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Rupert Murdoch doesn't understand climate change basics, and that's a problem

Posted on 14 July 2014 by dana1981

Rupert Murdoch has a vast media empire. In the UK, his News Corp assets include The Times and The Sun. In the USA, he has Fox News, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. In Australia, he's got The Australian and a multitude of local newspapers.

Many of Murdoch's news outlets are also among the worst when it comes to getting climate science wrong and disseminating climate myths and misinformation. Inaccurate media coverage is in turn the primary reason why the public is so misinformed about global warming.

In a recent Sky News interview, Rupert Murdoch expressed his own views about global warming and climate change.

Murdoch's most inaccurate statement was,

In terms of the world's temperature going up, the worst, the most alarmist things have said ... 3°C in 100 years. At the very most one of those will come from man-made, be man-made.

In reality, the worst case scenario considered by the 2014 IPCC report projects about 4°C global surface warming over the next century (on top of the nearly 1°C that we've already caused). All of that 4°C warming would be human-caused. The best case scenario would involve about 1°C global surface warming over the next century, and that's if we take serious action to reduce carbon pollution.

IPCC AR5 projected global average surface temperature changes in a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5; red) and low emissions scenario (RCP2.6; blue). IPCC AR5 projected global average surface temperature changes in a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5; red) and low emissions scenario (RCP2.6; blue).

So the scenario of 1°C human-caused warming that Rupert Murdoch has called "the most alarmist" is in reality the best case scenario – the least amount of warming that will realistically happen even under major international efforts to address the problem. With such a dramatic misunderstanding of what climate experts expect will happen in the future, it's no wonder that Murdoch and his media empire don't view global warming as a serious threat.

Murdoch's misunderstanding of basic climate science didn't stop there. He also said,

Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here, and there will always be a little bit of it. At the moment the north pole is melting, but the south pole is getting bigger.

Of course the climate has changed naturally in the past. And people died naturally in the past as well. However, this argument is a logical non-sequitur:

A cartoon illustrating the non-sequitur of the 'climate changed naturally in the past' argument A cartoon illustrating the non-sequitur of the 'climate changed naturally in the past' argument

Climate changes have physical causes – in the past, natural ones – but the current global warming is predominantly caused by human carbon pollution.

The growth of Antarctic sea ice also isn't evidence for natural climate change. The Antarctic region, including its ocean, is warming. As a result, two recent studies concluded that the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet is already underway and is unstoppable. Moreover, the Arctic is losing sea ice 10 times faster than the Antarctic is gaining it. Climate scientists aren't yet sure if the increase in Antarctic sea ice is related to human-caused climate change, but it's certainly not evidence against it.

Murdoch also invoked what's known as the Tragedy of the Commons and the 'blame China' strategy.

Things are happening, but how much are we doing with emissions and so on? Well as far as Australia goes, nothing in the overall picture. China perhaps.

Every individual or family, town or city, state or province, and country (including China) can argue that its carbon pollution is too small to matter on a global scale. If everyone uses that excuse, nobody will reduce their emissions, and the planet will continue to warm dangerously rapidly. That's why we need international agreements in which all countries – including Australia and China – agree to do their part in reducing carbon pollution and slowing global warming.

Coincidentally, among first world countries, Australia has the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, almost triple China's. Australia's total carbon pollution is relatively low only because it has a relatively small population. Do Australians really want to argue that their country doesn't matter because it's too small?

Finally, Rupert Murdoch again demonstrated why he's not worried about global warming by downplaying the risks it poses.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 43:

  1. Rupert Murdoch is something like 850 years old. At his age, one does not absorb new information or evaluate new ideas, so this is not a surprise. 

    I've had this experience often with people over a certain age; offer information which contradicts what they want to believe and you are met with blank incomprehension, silence, or their repeating whatever they believed when they were 35.  The more articulate will respond with a clever evasion or dismissal, but with 90% of them, rationally considering, weighing and evaluating new information is not ever going to happen.

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  2. On the horrors of the average per capita contributions to AGW for individual countries, a new paper by Ward and Mahowald plots per-capita graphs of  cumulative CO2(e) emissions against GDP with the contribution of each country to temperature rise over various periods marked as bubble size on different graphs. While Australia isn't labelled, being one of the not-very-numerous 'other' countries, it isn't hard to decide which bubble is Australia (ie the light blue bubble 'in transit' over the US bubble).

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  3. Actually, Working Group III of the IPCC AR5 is quoting projections for 2100 GAT rise as much as 7.8º C (above 1850-1900 baseline), or about 7.2ºC above 2000 baseline.  See, for example, Table SPM.1 in the Summary for Policymakers.  Make sure to read footnote 7...


