Category Archives: Climate

A year of contradiction

It has been a good year for modern conservatives. With the Murdoch Press and in particular The Australian completing its slow transformation from a grumpy, cruel but fair conservative masthead to a ruthless ideological manipulator of truth,  it has been easy for neoliberal ideology to seep into daily discourse, and from there into government across the country. But the sheer ubiquity of neoliberalism has brought its internal contradictions into sharp focus: 

This year, conservatives have insisted that free speech is so overarching that it includes a right to racially vilify, yet sought to crucify whistleblowers like Assange and Snowden and academics like Jake Lynch and Larissa Behrendt whose speech offended them, and to neuter what little of the media they cannot control, like the ABC.

This year, conservatives have claimed to despise elites, yet sided with the powerful. They freed global money to circulate, yet fortified borders against human movement. They opposed democratic state action even to soften harsh markets, yet thumped their chests for imperial wars and Orwellian surveillance. They upheld rights to property, but not to drinking water.

This year, conservatives have mouthed Enlightenment values like reason and personal autonomy, yet have rejected science and decried secularism. They have denied equal rights because of religious dogma. Of the three pillars of democracy, they have commandeered liberty for the purpose of commerce and even claim to have invented it, but discarded equality and fraternity.

Modern conservatism is a Frankenstein’s monster: radical-authoritarian, theocrat-capitalist, anarcho-imperialist. Traditional conservatives were consistent at least in holding that things were better in the old days. As far as conservatism goes, I’m inclined to agree.

Crisis: forces of denial force denial of crisis!

Graham LLoyd (“We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC”, The Australian, 16/9) misrepresents rumoured minor revisions of the extent of AGW as some kind of denialist victory. His main source for the rumours about an upcoming IPCC report is Matt Ridley who, Lloyd omits to mention, is a well-known climate-denier writing for another Murdoch masthead.

Lloyd selectively quotes climatologist Judith Curry in such a way as to suggest she shares Ridley’s views. This is not the case. Curry’s views differ from those of most of her colleagues only in so far as she believes it can be constructive to engage with denialism. That Lloyd has used her name to add gravitas to his article demonstrates the folly of her approach.

Lloyd breathlessly reports that “the IPCC was forced to deny it was locked in crisis talks”. Decoding this tortured phrase merely tells us that despite the ongoing denialist sideshow, there is no crisis for climate science.

Science or hoax?

Janet Albrechtsen counsels respect for the achievements of mainstream science, and for its proven methods for averting large-scale disaster (“Zealots forget the epidemics”, The Australian, 29/5). In this case she is talking about immunisation, but presumably when it comes to anthropogenic climate change, which she once described as “the hoax of the century”, she will now follow her own advice.

Fringe view a distant second

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.

A balance that follows the weight of evidence

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”.

Ignoring the mainstream

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.

Loungeroom scientists

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?

Occam’s razor

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.

False balance

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.