For a lot of my lifetime Macquarie University’s Distinguished Professor Lesley Hughes has been an activist scientist running a jihad against the planet’s life-affirming CO2 emissions. Old hands might remember her on Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Climate Commission from 2011, which morphed into the crowd-funded Climate Council two years later, Dr Hughes morphing with it.
Our big three warming warners have long been Hughes, the false climate prophet Tim Flannery and the not-always-right ANU doom-crier Will Steffen. In 2014 Hughes trumped both of them, winning the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prize for 20 years’ worth of science (read ‘global-warming’) communication. The museum’s CEO, Kim McKay, noted in passing that climate change science was “settled”. That was a brave call as no other scientific issue is settled yet. Even less likely, Macquarie University claimed that one alarm course by Dr Hughes “even received praise from climate sceptics—for them, what had been lacking was a clear explanation of the science.” Oh really?
Five years later she collected the same museum’s lifetime achievement award. Any time anyone has a climate-alarm prize to hand out, expect Hughes to be on the short list.
I don’t want to carp, but climate-alarm “science” is all about what will happen in the future, as foreseen by the modellers’ crystal ball. Doom-criers like Hughes and Steffen might be right about 2050, though we oldies will all be dead. Or they might be wrong and that big sun overhead with its sunspot cycle might cool planet earth a bit and force the next ice age. In that case, people would look back on Hughes, Flannery, Steffen et al as a bit weird and their science as junk. So I’m not a fan of Hughes’ innumerable (60, 100, 200?) futurist papers about future warming impacts.
What I do admire is her early career as entomologist. From her student days she was fascinated by insects. If you wanted to know about aphids, grasshoppers, Christmas beetles, lantana leaf-miners, Hemiptera (“true bugs”), thrips, or ant-tended butterfly ejaculations, young Lesley provides her tour de force. But in the 1990s, her focus changed from studying actual bugs to studying what hypothesised global warming might do to them in 2050 or 2100 or whenever, and I rather lost interest in her stick-insect papers. But it’s this later line of work – future impacts of imagined warming on plants and bugs – that has given Hughes so many clouds of glory to trail.
If you intuit that I’m peeved with Distinguished Professor Hughes, you’re right but for the wrong reason. My big beef is that she was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, agitators to re-christen global warming (latterly “climate change”) into “climate emergency” cum “global heating” cum “climate crisis” cum “climate breakdown” cum “climate disruption”.
This inane warping of the English language is now standard among second-rate environmental journalists and mock-scientists in academia. Just for starters, the UAH satellite-based global temperature readouts now show no warming – indeed a little cooling- for the past six years and two months. Maybe someone should tell the climate scientists! And that’s despite two big recent and natural El Nino warming bursts.
The only place you can find a climate “emergency” is in the dud computer-based forecasting relied on by Hughes et al. The IPCC itself in 2013 said 111 of 114 tested model runs overshot actual warming. Real-world studies show that climate sensitivity to CO2 is only a half or a third of early IPCC estimates. The IPCC even today can’t make up its mind whether CO2 doubling will create 1.5degC of warming or 4.5degC of warming or somewhere in between — the same uncertainty range it started with 30 years ago – and that’s despite academics wasting taxpayer billions on climate research. The empirical (i.e. real world) studies these days put the sensitivity at a harmless 1 to 2degC tops.
I DISCOVERED Hughes’ seminal role in the Western media’s “climate emergency”while idly reading annual reports of Future Earth , whose recent follies include certifying that pseudo-Aboriginal Bruce Pascoe is the real deal. Hughes helps run Future Earth, which is a satrap of the green-left Australian Academy of Science. In Future Earth’s 2018 report, you can read (emphasis added):
Professor Lesley Hughes, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University, a climate change researcher for 25 years and climate science communicator for the last 15 years, professed shock at the level of ignorance of basic climate science. She pointed out the importance of using strong enough language—not using ‘change’ but words such as ‘disruption’, ‘emergency’ and ‘crisis’. In her view, the problem is that not everyone cares about the environment, but they care about other factors such as their own quality of life.
