Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Australian media failures promote climate policy inaction

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…

Australia’s media culture gets in the way of asking politicians serious questions about climate change. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

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?

Join the conversation

165 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. In reply to Sean Lamb

      Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      As I seem to recall I did not say climate change did not exist (in fact I declined to respond Brad Farrant's attempt to derail the discussion in this direction), what I suggested was a reorientation of our understanding of science away from the twin obsessions of observation and empiricism and towards a emphasis on elegance and beauty of our scientific constructs.

      There is an excellent TED talk on this concept
      http://www.ted.com/talks/murray_gell_mann_on_beauty_and_truth_in_physics.html

      The…

      Read more
    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, I don't think the thinly veiled sarcasm is really fooling or impressing anyone.

      report
    3. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, old boy, Suus cuique crepitus bene olet
      However, I felt Ms Rawson gave a rather unfair characterisation of what I actually wrote, which is why I felt moved to repeat the substance somewhat more tightly tied to the topic at hand.

      report
    4. Con Zymaris

      Untethered Polymath

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean,

      forgive me, but I can't resist responding to your commendation of Murray Gell-Mann's presentation on aesthetics and 'conceptual elegance rather than on the messiness of the actual data', with a quote from his bête noire:

      "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." --Richard Feynman

      -- Con

      ps: Nothing here is to belittle Gell-Mann, a brilliant physicist.

      report
    5. John Nicol

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      Thanks Jane. I hope this will enable the forum to remain open for some time. However, when very strong statements appear in the article itself such as"

      "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”.
      and
      "In fact the opposite…

      Read more
    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to John Nicol

      The big picture science IS settled. And I'll quote Brad Farrant by saying John,"If you really can refute the work of all the world's leading climate scientists I strongly suggest that you submit an article to a high profile peer reviewed journal and await your Nobel Prize."

      I would love it if The Conversation created a place where the truth or otherwise of climate change could be debated, and this subject was declared off-topic in all other topics.

      I have yet to see any valid scientific criticism…

      Read more
    7. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,

      Please see Michael's response to your post. I couldn't have said it better myself. The 97% consensus figure has remained pretty constant across a number of different studies now.

      report
  2. James Sunderland

    Concerned Citizen

    Couldn’t agree more. The lack of accountability required of our current politicians (from all sides) by the vast majority of the media is deplorable. The fact that a crass joke on a menu can be regarded as leading political news for the best part of a week is an insult to our intelligence. Forget policy, it seems that all that is required to be a politician these days is the ability to find dirt on your opposition, whether it’s true or not seems to be of little concern.

    The fact that our media has let likely the biggest issue to be faced in our life time be continually ignored, or even denied, by our politicians without forcing them to explain themselves is outrageous.

    It is undeniable that some of the blame must fall on us to start making our thoughts heard. But I guess the the question is, does the media only report on issues we are concerned about, or are we only concerned about issues the media report on?

    report
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to James Sunderland

      James, re your last paragraph - while it's ultimately circular, I think it predominantly begins with the media shaping not only the 'debate' but also what constitutes news at all. The problem for us ordinary punters is that we don't know what we don't know, so we wouldn't know we were missing something if we weren't told - that's why it is not primarily our own fault if we are misinformed as we have little choice but to rely on the expertise of the media to provide us with a sensible 'digest' of what's going on.

      Inevitably there will be some disagreement about the prioritising of different issues and stories - the impact of any issue can vary a fair bit from individual to individual - but for all that it is inconcievable that the greatest threat we have ever faced as a species should be marginalised and trivialised in this way.

      report
    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Climate change, or global warming or extreme weather or whatever it's called nowadays has has blanket coverage in the media for decades. It's even taught in schools like scripture once was.

      What is needed for the story to become interesting is some accurate predications from the advocates.

      report
    2. Peter Follett

      Culture Catalyst at HCI

      In reply to Peter Follett

      Note to self.

      In contradiction to my 'back of the envelope' assessment above, I read below that:
      "Finally, an Essential Poll of 1045 people conducted in late May 2013 (see http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4716804.html) indicates that 51% of the population believes that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”, 35% believes that “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth's climate” and 14% “don’t know”.

      I don't dispute the survey data, but I do look forward to those numbers being reflected in voting patterns, at least in the Senate, at the coming Federal election.

      However I suspect that fear and short term self interest will eclipse rational long-term consideration and concern for ones grandchildren's best interests.

      report
    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      It's called science mark. scripture is not science, it's conjecture, have you seen god? What's wrong with expecting science to taught in schools and accurately discussed in our media? You are not interested enough, so what would make you interested, lies?

      report
    4. peter mackenzie

      Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

      In reply to Peter Follett

      Peter, your last paragraph is for me the most succinct and unfortunately correct, depressing and sad expression of the barriers to change, that I have yet read.

      I wish you were incorrect!

      report
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Carol Daly

      Well put Carol and I couldn't agree more.

      I have an old friend who went on what he described as an MSM fast a year or two ago, on the basis that, if anything genuinely important hapened, people would tell him about it. He follows a few key interest areas in science, environment and areas relevant to his business, but mainly through other media...I'm pretty sure he checks The Conversation fairly regularly. As it turns out, he's one of the best informed people I know on almost any topic other than what the Kardashians are doing this week.

      report
  3. Jack Bloomfield

    Retired Engineer

    I thank the authors for this objective examination of the popular irresponsible and shallow treatment of climate change issues by Australia's media.
    It is refreshing to have the MSM's reporting practices laid out so plainly.

    While I can understand how and why Murdoch/MSM abrogate their responsibility to properly inform Australian citizens, I cannot find any rational justification for the ABC to follow MSM down this egregious path of failing to properly and diligently represent to the public the…

    Read more
  4. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Well there's not much doubt News Ltd have an agenda, and are very selective about what they report on climate change. Yesterday, Monday 17th, they pinned up a story on their web pages about the very latest findings from the Australian Government's Climate Commission. Then within a very short time, it was removed without a trace of ever being there.

