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Tag Archives: Denialatariat

Tim Flannery is regularly held up for ridicule amongst the Climate Change denialist community with the most common accusation made against him being that he is an alarmist.

Frequently this crticism is extended to state that Flannery is an unhinged doomsday prophet: a religious nutcase devoted to the Gaia hypothesis who thinks that the world is a gigantic human being.

When either of those accusations are made, references to Flannery’s supposed failed predictions of doom in relation to major Australian capitals are wheeled out and the continued survival of those capitals with reference to the abundance of drinking water available to them is juxatposed in order to show that Flannery is detached from reality and that therefore Anthopogenic Climate Change is not occurring.

I have rebutted the arguments against Flannery here and here.

In relation to Perth, the accusation against Flannery is that in 2004 he supposedly predicted the immediate collapse and abandonment of that city in the face of reduced rainfall bought about by AGW. Here’s the party line bought by James Patterson of the Institute For Public Affairs in an undated article which appears to have been written in about 2011:

In 2004 [Flannery] predicted that ‘Perth will be the 21st century’s first ghost metropolis.’ The following year, he said that Sydney could run out of water in as little as two years.

Undaunted by that botched prediction, he tried again in 2007, saying Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane would ‘need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months.’

Undeterred by their failure to dry-out, Flannery was at it again in 2008, arguing that ‘the water problem for Adelaide is so severe that it may run out of water by early 2009.’ Of course, even amid a severe drought, none of these cities have met Flannery’s doomsday scenarios.

Patterson, writing in 2010/2011, excoriates Flannery because Perth is not yet abandoned, following Flannery’s 2004 statements, but ignores or does not realise that Flannery’s remarks about Perth were made in relation to likely events over a 50 year time period, not a six or seven year time period.

Step Trend

In particular Flannery noted that the deterioration in rainfall catchment in Perth is occurring as a step trend with approximately 20 years between each step (not as immediate cessation as block-headedly insinuated by Bolt

[Flannery] said climate change tended to move in steps. In 1976, when the first step occurred, the south-western corner of Western Australia lost 20 per cent of its rainfall, and its catchment fell from 340 gigalitres to 111 gigalitres. The average is now 160 gigalitres. In 1998, when the second step occurred, the world experienced the worst El Nino effect and the death of 17 per cent of its coral reefs. South-eastern Australia was hit by drought.

Noting declining rainfall catchment across Australia’s capitals, Flannery became an advocate for desalination plants.

Given the intensity of contempt poured out at Flannery from the denialiatariat, it was interesting to see that The Australian, the most important organ for dissemination of denialist viewpoints in this country, published on October 3rd this year an article confirming Flannery’s statements on the situation with Perth’s water catchment and showing the strong contribution now made to Perth’s water supply by desalination. The article is called ‘Dam Buster Water Works’ by Nicolas Perpitch.

The article contains a chart showing Perth’s rainfall catchment from 1911 to 2012 and clearly highlights the step-trend described by Flannery, showing steps commencing at 1975 and 1998 with a mini-step at 2004 and 2012 on track for the lowest catchment since 1914. This backs up Flannery’s statements.

A further graphic shows that desalination contributes one-third of Perth’s water, expected to increase to 50% by December 2012. This contribution is essential in conserving Perth’s water supply as dam levels are at about 33% and the major aquifer system, the Gnangara Mound has been raided beyond sustainable levels in the face of a very dry year this year.

The subtitle to the article is ‘Long-term declining rainfall has pushed Perth to the brink of a crisis’, which words echo Flannery and notes a long-term trend of declining rainfall and increasing population which is completely unsustainable without major desalination works, again echoing Flannery.

Science Supports Flannery Again

Perpitch’s article makes plain that far from Flannery being a religious fruitcake, his comments on rainfall catchment in Australia’s capitals are supported by science and responsible planning by city administrations.

Why else would Colin Barnett, Liberal Party Premier of Western Australia and hardly a deep-green afficionado of One World Government, support the proposal to pump water to Perth from the Kimberley region ?

It is inevitable that water in West Australia’s far north will eventually be channelled to the south, Premier Colin Barnett says. Mr Barnett said that while the Kimberley continues to become wetter and the south becomes drier, it is certain that water will be pumped from the north some time in the future.

