Member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, who has been the target of ridicule here before, because of his mind-numbing stupidity, has now outdone himself. He seems to think that children are as easily led and as susceptible to lies as he is, so it isn’t surprising he has no conception of what motivates ‘teenagers’. He maintains that these teenagers are under the influence of peer-group pressure and have a desire to conform and fit in with ‘the crowd’, and that they are being manipulated, and that everything they are being told is a lie1. Then he launches into what he says are facts. These are:
“There is no link between climate change and drought”1: Like most utterances from Craig Kelly, this is a lie. As temperatures have warmed over the past century, the prevalence of drought has increased in the western United States2. In Australia there are several metrics for describing droughts, and these are affected differently by climate change. One of these metrics is rainfall deficiency, and in the southwest of Australia, since the 1970s, winter rainfall has dropped significantly, from over 300mm per winter, to less than 250mm per winter3. In the southeast of Australia, April to October rainfall has declined 11% since the mid 1990s, while May-July rainfall has decreased 20% since 19704. Given that drought is largely caused by a lack of rainfall, for Kelly to utter this lie simply shows how stupid he really is.
“Polar bears are increasing in number”1: This is most likely to be a lie too, as it is an oft-repeated denialist mantra. However, it is based on a Russian extrapolation in 1956 which was not accepted by scientists at the time. Indeed, most modern estimates of polar bear populations are not much better than educated guesses5. So, for Kelly to say that the number of polar bears is increasing is, as you would expect, silly.
“Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather than at any time in human history”1: Surprisingly this seems to be true, but it is not because there are fewer extreme weather events, but because we are better prepared for them and receive much better notice of their approach. Indeed, extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity6,7. This sort of statement from Kelly implies that severe weather events are decreasing, whereas they are not. It is disingenuous at best.
“There is no 97 per cent consensus. Such claims are a fraud”1: This is a bald-faced lie. Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that at least 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities8. Indeed, it is the position taken by the Academies of Science from 80 countries, as well as many other scientific societies and organisations. The greater the climate expertise among scientists surveyed the higher the degree of consensus that human activity has caused global warming9. The assertion by Kelly that this is all a fraud, is a denialist trope and a simple lie.
“Crop yields have increased remarkably”1: This is true if you look at the last hundred years, but that increase is due to improvements in crop rotation practices, farming techniques and more recently from research in various fields of science such as crop and pasture science, as well as genetics10,11. However, cereal yields seem to have stagnated over the last two decades, and it does make you wonder if climate change could be a factor in that stagnation, when you consider that in the two decades prior to that, they nearly doubled11,12. This assertion from Kelly is not telling the whole truth and therefore is lying by omission.
“Wildfires have declined 25% over the past two decades”1: Surprisingly, this seems to be true also, with the total number of square kilometres burned decreasing about 25% since 2003. However, this is only part of the story. This decrease is largely due to population growth and development in grasslands and savannas, and the encroachment of farming into what used to be rainforests. However, the intensity of fires has increased in some parts of the world13,14. Again, Kelly only tells a half-truth.
“We are seeing fewer cyclones, not more”1: This may be true, but the variation from year to year is substantial and it is difficult to discern a trend. In addition, there was a change in the definition of tropical cyclones in 1978, which led some systems which would have been classified as tropical cyclones before that, being considered sub-tropical systems. This also has contributed to the apparent decline in numbers15. The same is true of Atlantic hurricanes; it is difficult to determine if there has been an increase in the number of hurricanes as the variation year to year is substantial, and because monitoring in previous years was less extensive. However, recent analyses indicate that the strongest hurricanes have increased in intensity over the last three decades16. Just another Kelly half-truth.
“Cold weather kills many times more people than hot weather, including here in Australia”1: This appears to be true as far as it goes, and it was found in a study of deaths in Australia from 1985 to 2012, 7.3% were attributable to cold, while only 0.4% were attributable to heat17. However, this is just another furphy, in that Kelly seems to imply that more heat will be beneficial. This will not be the case, as extreme heat events are now more common and more severe than previously and these will continue to increase in frequency and severity18, with a concomitant increase in the number of deaths attributable to them.
