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« The sci-journalist as naif | Main | Climate tragedy »

Academic demands totalitarian response to AGW

Tony Thomas points me to this remarkable video of University of Melbourne professor Peter Christoff talking at a conference on "Law and Desire". Professor Christoff is

...a member of the Victorian Ministerial Reference Council on Climate Change Adaptation, and member of the Board of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He was formerly a member of the (Victoria) Premier's Climate Change Reference Group, the Vice President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Assistant Commissioner for the Environment (Victoria).  

From about 20 mins, Prof Christoff makes a remarkable call for "climate denial legislation" to criminalise dissent on the issue.

The [fifth] objection [to my proposal] is that this is simply unworkable, inquisitorial, having the perverse effect of increased attraction to banned ideas and their martyrs. It will depend on the application of such law. If it is selective and well focused, with substantial fines and perhaps bans on certain broadcasters and individuals whom I will not name, who stray from the dominant science without any defensible cause, it would have a disciplinary effect on public debate. There still would be plenty of room for peer reviewed  scientific revisionism and public debate around it, but  the trivial confusion  that is being deliberately  generated, would be done away with, and that is a very important thing at the moment.”

"OK, so there's another (another!) fruitcake in a university somewhere. What's the big deal?" I hear you say. To tell the truth, "government adviser is completely bonkers" is hardly the stuff of headlines either. The thought that this video prompted in me was the question of the extent to which climatologists' widely acknowledged "overselling" of their computer models to the policy community has acted as an enabler of (sometimes violent) political extremism. Would we be hearing this kind of message from the academic community if climatologists were saying "Our models are very primitive and have very limited predictive abilities"?

I'm guessing not.

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Reader Comments (60)

What's the difference between effectively saying all our problems are due to the 'evil climate deniers' who we should silence and get rid of... and Hitler saying 'All the problems in Germany are due to the Jews'.

The left always end up totalitarian.

May 1, 2015 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon


May 1, 2015 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

@Anon: In short, none!

May 1, 2015 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

kim's corollary to Godwin's Law is that the first person to call 'Godwin' on a thread discussing authoritarianism is a useful idiot.

May 1, 2015 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

It's North Korea, or Germany in the 1930s.

May 1, 2015 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterHesd

You can always tell when someone is losing the debate. They call for it to be shut down. Special pleading.

The intellectual equivalent of taking your ball home because you are losing 10-1.


Marxists created the concept of 'false consciousness' because it is inconceivable to them that there can be people who are not convinced by their 'how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin' theories.

May 1, 2015 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Remember the film "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" with Donald Sutherland?
The population was slowly but surely being taken over by alien infiltrators that knew when normal humans were about.
The alien invader would freeze, point at the human and let out a terrible scream to alert the other aliens.
Does that remind anyone of anything?

May 1, 2015 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Catley

The Age of Unlightenment.


May 1, 2015 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

Cue film of carefully rehearsed angry mob screaming

"Death to all extremists! Death to all extremists!"

Then cut to people sobbing, as they remember the last time. And the one before that.

Different cause. Different people. Same result.

May 1, 2015 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

So, they're going save the planet, without let or hindrance.

Perhaps the Pope has got some of those nice red cloaks he could lend them.

May 1, 2015 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Of course these same people want to be able to dissent from the scientific view when it comes to safety of chemicals, benefits of organic food, refusing to vaccinate, risk of GMOs and on and on.

May 1, 2015 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

As we are all returned to the pre industrial, by deluded academics, they will will be the most surprised to find out that nobody is interested in paying them to produce smug papers on the value of planned political economies, in the post technical era.

Academics will be arguing with each other, about equal rights in the food queue, whilst everybody else is busy, looking for food.

May 1, 2015 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

It's happening at the Guardian. They are is anhilating posts on their article that disagree with the party line.
‘England faces major rise in record hot years due to climate change – scientists’

Such innocuous posts as this from Maida Comment have dissapeared

“Disagree and be deleted”

Apparently it violates “community standards.”

