancour is that the release has been ordered to be in easily readable, searchable format. That has not always been the case. These emails are expected to contain information on essentially successful attempts to sideline published papers, the magazines and editors that published those papers and destruction of the authors’ reputations, if such papers disagreed with “consensus”.

      [Pixels consume electric power, but space ? Oh well …]

  3. AlanIO

    It seems Volcanoes can provide lots of history. Mt Hekla comes to mind in SO2 studies. Woods Hole core samples and so many others provide good evidence. There are so many differences between people and humans. AlanIO

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Suffer the children, via Academy lessons

brainwashing-kids

Of all the green/Left groups badgering schoolkids about human-caused global warming, the most determined is the Australian Academy of Science. It pushes its government-funded campaign to Year 9 students via the ‘Big Systems’ unit in its ‘Science by Doing’ course. About 16,000 Australian science teachers – two out of three – have signed on. The science teachers work in 80 per cent of secondary schools. About 160,000 users are registered, including 50,000 newcomers last year.

‘Big Systems’ is a revision of the Academy’s 2013 course. Here’s from the original (tinyurl.com/nwxj76e):

Lesson outcomes: At the end of this activity students will… appreciate the need to lobby at all levels of government to ignite and lead change – even if it is unpopular with the voters.

Ask [15-16 year old] students if they have ever taken action or advocated for a cause. Do they know of anyone who has? Key vocabulary: advocacy, campaign, champion, environmentalist.

If you were concerned about Earth’s sustainability, who would you vote for?

Mining attracts its fair share of controversy. It is not a pretty site! [Cue picture of ugly open cut].Could we do without it?… Would you work for a mining company? In what capacity? [One example –  ‘an environmental geoscientist’].

The Academy wants 30-40 per cent cuts in emissions by 2030 relative to 2000 (much tougher than the federal government’s 2030 Paris target). In 2015, it dumped fossil fuel stocks from its $50m investment portfolio. Bad BHP! Bad Caltex! Bad cars! In 2014 the Academy part-financed its Fenner Conference called Addicted to Growth? How to move to a Steady State Economy in Australia, where eco-nuts advocated a 90 per cent cut to living standards.

Elements of the Academy’s  original school course remain, such as a ‘Climate Change’ logo comprised of letters of fire and  black smoke, with the letter ‘A’ as a mining excavator and the ‘T’ a construction crane.

The current material on so-called ocean acidification features environmental scientist Dr Sara Arthur, who in 2001 acidified her tank of coral and goldfish and sobbed at the aquarial mayhem: ‘One day as I was adjusting the pH [in the tank] I realised what impact extra CO2 in the environment was going to have on the coral reefs of the world. I cried. I wasn’t told, I worked it out for myself. The horror I felt was unspeakable… If I talk about [climate change] at a dinner party it’s a bit of a clanger. People were happy, until I spoke.’ I bet.

Other course pearls: Scientists let us know all the facts and figures about climate change. They know just how quickly the icebergs are melting, and almost to the day when the Great Barrier Reef will be dead. Such clever prophets!

By clinging to stale material of 2008, the Academy has scored an own goal: Even three or four years ago the scientific community was saying, ‘This is an emergency. We could have an ice-free Arctic by the year 2070, the year 2080.’ In the last few years those predictions have come way, way in towards the present, and now we’re saying maybe 2030, maybe 2020. There’s a group that makes a very strong case that in 2012 or 2013 we’ll have an ice-free Arctic, as soon as that. Sorry, no. In 2013 the Arctic minimum ice extent was 5.1 million square km; in 2017 4.6m square km.

The course features cartoon videos targeting kids with climate tear-jerkers like Little Hermie hermit crab, tragically finding all his shell homes crumbling, cracking, imploding and turning to powder (cue sad music). Hermie ends up naked under a rock and cowering from predators. The voice-over: While his struggle to find a home had an unhappy end, the real future has yet to unfold [sneakily admitting it’s all fantasy].

The revised course turns kids into proselytising pests. Kids create blogs, PowerPoints, plays and graphic novels to present to ‘the general public’, schoolmates, and family. Do your parents and siblings understand climate change? Students should scaffold [eh?] their presentations to suit their target audience. Teachers grade the kids for effectiveness as climate spruikers.

A template shows melting glaciers and ice, with two imperilled polar bears. (Polar bears have actually been stable or increasing since 2005). The planet has arms with a green sign saying ‘Act Now’.

A litmus test for honest science is the Academy’s handling of the major finding in mid-2016 (including CSIRO authorship) that rising CO2 has greened the planet by two and a half Australia’s. It’s buried in a minor ABC news feed below fluff like ‘Climate scientists feel the weight of the world on their shoulders’.

The course hides inconvenient truths such as decades of very low satellite-measured atmospheric warming during massive increases of CO2 (actual 0.3deg C warming from 1979-2015 versus model predictions of 0.9deg C – a threefold exaggeration).

The current course does include the antics of error-prone Al Gore (net worth $US200m). Incredibly, the Academy material for kids also includes Greenland ice forecasts by long-discredited doomster Dr James Hansen. Honoured albeit sceptic scientists such as Judith Curry and John Christie are unmentioned. The Academy instead directs kids to lobbyists like Friends of the Earth, ACF, WWF, and Greenpeace.

No scare is too far-fetched for kid-scaring, including the debunked Arctic methane eruptions. Heatwave deaths are cited but not extra deaths from cold snaps.

Take a look at the three penguins. If this image was a cartoon, what would your penguins say about climate change? An informed penguin would answer: ‘It’s great! You’ve just found a super colony of 1.5m Adelie penguins (Science Alert 2/3/18) and the king penguin count has increased in the past 50 years (Antarctic Science 4/2018).’ I assume the Academy would ‘Fail’ the penguin.

Cows are a worse climate hazard than cars – take that, farmers! About the only sop to serious science is that models differ in their estimates of the strength of different feedbacks in the climate system, particularly cloud feedbacks, oceanic heat uptake and carbon cycle feedbacks. There is no Academy follow-up noting that new papers downgrade the feedback factor from the IPCC’s 40-year-long guess of 1.5 – 4.5 times to only 2 times or less, demolishing the models’ 21st century heat projections. (see Lewis and Curry, J.Clim. 2018).