    These findings have profound implications, insofar as they speak in real terms in the here and now - ie: Action required this present decade, not…

    Read more
  5. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter

    ABC is far and away the most skewed and out of touch with mainstream Australia:

    https://theconversation.com/whose-views-skew-the-news-media-chiefs-ready-to-vote-out-labor-while-reporters-lean-left-13995

    Greensparty voters are wildly overrepresented. Unsurprisingly, they are also the most assaultive in their treatment of climate issues. It is unrealistic to expect that any publication will ever be free of bias. The audience picks the publications that resonates with them, and that goes to the heart of the problem for climate-believers - they have failed to persuade people and have lost the argument. Their response to this realisation is profoundly disappointing and also disturbing - they reach for the blunt instruments of censorship and despotism to achieve their goals.

    report
    1. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Leigh,

      Nowhere did we advocate censorship and despotism. This is a smokescreen.

      Journalists have a duty to report the facts objectively. The coverage of climate science and the associated politics to date in Australia has been far from objective and this is the main point of our article.

      Of course people are free to choose to read or watch whatever they like but this does not mean that the media can abandon their journalistic duties,

      Fortunately the public are beginning to see thru the climate science denying media spin. As Philip pointed out above "an Essential Poll of 1045 people conducted in late May 2013 (see http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4716804.html) indicates that 51% of the population believes that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”, 35% believes that “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth's climate” and 14% “don’t know”."

      report
    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Leigh, it's amazing the heights one's prose can rise to if it is unburdened by evidence.

      report
    3. Leigh Burrell

      Trophy hunter

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad, Essential found that scepticism - or science-denial, as you call it - has been on the rise. 51% is a decrease since 2009 and 35% is an increase, though frankly the changes are too small to make much of.

      http://essentialvision.com.au/climate-change-2

      They are most certainly not consistent with people "beginning to see thru the climate science denying media spin".

      report
  6. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    The authors fail to grasp that our politicians and our media reflect us as a society.

    Our society finds it easy to say at a dinner party we should keep the oil in the soil. This is reflected by the vast majority of pro- climate change articles on the ABC, SBS, The Conversation, Fairfax and to a lesser extent, Murdoch. The notable exception is of course, Andrew Bolt. Politicians reflect our easy talk by introducing hundreds of schemes and conferences and think tanks and subsidies that collectively…

    Read more
    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerald fails to grasp that the article is about the medias failure to present the facts on climate change to question our politicians about these facts.

      Or is Gerald really suggesting that he thinks that the media should just report what he thinks we want to hear?

      report
    2. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard,

      As I said above, Journalists have a duty to report the facts objectively. The coverage of climate science and the associated politics to date in Australia has been far from objective and this is the main point of our article.

      I agree that all adults in Australia have a responsibility to step up and do what is required to protect the children of today and tomorrow from dangerous climate change. But this does not mean that politicians can abandon their reponsibilities to produce adequate…

      Read more
    3. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Flannery has had a great deal of coverage over the past 2-3 years

      The problem is that his predictions about rainfall in particular just did not come true

      The alarmists have chosen the wrong talking head to feed the media

      Blame yourselves

      report
    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      The levels of ignorance in this comment are amazing.

      1 - Where is the quote of Flannery which is wrong? If Ken did some research he will find that Flannery never made a specific prediction but was just speaking in general - droughts will get worse, floods will get worse.

      2 - So what if one person did get it wrong. If Flannery had said something wrong does this make all the climate change scientists wrong?

      3 - "Alarmists have chosen" - Compare the scientific predictions with the measurements, eg the IPCC predictions, and overall the scientist have been too cautious. And as if those who support the science get to officially chose a spokesperson!

      And I'll add my usual - What is Ken doing here? With his total contempt for academic research and rational argument I find it hard to believe that he is reading this article to become informed.

      report
    5. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Wilbur

      In typical totalitarian left wing fashion I know you do not like dissenters. Neither did Joe Stalin but bad luck mate this is Australia and you are only one "self important" voice'

      Flannery is a lightening rod for so much that is wrong in this issue. Over reach on climate predictions being one and media spin being the other. Ever since the media environment became more balanced, the alarmists have struggled and now will continue to struggle.

      The carbon tax is gone. Suck it up. The…

      Read more
    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      What is interesting in this response is that not a single issue I raised is properly answered.

      report
    7. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken,

      Unfortunately, even if the changes you mention come to pass and an incoming government sticks its head in the sand and tries to wish away the scientific evidence, the science tells us that it won't stop human induced climate change from continuing to happen. I wish it were otherwise.

      I think that as the effects of climate change become more and more obvious the proportion of the public that accept the science will continue to grow from the 51% at the present and they will pay less and less attention to climate science denial spin.

      The big question is whether we will take adequate action in time to prevent dangerous climate change.

      report
    8. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad, I think your question of "whether we will take adequate action in time to prevent dangerous climate change" suggests that there is still plenty of time to act and thus we might get around to doing enough to prevent dangerous climate change.

      But if you compare what we are doing now and what we are likely to do in the near future with what is needed to prevent dangerous climate change, I think it looks pretty obvious that we are extremely unlikely to prevent 2 degree warming (which I will say is dangerous) and we are more likely to end up with 3 or more degree warming (which everyone agrees is dangerous).

      Thus the big question is how bad will things become due to our delay in taking appropriate action.

      report
    9. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael, again I couldn't agree more with most of what you said. Like we said in the article -

      "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."

      I guess I try to be glass half full and do everything I can to keep us below 2 degrees but I understand what you are saying all too well.

      report
    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      If an article is too much doom and gloom it will put off readers, so I think you struck the right balance.

      But as I write comments my full glass became a half glass, and now that it is late at night my glass is empty :)

      report
  7. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    What is the proposed solution to address this rebalance?

    Newspapers run ideological lines - left and right, with selective evidence. Some report what the authors argue is science, some don't. Some report unsubstantiated gossip. Some have astrological columns.

    Free marketeers would claim the people decide - they buy what they trust.

    What do the authors suggest instead?

    report
    1. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James,

      The solution is that journalists do their job and report the facts objectively and stop running ideological lines. These facts would be a good place to start - 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”.

      report
  8. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    My guess is that journalists who previously dutifully reported the alarming predictions of the "climate scientists" like Gore and Flannery are now pretty wary about going through the old cut and paste routine. They have been fooled too many times, the BOy has cried wolf once too often.

    That said, there are still plenty of hacks still pushing the barrow. The story about how we should shut down the coal industry got a good run. I seem to have noticed climate science Admiral going on about how…

    Read more
    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark
      The consequence of the media failing to call to account myths surrounding the science of climate change are exemplified by your letter.
      There is no doubt that news ltd. shows the most bias, 98.4% of working climate scientists believe that we are causing this problem. This figure does not include Al Gore or tim Flannery, they do talk about the problem. So What.
      The news should be accurate. Here is an example. You state there has been no temperature rise for a long time. Here is an accurate…

      Read more
    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice,

      Remember that Mark Pollock is a reader of The Conversation. Thus, unlike most of the public, he will have read numerous articles showing the real science and the effects of climate change.