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  4. Clearly, there is more going on here than someone misinformed.  At this point, it's just not credible that Murdoch 'doesn't know' what the vast preponderance of Scientific opinion is.  His inability to accept it indicates it conflicts with his core values.  Many conservatives, when pushed on CC, will same something like 'Earth is huge.  Humans are tiny.  We can't possible affect it'.  That's not a statement of fact: its a statement of a core value.  I believe people like Murdoch Need Earth to be huge, unlimited in extent.  It has to be a place that challenges us daily and forever and never, ever stops doing so.  People like Murdoch will say 'I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.'  What they mean is that the bear is the malevolent, all-powerful 'other' that challenges us to race.  It's mythic in power: it cannot 'run out'.  Hence, they can focus on winning the race and nothing else.  So, the race is between people, and the Earth is just an all-powerful environment that sets up the race.  Whatever else he is, Murdoch is a supreme competitor.  I think his ability to assume the malevolent environment extends in all directions, forever, gives him an edge over other competitors: he can focus all his energy on beating them.  He Needs Earth to be huge and unending.  It's a core value that motivates him, and conservatives like him, and CC inconveniently calls that into question.


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  5. Non_Scientist

    Could you please tell me the location of Shangri-La?

    I do hope that you have found this fabled land - otherwise you will find your future to be rather disappointing considering your attitude towards the elderly.

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  6. Aunt Sally @3, due to the requirement that IPCC working groups issue their reports more or less simultaneiously, and due to the fact that working group 3 calculations on mitigation are dependent on working group 1 projections, working group 3 is currently based on CMIP3 projections of the older type (A1, B2 etc) scenarios.  Based on more current CMIP5 projections of the current RPC scenarios, the RCP 8.5 projections are for 2.6-4.8C above the 1986-2005 average.  That is the 5-95% confidence interval.  Consequently the 4 C "worst case scenario" mentioned in the article is an understatement, but not by as much as quoting the working group 3 figures would suggest.

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  7. Tom@6 — Yes, the CMIP3 v CMIP5 distinction is important.  Still, from a risk managment perspective, it's worth pointing out the potential scale of change we're talking about.

    Additionally, WGIII clarifies that this projection "includes, in addition, the carbon cycle and climate system uncertainties as represented by the MAGICC model..."  I'm not clear how this squares with the projections from WGI.  But it doesn't sound good...

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  8. @Non_Scientist

    Wow, dude, biased against the elderly much? Fwiw, I am the youngest member (by far) of an crack IT team working in a large East coast datacenter. The average age of our NOC team is about 58 years old, with a few over 60. I imagine most of them are well past that "certain age" to which you refer so smartly. 

    IMO, our groupd is one of th most open minded an well educated teams I've been a part of. Open mindedness abounds here with frequent lively debates about all manner of topics. 

    Maybe you're not meeting the right group of oldies.



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  9. Non-scientist,

    I doubt very much it is his age. Plenty of older people have a healthy curiousity and can change their minds.

    I think ubrew12 is much closer to the mark. He does seem to be extremely, perhaps obsessively, competitve and society wide cooperation of the sort required to deal with climate change gets in the way of his games. I think a lot of denialists are game players who want the fun of putting down opponents. This makes them want to see opponents as dishonest and deserving of mockery and put-downs. Think of people like Mark Morano, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt, all malicious game-players addicted to sneering at opponents.

    But I think there is something else. I think billionaires for whom their business is everything can unintentionally attract an echo chamber of flatterers who tell them what they want to hear. Their advisors do genuinely see them as the great man or woman. If you aren't curious and don't seek knowledge from outside your inner circle you can end up out of touch with reality. I think this has happened with Murdoch, with Gina Reinhart and with the Koch brothers.

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  10. About the nearly 1 degree that we have already caused- what is the proposed mechanism for the nearly half of that which occured between ~  1910 and 1940? I was under the impression that was not thought to be co2 related warming.

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  11. Sam, I'm not sure what you mean when you say "half of that."  See IPCC AR5 WG1 Ch. 10, especially section 3, and to the point figure 10.1.  What are you measuring from?  There's been roughly 0.7C warming since 1960 with virtually no contribution from solar variation. 

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  12. Hi DSL i was referring to giss and hadcrut which both show something pretty similar. Those coloured dots from figure 10.1 are hard to make much sense of without a mean but it looks to me like a mean would have pretty well the same appearance as giss and hadcrut.

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  13. Murdoch's views would be just commonplace ignorance if he was not such a powerful individual.

    His power may be judged from the fact that Tony Blair called him every day in the week leading up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. He is a powerful man whom even the powerful kowtow to.

    He is a real threat when his misconceptions and confusions become the core agenda of a massive news organisation, and he has the ears of the elite in every country. Correcting Murdoch and his minions is what Skeptical Science is all about, and well done with this post.

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  14. There's a new book out ('Sons of Wichita') about the Koch's.  If you want a look into the world of these "titans" you should definitely read it.  Murdoch fits RIGHT into what's described about the Kochs.  I'm willing to bet he expends 90% or more of his brainpower thinking about how to beat his competition, get under their skin, spy on them... play the 'great game'.

