To their credit The Australian has published an article by David McKnight:
On climate issues The Australian still gives voice to a global PR campaign largely originated by the oil and coal companies of the US. On this score genuinely sceptical journalism is missing in action. Instead, an ideological sympathy with climate sceptics has been concealed behind a fig leaf of supposed balance.
But what shines through in the attitude of the newspaper is its lack of intellectual and moral seriousness in dealing with the consequences of climate change.
To their discredit they simultaneously published an anonymous attack on McKnight, claiming his piece was based on “selective quotations” and then proceeding with a particularly dishonest selective quotation:
Professor McKnight writes that “as the scientific evidence for climate change strengthened, the newspaper’s attitude went in the opposite direction”.
But in a letter to The Australian in October, Royal Society vice-president John Pethica wrote: “The science remains the same, as do the uncertainties. Indeed, the purpose of the new guide is to help people understand what is well-established and what is still uncertain. There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the main cause of the global warming that has taken place over the past half-century. The warming trend is expected to continue, but the sizes of future temperature increases are still subject to uncertainty.”
But they left out the first two sentences of Pethica’s letter:
In your coverage of our newly published Climate change: a summary of the science (“Top science body cools on global warming”, 2/10) your correspondents suggest that the society has changed its position on climate change. This is simply not true.
There is no greater uncertainty about future temperature increases now than the Royal Society had previously indicated.
That’s right, Pethica, like McKnight, was correcting The Australian‘s biased coverage of climate change. He was not saying that the evidence had not strengthened. The Australian also selectively quoted McKnight. Putting the quote back into context:
As Lloyd showed, it is possible to find editorials in 1997 in The Australian under then editor-in-chief David Armstrong that accepted the science on climate change. But after that period, The Australian took a different direction. This is paradoxical. As the scientific evidence for climate change strengthened, the newspaper’s attitude went in the opposite direction.
It is certainly true that the scientific evidence has strengthened since 1997. The Australian tried to make it look like McKnight was talking about the changes since the previous Royal Society report came out in 2007.
The Australian also claims that McKnight used a “flawed analysis”:
Associate Professor McKnight claims a March 2007 feature on cyclical sunspot activity recycled a “discredited theory” and a “long discarded sceptical claim”.
Yet in September, Britain’s respected scientific body, the Royal Society, published a landmark review of the latest developments in climate science in which it said variations in solar energy were an area of continuing discussion. “Natural forcing due to sustained variations in the energy emitted by the Sun over the past 150 years is estimated to be small,” the society found.
“However, direct observations of the energy emitted by the Sun only became available in the 1970s and estimates over longer periods rely on observations of changes in other characteristics of the Sun.
“A number of mechanisms have been proposed that could reduce or amplify the effect of solar variations; these remain areas of active research.”
Which doesn’t contradict McKnight at all. The solar theory advanced in that March 2007 feature is discredited. The Royal Society is saying that it is possible that we might find evidence for some other solar theory one day.
That March 2007 piece was mentioned in The Australian’s War on Science VI (ah, memories!). Looking for the solar theory in that piece we find this:
Franks points to new modelling which has measured changes in the Earth’s albedo or reflectance, driven mainly by cloud formation. The paper by a team of geophysicists reported an unexplained decline in cloud cover until 1998, which caused the Earth to absorb more heat from the atmosphere.
This resulted in increases in incoming solar radiation more than 10 times bigger than the same effect attributed to greenhouse gases.
Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the same misunderstanding of Pinker (2005) that Monckton popularized. Pinker herself has explained what is wrong.
The feature in The Australian was written by Matthew Warren, The Australian’s environment reporter at the time, who is now chief executive of the Clean Energy Council and a widely respected authority on the climate change debate.
I don’t think that Warren is “widely respected” outside of the carbon lobby. Paddy Manning writes:
Then on May 9, 2007, apparently at the urging of son James, Murdoch announced News Corp would go carbon neutral by 2010. …
This put The Australian in a quandary. Mitchell’s then 2IC, Michael Stutchbury, was still freely describing climate change as “bullshit” and joked after the announcement, “What would the Murdochs know?” (He is now the paper’s economics editor.)
What did The Australian do? In late 2006 Matthew Warren, former PR for the NSW Minerals Council, was appointed – get this – environment reporter. His standard line was how difficult, how expensive, measures to combat global warming would be. He practically never quoted the environment movement or its representatives. (He now runs business group the Clean Energy Council, which is meant to promote renewable energy but has been taken over by the carbon lobby.)
Matthew Warren’s reporting has been a major part of The Australian‘s war on science. See, for example, his confusing climate sensitivity with projected warming, his verballing of Rajendra Pachauri and his creative accounting to make solar power look bad.
The Australian finishes with “Professor McKnight … worked on the now defunct communist weekly newspaper Tribune.” Ah, of course, he’s a commie! Oddly enough, The Australian never describes frequent columnist Frank Furedi as “founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party“.