Category Archives: Herald Sun War on Science

News Ltd kicking more sand in the public’s face: just why are Murdoch’s papers recycling the old “CFCs not CO2″ zombie climate myth?

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

The state of the climate debate in Australia under News Ltd

Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, which controls 70% of the Australian print media, are without doubt doing the Australian public a great disservice with their constant stream of climate disinformation.

It is not enough for News Limited to shape the narrative as “believers versus sceptics”, thus creating a sense of false balance. They take it a step further by willfully distorting the public’s perception about the causes of climate change while simultaneously undermining their trust in the scientific community.

Recent evidence of this can be seen across News Limited publications and websites these past two days.

Nearly every organ of Murdoch’s Australian media empire has been actively pushing the discredited theory that CFCs are to blame for warming (not CO2). Here is the audit trail:

  • The story first appeared in The Australian by Graham Lloyd on Monday 3 June (see here)
  • It then made it onto Andrew Bolt’s blog on 7:27pm the same day (see here)
  • A reference was made on Piers Ackerman’s blog on 4 June at 12:45 am (see at the end of the article)
  • Reference to it was published in the Cut and Paste section of The Australian today.

Note how the same message is weaved into different articles across multiple platforms?

Clearly the intent is to hit the broadest number of readers across all demographics: from the tabloid pages of the Herald Sun to the faux-paper-of-note pretensions of The Australian aimed at a more “elite” audience. Note they all appear within a day of each other.

Note also that in last night’s Q&A program, Senator Cory Bernardi referenced this News Limited generated fiction.

Cause and effect clearly demonstrated on national television.

Based on the uniformity of the message, tone and content it is clear the voice of the independent journalist is irrelevant at News Limited.

What matters is the message and broadcasting it on all frequencies to a mass audience. The resurrection of the “CFCs not CO2″ myth is but a single example of propagating misinformation over a broad spectrum (News Limited papers and web platforms).

And the message is simple.

Climate change isn’t happening, don’t trust the scientists.

I’m not going to address the science, but simply direct readers to the refutation at Climate Science Watch. I also note Crikey have picked up on the errors contained in Graham Lloyd’s article as well (pay wall sorry).

However, upon reflection something has been missing in both my comments and Crikey’s analysis.

And it is not about focussing on the minutia of the debate, which this whole episode is merely another tedious example.

It’s time to consider the bigger picture.

The desperate last phases of the climate debate: throwing sand in our faces

When somebody is losing a fight, and they feel the tide of victory flowing against them they’ll resort to increasingly desperate tactics.

Consider the final moment of many films where the hero and villain square off to fight. Shots, punches and kicks are exchanged as the fortunes of both protagonists ebb and flow.

But there comes a moment when both protagonists and the audience recognise the villain is in the throes of their final and inevitable defeat.

What does the villain do?

They grab a handful of sand or dirt and throw it into the face of their opponent.

It’s a sign of desperation, a feint intended to stem defeat by distracting and irritating their opponent. Sometimes it works, but generally it signals they have nothing left to fight with but dirty tricks. The message to the audience is clear: “They are deceitful, even in their last moments”.

It’s a trope used countless times. In fact, my daughter’s favourite film The Lion King contains it. In the final confrontation between Scar, who has usurped the throne and Simba (the rightful heir to the title of Lion King) the villain scatters burning ash in latter’s eyes in a final act of defiance.

Which is exactly what News Limited is doing, they are throwing sand in the face of the public and scientists in desperation.

Welcome to this new phase in the climate debate.

In raising long discredited “zombie” climate myths News Limited is reaching for sand to throw in all our eyes.

One can see why this would be the case. Public acceptance of the science is overwhelming; most accept humanity has changed the planet. Did we forget to mention 97% of climate scientists accept the science?

Everyone but the climate sceptics recognise their increasing irrelevance and what is clearly the death throes of their movement.

But they have one more trick to play, one last desperate gamble…

They’re clutching for a handful of sand to cast into the faces of their opponents.

Lose the debate and lose the kingdom: for Murdoch the climate debate is about one thing, can you guess?

For the owner of News Limited and his army of minions the trajectory of public opinion must be troubling. So they are throwing everything at it.

Misinformation and zombie climate myths are their sand. But why? That is a question worth asking.

Murdoch is desperate to continue setting the political and social agenda within Australia and the English-speaking world. News Corporation is the agency of his will; they are his legions of flying monkeys.

Here is something we may not have considered in speculating over News Limited’s role in the climate debate.

Why is it that Fox News, The Australian, The Wall Street Journal and all other organs of the Murdoch empire are unanimous in their contempt for the science? Consider this…

The climate debate, from Murdoch’s perspective, is as much about forestalling action as it is about Rupert Murdoch.

It is about Murdoch’s king making and opinion making abilities. It’s about his power. It is about how much he has, and how effectively he can wield it.

It is about how media power shapes the conversations we have in political debates, around the proverbial water cooler and over the BBQ on a Sunday afternoon.

How much does it say about the power of Murdoch and News Limited (which fervently believes it can shape the tone of all political conversation within our nation) that it can no longer control the debate or public perception on climate?

What does it mean when public opinion slips from the control of the opinion makers?

Lose the ability to shape the debate, and you lose the kingdom.

All empires are fictions and all power is perceived.

This is especially the case today with the internet reshaping the media, rendering the traditional gatekeepers less relevant than they once were.

A king-maker who has built his empire on public perception, mass entertainment and sports broadcasting understands this intuitively.

From the Tampa Affair, the denial of the Stolen Generations and the climate debate, Murdoch has sought to shape our nation and values for decades.

Does it come as a surprise that public respect for the media in Australia is at all-time low? This is not a coincidence, nor some chance correlation.

News Limited’s reporting on climate change is at odds with people’s everyday experiences of a changing planet. Should you believe Andrew Bolt or the evidence of your home burning to the ground over Australia’s “Angry Summer”?