      So nothing you write will be new to him.

      For some reason Mark chooses to ignore everything that has been written on The Conversation and push his denier agenda.

      Why is he here? It's not to be informed by the articles or to engage in debate. He is just here to ensure that the comments section includes 'the other side'.

      report
    3. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,

      No-one has suggested that we "all go and live in caves", that is a smokescreen.

      Unfortunately the world has not stopped warming http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

      I absolutley agree that "You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time..." Fortunately the public are beginning to see thru the climate science denying media spin. As Philip pointed out above "an Essential Poll of 1045 people conducted in late May 2013 (see http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4716804.html) indicates that 51% of the population believes that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”, 35% believes that “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth's climate” and 14% “don’t know”."

      report
    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark, I do at least respect your expertise on the topic of being fooled all of the time.

      One way to avoid this phenomonon is to occasionally update your views with reference to reality, rather than merely relying on repeating the same old PRATTs.

      report
    5. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad,
      You are verballing me. I am not too sure that you realise this. It's probably some sort of projection thing. I never suggested that the world has stopped warming. I stated that the world has not been warming in the recent past 10, 15, 20 years - pick your product, GISS, UAH, RSS. UEA - you choose. No global warming for a long time. Go and have a look at the raw data.

      Then make your mind up. The models on which the IPCC rely all assert that increasing CO2 levels will result in significantly higher global temperatures. CO2 levels continue to rise but not the temperature. A poll of 1,045 people does not matter.

      report
    6. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,

      Like I said - Unfortunately the world has not stopped warming in the recent past - http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm

      "There's also a tendency for some people just to concentrate on air temperatures when there are other, more useful, indicators that can perhaps give us a better idea how rapidly the world is warming. Oceans for instance -- due to their immense size and heat storing capability (called 'thermal mass') -- tend to give a much more 'steady' indication of the warming that is happening. Here records show that the Earth has been warming at a steady rate before and since 1998 and there's no signs of it slowing any time soon."

      report
    7. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark - If the media had been reporting climate change properly you would know that there are many different indicators that the climate is changing.

      So your ignorance about all of these factors proves the point of the main article - that the media are not informing the public.

      report
    8. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      That's not too far from the truth. Most of the stuff published here is rubbish and I feel an obligation to point this out. You are right about how I have read "numerous articles showing the real science and the effects of climate change". Alas, none on this blog. I notice that most of the advocates here just sing things like " Climate Science this I know, Cause Al Gore Says it's so". And then add a link to some of the thousands of Texan sharp-shooting articles posted on SS. It's not really a conversation…

      Read more
    9. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Your leaving out other key data products Mark

      NOAA, PMEL, CSIRO etc reporting on Ocean Heat Content - rising as much as ever, and thats were over 90%of the heat is going

      Studies of total ice volumes around the world from various sources - annual losses of 500 GigaTonnes of ice a year That takes around 1.7 * 10^20 Joules per year to do that - extra heat.

      Sea Level is rising. That can only occur if water is being added from melting ice - heating - and/or the water itself is warming.

      The world is warming as much as ever. It is just warming in differing places.

      report
    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      The problem we have in Australia is that the media will take someone like Mark seriously and air his views for 'balance'.

      On one hand we have every scientific academy and the worlds equivalent of CSIRO and BOM for each country saying climate change is real, and on the other we have people like Mark who have never put up anything that an informed and educated person would take seriously.

      Mark is not just writing nonsense, he is writing non-science.

      report
    11. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      All of this may be true. We just don't know. What we do know with absolute certainty is that all those 98.9437% of climate scientists said that that atmospheric temperature would get lots warmer and it hasn't.

      Now they are saying that all the extra heat is going into the oceans.

      Accurate records of ocean temperatures have only been available since the Argo program began. Those records don't show any significant increase in ocean temperatures.

      In any case because of the huge difference in…

      Read more
    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      You are right that the IPCC hasn't been spot on in its predictions.

      Instead of hitting the middle of the forecast reality has been worse than predicated. So all the IPCC reports have underestimated the effects of climate change.

      Still, I think that 98% of scientists just might know a little more than Mark Pollock, so I'll bank the worlds future on the scientists.

      And Mark, why not explain your big picture view of the world. Please tell us all how it is that the 98% of scientists in every country for decades have got it all so wrong. Are they all incompetent? Or is it some giant conspiracy?

      report
    13. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark,

      If you really can refute the work of all the world's leading climate scientists I strongly suggest that you submit an article to a high profile peer reviewed journal and await your Nobel Prize.

      I wish you were able to do this but given what Glenn and Michael have pointed out above I have serious doubts that you can.

      report
    14. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      This isn't a decent conversation anymore, all of the indicators look to a very troubled existence for our children and you want to get us all bogged down in the same old worn out arguments. The polar caps are melting, the weather is changing, our food is getting more scarce, the population is going to double etc, etc. This isnt a game, the debate is over, we dont have many options or much time now. Stop trying to destroy the future for our children.

      Help us fix the broken culture in the media so we can get on and fix the planet together. You can do something decent and positive with your life if you want to.

      report
    15. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Dr Farrant,
      From the same site -
      http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php
      Try 1997 to 2013, with the same years autocorrelation (presumably AR(1)). The results will be of the form trend slope + (lower confidence level, upper confidence level) for convenience I write it as slope + (LCL,UCL) and will only put the signs in for LCL and UCL. I leave the actual values as an exercise for you but for land/ocean I get -
      GISTEMP: slope + (+,+)
      NOAA: slope + (-,+)
      HADCRUT3: slope + (-,+)
      HADCRUT4: slope + (-,+)
      A slope of zero is within confidence intervals of (-,+) in all but GISTEMP so what does this tell you about statistical significance?

      report
    16. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Grant,

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998.htm

      "There's also a tendency for some people just to concentrate on air temperatures when there are other, more useful, indicators that can perhaps give us a better idea how rapidly the world is warming. Oceans for instance -- due to their immense size and heat storing capability (called 'thermal mass') -- tend to give a much more 'steady' indication of the warming that is happening. Here records show that the Earth has been warming at a steady rate before and since 1998 and there's no signs of it slowing any time soon."

      report
  9. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    I share the authors' frustration at the media on this issue, but neither they nor anybody else (including me!) seem to know what to do about it ... other than write articles that will never get coverage on the TV news or any other of the offending media.