And interestingly the deletions are not noted. It seems the moderators are working over time to get rid of any dissent.

This is also gone.
“ieclark 1m ago

I see some comments by climate change sceptics are being removed.
Which raises the interesting point, now that the Guardian is running a campaign related to fossil fuels and climate change, can it be relied on for objective reporting of the subject?”

May 1, 2015 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenier

Professor Christoff could learn something from Judith Curry's latest post, quoting interesting ethics advice for experts by someone called John Hardwig. Particularly the remarks about stifling dissent and abusing power.

I am unsurprised to see that Peter Christoff has written 22 article at "The Conversation".

May 1, 2015 at 4:46 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The far-left have always used intimidation & violence to acheive their objectives. Vandalism is already acceptable to the Law it would seem several demonstrators getting away scot free from charges of criminal damage, on the dubious grounds of they cared & were passionate about the "the cause". Violence will be the next item on the Agenda, with the leaders claiming they don't condone such action, but they understood the frustration & distress there supporters possess because of "the cause"! I swear someone will be killed & they will get away with it!

May 1, 2015 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

The bishop of Salisbury has announced 'ex cathedra' that "Climate change is the biggest moral issue facing the world." (Oh and the Church Commissioners have sold £5m worth of coal shares - while keeping oil and gas; fortunately for me as they pay my pension).

So I've challenged the bishop to a public debate on that topic.
Don't hold your breath.

May 1, 2015 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

Philip Foster, if the Bishop of Salisbury does have permission, to discuss with you his statement that climate change is the biggest moral issue facing the world, could you ask him to identify the others in the top 10? If he struggles, maybe just the No2 and No3?

I would not wish to offend the Bishop, by questionning his beliefs myself, but is he nuttier than a fruitcake? (with lots of nuts in it)

May 1, 2015 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

More detail from Tony Thomas at Quadrant,

where he compares the Melbourne extremists with those at Potsdam.
The video on climate denial legislation is discussed in the first comment.

May 1, 2015 at 5:22 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

golf charlie: "Different cause. Different people. Same result."

Same cause. Different cloaks. Same result.

May 1, 2015 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

I'd like to know the names of the climate scientists who have suffered bodily harm?
The unintended consequences of their junkett science is that funds which could be used for research which could benefit mankind is diverted directly into their pockets.

The university should re-name itself The University of Misanthropes?

May 1, 2015 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

The rather unctuous start managed to get my back up, and the over-long rambling before any introductions failed to get it down again. I skipped forward to the Prof chappy… oh, dear. To hear him, it was easy to laugh at his ludicrous propositions and arguments, but then the cold, hard reality of what he was saying sank in, and I became afraid. Very, very afraid. If we cannot get Cast-Iron Dave, Adenoidal Ed or any of their minions out of office next Thursday, the demands of these eco-loons may well be met, and all questioning of the accepted, Lysenko science will be punishable – perhaps by death, as at least one academic has proposed.

Please, please, please – all of you, including you, esmiff, and you, MCourtney, cast aside your historical prejudices and vote for UKIP; it is only when we get the LibLabCon machine away from the reigns of power that we will be able to bring some element of common-sense back to the world. If you cannot brave the prospect of putting your X against the party of common-sense, put it against the Monster Raving Loonies!

May 1, 2015 at 6:46 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Stock Headline: "Academic Demands Totalitarian Response To..."


May 1, 2015 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Interesting! around 32 minutes the building worker suggests setting up a cooperative to make solar water heaters.

Good idea, but then he said he wants pension funds (the super) to pay for it.

Oh dear, I am sure if a pension fund saw a good investment opportunity, they would invest in it.

May 1, 2015 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards

When your saving the planet , in your own mind , then 'anything ' can be justified.

The words 'for the good of the people ' have often be heard shortly before that which in reality is not good nor for the people , while in history no dictatorship has ever claimed it set out to do bad but 'good'

May 1, 2015 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

It seems that as the Paris conference draws nearer, the global warming / climate change propaganda is being stepped up by the Guardian, the BBC and others. In addition, the Guardian has initiated various campaigns such as keeping fossil fuels in the ground and divesting of shares involving such fuels.

