Friday, July 1, 2011

Silly Cow

AFTER last week’s volunteer labour in an ill friend’s milking shed, a few truths about cows are beyond dispute. Despite the stun gun that awaits them all, they are simple and self-satisfied creatures, daily content to follow the well-worn paths that lead at dusk and dawn to their udders being pleasured. In return for the comfort of that familiar routine they make payment with milk, which is appreciated, and by extruding large quantities of crap, which is not.

In other words, dairy cows are very similar to Phage journalists, who stick to what they think they know even though, perhaps sooner rather than later, it can only lead their publication to oblivion. Consider Jo Chandler, for example. In Wednesday’s newspaper she was very upset, her sense of what is right and proper having been violated by the Phage’s decision on Monday to publish a column by noted sceptic Bob Carter. The outrage had a familiar ring. One morning in the milking shed the Professor parked a quad bike where a particularly hidebound cow believed the machine had no right to remain. The agitation manifested by the bovine and the bylined is very much of a kind.

Bringing the milk of familiar outrage to the taxers and green scolds (whose thoughts Fairfax enviro writers habitually re-tweet), Chandler opens the sphincter from the very first sentence. Carter was not published, she writes, he “materialized on this page on Monday”, as if the geologist was a lump of demonic ectoplasm bent on disrupting the Fairfax mediums’ otherwise constant and righteous channeling of the Great Gaia. He is not a sceptic, according to Chandler, nor even a denier, but a full-blown “denialist” – a form that suggests a fellow focused not on the methodical examination of the warmist faith’s individual articles, which is what Carter does, but on a blanket and pro forma rejection of them all. It is the difference between an inquiring mind and an inquisitorial one.

Chandler reaches the milking shed by her second paragraph, where she gushes one of the familiar talking points advanced by bankers, derivatives traders and their useful idiots on the gullible left – the ones who believe they are backing a healthier planet, rather than stoking the fortunes of the financial sharps most of them detest. Yes, the Antarctic is still melting, and an article about the Pine Island Glacier in the latest edition of Nature Geoscience is all the proof anyone should need, according to Chandler, who next executes a slick transition from sub-glacial physics to “the murky, under-the-waterline mysteries of media dynamics … It is a crap shoot. Often you get crap.”

Indeed you do, Jo – if you are lucky. But mostly, as Chandler’s evident desire to see “denialists” permanently de-materialised suggests, you get great big gaping holes where relevant, but inconvenient, information vanishes without trace.

Take that Pine Island glacier, for example. Chandler tells us it is melting at a great crack, and there is no reason to think it is not: climate scientists – just like the ones who spirited Chandler all over the globe to help her write a Clive Hamilton-approved book on their planet-saving labours – had a little submarine, which scooted about beneath the river of ice and found it has, as Chandler puts it, “broken free from the ridge that once grounded it, allowing warmer waters to circulate and melt it from beneath. This had long been the theory - now they had some observed evidence.”

The boffins, another batch of them, also found something else, an active volcano next to the glacier, which was described in a 2008 paper as a potentially major factor in the accelerating melt. Chandler somehow neglected to mention this, so for Phage readers who feel deprived, here is the paper and part of the researchers’ conclusion. The acronym HMSV stands for Hudson Mountains Subglacial Volcano.
…the proximity of HMSV to Pine Island Glacier, which has shown two abrupt episodes of acceleration in recent decades and is part of a wider area of ice-sheet thinning, compels us to consider what effect HMSV has had and is having on ice flow. Ice-surface and bed topography indicate that if subglacial water were generated near HMSV some of it would drain into Tributary 6 and then under Pine Island Glacier itself.
There is more, including a final-paragraph refutation of Chandler’s tossed-off alarm that Pine Island’s glacial sogginess might prompt a global catastrophe. First, here is Chandler’s scenario:  “The hastening retreats of the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers have been closely monitored by scientists for decades. Their collapse is a nightmare cited as one of the tipping-point scenarios scientists most fear - potentially pulling the plug to drain the western ice plateau, and possibly even destabilising the sleeping giant next door: the East Antarctic ice sheet.”

And here is what the paper’s authors think of that idea: 

Pine Island Glacier lies in a deep subglacial trough, and this will isolate its subglacial hydrological system from neighbouring glaciers (Thwaites, Smith and Kohler). Therefore, even if continuous or episodic production of melt water from HMSV affects Pine Island Glacier, there is little likelihood that it could affect these neighbouring glaciers. It is thus possible that volcanic activity over HMSV contributed to some of the recent changes in velocity of Pine Island Glacier.

The authors are far from being 100% definite in pointing the finger at volcanism, but unlike Chandler they do mention it. Perhaps the poor girl is simply shell-shocked, too distracted to think clearly, because her luck has been running thin of late. Before the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, Chandler signed on to ghost the memoirs of Victoria’s decidedly uncelebrated former Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, whose duties as the state’s chief emergency officer did not stop her leaving the command centre to stuff her face in a North Melbourne pub while almost 200 people perished.

That was the first of Chandler’s literary bets to break down in the home straight, just as her book was ready for the printer. Now, with her catastropharian tome set to roll, the climate change hysteria – and the tax that goes with it – has also broken a leg.

No wonder she would like to see Carter and so many others banished from the public view. All that effort and nought but two discredited topics to show for it.

UPDATE: Chandler also dismisses the climategate emails:

At the heart of Carter's argument against the science is the claim that the credentials of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - and hence its authority in underpinning policy such as a carbon tax - were ''badly damaged by the leaked 'Climate-gate' emails in November 2009''. He's right - terrible damage was wrought by the accusations that scientists had behaved without integrity or honesty.

What Carter fails to then mention is that, at last count, there have been eight separate inquiries by British and US government agencies, independent panels and universities. Their findings have consistently upheld the honesty and integrity of the scientists. None have identified wrongdoing, and the science was unassailed.

Satisfied by Chandler's whitewash? Don't be. At Catallaxy, Sinclair Davidson has some of those honest scientists' actual words. Not to be missed -- except, of course, if you were to seek them in Chandler's latest book.


  1. Chandler says, “upheld the honesty and integrity of the scientists.”
    So, “upheld” now means “refused to investigate but assumed without evidence that there was no need to query”.
    Mann’s deflection of the question (I paraphrase), “did you delete any e-mails and did you suggest that Wahl delete e-mails?” with “I never read that e-mail, I just passed it on”, and the subsequent conclusion that he must have done nothing wrong, should be studied by all barristers, and will inevitably lead to many acquittals:

    Defence Lawyer: Did you really shoot, torture, maim, bludgeon and kill those victims?
    Defendant: I have never owned a rifle.
    Judge: Well, you’re clearly not guilty, then. I shall direct the jury to let you go.

  2. She was probably rubbing her hands in glee, thinking of all the money she was going to make, just like Al Gore and Tim Flannery.