“The sea ice is not melting away; in fact where the ill-fated Franklin exhibition[sic]
sailed in the year 1845 is blocked by thick sea ice this year”1: Where Kelly obtained this gem is unclear, as it is apparently not from Planet Earth. Sea ice in the Arctic has decreased dramatically since the late 1970s, particularly during the boreal summer and autumn. Since the satellite record began in 1978, the year’s minimum Arctic sea ice extent (usually in early to mid-September) has decreased by more than 40%. In winter, the sea ice coverage expands beyond that, but the ice is thinner than it used to be19,20. Sea ice around Antarctica has experienced a slight increase since 1979, but it is suspected that part of the reason for this is an influx of cold fresh water from melting ice shelves and glaciers19,21.
“Renewables ain’t [sic] renewables, and they certainly don’t make electricity cheaper”1: What Kelly means by the first part of this statement is anybody’s guess, as it makes no sense, and the presumed assertion that renewables are dearer than coal generation is also a bit less than clear. A recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance has shown that new build renewable energy is now the same cost or cheaper than that from existing coal power stations in New South Wales and Queensland22. This, of course, makes them vastly cheaper than new build coal-fired power. And yet, this government wants to either prop up current coal-fired power stations, or to subsidise the construction of new stations23. What also puts Kelly’s presumed assertions that renewables are more expensive in the category of bald-faced lie, is the fact that the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will achieve 100% renewable electricity in October, 2019 (next month!) and it has achieved this for a reasonable price and ahead of schedule. Indeed, the ACT’s residential electricity is among the cheapest in the nation. This is just another, if confusedly expressed, lie from Kelly.
“And if you are worried about sea-level rise, I suggest that you get some old photos of Fort Denison, get the tide gauge data and have a look for yourself”1: I’d have thought Kelly wouldn’t have used this ludicrous example of his ignorance again, after it was pilloried the first time he used it. That time around, it was one item that convinced me that he had a fair claim to be one of the stupidest members in the House of Representatives24. Other subsequent efforts by Kelly have demonstrated that he most likely is the stupidest member25. To reiterate, Kelly believes that you can take a photo of Fort Denison from many years ago, without knowing what time of year, or whether it was high or low tide, to Fort Denison today, at any phase of the tide, and decide that sea level is not rising. That is the epitome of ignorance to the point of stupidity. We know from many sources, including tide gauge and satellite altimeter measurements, that the global average sea level is rising at over 3 millimetres per year26.
As if the lies and half truths above were not sufficient to insult striking children’s intelligence, he then encourages all students in his electorate “to study the science and learn for themselves”1. This comes from a halfwit who denies the science in many thousands of peer-reviewed scientific research publications by thousands of climate scientists. It is difficult to imagine how anyone in their right mind, or with any semblance of an awareness of what they are saying, could utter such vacuous drivel. But then, it is Craig Kelly.
From Kelly’s Facebook page: a copy of his speech to parliament
Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (13:55): I understand how persuasive peer group pressure can be for teenagers, with their desire to conform and fit in with the crowd. However, I would say to any student considering joining the so-called climate protest: don’t be a sheep; think for yourself.
You are being used and manipulated, and everything you are told is a lie.
The facts are:
There is no link between climate change and drought.
Polar bears are increasing in number.
Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather than at any time in human history.
There is no 97 per cent consensus. Such claims are a fraud.
Crop yields have increased remarkably.
Wildfires have declined 25 per cent over the past two decades.
We are seeing fewer cyclones, not more.
Cold weather kills many times more people than hot weather, including here in Australia.
The sea ice is not melting away; in fact, where the ill-fated Franklin exhibition sailed in the year 1845 is blocked by thick sea ice this year.
Renewables ain’t renewables, and they certainly don’t make electricity cheaper.
And, if you are worried about sea level rise, I suggest that you get some old photos of Fort Denison, get the tide gauge data and go and have a look for yourself.
Don’t take my word; I encourage all students in my electorate to study the science and learn for themselves.
Comment : I look forward to ABC Fact checkers trying their best.