Thursday, October 8, 2009

Party on, Garth

We all know that weekly columnists are an easy way to fill up space in a newspaper. You don't have to give them a desk, you don't have to pay them holidays or sick leave, and you don't even have to tell them what to write about. To be sure, some of your columnists are generally good; for every Garth George column, there's one from Tapu Misa - someone for whom 'research' means more than clicking the first result on Google. But there's still a fundamental problem with the whole concept of weekly opinion columnists: why should we care what they think? And when a columnist is essentially on tenure, like Garth George, what incentive do they have to produce anything more than a weekly dose of onanism? (At least Mr George usually talks about issues other than himself, which is more than can be said for some Herald columnists.)

I've been thinking about this for a while, particularly since I read an interview with Garth George in Craccum a few weeks ago. He was far from being some malevolent stereotype; rather, he seemed like a normal man (albeit a grumpy, hyper-conservative one) who had had a tremendous stroke of luck: he was paid to write every week about whatever he liked (or, more usually, disliked). Today's column, however, has really tipped me over the edge.

"Copenhagen blabfest is a load of hot air" is the headline of the column, referring to the climate summit that has been held this week in Denmark. But that's not really what he wants to talk about:
Buried on a far back page of world news in this newspaper on Monday was an item recording that an international carbon credits scam worth more than $2.2 billion is being investigated by detectives in at least five European countries.

The fraud, covering Britain, Italy, Spain, Denmark (scene of the upcoming Copenhagen international climate negotiations conference in December) and Sweden involves the buying and selling of emission allowances across borders to avoid value added tax.

For those of us who have known for years that man-made carbon dioxide emissions have nothing to do with global warming, and who recognise that an unnecessary international carbon trading scheme would be wide open to abuse, this comes as no surprise.

No, Garth. For those of us who have known for years that anything involving human beings and large amounts of money leads to corruption, this comes as no surprise. What exactly is the link here between the alleged scam and the alleged non-existence of anthropogenic climate change? There isn't any. It's like claiming that the existence of oil industry cartels proves that oil doesn't exist. Nonetheless, on he goes:

We go along with Bjorn Lomborg, director of Copenhagen Consensus, a think tank, who, writing in the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming.

"This," he wrote, "is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets. This is certainly true of climate change.

"We are told that very expensive carbon regulations are the only way to respond to global warming, despite ample evidence that this approach does not pass a basic cost-benefit test.

"We must ask whether a 'climate-industrial complex' is emerging, pressing taxpayers to fork over money to please those who stand to gain.

"The partnership among self-interested businesses, grandstanding politicians and alarmist campaigners truly is an unholy alliance ..."

That's all fine. It may or may not be true, of course, but if it is it certainly proves the point that 'people are generally bastards who will try to make a buck wherever they can'. I suspect, however, this isn't Garth's point.

The main issue I have is with the first part of the third paragraph: "For those of us who have known for years that man-made carbon dioxide emissions have nothing to do with global warming..."

This is a scientific claim, obviously. I've written about it a number of times before, so I won't dwell on it here. I'm just going to point out, again, that to the best of my knowledge Garth George is not a climate scientist. Nor am I, of course - but you don't see me holding forth on the issue at all, let alone in a major national newspaper.

The irony is, of course, that man-made carbon dioxide emissions make no difference to the climate, which has been going from cold to hot and back again ever since time began, and certainly long before man ever produced any CO2.

So, with the Government setting its mind to trying to solve the problem of agricultural emissions, and linking up with the United States to do so, it's time once again to make these salient points, courtesy of Australia's Carbon Sense Coalition. [What follows is a list of arguments against the existence of anthropogenic climate change taken from the CSC.]

Oh, the Carbon Sense Coalition! Has Garth actually done some research on the issue? Well, I did a bit of 'research' myself and managed to find a fascinating document released by the CSC about their members and goals. Roll out the Nobel Prize-winning climatologists! Here's a selection of their advisory committee - and if you think I'm being unfairly selective, look at the document yourself:
Mr Viv Forbes (Chairman)
Grandfather, Sheep and Cattle Grazier, Soil Scientist and Mining Consultant, Rosevale, Qld, Australia.

