These things gained my attention in the last day or two — our changing world!

Given our Prime Minister’s embarrassing performance on Joe Biden’s climate summit our government seems to have retreated to some kind of bubble….

OK, #1:

With that in mind, #2 is particularly impressive — indeed dramatic. When I showed it to Colin MacD at Illawarra Leagues yesterday he too was amazed. Are you?

Data from the World Bank. Animation made in Brazil — hence the title in Portuguese.

Then I wondered:

There was an impressive feature on the following on ABC News Breakfast this morning — on the world chip shortage. Silicon chips, that is. An earlier version of the story.

The current shortage highlights the fragility of this system and how easily production can be slowed by, say, a freak snowstorm.

The cold snap in Texas last month saw electricity shortages, which led to Samsung halting production at its Austin chip foundry.

Meanwhile, a drought in Taiwan (where the largest producer, TSMC, is based) has dried up manufacturers’ reservoirs.

A single computer chip requires up to 8,000 litres of water to produce, and the big foundries use thousands of tonnes a day. 

I fear I was a weird kid!

Yesterday morning I shared this with my niece Christine, who is in hospital, partly for the images and partly for the music. Normal kids went to Luna Park, probably more than once. I suspect I never did! Can’t recall that I did anyway — and I know (though of course I saw it from Sydney Harbour many times) — it never attracted me.

I was much more attracted to the Australian Museum –– indeed, even took my neighbourhood friends and classmates there, just a year or two after this was taken at Sutherland Public School — that is from when I was maybe ten years old, travelling by train by myself (or with said friends) to the city, walking across Hyde Park to the Australian Museum. Loved the place!

And what not to love, eh? This was what you saw in the 1950s when you came in the front door — and in those “socialist” days entry was FREE!

Many of the galleries still looked like this, and you could pull open drawers and discover all manner of amazing things. And we kids pretty much had the run of the place. I can’t remember some official telling us what we could or couldn’t do!

Looking back on it, some of the exhibits especially in ethnography and anthropology were pretty revolting by modern standards — First Australian skulls, for example, and models of people in various stages of nudity and “primitiveness” — but even these were informative to us as kids. There was a bust of Truganini, I recall.

Believe it or not, with my pocket money I bought every publication I could, no matter how unlikely I at 10 or 11 could really be expected to read it. The shop never questioned the pint-sized customer either! Their magazine was a favourite, and here is a 1961 copy — that is about seven years after my purchases, but you will get the idea.

In those days I planned to be a scientist — but that did not work out. Always interested though.

Blogging the 2010s — 66 — December 2013 — Lord May of Oxford

Yes, this one is out of sequence, because yesterday 1) someone on Twitter informed me that one of Sydney Boys High’s most distinguished sons had just died, and 2) I subsequently read this report in The Guardian.

Pioneering Australian scientist Robert May, whose work in biology led to the development of chaos theory, has died at age 84.

Known as one of Australia’s most accomplished scientists, he served as the chief scientific adviser to the United Kingdom, was president of the Royal Society, and was made a lord in 2001.

Born in Sydney on 8 January 1938, May’s work was influential in biology, zoology, epidemiology, physics and public policy. More recently, he applied scientific principles to economics and modelled the cause of the 2008 global financial crisis.

On Wednesday, his friends and colleagues paid tribute to a man who they said was a gifted polymath and a “true giant” among scientists.

Nobel prize winner’s obituary triggers memories

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has an obituary for chemist John Cornforth (1917-2013).

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What struck me was this:

John Warcup Cornforth was born on September 7, 1917 in Sydney, the second of four children of John Cornforth, a Classics teacher from England, and his Australian wife, Hilda (nee Eipper), a nurse, and grew up in Sydney and Armidale. At 10 he started to go deaf from a condition called otosclerosis, where the bones in the middle ear become deformed and stop transmitting sound. By 20 he was completely deaf, except for the ringing in his ears of tinnitus, a common side effect of the disease.