    He's clearly not dumb, or he wouldn't have built the empire he sits on top of, but he's one person with one brain, and only so much time to spend his thoughts on.  These guys are so focused on the dramas they create that they have no more brain cells left to focus on anything else.  And I'd bet they NEVER slow down enough to stop and honestly think about the alternatives to their own worldviews.

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  15. I agree with the comments that Murdoch is l very likely to be aware of the best understanding of this issue, but is chosing to not help others better understand it.

    He certainly has the capacity to properly understand this issue, as do his media creators. So it is highly likely that Murdoch is in the make-believe business for the benefit of himself and a collective of unacceptable characters he hangs around with. His job in the gang is to try to 'make' people 'believe' what is in the interests of that unacceptable group rather than have more people be more aware and actually better understand how unacceptable they are.

    And people who are inclined to want to get more benefit for themselves any way they can get away with are easy targets for the make-believe stories created and disseminated by the likes of Murdoch's mouth-pieces of myths, including his own mouth.

    This is a group of people who have no interest in developing a sustainable better future for all, especially if doing so means reducing their ability to benefit from thinigs they have been able to get away with - those unacceptable activities they relied on getting away with.

    Their problem is they have locked themselves into attempting to succeed by getting away with unacceptable actions. They stand to lose a lot if their deception is unconvincing. They are threatened by any information that contradicts their 'way to wealth'. So they pour a lot of effort into prolonging popular support for the unacceptable unsustainable actions their personal success relies upon.

    That group really needs the likes of Murdoch to be successful for as long as possible. The development of the best future for humanity needs the likes of Murdoch and the gang he hangs out with, to fail to succeed, as quickly as possible.

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  16. "People of privilege will always risk complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage." - John Kenneth Galbraith

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  17. Murdoch is a wealthy man and he can't take it with him when he pops his clogs, so to speak. So, seeing that this side of the fence believes the evidence shows that climate change is going to challenge those who inherit his wealth, perhaps he might like to satisfy himself that we are wrong and that they will have as secure a lifestyle as he obviously thinks they will. 

    As he believes in his view of climate change so much, let him put his money where his mouth is. Invite him to fund a repeat of John Tyndall's 1859 experiment (With Royal Society oversight to ensure the integrity of the results) that proved the greenhouse effect and then explain scientifically, with whatever help he can muster (Lawson, Monckton, Abbot, Python (and the rest of the circus), etc.),  why he thinks it is all balloney (well, most of it according to him). Dare him to publish his results (prominently) in his U.K./U.S.A national media channels/newspapers with this side's response. Both sides should be constrained to a set number of words (to be agreed). (Perhaps the Guadian might like to sponsor this side of the debate with exclusive rights to publish the correspondence and outcomes.)

    Daft as the above might be (it is more intended as a thought-starter than a finished, completely thought through idea), let's face it, anything is worth a try. As thing are, Murdoch is going to continue spouting his erroneous opinions and editors, enjoying their freedoms, are going to take the view: "It's only an idea, but look whose idea it is!" and faithfully walk to heal, fetch the stick when its thrown and enjoy their "Whose a good boy, then?" bonuses, no doubt saying "No worries, sport" as they do so.

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  18. I've encountered 'stubborn clinging' in just about all age groups— after all, if one argument defending your view doesn't work, you can always imagine there's another... So I don't think it's about age.

    But there's another big reason why Murdoch is so misinformed and ineducable: he's wealthy and powerful (and an aggressive businessman).  Who, of all the people around him, would tell him he's wrong?  If you depend on him for your position, it would be downright imprudent to say anything like "oh, by the way Rupert, all of recent warming is due to humans, and high-emissions scenarios project much larger temperature increases than what you've  said"?  

    Funglestrumpet is right: the influence of his views is magnified by his glorious wealth and power— when people like that say something, it's automatically respectable no matter how false and self-serving... 

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  19. Sam: "but it looks to me like a mean would have pretty well the same appearance as giss and hadcrut."

    What I'm trying to point out is that warming from the enhanced greenhouse effect is not responsible for much of the increase in global mean surface temperature in the early 20th century.  Nearly half of the 1C of enhanced greenhouse effect warming (AGW) of the 20th century did not occur prior to 1940.  Nearly all of the 0.7C warming since 1960 is due to the enhanced greenhouse effect (eGHE).  The eGHE was on the increase during the first half of the 20th century, but it wasn't the dominant forcing.  Solar variation was the dominant forcing at the time.  See this and this for more.  

    There was no single mechanism responsible for the global mean surface temperature signal.  There still is no single mechanism.  It is a combination of a variety of forcings, feedbacks, and oscillations.

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  20. You have to ask why people like Murdoch believe they can make pronouncements on subjects like Climate Change.

