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Event horizon: the black hole in The Australian’s climate change coverage

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY - Michael Ashley investigates the national paper’s op-ed policy. The “event horizon” of a black hole is one of the most mind-boggling concepts in astrophysics. The black hole’s stupendous…

The Australian’s coverage of climate changed is seriously warped. AFP PHOTO/ NASA - CXC/ A. HOBART

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY - Michael Ashley investigates the national paper’s op-ed policy.

The “event horizon” of a black hole is one of the most mind-boggling concepts in astrophysics.

The black hole’s stupendous gravity causes time itself to be warped — an astronaut falling inwards sufficiently slowly would see arbitrarily far into the future history of the universe during their final minutes and seconds before crossing the event horizon.

There is no other place in time or space where our normal perception of reality is so completely overturned.

That is, apart from a meeting room deep within the News Limited bunker at 2 Holt Street, Surry Hills.

It is in this room that Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Australian, holds editorial meetings.

And it is in this room that reality becomes so distorted that The Australian was able to state earlier this month, “it is in keeping with this newspaper’s rationalist pedigree that we have long accepted the peer-reviewed science on anthropogenic climate change,” while at the same time engaging in a campaign to misrepresent and distort climate science.

Other editorials have made it clear that The Australian believes it is treating its readers as mature adults who should be able to make up their own minds based on arguments from “both sides” of the debate.

The problem is that on one side of the debate you have 97% of the world’s published climate scientists and the world’s major scientific organisations, and on the other side you have fools.

Excuse my bluntness, but it is past time to acknowledge that the science underpinning anthropogenic climate change is rock solid. The sceptics have had the time and opportunity to come with up a convincing case, but their best efforts read like arguments that NASA faked the moon landing.

My colleagues working in the climate sciences have largely given up trying to correct the constant stream of misinformation from The Australian, in frustration.

The Australian’s anti-science campaign takes many forms. One is the inflation of the credentials of their fake experts. For example, OpEd writer and member of the Outdoor Recreation Party Jon Jenkins was referred to as an “Adjunct Professor”. Bond University wrote to The Australian informing them that this was not true.

Howard Brady was called a “climate change researcher from Macquarie University”; in fact, Brady is a 70 year-old retiree who has published just seven scientific papers (on Antarctic sediments, not climate), the most recent one in 1983, following which he worked for 17 years in the oil industry. Macquarie University contacted The Australian to set the record straight.

In neither of these cases did The Australian publish a retraction or clarification.

Another tactic is to accept opinion pieces on science from unqualified sources. When I contacted The Australian’s opinion editor late last year to express dismay at their bias, I was given the example of Michael Asten, a part-time professorial fellow in the school of geosciences at Monash University, Melbourne, as someone who was well-qualified to comment.

So I did some investigation into Asten and his four OpEds in The Australian over the past two years.

A quick check of Asten’s peer-reviewed publications shows that while he appears to be your go-to guy if you have electromagnetic interference problems with your fluxgate magnetometer, he hasn’t published anything remotely related to climate science. He is, however, well-connected with the mining and coal industries.

In his first OpEd (“Climate claims fail science test”, December 9, 2009), Asten wrote “recent results published by top scientists cast doubt on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s theory” and he showcased the work that Pearson et al published in the top journal Nature.

But Asten misrepresented the findings in the Nature paper. Don’t just take my word for it— Paul Pearson and his co-authors wrote to The Australian saying “Professor Michael Asten has misrepresented our recent research by suggesting that it casts doubt on the link between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming”.

They added, “We would like to take this opportunity to add our voices to the strong and steady message that the world scientific community is delivering to the Copenhagen negotiators — the greenhouse problem is real, imminent and potentially devastating for the planet, its life, and human civilization. Fortunately it is still not too late to avert the catastrophe.”

You would think you couldn’t ask for a clearer statement than that, but Asten went on to argue in his second opinion piece (“More evidence CO₂ not culprit”, December 29, 2009) that he used data in Pearson’s paper to arrive at a different conclusion from Pearson himself.

So, Asten, with no expertise in the field, is using a paper published in Nature to argue the opposite of what the paper actually says.

He then spins this as “top scientists cast doubt” on the IPCC. Gobsmacking.

In Asten’s third article (“CSIRO should establish if there was medieval warming Down-Under”, 13 May 2010) he asserts that if the medieval warm period was a global phenomenon, then “warming during the past century should be seen as predominantly natural climate change rather than driven by man-made carbon emissions.”

