Carter, the unstoppable text machine

By Gareth Renowden 29/09/2009

homer.jpgBob Carter’s writing style (logorrhea, leavened with pomposity) is on display once more at Quadrant Online, and this week’s missive from planet Bob — headlined Media Ecoevangelists – finds him fulminating about an ABC documentary on the future of coal, The Coal Nightmare. I can’t comment on the film, it not having screened over here so far as I can tell, but I can question a few of Bob’s wilder assertions…

It is a commonplace that the mainstream media distort the public debate on environmental issues of the day.

A case in point is the continuing uncritical alarmism about allegedly human-caused global warming, at a time when the globe has been cooling for ten years and human causation remains chimerical.

Chimerical! Fine word. A pity then that it should be so misused. Let’s pass over his repetition of the ’cooling’ trope (except to ponder that perhaps he’s using it as often as possible before a new global temperature record makes repetition of that inaccuracy untenable even for him), and concentrate on the causation. CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 40% in the last 150 years, and that increase has been caused by human activity (see here for a recent discussion). Is Bob really asserting that the CO2 increase is not from human agency, or does he mean something else? In what way is human causation a chimera? Our fingerprints are all over the place…

But it’s the media that are his real target:

The Fairfax press, together with public broadcasters ABC and SBS, furnish egregious examples of this on a regular basis as they dutifully promulgate — without a trace of critical analysis — the unrestrained, apocalyptic imaginings of the many scientific, environmental and business lobby groups who are now poised to benefit from a carbon dioxide taxation system (aka emissions trading scheme; ETS).

Sounds like sour grapes to me. Perhaps because Bob’s unrestrained apocalyptic imaginings about the costs of action are not finding as wide an audience as in days past.

One was reminded irresistibly of the famous, scientifically illiterate first sentence of Climate Minister Wong’s Green Paper on emissions trading last year, which contained no fewer than seven basic errors.

One is reminded irresistibly that the ’seven errors’ were enumerated by none other than Carter himself in an article in The Age (no ecoevangelism there, apparently). Yes, it’s turtles all the way down

Bob’s key argument:

In fact, the reality is precisely the opposite of the conventional wisdom that our ABC so doggedly pursues in this film and elsewhere, and it is that carbon dioxide emissions are an environmental benefice.

Another good word! But benefice, really? Yes, says Bob:

First, because at current and near-future levels the emissions do not cause dangerous warming (though they may yet prove to confer a just measurable mild warming that would help offset the current planetary cooling trend). And, second, carbon dioxide being effectively an aerial fertilizer for plants, because rising levels in the atmosphere during our modern geological time of carbon dioxide starvation provide a significant boost for plant productivity, and hence food supply.

Two points, Bob. Ocean acidification. And the Eemian. The first is important, because even if increasing atmospheric CO2 were not a problem in its own right, then the effect of increasing quantities of CO2 dissolving in the world’s oceans is quite enough on its own to make emissions reductions prudent, even essential. (See the UNEP Compendium report for a recent overview, pp29-35). During the last interglacial, 125,000 years ago, CO2 levels topped out at about 300ppm, the world was a little warmer than today, and sea levels up to 5m higher. So what was that about ’current and near-future levels’ Bob? We’re already at 389ppm and rising. I don’t know about you, but I would think a certain caution was advisable, eh?

The rest of Bob’s article is a lengthy diatribe meant to demonstrate that coal is not dirty, carbon dioxide not a pollutant and that the Aussie media is under the control of Deep Greens. Let’s leave him with this:

The business community would not for one moment put up with the business section of the daily news being presented in the incompetent and partial way that today typifies press coverage of environmental issues. And neither should the scientific community allow its hallowed standards of objectivity, impartiality and falsification testing against empirical data to be traduced, as they regularly are, in the reporting of environmental and related scientific issues.

If only Bob Carter applied those same hallowed standards to his own output, for in this case Bob’s pot is in imminent danger of colliding with Carter’s kettle. And what was that about empty vessels..?

[The Only Living Boy In New Cross]