Her crusade against sane language was endorsed a few months later by the United Nations avowedly-socialist secretary general, António Guterres, who talked of the “climate crisis” , adding for good measure: “We face a direct existential threat.” Among Dr Hughes’ other language crusaders is pint-sized seer Greta Thunberg, who a year after Dr Hughes’ rallying cry said:
It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?
Little wonder Hughes describes Greta as her “fellow Cassandra!”
Hughes’ and Thunberg’s verbal pyrotechnics were soon after picked up by the UK Guardian. Its environment editor, Damian Carrington, headlined, “Why The Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment”. He quoted the editor-in-chief Katharine Viner,
The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.
Carrington announced that The Guardian‘s style book for its reporters now recommended such “scientifically precise” terms as climate ‘crisis’, ‘heating’ or ‘breakdown’. No, I’m not making that up. The new style guide also rules out use of “climate sceptic” in favour of “climate science denier”, and advised its “journalists” against ever again seeking comments from sceptics. Such sceptics would include Professor Judith Curry, who has published 200 papers on atmospheric physics compared with, say, climate scientist Dr Hughes’ zero in that field.
The call to arms by Dr Hughes, Greta Thunberg and The Guardian has been further taken up by more than 400 unprofessional and partisan news outlets globally, with an alleged reach extending to two billion people. They’ve all signed on to a “climate emergency pledge” to ratchet up the warming scare (truth and the scientific method be damned!) and suppress any contrary scientific views. This shameful group includes (at last count) seven Australian media outlets and eleven in New Zealand. The ABC, while not a signatory, by policy ignores climate sceptic’s views and research.
When I was young and naïve, like Julia Gillard during her liaison with light-fingered beau Bruce Wilson, I thought all the scientists on the IPCC were conscientiously objective about their deliberations. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, bless him, viewed them as “humourless people in white coats”. Dr Hughes was a lead author for both the fourth and fifth IPCC reports. Yet she and her acolytes have never made a secret of her activism and in 2013, the same year she signed off on her pages in the IPCC’s Fifth Report, she stepped up to join the board of green-Left lobbyists WWF Australia. (Barrier Reef doom-crier Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who sometimes co-authors papers with Dr Hughes, is another IPCC Australian scientist with WWF Australia connections). If you lift up any rock at the IPCC headquarters in Geneva, you’re likely to find green lobbyists wriggling about.
Hughes was well-known to WWF for years. In 2009 WWF and Earth Hour cited her as a reviewer of their 30-page report on cute animals like penguins and orang-utans at risk from global warming. (The apes are actually endangered by palm oil expansion to make supposedly greener fuels). Polar bears got a guernsey too – and contrary to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) doom-crying in 2009 reviewed by Dr Hughes et al, they’re absolutely thriving today.
Maybe you think WWF does only pure good in the world, so what doess it matter if it gets a few things wrong for the right reasons? Well, our WWF is a loose affiliate of the global WWF or World Wildlife Fund. “Fund” is right – the WWF’s US boss Carter S. Roberts draws pay of $US1.4 million and 20 per cent of the fund-raising is leached off just in fund-raising expenses. These do-gooder groups include the Red Cross, which disappeared $US500 million for Haiti earthquake relief in 2015. It claimed to have resettled 130,000 Haitians when the number of permanent homes it built was six.
That was just a peccadillo compared with what cuddly-panda WWF (not the Australian arm) got up to in the Congo, funding and equipping anti-poachers in Salonga. The rangers whipped and raped four women carrying fish by a river. Two of the women were pregnant and one later had a miscarriage. The eco-guards tortured male villagers by tying their penises with fishing lines.
WWF commissioned an independent review by a UN human rights bigwig who reported late last year that WWF did “especially weak” oversight in the Congo, fearful of Congo government backlash and ignoring horrifying allegations even by its own low-level officials. WWF in response expressed “deep and unreserved sorrow for those who have suffered,” and said that abuses by park rangers “horrify us and go against all the values for which we stand.” Conveniently, the review did not review the culpability of top WWF officials.
