Did Australian scientists/students pull down this tree in the Maldives ?

It is well known that the IPCC has made publicity about the threat of rising sea levels to island states such as the Maldives. The media has run many articles puffing up this notion that the islands are doomed.

Dr Nils-Axel Mörner recounts in a recent interview how he visited the Maldives and found various evidence that sea levels have been stable within a range for many decades. On pages 3-4 he relates how,

“There came an Australian sea-level team, which was for the IPCC and against me. Then the students pulled down the tree by hand! They destroyed the evidence. What kind of people are those?”

The picture I have used here is from the documentary “CBC – Global Warming Doomsday Called Off” which can be viewed on VideoGoogle. The short section mentioning this tree starts at about 27 minutes.

I am keen to discover who it was in 2003 that pulled this tree down, what University or Institute did they come from ? Does anyone know of a “sea level team” that visited the Maldives in 2003 ? I can be emailed sanur2007 AT warwickhughes.com

32 thoughts on “Did Australian scientists/students pull down this tree in the Maldives ?”

  1. So Moerner officialy claims to have ‘re-established’ evidence underhandedly for the documentation … what an incredibly foolish thing to do.

  2. Agenda driven adherents will stop at nothing to further “The Cause” (not to be confused with “The Force” – aka you-know-who … although, at some point, who knows, maybe “The Cause” will start to lop off heads of “non believers” as well).

  3. There is something dodgey about the photo of the famous tree on p35 of the pdf. The bottom half looks like it’s from a different picture and the crown shadow on the left is cut off?

  4. Earliest first.
    Wolfgang, the only “incredibly foolish thing” I can see in all this so far, is the original act by persons unknown to pull the tree down.

    Paul, My reason for starting this post is exactly so that information might come to hand that can expand on this story and get at the truth.
    We can only speculate on WHY the tree was pulled down.
    Removal of evidence embarrassing to the IPCC position is one possiblity.
    The tree stood on what appears to me to be a wave cut platform and has been there for ~50 years and as Dr Mörner says, you would not expect it to survive if SL is rising and swamping the Maldives, which is what most people must expect from the Media.

    Forester, Yes I noticed that and Dr Mörner said he thought the flaws were due to a faulty exposure and that was the only image on his laptop at the time the interviewer needed material. I understand other pictures are available and the colour pic I used is a “screen print” from GoogleVideo.

    Thanks to all for their civil tones, can I just say that comments including abuse, childish slanging matches or personal attacks, as are common elswhere in the Blogosphere, will be edited or removed. Thanks.

  5. Warwick,
    in the documentation, Moerner talks about ‘the message of the tree’. Actually there could have been two messages – one about an inconvenient truth and another even more inconvenient about how it’s handled. He had a film team ready, he had the tree with leaves still green nearby, he said they even talked to witnesses who watched the students rooting out the tree. A close to perfect documentation of evidence which Moerner chose to replace with a fake.

    Now what evidence is left? Moerner after 4 years finally admitting faking a documentary by setting up a tree near the shore by hand. Tree with still green leaves: gone. Its roots remains: probably gone. Australians: gone. Moerner: gone. Witnesses: probably unavailable or increasingly untrustworthy. Documentation: faked by Moerner – else: nothing.

    Now Warwick, don’t tell me that was a clever thing to do.

  6. So Moerner is now the guilty party and the unknown Aussies now out of the topic?

    At least Moerner admitted doing it – we are still waiting for the Team to admit theirs.

  7. Thanks Wolfgang.
    Personally, I would not describe the events that Dr Mörner outlines as “faking”. I think an attempt at an honest reconstruction would be closer in meaning to what happened.
    I think you are drawing a long bow in your effort to cast aspersions on what Dr Mörner has done. This post has hardly been up a day Wolfgang, there is plenty of time yet for more material to emerge.
    I can think of reasons why locals might be justifiably wary about appearing on a film saying things that do not exactly back Govt policy.
    I am puzzled at your use of the term “increasingly untrustworthy”. We can all understand how with the best of intentions, witnesses memories deteriorate with time, anywhere in the world. Although I am not aware that four years is considered some sort of a memory limit in any court system I am aware of.
    I am sure you were not saying that the witnesses were originally untrustworthy and now would be increasingly so. That’s how it can read though.

  8. #7 Louis,

    yes, Moerner now ist the bad guy. He lied about the tree so why should anyone trust him regarding his allegations about fellow scientists destroying ‘evidence’?

    Imagine in 2003/04, among thousands of tourists heavily stuffed with digicams and camcorders he cannot supply a single proper photograph of his deceased piece of evidence. Nor did he capture a piece of the trunk to support the claim that this tree was 50+ years old (e.g. by detecting the bomb spike).
    All Moerner has to support his claims is admitted fake plus absence of evidence. Now he’s adding allegations to that.
    So sorry Mr. Moerner but don’t you know how to properly conduct field studies and document your findings? Well, that might shed some new light on your publication work then.