Here’s a mystery: 16,000 science teachers and not one has called out this greenwash-hogwash. Too indoctrinated? Too career-scared? Parents, over to you.

The HRC Welshes on Ending My Pain

By current standards of ethnicity and lineage my ancestor’s leek-infested origins in some misty valley populated by sheep-botherers and not enough vowels makes me as Welsh as they come. So I’m hurting, really hurting, that Evelyn Waugh’s racist abuse remains on library shelves

welsh pride IIThe priority of Prime Minister Morrison should be to protect Welsh-Australians from insult and ridicule. I identify as Welsh via my great-grandmother, Cymreigis Thomas. Two years ago I petitioned then Human Rights Commissioner  Gillian Triggs over a Welsh-humiliating cartoon by the late Bill Leak, but although I got a response running to six single-spaced pages, the HRC has failed to stem hatefulness against Welshpersons.

I thought civic libraries were safe spaces but in my Moonee Valley Library last week, while leafing through Evelyn Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall, I was newly offended, insulted and intimidated as a Welshperson.

I disagree with book burnings but each library  should have a naughty corner for works like Decline and Fall, Conrad’s book about that person of colour aboard the Narcissus, Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice, Guy Gibson VC’s  Enemy Coast Ahead (because of the name of the squadron’s black Labrador), Biggles in Australia, and a shelf-load of  other books literally beyond the pale.

In Britain it is justly an offence to disparage the Welsh and their language. A Sunday Times columnist was reprimanded last April  for saying that the Severn Bridge connected the rain-sodden valleys of Wales with the First World, and that the Welsh were entitled to foreign aid in the form of vowels.

As for Decline and Fall, take the scene of the sports day of Llanabba Castle school, run by Dr Augustus Fagan. He has hired the local Welsh band, and explains how the Welsh retained their ancestral Iberian purity: they are so unclean that no invaders have wanted to mate with them. He says of the Welsh,

“Their sons and daughters mate freely with the sheep but not with the human kind except their own blood relations…

 “The Welsh are the only nation in the world that has produced no graphic or plastic art, no architecture, no drama. They just sing,” he said with disgust, “sing and blow down wind instruments of plated silver.”

The Welsh band arrives.

“Ten men of revolting appearance were approaching from the drive. They were low of brow,  crafty of eye and crooked of limb. They advanced huddled together with the loping tread of wolves, peering about them furtively as they came, as though in constant terror of ambush; they slavered at their mouths, which hung loosely over their receding chins, while each clutched under his apelike arm a burden of curious and unaccountable shape. On seeing the Doctor they halted and edged back, those behind squinting and mouthing over their companion’s shoulders…After brief preliminary shuffling and nudging, an elderly man emerged from the back of the group. He had a rough black beard and wore on his uneven shoulders a Druidical wreath of brass  mistletoe berries…’

‘We are the silver band the Lord bless and keep you,’ said the [bandmaster] in one breath, ‘the band that no one could beat whatever but two indeed in the Eisteddfod that for all North Wales was look you.’

The Doctor ordered them to stay in a tent.

“There was a baying and growling and yapping as of the jungle at moonrise, and presently he came forward again with an obsequious, sidelong shuffle.

‘Three pounds you pay us would you said indeed to at the sports play…Nothing whatever we can play without the money first.’”

Dr Fagan produces his notecase “the sight of which seemed to galvanise the musicians into life; they crowded round, twitching and chattering…”

The bandmaster, Davies, led non-stop playing of Men of Harlech to visitors during the afternoon, also offering his sister for a pound or on special terms to titled visitors. Waugh remarks in the preface that his first publisher in 1928 thought it less indecent if the bandmaster were to seek work for his sister-in-law rather than sister. Editions from 1961 restored the sister to the original Welsh domestic duties.

Waugh’s book involves a full hand of racial prejudice, including anti-Semitism. The delectable prostitute-trafficker Mrs Margo Beste-Chetwynde brings her coal-black friend Chokey (real name Mr Sebastian Cholmondley) to the sports day. Chokey is a cathedral buff.

“When I saw the cathedrals my heart just rose up and sang within me. You folk think because we’re colored we don’t care about nothing but jazz. Why, I’d give up all the jazz in the world for just one little stone from one of your cathedrals…Salisbury is full of historical interest, but in my opinion York Minster is the more refined.”

“Oh you angel,” said Mrs Beste-Chetwynde, “I could eat you up every bit…Chokey shot a man at a party the other night, He gets gay [merry] at times, you know. It’s only when he’s on his best behavior that he’s so class-conscious.”

Waugh’s mysterious Untermensch, Solomon Philbrick, says, “N—s are all right. Where I draw a line is a C—-k, nasty inhuman things. I had a pal bumped off by a C—k once. Throat cut horrible, it was, from ear to ear.”

“Good gracious!” said the Clutterbuck governess. “Was that in the Boxer rising?”

“No,” said Philbrick cheerfully. “Saturday night in the Edgware Road.”

You might think Scott Morrison has bigger fish to fry than my hurt Welsh feelings. Well OK. Let him fix energy and immigration policy and restore the budget to surplus. But look you, bod yn barchus I bobl Cymru – don’t mess with us Welsh. It’s the land of my fathers, or at least, great-grandmothers.

The Extinction of Honest Science

July 25th 2018

Warmists’ predictions of climate doom haven’t come to pass or anything like it, but give them credit for agility and perseverance in always concocting a fresh scare. The latest meme to keep grants flowing and careers on track: the purported mass die-off of species large and small

planet down drainWith no significant warming for 20 years, the climate alarmists need better scares.  The temperature rise of about 0.8 degC in more than 100 years is not only non-scary, it’s been immensely beneficial for feeding the globe’s burgeoning population. Now  the “extreme weather” furphy  is at work, with any storm or flood attributed  by Al Gore and the Climate Council to fossil fuel emissions. There’s the purported “ocean acidification”  but I’m yet to see evidence that it has hurt a solitary crab, let alone a species.

