Fire Down Below

Australian prime minister Tony Abbot got elected saying, among other things, that global warming science was a bunch of crap.

Now he says that “Climate change is real, as I’ve often said, and we should take strong action against it…” Why the amazing massive ginormous flip-flop? Because Abbot is feeling the heat. So are a lot of Australians as they suffer through tremendous bushfires devastating huge areas of New South Wales. Australia has always been prone to fire, but the scale of this event is astounding. So too is the timing — it isn’t even summer yet down under. But it’s absolutely clear that “fire season” has been getting longer in Oz, starting earlier and ending later. And the reason for this very early outbreak: an extra-hot and extra-dry winter, exacerbated by — you guessed it — man-made climate change. Global warming.


Abbot is especially feeling the heat because U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres on Monday told CNN that there is “absolutely” a link between global warming and increased risk and severity of wildfire such as burning Australia right now. Abbot denies any link whatsoever, claiming the Figueres was “talking through her hat.” He has to resort to such rhetoric to defend his policies, since he has already dissolved Australia’s climate commision and wants very much to repeal the carbon tax. But right now, with the damage and cost of climate change staring him — and all Australians — right in the face, he’s feeling the heat so much that he had to run away from his earlier claims.

Maybe Abbot formed his opinion that global warming science was “crap” by looking at temperature in Australia for the 25-year period leading up to 2012:

Aus25yr

Wow! What a “pause”!!! The trend line just barely escaped negative slope, and is nowhere near statistically significant. Twenty five years with no statistically significant warming! Is Australia headed for imminent cooling?

Let’s bring that graph up to date. 2013 isn’t over yet, but it’s well on its way to being the hottest year on record in Australia. By a long shot. September was the hottest on record. By a long shot. And the most recent 12-month period was the hottest on record.

While we’re at it, let’s add some context. Let’s look at all the data available from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology:

Aus104yr

Gee. When you look at all the data, including this year (although only 9 months old), it is abundantly clear that Australia has gotten hotter, and that you have to cherry-pick your time span to make it look like it’s not a problem. But then, cherry-picking time spans to make it look like it’s not a problem is what global warming deniers do. A lot.

As Graham Readfearn so aptly stated, “If Tony Abbott thinks Christiana Figueres is “talking though her hat” then from where is Tony Abbott talking?”

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78 responses to “Fire Down Below

  1. Its the new “skeptic” meme. Acknowledge climate change, but don’t admit that anything is actually caused by it.

    Actually, that is not quite true. The previous conservative government of Australia, led by John Howard from 1996 – 2007 did accept climate change was real, because of a decade of drought which was devastating for one of the core constituents of conservatives in Australia, farmers.

    The ending of that drought, and the subsequent floods in Queensland and good rains elsewhere has allowed conservatives to move back to a “climate change is crap” mentality.

  2. Wonderful conundrum. Now he has to choose an explanation,either: bad data or bad judgement.

    • Bern from Aus

      You don’t understand how politics works here down under. He will have to explain nothing – they’ll simply put climate on the back burner for a month or so until the local media start obsessing about the latest sporting/celebrity scandal, at which point they’ll quietly introduce laws to repeal the carbon tax.

  3. Very hot September in Australia:

    Australia reported its warmest September since national records began in 1910, at 2.75°C (4.95°F) above the 1961–1990 average. The nationally-averaged maximum and minimum temperatures were 3.41°C (6.14°F) and 2.09°C (3.76°F) above average, also record high. Every state and territory across the country had average, maximum, and minimum September temperatures that ranked among their 10 highest, with record warmth for all three in South Australia. The average temperature was record high in every state and territory, with the exception of Tasmania (third highest) and Western Australia (fourth highest). According to the Bureau of Meteorology, this record-warm month contributed to a record-warm 12-month period (October 2012 to September 2013), marking the second month in a row that the 12-month mean temperature record has been broken. …

