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Antarctica trek for tourists plagued by inaccurate climate hype from tour guides

The Frozen Wastes of the Warmist Mind

By Tony Thomas

On New Year’s Eve I took a $3000 seat on an overnight 787 Dreamliner from Tullamarine down to the Antarctic and back. It was sensational to see some of this mysterious, beautiful and inhospitable continent by the light of the midnight sun, in crystal-clear air and from a low altitude. Not so pleasant was the tour-guide commentary from a couple of old hands from the Australian base, one a glaciologist and the other once an Antarctic maintenance plumber. The cockpit crew weighed in too with descriptions and opinions.

The pair of 70,000lb-thrust engines provided a low whining accompaniment to the talks. But there was already plenty of verbal whining, as if each talker wanted to outdo the others on the perils of global warming in the Antarctic. I cocked an ear briefly but then tuned out, as every speaker was talking nonsense. Normally, I’d have taken down their verbiage in shorthand to pillory them in print. But I was rivetted by the views as glaciers came and went, sea ice dotted the coastline and the smoking crater of Mt Erebus hove into sight. So I’ll just summarise: they blamed global warming for everything down there that moved, and everything there that didn’t move as well.

I think they had guilty consciences. After all, we were polluting the pristine Antarctic air with jet-A1 exhaust gases, and our plane was full of elitists (myself included). We cheerfully paid as much as $7000 for a night’s trip to regions off-limits to 99.9 per cent of Australians. Sure, the Antarctica flights business professes to be carbon neutral by donating to things like the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Project, near Geraldton in Western Australia.[1] If we really believed in fairy tales about the looming Year 2100 hothouse extinction, we’d be building dykes in Port Melbourne and lunching on lentils. Our commentators were either out of touch or fibbing: the Antarctic is not warming. Sea ice there is growing, not contracting. The Antarctic refutes the climate modelling orthodoxy that global warming will be amplified at the poles relative to the equator.

Here’s a paper that appeared in Nature just last October: “Low Antarctic continental climate sensitivity due to high ice sheet orography [mountains]”. It’s by Hansi A. Singh & Lorenzo M. Polvani:

The Antarctic continent has not warmed in the last seven decades, despite a monotonic [steady] increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases … Antarctic sea ice area has modestly expanded and warming has been nearly non-existent over much of the Antarctic ice sheet.

The paper uses modelling to blame the non-warming on the high altitude of the Antarctic land mass. Nice try — except real modelling experts says these “state of the art” models are incapable of dealing with climate complexities, being especially ignorant about clouds and future solar irradiance.[2] Meanwhile, scientists by the dozen have been scrabbling for explanations why their pet hypothesese is a dud in the Antarctic, eg., the ozone hole and even a “negative greenhouse effect”.[3]

There appears to have been a bit of warming along Antarctica’s Western Peninsula, which scientists of warmist bent bang on about interminably. However, in 2017 researchers discovered no fewer than 91 subsurface volcanos well matching the geographic peninsula hotspots. Some were as big as the 4000-metre Mount Eiger. This Antarctic science is not exactly “settled”. Meanwhile, a lot of scientific commentary simply invents a warming narrative down there to bolster their “climate emergency” nonsense.

There are 19 temperature stations in the Antarctic with long track records. It would seem useful to analyse the readouts. Maybe, unlike applying for research grants, that’s too sophisticated a task for “climate scientists”. Luckily  there is young lay blogger in Japan who calls herself “Kirye” and has downloaded and graphed the 30-years of data from NASA records. She finds around half of the 19 stations show no warming or slight cooling, and the minor warming of the others is “nothing unusual”. Two stations show slight warming but are near the South Pole, where the mean temperature is 50 degrees below freezing, so their fractional warming is hardly significant in melting any ice.

Kirye did a further check of 13 temperature stations along the West Peninsular (about which all sorts of horror-show predictions are constantly bruited), plus some stations on Antarctic islands to the north. She found all 13 showed slight cooling over the past 20 years. Let me pause here for a personal aside about the incoherent rage that mere mention Antarctic cooling can incite. At a charity club’s social gathering in January, I was told to shut up because “no-one is interested in your sceptic crap”.  Professor Chris Turney, like my uncharitable social nemesis, was convinced the Antarctic has been warming, and eight years ago he and his Pied Piper followers got badly stuck in the ice on the Good Ship Climate Change aka the Akademik Shokalskiy aka Ship of Fools. Much the same happened to climate warriors who imagined they could take their rowboat happily into and through the “melting Arctic”.

As for the land-based Greenland ice sheet, it’s been growing for the past five years, along with some major Greenland glaciers.[4] Have you heard about  Glacier Girl, the P38 twin-boom fighter that force-landed on the Greenland ice in 1942? Ice has increased and the plane 50 years later was found 82 metres below the surface. In 1903 Roald Amundsen’s small boat traversed the North-West Passage, and a small ship made it in 1942.[5] Further back, Vikings settled in Greenland around 1000AD because it offered relatively warm green pastures.

