The Australian‘s War on Science XXV

On Saturday the Australian published a story by John Stapleton offering as evidence against global warming the fact that “the Arctic ice is expanding”. Something that happens every winter. Anyway, Stapleton’s piece is about biased reporting on global warming. Stapleton is oblivious to the extraordinary bias displayed by the Australian — he’s alleging that it is the ABC and Fairfax who are biased.

The sole piece of evidence that Stapleton offers for this is their reporting on the question of whether global warming is reducing the Southern Ocean’s ability to soak up carbon dioxide. Last year a study found that it was, but a new study published last week found that it wasn’t. The first study was (“breathlessly according to Stapleton) reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, but the second was not. To Stapleton, this is an example of Fairfax bias. But Stapleton does not mention that three News Limited papers (the Herald Sun, The Courier Mail and The Advertiser) did exactly the same thing — reporting on the first study and not the second one. In any case, one single example is hardly enough to support a claim of bias. For that you would need evidence of a pattern in the reporting.

The ABC reported on both studies, which would suggest to a normal person that they were not biased, but not to Stapleton. He misrepresents the ABC reporting, writing that they ran it “as evidence the Southern Ocean was adapting to climate change”, implying that the ABC did not mention that it contradicted the previous study. In fact, the ABC did mention this, and the CSIRO press release states that climate change is affecting the Southern Ocean:

“Co-author, CSIRO’s Dr Steve Rintoul, says the Southern Ocean was found to have become warmer and fresher since the 1960s – a pattern consistent with the ‘fingerprint’ of climate change caused by carbon emissions from human activity.”

This finding of the study is not mentioned by Stapleton.

Stapleton finishes his article by quoting three global warming skeptics Keith Windschuttle, Bob Carter, and William Kininmonth. All of them agree that the media was biased against them, with Windschuttle arguing that the ABC was required to produce a diversity of views. But there was no diversity of views amongst the three people Stapleton quoted. Perhaps Stapleton had been unable to find anyone who disagreed with Windschuttle and co? Stapleton had interviewed CSIRO’s Steve Rintoul (though he got his name wrong), so I asked Rintoul what he had told Stapleton. He replied:

“I made it clear to Stapleton that I did not agree with his proposition that climate change sceptics were unable to get their message out in the media; indeed, that I felt it was the other way around.”

I think we can be sure that if Rintoul had agreed with Stapleton’s proposition, Rintoul’s agreement would have made it into the story.

Rintoul wrote to the Australian to try to set the record straight:

An article (“Cold snap fails to cool protagonists of global warming”, 29-30/11) and editorial (“Unthinking dogma“) in the weekend paper cited a science paper we published showing the Southern Ocean was more resistant to changes in winds than expected.

The pieces argue that lack of media coverage of our results was an example of media bias on global warming. I note that the ABC did cover the story on TV, radio and online; the story was covered by Reuters and picked up by newspapers around the world.

Our (CSIRO) study shows that the Southern Ocean is warming and current systems are shifting to the south, consistent with projections of climate change caused by human activities.

We also conclude that the ability of the Southern Ocean to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has not decreased.

While the fact that the Southern Ocean continues to remove carbon dioxide is good news, overall the study provides yet more evidence that climate is changing.

I do believe the media coverage of climate change is uneven: the sceptics get much more air-time than the quality and relevance of their scientific arguments justify, giving the public the impression that the science is more uncertain than is the case.

The overwhelming majority of experts in the field are convinced by the evidence that climate change is real, is mainly caused by human activities, and that strong action is required now to slow the rate of climate change and to adapt to change we can’t avoid.

Comments

  1. #1 sod
    December 4, 2008

    the Arctic ice is expanding.

    this simply is beyond stupid.

  2. #2 bi -- IJI
    December 4, 2008

    Uh-oh. It looks like the Australian is now starting to accept letters from mainstream folks. Have they been hijacked by the Evil Phantom Soviet Empire into doing their nefarious bidding?

    Anyway, perhaps this is a good time to send them lots of letters.

  3. #3 Lubos Motl
    December 4, 2008

    Hi alarmist crackpots, just to be sure, the Arctic sea ice area is almost exactly at the normal level for this part of the year

    http://eva.nersc.no/vhost/arctic-roos.org/doc/observations/images/ssmi1_ice_area.png

    and October 2008 has seen the fastest monthly increase on record. Enjoy your stupidity and eating Gore’s and Hansen’s excrements. Sincerely Yours, Lubos

  4. #4 bi -- IJI
    December 4, 2008

    Hey Motl, are you still trying to get Alarmists? quarantined and euthanized?

    Please keep trying. And failing.