  4. The thing is that no-one can rightly say climate change is *solely* responsible for any one fire, because fire is driven by multiple factors. And a Murdoch apologist last night on ABC TV, when asked about a link between climate and fires, immediately fell back to this line – that this fire cannot be attributed to climate change… etc. Ask if there’s any component of climate change in the fires and they reflexively fall back to an all or none position. And that position is utterly desolate.
    SoCal, the Russian peat fires of a few years back. Eurpoean fires Indonesia, and we here are only the last in a world wide series of abnormal fires.
    The Prime Minister is a RFS fire fighter, in fact he lists his hairiest moments as being 2001/2 fires in the same area; fires that I as an interstater was also fighting – but that was two months later into summer. And the Environment Minister!!, good grief, researched Wikipedia for a quick response. (See http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-24/hunt-on-bbc/5043324) I’m embarrassed as an Australian that our senior ministers are so pig ignorant, and as a firefighter that someone would say that the only issue is that “It’s the Australian Experience”.
    No-one who knows that fire behaviour is dictated by prevailing conditions which include local dryness, fuel load, RH, fuel composition and distribution, as well as terrain, wind and temperature, would doubt that this fire was exacerbated by record high temperatures, a dry winter, and the consequent shedding of leaves and fine fuel as trees coped with drought. So there you are, at least three climate related components of the fire.
    Has climate change added to the problem? Higher temperatures, CO2 fertilisation leading to increases fine fuels, increased water vapour deficits, die back as a result. And that heat burst. You bet!
    Did it cause it? I reckon I’ll leave that to Dan Dennett to answer.

    [Response: The thing is that no-one can rightly say smoking cigarettes is *solely* responsible for any one case of lung cancer.]

    • I remember when a campaign backed by the Murdoch’s The Sun in Victoria “Declare War on 1034″, helped cut the road death poll by getting support for mandatory seat belts. The annual road toll has fallen by 60% in the 40 years since, meaning that more than 20,000 lives were not lost that would have been.
      Since we cannot identify exactly who those people are – by some twisted logic then perhaps that proves the campaign did nothing.
      Check the discussion and news.

      http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/47293

      13.30 to about 16.00 listen to the Murdock spin.
      Watch the first fifteen minutes. Firefighters in white helmets are RFS, look out for ones in yellow helmets – likely to be CFA my mob.

      • I could have put that point better.
        Since we cannot identify the 20,000 non-dead people, perhaps we just have to put it down to “natural variability” in road tolls.

    • Oddly, I already posted Tamino’s response almost word for word elsewhere without first having seen that response, saying:

      Well he’s right, you know: To this day no one has ever “proven” that some individual person’s cancer was “caused” by tobacco.

      If you define “cause” in an appropriately impossible manner, that is.

      Maybe I should start a blog!

      • Martin Vermeer

        You’re not the only one… great minds think alike :-)
        I put it that you won’t find the word “tobacco” on any death certificate.

    • The idea that anyone is claiming that AGW ’caused’ the fires, in a 100%- direct, court-of-law sense is a ridiculous strawman. And, given the do-nothingism it’s intended to support, the mountain of strawmen currently being amassed in this country is only serving to provide fuel to future flames…

      • A neatly turned phrase, and disturbing image…

      • Horatio, can you do something with:

        Don’t let it bring you down
        It’s only strawmen burning
        Just find someone who’s turning
        And you will come around?

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “Don’t let it bring you down”

        — Horatio Algeranon’s perversification of Neil Young
        (as per special suggestion of Doc Snow)

        Mockt man lying
        by the sleight of the stats
        With the cherries rolling by,
        Loony tune linking
        from the blog of the Watts
        Where the postings do deny,
        Godwin ripping
        Richard Alley and facts
        With the Morner paper flies,
        Mockt man vying
        By the sight of the flats
        With the de-light in his eyes.

        Don’t let it bring you down
        It’s only strawmen burning,
        Find someone who’s turning
        And you will come around.