This is bunkum. The effect of man-made carbon dioxide is clear from multiple independent lines of evidence.

In his fourth OpEd (“Political interference will cripple climate debate”, 17 Dec 2010), Asten compares models of sea-level rise from a peer-reviewed paper by Jevrejeva et al, with observations of the sea-level by Riva et al, finding a factor of five difference.

Asten interprets this as a serious discrepancy in climate predictions that the CSIRO was withholding from the Government. He also describes how compliant scientists were intimately involved in the formulation of Nazi racial policy, and outspoken academics were removed by the Gestapo.

But once again, Asten misunderstands the science. The Riva et al paper wasn’t an observation of the total sea-level rise at all, just an estimate of the contribution from melting ice. The Nazi stuff is simply bizarre.

You would think The Australian, if it had any editorial integrity, would have called a halt to Asten’s ready access to the opinion pages after serious flaws were found with each of his contributions. But the lure of publishing an opinion supporting their editorial bias, from an apparently reputable source, was just too strong to resist.

I have singled out Asten in this article, but the same applies to every one of the climate contrarians that are repeatedly given exposure in The Australian.

For example, Bob Carter has claimed “temperature records confirm that cooling is under way” - no they don’t.

Ian Plimer says “To argue that human additions to atmospheric CO2, a trace gas in the atmosphere, changes climate requires an abandonment of all we know about history, archaeology, geology, solar physics, chemistry and astronomy” - this statement is just absurd.

Christopher Monckton has repeatedly misinterpreted scientific papers; and William Kininmonth states “the likely extent of global temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide is less than 1°C” - this is a factor of three below our best estimates.

None of these people has made any impact whatsoever with their arguments in the peer-reviewed literature — they just aren’t contributing to any real scientific debate. The only place that they can publish their junk science is in outlets such as The Australian, where they are welcomed with open arms.

And if you think the bias in The Australian only affects its choice of OpEd pieces, wait till you read Tim Lambert’s examination of news reporting in his article later in this series for The Conversation.

So, when The Australian claims in its editorials to support the peer-reviewed science, it is really just an insurance clause for when the tide inevitably turns against their campaign of misinformation.

The Murdoch media empire has cost humanity perhaps one or two decades of time in the battle against climate change. Each lost decade greatly increases the eventual economic costs, the devastation to our ecosystems, and the suffering of future generations.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Read the real science, ask the real experts.

The editors sitting around the table in that meeting room in Surry Hills need to reflect on their culpability.

This is the sixth part of our Media and Democracy series. To read the other instalments, follow the links here:.

This article is about the media’s representation of climate change – we’d love to hear your opinions on that topic. If you would rather discuss the existence of climate change, there are many other articles on the site covering that issue: please take your comments to one of those discussions.

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80 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Marc Sassella

    Freelance writer

    Thank you Michael for your excellent summary of the parlous situation at The Australian in relation to their reportage on climate change. When they and other newspapers cross over to the dark side and try to influence opinion rather than report the news, they place our western democracies in peril. As you say, those editors really do need to reflect on their culpability. Perhaps the time has come for other like minded rationalists to start a campaign to actively boycott The Australian. We could perhaps begin with tertiary institutions refusing their offer of free newspapers on campus.

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  2. Richard Monks

    Retired Engineer

    Bravo! Please could we have ongoing updates?
    One comment: surely The Australian is not merely a fool? Surely it knows exactly what it is doing - could I suggest charlatan?

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  3. Marc Hendrickx

    Geologist

    Ironic that Michael Ashley's qualifications make him unqualified to judge the science, arguably less qualified than Carter, Plimer and Kininmonth!

    The Australian's coverage has provided an outlet for views inside and outside the so called consensus, including at least one op ed piece by Michael Ashley himself. This has improved the public's understanding of some of the main areas of contention. Michael's claims that the science is settled are clearly delusional.

    Mean while the ABC continue to lack…

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    1. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc Hendrickx, are you ever going to address the contents of any of these articles, or are you going to continue to attempt to shoot the messenger? Where/why was Michael Ashley wrong?

      You're a bit pathetic mate.

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    2. Bob Beale

      Journalist

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Hello Marc.
      No offence, but the play-the-man tactic simply invites others to ask exactly how being a geologist qualifies you to judge a paper on butterfly biology? Or how does being a geologist qualify you to judge a newspaper or the ABC? See? It's a self-defeating game. We're all entitled to opinions.