Remember how the Carbon Tax was going to be the ruin of us all?

The disconnect between what News Limited wants the public to believe, and what the public experiences is growing further apart. A crisis of credibility is engulfing News Limited, and they’ve failed to recognise it.

And their response to this growing disconnect?

The recycling of this old zombie climate myth (CFCs not CO2), a desperate attempt to throw sand in our faces. The whole CFC meme of the past few days is merely to distract the public with an irrelevant fact, while also enraging activists and scientists with its stupidity.

It is as if Murdoch has thrown sand in our eyes and is screaming in our faces: “See, see! I still set the agenda!”

How much time and energy will we expand on countering the “CFC not CO2″ zombie myth one more time?

Stop focussing on the sand in your eyes, irritating as that may be.

Look at who is throwing the sand.

Advice to the scientific community: well, not that “you” asked

At the heart of scientific practice is error reduction: detecting, and correcting errors. Both your own and that of your peers. It is a valid means to ensure research results support theories; that theories reflect the actual state of the world.

However, in the climate debate a focus on error reduction – for example correcting people or journalists on the “CFCs not CO2″ issue – is counter productive.

We will forever be chasing down errors, and attempting to correct people’s misconceptions. It is a rabbit hole we have spent too much time dwelling  in – chasing down a misconception here and another piece of disinformation there.

We are Red Queens, forever running as fast as we can in a vain attempt to merely stay in the same place.

Yes, we can catch one error and force a correction printed in the pages of The Australian. We can get the Australian Press Council to issue a statement against the likes of Andrew Bolt. But in that time, ten thousand errors have flown from the pages and blogs of News Limited.

We catch an error and declare it victory. Time to consider the bigger picture.

Think of the climate debate like this…

Until recently we thought the universe was the solar system with the Earth at its centre. Then we thought the universe was no more than our home galaxy, The Milky Way.

Our perception was stunted, limited to the local.

Then Hubble took his famous images of red shifted objects…

… and the Universe exploded into view, revealing its immensity and majesty. Our view of the universe and ourselves was profoundly changed.

We need to think about the climate debate in this manner: broader, deeper and more sophisticated.

No more error correction please: turn your big brains to more profound questions.

Back to Murdoch, the King Lear of the Anthropocene.

The King Lear of our time: Murdoch

To return to the film The Lion King (no really!) you may be surprised to learn it is loosely based upon Hamlet. Shakespeare’s tale is a cautionary one about those who usurp thrones and marriage beds, and the tragic consequences of those actions.

But I’m reminded of another of Shakespeare’s plays when I consider Murdoch and his need to control the climate debate in our politics and in our private conversations.

King Lear, the dying king who divides his kingdom among his ambitious children. It is a decision that begins a chain reaction of events ending in ruin.

Murdoch is that monarch whose time is coming to an end; he is the king who divides the state among his children. Like Lear, it is his selfish, ego driven decisions that precipitates the ruin of all.

King Murdoch – the Lear of the early twenty-first century – would rather let our planet burn then admit he no longer sets the agenda on the climate debate, nor countenance being wrong.

Rub the sand from your eyes, ask why it has been thrown.

—————-

[A few errors in first draft got through, fixed]

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Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: Plimer’s book sold 40k copies, ergo climate change not true (part 4 of 11)

200px-DaVinciCode

More convincing then Plimer’s Heaven+Earth (if you go by sales)

[Part 4 of 11]

Summary of Bolt’s argument: Climate sceptic Ian Plimer sold lots of copies of his book Heaven+Earth. Ergo climate change is not real.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt commits a classic logical fallacy – the argument from popularity. If truth was based solely on the sales of a book, then the Da Vinci code must be extra true for selling 80 million copies.

Logical fallacies present: Argumentum ad populum (x1)

I’m going to jump ahead to Andrew’s 10th sign as it is the easiest to dispel – and perhaps the most farcical.

Bolt’s claim: “That wall is now breaking. Dissent is being heard, with Professor Ian Plimer’s sceptical Heaven and Earth alone selling more than 40,000 copies here. Yes, the world may start warming again. Yes, our emissions may be partly to blame. But, no, this great scare is unforgivable. It’s robbed us of cash and, worse, our reason. Thank God for the 10 signs that this madness is over.”

Response: We can easily dispatch Bolt’s last claim as an example of a logical fallacy: argumentum ad populum. To translate form the Latin, “appeal to the people”.

By claiming the popularity of a belief Andrew argues it must be true.

Dan Brown’s conspiracy tome the Da Vinci Code sold 80 million copies and was made into a film. Compared to Plimer’s paltry sales of 40,000 the Da Vinci Code must be extra, extra-true. After all, how could 80 million Dan Brown fans be wrong?

Putting aside Andrew’s argument it is worth noting that Plimer’s book is riddled with errors. Scientists who have reviewed it have dismissed it as case study in “how not to be objective”.

Ian Enting, a mathematical physicist from the University of Melbourne reviewed Plimer’s book and found over 100 errors.

In a review published in The Australian, astrophysicist Michael Ashely stated Heaven+Earth contained “no science” and noted Plimer drew upon some ludicrous examples of pseudo-science:

Plimer probably didn’t expect an astronomer to review his book. I couldn’t help noticing on page 120 an almost word-for-word reproduction of the abstract from a well-known loony paper entitled “The Sun is a plasma diffuser that sorts atoms by mass”. This paper argues that the sun isn’t composed of 98 per cent hydrogen and helium, as astronomers have confirmed through a century of observation and theory, but is instead similar in composition to a meteorite.

It is hard to understate the depth of scientific ignorance that the inclusion of this information demonstrates. It is comparable to a biologist claiming that plants obtain energy from magnetism rather than photosynthesis.

Selling 40,000 copies of Heaven+Earth must make Plimer’s claim about the sun true.

One million people visit Andrew Bolt’s blog: that makes everything Bolt says true. 

Justin Bieber has sold over 15 million albums: this makes him the greatest artist in the history of the world.