Mr Keith Barker
Mining Engineer, CEO Northern Energy Corporation, Brisbane, Qld, Australia

Mr John Carter
Cattleman, Chairman Australian Beef Association for six years, Columnist “The Land” Crookwell, NSW, Australia.

Mr Ken Day
President Director, Terrindo, Sand Mining Contractor, Indonesia,

Mr Rod Dawnie
Geoscientist (paleoclimate studies geochemistry, geomorphology and Quaternary geology). Brisbane Qld, Australia

Mr James Hawes
Ex Science teacher, actually taught biology, chemistry, geology and physics at High Schools and chemistry at University. Past President of the Science Teachers Assn,
NSW and the Aust Science Teachers Assoc. Wombarra, NSW, Australia.

Mr Ron Kitching
Drilling and Conveying Consultant, Columnist, Author “Understanding Personal & Economic Liberty”, Rockhampton, Qld, Australia

Mr Stuart McArthur
Grazing and Land Management Consultant, Yeppoon, Qld, Australia.
I see. So, quite a few miners and cattlemen there - in fact, quite a lot of men fullstop. Sure, there are scientists - one guy "actually" taught science at high school, and another is a self-proclaimed (no PhD) "geoscientist". Maybe the list of "Regional Correspondents and Supporters" will bear more fruit:
Mr Gerry Jackson, Noble Park, Victoria, Australia.
Freelance Political Analyst
"Freelance" = "unemployed".
Mr Ray Evans, Melbourne, Vic, Australia
President of the H R Nicholls Society and Secretary of the Lavoisier Group
President! The H R Nicholls Society, described by Bob Hawke as "political troglodytes and economic lunatics", are dedicated to rolling back employment law (not their words, obviously). The Lavoisier Group just published a book called Thank God for Carbon.
Mr Erich Kern, California, USA
Internet browser and political analyst.
I think I'll stick with Firefox.
Mr Benjamin Marks, NSW, Australia
Student of Austrian Economics, Freelance Writer.
Pretentious, moi?

Meanwhile, Professor Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the section of the IPCC looking at whether man-made climate change is occurring, merely has 130 peer-reviewed papers published in climate science journals. Yes, yes, it's all a bit easy. But the point is that this group just got cited as a reliable scientific organisation in a supposedly serious newspaper. None of the checks and balances that should exist in this case - no self-respecting actual journalist would ever have cited such a source - simply don't, because it's an opinion column.

24 comments:

  1. "Mr Erich Kern, California, USA
    Internet browser and political analyst."

    hmmm. i browse the internet too. i guess that makes me an analyst! Woohoo!

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  2. James - brilliant, as usual.

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  3. Spot on. The guy's bat-shit crazy and dumb as a post.

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  4. "no self-respecting actual journalist would ever have cited such a source"

    Are you forgetting the Packaging Council?

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  5. Anon: You have a point there, although we could quibble over the meaning of 'self-respecting'.

    Maybe the distinction isn't as strong as I thought.

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  6. Not in these days of PR and churnalism it's not.

    Industry groups know there is huge pressure on journalists to produce copy, and lots of it, to fill pages. That's why media handlers have increased exponentially as journalist numbers wither.

    I'd wager a Herald reporter will spend two or three hours at most on a page lead.

    When I was a junior reporter (going back 13 years now) I was expected to turn in two leads and about 15 downpage / brief articles a day on a newspaper of similar size to the New Zealand Herald. I'd expect that demand has grown since then.

    I was unhappy with almost every story I turned in. Every story is a compromise of values, time, research, availability etc. The deadline hangs heavy at the start of the day, let alone the end.

    With serious columns, however, there is at least a week to plan, research and write. There should be no place for pontification and unsubstantiated waffle.

