You can’t judge climate sceptics as if they are all the same. They come in various sizes and shapes, with different motivations, and we need to be able to distinguish sceptics from deniers, trolls from laggards. We have seen their messages of doubt spread and grow just like a virus. However, from my experience, the best way to approach the phenomena of climate sceptics is not to treat it as if were a battle against a virus. The best medicine is to meet the scepticism with its opposite: with full confidence and trust in our scientists, respect when appropriate, education whenever possible – and always: a smile and a positive, embracing attitude. And then, apart from that, we can leave them there, in the conspiracy corner where most of them already have put themselves.
Here is what I have learned about climate deniers and sceptics after having worked as a radio host and an activist advocating for strong climate action during the last four years. During that time the so-called ‘climate sceptics’ have been taking me on an emotional rollercoaster of frustration, first of all because I have been able to observe how effectively their anti-renewables messages have managed to influence climate and energy policy making at all levels, even parliamentary elections, and in particular in countries like the United States and Australia.
It’s been so frustrating to watch, and at times I’ve found myself in denial about the massive effect this problem has on the otherwise logical transition away from dirty, destructive fossil fuels and over to clean, climate-friendly renewable energy sources and the One Planet Living principles.
This page is a long blogpost about my personal odyssey with the phenomena of climate scepticism in a time of global emergency, so to those of you who don’t make it to the end of it, here’s the short version:
Confidence and focus
Where I am at, personally, at the moment is that I have come to terms and ‘made peace’ with the genuine climate sceptics. I’ve also become better at distinguishing them from the climate trolls – the trolls are those who have a hidden agenda to delay the energy transition away from fossil fuels and who therefore see it as their task to confuse the general public as much as possible.
It is a bit of a learning process to understand that being genuinely sceptic should not be confused with being in denial, which again is not be be confused with those who deliberately lie and manipulate data. We would benefit from establishing an entirely new vocabulary which distinguishes the genuine sceptics from those who claim to be sceptics but in reality are stuck in denial and unable to question their own convictions or claims. We must learn to be able to distinguish the trolls from the laggards, the liars, obfuscationalists and professional anti-renewables crusaders from the controversy-loving ‘Uncle Fred’-types who mingle with various conspiracies and UFO-theories as a hobby.
Whenever I can I make it clear why I strongly disagree with the anti-renewables crusaders. But I still greet my genuinely climate sceptic neighbour as a friend and with a smile, because I somehow know how he feels. I was also at one point a proud and fierce sceptic, though in a different field.
I can’t see why climate change science is a matter of belief. It is a matter of science, and since it is rather complicated science, in particular when it comes to trying to predict what is going to happen in the future, it is also a matter of either trusting those scientific bodies and authorities we have in this world, or becoming a scientist oneself.
As I do in other scientific matters, I generally trust science – even when I can’t see it in front of me. Like, I trust that there is such a thing called gravity, though I can’t claim I fully understand how it works. I have confidence in our scientists, and I do what I can to make others around me – in particular my kids – gain that confidence as well.
The swarm of global warming denying trolls and professional anti-renewables crusaders are not scientists. Most of them don’t even claim to have much knowledge in the field – as a matter of fact they will very often stress that all they are doing is stating their personal opinions – and that they are entitled to be doing that. “I’m not a scientist, but…” is a classical opening remark from a climate denier.
Correct: Everyone is entitled to state their opinion. So am I. And I am ready, at any given opportunity, to stand up for my personal conviction, which is that I don’t believe in home made claims that global warming is a hoax or that our scientific institutions are corrupt, but in particular I disagree when it comes to the sceptics’ claims that we shouldn’t bother to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution. This is by all means utterly wrong. Morally wrong too.
My conclusion after four years among – and sometimes in hiding from – a group of tirelessly crusading climate sceptics and deniers in Australia is that by the end of the day the important thing, really, is not what either side in the heated climate-global-warming debate are saying or claiming, but what the silent majority in society thinks about these issues around the climate crisis and what we need to do about it.
I believe my focus and time as a ‘pro-science advocate’ is better spent together with that large group in the middle than with arguing over technical details, graphs and data with the tiny minority of so-called ‘sceptics’ or ‘deniers’ on the fringe – because I have learned over the years now that that technical argument can’t be won anyway. It will probably go on forever. And we don’t have that kind of time when talking about global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.
There is something about standard climate sceptic arguing-techniques which we need to understand. Throwing mud on the playing field is an effective and easy game. But instead of taking up a battle with the mud-throwers, it is a lot more constructive to simply move over to a different playing field.
So I focus on other facts than the climate-global-warming facts. Indisputable facts that we all understand are real, because we can see and hear them right in front of us. There are other stories I find it much more useful to be spending my and others’ time and energy on than the climate figures and global warming graphs, and I’ll give you some examples of those at the end of this blogpost.
If you agree that climate scepticism is a waste of time, because you have confidence in our scientific authorities as far as their research and measurements of global warming and climate change are concerned, then I guess you have no reason to read any further. You are hereby dismissed and should spend your time on much more constructive things – things that push the transition forward towards establishing a healthier and happier zero-carbon world! 🙂
The healthy scepticism
I’d like to begin with telling you something about myself, because as I mentioned, I was once a sceptic too.
Decades ago, I was on a kind of ‘guerilla war path’ against the authorities of our health system. I suffered from an illness, and the doctors told me not only was it a cronic disease, for which there was no cure, it was also certain to get worse and an operation, removing the sick organ, was inevitable. I was a sceptic because I had found a Canadian website which said that this was untrue and that my health problem was actually curable through diet.
Eventually, I was cured, without the doctors’ help, which was a great personal victory. However, what I considered great news about the fantastic effect of a specific diet was not well received by the health authorities. Whenever I told about my findings in patients’ organisations or letters to the editors, I was basically told off as an ‘unscientific’ lunatic, treated as if I was some kind of a rebel trying to mislead people who obediently swallowed their expensive medicine, accepted that operation was inevitable, and continued to eat things that in my experience were harmful to them.
So, together with a friend who had been experiencing the same, I started a ‘rebel’ website which soon had millions of visitors, and which hopefully has helped others to find their own way out of that particular disease.
