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Dec 10, 2009

Climate Change skeptics stage rebel Copenhagen conference

Buoyed by the recent release of the stolen Climate-gate emails, the skeptics are in fine spirits – one of the gathering says their struggle is the 21st century equivalent

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Matthew Knott, in Copenhagen, writes:

As if the COP15 participants weren’t doing a good enough job already, the climate change sceptics have been out in force at Copenhagen working hard to undermine the climate change summit during its opening days.

Whilst the COP15 is taking place in the drab Bella Centre, as big and as aesthetically pleasing as an airport terminal, the skeptics have held their “summit” in a small flat in Christianshavn –- a clever choice for a group of unorthodox thinkers given it is home to a self-proclaimed autonomous community of squatters and hippies.

Upon arrival, a hand-written sign sticky-taped next to the front door directs you to the event, officially named the “Copenhagen Climate Change Challenge”. A colourful sticker on the ground reads “hurra global warming [sic]” and shows a red-headed Eskimo standing on a melting ice-cap with a seagull in one hand and an ice-cream in the other (don’t ask). The walls of the tiny room where the 50-odd sceptics gather are almost invisible behind the mass of rococo artworks: squint and you could be in the Louvre. “We are certainly small in quantity, but what we lack in numbers we make up for in quality,” boasts Christopher Monckton, chairman of the event and former advisor to Margaret Thatcher.

Lord Christopher Monckton
Lord Christopher Monckton

Buoyed by the recent release of the stolen Climate-gate emails, the skeptics are in fine spirits – one of the gathering says their struggle is the 21st century equivalent of Galileo’s attempts to disprove the Catholic Church’s claim that the Earth was the centre of the universe.

Australian Ian Plimer, geologist and author of Heaven and Earth, is one of the stars and despite initial doubts – “What is Crikey doing at an event like this?” – agrees to answer some questions on COP15 and the Senate’s rejection of the Rudd Government’s ETS.


Solar radiation and volcanic activity are both possible culprits for global warming, Plimer argues. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is “not a pollutant, it is plant food”.


Attending the Copenhagen Climate Change Challenge is to enter a parallel universe, an 100 per cent irony-neutral zone.

The East Anglia professors – “Let’s sue for fraud!” – are pilloried for manipulating evidence to prove their hypothesis. But no-one bats an eyelid when UK lawyer and businessman Stewart Wheeler says: “Maybe what I am about to say is not completely accurate but it’ll make the point I hope.”

At the conclusion of Wheeler’s talk chairman Christopher Monckton lauds him for speaking up for the “common-man on the bus”. Then he remarks, no pun intended: “I know where your castle is”. Turns out Wheeler is a multi-millionare who had enough spare change lying around in 2001 to donate £5 million towards the Conservative Party election campaign.

The speakers pat themselves on their backs for their “evidence-based” and “apolitical” presentations. Yet politics, of a distinctly right-of-centre variety, dominate the conference. Several of the participants boast of their membership of the anti-European Union UK Independence Party. Professor Plimer says that not only do Al Gore and algae sound alike: “They are both scum”. The suggestion that mankind should be demonising water rather than co2, given that 300 Americans drown in their bathtubs each year, is greeted by the reply: “I’m sure the 300 are all Democrats”.

And as skepticism is the flavour of the alternative conference it’s perhaps also worth noting that organiser of the event, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow think-tank, received $582,000 between 1998 and 2007 from ExxonMobil.

Matthew Knot —

Matthew Knot

Crikey media editor

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51 thoughts on “Climate Change skeptics stage rebel Copenhagen conference

  1. Ken Lambert
  2. Altakoi


    I think the bile you refer to in this debate comes from the fact that it has a definite time limit. One way or another, the APW is not one of the eternal issues which will vex society. Within a decade or two it will either be clearly correct, or not. And if it is, it will probably no longer the APW because natural feedback mechanisms will have made efforts to stop rising methane impossible. Urgency makes people impatient.