    Sorry for being beastly but under the circumstances how could anyone dare to speak for Moerner? I wish he had held his tongue instead of making a fool out of himself in front of his critics.

    The matter isn’t new anyway:


  9. @Warwick,

    1) Moerner standing in front of the tree, saying “.. quite a remarkable tree (…) any minute – so to say – it could fall over ..” (we now know it very well might have) ….

    Why doesn’t he show the act of vandalism and simply tell the truth about how he is hindered in his presentation? After all this is a documentary so why pretending? It’s comforting he’s feeling a bit guilty of that but does it help him regaining full credibility now?

    2) There’s no need to be puzzeled about the term “increasingly untrustworthy”. Look, if _after four years_ a team returns to investigate about the rooting out of a tree, locals will probably behave and witness very timidly because they suspect it’s a much more important matter than they ever thought. And if afterwards even another team arrives and asks if possibly there were just a bunch of youngsters looking for campfire fuel that’s the end of the story.

  10. I am looking for aerial photos, just as one example. So if anyone knows of aerial surveys of the Maldives, or who might have prints, or where prints can be bought, please get in touch.

  11. #11 Steve,
    being a sceptic I will deliberately use all appearent evidence against my position beforehand. Results in strong arguments and less unpleasant surprises.

  12. As you are a skeptic, you should therefore know about Occam’s Razor and not introduce unnecessary speculative elements, like “bunches of youngsters looking for campfire fuel”

  13. I would like to point out that Dr. Moerner choose to
    talk about the tree being pulled down as an example that
    some people will destroy evidence to prove their point.
    If any of us saw or heard such a thing I would hope that
    we would expose it.
    If Global Warming is so much a threat to the world why is it that Jones’
    Climate Research Unit at University Of East Anglia will not release their
    station data or their methodology so researchers are able to check if
    temperature is rising at the rate they say.
    thanks Greg Murphy

  14. I mentioned to Warwick that if there was any credence to Nil’s allegation, then a thundering silence would ensue.

    I have learnt from experience that the political left, of whatever leaning, tend to become extremely quiet under such circumstances.

    Now if it were a climate sceptic group that did, the whole universe would hear about it.

    So think it is safe to assume the silence means guilty.

  15. I have to agree with Wolfgang, in that if Moerner could have documented the destruction of evidence, he should have.

    Having said that, were I in Moerner’s situation, I would go down that road with great trepidation (and ignoring the fact he is making a documentary to a budget and delivery date). Abuse is heaped on those who merely question the IPCC’s AGW conclusions. Start to point out that evidence/data tampering not only exists, but is widespread by IPCC supporters (Hell, they have institutionalized it under the label ‘Adjustments’) then you better be prepared to weather some severe consequences.

  16. #17

    Generally that is my experience from many years of personal observation.

    I recount one incident some years back when I averred that Australian Native Title was a UN sponsored backdoor method of diminishing the principle of private property to some devout lefty friends. They never said a word, jus clammed up and went to another topic.

    I am sure media reporting of what President Bush says, or our own Prime Minister Howard is slanted one way, and another when it comes to their political opponents such as former President Clinton etc. Bernard Goldberg has documented this in at least 2 books.

    So yes Wolfgang, unpleasant as it may be, that is the impression one gets.

  17. #19

    Well … yes. And if your greenie friends wold have objected, you’d knew for sure you were wrong.

    Louis, isn’t that what we sceptics are up against? Impressions one gets?

  18. I’ve never understood the “message of the tree”. I dont think it provides any proof whatsoever. In fact, if anything it proves that seas level rise is increasing.

    The tree would not be there if sea level is decreasing, as 50 years ago it would be underwater. 50 years ago, the locals say it is still there, but perhaps 50 years ago the sea level was further out. Increasing sea level might have made all the other trees around that one fall, and that is the only one remaining.

    The tree is an indication of either stable sea level or increasing sea level. It is not an indication of falling sea level.

    Prove me otherwise, but the argument posed in the doco was terrible


  19. My interest in Maldives sea level issues stems from years of IPCC inspired media claims that the islands are being flooded by AGW induced risings seas.
    Reading that material over the years and knowing the effect of storm high tides, I think the tree clearly stood as a witness that the sea over the last half century had not transgressed sufficiently to remove it from what looked like a fragile niche. That to me stands against the flood of media hype.
    I am still interested to learn the truth of who cut the tree down and why, read the post headline.
    I am still looking for Maldives aerial photographs from a range of decades.

  20. IPCC’s Chapter 5 from AR4 on sea level doesn’t even mention the Maldives. Indeed the seas level rise maps put the area in a minimal rise region.

  21. As I wrote in 23, IPCC “inspired”. It is indeed good that you can say the IPCC are writing more rational material on the Maldives now. But I do not hear the Maldives Govt and their publicists in the green mainstream media saying that yet, the horse has bolted on that one. It would take a few years of rational articles to null the effect of that propaganda. Yet the concept of a “flooding Maldives” and climate change refugees are all part of the green web of lies that affect Australian and world public opinion.

