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Manne and ordinary people

By Anthony Cox - posted Tuesday, 7 August 2012

In a recent article Professor Robert Manne has announced the victory of Denialism in the debate over man-made global warming (AGW).

In his article, Manne asserts, vested interests have subverted the general public's understanding and therefore acceptance of the overwhelming evidence for AGW. However the real issue for Manne is one he enunciated in an earlier piece on the re-election of the Howard government. In this article Manne described the "battle" between two classes in Australian society: the "elites" and the "ordinary people". That class "battle" has continued and intensified in the AGW debate.

Manne now argues that "rational" and "reasonable" people must accept AGW and that the failure of policy to reflect support for AGW is due to a "feebleness of reason". Obviously for Manne rationality and reasonableness are qualities of the elites while the ordinary people are characterised by a "feebleness of reason" which produces the Denialism he denounces so vehemently.


It is this "feebleness of reason" that has led Manne to support the Finkelstein recommendation of greater control over the media because of the media's perceived role in influencing the susceptible minds of the "ordinary people". Unlike the elites, the ordinary people do not have the requisite rational and reasonable qualities to distinguish the truth about AGW from the propaganda.

In this case the truth about AGW is that it is true while anything which suggests otherwise is propaganda.

Manne wheels out the same old shibboleths to support his case that AGW is true. These include the best AGW can offer, Hansen, Schneider, and indeed all climate scientists as asserted by Oreskes.

It never occurs to Manne or any of his fellow prominent elites such as Clive Hamilton that the ordinary people can see that the science of AGW is not settled and arguably disproven and non-existent. The release of emails from the headquarters of climate science, the University of East Anglia, has given the ordinary people entre into the private world of the climate scientists and revealed those scientists to have grave doubts in their private conversations about that settled science.

Those private doubts combined with public declarations of certainty by the climate scientists have more than a touch of hypocrisy about them; as do the actions of elite supporters of AGW. People like Combet, Rudd, Flannery, Blanchett and Gore all have houses by the sea while simultaneously advocating policies about sea level rise which make it harder for ordinary people to enjoy the same privilege. The average person has picked up on this. People become annoyed when they are repeatedly told to cut back and suffer for the planet while the people doing the telling are doing the opposite.

Manne's distinction between the "elite" and "ordinary" citizen is personified in the recent release of two papers dealing with the same topic- the temperature record and how it is compiled.


Drawing inspiration from Manne's article on the triumph of Denialism, Graham Readfearn discusses one of those papers. The lead author of the paper that Readfearn deals with is Professor Richard Muller.

Muller is a poster boy and enfant terrible of AGW. Muller is a classic "elite" in Manne's parlance with a conventionally distinguished academic background. However Muller is especially significant to Readfearn and other pro-AGW commentators because they present Muller as a reformed sceptic; someone who originally doubted but through the application of rationality and reasonableness came to accept the evidence for AGW.

In fact Muller never was a sceptic. Muller said this in 2003:

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About the Author

Anthony Cox is a lawyer and secretary of The Climate Sceptics.

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