I thought by now I might have seen a copy of the IPCC’s Summary for Policy Makers, but I had forgotten about the International Date Line. The SPM is supposed to come out today, which will probably mean tomorrow. Instead I’m writing about David Suzuki. I missed the ABC’s Q&A program that featured David Suzuki, because I was travelling, but I’ve since been able to view it, and I was less than impressed. At least the compere put a hard question or two to Suzuki when the Canadian waved away inconvenient questions on the ground that he wasn’t a climate scientist. If he wasn’t going to answer questions on climate, why was he there?
Indeed, why was he there? The Q&A program normally has three guests, sometimes two, and when there is one only (I think) that spot is reserved for Prime Ministers and people of that status. With all due respect, I don’t think Dr Suzuki quite comes up to that mark. In any case I thought his performance was really abysmal. OK, his PhD fifty years ago was on the fruit fly, but in recent years he was been an outspoken defender of the AGW orthodoxy.
There is a David Suzuki Foundation, and its website is full of statements about the awful threat that AGW poses. Here’s an example:
The debate is over about whether or not climate change is real. Irrefutable evidence from around the world — including extreme weather events, record temperatures, retreating glaciers, and rising sea levels — all point to the fact climate change is happening now and at rates much faster than previously thought.
That is classic orthodoxy, and each one of his claims (extreme weather events, etc) is actually open to vigorous debate. Irrefutable is what this evidence is not. OK, well he has urged students in Canada to speak out against politicians who fail to act on climate change: ‘What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there’s a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail, because what they’re doing is a criminal act’. And you’d expect someone with that kind of confidence to be on top of the literature and the data, even if he prefers some data and some arguments to others.
His performance on Q&A suggested otherwise. The first question bowled up to him raised the question of the pause in warming, and pointed out that all the major temperature datasets had shown such a pause over the past fifteen years. Suzuki didn’t seem to know about the datasets, or who managed them, or even what it was that they measured.
Then Professor Stewart Franks, a climate scientist, pointed out to Suzuki that he (Franks) had gone into environmental science partly because he then had so much respect for Suzuki, asked him whether or not it was possible that the IPCC had exaggerated the contribution of carbon dioxide in its several reports. Suzuki waved that one away.
A few minutes later Stewart Franks questioned his claim that the greater frequency of cyclones caused by global warming is destroying the Great Barrier Reef. Suzuki back-pedalled, and said that this was an idea an Australian gave him. He might be mistaken. Of course he is. Not only is the frequency of cyclones less than it used to be, but reefs recover from cyclones, which are part of the environmental system reefs inhabit.
Someone asked Suzuki about his claim that politicians who don’t act on global warming should be jailed. Suzuki stood by the claim. The compere looked surprised, so Suzuki said well, maybe he hadn’t thought it through. Someone else again, another academic, pointed out to Suzuki that we can’t really switch to solar until we are able to store solar energy effectively and efficiently, and that we are a long way from that goal. Suzuki responded that he didn’t really know.
What in blazes does he know? And why on earth is such a know-nothing given pride of place on a top ABC talk show? I expected a tough, well-informed, competent scientist. What I got was a feeble apologist. From a sceptical perspective the event was a success: Suzuki is such a dreadful exponent of the faith that I would think he loses twenty supporters every time he answers a question.
On my return to Canberra, through the fiercest winds I think I have ever driven through, I managed to get the ABC News and the 7.30 report, which (surprise!) gave us a reasonably balanced account of the situation in which the IPCC finds itself, with Stewart Franks again speaking cogently about the need to abandon the IPCC ‘bible’ approach, and David Karoly missing the point, as he does so often. (To be fair to him, I don’t know what else he said, so he may have been the victim of the program’s editor.)
Then we get Bill Shorten explaining to us all why he is the one to lead the ALP. And what does he say? He tells us he is proud of Labor’s stand against ‘carbon pollution’!
Drop it, Bill. That horse is dead, and backing it is a sure money-loser. And for the record, it isn’t ‘carbon’, but ‘carbon dioxide’, and it isn’t ‘pollution’, since without carbon dioxide there would be no plants and no animals — and no Bill Shorten. Memo to Mum and Dad: Bill needs to take homework seriously.