As for sea-level rises, well, check my birthplace, Fremantle, butting the Indian Ocean: its tide gauge shows 12 cms rise in the past 120 years – compare that with 20cm for the length of my hand. To cap it off, the warmists, including the green-colonised CSIRO, have had to recognize that extra CO2  in the 30 years to 2010  has greened the earth to the extent of two and a half Australias in area.[1]

There are two handy scares still slithering around: “The Anthropocene” and “The Sixth Mass Extinction”. Both are fakes. Both are foisted on kids by green/Left educators. Both require as supposed remedies a supra-national enforcement agency run by the Left/liberal crowd, along with a roll-back of capitalist progress.

Here’s an example. I was in Chicago in 2013 and visited its great natural history centre the Field Museum (named after a 19th century $US9m donor Marshall Field). In the “Evolving Planet” gallery for kids, there was a   chart, “The Geologic Time Scale” showing the classic geologic ages (Silurian, Devonian etc) with markers for the first five extinctions. At the top it read “Today” with a picture of a metropolis, and an arrow labeled “Sixth Mass Extinction”. A red-neon “Extinction Clock” ticked over each time another species supposedly becomes extinct. In the hour or two since the gallery opened, the counter had added another 22 supposed extinctions. The count was based not on reality but fanciful modeling 30 years ago by Harvard professor and environmental activist Dr E.O Wilson, who claimed that 30,000 species were going extinct per year. The true number of known extinctions per year among the planet’s reputed 10 million-or-so species and  averaged over the past 500 years is about two, according to the Red List of the International  Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Yet climate activists want to compare this alleged“Sixth Extinction” with the  end-Permian “great dying” (250 million years ago) and end-Cretaceous dinosaur die-off (66 million years ago).

As for  the“Anthropocene”, it refers to the present geological era in which humans supposedly dominate the planetary processes and destroy other life forms. The label was first seriously proposed in 2001 by  co-Nobelist Paul Crutzen, of ozone-hole fame. It supposedly succeeds our 11,500 year old Holocene, the brief warm spell that has fostered our agriculture and civilisation. No such era and label as “Anthropocene” has been endorsed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS),  the global naming authority. An ICS working group (AWG) endorsed the concept in 2016, positing a start date of 1950. Most geologic eras last about three million years, so the ICS is in no hurry to make a ruling.

The AWG argument goes that thousands of years from now, geologists will uncover a fine dividing layer of “techno-fossils”from the late 20th Century, comprised of ball-point pens, CD platters and mobile phone carcasses.[2] My lost car keys may also turn up. If the ICS is unpersuaded, the “Anthropocene” claimants argue that old labeling conventions can be thrown out since we so urgently need to save the planet.

In this debasement of science, thousands of peer-reviewed papers blather about the “Anthropocene”. Publisher Elsevier has even created a learned journal, “The Anthropocene Review” where academics can flaunt their cringe-worthy research. As Canadian fact-checker Donna Laframboise puts it, “Declaring something to be the case before it has actually happened is unethical. A more scandalous example of fake news is difficult to imagine.”[3]

Contrarian papers on the topics are often binned, as biologists Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier have found, because reviewers worry “as much about political fallout and potential misinterpretation by the public as they do about the validity and rigor of the science.”[4]

Meanwhile  “Anthropocene” fans argue that we humans are now more powerful than traditional geologic forces like volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and shifting planetary orbits. At 11am on October 14, 1968, I was home at Gooseberry Hill in Perth’s Darling Ranges when my house began to shake. I’ll never forget it. The cause was a 6.9 force earthquake centred at Meckering, 100 kilometres further east. I don’t think humans can compete  with such forces, now or ever. You may disagree.

Most of the media’s environment writers have mindlessly propagated the Anthropocene concept.  New Yorker staffer Elizabeth Colbert morphed the story into a book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, and won a Pulitzer for it.[5] As a sample, she tells New Yorker readers about finding some bat corpses: “It struck me, as I stood there holding a bag filled with several dozen stiff, almost weightless bats, that I was watching mass extinction in action.”

Full credit, however, to Ruth Graham of the Boston Globe for her clear-eyed piece in 2014 exposing the naked activism of the “Sixth Extinction” crowd. UCAL ecologist Stephen Hubbell was surprised by the vehement reactions to his critical paper in Nature (2011) about extinction rates, she wrote. Hubbell said that some conservationists effectively told him, “Damn the data, we have an agenda …” Hubbell continued,The only thing science has going for it is truth and the search for truth. If it loses that, it’s really lost its way.”

Most scientists in this field are also strong conservationists, Graham wrote, and many worry that airing dirty laundry about estimates (such as “40,000 species disappearing each year”) could hurt the cause. A Brazil-based extinction specialist, Richard Ladle, spoke to her of “some enormous exaggerations”. A much-publicized 2004 paper, for instance, warned that climate change could put a million species at risk by 2050. Ladle said, “If you keep on talking about very, very large figures and nothing appears to be happening, eventually that’s going to erode public confidence in conservation science.”

Reporter Graham quoted Nigel Stork, a conservation biologist at Griffith University, Qld., who argued in Science in 2013 that the extinction rate was over-stated: “If you express a view that’s different to some people, they say you’re anti-conservation, and that’s not true. Conservation is working. There have been fewer extinctions because we’ve been conserving a key part of the world.” Graham concluded:  “The swirling controversies demonstrate how even ‘science-driven’ policy can sit uneasily with the workings of science itself. Galvanizing public opinion sometimes demands single dramatic certainties, while science proceeds by estimate, correction, and argument.”

The “Anthropocene” and the “Sixth Extinction” are eviscerated in a 8000-word essay“Welcome to the Narcisscene” by Mark Sagoff in the Oakland, Ca.-based Breakthrough Journal.[6] Enough time has elapsed to run a check on scientists’ gruesome predictions of extinctions, Sagoff says. The predictions of decades ago, treated with credulity at the time, have proved ridiculous. Here’s a few of them, tabulated by Griffith’s Nigel Stork. “If some of these higher estimates were true, then we should have already witnessed the extinction of up to 50 percent of all species on Earth in the last 30 years,” Stork wrote. Samples via Sagoff:

  • Myers (1979): 1 million species from 1975-2000.
  • Lovejoy (1980): 15-20% of species between 1980-2000.
  • Paul Ehrlich (1981): 50% species loss by 2000, 100% by 2010-25. [How does this catastrophist retain any credibility?] [7]
  • Lugo (1988): 9% species loss by 2000
  • Raven (1987-88): 2000 tropical plants per year, 25% plant species loss by 2015.
  • Hubbell (2008): 37-50% loss rate for 5308 Amazonian plants by 2020.

