Ethics and climate change

Dr Glenn Albrecht, an environmental philosopher from the University of Newcastle, has started a new blog on ethics and climate change, which according to its byline is: “A Blog devoted to critical evaluation and analysis of the ‘values’ that are implicit in global warming and climate change articles in the media”.

Of particular interest to Brave New Climate readers is that he’s done an analysis of the Dr Jennifer Marohasy piece from The Australian, “A case of the warm and fuzzy“, which I also dissected a few weeks back when it first came out. My comments were largely focused on what elements of the published climate science were ignored in the sweeping statements contained within that editorial. Glenn goes over some of this same ground, but in addition delves more deeply into the underlying motivations behind the piece. It makes for a really interesting perceptive. To quote Glenn’s conclusion:

Overall Assessment
The article, in Australia’s only national newspaper, reveals much about the motivation of Jennifer Marohasy. At first glance, one could be forgiven for thinking that her ‘line’ is a form of religious faith or zealotry erected as a defence against all the evidence to the contrary. Like flat earthers and the Church at the time of Copernicus and Galileo in the face of evidence of a heliocentric solar system and imperfect heavenly spheres, a closed system of belief is created where all counter-evidence is reinterpreted as proof of the truth of her own position. Data is then manipulated to defend the indefensible. Graphs are produced to show misleading and erroneous ‘trends’ and advocacy misrepresented as science.

However, like the many climate change sceptics she relies on for her data and graphs, JM is intimately associated with a privately funded think tank. She is an employee of the Institute for Public Affairs, a think tank funded by commercial enterprise. As such, she is expected to provide value for money and deliver messages that are supportive of the corporate interests. She is not a dispassionate or disinterested commentator on global warming and climate change; she is an advocate for the interests of those who fund the IPA. It should come as no surprise that the major bodies funding the work of JM include BHP-Billiton, the Western Mining Corporation, Monsanto, Clough Engineering, News Limited (publisher of the Australian Newspaper), Caltex, Esso, Shell, Gunns and companies in the electricity generation industry.

The evidence for the long-term warming of the planet is now overwhelming and that JM has resorted to the use of distraction with irrelevant issues such as salinity, over-reliance on dodgy satellite data and short term changes in recent weather patterns (not trends in long-term climate) in order to make her case is revealing.
The argument that Australia should not implement a greenhouse gas reduction scheme because of a lack of evidence has empirical and ethical faults. I hope the scientific community can further take her to task on the lack of scientific credibility of her case.

On the ethical front, the hypocrisy of arguing that Australians are scientifically illiterate and easily manipulated by vested interests and then, in a calculated manner, contributing to that illiteracy and deliberately manipulating them with poor data, misleading graphs and confusing argumentation is unforgivable.

The issue of global warming and climate change is far too important to leave to paid representatives of a particular set of vested interests in Australia or elsewhere. If, because of the ‘work’ of sceptics such as JM, individuals, businesses and governments delay action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and halt global warming, then these people must be held especially responsible for the hugely negative changes that are now taking place to the foundations of all life, agriculture and economies.

We must resist the anti-global warming zealots and corporate lackeys and put our trust in those who, without vested interest, are telling us that we must act now to avoid a very nasty future.

Glenn has also done a blog on Brendan O’Neill’s bizzare recent piece in The Australian, “Snow-roots campaign a form of green self-hate“. Definitely one to add to your blogroll.

By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

7 replies on “Ethics and climate change”

Hmmm, you seem to be profiling many of my old lecturers, Barry, but this time one that I still hold in high regard! Glen has a keen mind, and a firm grasp on the logical construction of ethics and environmental philosophy. My friends and I often went to hear his lectures even if we weren’t enrolled in them.

I thoroughly welcome his entry into the ethics/CC arena, and I am especially pleased at its timeliness. It will be interesting to read his future contributions.


What of the ethics of media outlets like the Australian, that continue give Marohasy, and various other denialists, not only a forum,but credibility, by publishing their nonsense?


Some time ago it has been stated “The climate debate is over”, yet, although an overwhelming body of science is now available, consistent with climate developments around the Earth which appear to over-pace projections, it seems the debate goes on and on and on …

The “powers to be” appear to seek compromises with vested interests, which they may or may not be able to achieve. What they fail to understand is that one can not reach “agreements” and “compromises” with nature itself. It is not possible to argue with the atmosphere!

Recently a claim has even been raised (by a Czech economist in The Australian) that warning about climate change a contradictory to human freedom —

Confusing freedom with anarchy and greed-driven destruction.

Unfortunately they may end up learning the hard way.


Some time ago it has been stated “The climate debate is over”, yet, although an overwhelming body of science is now available, consistent with climate developments around the Earth which appear to over-pace projections, it seems the debate goes on and on and on …

It’s worth understanding what ‘debate’ the talker is referring too. If it is the scientific debate that man is responsible for the majority of the warming we are starting to experience even now — then that debate is well over and we have a scientific consensus. This was determined by Naomi Oreskes in her 2005 Science Magazine in Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

If it is the media debate where a humanities format (presenting both sides of the debate) is used to settle a scientific question… then that faux debate will go on for as long as fossil-fuel funded think tanks have fossil-fuelled funds to issue fossil-fuel favourable press-releases to their shrill shills, like Andrew Bolt


Well said @ 2, 3, 4
People don’t seem to understand that this is not a political, religious or economic development issue. Denying its veracity won’t make it go away. You win the phoney debate you lose. I know people are scared by the ramifications of AGW, but switching off, or turning aside from the problem, or seeking reassurance from those with vested interests in denying the reality of AGW, is not the answer. Those responsible for promoting denialism thus leading to delay and prevarication on action to mitigate AGW, must be held accountable. Fortunately we have some exceptional blogs like this and others, listed at left, to broadcast the science to those genuinely seeking the truth. Occasionally having to put up with disingenuous bloggers is a price we have to pay. Fortunately they soon seem to disappear from the radar when they realise they are engaging with real scientists who do have the answers.


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