06 November 2009

Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Chilling Speech

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has given the most chilling speech (PDF here) with respect to open policy debate that I have ever heard from a leader of a democratic country. The focus of his speech is on "climate change deniers." Who are these people? They include people who are skeptical of climate change science, but remarkably, they also include people who believe that climate change is real and a problem, but disagree with the Prime Minister's preferred policy approach. Rudd states that "climate change deniers" fall into one of three categories:
· First, the climate science deniers.

· Second, those that pay lip service to the science and the need to act on climate change but oppose every practicable mechanism being proposed to bring about that action.

· Third, those in each country that believe their country should wait for others to act first.
He says of these groups:
As we approach the Copenhagen conference these groups of climate change deniers face a moment of truth, and the truth is this: we will need to work much harder to reach an agreement in Copenhagen because these advocates of inaction are holding back domestic commitments, and are in turn holding back global commitments on climate change.
Rudd uses extremely strong terms to characterize those who disagree with his policy prescriptions:
Climate change deniers are small in number, but they are too dangerous to be ignored. They are well resourced and well represented by political conservatives in many, many countries.

And the danger they pose is this by collapsing political momentum towards national and global action on climate change, they collapse global political will to act at all. They are the stick that gets stuck in the wheel, that despite its size may yet bring the train to a complete stop.

And that is what they want, because they are driven by a narrowly defined self interest of the present and are utterly contemptuous towards our children's interest in the future.

This brigade of do nothing climate change skeptics are dangerous because if they succeed, then it is all of us who will suffer.

Our children.

And our grandchildren.
Rudd explains why it is that the Copenhagen meeting may fail:
If Copenhagen does not deliver the outcome we so urgently need, no individual climate change skeptic will be responsible, but each of them will have played their part.
Rudd explains that there is no place in government for people holding these views, a position seemingly reinforced this week when the CSIRO stands accused of censoring a paper critical of the Australian ETS:
Climate change skeptics in all their guises and disguises are not conservatives. They are radicals.

They are reckless gamblers who are betting all our futures on their arrogant assumption that their intuitions should triumph over the evidence.

The logic of these skeptics belongs in a casino, not a science lab, and not in the ranks of any responsible government.
Can witch trials and pogroms be far behind? What bothers me about the speech is not so much the criticism of people who reject mainstream science. Fine, criticism of them as rolling the dice on a minority view is fair and appropriate. What bothers me is the explicit equation of people who question a policy's effectiveness or desirability with the idea of being a "denier" and thus being "dangerous." Rudd is openly conflating views on science with views on politics. Not only does this further the politicization of science, but it also make a mockery of democratic governance. Imagine if George W. Bush had given this same speech in 2003 but about people who deny the merits of his desired policy of going to war in Iraq. There would have been national and international outrage, and rightfully so.

Rudd may be trying to set the stage for domestic failure of the CPRS and more generally that in Copenhagen. But he is doing so in a way that stomps on the notion of democracy and the fact that people have different values and perspectives that can only be reconciled through the democratic process. An observer at the Lowy Institute (where the speech was given) said afterward (emphasis added):
The implication was that these descriptions applied to anyone who opposed the Government's climate change agenda — the PM seemed to admit of no possibility that anyone of good will could be opposed to that agenda.
That is a pretty good description of the climate debate. Demonizing one's opponents and calling their views "dangerous" is a first step down a path we don't want to go.


  1. Yet another naked strawman.

    The people attending at Copenhagen are those responsible for the decision. Newspaper opinion pieces, blog wars, books, speeches, movies, peer-reviewed literature, conferences, Big Fossil, etc, and the individuals who produce these don't even enter the picture. I wonder how his cohorts and colleagues at Copenhagen will receive his characterizations and labeling of them.

    Not to mention that in the case of the USA, doesn't this ultimately refer to the members of the House and Senate who are responsible for actually implementing policies? Again, everyman and the actions of everyman don't enter.

    The top-down, precautionary principle, just-do-something, and-only-we-know-the-only-viable-solution, approach, already responsible for several failures and ongoing debacles, has always been doomed to failure. And this well in advance, by several decades, of the additional failures and debacles guaranteed by the law of unintended consequences whenever just-do-something is implemented.