    There are two scenarios regarding his thoughts:

    1. He believes he is an expert - which should ring alarm bells in anyones minds and implies he has delusions of grandeur (probably accurate).

    2. He doesn't believe he is an expert - which implies he feels his influence is useful to override scientists, which also should ring alarm bells.

    In both cases he is being manipulative.

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  21. Closed mindedness is endemic througout the population, young and old. But it is tough to keep an open mind  when one has spent  years forming a opinion based on a pretty thorough review of the situation and the facts. In any event, there is probably a certain amount of closed mindedness on both sides of the global warming issue.  I support AGW theory but it might be a sign of closed mindedness if one announces the debate is over.  I get it though.  We need to move on and fix the problem even if we do not have 100% certainty.  

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  22. Paul D @20

    I think it is actually

    3. He does not believe there is such a thing as expertise and integrity in this matter. He has little ability to recognize integrity since he does not try to fight his biases and expects that noone else will do so either.

    In journalism he has been a muck raker with an anti-authoritarian pose. His main target has been traditional conservatism with its respect for authority and responsibility not the left. He is as far as I can see a very rich bogan trying to tear down anything that he feels might look down on him.

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  23. Rupert is very rich. Rupert is very powerful. Rupert is very old.

    Concentrate on the latter.

    How many more years at the helm? 5? Maybe 10? Look to who will succeed him at News Corp. Will they have the same power and influence? I doubt it. 

    Love him or hate him, Rupert is a force of nature but his place in the sun is due to be vacated. His heirs are unlikely to have the same opinions or killer instinct as he did. Their sibling rivalry is already stuff of legend. The kingdom will be divided.

    A local farmer told me that he had a nasty feud with a neighbour for many years. After a fruitless struggle to resolve many issues he came to the following conclusion -

    There are some awful people who will never see reason. The way to triumph is simply to outlive them. They will be replaced by someone else and you won't have wasted your life fighting.

    The end is nigh. In the words of Rupert's good pal Lady Thatcher -


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  24. foolonthehill,

    My focus is on striving to develop a sustainable better future for everyone. So Mr. Murdoch is just one of many trouble-makers to be recognised for the unacceptability of the actions they pursue. The "success" of each of those unacceptable people provides an unsavory but appealing example others may be tempted to try to follow.

    Developing a sustainable future for all life on this amazing planet is the only viable future for humanity. And it requires the likes of Murdoch to fail to succeed. Even if they do not seem to have many more damaging years left, their example will outlive them. The example of their demise because of their unacceptable attitude and actions is what needs to be seen.

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  25. Sam,

    DSL has provided a lot of information regarding your question. Maybe this will also help you better understand what you see in the HadCRUT and GISSTEMP data between 1910 ad 1940.

    The Wikipedia information on "Carbon Doioxide in the Earth's Atmosphere" includes a chart of CO2 levels since 1000 AD. The concentration of CO2 was about 280 ppm from 1000 AD through to 1750 AD. Then a noticeable increase of CO2 levels starts to occur. By 1900 the CO2 concentration was passing 300 ppm.

    So there were CO2 increases most likely due to human activity that partially explains why global temperatures were increasing between 1910 and 1940. However, as DSL mentioned there are many other transient influences. The combined effect of all those influences created the 1910 to 1940 trend you see.

    A way to see the trend is to look at the 5 year rolling average of the GISSTEMP data. The rate of increase during the period you are focusing on may look similar to the increase since 1980. However, if you look at all the data you will see that 1910 was a significant temporary low point in the records and 1940 was a significant temporary high point in the record. So focusing on the trend of that period could be referred to as cherry-picking.

    Just looking at the 5 year average line you can appreciate that lines of longer averages would have a higher value in 1910 and a lower value in 1940, reducing the trend in this period. You will also see that the data since 1980 has only been up with some level bits along the way including the well explained reduced rate of increase in the data since the 1997/98 super El Nino spike. And the line of longer averages would continue to sloping up through those level bits, including sloping up through the period since 1998.

    I hope that helps you better understand what you are seeing between 1910 and 1940.

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  26. One Planet

    There will always be bad people like Murdoch. Someone, somewhere will follow in his footsteps. Fantastic wealth and power are attractive. I don't think his failure will set an example that will deter such people. 

    History is populated by failed despots and yet still they continue to pop up. They all think they are infallible. If Murdoch were to fail they would say that he wasn't ruthless enough.

    I do think that there is something that should be done about recording their contribution to our problems. 

    The climate change deniers are in the process of realising their stupidity and failure. Now they will switch their tactics to trying to control our response to the threat of climate change. This response will favour their subsequent quest for more power.

    This is where we need to be vociferous in naming and shaming them. The politicians who denied climate change and installed policies that contributed to it, must be held up to scrutiny. The Internet is a poor place to achieve this - look at how US politicians have changed their Wikipedia entries when it is convenient. 

