Windbags: where does Terry McCrann and Andrew Bolt get their science? Hint, not actual scientists…

One thing I’ve noted about News Limited’s commentators ceaseless war on science is how hostile they are to the work of actual scientists, preferring the misinformation of conservative think tanks such as the IPA,  fully-fledged cranks such as Lord Christoper Monckton and contrarian scientists out of step with their peers (Ian Plimer)

If that wasn’t bad enough, it would appear they’ll happily accept any old drival their readers send them without taking the care to check the references or the facts.

Indeed, fact-checking seems to have become passe at News Limited: why check facts, when the the information presented to you easily  confirms your world view?

Now before accuses me of hypocrisy, of course I’ve received emails from readers alerting me to new research and reports. On occasion these have become posts. But in every instance, the references are to legitimate sources which I make every attempt to validate.

Not so Terry MaCrann and Andrew Bolt of the HUN.

Last week McCrann provided a delicious example of the kind of polemical, fact-free propaganda that has become the hall mark of the work of News Ltd columnists.

His target: wind farms.

His source: what ever emails readers throw into his inbox.

Windbag: McCrann’s war on wind farms

Terry McCrann – Associate Editor for business at the Herald Sun – has been beating the denialist drum for years. Last week I was amused to see him raging against wind farms, the death of millions of birds and Green Leader Bob Brown:

BORROWING a chant from the 1960s: hey, hey Bob Brown, how many birds have you killed today?

But unlike Vietnam, where the killing did eventually stop, if Brown, the Greens and warmenists in general get their way, the bird-killing will not only go on forever but be dramatically, dramatically, multiplied.

According to Spain’s Ornithological Society, its main bird conservation charity, Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines might be killing six million to 18 million birds and bats a year.

That’s an average per turbine of 333-1000 deaths a year – much more than the two to four birds claimed by the American wind industry.

So, Bob Brown, how many birds does each Australian turbine kill each year?

And how many will be killed if you get your way and cover the countryside with tens of thousands more turbines?

And why is saving trees more important than not killing birds?

They’re the sort of questions that have never been put to Brown from a Canberra Press gallery and electronic media that treats him as with awe as a Gandhi or Jesus figure.

Is there anything more useless and yet destructive than a wind turbine?

When the wind don’t blow the power don’t flow. And when the wind does blow the birds do spatter.

Millions of birds are dying? Really? The horror!

Now, how that is the fault of Bob Brown its hard to say.

Actually, its the tried and true tactic of negative framing: by associating wind farms with bird deaths in Spain with a political party he despises, McCrann gets to take a swipe at climate change, the greens and sustainable energy.

And those millions of bird deaths?

Millions of birds are not dying, as a scientist from Spain’s leading scientific organisation have refuted those claims, stating the mortality rate where exaggerated in the order of thousands by one individual:

The president of the Foundation and exper of Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Miguel Ferrer, said that wind farms are not dangerous to birds and has stated that “only a few wind turbines” are causing deaths among birds.

Speaking on the occasion of the first Iberian Congress on Wind Energy and Wildlife Conservation, held in Jerez on Thursday, the expert noted that the deaths of birds colliding with wind turbines have a distribution “heterogeneous” and added that in the recent years has reduced mortality by 68%, refuting the organization Seo / Birdlife, which exhibited at the scientific conference that wind turbines could be causing a mortality between 6 and 18 million individuals between the species of birds and bats, a ten thousand times more than the actual figure.

But facts (remember those News Ltd?) should never get in the way of an opportunity to attack the Greens.

I began drafting a response to this, and indeed one of the questions I had was where did McCrann get such an obscure fact? Fortunately McCrann answered that question for me in a follow up article a few days later:

Reader Andrew Chapman, who drew my attention to the estimate by Spain’s Ornithological Society of that country’s sacrifice of six to 18 million birds and bats every year on the altar of energy stupidity, emailed the same information to federal pollies. The response from Sandy Bowden in the office of Brown’s deputy Christine Milne was, “please unsubscribe me from your mailing list.

Andrew Chapman, where have I seen that name before?

Oh that’s right… It appears he is also one of Andrew Bolt’s favorite sources for science, viz this 2007 blog entry claiming there was no evidence for recent warming:

Why is this significant (other than to challenge the assumption that temperatures steadily increase with our emissions)? 

That jump in Australian average temperature correlates with the Great Pacific Climate Shift of 1976/1977.  The Shift marks a change from Pacific Decadal Oscillation cool phase to warm phase — thus reversing a cool shift in the early 1940s.  This 76/7 climatic step-change correlates with an abrupt reduction in the upwelling quantity of cold deep water in the equatorial eastern Pacific.  Put another way — before the shift there was a preponderance of La Niña conditions, and after it El Niño dominated.  Change in upwelling quantity on this scale (it varies a lot – but say, from about 26 Sverdrups before the Shift to about 18 Sv after) is an inertial event of huge magnitude.  I don’t see how human-caused CO­2 emissions could have done that.

(Alas, no link. Thanks to Andrew Chapman.)

When it comes to climate change, it seems the journalists at News Ltd would rather turn to what ever turns up in their inbox rather than consults scientists.

Witness this lovely display by Bolt in 2007, as nearly every post related to climate change attributes the source to Bolt’s readers:

(Thanks to readers Andrew and Matt.)

 (Thanks to reader Steve.)

(Thanks to readers Matt and Kingsley.)

(Thanks to reader Rosemary.)

(Thanks to reader Tas.)

Spread over October 16 and 17, all 5 climate change related posts where all sourced from “readers”. And in case you think that’s an anomaly, Bolt is back from holidays and in fine form.

In his most recent blog post denying climate change – dated January 23 2012 – Bolt turns not to experts, but to his inbox.

His source? You guessed it:

(Thanks to reader Charles.)

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