    It might well be a middle class cult, but one could just as easily make the argument that the fact that the urban middle class has less immediately at stake from an ETS means that they are not as invested in the status quo. I find your general view that urban people have the high carbon footprints, and yet should not be the ones deciding how to reduce those footprints, a tad mystifying. But if APW is correct rural people and those of limited means have the most to lose because farming will become increasingly marginal in this country.

    Quite right that it is difficult to convince everyone in a hurry. In health education it is well recongised that people need incremental, culturally acceptable, simple, reversible and understandable change if they are to adopt it readily. There is always a gradient from early adopters to die-hard conservatives who are never convinced – not about daylight savings, not about climate change. The most important thing is that you can’t just give people information, you need to give them options for action.

    Unfortunately options are a bit thin on the ground. If we do anything its going to be a rush bodgie job because we haven’t spent the past fifty or so years preparing a low-carbon infrastructure. So to wait for the ideal replacement power system really amounts to no action in a timely fashion.

    As for the scientists – well some might be gutted to find its all wrong but having listened to the ones which take APW seriously I suspect they would be more relieved that their children get to have a life. And, of course, if they are wrong then there is some seriously interesting new science to be done about how they are wrong, so I don’t think unemployment looms to large.

    Personally I doubt that people can be brought to any conclusion about APW on mass without being shown the solution. Anything sufficient to the problem will require the wholesale reordering of the economy, and no-one has any idea how to do that. We have a problem even if it stops growing, let alone requires redistribution of resources to people who lose their jobs, or who do things which are no longer required.

  3. Frank Campbell

    GregB: The very first thing I said on the emails when they first surfaced was that they showed academics behaving normally. Given that we’re bedevilled by two opposed cults, of course they’re going to be exploited to the max. Each side is intensely biased against the other. The endless abuse we see on Crikey AGW “discussions” is just a reflection of that. How you all shit on the MPM-type doubters! And on me, even though I’m in the middle. I’m quite happy to be convinced either way on this matter: today I’ve read several anti-AGW tracts and they reek of bias and bile. On both sides there are some very unattractive and (theoretically) dangerous people: Monckton the pop-eyed Thatcher throw-back vs Savonarola Hamilton.

    I think what the pro-AGW camp has to realise is that the onus is on them for two reasons- to prove a hypothesis (that’s what it is, sorry. GW isn’t. AGW is) and to justify revolutionary change to cope with it. The tragedy is we’ll be stuck with this all-consuming obsession (from both sides) possibly for decades, because the timelines for observational evidence are so long. Note how 10 years of temp. levelling is on the one hand “mere weather” and “noise” vs Boltish glee that GW is over. No one has a clue what caused the levelling. Lengthen the time-line and the trend looks unchanged. Lengthen it further and it looks like a 250 year recovery from the Little Ice Age. Yet the Bumcrack email showed real tension in the AGW fortress- “a travesty” we can’t explain it, he said. So levelling is real, inexplicable, but may be just a blip.

    Revolutionary change threatens people. They’re right to be anxious. Fewer and fewer are convinced that AGW is genuine, but you ultimately need majority support for radical change. To adapt Lincoln, you can screw a few of the people some of the time, but not some of the people all of the time. There’ll be a revolt. I’m talking about rich countries here. Thus far, the AGW movement has all the hallmarks of a middle-class cult. The comfortably off (with large carbon feet) demanding sacrifice. Plump youth and padded bureaucrats descend on the revivalist jamboree in Copenhagen. Rural and working-class people are the likely losers. Their fear shows up in polls.
    Take the UK “answer” for example: a vast expansion of wind power. How seriously can people take the AGW “revolution” when it relies on this nonsense? New FF powergen has to be built to cover wind’s intermittency. G.Gases continue unabated. Power costs soar. It’s a huge, regressive tax. The poor lose the most. Brumby likewise: ruining rural lives with wind turbines, building more GG powergen to cover them while expanding brown coal! It’s insane, and people are waking up. Having been lied to, the entire AGW project falls under suspicion. It looks like the ALP doesn’t really believe in AGW, a suspicion reinforced when one looks at their ETS: no change til 2035! Hello? We thought the tipping point was Prince Charles’ end of the world party in July 2017. And you wonder why doubt spreads? It’s political more than scientific failure. Hysterical abuse of anti-AGW just makes it worse. Condescending to ordinary people for their sloth or stupidity means you’ve lost the game.

