Climate misinformation thrives in Australian media. The Australian Press Council has a stake in this. Along with other regulators and authorities, the Press Council fails to understand that the fatal climate crisis caused by an ongoing build-up in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is an unprecedented, wicked economic and political issue of epic proportions which calls for a mediawise state of emergency. An unprecedented crisis calls for unprecedented measures and intervention, for reviewing customary procedures, and above all: a responsibility to educate and guide with a focus on solutions to the crisis.
Over the first weeks of December, the UN Climate Talks in Paris gave the topic of climate change an unusual high level of coverage in mainstream media. But just one week later, everything was back to “normal”. Thursday the 17th of December 2015, for instance, was yet another disgraceful day in Australian journalism, helping the Australians with finding incorrect reasons and more pathetic excuses not to act on climate change.
Most of the news reports on tv and radio in the last two weeks of 2015 has been about extreme weather events, both in and outside of Australia: floodings, hurricanes, bush fires. Damages, deaths. It is happening all around the planet. Bad weather in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Texas and southern USA, United Kingdom, and Denmark, while South Africa, Ethiopia and California are hit by the worst droughts in a generation. In Ethiopia, the United Nations estimates that 12 million people are at risk of dying from starvation.
The “weather dramas” fill up news bulletins during the Christmas week. No one wants to call them the “climate change dramas”. El Nino is often being mentioned as ‘the explanation’, and the World Meteorological Organisation is quoted as saying that El Nino is the ‘strongest in more than 15 years’. But no media outlet in Australia is inclined to talk about the elephant in the room – the underlying reason, our greenhouse gas emissions. There is no mention of the long-term perspectives, of the anticipated increase of frequency and intensity of weather chaos. Not a single word about what the future holds for us unless we mobilise and change our projected high carbon emissions course. And most importantly: complete silence about what we can and need to do about all this climate mess.
How can it be that the global warming and climate change action is being silenced out in mainstream media at a time when it really is the opposite that should be happening? Why does no one see themselves fit to ‘connect the weather-dots’ and explain what science has taught us about the relationship between our inadequate climate change policies and extreme weather events?
One obvious reason is the lack of leadership from our governments and official media bodies such as the Press Council. Another reason is the climate misinformation which thrives in Australian media.
After Australia’s official signing of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change, no national authority can claim not to have heard what is going on with the climate. Their silence and lack of intervention on the matter may be due to the complexity of the issue – they simply may be still contemplating what their reaction and changes of procedures should be – or, could it be due to a much more wicked problem? Could it be because they themselves have members who are part of this network of influencial media personalities and politicians who deliberately spread misinformation about climate change in order to keep the wheels of the fossil fuel industry turning for as long as possible?
Under the radar of common news criteria
Mainstream media has not yet been prepared or equipped with the tools to deal with an unprecedented crisis which is as wicked and epic as climate change. There has never before been a need to connect weather catastrophes with scientific explanations and then further connect this with solution-focused and engaging educational service.
A basic problem with climate change is that it doesn’t fit the news criteria journalists are trained to work with. Climate change is a long term trend, not something that causes ‘breaking news’. As such, climate change doesn’t normally show up on the radar as something a news journalist should be reporting on.
But really, when you take a look at the current weather incidents, isn’t that exactly what climate change is doing right now: causing breaking news all over the planet?
Here are just some examples of the recent headlines from around the world at a time when we have raised the planets average temperature with just 1°C above pre-industrial levels:
» ABC News – 27 December 2015:
More than 100,000 evacuated after flooding in South America
» ABC News – 27 December 2015:
US storms: Eight killed in Texas as tornadoes continue to lash US’s south, reports say
» The Guardian – 27 December 2015:
Wye River and Separation Creek residents return to see bushfire damage
“Those evacuated on Christmas Day allowed back into their towns for the first time since a bushfire razed 116 homes on the Victorian south coast”
» The Guardian – 27 December 2015:
Man missing in floodwaters following Daly River evacuation in Northern Territory
» The Guardian – 26 December 2015:
High winds and heavy rain lash UK and Ireland again
Authorities warn of difficult conditions in many areas only days after Christmas Eve storm
» The Guardian – 26 December 2015:
Floods of biblical proportions leave cities, towns and villages under water
» New York Times – 25 December 2015:
Alabama Declares State of Emergency as Flooding From Storms Continues
Such extreme weather events should be giving every news station a good and current reason to call up a meteorologist or invite a climate expert in the studio for a deeper chat about what we should think about all this and provide some solid reflection on and advice to what it is we all need to do now.
But this doesn’t seem to be happening, at least not in Australia, even though what the world needs after the Paris Agreement is to get to work, and to work together, to reduce its emissions. As quickly as possible.
With a few exceptions, mainstream media is not helping here – nor is the Australian Press Council.
The need for mobilisation
The essence of the Paris Agreement is that this needs to change now. The climate crisis is unprecedented in scale and nature, and until we begin to grasp the mechanisms at work, we will not see that level of engagement and confidence in regards to investments which is urgently needed.
To quote the American Climate Mobilization movement:
“Climate change is causing immense human suffering and damage to the natural world. It threatens the collapse of civilisation within this century. Confronting this crisis is the great moral imperative of our time.”
“Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet. The climate is nearing tipping points… There is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions.”
Dr. James E. Hansen, Climate Scientist, Columbia University
“Saving civilization will take a massive mobilization, and at wartime speed. The closest analogy is the belated U.S. mobilization during World War II.”
Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute President and former USDA global issues specialist
New York Times reported that global greenhouse gas emissions must end by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C warming target. Similarly, a group of scientists found that developed countries such as Australia must eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the next 5-10 years for a chance of meeting that 1.5°C target.
As Bill McKibben said, “Physics doesn’t negotiate.” Yet industry executives and their allies in the parliaments are still trying to negotiate with the physics. Everyone seems to assume we have at least three to four decades or more to reach zero emissions. But the truth is that we have years, not decades, to get to zero emissions – and the only way to drive change that quickly is through a “World War 2-scale” mobilisation.
Government paralysed by industry ties
When Malcolm Turnbull launched the BZE stationary energy report in Sydney in 2010, he said that we had zero carbon budget remaining:
So how come Turnbull is not calling for action that stands a chance of limiting global warming to non-catastrophic levels? He keeps quiet about it for political reasons. His party has strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, and he is fully aware that is likely to lose his jobs if he suddenly were to suggest major policy changes in this area.
The sad truth about the world’s climate inaction is that in Australia as well as everywhere else in the world, the climate crisis is not only being ignored because it falls under the radar of the common news criteria which journalists are being trained to use, but because the fossil energy industry, one of the richest industries in the world, has a very specific vested interest in spreading doubt and confusion as to whether climate change is even happening: it delays any decision making towards shutting the polluting industry down.
Public opinion influenced by misinformation
In Australia, the public debate around climate change remains hazy and confrontational. What is clear, however, is that climate misinformation and lies about the data and science of global warming serve only one general purpose: they influence public opinion which again influences political decision making at all levels which all together creates a delay of the inevitable transition away from using fossil fuels. If we had not found ourselves debating this issue, we would have started using clean, renewable energy sources such solar and wind decades ago.
