Fighting Government-led Climate Change Denial

Fighting Government-led Climate Change Denial

The Abbott Government in Australia has previously stated it does not believe in climate change and it has significantly withdrawn funding for this line of research in its latest Budget (along with funding for most non-medical scientific research). A recent change on the Department of Environment’s website has removed a reference to the link between extreme weather conditions and climate change. The Department says this change reflects the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is incorrect.

The IPCC has actually produced a series of reports documenting the effect of climate change on extreme weather. The IPCC note that the impact of extreme weather events depend not just on changing weather conditions but also on “exposure and vulnerability.” Socio-economic patterns, such as age, health, disability, location and education can impact on the ability of communities to prepare for extreme weather events ( 

The IPCC further notes that the connection between climate change and extreme weather significantly impact sustainable development amongst local communities, with global consequences: 

“Climate extremes, exposure, and vulnerability are influenced by a wide range of factors, including anthropogenic climate change, natural climate variability, and socio-economic development… The interactions among climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk management may have a major influence on resilient and sustainable pathways.”

Misinforming the public has real consequences for how communities deal with and prepare for extreme weather events like bushfires.

Climate Change Denial as Ideology

One of the first decisions that Prime Minister Tony Abbott implemented during the first 24 hours following his political win was to abolish the Climate Change Commission ( It’s now operating as an independent not-for-profit organisation as The Climate Council. Their Chief Executive, Amanda McKenzie, has spoken out against the decision to remove the Department of Environment website’s link between extreme weather and climate change. She says:

“There is a common misconception that Australia has always had extreme weather so we should not be concerned now, but we are already seeing more forceful, extreme weather. Bushfires have increased in south-east Australia in the past 30 years, and we’ve just had our hottest 12 months on record. The evidence is absolutely unequivocal on the link. We know bushfire conditions are getting worse. We have to take the government on its word that it takes climate change seriously but there have been inaccurate statements made around extreme weather and it’s critical the public is provided the right information on these matters.” (

A major issue is that the Abbott Government is positioning its environmental policies through an anti-science ideology. Economic growth is pitted against sustainable practices. Climate change becomes something to be rejected on the basis of personal belief  (“we believe that human-caused climate change is not real”). This short-term view on environmental policies will cost Australia’s future highly over the long-term. As I’ve noted previously, “belief” in science is a value-laden position guided by personal world-views and political feelings, not by scientific evidence (

The IPCC propose a model of effective action that includes reducing exposure and vulnerability to extreme weather risks and increasing community resilience (the knowledge, resources and planning necessary to deal with extreme events). In this case, a big part of resilience is public awareness about climate change and its impact on extreme weather. Shying away from educating the public about this connection is dangerous. The idea that Australia has always had bushfires does not take into consideration our changing population over time, and how the changes in the way we now live impact on our landscape. The Government’s failure to educate on these shifting dynamics encourages citizens to be complacent about changing conditions in our environment, rather than encouraging communities to be ready for these extreme weather shifts.  

Learn More

Want to learn more about the IPCC’s scientific review and the connection between climate change and extreme weather? Check out Noah Diffenbaugh’s discussion with Science on Google+. See the video and my summary here (Video from 45:50 minutes or scroll to the third section of my write-up titled Thunderstruck).

Image: via Flickr

#science   #sociology   #socialscience   #climatechange   #australia  

50 thoughts on “Fighting Government-led Climate Change Denial

  1. I have difficulty understanding the value in climate change denial, beyond the false confirmation of personal beliefs and biases. I particularly don’t understand ceasing or muting research to investigate climate change. When has donning blinders ever made a problem better?


  2. wyat earp – If the Australian government was “doing everything we possibly can” to address climate change, the conversation would be very different. Instead, they are hiding the data and cutting the funding of solutions.

    Governments, at least democratic governments, respond to pressure from their voters. Talking in the public forum about issues like climate change gives voters the knowledge they need to petition their elected representatives to make changes.


  3. wyat earp – Yes, all these things.

    But we can’t pool our money and buy back the Arctic, or pay the sea not to rise. And governments that suppress information have no interest in creating pollution standards, regulating industry, or offering grants.