I eventually reached the ‘conspiracy-state of mind’ where I saw conspiracies everywhere. It appeared to me that the medicine and sugar industry had a tight grip on doctors and their organisations, in particular because of the way money, gifts and benefits were flowing between the industries and the doctors, with sponsorships, donations and very visible ads in patient magazines.
For this reason, I have always had a high degree of respect for genuine sceptics in our society. Fundamentally, scepticism is healthy. All real scientists will agree with this viewpoint, as far as I am aware. Scepticism is regarded very highly in science, in fact that is what drives much of it. It is the act of questioning the conventional wisdom and looking for evidence to support or change it.
The climate sceptics like to define themselves as “sceptics” because they question conventional wisdom. However, they are usually not interested in looking at the evidence for it, only at that against it. They are – or pretend to be – strangely blind to evidence that doesn’t suit them. If the evidence doesn’t suit them it is either disregarded or labelled as ‘corrupted’, attacking the integrity of our scientists. They will not listen to any alternatives to their locked in view.
Now, that is not being a sceptic. If they were genuine sceptics, they would be able to question the arguments they put forward themselves. As such, more accurate names for this category of voices in the debate would be: ‘climate science denialists’, ‘science doubt-spreaders’ and ‘science obfuscationalists’. To ‘obfuscate’ means to make obscure, unclear, blurred or unintelligible, to confuse and to muddy the waters. Which is exactly what they do.
A fact of life is that whether we – and the authorities – like it or not, and whether we call them sceptics or doubt-spreaders or whatever we call them, these questioning voices will always be there in an open society. Conspiracy-thinkers will as well. Conspiracy theories thrive better than ever now that we are all connected via the online media, social media, commentary threads.
How many times haven’t we seen various conspiracy theories crop up for instance about the attack on the Twin Towers in New York being organised by the US government itself – or that the first landing on the moon was all a theatre stunt? Or that the Holocaust never happened?
Predictions of a troubled future
With the climate scepticism I’ve often thought it would have to be treated differently than other types of scepticism because of who benefits economically from that scepticism. And because its consequences are so much more dire.
The waters have been muddied on purpose by economic interests who benefit directly from promoting and spreading doubt about the climate science and the transition to renewable energy sources. Climate science doubts and myths about renewables are directly fed by the propaganda material produced by individuals, institutions and organisations which are funded by the fossil fuel industry – whose owners have an obvious short-term economic interest in holding back the transition from fossils to renewables.
And yes, I know: This could begin to sound like yet another conspiracy theory right there. The link has however been well documented in books and films. Think tanks the like of Institute of Public Affairs, American Petroleum Institute and Heartland Institute have disclosed that they fund, support and promote climate denier material, and the research of climate denying ‘scientists’.
“The Koch Brothers estimated by Forbes to be worth US$44.2 billion each, have funneled mind-blowing sums through ‘charitable family trusts’ and ‘think tanks’ to influence policy and public opinion, planting seeds of uncertainty among the general public, and blocking attempts to regulate emissions, thereby ensuring that their pockets remain literally coated in oil.”
Margaret Hetherman in Scientific American on 16 August 2016
Narrated by esteemed actor Emma Thompson, the documentary The Doubt Machine: Inside the Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science reveals how the American Koch brothers have used their vast wealth to ensure the American political system takes no action on climate change.
People like senator Malcolm Roberts and One Nation in Australia, many of the Republican senators in America, Björn Lomborg and members of the Liberal Alliance party in Denmark, the Heartland Institute, the Institute of Public Affairs, and numerous others – they are all very busy spreading the message that we don’t have a problem with our climate, or that climate change is not man-made, and that in any case we shouldn’t worry about the fact that humanity pollutes the atmosphere with some 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, we should just continue allowing the fossil fuel industries to treat our common atmosphere as if it was an open sewer, free of charge… as if anybody but the industry itself would benefit from this arrangement. Their take is that the CO2 is not ‘pollution’ but is good for plant life – which it is, of course, but unfortunately that doesn’t stop it causing more warming as well.
Many of these ‘climate doubt-spreaders’ don’t deserve to be called ‘sceptics’. Some are professional ‘climate trolls’ with a specific fossil fuel industry-defined agenda, others are individual ‘climate laggards’ who simply take inspiration from the trolls.
Interactive map by 350.org shows how the fossil fuel industry’s donations to major parties drive climate inaction
» Read more on 350.org.au
» The Conversation – 16 September 2016:
Attacks on renewable energy policy are older than the climate issue itself
Craig Kelly MP wrote on his Facebook page on 29 August 2016:
“PROUD TO BE CALLED A “SKEPTIC”
I thank my colleagues for appointing me as Chairman of the Coalition Backbench Committee for Energy & The Environment today.
And as for being a “skeptic” – it’s our duty to be skeptical.
As an member of Parliament, it’s my duty to question, to test the theory against empirical evidence, to consider alternate opinions, to be wary of unintended consequences and to keep an open mind.
And when it comes to groups that seek billions in subsidies from the taxpayer, I’m reminded by the words of Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations;
“The interest of [subsidy receivers] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public … The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order … ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined … with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men … who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public”
The alternate to being a skeptic is to wallow in groupthink, to be a sheep, or a lemming.
So I’m proud to be called a skeptic.
And it’s a sad inditement on our current political debate that some think it’s a derogatory term.”
» See also: Five solar and renewables facts – a response to Craig Kelly from Solar Citizens
The climate reality today
When it comes to climate change and what is at stake, my reference point is what I read in reputable science journals – which can be seen accurately reported in the more reliable media. I’d consider The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post among such media. On 10 August 2016, The Washington Post published an article with the headline: An epic Middle East heat wave could be global warming’s hellish curtain-raiser.
Now, there’s a headline that would raise some eyebrows, you’d think. The article reads on:
“Record-shattering temperatures this summer have scorched countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and beyond, as climate experts warn that the severe weather could be a harbinger of worse to come.
In coming decades, U.N. officials and climate scientists predict that the mushrooming populations of the Middle East and North Africa will face extreme water scarcity, temperatures almost too hot for human survival and other consequences of global warming.
If that happens, conflicts and refugee crises far greater than those now underway are probable, said Adel Abdellatif, a senior adviser at the U.N. Development Program’s Regional Bureau for Arab States who has worked on studies about the effect of climate change on the region.
