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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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