I’m not of course suggesting that our WWF and Dr Hughes were implicated in torturing Congolese – just that scientists seeking public trust ought to keep activist lobbies at arm’s length. Au contraire, Dr Hughes actually shared the “Activist of the Year Award” from the Ngara Institute in 2019, jointly with diagram-challenged Will Steffen. What the dickens is the Ngara Institute? “A not-for- profit activist think tank which puts people, communities & the planet before increasingly predatory capitalism.” Karl Marx would be disappointed that, rather than destroying capitalism, the Institute was destroyed by capitalism, or anyway, “Ngara Institute anti-liberal think tank has sadly now closed.” Locally, WWF Australia is merely striving to destroy the beef and sugar cane industry, as Queensland growers’ group Agforce has demonstrated.
DID I mention disturbed teen Greta Thunberg? Well Dr Hughes is more than happy to be mentored by Greta, whom she calls “a beacon of light”. Dr Hughes was out on the Sydney streets with her offspring in 2019 during the Greta-inspired School Strike 4 Climate. From the horse’s mouth:
I was there in Sydney, with my own two kids. Listening to the speeches triggered two very different emotions – deep shame for my own generation, and enormous pride for theirs.
I have since had the privilege of working with several of the rally organisers and they are some of the brightest, most mature, and most committed people I have ever met. If there is such a thing as passion bringing about change, we are in good hands, at least, just as soon as they are old enough to vote.
That’s not all on the Greta-Lesley Nexus to Reform the World. Way back in 2013 a climate fringe-dweller at the ANU called Joe Duggan of Science Circus Program at ANU/Questacon solicited hand-written missives from 40 of the usual climate-alarm suspects, including Dr Hughes, about their inward agonies researching the impending death of the planet. It backfired because Duggan managed to traumatise himself as well:
The results upset and unsettled Duggan whose partner was expecting a child. He withdrew into himself and put the project on hold for about three years. Recently, however, he returned to the project and asked the scientists to write again: had their feelings changed during the intervening years?
Dr Hughes rose to Duggan’s challenge:
My emotions haven’t really changed since I last wrote one of these letters, but things around me have. The beacon of light that is Greta Thunberg, speaking truth to power. Our own wonderful, passionate school kids taking to the streets, making me cry with pride. The only way to cope with all of this is to focus on what I can do, what I’m best at…
Does she mean stick insects? Probably not.
…and hope like hell that enough people, doing what they do best, can overcome. I have some very dark moments, but more than ever before, I feel wrapped in a blanket of collective determination. Hope is a necessary emotion, but more than that, it must be our fundamental strategy to keep us going. Lose it, and we are lost.
Lesley, I at Quadrant Online feel your pain. Talking of pain, Dr Hughes has no qualms about the extermination of the global methane-belching beef and dairy herd, maybe by 2025. She’s an enthusiast for artificial milk which makes Daisy the dairy cow unnecessary. In an over-long piece for The Monthly, she says detractors call this product “frankenmilch”. She writes,
But what if that two-litre container of white stuff looked like milk, tasted like milk, was chemically identical to milk without the bad bits, was cheaper, made a great cappuccino, came without most of the land, water, climate issues, and nothing had to die to produce it? Would you buy it? I would. In a heartbeat. Sorry, Daisy.
Dr Hughes is quite a comedian, not necessarily intentionally. Here she is in July 2019:
But there’s many other ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, even machines to basic[ally] vacuum it out of the air and convert it into something that doesn’t warm the planet. In 2007, Sir Richard Branson decided to do something serious about this by offering a $US25 million prize in the Virgin Earth Challenge to promote greenhouse gas removal technologies. To date, no one has actually taken out the prize, but currently there are 11 finalists. Our own Tim Flannery is one of the judges, and I have to say that lately he has been giving out hints that perhaps the prize might soon be awarded – we may have to torture him to find out.
