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What The Australian edited out of their report linking fossil fuel burning to climate extremes

Please see update below before you read the post below.

The Associated Press is one of the world’s biggest and oldest news agency’s providing copy to papers and media websites all over the world.

Earlier this week they filed a report about a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Association which carried 22 studies looking at the link between 16 extreme weather events around the world and human-caused climate change.

I’ve written about five of the studies that looked at Australia’s record hot year of 2013 for my Planet Oz blog on The Guardian.

But anyway, back to AP, which ran a news story about the special edition earlier this week.  The AP report had 19 paragraphs. Paragraphs eight, nine and 10 read like this.

The report seeks to find how much and how man-made warming has influenced the weather, said NOAA research meteorologist Martin Hoerling, an editor of the report.

The influence on Australia’s hottest year in more than a century is glaring, the report’s editors said.

“It’s almost impossible” to explain Australia’s hot 2013 without climate change, said Peter Stott of the United Kingdom’s meteorology office, another report editor.

Now you might know (because I’ve written a fair bit on it) that The Australian newspaper has been on a bit of a mission of late to publish the non-peer-reviewed musings of a climate science denialist who claims Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has been fiddling its temperature record to show warming.

It just happens to be the same temperature dataset that BoM used to declare 2013 the hottest year on record and the same record that shows Australia has warmed almost a degree in the last 100 years or so (it’s not the only data set that shows this and it’s not the only analysis that shows this either).

So when The Australian ran the Associated Press story about the studies it decided to leave out a few paragraphs. See if you can guess some of them. Go on, I dare you. I double dare you. I double denial dare you to guess.

OK, I’ll tell you.

They left out those three paragraphs above, two of which were the only ones exclusively discussing Australia.

You might think those paragraphs would be the ones most relevant to readers in Australia, seeing as they are the bits talking about Australia, and The Australian is published in Australia (the clue is in the masthead).

But what do I know?

UPDATE: OK – I owe someone an apology.  My criticism was unwarranted (on this occasion) but I’ve kept the post as is rather than delete it, just to show I’m able to eat humble pie when required. Seth Borenstein from Associated Press says that The Australian ran an earlier take of his AP story before the comments from scientists were added.

 

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Climate change conspiracy theories and the ABC radio interview with John Cook that never was

a radio

A radio yesterday, which didn’t broadcast an interview with University of Queensland climate change communication fellow John Cook

In the space of six days, The Australian newspaper has published five news stories and an opinion piece attacking the credibility of the Australian government’s weather and climate agency, the Bureau of Meteorology.

I’ve covered the guts of the early stories over on my Planet Oz blog for The Guardian.

But the core of it is that Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a former Institute of Public Affairs free market think tankerer, is claiming that the BoM has, in her words, “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”.

Marohasy is a researcher at Central Queensland University with her work funded by another climate change “sceptic”.

She has has not published her analysis in any journal, yet The Australian’s Graham Lloyd has deemed the claims of a climate science sceptic on blogs worthy enough of five news pieces.

I just want to deal with his latest story, that comments on the BoM’s process of transparency.  The story includes this bit:

The bureau has been under fire for not making publicly available the methodology used for homogenisation.

Michael Asten from the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University said confidence in BOM’s data would increase “if and when BOM publishes or supplies its homogenisation algorithms, a step which would be quite consistent with existing ­requirements of the better peer-reviewed journals.’’

BOM said its methods had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals but did not say where or in what form.

This claim is – oh what’s the word – bollocks (sorry kids).

algo bom

Click to engorge this algorithm

Here is a page on the BoM’s website which goes to great lengths to provide information on how the agency deals with the data from its hundreds of temperature stations.

What’s more, it appears neither Lloyd or Asten are prepared to actually look at the peer reviewed literature where the “homogenisation algorithms” are hidden away in plain sight – or at least in the sight of anyone interested enough to want to look for it.

Here, in the peer reviewed journal International Journal of Climatology, is a paper from BoM’s Blair Trewin discussing the methodology and the mathematical tools (algorithms) that the bureau has used as part of their method to construct their high quality data set, the ACORN-SAT.

If you really don’t believe me, here is grab passage on the right from the actual paper in question.. you likely won’t understand it, but this matters not. It’s the details of the algorithm in a journal, linked to from the BoM website, that some people apparently can’t see.

I argued in my Guardian post that Marohasy and, by extension, Graham Lloyd were spreading little more than a conspiracy theory.

I say this because what’s necessary for Marohasy’s claim that “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming” is important to dwell on.

For her claim to be true, she needs evidence that lots of scientists have got together – perhaps under a tree or in a secret bunker somewhere – and hatched a plan to throw away all of their scientific integrity and just fiddle the numbers.

Marohasy has no evidence for this happening whatsoever and so is left with innuendo.