    Unless you are a great big twat, like Garth George.

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  7. "Industry groups know there is huge pressure on journalists to produce copy, and lots of it, to fill pages. That's why media handlers have increased exponentially as journalist numbers wither."

    Sorry, I forgot to add the point of this (!): Hence 'media friendly' handlers can serve up all kinds of nonsense and it becomes instant news.

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  8. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10602054

    Government = Ministers of the Crown

    Employment Relations Authority = statutory body and part of Department of Labour

    Matthew Dearnaley = former hack on industrial round (may it rest in peace)

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  9. Man ALIVE this one really made me mad. "Man's emissions of CO2 are beneficial, not dangerous... All life would benefit from an increase in C02 content"?! TELL THAT TO THE POLAR BEARS GARTH

    As an aside - agree muchly with the kudos to Tapu Misa. She is quite fantastic.

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  10. I have it on good authority that the Herald wanted to ditch him after he retired, but he religiously sent his columns in week after week, whether they were asked for or not. He's reliable, cheap, and has a ready following among the keyboard-thumping retards of your views.

    So he stays.

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  11. Um, any of you lot care for the opinion of Dr Chris De Freitas, Associate Professor at Auckland Uni? (posting over at NZCPR)

    "The United Nations is gearing up to create a sense of urgency about climate change in the hope that the meeting in Copenhagen can produce a solid agreement to replace the failed Kyoto treaty. But nature refuses to oblige. Eighteen years of global warming came to an end in 1998. Currently, we are in the eleventh year of a global temperature stasis. Sea levels, which have been rising for the past 300 years, show no sign of acceleration. Antarctica is cooling. Hurricane activity is down and does not appear to be connected to carbon dioxide emissions. Annual average Arctic sea ice extent, which is determined largely by wind and ocean currents, is increasing once again - the recent decline was hardly alarming as it was less than that which occurred in 1930s."

    The science on global warming is far from settled within the scientific community and it has been pointed out that the IPCC is merely a political body rather tan a scientific one. However the media has made its mind up.

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  12. Monk De Wally De HonkOctober 9, 2009 at 12:42 AM

    Oh well everything's all right then. Go back to sleep New Zealand, Garth is in control.

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  13. Anon: I think the point is that Garth didn't use a source such as Dr Freitas.

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  14. "Oh and I hear that barrels of oil are going cheap because the climate-industrial complex have bullied the oil companies and they are really really scared so they iz selling it to get rid of it quick and get out while they can because they realise their time of making billions is near an end."

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  15. I once critiqued a Garth George piece in which I discovered his reliable sources were a: The Maxim Institute, and b: a religious nutter organisation in the UK who got govt funding to prove a bunch of nothing about stuff noone cares about. I see his research methods haven't changed much.

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  16. "The science on global warming is far from settled within the scientific community"

    Based on one scientist from Auckland Uni disagreeing with pretty much every other scientist in the world?

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  17. Watch out, anon, the other anon will start quoting that unverified figure of 20,000 eminent boffins who oppose the orthodoxy soon.

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  18. Dr De Freitas made the point that climate science is being decided by a vocal minority rather than the majority who disagree with the IPCC.

    He was part of the IPCC review process so you will have to try very hard to find a more convincing testimony on the issue. He's an insider, not an outsider.

    Read his article at:
    http://www.nzcpr.com/guest166.htm

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  19. I'd find more convincing testimony from all the other IPCC review members who disagree with him.

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  20. I must say I am rather happy to see that the Australian farming sector is so strongly represented in the climate sciences field. It gives me hope that my views on structural engineering of schools, bridges and high speed trains will one day be taken seriously, despite my lack of qualifications or training.

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  21. Looks like Garthman has come out swinging today. You really got him angried up, James. Still what would those condescending PhD types know, eh?

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  22. http://hot-topic.co.nz/is-garth-george-capable-of-original-thought/

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  23. You really got him angried up, James.

    No, that would be Salinger.

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