    The internet may not be with us in 100 years time. Climate change will be. 

    Something immutable needs to hold the record. The prior antics of those such as Murdoch, Palin, and the Kochs should be recorded. Those in the media that took the King's Shilling should also be noted - they have assisted in misleading the public.

    Their memory will be subject to the opprobrium of the people who are suffering in centuries to come. This is how they should be remembered.

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  27. MA Rodger @#2

    On the horrors of the average per capita contributions to AGW for individual countries, a new paper...

    David J C MacKay included some charts of interest here in Chapter one, from page 12 of his work

    Sustainable Energy - without the hot air

    Notes on data sources are on page 21.

    Thanks for the link to a newer study I am ckecking it out.

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  28. As we consider Murdoch's behavior, its useful to remember two things. 1)Unlike the Koch Brothers, he has no direct interest in the energy status quo. 2)This is not just a casual opinion.  He forces this opinion onto almost every media outlet he owns.  I'll bet there are few other subjects about which that is true.  And, hence, the key to his puzzling behavior may be found in understanding what those other subjects are.  What are the subjects Murdoch feels so strongly about that, evidence to the contrary, he directs the Wall Street Journal, etc, to broadcast his views rather than reality?  And I suspect, if we did that, the commonality would be that these topics pose some kind of threat to Murdoch's views on free market capitalism.  That he thinks of human progress as a kind of mad dash forward, kicking and clawing for preeminence, and 'the devil take the hindmost'.  Capitalism, to him, is wild.  Its Nature 'Red in tooth and claw', whereas Nature itself is just a canvas, an arena, where this race is conducted.  Atop his pyramid, the supreme competitor shouts out to the Universe 'I win!', and absolutely, positively, does NOT want the Universe to say anything back.  If you point to a world outside the arena, the Murdochs will laugh at you.  The racetrack goes round and round and never ends: its infinite in all directions.

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  29. foolonthehill,

    I agree with naming and shaming those who deliberately fight against developing the collective understanding and actions that will lead to a sustainable better future for all. I also agree with charging the worst offenders with 'crimes against humanity'.

    However, just naming them without effectively keeping them from succeeding, without ensuring them fail, could be just an interesting academic exercise. Actions that keep them from succeeding and then reporting their failed attempts would be beneficial.

    The future of humanity needs those types to fail to succeed. The past history does not mean it is inevitable that those type of people and their 'success at the expense of others' must be accepted.

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  30. Also see:

    Scientists Take Issue With Rupert Murdoch’s Remarks on Climate Change by Eric Roston, The Grid/Bloomberg News, July 16, 2014

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  31. Australia is about to repeal the carbon tax and stop the introduction of an ETS and, instead, is preparing to introduce a process called "direct" action, a marketing exercise designed to placate voters concerned about climate change by pretending that you can act on climate change by burning more coal. Australia doing this makes it the first "developed" nation to undo the market mechanism that has been widely advised by economists as the most efficient method to transform an economy from a high emissions economy to a low emissions economy.

    In Australia, the main reason this has happened is the Murdoch press, which reaches about 83% of the reading public, taking a politically conservative editorial position and prominent anti-global warming stance. The other reason, I believe, is Australia's love of sport and its pub (going to a public bar in a hotel) culture. Many Australians, like everyone else, spend most of their time working and prefer to relax with their families, follow sport and socialise at a pub or club. They spend little of their relaxation time, which is valuable to them and rightly so, reading well researched articles about climate change, and get most of their climate change information from their most convenient source, a Murdoch controlled newspaper. Because many Australians read Murdoch newspapers for the sports reporting rather than the political commentary, the only political commentary many Australians get is from Murdoch newspapers. Because they feature three of Australia's most prominent conservative political commentators Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman and Miranda Devine, your average Australian gets a constant stream of climate change and global warming denial, which is reinforced by conservative shock-jocks on radio like Alan Jones and Ray Hadley. This narrative then drives the climate change debate in Australia's pub/club culture. This means the climate change narrative for most Australians is one of denial. Below the surface, there are many Australians who are concerned about climate change and do spend time researching the issue properly.
    Whether, this will be enough, to overcome the political hiatus, remains to be seen. It seems even events like record temperatures for record times over wide areas, disastrious bushfires in October and an unprecedented flood washing cars down the main street of a rural country town, doesn't seem to register with people as, perhaps, something to do with climate change. It is just seen as more of the historical "bushfires and flooding rains" nature of Australia.

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  32. Just a brief comment on the age question.  I was interested in who were the signers of the OISM petition in my state (Arkansas, USA) and did a brief search on a few.  Found ages for 50 (of 147 in the state).  The average age was 73.  Non-Scientist (@1) perception has some basis. On the other hand the average age at my Sierra club meeting last night was not much lower and these are not among the deniers.

