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August 08th 2016 print

Peter O'Brien

Warmism’s Seal of Approval

Most what we are expected to believe about climate change is presented by the media, which makes last night's '60Minutes' worth noting -- not for its insights about Antarctica, as there were none -- but for the gullible vacuity of reporters and producers who should know better

leopard sealLet’s say you run an eco-tourist operation involved in providing adventure tours in Antarctica.  One of your main lines of business might be using your specially equipped yacht ‘Australis’ to host legions of scientists studying the effect of climate change.  But getting late in the season, business starts to dry up and expensively fitted out yachts that charter at over $4,000 (poa) per day for a minimum 21-day trip to Antarctica don’t pay for themselves if siting beside the dock in Ushuaia.

So, as an enterprising businessman you come up with a nice little earner.  You contact an Australian TV show and suggest that they might like to provide a film crew to accompany a scientific mission to study leopard seals and the effect that climate change is having on them and their food chain.  ‘Climate change’ is the clincher, of course, but to put icing on the cake you hype up the leopard seal as one of the top predators in Antarctica – second only to the killer whale — a vicious predator who is known to have killed at least one marine biologist  — and you further spice the deal by offering the presenter an adrenalin-pumped dive with the aforesaid killer.

Who could resist?  Clearly not Nine’s 60 Minutes and the resulting program went to air last night.  How did it go? Well, here’s how Ocean Expeditions web-site described the adventure:

Reporter Allison Langdon, her 60 Minutes team and NOAA scientist Doug Krause were onboard ‘Australis’ for a thrilling late-season, scientific expedition to study leopard seals and climate change on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Our go-to guy for this project was the big Scotsman, Kelvin Murray, both dive master and leopard seal specialist.

Having chased stories across the globe for 60 Minutes, Allison, producer Nick Greenaway, cameraman Andy Taylor and soundman Charles ‘Chick’ Davey, were surprised by the potency of Antarctica’s magic.

Our first stop was one of Antarctica most interesting places Cape Shirreff where brazen and adaptable Leopard seals have learned to stalk, capture and eat fur seals.

The team were here to capture the changes in Antarctica faced during climate change and the dynamic changes facing the habitat of Antarctica’s top apex predators – the leopard seal.

Along the way the team faced the challenges of a bumpy Drake Passage, sub-zero water temps and the build-up of snow and ice, yet ticked all its requirements (including capturing some breathtaking aerials courtesy of drone pilot Chick). Throughout the voyage, Australis’s saloon was alive with warmth and laughter.

Thanks to Doug and Kelvin, Allison and her crew felt the adrenalin rush of polar scuba diving with these apex predators.

So, a jolly good time was had by all.  But how did it play on TV?

Well, naturally the climate change angle had to be dealt with first so that they could then get on with the important stuff.  Why, you may ask, is it so important for us to study leopard seals?  Well, even if you didn’t ask, Allison did and she received the following unarguable response from Dr Doug Krausse:

“Well, he is a large intelligent mammal.  You, Allison, are a large intelligent mammal.  So understanding how these populations interact in our changing planet will help human beings as well.”

As the ship arrived at Cape Shirreff, Allison made the perspicacious observation that it looked ‘pretty stark’.  We were then told that this area used to be covered with ice but no longer.  (Did she mean since last Winter, I wonder?  It might be assumed that one of the northern-most points in Antarctica might be ice free at the end of an Antarctic summer.) We were also told that melting of the ice pack is disrupting the leopard seal and turning him into a climate refugee.  That, because of this, he now congregates here at the Cape in large numbers and has devastated the local fur seal population.  Why he would escape from his now ice-free original habitat to congregate in this new ice-free habitat is not quite explained.  But perhaps buying real estate is just as much a subjective and emotional process for leopard seals as it is for humans.  Clearly if, as hoped by Dr Doug, we humans are to learn new things from the leopard seal I guess this is not one of them.

Not to be picky but it occurred to me that the ratio of leopard seals to fur seals at Cape Shirreff might be based on a more prosaic consideration than ‘climate change’.  The business of predation must be rather like the business of robbing banks.  The canny predator goes where the prey is.

Be that as it may, some scientific activity was called for and Dr Doug duly obliged, or attempted to anyway.  Invoking his best Steve Irwin impression, Dr Doug attempted to extract a whisker from a sleeping leopard seal with the aid of a pair of pliers.  Analysis of the whisker would, apparently tell him what the seal had been eating for the last couple of years.  Alas, despite his best ‘leopard crawl’ (get it?) two disobliging seals woke up at the last minute and our intrepid Antarctic scientist was forced to abandon the effort.  Not to worry, though, I’m guessing, had Doug succeeded in his mission, you would have found that both seals had subsisted on a principal diet of penguin and fur seal pup.