    Here's an idea. How about a general media black out strike by all academics in Australia ... ie a general refusal to be interviewed or contribute in any way to any news story by mainstream media. Should there be exceptions? Personally I think the ABC and SBS have been almost as bad as the [openly] commercial media so I'd say not. How to announce such a boycott and how to decide when it's over? Not sure. Any ideas?

    report
    1. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Yes we need IDEAS

      Here's another
      An old fashion picket at every ABC in the capitals until the election. People holding sings saying things like:
      Stop ABC bias against climate science
      Hold the powerful accountable to climate science
      Etc

      It would get attention, commercial media would report it as would the ABC

      report
    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, I think it may come down to this sort of idea, to demand greater accuracy, and more action. So a well organised picket outside all media organisations in the country could be a start. Or the centres of every major town and city. By concerned politicians, businesses, academics, people. Online another way, or all three at once. When it's big enough, all campaign groups included, every possible form of advertising, print, online, tweets( I don't use them myself). If It occurs in october that's a good time of year, long weekend and all. Has to be huge.
      If inaccurate and reprehensible reporting continues in this country, who should we keep blaming, and should we keep blaming them. Nah it's us.

      report
    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Nice starter idea there, Geoff!

      I also wonder what would happen if we created a mass complaint to Julian Disney that the media are knowingly misleading us. Would the Press Council take notice of a kind of class action, I wonder?

      report
    4. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      I mean to write signs but singing would be good to.

      Look it's been obvious that the commercial media have stopped reporting in favour of entertainment a long time ago. That's why the failure of the ABC to cover climate change appropriately is so reprehensible. They make the commercials look legitimate because they report the same way (he said / she said, cut and paste mindlessness). It seems that enough people now realise how craven the ABC has become and it's time to do something. If the ABC are campaigned against then it would also reflect on the commercials.

      report
    5. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Well they did sing it but it goes back a long way. It's creole in fact and the theme is of compassion and sharing. Something I haven't felt in your posts but I hope you do have that capacity.

      report
    6. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      And in the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
      One of my all time Zimmerman favourites, along with Ballad of a Thin Man.

      report
    7. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      And he also wrote:

      Gather 'round people
      Wherever you roam
      And admit that the waters
      Around you have grown

      And accept it that soon
      You'll be drenched to the bone
      If your time to you
      Is worth savin'

      Then you better start swimmin'
      Or you'll sink like a stone
      For the times they are a-changin'

      report
    8. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      Pity Professor Flannery didn't listen to that when he was regaling us with his tales of drought fueled woes in the last decade. He'd have less egg on his face now if he did.

      report
    9. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Wilbur

      You have been given this link many times before on this blog

      ABC Countrywide some 2 years ago

      It exists as you well know

      You just hate being reminded of it because it embarrasses you and the other alarmist evangelists

      report
    10. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Swan,

      (Why you rudely just use the first half of my surname I don't know, but I shall return the favour).

      Please provide a link to Flannery saying something that was wrong, and ensure that the key phrases were said by him and are not the reporters interpretation.

      report
    11. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Mr Wilbur-Ham,
      Why should have to do your Google work for you? Nevertheless there are a smorgasbord of quotes to choose from so I'll just pick one at random -
      http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2005/s1389827.htm
      Maxine McKew: So does that mean, really, we're faced with - if that's right - back-to-back droughts and continuing thirsty cities?
      Tim Flannery: That's right. That looks to be the case.
      So to your question - "Why do you think he got it wrong?"
      (-:)

      report
    12. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Issued on 6 June 2013 by the National Climate Centre

      Rainfall deficiencies continue in South Australia, Victoria and western Queensland

      Below-average rainfall was recorded along parts of the ranges and coast in the southeast mainland and in western and southern Tasmania; large areas of the eastern States received less than 60 % of their average May rainfall. Western and Gulf Country Queensland and parts of pastoral South Australia have seen some lessening of deficiencies, while average or below-average monthly rainfall in the southeast have worsened rainfall deficiencies in Victoria and Tasmania.

      http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/drought/drought.shtml

      Seems to me that drought is still a problem.

      Of course the converse is also true - worse flooding, which is something that Flannery also talks about.

      report
    13. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "Of course the converse is also true". That's the wonderful thing about climate science. A proposition P and ~P can both be true. Where's Lord Bertrand Russell when we need him?
      So Professor Flannery also predicted "worse flooding". Was that before or after it bucketed down. Links, quotes and dates plesse.

      report
    14. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Grant Burfield is an excellent example of how our media has failed.

      If climate change had been reported accurately and effectively he would know that most of what he says is nonsense.

      And even worse, because most people have not been told the science, we get some vested interests deliberately telling lies and deliberately creating confusion, and they get away with it.

      For the record it is easy to see how a hotter climate will lead to more droughts. But a hotter climate also leads to more…

      Read more
    15. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Mr Wilbur-Ham,
      Thank you for addressing my link to Professor Flannery's predictions of future droughts. There's no answer to your analysis. However I missed your links to where he also predicted floods and when he predicted them.
      "draughts...". Good news for wind farms.

      report
    16. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      This article is about the media's failure to educate the public, and your ignorance about climate change proves this failure.

      As indicated by the moderator at the very top of this conversation, this is not the place to 'debate' the truth or otherwise of climate change, so I'll stay on topic and not say more.

      report
  10. Bernie McComb

    logged in via Facebook

    Because of Robert Manne in The Quarterly, it's now a duty for me to suffer reading The Australian every few days. Big article in the first copy was from anti climate change expert Georgie Pell, followed not much later by rantings, from self confessed non expert Delingpole.

    For me The Australian is nothing more than a comic, but distressing that some people appear to find ways to take it seriously. How about introducing a new tax, for newspapers which are hopelessly biased propaganda and not news?

    report
    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Bernie McComb

      Bernie, I wonder how Legal action by groups mis-represented, like scientists, or the public. You would have to think libel could play a role, despite so called "opinion" being an excuse for planetary vandalism in regard for those who will have to live on the planet in the future.

      report
    2. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Bernie McComb

      Mr McComb,
      Rather than working yourself into a lather about the Australian, there's a very simple solution that may not have occured to you -
      Don't read it.
      And that applies to everyone else here whinging about the media, whether it's Murdoch, Fairfax, the ABC or the Conversation. Of course if you think Australians are stoopid and likely to be taken in by the MSM then perhaps, for their own sakes, the government should regulate articles on global warming.
      98.4% (the new metric) for the good guys and 1.6% for the baddies.

      report
    3. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Grant,

      Nowhere did anyone advocate censorship. This is a smokescreen.