Other predictions (not in Stork’s table):

  • Wilson (1988): 17,500 species  being lost per year (more than 500,000 by now).
  • Leakey (1995): 17,000 to 100,000 species being lost per year.
  • Raven (1990): a quarter of plant species to be lost in next several decades.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature tracks species that have gone extinct. Last year’s Red List database looked at 24,230 plant species, and found only 118 had disappeared since 1500, while another 35 are extinct in the wild but survive in cultivation. To meet the criteria of a ‘mass extinction’, we’d need to lose about 18,000. At the current rate, it would take 70,000 more years.

It’s the same with insects. Take the well-studied butterflies, tiger beetles, dragonflies and damsel flies. Only three of 25,000 types have gone extinct in the past 500 years. A “mass extinction” would take 3 million years.

The IUCN manages data on 67,000 animal types. About 800 have gone extinct in the past 500 years. At this rate, it would take 25,000 years for a “mass extinction”.

All up, of 100,000 plants and animals, about two are lost per year. It would take another 34,000 years for a “mass extinction”.

Sagoff demolishes a subsidiary warmist argument: that current extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times (or even 10,000 times) the “normal” rates in the earth’s history. This seems extra scary, as it is intended to be. But a mass extinction would still take 34,000 years at the present rate, assuming no new species evolve. The argument about “1000 times ‘normal’” means that, normally, the same loss would take 34,000,000 years. It’s a  true-life version of this little joke:

An astronomer in a lecture predicts the earth will be swallowed by the sun in 8 billion years. He asks a distressed lady in the audience: “Why are you upset about something 8 billion years away?”

“Eight billion years? Oh, I thought you said 8 MILLION!”

Australian climate warriors have been influential in the debate. Sagoff’s article cites studies by Will Steffen (ANU and Climate Council) and Clive Hamilton, but wrongly describes the latter, an ethicist and one-time Greens candidate, as an ‘earth system scientist’. Hamilton  argues that  “on the side of responsibility are gathered the armies of scientific insight into Earth’s physical limits.” Against these are “mobilized the armies of avarice intrinsic to an economic structure driven by the profit motive.”[8] Well that’s telling us capitalists.

Steffen, whose research inspired the  2011 carbon tax, was lead author with Nobelist Crutzen in a discussion paper on the “Anthropocene” for the Royal Society the same year.[9] Steffen asserted that we are already at “Stage 3” of the “Anthropocene” era. Conceding that the term is only “informal”, Steffen accused humanity of not just being responsible for global warming but also of meddling with vital nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur cycles, along with fresh water despoliation and “likely driving the sixth major extinction event in Earth history … the first caused by a biological species.”

Steffen digressed into warning of “peak oil”, citing that oil production would need to rise 26% by 2030 to meet demand. “The prospects of achieving this level of increased production in just two decades at prices that are affordable in the developing world seem highly unlikely,” he wrote, suggesting a “significant risk of a peak before 2020.” Oil was then about $US100 a barrel, today $US70 thanks to the abundance of fracked petroleum.

Steffen also warned that we are close to “peak phosphorous”, suggesting some sort of “equitable” rationing to help the third world’s food security. Rock phosphate was then about $US200 a ton, today about $US100. By the way, never take stock tips from climate scientists who claim expertise in discerning the future up to 2100.

Needless to say, Steffen saw the crises’ solution in “effective global governance” run by his like-minded colleagues at the UN or via enforceable treaties. But since the 2009 Copenhagen conference was a flop in terms of “very deep and rapid cuts to emissions” (he was writing before the 2015 Paris flop), he shifts to earnest discussion about geo-engineering to cool the earth. “Only recently a taboo topic, geo-engineering has rapidly become a serious research topic and in situ tests may subsequently be undertaken if the research shows promising approaches,” he wrote.[10] He instances pumping sulphate particles into the stratosphere as cooling agents, but concludes rather sensibly that “ultimately, the near inevitability of unforeseen consequences should give humanity pause for serious reflection before embarking on any geo-engineering approaches.”

His argument surfaces some curious ideas. Sulphur particles in the air cause more than 500,000 premature deaths per year and damage the environment, he notes. “This creates a dilemma for environmental policymakers, because emission reductions of SO2 … for health and ecological considerations, add to global warming and associated negative consequences, such as sea level rise…[C]omplete improvement in air quality could lead to a global average surface air temperature increase by 0.8◦C on most continents and 4◦C in the Arctic.” Not many people would see any “dilemma” in saving lives by cleaning up air pollution.

Steffen then launches a pre-emptive strike against “Anthropocene” and “Mass Extinction” deniers. Like sceptics of the warming doctrine, he asserts they are driven not by “evidence and explanation” but “by beliefs and values and occasionally by cynical self-interest.” Sceptics have cognitive dissonance such that the more challenged they are by facts, the more they cling to their beliefs, he claims:

“This response may become even more pronounced for the Anthropocene, when the notion of human ‘progress’ or the place of humanity in the natural world is directly challenged. In fact, the belief systems and assumptions that underpin neo-classical economic thinking, which in turn has been a major driver of the Great Acceleration [since 1950] are directly challenged by the concept of the Anthropocene.”

What economic system Steffen prefers, he doesn’t say. He finishes with,

“The ultimate drivers of the Anthropocene if they continue unabated through this century, may well threaten the viability of contemporary civilization and perhaps even the future existence of Homo sapiens.”

Others, like University of Wollongong geographer Noel Castree, are even more critical of economic progress.  He writes,

“Even more than the concept of global warming, the Anthropocene is provocative because it implies that our current way of life, especially in wealthy parts of the world, is utterly unsustainable. Large companies who make profits from environmental despoliation – oil multinationals, chemical companies, car makers and countless others – have much to lose if the concept becomes linked with political agendas devoted to things like degrowth and decarbonisation.

… We don’t need the ICS’s imprimatur to appreciate that we are indeed waving goodbye to Earth as we have known it throughout human civilisation.”

I assume Professor Castree doesn’t use a car.

Sceptics have their own version of the current “Anthropocene” such as the “Narcissiscene” and “Greenoscene”. My favorite is the “Adjustoscene” where data has been altered to fit the climate models. Ruder people talk of the “Idioscene” or the “Obscene”. Keep it civil, folks.

