In September 2015, I was appointed a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). This followed the termination of my adjunct position at Central Queensland University (CQU) on 1st July 2015. The specific reason given was that after 5 years and 17 peer-reviewed publication with the CQU affiliation, my work was ‘not well integrated into emerging research clusters’. This followed the kerfuffle and ousting of Bjorn Lomborg from the University of Western Australia in May 2015. Indeed universities can be so political, and in modern Australia so intolerant of dissent.
My work at CQU was wholly funded by the B. Macfie Family Foundation, and this will continue to be the source of funding for my employment at the IPA.
I have also recently founded The Climate Modelling Laboratory, which will hopefully be a vehicle for progressing my work with John Abbot forecasting monthly rainfall using artificial neural networks, a form of machine learning/artificial intelligence.
I believe that the next really big breakthrough in sustainable resource management will come from better forecasting of droughts and floods using sophisticated artificial neural networks and quality temperature data. I’m working towards this ambitious goal, and thinking about alternative theories of climate change.
I have described myself as a utilitarian libertarian. Libertarians oppose arbitrary power. I much prefer appeals to reason, logic and evidence, rather than authority.
I was born in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. My parents were farmers at Coomalie Creek near the uranium mine of Rum Jungle. They grew tomatoes and pasture seed, ran buffaloes and cattle. My earliest memories are of wildflowers emerging from ground still charred-black from a bushfire, and swimming with indigenous friends in the billabong just down from our mud-brick home.
I started school at Batchelor, but by second grade Mum and Dad had sold-up, and we left the Northern Territory in a Holden station wagon towing a caravan. After nearly a year of travelling with many months spent in beach front caravan parks, our family moved into a home nestled in the Conondale ranges overlooking the headwaters of the Mary River. That house is now the community centre for the alternative lifestyle village of Crystal Waters. After Conondale, I was sent to Clayfield College, a boarding school in Brisbane, and during school holidays visited my parents in diverse locations mostly overseas. I was later moved to Brisbane Girls’ Grammar school where I completed high school, and then went on to complete a science degree at the University of Queensland majoring in Botany and Entomology.
While at University I had a variety of jobs from interpreter for the Asian Development Bank in Indonesia to ‘bug checker’ on the Darling Downs in Australia. On graduation I was employeed by the Alan Fletcher Research Station, and within a couple of years was running their field station in Toliara in south west Madagascar. The success of the biological control project that I worked on in Madagascar is documented in the book entitled ‘Reclaiming lost provinces: A century of weed biological control in Queensland’ (Queensland Dept of Natural Resources and Mines, 2005).
During the 1990s, I published in Australian and international scientific journals and completed a PhD. In 1997 I took up a position as Environmental Manager for the Queensland sugar industry. It was in this position that I became interested in environmental campaigns and, in particular, anomalies between fact and perception regarding the health of coastal river systems and the Great Barrier Reef.
In 2003, I signed a three year contract with the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) to work on Murray River issues. My monograph ‘Myth and the Murray: Measuring the Real State of the River Environment’ is of enduring relevance, and was published within the first six months of that appointment. During the recent drought in the Murray Darling, a group of us created a Myth and the Murray website and campaigned for 7.6 kms of concrete barrage separating the Murray’s Mouth and Coorong from the terminal coastal lakes, also known as the Lower Lakes, to be opened. We are concerned that both sides of Australian politics have policies that prevent the restoration of the Murray River’s estuary.
After a period living in the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, I moved to Yeppoon in central Queensland, and began working with John Abbot at Central Queensland University, including to develop a method for medium-term rainfall forecasting using artificial neural networks, a form of artificial intelligence.
During 2002-2003, I documented my concerns with the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) ‘Save the Reef Campaign’ including the perverse influence of this campaign on public policy in a long review entitled ‘WWF Says Jump, Governments Ask How High” and short piece for the IPA Review in March 2003 entitled, ‘Deceit in the Name of Conservation’.
During 2003-2006, I presented evidence suggesting that some within the Land and Water program at CSIRO had misled the Australian public on Murray River salinity issues. This work featured in a Channel 9 TV documentary with Ross Coulthard ‘Australia’s Salinity Crisis: What Crisis’.
My recent work advocating the restoration of the Murray River’s estuary has been as controversial, and my response to a barrage of questions from the television program Media Watch can be downloaded here.
My initial interest in global warming was driven by a desire to better understand water policy, and in particular the likely affect of increasing levels of carbon dioxide on Australian rainfall. After attending the ‘2008 International Conference on Climate Change’ in New York I was interviewed by Michael Duffy from Australia’s ABC Radio National and discussed the last 10 years of temperature data and also output from NASA Aqua Satellite (Climate Change, Michael Duffy, March 17, 2008). This interview was the focus of an opinion piece by Christopher Pearson in The Australian (Climate facts to warm to, Christopher Pearson, March 22, 2008), which was subsequently picked up by Fox News (Cooling Effect, Brit Hume, March 24, 2008).
On April 7, 2008, I received leaked email correspondence between an activist, Jo Abbess, and BBC Environment reporter Roger Harrabin. After posting this email exchange at my blog this news was picked up by many UK and US bloggers and then various news outlets including CNN’s Glen Beck Show. I was invited onto Australia’s popular ABC Television show Q&A where I attempted to explain that there are alternative climate change theories.
It is interesting how quickly the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) has come to dominate climate science, despite its evident lack of practical utility, and in particular the absence of any measurable improvement in the skill of rainfall and snowfall forecasts. This, despite an extraordinary investment in General Circulation Models (GCMs). I’m continually reminded of the Thomas Kuhn quote: “As in manufacture so in science, retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it.” Perhaps this time has arrived, thus my interest in the application of artificial intelligence to rainfall forecasting.
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