Does the ACT need a Climate Change Council?

A few weeks ago Judith Curry ran a piece on her website about the verbal choice between  ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’. I let it pass at the time because there were other subjects for me, but her piece was rather droll. It seems that Americans interviewed in a large sample survey were significantly more likely to see harmful associations in the term ‘global warming’ than in ‘climate change’. Someone else somewhere noted that Hollywood disaster movies about the environment tend to show a frozen USA rather than a fiery one, perhaps because hot skies remind the audience of summer holidays.

What is droll about all this is that the term ‘climate change’ came into vogue because the planet was refusing to warm as the computer models said it should, and the northern hemisphere had some very cold winters. Out went ‘global warming’ and in came ‘climate change’, certainly the term-to-use in our part of the world. Maybe ‘climate change’ was too vague for some, because we also got ‘climate disruption’ and ‘weird weather’.

The New Yorker ran a satirical piece on it all, and I can’t resist giving you a section of it:

After a report from the Yale Center on Climate Change Communication showed that the term “climate change” elicits relatively little concern from the American public, leading scientists are recommending replacing it with a new term: “You will be burnt to a crisp and die.” Other terms under consideration by the scientists include “your cities will be ravaged by tsunamis and floods” and “earth will be a fiery hellhole incapable of supporting human life.” Scientists were generally supportive of the suggestions, with many favoring the term “your future will involve rowing a boat down a river of rotting corpses.”

“Any of these terms would do a better job conveying the urgency of the problem,” Tracy Klugian, a spokesperson for the newly renamed Yale Center for Oh My God Wake Up You Assholes, said.

Well, enough of that. But I was reminded of it when I saw a public notice from the ACT Government seeking expressions of interest from citizens wishing to be considered for appointment to the ACT Climate Change Council, a body of whose very existence I was quite unaware. A search for its activities didn’t produce much. The first meeting of the Council seems to have taken place on 8 November 2011, where its members were briefed by ACT Government representatives on what they were doing that  related to ‘climate change’.

If it met again, its minutes have not been placed on the public record. It was given a couple of new members at the end of 2013. What is it for? The ACT Government announcement seeking new members wasn’t hugely explicit. It said The Council consults business and the community and provides information to encourage the community to take action to address and adapt to a changing climate.

The criteria for appointment were a bit of a shock. You needed the following:

demonstrated commitment to addressing climate change
knowledge of climate change …
experience working on climate change …
capacity to commit time to the Council’s work.

I wasn’t thinking of offering to serve , but I do know quite a few people who satisfy the criteria, though they would be seen as sceptical (and probably by the orthodox as ‘deniers’). But I did think the ACT Government might find it useful to have a range of views on the Council about what ‘climate change’ actually was, and whether the ACT could do anything at all about it.

Apparently not. It seems to be a body like the unlamented Climate Council, which the Abbott Government ended in its first couple of days in office. Further research showed me that there was some uncertainty about what its role was. The Minister’s announcement included the following: The Council… plays a key role in shaping our thinking on climate change policy for the territory. I am seeking interest from people with relevant expertise and a passion for sustainability to support the government’s work in transforming our city into a low carbon economy and increasing its sustainability.

You can be in favour of ‘sustainability’ without being gung-ho about global warming, though I must admit they do run together a lot. The ‘low-carbon’ business can also make sense if you are in favour of nuclear energy, but I don’t think that is the case here. People get prizes for low-carbon this and low-carbon that, but the background there is the apparent certainty that ‘high-carbon’ is bad for the environment and everybody in it. This is rather old-fashioned stuff.

Whatever the Council has done, it has been remarkably quiet about it, and I am sure that it will get nothing but orthodox believers as new members. But the ACT Government might think it worthwhile to change its name to something a bit less religious, like the ‘ACT Sustainability Council’. I assume that its existence owes to the fact that the ACT Government is a Labor-Greens Alliance.

Oh, and there is the problem that the ACT can’t do anything about its climate (see my last piece). But I guess that doesn’t matter. The point apparently is to be seen to be trying to do something, no matter how ineffectual it is.

[Update: I sent a copy to the Minister responsible, who has pointed out that the information about the Council is available here: <>

The more I read, the more I became convinced that the Climate Change Council is actually about energy efficiency and sustainability. ‘Climate change’ seems taken as complete fact, and the members of the Council include a number of the devoted orthodox, like Professor Steffen. Indeed, the Chair of the Council has already suggested to the Minister that the name of the Council be changed to something that reflects its actual activities. I support her, and feel that the sooner that is done the better.]

Join the discussion 27 Comments

  • Gus says:

    The real question is whether ACT voters want to pay for it and whether they want their local representatives to waste their time and tax payers’ money on such grandstanding, as opposed to addressing issues of genuine local concern, be they public transport, city rates, parking spaces, trash removal, road repair, zoning, water supply, etc.
    The voters should be made aware that every minute and every dollar that the ACT Government wastes on the furphy of “climate change,” is the same minute and the same dollar that’s not spent on what the ACT Government should be doing.

