Monday, February 01, 2010

Paul Sheehan, Lord Monckton, ten anti-commandments, and Dean Martin croons while Jerry Lewis tap dances ...

Oh dear, as usual Paul Sheehan, in a surge of kool aid drinking, has decided to present the highlights of Lord Monckton's antipodean tour, by listing ten-anti commandments in Facts conveniently brushed over by the global warming fanatics:

His list of ten anti-commandments, 10 selected facts about global warming largely ignored by the orthodoxies of the day, carries this disclaimer:

All these anti-commandments are either true or backed by scientific opinion. All can also be hotly contested.

In other words, Sheehan is presenting a "set of anti-commandment" facts which aren't facts, which might be true or might not, which perhaps instead of objective truth can involve opinions, which might be deemed scientific or not, and which can be hotly contested.

Well there's a dynamic and incisive step forward in the search for truth. So let's go to the first commandment:

1. The pin-up species of global warming, the polar bear, is increasing in number, not decreasing.

Oh the vexed question of the poley bear, beloved of Tim Blair. But what does a simple minded statement of the poley bears increasing in number, or decreasing for that matter, mean?

Well as a statement it's so meaningless as to send me off to the New Scientist to see what's really going on, and here is what I read:

... recently there have been claims that polar bear populations are increasing. So what's going on? There are thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears in 19 population groups around the Arctic. While polar bear numbers are increasing in two of these populations, two others are definitely in decline. We don't really know how the rest of the populations are faring, so the truth is that no one can say for sure how overall numbers are changing.

The two populations that are increasing, both in north-eastern Canada, were severely reduced by hunting in the past and are recovering thanks to the protection they and their prey now enjoy.

The best-studied population, in Canada's western Hudson Bay, fell by 22% from 1194 animals in 1987 to 935 in 2004, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A second group in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska's north coast, is now experiencing the same pattern of reduced adult weights and cub survival as the Hudson Bay group.

A comprehensive review (pdf) by the US Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that shrinking sea ice is the primary cause for the decline seen in these populations, and it recently proposed listing polar bears as threatened (pdf) (
link not working) under the Endangered Species Act. The World Conservation Union projects the bears' numbers will drop by 30% by 2050 (pdf) (link not working) due to continued loss of Arctic sea ice.

Well apart from proving that linking on the full to flowing intertubes is an ongoing perilous exercise, that seems to suggest a little more complexity than allowed for in Sheehan's factoid commandment. Then I went here:

At the most recent meeting of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (Copenhagen, 2009), scientists reported that of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, eight are declining, three are stable, one is increasing, and seven have insufficient data on which to base a decision. (The number of declining populations has increased from five at the group's 2005 meeting.)

Then I took another look at Sheehan's header - facts conveniently brushed over by the global warming fanatics, and I began to wonder who was brushing the facts, and who was the fanatic.

Never mind, on with anti-commandment 2, and the startling news that Barack Obama supports building nuclear power plants. Astonishing when you consider that the USA gets some 20% of its energy from nuclear power plants and that it's the world's largest supplier of commercial nuclear power, and is thinking it might have to do something about its huge reliance on coal. (here).

What does it prove? Well when in search of a convenient factoid, head off to a Kenyan muslim with a fake birth certificate for the latest in advanced environmental thinking.

I keed, I keed. Instead let's head on to 3 and the news that the Copenhagen climate conference was a farce.

But hang on, at Copenhagen a treaty was going to be signed, rubber stamped by all the lefties in the universe, which would see a massive wealth transfer from the west to third world countries, and create the first world government, in which Obama would cede US sovereignty to a host of faceless bureaucrats and enforcers. At last the communists who piled out of the Berlin wall and into the environment movement, and took over Greenpeace, had contrived to have the apotheosis at hand, and they were about to impose a communist world government on the world ... (don't believe me? You can see it at YouTube, here).

Oh yes, isn't it wise for Sheehan to remind us how the anti-capitalist diatribes drew a cheering ovation from thousands of left wing ideologues. In much the same way as Lord Monckton rants about the communists piling out of the Berlin wall. There's some knockdown science for you.

Then it's on anti-commandment four, and the reputation of the chief United Nations scientist on global warming being in disrepair. Well never mind that Pachauri started life as an engineer, and is in fact an administrator in his IPCC work (here). We get the drift - if he's a scientist, then all the science must surely be in question.

