Category Archives: Fairfax

How we lost 20 years on climate change action (reprint)

A terrific article from The Conversation which sums up my own thoughts by Maria Taylor, Australian National University

Scientists have warned about the “greenhouse effect” for years. Now it is no longer a scientific nightmare; it has arrived.

Lines from Al Gore’s famous movie? No.

The Sydney Morning Herald published these words in mid-1988. The article detailed record-breaking heat and drought in North America and elsewhere, linking these weather effects with predictions for global warming and climate change (then called the greenhouse effect).

A review of the Fairfax mainstream and business press of the late 1980s and early 1990s found hundreds of articles focused on the risks posed by the greenhouse effect on topics as diverse as biodiversity and holidaying in the Maldives.

These articles all readily ascribed the cause of the greenhouse effect to industrial societies burning fossil fuels.

The science hasn’t changed, but the public story changed dramatically

I recently completed a study of climate change communication in Australia 1987-2001. I reviewed an extensive public record of news reports, government documents, early popular science books and interviews regarding the greenhouse effect.

I found there has not been a one-way road from lesser to better public knowledge of climate change science and available response in Australia in the last two decades. In fact the opposite has been the case and this is directly linked to the public narrative and framing.

The evidence shows that scientific findings – as documented by the IPCC starting in 1990 – remained basically consistent in their description of cause, risk and the need to respond throughout the 1990s.

However, communication from Australian policy makers and the media changed dramatically during the same period –– from expressing good understanding and a will to take action, to a confused and conflicted debate with clear correlations to the national response.

Almost no-one remembers the high point of good understanding that occurred in October 1990. That was when the Federal Government under Bob Hawke established an interim emission reduction target for the nation to lower greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2005.

Detailed state and national response plans were established. They canvassed every strategy known today, from efficiency measures and renewable energy to a carbon tax and emissions trading scheme.

But these plans were destined to wither under national competition policy that deregulated the national energy sector to focus on sales and profits rather than “demand management”.

When our values changed, so did the climate change story

The record shows a pivotal change occurred in social values and beliefs that set the public agenda from the mid-1990s on. Politicians and the press gallery, rather than scientists, more and more determined the daily narrative of what was “real”.

Guiding these values were:

  • the narrowed economic options of Australia’s destiny as a resource quarry
  • beliefs in the potential for a greenhouse gas techno-fix (such as clean coal)
  • beliefs in the fundamental divide between the monetary economy and the natural environment, with the latter framed as a cost.

Underlying are beliefs that humans are exceptional and outside the ecological laws governing other species. Such beliefs are widely held in western Christianity and therefore easy to target with coded language.

In the 1990s we added a panoply of beliefs about markets and their ultimate efficiency (so we could not make industry more efficient), embedded in neo-liberal, economic rationalist teachings.

Disciplinary beliefs also played a role. A notable group has been geologists, many of whom were taught that only on-ground measurement and evidence – not future modelling – is valid. This helped explain the enduring sceptic fervour that has confused the public.

Also influential was the impact of scientists communicating degrees of “scientific uncertainty” in the public arena. This is a concept that lay audiences frequently interpret as “don’t know”, and which greatly aided those who don’t want action.

The frames of climate change: from risk management, to too risky

Climate change up to the early 1990s was framed by politicians of both major parties as risk management for everyone. They focussed on Australia being an ethical global citizen responsible to future generations. Responses were framed as “win-win” for the environment and for new jobs. This reflected international response at the time.

After 1991, Paul Keating – and later John Howard – were preoccupied with the economy. Climate change action went on the back burner in the bureaucracy, eventually completing the transition to “can’t do” under Howard.

The reframed narrative became that Australia is exceptional: if climate change science is real, Australia should commit to minimal response because our economy relies on cheap energy and coal exports and we are not about to change.

Politicians became adept during this period at framing these messages with warm emotional values of nation and family –– evoking “us” against the “them” of greenies, Europeans, and the United Nations. These were portrayed as elites and outsiders trying to rob us of our jobs and businesses.

Understanding the coded language of the changed narrative, how it was done, is a lot about how people take up information, and that is another story that emerged from my study.