Marohasy gave an interview with ABC Goulburn Murray where she discussed her claims. But part way through the interview the line goes dead. She called back and continued the interview, continuing her claims of a “cover up”.

Marohasy has written about this on her blog.

I was cut-off, before I got to explain too much.

I waited, assuming the line had dropped out. But after no one phoned me back I rang back myself. I phoned ABC Goulburn Murray and was put on hold. Guess whom Bronwen (O’Shea) was now interviewing?

Answer: the infamous John Cook, a faux sceptic from the University of Queensland.

Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.

Now for those that don’t know, John Cook is the founder of the Skeptical Science website and the Climate Communication Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.

Another sceptic blogger JoNova also commented on the ABC interview with Cook.

“We’re looking forward to seeing John Cook explain that on his blog,” she wrote.

One commenter said:

The plug would have been pulled by the Producer (the person who sits in the glass box and fiddles with the knobs and sliders), who obviously panicked when the interview, based on the Producer’s questions, did not go according to plan.

Making the second mistake, of asking John Cook to say anything sensible, was the icing on the cake, that hopefully will cost the Producer their job (although I doubt it).

On Marohasy’s blog, another commenter wondered:

John Cook gets media dispensation everywhere. One can’t imagine why; his consensus paper is drivel; and did he really say this:

“Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.”

One can only hope it is different from everywhere else; that’s the point; even the AGW scientists [sic] admit to great regional variation; or at least they use to; who knows what they are saying.

One also wonders whether Cook rang in and Jennifer was shunted to give way to this VIP [sic] or whether the ABC rang him?

Well, I was keen to know if John Cook had been looking at the issue of temperature records. I called John to ask him about his ABC interview.

The conversation went something like this.

Me: How was the interview on ABC Goulburn Murray?

John: What interview…?

That’s right. John Cook was not interviewed by ABC Goulburn Murray and he has apparently never met or spoken to the host in question, Bronwen O’Shea.

John even offered an alibi! He was with his mum and before anyone asks, no I’ve not called John Cook’s mum to verify that the person she was with that morning was actually John Cook, her son.

Just to be doubly sure, I asked the ABC for a response.

I was told that they did not interview John Cook, but did have a talkback caller who came on the line after the phone dropped out and this was “David from Sandy Creek” which… well… sort of sounds like John Cook… but not much!

Cook is the bête noire of climate sceptics due to his research showing 97 per cent of climate science papers agree it’s caused by humans. Cook apparently looms so large in the minds of some sceptics that they hear him when he’s not even there.

The sixth story in The Australian comes from Maurice Newman, the Prime Minister’s top business advisor, headlined Groupthink reigns in climate research.

Newman’s piece is the usual bilge but it does include this specific claim about the United States, where Newman hints that the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also fiddles its temperature data.

Now, 1998 is the hottest on record in the US.

Actually no.  The hottest year for continental United States was 2012, smashing the previous hottest year – 1998 – by a whole degree fahrenheit.

You’re shocked by these errors aren’t you? Shocked I say.

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Maurice Newman’s flight of climate denialist fantasy takes off from Cobar Airport

Maurice Newman

Maurice Newman, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pick as chairman of his business advisory panel,  is back with yet more conspiratorial climate science denial in The Australian.

Where else?

It’s full of the usual stuff about climate change zealots, global warming having stopped (it hasn’t) and how sceptics are being victimised.

But I just want to look at one point Maurice Newman makes.

In the op-ed, he says this:

We learn from a voluntary independent auditor, Ken Stewart, that after analysing 84 out of 104 Bureau of Meteorology sites, the effect of adjustments made to create the official Australian temper­ature record is an increase in the warming trend for minima of 66.6 per cent and 13 per cent for maxima… The data included 30 years of temperatures from Cobar airport from 1962, despite it not opening until 1993. Always, the trend is to warming.

The official Australia temperature record that Newman is referring to is called ACORN-SAT  - it stands for the Australian Climate Observations Reference Network and is maintained and managed by the Bureau of Meteorology.

When Newman says “the data included 30 years of temperatures from Cobar airport” it can’t have, because the Cobar Airport monitoring station is not part of ACORN-SAT as anyone armed with an internet search engine can find out.

The BoM even has a document describing each of the sites that make up ACORN-SAT. The document describes the site at Cobar included in the ACORN-SAT.

Easy mistake to make though, no, if you’re not intimate with this particular central New South Wales town ? Not really. BoM says in the document:

There is a separate site (048237) at the airport which is not used in ACORN-SAT.

Oops.

Elsewhere in Newman’s op-ed he also flails at people who “resort to authority” and “personal abuse”.

Newman then resorts to the authority of a scientist who claims there’s more evidence for creationism than there is for evolution and who says people who used the term “denier” to describe people who deny science should themselves be described as “global warming Nazis“.