And isn't it therefore handy to be told in 5 that the supposed scientific consensus of the IPCC has been challenged by numerous distinguished scientists. And who might these be? Sssh, no names, no pack drill, no fuss.

How about DDT and malaria instead, as told in point 6? And the way Western environmentalists have killed millions? Well for an amusing take on that, why not head off here for a jolly good read. Of all the kool aid furphies, this surely is the biggest, and well canvassed on the intertubes if you have the time and energy to waste your life.

Meanwhile back to the anti-commandments:

7. The biofuels industry has exacerbated world hunger.

Diverting huge amounts of grain crops (as distinct from sugar cane) to biofuels has contributed to a rise in world food prices, felt acutely in the poorest nations.

Well lordy I guess someone has at last been reading George Monbiot that satanic greenie and devout global warming true believer, who way back in 2004 wrote Feeding Cars, Not People:

We need a solution to the global warming caused by cars, but this isn’t it. If the production of biofuels is big enough to affect climate change, it will be big enough to cause global starvation.

Still we can thank George Bush, and John Howard, who always did what he could for his mates, for their stout hearted dedication to biofuels.

So it comes as a little shock to learn that the Kyoto Protocol has proved meaningless. After all that good work the United States did, setting up the protocol and refusing to sign it, in much the same way Australia has set such a splendid example in observing the protocol while somehow managing to remain one of the best per capita emitters in the world. And still doing its level best, with the splendid help of commentariat columnists, to make sure climate change is treated as a bit of silliness. A 4% increase in temperatures? Pshaw, that'll just make the water in the bath tub a nice elbow friendly temperature.

You'd therefore hardly be surprised to learn that the ninth factoid is that the UN's global carbon emissions target is a massively costly mirage, and in ten that Chairman Rudd's bluff on emissions has also been exposed - presumably while at the same time "wanna be Chairman" Abbott is an environmental emperor fully kitted out in a wondrous deck of clothes.

Well after those ten wonderful factoids, what have we learned about the science?

None of these anti-commandments question the salient negative link between humanity and the environment: that we are an omnivorous, rapacious species which has done enormous damage to the world's environment.

Nor do they question the warming of the planet.

At which point, I could only do a double take, like Wile E. Coyote confronted by the roadrunner. Or Elmer Fudd trying to sound logical when arguing with that wascally wabbit. Or perhaps being hit in the face with a flounder in the middle of a Monty Python fish dance.

WTF. None of these factoids, when you come down to it, mean diddly squat about anything when it comes to questioning the warming of the planet?

Instead we get this homily:

What they do question is the morphing of science with ideology, the most pernicious byproduct of the global warming debate.

And sure enough Sheehan has done his very best to morph science with meandering silly ideology of the most pernicious and useless kind. As he celebrates Lord Monckton's antipodean tour:

All these anti-commandments were brought into focus this past week by the visit of the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, better known as Lord Christopher Monckton, journalist by trade, mathematician by training, provocateur by inclination.

Um, actually Monckton is many things - an inventor of a puzzle no less - but his degrees are in classics and journalism studies (here). Never mind, let's feel the quality of the science:

Last Wednesday a conference room at the Sheraton on the Park was filled to overflowing, all 800 seats sold with a standing-room only crowd at the back, to see the Sydney public appearance of Monckton, a former science adviser to Margaret Thatcher. At the end of his presentation he received a sustained standing ovation.

Yep, 800 seats sold, standing room only, a sustained standing ovation. There's some knock down science for you, of a kind no doubt we might experience if Brad and Angelina were to do an antipodean tour explaining their views on marriage.

Monckton is the embodiment of English aristocratic eccentricity. His presentations are a combination of stand-up comedy, evangelical preaching and fierce debating. Almost every argument he makes can be contested, but given the enormity of the multi-trillion-dollars that governments expect taxpayers to expend on combating global warming, the process needs to be subject to brutal interrogation, scrutiny and scepticism. And Monckton was brutal, especially about the media, referring to ''all this bed-wetting stuff on the ABC and the BBC''.

Well yes, and wouldn't it be great if Monckton himself had been exposed to brutal interrogation, scrutiny and scepticism, especially by the likes of the bed-wetting Sheehan, who is more than a match for his counterparts at the ABC and the BBC when it comes to the need for some decent moisture absorbent padding.