This is perfect activism for the liberal left, politically correct elites who can implement such things via their ipads whilst telling their dinner guests that they are saving the planet between sips of expensive wine.

Well meaning organisations, lulled into a pause in their concerns, have been re-awakened by all the new alarmism. The Pope has decided that a Holy view is overdue. The CofE is anxious not to be left behind. It is difficult to see these initiatives without a degree of cynicism when they occur after almost two decades of temperature pause or even cooling as measured by satellites.

We deniers plod on, noting that the fanatics wish to persecute us for our beliefs. Perhaps they will herd us up and send us to the GHG chambers. Sorry, but the parallels are strong.

I think it is time to strike back. Those who practise hate crime against sceptics need to be named and shamed, and if serious enough, prosecuted. They need to be ridiculed for their intolerance.

Just as main stream political parties in this country are losing credibility and support, then I think it is time for their Climate Change and Energy policies to be challenged as well. These policies have been invisible in the election so far.
It is a good time to embarrass your would-be political representatives. Kick them in the uncertainties while you have the opportunity.

Finally, I still keep an eye on those who see solar induced cooling kicking in over the next couple of years. If they are correct, the cooling should be established by the next election. Personally, I have mixed feelings. Cooling is very serious while moderate warming might even be welcome.

Leaving that aside, I would love to see how the media, the academics, the learned Institutions and the Government explain how global warming has resulted in serious cooling. I would die happy after that.

May 1, 2015 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Then professor is talking about Australia, which produces 1% of the global total (CDIAC). If Australia completely eliminates its emissions, global emissions will not be significantly affected if no other countries have significant effective reduction measures and when global emissions are rising by about 3% a year.
This proposed denial of freedom of speech is not just against the "climate denial" but also to combat statements such as the above. Yet that statement is virtually a tautology, and applies to the current policy situation. As such it completely undermines unilateralist (or few country) policies, and says nothing about the "science".

May 1, 2015 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Fire the nasty totalitarian witch. She has no business teaching in a civil society.

May 1, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Another bloody Aussie twit what wants to tell me what to do.


Must I tell these half-wits to go screw themselves?

May 1, 2015 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

In a word "frightening". Wonder how he raised his children?

May 1, 2015 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

All too precious, too vague, too presumptive and yet so certain of the legitimacy of their perspectives. The absence of the concrete and evidence and the dependence of unquestioned and massive generalizations was appalling. How could a Professor of Rhetoric have countenanced such arrant nonsense?

The killer quotation for me was from the pugilistic Dave who said:
"Way too much freedom and not enough equality"

Surely the schism between Peter Lenin and Dave Trotsky would have been obvious with one or two intelligent questions from a CAGW skeptic?

May 1, 2015 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Any chance of getting Professor Christoff to fuck off on her own Arctic Scientific Expedition.

She will be in good company.

May 1, 2015 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

And him too .

May 1, 2015 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

That doesn't help.

Nor does all the bickering among the Godwinists and anti-Godwinists, and the ranting of the Hitler-was-a-Marxist-and-he-wasn't-even-born-in-Austria brigade.

His Grace has launched a bit of a moral rearmament movement with recent posts about the moral implications of the silence of the Lambs (not Hubert, but his successors). He's not criticising the green bonkers brigade so much as their reasonable colleagues who don't speak out. Not saying what you know, or not making clear what you don't know, in some circumstances can amount to criminal mendacity.

I understand what he's getting at, but I think it's a dead end strategy. The circumstances in which it might work would be if a windmill-induced power failure resulted in multiple deaths, and a subsequent free and fair judicial enquiry into the reasons for the catastrophic failure of the country's energy policy put the climaterati in the dock. Such radical remedies usually arrive after everyone involved is dead or otherwise unfit to plead.
Without any hope of a political or legal solution, His Grace's strategy is simply an appeal to the better nature of his opponents, like the pleas of liberals and Christians to the better nature of slave drivers and factory owners in the 19th century.
Something about this discussion confirms me in my Marxism. We're not going to get anywhere without a theory of who they are and what they're up to.