  22. Reading the thread after 6 months, I still feel compelled to comment on this now infamous tree.
    I’m a Maldivian and I consider myself a student of climate science. I have great respect for Prof Morner, but I will have to question his ‘scientific methods’ especially those used in the ‘Maldives Sea Level Project’.
    On the issue of the tree, Morner has provided false facts to the world. The island the tree is located is called Viligilli and is next (immediately west) to the Nation’s Capital Male’ (see on googleearth). The tree was located on the southeast corner of the island along part of a stable rocky oceanward coastline. The island WAS (not ‘is’ as stated by Morner) a prison island until 1973. There are no records that prisoners cried out “Ah, freedom!” when they saw the one tree. However, some did refer to an entire bulge on the southeast corner of the island, which is the only such area on an otherwise a smooth coastline. The tree is called ironwood (Pemphis acidula). It’s known for its resilience against salt and is usually the dominant species in very high wave energy and salt spray zones. Having traveled to over 600 islands in Maldives I have witnessed a number of such one ‘tree’s’. The tree in question simply has withstood erosion in the last 10 or so years while weaker trees around it fell. Aerial photographs of 1968/1969, 1998 and 2004 shows that the area is relatively stable with occasional erosion. There have been a number of trees in this specific area of the island like the one in question which have remain separated from the island. It is part of the erosion process. The tree most likely was there 50 years ago but it certainly was not alone as it is now. It is these kinds of adhoc observation based conclusions rather than rigorous assessments which make me question the findings of Morner.
    On the question of naughty Australian Scientists and schoolies, I think this just an emotional view of Morner. This island has now become an inhabited island and one of the most frequently visited ‘picnic islands’ for Male’ residents. There are enough naughty boys to cut down such a tree for any reason. It is absurd to blame responsible scientists in the field, without a shred of decent evidence, even due to uncontrolled emotions.
    On the issue of ‘Maldives Govt and their Publicists’ being tight lipped on opposing views, I think they have a right to. Put yourselves in our shoes. Majority of the climate scientists are saying sea level will or may rise. We are in the front Line. You all have the luxury to debate and experiment on SLR at our expense. Maldives govt have the right do everything in their power to prepare for the worst. IF it means begging for aid based on the findings of majority scientists, so be it. And I believe they do it quite well. They don’t have the resources to assess SLR themselves, they rely on well resourced proponents and sceptics alike to shed them light. Why else did they happily facilitate Morner and his teams work in Maldives, knowing his line of thinking. Morner’s video was stopped from airing due to the nature of his claims. One has to be careful to scrutinise findings before it can be conveyed to a largely illiterate public as conclusive findings in the field. The scrutiny that followed unfortunately rebutted his claims, not because they were pro-IPCC but because they had more rigorous geological and climatological studies to prove it. Unless majority of scientists, including yourselves, conclusively proves there is no threat of SLR, we have a right to portray and claim ourselves as victims of global climate change. It may be a set of ‘green web of lies’ for everyone else, but for us it’s a matter of our future, until most of you conclusively prove otherwise.

  23. I pulled down a few trees when I was still a young, naughty lad. LOL!

    Realistically, any low lying country has two choices, given that some degree of sea level variability can be expected on multi decadal time scales, and that most low lying land is located in tectonically subsiding areas. Namely, the choice is, Holland, or, something else. If one cannot afford Holland, then it’s something else. Something else usually means, fate. (Note – even most parts of the US which are low lying cannot afford to be Holland.)

  24. You need to understand the psychology of climate zealots. They don’t see themselves as destroying evidence. When an alarmist comes across something like that, he sees it as non-evidence that would be misinterpreted by all the anti-science fools out there, which is why it must be destroyed. He’s protecting us from ourselves, see.

  25. Any sign of those aerial photos? It’s been a while so I guess not.

    Then there’s this in Shaig’s comment:

    “One has to be careful to scrutinise findings before it can be conveyed to a largely illiterate public as conclusive findings in the field.”

    Can’t have the great unwashed thinking for themselves can we Shaig? – they might come to the wrong conclusion.

    That, his hair splitting criticism of Morner and his approval of the Maldive government playing the GW card to gain funds from the West speaks volumes.

  26. On September 12, 2008, the International Herald Tribune published a letter to the editor:

    “A self-inflicted problem

    In “Climate change: With millions under threat, inaction is unethical” (Views, Sept. 10) the president of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, contends that the Maldives are threatened by climate change, yet he fails to acknowledge that coral islands have survived during a rise in sea levels of 120 meters since the last ice age.

    Under natural conditions, coral is perfectly able to grow upwards, keeping pace with any relative rise in sea levels.

    If someone has to be blamed for the eventual demise of any of the Pacific or Indian Ocean coral islands, it is the inhabitants themselves. They are the ones who are destroying the natural coral habitat by creating roads and buildings, allowing bad fishing practices and many forms of pollution. With dead coral, these islands have no natural mechanism to keep them above water. The inconvenient truth is that these islands are not sustainable under permanent human inhabitation.”

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