I mean, who can argue with 15 million Bieber fans?

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Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: false claims about the planet not warming and cherry picking his facts (part 3 of 11)

Summary of Bolt’s argument: The world has stopped warming; a famous scientist states this; even the IPCC makes this claim.

Summary response: Andrew Bolt cherry picks his data.

Logical fallacies present: Cherry picking (x2); association fallacy (x1).

—–

Bolt’s claim: “Yes, the planet warmed about 0.7 degrees last century, but then halted. Professor Richard Lindzen, arguably the world’s most famous climate scientist, has argued for two years that “there has been no warming since 1997″. Others date the pause as late as 2000.”

Response: Andrew begins his list of 10 signs the global warming scare is “over” with an egregious falsehood which has been debunked more times that can be counted: the myth that warming stopped in 1997.

One of the sources for this myth is a 2012 Mail on Sunday article by David Rose. I won’t cover the same ground so many others already have. However I would point readers to the following:

As Gleick’s article notes, it is an example of cherry picking facts – its both a logical fallacy and intellectually dishonest.

Bolt – and sceptics who make the same claim - ignore the even more compelling evidence of a warming planet: rising levels of ocean heat content.

Bolt only refers to land temperatures, data that pertains to only 29% of the planet’s surface.

The other 71% of the planet is covered by water.

As this graph from Skeptical Science indicates warming has not paused, but is accelerating:

Note the warming of both oceans to 700 metres and below.

Bolt tries to bolster his claim by associating it with the views of “the world’s most famous climate scientist” Richard Lindzen.

Once again, Andrew Bolt employs another logical fallacy – the fallacy of association. His argument is no more valid than this:

Richard Lindzen likes cheese flavoured corn chips: Richard is famous. Therefore, cheese flavoured corn chips are the tastiest.

By associating a value with Lindzen – his fame – Bolt hopes to persuade the reader that his argument that the world stopped warming in 2007 is factual.

Lindzen’s fame has nothing to do with the truth of the claim: it is no more persuasive than stating Lindzen enjoys a particular kind of corn chip.

Even the IPCC admits the world has stopped warming?

Claim: “Even the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted in its latest draft report that while its usual measurements of global temperature found some warming trends since 1998, “none of these are statistically significant”.

Response: The last sentence contains a blatant example of cherry picking. While it is now difficult to obtain a copy of the leaked documents, the IPCC did not “admit” the planet had stopped warming.

If anything AR5 further confirms humanities role as virtually certain in causing climate change, as this article from The Conversation notes:

“The draft report, which was still undergoing a peer review process, said that “there is consistent evidence from observations of a net energy uptake of the earth system due to an imbalance in the energy budget.”

“It is virtually certain that this is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations…”

Bolt has merely lifted a single phrase from thousands of pages and used it to misrepresent the conclusions of the IPCC.

Cherry picked facts, falsehoods and logical fallacies.

And this is only the first of Bolt’s ten signs.

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Breaking: Australian Press Coucil release on Andrew Bolt misrepresenting science

Below is the full adjudication made by the Australian Press Council based on three separate complaints made against News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt. The complaints related to claims Bolt misrepresented key facts about global warming.

Bolt states will respond to the ruling, but it will not be published until next week. I’ll provide some analysis shortly – but my initial response is the ruling favours the complainants. But it is no “knock out blow”.

Full text below:

The Council has considered several complaints about an article by Andrew Bolt, “Time that climate alarmists fessed up”, in the Herald Sun on 1 February 2012. The same article also appeared in Mr Bolt’s blog on the Herald Sun website under the heading, “Open your eyes. Where’s that warming?”. The article opened by saying “let’s see how the great global warming scare is panning out, shall we? First, the planet hasn’t warmed for a decade – or even 15 years, according to new temperature data from Britain’s Met Office”. A later sentence began: “Sea levels have recently dipped, the oceans have lately cooled, Arctic ice has not retreated since 2007 …”. 

Three people complained separately to the Council that the article contained a number of misrepresentations. A key complaint related to the assertion that the Met Office data showed no warming in the last 15 years. The assertion had been made on 29 January in an article by David Rose in the UK newspaper Mail on Sunday. The Met Office responded on the same day that “for Mr Rose to suggest that the global temperatures available show no warming for the last 15 years is entirely misleading”. The complainants also said that because the changes in sea and ice conditions mentioned by Mr Bolt were relatively short-term and minor they did not refute the longer-term trends in the opposite direction. Therefore, they said, his statements gave a misleading impression.

The newspaper said that although Mr Bolt had drawn on the Rose article he had been unaware of the Met Office response. In any event, it said, that response was not incompatible with his statement that average temperatures were now no higher than 10 or 15 years ago. The newspaper said that data provided by one of the complainants actually supported Mr Bolt’s assertions about recent changes in sea and ice conditions, even if there had previously been trends in the opposite directions. It added that the assertions were clearly expressions of opinion, which Mr Bolt was entitled to express. It said that a letter from one of the complainants criticising the article had been published a few days afterwards, and some criticisms had been published in the blog’s comment section.

The Press Council has concluded that Mr Bolt was clearly entitled to express his own opinion about the Met Office data but in doing so he needed to avoid conveying a misleading interpretation of the Met Office’s own views on its data. In a blog posting two days earlier (29 January) he had quoted Mr Rose’s assertion about the lack of warming and a reader then posted a comment referring him to the Met Office’s description of that assertion. The Met Office description should have been mentioned in Mr Bolt’s print article and blog of 1 February, even if he then rebutted it as unconvincing. It was not sufficient in these circumstances to assert ignorance of the response or to rely on the reader’s previous posting to inform other readers about it. Accordingly, the complaint is upheld on that ground.

