Barnaby’s lost marbles

By November 16, 2019Australian Politics, Environment

Although it has been dealt with elsewhere1, this bizarre rant from Barnaby Joyce was just too hilarious to pass up. Surprisingly, Joyce initially said he accepted that the climate crisis was making Australia hotter and drier, which is a first for him. He had previously claimed that climate change was “an indulgent and irrelevant debate because, even if climate change turns out to exist one day, we will have absolutely no impact on it whatsoever”. He has also said that he was “always sceptical [that] anybody’s going to change the environment”2,3,4.

You may have actually heard it before, but if not, then it might be wise to sit down, or if unable to do so, to hold onto something solid to support yourself. However, in this latest brain-fart, Barnaby was not wishing to cave in to reality completely, and was flailing around in the hope of finding someone else to blame for all the bushfires. In this, Barnaby Joyce has found another target: it’s the Sun. If you have recovered your composure, I’ll relate what he actually said, despite it being largely incomprehensible: “There are a range of things that affect the climate and on a global scale, you should be part of it, and acknowledge it would have an effect and I acknowledge that there are other issues as well… There’s just the oscillation of the seasons. There’s a change in the magnetic field of the sun.”1

Scientists generally are fairly circumspect about how they describe such views, because they know much more about the topic than almost all members of the general public and certainly all members of federal parliament. Thus, Associate Professor Nerilie Abram, a climate scientist at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, called Joyce’s comments “ludicrous and grossly ill-informed”. She added that she didn’t “know of any scientific study that says that”, and that variations in the sun’s magnetic field had a minute effect on the earth’s climate, and are not causing climate change. Associate Professor Pete Strutton from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, said it was difficult to analyse Joyce’s ‘claim’ “because it is so wacky”. He added: ”We know what causes climate change”1.

The sun has what is called ‘the solar cycle’ in which the polarity of the sun’s magnetic field reverses about every 11 years. This means that the north and south poles of the sun’s magnetic field swap places5. The earth’s magnetic field does the same but the timing of the change in the Earth’s polarity is irregular6. However, it is not the changes in the sun’s magnetic field, but variations in the sun’s irradiance (the amount of radiation coming from the sun) which were of interest to those scientists initially studying climate change. Since it is the Sun’s energy that drives the weather system, scientists naturally wondered whether they might connect climate change with solar irradiance. However, the Sun seemed to be stable over the timescale of human civilization. Attempts to discover cyclic variations in weather and connect them with the 11-year solar cycle, or other possible solar cycles ranging up to a few centuries long, gave results that were ambiguous at best. A 1976 study demonstrated that irregular variations in solar surface activity, a few centuries long, were connected with major climate shifts. However, the mechanism was uncertain. The next crucial question was whether a rise in the Sun’s activity could explain the global warming seen in the 20th century? By the 1990s, there was a tentative answer: minor solar variations could indeed have been partly responsible for some past fluctuations but recent continuous warming from the rise in greenhouse gases far outweighed any solar effects7. This has become clearer in recent decades as the warming of the earth has been decoupled from the solar irradiance. The radiation from the sun is decreasing, but the Earth continues warming8.

It is hilarious that halfwits like Barnaby Joyce seem to believe that they can read any garbage on the internet and in so doing can glean an insight that climate scientists have somehow missed. Climate scientists have been studying this stuff for many decades, and almost all of them would have vastly more knowledge and vastly greater intelligence than Barnaby Joyce. Unlike Abram and Strutton, who are constrained by lack of anonymity, I am not, so I can say what I like about Barnaby Joyce. His idiocy is greater than most other right wing nut jobs, and knowing what to say about him and his monumental stupidity is difficult without resorting to expletive laced abuse. He is so stupid, I suspect he could be a stupid person’s image of an even stupider person. Given the bizarre nature of this brain-fart, it is quite possible that he has lost his marbles. In addition, it makes you wonder about the competence of the people who vote for him.




  • Where do they find these people? says:

    On the subject of lost marbles, Alexander Downer’s article in today’s Australian Financial Review about climate change is recommended reading.

    The article appears to be freely available on-line.

    • admin says:

      No, luck. I cannot get through the paywall. I’ll have another crack at a later date. They do have a trickle of freebies which I cash in on, maybe.

  • Murmur says:

    The unedifying fusillades of verbal abuse about climate change between opposing teams of Australians as the NSW bushfires blazed brought shame to our country. During times of national crisis we need to pull together and set the worst political behaviour aside.

    But there again, climate change has become a highly emotional issue here. Rational discussion has been abandoned and replaced with ever more shrill terms of abuse. It reminds me of the Brexit debate in Britain: if you are a Brexiteer you’re an uneducated swivel-eyed loon; if you’re a Remainer, you’re an out-of-touch elitist multilateralist. Here, passionate advocates of dramatic “climate action” are feral Greens while those who don’t want to invest more in climate policies are – with allusions to Nazis – “deniers”.

    We would have had bushfires this year regardless of emissions policy. Nick Moir

    Now I’ll let you into a secret. Calling someone feral or a denier isn’t an argument, it’s an insult. Trying to win arguments with abuse never works!

    Politically, the climate change issue is the Rubik’s cube of politics. It looks simple but it comes up against all sorts of competing challenges that are hard to reconcile. So let’s see if we can connect the squares and understand what’s going on. If we can, perhaps we can become more civilised.

    Some people think they would be prepared to pay if they could be told what the benefits would be.

