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A short response to Robert Manne's A Dark Victory

By Tim Florin - posted Thursday, 6 September 2012


The 8-page article in the August Monthly written by the non-scientist scholar, Robert Manne, on global warming was riddled with vilification of those who do not share his view, omission of critical facts, and hubris. And so I am moved to respond. My qualifications for writing this critique are those of a medical scientist and clinician with a good grounding in the physical sciences and the scientific method. The Monthly declined to publish this response.

Let me start by stating that I am deeply concerned about the unsustainably heavy human footprint on the environment, our relentless exploitation of limited resources for agriculture and settlement, and mining for energy and materials, and I presume, I am sure correctly, that these same concerns motivate Manne, and that this is why he and others are so agitated by the lack of internationally co-ordinated action.

But repetition of the oft-made assertion that there is scientific consensus about the cause of global warming, does not make it true. While the IPCC 'climate-scientists' arrived at this conclusion, many other 'climate-scientists' do not agree. I believe that the weight of scientific opinion has moved to conclude that the IPCC scientists were very wrong in their hypotheses and modelling. There are more important causes and feedbacks which determine temperatures on planet earth. Manne selects as his Authority, James Hansen, known as the 'father' of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) movement. But why does Manne not also discuss James Lovelock, 'godfather' of the AGW movement, or Patrick Moore (astronomer), both of whom now say that the hypothesis that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the cause of global warming, is wrong.

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Manne chooses to ignore the crucial real-world (empirical) evidence. One important and easily understood example is that while carbon dioxide is going up inexorably (because of man-made emissions), averaged world temperature has levelled off. (see Figure). On this point, even Hansen admits in his enthusiastic TED talk that temperature goes up before atmospheric carbon dioxide rises. Any causality appears back-to-front!

I mentioned vilification. Manne's paragraph 7 describes opponents to his view in terms of three words: 'scepticism, contrarianism, denialism'. To state another point of view, for me, scepticism is justified where the facts are in dispute. Contrariness is not the way to describe those scientists who are not convinced by the popular interpretation because they see it as misconstruing or ignoring facts. To suggest that those scientists whom he labels as denialists are 'people who do not think for themselves' is the ultimate in hubris. It is Manne who appears to be ignorant of basic scientific theory, ignorant of scientific method and ignorant of scientific politics, and who has to argue by appeals to Authority. (He seems to be describing himself when he writes about people who do not think for themselves.)

Manne argues that those who think differently are the pawns of big business (as with marketing of cigarettes by tobacco companies, p3 onwards). I hope that it is unlikely that any honest reader of this critique will put myself or
James Lovelock or Patrick Moore in that category. This is particularly true of James Lovelock, who has been a self-funding scientist. He originally predicted a catastrophic rise in sea-level due to man-made global warming. He with
Lynn Margolis created the Gaia hypothesis, which still stands. Gore relied on Lovelock for many of his statements in his feature film, The Inconvenient Truth. Lovelock now says in interviews freely available on the net that he was completely wrong about AGW because the empirical data disprove the theory and the modelling; and he decries the dishonesty of government-funded scientists.

With regard to funding, the opposite may be true. The big money is with people who believe in AGW and the people who gain from this ideology.

i) "Carbon trading rose 11 percent to $176 billion last year, the World Bank said in its annual report on May 30 (2012)."

ii) The "USA spent $1.4 billion in 2011 directly on climate programs notincluding programs with climate co-benefits". The amount spent indirectly on man-made climate-related issues via tax incentives, energy, agricultural and international aid programs is much more.

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iii) In Australia, a) the NHMRC provides approximately $1 million of priority funding to directly investigate AGW. Although access to these funds is competitive, the academic bar required to compete for this 'priority' funding is set low.

b) "The CSIRO got from the Federal Government $A2.8 billion over four years in 2007 (from the Rudd Labour government)" much of which was directed to climate science according to the press release.

If the critical reader concedes from this, that I may have a point, then he or she may be asking cui bono: why would the Big money be on the side of AGW research?

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About the Author

Tim Florin is a medical doctor, physician, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland. He has a training in physical and biological sciences and is an NHMRC-funded fellow, who heads a laboratory team in medical research.

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