The Council has concluded that the statements by Mr Bolt quoted above in relation to sea and ice conditions were likely to be interpreted by many readers as indicating that the longer-term trends had ceased or were reversing. It agrees with the newspaper that Mr Bolt’s assertions about recent changes in sea and ice conditions were statistically compatible with the key data sources put forward by the complainants. But it agrees with the complainants that those data were also statistically compatible with continuance of the longer-term trends in the opposite directions from the shorter-term changes to which he referred. Pauses and even reverses in direction do not necessarily signify the end of a long-term trend and have occurred in earlier stages of the trends in question here.

Given the great public importance of these issues, Mr Bolt should have acknowledged explicitly that all of the three changes in question were comparatively short-term and were statistically compatible with continuance of the long-term trends in the opposite direction. On the other hand, the article referred to the possibility that global warming has merely “paused” and it emphasised the need to “keep an open mind” on these issues. Accordingly, despite concerns about the manner in which the available evidence is presented, the Council’s decision is not to uphold these aspects of the complaint. 

The Council emphasises that this adjudication neither endorses nor rejects any particular theories or predictions about global warming and related issues. It observes that on issues of such major importance the community is best served by frank disclosure and discussion rather than, for example, failure to acknowledge significant shorter- or longer-term trends in relevant data.

Supplementary note (not required to be published):

The separate complaints on this article were received from Gary Ellett, Tony Mahoney and Bob Thomas. 

Relevant Council Standards (not required to be published):

This adjudication applies part of General Principle 6: “Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what is opinion. Relevant facts should not be misrepresented or suppressed.”

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Reality hits: Even the Herald Sun is reporting on a 5C Degree world by 2100

Even the Murdoch owned Herald Sun* is reporting on the enormity of what is happening to the planet.

Since July of this year when the carbon tax came into effect and didn’t destroy the economy, the tone of the HUN has changed to from outright skeptical to more straight reporting of climate change.

Today they reported on a recent study that predicts a 5C world without giving any voice to climate sceptics:

LEVELS of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising annually by around three per cent, placing Earth on track for warming that could breach 5C by 2100, a new study published says. 

The figure – among the most alarming of the latest forecasts by climate scientists – is at least double the 2C target set by UN members struggling for a global deal on climate change. 

In 2011, global carbon emissions were 54 per cent above 1990 levels, according to the research, published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, by the Global Carbon Project consortium. 

“We are on track for the highest emissions projections, which point to a rise in temperature of between 4C and 6C by the end of the century,” said Corinne le Quere, a carbon specialist at the University of East Anglia, eastern England. 

“The estimate is based on growth trends that seem likely to last,” she said in a phone interview, pointing to the mounting consumption of coal by emerging giants. 

Other research has warned of potentially catastrophic impacts from a temperature rise of this kind. 

Chronic droughts and floods would bite into farm yields, violent storms and sea-level rise would swamp coastal cities and deltas, and many species would be wiped out, unable to cope with habitat loss.

Should we pleased with the fact that people with the Murdoch empire have seen reason and are reducing the influence of the crazies?

Perhaps.

On the one hand it is another sign of the rapidly diminishing influence of the climate scepticism and the sceptic movement.

But what amends can News Limited and Murdoch make for the decades of climate change denial and misleading the public?

That we are now approaching a world of 5C by centuries end is a tragedy. The level of suffering may dwarf the Holocaust and the wars of the 20th century.

We must urgently, desperately avert this.

* Melbourne daily with a circulation in excess of 1 million

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Of sea ice & Andrew Bolt: freedom of speech under attack?

Pity Andrew Bolt who seems to be under some form of “investigation’ by the dark forces of censorship.

In a November 20 blog post titled Record ice around Antarctica Blot hints that he – and indeed the very notion of freedom of speech – is under attack:  

I am in a dispute with a free-speech regulator which fancies putting out a statement declaring this freezing essentially patchy, small and recent and proposes to find fault in me not quoting warmists who make irrelevant arguments…

All very sinister by the sounds of it. One wonders if Andrew was dragged out of the Herald Sun’s South Bank tower in the middle of the night, and like Galileo shown the instruments of torture. What has our fearless commentator now said that has sent the forces of darkness against him?

Bolt has been pushing the old denier canard that the growth of sea ice in Antarctica somehow disproves climate change. Bolt references an article from that august scientific publication from the UK The Daily Mail. Titled Now there’s more ice at South Pole than ever (So much for global warming thawing Antarctica!):

Ice around the South Pole has expanded to cover a record area, scientists revealed yesterday – a month after saying that the North Pole had lost an unprecedented amount of its ice.

Researchers say – rather confusingly – that both occurrences are down to the ‘complex and surprising’ effects of global warming.

The record Antarctic sea ice cover was revealed in satellite images from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado….

At the end of the southern winter in September, ice covered 7.51million square miles of sea – more than at any time since records began in 1979. For the last 30 years the amount of Antarctic sea ice has been increasing by 1 per cent each decade.

One assumes a complaint was made to Australian Press Council (APC) about of one of Andrew’s many lies misrepresentations concerning climate change.

And no, it wasn’t me – but I’ve often thought about it. Still I have little doubt what conclusions such an investigation would find: Andrew got his facts wrong. Again.

But let’s be clear about one thing: freedom of speech is not under attack.

Andrew Bolt is a privileged member of the media elite; he commands a large audience, gets paid handsomely and seeks to influence the political debate within Australia. Bolt is not an outlier – despite posing as a gadfly or intellectual rebel. He is simply one of the more prominent members of News Limited’s stable of conservative journalists.

Unlike Mr Bolt, most ordinary individuals lack the backing of a global media giant that generates billions in revenue and armies of lawyers to represent you in court when you get basic facts wrong.

Regulators such as the APC and ACMA help provide a level playing field. Checks and balances are essential to limit abuses of power. The APC and ACMA are merely part of a system of checks and balances.

Let’s be honest these aren’t vast, monolithic agents of totalitarian repression. They’re rather toothless really: they’re primary role is help foster standards.

Standards such as getting the facts right.