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  33. mrkt@32,

    I think your observation is not explained by Non-Scientist@1 perception but by the fact older people (espacially over 70 as in your sample) who are selfish/childless and don't care about ruining the environment for future generations; they don't bother pursuing the scientific news about an issue which almost certainly won't afect their lifetime. On the other hand, people of the same profile (i.e. selfish/childless) but young (say 20-30s, who look forward to living well into the second half of this century), do know that the issue is predicted to affect them, therefore they have strong incentive pursueing the science explaining it.

    So, IMO, the failure by our civilisation to develop responsible intergenerational ethics can be the cause behind the fact that older people are more likely to deny the seriousness of AGW. The new information absorbsion is not an issue, because siad information is very simple: it follows from basic physics from primary school and I don't believe even people of Rupert's age can forget such basics. And even if some do forget, they can still try to relearn if they have right attitude - e.g. responsible intergenerational ethics are enrooted in their principles - but if their principles are opposite, the easiest attitude is to recede into denial.

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  34. I don't think that most people know the basics of climate change.

    I saw a few comments that implied it was inexcusable, but I think the readership here (Ive already linked over a few times now because I know the quality is always solid) is far more knowledgeable. I also think making it mainly about specific future temperature changes, which is semi speculation, makes it easy for people to think that it "wont come to pass," and also doesnt really convey any sense of what is REALLY really going on, and when people know what is really going on, then they are far more connected to the issue (and understand it far better,something drastically lacking today,and desperately needed for desperately needed improved assessment. I mean most politicians in America don't even really understand the issue well.)

    I really don't see the basics of the issue expressed much at all. I tried to give what I think is "really the problem," and the basics, regardless of modeling. I do know that when I've actually conversed with people, almost no one knows this basic stuff, and unless they are super extreme politically, they are usually surprised, more concerned,and usually shift their view on CC a little bit. (In person anyway, online its wildly polarized and polarizing, and all the condescension, and even unnecessary if mild misreprsentation or, more often, dismssal on some of the "have the issue correct" sites, of the "have the issue incorrect" sites and people who are misled on them, etc,  doesn't help make the basic near incontrovertible case, and immediatley loses the one audiecne that is needed to actually increase knowledge rather than just self reinforce. It makes people very defensive and then even more blindly adherent to proving theyre right no matter what. (extreme examples of such adherence being wuttsupwthat, where the intense level of hifalutin prose, mangled context and equations along with clearly genuine belief in their special "smarter than everybody else" insider knowledge that climate scientists are quacks, is inversely proportional to their actual knowledge on the basics of the issue)

    I also strongly think that calling this issue climate change - regardless of possibly setting up fuel for more far right gimmickery that "the AGW crowd" is "changing the name because the facts aren't working" - has really added to major confusion on and misunderstanding of the issue. (Remember, most of America  for example, and Australia does not have the knowledge of a lot of readers of this site.)  It causes people to conflate what is observable right now as climate with the actual problem, when it's not remotely. ) I try to explain here why the CC moniker does that. I think it's a pretty coherent case.

    Re Murdoch's tragedy of the commons argument, it's a decent one and genuinely made all over the place, yet flawed, but rarely affectively addressed. Here, anyway.  For the majority of mankind's modern cc gg emissions period, the U.S. dominated the world in total emissions, at one point responsble for an entire quarter of global emissions? (Or something.) The U.S. is still the global power/world leader.  Between that fact and that the U.S. has been the huge world leader on causing the problem in the first place, sensible U.S. action and leadership on the issue by both example and simultaneous and ongoing advocation to other countries will make it very easy for other countries to follow. Not as strong an argument for Australia, but given the level of misino their I can't see why Australia couldnt workin concert with the U.S on this, and make the above case even stronger. (If Australia gets us in, suddenly that argument that doing something in Australia is not worth it, flies out the window.) 

    I have a concise remediation plan (for the actual climate problem, not the misinformation problem keeping us for even effectively assessing the climate problem), that maximizes results, minimizes costs, maximizes efficiency, minimizes government, meets or beats many ideologically driven impediments to open mindedness on the issue. And, it also mentions the key leadership role of the U.S., so that it's not immediately assumed doing something in the U.S at least won't have much of an affect worldwide. I'd link to it as well but have enough links in this post; its on my blog, posted today.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Words written in "all caps" constitute shouting and are therefore prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy. Please read the Comments Policy and adhere to it.

  35. John @34,

    When you consider the following:

    • there are many other damaging impacts, and risks of significant damage, from all the activities related to the burning of fossil fuels, not just the creation of excess CO2
    • fossil fuels will only be less and less available for everyone to benefit from because they are a finite resource. The easiest to get has already been used up.
    • There has been violent conflict as powerful people have others people fight for their opportunity to win more of the opportunity to benefit. There will be even more violent conflict as the resource dwindles and more people want more of the benefit.

