Category Archives: News Corporation

All by myself: Andrew Bolt disappointed News publishes “alarmist propaganda”

Are cracks beginning to appear in the foundations of that bastion of climate change denial, News Corporation?

Early this week research by the Australian Center for Independent Journalism was released, highlighting the fact News Corporation has been waging a war on climate science

Perhaps feeling chastised (or foolish in response to the buzz the study has generated), a story was quickly published on News.com titled “10 simple points about climate change”. By News Corp standards it’s a rather puzzling article. Puzzling in that it contains factual information. Yes, my jaw is still on the floor.

However, this didn’t escape the attention of one Mr. Andrew Bolt:

It is disappointing that News Corp, of all media outlets, yesterday published this article on warming, revealing more faith than facts. 

Here’s just some of the most egregious errors or misleading claims.

Do tell Andrew, is there an official News Corp position on climate change? That is something even Rupert Murdoch denies. Golly, it is as if Andrew thinks News Corp shouldn’t be publishing articles that accurately present the science.

Bolt also hilariously “corrects” the article using indomitable sources such as “Watts up with that?”

Go, read and marvel at the crazy. 

Andrew Bolt must be feeling increasingly isolated even with the depths of News Corp.

This ones for you Andrew, perfectly attuned to your plaintive cry of despair:

 

 

Bad news for Murdoch, good news for us: Australian newspaper division revenue plunges $350m in one year

News_Out

mUmBrella reports Murdoch’s Australian newspaper business is in free fall, dropping $350 million (15%!) in revenue since this time last year:

The extent of News Corp’s financial woes in Australia have been revealed for the first time in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US. The filing reveals that the company saw its Australian newspaper revenues fall by $350m compared to the previous year, a fall of 15 per cent. It also wrote down the value of its Australian newspaper assets by $1.4bn.

It is clear for the first time that the company’s revenues have fallen far harder than rival publisher Fairfax Media, which had been perceived by many in the market as the media company in the worst trouble. In the same period, Fairfax’s metro and regional newspaper revenues went backwards by about $120m, about a third of the fall experienced by News Corp.

News blames competition from the Internet.

Bwah ha ha ha!

Could it be what they are offering the Australian public is not what they desire?

Could it be that climate change denial and wall-to-wall Andrew Bolt doesn’t sell papers?

It’s not the internet gobbling up readers – that is simply a “dog ate my homework” style excuse.

It is more simple than that.

The quality of content News Corp dishes up across all its mast heads is utter shite.

People are voting with their wallets.

The more reality and Murdoch are at odds, the less papers he sells

The two signature issues of the last decade have been the War in Iraq (and the non-existence of WMDs) and climate change.

On both of these issues Murdoch’s papers have been proven badly wrong.

There were no WMDs in Iraq – and thus no justification for war (which all News Corp papers strongly championed).

Oh, and climate change is very real.

Readers are increasingly aware of the disconnect between what Murdoch’s papers report and the actual facts. They no longer trust News Corp as reputable source of news.

As an avid consumer of information I don’t want my intelligence insulted.

But that is exactly how I feel every time I pick up one of Murdoch’s Australian papers. I need to take the intellectual equivalent of a cold shower in order to rid myself of the stench of disinformation. 

I seek out quality journalism elsewhere. I happily subscribe to a variety of online services and journals. I’m willing to pay for quality content.

But News Corp does not offer the quality product I desire.

I’ll read the Australian Financial Review and The Economist – both centre-right leaning publications – because of the quality of reporting. I don’t just want to read material that affirms by world view and prejudices.

I’m very happy for a journalist or article to challenge my assumptions about the world or issues.

The only thing Murdoch’s papers deliver is his own thinly veiled prejudices dressed up as “facts”.

Lying and insulting my well-considered and sincere belief humanity needs to act on climate change?

No thanks Rupert, you can keep that content to yourself.

The real problem: Uncle Murdoch’s blatant use of his papers to push his agenda

The libertarian views of the ageing Murdoch so blatantly pushed across is media empire are turning readers away.  The problem is Murdoch trying to bully us into sharing his world view via is papers.

The blatant partisan nature of reporting of Murdoch’s papers during the last election turned many away. And why wouldn’t they be turned off? Why wouldn’t they stop buying a sub-standard product?

Murdoch is like that cranky uncle that turns up at Christmas blithering on about how NASA faked the moon landing or how climate change is a leftist plot to take over the world.

Family members politely smile and nod for a few minutes, but then tune out. They quickly make excuses to disengage, seeking more pleasant company and decent conversation.

