Coffee House

The climate change trip stuck in ice

2 January 2014

1:48 PM

2 January 2014

1:48 PM

My favourite quote of the season comes from Tracy Rogers, a marine ecologist who sometime today will be winched from the research vessel the Akademik Shokalskiy and rescued by helicopter.  ‘I love it when the ice wins and we don’t,’ she says. ‘It reminds you that as humans we don’t control everything and that the natural world is the winner here.’

The unintended irony is delicious. If the winner of the fiasco which has been developing in the Antarctic over the past two weeks is the natural world there is little disguising who the losers are, even if, as I suspect, Tracy Rogers can’t quite see it. She and her fellow passengers are on an expedition led by Chris Turney, professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales, to retrace a voyage made by Douglas Mawson a century ago. That Turney has taken a large number of paying passengers along, and is also entertaining reporters from the BBC and the Guardian suggests that this is not simply an experiment but a publicity stunt, too. The idea was that the world would be left gasping at the changes measured by Turney compared with the measurements made by Mawson a century ago, thereby encouraging acceptance of the thesis of man-made climate change.

All has not gone according to plan, however. While Mawson managed to sail directly to the coast of Antarctica, Turney encountered pack ice. They hoped initially to break their way through it, but instead have been marooned as the ice thickened and threatened to crush their ship. Fortunately, unlike in Mawson’s day, they have been able to call upon an air rescue team. Rescue by helicopter won’t do much for their carbon footprints, but at least they will be safe.


Had it been the other way round – had Turney managed to sail to the Antarctic along a route where Mawson had been trapped by ice – it is not hard to imagine how the news would have been reported: as irrefutable evidence of global warming. However, to question whether Turney’s experience challenges his science is, apparently, ‘silly’. He now claims, with great certainty, that the presence of the ice is itself evidence of global warming because it is a result of changing ocean currents. Not very convincing, given that he clearly did not forsee the presence of the ice.

As Tracy Rogers put it, humans don’t control everything. Indeed not, and that includes the climate, which has defied every attempt of the climate change lobby so far to predict it. Yet having been proved wrong on global temperatures, which have refused to budge in 17 years, the response of Turney and his ilk is always to come up with even more scary predictions, and claiming ever greater levels of certainty. While Turney has been trapped in the Antarctic his university department this week published a paper in Nature claiming to have found a weakness in climate models, correcting which increases the likelihood of global temperatures rising by 4C by 2100.

One more observation needs to be made about Turney. When sceptical scientists speak on climate change they are instantly accused of being in the pay of oil companies. Rather lower standards seem to be applied to those on the other side of the debate. Turney openly boasts on his website of his own vested interest: he helped set up a company called Carbonscape ‘which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green products.’

As for taking tourists on an Antarctic cruise into areas affected by ice — I suggest he never again attempts this, unless he wants to go down as a latterday Captain Smith of the Titanic.

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Show comments
  • Peter Stroud

    Turney is clearly an idiot. It seems that he either failed to study real world met data, or he did not believe it. He seems to have trusted his models, more than fact. Now he has put lives at risk, and caused China, and his own country to spend vast quantities of money – rescuing his scientists, left wing journalists and paying passengers. He should resign his professorship, or be sacked.

  • Silvia Kutle

    Commonwealth Bay has been navigable up until 2010. Mawson’s huts were located at a place that offered access by ship.
    In 2010 an iceberg named B9B that had previously calved from the Ross ice shelf in 1987, collided with the Mertz Glacier, causing a new iceberg to calve and B9B to become frozen to the seabed in Commonwealth Bay.
    Nearby there is a polynya (an area of ocean that normally remains open in winter), which produce sea ice. The obstruction of B9B and the relocation of part of the Mertz glacier has changed the ice flows around Commonwealth Bay and the behavior of the local polynya.
    Some of the work this private charter group had planned to do was to investigate the changes brought about by the iceberg collision. They accessed the Mawson huts area by traveling over the ice on motorised vehicles.

  • Swanky

    James Delingpole, Watermelons

  • starfish

    A quote from a proper scientist:

    “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” Niels Bohr

    It is interesting how the BBC seems to promote dodgy science, usually based on models or ‘reports’ that ‘reveal’ information that the BBC is predisposed to believe (and normally glossing over huge statistical errors)
    Here is another one
    Maybe they could find some money in their apparently massive employment budget to employ a proper statistician and, good grief, some actual scientists to error-check their output?

  • terence patrick hewett

    The Chinese rescue ship is now stuck in the ice as well.

