Is Garth George capable of original thought?

By Gareth Renowden 15/10/2009

According to the Rotorua Daily Post, Garth George is “a veteran newspaperman living semi-retired in Rotorua”. Garth sallies forth from time to time to lend the benefit of his wisdom on climate policy to the readers of the NZ Herald, and on Thursday Oct 8th offered the following comment on reports of tax fraud in the EU emissions trading scheme:

For those of us who have known for years that man-made carbon dioxide emissions have nothing to do with global warming, and who recognise that an unnecessary international carbon trading scheme would be wide open to abuse, this comes as no surprise.

He then presented a few points “courtesy of Australia’s Carbon Sense Coalition”, beginning with:

There is no global warming crisis. The world is just emerging from the Little Ice Age, so naturally temperatures will be above those of last century.

There follow 317 words (yes, I counted them) lifted directly from this document (pdf), published in January by Viv Forbes of the aforementioned Carbon “Sense” Coalition. No quotation marks. No indication that this is a direct lift. But of the 800 words in Garth’s column, 37.5% were written by Viv Forbes. I wonder if Garth is forwarding a share of his cheque? The same column, in a slightly different form was reprinted in Rotorua the next day.

A sorry tale of lazy journalism maybe, but also the start of a little saga…

Jim Salinger, NZ’s best known climate scientist (last seen (that’s him on the left at the beginning) enjoying a sausage sizzle with Rhys Darby and Keisha Castle-Hughes), happened to read Garth’s column and was moved to pen a letter to the editor. It was published on October 12th, and said, in part:

The science of global warming is basic physics, well known since the late 19th century: Irish earth scientist John Tyndall in the 1860s found that greenhouse gases (CO2 and water vapour) block the earth’s heat escaping to space. In the 1900s, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius calculated that doubling CO2 would raise global temperatures 5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s best estimate is now 3°C. And only last week top climate scientists at the UK MetOffice warned that unchecked global warming could bring a severe temperature rise of 4°C by 2060. […] I urge George to stop emitting a load of hot air and get serious about the future of our civilisation on this planet.

Jim’s blunt statement of fact piqued Garth in his sulphurous lair, and this morning there appeared a robust response from our grizzled veteran newspaperman:

After 13 years of writing this weekly column I have become inured to criticism, to which I rarely respond, but the letter by Jim Salinger published on the page opposite on Monday demands a reply.

Typical of patronising PhDs, Dr Salinger labels me a “climate change denier”. That is downright dishonest. However, it is understandable considering that those who peddle the CO2-is-the-cause-of-global-warming fallacy rely on pseudo-science which is in itself dishonest.

Sock it to him Garth! This time you’ll have done your research and will be ready with well thought out answers to Jim’s basic physics, won’t you?

Well, er, no. Garth’s been thumbing through the works of great communicator Bob Carter, and proceeds to quote him extensively in the remainder of the column. You guessed it. 335 words (mostly pompous bollocks), this time (mostly) properly in quotes, but still amounting to 41% of his article. Is this intellectual dishonesty or lazy journalism? In either case, why is he being paid for this nonsense?

And as for that doyen of patronising PhD’s, he’s considering a response… But he’ll write it all himself.