The public is spoiled for content and decent conversation, thus tuning out cranky old Uncle Rupert.

Australian media failures promote climate policy inaction (reprint)

The greatest challenge to effective policies dealing with climate change is the Murdoch media, a point I’ve made many times on this blog. Thus I’m very much in agreement with this latest piece from The Conversation – Mike @ WtD

By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; David Holmes, Monash University, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

Four months ago, the big media proprietors were fighting proposed federal government press reforms, arguing that “the press” needs freedom if it is to defend the public interest. But these arguments were raised only to defend the media’s system of self-regulation. What was absent then, and since, was any demonstration that Australia’s news media hold politicians morally accountable on the public issues that really do matter. The most pressing example is climate change.

The science is clear. Over 97% of climate scientists and every major national science academy agree that the planet is warming due to human activity. Leading public health organisations and prestigious peer-reviewed journals have recognised that “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.

Why are they getting away with it?

In our previous articles we focussed on the (un)ethical position of politicians who don’t accept the science of climate change, or won’t act on it. But what about the journalists who should be holding them to account?

You would think most journalists would be forensically questioning any politician who denied the science or failed to devise and support adequate policies to address this threat.

Unfortunately very few, if any, of our mainstream journalists have ever really challenged climate-science-denying politicians.

In fact the opposite has been true. According to research by Robert Manne, many major media outlets – notably the Murdoch media, and particularly The Australian – have actively created doubt about the science. They have misreported the science and supported inaction among politicians who should be developing climate policies and offering national and international leadership on the issue.

The news media have largely failed to cover the science and the solutions to the problems it raises. A report on coverage of the carbon price by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (University of Technology, Sydney) said that some major Australian newspapers were “so biased in their coverage that it is fair to say they ‘campaigned’ against the policy rather than covered it”.

The number of environmental journalists in Australian newspapers has declined, leaving the ABC and pockets of Fairfax as the only outlets to tackle climate change politics and science. This is a significant problem in Australia that has broad implications for national and international efforts to combat dangerous climate change.

Recent analyses of the statements made by our federal politicians have found that a large number of MPs and Senators have publicly denied the findings of climate science. Around half of all coalition MPs and over two thirds of coalition Senators have publicly denied the science. Because the overwhelming majority of the science-deniers are from the Liberal and National parties, the failure of the press to hold them to account becomes a major political and anti-science bias by the media.

More insidious than outright denial of the science is a new form of denial where the science is accepted but where the need for carbon pricing and government intervention and regulation is denied. This appears to be the current position of the Federal coalition. Again this goes almost completely unchallenged. This is media bias in the form of silence and failing to adequately scrutinise politicians’ claims. Why aren’t journalists scrutinising politicians when they claim that they “support the science”? Why aren’t they assessing the ability of climate policies to do what the political proponents claim they can do and whether they are capable of being scaled up to deliver the emission reductions that are required to prevent dangerous climate change?

Can you imagine if we had a large group of politicians who accepted the science supporting the life-saving benefits of vaccination programs but denied the role of governments in legislating for child vaccination?

Given that they have a duty to ensure public policy is based on scientific evidence, why is it that journalists haven’t questioned and challenged climate science-denying and policy-free politicians to explain their positions on scientific and ethical grounds?

The culture of Australian media

That such positions can be held but not defended while the science itself is attacked in Australia says much about the culture of commercial media in this country.

As in the US (according to Pew) most Australians get their news from commercial TV (see page 9 of the Convergence Review). This format is suited to reporting live events, violence and conflict but not to the background needed for understanding big, global issues like climate change. Even when extreme weather events are covered, the dramatised suffering of individuals – rather than big-picture science – is highlighted.

This kind of news is all that politicians feel obliged to respond to, as they do their routine overflights of disaster zones and give nationalistic speeches about how Australians always pull together in a crisis.

In Germany, by contrast, where newspapers (in print or online) have traditionally been the most important news source, climate change policy features much more than it does in Australia and the US.

The enormous concentration of media ownership in Australia limits the diversity of reporting needed to cover climate change in depth. One company – News Ltd – controls 72% of capital city newspaper circulation. The same commercial values that legitimate this kind of monopoly in news (which also exists in the coal and energy industries) are unlikely to be challenged by journalists.

For example, business editors at News Ltd have long run the line that Australia’s coal industry (its associated jobs and balance of trade) would be hurt if politicians allowed climate change science to govern investment regulation. In the face of this, it has taken an international social movement like 350.org to initiate a divestment campaign in Australia, rather than the issue being chased by the media.