While we keep the discussions and doubt rolling, we also keep polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses. Currently 40 billion tonnes of carbon every year, and rising.
The UN Climate Summit in Paris outlined that the world now puts its foot down and says ‘stop’ to the fossil addiction. Governments of 195 countries have all agreed to put an end to the fossil fuel era. But they have not outlined exactly how and with which policies they are going to make this happen. And those suggested by governments up til now have proved to be insufficient.
A such, the Paris Agreement underlined that very much still remains up to us, the citizens and the city entities. We need to take action ourselves at domestic level with securing our home’s energy efficiency and renewable electricity generation, we need to divert and divest away from the dirty fuels where we can, and we need to keep putting pressure on our elected leaders to legislate and guide us, to push for increased investments in innovation and development of low carbon technologies – and entirely new strategies for for instance the transport and agriculture sectors.
What is also very clear is that if we are to make this happen, we need the media to educate us and to connect the dots for us. We need the journalists to get on board. This is as crucial as it currently appears to be unlikely, if not impossible.
The ‘dots’ remain unconnected
To further illustrate what the problem looks like, here is an example of what was reported in the Australian media as we entered the last week before Christmas 2015:
» ABC – 19 December 2015:
SA heatwave: Adelaide breaks December record while extreme fire danger warning remains in place
Unprecedented heat. Front cover stories about heat and bush fires. No one in mainstream Australian media managed – or bothered – to connect the dots between this heat wave and what is causing it, and further to what is wrong with the government’s fossil fuel subsidies and coal export expansions, or to the fact that deadly heat waves currently sweep not just Australia but the entire planet.
Extreme heat is not just hitting Australians, it is having deadly consequences across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
In Egypt in August, 21 people died and more than 60 others were hospitalised due to unusually hot and humid weather. The humidity is particularly dangerous for at-risk groups like the elderly. In Japan, almost 6,000 elderly people suffered from heat stroke, as Tokyo experienced its longest-ever streak of temperatures over 35°C degrees. Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have all set new heat records in the summer of 2015, Germany and Poland were particularly battered. 2015 is expected to surpass 2014 as the hottest year in recorded history.
» Al Jazeera – 11 August 2015:
Temperatures soar in deadly Egypt heatwave
» Think Progress – 10 August 2015:
Extreme Heat Leads To Deaths, Protests In The Middle East
Climate Nexus wrote: 2015: Earth’s second consecutive record hot year signals alarming warming trend
A record-hot Christmas season can be considered a fitting end to 2015, a year that will go down as the hottest on record, and will lead into a year that’s already predicted to be even hotter. Though temperatures were propelled in part by a strong El Niño, humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change played the largest role in increased temperatures-roughly 90 percent, compared to El Niño’s 10 percent.
Even though final analysis is still forthcoming, it is 99.999% likely that 2015 is the hottest year ever recorded across the globe, thanks primarily to human-caused global warming. This year is not only the hottest on record; it is part of a string of recent heat records. The last three decades have been the hottest on record, showing a long term trend of warming. Fourteen of the fifteen hottest years have been since 2000, with the only outlier being 1998, which experienced a large El Niño.
Climate Nexus has produced a video recapping 2015’s extreme weather, and a backgrounder on the climatic forces behind 2015’s record heat.
Here are the top lines:
• October 2015 was the first month to be more than a full degree Celsius warmer than the average, followed by November, which was the second month on record to be a full degree warmer than average.
• 2015 will likely be the first year which averages more than a full degree Celsius over the 1850-1900 average temperature,according to the UK Met Office. This means we are already halfway to the internationally agreed-upon 2° Celsius limit for warming.
• 2015’s record heat is boosted by an intense El Niño. Research shows that as the world has warmed, El Niños have become more variable and intense, and extreme El Niños will be more frequent as temperatures climb.
So how does the Australian journalists report on this situation, considering it is just one week ago the whole world was talking about climate because of the UN Summit in Paris?
As another example, here is a snapshot of media reporting on Thursday 17th of December 2015. “Just another day” in the Australian media life.
Take a look at the national paper The Australian. What’s that? It carries a front cover story about tornado in Sydney: ‘Torn to pieces: the day a tornado hit home’, says the headline. “This storm was one in a million,” says a meteorologist. “It was crazy,” says an interviewee. The newspaper calls it a “disaster zone”. The story continues on page 7, covering a full page.
Aha, important story! Here we have it – this was what those people were all talking about in Paris, wasn’t it? Yet another good reason to mention why we all – high and low, black and white – need to mobilise and take concrete action on climate change!
No-no-no! Hold a minute! The Australian doesn’t say a single word about that, though this is only one week ago the Paris UN Summit ended. It uses almost two full newspaper pages of writing about the tornado that hit Sydney, but the newspaper’s journalists and editors could not find room to even mention what climate change has a lot to do with this type of extreme ‘one-in-a-million’ weather events, leave alone to explain to its readers why we will keep seeing more of those events, and that it happens elsewhere on the globe as well, because our carbon emissions keep flooding the atmosphere, and even more importantly, they could find no room to point out which kind of cost – and destruction – this carbon pollution is going to add for individuals, for businesses and for sociey – and worst of all, not a single suggestion to what could be done, and what each of us can do, to change all of this.
Page 17 and 18 in the newspaper on that same day bring a story entitled, ‘BHP builds but at the coalface more pain awaits’. It is a report from the opening of a new coal terminal which raises the capacity of the BHP Billiton Hay Point Terminal from 44 million tonnes a year to 55 million. Cost: $14 billion. Key points:
• The terminal will be ‘cyclone proof’ to prevent interruption of supply
• Queensland Premier Palaszczuk “pleased to acknowledge the benefits of large infrastructure investments and their contribution to the state economy”
• Coal chief Mike Henry is looking at ways to push production higher
• The reporter who wrote this article travelled as a guest of the coal company
Halleluja! What burning of coal means in terms of air pollution, the new UN Climate Agreement or the long term consequences is not mentioned with a single word. Not even the irony that the coal company needs to spend extra money to ‘cyclone proof’ the terminal because of the destruction of the climate which it is part of creating is given any consideration at all.
Everyone is clapping their hands and in denial about global warming, even the Queensland Premier who you would think should know better. She, as well as the reporter, was obviously blinded by the short-sighted profits and “generousity” of the coal company.
Meanwhile, on the same day, in two other papers:
The Age has a front cover story which reads: ‘Burn notice’. Victoria is facing severe fire danger. “It will be an increased fire season this year,” we are told.
Herald Sun has an article with the headline ‘Heat is on for retail’:
• “Weather to hit trade”
• “Employers need to be vigilant in ensuring workers are able to cope with the conditions”
• “Additional rest breaks and providing cool drinking water may also help”
• “Strenuous tasks should be performed during the cooler parts of the day – or cut the time spent on those tasks”
What is wrong?