    It would seem irrational for anyone to disagree with curtailing the opportunity for anyone, especially an already wealthy person, to benefit from such a damaging unsustainable activity.

    And yet there is fierce opposition to such a rational development toward a sustainable better future for all.

    That can be best explained by the developed nations developing in a way that created a strong motivation for people to care more about getting the best present they can for themselves any way they can get away with, rather than striving to develop a sustainable better future for all life on this amazing planet. People with that attitude only support something they personally expect to benefit from. Some will try to claim it is basic human nature, but altruism and desiring to help others are also basic human nature. And those people will be very biased in the information gathering and learning. They will only accept what is in their interest.

    The persistent arguments against protecting the future from disrupted climate change due to callous unacceptable human activity proves how damaging and dangerous and ultimately unsustainable the developed system has become. It is clear that the system developed in the developed nations promotes callousness and discourages altruism. It is that system, promoted by the likes of Murdoch (who fight for more people to demand the freedom to do whatever damaging unhelpful thing they please), that must change. Then, and only then, will there be real action to stop the unacceptable pursuits of those among us who only care about themselves.

    Some people will never change their mind. And the popularity of unacceptable things can be prolonged, but cannot be indefinitely sustained. The future of humanity requires development of societies that do not allow selfish people to feel justified and emboldened. It requires societies where such people constantly fail quickly and are endlessly disappointed, even if it makes them angry, even if it means they are being "kept from having the freedom to do as they please". The only freedom for such people needs to be the freedom to change their mind.

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  36. It is always the same:

    if you are claiming something, you have the burden of proof.

    I just came about an atheist homepage (myself not being one :) ) - the same arguments from the believers ...

    it seems to be a similar kind of epistemological discussion ...

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  37. @foolonthehill, Lloyd, Jenna


    Tx for the perspective. 

    I'm speaking not of all older people, hopefully not of most, but some I've known. I'm also speaking from personal experience, as I'm approaching that age and have a neurological disease, and am seeing bits of those qualities impinging on me.  I try to adapt around them, but as it is with climate, one can't entirely outrun Nature.

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  38. While Murdoch wields a huge influence on the CC debate through his wide media interests, the CC community does not help itself in the argument, because of its scatter gun approach to the whole debate. The CC community seems to have the desire to overwhelm opponents with arguments. It is based on an idea that somehow this will make people accept the CC point of view. Unfortunately, overwhelming evidence without context tends to confuse people rather than convince people with little knowledge. This inconsistent approach makes it easier for opponents of CC to sow seeds of uncertainty. The CC side of the debate needs to approach the certainties of CC in a more methodical manner. This means separating the argument into its various components using a proper scientific approach. Firstly, there is the basic theory. Secondly, the evidence that proves the theory. Thirdly, the likely impacts from the theory. And fourthly, what do we do about alleviating adverse impacts. Also, within this basic structure, the certainties, the uncertainties and what we still need to find out, all need to be clearly delineated along with clearly differentiating between what is natural CC change and what is unnatural CC related to AGW. Unfortunately, most of the debate in the popular media revolves around the evidence that proves the theory like is it warming or isn't it, or should we do something or shouldn't we; are we observing any early impacts; and what is the most effective approach to overcome the impacts and how we to do it. Also, much debate in the wdier media revolves around analyses and predictions from climate models and whether they are accurate or not, which again is a discussion about evidence rather than basic theory.

    The basics in this debate are:
    1. CO2, Methane etc. are greenhouse gases. This hypothesis is easily proven from basic physics and chemistry without resorting to any climate models.

    2. CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing. Again easily proven without referring climate models.

    3. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere comes from human activity. Again easily proven, although the isotopic evidence and decrease in the oxygen component of the atmosphere is not so easily understood.

    4. Increasing greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere will warm the planet. Again this hypothesis is easily proven although there is some uncertainty as to what extent. However, there is at least certainty that a doubling of CO2 will directly cause a 1.2 degree increase in temperature without referring to any feedback effects. Although this can be verified by experimentation in the lab, this is where most of the seeds of uncertainty are sown.

    Most of the actual scientific discussion between opponents centres around this issue, whether it is warmer than it was or whether weather events are more extreme. Also, whether the recent observed warming is due to increasing greenhouse gases or whether the recent warming is natural and has released the greenhouse gases, although theories 2 and 3 proves it isn't. Despite the debate around all this, it still doesn't change the basic premise of greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere, because if the planet doesn't warm then our understanding of basic science is seriously flawed.

    5. A warming planet will cause a change in the weather. Again easily proven from the basic science of warming gases and liquids.

    Very rarely in the debate are these certainties ever referred to. To convince the unconvinced, the certainties need to be made, as often as possible, by proper scientific journalists using appropriate metaphors that can be easily understood by people who are just trying to understand, and to debunk the deniers political obfrustation. This should be done as often as possible, because it then makes the anti-CC stance look a little less convincing. While you won't convince the conspiracy theorists, you should convince the people who don't believe the "Roswell" and "Man didn't Land on the Moon" bunk. Only then can discussion about evidence, impacts and what we do about them, be put into their proper context.