        Blind man running
        through the blog
        of the Right
        With “THE ANSWER” in his hand,
        Come on down
        to the river of shite
        And you can really understand,
        Red lights flashing
        through the window
        on the screen,
        Can you hear the scientists moan?
        Science lying
        in a gutter, from a Dane,
        Who is bjorn again in tone.

        Don’t let it bring you down
        It’s only strawmen burning,
        Just find someone who’s turning
        And you will come around.

        Don’t let it bring you down
        It’s only strawmen burning,
        Find someone who’s turning
        And you will come around.

      • Kevin McKinney

        Why, thank you! I liked that…

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Another recording from Horatio Algeranon Media (aka “No Budget Productions”)
        Don’t let it bring you down

        Seriously.

  5. It’s perfectly clear where Tony Abbott, AKA ‘the suppository of all wisdom’ is talking from.

  6. Horatio Algeranon

    “Black hole event horizons ”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    The thing about black holes
    Is that they take their tolls
    With crunch or fire
    The end is dire
    No matter how she rolls

  7. Does Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology have monthly data? I’d prefer a rolling 12-month mean graph… That’s a general preference, but especially when the most recent year is incomplete: I remember a recent year which started with 3 “cool” months, where the contrarians showed annual averages and claimed that the plummeting recent year temperature meant something. Of course, when the other 9 months were pretty “average” (“cool” and “average” in comparison to the most recent decade, of course… e.g.,both “hot” compared to the last century), that argument fell by the wayside.

    (I apologize for nitpicking, I do recognize that all the great analysis you do on this blog is done as a volunteer, and there is only so much time you want to put into getting things “just so”, and I really do appreciate all your insights)

    [Response: The most recent rolling 12-month average is the highest on record.]

    • And the one at the end of the month will be another record.
      On my figures the continental average from now until the end of the month needs to be a full four degrees lower than for the month so far to avoid it. I also figure that not only will this be a record mean temperature 12 month average, there’s a good chance it will have the highest 12 month maximum temperature average of all time.

    • MMM

      Here you go – see bottom of page.

  8. It kind of reminds me of the delicious irony of the republicans defunding the government to slam the affordable care act, now switching to “gee, we wish that the roll out of the healthcare dot gov site was smoother”. Not very constructive..

  9. I’ve always guessed that once climate change effects started to become too disturbing to be denied, deniers would switch to the “I always said it was real” speech. Re-write history in orwellian style. I bet even Fox News will do that at some point.

    Maybe Abbot is an early sample of that?

  10. Tony Abbott (note 2 T’s) ditched his “climate change is crap” attitude before the last election – not in response to recent issues. He was smart enough to know that he can’t win elections by arguing with the science. He does however continue to dog whistle to the denieratti.

  11. tamino, if you have the impression Australia’s Prime Minister has really abandoned his climate change is crap position you could be basing that on what Mr Abbott says. That would be a mistake.

    Mr Abbott got elected by being ambiguous about what he thinks, where he stands and what he intends as Prime Minister with respect to climate. Clear statements of accepting the climate problem as real are almost always followed by gratuitous mentions of scientific doubt or dissent or other nods and winks to the climate science deniers that his Party and colleagues have spent years encouraging.

    Abbott continues to let Australians sift through his contradictory and ambiguous statements to figure where he stands, whilst letting his choice of climate deniers with convictions for senior ministers and advisers and his policies and actions speak his message quite clearly into the strategic zone of silence he’s created.

    Abbott has strong convictions but those are kept as entirely as implicit not explicit. Mainstream media not only failed to call him to account, they as good as elected him themselves; with that amount of emotional attachment it could be difficult for them to find the motivation to demand Abbott explain himself after the election.