  • sirgareth

    The Gaurdian has deleted thousand of comments with substantive rebuttal of this AGW nonsense – the English Inquisition is in full flower.

    When they burn opinion, they will not stop at burning people.

  • freetheCO2

    Hitler discovers he is trapped in Antarctic ice …

  • Pescadorean

    “And look how terribly the ice has melted…. oh shi†, there’s more of it than in Mawson’s day..”

  • arnoldo87

    Meanwhile…. in today’s Times:-

    “Oyster farmers in Oregon and Washington have seen more than 90 per cent of their oyster “spat” — baby oysters — die off. The culprit is acid seawater that invades the oyster hatcheries, and the problem has been growing worse over the past few years with increasingly acid waters. At this rate, within years the waters of the Pacific Northwest may be too corrosive for the oysters to survive and the hatcheries will be forced to close.

    This is just one example of how the world’s oceans are growing more acidic as the global levels of carbon dioxide rise in the atmosphere — something that has been largely overlooked by the media. The sea is a vast sink for carbon dioxide to dissolve in, where the gas turns into carbonic acid, a corrosive substance that attacks sea creatures.”

    It may be nothing to do with man made emissions of course.

    But we should all keep an open mind.

    • Swiss Bob

      If instead of parroting the Times and adding your own ‘spin’ you could have read what they actually said:

      “The natural short-term variability in acidity we observed over the course of one year exceeds 100-year global predictions for the ocean as a whole and may already be exerting added pressure on some of the estuary’s organisms, particularly shelled organisms that are especially susceptible to changes in pH,” said Zackary I. Johnson, Arthur P. Kaupe Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

      The short-term spikes in the acidity of the estuary were driven by changes in temperature, water flow, biological activity and other natural factors, the researchers said. And they are occurring in addition to the long-term acidification taking place in Earth’s oceans as a result of human-caused climate change.

      Natural daily changes in ocean PH far exceed any change in PH forecast as a result of absorption of atmospheric CO2 but then you’d know that if you knew anything about the subject, which you clearly don’t.

      • arnoldo87

        I’m always happy to bow to an expert on any subject. I know very little about the science of man made climate change (like most people I suspect) and therefore have to rely on expert scientists. The Coffee House would not be my first port of call if I wanted to be expertly informed.

        In this case I can choose between a Times report of something occurring on the West Coast of the USA. Or I can depend upon the testimony of someone who thinks that a report by Duke University into something that is happening on the East Coast is somehow related to another event that is happening in Washington and Oregon.

        But even taking the Duke report as relevant, here is what they say about man’s effect on the sea:-

        “Numerous studies have shown that increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human sources are finding their way into the world’s oceans. When the carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it reduces the water’s pH and the ability of organisms to form calcium carbonate minerals that are the building blocks of many species’ shells and skeletons. This process is known as ocean acidification.

        If current trends continue, experts predict that the mean ocean pH will decrease by about 0.2 units over the next 50 years. A drop of that magnitude could have far-reaching impacts on ocean ecosystems and organisms”

        You claim that “Natural daily changes in ocean PH far exceed any change in PH forecast as a result of absorption of atmospheric CO2”

        So why are the authors of the Duke report worried about trends that will have a far-reaching impact over the next 50 years?

        • dodgy

          Simply because that’s what they’re paid to say. It’s rather more subtle than that, but you won’t get your grant if you don’t conform.

          You are in a very dangerous position if your attitude to knowing very little about a subject is to unquestioningly trust an expert. Or someone who says they are. May I encourage you to find a little out about both sides and then make up your mind? This might be a suitably even-handed site to start:

          You will find a lot of references down the left-hand side…

          • arnoldo87

            “May I encourage you to find a little out about both sides and then make up your mind?”
            I think you’ll find that that is what I was recommending we all do in my original comment.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …no, you were promoting global warmingist hysteria in the first instance.

              • arnoldo87

                You forgot to patronise me with your oh so funny “laddy” comment.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …you may be even below the level required of the to-be patronized, lad .

                • arnoldo87

                  But you thought you’d do it anyway.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  No, but perhaps you’re just used to feeling patronized, lad.

  • He’s Spartacus

    I understand that the Akademik Shokalskiy has been renamed….

  • Penn_Seive

    “a company called Carbonscape ‘which has developed technology to fix
    carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green products.’”

    That would be forestry, then.

  • George Carpenter

    Of course evidence based on reading right wing newspapers about global warming trumps any Scientific expert who has spent 20 years of their life studying primary research on the subject. I bow to your prejudiced opinions oh lay people of such wisdom.
    The BBC and Guardian talking about custard is clearly irrefutable evidence that global warming is simply a communist plot by the Socialist left wing liberal lizardmen elite. Or something.

