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Rudd offers insults instead of evidence

By Joanne Nova - posted Friday, 20 November 2009

The world is considering a new financial market, larger than any commodity market in existence - bigger even than oil. It’s “based on science”, but if you ask for scientific evidence, you’re called names … by our Prime Minister, no less. The insulting term “denier” was the centrepiece of Kevin Rudd’s speech at the Lowy Institute a week ago.

It’s difficult to overstate how unscientific his speech was. The failure of logic and reason was a repeated pattern. Ad hominem attacks, argument from authority, and baseless innuendo were not just the window dressing, but the foundation of his message.

Instead of politely explaining the evidence, Rudd describes three categories of “deniers” at length as if they are a subspecies of the human race. This is a form of bullying and a way to shut down dissent. As long as Rudd thinks of people in these dehumanising terms he will not be able to hear any messages from concerned scientists.


Apparently anyone who even questions the theory that carbon causes catastrophic warming is called “dangerous”. It’s as if the IPCC have a biblical status. This is supposed to pass for reasoned debate?

There is no study of the natural world that is improved by bullying and name-calling.

The baseless attacks on Australian scientists were extraordinary. Not only are they called names, but Rudd asserts they are only speaking against the ETS because they are paid to, “And invariably they are driven by vested interests”.

He offers no evidence to back up this smear, and appears unaware that any analysis of funding for and against the “climate-crisis” shows that the money is wildly stacked in favour of scientists who believe the theory, rather than sceptical scientists who don’t. The ratio is more than 3000 to 1. So Rudd not only uses fallacious ad hominem reasoning, he gets the direction of conflict of interest back to front.

The Climate Money (PDF 799KB) paper I produced for the Science and Public Policy Institute shows that while Exxon spent $23 million on sceptics (from 1998-2009), the US government spent $79 billion on the climate industry (from 1989-2009). Big government vastly outspent big-oil. What’s more carbon trading last year was a $126 billion market. That’s for just one year (2008). The real vested interests have names like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, ABN Amro, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC.

Talking about funding does not tell us anything about the role that carbon plays in our climate, but it tells us we should analyse the evidence closely, and watch for bias. Instead Rudd dismisses warnings from professors, Nobel Prize winners, and thousands of unfunded retired scientists with insults. If there was a legitimate problem - if the IPCC exaggerated their projections, or made a mistake - how would Rudd know? A strong leader welcomes his critics. Instead Rudd ignores private Australian citizens and defends an unaudited foreign committee which has a vested interest in providing “catastrophic” projections of the future.


Rudd’s faith in the IPCC is profoundly disturbing. It’s a UN committee which can only name about 60 scientists (PDF 114KB) who reviewed the critical evidence from their last report, many of whom reviewed their own papers (which is hardly “independent”), and others who don’t agree with the IPCC projection. Reasoning “via committees” is known as “argument from authority”. It’s a logical fallacy.

Meanwhile unfunded scientists rise up in protest. More than 31,000 scientists have signed a petition against the theory of man-made global catastrophe. Again, that there may be a consensus among unfunded scientists is not proof that the theory is wrong, but surely it means we should debate the evidence?

Rudd threatens that the future of our children is in “sceptical hands”, but if a nation’s leader just obediently accepts a foreign decree without checking it, isn’t he the one who lets our children down? After all, he’s the one who isn’t arranging an independent audit of the claims made by a committee in Geneva before we sign away the hard work of Australian adults and children for decades to come.

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About the Author

Joanne Nova wrote The Skeptics Handbook, 160,000 copies of which have been distributed in four nations and translated by volunteers into six languages. She's a freelance writer, blogger and also an analyst for The Science and Public Policy Institute in the USA. She was a prize winning graduate of molecular biology, and a former associate lecturer in Science Communication at the ANU. Her new blog, JoNova, has reached 140,000 people already this year with over 400,000 page views and 6000 comments. She has spoken about climate science communication in New York and to Senate Staffers in Washington, and attended the UNFCCC in Bali, 2007. Joanne has done over 200 radio interviews, and hosted a science series for children on Channel Nine.

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