      As I said above - Journalists have a duty to report the facts objectively. The coverage of climate science and the associated politics to date in Australia has been far from objective and this is the main point of our article.

      Of course people are free to choose to read or watch whatever they like but this does not mean that the media can abandon their journalistic duties.

      Fortunately the public are beginning to see thru the climate science denying media spin. As Philip pointed out above "an Essential Poll of 1045 people conducted in late May 2013 (see http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4716804.html) indicates that 51% of the population believes that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”, 35% believes that “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth's climate” and 14% “don’t know”."

      report
    4. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Dr Farrant,
      Well it's great news that the public are beginning to see through the climate science denying media spin. So the problem is well on the way to a solution. People will stop supporting the Murdoch press in all its forms and the empire will crash. But he's smart, I'm sure he will get his minions to tell the truth before that happens. Even so, in both cases, problem solved from your POV.
      Ah, a poll of 1,045 on the ABC. I was always a bit sceptical about on-line polls until I discovered…

      Read more
  11. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

    I've not yet seen anyone try to explain why the ABC is so biased, and one reason I think that the reason has been missed is that everyone has focussed on just their biased reporting on climate change.

    I think that their biased reporting on climate change is just a symptom of a much greater more entrenched bias.

    The ABC has decided that 'neutral' is somewhere in between Liberal and Labor. And the ABC has decided that the only voices that need to be heard are 'prominent' voices.

    If a view…

    Read more
    1. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      The ABC is right wing now. On issue after issue the NLP misrepresent and lie but the ABC never question. The budget reply speeches being a case in point. But this takes the debate into murky political waters

      report
    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Funding. Cuts to funding I mean. Can you imagine the whipping up of hysteria about left wing bias and the razor gang attitude of the next government we will get. I can well imagine the campaign which would be played out by by the opposition which is over-all pretty extreme in it's understanding of climate science, then the resultant monetary cuts. Remember the campaign by howard and his trench folk. The so called black arm brigade and history wars. I see this as a war of opinion we can't afford to lose.

      report
  12. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    Okay, as a journalist who does (sometimes) write about climate matters I'll point out that the article is fundamentally flawed, and starts from the wrong place.
    Greenhouse warnings are now more than 25 years old (the first IPCC report was in 1990 and lots was said before that). During that time the vast bulk of the media coverage, including in the more specialised outlets such as New Scientist, Scientific American and Nature (which has news at the front) has been overwhelmingly supportive of this…

    Read more
    1. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      Do you agree that journalists have a duty to report the facts objectively and not run ideological lines?

      I believe you just exemplified the problem when you said "even if we concede the certainty about the science which the authors imagine exists..." We do not imagine that over 97% of climate scientists and every major national science academy agree that the planet is warming due to human activity. Or that leading public health organisations and prestigious peer-reviewed journals have…

      Read more
    2. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Your missing the point, journalists ARE still reporting climate change via a biased unquestioning regurgitation of media spin by those in power. What they are not doing is holding these people accountable to objective science

      report
    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      What a load of disingenuous, self-justifying crap, Mark!

      The reason people may have become more 'skeptical' is because journalists, just like you, started actively publishing disinformation and highlighting the tiny number of cases where one or two predictions (only ever in the grey literature) haven't literally come true, while ignoring the vast bodies of hard evidence showing very clearly what is going on and demonstrating that the overwhelming balance of scientific predictions have proved either…

      Read more
    4. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark

      In the interests of promoting accuracy, the first warning about the possible threat from CO2 didn't occur 25 years ago. It happened 48 years ago.

      The first warning to any government anywhere in the world about the then possible issue with CO2 and warming was included in a 20 page appendix in a major report on a range of environmental problems.

      This report was produced by The Presidents Scientific Advisory Committee and was presented to Lyndon Johnson in 1965. He made a speech to Congress on the subject including referring to rising CO2 levels.

      report
    5. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The story was greenhouse, the point Mark is that the story has expanded with more understanding. It is called Climate change now and includes such things as acidification of the worlds oceans. Climate change is now a better description because the impacts are so much broader than talking about a rise in ocean levels, and temperature. The media has quite a job to do, because the full story can't be understood by people unless they are told the full story. Economic, scientific factual truths. It isn't the same story, predictions have been largely not just correct but understated and expanded upon. We have to tackle the reality and causes of the problem, and "deal with it", dealing with it is not free, the cost of not dealing with it will be more. It's probably time to retire Mark.

      report
    6. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad - take a deep breath and go back and look at your own post.. The media just isn't into endless propaganda. It isn't what it does - not these days at any rate. The time for that is long past. From now on the message will always fragment, and there is nothing the mainstream media can do about it. Rather than completely ignoring all the points I raised and launching into yet another diatribe, why don't you tailor your response to reality as it stands?

      I won't respond to your repeated appeals to science but I should point out at the least that the media does have an obligation to point out that the economic case for doing anything about emissions has always been dodgy if not collapsed entirely..

      report
    7. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      Peter - I didn't miss anything at all. As I've pointed out, media reporting has been overwhelmingly on the side of the greenhouse guys. Sure they've been exceptions, but in any case its never been simply about science. Its been about forecasting (a business subject, please note) and economics.. both of those point to doing nothing.

      But where politicians have done something because media and activists have been screaming at them, the result has been costly, policies that will have no effect. Surely the media's role is to point out that the main effect of greenhouse activism has been costly, pointless policies.

      report
    8. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Andrew - you've already contacted me privately about this matter and I pointed out who to send such material to. I have no control over op-eds. I might also note that your response counts as silly point scoring and entirely misses the point of what I was saying. Once you get past the question of the science you have vast areas where some skepticism is perfectly justifiable - notably in forecasting (a business subject) and in economics. Are you able to add to the arguments they have over the time value of money (crucial to the economic case)? What about the arguments they had over MER (market exchange rate) versus PPP (purchasing price parity) they had when they started forecasting emissions.