What Andrew Bolt and many of the other hyper-sensitive climate change sceptics frequently overlook is that criticism and having you claims critically examined by a neutral third-party is not censorship.

It rather simple really: when you fail to play by the rules of evidence, you’re going to get caught out.

And if you’re wrong – as Andrew is so very often on climate change – then it is only reasonable to expect repercussions. If you’re wrong, you are going to be called on it. Indeed, this debate and validation of claims are an essential part this whole “freedom of speech” thing Andrew wishes to make himself the poster boy for.

Freedom of speech is not just shouting at the world your own point of view, which is what Andrew seems to believe. There is the freedom for others to answer back and challenge claims.

Andrew Bolt is free to lie, misrepresent and distort the facts about climate change.

But no amount of chest-pounding and hyperbole is going to change the fact that he is consistently wrong about the science of climate change.

However in a rather grandiose fashion, Bolt conflates criticism of his many factual errors with an attack on free speech, liberty and democracy.

He simply can’t admit error; therefore he turns these episodes into little mini-dramas in which he is the victim of a vast conspiracy of leftists, warmists, socialists and nasty environmentalists.

How else can he explain to both himself and the diminishing ranks of climate sceptics these “attacks”?

Surely HE can’t be wrong… surely it’s the fault of those scheming “warmists” making “irrelevant arguments”.

And the sea ice?

Yes it is true the sea ice has been growing 1 per cent each decade. But Bolt and the denial cheer squad exclude some key facts.

Overall, Antarctica is losing ice: sea ice may be increasing due to the complex interplay of winds, a declining Ozone hole and natural variation.

But Bolt and the deniers overlook – deliberately – the fact that land ice is declining.

As this National Geographic article points out, Antarctica is warming but at a slower pace than the Arctic:

Q. While Arctic sea ice is decreasing, the Antarctic is now slightly increasing. Why is there so much variation between Arctic and Antarctic ice?

Well we have a continent on the South Pole. On the North Pole we have nothing but ocean. In the Arctic you see full-fledged warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, plus increased ice transport [out of the region, which removes cold air and water]. So all of these effects contribute to reduce the sea ice cover in the Arctic.

In the Antarctic, you have to think of it as its own climate system. It’s a big continent isolated from the rest of the world. It has ocean all around it. It has wind regimes that blow clockwise around it and isolate it. It acts differently from the Arctic, which is completely connected to the rest of the North Hemisphere.

Q. Considering we regularly hear about the planet’s stressed climate system, is this good news?

Really, it’s consistent with our understanding of a warming world. Some of the regional details are not something we can easily predict. But the general trends of decay of the sea ice cover and decay of the Greenland ice sheets and ice caps is in line with what we expect.

The Antarctic has not been warming up as fast as the models thought. It’s warming up, but slower. So it’s all consistent with a warming planet.

What I suspect happened is this: Bolt, like most deniers, cherry picked some facts about Antarctica’s sea ice growing, alluding that climate change wasn’t real. Bolt has been called on this, and deeply resents the fact he has been made accountable.

The “irrelevant arguments” by warmists Andrew is desperate to dismiss are no doubt facts that challenge his world view.

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The Word of Murdoch: hacking scandals, climate change denial and Rupert Murdoch’s lasting legacy

[Note: I wrote this piece in May before the News Ltd break up of its divisions, however I saw it as inevitable. I also noted that dust bowl conditions would return to the US Mid-West. Murdoch recently stated in a tweet that climate change was happening, and that the proposed cures - one assumes the "carbon tax" - worse. I believe the events in the US, Japan, Korea, the UK, Russia and around the globe are putting Murdoch's claim to the test. - Mike @ WtD]

Earlier this week the joint British Parliamentary committee investigating the News International (NI) “phone hacking” scandal released a damning report , accusing both NI and its chairman, Rupert Murdoch of misleading parliament and “willful blindness”

The report is well worth reading, as its conclusions seriously question the ethics of both NI (the UK subsidiary of News Corporation) and Rupert Murdoch:

“Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the Committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth. Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions. In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies’ directors—including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch—should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility…”

Both James and Rupert Murdoch – in the eyes of the UK parliament – are not fit to lead the company:

“On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company…”

I’ve worked most of my career in the private sector, and can say with some authority that the culture of an organisation is determined by its management. If a blind eye is turned to bullying, intimidation and unethical behaviour over a prolonged period then these behaviours will not only flourish, but will become “standard operating procedure”.

Enron, AiG and now News Corporation: a failure of leadership

There is truth to the old saying, “The buck stops here”.

Ultimate responsibility for the misdeeds of an organisation rest with its most senior management. Especially when those misdeeds are so pervasive and widespread. They can be excuse for ignorance. This is the media industries equivalent to the Enron scandal.

And yet like so the executives of other failed organisations, Murdoch grapples with the idea of personal responsibility. In a memo to staff of his Dow Jones employees just released, we clearly see the aging octogenarian struggling with personal responsibility:

“I recognize that for all of us – myself in particular – it is difficult to read many of the report’s findings. But we have done the most difficult part, which has been to take a long, hard and honest look at our past mistakes…”

What is fascinating is the lack personal responsibility in this blandly written PR puff-piece.

And yet the news (no pun intended) is sweeping the globe, making it impossible for Murdoch and his empire down play what is a devastating judgement.

Rupert Murdoch is unfit to lead a company.

The implications for Murdoch and News International are profound, as his interests in the UK and US are coming under further scrutiny. Indeed, Murdoch may be forced to sell off its British papers and remaining share of BSkyB. Recall Murdoch had to withdraw his bid to fully take over BSkyB in the wake of the hacking scandal.

Bad news: the evidence is piling up fast

News Corporation and Murdoch have come under increasing scrutiny over the last year. The phone hacking revelations sent a shiver of disgust across the world (righty so).