Luckily, at Sydney Boys High, a young teacher, Leonard Basser, influenced Cornforth in the direction of chemistry, which seemed to the young student to offer a career where his deafness might not be a handicap. And so it proved, he was accepted to the University of Sydney at 16 and because he couldn’t hear the lectures he started reading textbooks, which in those days were mostly in German, so he taught himself German as well. He graduated in 1937 with a bachelor of science, first class honours and University Medal…

Leonard (aka Lenny) Basser! Do I ever remember him!

Lenny Basser, left, and my good friend Roger Dye far right.

1958 when we were 15 – Roger and I, that is.

Not the promised education post

Posted on April 24, 2010 by Neil

I will mention, however, that I spent a couple of hours yesterday at SBHS. Passing the archives room near the Library I saw a librarian and a lad busy so wandered in. Well, what I was really looking for was a spare power point for my laptop but they couldn’t oblige. However I discovered they were researching /writing an article on legendary Science teacher and athletics coach of the 1950s Lenny Basser. “Oh yes,” say I, “I remember him. Always wore yellow shirts. People who wore yellow shirts in the 1950s were very odd.” I went on to mention that he had taught famous scientist Lord May of Oxford, to which they responded with a Nobel Prize winner or two he had also taught.

The yellow shirts will appear in the article, I suspect.

Assuming that was the High Flyer Volume 4 No 1 2010, the shirts didn’t get a mention:

Len  Basser  taught Chemistry  at  SBHS  from 1931  until  his  retirement in  1959.  He  was  Athletics Master  at  the  school  for the twenty eight years. He captured  and  inspired  the eager minds of his students encouraging  them  to pursue careers in scientific research.

The Len Basser Award for Leadership  in  Science  at Sydney University honours the legacy of an outstanding chemistry teacher. Eight of Basser’s students became fellows of the Royal Society, including Lord (Robert) May, a former President of the Society, and Sir John Cornforth, who shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975.

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Robert May (right) with his mother and younger brother c.1948

Lord May recalls:

My wife, Judith, who grew up in Manhattan, is of the opinion that every other Australian she meets went to Sydney Boys High. That is based simply on empirical facts. It was in the era of grammar schools, where the top schools in Sydney were unambiguously the state schools. Sydney Boys High drew its intake from the eastern suburbs, and that is also where the Jewish diaspora out of Shanghai ended up. It had a lot of really bright people and it had superb teachers. The teachers I had in high school were uniformly excellent. One of the really formative influences on my life was the chemistry teacher, a chap called Lenny Basser. He now has a federal prize in Australia named after him. The education minister a few years ago wrote to various Australians asking for stories about their teachers and he found that a Nobel Laureate and the President of the Royal Society mentioned the same person. When you look into it, this teacher taught eight Fellows of the Royal Society, and he taught us by not teaching us. He said, ‘You people are going on to university. I’m not going to give you notes for a syllabus for the honours course. Here’s a list of the syllabus topics. Write me some essays on some of them. Here are books in the laboratory library of previous students who have done this’, and he would tell us stories about these people.

But this is a very strange deductive method. What if you got blocked?

I think it was brilliant. He would tell us stories about the stockmarket. As you can imagine, half the class loathed him because he didn’t give them a nice well-indexed set of things to learn for the exam. But then there were people like myself and my two particular friends in school. One of my friends was the state high jump champion. He and I both thought Lenny was wonderful. The other friend was a more scholarly person, who found him a pain in the neck. Lenny also coached the track team at Sydney Boys High. For 28 of the 33 years that he coached it, the team won the state Schools Athletic Championship. It was unbelievable. It was not that he coached them by making them work too hard, but he was ahead of the wave in new techniques and motivating people.

I just wonder: doing that for the very bright boys, letting them get on with it – did that leave the rest of the class behind?

Well, he got very good results, let’s put it that way. He never became the head of the science section at Sydney High because, to do that you had to move to another school, and he liked being at Sydney High.