    Isn't it very likely that what we are seeing are the results of responsible people saying Wait a minute and thinking about what they are being asked to do.

  2. It doesn't surprise me... Rudd doesn't strike me as being very tolerant of dissent or opposition. A major problem in the climate debate is that almost noone expresses the policy choice as an issue of risk reduction. As the majority of scientists think signficant climate change is likely it seems foolish to ignore the possibility that they are correct even if you prefer arguments that suggest climate change will not be signficant. If we all thought like that consensus on doing something would be easier to achieve :)

  3. Rudd's speech reads exactly like Soviet propaganda directed against "counter revolutionary kulaks".

    We remember what happened to them, right?

  4. I think we need to call in the behavioral sciences here. I think there's a term for people who tell others

    "If you don't do what I want you to do, you are a bad person." Can't remember it, though.

  5. "The logic of these skeptics belongs in a casino, not a science lab, and not in the ranks of any responsible government"

    In my opinion, governments arguing for global warming tends to the tautological. Governments employ scientists, so they can be expected to agree when the issues are politically contentious.

  6. The word denier has a successsful history as we all know. Questioning the holocaust will usually evoke a strong negative emotional reaction. I assume that's why it is being used. To instill similar emotional programming in order to bypass intellectual analysis.

    Even left wing Jewish political activist Noam Chomsky was vilified for questioning the holocaust and writing the introduction to a book on the subject by French revisionist historian Robert Faurisson.


    George Monbiot has used very similar extreme language in his blogs. He has a background as a credible political activist although his father was vice chairman of the right wing Conservative party and his mother and grandfather are involved in right wing politics.

  7. When your detractors have a good argument. When you can’t argue your point against your detractors. When you can’t change the subject. Merely vilify your detractors. Gezzz. That strategy is getting really old!

  8. It's all politics. Scientific facts are irrelevant.

  9. I remember it now, it's called emotional blackmail..

    Here are some recommended responses to someone behaving this way..

    * That's your choice.
    * I know you're very angry right now. When you've had a chance to think about this, maybe you'll change your mind.
    * Why don't we talk about this again when you're less upset.
    * Threats/suffering/tears aren't going to work anymore.
    * I'm sorry you're upset.
    * You're entitled to your opinion.
    * I'm sure that's how it looks to you.
    * You may be right.
    * I knew you wouldn't be happy about this, but that's the way it has to be.
    * I here are no villains here. We just want different things.
    * I'm not willing to take more than 50 percent of the responsibility.
    * I know how upset/angry/disappointed you are, but it's not negotiable.
    * We see things differently.
    * I'm sure you see it that way.

    But my favorite for climate change stuff is
    * We'll never get anywhere if you keep insulting me.

    from http://www.angelfire.com/biz/BPD/blackmail.html

  10. Rudd sees failure. He knows it is a failure of governments not agreeing to act on something they all agree on: man-made global warming.

    Instead of finding fault with the process Rudd chooses to find a scapegoat to blame. Step forward the "skeptics", the very people who are ignored by the state and have been excluded from Copenhagen.

    This was how Rome behaved.

  11. So what do you call someone who campaigns on signing Kyoto then gets elected and immediately backs off as he is told the reality that it would tank the economy and he'd be to blame? Kevin Rudd!

    And what do you call someone in power but won't pass any mitigation legislation because he knows it is a vote loser to reduce GDP for zero benefit so he looks for someone not in power to take the blame? Kevin Rudd!

    And what do you call someone who harps on about children suffering from speculative but possible long term harm from CO2 increase but who apparently doesn't care one jot for the reality of children living now who would suffer because of higher fuel prices? Kevin Rudd!

    What an odious crew politicians truly are. The very idea of any politician attempting to be be holier than thou makes one vomit.

  12. I'm pretty sure these two statements are not logically equivalent:

    KR: Second, those that pay lip service to the science and the need to act on climate change but oppose every practicable mechanism being proposed to bring about that action.

    RPJ: they also include people who believe that climate change is real and a problem, but disagree with the Prime Minister's preferred policy approach.

    In fact, many people probably disagree with the preferred policy approach of the Prime Minister, but believe that there are ways to bring about action against climate change. These people would not be deniers under the KR definition but would be labelled deniers by the reinterpretation of the second type by RPJ.