And yet as ugly as that incident was, much good came from it. Politicians and commentators started taking very a hard look at Murdoch and his empire:

  •  Robert Manns’ “Bad news” digs into News Ltd’s Australian operations, examining the world view of the executives and senior journalists and finds a culture of bullying, intimidation and a “what ever it takes” approach to destroying it’s “enemies” (Greens, climate scientists, competitors)
  • Dial M for Murdoch by British MP Tony Watson details how News International engaged in a systematic campaign of deleting incriminating emails and destroying computers to hide evidence related to its illegal activities.

Nor should we forget, that earlier this year it was revealed a News Corporation subsidiary – New Datacom Systems – was involved in undermining pay TV competitors by suppling “hacked” keys to the set top boxes of rival operators (and thus hurting their revenue by facilitating piracy).

In Australia, the Independent Media Inquiry has been examining the role of the media, its ability to police itself and the need for a “fit and proper persons test” for media proprietors (note, such provision did exist in Australia but was removed during the 1980s during the privatisation and deregulation mania).

The Murdoch discount and the break up of empire

Questions are being asked Murdoch’s ability to lead News Corporation, while the heir apparent – James Murdoch – has lost all credibility.

Following the release of the report, New Corp shares actually went up, no doubt confusing some people. Surely the share price should “tank” following the news that its chairman is not a fit to lead the company?

The share price increase isn’t a vote of confidence in favour of James and Rupert – it’s actually the opposite. Investors are anticipating Murdoch will soon be forced step down or relinquish personal control of News Corporation.

It won’t be the end of the News Corp – quite a number of its assets are highly profitable. But as many analysts have noted, significant parts of the “empire” underperform (the newspaper titles). Share holders and analysts have been eager for the company to dispose of them for years.

Should Murdoch retire – or is pushed to retire – it is highly likely shareholders will insist the company divest itself of such underperforming units. A great deal of the company’s newspapers and print titles are subsidized by its more profitable pay television and media units (case in point, The Australian). News Corp retains them simply because Rupert has as sentimental attachment to them.

Analysts often refer to the “Murdoch discount”. In essence, they subtract 30% from the value of shares due to Murdoch’s heavy handed control of the company, sometimes erratic judgement and sentimental attachment to the ailing newspaper arm of the company.

The “market” wants News Corp to be broken up, so as to unleash the full potential of its better performing assets. Rupert Murdoch, due to his need to control and hang onto every last part of his sprawling empire is seen as the blocker.

There is an upside to “break up” for those concerned about how Murdoch uses his media empire to further his political and ideological agenda. Such a break up would see Murdoch lose the global platform that gives voice to his prejudices, ideology and ability to wield power.

I have no issue News Corporation being a highly profitable and well managed company. But I do have take issue with how Murdoch has used News to further his political power and ideological agenda.

Should News Corp divest itself of some of its newspaper assets we will see a change in editors, the type of news reported and tone. Rather than a monolithic entity singing Rupert’s song, we will see a greater diversity. Sure, many titles will remain rabidly right wing, tabloid cess pools of denial and populist rage. But others will do doubt begin to report news in a manner different to what they do currently.

This is the creative destruction of the market, and News Corporation is overdue for a much needed dose of this medicine.

And yet Murdoch’s legacy won’t simply be that of the man who wanted it all; the kind of individual who believes the ends justified the means when it comes to amassing power.

Indeed, Murdoch will leave a legacy will touch all of us.

It will be the very air we breathe, and the atmosphere we live in.

The banality of denial: free market fundamentalism and the denial of climate change

While the finding that Murdoch is unfit to lead a company may seem unrelated to the climate change debate, many understand the central role News Corporation has played in misleading the public across the globe on climate change.

The same selective blindness, ideological zeal and bullying tactics that created a culture fostered illegal activities also created a culture hostile to the idea of climate change.

Murdoch is a free market ideologue, and his “faith” in markets and limited government is the idée-fixe permeating every corner of News Corporation. It shapes the opinion pages of The Australian and Wall Street Journal and infects how the news is reported across his vast media holdings.

Like the propaganda adjunct of a one-party state, every outlet of News Corporation endlessly repeats the same Orwellian doublespeak: the climate is always changing, climate change is not real.

But why such hostility to what is settled science?

The idea that we should act cooperatively to address climate change runs counter to the neo-conservative faith in markets. Climate change is a classic example of – in the words of Nicholas Stern – the “worst market failure” in history. Our economic activities are driving environmental instability.

To accept the scientific evidence for climate change is to accept that the market is imperfect. Thus, Murdoch – the free-market ideologue – has waged war on the idea that markets can fail.

There is the “Australian’s war on science” and my much more humble “Herald Sun war on science”. In the US, the News owned “Fox News” is a cesspool of climate change denial, while the Wall Street Journal deliberately clouds the debate by publishing the claims of climate sceptics.

Climate change denial is so entrenched and vehement within News Corporation it prompted Rolling Stone to state that “no one has done more” than Murdoch’s to spread “dangerous misinformation”.

One academic has gone so far as to claim Murdoch and his empire of disinformation has cost humanity “at least one or two decades” of mitigation efforts:

The Murdoch media empire has cost humanity perhaps one or two decades of time in the battle against climate change. Each lost decade greatly increases the eventual economic costs, the devastation to our ecosystems, and the suffering of future generations.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Read the real science, ask the real experts

Murdoch and his minions have cost humanity the crucial decades that would have allowed us to avoid the more serious effects of climate change. The level of suffering for future generations will be unnecessarily greater

Put in brutal terms, more people are going to die than should.

Murdoch’s place amongst that pantheon of individuals who have caused suffering on a mass scale is assured.

Such is the banality of evil.

All it takes is a cadre of loyal journalists to repeat the same lies and disinformation to mislead the public and intimidate politicians into inaction.

No one directly suffers, and yet the price is paid by future generations.

Murdoch’s lasting legacy: a broken climate

Murdoch the man has been found unfit to lead a company in the free market, while at the same time helping usher in the worst market failure in history.

History, if nothing else, has a refined sense of irony.