This was one week after the UN Climate Summit – and not a single word about climate change in these different newspaper reports, or along with them.
Which makes me ask: What is wrong with you newspaper people? After all that was said and written about the climate talks in Paris, why hasn’t it sunk in yet? Don’t you understand which kind of responsibility you have – that the way you report about these matters is shaping public opinion and politics in the entire nation?
I’m sure you actually do. So then why can’t you – or why won’t you – begin to connect the dots for your readers?
A leading fossil advocate
The famous/reputed Australian columnist Andrew Bolt has been repeating misinformation about climate change and renewables over and over again in several national newspapers as well as in his tv-show on the national Channel 10. For instance, he keeps repeating that there has been no atmospheric warming registered over the last 18 years, even though this has nothing to with the current status of the gradual background warming of the planet also known as global warming.
It didn’t take Waleed Aly from the tv-show The Project on Channel 10 many seconds to show how misleading – actually criminally misleading – Bolt’s claim is. ‘Criminally’ when considering that we live in a time when action on climate change – and clarity around the need for it – has become a matter of life and death in our society. People are being killed from these extreme weather events, and the political inaction on carbon emissions is very directly linked to the way misinformation is being promoted in the media.
In a four-minute video segment, Waleed talks about fossil fuel subsidies and why they have to go, he talks about the Australian government’s diesel rebate and how the federal government is pouring billions of tax payers money into subsidising the fossil fuel industry. He also explains that this is one of the reasons why Australian climate policies now are ranked no 57 on a list of the world’s 58 major emitters of carbon dioxide. And then, at the end of the segment, he rounds off with a brief but sharp message to all the “Andrew Bolts” of Australia, who keep spreading the misleading claim that “there has been no warming now for 18 years”.
» Waleed Aly Rips Into Andrew Bolt; Calls For Australia To Quit Embarrassing Itself On Climate Change
Waleed’s segment was posted as a video on Facebook, entitled ‘Climate Fail’, and it was quickly seen more than 200,000 times, shared 3,700 times, and given over 3,000 likes.
Fossil advocates at editorial level
Right after the Paris Climate Summit had ended and a global climate deal was done, Andrew Bolt’s main outlet, the Herald Sun, as well as the Australian Financial Review, came clean: Both were saying directly in its editorials and in its headlines that they believe “abandoning fossil fuels” is equal to “committing economic suicide”. The newspapers openly revealed to which extent their staff and executives are defending and protecting the viewpoints of the fossil fuel industry.
The Australian Financial Review’s top headline on its front cover on 14 December 2015 expressed exactly how most of the coal-gas-oil sector must have felt after seeing those happy, rejoycing politicians, UN leaders and journalists announce the global deal in Paris: ‘Pressure on fossil fuels’, the newspaper wrote, clearly not happy with the result.
On the same day, 14 December 2015, in an article entitled ‘Paris conference: Panic over global warming collided with reality’, Christopher Booker indirectly alleged that it is only those greenies in Paris who think that fossil fuels pollute the air when he wrote: “We must all stop using those “polluting” fossil fuels which still provide 86 per cent of global energy.” Note that he puts ‘polluting’ in quotation mark – as if he is saying that as far as he is concerned, fossil fuels do not pollute.
On 15 December 2015, the Herald Sun wrote in its editorial:
“It is the clearest of signals to business and industry to move to a low-carbon world, but the collapse of economies and industry in doing so is as great a threat as global warming.”
If you take a second look at that sentence, then what exactly is being expressed here? Mind you, this is a Herald Sun editor speaking. Not just some random op-ed bloke stating an opinion.
This sentence in itself reveals exactly how warped and self-centered a world-view not only the CEOs of the coal-gas-oil industry, but also its influencial allies in the media have: they consider the collapse of their own polluting industry as devastating an issue as the phenomena of global warming – a phenomena which according to some scientists threatens to reduce humanity from nine billion to one billion already within this century, and which is likely to turn even worse in the following centuries. Whereas the collapse of the fossil fuel industry will save seven million people a year from dying of the air pollution.
What is wrong with you newspaper people? Why is it so hard for you to face that the fossil fuel industry is going to collapse now, and that it will become an abrupt and unpleasant experience within the industry unless you begin preparing for and embracing this inevitable change? How come you can see that this is a repeat of what happened to the CD music industry – and to Kodak, and all the other photo film manufacturers?
When slavery was banned, the slave traders weren’t happy either. Luckily for the slaves, though, there were people with conscience and moral who got the job done anyway. CFC gasses were banned because they harm the ozone layer. As the climate trouble sets in, and a new breed of politicians have taken over, a ban on fossil fuels could come sooner than anyone expected. Or like in Canada, where climate change warning stickers at gas stations is now a reality.
Why is it so difficult for trained media people, who work professionally with communicating complicated data and information, to connect the dots when it comes to climate change and the collective benefits we will see from a fast and citizen-driven transition to a zero carbon world?
Blaming of Murdoch
I have often heard Australians saying that “Rupert Murdoch is to blame” – the former director of News Corp which owns newspapers such as the Herald Sun. Rupert Murdoch is known to have strong ties to the Australian fossil fuel industry.
But hey, the Australian Financial Review is published by Fairfax Media, which also publishes the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne – two newspapers that made commitments in June 2015 to report truthfully and extensively on the issues of climate change.
Under the headline ‘Climate for change: our action plan to save the future’ Sydney Morning Herald wrote on 22 June 2015: “Fine intentions will mean nothing if Australia does not do more. That, ultimately, is up to us all. We must get that message through to our leaders.” The Age announced a similar shift in its reporting style, and on 21 June 2015 published an op-ed by Ian Dunlop with the headline,
‘The Australian elites have fundamentally failed us on climate change’.
So, in short, I don’t really buy into the common Murdoch-conspiracy explanation. What I believe is happening here has more to do with cynical calculations around what it is that will sell a newspaper, mixed with a fair bit of ignorance and confusion.
So who will help the Australians connect the dots, when only two newspapers in the Australian media landscape put their hand up and say they will?
Where is the Press Council?
Now, Australia has a press council. The Australian Press Council – an authority which looks after that journalists and editors stick to the rules of the game.
Considering the results of the Paris Agreement, the legally binding nature of its overall framework, and the serious implication this whole mess has for the Australian population and its economy in the years to come, you would think it be reasonable for an authority such as the Australian Press Council to step in here showing some leadership by telling a few misguided editors and columnists that relevant facts about global warming and climate change should not be misrepresented.
In particular since the government and Malcolm Turnbull are not doing anything about all this mess, more weight is put on the shoulders of various responsible authorities and bodies such as the Australian Press Council. How is the council helping the Australian media world with understanding what is going on?
The Press Council usually deals with cases of insult and unfair treatment, and it has so far declined to enter the ‘climate debate’ or even to take a stand as to whether climate change is real or not.
When radio presenter Alan Jones spread misinformation about the IPCC, the Press Council did give him a warning and embarrassed him in public, though, by ordering him to apologise for his mistake. This was based on the Council’s General Principle 6 which states that, “Relevant facts should not be misrepresented”.
