The Australian's War on Science 53: Graham Lloyd's passion

Chris Mitchell, defending against the charge that The Australian's coverage of climate change is biased, said:

What people do not like is that I publish people such as Bjorn Lomborg. I will continue to do so, but would suggest my environment writer, Graham Lloyd, who is a passionate environmentalist, gets a very good run in the paper."

Does Lloyd's reporting provide a counterpoint to Lomborg in The Australian? He's only just become the environment writer, so there aren't many stories to go on, but on those his record is similar to that of a predecessor, Matthew Warren.

For example Graham Lloyd's extraordinarily one-sided story on wind power. Lloyd prints the opinions of twelve critics of wind power along with his own criticism, claiming that wind power is too expensive, is unreliable, is unsightly, is harmful to human health, kills wildlife, destroys communities, reduces real estate values, and causes corruption. Lloyd even claims that it makes birds explode (not true, of course). Lloyd includes comment from just one person on the other side for "balance", and that's the same Matthew Warren mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

The cherry Lloyd picks to go on top of his story is a sidebar on Danish wind power. According to Lloyd:

a controversial assessment ... by Danish think tank the Centre for Political Studies [CEPOS] ... gives the lie to claims that Denmark is supplying 20 per cent of its energy needs from wind sources. ... Up to half of Denmark's wind electricity is exported but paid for at high cost by Danish power consumers.

Lloyd tells us that the assessment is "controversial", but doesn't tell us why, so I asked Henrik Lund, a professor in the Department of Development and Planning at Aalborg University. He told me that author of the study had admitted that there were mistakes in the study and that has been commissioned and paid for by the American coal and oil lobby. Lund et al have written a scientific report correcting the errors in the CEPOS study.

If you divide wind power production by total power production for Denmark you get 20%, so how did the CEPOS study put the "lie" to this as Lloyd claimed? Well, by the use of some very creative accounting -- they assumed that when Denmark exported power, it was always the wind power, and not that produced by any other means. This exactly backwards. Because the marginal cost of wind power is less than that from coal plants, it is the energy from the coal plants that is being exported. Suppose there was no demand for energy to be exported. Then Danish domestic demand would be supplied most cheaply by using all available wind power plus however much coal is needed to satisfy that demand. Now if there is any demand for export, that will be supplied by activating more coal plants.

Andrew Smith, in a paper in the British Institute of Energy Economics on Danish wind exports comments

Algorithm A, as used in [the CEPOS study], which puts wind bottom of the merit order behind all thermal plants, assumes that central plants are never switched on to make [electricity for] export. No evidence was found to support this algorithm, which contradicts what is known about the price of wind as a fuel, relative to coal and biomass.

No valid algorithm can produce the "high export" figure, and that valid methods suggest that the proportion of wind that is exported of the order of 0.1-2.5%, depending on the individual year, with an average of 0.1-1.2% for the decade 2000-2009

And the small amount that is exported is not paid for by Danish consumers as Lloyd claims, but by the consumers in other countries that use it.

Now you know why Lloyd didn't tell you why the CEPOS study was "controversial".

Then there's Lloyd's story on The Royal Society' new summary of the state of climate science. It's based on the IPCC's 4th Assessment Report, so there weren't any surprises there, but according to Lloyd's story Top science body cools on global warming:

The society's cautious approach is in contrast to the UN's 2007 IPCC report.

The misrepresentation of the study was so blatant that the lead author John Pethica, had to set the record straight:

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.

Finally we have Lloyd's latest effort, where he denies that The Australian's coverage of climate change is biased and has this from Chris Mitchell about how he should have sued everyone who dared to suggest that The Australian is biased.

"I now regret not suing Clive Hamilton over Scorcher and various other writers who have completely misrepresented my position and, much more importantly, that of the paper," Mitchell says.

So he may well sue me for this blog post. Which sounds ridiculous, but he's suing over a tweet, so who knows?

Recall that Mitchell is threatening to sue because he claims that is a "lie" to say that he told a reporter what to write. This story by Lloyd would seem to exactly reflect Mitchell's views. If he didn't tell Lloyd what to write, then Lloyd is so well trained that he knows what to write without being told.