      So let me ask respectfully: on what factual evidence do you base your opinion above that The Australian's coverage of climate change "has improved the public's understanding of some of the main areas of contention"?

      If that were true, many observers would be delighted that such a perversely positive outcome had emerged from the pattern detailed in the article above. So how do you know this?

      Have you systematically surveyed The Australian's readership over time and tested their level of understanding? Have you conducted a longitudinal trend analysis of the tone and content of its reader's letters? Where's your data?

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    3. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      The debate within the Australian media is operating at a very low level.

      It is thus very apparent to many scientists when grossly flawed theories (legions underwater volcanoes), cherry picking (1998) and spurious attribution of expertise are taking place (Brady).

      Most astronomers (Michael Ashley and myself included) have not been advancing our own theories of climate change and are not going to do so. However, we have been identifying a number of very blatant errors in the current debate. This is in stark contrast to some climate change denialists with limited expertise who are advancing seriously flawed theories and new misinterpretations of the relevant data.

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    4. Sherry Mayo
      Sherry Mayo is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Hi Marc

      In another thread you asked me to provide evidence of the Australian's dreadful reporting on climate change. This article does an excellent job of answering that so I don't have to bother!

      As for your comment on the Author's qualifications - there is more common ground in astrophysics and atmospheric physics than you probably realise - especially where it comes to radiative physics & spectroscopy, remote sensing, stellar atmospheres. A little further digging would have told you that the…

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    5. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Bob Beale

      Hi Bob,
      Nice to see a journo visit. My reference to Michael Ashley's qualifications goes back to a post by OveH a few months back where he suggested (mistakenly) that only those with suitable peer reviewed papers are qualified to comment on various aspects of climate change science. My criticism of Michael Ashley was done with this in mind.
      As to your suggestion I am playing the man, I note you appear to have ignored Michael's ridiculous description of anyone dissenting the mainstream as a fool…

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    6. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Sherry Mayo

      The article smears many noted climate scientists, and is juvenile in the extreme.

      The Conversation and Michael Ashley owe many distinguished scientists an apology with this piece.

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    7. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Care to be specific?

      Or should readers assume this "juvenile" article that "smears many noted climate scientists" (or denialists at least) is without error?

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    8. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      If you follow Ashley's foolish link you'll see the specifics.

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    9. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      How amusing. Should Michael Ashley really apologise for content he did not write and errors that Marc Hendrickx has yet to specifically identify? I don't think so.

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    10. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      The term "fools" is Ashley's and not John Cooks. It really surprises me that The Con would allow this language. I have had posts removed here for less. Seems double standards are definitely in play.
      Cook's list includes a number of distinguished scientists. I look forward to seeing both Ashley's and The Con's retractions and apologies.

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    11. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Finally. Marc Hendrickx objects to the word "fools" rather than the link.

      Fools is certainly a strong term, as Michael Ashley notes in his article. To back up this bold language, Michael Ashley has provided a link that shows that the people in question (some of whom are scientists) have made a series foolish statements about climate and the evidence for climate change.

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    12. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      The link is a smear site run by a noted climate alarmist. It lacks any credibility.
      Both Michael Ashley and The Con need not cry foul when such language is returned in kind, unless of course they rectify the situation and apologise to those they unfairly smear.

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    13. Indulis Bernsteins

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      ..AND to name the "noted climate scientists" who have been besmirched. Didn't see any real climate scientists on the AGW-denial side in the article.

      I think cognitive dissonance has set it and Marc is unable to physically read or comprehend the paragraphs showing that the Op Ed authors were misrepresenting the science- in true Monckton style they claim that the scientist said the opposite of what he/she did actually say. Inappropriately using the noted scientist's name and reputation as a prop in front of their own half-baked analysis of the data. Representing their work as if it came from the scientist.

      If anyone has been besmirched it is the original author's whose works were misrepresented, and the institutions who have had their reputations lowered by people presented as if they had qualifications from those institutions.

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  4. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist at Australian National University

    I can not think of any science fiction writer who had the imagination to describe a civilization knowingly, against the best scientific evidence, proceeds to alter its own atmosphere/ocean system in a way as deleterious as current anthropogenic climate change.

    Neither George Orwell nor Aldous Huxley appear to have foreseen the possibility.