    So we spend our time saying the same things until they listen, or until the voters listen and replace the representatives.

    Our voices – in public, in the press, in social media, and in the voting booth – are the only tool the average person has to make things better.


  4. wyat earp – These kids that call themselves scientists went to college, earned advanced degrees by studying highly technical and complex topics, won jobs in labs and schools and industry, and perform the incredibly difficult and often tedious job of scientific analysis. When they call themselves scientists, it’s because they are scientists.

    I don’t think modern scientists are claiming that they discovered the problem of anthropogenic climate change, they’re just trying to deal with it. They can’t do that on their own, though; they need the support and participation of government and industry. And they can’t get that support by being silent.

    If hearing people is too annoying, telling the world to stop talking is unlikely to be an effective solution.


  5. It is winter in the Antarctic. The amount of ice is at an all time high. The ice is thicker and covers more area than ever measured before. The global cooling deniers keep losing their grip on the global warming hoax. Yet, the hoax still has its zealots. The number of fanatics is less, but the deniers of global cooling are more fanatical than ever.


  6. Preston Houser – Yes, we can have an effect on the earth.

    Look up the Chernobyl disaster, Three Mile Island, the Salton Sea, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the destruction of the Aral Sea, the Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch, the Turkmenistan Door to Hell, Love Canal – for starters. The stories behind each are interesting, and the photographs are a monument to the “oh, it will probably be fine” philosophy.

    Our errors and carelessness have created places where nothing but fungi can live, where the ground itself will be radioactive for lifetimes, where the environment is so poisonous that dead trees cannot decay because even microbes cannot thrive.

    And these were each comparatively small, local disasters. They only destroyed all life in the immediate area, a few dozens or hundreds of square miles – 1,000 square miles in the case of Chernobyl, roughly equal to half the state of Delaware.

    But we’ve done better: we’ve managed to release gases into our atmosphere, a place that both provides the air we breathe and manages heat capture from the sun. Those gasses contribute to rapidly increasing average annual temperatures. Higher temperatures, in turn, add both moisture and energy to our weather systems, increasing the frequency and intensity of violent weather. Hurricanes, for example, need only natural air currents, heat, and moisture to grow. In drier areas, we see more drought; California comes to mind. Again, we’ve documented these increases.

    In terms of long-term trends, saying “the ice is thick this year” or “last winter was the coldest I remember” is a bit like saying “yesterday was cooler, summer must be over” in August. The initial point may be true, but the conclusion fails to look at the bigger picture.

    My questions to those who reject anthropogenic climate change are this: If you’re right and nothing is happening, why do you care? And if you’re wrong and something bad is happening, why not prepare for that? Does a “hope for the best but plan for the worst” mindset not make sense here?

    And, for wyat earp, on the topic of those pesky scientists who keep getting on your lawn: When you get sick or injured – say you fracture your skull or get something stabbed in your eye – do you avoid doctors because they know too much? Do you instead seek treatment from your buddies at the local bar, or maybe your preferred elected representative or television personality? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve field-set and splinted a broken leg, but you better believe that person went to an emergency room for some highly educated doctoring as soon as transport was available.


  7. wyat earp – I’m just trying to underscore the value of education and expertise. If I get hurt, I’m calling you, and I’m counting on that paramedic uniform and brightly lighted ambulance to mean you know what you’re doing. I’m trusting in your education and expertise.

    I do the same with climate science.


  8. James Bond The phrase climate change encompasses both processes. In places where it’s cold, there are extreme weather events and colder temperatures associated with freezing temperatures (like snowstorms). In places where it’s warm, the temperature gets hotter and extreme weather events follow accordingly (like bushfires). Here’s an explanation by an earth science expert ( and further discussion of the problems with the line of argument you’re promoting (


  9. Preston Houser Climate change is not “part of evolution,” as you put it. This phrase describes patterns, effect and impact of climate, including those beyond naturally occurring climate fluctuations. The IPCC describes it as: “a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.” For further insight, see the links I’ve provided, such as Noah’s talk, which explains the scientific research that has consensus amongst the overwhelming majority of experts (97%). This includes 200 scientific organisations who agree that climate change has been caused by human action ( 