While the science findings have stayed consistent since at least 1990, politicians and the media re-framed their communication, and that radically changed public knowledge about climate change and the will to respond. Thanks to this change, Australia has lost 20 years of potential action on emission reduction.

Maria Taylor does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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Resource curse: just to be clear, Rinehart want’s Fairfax to benefit her mining interests

Via Ben Cubby at The Age/Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax), who quotes a media analyst:

“Fairfax Media is worth more broken up and its major shareholder Gina Rinehart should launch a takeover bid now so her mining interests can benefit from shifting the group’s editorial positions ahead of next year’s federal election, according to a media analyst.

Roger Colman, an analyst with CCZ Equities and a well-known critic of the media group, declared Fairfax to be a “break-up proposition”.

Mrs Rinehart’s private company Hancock Prospecting, which already owns 15 per cent of Fairfax, “needs to launch a partial bid now”, to “position” the mastheads “well before the October 2013 election,” he added…”

Let’s stop pretending that Ms Rinehart has suddenly found Fairfax to be an attractive take over target because of its “unrealised” potential.

Her media plays have been disastrous: one need look no further than Ten Network Holdings (the owner of Channel Ten) as the share price has tanked since the mining magnate joined the board.

Her two great achievements as a board member?

Getting Andrew Bolt his very own television show and questioning whether or not “The Simpsons” should be screened as it ran counter against “family values”.

Rinehart is fast becoming one of the richest people on the planet: by throwing a few million at Fairfax the only thing she stands to lose is the equivalent of the pocket-money that used to go to her estranged children.

Either Fairfax will die or become the mouth piece of “the house of Hancock”. Both are win-wins for Rinehart as she buys influence and silences a source of criticism.

Rinehart’s only interest is in shaping public opinion on climate change, her ANDEV project and boostering mining. In case you missed it, the now infamous Monckton video where he outlines the need for one of Australia’s super-rich to come in an reshape the media landscape:

Fairfax starts trumpeting Rinehart’s agenda: today’s op-ed by climate crank David Evans

It should come no surprise that The Age has started publishing opinion pieces sceptical of climate change after Gina Rinehart’s share buying spree and the appointment of her close friend Jack Cowen to the Fairfax board.

Today The Age published a piece by climate crank David Evans:

“…There are huge vested interests in the theory of man-made climate change. They will soon have to face up to the fact that they have been unwittingly relying on assumed amplification by humidity for most of the predicted temperature increases, and that the amplification is not there in reality.”

Oh lordy!

And so it begins.

Gina Rinehart – who now has a huge stake in Fairfax – has spoken approvingly of Evans work (see here):

”Further you may wish to consider the scientist and mathematician, Dr David Evans view in an article titled “Evidence Speaks – It’s a Scam”, he has recently provided four other evidential tests against which global warming can be assessed, which have been independently confirmed by others.

The four key pieces of evidence that Evans presents, and the graphs which relate to each, are available here at (http://sciencespeak.com/evidence.pdf). They concern the complex computer climate models that provide the main basis for warming alarmism…”

Evans is the man who likes to call himself a “rocket” scientist”, even though he has not worked at NASA.

He also “suspects” a vast cabal of banking families are behind the “climate scam”.

To quote Evans himself:

“…There are a small number of families who, over the centuries, have amassed wealth through financial rent seeking. They are leading members of the paper aristocracy. For example, the Rothschild’s are the biggest banking family in Europe, and were reputed to own half of all western industry in 1900. That sort of wealth doesn’t just dissipate, because unless the managers are incompetent the wealth tends to concentrate. The banking families don’t work for a living in the normal sense, like the rest of us. They avoid scrutiny and envy by blending in and make themselves invisible. Since they own or influence all sorts of media organizations, it isn’t too hard. There are unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories, but nobody can really credibly say how much wealth and influence they have…

And Fairfax feels fit to give such cranks a public platform? Actually, I’m not at all surprised. This leaves no doubt that the Rinehart is seeking to use Fairfax to push her agenda.

So that completes the circle: News Corporation and now Fairfax in the hands of billionaire climate change deniers.

We all saw this coming.

“How much for your democracy?”

Cartoon for the day:

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