As the level of global emissions continues to increase and the urgency for real change grows, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has gone above 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years

Yet Australia continues to avoid committing to the steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are required to avoid dangerous climate change. The current bipartisan national emissions reductions targets (e.g., 5% by 2020) mean that Australians will use four times as much of the carbon budget as the average global citizen, making us a nation of emissions bludgers and hurtling the world ever closer to climate disruption.

What will future generations think about the climate science-denying media bias of today and the failure of Australia’s journalists to seriously challenge the group of science-denying leaders and politicians?

David Holmes receives funding from Monash University Faculty of Arts for research into climate change communication.

Brad Farrant and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

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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.

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

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Graham Lloyd you’ve done it again! Every article requires a mandatory correction

Pretty much anything written by Lloyd on climate needs a correction

As I’ve noted recently, The Australian’s Environment Editor Graham Lloyd has a habit of misrepresenting the work of scientists. He has also shown a fondness for citing the work of cranks.

A few months back he cited  material from  Principa Scientific International. This crank outfit is so extreme that even Christopher Monckton has distanced himself from them. And yet Lloyd believes they are a source of information worthy of a national daily.

Earlier this year The Australian was forced to issue an embarrassing correction after claiming sea level rise was not linked to warming – which it is.

Lloyd shamelessly cherry picks quotes, as this example clearly shows.

So desperate is Lloyd’s attempts to cast doubt on the science, he is now scraping the bottom of the barrel by citing junk “research” in his latest article:

The peer-reviewed research by Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry at Waterloo University, was published in the International Journal of Modern Physics B.

The findings of Professor Lu’s paper – Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules: Culprits for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change – are at odds with the consensus view that climate change is driven by increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Waterloo University said Professor Lu’s research provided “new fundamental understanding of the ozone hole and global climate change”. Critics said it might be “nothing more than coincidental correlation”, but it warranted further study. 

Chlorofluorocarbons are known to deplete ozone, but conventional thinking is the emission of human-made non-CFC gases such as carbon dioxide had mainly contributed to global warming.

The claim that CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are the real culprit behind global warming is a tired, old debunked sceptic myth

The journal, International Journal of Modern Physics B is pretty fringe. Climate Science Watch has already addressed Lu’s paper and notes how he recycles discredited claims.

Still, let’s ponder the implication’s of Lu’s claims. If Lu is correct he has just overturned the scientific paradigm and worthy of a Nobel Prize.

That, or he is a crank with an obsession to prove a discredited theory.

How sad and tawdry.

The Australian has become so partisan on the issue they’re willing to give voice to even the silliest claims.

It seems Lloyd has decided facts and journalistic ethics are for those with a sentimental attachment to reality. 

How sad.

How tawdry.

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Andrew Bolt’s “The Death of Global Warmism”: a special WtD response to his most recent article (part1)

Overview: The first in a special 11 post series examining the validity of the claims and arguments made by Andrew Bolt in his article of 13 May 2013  in the Herald Sun, “The death of global warmism: 10 signs of hope”.

Followers of the climate debate may be familiar with the name Andrew Bolt.

Bolt, a commentator for the News Limited tabloid the Herald Sun [1] is perhaps one of the most vocal climate change sceptics in the Australian media.

He claims to have one of the most widely read blogs in Australia (most likely true), and uses it as a platform to disseminate climate sceptic disinformation. He also hosts his own television show, The Bolt Report, in which he frequently takes swipes at scientists and climate science.

In December of last year the Australian Press Council (APC) adjudicated three separate complaints made in relation to an article by Bolt in which he claimed “…the planet hasn’t warmed for a decade – or even 15 years, according to new temperature data from Britain’s Met Office”.

The claim stemmed from an article by David Rose in the UK’s Mail on Sunday, which the Met refuted.

The APC found the Bolt had ignored the Met Offices correction:

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 (30 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.

Being proven wrong does not seem to concern Bolt. Ignoring the findings of the APC, Bolt continues to make the same claim.

Thus I was interested to see in today’s Herald Sun an article by Bolt titled “The death of global warmism: 10 signs of hope“.

Bolt believes he has marshaled ten “killer” arguments against the science. A full-page is given over to the article in which Bolt makes this and a number of other claims: climate models are unreliable; climate change is a scam; and even if it was warming, it’s a good thing.

Having read the article it became very apparent I could not begin to address all of his claims in a single post.

Thus this week my focus will be on this one Bolt article.

Why you may ask?

This latest article by Bolt serves as a kind of magnum opus of all of his claims. He recycles the same claims he has made about the science and scientists for years. Thus it allows us to critically examine Bolt’s position on climate change in one article.