    Climate change is more than just about “a little weather.” The topic I’m addressing is extreme weather events. These have a severe impact on agriculture, health, habitats, the economy and more. Extreme weather produces increased vulnerabilities that climate scientists model so that we might plan for, and reduce, the risks. The IPCC materials I’ve provided explain this, and you can read more on the science via the IPCC ( and


  10. Zuleyka Zevallos How do you know Climate change isn’t a part of evolution? Do you have the history of this planet to base that claim on? If the earth is so old and has gone through so many changes how do you know this isn’t just part of it’s evolution?

    Do you really, honestly believe that humans who are incredibly small in comparison to the earth and the time the earth has been around can actually made a dent into the effect of earth’s climate?

    You have to REALLY look the other way in science and take that believe on faith “in spite of science” and its known absolutes.


  11. wyat earp It’s difficult to follow your argument. You seem to be saying that you don’t believe in the science of climate change; that we don’t need science to continue studying climate change; and that scientists should instead go and “plant a tree.” Climate change, by its processes and effects, is not static. It is specifically because climate patterns and effects fluctuate that we must continue to support scientific efforts to monitor, model and address climate change. As I’ve noted in my original post and in the comments above, climate change requires planning to address risks and vulnerabilities and to help increase community resilience in the face of extreme weather patterns.

    Climate change action is an interdisciplinary effort, requiring the knowledge and contribution of scientists, community planners and health workers, and other experts from many fields. It requires research as well as social policy intervention at the state and local community level. “Planting trees,” as you put it, and biodiversity more broadly, is only one part of the picture. Different world regions require different disaster management strategies and public health responses in addition to everything I’ve already addressed above. In brief, these include:

    *Africa: adjustments in technology and infrastructure to improve ecosystems, basic health, and diversification of livelihood (such as to address food insecurity).

    *Europe: coastal and water management, environmental protection and land planning.

    •Asia: “development planning, early warning systems, integrated water resources management, agroforestry, and coastal reforestation of mangroves.”

    *Australasia: addressing sea level rise, and reduced water availability in Southern states. 

    *North America: municipal-level adaptation and planning and “longer-term investments in energy and public infrastructure.”

    • Central and South America, ecosystem adaptation and conservation, community management, the development of resilient crops, strengthening climate forecasts, and “integrated water resources management.” (IPCC

    All of these require scientific research and innovation to address evolving needs.


  12. Preston Houser I have provided a wide range of peer-reviewed, scientific sources to educate on extreme weather events in Australia and the global research by the IPCC. In my post, I addressed how [political ideology and personal belief influences the vested interests of climate change deniers. You are displaying my argument to a tee. You continue to argue based on “belief” and emotion. I have provided scientific evidence. I don’t need to “believe” in science – I look at the evidence, and I listen to other experts.

    You seem to have a personal agenda against climate science. I have a link in my post explaining the science of why people like you, who have an ideological opposition to particular subjects (like climate change), rely on “belief” rather than science.

    It’s clear that you have not read my original post, nor any of the references I’ve linked to. I will not continue this conversation further until you read the peer reviewed science I’ve provided and you can provide credible scientific evidence that proves your argument. There is a plethora of scientific evidence that climate change is caused by anthropogenic patterns. Here’s one last reference that will shed further light ( As I’ve already noted, 97% of scientists share consensus on human-caused climate change, so you’re siding with 3% of climate researchers whose opinions have been debunked by the other 97%. Expert opinion of the overwhelming majority of the global scientific community is more valid on the science of climate change than your personal, uninformed, ideological position.


  13. And funny you should mention religion Preston Houser given that the only post on your stream is about religion and you describe yourself as a “A conservative Christian living in SoCal working at dennys.” I wonder what drives your ideological opposition to climate change since? It doesn’t really matter, because science doesn’t need your personal belief in order for the evidence to be credible. That is why we have peer review and other checks and balances in place.

    It is fine for you to display your ignorance on your own stream, but I don’t have to put up with it on my thread. 