Sadly, I didn’t get to torture Tim “Perth Ghost Metropolis” Flannery to find out – I just looked up the wiki. It turns out that finalists were announced by Branson in 2011 and kept on hold for eight years while the self-promoting tycoon harassed them with technical demands rather than paying up. One finalist was finally told the $US25m prize was “on hold indefinitely” and at end 2019, a few months after Dr Hughes laudatory comments, Branson dumped the prize and its website went offline. One finalist who had raised $US60 million investments told a Dutch journal, “”If you want to encourage scientific progress with a prize, it’s not enough to open your mouth and say ‘25 million dollars.’”
Dr Hughes cited Branson’s prize in her speech, “Six reasons for hope in the face of climate change.” Her stated goal was to “remove one trillion tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the planet’s atmosphere this century.” She concluded with a fond quote “from the 19th century Italian Marxist politician Antonio Gramsci, who wrote about the tension between the ‘pessimism of the intellect versus the optimism of the will’” — whatever that might mean.
I could go on but it’s called beating a dead horse. Instead, here’s an intellectual challenge for you all. Which of these quotes is from Dr Hughes, and which from Greta Thunberg. I offer the winner a prize of up to $US25 million (Terms and conditions apply).
1/ “Emissions reductions over the next decade [are] absolutely critical … because they will determine what happens in the second half of this century and will absolutely determine the nature of climate change as an existential threat to humanity… This is the absolute critical most necessary transformational decade that the human race has probably ever faced.”
2/ “Every year we kill more than 60 billion animals, excluding fish, whose numbers are so great that we only measure their lives by weight. What about their thoughts and feelings?”
3/ “So how to go forward? My emotions haven’t really changed since I last wrote one of these letters, but things around me have. The beacon of light that is Greta Thunberg, speaking truth to power. … I have some very dark moments, but more than ever before, I feel wrapped in a blanket of collective determination. Hope is a necessary emotion, but more than that, it must be our fundamental strategy to keep us going. Lose it, and we are lost.”
4/ “It’s overwhelming to sit at home feeling worried, alone and frustrated. So join Extinction Rebellion, become a Climate Council supporter, join your local climate action group or join the Greens – find the right group for your level of comfort.”
5/ “You say nothing in life is black or white. But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie. Either we prevent 1.5C of warming or we don’t. Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control or we don’t. Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival.”
6/ “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Postponement: The launch of Tony Thomas’s next book from Connor Court, Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars, has been COVID-postponed from June 16 to the new date of June 30. The launch is at il Gamberos, 166 Lygon St, Carlton Vic at 6.30pm. All welcome, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answers to Quiz: Macquarie’s Distinguished Professor Lesley Hughes, 1,3,4. Troubled teenager Greta Thunberg, 2,5.6.
 A recent Nature paper co-authored by Steffen included,
Correction 09 April 2020: The figure ‘Too close for comfort’ in this Comment incorrectly synthesized and interpreted data from the IPCC. The graph labelled the temperatures as absolute, rather than rises; misrepresented the levels of risk; misinterpreted data as coming from a 2007 IPCC report; extrapolated the focus of a 2018 report; and was not clear about the specific sources of the data. The graphic has been extensively modified online to correct these errors.
 “From a research background—predicting and then observing the effects of a changing climate on biodiversity— Professor Hughes moved to communicating beyond her scientific peers. Her goal is to translate the science of climate change in all its breadth and complexity to the wider public.”
 Effects of mating history on ejaculate size, fecundity, longevity, and copulation duration in the ant-tended lycaenid butterfly, Jalmenus evagoras
 IPCC AR5: “… an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations [computer models] reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations show a [temperature] trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 trend [actual temperatures] ensemble. This difference between simulated and observed trends could be caused by some combination of (a) internal climate variability, (b) missing or incorrect radiative forcing, and (c) model response error.” [chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769]
 ABC reporters are to maintain “a balance that follows the weight of evidence”. These guidelines for ABC staff lump climate sceptics with anti-vaccination nutters and 9/11 “truthers”.
 Lead authors cobble together IPCC sections and chapters from raw material from many contributing authors.
 AgForce: “WWF is using tactics that force industries and individual producers to use expensive third-party auditing and certification schemes controlled or manipulated by WWF itself to prove sustainability.”