    SkS is valuable in providing proper information but it is still a little daunting for the beginner, to navigate.

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  39. Mancan. ...

    Don't you think there may be some variables in all those "certainties" that you are listing?  Maybe Murdoch thinks that the climate systems are extremely complex and to say that everything is decided in the CC debate may be a little premature. 

    I have a degree in environmental biology so I am by no means an expert in climate change. ... However I follow the debate closely and have enough science background to understand that the lack of having proper controls while experimenting in nature is a real problem.   Thinking that you have a set of truths like your 5 can take away your scientific objectivity.   I am surprised to see a site with this kind of name be full of so many absolutely non scientific commentary and or mindsets. 

    I am starting to doubt our understanding of how much c02 actually does effect temperature.   I feel like the recent pause in warming doesn't sit right with my expectations.  So I am looking back at what I assumed to be true and re questioning everything. .... and assuming nothing. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] This would be best discussed under a more focussed topic. eg here. " I feel like the recent pause in warming doesn't sit right with my expectations". Perhaps you havent read enough climate science to have very accurate expectation then? Try the appropriate sections of the IPCC WG1 report and bring questions to the appropriate topic.

  40. Donny, you say this: "I am surprised to see a site with this kind of name be full of so many absolutely non scientific commentary and or mindsets."

    And then you follow it with this:

    "I am starting to doubt our understanding of how much c02 actually does effect temperature. I feel like the recent pause in warming doesn't sit right with my expectations"

    This site is here just for you to work through your doubts and "feelings."  So do it, and bring the evidence — on the appropriate threads, of course.

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  41. Donny @38, read carefully the five "certainties" listed by Mancan.  They are in fact sufficiently close to indisputable that calculating a probability of error for them is pointless.  The only quibble on that point is that proposition (4) says  that increasing CO2 "will warm the planet", but that is only true ceterus paribus.  They also do not say very much about global warming as a problem for humans to sovlve.  They jointly insist, for example that ceterus paribus, and with increasing CO2, temperatures will rise but do not quantify the increase from BAU by 2100.  For all these certainties, that increase could be statistically indistinguishable from the preindustrial temperatures.  They insist that warming will alter weather (better: climate), but no not indicate whether that alteration will be good, bad or neutral for humans, our society or the environment.

    Unfortunately, if you cannot agree with these certainties, you are deeply in denial about climate science.  Having agreed to them, however, implies nothing about future policy.  Other, quite solid, but not so certain statements do imply a lot about policy.  But if you cannot agree to even such basic propositions as the five given by Mancan, there is no hope in actually discussing the evidentiary merits of that science. 

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  42. Donny@38,

    Please elaborate on what aspects of the rather thoroughly researched and presented information about the accumulation of total heat content of the planet continuing to rise as the cooler than neutral Tropical Pacific ocean during the period since 1998 has led to more heat capture in the ocean depths, and that a lower global average surface temperature has also been produced by the 'temporary' cooling effect of that cooler Tropical Pacific surface. Note thta the swing of the average surface temperature of the Tropical Pacific from La NIna to El Nino is about 4 degrees C which clearly can have a significant effect on the temporary values of a global average (that global average has been increased by less than a degree so far).

    It would also seem that the recent very high monthly global surface temperature averages could be correlated with the slight warming of the Tropical Pacific that has recently occured. Using the NASA GISTEMP data set, the global average of 12 months ending in March 2014 was a match for the highest that occured during the massive El NIno event of 1997/98. And the highest 12 month averages due to the 1997/98 event were in Aug and Sep of 1998, months after the end of the El Nino condition (As can be seen in the NOAA history of the ONI the 97/98 El Nino event ended when the April/May/June average surface temp of the Tropical Pacific droped to less than 0.5 degree C above the long trem average from its peak of 2.4 C above the that average). And the 12 month averages ending since March 2014 have been increasing. And the coming potential El Nino has barely reached a neutral El Nino/La Nina state.

    I am also very interested in best understanding what is going on. And so far I find the explainations developed to date indicating the warming has not stopped, that the global average will continue to increase as CO2 increases, to be quite 'compelling'. But I am open to input that would help me even better understand things.

    p.s. I am fairly certain that the most likely cause of reluctance to accept the unacceptability of human activity that produces excess CO2 is a desire to benefit from activity that would lead to excess CO2 being produced. That powerful desire can affect a person's 'scientific objectivity'.

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  43. Donny, My apologies for the lack of thought flow in the opening of my comment. It should have been:

    "Please elaborate on what you consider to be the uncertain or doubtful aspects of the rather thoroughly researched and presented information about the accumulation ..."

    I am genuinely interested in any new information or thoughts you can share.

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