      I'm no expert in any of that stuff, either, but I do know that these arguments exist. However, thanks to the media, very few people have any idea of the problems in this area. the media should be far more skeptical.

      report
    9. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Well, independent thinker, as I commented to Andrew his response and yours counts as silly point scoring and entirely misses the point of what I was saying. Once you get past the question of the science you have vast areas where some skepticism is perfectly justifiable - notably in forecasting (a business subject) and in economics. Are you able to add to the arguments they have over the time value of money (crucial to the economic case)? What about the arguments they had over MER (market exchange rate) versus PPP (purchasing price parity) they had when they started forecasting emissions.

      I'm no expert in any of that stuff, either, but I do know that these arguments exist. However, thanks to the media, very few people have any idea of the problems in this area. The media should be far more skeptical, but its too late now the discussion is moving on.. .

      report
    10. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      Another ad hominem argument. Thanks but I don't need to take a deep breath and I stand by everything I said in my previous post.

      The problem is that most of the mainstream media is pushing endless propaganda supporting business as usual and the associated vested interests rather than informing the public about the science. If the time for the media to objectively report the findings of science is over this may well explain why the media scene is fragmenting in the way you describe…

      Read more
    11. Derek Mccue

      Mental health nurse

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Trying to separate the economics from the science is pointless, the science determines the direction that the economic policy has to follow.

      report
    12. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      So, when the science says that, if we don't take rapid and decisive action on climater change we will be in grave danger, but some economists (that's SOME Mark) argue that it doesn't make sense within their personal autistic theory of economics then it's only fair and reasonable that the economics should trump the science as an arbiter of reality and a dterminer of action.

      That is so genuinely deranged and psychotic that i am actually stunned that anyone who can spel hi sown name could write that as if it were a rational statement. This post may well be removed as personal abuse - frankly, in the face of psychotic madness like this I'm past caring.

      report
    13. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Derek Mccue

      Only in a rational world run by sane people, Derek. In Mark's topsy-turvy land, economics trumps reality.

      It was amusing when Lewis Carroll dealt with this kind of madness; in the real world it's genuinely sickening.

      report
    14. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Your not the only one. I've managed to feel pure #### for the stupidity of the journalist in question today. The proud tag-bearer of senior journalist etc, and the rationale which follows. I never thought of myself as an activist, not now .

      report
    15. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The main point of the article was that climate science is still presented as opinion as you have just done in your reply to me. But it isn't opinion, the ice in the artic is disappearing this is fact. And when the sea comes lapping at the doors of your office it will be irrelevant whether you think the debate has moved on. You spread confusion, thinking its cleaver but we need to band together and focus just like we did during WWII. If journalists had tried to confuse the war effort it would have been threaded as treason. Given what's at stake you need to radically change your thinking. I want a reasonable life for my son and I hope you want the same for your offspring. If you do it's time to get desperately serious. You can make a difference so why don't you?

      report
    16. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Hi Mark, I've found the opposite of this to be true:
      >This then is the problem. the media cannot simply keep plugging the same story. People will just turn off all the faster, and the media scene is fragmenting fast.

      Stories we publish on climate change are guaranteed to be among our best read. And you'd have to agree we go on about it a lot more than most media outlets. Maybe it's because there are such a lot of different ways the story can be told, which avoids that problem of 'plugging the same story'. I guess it's like the economy. You could argue that the media just keeps plugging the same story - the Australian economy - over and over again. But of course they don't, they talk about a whole lot of different aspects of that story.

      report
    17. Jack Bloomfield

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      I agree with you Peter,
      I also resent the fact that media owners and their hired journalists set themselves up as pseudo expert analysts of climate science and decide on our behalf that commercial "business as usual" should take precedence over CO2 reduction action.
      Who are they to decide that rigorously peer reviewed scientific evidence is incorrect, and denigrate same by publication of contrary inexpert 'opinion' in their public forums?

      The latest scientific observations from the arctic give…

      Read more
    18. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad - yes you do need to take a deep breath. You have entirely lost all perspective on these matters.On the economics question I provided links last time. You should read the Productivity Commission's report http://www.pc.gov.au/research/staff-working/sternreview to gain some idea of the time value of money debate which I referred to last time and is still relevant. Instead of heated denounciations of the media and denials that you have been shown links, I would urge you to read some of the skeptical material on these points. .

      report
    19. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Derek Mccue

      Derek - no sorry they are separate, quite different questions. The science, for what it is worth, may point to a certain amount of damage caused in the future. It delivers result which then has to be analysed economically. You estimate the damage in money terms then discount back to arrive at a present day figure. You then compare it to the cost of trying to cut emissions.. If you adopt a discount rate of, say, 4 per cent (think of it as the long term net investment rate) mostly it doesn't work. In any case, as we don't have any enforceable international agreement on limiting emissions there is seriously no point. Best case is to set up systems with low thresholds.. ie low carbon tax and small renewable energy targets, and wait for a change..

      report
    20. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      With all due respect, it is you that has lost all perspective on these matters. You seem trapped within a myopic economic perspective that denies the fact that the economy, like the rest of us, depends on having a stable climate for its existence.

      The time value of money debate does not adequately consider the long term implications (50-100 years plus) of unmitigated climate change and both downplays and underestimates the costs of climate change of 4 to 6 degrees or more. Money and economics won't matter very much in the future to our children and future generations if we keep going with business as usual as you suggest.

      Instead of continually denying what the climate scientists are telling us I would urge you to read some of their peer-reviewed work and join us in trying to prevent dangerous climate change.

      report
    21. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      Right so you're focusing specifically on the science..rather than be skeptical about anything else, okay, so now you point to sea level increases... but you do realise that the sea level increases you point to won't happen - that's what the science say. the forecast is for 0.4 m for NSW by 2050 or some such.. 0.8m by 2100.. if this actually occurs, and the actual measurable increases (by satellite) over the past 20 year are only a fraction of the increases required will my grandchildren notice? Doubt it.. Will low lying nations be forced to build barriers? Perhaps. will they build the barriers. If they are rich enough, and have ignored efforts to keep them poor by limiting emissions.

      report
    22. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      Peter - dear dear, and we were having a civilized conversation where I was pointing out just how far off the track the debate has gone and you start calling me names.. the n word.. . shame on you. Yes, we do need a radical change. Certain parts of the media and the public need to return to reality. I would urge you to do so and keep the cheap shots for your students..

      report
    23. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      This is an incredibly powerful demonstration of why things are as they are. Here we have a senior journalist at the AFR tell it as he sees it.