I will examine the 10 claims individually: I’ll match quotes and sources he cites against original sources; I’ll look at the underlying structure of his arguments; and I’ll test his arguments against the basic rules of logic (whether his premises match the conclusions).

I’ll also pay attention to his language and his use of metaphor in constructing his arguments.

Each post will adopt the following structure:

  • Bolt’s Argument – A direct quote or summary of Bolt’s argument
  • Summary response – A single paragraph summarising my findings
  • Full response – an in-depth examination of Bolt’s claims, use of evidence and argument structure.

I’m going to treat Andrew’s article to forensic analysis to see how well his arguments stack up. Some may argue that I’m not a disinterested commentator. I acknowledge Bolt and I differ on the science: I accept the scientific consensus, Andrew Bolt rejects it.

However it is worthy examining how Bolt arrives at his conclusions. I will acknowledge that he is a good communicator, with a persuasive style and a flair for weaving his personal opinions with “facts”.

Andrew Bolt has a disproportionate influence on the discussion about climate change in Australia: he is given a national platform via News Limited’s 70% market share of the Australian newspaper market. Channel 10   has given him a Sunday morning television show in which he ridicules scientists and showcases a parade of climate sceptics. 

Next post: Poisoning the well against climate science: how Andrew’s  introduction to “The death of global warmism” frames his arguments and primes the reader.

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[1] The Herald Sun is one of Melbourne’s daily newspapers with a circulation of approximately 2 million. It is one of the papers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation who control 70% of the Australian newspaper market.

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Of ice ages, the view from nowhere and the value of one’s soul: Graham Lloyd, The Australian and the repackaging of fringe science

Not long ago Hollywood rediscovered the disaster genre, delivering to the movie viewers a spate of gloriously visualised, but implausible apocalyptic visions. As examples of the zeitgeist they’re fascinating examples of our existential fears made real.  

In what lovers of the genre call “disaster porn” the CGI wizards of Hollywood treated us to a variety of end time scenarios: from giant meteorites in the execrable Armageddon (1998); global pandemics in Outbreak (1995) and I am Legend (2007); the Godzilla inspired monster of Cloverfield (2008); the New Age eschatology implied by ending of the Mayan Long Count calendar in the film 2012 (made in 2009); to the current most-favoured harbingers of the apocalypse, the zombies of The Walking Dead.

My favourite of this genre has to be The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a film which imagines the globe caught in the grip of a sudden ice age which descends over a series of days rather than the millennia it normally takes. The film chronicles a series of extreme weather events, precursors to the Northern Hemisphere being blanketed in ice.

The film treats us to a touching father-son reconciliation, a trite love story and lots of ice.

Pure bunk of course – however scientists have long resigned themselves to the fact that Hollywood will choose spectacle over fact. Most of us can discern fact from film fantasy. But sadly, not all of us can make such distinctions.

Point in case The Australian’s Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, who recently published an article containing “facts” about as plausible as the script as The Day After Tomorrow.

According to Graham there is serious scientific debate about a coming ice age. No really, he argues such.

An ice age cometh: we’re about to enter a 30 year cooling period?

In an article titled Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age (May 4 2013), Lloyd rips his facts straight from the big screen and pages of fringe science blogs to suggest there is some debate over an imminent ice age:

In Russia, one of the world’s leading solar physicists, Habibullo Abdussamatov, says the planet is well on the way to another deep freeze. Abdussamatov is the head of space research at the Russian Academy of Sciences Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St Petersburg, and director of the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

In an interview with Principia Scientific International, Abdussamatov said results of research from the ISS had indicated a decline in total solar irradiance, which was having a dramatic effect on the global climate.

Data indicated the onset of a mini ice age.

If true, then all this fuss over global warming is actually distracting us from the actual (and in Graham’s view equally plausible) threat of an imminent ice age.

The impressively credentialed Habibullo Abdussamatov seems uniquely qualified to put forward such an argument. That is until one starts digging as Abdussamatov seems to hold some very strange views.

Abdussamatov: does not believe in any greenhouse effect

Abdussamatov is a vocal sceptic of global warming within the parallel universe the deniers inhabit, but as far as the science community is concerned he is relatively obscure.

He is not a leading solar physicist: this is merely another example of the old sceptic tactic of inflating the reputation and achievements of “experts” such as Abdussamatov. In fact, a quick search of the internet will find he has been making the same claims for several years.