  5. #5 sod
    December 4, 2008

    Hi alarmist crackpots, just to be sure, the Arctic sea ice area is almost exactly at the normal level for this part of the year

    let me get this one right:

    Hi alarmist crackpots, just to be sure, the Arctic sea ice area is only slightly below the normal level for the very short period of about a month during this time of the year.

    and October 2008 has seen the fastest monthly increase on record. Enjoy your stupidity and eating Gore’s and Hansen’s excrements. Sincerely Yours, Lubos

    and i had the biggest amount of snow on my car yesterday, over all of last week!

    Lubos, who ever gave you that academic title, must be seriously crying every night….

  6. #6 sod
    December 4, 2008
  7. #7 bi -- IJI
    December 4, 2008

    Look, guys! There’s no global warming! Global warming has stopped! The Arctic ice has returned! The Arctic ice has returned! The Arctic ice has returned! THE ARCTIC ICE HAS RETURNED!!!!!!!

    Ice Ice Arctic Return Arctic Arctic Arctic Arctic Arctic Arctic Arctic Ice Arctic Ice Return Ice Arctic Return Arctic Arctic Ice Arctic Return Ice Arctic Ice Arctic Arctic Return Return Arctic Return Return Ice Arctic Arctic Ice Ice Ice Ice Arctic Arctic Ice Return Arctic Ice Ice Arctic Arctic Arctic Return Arctic Ice Arctic Arctic Ice Ice Return Ice Ice Ice Arctic Arctic Return Arctic Return Ice Return Return Ice Arctic Return Arctic Arctic Return Ice Ice Arctic Return Return Arctic Ice Ice Arctic Arctic Ice Arctic Return Return Ice Ice Ice Return Ice!

    Why won’t anyone listen to me?!?!?!? I’M SPEAKING INTO A BIG HONKING MEGAPHONE, AND I SAY THE ARCTIC ICE HAS RETURNED!!!!!! WHY AREN’T THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA REPORTING THIS 200 HOURS A DAY?!?!?!?!? LISTEN TO MEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

  8. #8 sod
    December 4, 2008

    While the fact that the Southern Ocean continues to remove carbon dioxide is good news, overall the study provides yet more evidence that climate is changing.

    this is a often repeated theme:

    1. sceptics “quote” (“misquote” might be the better term…) an article as evidence.

    2. author of the article shows up, corrects the misinformation and proclaims his strong support for the scientific consensus.

    shouldn t there be a some list of this “ass-kicking” of denialist misinterpretation by the author himself somewhere on the web?

    a top ten, perhaps? Tim? Eli?

  9. #9 TheMakron
    December 4, 2008

    “Hi alarmist crackpots, just to be sure, the Arctic sea ice area is almost exactly at the normal level for this part of the year”

    Almost huh? So your almost right.

    In most people’s books that’s also called “wrong”

  10. #10 Michael
    December 4, 2008

    I’m with Lubos.

    AGW is so wrong and the melting Arctic Ice Theory such a sham, that I predict we will see a continuing expansion, ie GROWTH, in Arctic ice for the rest of this year. Maybe even a bit longer.

    Take that alarmist freaks.

  11. #11 Jimmy Nightingale
    December 4, 2008

    It is sad that the Australian persists in this anti-science vein. Thankfully, it’s not exactly the most widely read newspaper and their agenda is now so obvious that I tend to dismiss anything they report.

  12. #12 jonno
    December 4, 2008

    “AGW is so wrong and the melting Arctic Ice Theory such a sham, that I predict we will see a continuing expansion, ie GROWTH, in Arctic ice for the rest of this year. Maybe even a bit longer.’

    But where I am from, over the last few months it has been getting warmer, so AGW is true.

  13. #13 zoot
    December 4, 2008

    Sorry jonno, you’re wrong. Where I live, yesterday was colder than the day before.

  14. #14 t_p_hamilton
    December 4, 2008

    So, AGW is false for the Northern hemisphere from Oct – Mar, and false for the Southern hemisphere for Apr- Sept.

    Got it!

  15. #15 Craig Allen
    December 4, 2008

    The Australian just published an article titled The sun is a powerful player in the planet’s climate as the energy it sends to Earth waxes and wanes. But the sun is not driving recent global warming as climate change sceptics claim.

    You have to admit that while the Oz is giving disproportionate coverage to loopy sceptics, they are at least publishing the science based side of the argument as well.

    This article is great because it so succinctly and effectively debunks some of the key denialist talking points.

    The first sentence of the title is misleading, as is made clear in the text of the article where it is clear in reference to the geological timescale. But at least it will get sceptics reading the article.