Because writing rhetorical nonsense like "Almost every argument he makes can be contested" is in fact meaningless gibberish if instead of contesting the arguments, you simply swallow the kool aid and wet your pants.

Well for the rest of his column, Sheehan spends much of his time brooding about Lord Monckton and the matter of the good Lord awarding himself a part share in a Nobel prize.

As you do when you're a devoted advocate of hard core science.

Well if you want an alternative view, why not head off to Monckton has a gold Nobel prize pin, and then follow the link through to read Monckton's open letter to John McCain. Which contains this fatuous addition to the good lord's CV:

His contribution to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 - the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise - earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate. His Nobel prize pin, made of gold recovered from a physics experiment, was presented to him by the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, USA. He has lectured at university physics departments on the quantification of climate sensitivity, on which he is widely recognized as an expert, and his limpid analysis of the climate-feedback factor was published on the famous climate blog of Roger Pielke, Sr.

If Monckton thinks it's all a joke, then this is a funny way to write and tell a joke.

Second thoughts, it actually is great comedy, even if of an unreflexive kind, and Sheehan makes an excellent Dean Martin to Monckton's Jerry Lewis, a Seinfeld to his Kramer, an Abbott to his Costello, a Groucho to his Harpo.

Whimsy and borogroves are all the go, and the only thing lost is the reputation of Sheehan and the Sydney Morning Herald for publishing this kind of poorly considered nonsense.

Still if you want a comedy routine over breakfast, Paul Sheehan is clearly the go to man.

But what does his column actually tell us about the science, or contribute to the global warming debate?

Nada, zip, zero, zilch, nichts, niente, nulla, ni gota, niets, niks, rien, cero, nothing. Or put it another way. No way Jose.

(Below: and now for our contribution to serious scientific debate and careful argument).


  1. Thanks for passing along the facts.

  2. Wasn't faithfully regurgitating Paul Sheehan's ten anti-commandments enough for you?

  3. Oops, I see you are actually author of Millard Fillmore's Bathtub which I borrowed from! Manners Dorothy!

    I'm shocked and startled you should visit loon pond. We get so few visitors, and certainly not anyone who's capable and intelligent! Thanks for a good read.


  4. Thanks so much! I was wondering if anyone in Australia has the intellect to challenge the rantings of Monckton and Sheehan, and now I've found one.

  5. I am relieved. Sheehan is enfuriating. I was about to pen my own retort, but the monolithic stupidity of his article defeated and exhausted me. Two words: thank you.

  6. Shorter Paul Sheehan:

    "Math is HARD! Let's go shopping!" - Barbie

  7. Hi Dorothy, and now you have a visit (thanks to Tim Lambert), from the equally capable and intelligent author of the Watermelon Blog. But enough self-promotion.

    Great analysis. I am not surprised the loon Monckton is being supported (obviously with reservations) by the likes of Sheahan and Bolt. But what is horrifying is that the ABC gave him space several times and keeps reporting his pronouncements as news.

  8. Not to mention MediaWatch's recent bravura performance in assessing the various IPCC 'gates' (Amazongate, Seagate, "Whatevergate" as RealClimate puts it)-

    "The moral, alas, is that in the climate change wars, it's hard to know who or what to believe."

    MediaWatch 15/02/10

    Gee, here was I thinking it was the job of journalists to get in there and sort the accuracy of claims and the credibility of their proponents! But no, apparently they're to sit Solomonically on the sidelines shuffling press releases into 'he said / she said' piles.

    No wonder assessing whether something is 'true' is increasingly seen as a matter for polling rather than proof!

    In 2020 will the ABC be 'even-handedly' condemning a percentage-point error in a peer-reviewed paper in Nature that overstated the genetic link between humans and great apes, thus - according to to the NeoCreationist lobby we'll speculate might well be sweeping the world at the time - unequivocally disproving the entire edifice of Darwinian science and every utterance of the wicked conspiratorial minions who have shaped it?

    Ditto for all the other 'gotcha' moments put forward by the soon-to-be-popular 'Restore DDT and Prosperity' and 'Smoking is Health and Freedom' lobbies?

    Sadly, I can imagine it all too easily!


Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.