I keep wondering whether some of those successes of the old days couldn’t even get to first base now, because none of it would be allowed.

Yes. I think it would be different. You wouldn’t have it quite the way it was. In each subject, the classes were streamed. I mean, people are mixed by different things. Even at Sydney High, the most esteemed characters were the sporting stars. I think that is really healthy. It is a great mixture because you rarely get someone who is both the top sportsperson and the top scholar.

“He never became the head of the science section at Sydney High because, to do that you had to move to another school, and he liked being at Sydney High.”  Still true of quite a few people at SBHS! Back in the late 50s the Head of Science was in fact an elderly chap much stained by tobacco whom we dubbed “Dodo” – as in the extinct bird.

Tracking Lenny Basser led me to a former classmate, in Science at one point but more memorably in the weird Mr Levy’s French class. I had wondered what became of this lad who had come to us from Cranbrook – a decided disadvantage – little realising that he was a leading geophysicist these days! “He has been Professor of Theoretical Geophysics and Foundation Director, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, Cambridge University, since 1989 and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, since 1970.” Herbert Huppert.

I have found a fascinating interview with him telling me much that I had little insight into at the time. Since this is already out there, I hope Professor Huppert won’t mind my sharing.

Born in Sydney, Australia, 1943; my maternal grandfather was a shamus in a Viennese synagogue; both he and his wife were very religious; I got to know them when they came out to Australia in about 1947-8; the remarkable thing about my paternal grandparents is that I knew nothing about them; my sister and I both assumed that they perished in the Holocaust although we had not been told; my father died when I was thirteen; about seven or eight years ago my sister did some extensive research in the Viennese archives and found that both had died natural deaths in hospital in 1935 and 1937; my father rarely talked about his time in Vienna and neither did my mother; she would talk about St Stephen’s dome in Vienna and the giant wheel nearby; when I was eight I bought her a book on Vienna for her birthday with both illustrated on the cover; she was clearly upset by it and I never saw the book again; many years after when both were dead (my mother died when I was twenty-two) I heard that a few months before they left Vienna my father was told to queue up to get a visa to leave; the night before he was warned that the queue was to be bombed by Nazis; he decided not to join the queue and it was bombed; two weeks later he did get an exit visa; they left in 1938 and arrived in Australia on 26th January 1939…

…I first went to a Jewish kindergarten which I remember with both pleasure and terror; on one occasion the headmaster threatened to put me into a duplicating machine as I had been so naughty and that terrified me; generally I enjoyed the school and had lots of friends; I then went to an “institution” which my mother chose, which cost about £300 a term; it would have been better if my father had paid the money to charity and sent me to a state school; I hated this institution, Cranbrook, with a passion; I have recently come across two people who went there some ten years after me who thought it was wonderful; one is Richard Hunter who is Professor of Classics here and the other is the new Director of the Fitzwilliam…

Cranbrook was everything that I hated; I went there when I was just six; clear that I could add and on that basis put me up a class without ascertaining whether I knew anything else; I found myself a year and a half younger than everyone else and I was nowhere near mature enough; that had a bad influence on me; later it became better because when I went to a proper school I could run well, but Cranbrook was a terrible institution; I left when I had just reached twelve; I passed the exam to Sydney High and my mother gave me the choice of going there or staying at Cranbrook; if I had stayed in Cranbrook five more years I would not be here today; they taught badly; they hired a chemistry teacher who was a Nazi who told us how wonderful it had been flying over England and bombing it, and also about the problem of German Jews; it was just unbelievable; there was bullying, but don’t know whether it was anti-Semitic or just of younger people; we were forced to have a shower after P.T. after which we had to dress outside; there was a female music teacher who was constantly looking out at us; there were many things like that

21:33:13 Sydney High was much better and I can’t remember a day of unhappiness there; it was a fabulous school and has produced some brilliant people, including Bob May, President of the Royal Society, and John Cornforth, Nobel Laureate in chemistry; we had an inspiring chemistry teacher, Leonard Basser; he was also the athletics coach and I ran for the school, something what was inconceivable at Cranbrook…