But undaunted and in a relentless search for scientific knowledge, Allison and Doug then viewed some footage from a camera previously positioned on the back one, obviously more obliging, seal.  What they discovered will amaze you.  Apparently, when hunting, leopard seals are ‘strategic, adaptable and sometimes brazen’.  The results of their hunt are not for the squeamish and sometimes they fight with other leopard seals who try to steal their catch!

At that point, science being pretty much exhausted it was off to the main adventure and dive with ‘the most notorious predator in the Antarctic’ – a description that struck me as rather unscientific and which was quickly refuted by the expeditions other seeker after knowledge, one Kelvin Murray.  Kelvin assured us that the leopard seal was greatly maligned as a result of a single unfortunate incident of what might be termed ‘misidentification of prey’ — the devouring of a snorkelling marine biologist.  Apparently this incident reverberated around the world, causing immense damage to the reputation of the otherwise blameless leopard seal.  I must have missed it.  Kelvin Murray’s defence of the seal was so spirited that Allison just couldn’t help calling him out for his ‘soft spot for leopard seals’.  Oh shucks!

Next stop, where the diving was to take place, was Mikkelsen Harbour.  Plenty of ice there and lots of fur seals as well but, curiously, only three leopard seals.

Finding a co-operative seal was a bit of a problem, but Allison finally got into the water and was, of course, rewarded with a magical experience.  You can guess the rest.  And here we must leave the intrepid adventurers to make their way back across the Drake Passage.

Allison is described in News.com’s coverage of the expedition as a ‘climate change advocate’.  And why wouldn’t she be?  One can never get enough climate change if it helps fund super-expensive jollies to remote parts of the world diving with great white sharks ‘without a cage’ or with notorious predators like the leopard seal.

Unlike the ABC, Nine is entitled to splash its cash on whatever frivolities it chooses.  I’m not a shareholder and shouldn’t care.  But when it peddles specious nonsense cloaked in the  name of science and, in doing so, helps to further cement the global warming scare in the public mind, then I, yes, I do get pretty riled.

 

Comments [14]

  1. Bran Dee says:

    Reclining in my beanbag and aimlessly viewing I stumbled across the 60 Minutes Seal Program just as Malcolm Turnbull said he once stumbled across an ABC 4 Corners program. But in my case, waiting for something else, I dosed off and now,with gratitude to Peter O’Brien, I am convinced that I missed nothing.

  2. gray_rm says:

    “But when it peddles specious nonsense cloaked in the name of science and, in doing so, helps to further cement the global warming scare in the public mind, then I, yes, I do get pretty riled.”
    Well in that case, for goodness sake don’t read the Year 8 Geography text book for NSW.
    Apparently:
    - oil that causes greenhouse gas and therefore climate change has past peak oil and we’re all doomed
    - polar bears are becoming extinct because of climate change
    - Kiribati is about to go under the seas because of climate change
    - Greenpeace and WWF offer the only solutions
    - rich nations are rapacious and cause indigenous peoples untold misery, including climate change
    - ice is melting, oceans are rising and extreme weather events are occurring because of climate change
    - this is leading to mass extinctions
    - solar is the only way
    and my favourite:
    - the majority of scientists agree this warming is caused by humans since 1870.

    All this given to students now, right across NSW, and purporting to tell the truth.

    • Bill Martin says:

      I grew up in Hungary during the Soviet communist domination following WW II. Us school kids knew from our parents that the exact opposite of what we heard at school was true. I sincerely hope that the majority of school kids in today’s Australian are similarly clued up.

    • Andrea says:

      Unbelievable and well written article and chilling but honest reply grey_run.
      Climate change is a natural thing and the world has been through an ice age before which mankind (if around in today’s numbers) would not have had any affect on it in any way, nor been able to stop it.
      Now to Global Warming, well just an agenda to milk money out of people’s pockets, indoctrinate the young with false ‘facts’ and further a much larger possible world government plan.
      It riles me up too that all the actual ‘facts’ aren’t on the table and the topic does not seem open to debate to the many scientists who do not want to lose their jobs if they go against the party line!

  3. Peter, your article outlines just what difficulties realists [i.e. those of us who believe in verifiable facts] in the twenty-first century face. We are in an era of advertising, where emotions rule. One emotional image of a ‘cuddly’ animal such as a leopard seal, or a polar bear can overcome any amount of scientific fact. It is not by accident that all ‘GREEN’ groups use possums, koalas etc.
    This over-emphasis on emotions has now gone beyond advertisers and advertising and is now dominating ‘news’ and reporting. The saying ‘if it bleeds it leads’ is the accepted format now, even for supposedly serious ‘news’ networks. It is made worse in that most ‘journalists’ are uninterested in facts to the extent that I would term many of them ‘reality-phobic’.