Maybe instead Newman could have resorted to the authority of the BoM who could at least have pointed him at the intertubes?

 

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Cut and paste qualifiers for your climate and science stories

The ABC reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Indonesians that human-caused climate change could threaten their “entire way of life”.

Kerry called the science “unequivocal” and told the audience: ”We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists … and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact.”

This statement struck me to be a little ironic, given that the ABC story also contained this sentence:

Despite evidence that human activities that emit carbon dioxide contribute to climate change, some sceptics believe a rise in global temperatures is due to natural variability or other non-human factors.

Aside from pointing out that those “sceptics” aren’t really sceptics, I wonder for how long editors will continue to think that the presence of extreme fringe beliefs backed by hunches and conspiracy theories deserve the insertion of little qualifiers in stories.

Despite overwhelming evidence that something is happening, there are some people who think it isn’t and so until every last corner of the internet has been scoured for contrarians we’ll continue to point out that those people are still around.

I wonder too why such qualifiers are not always  extended to other stories?  I mean, where would you stop? I’ve fashioned a few other examples which editors can feel free to cut and paste as they wish.

Despite evidence that the Earth is basically a sphere, some sceptics believe that the globe is either flat or some other shape because if the Earth really is spinning, how come centrifugal force hasn’t thrown us all off into outer space, eh?

Despite evidence that Santa Claus isn’t real, there are some people who believe that he absolutely is because he, like, so is, because they get presents under the tree once a year and the fact we live in a seventh floor flat with no chimney doesn’t matter because he SO has a magic key that lets you get through any door. And he can stop time.

Despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines reduce the prevalence of a number of very nasty diseases, some people think that all those diseases mystically went away and so it’s OK not to subject their children to injections, which hurt a bit and are therefore cruel.

Despite evidence that human activities that emit carbon dioxide contribute to climate change, some sceptics believe that the earth’s climate is controlled by god or that it has something to do with magnetism.

Despite evidence that smoking causes cancer and heart disease, some sceptics believe there is evidence that people have lived to be really really old after smoking five packs a day for sodding decades – just ask my wheezy Uncle Dave about this.

Despite evidence that animals and plants have evolved over hundreds of millions of years, some sceptics think that a god put them there and that, in any case, how can they have evolved over millions of years when the Earth is only a few thousands years old, which is totally science.

Despite evidence that massive oil slicks can be damaging to birds, some sceptics believe the birds have doused themselves in crude through choice as they go through a dark and introspective “Emo” phase.

Despite evidence that astrology lacks any basic mechanism, some people think that today is their day to shine, just be careful not to let the opportunity drift away after that recent run of bad luck. Today’s fate colour is: mauve.

Despite evidence that rapid melting of ice sheets contributes to rising sea levels, some sceptics believe they are not melting and even if they are, this effect can be offset by simply asking people to build more swimming pools to store the extra water in.

Despite evidence that NASA did land a few dudes on the moon once, some sceptics believe the whole shebang was a hoax cooked up in a studio. And while we’re at it, Elvis is so alive.

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Future of Science Journalism

ASC14

The 2014 Australian Science Communicators Conference. From left, Ian Townsend, Leigh Dayton, me, Jenni Metcalfe: Picture courtesy of Corey Watts

I TOOK part in a cracking panel discussion earlier this month at the 2014 Australian Science Communicators national conference in Brisbane.

I joined former science editor on The Australian, Leigh Dayton, ABC Background Briefing’s Ian Townsend and Jenni Metcalfe, of science communication agency Econnect , for a chat/argument about the future of science journalism.

ABC Radio National host Natasha Mitchell was the moderator.

You can’t argue that mainstream journalism is going through a bit of a crisis at the moment – or at least the way its funded is.

As newsrooms shrink, so do the number of specialist journalists.  It leaves a lovely gaping hole ripe for exploitation by PR, think tanks and the like.

I shared my thoughts on the challenges journalists face when scientific issues like climate change become politicised and how just being a conduit for the opinions of others doesn’t always cut it.

Listen to the whole metaphorical shooting match below and, below that, a Storify of reaction to the panel.

Thanks to Bianca Nogrady and Sarah Keenihan for putting the panel together. Read the rest of this entry »

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Video charts the use of doubt as a product in smoking and climate science denial

WHEN tobacco companies began to understand that science linking tobacco smoking to lung cancer could have an impact on their industry profits, they began to produce another product – doubt.

Spreading doubt about the science could water-down public concern, cut the motivation to act and reduce the risk of policies that affect your bottom line.

Video blogger and journalist Peter Sinclair – of Climate Crock of the Week fame – has put together this new video showing the at times startling similarities between the denial of the health impacts from smoking and the denial of the science of human-caused climate change.

