Screaming loony climate conspiracists (I will not dignify them as “sceptic”) are famous for cherry-picking data, but we forget that they also cherry pick people. Let one phrase out of a hundred sound like a prediction you can prove wrong, and they'll roll it out to prove you were wrong.
The SLCCs – pronounce it “slacks” if you like – have been on and on and on about the idea that Tim Flannery predicted unending drought forever in this interview with the ABC's Maxine McKew, which is the cherry-pick of cherry-picks.
Hence if Sydney gets a thunderstorm in March, you can guarantee that the editorial cannon fodder that are proud to fight on behalf of rich people that despise them will take it as proof that Flannery was wrong.
To save you from tl;dr, I'm going to parse the interview.
- Are weather patterns changing?
Flannery's answer: changes to wind patterns and the tropics moving south have changed rainfall in south-eastern Australia. He didn't say “every year will be a drought year” in answering the first question. Nothing he said answering McKew's first question is contradicted by events since.
- Is it more severe in eastern Australia?
Flannery: yes. “Something will need to change” to fill the Warragamba. Something did change, a flip in the Southern Oscillation. Nothing he said to McKew's second question is contradicted by events since.
- You can't be certain?
Flannery agrees. He says he thinks the science is pointing in the other direction. Nothing he said to McKew's third question is contradicted by events since.
The next question and answer are given verbatim with emphasis.
MAXINE McKEW: So does that mean, really, we're faced with - if that's right - back-to-back droughts and continuing thirsty cities?
TIM FLANNERY: Well, you can't predict the future; that's one of the things that you learn fairly early on, but if I could just say, the general patterns that we're seeing in the global circulation models - and these are very sophisticated computer tools, really, for looking at climate shift - are saying the same sort of thing that we're actually seeing on the ground. So when the models start confirming what you're observing on the ground, then there's some fairly strong basis for believing that we're understanding what's causing these weather shifts and these rainfall declines, and they do seem to be of a permanent nature. I don't think it's just a cycle. I'd love to be wrong, but I think the science is pointing in the other direction.
So – every aspect of that answer was qualified: Flannery didn't make an absolute prediction. He was doing his job, trying to explain the science – including the uncertainty. Nothing he said to McKew's fourth question is contradicted by events since.
- It will continue, and cities will be thirsty?
Flannery said “that looks to be the case”. Nothing he said to McKew's fifth question is contradicted by events since.
- What's the worst-case?
Note: this is asking not “what will happen?” but “what's the worst that might happen?”
Flannery: There are quite severe problems if current trends continue. Nothing he said to McKew's sixth question is contradicted by events since.
- Is drought preparation worthwile?
Flannery: Yes, “even if you think there's only a 10 per cent chance that this rainfall deficit's going to continue for another few years”. Nothing he said to McKew's seventh question is contradicted by events since.
- What about Western Australia?
Flannery: “Yet to be seen, yet to be determined”. Nothing he said to McKew's eighth question is contradicted by events since.
- South Australia and Victoria?
Flannery: Adelaide might have water quality problems. Melbourne is vulnerable to water deficits. Nothing he said to McKew's ninth question is contradicted by events since.
At this point, the discussion diverts to power and away from drought.
Hang on. In the nine questions about climate and drought, Tim Flannery said absolutely nothing that has been contradicted by events.
In other words, if your a slacker – a screaming loony climate conspiracist – like say Chris Kenny, the only way you can say one thunderstorm fits: “Don't think this is what Flannery meant when he said "..Sydney will be facing extreme difficulties with water.."”
In fact, if you think one thunderstorm disproves climate science, you're unfit to comment. Really. It's like a movie advertiser citing the word “unbelievable” in the advertisement, when the rest of the phrase was “rubbish”.