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Global Warming and Climate Change

Global Warming and Climate Change: What Australia knew and buried...then framed a new reality for the public OPEN ACCESS

MARIA TAYLOR
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130h8d6
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  • Book Info
    Global Warming and Climate Change
    Book Description:

    Relevant to both Australian and overseas audiences, here is the untold story of how Australia buried its knowledge on climate change science and response options during the 1990s — going from clarity to confusion and doubt after arguably leading the world in citizen understanding and a political will to act in the late 1980s.

    eISBN: 978-1-925021-91-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science, General Science
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  1. These words were published in technology writer Gavin Gilchrist’s 1995 article for theThe Sydney Morning Heraldheadlined ‘Greenhouse effect will cause havoc in NSW’, which detailed a report by Australia’s national, publicly funded, science organisation the CSIRO. At that time global warming/climate change was still called ‘the greenhouse effect’.

    The article warned of the increased risk of extreme heat and, therefore, fire, severe thunderstorms and torrential rains as the likely impacts of climate change. These are what we are coming to grips with globally as severe and catastrophic weather events. The article was far from the first on this...

  2. As a top CSIRO climate scientist and head of his division from 1992–2002, Graeme Pearman contributed significantly to climate change knowledge internationally, as did his colleagues at the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research in Melbourne. He also was a tireless communicator to the public explaining the science and risks of climate change.

    The fact that he found himself increasingly ‘muzzled’ in his public utterances by the late 1990s, and eventually made redundant from his position at CSIRO in 2004, reflects the trajectory of the climate change story in Australia during those years. Only now, more than a decade later,...

  3. The idea that the human species and its societies are a new ‘force of nature’ capable of altering planetary systems is a recent one that confronts long-held beliefs. That we are now in a new epoch called the Anthropocene is still resisted by some traditionally trained geologists and meteorologists, among others, and this has had implications for present-day sceptic debate.

    How we got to this understanding takes us along the global warming/climate change science discovery path. Although there were earlier relevant discoveries, the path is generally described as starting with the 1890s hypothesis of Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius that gases...

  4. If humans have become a geophysical force, then physicist Spencer Weart’s history of climate change discovery points out just how important communication is to the way humans influence their biophysical surroundings based on what they believe to be true. What we think filters and translates a scientific message. Or rather, in Western democracies, it is what politicians, the media and the blogosphere think and say that influences what the general public thinks.

    The evidence for Australia shows that the dominant narrative about the greenhouse effect/global warming/climate change was altered dramatically from how it started in 1987 through 1991, despite the...

  5. Australia’s early good knowledge of climate change was documented in a well-credentialed 1989 book that came to a startling conclusion. Following two national greenhouse effect science and public knowledge events staged in 1987 and 1988 by the national science agency the CSIRO and the federal Commission for the Future, earth scientist Ann Henderson-Sellers and her co-author Russell Blong reported on the outcomes of a two-year media and public awareness campaign. They felt able to claim that ‘the awareness of the greenhouse issue is probably greater amongst the general public in Australia than in any other country in the world’ (Henderson-Sellers...

  6. What happened in the 1990s? Most dramatically, the fossil fuel and allied industries got into gear. The momentum to support and expand the existing fossil fuel economy was boosted by neo-liberal think tanks and insistent sceptics, in sympathy with free market economic ideology. They mounted a potent and high-level lobbying campaign aimed at federal politicians. Coal, oil, natural gas and other extractive industries, along with other multinational corporations, such as the energy-intensive aluminium smelting industry, got organised and exerted considerable influence on government, particularly after 1995 (Hamilton 2001; Pearse 2007).

    This was made easier by a revolving door of policymakers...

  7. To understand what happened in Australia in the 1990s, with its dramatic change of public narrative on climate change, it helps to explore the ideas that came with the opinion leaders who reset the narrative. This is important not least because the same influential ideas are back in the political driver seat with renewed vigour, having never really left since the mid-1990s.

    In November 2013, just before a super typhoon, packing 315-kilometre-per-hour winds, ravaged the central Philippines with many thousands dead, cities flattened and the resulting hunger and desperation,¹ former Prime Minister John Howard told the world what he thought...

  8. On 23 September 2013 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) programMedia Watchexplored a textbook example of why too many Australians and their politicians continue to stumble through a fog of confusion and doubt in regard to climate change. The case under the microscope typified irresponsible journalism.

    Media Watchhost Paul Barry, with trademark irony, announced: ‘Yes it’s official at last … those stupid scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] got it wrong’, in their latest assessment report. He quoted 2GB breakfast jock Chris Smith from a week earlier saying the IPCC had ‘fessed up’ that its...

  9. Scientists too have values and beliefs. The world views of different scientific disciplines can significantly influence science and society discussions like climate change.

    Different disciplinary groups act like academic tribes, with their own set of intellectual values and their own patch of cognitive territory (Becher 1994). Armed with this understanding, it’s easier to grasp the challenges faced by the sprawling, multi-disciplinary task of unravelling climate change and also understand where some of the staunchest sceptics have come from. Climate science has required that scientists from a wide range of earth and environmental sciences learn to cooperate, and to accept each...

  10. There is ample evidence that scientists, journalists and policymakers expressed ‘certainty’ in the early 1990s about how humans are warming the planet by producing excess greenhouse gases with industrial and consumer activities. This was a key driver of the political and public understanding exhibited between 1987 and 1992.

    The evidence then shows that the language of scientific certainty not only changed, but that uncertainty was also deliberately constructed to throw doubt on the scientific conclusions. In the 1990s this occurred in all the Western, English-speaking democracies and globally to the extent that organisations like the corporate Global Climate Coalition and...

  11. The ‘biggest names’ on the free market Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) contributor list include a majority who have appeared in the pages of this book. The list is sceptic geologists Bob Carter and Ian Plimer, retired meteorologist William Kininmonth, US sceptic scientists Patrick Michaels and Richard Lindzen, UK sceptic and John Howard informant Nigel Lawson, Canadian-born libertarian writer Mark Steyn, former IPA environmental editor Jennifer Marohasy, News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt, and Liberal Party stalwart John Roskam.

    Also contributing to the volume is IPA’s deregulation expert and climate change sceptic Alan Moran, who has revolved through the Industry Commission,...