Alarmism is the problem, not science

Alarmism: the excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat.

* * *

Australia’s Chief Scientist says we’ve got five years to save the world from disastrous global warming. Who can argue with a Chief Scientist? Well, given that the Chief Scientist made that claim nearly five years ago, and there has not been disastrous warming but on the contrary no significant temperature increase for around 16 years, I’d say the answer is anyone who can read and think!

The then Chief Scientist, Prof Penny Sackett, made the remark in December 2009.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report says that the mean temperature of the planet has increased by 0.8 of a degree since the late nineteenth century. Therefore, the climate is warming. Moderately.

What then is with the continuation of exaggerated and alarmist claims and predictions? Why does the mainstream media generally give them so much publicity? (Rhetorical question, I know: the sensational headline sells papers and attracts viewers).

The IPCC’s most recent report accepts that there has been a pause or hiatus but does not see this as indicative of a reversal of the warming trend long-term.

The way to explain the pause is to allow scientific debate and argument, free of vilification. It may be that the increase of CO2 emissions to record levels and the lack of significant increase in warming do indeed point to a flaw in the original hypothesis that sees greenhouse gases caused by human industrial activity as the main driver of the warming since the 1880s. Or maybe not.

Perhaps there is something to be said for the new hypothesis that the heat is being absorbed by the oceans. This is plausible and testable; though according to a recent NASA study based on satellite observation and direct temperature measurement of the upper ocean (the deep ocean is difficult to measure, say the scientist authors): “The combination of satellite and direct temperature data gives us a glimpse of how much sea level rise is due to deep warming. The answer is – not much”.

* * *

Al Gore’s sci-fi ‘documentary’ ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was screened in just about every primary school, high school and town hall in Australia – and in many other countries too. Counterpoints were rarely, if ever, offered. But his iconic portrayal of huge tidal waves swamping Manhattan was utterly unscientific, mere alarmism. They find no basis in the IPCC assessments, which put sea level rises at 0.26-0.55 meters (10-22 inches) by 2100 under a low emissions scenario and 0.52-0.98 meters (20-39 inches) under a high emissions scenario. Is this really headline grabbing and catastrophic? Why can’t policies of adaptation be effective and the most practicable response?

The former Chief Scientist should feel embarrassed at what she said nearly five years ago.

Having said that, fossil fuels really are so C19th and C20th. But that still makes them more up-to-date than medieval windmills.

* * *

The left looks to the future. That’s what attracted me to it more than 40 years ago. You know, stuff like flying cars and holidays on the moon. Karl Marx meets the Jetsons. No, I mean it!

The problem is that pure research hardly happens any more because the needs of capital come first. There’s no profit in mucking around with ideas and experiments with no short- or medium-term marketable objective.

Change this system to one in which social need, fun and fantasy are the raison d’etre and who knows what humans will come up with?

* * * *

13 thoughts on “Alarmism is the problem, not science

  1. Now you are making an interesting case. It is not unreasonable to point out that there is a large amount of effort and high costs being used to manage capital these days……


  2. ‘….no significant temperature increase for around 16 years, I’d say the answer is anyone who can read and think!’

    That should read ‘no temperature increase’, its actually fallen slightly over that period.

    Good post and I’ll say a few more things as the night wears on.


  3. ‘What then is with the continuation of exaggerated and alarmist claims and predictions?’

    As you pointed out there are commercial considerations for some stables, but the ABC has no excuse for pushing alarmist propaganda. With 73% of citizens trusting what the Australian Brainwashiing Corporation tells them, the whole thing becomes an Orwellian nightmare.


  4. ‘Change this system to one in which social need, fun and fantasy are the raison d’etre and who knows what humans will come up with?’

    The Hadron Collider has been put together by counties who support the free market system, this is the future. The commercial potential of very fast space travel is one of the goals of this operation.

    The residents on our big sandy island also have a strong desire for very fast rail, but the only way to achieve this is through a Chinese state run consortium. The US is applying pressure on Abbott not to sign up with the communists, but he wants to be the Infrastructure PM and stay in power for a decade.

    The G20 Meeting and Free Trade Agreement with our biggest trading partner, should theoretically get the ball rolling.


    • Egg, it was funded by governments – that’s the point. Not by profit-motivated capitalists. If we waited for them, it would never happen, even though it is happening so painstakingly slowly (because governments under capitalism are limited in what wealth they control and can actually invest).


      • At last and about time. The flying car has been possible since I was a kid. It’s a bit like the development of the north of Australia – an excellent idea which goes back even further. As for China, please, it is capitalism without democracy: fascism. Or what Mao would have called ‘social-fascism’. The industrial advancements over there are akin to the Industrial Revolution in England and Europe in the C19th and, as with the experience of the working class in the Industrial Revolution, so too will the Chinese workers rise up and demand rights. The difference will be that they have had experience of socialism. Do you know Mobo Gao’s book? He is a professor at Adelaide University and he went back to his village of origin in China to ascertain what the silent majority among those old enough to have experienced the Mao period felt about it. Overwhelmingly, he found they miss the better times. It is a counterpoint to ‘Wild Swans’, though Mobo Gao did not receive world-wide promotion and bombardment publicity via the mainstream media (including the ABC).


  5. ‘Do you know Mobo Gao’s book?’

    No, but I’ll have a look.

    I dispute the idea that China is a fascist state because they lack democracy, as I mentioned earlier, its more like a benevolent dictatorship.

    The Great Leap Forward cost over 40 million lives through starvation, fond memories indeed.


  6. The events of 1989 revealed the fascist nature of the anti-communist regime in China. For heaven’s sake, the protestors were singing ‘The Internationale’ (according to an on-the-spot reporter for the Wall Street Journal) and Maoists are imprisoned there today. Regarding the Great Leap Forward, have you looked into it in an all-round way? Why would Mobo Gao have found overwhelming sympathy for Mao among the older generation who had lived through the period? Could it possibly be that the dominant view in our media and academia is wrong? (A bit like ‘global warming’?) You may care to consider this article from ‘Monthly Review’:


    • Good read, I’ll start here.

      ‘Mao admitted that problems had occurred in this period. However, he blamed the majority of these difficulties on bad weather and natural disasters.’


  7. ‘The weather in 1958 was very favorable and the harvest promised to be good. Unfortunately, the amount of labour diverted to steel production and construction projects meant that much of the harvest was left to rot uncollected in some areas.

    ‘This problem was exacerbated by a devastating locust swarm, which was caused when their natural predators were killed as part of the Great Sparrow Campaign. Although actual harvests were reduced, local officials, under tremendous pressure from central authorities to report record harvests in response to the innovations, competed with each other to announce increasingly exaggerated results. These were used as a basis for determining the amount of grain to be taken by the State to supply the towns and cities, and to export. This left barely enough for the peasants, and in some areas, starvation set in.

    ‘During 1958–1960 China continued to be a substantial net exporter of grain, despite the widespread famine experienced in the countryside…

    ‘The agricultural policies of the Great Leap Forward and the associated famine continued until January 1961, when, at the Ninth Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee, the restoration of agricultural production through a reversal of the Great Leap policies was started. Grain exports were stopped, and imports from Canada and Australia helped to reduce the impact of the food shortages, at least in the coastal cities.’



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