I told the story of another of my class of 1959 confreres in 50 years on – 1: a classmate’s story in 2009. There I quoted from a biography:

Peter Francis Nicholas Deli was born on 26 March 1942 in Wellington, New Zealand. His parents, Lewis and Lily, were both Hungarian refugees who had fled Europe just before the beginning of the War. His father, an architect by training, had been a violinist in the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. His mother, who was Jewish, had tried to emigrate to Britain and Australia before settling for New Zealand. They met in New Zealand and married in 1941. After the War the Deli family moved to Sydney, Australia and settled in the Eastern Suburbs at Bondi. Sydney had a much larger population of East European migrs than the whole of New Zealand and the Delis were soon absorbed into the Hungarian community’s protective embrace. Peter’s early school years at Double Bay Primary School were far from typical of the elementary educational experience of most Australian children at the time. The extraordinary mix of nationalities and class backgrounds in the school must have had a profound effect on his early development. In 1955 he won a place to the prestigious Sydney Boys’ High School, one of the best secondary schools in New South Wales. Peter excelled in his studies during these years and matriculated with honours to the University of Sydney in 1960. During his undergraduate years he read History and Philosophy, graduating Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in History in 1964….

I continued:

After a very interesting career, including being in Paris in 1968, Peter succumbed to leukemia and died at home in Hong Kong on 12 February 2001.

The point made there about the cosmopolitan mix at Double Bay and SBHS at the time certainly struck me when I “migrated” from Sutherland (with Ross Mackay, Arno Eglitis, Robert Burnie and Laurence Napier) to SBHS in 1955. On the other hand, much to the surprise of one of my coachees who is now at SBHS, of  206 of us starting out in 1955 only one was Chinese (ABC) and one was Indian – Ashok Hegde, who became a close friend until he went to London in 1958.

Ashok’s father was in 1958 the Assistant Indian Trade Commissioner in Sydney, if I recall correctly – but thus not a permanent resident in Australia.

Blogging the 2010s — 54 — June 2011

Reflecting on blogging.

I am not a party, an institution, a guru or an oracle: just one old guy in Wollongong–that’s all

Let’s get real about this blog and this whole blogging business. My opinions may not be worth a rat’s arse, or they may be just what you were thinking too. It doesn’t really matter, you know. Nice to see lately that Kevin from Louisiana thinks this way too. But here is who you are reading:

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Yes, Souths did well in Perth! Smile

And here is my office and all my team of researchers and support staff:

CIMG6009

And yes I do have a few ideas that guide me. Some of them just annoy other people. For example I firmly believe that God has never ever written a book for anyone in any language whatever amen. I do believe humans have employed a number of literary forms to write about God. South Sydney Uniting Church could cope with this view rather well, I found.  For example I firmly believe the best science affirms the reality of anthropogenic climate change and I think we are seeing a dismal failure of politics and politicians and short-sightedness from alleged conservatives on this issue. I believe this not because I want to but because the best evidence from the most dispassionate sources leads to this conclusion. At least I think so, along with our recently appointed Chief Scientist. And so it goes. Quite a few of these things I just won’t argue about any more on this blog. Why should I? I may point you from time to time to the arguments of others that I find persuasive. Then you can make up your own minds.

I’d much rather just share things like this:

CIMG5987

You can go to my photo blog if you rather agree with that and are sick and tired of arguments, pretentious or otherwise.

Last week I spat the dummy on a thread. I don’t regret it. But it did lead to a nasty thread developing here on a later post, a thread I have since censored. That is something I rarely do – as even Kevin from Louisiana will testify despite my memorably asking him to piss off not all that long ago.

Anyway all I want to remind you of is this: you’re just reading the passing thoughts of one old man in a room in Wollongong. He uses a variety of genres and does not always have a serious academic approach. Take it or leave it. See also ABOUT.

 

More on Lord Monckton. Is Alan Jones still a groupie?