    • ianl says:

      Well, as I’ve previously noted, the Rennaisance is being reversed. Emoting is much easier than logical thinking based on empirical data … pays better and quicker, too.

  4. Dallas Beaufort says:

    Do friends of the ABC News get discount holidays too?

  5. Ian MacDougall says:

    Not to be picky but it occurred to me that the ratio of leopard seals to fur seals at Cape Shirreff might be based on a more prosaic consideration than ‘climate change’. The business of predation must be rather like the business of robbing banks. The canny predator goes where the prey is.

    Precisely.
    And so therefore, as night follows day, climatology is once again proven to be (in polite terms) bunk.
    Order of priorities:
    1. Nothing must get in the way of business as usual.
    2. Therefore physics, chemistry and the climatology based on them must be subordinate to the economics of business as usual.
    3. Go to 1.
    And round and round we go, as night follows day; as follows night: at least here at Quad Online.

    The thermal expansion of the oceans, compounded by melting glaciers, resulted in the highest global sea level on record in 2015. The oceans are around 70mm higher than the 1993 average, which is when comprehensive satellite measurements of sea levels began. The seas are rising at an average rate of 3.3mm a year, with the western Pacific and Indian Oceans experiencing the fastest increases.
    These changes are being driven by a CO2 concentration that surpassed the symbolic 400 parts per million mark at the Mauna Loa research station in Hawaii last year. The Noaa report states that the global CO2 level was a touch under this, at 399.4ppm, an increase of 2.2ppm compared to 2014.

    (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/02/environment-climate-change-records-broken-international-report#comment-80427316)
    Do the arithmetic. 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr (CSIRO) ~ 33mm/decade (= 3.3 cm/decade ~ 33 ± 4 cm/century ~ 330 cm/1,000 yrs: ie 3.3 metres/1,000 yrs
    ~ 33 metres/10,000 yrs.
    This can only be due to thermal expansion of sea water and/or glacial melt. Ergo, the planet is warming, in a long slow thaw with inertia analogous to that of a supertanker at all ahead full on the open sea. (https://noahsarc.wordpress.com/good-planets-are-hard-to-come-by/)
    As someone once said: Life is a carousel.

    • ianl says:

      > ” … ~ 33 metres/10,000 yrs …”

      Yep, since the last glacial epoch. Which wasn’t due to the magic gas.

      And I see you don’t include geology and biology as major strands of science. I was right about your silliness.

      And no-one is going round in circles. You’re just jumping up and down on the spot.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        ianl:
        I said:

        2. Therefore physics, chemistry and the climatology based on them must be subordinate to the economics of business as usual.

        Please enlighten me: how is climatology (not to be confused with palaeoclimatology) based on either geology or biology?
        You might also note: the current rate of sea-level rise (of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr [CSIRO]) cannot have been going on since classical times. Venice (a city founded around AD 430 and which is as close to sea level as any in the world) would have long gone under if that rate of rise had been going on “since the last glacial epoch. Which wasn’t due to the magic gas.”
        Ergo, that rate of rise started much more recently. I’m tipping post 1750 AD or thereabouts.

        • Russell Potter says:

          Well, as for geology’s relevance to climatology: I seem to remember reading in Ian Plimer’s “Heaven & Earth” that there’s something like several orders of magnitude more carbon locked up in the world’s rocks than there is in the atmosphere (and Plimer should know, his being geologist: although that apparently doesn’t matter, since he’s a “denialist” for not being a catastrophist)

    • nfw says:

      Well if it’s in The Gradunia and from the NOAA it must be true. I’m surprised you didn’t quote the IPCC (how is that railway engineer’s sexual harassment case going by-the-way?) or Dr Tim It Will Never Rain in Sydney (or was that Australia) Again Flannery? How did the melting IPCC glacier scenario go? And as for our dams never being full again the Sydney capacity was 98.4% on 8th August.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        nfw (or whatever you real name is): The world’s glaciers are melting, which is part of the reason for the rapid rate of sea-level rise we are now experiencing: and the governments of India, China and all the other countries whose fresh-water supplies arise from glacier-fed rivers are rather concerned about it. (Hence the recent Paris climate agreement, which you might possibly have heard of.)
        Which is also why a denialostrich like Tony Abbott would get nowhere on the international stage if the Coalition had been so foolish as to retain him as PM.

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    Dallas where have you been?
    We get to pay for the freebies … along with the ABC News Friends.