N. Ford (The Australian, Talking Point, 22/1) counts three sources of information on climate change: mainstream science (which Ford provocatively calls “green”), the dissenting minority (mislabelled “sceptic”, as if all scientists were not), and “green propaganda”. But oddly, Ford omits the obvious fourth source, which is the politically-motivated anti-AGW publicity which floods the blogosphere, talkback radio and the opinion pages of The Australian. Only the two scientific sources are relevant to the debate; of those, the fringe view comes a distant second.
Don Aitkin (“Someone please tell the ABC it’s not all doom and gloom out here”, 19/1) is eminent in a number of fields, but nonetheless has a peculiar view of what constitutes media bias.
Aitkin points out that the values held by ABC journalists as a whole differ from the mainstream. But in this they are no different from the rest of the media or many other specialised fields. This does not imply bias. Nor, to use Aitkin’s example, does the use of the neutral description “asylum seeker” instead of the loaded epithet “boat people”, however popular that term may be on the street. That’s just good journalism.
The ABC’s charter does not require it to take some kind of survey of the beliefs of the average Australian and use that in place of editorial judgement. If the public already knew everything, they wouldn’t need the media at all.
As for AGW, the ABC is in fact following its charter to the letter by giving due emphasis to both the mainstream scientific view and the fringe “sceptic” opinion favoured by Aitkin, but as its own policies dictate: in proportion to “a balance that follows the weight of evidence”.
I could not agree more with Chris Kenny (“Alarmism and carbon tax carping provide no climate for debate”, The Australian, 19/1) that the standard of public debate on climate change needs to be improved. A good start would be the inclusion of the views of mainstream climate scientists in the opinion pages of The Australian.
Instead, we find an unending stream of opinion pieces by non-scientist “sceptics”, armchair climatologist letter-writers who don’t reckon it’s any hotter round their place, and a handful of actual scientists cherry-picked for their fringe view that AGW does not pose a threat.
Worse, we recently saw a paper in the Journal of Climate misrepresented by The Australian as suggesting no link between sea levels and AGW, forcing a retraction to be published.
If Kenny really believes that “it seems healthier to have an informed discussion” and that “voters must be credited with the intelligence to deal with the facts”, then instead of criticising the ABC as “compliant” for giving due emphasis to the mainstream view, he should be asking why his own newspaper is virtually ignoring it.
Another day, another bunch of “sceptic” letters published in The Australian to the exclusion of any mainstream scientific opinion. It is hard to decide which is more fatuous: the loungeroom scientists who reckon it’s the moon or the mud that is making the seas rise, or the stolid types who “do not understand what all the fuss is about” because they can’t see any difference at their local beach.
How does this fit with The Australian’s purported aim of “creating a climate for people to reach informed conclusions”?
If it is true that “at The Australian, we believe the public are entitled to all the available information and a range of expert views — creating a climate for people to reach informed conclusions”, (Editorial, 17/1) why are most of their published opinion pieces sceptical of AGW, when informed opinion is overwhelmingly of the opposite view?
Anthony Caughey (The Australian, Letters, 16/1) inadvertently gives climate science a boost by articulating the alternative theory: that the scientific consensus is the result of “decades of educational indoctrination”. It would be entertaining to hear how this posited infiltration of the world’s academies was organised and funded, by whom and for what evil purpose, but I suspect that Occam’s razor would favour the simpler hypothesis: the scientists have it right.
The Australian’s editorial (“Deciding whether it’s climate”, 12/1) presents an even balance between the views of those who believe that human induced climate change poses a threat, and those who do not – and that is the problem. The former group includes the vast majority of climate scientists, while the latter, apart from a handful of sincere scientists, is composed for the most part of conservative activists who mistake it for a political issue and shills employed by polluting industries. This is no finely-tuned debate between equally learned adversaries. The balance presented is a false one.
Christopher Pearson (“Climate lunacy rules at Aunty”, The Australian, 22/12) ascribes three great historical evils to a lack of faith in God: Nazism, Soviet Communism and belief in global warming. Seriously.
Be that as it may, Pearson observes that “popular support for measures supposed to combat global warming has waned” but that “journalists and public intellectuals who embraced the cause…haven’t seen the need to express any reservation”. For this he offers two explanations: they fear “professional embarrassment”, or they have “surrendered themselves to a cult”.
But Pearson has overlooked a third possibility: perhaps they form their opinions on matters of science by listening to scientists rather than opinion polls.
So, The Australian, let’s get this straight: when scientist Robyn Williams somewhat melodramatically refers to paedophilia as a measure of his frustration with anti-science, this is a grave affront, but when puff-piece writer James Delingpole (“Where free speech is dead as the dodo”, 21/12) does precisely the same thing in the name of precisely the same anti-science, this is knee-slappingly hilarious and any criticism of it is an assault on free speech. Just so we’re clear.
Maurice Newman (“ABC clique in control of climate”, The Australian, 18/12), falls prey to the fallacy of the middle by concluding that simply because a contrary position regarding climate science exists in any form, it warrants equal consideration by the ABC or any other media.
His assertion that “[g]lobal warming is today more about politics than it is about science” is only true in the political realm. There is a minor scientific controversy about the extent of AGW, which the ABC accurately reports. Also duly noted by the ABC is the attendant political controversy, a nonsensical sideshow which is inimical to science, fomented largely through astroturfing by non-scientific groups. Conservatives like Newman mistakenly perceive AGW as a left-wing phenomenon, the idea of which ipso facto must be opposed, and duly join the meaningless fray. Some on the Left make the converse error, with equal irrelevancy to AGW and how it should be reported.
Newman undermines his own argument by quoting the requirements of the ABC’s editorial policies that “no significant strand or belief is…disproportionately represented” and for “a balance that follows the weight of evidence”. Neither the ABC nor any other responsible media is obliged to grant the anti-AGW publicity machine the exposure it demands, rather than that which it deserves.