    As to your point about peer review- I said explicitly there was no solution. we are stuck with rampant bias and corruption, period. But at least be aware that sociology rules. And to say that AGW climate scientists would be delighted to discover AGW to be false (as we all would be), alas no. They would be gutted, and unemployed.

  4. Ian Cheong

    So Plimer is associated with this:
    who associates with this:

    This site contains details of a reanalysis of Mann’s hockey stick data used by IPCC:

    One thing is certain – there is no consensus.

  5. Rollo

    @Frank Campbell Post 19:

    You said: Generally though, people who think that simple polls like this are bedevilled by liars are just nervous about their certainties being undermined by facts.

    Yet you are always so certain that you are right, which means you are beyond theory, and everything you say is factual certainty, and that AGW theory is a fraud. Riddle me this: what scientific data, what empirical evidence, what intuitive rock, can you provide as your evidence that you are actually right? Are you relying on scientific data for your certainty? If so, what is your method for discarding some scientific data and including others in your facts? And the empirical evidence; is this some kind of unctuous bacterial magma you have?

    Why is your certainty valid, while scientific methodology and theory should be something we disregard?

    I am not certain that AGW is an absolute truth? How can you be certain that it isn`t? Even scientists are not %100 certain. Not really.

    As Thomas L. Friedman points out what is the result if we try and stop CO2 emissions but it turns out AGW theory is incorrect? Well, we start having energy efficiency, we start relying on renewable energy sources and decrease dependency on Saudi Arabia`s disgusting Wahabii`ist supporting human rights filth scum, we stop chopping the Earth up so much, cleaner more breathable air, and just maybe, maybe, stop relying on buying shit to make us happy.

    It wouldn`t be Utopia, but things would be improved. And yes, initial costs will be more. But when c u next tuesdays greedy mofos can bring down the financial structure, giving them less to be greedy about would also be a good thing. Capitalism corrupts, but absolute capitalism corrupts absolutely. (I am no socialist/communist btw, I think democratic capitalism is a good thing, but pure, unfiltered, liquid capitalism is unsustainable long-term unless it is regulated. Unless limits are enforced).

  6. gregb


    Thanks for taking the time to write that looong post. Like kdkd I don’t really see your point though. Could anyone say anything to convince you that the emails have been blown grossly out of proportion and are not evidence of what “sceptics” are saying they’re evidence of? I get the distinct impression that you have decided that there was misconduct there and if anyone investigates and finds that there really wasn’t, you’ll just claim the investigation was a white wash. Are you prepared to even admit that there is a *possibility* that the emails are not what they’re cracked up to be?
    You dismiss the Pew report as “standard apologia”, what sort of apologia would satisfy you?

    Then to your point about peer review. You claim it is one of the “key problems” at universities. How wars are fought over control of journals. That may be so, but can you recommend a better way for science to advanced? Should everyone just be able to write and publish whatever they want? I don’t think there is an academic alive who will say that the peer review process is perfect or devoid of political machinations. Thing is, it’s probably the best way we know to verify scientific output.

    You also say that once scientists become entrenched in positions it’s difficult for them to change their opinions. That would mean that scientists are human? What? But seriously, what makes you so positive that scientists who have studied climate change would not be thrilled to find out that they’re wrong? Their childrens’ future would look a lot brighter. Would you accept that it is at least *possible* that “pro-AGW” scientists won’t change their views because they’ve seen no evidence whatsoever from the “sceptics” that they should?

    I feel that you’re almost there Frank, I think you know that the sceptics have turned the email thing into a beat up but ideologically, it’s just too good an opportunity for you to let go of. 🙂

  7. Frank Campbell

    GregB: OK, I read the Pew document. It’s similar to several others from AGW sources. (sorry about post 20…hit the wrong button)

    Note that even Monbiot thought the emails were deplorable. Read his Guardian article.