    • David

      If the government paid me hundreds of millions of pounds to come up with a justification for loads more state control and taxation going forward, I would happily do so. I am sure the ‘scientific experts’ you mention aren’t any different…

    • saffrin

      Shame on you George, climate change/global warming has been happening since the middle of the last ice age, even your scientists know that.
      They’re in it for the money George, get over it.

    • Uncle Brian

      Your “scientific experts” have just been proved wrong, haven’t they, George Carpenter? They’ve been spending twenty years of their lives looking in the wrong direction.

    • global city

      There are very few scientists doing that ‘primary’ research, and most of those few who are (especially the ones who control the historic data records) have been shown to be fraudsters.

      All the rest takes this blag data on trust as they witness and record largely natural events, as in climate change.

      The you throw the IPCC, etc, into the pot and you end up with the rubbish that you so obviously suck up uncritically.

  • Daniel Maris

    I think we should start with humility. Climate is way too complicated for us to be able to make accurate predictions about it as yet.

    However – that works both ways: for both AGWers and anti-AGWers.

    As for ice, well anyone who has thrown an ice cube in a glass of water may notice the water gets cooler, even though the ice cube is melting (i.e. getting warmer). Heat transfers are incredibly complex and then feed into global sea and air currents.

  • peter hayman

    Nature in her nakedness defeats us everytime Rudyard K

  • Augustus

    Yes, another huge nail in the coffin of the AGW hypothesis. We could in fact be heading towards a little ice age that is likely to last for decades. This is supported by current developments in solar activity which has reached the end of a 200-year period of high activity and is now in decline. According to experts, a solar minimum is expected around 2040/50, with less solar energy for the Earth. It’s therefore also very likely that polar ice will increase in the coming years.

  • Jupiter

    You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh your head off at these numpties.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Surely that should be a ‘heart of ice’?


  • mememine69

    Remaining climate blame believer;

    YOU can’t tell children that science says a REAL crisis WILL happen because science has agreed on nothing beyond “could be” a crisis so don’t be so eager to condemn our kids and at least KNOW first what it is you are agreeing on.

    “Climate change is real and is happening and COULD lead to unstoppable warming.” ……….nothing beyond “COULD” in 30 years so YOU can’t say it WILL until science does.

    Deny that and show us one scientific paper that agrees with YOU that it WILL be a crisis.

    Who is the neocon again here?

  • launcher
  • sfin

    Every so often an article appears which makes one hug oneself in delicious glee!

  • Swiss Bob

    Real scientific expeditions have been ruined by these clowns, not to mention the expense and risk they exposed so many to.

    I hope they have to pay.

  • Smithersjones2013

    In other news the International Society Of Fortune Tellers, Psychics and Astrologers (ISTPA) have strongly denied any links with the Climate Change movement. A spokesperson for ISTPA said

    “We wish them luck with their predictions but we really cannot afford the potential loss of credibility that any such association with them might bring”

  • realfish

    ‘…the presence of the ice is itself evidence of global warming…’

    Presumably on the same basis that:

    Hotter summers = global warming
    Cooler summers = global warming
    Warmer winters = global warming
    The cold winter and spring of 2013 = global warming
    Extreme weather events = global warming
    The benign 2013 hurricane season = global warming
    Cooler Atlantic currents = global warming

    Turney, the BBC’s Harrabin and their ilk? Charlatans, all of them.

    • David

      That’s why it’s called ‘climate change’, which is a gloriously nebulous and meaningless term, a bit like saying ‘wet water’ or ‘hot heat’! Has climate ever done anything else but change? Any ‘deniers’ of this might like to ask the dinosaurs about whether or not long term weather patterns remain the same throughout history!

      Let’s not beat about the bush, this is a new religion, pure and simple. With the likes of Turney its preachers, his academic study group its theologians and the BBC and Guardian its cheerleaders. Meanwhile governments, which should spend more time and money worrying about their peoples freezing in winter, can’t stop themselves donating to ‘the cause’, lest some zealots see them as ‘unholy’ if they do not. Madness.

      • James Strachan

        As G.K.Chesterton put it, “When men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing. They believe in anything.”

        • sirgareth

          This was very perceptive of him.

      • sirgareth

        My favoite Orwellian Newspeak term of art of this cult is:…wait for it…wait for it…..”Climate Disruption!”