  14. I have provided enough scientific evidence in my original post and in subsequent comments to address the topic of my post, which is how climate change affects extreme weather events in Australia. Climate change deniers and anti-science ideologues are going to be blocked from this point forward, for all the reasons I’ve already outlined. To summarise: peer-reviewed scientific evidence about climate change matters more to a discussion about the science of climate change than uninformed personal “beliefs.” Opposition to scientific evidence is based on political and personal agendas. People subscribing to ideologies resistant to science can say whatever they want on their own streams, but they have nothing of value to contribute to this discussion.

    People with genuine questions and comments about the material I’ve provided are welcome. Random trolls are not.


  15. wyat earp As a paramedic you should appreciate evidence over opinion. Have you applied Chiropractic “cures” in your line of work? How about homoeopathic? (I hope not!)

    The science behind global warming is very clear and is all backed by solid published evidence. The more complex signs are even more telling:

    -Is our fossil fuel use increasing CO2?

    Yes, the measurable amounts are increasing in line with theory and the isotopic measures prove it is the stuff we are burning.

    -Does CO2 cause the greenhouse effect?

    Yes. Not only is the physics well understood, and has been for over 100 years, the recent models make more specific predictions that are indeed backed by the current evidence.

    Taking a few millions of years of natural carbon cycle residue and pumping into our thin atmosphere in a mere 100 years must have an impact (unless you assume the climate was unstable until we came along)…and it does.

    -Are natural cycles relevant?

    Yes, Climate scientists must understand and cater for all known natural cycles before they extract the Greenhouse Effect signal…the signal is rising in line with theory.

    Please tell me how you know they are ignoring the bleeding obvious that all the non-scientist seem to think they do?

    (I’ve been to 4 or 5 climate science conferences over the last 3 years…natural cycles are always a major consideration…how else can the attribute CO2 impacts?)

    I hate it when ignorant folks just assume they are incompetent but a complete beginner knows better…are people really that arrogant? (How do they survive or make friends?) The assumption of total corruption or “in it for the money” is equally insulting and clearly demonstrably wrong, but greedy bastards always project onto others!

    -Could natural cycles explain the current shifts?

    No, without the CO2 the recent climate cannot be explained…the forecasts that airlines use every day for safe conduct absolutely relies on the models including global warming. Remove global warming and your nice, modern accurate prognosis 3 days out, your cyclone track predictions (that save thousands if not millions of lives) would all stop working!

    In addition there are several more fingerprints: Night temps increasing more than day, winter increasing more than summer and polar temps increasing faster than tropical.

    There is also the decreased infra red from orbit looking down and the increased IR looking up…all in accordance with the science. Ocean acidity is also a major concern…and are very hard to explain with “business as usual”.

    there is also the feedbacks that amplify things: CO2 is the primer, Water vapour the charge and Methane the bullet (which is on its way down the barrel by recent data)

    I could go on but the fact is that you have been suckered by political games by the fossil fuel industry and the conservatives. You have presented no actual argument based on actual facts.

    The science of “what” is independent of the politics of “what to do about it”. 

    Your insulting an entire career (and all gens bellow your saintly bunch) means I do not expect to get a reasonable reply (after all I’m under 50 and use computers so must be one of the “children” to you, but the tactic of simply asserting “they ignore this” and “they do not know that” is simply disrespectful, ignorant (as in “ignore” the published evidence) bullshit and must be challenged…we don’t accept that ignorance plus arrogance equals authority. Start quoting real facts about the real subject and respect your fellow humans or piss off and let the adults talk!


  16. Richard Olson Sorry, which lies and which altered databases? That would be a major scandal, but even the six independent inquiries into the over-hyped hacked emails found the scientists innocent of any fraud, lies or data fudging. 

    (But if some one is hassled every day by FOI requests for data they have already made public, and constantly insulted then yes, they may use colourful language…and no, a “trick” is not evidence of a crime. Every profession has tricks to get the job done! So many straw men)

    As for the “97%” figure…depends on what you classify as a “climate scientist”.

    Most of the real scientists that question the science (not name calling and straw men) are geologists who work for coal and oil exploration companies…having a recent (lucrative) interest does not make one a specialist.

