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Morgan's "alarmists": Poles Apart worth the effort

SMC Alert

Gareth Morgan's "alarmists": Poles Apart worth the effort

The New Zealand scientists given the task of convincing economist Gareth Morgan that global warming is a result of human activity say that despite their initial reservations about the fractious book project, the ends justified the means.

Morgan paid around $500,000 to hire two teams of scientists - the climate change "Alarmists" and "Sceptics", to put their arguments to him as he sought to make sense of the debate surrounding global warming and its causes.

His resulting book, Poles Apart: Beyond the Shouting, Who's Right About Climate Change? concludes that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases due to human activity do in fact produce significant global warming. The book is officially launched in Wellington at Parliament tonight.

In the final pages of Poles Apart, Morgan and co-author John McCrystal declare: "The alarmists were right and we shouldn't call them alarmists any more - or at least not all of them! And further, it has to be said that only a few of the Sceptics are actually sceptics. Too many are gadflies and deniers."

The three key scientists who put the case for anthropogenic global warming, Dr Dave Lowe, Dr Lionel Carter and Dr Peter Barrett - all from the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University, expect the book to have a "huge impact" with the public, though have faced criticism from colleagues for their involvement in the project.

In comments posted on the Science Media Centre website, they state:

"Quite a few mainstream scientists aren't happy about the book and the way the authors rip into the IPCC process, and Dave has had a few harsh comments for his participation in the book research process. Basically some of our scientific colleagues didn't think that an economist could make sense of a complex subject like the science of climate change. We disagree. Not perfect sense, of course, but sufficient sense to come to his own conclusions that are in the end not very different from those of climate scientists.

"That said, while we are satisfied with the outcome, and most of the scientific explanations the book contains, we feel we never did get Gareth and John to understand the process by which good science proceeds, and we think this process therefore takes more of a beating in their book than it deserves."

The comments of the scientists are available in full on the Science Media Centre website.

Another local scientist involved in contributing to the research for Poles Apart, Dr Andy Reisinger, Senior Research Fellow at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University, said way the authors engaged in the scientific literature rather than quoting second hand arguments was "impressive" and "deserves recognition".

However, he also stated:

"The way this book is being received in the media does raise some significant questions though about how complex problems are best explored that have a scientific basis but major social, economic and environmental implications.

"Fundamentally, we have to ask - what would we have made of the work by Gareth and John if they had come to conclusions that differ significantly from those of the IPCC? If Gareth and John had concluded that in their view, there isn't good evidence that humans are changing the world's climate, would we care? Should we?"

Dr Reisinger's comments are available in full on the Science Media Centre website.

Notes to Editors
The Science Media Centre (SMC) is an independent source of expert comment and information for journalists covering science and technology in New Zealand. Our aim is to promote accurate, bias-free reporting on science and technology by helping the media work more closely with the scientific community. The SMC is an independent centre established by the Royal Society of New Zealand with funding from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. The views expressed in this Science Alert are those of the individuals and organisations indicated and do not reflect the views of the SMC or its employees. For further information about the centre, or to offer feedback, please email us at


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