“This incredible weather shows that climate change is already taking a toll now and that it is — by far — one of the biggest challenges ever faced by this region,” he said.”
Or how about this headline from the British paper The Guardian, another reliable news source, on 18 August 2016: Time to listen to the ice scientists about the Arctic death spiral
“The Arctic’s ice is disappearing. We must reduce emissions, fast, or the human castastrophe predicted by ocean scientist Peter Wadhams will become reality”
…along with this one:
» The Guardian – 22 August 2016:
Historical documents reveal Arctic sea ice is disappearing at record speed
“Summer Arctic sea ice is at its lowest since records began over 125 years ago”
I tend to get upset about this kind of climate news, because what it shows to me is that we are already losing the fight. On Facebook I consequently press the ‘Angry’ response-button when I see this type of posts, because I am angry at these cynical, rich people in the oil-gas-coal industry who – as far as I can see – are the only reason this kind of totally unfair and unnecessary climate crisis is allowed to go ahead and will mess up our lives, possibly brutally kill millions of innocent victims of conflict and starvation, only because these selfish oil-gas-coal barons wanted to protect their own short-term economic interests, while they ignore the consequences their industry will have even for their own children, and for generations to come.
I mean, if war crimes are punishable, why isn’t this an immense crime against humanity? Bringing so much misery upon so many people worldwide should be a matter for the courts, as far as I am concerned. It may be punishable in the future – but sadly it won’t do the already damaged climate any good by then.
To pollute is an evil act, no matter how you look at it. And this is what places the global warming conspiracy theories in an entirely different category than any other kind of conspiracy theory as long as it promotes these evil – I would say: criminal – companies who profit from polluting, and who totally disregard the damage they do.
In America, six corporations – Comcast, Disney, Fox, Time Warner, Viacom, and CBS – control 90 per cent of all media in the country, and their reporting is heavily influenced by fossil fuel – the largest source of wealth in the United States. Herein lies another part of the problem, in Australia as well.
“Denial is something that allows us sometimes to get through the day. And in some cases that’s really good, that’s adaptive, but in other cases it’s going to kill you … and this one’s going to kill you.”
Dr Van Susteren
The lying game
Up till now, deliberately spreading lies and misinformation about renewable energy, climate change and global warming has been such an easy game. One reason is that these are complicated topics that require time consuming analysis and explanations from experts and scientists. So anyone who has a vested interest in the fossil fuel industry is able to spread a false rumour – for instance that ‘the science isn’t settled’ or that something which is cheap is actually expensive – and they will get away with it because some scientists don’t see it as their job to enter that debate, while others are trying, but find it hard to be heard above all the ‘noise’. The way scientists are used to discussing these issues can be confusing for the general public and journalists who like ‘black-and-white’ statements. The media people don’t have the necessary insight to expose that they are lying, or – in some cases – they are mingling directly with the fossil fuel barons themselves. Not even our court system finds itself qualified to judge who is right or wrong in this.
Consequently, liars are not being held accountable for their dishonesty which instead is labelled as airing an ‘opinion’. In a democracy, obviously, everyone should be entitled and allowed to express their opinion. And so the lying game goes on, unchallenged. Climate doubt-makers and trolls are entitled to make up their own facts.
When the global temperatures keep rising year after year, and the data is being confirmed by meteorological institutions and global organisations around the world, you can simply claim that they are not, and some people who like to hear that will believe you. When you insist on it long enough, others will help you spreading the lie, because they actually believe it is not a lie. Or because there is a certain amount of status in ‘independent thinking’ and not trusting the authorities.
The fossil fuel industry picked up how brilliant the game works from the tobacco industry which successfully spread misinformation about whether smoking caused cancer, and which in this way was able to extend their profitable sales of tobacco for more than four decades as a result of this strategy.
I have often heard climate action activists label the climate deniers and anti-renewables crusaders as ‘fossil fools’, but the reality is that these so-called ‘fools’ actually know exactly what they are doing with their misinformation strategy, and that they are seeing some brilliant results from it.
Taking a look back at the history of mankind, circulating lies has often proved to be a lucrative business. Starting an argument which undermines people’s trust in the experts influences the democratically elected politicians and as a result, influences how billions of dollars flow in our society.
Writing the fossil barons off as ‘fools’ is a big mistake. In fact, it could be claimed that the climate activist movement is the one being fooled by them – along with the entire nation. The fossil barons are laughing at us all the way to the bank, just like the tobacco barons did back in the 1970s and 1980s.
The trouble with the Lying Game in the case of climate change and renewables is that the victims are not only some individual smokers, as was the case in the tobacco and cancer lying game – with climate change, the lies potentially will eventually be hurting millions and millions of innocent people who have not themselves contributed to the problem at all.
The smoking lies only affected those who smoke. The climate lies affect all of us whether we choose to believe them on not.
— Andrew Laird (@ReclaimAnglesea) April 1, 2016
The throwing graphs at one another
Those of us who trust the United Nations, the World Bank, NASA, CSIRO, and all the climate scientists who say that climate change threatens the safety and livelihood of the entire human population – and the very existence of numerous other species on our planet – we need to figure out how we deal with the misinformation, because it delays our transition to a cleaner, healthier and safer world without fossil fuels.
Regardless of how dangerous and damaging the anti-renewables and anti-science messages are, we can’t censor, ridicule or ignore them in the hope that this will make them ‘go away’. Sceptics, confusion-makers and conspiracy-thinkers will always be here. We must accept them and respect them as our fellow citizens. Greet them in our midst. But at the same time, when we disagree with what they say, we can’t just be silent about it either. We need to speak up – not to the trolls, laggards and doubt-spreaders, but to everyone else – about what is right and what is wrong. About what is science, what is misinterpreted science and what is fake science.
One quick example:
When referring to the temperature graphs, the climate trolls will pick a very short time interval in which there was actually little temperature rise, but completely ignore the larger picture that atmospheric temperatures are very variable and the trends must be looked at over several decades. Or they will claim, as Steven Capozzola does in his article NASA Successfully Eliminates the 1998 El Nino, that NASA’s temperature graphs are “based on a very distorted representation of temperature data.”