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, “That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print” is available here


[1] “We are indeed in a new age, the Anthropocene,” CSIRO author Pep Canadell writes.

[2] The chairman of the AWG, Jan Zalasiewicz  noted that “technofossils such as ball-point pens, CDs, or mobile phones” had “spread rapidly around the world from the time of their first use” and provided “stratigraphic criteria that can be used to identify deposits that post-date the mid-20th century, and this, on current evidence, we consider to be the optimal position for an Anthropocene boundary.”

[3] Laframboise busted the claim of then IPCC-chair and now sex-charge defendant Rajendra Pachauri that the 2007 IPCC report comprised only peer-reviewed work. She counted that 5,587 of 18,531 citations were non-peer reviewed.

[4] Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier, “Uncomfortable Questions and Inconvenient Data in Conservation Science,” in Peter Kareiva, Michelle Marvier, and Brian Silliman, eds., Effective Conservation Science: Data Not Dogma (Oxford University Press, 2017), 4.

[5] The book blurbed, “Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.”

[6] Mark Sagoff is a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy and author of The Economy of the Earth.

[7]   The Population Bomb, a best seller Paul Ehrlich published in 1968, began, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Only last year Ehrlich described the situation as “biological annihilation”.

[8] Hamilton, C., Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene (John Wiley & Sons, 2017), 134.

[9] Will Steffen, et al., “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369, no. 1938 (2011): 842–867.

[10] Steffen seems unaware that during the “global cooling” scare of the 1970s, fanciful geo-engineering projects were bruited to make the planet warmer. These included, for example, manipulating warm currents by damming the Bering Strait or a dam from Florida to Cuba.

Global Brand Julia

 

Her misogyny speech opened many doors for our first female PM

TONY THOMAS

had complained that GPE couldn’t man- age its key documents, with staff running around on fruitless searches. Our Depart- ment of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) in 2012 rated GPE as ‘weak’ on demonstrable results. Julie Bishop has shovelled a fur- ther $230m to GPE, no questions asked.

But Britain makes its donations severely contingent on improved GPE performance. Our DFAT’s favorable GPE appraisal last May showed none of the hard scrutiny given by the Norwe- gians, Dutch and British.

In April last year Bangladesh test- ed Gillard’s diplomatic skills by welshing on its education spending. Bangladesh’s Mass Education Secretary is on the GPE board, so the problem was inside the tent.

GPE gave Bangladesh $US100m for 2011-17, conditional on raising education towards 20 per cent of its budget. By the 2017-18 deadline, the share was at a deri- sory 12.6 per cent and Bangladesh had only spent $US20m of the $US100m.

Gillard, styled ‘Her Excellency’, and CEO Alice Albright (daughter of Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Made- laine) formed a tag team to bounce the Bangladesh finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith. Gillard warned him that his pledge for 20 per cent for education ‘is one of the key elements of the GPE replenishment this year [2017] and a criti- cal condition for access to the next grant.’ He had already been warned that ‘if the existing 12.6 per cent does not show improvement, it is highly likely that the GPE Board will not consider the domes- tic finance requirement met if Bangladesh fails to indicate an upward trend toward 20 per cent.’ Gillard and Albright carped that spending of GPE’s funds had ‘stag- nated’ so badly that the country would miss the spending deadline.

Gillard warned of sanctions includ- ing clawing back unspent money unless the World Bank (GPE’s agent) could re- allocate the money in the country. The dispute was listed six months ago as ‘on- going’. GPE told me – strangely – that there had been ‘no dispute’ about the $US100m grant; the affair was just a due diligence process.

Conclusion: How nobler Gillard seems on the world stage than when, say, in 2012 her security had to physically res- cue her, Mrs Petrova-style, from an indig- enous riot outside a Canberra restaurant, a riot engineered by her own staffer.

Gillard at Kings College claimed that ‘it will take over 200 years until women have the same pay and job oppor- tunities as men.’ In 2011 lucky NSW peo- ple had a Legislative Council president Amanda Fazio, a premier Kristina Kene- ally, a prime minister Julia Gillard, and a governor-general Quentin Bryce.

Go, Julia!

SPECTATOR AUSTRALIA

page1image1665008page1image1664800page1image1664176page1image1664592

‘T
month the apolitical.co blog for the global public service published its 100 most influ- ential fighters for women’s equality. In fourth place was young Malala Yousafzai. Islamists shot her in the head for advocat- ing girls’ education. Gillard ranked ahead in third place.

Why No 3? Because in office, saysapolitical, Gillard was an ‘outspoken opponent of sexism in politics’ – cue her anti-misogyny speech of 2012. Plus last April she became the inaugural chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leader- ship at King’s College, London. Creating it was her own idea. She’s only been chair for a couple of months so bouquets seem premature. Kings College blurbed, ‘While in office, she became widely known as an outspoken opponent of sexism in politics’ – that speech again.

Gillard is with New York’s Harry Walker Agency, the ‘world’s leading speakers bureau’, fee on application. She’s done at least ten gigs, including for an Emirates outfit. (Emirates’ penal code endorses wife-beating providing you don’t leave marks). The bureau’s site includes: ‘Gillard’s prominence as an internation- ally celebrated feminist was solidified following her now-viral 2012 Parliament speech on misogyny’.

Her most important job has been chair since 2014 of the multilateral Glob- al Partnership for Education (GPE). Her GPE biography includes, ‘In Octo- ber 2012, Ms Gillard received worldwide attention for her speech in parliament on the treatment of women in professional and public life.’

Gillard, we learn, ‘successfully man- aged Australia’s economy during the global economic crises’, although she didn’t become PM till 2010, three years after the GFC hit. Gillard also ‘reformed Australia’s education at every level from early childhood to university’. Meanwhile we slip below Kazakhstan for secondary maths/science.

But back to that misogyny speech: Gillard was orating in defence of her Speaker, Peter Slipper, a Liberal party defector. Tony Abbott moved no-confi- dence over Slipper’s lurid text-messaging.