Murdoch’s legacy will not simply be the broken and dysfunctional culture of News Corporation.

His most lasting legacy will be the damaged climate and a world of 2 degrees plus. For decades, News Corporation has waged a pitiless and deceitful campaign against scientists and the public’s understanding of the climate change.

Murdoch charged News Corporation with a missionary zeal to spread his free-market ideology. The doctrine was preached by his army of journalists and television presenters. Across the globe the likes of Andrew Bolt, Terry McCrann, Chris Mitchell and Glenn Beck spread the Word of Murdoch.

And the Word was: the market cannot fail.

We should remember that when super-charged bush fires burn our forests to ash and devastate small communities across Australia.

We should remember Murdoch when fragile states in Africa “fail” and succumb to violence.

We should stand outside the towers of News Corporation and shame them when crop harvests fail in heartland USA as “dust bowl” conditions become the norm.

We should record the names of News Corporation journalists who mocked predictions of sea level rises when small island nations are wiped from the face of the Earth due to rising sea levels.

We should remember the names of every News Corp journalist, television personality and executive who feed us lies and disinformation.

We should not forget those who helped usher in this brave new world

And we should not forgive.

Herald Sun War on Science 9: escalating the war on science

Yesterday the Herald Sun announced that conservative columnist Miranda Divine would be joining their stable of columnists.  

My first thought was “Here comes more climate change denial…”

And true to form, I’m not disappointed.

Dear old Miranda is one of those conservative journalists who recycle denial memes and propaganda in her columns. Divine’s first column – titled “Green advertisement to bring pain” - is a wide-ranging attack on environmentalism and science.

Let’s break it down piece-by-piece.  

10:10 No Pressure campaign

As predicated, the 10:10 campaign is a disaster and will be used again, again by the deniers to draw the “green = terrorism” meme. Divine milks it for all it’s worth:

It’s green Darwinism, known in earlier times as The Final Solution.

Armstrong and friends removed the video from the 10:10 website when complaints started, but it was too late.

She has let the cat out of the bag.Now we have the evidence that during the long silence after the twin blows last year of the Copenhagen climate summit and Climategate, green zealots had been busy plotting revenge.They flipped the switch in their brains that takes them down the blood-spattered path of totalitarian death so well-worn in the 20th century. Now we know: climate change alarmism is a death cult.

We heard the message in its starkest form last month from the Discovery Channel’s suicide bomber James Lee, whose eco manifesto demanded no more “filthy human children” before he was shot dead by police outside the US cable channel’s headquarters in Maryland.

These rants are worthy of your garden variety creationists: Hitler, the Final Solution. In this respect Divine mimics creationists in the US who link Darwin with Hitler, the Holocaust and the individual acts of mentally unwell people.

Personally, I find the 10:10 video objectionable on two levels:

  • the film is tasteless. I find the violence objectionable, especially the thought of harm to children
  • it was an incredible blunder made by people who fail to understand the difference between entertainment and communication.

Divine recycles Heartland Institute talking points

As I noted a few weeks back, the industry funded American think tank “The Heritage Institute” was sponsoring a sceptics conference.

As predicted, talking points have made their way into the media:

As the brilliant Perth-based mathematician David Evans, who wrote the Government’s carbon accounting program when he worked at the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change) told a climate seminar last week, the temperature record is based in part on suspect readings.At a seminar by the American climate sceptic think tank, the Heartland Institute, in Sydney on Friday, Evans displayed images of temperature measuring stations around the world, including in Melbourne and Sydney, which stand next to heat-generating air conditioners, freeways and asphalt runways.

The link between industry funded think tanks, the denial machine and the media is made explicitly clear here. 

Divine is recycling the old “temperature records are unreliable” meme. This has been debunked so many times (see here) it’s not funny, however like the creationist meme “There are no transitional fossils” it is endlessly repeated by climate sceptics.

I also like the fact that she calls David Evans a “mathematician”.

Evans has a PhD in engineering. He has not ever been a mathematician, which is a recognised discipline.

Evans also calls himself a “rocket scientist (from SourceWatch):

According to his biographical note, Evans rhetorically describes himself as a “Rocket Scientist”[4]. (While Evans use of the term was rhetorical, one article on a website for the conspiracy-minded took it literally and headed an article about Evans claims “Top Rocket Scientist: No Evidence CO2 Causes Global Warming”.[5] While Evans has a PhD in electrical engineering, there is no evidence that he was ever employed as a rocket scientist. Evans explained this was a misunderstanding: “In US academic and industry parlance, ‘rocket scientist’ means anyone who has completed a PhD in one of the hard sciences at one of the top US institutions.”[6]

He has never worked for NASA. 

He just thinks it makes him sound super-smart. 

It’s the old trick of puffing up ones credentials.

Journalists like Divine are simply gullible.

The HUN is stepping up its war on science

Divine joins Andrew Bolt and Terry McCrann as their most high-profile journalists who without fail regularly wage war on science.  

Since the election in which over 11% of the Australian population voted Green, conservative papers such as the HUN and The Australian have gone into a panic.

They’ve seen the rise as the Greens as a threat, and have been running dozens of stories seeking to attack their credibility and link their world view with Osama Bin Laden, the Nazi’s and communists.  

It’s a very dirty, ugly campaign that is only getting worse.  

Climate science is seen simply as another “green belief”, a meme fostered by think tanks hoping to discredit the science and scientists.

“El sueno de la razon produce monstruos…”

The blog post where I dismiss climate science

I’ll admit I was very inspired by this very amusing post over at Genomicron and this brilliant piece over at the Guardian. In short, here is my guide to writing a blog post denying climate change.

In this paragraph I’ll attempt to appear a sincere seeker of truth

In this paragraph I’ll explain some of the basics of climate science, but with extensive use of “scare quotes”. It will be a highly distorted version of the science: the “big picture” may be correct, but wrong on more detailed aspects.

I’ll note that for years I’d accepted the mainstream consensus on climate change, however out of sheer intellectual curiosity I decided to look into the issue myself.