The trolls deliberately ignore that atmospheric temperatures are actually a very small part of the overall picture. Only about two per cent of the heat build up goes into the atmosphere, whereas over 90 per cent goes into the oceans. The ocean temperatures are showing a relentless increase which in fact appears to be accelerating.
Climate science is based on very sound basic physics which has been known for over 100 years. The increasing temperatures are simply evidence that the underlying science is sound. It is also based on paleo evidence which clearly shows a strong link between CO2 levels and temperatures and sea levels. So to pick out one very small part of a huge body of evidence and suggest that somehow that disproves all the rest is… well, in my view: incredibly deceptive.
Taking the discussion
Let me introduce you to one of my climate sceptic friends. In March 2015, I invited a well-known letter writer from Geelong, Alan Barron, to join us in the radio studio for a live interview about climate change and sea level rise, and about his productive letter-writing in the Geelong Indy, a weekly newspaper distributed free to most residents in the city.
Alan Barron must have had more than a hundred of his letters published in that newspaper, all with the same message of global warming not being a threat and renewable energy being a waste of money. What I learned from meeting Barron in the radio studio is that he is not one of the climate trolls – he is very dedicated to pinpointing where he believes the conventional wisdom of climate science goes wrong, and he spends a lot of time on reading up on the ‘alternative science’.
Since then, we have kept in touch via email since, and the other day, I decided to invite Alan Barron to be connected with me on Linkedin. On my linkedin profile I had recently posted this NASA-graph image and a short text:
“Australians: Look at that graph, this is no joke. Join us in our call for a climate emergency declaration
Ask the Australian parliament to declare a climate emergency and mobilise resources to restore a safe climate: Go to www.climatesafety.net and sign the Climate Emergency Petition. Afterwards, you could go and chill out on Facebook, starting with a satisfactory LIKE-click at the www.facebook.com/ClimateEmergencyMobilisation page. We can do this!”
Alan Barron accepted my invitation, and as my new Linkedin-friend, he was quick to comment on that, of course:
“The graph is misleading and does not reflect the true state of affairs. Even if it were true, high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere has a beneficial impact on the planet, not a negative one,” he wrote.
I responded back in the following way:
“I suppose time will tell whether the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are having a beneficial impact on our planet or not. My fear is that you are wrong.
What I hear scientists, including NASA’s, CSIRO’s and the World Meteorological Organization’s scientists, warning us about is that our CO2 emissions – which accumulate in the atmosphere at the rate of some 40 billion tons of extra CO2 up there every year, adding, when looking at the entire atmosphere, an extra two parts per million every year – those 40 billion annual tons of greenhouse gases raise the average temperature of the Earth significantly, and that this is the explanation to why we’re seeing more extreme weather events with flash floods, droughts, heat waves, bush fires, dying coral reefs, and so on.
When I open the tv news and almost every day am introduced to images of weather chaos from some new place on the planet, it looks to me as if those scientists know exactly what they are talking about.
I was recently in Denmark where everyone feels the impact of climate change as something very real and not very beneficial. Flash floods are impacting everyone, and the Danes are now changing their infrastructure to prepare for this new reality, at the same time as they plan for their cities to become carbon-neutral within the next 10-15 years.
That is a concrete response that makes sense to me.
By the end of the day, we pick up our knowledge from those that we trust. On this one, Alan, it boils down to whether we think we should trust scientific bodies such as NASA, CSIRO and all the other scientific and meteorological organisations and institutions who say the same – or… you.
More on the same topic here.”
On email, I received a reply from Alan Barron, saying:
“Temperatures are in steady decline
Snow right across many European nations + UK in JULY
Sth American snows and deaths from cold
USA states with snow in july also,
and we have warmist cretins bleating its highest temp ever really!”
…and then Alan included a link to this article:
» Watts Up With That – 22 July 2016:
Is the Reuters “news” agency committing fraud?
I thought of replying to him with this link and these illustrative graphs from Bloomberg:
» Bloomberg – 24 June 2015:
What’s warming the world/
… but didn’t get around to it, though. Truth is that I don’t think it really matters what Alan and I might write or say to each other: Neither of us are going to change our minds about who we can trust, and about what is right and wrong in this debate. And we both know that.
It is a never-ending discussion which neither of us will win. Consequently, those of us who are eager to see some fast progress with the transition away from fossil fuels need to think carefully about how we spend our time, and who we spend it with.
That doesn’t mean, at least in my view, that Alan and I can’t be friends, and that we can’t keep exchanging graphs and links with one another in a friendly and respectful manner. So I hope we will keep doing that, even after he’s read this blogpost.
Who’s being fooled by who?
Evidence stacks up that the transition away from old and polluting energy technologies over to modern, non-polluting energy generation methods has been delayed for decades in most countries around the world, and this has nothing to do with technology or economy, and everything to do with vested interests and corporate influence over governments’ policy making.
It is a sad story for our democracy. The normal and natural transition we have seen happening with other technologies, such as our phones and computers, photos, films and music, is not happening in the field of energy generation technologies – even though it makes every bit of sense to start that transition, economically, health-wise, and, in particular, climate-wise.
There is no other reason for that than the influence of powerful and wealthy lobby groups with stakes in the fossil fuel industry.
The inevitable transition away from polluting energy generation has been moving as slowly as it has, in spite of how important that particular transition is, because the world’s governments continue to subsidise the fossil fuel industries, and only allocates around two per cent of its research funding into the renewables area – something which ‘screams to the sky’, as we say in Danish, when we know at the same time that a climate emergency is coming at us at really fast speed.
Through decades, the misinformation machinery has successfully managed to influenced us all, the general public and our elected leaders, to ignore the global disaster which is linked to the damage we are doing to our climate by increasing the greenhouse effect.
The extreme weather events and climate disruption, dying reefs, droughts and the rest. Disasters which increase the risk of an out-of-control refugee crisis in a world where armed conflicts over food, water and resource scarcity are likely to kill more people than the extreme weather events will in themselves.
And who is paying the bill for all this damage and destruction? You and I are. No one is charging the responsible energy barons. And if we believe what the climate scientists are warning us these days, our children will be paying a much higher bill in the decades to come.
