Alan Jones on Alan Jones

I think it would be good for Australia if Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister of Australia

– Alan Jones, influential conservative “shock jock” media identity, climate science denialist and Abbott supporter –

Leigh Sales of ABC’s 7:30 Report hosts an extended interview with radio broadcaster, climate science denialist and beacon for conservative anger, Alan Jones.

Covering issues from mining, to respect for the office of PM, to potential for sustainability, to denial of climate change Jones argues Australia is “entitled” to a better Prime Minister. Side stepping a few points such as flaws in the science challanging climate change vs the wealth of science supporting it, Jones suggests topics choose him. His science illiteracy and propensity for ad hominem attacks against those of differing opinion is at times mixed liberally with logical fallacies as Jones insists on maintaining the upper hand.

Whilst denying using abusive terms Jones immediately defends those he uses as justified. Rob Oakeshott is “brain dead” for supporting climate change agendas and will unlikely get another job. On Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, calling her “a fool is flattering… that’s flattering”. One would have been delighted if the irrelevant anti-Greens sentiment – indeed anti-Left sentiment – buoyed by claims of anti-Right climate conspiracies could be supported with evidence.

Perhaps most regrettably Jones falls back on the commonly debunked climate science denialist tactic of citing ICPP emails as legitimising any and all denial of climate change. Now well established as a careless use of language entirely divorced from the volume of data, the leaked emails are of no moment. One can only imagine if Aussies applied the same logic to Jones’ illegal “cash for comments” scam [Wikipedia entry]. Should his criminal conduct and breach of media codes be seen as cause to mistrust his transparency?

Unusually, despite the platform of the ABC and given the impact of his show on community opinion, Jones produced not one cogent argument to support his irrational position on climate change. His best appeal to authority is to reference interviewing “some of the leading scientists in the world… finest minds” who said anthropogenic climate change affirming science is “a hoax”. Having interviewed a senior IPCC scientist, Jones completely loses track by noting he “agreed with most of the statistics I offered”. Then his famous fallacy gets a run.

Quoting the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, the percentage of that arising from from emissions and the percentage of that which is derived from Australia, he triumphantly reinforces the 0.000018% of atmospheric CO2 attributable to Aussie emissions. The child-like reasoning here is shocking. It’s a little number thus cannot be of menace. That climate is certainly effected by tiny, cumulative changes leading to dramatic and devastating consequences seems beyond him. As is the impact of only a couple of degrees increase in average temperature. But is he really serious?

CFCs make up a tiny fraction of 1% of our atmosphere. Yet CFC-11 has 17,500 times carbon dioxide’s capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere. That 0.04% of CO2 Jones loves to quote. Jones has no problem with the science of ozone depletion, nor action taken to preserve the ozone layer. Surely then, a bright chap like him could further appreciate the power of minor changes to atmospheric chemistry. Though there’s no political gain to be found in denying ozone preservation. No cleverly crafted junk science making up cushy rebuttals. What if we applied this dismissal approach to human health?

The size of the HIV or Ebola virus is microscopic. The percentage of body surface area opened by a bullet wound is insignificant. The number of cardiac cells to misfire and lead to a lethal infarction is minuscule compared to the total. A tiny blood vessel amongst hundreds of thousands, effecting 0.000018% or less of brain neurons can change a life, wipe memory, destroy speech, render us blind and so on. No doubt he could comprehend such simple notions. Suffice it to say it pays to remain skeptical of Jones’ motives. Or indeed, respect how effective the climate change denialist movement has been.

There was of course, no defence of the scurrilous and unconscionable abuse of science behind the entire denialist movement. For example, consider this from an article by Donald Prothero published in e-Skeptic, late last September:

As Oreskes and Conway documented from memos leaked to the press and published in their book Merchants of Doubt, in April 1998 the right-wing Marshall Institute, SEPP (Fred Seitz’s lobby that aids tobacco companies and polluters), and ExxonMobil, met in secret at the American Petroleum Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. There they planned a $20 million campaign to get “respected scientists” to cast doubt on climate change, get major PR effort going, and lobby Congress that global warming wasn’t real and was not a threat. Then there was the famously cynical 2002 memo from GOP pollster and spinmeister Frank Luntz to the Bush White House:
The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science… Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.

Incredibly Jones says at one point he “finds it hard to believe people in politics behave the way they do, and expect people to take them seriously”. It’s a brilliant example of Poe’s Law colliding with the Dunning-Kruger effect.