Tony Abbott’s business guru insists the world is cooling

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Tony Abbott’s key business advisor Maurice Newman says world is cooling – which puts recent comments by George Brandis and Clive Palmer into context.

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The release of the voluminous, three-part update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change appears to have had no impact on the Tony Abbott conservative government, nor its advisors.

Indeed, rather than accepting the conclusions of the IPCC’s 1250 international experts – approved by every major government in the world (including apparently Australia’s) – that the world is warming and there is little time to act, Tony Abbott’s chief business advisor is still insisting that the world is, in fact, cooling.

Maurice Newman, who heads a triumvirate of climate change deniers (they prefer the word skeptics) heading key Abbott advisory bodies (Dick Warburton on the renewable energy review and David Murray on banking), was interviewed on ABC TV’s Lateline program on Tuesday night.

“We’ve had, since 1996, 17.5 years where the temperature has shown no measurable increase,” Newman said. “In fact, it can be argued since 2003, it has cooled off somewhat.” (You can see complete transcript and video here)

Newman was recently challenged by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt to agree to a $10,000 bet on Newman’s prediction that the world will be much cooler in 20-40 years time. Apparently he has not taken up the offer.

Newman’s reference to the peak temperature year in the late 1990s – 1998, at the height of an El Nino, was for a time the hottest year on record but NASA days those records are now taken up by 2005 and 2010 – are a typical crutch of the climate denialists. The fact that 13 of the 14 hottest years have occurred since the late 1990s, and that this decadal growth chart shows a continuing rise, does not seem to faze the likes of Newman.
wmo temperature decades


NASA temps

Newman insists, despite the IPCC report, and the conclusions of numerous other bodies such as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, NASA, the American Academy of Sciences, and other equivalent bodies around the world, that the evidence is not there to accept that rising CO2 levels has any impact on global temperatures.

“I just look at the evidence,” Newman said. “There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that’s something which we would pay attention to.” (Gosh, even Andrew Bolt acknowledges that skeptics believe CO2 plays some role in warming, although he had another rave at the “bias” of the ABC questioning.

Newman’s comments come nearly a week after attonery-general George Brandis accused “true believers in climate change” of being ‘ignorant’, ‘medieval’ and trying to shut down debate,

Given that Abbott, who once dismissed climate science is “crap”, is now PM and has surrounded himself with the likes of Murray, Warburton and Newman, and dismantled or sort to dismantle the institutions that could provide advice on the science, mitigation and financing (the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation), it’s hard to imagine how Brandis believes that climate skeptics are being sidelined. The popular press in Australia, and much of the popular radio and TV news programs, completely ignored the IPCC reports.

The indifference of the Abbott government and its advisors to the science probably explains why it has sought to dismantle all climate change-related policies and institutions, and insists on its “Direct Action” policy that is designed to reduce emissions by a maximum 5 per cent by 2020 – well below, possibly by a factor of three, what the science requires.

But it may not even have to bother with this. Clive Palmer, whose Palmer United Party controls at least three seats in the Senate, has promised to vote against the Direct Action legislation, and even against the repeal of the carbon price and the mining tax if the Abbott government tries to sneak the measures through the Budget appropriations bill.

It’s hard to know whether Palmer will keep his word, or what the price of changing his mind might be,  but as Lenore Taylor points out in The Guardian, this will probably mean that Direct Action can continue with its handouts to polluters, without the bothersome scrutiny of baselines and other measurements that would provide some mechanism to control the overall level of emissions.

Note: This article was updated to correct first name of Schmidt. (Brian, not Brad).

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  1. Andrew Thaler 5 years ago

    apply 1/x to any statement these twits make…

  2. Andrew Clarke 5 years ago

    In my opinion, Abbott is an environmental criminal who should be prosecuted by the EPA for leading an organisation which willfully risks damage to our environment and the quality of life of our children.

    • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

      Hear, hear!

  3. Peter Campbell 5 years ago

    In writing “The indifference of the Abbott government and its advisors to the science…” you are being too kind. The sentence should read: ‘The constant antagonism of the Abbott government and its advisors to the science…’

  4. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    Well I don’t think cooling over the last 17 years has been confirmed by any reputable scientist. But where Maurice is – the southern highlands – it was cooler today than yesterday. Mebbe that’s the proof he was after.