» The Australian – 20 July 2016:
Business blows up as turbines suck more power than they generate
“The sapping of power by the turbines during calm weather on July 7 at the height of the crisis, which has caused a price surge, shows just how unreliable and intermittent wind power is for a state with a renewable energy mix of more than 40 per cent.”
Michael Owen, The Australian’s SA Bureau Chief
The Australian misinformation machinery
It’s easy to spread confusion over something as complicated as climate science and models about future developments. You are more likely to get caught in the act of lying when talking about what is happening in our energy sector here and now. How clearcut the misinformation and manipulation is in the Australian media was exposed in the beginning of July 2016, when the sharp spike in electricity prices in South Australia made the country’s long-time critics of renewable energy launch yet another anti-renewables crusade.
South Australia is the state with the highest per capita penetration of wind and solar technologies in the country. Its Northern Power Station is scheduled to be shut down, and when that happens, South Australia will become the first mainland state to become coal free. Apparently, there is a groups of energy lobbyists in this country who don’t like the tune of that.
Why gas prices are through the roof
Interview with analyst Bruce Robertson about rampaging gas prices and Australia’s gas cartel who have been driving the myth of a gas shortage. Posted on youtube.com on 5 August 2016.
Energy market misinformation in the Geelong Indy
One such anti-renewables crusader was Ralph Huisman from Belmont in Geelong, who wrote in The Indy on 22 July 2016 that,
“The South Australia energy market has become volatile and extremely expensive for industries due to heavy investment in renewable energies, mainly wind and solar power. BHP Billiton and Arrium recently warned of shutdowns in the state due to high energy prices and unreliable base-load supply. State Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has asked for mothballed fossil fuel power stations to be brought on line to bolster SA’s depleted energy supply, fearing an exodus of local businesses. Business SA policy director Anthony Penney stated that, without stability and price competitiveness, manufacturing would cease. Australia has jobs crises, not an imaginary climate change crisis.”
Ralph Huisman was far from alone in airing these kind of views. There were numerous others writing similar nonsense in Australian newspapers, some of which are notorious for spreading the myths that renewables are “expensive”, that people get sick from wind turbines, that climate change scientists are ‘alarmists’ or ‘corrupted’, and so on.
Politicians were quick to respond to the media lies. Liberal Senator Chris Back called for a ban on new wind farms until after a review by the Productivity Commission. Senator Nick Xenophon’s party stated that they are backing a Senate inquiry.
“There should be no further subsidies paid for an intermittent and unreliable power source that can be seen as as proven failure.”
Chris Back, Senator
Countering the spin and misinformation
The truth was that South Australia energy minister Tom Koutsantonis had said the national energy market is a train-wreck because it has refused to keep pace with new technologies, and takes no account of environmental outcomes, not because of its growing reliance on renewables.
The truth was that renewables were not to blame at all. Price gouging from gas generators was to blame, along with a decision not to build an interconnector to New South Wales to deliberately keep profit margins high.
But who got to hear that? Far too few Australians probably noticed that the renewables experts at RenewEconomy took time to explain about the truth. RenewEconomy wrote:
“The real causes of the recent electricity price spikes, according to the Australian Energy Regulator, the South Australian government and independent analysts, have not been wind and solar at all, but the huge jumps in gas prices to record highs, cold weather in the eastern states, and supply constraints in the network.
The main interconnector between Victoria and South Australia has been constrained, gas prices in South Australia have been at record highs, double the price elsewhere and up to six times last year’s average, and as this occurred a large amounts of fossil fuel capacity was also not available.
Indeed, eight of the biggest coal plants in the country have had units offline recently, because of maintenance and repair at various times. In the industry, this is known as “outage season”. In the case of Loy Yang A and Loy Yang B, capacity was lost, sometimes at short notice, because of unexpected fuel supply and quality issues.
On top of this, the most efficient gas plant in South Australian was withdrawn from service just weeks before the Northern power station closed, and other gas plants were withdrawn at various times because either they were “not economic to run”, or because they “tripped” due to faults in their equipment.
The combined capacity of the unavailable fossil fuels was twice that of the total capacity of the wind farms. The AER, in the reports it has done to date, has been clear that the unexpected outages at coal and gas-fired power stations, along with the surging gas prices, have been responsible for the biggest spikes in power prices.
The South Australian government called it a “perfect storm”. Indeed, if someone was trying to manufacture a crisis (and we are not suggesting for a moment that anyone was) they couldn’t have organised it any better, failing having the actual lights go out (which they didn’t).
The critics, however, were relentless, and used the media to demonise South Australia’s “electricity experiment” as pure folly and a recipe for financial disaster.
The ideologues in the Murdoch press need little encouragement, but they got it anyway from the conservative Coalition, the fossil fuel lobby, and other vested interests that would prefer to protect the status quo of a heavily centralised grid controlled by just a few powerful players.
But far from being a sign of failure, the events of the past few weeks simply highlight the limits to fossil fuel generation, the danger of relying on variable cost fuels, and explains exactly why the South Australian government is pushing so hard to break its reliance on expensive gas and shake the market dominance of a few powerful energy incumbents.”
» RenewEconomy – 17 August 2016:
Fossil fuel industry holding Australian economy to ransom
» RenewEconomy – 2 August 2016:
South Australia takes on networks over soaring grid charges
» RenewEconomy – 27 July 2016:
Attack on renewables fatuous, misleading and ideological
» RenewEconomy – 25 July 2016:
Why fossil fuel industry needs South Australia “experiment” to fail
Relatively few newspapers and online media countered the lies.
The conservative paper Financial Review, which is reputed for printing one pro-fossil fuel article after another, and which said in an editorial that “The South Australian Labor government’s rush into renewable energy, particularly wind power … has helped generate a surge in South Australian electricity prices”, however, was able to see through this spin – or at least to publish the truth about it – as they did on 25 July 2016 when they published this op-ed by Richard Denniss:
» Financial Review – 25 July 2016:
Renewable energy facts are not much fun
The Age were onto the issue as well:
“First they were supposed to be destroying birds, then your sleep, Now they’re being blamed for electricity prices – for the record, none of it is true.”