    • Mike O'Ceirin says:

      In Canberra I feel like I reside in the Green party’s headquarters, certainly Marx is considered too right wing. The sitting member of my electorate has a 27% majority. Currently we have a light rail (trams) being foisted on us for 614 million which only 3% of the population will be able to use. They just say we want it so I probably want the climate council as well or so I am told.

      • Gus says:

        The last time I was in Canberra, it was 18 years ago, and they talked about that tram already, for at least 4 years at the time. For all I know they may talk about it for another 20 years before the idea is finally abandoned for good. The thing about the tram is, as you notice, that it’s quite expensive, $614 million, perhaps a billion, realistically. Where is this money going to come from?
        Canberra residents who don’t want to pay for it, have an easy escape route: they can move to Queanbeyan. You end up with freehold, an added bonus, it’s closer to Bateman’s Bay, just a little, and it’s closer to the Airport than from most ACT suburbs.

        • Mike O'Ceirin says:

          I will not be moving to get away from our LabGre government for various reasons. I think they are set on doing it and will build a track up the centre of Northbourne avenue 13 Km out to Gungahlin. Should be fun and an ideal project for Greens. Their motto is “If it works it is not Green”.

          • margaret says:

            I despair at YOUR jaundiced opinions, safely ensconced in a beautiful ‘ideal’ city where as expected, idealistic projects are implemented. The denizens can laugh but ‘for various reasons’ they still benefit.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            How are my opinions ‘jaundiced’? Is there something wrong with the arguments I have put forward in those last two essays, about the futility of human belief that we can somehow control climate — when the evidence so far is that it is not within our control?

            Governments are there to do things in the general interest. They don’t always get it right, and they find it hard to admit they are ever wrong. I understand that. The ACT Government is also proposing to build a light-rail system that will cost in excess of a billion dollars (to says less, but I doubt that they will prove to have been right). I am somewhat sceptical of that, too, but I agree that someone has to make these decisions, and we will see. But in the case of having a Climate Change Council’ that is actually about sustainability, I feel that to point out the error is also in the general interest.

            I like living in Canberra, very much, but I am also aware that I pay a lot to do so, in all sorts of ways. The ACT Government is responsible for the city’s upkeep, and it has a small resource base — the citizens. I pay about twice the rates that I once paid in Sydney for a house that is now worth (there) three times what mine is here. Canberra is not cheap at all.

          • Margaret says:

            Not sleeping well tonight and when that occurs I check my preferred blogs out – often I come to yours because it challenges my thoughts. My comment was to mr o’ceirin Don. He made a similar comment to me about my supposedly jaundiced opinions in one of your posts – about poverty I think. I found an opportunity in his comment about the light rail to give him a taste of his own language and you have mistaken it for a reply to your post, which was not my intention.

          • margaret says:

            So here is some more ‘claptrap’ (mr o’ceirin’s language directed AT me), from me – as I said I have found that your blog gives me pause for thought on AGW and CAGW. I don’t really think that this government IS doing things in the general interest. I will show my colours and call it a consciously patriarchal government to which its women parliamentarians belong. Its paid parental scheme has no ‘general interest’, it has an entirely specific one of privileging the already privileged.
            My husband went into the city library to collect Abbott’s Battle Lines – its blurb, “the essential manifesto for the thinking liberal”. On the tram home a fellow passenger asked him what it is like, he said he had only just started it – the chap said he was thinking of becoming a communist under the current government’s rule.
            Also, Canberra citizens get what they pay for. you can hardly expect me to say poor Canberra citizens paying so much to live there, especially by comparing your real estate with a Sydney home you once owned!

  • David says:
    Don the “hiatus” is over. Last month was the hottest on record.

    • David says:

      I should say last month was the hottest June on record.

      • Don Aitkin says:


        There are five global datasets, and you’ve picked one. Even it doesn’t show anything abnormal. The others show nothing in particular. Remember that the trend is now getting on for 18 years, and you would need several increasing averages in a row to be able to suggest confidently that the hiatus is over. The El Nino possibility seems to be fading, and that also suggest that temperatures are likely to stay flat.

        To see them all, go to

        • David says:


          I only need one data point conclude June was the highest on record. And it was.

          BTW, you appear to selectively quote from Judith Curry as and when it suites.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Re Curry, please tell me where and when.

            Re the reference, and pp11-13, where am I to go. Climate4you doesn’t show things by pages on my screen. What are you pointing to?

            Re, one data point, do you mean that you only need one data point on one dataset? A highpoint does not show the end of a trend, surely. You need a succession of increasing high-points to suggest that there is a new trend. I said that earlier. Don’t you agree?