Barnett is obviously reading the reports of his engineers and scientists and acting in accordance with them and Flannery’s recommendations as Campbell Newman did in Brisbane. One can only hope the denialatariat catches on.

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Serengeti Strategy (Part 2) (Part 1)

A favoured tactic of the Climate Chanage Denialatariat is to attempt to pick off and destroy influential supporters of the scientific consensus on AGW whom they consider vulnerable to smear or distortion. By discrediting influential consensus voices they attempt to discredit AGW itself. In Australia, denialists concentrate their Serengeti Strategy on Climate Change Commissioner Tim Flannery. Here is Andrew Bolt enjoying a superlative free lunch with Mark Latham while doing that very thing:

“How does Flannery hold the position of chief climate commissioner and, in making these predictions, why is he backed by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO? He is highly influential, he’s Mr Global Warming. If you say he’s a weak link, what does that tell you?”

Latham, for his part, is quite aware of Bolt’s true objective

Unable to make a factual case against global warming, the spoiler-sceptics have homed in on Flannery.

Flannery The Fundamentalist

A favoured and oft-repeated smear against Flannery is that he is untrustworthy, indeed irrational religious kook, because he believes that the Planet Earth is a living God or self-aware entity named Gaia. The right-wing Australian smear think tank ‘Institute For Public Affairs’ published an article concentrating on this smear some time ago. The undated article written by James Paterson, their Director of Communications, is entitled Tim Flannery, Climate Prophet. Paterson wrote:

When appearing on the ABC’s Science Show in January this year, Flannery said: ‘This planet, this Gaia, will have acquired a brain and a nervous system. That will make it act as a living animal, as a living organism, at some sort of level.’

To be fair, Flannery is not the only scientist to embrace the kooky theory that Gaia has human properties.

Paterson thus states that Flannery believes the planet Earth has a brain and nervous system. Flannery does not believe this. Paterson is guilty of lazy research here, but his overall objective is to paint Flannery as a crackpot so I doubt he was trying very hard to genuinely understand Flannery’s conception of the Gaia hypothesis.

In fact, Flannery does not think that the Earth has a brain or nervous system. What Flannery says is that human beings, really scientists, constitute the Earth’s metaphorical or virtual brain and that the Internet has the capacity to constitute the Earth’s metaphorical or virtual nervous system and that therefore humans may potentially be able regulate the Earth’s eco-systems via planet-wide computer networks and other technologies. In other words Flannery’s view of the ‘strong Gaia’ is technocratic and scientific, not religious.

Really James Paterson should be ashamed of smearing Flannery in such a way. It reflects badly on both himself and the IPA and lessens its credibility as a serious researching entity.

Here is Flannery explaining his Gaia hypothesis to Robert Manne at Latrobe University 4th June 2009

Robert Manne:
I wondered first for the audience if you could give a reasonable succinct view of what [James Lovelock’s] conception of Gaia is and then I want to talk about your book a bit in regard to that.

Tim Flannery:
[…] Just over the last decade Gaia is on the threshold of acquiring a brain and that’s happened because the internet and changes in human society have for the first time ever, allowed us theoretically to deliver a single, strong message to Gaia, what we want from Gaia. And also, after four billion years, we have got now the intelligence to see Gaia from space and to actually enhance its working parts…

Robert Manne:
Is what you’re saying then, that human beings have to somehow become the regulator? Of processes that once we were not able to control or didn’t feel the need to control or whatever?

Tim Flannery:
By virtue of the process of evolution humans are destined to become the regulator.

Robert Manne:
And it connects, doesn’t it, to this idea of yours which is the capacity of human beings now to see what has to be done and to do it. Is that it?

Tim Flannery:
That’s right and it’s already happening. It’s not like this is theoretic. We actually have built a system now that allows us to send a single strong message to the part of the carbon cycle we want to deal with.

To Quickly Summarize then, Flannery is not a Gaia worshipper. He does not think that the Earth is a gigantic person or a living god or a self-aware entity. He does not think the Earth has a brain or nervous system. Flannery’s view of the ‘strong Gaia’ is technocratic and scientific, not religious.

Footnote

This post is a disaggregation of another one I did defending Flannery in which I also show how Flannery’s predictions on water supply, routinely ridiculed by denialists, have actually been correct and justified in every respect.

You’ll find that here.