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Through gritted teeth, climate scientists admit Wong tells porkies March 6, 2010

Posted by BlueGreen in Abuse, Deception, Misrepresentation, Smear.
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Bolt’s Post 3 March 2010

Here Andrew Bolt accuses Senator Penny Wong of lying and says he is holding her to account for her “outrageous deceits”. Why and what is her deceit?

Although Bolt doesn’t provide any link to what Wong said or the origins of the claim, it’s obvious from the inference and from past Bolt blogs that he believes Wong has claimed that the drought in the Murray Darling was caused or exacerbated by global warming when that is not true.

Firstly, let’s look at the first insinuation from Bolt. For Wong to be lying, there’d have to be no evidence of scientists having said or claimed the drought was exacerbated by AGW. Following the links back to the previous Bolt post No, Prime Minister. That drought wasn’t man-made, either, we eventually find a source for Wong’s claim:

14 Jan 2003

SYDNEY: A new scientific report by WWF-Australia and leading meteorologists has shown that human-induced global warming was a key factor in the severity of the 2002 drought. The report compares the 2002 drought with the four other major droughts since 1950 and has found higher temperatures caused a marked increase in evaporation rates from soil, watercourses and vegetation.

The report, Global Warming Contributes to Australia’s Worst Drought, warns that higher temperatures and drier conditions have created greater bushfire danger than previous droughts. Drought severity also has increased in the Murray Darling Basin, which produces 40% of Australia’s agricultural product.

So, setting aside the scientific validity of this particular report from which the claim originated, it’s clear that Wong is not lying as there is indeed evidence and a belief by some scientists that the drought was exacerbated by AGW.

Bolt is wrong to accuse Wong of lying.

Now let’s look at Bolt’s claim that the Wong has been contradicted by Prof Neville Nicholls:

When you follow the link to the Weekly Times Now article we see that Nicholls is quoted as saying (my emphasis):

“The current dry period (in the Murray Darling Basin) might still be just a fluke, or natural variability,” Prof Nicholls said.

“We cannot confidently attribute it to global warming.”

The article then says:

Yet Federal Climate Change and Water Minister Penny Wong has repeatedly claimed the basin’s drought is due to climate change.

“Research shows that this severe, extended drought is clearly linked with global warming,” Senator Wong said in November last year.

Professor Nicholls is talking about the current dry period. But in November, as we have seen above, Wong was speaking in reference to an article that was referenced to the  severity of the 2002 drought.

And, whilst Prof Steven Sherwood, of the University of NSW Climate Change Research Centre, said that:

 “sceptics here are (for once) technically correct, in that there is no proven link – yet – between Murray Darling drought and climate change”.

The article Bolt links to also says:

However, lead SEACI researcher Bertrand Timbal said his work was not at the stage where he could confidently say the drought was due to climate change in southeast Australia.

Dr Timbal said he was confident the decline in the basin’s autumn rainfall went beyond what any of the computer climate models could naturally produce.

Clearly there are scientific differences of opinion on whether there is proof that the drought(s) in the M-D basin have been exacerbated by global warming. This is evidenced by Timbal himself who was quoted in this article from May 2008:

A group of Australian researchers claim to have found further evidence that lower rainfall and reduced run-off in the south-east of the country are linked to global warming.

The findings released by the South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative (SEACI) show increased temperatures have caused rapid evaporation and reduced inflows to the Murray-Darling Basin.

Again, evidence that, whilst the scientists claims and work on which Wong relies could be proven wrong, Bolt is merely resorting to abuse and smear in accusing Wong of lying.

In his update, Bolt then produces a startling and stunning piece of scientific illiteracy when, via a reader, he asks:

…just what evidence there is that the recent rainfall in the Murray Darling basin is unusually low, and proof of a heating world:

with this graphic from the Bureau of Meteorology:

Let me ask: Can Bolt find a period in this graphic with such an extended period of low rainfall over a decade like that evident from 2000 to 2010?

I think the farmers and irrigators in the M-D might also be able to reassure Bolt and his reader that only a fool would attempt to argue that this drought is not severe and the resultant rainfall not “unusually low”.

As for it being proof of a heating world, no one argued that it was.

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