I don’t tend to read anything written by ignoramuses, except when dealing with people like creationists and climate change deniers. I read occasional creationist drivel because I like to use their ignorance as a springboard to explain reality to them and to those who need to have that ignorance demonstrated (e.g. on radioisotopic dating1,2). I only occasionally read the drivel put out by climate change deniers because I am sure that do so regularly would only raise my blood pressure. There are many climate change deniers in the Coalition parties, and they range from simpletons like Craig Kelly3 and Barnaby Joyce (climate change is a conspiracy) to more sophisticated spivs like Angus Taylor4 (climate change is real but we cannot do anything about it). None of these people care about the planet, this nation, or the people in it. All they care about is that donations to their political campaigns continue, whether they be from billionaires like Gina Rinehart, large fossil fuel companies, or from overseas donors through intermediaries.
Now, however, Barnaby Joyce has come out with a Facebook post ‘explaining’ his extensive knowledge of climate science5.
Joyce starts off with: “The very idea that we can stop climate change is barking mad.” Yet we have started it, by dumping billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If we have started it, surely we can at least attempt to stop it.
He continues with “Climate change is inevitable as geology has always shown”. Surprisingly for Joyce, this statement is true. However, he interprets it incorrectly. The climate has always changed in the past, and palaeoclimatologists (i.e. scientists that deal with ancient climates) have been able to track how it changes. The only times in the past that the climate has changed at anything like the current rate have been accompanied by significant extinction events. Indeed, the worst extinction event in the history of the planet, at the end of the Permian Period, about 252 million years ago, has some similarities with what is happening now. Even that event took place over thousands of years6. This time around, the climate is changing over a much shorter time frame and we are to blame. Human civilisation, in the form of agriculture, has been around for only about 10,000 years, and started not long after the end of the last glaciation, which ended some 11,700 years ago. Since the end of that glaciation, up until the late 1800s, the Carbon Dioxide level in the atmosphere has been between 250 parts per million (ppm) and 285 ppm. Since then, it has rapidly increased and is now over 415 ppm, and the planet has warmed by 1 degree C in that time. Barnaby Joyce cites New Zealand lecturer in geology David Shelley as an authority for his ignorant rant. Like me, Shelley has no expertise in climate science. He seems to be a vulcanologist (i.e. works on volcanoes and volcanic rocks), so for him to say that climate scientists are not up to par, or are involved in a large conspiracy, speaks of either hubris or delusion. Furthermore, it indicates that Joyce does not have the wherewithal to discern reality from fantasy.
Joyce states that, according to Shelley, we are about to come into another glaciation during which the temperature will drop 10 degrees C, and that we will all long for a warmer climate. There is absolutely no evidence that this is even remotely likely. Often you will hear climate change deniers who take their science from the Australian, New Idea or the Daily Bellylaugh, stating that scientists used to predict another ice age in the 1970s. But this is not quite true. A few scientists did expect a return to another glaciation (there have been a few over the last 2.5 million years). That was based on what seemed to be a cooling trend, but it turned out that this was a cooling trend only in northern hemisphere land areas and that total temperature trends were fairly stable prior to 1970. Since 1980 there have been no predictions of another glaciation by people who actually know what they are talking about8. Where Joyce obtained the 10 degree C figure is anyone’s guess, as during the last glacial maximum, when much of North America, northern Europe and northern Asia were covered in ice, and the sea level was about 125 metres lower than currently, the global temperature was only about 5-6 degrees C below the average from the 2013 to 20179.
Joyce then wheels out the old furphy that Australia is so small that we can do nothing to have “any affect [sic] on the climate”. As I have said before, every jurisdiction is in the same boat. The United States has emissions constituting 15% of the global total. If they cut out Carbon Dioxide emissions overnight, it would have little effect on global warming10. Every nation has to pull together or we are deep trouble. So, anyone saying we cannot and should not do anything is simply adding to the crime against humanity that is climate change.
The irony of Joyce quoting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and then ignoring the results of all of their reports is probably lost on him, he is so incapable. Their first report from 1990 has turned out to be surprisingly accurate in its predictions. I say surprising because climate modelling was in its relative infancy and data were much more limited than they are now. It predicted that we would reach 1 degree C increase by 2025; we reached that in 2018. It predicted a 20 cm global mean sea level increase by 2030; it has increased 9 cm and the pace of change is increasing11.
Much of what follows from Joyce is simply egregious drivel, poorly written, confused and illogical. It is disturbing to realise that this person was Deputy Prime Minister. While it is clear from his horizontal peccadillo he had little concern for his former family, he has a new one and his concern for their future seems equally limited. He predicts that his diatribe will be labelled heresy and the mainstream media and activists will pursue and ridicule him, respectively. His diatribe is not heresy; that is something that his religious colleagues would be more familiar with. He is ignoring the best available evidence from thousands of scientists, simply so he can keep the money flowing from his donors, and bugger the consequences. What Joyce is indulging in is criminal, pure and simple. And he needs to be brought to justice for it.