    Never mind those who do not accept the scientific method, and who are supported by powerful vested interests, when even those elected under the banner of "the…

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    1. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Andrew,
      Your continued linkage of recent weather events to the enhanced greenhouse effect is a total misrepresentation of the peer reviewed literature and ignores recent and geological history. Like recent Hurricane Irene your argument does not have much puff. There is silence about it, because there is no link. As far as 1 in 100 year events go, with only 120 years or so of accurate records in Australia there would be many 1 in 100 years events still to come. We have not seen the worst of mother nature down under yet. Many extreme events have occurred with CO2 levels well below their current level.

      Recent studies demonstrate climate sensitivity to increased GHG is exaggerated (eg Lindzen, 2011). I guess the headline "Look out luke warm conditions ahead", does not play well with media organisations, such as the ABC, that subscribe to sensationalism, and The Con that seem to live on a diet of climate alarm.

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    2. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      "a total misrepresentation of the peer reviewed literature"

      Cite please!

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    3. Mike Marriott

      Library Manager

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc,

      As a geologist I think you would be very aware that climate science does not rest upon temperature records. Dendrology? Ice cores? Lake sediments? The study of PETM and other comparative events?

      All have been looked at by scientists (climatologists, geologists etc.) around the world and they're research supports AGW.

      Unless of course, all scientists are "in on the game". All you have then is conspiracy theories.

      The best you guys can trot out is:

      - "Lord" Monckton, a man the House…

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    4. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc, as a scientist, how can you quote Lindzen's flawed study into climate sensitivity?

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    5. Saen Miur

      University of Queensland

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Hi Marc,

      Could you please provide a full reference for your source "Lindzen, 2011". A Web of Science search reveals that Lindzen's only publication in the scientific literature this year was "The Surface-Pressure Signature of Atmospheric Tides in Modern Climate Models", in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, vol. 68, pp. 495-514. This article makes no mention of climate sensitivity. If there is evidence in the scientific literature to support your assertion that climate sensitivity from CO2 doubling is low, by all means present it.

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    6. Aaron Petty

      Postdoctoral Fellow in Human Ecology at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Hi Andrew, might I suggest "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov? It's not directly related to a civilization knowingly bringing on its own collapse, but about a people too set in their ways to listen to the warnings of the best scientific advice of the time. The more I see what's going on, the more I think of that book. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a happy ending.

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    7. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      Who says it is flawed, you?
      As a scientist how can I ignore it. Lindzen and Choi 2011 published in the peer reviewed press. Unlike Michael Ashley Lindzen he is suitably qualified in the area. He is a distinguished MIT professor. Why would you choose to ignore him?

      If you are seeking to criticise his work, a recent simplified version of what i take to be his latest effort was presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society on the 28 August. Here's a link to the presentation slides.
      http://noconsensus.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/acs-2011-lindzen1.pdf

      Seems odd that that someone who presents to the ACS is someone Ashley willfully derides.

      As this series of posts is about the media's presentation of climate change. It is notable that Lindzen is among the missing at the ABC-are you beginning to see a pattern in the ABC's coverage?

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    8. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Mike Marriott

      Mike.
      I don't question it. I question the degree of warming that alarmists claim is in the pipeline. I do not deny our impact on the climate,or the environment. It is a matter of degrees, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the impact, at least in terms of temerature will be on the low, rather than the high side.
      In regard to our impact on the environment, this is being overlooked to our long term detriment as the environment lobby has been sucked into linking the issue with Catastrophic manmade global warming.

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    9. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Actually, given that I am not a climate scientist, I have to rely on the experts for this.

      ie - Trenberth: http://www.atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca/~jclub/journalclub_files/trenberth2010.pdf

      or Murphy http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL042911.shtml

      Lindzen has submitted a revision to his original paper, which has not been published.

      I certainly did not ignore it. It is hard to, given that this study is constantly referred to by so many media outlets and commentators.

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    10. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      It has been published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences.There is a link below. If you only rely on the ABC you would not know because it seems Richard Lindzen is persona non grata there. Here's the new paper.

      On the Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity and Its Implications
      Richard S. Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi
      Asia-Pacific J. Atmos. Sci., 47(4), 377-390, 2011 DOI:10.1007/s13143-011-0023-x
      Abstract:
      We estimate climate sensitivity from observations, using the deseasonalized…

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    11. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      @Marc
      My bad, I hadn't realised that the paper had been republished. Interestingly this has not been reported in The Oz either as far as I can tell. Given that I read that newspaper often, it would have been unlikely not to notice if it had. One has to admit "significant criticisms" is a worry. How did the original survive the peer-review process I do not know.

