Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay is 40,000 words on the malign influence of The Australian on public affairs in this country. You can read an extract here and watch an interview with Manne here. Also of interest is commentary on Manne’s essay from Tim Dunlop who asks “why anybody continues to take The Australian seriously” and Margaret Simmons, who writes, “Manne’s most powerful accusation against The Australian is lack of intellectual honesty”.
Manne presents several case studies of The Australian‘s bias and bullying and their war on science (with an acknowledgment to my blog) is one of them, as well as the story of how The Australian verballed Rajendra Pachauri and refused to print a letter from Pachauri correcting the record. Graeme Readfern summarises:
Manne analysed climate change articles printed by The Australian between January 2004 and April 2011 and found that 700 articles were “unfavourable” to action on climate change.
That is, they either disagreed with the consensus of climate science, didn’t support Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto protocol or didn’t support previous governments’ steps towards a carbon trading scheme.
Balanced against these 700 articles, there were 180 stories and columns “favourable” to action on climate change.
The Australian is notorious for its thin skin (or as Manne puts it “mimophancy, so they’ve fired back with (so far) eight replies, as well as the usual childish sniping from Cut and Paste and a pile of letters from folks all of whom hadn’t read Manne’s essay but were sure it was awful.
The reply from Graham Lloyd, The Australian‘s Environment editor defends the paper’s coverage of climate change, so let’s look at that. Lloyd writes:
Manne accuses The Australian of cherry-picking its defence, but in his attempt to rebut the newspaper’s editorial position in his Quarterly Essay, Manne quotes half a kicker headline from an editorial of January 12, 2006, which said “climate change may be a mirage” The second half of the headline, which Manne neglected to report, was “global poverty is not”.
The editorial was less a charge against climate science and more a call to arms to tackle world poverty through the adoption of carbon reduction technologies.
This untrue. The editorial is no longer available from The Australian but unfortunately for Lloyd there’s a copy here so you can judge for yourself. Here’s the meat of it:
For starters, the jury is still out on what is happening to the climate and what is causing it. Distinguishing recent small changes in temperatures from natural variability is an inexact science. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen, but it is only one of many greenhouse gases and it has less impact on raising temperatures than the amount of water vapour and clouds in the air. There is controversy over how temperature is measured and the accuracy of the results. Given that political and economic solutions are needed to tackle climate-related issues, maybe it is time most climatologists took a bath.
No charge against climate science or climatologists there, no sir.
Given this distortion, how trustworthy is his analysis of 880 articles between January 2004 and April 2011, which he judged to be opposed to climate change action by a ratio of four to one?
Presumably this editorial, which anyone can see is dismissive of climate science, is the best case that Lloyd can make for Manne misclassifying an article. Lloyd continues:
The misrepresentation of the January 12 editorial was not an isolated incident. Manne criticised a January 14, 2006, editorial that said “while environmental activists say science shows fossil fuels are responsible for a global warming crisis, which may be right, they could just as easily be wrong”.
Manne implies the editorial was a call for inaction.
This is not true. Manne presents that editorial as an example of The Australian denying the scientific consensus. Which it definitely is. Here’s more from it:
It seems certain the world is warming , but no one knows how long the trend will continue, or why it is happening. Just this week, scientists in Germany announced that plants, not power stations, emit anything up to 30 per cent of the world’s methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
And when that methane study was debunked The Australian described that as a blow to climate change theary as well.
But Chris Mitchell’s reply makes Lloyd look positively accurate by comparison:
The Australian in the past 10 years has published 29 pieces by climate change “deniers” — that is, three a year.
I’m up to number 70 in my coverage of The Australian‘s War on Science and my posts don’t go back ten years or try to be remotely comprehensive. Manne found 21 articles by Christopher Pearson alone and he didn’t go back ten years either.
It says something about the standards at The Australian that it would print something so wildly, ridiculously false.
Update Manne replies.