  5. Jack Gardner 5 years ago

    Dear Giles, you might try to become a better listener, then you might try to grapple with the claims made by Maurice Newman, with a view to mounting an actual argument to defend your “position”
    Newman points out a number of things which he argues are facts. Principally there are two matters that disturb uncommitted minds.
    First is the concern that I certainly have with the aberrations of so called climate science away from proper logical application of the Scientific Method. No amount of peer confirmation will replace the efforts of sceptics to make every effort to show that a hypotheses is flawed. Yet we see daily anthropomorphic global warming believers bad mouthing other Scientific endeavours and sceptics generally with emotive and sometimes abusive cat calling. Why?
    The second concern is in the matter of modelling. The models being pushed today are clearly not reliable. Newman is indeed correct to point out that they do not predict well over the last 17 years. This is an argument about efficacy not science. I would go further. A PHD student who served up some of the predictions we see today would be given a fail mark. Where is the causality? Where is the multiple regression and statement that we are only prediction 36% of what happens and we do not know what the other variables are. Where is the dissertation on the accuracy of each element of data and the calculation of overall error in predicting from that set of data. Why do people think it correct to say for example “the sea may rise , worst case by 2 metres” and may not say “and best case 2 mm” when they should say that beyond the fact that we are only predicting a small part of what may be happening our prediction is at an accuracy of +/- 100% . That is meaningless.
    Now this is before you delve into the hypotheses in detail. Like why not propose that CO2 lags global warning, that it is a result of global warming not a cause of it. And the “tipping point”, a necessary construct to make models slingshot larger predictions. Where is the causal argument here? can you really address these questions from the pap that is served up by peer group approval?
    Clearly you need sceptics to help clear your mind. And you need to recognise that scientists with closed minds or governed by emotion are not the best scientists. You also need to recognise and perhaps this is the most important thing, that many scientists are not good at quantitative method. Otherwise they would present much more believable predictions from available modelling.

    • Motorshack 5 years ago

      Well, at least you have proved convincingly that even trolls can write in reasonably clear (if somewhat verbose) English.

      Anyway, if the planet is cooling, I remain a little puzzled as to why the Arctic icecap seems to be disappearing at breakneck speed.

      Has the melting point of ice perhaps changed, and all those close-minded climatologists are just too ornery and stupid to notice?

    • C D Xbow 5 years ago

      The sea level is rising. And rising faster. There is only one thing that can do that – global warming. End of argument.

      • Alen 5 years ago

        Logical, true and undeniable so why is that people still struggle with this concept? I wonder how much of this denial is fear in disguise, vested interest is always linked to these deniers of facts, but are some just plain afraid of what the future will look like if they accept the truth and believe scientists?

    • takver 5 years ago

      Dear Jack,
      Firstly, abuse and harassment has mostly been leveled against climate scientists, both in person and via email and social media. I myself witnessed a person holding up a noose to visiting Professor John Schellnhuber from the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This was emotive and threatening behaviour. Scientists and climate activists have in comparison been very restrained.

      Secondly, in terms of climate models, they are relatively accurate over longer periods of time. Climate models account for natural variability cycles as part of their long term average trend. But for shorter periods up to about 15 years they can be above average or below average variance. This is due to natural variability and the influence of natural cycles such as El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which cycles 3-6 years, Pacific Decadal Oscillation with decades long cycles, fluctuations of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), as well as accounting for variation in volcanic activity and solar radiation.

      In the middle of last century we saw decade long cooling periods, and the bigger question for the curent period where atmospheric temperatures appear to plateau with a very slight warming trend of 0.04°C per decade over 1998–2012, compared to 0.11°C per decade over 1951–2012, when perhaps we should have seen a cooling trend.

      Most of the extra heat over the last decade and a half has gone into warming the ocean corresponding with a negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. It is likely that when the PDO changes to positive phase, and that may occurr in the next few years, some of that warming will come out of the oceans to accelerate atmospheric warming.

      With an El Nino having a high probability of occurring later this year and the podssibility it could be a Super El Nino like in 1998, this could herald an acceleration of atmospheric temperatures. The PDO

      I have actually researched the accuracy of climate modelling and reasons for the slowdown in atmospheric warming and posted a blog on this in February:

      Thirdly, we have known about the greenhouse gas properties of CO2 for 150 years or more. Studying the greenhouse effect is really one of the basics of climate science which people like yourself have trouble getting your head around. As the greenhouse effect warms through CO2, water vapour, methane, N2O and other lesser greenhouse gases, it raises atmospheric temperatures. So as the CO2 in the atmosphere has increased over the last 200 years in the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect has pushed up temperatures.