      It seems to me that The Oz coverage seems to have taken the line that AGW is real, but not that bad and there is little to worry about…

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    12. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Mark Matthews

      The Australian frequently publishes op ed pieces by Bjorn Lomborg, who agrees with the problem but provides a different (and in my opinion more realistic) solution.

      ABC Chairman identified Groupthink as a problem at the ABC in regard to its climate change coverage. How would you recognise it in other organisations?

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    13. Indulis Bernsteins

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Where is your scientific evidence re the degree of warming? Where is the "plenty of evidence"?

      So now you are an expert on the feedbacks/forcings analysis done on the global climate, so good you can disprove the experts?

      In my mind it is simple- experts who work in a field produce a consensus. If you want to disagree, there has to be clear evidence that "undoes" all of the evidence so far, especially if you are working outside your field of knowledge (look up the meaning of "hubris").

      Neither you nor I can contribute to the knowledge in the field with armchair science. But there is a big difference between someone quoting the best evidence and consensus of most scientists (including their refutation of quackery), and someone cherry picking scant/thin lines of evidence to support their view and saying that is enough to "overturn" the science.

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    14. Indulis Bernsteins

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      I think there is a good case for saying that if the ABC was 100% presenting climate change as the climate science stands it would be a needed balance against the majority of commercial press/media coverage which is tainted by deliberate bias preventing "reality balanced" coverage (i.e. a real balanced presentation would have pretty much no coverage of kooks and climate quacks, with the aim of 99% of articles supporting the reality of climate change, as being representative of the real balance of…

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  5. John Chapman

    At large

    Thank you for this article Michael. Very good.

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  6. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist at Australian National University

    Regarding the relation between extreme weather events and climate change:

    1. It is a basic physical process that, as tempratures rise, evaporation and precipitation rise, condensation releases stored thermal energy - increasing the intensity of cyclons and flood events as the oceans warm

    2. That this is actually happening is shown in figure 7 at http://www.countercurrents.org/glikson290511.pdf showing the frequency of cyclons, floods, heat waves, fires and droughts has increased near-3 fold…

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    1. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      Rather than quote a mis-informed non peer reviewed figure from insurer Munich Re, and claim that this is happening, why not use something that has been peer reviewed. Here's a link (below) to a peer reviewed paper by Neumayer and Barthel, 2010, that finds something entirely different:

      "Independently of the method used,we find no significant upward trend in normalized disaster loss.This holds true whether we include all disasters or take out the ones unlikely to be affected by a changing climate…

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    2. Sherry Mayo
      Sherry Mayo is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andrew Glikson

      On the issue of cyclone frequency I think the jury is still out. Climate change has two impacts on cyclones, one is one wind-shear which could make it harder for cyclones to form, the other is on increased temps which correlates with strength. There seems to be scientific support for the idea AGW would make cyclones/hurricanes stronger but not necessarily for the idea that they'd be more frequent.

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    3. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Sherry Mayo

      Sherry, that's correct however Andrew Glikson is incorrectly suggesting, against the peer reviewed evidence that this is already occurring. The peer reviewed literature indicates that cyclone activity is well within historical precedence.

      See for example a paper out in "Geophysical Research Letters" by Dr Ryan Maue of Florida State University titled "Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity", (doi:10.1029/2011GL0477110 - in press).

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  7. Daniel Wilson

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    What a fantastically frank article. THANK YOU. We can make The Age in Melbourne address this black hole, and here is how. It is running a campaign together with OurSay Australia to answer the top 10 most popular questions on Climate Change as voted by the public. Hovering just below the top 10 is a question about public misconceptions of the relevant science. When you register you get 7 votes. Please vote for this question: http://oursay.org/s/e2 and let's set the media agenda together.

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  8. Giora Vinokurov

    Analyst Programmer

    one side of the debate you have 97% of the world’s published climate scientists and the world’s major scientific organisations, and on the other side you have fools - since when majority opinion counts as proof in science? Is climatology exact science or no?

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    1. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Giora Vinokurov

      The current situation is somewhat analogous to the early/mid 20th century when relativity and quantum mechanics arrived on the scene.

      Decades after the new physics had been introduced and broadly accepted, a small number of recalcitrant scientists still did not accept it despite the overwhelming evidence.