  13. Rudd is a good little socialist, ever so nasty towards those who don't agree with him and always so believing in the need for big government programs, led of course by socialists on white horses, to rescue humanity from itself.

    Good fisking of Rudd's "4000 scientists can't be wrong meme"


  14. After reading the speech carefully, it sounds as if you don't agree that we need to act now (before Copenhagen) with the policy instrument he is talking about (which is the correct one, based on "evidence" and "science" including economic models of costs) then you are selfish, not interested in your grandchildren etc.

    I have a couple of problems with that.
    1) being in a hurry is a way of disenfranchising people with other views (I would consider your policy views, but we are in too much of a hurry).

    2) there is no reason that one year would make a difference in something that will take us many years to fix. It is a political decision to wait and get consensus or not. Conflating true deniers with, shall we call them, "disagreers" may be a rhetorical ploy so that you can make the case you will never bring them on board (deniers) so political and policy debates are fruitless- ergo we must immediately see 1) do what I think is right!

    3) Many people throughout the world are less trusting than a few years ago about global solutions involving the financial industry. I don't think the reality of these failures, and why we would trust the same kinds of people with our environment has been proven. Shutting off debate and attacking people's views doesn't increase trust, it has the opposite effect.

  15. Among the prominent skeptics of catastrophic AGW are Dr. Lindzen, Dr. Spencer, and Freeman Dyson. A group of 160 prominent physicists with impressive credentials recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate denying that there is a consensus in the scientific community regarding AGW.
    There are no doubt many people who are misinformed and irresponsible among climate skeptics. However, among the skeptics there is a significant group of well-respected scientists who are capable of evaluating the scientific issues. I think that the PM himself is a "denier" regarding the credible opposition to his position on scientific and policy grounds.

  16. "What bothers me about the speech is not so much the criticism of people who reject mainstream science. Fine, criticism of them as rolling the dice on a minority view is fair and appropriate"


    I would say that criticism is appropriate when someone clearly hasn't done their homework, whether you are talking about the science or the policy. Flat-earther's were 'mainstream' at one point, right?

  17. Roger concludes this post with: “That is a pretty good description of the climate debate. Demonizing one's opponents and calling their views "dangerous" is a first step down a path we don't want to go.”

    The second step down that path is to jail people who don’t stay in line. That dangerous path is not reserved for Climate laws. There have been multiple talking heads calling for criminal punishment for “deniers” (Yes Roger that’s you.) but today we have the punishment written into bills.

    The health care bill being voted on in the House today provides for up to five years imprisonment for not buying a government approved insurance policy.

    I’ve tried to watch C-Span today but all I get are ad hominem attacks fired back and forth across the aisle.

  18. Dr. Pielke,

    Totally off topic, but…

    1) My latest post addresses your as yet unkept promise.

    Out of both respect and courtesy, I wanted to give you every opportunity to respond.

    2) As you have -- twice now -- declined to publish my fully substantiated response to this comment (from Sharon F), I have suggested that your blog be added to the list at An Inconvenient Comment (along with my unpublished comment).

    We’ll see what happens. It is, of course, your right to moderate as you see fit. But, that one really surprised me (as did one other). If my first comment is published, I will offer up the second.


  19. SBVOR-

    A few points in response.

    First, this is my blog. And when I say that there are certain things I don't want to discuss I expect that you will respect that. I said that I would be happy to open a thread on the science of climate change, but that will happen on my schedule, not yours. Please do not force the issue.

    Second, I do not delete many comments and it seems that about 90% of those that I do delete come from you. And yet you are still one of the most frequent commenters here. If you don't like when I don't approve your comment, I suggest that you post it up on your own blog.

    Third, for you and anyone else. The best way to have your comment deleted here is to be disrespectful of others, call people names or generally post something way off topic.

    I have a very liberal comment policy and I'd like it to stay that way. You can help by not taking advantage of it. Fair enough?

  20. -19-Dr. Pielke,

    Sorry, I find your response particular unimpressive. I was respectful. You were not. I think you should have counted to 10 before offering such an emotional response. You’re better than that.

    1) I’ve waited over 3 months for you to keep YOUR freely offered promise. I have been patient, courteous and respectful as I waited. My take is that your life’s work is based upon this predicate. I would think you would already have a ready answer to the question.