    One thing is certain, any delegation sent by Australia under Abbott to climate treaty negotiations will have the protection of the fossil fuel export sector as very high on the priority list and actual, strong and sufficient emissions reductions down near the bottom. Of course “failures” of such agreements remain one of the most cited reasons by his side of politics for foot dragging on climate

    • Alex the Seal

      Spot on. He has mastered the art of doing nothing while trying to look like he’s doing something. He’s also mastered the art of appealing to the voters on the denier side without actually saying anything that puts him at odds with the frighteningly obvious. He’s in a bit of a hole on this one though – global warming means more heat, which means higher fire danger. He and Greg Hunt (environment minister) have been playing semantic games in their limited public comment to avoid scrutiny.

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-24/hunt-on-bbc/5043324

    • Horatio Algeranon

      “Words for the Birds”
      — by Horatio Algeranon

      Read their actions,
      Not their words —
      Mere attractions
      For the birds.

      Mary Poppins
      Can’t compare
      To politicians
      Everywhere

  12. The_Wolf_Who_Cried_Boy

    Tamino, you ask “Maybe Abbot formed his opinion that global warming science was “crap” by looking at temperature in Australia for the 25-year period leading up to 2012″. I would suggest to you his indoctrination into the denialati was under the tutelage of Cardinal George Pell, and based purely on ideological grounds rather than any lip service to actual data analysis. As Ken Fabian mentions, Abbott and members of his party (with the singular exception being Malcom Turnbull) state they “accept the science”, yet in the same breath spout the usual tropes such as “no warming since 1998″, “carbon is invisible and weightless”, and that more credence should be given to the views (rantings…) of Christopher Monckton and Andrew Bolt (for those non-Australians unfamiliar with Bolt, I hereby warn you, don’t even google him, you’ll just put your fist through the screen).

    The Liberal direct action policy has specific allocated funding to achieve carbon reduction targets and not a cent more. If the task isn’t accomplished, tough. It’s nothing more than cynical appeasement to moderate swinging voters.

  13. Climate Central has a couple good posts related to this: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/australias-bushfires-and-the-role-of-climate-change-16643 and this on wildfires and air pollution: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/report-wildfires-and-air-pollution-a-hidden-hazard-16651
    Also see Jeff Masters recent post: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2562
    Tamino’s observation on a longer fire season in Australia is a mirror image of what we see in the western US. The fire season starts earlier and ends later. Other things being equal, with a longer fire season, how could we not have more fires? Of course, other “things” are not equal, snow is gone earlier in the spring and returns later in the fall, summer streamflows are lower and warmer, the forests and rangelands are drier and more impacted by insect attacks which are also related to a warmer climate. Heat, it doesn’t just melt ice….

  14. Sceptical Wombat

    Not only can no individual death be attributed to smoking, but people have always died ( I didn’t have to look up Wikipedia to find that out). Moreover from the time that tobacco arrived in Europe till the 1960s. when smoking hit its peak in English speaking countries, life expectancies steadily increased. So why the demonisation of this totally natural product?

  15. Sceptical Wombat

    More seriously, one of the things that people tend to forget when comparing recent fires to those in the past is the vast increase in our ability to combat fires.
    Improvements include better understanding of fire behavior and better weather forecasts, better roads resulting in ability to bring distant resources to the fire ground quickly, more better equipped and better trained fire fighting units, fire fighting aircraft, satellite monitoring and the list goes on.
    Either we have wasted a lot of money or the fires of the 50s and 60s would have been much less devastating had today’s resources been available.

    • A point well-made, I think.

    • Need to remember though that residential development around sydney keeps expanding and there is a strong desire for a lot of tree changers to have trees around their places, meaning over the past 20 years (or so) the number of houses in a position to be impacted by fires of this magnitude has increased.

      The above is not to be read as any sort of defence of Abbot and co; rather just pointing out that the increase in ability to fight fires is somewhat necessary given the higher number of properties at risk.