Peter Martin, in The Age
» The Age – 27 July 2016:
Coal is behind the attacks on wind turbines. It’s fighting for its life
…and The Guardian covered the story extensively, highlighting the market manipulation:
“Analysis of temporary jump in prices in South Australia showed generation capacity far exceeded demand, pointing to market manipulation”
» The Guardian – 18 August 2016:
Energy companies withholding supply to blame for July price spike, report finds
» The Guardian – 27 July 2016:
Labor says blaming electricity price surge on renewable energy ‘misleading’
» The Guardian – 27 July 2016:
South Australia’s ‘absurd’ electricity prices: renewables are not to blame
Why this concerns us all
Another letter-writer published in The Indy on 22 July 2016, Tim Saclier from Leopold, got away with claiming that South Australia “can’t supply its customers” because the state has invested in wind power, that renewables are “incapable of replacing fossil fuels” (because they lack “base-load capacity” – another classic myth repeated among anti-renewables crusaders), and that global temperature measurements according to Saclier show “little if any uptrend in the past 18 years”.
Really? Here are two recent graphs from NASA and NOAA on global temperature measurements, sadly telling a very different, and actually very dramatic, story about what is now recognised as a planetary emergency:
And there is more climate-doom graphs and illustrations, if you like, in this Vox-article:
» Vox – 26 August 2016:
Scientist finds clever new way to represent same old depressing climate trends
The World Meteorological Organization uses datasets from NOAA, NASA GISS, the UK’s Met Office and reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting to calculate global temperature statistics for its annual state of the climate report. Tim Saclier, however, uses nothing but his fingers to type whatever he pleases, and The Indy gladly distributes his misinformation.
When one chooses to cherry pick the data which suits a certain message and then leave off the inconvenient bits it is tantamount to lying. The graphs which are provided by websites such as Watts Up With That’s which are what Andrew Bolt and others keep referring to, have so obviously been deliberately cherry picked, squashed and then stretched that it is clearly a case of deliberately misleading.
Week after week, year after year, when it comes to climate change and global warming, readers are being deceived with “facts” such as these which were published in The Indy on 22 July 2016.
My persistent letter-writing friend Alan Barron was quick to follow up on this. He had a letter published by The Indy the following week, on 29 July 2016:
I learned when we were organising an ‘Act on Climate Festival’ in Geelong in 2015 that the editor-in-chief and at least one of the journalists of The Indy personally support the distorted view point that “climate science isn’t settled”. The same view is being promoted by the numerous senators in the Coalition who have a background in the fossil fuel industry.
Chief climate troll Malcolm Roberts, for instance, the new Queensland One Nation senator who demands a climate science “fraud” inquiry, is a man of the industry. He started his career in the coal industry as a mining engineer all the way back in the 1970s, and he was a safety manager at a company such as Rio Tinto Coal.
With his new position as senator, science-denying Roberts has – in Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hannam’s words – been “granted a regular perch to air his nonsense, serving a useful purpose for those wanting to delay or reverse action to curb consumption of coal, oil and gas.”
» Sydney Morning Herald – 16 August 2016:
Malcolm Roberts leaves NASA ‘flummoxed’ with Q&A climate claims
» Graham Readfearn’s profile of Malcolm Roberts and friends:
When Senator Malcolm Roberts thanked 9/11 truthers and New World Order conspiracists for their science guidance
“If you are a former coal miner, like [One Nation senator from Queensland, Australia] Malcolm Roberts, it is perhaps easier to accuse climate scientists of colluding to create a world government (whatever that is) than to accept the need to take coal out of our economy. There is now ample research showing the link between science denial and conspiracism. This link is supported by independent studies from around the world. Indeed, the link is so established that conspiracist language is one of the best diagnostic tools you can use to spot pseudoscience and science denial.”
“Roberts has again aired his claim that there is “no empirical evidence” for climate change. But “show us the evidence” has become the war cry of all forms of science denial, from anti-vaccination activists to creationists, despite the existence of abundant evidence already.”
Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol
Standard denier techniques
There is a huge amount of evidence in thousands of papers published in the world’s key science journals such as Nature and Science. To suggest that there is no evidence simply shows complete and utter ignorance of the subject.
The bottom line of all this discussion back and forth is that the voices of various trolls, deniers, sceptics and doubt-spreaders such as Huisman, Saclier, Barron, Bolt, and the pack of denial-supportive newspaper editors and journalists who – some times secretly, at other times openly – back them up, are not going to go away any time soon, in particular not as long as the same views are being promoted by senators in parliaments and by wealthy fossil fuel lobby organisations.
Climate trolls, deniers and sceptics cannot be ‘defeated’ on the media battleground with scientific arguments. The more you argue against them, or point at NASA’s graphs, as Cox did in the ABC’s Q&A, the more street-credit and the more supporters they will get for their counter-viewpoints. Arguing directly with deniers is not going to change their minds or make them stop promoting the misinformation. On the contrary, arguments is exactly what energises these people. It is what keeps them going.
So, here is my take on this issue:
What we need to spend more time on is to make ordinary citizens, the so-called ‘silent majority’, see clearly that there is no middle ground in this debate. It is conventional science – and all that that means – on one side, versus all-out conspiracy theory on the other.
The middle ground – the so-called ‘sceptical’ platform – provides a place for people to sit on the fence. When we make that middle ground disappear, then people will have to make more of a conscious choice. They might even begin to stand up for that choice.
As we have seen it happen through history many times – Europe in the 1930s is one example – “bad things happen when good people say nothing”. This is no different in the Climate Lying Game.
According to polls, Australia does have a silent majority who are able to see through the fossil fuel industry’s spin and lies, but who, unfortunately, choose to remain silent about it. They don’t see it as their role to speak up against the climate trolls in public.
I guess that this means that if you, dear reader, made it this far through this blogpost and find yourself as a part of that ‘silent majority’, then this is that moment when you are to make up your mind and choose sides.
If you choose to go with the science, then you must do it more openly and outspokenly from now on. Mention it to your friends, family, colleagues. Write about it where you can. Spend less time on explaining the data, the graphs and the figures – instead spend more time explaining the underlying mechanisms and reasons for this entire so-called “debate”. Explain the Climate Lying Game. Expose the fossil fuel industry’s dishonesty and the media’s lack of credibility. Do what’s possible to make as many as possible around you understand why this knowledge is critical.
