1 September 2007
NEWS MEDIA CONTINUES TO FAIL TO INFORM THE PUBLIC ACCURATELY ON GLOBAL WARMING
An interesting commentary on the bias of parts of the news media in Britain and New Zealand has been provided by a founder member of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, Professor Bob Carter, of James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, who is a graduate of Otago and Cambridge Universities, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and an internationally respected researcher and commentator on climate issues. These comments follow previous evidence delivered by Professor Carter to the U.S. Senate Committee of Environment & Public Works in 2006, which included explicit criticisms of leading New Zealand journalists.
(http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/new_page_1.htm, list items 52 (i) and (ii)).
“Important elements of the news media continue to fail in their duty to the public to report factually and without bias the true state of affairs in the important field of global climate,” says Professor Carter. “The latest example is the Head of TV News of the prestigious BBC, Peter Horrocks, who is quoted as saying:”
"BBC News certainly does not have a line on climate change, however the weight of our coverage reflects the fact that there is an increasingly strong (although not overwhelming) weight of scientific opinion in favour of the proposition that climate change is happening and is being largely caused by man".
Professor Carter comments: “The utter lack of self-awareness in this statement, when it is compared with the actuality of the BBC's broadcasts, epitomizes exactly the problem with media coverage of the AGW issue across the board.”
“The BBC's ‘line’ is self-evident to any independent and trained scientist who watches their coverage. It is to reproduce, without a trace of critical analysis, the alarmist utterances of a bevy of self-interested, self-perpetuating scientists and science agencies, environmental pressure groups and "significant" politicians (Tony Blair, Angela Merkel), whilst at the same time ignoring or paying the most passing of lip service to any independent scientists or ‘insignificant’ politicians (President Vaclav Klaus, Czech Republic; Senator James Inhofe, U.S. Senate; Dr Dennis Jensen, Australian parliament) who try to inject some sensible critical analysis into the debate.”
“Mr Horrocks' statement also embraces the typical semantic confusion that marks journalists and editors when he asserts that ‘climate change is happening’, which is not and never has been the issue. Of course climate is changing; it always has and always will. In terms of the current public debate the hypothesis to be tested is not ‘is climate changing’ but rather ‘do HUMAN emissions of carbon dioxide cause DANGEROUS global warming?’
“Despite the 20-year long efforts of thousands of scientists and the expenditure of around $80 billion of public money on research, no unambiguous (or even concerning circumstantial) evidence exists for this proposition. Indeed, with the collapse of the ‘hockey stick’, and the recent failure of global temperature to follow its supposed script, the sole argument that an increasingly desperate IPCC coterie is left with is the deployment of the results of unvalidated, speculative computer GCMs.”
“Meanwhile, in the real (meaning empirical) world, the dangerous warming hypothesis fails the most elementary of tests. For example, witness the fact that global average temperature has flat-lined since 1998 against a 4% increase in atmospheric CO2 over that period.”
“Has this ever been reported by the BBC? No. Why not, Mr Horrocks?”
“The BBC's coverage of the global warming issue indicates that they do not understand the difference between sound empirical science and the virtual realities of speculative computer modelling. This in turn reflects that nowhere in their news and current affairs staff do they possess persons who are BOTH adequately trained in science AND have the ability and self-confidence to assess the climate change issue CRITICALLY and INDEPENDENTLY, i.e. who can process the science through their own brains rather than relying on the assurances of authority figures from the British Antarctic Survey or Royal Society, or, even worse, scientifically illiterate spokespersons from environmental NGOs.”
BIAS IN NEW ZEALAND PRESS COVERAGE OF GLOBAL WARMING
Professor Carter has commented also on the recent exchanges between the editor of the New Zealand Herald and Terry Dunleavy, secretary of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition/. Terry had remarked that he was sorry to note comments by people that the Herald seemed unable to distinguish the difference between scientific discourse and advocacy.
The editor replied to Terry, saying (in part):
“The allegation that the [newspaper] is no longer capable of distinguishing between scientific discourse and advocacy is exactly the charge made to us, by others, about your organisation. And yours against the other side. We are caught in the middle of disputatious experts who are extraordinarily angry for some reason about this scientific issue -- more than on anything else in society which comes along.”