      The best argument against Abbott is that these fires are happening in October (and there was an earlier one in September as well). This is essentially unheard of in the Sydney – Newcastle area where the worst fire were. Fires may well be a part of Australia’s history but not this early in the year in this part of the world. Further north, the bushfire season does occur from Sept to December but in the Sydney area December is usually when the fire season starts. My father is a veteran of figting fires and the conditions on the worst day of the fires (17th Oct) were among the worst he has ever seen.

  16. A good example is the graph of historic flooding in Brisbane after the Wivenhoe episode put out by Pielke Jr. No accounting for flood mitigation efforts through the years and just astoundingly wrong.

  17. > the vast increase in our ability to combat fires.
    Yes, that’s delayed our willingness to accept that fire is necessary in ecosystems.

  18. Abbott and the conservatives will get away with it. The conservatives were elected with the support of the Murdoch press (Murdoch sent a key lieutenant to oversee all of his newspapers during the recent election campaign), and Murdoch’s papers have led climate change denialism in Australia. This is uniquely problematic in Australia where Murdoch controls two-thirds of all urban newspapers (in some States, he controls the only newspaper).

  19. I have been trying to discover the uncertainty envelope for annual anomalies as estimated by BOM.

    My question is if the rolling average is a clear record-breaker or a statistical tie with other years. I’ve been through the review reports recently conducted with an international panel on the ACORN data set and read some more besides. The following is the closest I’ve got to actual values – black bars:

    http://cawcr.gov.au/publications/technicalreports/CTR_050.pdf (p. 29 and the graphs a few pages below)

    I can’t access the peer-reviewed paper on the matter without paying.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/joc.3530/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

    Does anyone have any information on BOM’s uncertainty estimates for annual data? The brief they posted on the highest 12-month mean temperature doesn’t include the uncertainties. Little of what the BOM makes public includes uncertainty values, oddly.

    • To give some figures, the latest BOM report on record-breaking 12-month anomaly data says;

      Recent
      Oct 2013 – Sep 2013 | 1.27C

      Previous
      Feb 2005 – Jan 2006 | 1.08C

      For a clear record-breaker, uncertainty values on annual averages for this period would have to be no greater than 1.6C, (or +/- 0.08C).

      • Sensei Tamino, this unworthy grasshopper has divided the uncertainty for individual measurements at Australian weather stations (+/-0.5C) by the square root of the samples (365 x 104 weather stations), and calculated that the statisitcal uncertainty for annual anomalies is 0.005C. I’m not sure that this would incorporate structural uncertainties, like unevenly distributed stations, so that may be why the error bars for annual anomalies provided by the BOM appear to be at least an order of magnitude larger.

        Am I even on the right track?

  20. Hi guys. This is for reference, next time someone says something snarky about economists w.r.t. climate change policy.

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbotts-new-direct-action-sceptics-20131027-2w9va.html

    • I just watched the video at the top of that piece and the remarkable thing is that the Liberal’s (the conservative party, which might be confusing to Americans because of the name) Andrew Laming said that it doesn’t matter that economists think their solution is bad because THEY ALWAYS SAY THAT!

      Apparently, if a group of experts are consistently pointing out the flaws in your scheme it now means that you can then ignore them because it’s nothing new. The idea that somehow this should be a reason to *reconsider* your position simply never occurs to them.

      Remarkably, he uses it as an opportunity to give advice to *Labor*, suggesting that *they* should be the ones to review their policy.

      It takes a special kind of disingenuousness to lead a long, vindictive campaign against something based on patently false statements and then, when you actually manage to win on the back of the lies you’ve promulgated, actually lecture the *other* side on their mistake in supporting the policy you’ve spent three years misrepresenting with the active support of the Murdoch-owned press. (Or should that be, that the press spent three years misrepresenting with the help of the Murdoch-owned Libs? :)

  21. Fire fighters I have spoken with describe qualitative changes in fire behaviour as wind, heat and humidity thresholds are crossed. Australian trees give off volatile oils that evaporate to form invisible clouds in oxygen-depleted fire fronts. Such clouds roam until they come into contact with oxygen. In the Victorian 7 Feb 2009 Black Saturday fires eye witnesses reported seeing fireballs explode in mid-air, unconnected to any solid structure! Hell upon the earth…

    The assertion that increased temperature has no bearing on fire destructiveness is simply ridiculous. I don’t know where Tony Abbott’s mirrors are but the smoke still covers New South Wales.