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    2. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Are papers still being accepted in the peer reviewed literature that provide credible evidence against the so called "new" physics? If so some examples would be nice. I am not aware of any published recently that question this rock solid area of physics, then you should be more up on this than I am.

      The appearance of numerous peer reviewed articles that go against the so called consensus is a good indication that in regard to some aspects of climate science there is in fact no consensus. This puts the media in a difficult position as to what they should report on. In this respect The Australian has been true to the journalistic creed of balance, while the agenda driven ABC clearly has not.

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    3. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      In contrast to Marc Hendrickx assertion, there are a multitude of papers presenting alternatives to relativity and quantum mechanics each year.

      An obvious example is various modified theories of gravity, such as Modified Newtonian Dynamics or MOND. Some of the papers can be found online at http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-abs_connect?db_key=AST&txt_logic=AND&text=modified+newtonian+dynamics

      The MOND papers are interesting, but are not convincing evidence for relativity being wrong. Indeed, many MOND papers are just exploring the potential of alternate theories rather than claiming relativity is wrong. Similarly, the papers proposing alternates to anthropogenic greenhouse warming (AGW) have yet to produce a convincing case against AGW.

      Those denying anthropogenic greenhouse warming too often claim science is a closed shop but this just isn't the case.

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    4. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      So do you label the authors "quantum deniers" or is this something you just reserve for anyone publishing against Catastrophic anthropogenic greenhouse warming, (CAGW)?

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    5. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc Hendrickx (writer of Australian opinion pieces) is really stretching the limits of credibility. He claims science is effectively a closed shop, but when confronted with contrary evidence resorts to bluster.

      Not all scientists presenting alternate scientific models are "deniers" (be it cosmology or climate science).

      However, there is a small minority of alternate cosmology papers where the term "denial" is appropriate. Readers may wish to compare the situation in cosmology with that in the…

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    6. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael Brown (someone who writes comments on blogs during work time) says I am stretching the limits of credibility, then claims to be in receipt of information from beyond the grave. To quote him " The purveyors of non-cosmological redshifts are often non-astronomers, retired or dead."

      On this basis perhaps you can ask Feynman and Einstein what they think of CAGW.

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    7. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      What an odd comment from Marc Hendrickx.

      He may be surprised to know that an astronomer's working hours are not strict 9-to-5 and (like many academics) most of my working weeks are longer than 40 hours.

      It should be noted that there are genuine non-cosmological redshifts for extreme objects (e.g., light leaving the region close to event horizon) but most redshifts we measure for very distant objects are due to the expansion of the Universe.

      An example of a purveyor of non-cosmological redshifts who died recently is Geoff Burbidge. He made great contributions to astronomy in the mid 20th century, but his work in recent decades on non-cosmological redshifts had almost zero impact on science. Einstein and Feynman are in a different league to someone like Geoff Burbidge.

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    8. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael you say astronomer, but based on what what have said above are you sure its not Astrologer?

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    9. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc Hendrickx's attempted humour and pedantry divert attention from the real argument.

      As discussed above, dissenting opinions are tolerated within science, and are published very frequently.

      However, dissenting opinions are on the receiving end of scorn when they ignore the relevant prior literature and data that could refute their arguments.

      An example of a paper that appears to fall in the latter category is the recent Spencer paper in Remote Sensing (which Marc Hendrickx was championing for discussion by The Conversation). The flaws in this paper and the flaws in the review process that resulted in its publication have led to the resignation of the editor of Remote Sensing. His resignation letter is quite informative and can be found online at http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/3/9/2002/

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    10. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael the end play for this particular paper is yet to run its full course. Andy Dessler has a fairly slim response, in GRL at present, (why not in Remote Sensing)? Let's see what the results say. It may turn out that Wolfgang had nothing to resign over. In which case I guess you'll be eating your words.

      If editors resigned over faulty papers scientific publishing would grind to a halt.

      By the way I believe there may be something on this in The Oz tomorrow.

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  9. Andrew Hack

    IT Project Manager

    The way to get the truth is media pluralism. Eventually, the good arguments should weed out the bad. If you don't like what The Australian is publishing then do not read them. That is democracy; having the choice to pick what you want to read and what you don't.

    Your version, Mr. Ashley, is that media democracy means publishing what you agree with and not publishing what you do not agree with.

    The ABC is anti-democratic because it is publicly funded which means everyone (who pays taxes) contributes irregardless of whether you support their pro-AGW bias.

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    1. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Andrew Hack

      We absolutely should have pluralism but we should also have accuracy. Without accuracy it is not inevitable that the sound arguments will weed out the be bad.