However, Andrew Bolt has repeatedly published misinformation, inaccuracies and lies about climate change and global warming, and people have been reporting him to Press Council several times, but in vain.
Even if I were to state that Andrew Bolt is committing a serious offense which according to all acknowledged climate science will prove to be harmful to the Australian society and as such threatens my own children’s safety and wellbeing for the rest of their lives… nope, the Press Council is not going to stand up for me, because he hasn’t offended me directly or personally. So according to ‘business-as-usual’ procedures of the Press Council, this means that Mr Bolt is free to continue with his harmful anti-climate-action-advocating activity as much and as long as he pleases.
And consequently, Mr Bolt’s manipulation with data and false claims can be seen quoted in other media and blogs nationwide. He has an influence on the general public opinion, which again influences politicians and the choices they make – or hesitate or refrain from making.
Without Bolt’s and other climate-denialists’ success in polarising the Australian public opinion, the kind of disgraceful mismanagement and inadequancy policies we currently see at federal level would never have been possible.
Every three months or so, Bolt comes out with an opinion piece which looks almost like a copy of his previous one. He repeats the same false arguments over and over again. It is his deliberate strategy to confuse and manipulate Australian decision makers in order to delay the transitioning the Australian society to a low-carbon economy.
What is shocking is that he gets away with doing this. As far as I know, his latest writings on climate change and global warming have not been challenged by any community leader, media person or public authority. And they have not been reported to Press Council.
I would hereby like to challenge Mr Bolt to prove to the Australian public that he is not in one way or another being paid by stakeholders in the fossil fuel industry to actively deceive the newspaper’s readers by writing these kind of absurd claims which he labels as ‘facts’.
Everyone is entitled to have their opinions and to publish them. Sure. But Bolt’s manipulation of scientists’ quotes and misguided interpretation of data, as shown by Waleed Aly, is not just a debate around an issue which will then eventually be resolved. It is a much more serious matter because of the special problem with global warming: that the 40 billion tonnes of carbon we keep emitting every year can be compared with a ticking time bomb which threatens life on Earth as we know it.
With the blessing of Mr Bolt and the entire industry of lobbyists, fake scientists and corrupted politicians who all profit from the fossil fuel industry, billions of tonnes of fossil fuels keep getting burned every year, emitting billions of tonnes of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in more and more absorption of heat energy and increasing global temperatures.
A threat to national security
The Australian Press Council needs to look much more thoroughly into this matter. They will find that it is well established in science that 1) global warming and extreme weather events caused by our air pollution from burning fossil fuels represent a threat to national security, economy and health – and 2) the longer we hesitate with transitioning to a low-carbon economy, the greater the risk.
What the Australian Press Council as well as the entire court system in Australia so far has failed to understand or to recognise is that global warming is an unprecedented kind of threat to humanity because of its slowly evolving nature where the results of decisions made today won’t be felt until decades – even generations – later.
For this reason, when reporting on issues around global warming and climate change, it is so much more crucial that relevant facts are not to be misrepresented. The Press Council will probably argue that they do not want to engage with this subject because it could have political implications. But don’t they realise that their inaction on correcting the misinformation also has direct political implications just as well?
Clearly, in a just and fair society it would be the task of an authority such as the Australian Press Council to protect and defend those scientific facts and correcting those misrepresentations of facts which are currently being published in order to confuse the Australians and to delay infrastructural change in the Australian society.
It is time for the Press Council to take a bold stand in the defence of scientific climate change facts that – more importantly than any other facts – are not to be misrepresented.
The Press Council received a complaint about Mr Bolt in February 2012 – after he had published a piece entitled ‘Time that climate alarmists fessed up’ in the Herald Sun on 1 February 2012. (The same article also appeared in Mr Bolt’s blog on the Herald Sun website under the heading, ‘Open your eyes. Where’s that warming?’)
The Press Council then concluded that Mr Bolt was clearly entitled to express his own opinion about Met Office data but in doing so he needed to avoid conveying a misleading interpretation of the Met Office’s own views on its data.
The Council emphasised that its adjudication “neither endorsed nor rejected any particular theories or predictions about global warming and related issues.”
What the Press Council failed to recognise at the time was that in respect to climate change, the press council is entering completely unchartered territory. What is different in particular is the time factor – the ticking bomb threat. Humanity has never before been confronted with a threat of this nature, currently almost invisible but with catastrophic consequences down the track.
It is for that same reason that we stand in a critical situation in history, with civilisation as we know at stake, and with the risk that our decisions will create a devastating future for our own children or grandchildren.
If Australia was threatened by an invasive foreign power, Press Council would rule accordingly in a case where propaganda about this foreign power was being distributed widely in the Australian media. It has come to a point where in order to prevent the deadly danger of global warming, also the Press Council must act accordingly, by recognising and acknowledging that the threatening nature of climate change is unchartered territory for decision makers in media as well as law makers, judges and authorities. Which means you need to rethink your responsibility and your judgements.
Climate change and global warming are not topics which can be dealt with in the same manner as any of our other day-to-day issues and debates in public media. The special and very dangerous circumstances that surround the issues of climate change must be taken into consideration.
Facts according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO: Australia’s mean surface air temperature has warmed by 0.9°C since 1910. Sea-surface temperatures in the Australian region have warmed by 0.9°C since 1900.
“No rise in atmospheric temperature for 18 years”
On 4 November 2015, Andrew Bolt published a column entitled ‘CSIRO survey shows more Aussies are cool on warming’ in Herald Sun. The same piece was published in Daily Telegraph on 5 November 2015.
He published a similar piece in July 2015, entitled ‘Labor leaker has brains to expose insanity of Bill Shorten’s new carbon tax plans’, where he for instance wrote:
“But consider these plain facts. (…)
Fact: Global warming has paused or stopped, with no real rise in atmospheric temperature for some 18 years, according to authoritative satellite data from both the Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama at Huntsville. (…)
Fact: A warmer planet could be healthier. As The Lancet recently reported, 6.5 per cent of deaths in Australia are caused by cold weather, but only 0.5 per cent from hot.
Fact: The Brisbane and Sydney dams that former chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery warned could be emptied by global warming by 2010 are today 98 per cent and 92 per cent full respectively. Why trust anything else these guys claim?
Fact: Researchers at Northumbria University last week predicted that by 2030 we’d suffer not from global warming but a mini ice age, thanks to a fall in solar activity.”
In his writings, Mr Bolt repeatedly makes the claim that “warming actually halted or dramatically slowed nearly two decades ago”, while he refers to some atmospheric measurements. Graphs from the World Meteorological Organisation show that, yes, there are large variations in the atmospheric temperature, but also a very clear overall trend in line with carbon dioxide emissions.
Recent studies of deep ocean temperatures have shown that the so-called ‘pause’, which Mr Bolt keeps referring to, is not a reduction in global warming, but simply a short-term fluctuation where the increased trapped heat is stored in the deep oceans which move water around the world relatively slowly compared with the atmosphere, which circulates quickly and which has much less heat capacity than the oceans.