        This is what these fruitcakes conjur up in the name of their “science”

        It’s total gibberish of course but we now have “goverment union educated” kids who are so stupid this phrase somehow makes sense to them.

  • itdoesntaddup

    Turney has certainly changed the climate on climate change propaganda.

    P.S. How much did each of the following contribute to the expedition:

    a) BBC
    b) ABC
    c) Guardian
    d) Exeter University
    e) The Hadley Centre
    f) Ed Davey and David Willetts approved funds out of climate change/education budgets

    • JackBoxall

      How about our friends at the University of East Anglia – Phil Jones et al.

    • Forester126

      The funders include
      University of NSW
      Australian Govt Research Council
      New Zealand Govt – Dept of Conservation
      University of Exeter (UK)
      US Antarctic Program
      University of Waikato
      University of Wollongong
      They also tried to get Crowd funding but failed miserably. The people from the Guardian and BBC probably paid the £8000 each the trip was offered to tourists at.

    • itdoesntaddup

      I think a Turney is a new kind of boomerang. A climate investigation that rebounds on you.

      • Uncle Brian

        So Newsweek got it right afte all, with that “Global Cooling – New Ice Age” cover story back in nineteen eighty-something.

  • freetheCO2

    The hubristic climastrologist chancer in charge of this fiasco could have read in advance that Antarctic sea ice was more than 2 standard deviations above the 1981-2010 average. This was also the case for the majority of the planning time of this appallingly led and vainglorious indulgence. (scroll down to Antarctic graph)

    • sirgareth

      Thats a great one “climastrologist” I truly love it.

      Of course “climastrology” is not science since real science is predicated on predictive models that actually offer fail-proof predictions.

      It only takes one failure to kill a theory. When f=ma fails to work then we are going to have to discard Newton too, but hes been safely ensconsed with that for a couple hundred so Im betting that people finnally wake up and ash-can these “climastrologists” before the next ice age commences.

      So far the Climastrologists fare worse than my darboard in predective accuracy.

      • starfish

        Your dartboard is probably more accurate if it is in a different room when you are throwing darts!

  • David

    What about his duty of care to the crew and the others (including paying eco-tourist guests) on board? What if appalling weather meant an airlift was impossible? What if some people died out there? It strikes me Turney believed his own propaganda and seemed to think he’d be sailing out to a green and pleasant land, possibly with a bit of light sunbathing thrown in. This wouldn’t be so serious if morons like him weren’t driving governments’ climate change policies…

  • Guenier

    The BBC’s story about the rescue ( – mysteriously listed under “Asia”- usefully concludes by reminding us that “One of the aims was to track how quickly the Antarctic’s sea ice was disappearing.” Well, that’s one aim satisfied.

  • foxoles

    It’s not the first time, either.

    Remember the Arctic rowing expedition in July, which couldn’t be completed because of the ice?

    “Three weeks ago they announced that they were going to row the Northwest Passage – because global warming made it possible. Now they say that the trip isn’t possible because it is too cold and there is too much ice …”

    ‘We needed Mother Nature to help. She hasn’t’ said its leader.

    So obviously nature ‘helping’ would mean nature doing what it’s told, and it’s stubbornly refusing to co-operate. Naughty nature.

    They don’t learn, do they??

    • Span Ows

      Nature not nurture nutjob

  • RavenRandom

    This is not he climate change they were looking for. Very funny.

  • In2minds

    Fancy being rescued by the Chinese too, if only they had built more coal fired power stations the emissions would have caused the ice to melt and all this rescue thingy could have been avoided! Let’s face it the ships crew were just posh boys who don’t know the price of a loaf or a pint of milk and, crucially, that polar ice can be a problem.

  • DavidL

    Perhaps “schadenfreude” will be the key word of 2014. With this ill-fated Antarctic stunt as appetizer, and the euro elections to come (with the Eurozone in its own ice-field of debt and economic contraction), it could be a year of payback against the bien pensants. Here’s hoping, anyway.

  • SimonToo

    There was a moment of pure delight in this story, when it turned out that the English translation of the name of the Chinese ice breaker that tried to break through to them, and will bear them off in its helicopter, is the “Snow Dragon”. How beautifully right and proper that is.

  • Rocksy

    This story and the Mandela signer have made my Christmas Holiday perfect. I had wondered why the ice stuck ship(s) hadn’t just waited fifteen minutes to let global warming set them loose.

    • Alexsandr

      they could have waited till summer when the ice would have melted.

      oh silly me. it is summer in the Antarctic…

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    Surely there is scope for a ‘Sitcom’ here?…

    • KaptKan1 .