      The Australian's recent article on measurements from tide gauges contained a litany of errors, as discussed in the comments thread at http://theconversation.edu.au/selling-climate-uncertainty-misinformation-and-the-media-2638

      Stories that grossly distort the science (pro or anti-AGW) are doing a great disservice to the public.

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    2. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      A litany of errors is a gross distortion of the facts. These actually actually agreed with what was in the paper in question. Sea level decelerated in the tide gauges reported on. Did they or did they not?

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    3. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      The errors in question go far beyond the decleration in sea level rise measured at a few tidal gauges.

      For a full discussion of the errors in The Australian's article, see the ABC's Media Watch piece (http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3282940.htm) and The Conversation article (http://theconversation.edu.au/sea-levels-continue-to-rise-but-not-uniformly-csiro-2478).

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    4. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      The said decleration in sea level rise was actually measured in ALL the stations reported on in the paper in question, not just a few. Seems you are as guilty of misrepresenting information as you claim The Australian to be.

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    5. Sherry Mayo
      Sherry Mayo is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Both you and the Australian are misrepresenting this paper in insisting that it has something significant to tell us about about *global* sea level rise when even the author of the paper says is does not. It measures only 4 tidal gauges in one part of the world (and one of which, Newcastle, seems to be problematic/dubious).
      If you'r really interested the raw data is charted here:
      http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/watson20yr.jpg
      You'll see the rise is fast at first, them decelerates and then…

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    6. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Sherry Mayo

      Sherry I don't like having words put in my mouth, I said nothing about global sea levels. Get it straight!
      And you claim The Australian misrepresents. Hate to cliche but pot, kettle, black!

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    7. Sherry Mayo
      Sherry Mayo is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      You appeared to defend the Australian's representation of the paper which was to cast it as a great blow to projections of global sea level rise. If however I misunderstood you and you don't in fact agree with the Australian's representation well then I am delighted.

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    8. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Sherry Mayo

      Having re-read the article I'm afraid I cannot see what the fuss is about. It provided a balanced account of some of the current issues wrt sea level rise both local and global. If you look at the detail in Watson's paper it seems there remains considerable controversy about the rates of any future change in sea level.

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    9. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Marc Hendrickx would have more credibility if he always presented the facts without distortion.

      As Sherry Mayo has correctly pointed out, my comment about "a few tidal gauges" obviously referred to the modest number of gauges in the entire Watson study.

      Marc Hendrickx clearly believes that The Australian's choice of Howard Brady to comment on the paper as a "climate change researcher" was valid despite the fact (as noted by Michael Ashley), "Brady is a 70 year-old retiree who has published just seven scientific papers (on Antarctic sediments, not climate), the most recent one in 1983, following which he worked for 17 years in the oil industry".

      If the anti-AGW arguments are strong, then it should be possible to present them without using any distortions or omissions of the facts.

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    10. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      Michael, you take great pleasure in making things up. I certainly think The Oz could have found someone better qualified than Brady to comment, they should also have pushed the CSIRO for comment on Brady's statements. The ABC are guilty of similar transgressions, as I have documented on my blog, on numerous occasions.

      To suggest, as you seem to be doing, that CSIRO's projections of sea level rise are rock solid and beyond question is to misrepresent the science, and ignore the uncertainties involved. That global trends in sea level rise seem to be dropping away from recent highs would also have been worth mentioning and seeking an explanation of in the report, but I guess a newspaper can only do so much.
      http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

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    11. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      Given Marc Hendrickx apparent approval of The Australian's article (based on prior comments) I think my conjecture was perfectly reasonable.

      If one looks further into http://sealevel.colorado.edu/ one finds an article on the recent apparent dip in sea level rise (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-262). The apparent dip is simply the result of the switch from El Nino - La Nina.

      The CSIRO sea level projections do have considerable uncertainties, as can be seen at http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_proj_21st.html. I have never claimed otherwise.

      It is surprising that The Australian did not refer to the CSIRO projections before publishing its piece on the Watson tidal gauge paper. As many have noted (including Marc), The Australian absolutely should have contacted relevant CSIRO experts for comment prior to publication of their article.

