How travel broadens the mind! Freshly retired in February 2011 I caught up with some long overdue traveling, including a trip to Western Australia for a fishing excursion out of Carnarvon. On the way I read most of John Grover's book Struggle for Power. This contains a gripping account of the worldwide campaign against uranium mining in the 1960s and 1970s which was particularly effective in Australia. I found the book on a drive to Canberra via the Berkelouw Book Barn near Berrima. That shows the benefits of traveling to Canberra!
It turned up just at the time when I was becoming suspicious of the motivation of the climate change alarmists, especially the Greens. Many Green supporters are naïve people who think that we need to care more about the environment but the hard core always struck me as the kind of people who would have been attracted by the Communist movement a generation ago
Grover's book was published in 1980. It contains a review of the technology of uranium mining and power production, and a thorough study of the health and safety record of nuclear power plants around the world, compared with other forms of energy production, especially coal mining. In that respect nuclear power is so far in front of coal mining that it is effectively a one-horse race. The most relevant part of the book in the context of the climate change debate is the detailed account of the move by the international communist movement from using "peace" organizations as a front for their activities to the (then) fledgling environmental movement.
The anti-uranium movement began while the US and Russia were testing bombs and dispersing plutonium in the atmosphere, so at first it gained support from people of all political persuasions. However in the wake of sensationalized books on the danger of nuclear power by Barry Commoner and the influence of leftwing radicals the movement set upon all uses of uranium, including nuclear power. The leaders in the United States started the "Union of Concerned Scientists" to coordinate the efforts of environmental groups and public interest lawyers. The American National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches helped to circulate anti-nuclear materials, notably in Australia where the NSW Teachers Federation promoted "information kits" containing anti-nuclear propaganda in the 1970s.
Grover reported that the religious peak organizations were among numerous peace-related organizations which were fronts for radical action around the world. Amsterdam was a key centre with organizations like the Transnational Institute (with outreach to South Africa and the Phillipines) and the Australian Solidarity Collective established in association with Greenpeace (based in London at the time). The Transnational Cooperative was established in Sydney, directed by Laurie Carmichael of the Communist Party and Tom Uren. Friends of the Earth set up in Adelaide in the 1970s and later moved to Sydney where it shared a building in Castlereagh Street with several radical groups and a bookshop.
Grover listed 26 Australian groups that were dedicated to blocking uranium mining and nuclear power, among them Friends of the Earth, the Australian Teachers Federation and the World Council of Churches. The Australia Party in the 1970s took the anti-uranium line, and circulated a ten-page document which Grover described as "shockingly dishonest". The document prompted the resignation of some members.
The anti-nuclear movement managed to completely sideline the scientific and engineering communities, and they encountered little effective resistance in Australia to counter the misinformation that they distributed. The concerted activities of these groups, including powerful interests in the ALP, have crippled our uranium mining industry and stopped Australia from taking on the lucrative role of storing the world's nuclear wastes. This whole story needs to be better known and understood because the international infrastructure and the tactics developed by the anti-nuclear movement provided the platform to launch and sustain the global warming scare. That section of Grover's book is summarized here.
In Perth I gave a talk at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, run by the formidable organizer and writer of memoires Ron Manners. The event was delayed because the plane to Perth was grounded by volcanic ash. In the meantime Christopher Monckton landed to start his Australian tour and he came to the re-scheduled seminar with Jo Nova, a prominent Western Australian sceptic and blogger. They turned out to have a serious interest in the topic of my talk – the synergy of the thoughts of Karl Popper and the Austrian school of economists. So we had a great exchange of ideas on the "Even More Austrian" school of economics and then at dinner the conversation moved on to climate change.
Up to that time I considered that climate science was in the "too hard" basket, and my case for "no need for urgent action" rested on the fact that Australian action is irrelevant in the larger scheme and self-mutilating if we try to lead the world. At the National Press Club Debate Christopher Monckton walked all over his opponent, not only on the science but also on the economics where his opponent (an economist) was supposed to be on his home ground. This suggested a need for further research and somebody recommended The Climate Caper by Garth Paltridge.
This completed my conversion to scepticism, or "realism", not denying warming but, accepting the possibility of one degree of warming over the rest of the century. The Climate Caper has a lot of powerful material in a small space. Paltridge explains:
- how models can be used and abused to beat up the fear of warming,
- the politics of the various committees in the IPCC and the way that political agendas trump genuine science,
- how some Australian scientists and their official agencies have jumped on the warming bandwagon and suppressed dissent under political direction,
- how the postwar explosion of government-funded and "normal" (uncritical) science has undermined the spirit of criticism and independent thinking among scientists.
It is essential to understand how complex mathematical models with many variables are constructed and tested. It is possible to get practically any result you want out of a model, and the results can't be checked by other scientists unless they have access to the raw data and the assumptions that are built into the model. The most popular models used by IPCC scientists calculate global temperatures that range several degrees about the actual value. The calculations of current rainfall are much worse, with Australian rainfall figures ranging from 200 mm per year less than the actual to 1000 mm per year more. Predictions of future rainfall have a wide range, with about half the models predicting more rain and half predicting less. The average of the various figures was about 8 mm per annum more.
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