What matters is that in spite of these fluctuations which Andrew Bolt keeps pointing at, the yearly temperature records continue to be broken.
Waleed Aly explained this by simply contacting that NASA scientist who is responsible for the graph which Mr Bolt wrongly keeps referring to – wrongly, because it can’t be seen in isolation, it needs to be seen together will all the other temperature graphs. The NASA scientist explains this in the video clip, which should be an embarrassment for Mr Bolt, in particular as it went on air on the same tv-channel on which he hosts his own show.
The World Meteorological Organisation’s preliminary estimate, based on data from January to October 2015, shows that the global average surface temperature for this year so far is around 0.73°C above the 1961-1990 average of 14°C, and approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial 1880-1899 period.
The global average sea-surface temperature, which set a record last year, is likely to equal or surpass that record in 2015.
By the end of September this year, 2011-15 was the world’s warmest five-year period on record, at about 0.57°C above the 1961-90 average. It was the warmest five years recorded for Asia, Europe, South America and Oceania, and for North America.
» Read more about global temperatures on www.cmar.csiro.au
» Read more about Andrew Bolt’s misrepresentations
Understand where climate skepticism comes from
It is interesting to notice how fossils in abundance seem to cultivate climate denial. Those countries with lots of oil, gas or coal in the ground also have the weakest climate policies and the most notorious climate skeptic campaigners.
In Australia, the state of Queensland is the country’s biggest exporter of coal. Queensland is also a state where the government – which means the taxpayers – reportedly saw itself fit to stump up $500 for a framed and personally signed tennis racquet as gift for Indian mining billionaire GVK Reddy. Which in itself is an insignificant amount, but which is a symbol of how democracy in a fossil fuel rich state becomes flawed and corrupted – “part of a systemic web of access and influence for fossil fuel companies”, according to a report by The Australia Institute which was published in October 2015.
» Desmogblog – 7 October 2015:
Report: How Coal and Gas Industry Get Their Way In Fossil Fuel Rich Queensland
Graham Readfearn writes about the relationship between fossil fuel companies and governments and political parties, their interactions and their influence.
Senator Matthew Canavan lives in Queensland. He recently shared his distorted views on climate science with The Australian’s readers:
“Every time there is a big cyclone a finger is soon pointed to the modern witch of carbon dioxide emissions. This continues despite there being no evidence that extreme weather events have increased because of global warming.”
“In just the past 18 years we have experienced one-third of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution, but temperatures have not increased as expected.”
Matthew Canavan, a Nationals senator for Queensland
That suspicion of corruption feeds both ways. In this 25-minute youtube-video Stefan Molyneux explains why he thinks government-sponsored climate science is corrupt and that there are good reasons to be skeptical about the findings of these scientists:
Why I Changed My Mind on Climate Change
“We don’t need to go and get a PhD in climate science in order to figure out what’s going on,” Stefan Molyneux says. As senator Matthew Canavan shows us in his piece in The Australian, this attitude goes all the way into the parliamentarian chambers.
In absolute denial and disregard of the Paris Agreement, it is this kind of mistrust and misinformation about the science that enables the Australian government to pull through one coal-expansion decision after the other, while the Australian people chooses to be looking the other way – even while draughts, tornados, bush fires and heat waves torment the Australians – all at the taxpayers’ expense.
“They consider abandoning fossil fuels, the world’s cheapest, most efficient and wealth-creating power source…”
“Climate change is not about credible scientific evidence. It has its roots in Marxism…”
“Western capitalist societies have given up on rational thinking. They embrace junk science and junk economies and adopt wealth-destroying post-modern pseudo-economics…”
Maurice Newman, former Chair of the ABC and former member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council – in The Australian on 28 December 2015
Julie Bishop statement on coal made at COP21 forum on Sustainability. Photo: courtesy of John Englart
“Why in Victoria do we still have new taxpayer-supported coal projects that aim to dig up, process and export the world’s dirtiest and most polluting fuel? The coal industry in Victoria has been talking about digging up 50 to 70 million tonnes of brown coal each year for export.”
Mark Wakeham, CEO, Environment Victoria, in a newsletter on 17 December 2015
“So it turns out you can tell a lot about the favourite arguments of climate science denial groups from the place where they get their cash.”
» Readfearn.com – 11 Januay 2016:
Remarkable chart shows how “carbon dioxide is good” if you take cash from Exxon or the Kochs
Plea to media and politicians
Under the headline, ‘The climate crisis calls for mediawise state of emergency’ three Danish writers published an opinion piece on 16 November 2015 in the Danish newspaper Information where they argued that climate change requires a reform of the classical news criteria, and that the media should receive generous funding from government to enable the newspapers and tv stations to continuously give top priority coverage of the climate change related issues.
“Overall, Denmark and the rest of the world is experiencing a serious crisis, and we are our own worst enemy. It is deeply paradoxical that the climate crisis does not fill our daily lives. But as the American environmental activist Bill McKibben has noted, it is very difficult to build a popular movement against itself.
However, it is not the same as that it is impossible. In this context, the media could and should be a beacon. With great influence comes, as we know, great responsibility, and the influence of media is huge. It has the ability to be agenda-setting. By focusing on some issues and leaving others behind, media plays a huge role in shaping the reality that we all live in.
But up til now, most media has demonstrated irresponsibility of epic proportions. They have done so by not maintaining a sharp focus on how our current emissions of greenhouse gases, colossal overspending, industrial growth ideology and soaring population growth can lead to an ecological and social collapse with disastrous consequences for humanity.”
The three authors identify that the classical journalistic news criteria – timeliness, significance, conflict, sensation and identification – isn’t leveraged to the extreme and highly unusual situation we are in. They write:
“Conflict and identification is apparently difficult for journalists to link to global warming, although it shouldn’t be that way; think of the hundreds of millions of climate refugees that the UN has warned of will become a result of climate change; think of the vicious battles for resources, especially food and water, that can become the consequence of it all. The problem with the news criterion timeliness is that as climate change is taking place all the time, it is not seen as a separate, ‘current’ incident.
The world as we know it could collapse and draw millions or billions of people and animals in the abyss. This is a story that obviously would fall under the sensation criterion. But it will not continue to be sensational. And significance in itself is a boring news criterion, although there really is nothing that is more important than the global climate crisis.
Some editors would argue that a constant top priority of climate change coverage will cost readers, viewers and listeners. Therefore, they say, they cannot afford it. The answer is that they must afford it. Unconditionally.”
Gregers Andersen, Jens-André P. Herbener and Søren Sofus Wichmann call for the launch of a massive awareness campaign in mainstream media on the multifaceted consequences of climate change. “This is as a condition for action,” they state, while voicing this plea to politicians:
“A) Make focus on climate and environment – the very basis for everyone’s livelihood – an obligation for our public broadcasters.