May 1, 2015 at 10:20 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Smug lefty academic says that those who disagree with him should be incarcerated, locked up, imprisoned. And he means it. Am left reeling. Is this seriously what 'progressive' thought has been reduced to? That no one is allowed any contrary opinion? That non right thinkers should legally be locked up for daring to disagree with a prevailing orthodoxy? The man is not merely deluded. He is properly scary. On the other hand, let us all take some comfort in the knowledge that such bird brains, however self important, will inevitably be left high and dry by the tide of actual history.

May 1, 2015 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

The fascist impulse never seems far below the surface in academia.

The quaint notion of liberal democracy is just too boring for many. How much better if intellectuals could run society, and the rest of us followed their orders?

The good news, I suppose, is that U.S. courts are fairly serious about freedom of speech, even if many "intellectuals" are not.

May 1, 2015 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterrabbit

I've long reached the conclusion that the world currently has about a 75% oversupply of further educational establishments & academics. Most of them do a pretty lousy job at their primary function of education - and their secondary function of research has become a largely destructive force on society.

I recently found this rather chilling article by Janet Daley which chronicles the left's infiltration of our institutions from her rather unique viewpoint as a left-wing activist turned right-wing polemicist.

May 1, 2015 at 11:18 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

rabbit, in the UK, freedom of speech applies to everyone. Progressives however, have granted themselves an immunity, and will silence anyone who dares to question their right to such authority.

To progressives, this makes perfect sense. Anyone who does not understand this, must be silenced.

May 1, 2015 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Planet Earth is in no danger whatsoever. Even if warmunistas are right, the planet will endure.
Their campaign is to make Earth suitable for human life, while at the same time campaigning for human depopulation and ending the advance of civilization.
They obstinately refuse to acknowledge this paradox for the sake of empowerment. Only the willful ignorance of logic by the masses allows this nonsense to continue.

May 1, 2015 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSlywolfe

As an Australian hearing Professor Eckersley (author of The Green State) complaining that a minority in the US Senate can thwart government legislation made me laugh (sardonically).

May 2, 2015 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

golf charlie
Not all progressives want to silence the opposition
As you well know, Daley is not the only left-wing activist with a taste for right-wing polemics.
Not all academics have succumbed to the fascist impulse.
Etc etc
Quite a lot of progressives / left-wingers / academics would be shocked to learn that some of their own are promoting fascist policies. The problem is that they don't know, and we have no way of making them know. They don't even know that Professor Gleick is a forger, Professor Jones is a criminal destroyer of documents, Professor Lewandowsky is a serial liar - how could they? They don't even know that temperatures are not rising. Who would tell them?
His Grace has a plan to get the information out by appealing to the moral sense of the decent majority of non-corrupt non-criminal climate scientists. I don't think it will work, though I don't have a better one.
What I do have is a feeling that if we ceased blathering about the nastiness of the left/the BBC/the intelligentsia and bickering about whether Hitler or Stalin was the biggest warmist, perhaps we could put our heads together and come up with a Cunning Plan.

May 2, 2015 at 12:28 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

None of this is surprising in Australia....who could ever forget the Finkelstein report which, if it had been implemented.. would have been the beginning of the end of a "free press".
The apathy shown by my countrymen..never ceases to amaze me..
How many deep greens in OZ are off the grid and avoid cars..none that I have ever met..

May 2, 2015 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrapetomania

Watched some of the video, jumped around and could not stomach it. Years ago these people and their ilk would have these little talks in the woods around campfires. I have no problem with that which does not cost neither myself nor society. Now, however they do these rambling talks in studios and at Universities at great cost to others.

May 2, 2015 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Surprised that Dr Richard Betts has not seen fit to comment on this thread. Perhaps he is very taken by the idea that "Julia Slingo is a world-leading figure in the area of tropical climate processes and climate modelling," and therefore cannot possibly comment.