Here’s one text about women’s geni- tals (Trigger-warning – highly offensive):They look like a mussel removed from its shell. Look at a bottle of mussel meat! Salty c—s in brine! Gillard’s Scottish media manager John McTernan, who wrote the speech, was prone to sexism himself. Dur- ing a disagreement with one of his staffers, he emailed office-wide, “C—-, you will be c—ed too’. (Pre-Gillard he’d been ‘Think- er in Residence’ for SA’s Labor Premier Mike Rann).

Gillard mid-oration suggested that Abbott’s looking at his watch showed that cad’s misogyny. The Global Part- nership that Gillard chairs has allocated $US368m to Ethiopia, where 92 per cent of Muslim girls are genitally mutilated with knives and razors – and some sewn up. GPE says more education for girls correlates with less mutilation. It seems a slow remedy.

Gillard crusaded for Hillary Clin- ton’s re-election without any disclaimer as GPE chair. Clinton got videos made in 2015 of Gillard extolling her virtues and dissing her front-running opponent Trump. When I inquired, GPE assured me: ‘GPE is a firmly non-partisan and apo- litical partnership working with all govern- ments to ensure that children have access to a quality education.’ (GPE’s empha- sis). The board reappointed her in early 2016 for a further three years, praising her good work. In May, Gillard squired Clin- ton round the Melbourne-Sydney speech market, a Trump-bashing exercise. Lack- ing a $195 ticket, I don’t know if Gillard disclaimed her GPE non-partisan role.

Gillard has been GPE’s white-haired girl (make that red-haired) since 2011 when she bailed GPE out of a funding hole with $270m courtesy of taxpayers. Tradi- tional donors the Netherlands and Spain dumped GPE. (GPE says they’re back but only 1.5m euros cash so far). Norway

railing clouds of glory’ is so apt for Julia Gillard AC’s post- prime ministerial career. This

the spectator australia | 21 july 2018 | http://www.spectator.com.au

ix

Heart of darkness

Sometimes African rulers get so corrupt that Western aid donors go on strike. Take what Trump would call the shit-hole state of Malawi (please!).

Malawi relies on donors for 40 per cent of its spending. In 2013 a junior public servant was caught with cash bales of $US300,000 in his car boot. Raids on bureaucrats’ homes and car boots located more bales. Then someone shot the finance ministry’s budget director.

‘Cashgate’ travelled up to ministerial level, with initial allegations of a snaffled $US50m escalating to $US250m. The entire cabinet resigned. Normally-lavish donor Norway led a freezing of $US150m in aid, pending reforms.

Australian taxpayers’ despatched a bit over $A98m to Malawi in the past decade. Heck, round it to $100m. In the pre-scandal year we put in $23m. Was it coincidence that next year we halved it to $12m? All is forgiven because post-scandal we’ve given Malawi $46m-plus.

Aid ain’t transformative. Malawi’s signature accomplishment is breeding – 3 per cent annual population growth. In the five years to 2016, national income fell 11 per cent and income per head plummeted from $US440 to $US320. Schools are so useless that three-quarters of kids in sixth-grade primary can’t read. School incompetence is general, with countries typically wasting half their education budget on schooling by semi-literate teachers with national teacher absentee rates up to 42 per cent.

The 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa (23 Islamic, including Malawi) are a bottomless pit for corruption and donors’ funds. OECD puts total aid in the five years 2012-2016 at $USD297 billion. Australia does its bit. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) totals our decade’s aid there (to 2018-19) at $A2.4 billion.

DFAT explains that Australia has a ‘clear national interest’ in the security, stability and prosperity of sub-Saharan Africa. Australia is developing good economic partnerships through targeted aid. Our strength is in our experience and expertise in human capacity building and the agriculture and extractive sectors.

But Western aid, alas, averages the same $US50 billion a year as $US50 billion-plus in ‘illicit outflows’ via politicians, officials, business people and criminals, a figure not disputed by the OECD. A pan-African study in 2013 put illicit outflows from 1980-2009 at $US1.2-1.4 trillion, again about equal to aid.

Most is in commerce. For example, Mozambique’s timber exporters were declaring 260,000 cubic metres of global exports when China alone was importing 450,000 cubic metres from Mozambique.

Guinea is rich in iron ore. One mine was reckoned good for $US7b annual exports for 20 years. In 2008 the Guinea government sold a multinational the mining rights for $US165m. The company promptly sold-on half its concession for $US2.5b. A successor government re-let the concession for $US20 billion, a far cry from the original $165m.

Africa’s resources-rich countries, tragically, are showing worse progress on welfare. Illiteracy rates are higher, life is shorter, women and children go hungrier and get beaten up more often.

It’s nasty stuff because any $US100m retained in the country could buy 100m malaria dosages or 10m treated bed nets, for example.

Even nastier: female genital mutilation rates. Here’s the top ten: Somalia 98 per cent; Guinea 96 per cent; Djibouti 95 per cent; Egypt 91 per cent; Eritrea and Mali 89 per cent; Sierra Leone and Sudan 88 per cent; Burkino Faso and Gambia, 76 per cent. All except Eritrea are Islamic states.

Here’s another little case study. Rwanda’s strongman President Paul Kagame is an Arsenal soccer fan. Last month he paid £30m ($A53m) for ‘Visit Rwanda’ to sponsor Arsenal. His clique can now enjoy perks like an Arsenal hospitality box. Rwanda also runs a loss-making airline that swallowed half a billion US dollars in government support from 2013-16. But 40 per cent live in squalor, 90 per cent have no electricity and it’s even rationed to hospitals. Teachers’ pay can lag five months.

Western donors give Rwanda about $US1b a year. The unhappy Brits’ contribution is about $US100m a year. In the past six years Australia gave $19m to Rwanda in official aid, equivalent to a third of Kagame’s payout to Arsenal.

Australia’s aid is now focused 90 per cent on what Julie Bishop re-assuringly calls the ‘Indo-Pacific’. But who’s ‘Indo-Pacific’? Answer: Pacific Islands – 10 including PNG; SEA and East Asia – eight countries including surprise entrant Mongolia; South and West Asia – eight countries including Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and the never-quite-drowning tourist mecca Maldives. And big surprise: African East Coast – Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and South Africa. Kenya by the way has a 27 per cent FGM rate and Tanzania 15 per cent.

