Butterfly study hijacked by AGW

Ever felt used?

Here’s an innocent little story about butterflies [which is now plastered all over the ABC and will no doubt be on the 7 o’clock News and 7.30 Report and Lateline and every ABC web site under the sun – Ed]. Apparently they are getting impatient and are now emerging from their cocoons ten days earlier than 65 years ago. But who does the ABC choose to interview on The World Today? Firstly Michael Kearney, biologist from Melbourne University, but then, oddly, David “Asteroid” Karoly, who is a fully paid up climate alarmist (link to audio and transcript here):

Professor David Karoly of the University of Melbourne, says the study breaks new ground on the impact climate change has on the natural environment.

“Butterflies and many other natural systems are responding to warming both in Australia and around the world,” he said.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to link the change in a natural system, like a butterfly, to regional warming and then link that regional warming to increase in green house gases as a result of human activity.”

Why would they interview Karoly? So I did a bit of research, and tracked down the original home page at Monash for the study here. Firstly, it should be noted that this is a research project within the school of Biosciences (not Earth Sciences or Climate Change) and there is no mention of Karoly as part of the project. Here is the project summary from a project update dated August 2008 :

Climate change and habitat fragmentation are together a major threat to the continued survival of a vast number of species. Correlative bioclimatic models are often used for predicting future suitable habitats, but currently do not take into account whether species are able to colonise new regions, nor the mechanisms by which they interact with and adapt to their environment. We will use a butterfly model species to investigate the relationship between genetic polymorphisms, physiological capacity for dispersal, and environmental constraints at the landscape scale. This will allow truly mechanistic and more accurate predictions of how novel climatic environments will affect species distributions. (source – PDF)

Again, no mention of anthropogenic climate change or greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide (or Karoly). They are simply looking at how butterflies react to increasing temperatures – you only need to read the PDF to see that. But wait, look what’s happened. Suddenly there is a “final step”, oddly not mentioned in any of the project’s earlier documentation, where Karoly steps in and neatly links the whole thing to human caused climate change:

The final step taken by the researchers was to link the regional temperature changes with human-induced global warming.

Team member [since when? – Ed] climatologist, Professor David Karoly applied global circulation models to the Melbourne region, taking into account local factors that influence climate.

This suggested that the regional temperature changes observed over the decade were unlikely to be observed without the influence of human greenhouse emissions, says Kearney. (source)

And hey presto, an avowed climate alarmist manages to show that Melbourne’s temperature rise can only be cause by human factors [because we don’t know what else could have caused it – brilliant – Ed]. What a surprise. So somebody, at present unknown, had the brilliant idea “if we can tie this butterfly study into AGW, we might get some air time from the ABC,” and that somebody was dead right, because it fits the ABC’s unashamedly alarmist agenda.

UPDATE: The Australian Research Council lists the grants made for this study (a total of $240,000 over three years), and it too mentions nothing about Karoly or the anthropogenic nature of the climate change in question. Here is the extract from the ARC’s PDF for funding grants made to Monash (not Melbourne) in 2006 for research commencing in 2007:

Extract from ARC's funding

So Karoly has simply been wheeled in to add the alarmist perspective. The difficult questions to ask would be:

  • When did Karoly become part of the project?
  • On whose instigation?
  • Were all the funding bodies notified of the change in emphasis of the study towards human-induced climate change?


  1. I just saw this article in the news and was writing something very similar to you – it really pisses me off how they still make the same old assertions – warming = man made. No actual prrof needed, just join the same old tired dots. Add in a few fluffy creatures and boom, a nice story. meh!

  2. John of Cloverdale WA says:

    We shouldn’t worry, because “a new study by Durham University scientists shows human beings could help by transporting the insects to cooler climes in the north.” under the headline from the UK Telegraph (published, FEb18, 2009) states, “Butterflies could be saved from global warming with moves to cooler climes”. So all is not lost, we can transport them, and other endangered species to Antarctica.
    Hooray, by the time trees, grasslands and vineyards are covering an ice free Antarctica, we will have butterflies to chase too. What a legacy we will leave our grandchildren.

  3. Denial - not just a river in Egypt ? says:

    What about the island off India that is now completely under water due to rising sea levels – is that proof enough for you head in the sand deniers ???

    Probably just part of the HUUUUUUUGE conspiracy , huh ?

    There are none so blind as those who WON’T see !

    • @ Denial: I was wondering how long some warmist would take to fall into that one. Not long is the answer. It was a sandbar in an estuary. It eroded away. It happens all the time in estuaries, especially when they get battered by hurricanes. Check the sea level – the nearest tide gauge shows just 0.54 mm rise per year. There’s none so blind as those who don’t have any critical thought.

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