Rebutting the climate deniers’ technical arguments with the science will not stop the fossil fuel industry’s spin and lies – nor the individual deniers who confuse spin with facts. Exposing the standard denier techniques will be more productive.
The Conversation did it recently in this piece:
» The Conversation – 10 August 2016:
The Galileo gambit and other stories: the three main tactics of climate denial
Talk about other facts
We must continuously provide everyone around ourselves, and the media as well, with indisputable facts that empower the individual to make his or her own conclusions. And when I say ‘facts’, I mean other facts than those about our climate and the warming of the planet. I mean facts such as that…
• regardless whether we like it or not, the Victorian Labor government has pledged to get the state to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with the release of a series of five-year interim climate change policies and programs.
This being the case, wouldn’t it suit The Indy to spend a bit of its time and column space on reporting on what this actually means for citizens in Geelong and for our general outlook on the energy and carbon emission issues?
• the media attack on South Australia’s renewable energy was strikingly fact-free and had a fossil fuel financed agenda.
At the same time there are numerous great examples to report about from around the world showcasing exactly how the transition to 100% renewables creates economical gains, technological progress, new jobs, cleaner air, and what’s most important: healthier, happier citizens.
In the US, for instance, renewables in 2013 supported nearly 200,000 jobs, provided US$5.2 billion worth of health benefits through improved air quality and resulted in global climate benefits of US$2.2 billion, according to a report from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (That was three years ago, figures are higher today, read more). The renewables technology works and it’s getting less and less expensive every year. The mayor of Salt Lake City in the United States put it this way:
“We can tackle this challenge and deliver clean energy solutions that will simultaneously improve air quality, protect public health, and deliver local jobs. Leading on climate change today is an obligation we all share with each other and to future generations.”
Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City Mayor, on launching the city’s initiative to transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2032 and reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2040. ACHR News: Salt Lake City Commits to 100% Renewable Energy by 2032 – more on www.slcgreen.com/climatepositive
In Oregon the state passed legislation that requires utilities to stop generating electricity from coal by 2030, and the cost savings of switching from coal to renewables are real. Yes, utility rates will increase by 0.1 per cent, a 10-cent rate increase for every current $100 in electricity costs, but then again, the benefits to the environment and community health are worth so much more, if only they were included in the calculation.
» Take Part – 11 August 2016:
Oregon Finds Switching From Coal to Renewable Energy Is a Bargain
Replacing coal-fired electricity with ever-cheaper wind and solar power will raise utility rates just 0.1 percent by 2030.
• if you have to talk about data and figures, you could still mention that according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), June 2016 was the hottest June since records began in 1880, and that the month marked the 14th month in a row of record-breaking temperatures. Same story with July.
The newest findings of official and well-respected agencies and institutions such as NASA, NOAA, Bureau of Meteorology and the World Meteorological Organization all document the fact that we are facing a climate emergency. The World Meteorological Organization, for instance, reported on 21 July 2016 that Global climate breaks new records January to June 2016.
According to NOAA, in 2015, our greenhouse gases were the highest on record, global surface temperature the highest on record, sea surface temperatures the highest on record, global upper ocean heat content the highest on record, global sea level the highest on record, the Arctic continued to warm, global ice and snow cover declined, tropical cyclones were well above average overall, and so on.
Read more in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report, State of the Climate 2015. It explains that we are in fact destroying the planet we live on, even though we have nowhere else to go. In August 2016, 154 Australian scientists wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the climate crisis, calling “on the Australian government to tackle the root causes of an unfolding climate tragedy and do what is required to protect future generations and nature, including meaningful reductions of Australia’s peak carbon emissions and coal exports, while there is still time.”
• the Democratic Party platform in the United States now recognises the climate emergency. We are still to see if or how this will influence American politics, but it is a significant change of direction at ground level of one of Americas two biggest parties. In Australia, the Greens stand with 24 prominent Australians calling for emergency action on global warming.
…and so on.
Below I have furthermore pasted five relevant solar and renewables facts which Solar Citizens contributed with recently.
These are facts, and they are facts which need to get out there much more frequently.
In this debate, confidence is key. This is a time where people of honesty and integrity must have confidence in their convictions, stand up for their values and both expose and refuse the dishonesty, misinformation, manipulation, confusion, doubt-spreading, trolling and lack of credibility whenever and where ever it crops up.
There has never been a more important time to be an active participating citizen who openly confronts and challenges the deceptions we are being flooded with.
The spreading of misinformation has been left unchallenged for much too long. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’, was the advice I got from the Climate Council, for instance, when I asked them why they don’t speak up against the outrageous misinformation which Andrew Bolt has been spreading in various Australian papers.
An authority such as the Australian Press Council doesn’t see the misinformation presenting any problem or offence either. “Everybody is free to voice their opinion,” is their view.
Which, really, leaves it up to people like you and me – and everyone else who have understood what is going on here – to speak up. Say something.
Like with climate change itself, the issue of ‘climate trolling’ is considered too big to grasp. I reckon the persons who run the Australian Press Council regard it as an impossible task to do something about climate trolling as long as there are entire media outlets out there backing up the climate trolling and spreading of deliberate misinformation.
As a result, the so-called ‘debate’ about whether climate change is a hoax, whether NASA is corrupt and whether global warming has ‘paused’ in the last 18 years is being repeated over and over again in the Herald Sun, The Australian, The Indy and similar papers.
We can’t stop that. But we sure as hell can speak up against it, call it out, and keep knocking on the doors of the Australian Press Council – and we can use our social media channels to let everyone know that this is in no way acceptable any longer. As the truth about the trolling mechanisms becomes obvious to more and more people, it will eventually be cornered and disregarded for what it is: noise.
We don’t live in a fair and just world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up for fairness and justice. Spreading lies to deliberately mislead and confuse others about complex issues such as climate change is unfair to the victims of the disaster which is already unfolding. It is an immoral act, in some instances even a criminal act. In particular when this is done at editorial level by a tv station or a newspaper.
With climate change affecting more and more people around the planet every day, it can no longer be considered acceptable to be openly lying about statistics, data figures and the effect of policies around the issues of climate change, global warming, and renewable energy. Or to be passing on manipulated messages on these topics. We must insist that our media editors deem it necessary to check claims made about what really are scientific facts with scientists who actually know something about them. We need education about the science, we need a deeper understanding of the issues, we need them explained and illustrated over and over again.