To which Terry replied (in part): “We HAVE to be an advocacy group. That's why we formed. Someone had to challenge the taxpayer funded scientists who have themselves become advocates rather than scientists…. This is not science as it ought to be - it's propaganda pure and simple - and it works! Look at the headlines it gets! So, if I'm an advocate, then, although not a scientist, I follow in a proud tradition tracing back to Galileo. What really worries me is that we are expected to stand by and watch while our country is plunged into the economic turmoil of cap and trade of carbon emissions, when there is not a scrap of verifiable scientific evidence that CO2 is the cause of a level of warming that justifies such Draconian measures.”
ENTER PROF CARTER, WHO EMAILED THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD:
“You ask whether NZPA can be presumed to be as biased on the AGW issue as the Herald has now appeared to be for some time. The answer is yes.”
“Neither is such press bias restricted to New Zealand. Should you care to consult the two depositions that I made to the US Senate last year, posted as items 52(i) and 52(ii) at:
you will find a detailed analysis of the situation. Whilst it is easy to diagnose the problem, it is less easy to diagnose the cause.”
“My perspective is that most major news outlets, up to and including the BBC, are lacking in producers, editors or reporters who are both qualified in science and also have the ability to think critically about controversial scientific issues for themselves. The idea that a specialist science reporter or editor should have to rely on authority (in New Zealand, generally of NIWA or the Royal Society) is a complete abnegation of responsibility and a betrayal of science.”
“Science is absolutely not about authority, nor consensus, but about testable hypotheses. That the ‘dangerous human-caused’ greenhouse hypothesis has been tested repeatedly, and so far has always failed, has never been reported in your newspaper. Indeed, you have rejected an opinion piece from me which explicitly sought to explain that very issue to the public!”
“You also ask Terry, rhetorically no doubt, why he is so angry about the AGW issue. The answer is that he carries the concern for the interests of the ordinary person that you appear to lack. As Al Gore has said, climate change is a deeply moral issue.”
“Indeed, it is a moral outrage that (i) ordinary taxpayers should face additional taxes (and increased costs for energy etc.) for a carbon policy that will make not one whit of difference to future climate; and at the same time (ii) will squander trillions of dollars to no effect at a time when underdeveloped countries need, above all, cheap energy and help with provision of basic essentials such as clean water and sanitation.”
“Thousands of independent scientists, worldwide, know that the vaunted IPCC consensus is a pack of cards. Yet the media mostly ignore their views, and, when they do report them for ‘balance’, represent them as a minority of loners and wackos. It is demonstrable that Dr [Chris] de Freitas is every bit as competent, knowledgeable and experienced as a climate researcher as anyone working for NIWA or the IPCC, and his views should therefore be accorded equal respect. In fact, as Terry pointed out, the New Zealand press often either ignore him or belittle his views.”
“Finally, you say ‘The allegation that the Herald is no longer
capable of distinguishing between scientific discourse and advocacy is exactly the charge made to us, by others, about your organisation’. Mandy Rice-Davies gave an immortal explanation of that syndrome*, and it surprises me that an editor as experienced as you doesn't understand the dynamics that come into operation when privileged special interest groups are threatened.”
“A moment's thought will reveal that a very large number of extremely powerful people and organisations, worldwide, have much to lose should the AGW myth be exploded. It used to be the task of investigative reporters to expose such conflicts of interest and conspiracy groupings, but alas such reporters are now buried under a suffocating blanket of political correctness.”
“I guess we shall just have to wait for the climate to cool down over the next two decades, as predicted by many expert researchers and organisations. What's the bet that the Herald then swaps horses to join the ‘dangerous global cooling’ bandwagon that is bound to emerge. Alarmist hysteria always sells newspapers, doesn't it?” Professor Carter concluded.
INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM OF PRESS BIAS
The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition comments that the above interchanges are disturbing because they suggest that major media outlets worldwide are not presenting the public with a balanced view of the climate change debate. In support of Professor Carter’s criticisms to this end, it is interesting to note that in the last few days experienced reporters or editors on three different continents have written articles that also support the view that press bias is now endemic regarding global warming. These articles can be read at:
Given such repetitive, worldwide criticism about media bias, the onus now surely lies with reporters and editors to show the public that they can do better.
*On the denial by one of her paramours that he had relations with her: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he!”