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Nicely summarised Tim. The real test is whether they would employ Clive Hamilton, or you, or I, to write climate/change environment pieces regularly for them. If the top of a hierarchy is employed by the owner, and he in turn employs the next steps in the managerial chain, and they in turn employ the writers and reporters and sub-editors and the outside opinion piece writers, and the whole newspaper consists therefore of essentially like-minded people, then you could be sure of never giving the newspaper proprietor any nasty surprises over his cornflakes. Without any need for direct interference in individual articles or news content. Not that I am suggesting this is a scenario for any newspaper real or imagined in any part of Australia of course.

I note no comments have yet been published on The Australian site on Lloyd's bizarre article. Some irony given that Lloyd says that 'There is no dispute that The Australian has opened its news and opinion pages to a wide range of views on the existence and extent of climate change and what should be done about it.' The comments sections of The Australian and its letters page are hardly open to a range of views at all.

Any reader of The Australian who reads the paper from cover to cover will know that the balance of the coverage across news and opinion is completely at odds with mainstream climate science, and that the paper, as Tim has so wonderfully documented, runs every nutjob who has contrarian views on climate change.

This is not balance, this is mischievous, indeed dangerous given the threat that climate change poses. The Australian surely wouldn't publish opinion pieces saying there the dangers of tobacco or asbestos are overstated, so why do so with climate change? Well, because they are beholden to a particular ideological vision, and won't let the truth spoil it.

Ah yes, the old law suit threat.
The last line of defense.

That letters page on which the correction from Prof Pethica says it all really. His correction is buried in the middle of a bunch of letters from know-nothing members of the public claiming that globul warmin is a scayum and is only just above a letter from Des Moore of the IPA repeating the Australian's original distortion of the Royal Society's work. The authoritative statement is thus completely swamped by the surrounding ignorance in a manner which cannot be accidental. What's the bet Burchell and Lloyd attack Pethica's reputation next?

By James Haughton (not verified) on 05 Dec 2010 #permalink

If he didn't tell Lloyd what to write, then Lloyd is so well trained that he knows what to write without being told.
NewsCorp's modus operandi - self censorship. Mitchell may or may not have not directly told any journo what to write. But they all know full well what is expected of them, and what will happen if they deviate too far from the party line.

One of the aspects, of this great series on the Australian's nightmare, that comes to the front for us over here in the US, is that we live with FoxNews and other News Corp hells every single day. After such a barrage, we become sadly inured to the News Corp war on science, as it is just another of the atrocities perpetuated by Rupert and his minions.

It's a shame that Mediawatch is in summer recess. This would make a good basis for a story for them.

I hope that Jonathan Holmes reads Deltoid.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 05 Dec 2010 #permalink

It's a shame that Mediawatch is in summer recess. This would make a good basis for a story for them.

I hope that Jonathan Holmes reads Deltoid.

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 05 Dec 2010 #permalink

They got Moore to expand his letter into an entire op-ed

What an incredible pile of garbage Moore writes.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 05 Dec 2010 #permalink

Quiggin has [another thoughtful post](…) on this.

>*by engaging in action so obviously inconsistent with the role of a newspaper editor as it has been understood, Chris Mitchell is doing us all a favor. The Australian is printed on paper, and contains what it alleges to be news, but it is no longer a newspaper in the late 20th century sense of that term. Rather, it is part of a political machine, using its power and wealth to crush its opponents*

Who'd need or want to misrepresent Chris Mitchell's position?! His self-parody is too good.

It would be interesting to see Lloyd here defending his "passionate" commitment to quality journalism on environmental issues but there's no chance of that happening because the Oz is too cowed by the power of new media to embarrass it to cut him that much slack.

Dear Tim Lambert,

You seem to suggest that Chris Mitchell is a liar. For the sake of balance, you should quote the views of someone who thinks that Chris Mitchell is an idiot. For additional balance, please also include the views of someone who thinks that Chris Mitcthell is a lunatic.


> Lloyd prints the opinions of twelve critics of wind power along with his own criticism, claiming that wind power is too expensive, is unreliable, is unsightly, is harmful to human health, kills wildlife, destroys communities, reduces real estate values, and causes corruption.