B) Just as long as it is needed, allocate much more funding to media in general, so that publishers and broadcasters have the means to create maximum awareness of the global climate crisis.”
News criteria to be changed
The news criteria used by media workers should fit to reality and not vice versa. Hence, when reality changes drastically, as is the case with climate change, the news criteria will also have to be changed. The three Danish writers urge the media to do the following:
“1) Create large and independent climate newsrooms to put climate and environment at the top of the public agenda.
2) Think climate and environment in all relevant subject areas. When, for example, politicians praise unlimited economic growth and population growth just like religious fanatics praise their god, they must be asked about the ecological consequences.
3) Make a special effort to promote the literally vital conversation about how the transition to a sustainable society can take place. Produce tv and radio programs that make us wiser, and debates that engage.
4) Hold climate deniers away from your pages and airwaves. When Holocaust is discussed, you don’t have to invite a Holocaust denier in the studio to “balance” the debate. Keep in mind that 97 percent of all climate scientists agree that climate change is largely man-made. This is an unusually high consensus.
5) Never be afraid to put the spotlight on the frigthening scenarios climate researchers predict. They have already been overtaken by reality several times.”
Taking a stand, making a difference
Climate change is the most important issue facing us today. Unless the Australian Press Council itself is infected with that same ‘skeptism’-virus which has paralysed the political system in Australia for years now, it really needs to pull itself together and step up to the challenge of dealing with the climate misinformation and fact-misrepresentation in the media at both local and national level.
It wouldn’t have to be all that complicated. Trying to silence or censor the skepticism is not the way forward, because it will only provoke even more of it. What authorities need to do is simply to raise their voices, show their concern with as firm measures as they possibly can, explain what is at stake, show that they understand the mechanisms of this issue and what is up and down in the climate ‘debate’. Take the debate in public, again and again. Involve the climate experts to share knowledge and know-how. Engage the climate deniers, liars and skeptiscs in the conversation. Educate. Educate. And educate more.
For instance, if the Press Council would start inviting the media executives to exclusive meetings that highlighted the extraordinary circumstances which climate change has put us in, and what needs to be done, a lot could be acchieved by a simple operation like that. Any authority that raises its voice, helps Australians to connect the weather-dots and realise, for instance, where and why Andrew Bolt and various other regular fossil fuel advocates in the Australian media and parliaments are so utterly wrong.
Selfishness, narcissism, egoism and isolationism flourish in this country, as it does all over the Western world, and as far as the particular topic of carbon emissions goes, the denial clearly becomes most explicit in those countries which are rich on oil, gas or coal. As the carbon clock keeps ticking, climate scientists are showing us that this kind of selfishness is increasingly becoming a self-threat.
Whichever way you look at it, most of this climate misinformation discussion boils down to attempts of a dying fossil industry to defend itself by all means. As the editor of Herald Sun demonstrated, those with vested interests in the fossil fuel industry would rather close their eyes to the fact that their industry is destroying the entire global ecosystem than to acknowledge that their own industry needs to collapse.
They have shown they are able to completely disregard that climate change represents a threat to themselves and to their own childen too. In Michael Martinez’s words, the fine houses of the fossil executives will be of little use to them if society around them, including its fresh water and food supply, collapses under the pressure from extreme weather events, draughts, bush fires, refugees and unrest.
Unfortunately, the ignorant fossil executives are not only a threat to themselves, they are a threat to all of us, and even more so to the yet unborn, the future generations who will have to live in that planetary mess and with those runaway climate phenomenas we are on track to hand over to them.
Diversitat CEO Michael Martinez put it this way in a headline in the Geelong Advertiser recently: “Fine house no use if you don’t have a planet for it”.
Op-ed in Geelong Advertiser by Diversitat CEO Michael Martinez. [Click on image to enlarge]
» World Economic Forum – 8 January 2016:
How the science of human cooperation could improve the world
“Psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner in their New York Times op-ed last year suggest that “people have become more individualistic, more self-focused, more materialistic and less connected to others”. Based on research in psychology and social behaviour, they propose that experiencing awe motivates human beings to be more connected to others, to act in more collaborative ways, and go beyond self-interest to enhance the greater good, supporting the argument formulated in 2003 by Professors Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt.”
» World Economic Forum – 24 January 2015:
How to build a caring economy
Climate versus fossil advocacy in Geelong
Michael Martinez is just about the only person in Geelong who has stood up and talked on community radio and written opinion pieces in the local media about the need for a change in attitude towards climate change and climate action.
Apart from rare exceptions in Surf Coast Times and interviews conducted by a young journalist at the Geelong Advertiser, the local media in Geelong region is generally in denial about climate change, along with its community leaders, its councillors and an estimated 90 per cent of the municipality’s 210,000 residents.
The Geelong Independent, recently renamed The Indy, actively supports the denialism and has been seen quoting Andrew Bolt in its articles while it prints one misguided and fact-misrepresenting reader’s letter after the next.
The only mention of climate change in the second-largest paper in the city, distributed weekly, free of charge to all residents, on the 18th of December were two letters to the editor, which claimed, among other things, once again that “there has been no warming now for 18 years”:
“The truth is that the notion CO2 is the principal driver of global warming needs further investigation because there has been no warming now for 18 years. It’s a classic case of so-called experts, the elites, seeking to censure any voice that raises legitimate concerns about claims concerning CO2’s effect on climate,” wrote Alan Barron in a letter entitled ‘Elite’s dangerous game’.
The week after, again, the only mention of climate change in this paper were two similar letters that informed the Indy readers that climate change is a hoax.
“This natural rise in CO2 was by the sun’s influence on earth, which follows natural cycles assumed to be 214,160 years. Therefore, it is possible the sun completed one of its processional cycles on 22 December 2012. These facts suggest the rise of CO2 might now be starting to recede naturally. Time will show whether this is happening, just as the temperature of earth began to down in 2009, a fat drawn from satellite temperature records,” wrote Thomas T. S. Watson.
“The Paris climate agreement will go down as the greatest day of infamy since Pearl Harbour. It is stupefying that around 200 nations pledged to fight alleged global warming by spending §1.2 trillion, yes, $1 trillion per year ad infinitum. All this for a problem that doesn’t actually manifest harmfully to the vast majority of people on the planet,” wrote Alan Barron who argued that global warming is a “non-existent threat”.
Instead of admitting openly that the editor of The Indy is a climate denier himself with an agenda of spreading confusion and doubt, he chooses to get the message out in his paper by printing an endless row of climate denying letters, while – if approached on the matter – claiming that this is done to ‘balance’ the debate and all in the name of ‘freedom of speech’.
» Read more and listen to our podcast about this topic.
The right side of history
The United Nations recently announced an ambitious 15-year plan of what needs to be done to correct things on this planet, and Australia was one of the countries that signed and endorsed it. Australia also signed the Paris Agreement on climate change action.
In Paris, many of the world’s leaders vocalised that they have made the decision to be on the right side of history. Regardless of much the fossil industry complains, with the Paris Agreement they have laid out the new path we will now be entering, reducing our carbon footprints.