After my Antarctic jaunt I flipped through climate books at Readings Carlton, where there are scores in stock, and observed how authors really let their heads go about the Antarctic. Know-all Barry Jones writes in What Is To Be Done? ($29.99, and described as “essential reading”): “If large areas of the Antarctic ice sheet and Greenland were to melt, it would lead to significant sea-level rise and risk drowning major urban coastal cities and towns.” That’s a big ‘if’, Baz.[6]

Gillen D’Arcy Wood, professor of “environmental humanities and English” at the University of Illinois and originally from Australia, writes in Land of Wondrous Cold ($31.56) that losses from Antarctic melting will top a trillion dollars annually by 2050, plus lead to 200 million climate refugees worldwide. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) in 2005 forecast 50 million climate refugees by 2010. When they failed to show up, UNEP furtively advanced the date to 2020. Hey, UNEP, where are they all? It’s 2021!. Wood continues that after 2100, things will get worse: stand by for over 200 feet of sea-level rise. Humankind will be like the Patagonians, he ventilates, leading brutish lives before dying out on their unrecognisable shrunken continents.

The fabulist animal fancier David Attenborough, in A life On Our Planet, (Kindle $15.99) frets about a billion people in 2100 fleeing 500 coastal cities, like Miami, and another billion farmers trekking to cooler climes. “In the background the sixth mass extinction would become unstoppable,” he writes. If you’re prone to depression, don’t even think of buying Attenborough’s book.

For some reason feminists adore the Antarctic. In late 2019, 112 ladies, each with at least a Bachelor degree, went down there on the Hebridean Sky, touring 10 bases in three weeks and doubtless distracting the real scientists from their work. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet, they claimed ignorantly. Their expedition, at $A40,000 a head, was subsidised by a Spanish renewables pork-trougher Accione, “to promote women in science diplomacy and climate action.” These massed female expeditions were an annual event for the prior three years and, of course, all were claimed to be carbon neutral. The expeditions are the brainchild of Melbourne-based women’s leadership consultant Fabian Dattner and her “Homeward Bound” program.[7] She aims to send a total 1000 women down with the support of woke UN hypocrites like Christiana “Tinkerbell” Figueres.

The women had supranormal powers, apparently, as they claimed to have observed “with our naked eyes” the melting of the glaciers, the oceans warming and, “with breaking hearts”, the dying of the wildlife. As at play-school, they decorated the ship’s walls with their cheerful drawings. The women took inspiration from Sur, a novel which imagines a group of nine South American women beating Raold Amundsen to the South Pole in 1909-10. The plot is used

to ironically criticize and then undo both misogyny and colonialism. The nine women of Sur destroy the entire masculinity of explorations when they secretly arrive at the Pole before the official discovery by Amundsen and refuse to leave behind a mark of their success. The narrator recalls she was glad ‘for some man longing to be first might come some day, and find it, and know then what a fool he had been, and break his heart.’

Ms Dattner explains, “We are not custodians and stewards, we are conquerors and rapacious consumers. And so, we are now officially an outbreak species.” In somewhat circular reasoning, the 112 women tourists, having joined about 55,000 other visitors that year, “agonised” about the harms tourists like themselves do to Antarctica. Conversations were lugubrious as they “discussed the despair and depression about climate change”. One woman ecologist said she’d already felt “full-blown panic” over the “dying” Barrier Reef (she needs counselling by sacked Professor Peter Ridd), and she began “prepping” supplies in case of societal breakdown. “It felt like it’s all going to unravel, like what’s going to be next, the forests?” she said. “Everything is dying so fast, things are disappearing before we can even understand them.” I hope she included a shotgun to drive other families from her dugout.

They lamented that their children were “suffering from climate anxiety” and from worry about the planet’s future. Maybe they ought to let kids enjoy their childhood, rather than subject them to gore and terror, as features in the clip below. One tripper said, “I do too, every day, and I have done so for many years. I have felt helpless about how we treat and destroy our planet.”

The Homeward Bound ladies are relatively sensible compared with those engaged in the new field of feminist glacier research. A key paper, funded from a $US413,000 grant from the US government’s National Science Foundation, was the work of a team led by Professor Mark Carey at the University of Oregon – the professor writing through a ‘feminist lens’. The other male, Alessandro Antonello, is an environmental history post-grad, who acquired his credentials at the University of Canberra. Those in need of a chuckle can read the exquisitely woke Carey’s thoughts on sexism and racism in glaciology at this link. Remember this man is a professor.

