The denial movement went into full meltdown yesterday after the CSIRO’s six page document clearly demonstrating the effect climate change has had on Australia. It was a smart move by CSIRO, as it focussed primarily on how climate change has affected Australia – it brings the message home to everyone.
This is how it impacts you.
It makes the issue tangible for most Australians: this is how it’s changed our climate. This is how it’s going to continue to shape our environment. In “State of the Climate” CSIRO makes the science accessible.
Nor does this document simply shape the media debate. It will become a much cited and authoritative document in the blogosphere. Already other media outlets around the world are picking it up.
It was a damn smart move by CSIRO, however I don’t think the implications of their counter-attack on the denial movement – and how it will shape the climate debate – are fully appreciated.
Pushing deniers back to the fringe
Acceptance of CSIRO’s statements on climate change will become the default “mainstream” view in both the media and in the political debate.
CSIRO has forced major media outlets – and by extension political parties – to either accept the science or deny it. The choice is between taking a respectable position or to engage in frothy-mouthed denial.
Politicians that either reject the science or remain ambiguous will either have to publically accept the CSIRO’s statement, or attack the credibility of CSIRO itself. Most politicians understand that this is not a viable strategy. It would make them look irresponsible and foolish.
The CSIRO is a respected institution in Australia. People understand the work they do, and have great pride in its achievements. When the CSIRO speaks most Australians listen and accept their message. To attack and denigrate such a respected authority will only reflect poorly on them (a point Andrew Bolt fails to grasp).
The big shapers of public opinion in the media are also forced to make that same choice, and one can see how it’s already happened.
The Australian: “OK, maybe you scientists are right….”
The Australian, Murdoch’s national daily has long had a problematical relationship with the science. But now the choice for Murdoch’s stable of deniers at The Australian is quite stark: denial or acceptance.
Fortunately they have conceded that the science is “solid“:
“…SERIOUS climate change debate is not the place for alarmist hyperbole and sophistry. Australians need to come to grips with the issue through quality science and rational argument, which is why a new CSIRO/Bureau of Meteorology analysis is welcome. While more than 90 per cent certain that greenhouse emissions have caused most of the global warming observed since 1950, the report’s balanced approach enhances its credibility….
…CSIRO executive director Dr Megan Clark correctly points out the value of scientific observation and hard data, the hallmarks of the new report, which is based on some of the most accurate meteorology records in the world. The report is a useful resource to inform sensible debate.”
Here the debate shifts from the acceptance of the science to the political, economic and social responses to climate change. It’s a debate that is necessary, and will no doubt be intense. But this is a signal that media outlets are now passing through the denial stage.
Personally, I think the rest of the article has some problems – especially their considerations on the economic implications of responding to climate change. However this blog is about climate change denial, not the policy implications.
The first stage is acceptance of the science.
Implications for the denial movement: their high-water mark is receding
Is this “nail in the coffin” for the denial movement?
Of course not, they’ll continue to sputter and rage for a few more years. However, CSIRO’s document delegitimizes their claims of conspiracies, data manipulation and deceit by the scientific establishment. Responsible politicians and journalists will be forced to distance themselves from their wild claims.
The “sophistry” (i.e. spin and lies) of the denail movement are longer acceptable. It will take some time for the denier community to accept this, but they’ve passed their high-water mark.
Last November it looked like that had gained the upper hand through their manipulation of the Climategate emails and problems with the IPCC fourth assessment report. Yes, they gained some traction in the mainstream press and blogosphere. But ultimately these events will be of no lasting importance.
The debate has moved on. It is moving on, and they are being left behind.
The likes of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova and Ian Pilmer will continue to rage, however they will be preaching to a ever decreasing, but shrill minority.