Australian Senator rails against climate conspiracy in 42-page report

Enlarge / A general view of the reopening of Australian Parliament on April 18, 2016.

There is, sadly, no shortage of politicians who reject the conclusions of climate science, and that rejection frequently relies on amateurish and conspiratorial “debunkings” of actual science. So many have gone this route that it takes a lot to stand out from that crowd, but Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts managed it last weekend.

Roberts joined the Senate this year, representing Queensland as a member of the small, far-right populist One Nation Party. He spent his career in the coal industry before retiring in 2006 to focus on opposing climate science and climate policy full time.

Senator Malcolm Roberts.

Senator Malcolm Roberts.

In August, Roberts sparred with physicist Brian Cox on ABC’s Q&A program, claiming that global temperature data had been manipulated by NASA to create the appearance of global warming—much to the consternation of Cox.

Shortly after, Roberts requested a climate science briefing from Australia’s Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). He was willing to listen, he said, to the proof that Earth’s climate is warming, and human activity is responsible. He got that briefing in late September. And he clearly didn’t listen.

On Sunday, Roberts held a press conference to promote a 42-page document he had produced in response to CSIRO. Flanking Roberts at the press conference were his notable co-authors. The first was Timothy Ball, a retired Canadian geography professor who co-authored a book denying the existence of the greenhouse effect (which exists) and who frequently writes posts on a prominent contrarian blog accusing climate scientists of fraud (and sometimes comparing them to Hitler).

The second guest was Tony Heller, an American better known by his blog pseudonym of “Steven Goddard.” Heller’s blog seems to offer new “proof” each week that temperature data has been fudged, accompanied by reprocessing of the data in ways he thinks are better.

Roberts’ report—subtitled “We have a choice: the tyranny of controlling opinions versus the freedom of objective scientific evidence”—has all the intellectual rigor of a chain e-mail. Amidst all the claims of “fabricated warming temperatures,” Roberts finds space to deny other environmental facts. After arguing that there is no need for sustainable catch regulations for Australia’s fishing industry, Roberts writes, “Green politicians, activists, and nongovernment organisations tell us our Great Barrier Reef is dying yet scientific researchers and tour boat operators who live on the reef confirm that it’s thriving.”

Roberts states that sea level is not rising (and Pacific islands are actually rising higher above sea level!) and that there has been no global loss of glacial ice or sea ice. And then he starts in with a collection of fuzzy jpeg graphs that supposedly show CSIRO to be wrong about climate change.

For example, the oxygen isotope record from a single Antarctic ice core is lazily converted to temperature and treated as global average temperature. Some instrumental temperature data is slapped on top, and the claim is made that the world was at least 1 degree Celsius warmer about a thousand years ago. (It was not.) The links to the data sources in the caption aren’t even right.

Roberts even rejects the idea that human emissions of CO2 are changing the concentration in the atmosphere—a fact that can be verified by simple math as well as shifting isotopic signatures. Roberts falsely claims that the isotopic signature of fossil fuel CO2 is the same as volcanic gas, so we can’t tell the difference. Amazingly, he goes even further, adding the bizarre claim that atmospheric CO2 “is not and cannot be affected by human production.”

At the next step in the chain, Roberts’ document channels Timothy Ball and rejects the idea that increasing atmospheric CO2 can change atmospheric temperatures—flatly contradicting physics and denying the existence of Venus at the same time. Roberts claims there is a wide range of opinion on this incontrovertible fact and that increased CO2 might even cool.

The document also exhibits a complete lack of familiarity with the IPCC report it criticizes, claiming that the IPCC is not allowed to study natural climate variability (it does) and suggesting that such research should be undertaken (it is). Roberts says, laughably, that conduction, convection, and latent heat transfer are ignored in favor of a “conjured” greenhouse effect. That’s weird given the very first figure in the last IPCC report’s introduction:

If you’re wondering who is to blame for the long con of climate science, Roberts unsurprisingly has answers for you: the United Nations wants to control you. UN Under-Secretary-General Maurice Strong, specifically, “was remarkably successful in gaining control of weather agencies.” International banks are getting rich because of climate change (somehow). Scientists, universities, and government agencies are “feeding off government grants.”

“Misrepresentation of science and climate is a form of control over people’s minds,” Roberts writes, concluding that “schools today subtly teach people what to think.”

To bust up this conspiracy, he calls for Australia to leave the UN and for an “independent inquiry” into CSIRO and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. Unfortunately for Roberts, another one of his demands is already moot—Australia ratified the Paris Agreement on Thursday.

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