The paper — I’m not kidding — is titled “Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research.” The epic, 15,000-word monograph cites Sheryl St Germain’s rightfully obscure 2001 novel, To Drink a Glacier, where the author is in the throes of her midlife sexual awakening. She “interprets her experiences with Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier as sexual and intimate. When she drinks the glacier’s water, she reflects:

That drink is like a kiss, a kiss that takes in the entire body of the other … like some wondrous omnipotent liquid tongue, touching our own tongues all over, the roofs and sides of our mouths, then moving in us and through to where it knows … I swallow, trying to make the spiritual, sexual sweetness of it last.

Continuing in the tradition as something akin to ’50 Shades of Ice’, the paper further cites Uzma Aslam Khan’s (2010) short story ‘Ice, Mating’. The story

explores religious, nationalistic, and colonial themes in Pakistan, while also featuring intense sexual symbolism of glaciers acting upon a landscape. Khan writes: ‘It was Farhana who told me that Pakistan has more glaciers than anywhere outside the poles. And I’ve seen them! I’ve even seen them fuck!’ (emphasis in original)

Icy conditions normally inhibit tumescence, but the paper’s four authors seem to be in a state of sustained arousal. To them, even ice core drilling evokes coital imagery:

Structures of power and domination also stimulated the first large-scale ice core drilling projects – these archetypal masculinist projects to literally penetrate glaciers and extract for measurement and exploitation the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

In passing, and just to tick another of the progressive boxes, the study notes that climate change “can lead to the breakdown of stereotypical gender roles and even gender renegotiation”, whatever that may be. (Godden, 2013).”

 The Australian Homeward Bound circus gets a mention in the paper, to do with a program for smashing “stereotypical and masculinist practices of glaciology.” The program sent 78 international women to Antarctica in late 2016 to ‘explore how women at the leadership table might give us a more sustainable future’, the paper says.

By about 7000 words into Carey’s paper, readers are subsumed in an Alice in Wonderland discourse. The Cold War, we learn, was apparently not about the contest with the Communist bloc, but a tussle “pursued by a particular group of men as policy-makers who were products of specific elite masculinities (Dean, 2003), operating in the context of anxieties about American masculinities (Cuordileone, 2005), and with particular discourses of masculinity and male bodies, especially in distant places like the Arctic (Farish, 2010.)”

The study includes citation of Scottish visual artist Katie Paterson, who made long-playing records out of glacier melt-water. These LPs play glacier whines and other noises for ten minutes until the ice disks themselves melt. Maybe caution is needed with 240-volt apparatus.

The paper insists on respect for folk knowledge about glaciers. Yukon indigenous women, for example, say glaciers are easily excited by bad people who cook nearby with smelly grease, but glaciers can be placated by the quick-witted, the good and the deferential. Cooked food, especially fat, “might grow into a glacier overnight if improperly handled”. Such narratives

demonstrate the capacity of folk glaciologies to diversify the field of glaciology and subvert the hegemony of natural sciences… the goal is to understand that environmental knowledge is always based in systems of power discrepancies and unequal social relations, and overcoming these disparities requires accepting that multiple knowledges exist and are valid within their own contexts.

Here is the study’s ringing conclusion:

Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

It’s evening tipple time: could someone please add ice to my Barossa Pearl?

(Hat-tip Dennis Ambler for research help.)

Tony Thomas’s new book, Come To Think Of It – essays to tickle the brain, is available hereas a book ($34.95) or an e-book ($14.95)


[1] “10,000 hectares has been revegetated capturing 1.257 million tonnes of carbon. Carbon credits are legally protected by 100 year Carbon Right and Carbon Covenant registered on the land titles.” China’s annual CO2 emissions are 13 billion tonnes a year.


[3] Singh and Polvani: “Other factors have been suggested to have contributed to the absence of warming over the Antarctic continent in the past several decades, but these suggestions have been shown to be off target.”

[4] The surface mass balance data for the Greenland Ice Sheet from the Danish Meteorological Institute shows that over the past five years, the surface of Greenland has averaged a gain of about 400 billion tons per year, which is slightly above the 1981-2010 mean.”

[5] Amundsen: “We encountered no ice with the exception of a few narrow strips of old sound ice, carried by the wash. Of large Polar ice we saw absolutely nothing. Between the ice and the land, on either side, there were large and perfectly clear channels, through which we passed easily and unimpeded. The entire accumulation of ice was not very extensive. We were soon out again in open water. Outside the promontories, some pieces of ice had accumulated; otherwise the sea was free from ice. The water to the south was open, the impenetrable wall of ice was not there.”

[6] Jones’ book title appears to be a homage to V.I. Lenin’s What is to be done (1901-02) containing chapters like The Primitiveness of the Economists and the Organization of the Revolutionaries

[7] With Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas, no relation although I am from Melbourne.