His most unusual claim is that the greenhouse effect does not exist at all. In a 2007 article published on Canada.com (website of Canadian newspaper publisher Postmedia Network) Abdussamatov is quoted as saying:

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. “Ascribing ‘greenhouse’ effect properties to the Earth’s atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated,” he maintains. “Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away.”

Such a claim would be news to the scientific community to say the least.

Actually, it is almost impossible to convey just how absurd his proposition is – it is the scientific equivalent of arguing the sun still goes around the Earth. His view of the behaviour of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere is pure fantasy without a shred of evidence.

Even the most extreme sceptics – Jo Nova, Lord Monckton and Anthony Watts – don’t subscribe to this view.

They acknowledge the greenhouse effect: they argue a doubling of CO2 will have a negligible impact on global temperatures. According to them, the heat trapping potential of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been overstated by the scientific community.

Thus Abdussamatov would be considered fringe even by their standards – which is saying a lot. If that is not bad enough, things go from bad to worse in Lloyd’s article.

Graham Lloyd plagiarizing content: word for word his article mimics a 2007 article from Canada Free Press

The practice of using material word-for-word without attribution or acknowledging the source is generally frowned upon by journalists. 

The more cynical call it plagiarism. Sadly, Lloyd appears to be engaged in this very activity.

Lloyd attributes the following quotes to Abdussamatov (italics mine):

Abdussamatov said there had been five deep cold periods in the past 1000 years – in 1030, 1315, 1500, 1680 and 1805.

 He said another cool period was due and would come about regardless of whether industrialised countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions.

“Mars has global warming – but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” Abdussamatov said.

“These parallel global warmings – observed simultaneously on Mars and on the Earth – can only be a consequence of the effect of the same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

 Abdussamatov said a new “little ice age” would start this or next year and hit a low around 2040, with a deep freeze that would last for the rest of the century.

The quotes Lloyd use mimic word-for-word quotes in the aforementioned 2007 article (italics):

Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” he told me. “These parallel global warmings — observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth — can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

Lloyd has merely broken the later paragraph up and substituted some words.

Perhaps Lloyd was sloppy, or merely forgot to correctly attribute his sources. We all make mistakes.

The more cynical of us would call it plagiarism.   

False balance: Lloyd’s view from nowhere is really the view from the fringes

Lloyd is a practitioner of the journalistic style of “the view from nowhere”.

He tries to eschew any editorialising in order to present “both sides of the debate” so that the informed reader can make up their own mind.

In reality, Lloyd’s view from nowhere is the view from the fringes of the scientific community: more specifically the view of a crank, Abdussamatov.

Lloyd elevates Abdussamatov to the level of one the world’s “leading solar physicists” and a voice we should be paying attention too. Lloyd frames the article in such a way to imply there is some debate amongst the scientific community that an ice age may very well be immanent.

Let’s be clear: there’s no debate: there are no concerns about a mini-ice age.

What we have is the spectacle of The Australian plucking fringe beliefs from the sceptic blogosphere and given them credibility.

The real story that needs to be told is not that of scientists debating about scenarios reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow.

The real story that needs to be told is just how partisan The Australian has become on the issue of climate change.

Lloyd’s article smells of desperation: it is the feeble clutching for facts in order to deny reality.

The planet is warming; climate change is real; humanity is the architect of this warming.

We all have a choice: one can accept reality or live in denial. Lloyd seems to have made his choice: he is a nowhere man living in an alternative reality of facts made to suit the opinions of Editor Chris Mitchell and owner Rupert Murdoch.

But what is cost of this?

Not only to Lloyd and the reputation of The Australian as a news source – but to us, the general public who needs to be informed? We may shake our heads at the antics of Lloyd, but ultimately it is a grossly misinformed public who suffers most.

At least Lloyd gets paid for his efforts: I guess I gain some satisfaction in correcting his falsehoods.

But again – at what cost?

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

Graham Lloyd and The Australian: rapidly fading credibility

It says a lot about the quality of a newspaper when their Environment Editor is either a) unable to distinguish fringe beliefs from actual science or b) happy to publish such tripe if it undermines the scientific consensus on global warming.

Over the years we’ve witnessed The Australian publish some appalling misinformation on climate change: this without doubt is the nadir of their reporting on climate change.

For a paper which likes to think of itself as the “voice of the nation” this is an appalling lapse in journalistic standards.

We – the reading public – have a right to expect better than this. This is the very impulse that motivated me to start this blog. We are all ill-served by the mainstream media if this is the best they have to offer.

Perhaps there is a circle in Hell for once good journalists who have turned away from the ethics of the profession: if so it must be full of News Limited journalists who felt compelled – or were coerced – to publish pieces such as Lloyd’s.