    Starting at the beginning, almost all data says we are going through an era of global warming. Is this good for us or is it damaging? Well, some parts of the world may benefit while others will suffer. On the upside, fewer people die from heat than hypothermia and so as the world gets warmer we may have fewer weather-based casualties. Also, some parts of the world such as Canada and Russia may find it easier to grow popular crops. The downsides are well known: rising sea levels, droughts, floods elsewhere and so on. Scientists are generally of the view that global warming is in net terms damaging. So let’s accept that as a given, even if we also understand it is debatable.

    Next, let’s understand what causes climate change. Well, scientists generally say that human activity makes some contribution to global warming. In particular, anthropogenic CO2 and methane emissions exacerbate any natural trend towards global warming. There are a variety of views about this and there is certainly no consensus on the detail. But most scientists seem to accept that anthropogenic emissions make a significant contribution to global warming.

    Some people don’t care what the costs are. That’s just irresponsible.

    So if we accept what most so-called experts accept – if not in detail – then that begs the question, what should we do?

    This is where the debate becomes highly emotional. To intervene in the economy imposes costs. It makes some people poorer and some jobless. The sensible policymaker should examine the economic consequences of interventions like a carbon tax and measure those costs against the cost of doing nothing. Yet for some reason, that debate seldom seems to happen.

    During the last election, Bill Shorten was asked the cost of his climate change policies. He said it was a stupid question because the cost of doing nothing would always be greater. What great insight does he have which tells him the cost of inaction will always be greater than the cost of any intervention? I guess it’s based on his experience of strikes.

    And at this point that the debate becomes vocal and vindictive. Some people don’t care what the costs are. That’s just irresponsible. Some people think they would be prepared to pay if they could be told what the benefits would be. And some people don’t want to pay at all because they don’t think any intervention is going to be helpful.

    Let’s concentrate on the second group. If you tell Australians you’re going to increase their electricity prices by, say, 50 per cent in order to address the issue of CO2 emissions, you’d want to be able to estimate for them what impact that will have on climate outcomes. Will it reduce the increase in global temperature by 1 per cent or 0.5 per cent? If you could tell the public that, they would be more convinced that the price was worth paying. People are concerned about climate change and they are prepared to accept that addressing it costs money. But they won’t buy expensive virtue signalling. They won’t pay something for nothing.

    We know the truth and the truth is a major political problem. Whatever we do in Australia, it’s not going to make any difference to global temperature. That can only be addressed by global action. And that begs another very obvious question: surely, Australia should make a proportionate contribution to a global effort to reduce greenhouse emissions? But why should Australians be asked to make greater sacrifices than people in other parts of the world? Why should Australians be asked to sacrifice more jobs, more of the living standards and more in the fight against poverty than other parts of the world?

    So that’s the problem. Politicians in Australia are unable to quantify the benefits which will come to the climate from higher prices or fewer jobs caused by interventions in the Australian economy in the cause of reducing greenhouse gases. They fall back on two arguments. One is that although there will be a short-term costs, new technologies will become highly profitable in the future. Well if that’s the case, the government probably doesn’t need to intervene at all. Private investors will invest in such glittering long-term projects.

    And the other argument is that if Australia does something, the world will follow. I did my best as foreign minister over a dozen years but it never occurred to me, sadly, that Australia lead the whole world. Not even America can do that.

    The world needs a co-ordinated global solution to this issue. And everyone needs to do their bit: you, me, Australia, but also China. But doing more than our fair share is just highly expensive virtue signalling. It won’t make a jot of difference to the global temperature. And a final thought; suggesting the NSW fires wouldn’t have happened if we had a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is obviously untrue. It’s not science!

    • admin says:

      Most of the drivel in your post is the same sort of stuff that comes from deniers, as a way of engendering doubt as to the fact of climate change. Your denial of science is similar to that of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers and creationists, and you use the same techniques as they do. In addition, if you are going to cut and paste stuff, you need to make sure it is not made so obvious as leaving in a personal reference. The reason I say this is that I know you were never foreign minister, unless of course you have moved, changed you name by deed poll and sold your Maserati. In addition to this, your assertion that the world needs a co-ordinated solution is true. Unfortunately, it is now probably too late. We are probably condemned to a world in which the average temperature is significantly higher than that the Paris accord hoped for. Rather than cutting and pasting the drivel from others, you should read stuff from actual scientists, and I have summarised some of that stuff in some of the other essays on this blog.

  • Russell says:

    As you so cogently put it, Admin, Barnacle Joystick (- his was obviously busy outside marriage, two years ago!) is a fool, an utter embarassment to Australia if anyone beyond these shores bothered to put his drivelling to the airwaves. Luckily they know a nutter when they see one like this. And let’s add to our Barnhouse Idiot, Mr Adelaide Silvertail, aka Alexander Von Downer, minus monocle. That bleating mediocrity was raised far above his intellectual ability by the even more dull, limited “Cur”/Sir/ John Howard. His Fin-review article is old hat denialism containing clear errors and displaying no serious prior reading on climatology / global warming studies. As usual for people who shout loudest against the massive set of data showing the real origins and vectors of the climate disaster looming over us all. (“Vector” means “directions” if Bar-prop and Ponce Upper-bourgeois don’t know it.) Barnaby should do one honourable thing in his grubby life; resign and slink away to the cave where he’s best fitted to live out his neanderthal-headed days, in the middle of what used to be a lovely national park or forest, now destroyed by the ramping up effects of global warming. That being Australia’s recent raging fires that have now wiped out millions of hectares of flora and fauna up and down the Great Dividing Range.

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