      What happens when you put a NPV to money with a 4% discount rate is that things that happen long in the future have no value.

      In the USA it is very expensive to put someone through college and train them as, for example, a surgeon. If you do the NPV at 4% discount rate then the high salary that a surgeon will earn perhaps starting over ten years away…

      Read more
    24. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      So Mark, could you run that calculation for a bullet to the side of the head?

      report
    25. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Firstly Mark I respect that fact that you are contributing and replying to everyone who comments. I didn't call you a "n..." I was trying to establish a frame of reference. You don't seem to grasp the scale and immensity of that problems facing us. You can't factor in changes the the economy the way you have done. We face: over population, dramatic species loss, a world wide crash of fish stocks, loss of arable land, pollution of water ways, ocean acidification, increasing complexity of social and…

      Read more
    26. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Tsk tsk tsk, Felix you mis-understand Mark just like all the others who don't see it his way. Marks sense of the matter is a wonder for all to read, or another bout of the emperor has no clothes all the way down the page.

      report
    27. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Couldn't agree more Michael. From what Mark says above it appears that he is completely happy to discount the quality of life of future generations and people in other countries that are already suffering the consequences of climate change. How can anyone argue that it is ethical for us to steal from the current and future quality of life of others? It is not ok for us to leave the planet in a worse condition than that in which we found it.

      report
    28. Peter Mcilwain

      Composer & Teacher

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Yes exactly the old world view of humans having dominion over the planet (along with the nature red in tooth and claw view) just doesnt work now. We need a new view that is based on mutual dependance and compassion.

      report
    29. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      Jane - hi that's a reasonable comment, and its nice to get one that's both reasonable and not hostile. My response is that your site is the very fragmentation I was talking about before. Your site is a different voice and that's good but it caters for a different market almost totally from both us and as different from our market as ours is from the Sydney Telegraph, say.. So you can run those stories and note that they get a good hit rate, because of the market your site goes to.. However, out…

      Read more
    30. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad
      Also with due respect unlike the science side of the debate you cannot close down the economics side with assertions. Apart from anything else, you are suggesting we spend money now in a way which will be completely wasted, as there is no enforceable international agreement on emissions. Wasting money now to not avoid climate change later, does not sound like a good idea. That money could be used to build a better future for future generations. Some clear thought is needed, and that's where the media can really prove useful don't you think?

      report
    31. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MWH - um, your post wanders a bit, but I think you're presenting the moral argument. We have a moral duty to future generations. However, with no effective, enforceable limit on emissions the money is wated in any case. So which would your grandchildren have? A tidy sum because grandpa invested some money for a decent return, or no money and no effect on climate either way.

      If we agree something should be done, then the only course is to set up system with small carbon tax and small renewable energy targets, and leave them until India, China and the US catch up. then make them expensive. As it is the media emphasis on climate has handed us, expensive, pointless policies.

      report
    32. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Peter Mcilwain

      Peter - on the sea level increases.. no, there is a site at the University of Colorado which tracks sea level increases http://sealevel.colorado.edu/ the rate of increase has been the same for almost 20 years and is a third of the rate required to reach the levels I cited in the earlier post. Actually they are not science, they are forecasts (different). As for fish levels, over fishing is indeed a very serious problem which has nothing to do with ocean acidification and has been neglected in all the screaming about greenhouse matters. Loss of arable land? Not sure where that one's come from but loss of top soil is different matter. You will find that the increased use of biofuels has diverted a lot of land from food production. Need I go on? I know something about the production figures and trends in those areas, and the story is vastly different from what you imagine it to be.

      report
    33. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark - Since Stern action on climate change has been an economic imperative. Garnaut has given the Australian view.

      Yours is actually the IMmoral agreement - I'll keep doing bad things until everyone else stops.

      The best way to stop others doing something bad is to lead by example.

      I find it very hard to respond to your posts because on one hand I can't believe that you are unaware of the predicated impacts of climate change and of all the arguments saying why the rich countries need to act first, and how this is economically feasible.

      But on the other hand your posts have a feeling that you have just arrived in 2013 from 1980 and all of this is new to you.

      report
    34. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Brad - so it the moral argument. That's fair enough. At least its arguable. But as I point out in the above post, without an enforceable international system for limiting emissions, you are basically advocating that we spend money now for no effect later. If you were serious about making a difference then a proper response would be to set systems in place - a low carbon tax, say - and wait for the likes of the US, China and India to catch up. Low cost, adaptable and sensible.

      The problem is that without a sufficiently sceptical media the government has put in place ridiculously expensive renewable energy target and carbon tax.

      report
    35. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      I always find it very strange that those who dismiss most of the science and are convinced that 98% of the worlds climate change scientist are wrong are happy to take little bits of science and use it as a justification that their whole world view is correct. (Sometimes these factoids are correct, but often they are wrong.)

      Probably the main thing that makes something scientific is the ability of a theory to make predictions (ie forecasts). In fact if a theory can't predict anything then I suggest it isn't science.

      So climate models which predict the future is science in action.

      report
    36. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      The ethical thing to do would be to do our fair share to prevent dangerous climate change. If I was to be born in the future I would much prefer a stable climate than a few dollars that can't buy me a stable climate.

      Yes I agree that clear thinking around our ethical responsibilities to the children of today and tomorrow is required and that the media could play a useful role in this.

      report
    37. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The renewable energy target and carbon tax are not "ridiculously expensive". I would think that as an economist your would support market based approaches.

      As we said in our previous article - "The emissions reductions targets put forward by our leading politicians (5% by 2020) make us a nation of “emissions bludgers” using four times as much of the carbon budget as the average global citizen. They mean that Australians are relying on other nations (most of whom are poorer than us) to do more than their fair share to prevent dangerous climate change. The current generations of adults are abandoning our responsibilities and leaving our children and future generations to suffer the consequences of the dangerous climate change we cause."

      We have an ethical responsibility to do more as a nation, not less.

      report
    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      I'm sick of getting 'sponsor messages' as I try to find the segment, so I'll predict what it included (and be happy to be proven wrong).

      1 - A good summary of the science and where we are heading.

      2 - No mention of the huge gap between what Labor are doing and planning compared with what needs to be done for Australia to do its share to prevent serious warming.

      3 - No mention of any political alternative - ie nothing from the Greens.