Back to health
And as for my relationship with the health authorities, which I mentioned in the beginning of this blogpost… Well, over the years, I’ve made friends with the doctors again. Of course we can be friends, both professionally and in private, even though we don’t agree on whether diet has an effect or not.
As it is in our personal relationships and in the game of politics, there is a lot of value to learning the skill of being able to “agree to disagree” and get along even so.
I’ve learned to respect the fact that not everyone is cured by the diet that cured me, and that there might be more unknown factors in this discussion than either the doctors or I have yet recognised.
I have learned that being a genuine sceptic also means being open to question – and keep testing – my own conviction.
I no longer see as many conspiracies as I did then. But I am glad I’ve remained a ‘health science sceptic’, critical of the ties between the doctors and the medicine industry, because I truly believe the message of what diet can do for our health has saved my life at one point, and may have for many others as well.
I have learned that one key element in getting healthier when you are sick is that you feel optimistic and confident about taking control of your own life, your own body and its specific needs. Confidence and a mature, positive attitude is also the best medicine against the climate denial disease which has spread in the Australian society.
Thanks to Keith Burrows, Climate Science for Sceptics, for links and inspiration.
While you are at it, also read:
» The New York Times – 12 September 2016:
The Next Genocide
“Denying science imperils the future by summoning the ghosts of the past.”
~ Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University
» Science Direct – February 2013:
Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?
In a new thesis in psychology, titled ‘Ideological roots of climate change denial: Resistance to change, acceptance of inequality, or both?’, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial. The results show that individuals who accept hierarchical power structures tend to a larger extent deny the problem.
» Media release about the report: The Psychology Behind Climate Change Denial
The Doubt Machine
New documentary on the Koch Brothers – two of the most significant agents mitigating against action on climate change:
The Doubt Machine: Inside the Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science
Narrated by esteemed actor Emma Thompson, the documentary “The Doubt Machine: Inside the Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science” reveals how the Koch Brothers have used their vast wealth to ensure the American political system takes no action on climate change, and are attempting to buy the 2016 Congressional elections.
UN cancels all further action on climate change after internet commenter exposes it as a hoax
“The United Nations announced today that any and all action and/or conferences focusing on climate change will immediately cease. The announcement comes after the UN read several comments on climate change articles on the internet.
“Wow, we were way, way off,” said Dr. Chris Eula of the UN. “It’s really sad so many scientists wasted their careers studying climate change and climate science only to find out that the whole thing was a giant hoax.”
Everything began to unravel after a recent article in the New York Times about how malaria may make its way to North America in the next few decades. Malaria, a disease typically found in tropical climates, is very rare in cooler, more temperate zones.
“After reading that article I made my way down to comments and was blown away,” recalls Dr. Eula. “There must have been at least 30 or 40 commenters who all said climate change was fake, a hoax perpetuated by scientists to make money or something like that. A few of them had the word “FACT” written in all caps after their statements too. And if I know anything about the internet its that you can’t write the word FACT unless it is true.”
Several nations, including the United States and Canada, have also stopped all research into climate change after they were made aware of the comments.
The latest projections show that an estimated 1400 scientists across the globe will be out of work in the next few months.”
» Source: The Science Post
About climate science, see:
» Climate Science for Sceptics:
» Skeptical Science:
About denial and misinformation, see also:
» Centre for Climate Safety:
Climate misinformation thrives in Australian media
“The etymology of scepticism implies enquiry and reflection, not dismissiveness.”
» The Guardian – 14 November 2012:
Skeptics and scepticism
“Should we be concerned that some Skeptics do not seem to understand the meaning of scepticism?”
— Andrew Laird (@ReclaimAnglesea) August 20, 2016
Five handy solar and renewables facts
Here’s what Aimee, Communications and Digital Campaigns Manager at Solar Citizens, had to say about Craig Kelly’s anti-solar statements:
“Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes and newly appointed Liberal chairman of the Coalition’s environment and energy committee, has come out swinging against solar. He’s saying “[solar] is on [the] periphery and having so little effect” and “by subsidising the cost of solar, that puts upward pressure on electricity prices.” 
Yep, he basically said that the solar on 1.5 million rooftops across Australia isn’t working.
I’d be laughing if I wasn’t so angry. We’ve heard these lies about solar before, but the fact that they’re coming from a Minister, and one who chairs the environment and energy committee no less, really gets my goat.
Here are some handy facts you can share with Mr Kelly:
- Australians have invested $8 billion of their own money in rooftop solar over the last 8 years and now save around $1 billion in electricity bills each year 
- In 2016, Australia’s rooftop solar systems will prevent over 6.3 million tonnes of carbon pollution harming our environment 
- There are now 19,000 people employed in the solar industry, that’s far more than in coal and gas electricity generation 
- Craig Kelly’s own electorate, Hughes, has 9,500 voters who live in solar powered homes who save over $2.9 million on their power bills 
- If we transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 we’d actually save $90 billion 
Seems like solar is working pretty well to me!
You can also share our State of Solar 2016 report with Mr Kelly, which shows just how much Australia, with the highest uptake of rooftop PV in the world, is benefitting from the solar boom.
Attitudes like Craig Kelly’s are one of the reasons why the Coalition wants to cut $1 billion of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s funding, and send Australia back to the Dark Ages. We need our political leaders to champion solar, not bad-mouth it.
Yours in sunny determination,
Communications and Digital Campaigns Manager
P.S. The Federal government wants to slash $1 billion in funding from ARENA – can you email your local Coalition representatives using our easy online tool? If you’ve already emailed them, can you share the action with family and friends?
 Coalition environment committee chairman takes aim at solar subsidies, The Guardian, 31 August 2016
 Australians have spent almost $8bn on rooftop solar since 2007, says report, The Guardian, 22 June 2016
 The State of Solar 2016, Solar Citizens, p. 13 – 14
 Solar Scorecard – Hughes, Solar Citizens, July 2016
 Modelling shows move to 100% renewable energy would save Australia money, The Guardian, 19 April 2016
Letters to the editor
The local Geelong paper The Indy published the following letters to the editor on 16 and 23 September 2016: