“I can Get-Away from climate”: thank your lucky stars deniers, this awkward bad science-travelogue gave the gift of false balance

I’ve been thinking about how to solve the seemingly intractable debate about the reality of climate change.

Ready?

Here’s my pitch…

Let’s take one highly popular form of life style television programming – say travel shows like Get-Away – and marry that to climate change debate! We can have the hosts of the show skip from one exotic locale to another, briefly sounding out experts on the topic.. but really, it’s an excuse to go to some cool places and show case the beauty of Australia’s landscape. Tourism Australia will love it!

Think “An inconvenient truth” meets “Under a Tuscan Sun!”

Sound crazy?

Well gosh darn-it, somebody already beat me to the punch… don’t you hate that, when others execute your big idea before you do?

Last week, to the consternation of many, the ABC screened the documentary “I can change your mind about climate” (ICCYMAC).

Climate *cough* believer *cough* Anna Rose and climate *cough* sceptic *cough* Nick Minchin (retired Liberal Senator) were given two Willy-Wonka style golden-tickets to jet around the globe. The purpose of this exercise? Each had the chance to introduce the other to “experts” who would challenge their “preconceptions”.

At the very least the visuals are pretty...

I’m not sure see why the producers chose the travel-meets-bad science format. OK… I accept filming somebody sitting down to read the scientific literature doesn’t make good television. And yet, I’m at a loss to see how zipping these two around the globe helps the “debate”.

The general response hasn’t been positive.

John Cook of Sceptical Science fame has already commented on the flawed format, and how both Anna Rose and Nick Minchin engaged in motivated reasoning without achieving anything. Crikey.com gave ICCYMAC a scathing review, while I was amused by Loon Pond’s delicious take down of the utter cluelessness of the ABC.

Credit to Rose, and Minchin, but…

Kudos to Minchin and Rose who acted with civility throughout the entire exercise: at the very least they nodded politely when listening to arguments challenging their views.

And while I respect Rose’s attempt to engage with climate change “sceptics” (and yes, she had misgivings), ICCYMAC was nothing more than a gift to the denial movement.

For evidence of this fact, look no further than comments made by Andrew Bolt. Indeed Bolt inadvertently delivers the most insightful comment on the whole sorry saga:

“Sorry, but the Can I Change Your Mind program was not an engagement with the arguments but a series of position statements that would have done little but reinforce existing views on both sides. But I guess having the sceptical side presented as a genuine contender is itself a gain. I did think, though, that Anna Rose seem positively frightened by considering the other side, freezing up completely with Marc Morano. She seems to feel she’s engaging not with arguments but with evil. “

You read correctly, having the “sceptical side” presented is a “gain”.

Kaching!

Science loses.

Deniers win.

You’d think after 60 years of falling to the antics of the merchants of doubt we’d wise up. “They” played this trick on us with tobacco. “They” played this trick on DDT and the Ozone layer. Did the media learn?

Nope, the media remains blithely, stubbornly masters of being duped.

Fool the media once, shame on the deniers. Fool the media twice, shame on them. Fool the media for 60 years with the same basic tactic of stating the science is controversial and demanding “equal time”?

What do you call that apart from a fundamental, systemic failure?

I’d rather watch Jennifer Hawkins wrestle a shark

ICCYMAC turned the debate on climate change into an awkward 50 minute travelogue, peppered with all the tropes you’d expect of a show like Get-Away:

“Look we’re in London talking to science journalist Ben Goldcare!”

“We’re in Washington not talking to Republican “attack dog” Marc Morano!”

And my favorite scene?

“Look we’re snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef!”

Yes, you read correctly: ICCYMAC ends with the pair splashing around in the waters of the Reef. Somehow the producers hoped the experience of paddling around the languid waters of the GBR would get them to agree on the most complex policy challenge of the 21st century.

At that point I did what the kids today call a faceplam.

“Christ…” I thought “…climate change as a fucking life-style show.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a bit of travel show. At least in Get-Away there’s the promise of watching former Miss World Jennifer Hawkins wrestle a shark (watch the video, it’s awesome!).

Now that’s entertainment!

I’d watch that any day… but ICCYMAC?

Throughout ICCYMAC we watch our protagonists wander into assorted living rooms, laboratories, landscapes and English pubs as one “expert” after another regurgitates pre-programmed talking points. There’s earnest nodding of heads, nervous laughs and barely concealed looks of “I can’t believe this shit” from both Rose and Minchin.

The most awkward moment is when Minchin takes Rose to chat with Richard Lindzen, who is noted not just for his climate scepticism but his denial the effects of passive smoking.

At his point I felt for Rose…

When I think of visiting exotic locales the dingy, stinky, nicotine-stained walls of Lindzen’s lounge room are not high on my list. I’d be agitating for the video conferencing option at that point.

I’d rather slam my c**** in a door

As others have noted, Ben Goldcare’s five minutes goes some way to redeem ICCYMAC. The noted science journalist spells out the futility – if not danger – of giving climate sceptics equal standing:

[Ben Goldcare to Minchin]: For you, the media is an absolute gift… you will win every time

[Minchin]: (laughs)

[Ben Goldcare]:.. you can cherry pick data, and there will be no time to pick out the flaws…

[Minchin]: (laughs)

[Ben Goldcare]: It’s a gift… you should thank your lucky stars…

[Minchin]: I’ll get down on bended knee tonight… (laughs)

[Anna Rose]: So do you reckon I made a mistake doing the show?

[Ben Goldcare]: It’s interesting isn’t it?… Lots of people won’t participate in what they regard as a flawed format…

[Anna Rose}: But you kinda have too…you have to engage…. because these people will be getting air play anyway… it’s hard… it’s hard to know what the right this is to do…

[Ben Goldcare]: It’s very difficult. You’re buggered…

[Anna Rose]: Great… (shrugs shoulders, nervously laughs)

Frankly the producers of this mish-mash of Get-Away and bad science should have– to paraphrase the wonderful Goldcare line about the tediousness of the debate  –their private parts slammed in a door.

The Tell: Goldcare explains how the deniers win, Minchin laughs. Was it just me, or did anyone else think that was rather telling? I'm just saying...

The media: false balance, the gift that keeps on giving

So what’s the end result of flying these two around the world and then enjoy a brief splash in the Great Barrier Reef? Read Minchin’s article in The Age:

“What I have learnt about science recently is that it is dynamic, that there are always unknowns and that there is in particular much that we don’t know about the Earth’s climate.

May the debate continue.”

And that my friends, is what victory for the denial movement looks like.

The media has helped them along the way, fostering the idea the science is controversial and that there is a debate.

Towards the end of ICCYMAC, Anna Rose valiantly attempts to get Minchin agree to some form of consensus about alternative energy solutions. She appeals to his ego by stating “we need” people with is level of “policy experience”.

/sigh

OK environmentalists, here’s a tip.

Stop fucking asking people like Minchin and the denial movement permission to save the environment.

You will not convince them with evidence, appeals to make the world safe for puppies or the benefits of wind farms. We don’t need the cynical, back-room dealing “experience” of the likes of Minchin, one of the very people who have worked to blunt efforts to tackle climate change.

Minchin was instrumental in the coup-d’état that deposed Malcolm Turnball in order to hand over the leadership of the Liberal Party to Tony Abbot. Turnball supported action on climate change. Minchin and Abbot are sceptics, who regard action on climate change as a threat to the well being of the economy and mining billionaires.

Do you really want Minchin “in the tent”?

We have centuries worth of coal under our feet. If our society doesn’t think burning coal and releasing additional CO2 into the atmosphere is a problem, then we won’t stop burning it:

“Renewable energy? Pfffft….Look at all that lovely coal… sure, we’ll look at renewable sources after the couple of centuries it takes to  run through the coal reserves…”

What I have perfect confidence in

Here’s a sample of current trends:

  • The Murdoch media empire treat concerns about the environment with contempt, using its considerable influence to convince the public climate change doesn’t exist
  • Billionaires such as Gina Rinehart are buying up parts of Fairfax to mute its ability to counter-balance the agenda of Murdoch and his media empire
  • The Victorian Liberal government is planning to open up new brown coal mines – the “dirtiest” form of coal there is.
  • The Liberal-National Party in Queensland is winding back programs to address climate change
  • Federal Labor is about to implode, ushering in an Abbot government that made a promise “written in blood” to repeal the carbon tax
  • CO2 levels are climbing faster than the worst case scenarios of the IPCC’s last report
  • Temperatures are going up
  • Extreme weather events are on the rise.

Do we really think if we asked super nicely, the same vested interests that have thwarted action on climate change are going to simply going say:

“Oh, climate change? Oh that’s terrible! Let me just close down my highly profitable, billion dollar coal mining business and dismantle my world view… won’t be a jiffy!”

We’re being lead to disaster by the likes of Minchin, and they don’t give a fuck.

Two degrees of additional warming by mid-century is locked in. Four degrees of warming (if not more) is looking very probable.

We all know what 4 degrees+ warming looks like.

Hell on earth.

But don’t worry.

I’m sure they’ll still be making travel shows in the future.

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6 thoughts on ““I can Get-Away from climate”: thank your lucky stars deniers, this awkward bad science-travelogue gave the gift of false balance

  1. Mekhong Kurt says:

    Everything’s a damned reality show these days, it seems.

    I’ve been watching the conceding to the false-equivalence model the deniers (and creationists, notably) establish. I have done it myself, though now I don’t, as of just very recently. I write stuff like “I call bs” in an increasing number of forums when I run into that, well, bs.

    We’ve been like the late British PM, Neville Chamberlain, in his dealings with Hitler — naive. When someone kicks you in the cajones, you won’t do much good slipping a flower behind his ear.

    Long ago, I worked for several years in security and law enforcement, both in armed positions (not just as a cop), and while my job required me to use reason when possible, and I did, when it started becoming clear that I would NOT work, I made clear that while I would much prefer to sort out mats I. A calm, peaceful way, I did have available the tools we use when diplomacy has clearly failed and the other side oversteps. I am not calling for that sort of PHYSICAL action against deniers, but I most certainly AM calling for the debate equivalent.

    Challenge them. Call out their bs and point to reliable links that support the fact they’re bs views. In short, be as rude to them as the have been to us for years. Make enormous fun of U.S. Senator Inhofe’s asinine igloo he built in his yard during Snowmaggedon mocking Al Gore. Expose politicos the deniers worship as the tools they are, the liars they are. Ridicule the deniers for following false prophets, so to speak.

    Personally, I’m at DEFCON 2 — the second-highest state of alert. (Ignore popular culture’s incorrect reversal of DEFCON’S five levels; 1 is nuclear war, not 5.) And the guy across the silo pit and I both know just where our keys are. . . .

  2. john byatt says:

    Anna rose,

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3975672.html

    well the sceptics are claiming that they have been misrepresented, Nova was whinging that the whole show was not about her.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Nova has perfected the art of making climate change about her… denial meets narcissism in equal measure.

  3. john byatt says:

    nova’s post on this (I can change your mind) cut me up, after claiming that there has been no warming for twelve years Nova now accepts foster and rahmstorf 2011, warming in the last decade of 1.6DegC – 1.8DegC
    Why, becuase if you ignore the error range in the 1988 IPCC you can claim that a 3DegC decadal trend was forecast and only 1.6/1.8DegC achieved,

    shot yourself in the foot Nova

    .

  4. nzjrs says:

    Does anyone have a youtube link Ben’s bit?

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Have a look at the link to the ABC mini-site, and the full documentary is there. Ben appears towards the end, about 45-50 mins in.

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