For good reason many of us are exhausted auditing the self-proclaimed auditors of science. We’ve been engaged in this activity for over thirty years when the “debate” first emerged.

I believe there is a more important question to address: the question of why. Of why elements of the media – who have the power to shape public opinion and debate – have granted themselves permission to distort the truth and mislead the public.

All the wealth and power one might gain is not worth the price of one’s soul.

[Note: see also Graham Readfearn’s piece on the same topic – what can I say? Great minds think alike. Readfearn does some great detective work on finding all the sources Lloyd uses.]

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[Disclaimer: This article contains both original research and some elements of satire. Every effort is made to ensure the validity of the claims made by the blog’s author. ]

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Dear Miranda Devine: the tabloid press is killing children by discouraging vaccination, not climate scientists

The claims made by the opinion writers of Murdoch’s News Limited about climate change normally follow a predictable script: there has been a “pause in warming”; climate change is a hoax; it was slightly chilly this morning, ergo climate change is not real.

Barely a day goes by without these myths being repeated within the pages of The Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and The Australian or the blogs of News Limited journalists.

However there are times when the conservative culture warriors of News Limited not merely get the science wrong, but create an entire parallel universe of facts.

Case in point, a recent article by Miranda Devine of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

In it she claims climate scientists are directly responsible for parents refusing to vaccinate their children:

ONE of the consequences of the bastardisation of climate science has been the damage to the credibility of science across the board. 

the general public has watched scientists being co-opted by the climate industry, as money and perks flow to those who toe the alarmist line. 

Having been frightened by the doomsday predictions that drove political action when Australia was gripped by drought, people then saw that the warnings were bogus and pushed by green authoritarians…. 

Which of course means people have stopped vaccinating their children:

In Vaucluse and Mosman, among the very people who drank most heartily of the climate Kool-Aid, are parents who reject the evidence that vaccination saves lives. They prefer to believe hocus pocus claims that immunisation against once-lethal childhood diseases leads to autism or brain damage. 

And they are so selfish that they don’t think they have any responsibility to contribute to the “herd immunity” that keeps the whole community safe. 

So now, when we had all but eradicated scourges like measles and whooping cough, they are making a comeback. 

By all means we should do as the Australian Medical Association suggests, and ban unvaccinated children from attending school. 

But we should also sheet blame for the rise of irrational beliefs where it belongs, to those who corrupted science for ideological purposes. 

If I understand correctly, Miranda’s logic runs like this:

Preposition A: Scientists claim the planet is warming due to increased greenhouse gases released through are industrial activity. 

Preposition B: Scientists also claim vaccination is safe and will prevent the spread of diseases. 

Conclusion: Therefore people do not trust science and have stopped vaccinating their children. 

However, the people of Mosman and Vaucluse accept the science of climate change. Would that not make them more predisposed to accept science’s claims about vaccination? Has any climate scientist cast doubt on the effectiveness of vaccination? Did I miss that story?

Help me out guys, but I’m struggling with Ms. Devine’s tour-de-force of reasoning?

Looking at the first and second prepositions, one has to ask how she make the astonishing leap to the conclusion “climate scientists stopped parents vaccinating their children”?

Look I get it – climate scepticism is waning. Indeed, it is pretty much a spent force. Thus the claims of sceptics are getting more and more ridiculous as they desperately try to garner attention.

Of course her claims having nothing to do with reality.

How sections of the population came to fear a link between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism is actually well documented. Indeed, it is a text-book example of zealous anti-science activists and a partisan media undermining the public’s confidence in science. 

For those not familiar the history of the MMR controversy it is worth revisiting. Just over a decade ago, a researcher by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a study claiming a link between autism and the MMR vaccine in the Lancet. However it turned out Wakefield faked his results. Since then his research has been retracted and he lost his medical license.

It was the conservative tabloid press in the United Kingdom, in particular The Daily Mail and not climate scientists, that spread the lie that a “link” between MMR and autism existed.

As Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal wrote of the whole sorry saga:

“The original paper has received so much media attention, with such potential to damage public health, that it is hard to find a parallel in the history of medical science. Many other medical frauds have been exposed but usually more quickly after publication and on less important health issues.”

As evidence see this:

And this:

And this:

Following these and other articles, the rate of vaccination fell in the UK and across the developed world. This of course lead to an increase in diseases such as measles. Children died. Their deaths were preventable.

So Ms. Devine, can we really hold climate scientists responsible for a drop in vaccination?