Yawn!

Oh my God. I watched Q&A last night. All this seems to do these days is confirm my disrespect for our supposed leaders who again manifestly argued ferociously for positions they equally manifestly didn’t believe in. Adam Bandt may be an exception – but the Greens couldn’t run a chook raffle, let alone a country – that is when they are not making like some earnest nanny figure with a large bottle of castor oil. And then there was the small government and growth fetishist in pearls. A hopeless lot, though nice enough too in their way like cuddly Joe – who was needled into letting the cat out of the bag about where the “tax cuts” will come from: mass sackings. He said it. You heard it. Especially if you live in Canberra. Of course the cartoonist got the best line: “I really couldn’t make up shit like this and if I had the editor would send it back…”

51YDR3V0E7L._SL500_AA300_And I really couldn’t invent a Lord Monckton if I tried either. He does have his special skills (left)  as this friendly bio shows. It’s just that climate science isn’t one of them. “Christopher, known to his numerous nephews and nieces as “Mr.Knowledge”, spent four years solving real-life problems for Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street during her years as Prime Minister and now acts as trouble-shooter and corporate thinker to leading businesses. He is a well-known public speaker and has written speeches for many of Britain’s leading politicians (and a song performed by a Cabinet minister). Though not a lawyer, he wrote the legal brief that persuaded the Scottish judges to save the West Highland Sleeper train from the axe: it is now the only train in the world required by law to run “till a’ the seas gang dry”…”

Baroness Thatcher in her autobiography fails to mention the sterling service of Christopher and has the gall to attribute advice on climate policy to someone else altogether. Of course we do know that Thatcher was the first world leader to take anthropogenic climate change seriously – but then, whatever her sins may have been, she was one of the few world leaders who was actually a scientist.

There is an alternative universe out there where Monckton is taken seriously on climate change. I don’t know why, as by now he has been totalled by so many people who really do know what they are talking about. His errors and misrepresentations have been catalogued again and again, and still the suckers roll up to his slide shows.

OK, if you want the truth about this Walter Mitty of climate science start with the Monckton Bunkum series – now totalling around 1.5 hours and revealing 21 major problems (not quibbles) with Monckton’s spiel. The author is trained in science and journalism and worked in various media, but especially for New Scientist. “I’ve been a journalist for 20 years, 14 years as a science correspondent. My degree is in geology, but while working for a science magazine and several science programs I had to tackle a number of different fields, from quantum physics to microbiology.”

Then very conveniently see the following:

Monckton_Myths_468

See also The perpetual debunking of Christopher Monckton.

So my problem with Gerard Henderson today is that Gerard seems to think Monckton might actually be worth hearing. He isn’t. And in that light it’s neither here nor there that Monckton recently resorted to the childish Nazi smear in reference to Garnaut. It’s true that others have done such things in the past. The point is that it is a non-argument whoever uses it.

However, I can’t disagree with this:

Of course Garnaut says what he believes. However, so do most of his critics. Of course Monckton was irresponsible to link Garnaut with Hitler. But so were those who linked Howard with the Third Reich. Any cooling of the political debate will require contributions from all parties.

But the bottom line is Monckton is a highly unreliable commentator on climate science and we would be very foolish indeed to pay him any attention whatsoever, His puzzle books may be good though.

huxley

UpdateLord Monckton: Bring out your Dead!

Blogging the 2010s — 23a — March 2010

The odd title is because the previous repost from the 2010s should have been #22!

At last: a genuine climate change debate

Lord-MoncktonBack in February there was a debate in Sydney between Lord Monckton (right) and Tim Lambert, UNSW computer scientist of Deltoid fame. At the opening Lord Monckton generously acknowledged that such a debate was almost unprecedented and warmly thanked Lambert for agreeing to it. The chair was 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones, who conducted the event in a scrupulously proper manner. (Coaching debating was one of my duties during my teaching career.)

