Friday, May 13, 2011

Insane Clown Posse

THAT racket on Hungry Beast last night – you know, all those learned sorts getting down with the youth and rapping up a gale of yo-this and motherfucker-that – engendered such curiosity at the Billabong that it seemed worthwhile investing a few keystrokes to learn what it is, exactly, that constitutes a “climate scientist”, at least as the ABC recognises that peculiar occupation.

The answer, it turns out, is not much, although a careerist eye for the main chance would appear to be a key element of your up-and-coming climate practitioner’s CV. That’s not a personal opinion, mind you. It is spelled out in the sales pitch to students by the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Center, where four of the rappers do their sciencing. Here’s how UNSW”s pamphleteers pitch catastrophism’s bright side:

The need for students who understand environmentally relevant physical sciences has never been greater.  Demand is currently high for graduates of programs in this area worldwide … Recent PhD graduates from the CCRC have gone on to research positions at CSIRO and in several overseas research institutions.  A Masters’ or Honours degree can be a stepping-stone to the PhD, or a great asset to anyone seeking non-research employment in areas that will be affected by environmental issues and changes.

Two of the UNSW contingent in Hungry Beast’s insane clown posse are not quite yet climate scientists, as they are still working on the modeling exercises that will earn them their PhDs. Youthful enthusiasm excuses many lapses of taste and judgment, so perhaps they deserve a pass this time. But how to explain the compromised dignity of three full-blown faculty members who tested their tonsils?

Katrin Meissner (above) would seem to be the living proof that there is truth in advertising. A youngish, fresh-faced slip of gal – one who would have done very well indeed in Etruscan Semiotics had she placed herself under a mentoring Bunyip – she has nevertheless bagged a very nice swag of grants and appointments. No doubt she is more brilliant than a solar array (and probably quite fetching in a little white coat and heels), but such achievements in a lab bitch so young really do stoke the suspicion that being in the right field at the right time does wonders for one’s prospects.

 (“Lab bitch”, by the way, is not a term that rolls easily off any gentleman’s tongue, but in the light of Katrin’s enthusiasm for yelling the prime procreative vulgarity, now a staple of the ABC’s nightly programming, it seemed those words needed to be used at least once in this post. UNSW’s hockey stick ho might otherwise be miffed at having been mistaken for a lady.)

Her UNSW colleague, Dr Jason Evans (above), added even more intellectual heft to the choir, as he has published many, many papers and prognostications about what the weather might do next. He is also the performer ABC viewers will remember as getting in the camera’s face at the 1:53 mark of the two-minute video. That is the instant when he announces with aggressive tunelessness that he is no mere a climate scientist, not him! No, he is “a fucking climate scientist.” There may be one thing, however, Jason Evans PhD (with a self-conferred FCS) regrets publishing, and that would be his prediction in late 2009 of the Saharan future facing the Murray-Darling basin.

''Certainly the southern part of the Murray-Darling Basin, which includes the Lachlan, [is] looking at hotter and drier projections in the future,'' a senior research fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW, Dr Jason Evans, said.

Pity about all that rain we’ve been having.

And pity, too, about those pesky Climategate emails, because one particular sequence of correspondence provides a glimpse of the world in which another academic rapper, Victoria University’s Prof. Roger N. Jones (the little bald fellow below and at 1:05 in the video), does business.

Debating how best to present climate projections that might not be quite so dire as the World Wildlife Fund would wish, Dr A. Barrie Pittock, recently retired from the CSIRO’s Climate Impact Group, tosses around ideas with colleague Mike Hulme for making the package more palatable.  It’s all very technical and, for a layman, rather difficult to grasp, except for the broad point that they are really, really worried their stats and charts won’t be scary enough to keep everyone happy.

“I would be very concerned,” writes Pittock, “if the material comes out under WWF auspices in a way that can be interpreted as saying that ‘even a greenie group like WWF’ thinks large areas of the world will have negligible climate change. But that is where your 95% confidence limit leads.”

Fortunately, the human connections that link and bind the “climate change community” are much more accessible than the science. Here is an especially fascinating excerpt:

Dear Mike,
….. I should perhaps explain my delicate position in all this. As a retired CSIRO person I have somewhat more independence than before, and perhaps a reduced sense of vested interest in CSIRO, but I am still closely in touch and supportive of what CAR is doing. Also, I have a son who is now a leading staff member of WWF in Australia and who is naturally well informed on climate change issues. Moreover, Michael Rae, who is their local climate change staffer, is a member of the CSIRO sector advisory committee (along with some industry people as well) and well known to me. So I anticipated questions from WWF Australia, and from the media later when the scenarios are released, regarding the scenarios. I did not want to be in the position of feeling the need to seriously question in public their presentation or interpretation. You have allayed my fears on that score, so that is great.

Career opportunities in climate change? You bet there are – including a bit of extra work for Prof. Jones, mentioned in passing by Pittock to Hulme as a useful chap who might “respond on behalf of the group” and “may still follow up with some more detailed comments he is collating”.

What’s that sage advice the old hoofers give stagestruck wannabes? Oh, yes, that’s it, “Don’t give up your day job.” In this case, and despite the boffins’ dreadful din, it might be better  if that counsel were to be reversed.

Yes, as performers they are thoroughly awful, but urging them to abandon “genuine climate science” might prove less taxing for the rest of us, even allowing for the cursing and the racket.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't realize these people were experts in their field. I thought they were just a bunch of juvenile nongs. Just goes to show you can be an expert and a nong at the same time.