What we actually have is the spectacle of a tabloid press casting doubt on science, championing the claims of cranks and misinforming the public.

Sound familiar?

Leveson inquiry finds News International “failed in corporate governance” calls for accuracy, public trust in media continues to collapse

There can be little doubt that Murdoch’s News International has fanned the flames of climate scepticism and mislead the public: but what kind of company is News?

Hence my interest in what is happening in the UK.

The Leveson inquiry (set up in response to the phone hacking scandal) has just delivered its verdict, and it’s not good for the Murdoch’s or News International.

Simply put, they failed to apply suitable standards of corporate governance: in plain English that means Murdoch failed to manage his company.

From today’s Age:

The Murdoch-owned company News International seriously failed in corporate governance over phone-hacking and James Murdoch’s account of a key event was less credible than that of an executive who told a different story, the Leveson inquiry has found.

 Justice Leveson found that News International and its parent company News Corp had failed to investigate evidence that phone-hacking was widespread among journalists at the News of the World.

“There was serious failure of governance within the News of the World. Given criminal investigation and what are now the impending prosecutions, it is simply not possible to go further at this stage,” he said… 

Interestingly, James Murdoch did get the emails related to phone hacking (though denies reading them):

Mr Murdoch had been sent an email chain in which a hacking victim alleged that illegal practices were “rife within the organisation”. Mr Murdoch told the inquiry he had not read all the email chain and was unaware of this claim.  

Justice Leveson concluded: “James Murdoch replied to the email within two minutes of receiving it. The speed and content of his reply appear to support his claim not to have focused on the key allegation.”

The Guardian reports here.

The report recommends an “independent self-regulatory body” to help enforce a “standards code”. The report can be seen here and is worth reading, but one of the key recommendations is for a code of standards that ensures “the need for accuracy, and the need to avoid misrepresentation” (page 33).

It is worth noting the report explicitly states the body will have NO power to prohibit the publishing of information: still this will not prohibit the Murdoch empire claiming a totalitarian dictatorship is one the way.

Watch the commentary on the Leveson report from The Australian for the official Murdoch party line.

“The internet ate my media empire” excuse: how News International is destroying the public’s trust in media

Having noted the above, it is worth recalling Australia is the grip of a faux-scandal fanned, cheered on and manufactured by News Ltd.

But as the hacks of the Murdoch empire pursue their ideological vendetta against the mildly right-of-centre Gillard government, attack climate scientists and promote right-wing nuttery the public is increasingly losing faith in the media.

Across the English speaking world public trust in journalists and the media is collapsing – especially in those countries where News International is dominant:

 

Co-incidence?

Is it a surprise the media is the least trusted industry?

Conventional wisdom states the internet is destroying traditional media – which is only partly true.

It’s not the platform – it’s the content.

And the content?

No-one believes it. They don’t trust it. And increasingly, they’re not paying for it.

I’d argue the public trust is collapsing faster in the English-speaking world – the UK, USA and Australia – where the Murdoch press is a major player or dominant.

Why?

Because of the disconnect between real world events and what News reports across it papers and on stations such as Fox News. 

People are noticing the disconnect.

Told that climate change isn’t real, all they have to do is look at increasing weather extremes.

News International champions an extreme form of market-fundamentalism – and yet it is this extreme laissez-faire philosophy of limited government, deregulation and blind faith in market forces that laid the seeds for the present financial crisis.

Nearly every News outlet championed Romney and the GOP in the last US presidential election, thinking Obama’s re-election unthinkable. And yet Obama comfortably won his second term.

Need I go on?

News International is infected with an aversion to reality, and it’s hurting their reputation and destroying public trust in the media.

 

 

 

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War is over: victory over the deniers

Time for bold claims: the war is over.

The International Herald Tribune picks up on what may be an emerging trend: the decline of climate scepticism:

In a blog entry this summer, famed international correspondent Christiane Amanpour opined that the climate change denial club “is actually now shrinking faster than the polar ice caps.” 

Opinion surveys suggest she’s right. Two factors that may contribute to the changing attitude about the changing climate — and the melting away of many skeptics — are the extreme weather events that have affected the United States recently and the legions of climate activists who make it their business to convince and motivate an increasingly receptive public.

The post referenced above is titled The climate debate is over:

In the fierce and sometimes ugly fight over global climate change, we finally have an answer coming from the earth itself: the weather is telling us climate change is here and we are causing it. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku is among the scientist who say the world is giving us signs that climate change is already happening (to see how he explains it, watch the video above).