    2) If you believe I was guilty of any of the offenses you imply, we will (hopefully) let An Inconvenient Comment sort it out. My (twice rejected) response to Sharon F absolutely, positively did NOT even come remotely close to meeting ANY of your implied allegations. But, I could see how you might find it particularly “inconvenient” -- politically speaking.

  21. Rudd's comments should be seen in their local context.

    Rudd has high public support. However, recently the issue of asylum seekers has come up. When asylum seekers are mentioned it appears that Rudd loses support. He is desperate to move attention away from the issue, making inflammatory comments on Climate Change, which is seen as an issue that divides the centre right opposition (Coalition) is seen as a good way to do that.

    The Rudd government is negotiating with the Coalition on the CPRS. The Coalition had a range of measures that were expensive. During the week it came out that the costing of the CPRS had to be changed and there was less money from it that could be used for amendments. The Coalition's amendments are thus put in question.

    Rudd will almost certainly win the next Australian election which must be before the early part of 2011. However, he probably doesn't want what is similar to a new tax ( the CPRS ) to go to the vote as it will lose him support.

  22. Maybe we need a taxonomy of disagreement on climate change to clarify our discussion.

    I. I propose "deniers" for people who don't believe that AGW has been proven to be a serious problem.
    these come in s) scientist and n) non-scientist forms

    Then there are climate "believers" II. who fall into two camps

    A) absolutely sure that catastrophic things will ensue from AGW without action
    B) not completely sure but willing to take action on the preponderance of evidence,

    Given that taxonomy, one would suppose that I's should be against all efforts.

    Whereas II A's and B's would not necessarily have different desired policies.

    Anyway, that is my hypothesis- that being more certain of climate change does not necessarily correlate with cap and trade as a solution. Perhaps Tom's survey will answer this question.

    I count myself as a II.B.s (actually I didn't design the system to be funny, that is an unintended beneficial consequence).

  23. SBVOR-

    My patience with you is wearing thin.

    If you don't like the generous comment policies here, you are free to expose my censoring of your work on your own blog (in fact I encourage you to do so, it would be very good for people to see the comments that I reject), which I assure you has been linked in the comments by you dozens of times.

    Should you continue disrupting my blog I will limit you to one comment per day as a first step. I don't expect to hear from you on this matter again.

  24. So if one follows one's intuition that recent warming is only a bit anomylous you would indeed be wrong since the *data* itself shows that the LONGEST running temperature station in Australia shows smooth cooling the entire century!


  25. -23-Dr. Pielke sez:

    “you are free to expose my censoring of your work on your own blog (in fact I encourage you to do so, it would be very good for people to see the comments that I reject)”

    Respectfully, I granted your wish.

    Now, will you note that I did so (by publishing this comment)?

    P.S.) I had no intention of disrupting your blog. I invited you to reply at my blog. You declined in favor of disrupting your own blog.

  26. Dr. Pielke,

    With apologies, the link in my previous comment changed when I deleted my original comment and submitted a new one. The new comment differed only in that I inserted one new link (the first one).

    Click here for the correct link to the comment.

  27. Granted that it is the role of politicians, not bloggers, to find the middle ground.

    Are there policy options that II As and Bs can buy off on? If that center holds, could there be options that even I's would agree to (like reducing dependence on foreign oil) to build a large enough coalition to move something forward?

    Perhaps nations should start by building consensus between IIA's and B's, and then attempting to bring on I's.

    Driving wedges between II A's and B's, even as a rhetorical device, by accusing IIB's of being allied with I's, would have its dangers if the goal is a public policy that 1) helps with the agreed upon (by II's) problem that 2) can get broad public support. In my opinion.

  28. -22-Sharon F,

    Surely you are aware that the term “deniers” very deliberately attempts to place people such as myself who, in your words, “don't believe that AGW has been proven to be a serious problem” on the exact same moral plane as those who deny the holocaust (I don’t).

    Given that, are you SURE you want to describe me as a “denier”?

    Click here for a brief summary of the directly peer reviewed science which informs my position.

  29. This is a typical demand from a politician. It is the duty of all scientists to be sceptical amd question all data and to repeat experiments and measurements to advance knowledge. Rudd's way would have us living in the Dark Ages, and I mean with all the lights out and living in caves.