    It is kind of irrelevant anyway as nature does not give a shit how many people believe the truth, only what the data really says. If you look at the global data (not just land station datasets but ice, ocean, biosphere over all Earth over all seasons) the data is completely convincing…unless you believe all climate scientists are in on a global conspiracy (to earn crappy wages and no permanent contracts)?

    Are the insurance companies, US defence forces, and many species of plants and animals “in on it” too? Or do you just…not go there?


  17. Richard Olson Like the other trolls and blue heads on this stream, you pop out of nowhere, make wild claims based on nothing but conspiracy theories. Unlike you, I’ve provided various scientific sources where you might actually learn something. I had already issued a warning about trying to push personal agendas not backed by scientific evidence. Push your wilfully ignorant agenda on your own stream, not on mine.


  18. wyat earp I’ve already addressed your points and you continue pushing the same tired line. The scientists you don’t like, whose evidence stands up to peer review and scientific consensus, does not fit with your world view, so you dismiss their findings. The evidence you do like does not stand up to scrutiny but it makes you feel better, for whatever reason. You have an anti-science agenda and you’re clearly disinterested with engaging in dialogue about science on extreme weather.

    Science is about debate, and yes, scientific knowledge shifts over time. Knowledge accumulation is a never-ending project affected by many socio-economic issues. Yet there are some subjects where we know enough to draw consensus. Climate change is one of those issues that has international support by the science community. The topic of my post is about why the link between climate change and extreme weather is important to community resilience. You have failed to address this issue or any of the specifics of my post. You are here simply sprouting personal views that bear no consequence to this discussion.

    Tom Nichols wrote a useful piece that I’ll leave you with, as you are now being ejected from this discussion for your trolling. I hope you might take the time to reflect on these points. 

    1. We can all stipulate: the expert isn’t always right.

    2. But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. (Because, likely, it is.)

    3. Experts come in many flavours. Education enables it, but practitioners in a field acquire expertise through experience; usually the combination of the two is the mark of a true expert in a field. But if you have neither education nor experience, you might want to consider exactly what it is you’re bringing to the argument.

    4. In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.

    5. And yes, your political opinions have value. Of course they do: you’re a member of a democracy and what you want is as important as what any other voter wants. As a layman, however, your political analysis, has far less value, and probably isn’t — indeed, almost certainly isn’t — as good as you think it is. (


  19. Andrew Howard Thanks for your comments. You’re absolutely right that climate change denial is linked to a fossil fuel agenda. This is most certainly the case in Prime Minister Abbott’s case ( If you look at who funds climate-change studies ( and which science practitioners deny climate change (for example, the links are also to the fossil fuel industry. Political and economic leanings  also play a role with anti-climate change Government policy. As far as the general public is concerned, however, I’m afraid that misinformation is to blame. Some people simply don’t know where to find better educational sources, or they prefer to stick to conspiracy theories rather than engage with the data. 


  20. Silo A Agreed with  you on the fossil fuel matter. Renewable resources threaten the established economic model but it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s been very sad to watch that as the USA moves to push climate change onto the international agenda, the Australian Government is doing the opposite. Abbott is moving towards a “centre right wing” coalition with Canada that is so poorly conceived, it boggles the mind (


  21. Gulag Sharikov Climate change is the science that objectively studies the changes to climate over long stretches of time. Climate changes over the years, both due to naturally occurring variations but it’s been more significantly influenced by human activity. For example, the international community has enough evidence to show that certain extreme weather events _”have changed in frequency and/or intensity over the last 50 years.” For example: cold weather and frosts “have become less frequent over most land areas, while hot days and hot nights have become more frequent.” The effects vary according to location. Heat waves have become more frequent in some places; heavy rainfall has increased in other areas; and extreme high sea level has increased. (

    Will climate change outlast humans? The environmental damage that is currently happening will continue to bear out in decades to come, but we can minimise further future impact. We do this by addressing the points I raised in my post – by adapting environmental policies and infrastructure, through scientific research and sustainable planning, and educating communities to address their resilience in the face of extreme weather events.