Monckton in fact began strongly with an account of the serious and tragic unforeseen consequences of biofuel production – the wrecking of third world economies and death by starvation. From here on things went downhill for him. His opponent was unfailingly polite in front of a largely hostile audience and unfailingly logical.

I am reminded, having at last been able to see the debate on Youtube, of the great Bishop Soapy Sam Wilberforce versus T H Huxley on Darwin in the 19th century…..

See also Snowballs, Snowjobs and the Lambert-Monckton Debate and I went to a circus and a science debate broke out. From the latter:

Today I attended the debate between UNSW computer scientist Dr Tim Lambert (author of Deltoid blog) and Lord Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley.

The venue was the Hilton Hotel Grand Ballroom, and attendance was about 60% of capacity, that is roughly half the number of people who attended last time I was there, when it was packed to 120% of capacity for the launch of MySpace (remember MySpace? Neither do I…)

At any rate, I am pleased to report that the debate was indeed just that, a real debate, conducted civilly, in front of an attentive and polite crowd, and well moderated by Alan Jones.

It was neither the rabble-rousing denialist circus some feared it would be, nor an embarrassing excursion into Monckton’s many personal foibles. It was instead, a robust, articulate presentation and dissection of the factual content behind Monckton’s denialist propositions. Both speakers were modest, neither hyperbolic, and both approached the question in an open and non-dogmatic fashion.

In two fifteen-minute presentations, each speaker addressed the proposition that “manmade global warming is a real threat”. The substance of the debate hinged, I am happy to say, on a scientific question concerning the degree of climate sensitivity to differing concentrations of CO2. Namely, Monckton has independently calculated a level of climate sensitivity that is lower than the IPCC’s estimate, by a factor of approximately 7-8 times. Dr Lambert showed Monckton’s calculation to be based on a misunderstanding of data provided by a satellite scientist, one Professor Rachel Pinker (2007). Dr. Lambert also showed that Monckton’s thesis depends entirely on the climate sensitivity being a very low estimate, while the other denialist darling, Ian Plimer’s, thesis depends on climate sensitivity being a very high estimate. They cannot both be right, and perhaps both are wrong.

What followed was about 90 minutes of questions from the floor, which again was handled very calmly and coolly by all the proponents. Some of the questions were truly odd, and showed a very low level of understanding of science, and a very high level of paranoia and confusion among the (predominantly old and angry) audience members:

  1. One gentleman attempted to suggest that, since a lot of the world’s carbon is in the oceans, it is water vapour evaporating from the oceans, and not fossil fuels, that is causing warming (what is causing all that extra evaporation, he didn’t say). Neither proponent had the heart to tell the gentleman that water vapour is made of, well, water, not CO2.
  2. Another questioner thought that the 1976 international treaty banning weather-control devices (anyone heard of this?) showed that nations already had the technology to control the weather, so why aren’t they using it?
  3. Another questioner said that our government is being totalitarian about environmental issues, and he lived under Soviet occupation in the former Czechoslovakia, so he should know.
  4. Another questioner wanted to know whether Dr. Tim Lambert wanted to stop him from procreating with his wife (ewww).
  5. Another questioner wanted to know if continental drift wasn’t the real driver of sea levels.

Contrary to many who worry about functions like this providing a platform for denialists, I think the debate generated far more light than heat (sic). It is a credit to the way both proponents, and the moderator, and indeed the audience, conducted themselves that it was a fruitful and enlightening discussion.

I think perhaps the most important thing that came out of the debate is that it takes a lot of wind out of denialist sails when they meet a real-life supporter of AGW science and realise that we are not trying to drag civilisation back to the stone age, prevent people from having babies, wreck the economy, keep the developing nations in poverty, or any of the other shibboleths that drive the denialist circus. As Tim Lambert explained to the audience, as a computer scientist, he is first and foremost an engineer, and it is an interesting and important engineering problem to work out how to get as many people as possible enjoying a high standard of living, without trashing the planet in the process. That’s all…

Just an extract from that one; clicking on its heading will take you to the whole. I would be surprised if the key links still work, but you never know! So frustrating that virtually the same tomfoolery is happening ten years later! Speaking of which….