      So the segment perhaps leaves the viewer either with a feeling of 'if only Labor (and Liberal) would do better' or 'at least Labor are dealing with this by having the Carbon Tax'.

      But the report does nothing to inform viewers that as, on the whole, we get what we vote for, that if you are concerned about climate change you shouldn't vote Labor (or Liberal) but vote Green.

      I would love to be told that I'm wrong (about the segment).

      report
    2. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,

      On the whole you're pretty correct. But on a day when most of the media completely ignored the release of the Climate Commission report or gave it "the balanced" approach this was at least a step in the right direction. No argument from me that the media needs to do much better than it is currently.

      report
    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Andrew, there is nothing I can add to your statement except to "recommend" it. The Australian media seems to actively to promote inaction , rather than seeking to understand the science. This is evidenced yet again today. I see no alternative other than public disobedience, and highlighting the stupidity of those media representatives, who wilfully seek (by not doing their job) to determine a horrible future for my descendants whenever I can. I'm sick of reading smarmy logic dressed up as intelligent thought, and look forward to a renaissance of activism where I hope others like myself will be able to have a voice. As it stands this does not happen, the dis-connect between our likely future as predicted by scientists like yourself, and those who pass on information about the likely impacts of climate change, is huge.

      report
  13. Derek Mccue

    Mental health nurse

    The issue is larger than climate change, it is the standard of science reporting in general and the number of journalists reporting on science that have no qualifications in the area.

    report
  14. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist

    Thanks Mark. I can assure you I am not interested in any "point scoring" but inquiring why the mainstream media is not allowing climate scientists to convey the evidence we are looking at. This is not a "silly point" but is based on the experience of climate scientists, including myself, vis-à-vis the mainstream media, which hardly allows publication of our reports regarding the critical stage global warming has reached.

    Regarding economic considerations, not many economists (excepting reports…

    Read more
  15. Alan O'Neill

    Freelance Consultant / Inventor at freelance consultant

    Commercial press is a business funded primarily by advertisers and to a reducing extent 'sales'. That a business should operate to maximise its income is hardly surprising, so to me the fault primarily lies at the feet of the short time line inherent in modern capitalism, as well as the lack of baisc scientific understanding among readers/viewers.

    Under such circumstances, I think that the ABC does a great job as does social media where increasingly politicians are seeing the mood of the nation.

    Its not all too late..but my most serious concern currently is the degree to which, either labour or LNP, giving their funding constituents (jobs/business), can act more seriously and significantly to keep the carbon in the ground, wind back consumption and move faster to solar and wind... surely it wont take many more disasters before the longer term implications undermind the short term stalemate

    report
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Alan O'Neill

      Alan I hope you're right - if we're REALLY lucky we're simply in that stage where the pressure is building up and very soon the whole system will click radically and very suddenly into a completely new state and there will actually be a surge of demand from business as much as ordinary people for strong, clear action....if we're not rapidly approaching a social 'tipping point' of this kind, we're in for a rather nasty century...

      report
  16. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist

    Hi Mark

    If of interest, I will be happy to meet you at some point and provide a detailed explanation, including presentation of the latest climate data, as to why global warming poses an existential risk to civilization, humans and nature.

    Kind Regards
    Dr/Prof Andrew Glikson
    Earth and Paleo-climate Scientist
    IPCC Reviewer

    report
    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      No point, Andrew - 'forecasting is an economic discipline' and you're not an economist, therefore, in Mark's alternative reality, you are unable to offer forecasts.

      I wonder how the universe actualy managed to function before we had economists...

      report
    2. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix

      Q. How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?

      A. None. If the light bulb needed changing the market would have already done it.

      Cheers

      report
    3. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Next time Monckton is in town Andrew make yourself available for a public debate

      So many of your colleagues have shied away from this approach in favour of a set piece one sided seminar where no contrary view is allowed

      Karoly and Steffen are masters at his

      It is also why you are losing the debate, You appear afraid or deem it below you to debate basic concepts that in your expert opinion are not for questioning

      Well like Julia and her anti male strategy, you have failed and will continue to fail unless you engage where people can get to you in person and question you.

      report
    4. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Ken,

      I will leave Andrew to speak for himself but I must say that this isn't and shouldn't be a ideological debate. It is about science based policy and protecting our children's futures.

      Journalists have a duty to report the facts objectively. The coverage of climate science and the associated politics to date in Australia has been far from objective and this is the main point of our article.

      Politicians have a responsibility to produce adequate policy that is grounded in the best available…

      Read more
  17. Graeme Alastair McLeay

    Retired

    Thank you for the article. I have long noticed the deliberate obfuscation of climate science by the Australian Newspaper. Naomi Oreskes has dealt with this problem in her book "Merchants of Doubt"

    report
    1. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Grant,

      The main point of our article is that journalists have a duty to report the facts objectively and that the coverage of climate science to date in much of the media including The Australia has been far from an objective reporting of the science. Australian journalists need to lift their game.

      As we said - "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?"

      report
    2. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Brad Farrant

      Dr Farrant,
      And if these recalcitrant journalists don't do their climate science "duty", what exactly do you propose? At a lot of meaningless talk here about what they should do but nothing about what should happen if the don't.
      Let's assume they don't. What therefore would be your next step? Would you recommend the government getting involved?. The UN? Some other body? Anyone? How should it be rectified? What penalties, if any, should be imposed? A fair question I believe and I would be most interested in your answer. Merely having a continuing whinge about journalists not doing their climate science "duty" is getting a little passé after a hundred or so comments.

      report
    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      So Grant tries to paint those who say the media should do better as fascists, yet there have been several cases recently where respected journalists have been sacked for not following or criticising the conservative views of their papers.

      report
    4. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Mr Wilbur-Ham,
      I'm not painting anyone to be a fascist. My father flew 71 ops in a de Haviland Mosquito fighting against fascism. I'm merely asking how Dr Farrant sees the solution to this dreadful climate science journalism issue.
      Were the journalists you speak of Michael Smith and Glen Milne?

      report
    5. Brad Farrant

      Adjunct Research Fellow in Early Childhood Development at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Grant,

      It is their job as journalists to report the facts objectively rather than promote ideology. If they continue to not do their job then I think we should continue to hold them to account to do their job and also work with the climate scientists and the journalists that are to point out the failure of the rest to the public at large. That is what we are doing and what we will continue to do.

      report