This list of supplicants is broad indeed but not as broad as in the Rudd/Gillard era of your-cash-to-burn. In one year, 2011, we rained money on 48 of the 49 sub-Saharan states. That was Kevin Rudd’s strategy for a Security Council seat for 2013-2014.

Guinea-Bissau was the orphan with no grant. It’s not the worst in Africa (that’s Equatorial Guinea, a Christian state whose ruthless dictator has been in power for 38 years. His son in 2016 complained of a home burglary of 60 million euros). According to the US State Department, Islamic Guinea-Bissau features bureaucrats and the military topping up their salaries courtesy of international drug cartels, 45 per cent of the girls and women getting their genitals carved up, ‘wide-spread wife beating’, schools ‘only open intermittently due to strikes by teachers’ and girls being forced into prostitution if they reject arranged marriages. But countries almost as bad did get Kevin’s grants.

Our diplomats in five posts (58 staff) went crazy trying to ‘build relationships’ with scores of indifferent and unscrupulous African states. But in the most cost-effective last-minute gesture in diplomatic history, on General Assembly voting day our reps slipped each voter a Cadbury’s Caramello Koala. We won the poll.

While donors fret, sub-Sahara has become a population time-bomb, many countries gaining 3 per cent a year. Africa’s 1.26b could double to 2.53b by 2050, the UN projects, and nearly double again to 4.47b by 2100. The big feller is Nigeria, now 190m, but growing to 410m by 2050 and 794m by 2100. Currently Islamic forces in Nigeria are ‘ethnic cleansing’ Christian communities and Boko Haram is brutally suppressing girls’ education. (Australia’s decade of Nigerian aid: $48.5m).

Life expectancy below Sahara is 57, fourteen years under world average. In six countries you’re lucky to get forty years’ healthy life.

Across Africa 4 per cent are HIV victims, five times the global average and about forty times the rate in Australia. In South Africa, WHO data for 2016 show one in five adults (18.9 per cent) has HIV with 270,000 new infections a year. Swaziland (27 per cent prevalence!), Botswana and Lesotho are even worse.

Meanwhile African billionaires are on the rise. The 2018 count by Forbes was 23, worth an average $US3b. Isobel dos Santos, worth $US2.7b, happens to be the daughter of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos who lingered 38 years in office.

The truly criminal waste in our aid is ‘climate aid’. PM Turnbull, DFAT says, has committed Australia to ‘play its part’ in helping mobilise $US100b a year by 2020 for third world anti-warming efforts. Turnbull in 2015 pledged at least $A1b over five years, disingenuously subtracting it from our existing aid budget. Australia will consider future climate commitments in due course, DFAT adds.

So in three years 2014-16 we’ve tipped in $720m. With 2017-18 added (no data yet) we must have hit the billion, and counting.

DFAT is now evaluating its climate aid. To date it’s been claiming that the usual Pacific storms are a ‘climate’ manifestation, so don’t expect objectivity.

The epitome of climate insanity was our $13m program called System for Land-based Emissions Estimation in Kenya (Sleek) which we finished in mid-2016. The program helped Kenya to count its land-based greenhouse gas emissions for UN reporting requirements. DFAT farmed Sleek out to Bill Clinton’s ‘Clinton Climate Initiative’ (CCI), hopefully cleaner than Bill’s Clinton Foundation. An audit for DFAT by GHD Pty Ltd enthused about Sleek but had to rate it ‘borderline’ for sustainability, financial reporting and risk management.

The auditors envision an ‘upscaled’ Sleek rolled out across East Africa as ‘voluntary (and/or compulsory) carbon markets gain momentum…The value of systems/tools like Sleek will increase dramatically.’ Yeah? Ordinary Kenyans obsess more about their next meal and staying safe than emissions. The US State Dept. critique talks of ‘unlawful and politically motivated killings; forced disappearances; torture; impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient judiciary; lack of accountability in many cases involving violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting.’ [FGM rate: 27 per cent]

Senegal hosted the February funding round of the Julia Gillard-chaired multilateral Global Partnership for Education. More than 1200 aid big-wigs, plus singer Rihanna, thronged Dakar. Senegal President Macky Sall was conference hero although Western pledges of $US2.3b fell short of the target $US3.1b. Our Julie Bishop pledged $A90m, additional to her $140m in 2014 and Gillard’s $270m in 2011. GPE’s had $570m from Australia. It typically spends nearly 80% of its funds on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Aid literature deplores ‘violence against girls’ in African schools. I’d assumed this meant bullying among kids, or corporal punishments. But State’s report on Senegal last year says parents keep daughters at home to escape ‘predatory teachers [who] could ruin their reputations and future marriage prospects’. Other reports merely deplore sexual harassment; only State Dept. adds ‘by school staff’.

Unremarked by the delegates, Senegal’s government-supported Quranic teachers chain, beat, rape and sometimes kill their ‘talibes’ – live-in children aged 5-10, says State Dept. They beg on the streets for up to five hours a day for food and money for their teacher – 30,000 begging in Dakar alone last year.

Whatever, Senegal’s education minister was promoted this month to vice-chair of GPE for his ‘remarkable achievements in improving the education system in Senegal [and] his global leadership advocating for the right to education for all children.’

Aid is always contentious but should we mis-spend it closer to home?

Ms Guthrie and her Effing ABC

TONY SWEARING MAN” THOMAS

Ms Guthrie and her Effing ABC

The national broadcaster’s boss this week fronted Melbourne’s Press Club, where she meekly endured a hectoring by underling Jon Faine that can only confirm how far the ABC has moved beyond both shame and supervision. Then came our Tony Thomas with his ABC-approved filthy mouth…

giggles IIIn what organisation other than the ABC can an employee insult the managing director to the wide world and emerge from it covered in managerial bouquets? This is a wonder arising from Michelle Guthrie’s ballyhooed address (before and after) to the Melbourne Press Club yesterday (June 19).

Last Thursday, Melbourne’s ABC 774 morning shock jock Jon Faine broadcast the following in the course of a rantabout the ABC being “done over” by the Coalition government (if only that were true!):

“I’ve been here since 1989 busting my guts for a vision and a set of values and, quite frankly, I’m sick of getting it ripped apart because of the failure of our managers.