He forgot 'mugs old ladies' and 'strangles kittens'.

For those more interested in honest, credible analysis:

- Zero Carbon Australia Energy Plan. A ten year roadmap for 100% renewable energy. Baseload energy supplied by renewable sources. Affordable at $8 per household per week.

James, it's worse than that. They got Moore to expand his letter into an entire op-ed about how Pethica is wrong about his own report.

That is...I'm speechless. From there:

What Pethica did not mention, however, is the report's statement that climate change "continues to be the subject of intensive scientific research and public debate"

What? So?

Yes, I read that Moore column and was amazed at the same line as you, SC.
Basically, Moore is not engaging in any analysis, just indulging in an ignorant rant.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

He who pays the piper, calls the tune. Simple as that.

Balanced reporting in the Oz today. Mitchell reprints Ben Webster's artical from the Times with a screaming headline "Rising sea level risk overstated"

The only support for this headline in the story was the sentance:

">*[the report] dismisses claims the sea level could rise by more than 2m by 2100 as "very unlikely".*

So who was claiming SLR of more than 2m by 2100?

Not [the IPCC](…)

Not [the CSIRO](

That Moore column simply drips with slime, innuendo and defamatory statements. In a just universe it would be unprintable.

By James Haughton (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink


"So who was claiming SLR of more than 2m by 2100?"

I do. I know its off topic but present and projected polar ice melt and ocean warming trends make it very likely and I have been saying so since 2008.

By Mike Pope (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

The letters page at the Oz yesterday had responses including mine to Lloyd's defence. I found the whole thing very odd. They are trying to claim their editorial position is pro-science and they are merely allowing space for all views. He certainly can't say that about the wind article, which repeats every known canard about wind, with no input from real experts.

They drastically cut my letter so I posted the full text on my blog. The "bogus balance" trick was invented in 1954 by the tobacco industry, and has worked for everyone who looks like a bucket of slime since.

The Oz chose to ignore my example of their inconsistency: they don't regularly carry a Trotskyite rebuttal of the business pages, which would carry just as much weight as a Des Moore rant on.

Another little inaccuracy in Lloyd's article: he describes Lomborg as an economist. The guy's qualifications are in political science (the subject of that name, not turning science into politics). The Economist also incorrectly called him a "statistician" (he lectured stats in the social sciences, and has no higher degree in the area). All of this would mean nothing of course if Lomborg was a genius capable of overturning conventional wisdom in any area he turned to. The fact that he hasn't even published much in political science would, you'd think, set off the alarm bells but no.

A bullshit detector is a cheap enough appliance; you'd think every journalist would own one.

To get to the bullshit detector you've got to get past the paycheque detector.

By dexitroboper (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

frank @13 - thanks for that. I've been chuckling for hours. I'm reminded of an old Private Eye cartoon, where a BBC compere introduces his two guests, saying 'on my right tonight is a government spokesman, and in the interests of balance I'm also joined by a wild-eyed Trot from the lunatic fringe'.

>*Latest Wikies mention manipulation of IPCC by USA!!*

Which cable? I read two about Norway and Brazil lobbying for their candidate for leader of WGII, was there something in particular?

You have to feel sorry for the Oz. Over on Jo Colding's site she is going at the Oz hammer and tongs for 'giving in' and saying AGW is happening. She is more scathing this sin of the Oz (in her eyes) than she is about any climate scientist. In concert with her the posters on her site are giving out war whoops and beating the drums of verbal war against the Oz.

Some days you just can't win can you.

> She is more scathing this sin of the Oz (in her eyes) than she is about any climate scientist.

Because if they lose the partisan press, they lose their indoctrination channels.

While the media continues to manufacture debate, the denialists can continue to proclaim it's not settled and therefore we shouldn't do anything.

Jo's performing a very important function - The Oz can claim the middle ground by pointing to criticism from the JC minions.

It's all in the framing.

Sure he can push fossil fuel powered poo poo in exchange for a good head pat, but can he sit, roll-over and disregard his own feces?