      Could the CO2 be primarily natural? There is some small contribution through volcanic activity but most of it has been attributed to anthropogenic sources. Attribution can be determoned through examining the proportion of carbon and oxygen isotopes collected in samples. Atmospheric CO2 measurements are taken at several baseline stations around the world. The most famous one is Mauna Loa, but CSIRO/BOM run a baseline measurement station at Cape Grim on Tasmania’s north west cape. They analyse the percentage of carbon and oxygen isotopes in CO2 and this indicates that the vast majority of atmospheric CO2 being collected is caused from anthropogenic sources.

      I suggest you do more reading, or go on one of those introductory online Climate Change courses.

    • Chris Turnbull 5 years ago

      Hi Jack,
      Looking forward to seeing some anthromorphic global warming and wondering just what it would look like.

      • derekbolton 5 years ago

        How about anthracomorphic ?

  6. John McKeon 5 years ago

    By taking on such advisors as Maurice Newman it is clear that Tony Abbott should be for ever known as Tony ‘Climate Science Is Crap’ Abbott.

  7. Warwick 5 years ago

    Giles, I assume you mean Brian Schmidt, astronomer of ANU not Brad Schmidt the actor, apparently most famous for his role in “Bottoms Up” with Paris Hilton?

  8. Jack Gardner 5 years ago

    reply to Takver
    you do not seem to appreciate what I have said. I am not arguing for or against human influenced global temperature change.
    If you are aware of The Scientific Method and Quantitative Method [I speak of the Philosophy of Science and of mathematics] then you would be concerned about what the climate change “movement” is doing. they should apply rigour to both of these disciplines. Peer group assessment will never provide this rigour. You will end up in error. Causality is a fundamental premise of statistical prediction and it simply does not presently appear as you seem to think. You should set yourself an exercise to show that CO2 rise is a result of temperature rise and see where that takes you. If you find a persistent lag, that is a CO2increase after a temperature rise, what might you induce from this observation, and what would you wish sceptics to challenge in your findings. That is the approach that is needed n’est pas?

    • riley222 5 years ago

      Maurice Newman made reference to the Maunder minimum in stating that the earth is entering a cooling period.

      If this is true, then proponents of renewable energy ( myself included) need to rethink , as warming will no longer be an argument.

      • derekbolton 5 years ago

        The Maunder minimum, though related to the Little Ice Age, was not a period of global cooling – it was mainly Europe and North America ( – and it only lasted for decades. GHG-induced warming will be with us for centuries.

    • Steve Gates 5 years ago

      Hi Jack,

      The answer to your question about the usual initial 800-yr lag of CO2 increase after global temperatures start to rise, here is a simplified explanation: Solar radiation received by the earth (which is influenced by numerous ‘Milankovich Cycles’, ie Earth elliptical orbit, tilt, wobble etc) is normally the driver of heating and cooling of Earth. For example, an increasing solar influx causes direct heating, and as the warming starts, there is an increase of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from the oceans and land, which then accentuates the warming due to the heat-trapping characteristics of those gases. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect. So, the temperature rises further, until conversely when solar influx drops low enough so that even the increased ‘blanketing’ effect of the GHGs is not enough to hold the temperature high, so Earth’s temperature drops again – a bit like a yo-yo effect.
      However, the difference between the last 850,000+ yrs and now is that since our industrial revolution brought about by harnessing fossil energy, we have bypassed the effect of the sun by increasing the heat trapping abilty of the atmosphere, and therefore the temperatures are on a rising trend. You might like to refer to an excellent website: Skeptical Science where you can explore the arguments/debate with relatively clear explanations. Hope this helps.

  9. Fredrik Karlsson 5 years ago

    Watch this documentary and read the article again.
    I’m not saying we should make a bonfire of the remaining oil, I’m all in for green energy but it’s been so much more C02 in the atmosphere way before human beings knew how to use fire and had the same IQ as chimp. The pollution we cause is still the worse but don’t mix it up with global warming. Would it be possible for the vikings to have farms on Greenland today? I think you know the answer.

    • Fredrik Karlsson 5 years ago

      We’ve always had minor ice ages every 10k years and bigger once every 600k years which always resulted in a warm period before the ice age. It’s only logical. But this time we gonna prevent that by pushing away the sun or throw shit a every leader we can think of? Come on. Do something meaningful and come up with a clean energy solution or how to solve poverty instead.

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