Or perhaps he is a weasel who has to respond when she says "bend over, Dr Betts!"


May 2, 2015 at 1:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterjolly farmer

Without any hope of a political or legal solution, His Grace's strategy is simply an appeal to the better nature of his opponents, like the pleas of liberals and Christians to the better nature of slave drivers and factory owners in the 19th century.

That's how they ended slavery in Britain.

It's how women got the vote. It's how corporal punishment was abolished in New Zealand. It is how most deep political change is effected.

Marxism revolutions, on the contrary, backfire horribly.

Consistently taking the position that informing the majority that the fears of the bedwetters that "it will bring about the end of society as we know it" is the most effective way to bring a change in heart in a democracy. It's not exciting, but it is effective.

Britain won't shake off the CO2 fears if it turns into "vote UKIP or we die" type emotionalism either though. We we need to uphold sensible climate policy (i.e. none) in every party or it just turns into a "All Republicans are stupid denialists" type argument.

May 2, 2015 at 3:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Peter Christof mentioned Claus Offe as a scholar he greatly admired. Prof. Offe has recently written Europe Entrapped. His web site summarizes the major thesis of his book in terms that will send chills down the spines of most here:
"Today Europe finds itself in a crisis that casts a dark shadow over an entire generation. The seriousness of the crisis stems from one core political contradiction at the heart of the European project: namely, that what urgently needs to be done is also extremely unpopular and therefore virtually impossible to do democratically."
No wonder Peter Christof finds him so appealing.

May 2, 2015 at 3:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

I think it is important to note that Offe appears to talking about the financial crisis and the inability of political leaders to find popular support for the austerity that is necessary.
Christoff is advocating that the state silence contrary scientific views - the equivalent of arguing that the economists who say there is not a problem should be subject to state sponsored coercion.

May 2, 2015 at 6:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

You're quite right that slavery was ended by liberals and Christians. They did it with the support of huge popular demonstrations and some of the top intellectuals of the day. We haven't got that. We've got Jeremy Clarkson.

My reference to Marxism was not to recommend a Marxist revolution but a Marx-style analysis of the forces in play. This is something that occasionally happens spontaneously on these threads, but more often the discussion gets sidetracked into insulting the left.

I believe New Zealand was the first country in the world to establish universal suffrage by giving the vote to women – a proposal only supported in Europe at the time by Marxists and other weirdoes.

May 2, 2015 at 7:37 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The summary of Claus Offe's book doesn't suggest he's advocating the end of democracy. He's simply pointing out that democracy and the European ideal are in conflict – a point made week after week by Ambrose Evan Pritchard in the Telegraph. (Offe is a Marxist by the way. Ambrose probably not).

A large number of people on the left (including all the Greens) defend the anti-democratic European Union in large part because they don't want to be associated with UKIP and the hoi polloi who read the Daily Express.

I find a similar attitude with respect to climate among Labour supporters - some of them with science PhDs - who believe in catastrophic climate change because they think Naomi Klein is a nicer person than Melanie Phillips. I'd like to recommend them a nice sensible sceptical blog to read, but if they came here, on half the threads they'd get the impression (unfairly) of a ranting rightwing rabble.

May 2, 2015 at 8:01 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I didn't expect the Climate Inquisition.

NOONE expects the Climate Inquisition

Actually, we did.

May 2, 2015 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

The problem is these sort of wimmin, at taxpayers expense well paid for an entire lifetime no stress pension, are allowed to toss over such "opinions" and NEVER ever get accountable for them.

She is a professor she should be made to defend it in a few long arguments, every time she tries to speak again.

So she advocates top down muzzling of people? Why not in about a 1000 other instances where deluded lefties were carrying a failed narrative? Would she muzzle people then as well.

The kowtowing to wimmin because they could not get education 300y ago is OVER. They get more education than men. They carry off all the easy go jobs 3miles from home. They get 80% of health expenditure 80% of health jobs 80% of education jobs. Time to change all that, implement EQUAL standards and access and harmonize working conditions and entitlements ACROSS THE BOARD.

May 2, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

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