Part of me understands why journalists have been replaced by 'journalists'. Between conglomeration, search engines, the blogosphere and the rise of the stupid, there are precious few full time journalism jobs left and most roll up under a few powerful interests with little compunction about appearances (the New York Post's gossip/smear section is a particularly odious example). People have a remarkable capacity for self-delusion, not least when that means a steady paycheck and the alternative is painful. I'm sure, but for some stubborn glimmer of perception in his subconscious, Lloyd is entirely convinced heâs doing Godâs work. They all do (and, I suppose, all are presuming they pray to the same God Lloyd Blankenfein does).

By Majorajam (not verified) on 08 Dec 2010 #permalink

Here's an example of Murdoch having trouble with one of his US editors:

Newsroom arguments are common. But for Col Allan, this is a pattern. We've been hearing reports from insiders all year that the Post's ongoing staff exodus was due largely to Allan's "awful," bullying management style. It's damn near impossible to find anyone outside of Rupert Murdoch's office to say a kind word about Allan's embarassment-filled reign at the paper --particularly not over the past couple of years, when circulation has plummeted, lawsuits have characterized the newsroom as a racist, sexist hellhole, and even admirers of the Allan's particular brand of flair have consistently started grumbling that he's lost his editorial touch. Even Liz Smith called him an "absolute total shit."

You may be interested in a letter I have just sent to the Australian:

When the Royal Society issued a new guide on Climate Change, the Australian accepted the spin by climate change sceptics, and misrepresented the guide as a retreat from previous position statements, and as being in disagreement with with the IPCC's fourth assesment report ("Top Science Body Cools on Global Warming" Oct 2, 2010). In an example of the "unbiased" reporting we have come to expect from The Australian, the only "scientific" comment in The Australian's report came from a leading sceptic. The lead author of the report felt it necessary to write to The Australian, debunking your misrepresentations (Letters, Oct 9, 2010). It would no doubt astonish him to see that letter now quoted out of context to suggest that there has been no change in scientific certainty about Global Warming since 1997.

In the meantime the clear bias on climate change in The Australian can be seen by comparing the World Meteorological Organisation's press release on 2010 temperatures ( with The Australian's reporting of it ("2010 third hottest year since 1850", reveals UN climate report, Dec 3, 2010; "Treading carfully at Cancun" Dec 7, 2010). The WMO reports that 2010 is the hottest year on record over the period January to October, being 0.55 degrees hotter than the 1961-1990 average, ie, 0.02 degrees warmer than 1998, and 0.03 degrees warmer than 2005 over the same period. Based on this, the WMO predicts that 2010 will be one of the three hottest years on record, though whether first, second or third cannot be known without data for November and December. The Australian, in contrast, reports the WMO as saying that 2010 is currently the third hottest, but that it may slip from that position with additional data from November and December.

These errors are to simple to be ascribed to incompetence. In a paper whose opinion pages for large periods in recent times could only find space to discuss climate for the less than 5% of climatologists who disagree with the IPCC position, the conclusion that editorial bias has distorted news coverage is inescapable.

Like earlier letters pointing out gross distortion in climate reporting by The Australian, I do not expect it to be published.

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2010 #permalink

Excellent letter Tom.

Further to Tom's letter,UNSW's David McKnight has ripped into The Australian-minor kudos to them for publishing him-with a pretty thorough timeline of their editorial bias on AGW,"Sceptical Writers Missed Inconvenient Truths" on the 11th.

In response,a feeble editorial slaps back,featuring the selective quotation of the RS and the spinning of the lead author as Tom mentions.

Good comments Tim. I just Googled Lloyd today having read his account of Kangaroo Island and fishing sanctuaries titled "End of the Line?".
It has all the elements of bias that you mention above. Lots of affected 'True Blue' battlers against, and one ex-commercial fisherman given a paragraph of pro, but this then qualified by an abstruse quote from Rob Kearney which does not say anything about exclusion zones.
My immediate thought was that the OZ doesn't like the SA government.
Lloyd to my view is certainly biased and promulgates his opinion in a similar way to the fear crazed Republicans in the US - albeit with more finesse.