      An update of “Gilligan’s Island” has been suggested…

      • Faceless Bureaucrat

        More like ‘Chilly-gan’s Island’…

  • DJM

    Ship of Fools indeed

    • realfish

      …or the voyage of the damned

      • DJM

        Presumably the Beeb/Graun censored the group sing-a-long “Whale meat again”

        (Big Hat Tip “Round The Horne”

        • Alexsandr

          nothing to do with ‘whale oil beef hooked’

  • HookesLaw

    Titanic? Cimactic.
    But its good of the Spectator to mention something I commented on 2 days ago.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Well done Hooky! Given you are so far ahead of the rest of us and have your finger on the pulse of so many topical events why don’t you set up your own blog? We’ll all come visit you, honest……

      • Alexsandr

        if he does one about the antarctic will it be coldslaw 🙂

  • Span Ows

    BBC and Guardian yet to admit the real reason their people were on board. Spending all their reporting time having a laugh and telling us what they’re eating and nothing about why they went!

    • HookesLaw

      BBC and Guardian. Why are they co-operating? One guess anybody?

      • cityca

        Why are the BBC and Guardian co-operating? Isn’t the BBC the broadcasting division of the Guardian? That’s what I always thought. They seem to quote each other, advertise each other and share the exact same views. And at one time, If you wanted a job at the BBC, it was only advertised in the Guardian.

    • Latimer Alder

      All is well. The raguanid man had custard with his pudding on the new ship. The world can breathe a sigh of relief.

      Its been just like Apollo 13 – NOT.

      • Latimer Alder

        But the word ‘Schadenfreude’ has such a lovely ring to it doesn’t it?

        I doubt that Mr Turney and his very merry band of ecotourists will be back in a hurry.

        In fact I suspect that Mr T will be closeted with lawyers for a long long time.

        • almondaxles

          He will if he reads this article.

        • sirgareth

          Yes it does…its hard to find a good place to use that term but you’ve certainly found it here –

          However, the real “Schadenfreude” will arrive when we can all raise a rowdy cheer as the first of these frauds slips through the scafold’s trap door for the crimes against humanity they have perpetrated on us.

      • dalai guevara

        Alexander von Rohr holds the patent for heating with ice.
        Yes, you heard me, releasing the embodied energy from frozen H2O is a huge energy source. This is indeed not rocket science, it’s the green future.

        • James

          “huge energy source”

          I’m in tears, I must remember to tell that one to my colleagues in the Chem dept.

          • dalai guevara

            Apologies, it’s of course the other way round – heat released when H2O freezes. Heat of crystallisation, humongous amounts of heat are released.
            Enough hot air for Viessmann to invest.

            • sirgareth

              Thats what you get for practicing science without a license. Too bad we cant tax the activity, we could retire the national debt from all of the “social science” nut jobs who “beleive on this” AGW nonsense

              • dalai guevara

                Sir, there are four+ domestic heating manufacturers in Germany employing more than 10,000+ highly skilled employees each – manufacturers, not installers.
                The German Mittelstand calls all the shots with regards to progress and innovation. The ‘Eisheizung’ I referred to above is one product in a vast product range which I am afraid to say is way superior to anything you will find elsewhere in such density and consistency. I am not surprised that none of you chaps have even heard of it.

        • Chris Morriss

          Please learn some science old chap, and try to keep up…

        • David Kay

          frozen H2O isnt rocket science?

          err yes it is. you separate the hydrogen from the oxygen and you have rocket fuel. This is why scientists are so interested in frozen moons and planets in our solar system for the future of space exploration

          DG, you get 0/10 for science, but 10/10 for your eco whackery ideology.

        • sirgareth

          So all the ice they are trapped in is just another manifestation of our plantary “fever” to coin a term of the insane Dr Gore.

          • dalai guevara

            “Dr Gore” spoke to an American target market a good decade or two after continental Europe was already fully engaged, even Barcelona (the trailing South) had introduced an Envac Automated Waste Collection System by then, an invention of 1960’s Sweden.
            That truth is inconvenient indeed, but it did not resonate with those who had already long moved on.

    • James Lovelace

      The media are silent when the claims of the Anointed are proven wrong.

  • artemis in france

    This story has given me more pleasure over the last week than almost anything other than watching reruns of Harry Hill’s TV Burp. As Littlejohn would say “you couldn’t make it up”.

  • Roderick

    Surely a competent lawyer acting for the passengers could organise a class action against Turney for recklessly putting their lives in danger.