  16. #16 Craig Allen
    December 4, 2008

    Following up on my last post, I think the general public in Australia is decreasingly likely to be duped by denialist rhetoric because it is so out of sync with observable reality.

    My family is from the drought stricken state of South Australia. Most of them were sceptics until a few years ago. But the reality that they have had to deal with over the last decade is unrelenting drought, as exemplified by today’s announcement that the state is has begun purchasing water on the open water market to guarantee supplies to towns and cities. And in doing so is competing with Murray-Darling interrogators who are themselves on their knees, copping bankruptcy en mass, and suffering an escalating suicide rate.

    > For the first time in its history, South Australia will have to buy water to guarantee supplies for critical human needs next year, revealing the increasing severity of the nation’s water crisis at the end of the Murray River. (from the Australian Newspaper)

    This fits with the global news on glaciers, Arctic ice, fires, etc. No-one I know gives any credence to denialist claptrap any more. Australians accept that there are cycles and climactic variability, but increasingly acknowledge that there is a very dangerous overlying warming trend. Any talk of a supposed ‘cooling trend of the last decade’ just elicits the rolling of eyes.

    No doubt this awakening is more advanced in Australia than many places, because our situation is so dire. But surely it must increasingly be the case elsewhere.

  17. #17 Craig Allen
    December 4, 2008

    That was meant to be “Murray-Darling irrigators” not “Murray-Darling interrogators “

  18. #18 jonno
    December 4, 2008

    “Sorry jonno, you’re wrong. Where I live, yesterday was colder than the day before.”

    Well actually, it was a lot colder where I am this morning at 5am, compared to the temperture now, so AGW is correct.

  19. #19 Bernard J.
    December 4, 2008

    Stapleton’s misrepresentation of Rintoul’s paper (and his subsequent comments) is unprofessional, unethical, and against the principles of the Australian Press Council. The APC has a mechanism to lodge a complaint about a newspaper if the editor does not give a satisfactory resolution on such a matter.

    Such complaints need to be submitted within 60 days of publication, and I think that there are sufficient erudite folk here that the Australian’s editorial board might have to at least make a semblance of addressing Stapleton’s miscreancy if the APC option is presented to them.

    I rather hope that they do not act though, as I’d enjoy seeing the APC inquiring into the matter!

  20. #20 z
    December 4, 2008

    Meanwhile, back on planet earth:
    “Melting Arctic Ice Opens New Ship Frontier
    Rapid Thaw Creates Navigable Ocean In Extreme North – An Area Rich In Natural Resources ”
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/08/21/tech/main4372014.shtml

  21. #21 bi -- IJI
    December 4, 2008

    > So, AGW is false for the Northern hemisphere from Oct – Mar, and false for the Southern hemisphere for Apr- Sept.

    No, AGW is false everywhere, because THE ARCTIC ICE HAS RETURNED!!!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!!!!

    It’s true. I heard it from Jack Lacton’s uncle.

  22. #22 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 5, 2008

    Lubos Motl writes:

    Enjoy your stupidity and eating Gore’s and Hansen’s excrements. Sincerely Yours, Lubos

    Lubos — Try not to post when you’re stoned.

  23. #23 Hot and Bothered
    December 5, 2008

    Sad truth is that the “debate” will be decided by the weather and humans will not seriously act on AGW until it hurts more not to act. The Australian with its litany of fake experts just provides intellectual cover for this denial.

    The rehash of the Arctic recovery by the “sceptics” just shows a basic misunderstanding of geography. The Arctic Ocean will freeze over every winter for decades to come as it is dark and largely enclosed and this means that anomalies will shrink over winter.

    BTW Tim I presume you know that Mathew Warren left the OZ as environment reporter to go work for the Australian Clean Energy Council http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Mathew_Warren . I’m sure he could tell a few stories. I understand he is writing a book.

  24. #24 David Irving (no relation)
    December 6, 2008

    Hot and Bothered – Warren used to be a shillpublicist for the coal industry before he got the gig at the Oz. I reckon you’ll find he’s just gone home.

  25. #25 TrueSceptic
    December 9, 2008

    3 Lubos Motl,

    Are you really that stupid or are you aware that you are an arrogant offensive ignoramus? Anyone can see from this that current extent is well below the average and is in fact slightly closer to the 2007 figure than to that average.
    http://www.nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/200812_Figure2.png

    Anyway, I can’t believe that you are the real Motl. No one this stupid or dishonest (I’m not sure which) could earn a PhD (or could they?).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LuboŇ°_Motl

  26. #26 Barry Brook
    December 14, 2008

    Glenn Albrect has a good go at the latest ‘editorial’ in the Weekend Oz:

    http://ethicsclimate.blogspot.com/2008/12/shallow-thinking.html

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