  30. SBVOR . . we all know where to find your blog. If nobody goes there, if we chose to go here instead, you might want to conclude you are the problem not RP Jr. Your choice of course.

    If your blog sucks, if everyone just ignores it and you and your little rants, fix it.

    Don't bother wasting your time or ours playing tautology over here.

    RP Jr's blog works, it doesn't need fixing and doesn't need your petty, childish blog tantrums.

    Good by.

    RP Jr. . . . please don't feed the trolls. It just makes them come back for more.

  31. I am very proud to say I am doing my part to kill any chance of success atCopenahgen, or any other AGW dominated policy effort.

  32. Sharon,

    Your definition of deniers is too broad and you haven't defined what you mean by a "serious problem". If you want to bring any subset of I's on board, the policy will have to have some benefit even if the assumption is incorrect, i.e. "no regrets". Cap and trade is not a no regrets policy.

  33. Sharon F.
    Your proposal to clarify the language with the goal of reaching agreement on global warming looks to me to be made in good faith. Yes, yes, now follows the ‘but’.

    However; the first causality in a public conflict is the language. For example; in 1964 I was on a ship off of Viet Nam while American aircraft were flying “armed reconnaissance” missions over North Viet Nam because there was no authorization for bombing.

    Since people of good faith who agree with Prime Minister Rudd completely on the science, but advocate an alternate policy of controlling CO2 can’t be fairly demonized fairly they are given derogatory labels such as denier. If repeated often enough and loud enough the new meaning becomes accepted into the language.

    Since it’s impolite to impugn the motives of public figures let’s assume that Prime Minister Rudd simply doesn’t understand how to use the English language. No, no, now that would be impugn his intelligence. I guess we will have to accept the fact that Roger is a denier and that our faithful old Webster’s dictionary is obsolete.

  34. SBVOR-

    Pretty much just for you I have added a new link (look to the left) here titled "Rejected comments". If you think that I have rejected a comment unfairly, you are free to post it there.

  35. Ronald from QLD Australia send this in:

    "Oxford Dictionary -Radical : Fundamental, far reaching, thorough. Advocating fundamental reforms.

    I am an Australian radical. I know that CO2 is not a pollutant, but it is deemed so by the Prime Minister and his ilk. They intend to impose a permanent heavy tax by way of an Emissions Trading System.

    More CO2 in the atmosphere will do nothing but good for the plant life and hence all life on earth and in its vast oceans.

    Unfortunately we have an opposition leader who is also a keen ETS advocate. I think he will fail as the rational scientists of the world are stating that CO2 is not a problem.The facts are getting around in sound scientific presentations and essays.

    Should the liberals develop a rational leader, Rudd is by no means guaranteed the next election.

    There are deniers and skeptics in the National and Liberal parties and also in the Family First Party. They are beginning to get a hearing and Rudd resents that fact. Hence his poisonous outburst."

  36. gracco from Darwin writes in:

    "I can't seem to post directly to your blog on Kevin Rudd & deniers so am emailing.

    See this http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/science-is-in-on-climate-change-sea-level-rise-17mm/story-e6frg6nf-1225795202916 and this http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60202/IDO60202.2009.pdf

    It's hard not to be slightly skeptical about most things Rudd say's but his assertions of catastrophic sea level rises are at odds with the June 2009 report from The National Tide Centre at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology . The NTC found that sea levels in Australia have risen by about 20cm, 1.7mm per year, since the early 1990s. Further the sea level rise last year was below this trend. Is this catastrophic?"

  37. Cap and trade has been specifically set up to be riddled with fraud and corruption. Rudd's name-calling, while on one level childish and typical political fare, typifies the modus operandi of the conman.
    That speech should be loudly repeated to the G20 - diplomatic incident anyone ?
    I like the way accuses "skeptics" of being conservatives, then later labels them radicals. Topped off by accusing others of doublespeak. Such histrionics from a "leader" ? I am getting dizzy just following such "logic", but maybe that's the idea - get people so dizzy that they just shrug and hope the "leaders" are doing the right thing. Politics as usual.