Robyn Williams: Climate change science: the evidence is clear

… with 115 comments: one referred us to Climate Cover-Up by James Hoggan with Richard Littlemore. Sounds interesting. There’s an extended interview with the author here.

JAMES HOGGAN:  … Our book—I’m a PR guy of about thirty years, and I kind of stumbled across this campaign, what I would call a kind of confusion campaign, when I was doing some reading. And we’ve documented this two-decade-long campaign by industry and Canada and the United States, that the energy industry basically designed to confuse the public about climate change and give people the sense that there’s a debate about the science of climate change. And my reason for writing this book is that I don’t think that PR people and industry front groups should be determining what our policies are in Canada and the United States on solving climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: So, outline the strategy. What was the corporate strategy to do this? And name names.

JAMES HOGGAN: Well, the first thing was to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on everything from focus groups to very sophisticated messaging to setting up groups of pseudoscientists to confuse the public about—to create the impression that there was actually a debate, where there was none.

In the—two decades ago, there was a group called the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition that was put together by Philip Morris. They were having problems, as we know, with public credibility, so they decided to invite some friends to join this fight, what became a fight against scientists. And one of the first companies they invited was Exxon Mobil. And this was kind of the beginning of these front groups in this war on science that has evolved and continues today with front groups all over the United States…

JAMES HOGGAN: Yeah, well, I mean, one of the things that they did was they basically started to create this impression that there was a scientific debate. There was an enormous amount of research done in this area to—you know, they do these focus groups, and they find out that your average person thinks that there’s always a debate in science. So, rather than kind of fighting and saying climate change isn’t happening, let’s just say we don’t know if it’s happening. There’s a debate.

Now, that debate actually wasn’t taking place in the scientific community; it was actually taking place in the news media, in the mainstream news media. And just by repeating it, having enough money to repeat these kinds of messages over and over again, people start to become susceptible to this. The root of all this, this campaign, is the fact that corporations have less and less credibility as the years roll along, particularly over the past couple of decades…

The more we know about these kinds of groups and these kinds of efforts, the less they work. And I would just encourage journalists to ask these people whether or not they’re actually practicing climate science, whether they have—they are climate scientists, and who they’re taking money from. Start to ask these questions and shed light on these people, they’ll be far less effective…

As Robyn Williams concludes:

…why does the opposite seem to prevail? Three reasons, I suggest.

One is that the scientists themselves have been naive, even lazy. When I asked Tim Flannery and Philip Campbell, editor of the journal Nature, their opinion of so called deniers like Ian Plimer, or the incongruous toff Lord Monkton, they just shrugged and said “the climate debate has moved on.” Well, it hasn’t. It’s gone backwards. Not least because the scientists, in the main, have been passive, restrained and much too polite. And after Climategate – too much mea culpa. It’s time for them to get their skates on. To be aggressive in the cause of truth.

After the Climategate debacle and theft of the personal emails of climatologists going back over 10 years the journal Nature finally tackled the smear that science was faking its data.

“This paranoid interpretation would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country’s much needed climate bill. Nothing in the emails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real – or that human activities are almost certainly the cause.”

The paradox is that allowing this chaos to continue is likely to delay, catastrophically, any moves to combat climate change itself.

Another reason we hear the voices of the extreme the loudest is that the new media allow many citizens to occupy their own nether world where they need never come across an opinion that conflicts with their own.

A third reason extremists seem to dominate has been the powerful use of lobby groups. Now, it so happens that we keep well away from lobbyists in our science broadcasting, left or right, green or brown, because they are unstoppable, often shameless and rarely alter their messages, despite the evidence.

We go by published research results, in top journals and commentators with a reputation for probity … the evidence is clear. We need to change policy and to do so urgently.

Robyn Williams has been hosting the ABC Radio National Science Show for yonks…