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/fire-power-equalled-1500-atomic-bombs-20090521-bh7r.html?page=-1

    • I don’t think that’s quite correct. The eucalyptus oils form visibly blue hazes on very hot days. The fire fronts are never that oxygen depleted, but during fires there is certainly an explosive mixture above the crowns of the trees, and any simple ignition seems to cause explosions.
      Old timers in New South Wales used to talk about the phenomenon of balls of fire many meters in diameter suddenly being ejected up to a mile ahead of the fire. In my time no-one reported these in Victoria until 2009; spot fires – yes, all the time. I’ve just been reading about the 2003 fires in Canberra and there is talk about a number of fire tornadoes, with wind speeds of up to 200 kph and these being tracked for kilometers, and running ahead of the fire front.
      Higher temperatures leads to greater extents of these clouds of oil vapour.
      2009 fires started in temperatures of 48 C. In 1983 the Ash Wednesday fires started in 43 C temperatures. That 5 degrees makes a huge difference to the compositions of the clouds and fire behaviour. Higher temperatures directly contribute to all sorts of pyrogenic fire phenomena.
      Those fires in January were not the last ones for us. At the end of February, I was at a fire close to home, waiting for the flames to enter a property, and a fire fighter to my right suddenly jumped, the grass withered to black and about a 20 meter circle of flame erupted round him while the fire was at least 50 meters away. We contained that fire at 300 hectares but it was a weeks work to black it out. I think many rare phenomena have occurred of late. YouTube videos of the fires in Kinglake show amazing activity.
      I don’t believe that anyone working these fires anywhere world wide over the last thirty years would tell you nothing’s different.

      • “eucalyptus oils form visibly blue hazes on very hot days”… Agreed. “Invisible” in my original comment could have been better expressed as “effectively invisible” in the context of a fire front at close range. In fact, Wikipedia states the etymology of the “Blue Mountains” (the location of the recent fire devastation) as: “Volatile terpenoids emitted in large quantities by the abundant eucalyptus trees in the Blue Mountains may cause mie scattering and thus the blue haze for which the mountains were named”.

  22. This quote is from an interview Prime Minister Abbott gave to Murdoch Press ultra-conservative columnist Andrew Bolt.

    Mr Abbott – “And the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn’t prove anything about climate change.”

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/andrew-bolt-tackles-the-pm-on-the-big-issues/story-fni0ffxg-1226746273889

    He has also mastered the self-rebutting argument.

  23. The deniers MUST deny, because once they accept that global warming exists and that it is man made, then their power to block doing something about it is dramatically reduced. Accepting it is accepting defeat, which as we have observed in the behavior of the right wing of the U.S. legislature is something they would rather destroy a country to avoid.
    Destroy a country, destroy a world, poTAYto, poTAHto.

    • Kevin McKinney

      I’d decidedly prefer the former to the latter if those were my only choices, but I take your point!

  24. About fire tornadoes, the video here has analysis and discussion – the twister is captured on the clip here after about 6:10. Note that the fire was at the time going mainly through pine plantations just before it entered the city rather than eucalyptus forest, though I’d guess it started in the eucalypts and the total area of the fire was large and associated local weather effects were significant.

  25. The common perception here in Oz is that farmers, who are a pretty conservative bunch, do not believe in AGW.
    Well a few years ago the ABS [Aust. Bureau of Stats] did a massive survey of most farmers in Oz and asked them – has the climate changed at your property, has it affected your property and have you changed your farming methods as a result?
    The answer to all 3 questions was, in each case, a massive majority for ‘yes’ .
    And farm managers, as opposed to absentee owners, were even more likely to say ‘yes’.
    Perception and reality.

