Will Clive Hamilton reflect on ‘alarmist’ failures?

Clive Hamilton’s series of articles on the climate change debate at The Drum is not yet complete, but what’s missing so far is any self-reflection. Things have gone wrong for the alarmist camp, but the fault according to Clive seems to lie entirely with other people.

For instance I agree with Hamilton that behaviour in this debate has been poor – but poor on both sides, not just the sceptic side. I complained years ago about the ‘McCarthyist’ tactics of the alarmists, and their outrage at any dissent from the official line.

Not only has this approach helped provoke attacks in response and alienated people not strongly committed to either side, but it probably contributed to the broader political shortcomings of the alarmists. As I showed in a recent Policy article, in public opinion the alarmists have had the upper hand for 20 years. Their political imperative wasn’t to stamp out the last remnants of dissent on the science, but to convert belief in the science into support for practical measures to reduce carbon emissions. There was an opportunity cost to chasing down every sceptic offering a view.

The other tactical problem with the alarmists was their focus on scaring people rather than trying to sell a more positive message. In a month of climate change media monitoring in 2008, I found in Australian media alone an average of 1.6 different climate change disaster stories a day. This vastly understates the actual number of such stories, because multiple media outlets often report the same story. This kind of saturation negativity promotes both scepticism and boredom.

Perhaps Clive will reflect on his own side’s faults in coming days, but somehow I doubt it.


In Hamilton’s attacks on ‘sceptic’ think-tanks he lets the CIS off relatively lightly. But as with his former PhD student Guy Pearse his evidence includes facts that are irrelevant to his case.

…after struggling in its early years, it was reprieved by a major funding boost from six mining companies, a rescue facilitated by Hugh Morgan. Among its board members is Sir Rod Eddington, a senior business adviser to the Labor Government.

What does help from Hugh Morgan 30 years ago have to do with current debates? And I’ve heard Rod Eddington argue for the science behind climate change, so how is his CIS board membership connected to supposed CIS scepticism? This is all just padding to make it look like Hamilton has more evidence than is actually the case.

101 Responses to “Will Clive Hamilton reflect on ‘alarmist’ failures?

  • 1
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    March 9th, 2010 12:31

    Don’t worry A-Nort. This Guy Pearse character doesn’t know whether he’s a lib or a greeny. His bio is an exercise in confusion. Hope he’s not that chap from that ‘Momento’ movie.
    Baz – the ordinary Aussie – Institute of Ordinary Australianess, University of Name-Drop-Kick