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    12. Michael Rynn
      Michael Rynn is a Friend of The Conversation.

      unemployed generalist

      In reply to Andrew Hack

      At least the ABC has a science show on radio that interviews real scientists, about a wide range of subjects, and they are worth a podcast download and listen. So its not that difficult to do real science journalism. If the Australian newspaper had any science sense whatsover, it would take to sub-publishing that sort of material.
      The Australian newpaper and News Limited in general are well known as outright liars on global warming. Is it the truth or is your News Limited? The big scandal is…

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    1. Mark Matthews

      General Manager

      In reply to Andrew Hack

      @Andrew,

      Not everything is a socialist conspiracy

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/aug/24/cloud-formation-study-climate-models?INTCMP=SRCH

      Unless you consider The Guardian to be a right wing rag.

      Oh - and I wouldn't get too excited about the collapse of the AGW theory thanks to research on cosmic rays:

      "However, even with the large enhancements in rate due to ammonia and ions, atmospheric concentrations of ammonia and sulphuric acid are insufficient to account for observed boundary-layer nucleation."

      from the horse's mouth...

      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7361/full/nature10343.html

      Interestingly, a large chunk of The Australian's revenue is from government advertising (8-10M).

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    2. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Andrew Hack

      Andrew Hack's comment shows how the debate is easily distorted.

      The results were not being disclosed by scientists prior to publication in the peer reviewed scientific literature (which is not unusual). The results were recently published in the science journal Nature and the ABC reported the story a few days ago.

      The ABC story is online at http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/08/29/3304715.htm

      The CERN results were also mentioned in the comments thread following http://theconversation.edu.au/selling-climate-uncertainty-misinformation-and-the-media-2638

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    3. Andrew Hack

      IT Project Manager

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      As reported by Marc Hendrickx I see.

      ABC are leagues better than the UK's BBC. Their bias is far more subtle but this does not mean it is nonexistent. Public funding of any media is a bad idea because it leads to state-funded propaganda. The left likes to fund it and so will at the very least acquire a subconscious bias.

      Bias will always be there though as that is the nature of the beast. People always have their own convictions and therefore predispositions. Pluralism is the best answer in my opinion.

      I am pretty damn amazed that the Guardian posted that story.

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    4. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Sherry Mayo

      If you are interested in non peer reviewed articles on the possible effect on cosmic rays on the climate suggest also a look at the book The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change by Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark.

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    5. Michael J. I. Brown

      ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

      In reply to Marc Hendrickx

      I suspect there are better references than this book. Calder and Svensmark very much sit on one side of the debate.

      The Nature commentary "Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays" by Geoff Brumfiel is very useful, and while it is behind the Nature paywall, I am sure copies of it are online.

      The IPCC has also commented on the available evidence for a link between cosmic rays and climate (circa 2007). There is no consistent evidence for a link between cosmic rays and climate, with different researchers getting different results for different periods of time. See http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch2s2-7-1-3.html

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    6. Nick Kermode

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Andrew Hack

      "As reported by Marc Hendrickx I see."

      No Andrew, as reported by Carl Holm, ABC.

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    7. Marc Hendrickx

      Geologist

      In reply to Michael J. I. Brown

      And Real climate and the IPCC sit on the other side. If you want the full picture - read widely.

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  10. Marc Sassella

    Freelance writer

    'The ABC is anti-democratic because it is publicly funded.'

    The logic of Mr Hack's comment above is head-spinningly perverse. I know what he's trying to say- that you don't have to buy The Australian, but you do have to contribute to the cost of the ABC - but he's completely lost himself in his own self-delusion. By this argument the whole of the government sector is anti-democratic.

    The fact is that democracy depends upon the public being able to make judgments on issues based upon free and fair reporting. The press, no matter what the views might be of it's owners or managers, has a responsibility to deliver this. The Australian has demonstrably failed this test, and has therefore lost the confidence of many Australians. It may yet lose it's privilege to continue to be published, as has one of it's stablemates.

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    1. Andrew Hack

      IT Project Manager

      In reply to Marc Sassella

      There are always (at least) two sides to every argument Marc. What exactly constitutes free and fair reporting? The one that supports only your view?

      I believe that government should be strictly limited to the job of protecting the nation, upholding the law and protecting people and private property.

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  11. James Sexton

    Network administrator

    Professor, really? You are quoting 97%? Do you know where that number came from and how many people were polled to get that number? I'd suggest you research it a bit further before rattling that percentage as if it were meaningful.

    It came from the Doran survey. Read up on it please. 75 is the raw number that represents the 97%.

    "Of these specialists, 96.2%
    (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1
    and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question
    2."

    http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf

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