America may lead the world in idiocy when it comes to things like climate change denial, but we are far from the only nation that has a number of prominent people who insist on challenging the science of the issue. Recently, one Australian climate skeptic got thoroughly schooled when he decided to go up against a scientist — a scientist who came prepared to rebut every one of his challenger’s claims.
Australians, like Americans and others around the world, have been witness to extreme weather events that have been influenced by climate change. And scientists are largely in agreement that climate change is real, it’s happening, and it is caused by man’s activities. But there’s something about some politicians…
Malcolm Roberts is a newly elected Australian senator who belongs to the “One Nation” party. That organization sits at the far right of the Australian political spectrum. Its leader, Pauline Hanson, advocates for a variety of positions that sound very similar to those taken up by Donald Trump, particularly when it comes to the topic of immigration. Roberts was part of a panel on the Australian ABC network show “QandA” when physicist Brian Cox responded to a question posed by an audience member.
The audience member observes that Roberts had recently asked journalist Barry Cassidy to get back to him when Cassidy could offer proof that humans were responsible for climate change. She asks the panel to offer “fact and not opinion” on the human element in climate change.
Cox responds that he can easily provide the evidence Roberts is looking for and notes facts about how scientists consider we are dangerously close to a global temperature increase that would be catastrophic. He calls climate change a “global problem,” and says the “absolute consensus” of scientists is that it is being fueled by human activities.
Roberts responds with the standard double-talk of climate deniers. He claims that there was a period of “faster and greater” warming at the end of the 17th century than during what he calls the current cycle. He says that the most recent warming cycle “finished in 1995.” He adds to that by claiming that there has now been a 21-year “pause” in warming. He rebukes Cox, saying,
I’m absolutely stunned that someone who is inspired by Richard Fineman — a fantastic scientist who believes in empirical evidence — is quoting ‘consensus.’
That’s where smackdown #1 occurs. Cox responds, “Can I just say, I brought the graph.” The audience laughs and applauds loudly. Cox holds up a graph that clearly shows a steady increase in global temperature anomalies, with no “pause” evident. He explains the “pause” by showing how deniers have taken a small segment of the data, beginning in the mid-90s, then they ignore the years 2015 and 2016. That allows them to draw a trend line that is relatively straight. “I can give you a lesson if you want,” Cox tells Roberts.
The senator’s response? That the graph displayed by Cox shows that the 1940s were warmer than recent years. (Actually, the global temperature anomaly shown on Cox’s graph for the 1940s is a fraction of what has occurred in recent times.)
The show’s host, Tony Jones, joins in. “Malcolm,” he says to Roberts, “You’re hearing the interpretation of a highly qualified scientist, and you’re just saying ‘I don’t believe it.’ Is that right?” The audience howls with laughter.
But Roberts isn’t finished. He moves on to the next talking point of the deniers; that the data has been “corrupted.”
“By who?” Cox wants to know.
“By NASA,” Roberts responds as the audience laughs at him again.
“NASA. The people that landed men on the moon,” Cox says, a wry smile on his face.
Cox continues to destroy Roberts’ assertion.
The accusation that NASA, the Met Office in UK, everybody has collaborated to manipulate global temperature data is quite … they’ve all manipulated it in the same way and accidentally got to the same answer, is that what you’re saying?
As beautiful as Cox’s takedown was, it was mathematician Lily Serna who summed up the problem of politicians attacking science. She said,
These are all experts in their field, and they advise us on what is real and what is not real. And as far as I’m concerned, where politics comes into play is how to implement their advice.
Perfectly stated. But sadly, where politics comes into play on this and many other topics, in many countries, is explained by the quote from Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. ”
Here is the video, via YouTube:
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Featured image via YouTube