Now, if these signatures are not to turn out to become nice-sounding but hypocritically empty promises, then this nation’s leaders at all levels – federal, state and municipal as well as at community level – must begin to show some leadership and begin the journey towards a fairer and more environmentally conscious world. They must begin implementing those changes required to reach the 17 UN-goals and to keep the global warming under 1.5°–2°C degrees.
The point of this blogpost is to remind them that they are making a big mistake if they think they will be able to acchieve those goals without having the media on their side to help with addressing and explaining the issues and the facts to the general population, the voters, the doubters.
After Paris, it is up to the media now to mature on this issue and take the next steps, first of all by connecting the weather-dots and producing news reports and features which enlighten and inspire us to act on climate, and to support our leaders when they do it.
The media has the key to unlock the kind of massive mobilisation which is needed. And if our elected leaders continue to be laggards, the media has a huge influence in their political future too. When enough media workers and media users conclude that “failures to act on climate change are political failures”, an entirely new political structure will emerge, and this can happen much quicker than we anticipate.
We are sailing on an unsustainable ship infected by short-sighted selfishness and greed. We need to identify and isolate this sickness, turn the ship around, and set out on a community-focused course which is sustainable in the long term.
Principle Number One should be that when eventually we leave this world, we must leave behind a planet to our children which is better than it was when we received it.
It doesn’t look like an easy task, but it can be done. Through history so many great people on this planet have shown that it is possible to do things that everyone says can’t be done. Because where there is a will there is a way.
And as far as the climate deniers go, Arnold Schwarzenegger on 7 December 2015 wrote a short letter to them, which over the following two weeks was shared more than 120,000 times on Facebook, and received 180,000 likes, because it expresses exactly how many people feel about this debate. As far as all their various doubts and skeptical arguments are concerned, they don’t really matter – because the world already knows two solid reasons why it wants to leave the fossil fuels behind and move over to renewable energy sources: Renewables are cleaner, and cheaper. As simple as that.
Those who don’t get this, or insist on being in denial about it, will soon be made redundant, just like it happened to those fools in the the photo-film industry and the music-CD industry who couldn’t see – or didn’t want to see – what was going to happen in their respective sectors when everyone went digital.
Australian media which reverses the trend
REVERSING THE TREND
Fairfax Media connects the dots
Fairfax Media makes a noble difference in the Australian media landscape simply because they – as the only media company in the entire nation – bother to explain to their readers how to connect the dots, the ‘extreme weather dots’ that is, as it was done by Peter Hannam, Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald, when in the paper on 29 December 2015 he added this one important line to his article about the many fatal weather events this week:
“The gradual background warming of the planet caused primarily by the build-up in greenhouse gases is being amplified this year by one of the strongest El Nino events on record.”
Every other newspaper in Australia seem to think it is better to leave that part out. They report on the weather events, but all leave the inconvenient global warming explanation out.
No media, however, not even Fairfax, takes it to the next level and elaborates on the action-side of this topic, by explaining to us, the ordinary citizens, the readers and the viewers, what it is that now needs to be done to change this destructive development with increasing global temperatures and more and more climate disruptions. It is unfortunate that no one in mainstream media sees these weather events as an obvious and welcome occasion to introduce us, the readers and viewers, to examples of simple ways in which we are able to radically change that critical upward-going course the graph of our rising greenhouse gas emissions has.
Anyway, Fairfax Media still deserves a ‘thumbs up’ (or a Facebook ‘like’!) for positioning themselves on the right side of history.
» Sydney Morning Herald | Fairfax Media – 28 December 2015:
Fire, floods, tornadoes: fatal weather rounds out a year of extremes in 2015
By Peter Hannam, Environment Editor
» The Age | Fairfax Media – 9 December 2015:
Climate change fuels Victoria bushfire risk
REVERSING THE TREND
The Guardian connects the dots
The British newspaper The Guardian published an opinion piece on their website, titled ‘Climate change and the Victorian bushfires: this is not a coincidence’. Cambell Klose writes from Yackandandah:
“The issue of bushfires can’t be divorced from climate change. For too many people climate change remains an esoteric concept – something that may happen to someone else in the hazy, far-off future. Clearly this isn’t the case. The effects of climate change are being felt right now and it is having real impacts on Australians and people all across the world. This is a fact that has been stated ad nauseam, but it is worth repeating again: 10 of the hottest years on record have been since 1998. And 2015 is lining up to be the hottest on record, beating 2014, which was the previous record holder.”
“Climate change is not abstract. It is real and it is being felt right now by people I know and care about. Meanwhile, the Australian government is a laggard on climate action. Embarrassingly we were ranked third last in terms of our response and policies to deal with climate change. And the flimflam action taken so far by this government doesn’t engender hope for the future.”
Cambell Klose in The Guardian on 21 December 2015
…and just a few hours later there are already 30 comments below the article, many of them from climate deniers / climate liars who always sit ready to throw out a smokescreen of questions and claims in the comments thread.
» Continue reading on www.theguardian.com
Excerpts from some of the comments to Cambell Klose’s article:
“There is zero evidence that these particulat bushfires were caused by man made climate change.”
“Apart from the fact that temperature records are breaking annually and the author has experienced many more frequent serious fires than years past, @Jamiebx would sooner sit on his/her hands in the comfort of their non-threatened home and not do a single thing or raise a single finger to help ameliorate the threat simply because he/she would prefer to not believe that there is a genuine threat.”
“Unfortunately business comes first with this government and I just shake my head in disgust at just how contemptuous they are of us, their constituents. Australia, like it or not, is right in the front line with climate change regarding impacts and yet we still have brown coal powering Victorian power stations and new coal mines being prioritised over the environment.
Remember this at election time.”
“I think you are wrong to imply that the government is doing nothing about climate change against the wishes of the people. There is very little evidence to suggest that Australians are ready to make any sacrifices to adjust to the perils that will face Australia in as little as 20-30 years. Indeed, as you point out, the increasing incidence of forest fire suggests that the effects of global warming are already upon us. The government, and far be it from me to defend them, simply reflects the general apathy and unwillingness to grasp the global warming nettle. The message is simple, elect people prepared to give leadership on this question, or pay ten or a hundred times the current cost when you are forced to do something later. Get into renewables and elect politicians who commit to that, phase out coal as a source of energy, implement piped water strategies to efficiently carry this resource – a thousand times more valuable than oil – to where it is needed, reconsider Australia’s blinkered attitude to nuclear energy, buy much more energy efficient cars – then this lovely country may have a chance of a prosperous future. Keep your head in the sand, along with this government, and you will be lucky to have enough food, never mind be prosperous.”
“You deniers, if paid to do this, should in the future be outed to your grandchildren and if it was up to me, jailed.”
REVERSING THE TREND
Friends of the Earth connects the dots
Link between climate change and fire frequency
Is there a link between climate change and fire frequency and intensity? Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth Melbourne has collected some facts: Bushfires and climate change
Friends of the Earth UK has produced a briefing on the flooding thats happening in the UK at present, available on www.foe.co.uk (PDF)
Learn more on Facebook
» #ClimateAction on Facebook
» ClimateTruth on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ClimateTruth
Learn more on Twitter
350’s summary of where we are at after COP21
Published on youtube.com on 14 December 2015.