    The relevant part of the Pew doc. is very short. It doesn’t cover all the issues. What it does cover is standard apologia. Then follows a mass of info saying that the emails don’t destroy the AGW hypothesis and the long list of institutions which adhere to AGW. As I’ve said many times, this is correct and not the point. Anyone who knows academia knows the Bumcrack emails are typical. Academics behaving normally. Academia is bitchy, vicious, unprincipled and ruthless. Read any campus novel. Or work in one , as I did.

    One of the key problems in universities is the peer review process. Turf wars are fought over control of journals. The hatreds are unbelievable. The Pew doc. states:

    “they were reacting to what they considered to be scientific misconduct by the authors of the papers and/or by editors who circumvented the peer review process so as to publish inferior papers that support their own political agendas.”

    This reeks of academia. Opponents are gunned down. They all have “political agendas” and sneer at opposition work. Normal, and essentially corrupt. This isn’t to say there’s any real solution- there isn’t. But this is precisely what AGWarmers fail to comprehend: the history and sociology of science. Paradigms rise and are attacked. It’s always war. It’s so much worse in this case because AGW has held the world hostage- potentially for decades, such are the observational timelines required for falsfication or otherwise. Sociologically, we have the Cinderella of the sciences, used to eking out an existence in provincial colleges, suddenly flooded with money and intoxicating attention. Everything is at stake: career,income, credibility. They’ve gambled the lot on this shaky hypothesis. The odds are lengthening. They still might pull it off, but…

    You can see how they themselves, in their own apologia, are unaware of the hypocrisy of their position:

    “one must recognize that science is a community‐based professional enterprise. It is expected and appropriate that investigators
    choose in which journals to publish and recommend to their peers in which journals to publish or not publish. The notion of organizing a boycott against any journal that repeatedly departs from accepted scientific standards is both reasonable and ethical.”

    Who defines what is “reasonable” and “ethical”? Boycotts, rejection etc – these can be fatal for researchers and even entire departments.

    Once committed to one side or the other, it is extremely difficult for scientists or institutions to change sides or even qualify their position. The situation is now so polarised that to move is professional suicide.

    What of the two inquiries into the emails? I’d be surprised if they were anything more than a whitewash for the simple reason one is internal (the university) and the other appears to be an IPCC inquiry, with Pachauri overseeing it. Foxes interviewing chickens. It’s possible the Uni investigator could be independent, but don’t count on it. Adverse findings could screw the entire university. Most likely there’ll be a gentle reprimand about ungentlemanly conduct.

  8. twobob

    Why would you copy that fc?
    In context it appears to be a perfectly natural thing to do doesn’t it?
    And do you think its ok to support their own political agendas by circumventing the peer review process so as to publish inferior papers ?
    Half of the editors of the paper resigned because they did this!

    mDm lol
    I love your dimwittery, Makes my day, How you use capitals for Two Bit and Two Bub
    makes me feel important, it does!
    And did you like this bit?
    It cannot be said that Jones was literally hiding this fact because two years before he wrote this email he was a co‐author on the first paper to document this “divergence” issue. That paper, published …
    or this bit
    The data sets involved in the discussions have been reproduced independently by other scientists in other countries and yield similar conclusions. Moreover, the data sets discussed in the emails, while relevant, are not essential to our understanding of contemporary climate change. The two data sets highlighted in accusations of misconduct are very limited and consist of: High‐latitude tree ring data that inaccurately suggest that local temperatures declined after 1960; thermometer readings from the same locations demonstrate that the tree rings accurately reflected local temperatures prior to, but not after 1960. A small fraction of the weather station data used by the CRU to estimate global surface temperature change …

    and I KNOW your enjoying this bit schadenfreude right now
    I am lol at you (and I really am you know) lol
    Ive got to stop cos it hurts lol lol lol

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