    • The denialist argument is that the climate always changes, which frees people to hold simultaneously that the climate is changing and that humans have nothing to do with it.

      • Chris O'Neill

        “The denialist argument is that the climate always changes”

        The common usage of the term “climate change” rather than “global warming” has provided the opportunity to make the above strawman argument. Denialists wouldn’t get very far with the argument “there is always global warming”.

      • Martin Vermeer

        Still, the reality of the situation is that the dangerous thing is ‘climate change’, not so much ‘global warming’.

        We can live, more or less, with a global temperature increase of 2 degrees or even more. Both diurnal and annual temperature variations are much larger in most locations. What we cannot easily learn to live with, is deserts appearing in locations where populations live and practice agriculture, with huge investments in infrastructure.

        We should make a point of telling the truth even if it puts us at a propagandistic disadvantage.

      • Just saying “global warming” is definitely telling the truth. Even just a uniform warming of 2 degrees is far from benign. That would cause substantial ongoing sea level rise and shift ecological zones.

        When you start talking about climate change as a consequence of global warming, you leave yourself open to attacks on the uncertain relationship between global warming and climate change, as we have seen. Better to stick with the claim that has much more certainty. When you raise the stakes you increase the risk of losing everything.

      • Martin Vermeer

        Chris, what I dislike about that is that it allows the enemy to set the agenda. Uncertainty is a fact of scientific and policy-making life, and must be addressed responsibly. Denialists will always argue that uncertain knowledge == ignorance, no matter the amount of uncertainty.

        There’s no way around explaining also tricky things.

      • Denialism will always try to argue uncertainty, but they are on far, far weaker ground when they try to argue uncertainty about global warming.

    • Actually agriculture is a huge consumer of climate change projections as well as demanding ever more precise seasonal weather information. And they are a good source of observations – almost all large holdings have meticulous records, often going back the best part of a century. These people know very well how to read the data. In the course of my work I’ve been struck by the stark difference between the LNP politicians and their rural constituency. If your income depends directly on your knowledge of the land and climate your opinion is liable to be different than if your income depends on the party line; or maintaining a political blog disguised as a science one.

      • Yeah. I’ve always wondered how the LNP representatives manage to converse with wine growers who are buying properties in Tasmania to continue growing their current products or ripping out their vines to grow others more resilient to hotter, drier conditions. What happens? Lots of awkward silence? Or maybe there are some pretty abrupt changes of subject.

  26. Does Tony Abbot perchance have a deputy PM named Costello?

    • Chris O'Neill

      It could have happened. It may have been worth voting for them just so the rest of the world could look and say, “what the …”.

    • Costello retired from politics in 2009. There were plenty of Abott and Costello references in the news and popular drubbing when the Coalition government was last in power.

  27. OK, anybody want to put together a Who’s On First routine with the pictures Fred found?
    Other captions

    Costello: “I did a bad ting.”

    Costello: “Heeeyyy, Abbbboooottttt!!”

  28. DrunkenWagoner

    They both sued writer Bob Ellis a few years ago, resulting in the case known as Abbott and Costello vs Ellis.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Ellis

  29. Well, things aren’t getting any better down here in Oz. Now our former PM, John Howard, gives a speech where he claims to be “agnostic” about climate science. I think he was confused personally, he meant to say “ignorant”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/climate-change-exaggerated-says-former-australian-pm

    However, what is really concerning is the role of scientists and science in public policy in Australia. Sure, scientists don’t need to draft legislation, but surely the scientific process is an important driver in public policy, whether it be in the environment, drug addiction or a whole variety of issues. If the results are uncomfortable for politicians, well they need to have the courage to confront that, rather than pander to their prejudices.

  30. For lack of an “open thread”, I have to say that Cuccinelli’s loss is the best news I had today. (I don’t mean to steal the thunder from those down under but I had to say it somewhere). ;-)