WWF Earth Hour COP21: Let’s Change Climate Change Together
“As COP21 comes to an end, we must remember that the time for climate action has only just begun and changing climate change starts with us, here today. Join WWF & Earth Hour at http://earthhour.org to take climate action now. Earth Hour 19 March 2016 @ 8:30PM”
Published on youtube.com on 12 December 2015
What YOU can do about climate change
Reducing your carbon footprint just got easier. This video uses animations and humour to teach people how they can personally help prevent global warming. This is just one of the free educational products available in the ‘Climate Insights 101’ series. Created by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions – a collaboration of British Columbia’s four research intensive universities. Published on youtube.com on 13 September 2013.
» Read more about what we all can do
In Mr Bolts text from 4 November 2015 he writes that “Most Australians are now global warming sceptics, despite years of being misled by the media. A CSIRO survey of more than 5000 people has confirmed it…”
CSIRO’s survey is based on the answers from 17,493 people. Not 5,000. The title of the report is ‘Australian attitudes to climate change and adaptation: 2010-2014’ and it states: “This report presents the findings of a longitudinal study of Australians from 2010 to 2014, comprised of five national surveys conducted annually in July and August of each year. In total they surveyed 17,493 Australians aged 18 years and over”
Mr Bolt implies the CSIRO survey shows huge increase in numbers becoming sceptical about global warming. This forms the basis of his article without which he would not have anything to really write about. It is easy for the council to verify for themselves that Mr Bolt has introduced what is more than an interpretation into it, he is manipulating the data, and he is quoting CSIRO for findings and statements they have never said.
The report about CSIRO’s survey can be found on www.csiro.au.
The proportion of ordinary Australian citizens who, according to the CSIRO survey, do not believe climate change exists, or ‘don’t know’, is an obvious response to the lack of science education and the influence of heavily vested interests on a few of our politicians – aided by Andrew Bolt and segments of the print media that are similarly inclined.
Bolt continues: “For the first time since Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth claimed man was heating the world to disaster, Australians who believe this scare are outnumbered by those who don’t. True, a worrying 45.9 per cent of Australians do still think man is mostly to blame for what warming we’ve seen over the past several decades.”
Note that at this point, Bolt acknowledges that warming has been seen “over the past several decades”. A bit further down in his text, however, he writes that “there’s actually been no significant warming of the atmosphere for some 18 years.” The man is so busy misrepresenting the facts that he is even contradicting himself.
He goes on:
“But those believers are now outnumbered by people who think this warming is natural (38.6 per cent) or not occurring at all (7.9 per cent) — which means sceptics total 46.5 per cent. The rest don’t know. In fact, even 19 per cent of Greens voters are sceptics.”
Bolt’s claim that ‘19% of Greens voters are sceptics’ are not only unattributed and paradoxical, it is an insult to The Australian Greens. Considering that the Australian Greens’ climate, greenhouse gas and renewables policies have always been – and remain – unambiguously progressive and well publicised.
“Yes, the shift is that huge. What a tribute to the good sense of Australians,” Bolt writes.
The report, however, does not say anything about any “huge shift”, or any shift at all. Yet this is the ‘news’ that Bolt’s article is supposedly reporting and attributing to the CSIRO survey.
A quote from the CSIRO report: “Aggregate levels of opinion are stable over time. Slightly more people thought climate change was not happening or solely due to natural processes in 2012 and 2013 when compared to 2010, however figures in 2014 were not statistically different to any other point in time.”
Bolt: “For nearly a decade, reporters claimed the vast majority of you believed man really was heating the world dangerously. And the media campaigned furiously to make sure you did. You were bombarded with propaganda. Your doubts were mocked. You were told that the world’s temperature was soaring, when there’s actually been no significant warming of the atmosphere for some 18 years.”
This is a lie which Mr Bolt has repeated in public numerous times over recent years. To understand how this 18-year warming pause has come about, here is a link to an explanation by Climate Council.
And here is a link to the Scientific American where they show a visually compelling graph of global warming. The decades smooths out the noise in the signal that is the main basis for deniers to be able to make their claim of a pause:
Bolt writes: “You were told we were getting more and worse cyclones, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report in fact admits neither seems true and, if anything, we’re getting fewer.”
The research is that frequency has not and will not increase with global warming but intensity will and that there is in fact a trade off between the two which could see fewer hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones but of increased intensity. Andrew Bolt does not mention this. See www.nature.com
Bolt: “You were told by Professor Tim Flannery in 2007 that warming could dry out the dams of Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide within a couple of years because “even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems”. Except it did, repeatedly, to the point of flooding.”
This is a Bolt-distortion. Bolt says Tim Flannery said “…could dry out dams…” Indeed it could have in the 10 year drought. It was a real fear. In the time scale of global warming, Bolt hasn’t shown how Tim Flannery’s prediction is false. What Flannery said was:
“We’re already seeing the initial impacts and they include a decline in the winter rainfall zone across southern Australia, which is clearly an impact of climate change, but also a decrease in run-off. Although we’re getting say a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas of Australia, that’s translating to a 60 per cent decrease in the run-off into the dams and rivers. That’s because the soil is warmer because of global warming and the plants are under more stress and therefore using more moisture. So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems.”
Bolt: “You were told by the ABC’s chief science presenter, Robyn Williams, the seas could rise up to 100 metres this century, thanks to a dramatic melting of the Antarctic — which NASA last week conceded was instead increasing in ice mass.”
When did Williams say this? He never did! Another Bolt distortion. On 24 March 2007 Robyn Williams was talking about past events that have geological evidence, when he said: “Sea level has been 100 metres higher than present, when there were no ice sheets, and about 120 metres lower than present during glacial periods.”
Bolt: “You were told by the UN that the world’s food crops would fail, when they’ve instead set new records. You were told to beware of giant hailstones (Professor Ross Garnaut), dengue fever (Professor Tony McMichael), tsunamis (World Vision boss Tim Costello), killer heatwaves (Professor Peter Doherty), seas as high as “an eight-storey building” (Flannery), a “permanent drought” (Greens leader Bob Brown) and a dead Great Barrier Reef by 2050 (Professor Ove Hoegh-Gulberg).”
The scientists are arguing it is only the beginning of the effects of global warming. Andrew Bolt is creating the impression that all predictions should be true already to be predictions. For instance his words “…dead Great Barrier Reef by 2050…” We have to wait till 2050 to see if its true or not.
Bolt: “Your politicians, with rare exceptions, failed you. They should have challenged this disgraceful alarmism. Instead, they exploited it and even forced you to pay billions for fake schemes and taxes to “stop” a warming that actually halted or dramatically slowed nearly two decades ago.”
The same misleading claim about a pause in global warming. And he goes on and on like this.
» More about climate denial and disinformation