  38. SBVOR, Maurice and DeWitt,

    You are so right that "deniers" is the wrong term to use. I screwed up.
    I find the implicit reference to the Holocaust- well, let's just say, since this is a polite forum, suboptimal for use in public debate. That was an accident. What I was trying to do with my scheme of I's and II's was to get rid of that term, without using other judgmental terms.

    At first I thought "non-believers" for I and "believers" would be appropriate for II A and B. Where I got stuck was II B's might be somewhere between "believers" and "agnostics" in the world of religion..

    As a IIBs I would say "it certainly looks like global warming is caused by greenhouse gases, based on current information, but there is some probability greater than zero that the changes we see are caused by something else- there is no smoking gun" and "because it looks like it, based on the best available information, we need to act, even if we are not absolutely positively 100.0000 percent certain."

    Perhaps we have the non-believers, the believers, and the pragmatists? Anyway I went with the Roman numeral letter scheme because words carry all kinds of layers of meaning.

  39. In the age of the enlightenment, it is irrational to talk of global warming in a cooling globe:


    There is no science contrary to observation.

  40. I just happened to look up the definition of "McCarthyism" in Wikipedia: "McCarthyism is the politically motivated practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence." That seems to fit pretty well.

  41. As someone who runs an AGW blog (Harmless Sky) from a cheap laptop using a domestic ISP account I am delighted that Kevin Rudd thinks that I am dangerous. this is not just because it makes me feel that I am doing something worthwhile, but also because it points to the fragility of the dogma that he is trying to promote. It reminds me of the fear that the old Eastern Bloc regimes had for the humble hand-cranked Gestetner duplicator.

  42. "believers" is not a good word for those who trust the scientific method and consensus that emerged as a consequence.

    See for some other attempts at taxonomies of those who don't agree with the science:

    John Mashey:



    And an attempt to get the "whole" spectrum is the following survey by Brown, Pielke Sr and Annan:

    about which I blogged here:


  43. "those who trust the scientific method and consensus that emerged as a consequence"

    Oxymoronic. Science is not about trust. In fact, trust in a cardinal sin. As is unquestioning group dogma. You praise both, bizzarely, as the "scientific method".

  44. Bart

    I think my point was... why do we keep arguing about the science when there is a potentially effective political grouping of people who agree in general?

    Why don't political leaders try to listen to people who disagree and formulate more acceptable mechanisms instead of deeming people who don't prefer cap and trade "deniers"?

    I go back to the maxims of the former Governor of Pennsylvania, Gifford Pinchot:

    " Don’t be a knocker; use persuasion rather than force, when possible. Plenty of knockers are to be found; your job is to promote unity.

    Don’t make enemies unnecessarily and for trivial reasons. If you are any good, you will make plenty of them on matters of straight honesty and public policy, and you need all the support you can get. "

  45. Andrew,

    The relevance of consensus in science:

    Science is a matter of accumulating evidence by many scientists over a long time period, that gradually changes and sharpens the scientific picture of what is happening. That is typically how scientific progress works these days: cumulative, piece by piece. The likelihood that a tiny minority of scientists, or some new piece of evidence, radically alters this picture is very small indeed. New evidence has to be reconciled with the existing mountain of evidence; it doesn’t simply replace it.

    Observing a bird in the air doesn’t disprove gravity.

    Small changes here and there in our understanding of specifics, that happens all the time. That’s how the mountain of evidence has been built in the first place, and that is how it continues to be shaped. That’s science at work.
    (see also


    "Every scientific theory either rises to the level of consensus or else it is abandoned. Consensus implicates a consilience of evidence and a preponderance of evidence for the best explanation. Consensus is how science works, and it is the difference between truth as we know it and poorly supported speculation we don't."

    - Anonymous ("Ali Baba") on Ill-Considered h/t ClimateSight

    See this ultra-skeptic (a real one though) on why trusting professionals is not fallacious: http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2009/02/global-warming-denial.html

    Oreskes has some excellent work explaing the relevance of a scientific consensus, and who it is a central theme of science. See http://www.ametsoc.org/atmospolicy/70622ESSS.html for a presentation and book chapter of hers. If you're sincerely interested in how science works, I suggest to read both.


  46. ourchangingclimate

    Where are we to find this global warming consensus ? I do not believe for one second that either the IPCC or RealClimate are valid sources of information due to very deliberate poltical bias.