This summer, there have been relentless droughts, wildfires, melting glaciers and unprecedented storms – all happening at the same time. And around the world people are demanding something be done about it. Even in the United States, ground zero for climate change denial, six in ten Americans say they believe it is indeed happening. But political leaders are missing in action – cowed by a vociferous climate change denial club, which is actually now shrinking faster than the polar ice caps.

In the video physicist Michio Kaku admits he was a sceptic until he looked at the evidence.

War is over…

Personally, I believe the climate change denial movement will splutter and rage on for a few more years as the most prominent voices and their well funded supporters continue to rage against reality.

But already one gets the sense the voices of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, David Evans, Anthony Watts, Marc Morano et.al are becoming increasingly marginal. Ironically they are becoming even more shrill in their claims of conspiracy theories and “It’s not happening”.

News Corporation and the think tanks will continue their desperate rearguard action against the public’s acceptance of the science: history’s judgement will be no doubt be unkind.

The deniers will achieve a few more Pyrrhic Victories: maybe they’ll find a flaw or two in the next IPCC report (AR5), publish a few hundred more op-ed pieces in major dailies and delay a carbon tax in the US for an electoral cycle or two.

Sure – public acceptance of the science will swing this and that for a few more years, but the trend is towards majority acceptance of the science. At some point public tolerance for the deniers will shift from a bemused indifference to disgust and exasperation.

Will that greater public acceptance of the science translate into voter demand for action?

The denial machine will attempt to arrest that as well – after all, that is their raison d’etre. They’re skilled at halting progress so they’ll continue to block, obstruct and show the seeds of disinformation.

But that’s all the denial movement has to look forward too: small scale, tactical victories in a war that is over. The funding for their activities will soon begin to dry up: they will retreat to the fringes of internet culture with flat Earth fanatics, UFO enthusiasts and other intellectual fringe dwellers.

How the war was “won”

However we must be honest: the victory was not achieved by activists or science communicators. Too late it was realized it was never about the science, but values and world view; ideology was the crucial driver of those rejecting the science.

We – the journalists, activists, bloggers, politicians, scientists fighting to bring climate to the forefront of public perception – fought the good fight. We did all we could have been asked to do: but the denial machine was more organised, better funded and prepared to engage in suspect and unethical behavior. Ruthlessness tipped the battle in their favor for close to three decades.

But at some point physics and chemistry was going to resolve the debate: brute reality was always the final arbiter.

And so 2012 will be regarded as the year the debate “shifted” against the sceptic movement – the extreme weather events of this year and Sandy ensured that.

But something like Hurricane Sandy was inevitable. Whether a storm of Sandy’s kind arrived this year or next, something of Sandy’s scale was always coming – and with it the profound  social and political implications of such a storm.

[Note: upon reflection, I think Tamino is very correct: activists and bloggers fought a valuable holding action, doing their best to hold off the onslaught against science.]

War is over – if you wan’t it

And so – with mock solemnity and virtual trumpets – I declare the end of hostilities in what is merely the opening phases of a longer conflict over containing climate change.

Let’s call it the “First Climate War”, a virtual battle over public perception fought in the opinion pages of newspapers, on blogs and social media and in back rooms across the globe. It was fought in the streets of Copenhagen and influenced the Australian election of 2007.

Participants included global media corporations, NGOs, sovereign nations, transnational bodies such as the UN, the fossil fuel industry, think tanks, scientists, eccentric billionaires, bloggers and politicians.

The First Climate War was a messy and brutal conflict more impenetrable and confusing than the Thirty Years War – and much like the Thirty Years War it was a conflict that drew in major powers, religious fanatics and obscure principalities, off of whom were sucked into its vortex by a mixture of principles and power politics.

But this initial phase of the conflict is coming to a close.

War is over…

Can we can go “home”; can we go back to how things were?

Can we dismantle our blogs; discontinue our Twitter accounts?

Can we can lay down our (metaphorical) arms, and begin to count the cost?

Those of you have been personally involved in this “debate” knows how it can feel: like brutal, bloody trench warfare.

But Like all wars, the cessation of hostilities is merely the prelude to reconstruction and new debates, the emergence of strange new alliances and emergencies.

As the World Bank notes in their recent report:

“A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

And that:

As global warming approaches and exceeds 2°C, there is a risk of triggering nonlinear tipping elements. Examples include the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet leading to more rapid sea-level rise, or large-scale Amazon dieback drastically affecting ecosystems, rivers, agriculture, energy production, and livelihoods. This would further add to 21st-century global warming and impact entire continents.

The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur—the heat must be turned down. Only early, cooperative, international actions can make that happen.

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