          • David says:

            In your reference Climate 4 you, 2014, June
            update click on the link

            p. 12: Global monthly average sea surface temperature
            since 1979 according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), USA. Base

            p 13. Global monthly heat content anomaly
            (GJ/m2) in the uppermost 700 m of the oceans since January 1955. Data source:
            National Oceanographic Data

            p. 15: Indian Ocean vertical average
            temperature 0-100 m depth since 1955. The thin line indicate 3-month values,
            and the thick line represents the simple running 39-month (c. 3 year) average.
            Data source: NOAA National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC). Base period

            p. 25: Global monthly sea level since late 1992
            according to the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at University of
            Colorado at Boulder, USA. The thick line is the simple running 37 observation
            average, nearly corresponding to a running 3 yr average.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Yes, the SST seem to have gone up. You’ll need a few more months of a continual rise before you can confidently suggest that maybe the pause is coming to an end.

            There’s an important paper by Wunsch on what the seas can tell us (not much, he says). You can find it in various places, WUWT and Climate etc for a start. I’m not able to judge some of the argument, but Wunsch is one of the stars in that field. I might have a proper go at it next week.

          • Don Aitkin says:


            This morning’s compilation of temperature data from all datasets doesn’t show anything remarkable. This is the picture from 1979. The more recent the time period, the flatter the trend line. You can see it al on WUWT, by Bob Tisdale. He uses the publicly available data.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Oh dear, my graph did not reproduce. Oh well, go to the source.

          • dlb says:

            Bob’s graph came through fine for me.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Yes, here it i. There must be a delay.

          • David says:

            Its pretty simple. I looked at data YOU posted. There were 4 trends where June 2014 was THE highest on record!
            Its not my fault that you chose to post data that contradicts your argument.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            But aren’t we talking about trend lines? The highest June on record (a claim already challenged by some) has to sit in a trend that is now well over a decade long on all the datasets. That trend is for no warming of any significance, or even for cooling on a couple. It may be that the ‘hiatus’ has ended and that we are returning to warming, but a single month won’t be enough to show that — we’ll need several months with continual increases.

            I haven’t been following it, but I think I’ve read that July will not be like June. Anyway, we’ll see.

          • David says:

            If you are going to cherry pick time periods; The MOST recent time period 2011 to 2015 is increasing! The hiatus is over.

        • David says:

          In your reference go to pages 11, 12, 13.

          The hottest on record. The hiatus in hiatus. 🙂

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  • David says:


    Re your selective reading of Judith Curry.

    Now here is a link to a paper by Muller on this very topic of temperature
    measurement and it capacity to bias estimates of AGW. I have capitalized the
    relevant part of this abstract.

    “A survey organized by A. Watts has thrown doubt on the usefulness of
    historic thermometer data in analyzing the record of global warming. That
    survey found that 70% of the USHCN temperature stations had potential
    temperature biases from 2°C to 5°C, large compared to the estimated global
    warming (1956 to 2005) of 0.64 ± 0.13°C. In the current paper we study this
    issue with two approaches. The first is a simple histogram study of temperature
    trends in groupings of stations based on Watt’s survey of station quality. This
    approach suffers from uneven sampling of the United States; its main value is
    in illustrating aspects of the data that are counter-intuitive and surprising.
    The second approach is more statistically rigorous, and consists of a more
    detailed temperature reconstruction performed using the Berkeley Earth analysis
    method indicates that the difference in temperature change rate between Poor
    (quality groups 4, 5) and OK (quality groups 1, 2, 3) stations is not
    statistically significant at the 95% confidence level. THE ABSENCE OF A
    STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE INDICATES THAT THESE NETWORKS OF STATIONS CAN RELIABLY DISCERN TEMPERATURE TRENDS EVEN WHEN INDIVIDUAL STATIONS HAVE NOMINALLY POOR QUALITY RANKINGS. This result suggests that the estimates of systematic uncertainty were overly “conservative” and that changes in temperature can be deduced even with poorly rated sites.”

    Now look who is the 7th author, none other than your favorite go-to sceptic Judith Curry! So at least in this paper Muller, Curry and others DO NOT accept that measurement error is an issue.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Judith Curry was the fourth listed rather than the seventh (Steven Mosher), and indeed I take seriously anything that she writes. I also think that the BEST dataset is about as good as we can get, given the loss of data and the dropping in and out (mostly out) of stations. This paper is about the US dataset, not the global one, and the USA maintains about 3000 stations. I accept, until the paper is challenged or supplemented later, that Anthony Watts’s view is probably too conservative (which is what the authors said — not that measurement error is not an issue.

      There is no other dataset that is remotely as rich in stations or as well managed as the US one. Ours is pathetic in comparison, and SST data are hardly worth worrying about until the present century and ARGO data, which are only at the beginning.

      I would still maintain, even with respect to the US, that movements in temperature less than a degree are unlikely to mean very much, given the multiple possibilities of error. The fact that one can show differences to three decimal places is irrelevant.

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