    If you’d like further information, have a look at this video panel where Noah Diffenbaugh and colleagues address what we can do to minimise future climate change ( 


  22. Gulag Sharikov There are several natural cycles such as the orbital variations, precession of closest pass to sun, etc.

    There are also effects from continental drift, decadal ocean/atmosphere oscillations and shorter term oscillations such as ENSO and IOD.

    Throw in mega volcanoes and big impacts and you have a very dynamic system!

    The gas cycles that really matter to us are the water cycles, carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, etc. Oil and gas and coal are accumulations over millions of years in which the climate is chaotic, but bounded by the system’s natural limits.

    By digging up and burning several millions of years worth of carbom cycle accumulations in a mere 100 years or so we have upset the “natural” to a pretty big degree!

    Of course Global Warming may prevent an ice age! It may bring mass extinctions that would have happened anyway by comet impact…nature may have killed us with a super volcano event…but all this is unlikely.

    What we have done is guaranteed a major extinction event for ecosystems, and a major unnecessary stress to our grand kids.

    Now I know how anti-slavers felt…


  23. Michael Verona Thanks very much for all your comments and for “holding the fort” and offering sensible discussion overnight. As you note, climate change denial makes little sense given that there’s no escaping the fact that we need to act on its effects. The Abbott government has a religious and right-wing agenda. Abbott is an ultra conservative Catholic who has spoken out against environmental action (amongst other issues of human rights). I really enjoyed this editorial about his lack of leadership:

    “The Prime Minister… still indulges in sterile and pointless debate in the face of sustained and perhaps irreversible damage to our planet. In the process, Mr Abbott prevails against the judgment of science and the force of popular opinion. This is not true leadership: that happens when governments, sometimes taking risks for the greater good of community and country, look beyond ideological and political differences. True leadership, which emerges in times of cataclysmic disaster and times of war, should also be deployed in gauging and attempting to control the most critical environmental challenge of our time.” (

    Like many pressing social issues, it’s pointless to argue about the established scientific evidence. The real issue is how we’re going to move forward and address the impact of climate change. Pretending it’s not happening and withdrawing funding to science and renewable energy programs are good tactics that avoid action.


  24. wyat earp No. When a geologist goes outside their field and comments for their employer they are no longer being scientific. Can a dermatologist override almost all dentists?

    Can a chemist override almost all physicists?

    Science aint politics…but some have noticed that lab coats make for good marketing.

    You project your cynicism onto the world as if all were you…broaden up a bit…its fun!


  25. Zuleyka Zevallos – I’m happy to help. At the least, anthropogenic climate change should be something of a secular Pascal’s Wager: if the possible cost of action is modest, but the possible cost of complacency is substantially higher (loss of life and property), action is the logical choice.

    I’ve actually been fighting this battle on two fronts – there was a similar discussion in the Science community. Hopefully I’m spreading knowledge and some of it sinks in. I have to remind myself that the radio of readers to posters hovers around 10:1. That makes for a pretty good classroom.


  26. Zuleyka Zevallos While there is no doubt that climate changes (and so does everything else) over time, there is no scientific facts that would prove global warming caused by humans.Manipulated stats, big “green” businesses, politicians who stand to make money and naive, good intentioned people are behind this unfortunate theory. It’s like communism in its scope of scam and the same psychology


  27. Zuleyka Zevallos You should understand that “climate science” is a multi-disciplinary field.  Only a small fraction of the them have degrees in the field, they are physicists, geologists, computer scientists, biologists, oceanographers, glaciologists, dendrochronologists and many other fields.  Only those who are familiar with the model diagnostic literature and the model independent attempts to assess climate sensitivity have an informed opinion on the central issue in the science and that is whether net feedback to CO2 forcing is positive or negative and the sensitivity is greater or lower than 1C to 1.2C per CO2 doubling.


  28. Martin Lewitt I have stated this climate change is an interdisciplinary research field in the comments above. What’s your point exactly? I’ve linked to a series of peer reviewed studies and you’re selling nonsense. You have made similar climate change denial arguments on Science on Google+ and you’ve been banned for your sexist and abusive behaviour in the past. You lack knowledge to contribute to this discussion.


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