Fortunately, my background in engineering/economics/physics or some other non-climate science related profession that requires maths has given me an understanding of the scientific method.

This how I establish myself as an authority.

At this point I will make reference to my intellectual journey, which in most instances involves extensive Google searching. I’ll note that after several days of trawling the Internet I was amazed to find blogs and web sites offering alternative views on climate change.

My use of search terms such as “climate change and fraud” will prompt Google to produce only the most authoritative materials. I will then muse why such information is not more accessible to the general public.

Here I will take down the IPCC in a paragraph

At this point I’ll take cherry pick quotes from the IPCC report and/or actual scientific research:

[Cut and paste text here...]

In this paragraph I’ll feign mock surprise that the claims in the quote appear to be exaggerated, as my own careful reading of blogs offering alternative explanations cast doubt on the claims of “experts” (natch, more scare quotes of course).

This is probably the appropriate time to make reference to the work of Steve McIntyre, a retired physicist or professor of geology. I might choose to include an image showing the famous “Hockey stick” and question it’s reliability. I’ll describe it as “broken”, without understanding what that means. However, it is an effective meme, and it’s stuck in my brain.

I’ll then post a link to Watts up with That? post that tears down climatologist (boo hiss!) Michael Mann and his stick (Ha ha! Did you see my pun!), pointing readers to bloggers more qualified to dismiss the science.

This is how I help repeat the same discredited claims.

This title indicates my distrust of “science”

Here it is appropriate to mention the “liberated” Climategate emails as proof that the workings of science have been corrupted. I’ll quote some very selective parts of said emails:

[Oh look scientists said nasty thing...]

I’ll feign surprise that scientists could act so un-professionally.

I’ll then move on to discuss how the “peer review process” is now “totally corrupt”. I’ll talk about the government funding of science, and allude to the fact that research funded by governments must be tainted.

Sometimes I’ll resort to Latin phrases. Ipso Facto sounds good. As does Caveat Emptor. I heard a very prominent sceptic uses Latin, therefore my post will sound much more authoritative.

I’ll dismiss the notion of scientific consensus as a kind of popularity contest.

I will make exaggerated claims about the stifling of alternative views: that scientists questioning this new “orthodoxy” have been shunned, picked on and called nasty names. Over 1 BILLION [cough] scientists [cough] have signed the Oregon Petition, stating they do not believe the planet is warming! What further proof do you need!?!?

I’ll throw in the line “They laughed at Galileo!” – but never “They laughed at Darwin!”, because that would betray my genuine doubts about evolutionary theory.

Here I will talk about Nazis, because it always about Nazis!

It is now at this point I usually descend into complete and utter paranoia, claiming the IPCC is the tool of socialists, lizard people and shadowy cabals. I’ll resort to Godwin’s Law and compare scientists with Nazis.

Or communists.

Or Nazis.

Or maybe both.

Clearly both were bad, so scientists must be equally bad.

Or I could term scientists eco-fascists, eco-terrorists or warmists.

By now I’ve worked myself into a rage, demanding that scientists be charged with FRAUD!

I will resort to even more UPPER CASE!

People such as myself – angry, white males feeling threatened by a loss of status – ARE ANGRY AND NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS LYING DOWN!

Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun understands my rage, he writes articles carefully constructed to provoke my sense of grievance and entitlement.

DID I MENTION I WAS ANGRY!

Here I just MAKE STUFF UP because I’M SO ANGRY!

My conclusion will be an appeal to personal liberty, god and small government

I’ll note the age of the Earth – except of course if I’m a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) - and that the climate has always changed.

However if I am a YEC, I’ll note it is presumptuous to claim humanity has any control over the climate. After all it is THE LORD who RULES THE HEAVENS:

[Appropriate Bible quote here...]

But then I might tone down the crazy creationist talk, as drawing attention to my support for other forms of denial might undermine my credibility.

My post will then end with an impassioned defense of liberty and how global warming is really a scam designed to raise taxes and limit your/our freedom.

I’ll end my post with a question.

Shouldn’t we just hope for the best and do nothing?

Herald Sun War on Science #8: It’s snowing, so climate change is a hoax!

It’s been a while since I’ve added an entry to the HUNs war on science, but today’s article from Andrew Bolt proves that the deniers are nothing but consistent in rolling out the same discredited arguments and again, and again… and again… (and again).

It’s been raining in Melbourne and there’s been snow.  

Yep, you guessed it.

Andrew Bolt thinks this disproves global warming

YET more showers on Thursday, and the dams filling nicely. Who’d have thought? Certainly not the Bureau of Meteorology, which on May 24 warned of dry.

Its prediction: “The chances of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and southwest NSW and Western Australia getting more than average rainfall are less than 40 per cent from June to August.”

Contrast that with this Herald Sun report on Thursday: “(senior BoM forecaster Terry) Ryan said a soggy June had been followed by a rain-drenched August …

“With long-range forecasts predicting a damp spring, Victoria is on target to record its wettest year since 1996.”

We are? Well, that’s a surprise. Because let me remind you of another outfit that assured us the rain was probably gone forever, thanks to wicked global warming.

Actually Andrew, take a look at the historical data from Melbourne Water which looks at the inflow of water into Melbourne’s four largest reservoirs:  

This is what Melbourne Water has to say:

What does this graph show?

Annual inflows into Melbourne’s 4 major reservoirs since 1913. While ups and downs are a constant feature, the average has dropped rapidly by almost 40% in the past 12 years. This included a devastating drop in 2006, which the CSIRO had forecast could occur under a ‘severe’ climate change scenario in 2050.

No, nothing to worry about! Look outside your window, can’t you see it’s raining!  

Oh, here is the data that looks at inflow for Western Australia’s reservoirs:      

Reduced inflows as well… 

Must be a trend.  

Andrew Bolt is a silly, silly man.  

Note: see Skeptical Science for the take down of this lame argument.

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