“[Guthrie’s] been remarkably quiet and reluctant to engage in what she herself has previously ­described as ‘megaphone campaigning’. She says, ‘No, the best way to protect the ABC is to work quietly behind the scenes’. And that’s ­obviously delivered a terrible outcome in the last budget.”

So, Faine indicates that Guthrie is a leadership failure in general, someone who has stood mute while ABC “values” are trashed  and is now running a mistaken, top-level strategy that has severely damaged the institution.

I was going to ask Guthrie at the Press Club why she hadn’t already sacked this unruly employee[i] but Richard Ferguson of The Australian beat me to it. He asked, “Have you spoken to Jon Faine about his criticism of upper management? If not, do you have a message for him today?”

Jon Faine’s greatest snits, featuring James Delingpole,
Tony Abbott and Gillard/Wilson investigator Mark Baker

To my bewilderment, and perhaps Faine’s,  Guthrie responded with affectionate laughter for the 774 morning host before Flanagan had even finished. She replied with a simper: “Jon is a great broadcaster! What is fantastic about Jon and our other amazing broadcasters is that they are leading the conversations that matter to people. The great thing about the ABC is that we matter. When you see all the attention placed on us it is fantastic to be relevant…”

Thus emboldened, Faine dissed and badgered her some more: “No-one could be more pleased than me to see you do it [make speeches]. We don’t understand why you are so reluctant to do it more. We need a champion, a public champion, not a managing director who hides from the media or public engagement. We have to engage with [the public]. Are you prepared to do more?”

Guthrie began by saying she didn’t agree that she hid from the media. Faine then talked over her and did so loudly, a habit many of his on-air guests have endured. “I can’t get you on my show, nor can my colleagues or rivals.” Faine then allowed Guthrie to resume and she ran a line that “the more you speak, the less you are heard” and that speaking with impact mattered most.

The Guthrie/Faine or Faine/Guthrie power relationship typifies all you need to know about ABC management’s control of staff.

On another ABC note, readers may wonder why I am by-lined atop this report as “Swearing Man”. The soubriquet was bestowed – and not in a friendly way –  by the meeting’s compere and ABC presenter Michael Rowland.

Ms Guthrie’s Press Club performance can be viewed in full here

I wanted to ask Guthrie about the filthy language to be heard on the ABC, especially in its purported “comedy” programs. Loathe as I am to use foul words in public, especially when addressing a woman, I nevertheless forced the ABC-endorsed obscenities to cross my lips. If such language is good enough for the national broadcaster to beam into millions in prime time, the person in overall charge couldn’t complain at hearing them at the press club. My question went as follows:

“Your would-be comedian Greg Larsen  on Tonightly last March called Australian Conservative candidate Kevin Bailey a c**t. In that four-minute segment I’ve counted two ‘f***s’ and eight ‘c***s’. Although the ABC apologised [to Bailey personally], management had checked the segment before it went to air and it complied with ABC editorial  and classification standards. How can you defend such standards?”

Compere  Michael Rowland chipped in nervously, “We’re not going out live to air are we?” His fear was odd, as Tonightly’s “f***s” and “c***s” had certainly gone out, live-to-air, to a vastly larger audience than the Press Club lunchers. (editor’s note: while those vulgarities appear quite acceptable at the ABC, perhaps even in the executive suite, they are not appreciated at Quadrant Online, hence the coy asterisking. Those who missed the broadcast, can tolerate a painfully unfunny alleged comedian and endure the aren’t-we-just-so-cute-and-shocking schtick of compere and guest can see what their taxes pay for in the clip below.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1in5gIQFDiw&feature=youtu.be

Guthrie, no giggles this time but appearing somewhat flummoxed, replied that the Tonightly episode was being independently investigated and had been referred to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for review and determination.

“It is important to make sure we reflect community standards and also important to understand the context in which it is done,” she began.

“What is appropriate for 7pm News or Play School is very different from appropriateness in a comedy program at 9 or 9.30pm on our comedy channel. It is not one size fits all, it very much depends on the context.”

So in the ABC/Guthrieworld, the words “f***” and “c***” are OK in context. Maybe her colleagues uses the latter, although misogynist, in the  context of ABC board meetings, in a humorous way of course. (‘Pass me the effing salary list, old c***’?’ Surely not!)

I was hurt that compere Rowland dubbed me “Swearing Man”, merely for quoting what his own organisation delivers to the public, when I managed to get in the forum’s last question:

“The BBC’s last annual report discloses the pay of its 20 top news and current affairs presenters. The BBC since 2009 has published the salaries of all its 106 executives on 150,000 pounds plus, and their expense claims and gifts as well. So what’s the problem with disclosing ABC managers and presenters salaries likewise?”

Guthrie replied: “The issue is currently the subject of a proposed Parliamentary bill. I don’t think you are correct to say it is the top 20 presenters. It is actually [equivalent to disclosing] my salary, my friend [chief financial and strategy  officer]  Louise Higgins’ salary, as well as directors and heads of our content teams.

“That disclosure is more than provided by private media organisations or public listed ones.

“On top of that it is more than required by the public service. We have been very clear in saying our highest paid presenter is paid a fraction of the highest paid BBC presenter. We have no gender pay gap at any level.

“Anything more than that [in disclosure] is really going to impact our ability to retain staff and also invades their privacy in ways completely unacceptable.”

Was I wrong? The BBC does not disclose its top 20 presenters’ pay? Where do I start?  The BBC gives them in bands of £50,000 so I’ll take the mid-points. A run  of the mill BBC news and current affairs presenter called  James Naughtie (love that name!) gets 175,000 pounds.  A Martha Kearney, presenter, is on£225,000. An Eddie Mair is top dog presenter on £325,000

On radio, mid-level gal presenter Moira Stuart is on £175,000, whereas top guy Steve Wright is on a handsome £525,000. a Lot of BBC presenters are called “multi-genre” like Mark Chapman on £225,000. And top man is a Chris Evans on a stunning £2,225,000. If Ms Guthrie would like more detail she can contact my secretary.

Little more is to be said. I made my hasty exit, feeling somehow I had made myself unpopular among the 98% ABC fans at the lunch. As I went past the TV cameras, one of the cameramen snarled, “You’re a c***!”

He refused to say who he worked for.

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here


[i] Faine suggested last Thursday that he might be in jeopardy: “If it gets me into trouble, then so be it.”