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Top physicist accuses The Australian newspaper of misrepresenting his climate change views

Professor Richard Muller – fair to say he’s not happy with a recent column in The Australian that misrepresented his views on climate chnage

IN a column this week in The Australian, writer Gary Johns tried to argue that the science of human-caused climate change was “contentious”, that climate change might not be that bad and that we shouldn’t bother to cut down on emissions.

The Australian newspaper has a record for favouring climate science denialism and contrarianism above genuine expertise.

Columns and coverage like this come along in the pages of the Rupert Murdoch-owned press with such regularity that you might think [blush] that they’ve got some kind of an agenda. Honestly, you could really think that.

In the latest column – “Let’s get realistic about reducing carbon emissions” – Johns writes approvingly of a project called the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) while finding disparaging remarks about the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Johns doesn’t mention that the NIPCC is run by the fossil-fuel funded Heartland Institute in the United States, which advocates free market ideology within which businesses should be allowed to do pretty much whatever they like, such as using the atmosphere as a free waste dump.

But in one section of Johns’ column, he quotes and paraphrases Professor Richard Muller, a respected American physicist who was once sceptical of human-caused climate change.

As reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, a couple of years ago Muller led a team based at the University of California which analysed more than 14 million temperature readings from 44,455 measuring sites from around the world going back to the mid 18th century.

Professor Muller found the world had warmed by 1.5C in the last 50 years and that burning fossil fuels and other human industrial processes were “almost entirely” the cause.

I emailed Professor Muller about the column to ask if he felt his words had been fairly represented.

First, I asked Professor Muller about this section of the column. Read the rest of this entry »

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The undiscerning climate bookshelf

Book shelf displaying climate change books at Dymocks book store

Climate sceptic book Taxing Air coming to an undiscerning book store near you

SHELVES in popular book stores can be undiscerning little buggers, as can the book stores themselves.

For example, I recently had cause to wander through the tightly-bound and bulging aisles of my local Dymocks book store. They have some really quite “special” offerings both online and in-store.

Even though we essentially know that astrology is, for all intents and purposes, basically b******s, I can report that the paperback version of “Practical Astrology” is “in stock”.

Failing that, there’s also “Homeopathy for your Cat” within the pages of which you can find out how magic water can cure your ginger’s urinary tract issue.

Are you a book shopping parent who has “wished for a handbook on each child”? Well tough, because Dymocks has sold out of “Homeopathy and Your Child” so you’ll have to work out your kid’s “physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs” some other way (by the way, I’m not singling out Dymocks here – most of the big high street book sellers also hawk similar enlightenment-crushing garbage).

And there are the books on climate change.

Without any prior knowledge, it’s easy to see how the average punter might be easily fooled by the line-up of  books cosying-up in Dymocks and elsewhere. As you can see by the image above, there’s some excellent stuff on offer from well credentialed authors and scientists.

There’s What We Know About Climate Change by MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel. Just beneath, is The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the front lines from Professor Michael Mann, director of Earth System Science at Penn State University, also in the US.

And sharing the same shelf space, is Taxing Air written by Dr Bob Carter, an Australian geologist and advisor to about a dozen climate science denial organisations around the world, and John Spooner, a cartoonist for The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.

Bob Carter’s fringe views on climate change (it’s all natural) make him a favourite of fossil fuel-funded propaganda unit the Heartland Institute and many, many other groups with similarly dismissive views on human-caused climate change and its risks.

Carter was recently let go by James Cook University in Queensland, where he had been an unpaid adjunct professor for over a decade, because he wasn’t pulling his weight.

Carter hinted – and his supporters screamed – that he had been booted out because he was a climate sceptic. I covered that case for DeSmogBlog and also summarised this and other recent goings on for the ABC Science Show.

But back to Taxing Air, which is yet another climate sceptic book with strong links to a conservative “think tank” – in this case, the Institute for Public Affairs, where Dr Carter is the Science Policy Advisor.

The IPA paid for copies to be sent out to Australian members of parliament and has also hosted a launch event for the book. Research has found that almost four out of five climate sceptic books published since the early 80s have links to conservative think tanks.

Dr Carter, it should be noted, has only written one scientific paper on atmospheric climate change, which claimed – wrongly as it turned out – to have found that recent global warming was down to natural cycles of water temperatures in the Pacific. One group of leading climate scientists who analysed carter’s paper concluded that the conclusions he and his co-authors drew were “not supported by their analysis or any physical theory presented in their paper”.

But is Taxing Air any good? Well, I have a copy which I’m still trudging through (I may not get to the end). But one academic who has finished it is Australian Ian Enting, and he is none too impressed. Mathematical physicist Enting (author of the Australian Mathematical Scences Institute book Twisted: The distorted mathematics of greenhouse denialworked at Australia’s leading science agency, the CSIRO, for 24 years in atmospheric research and modelling of the global carbon cycle.

Enting has analysed the book, describing it as a “polemic” characterised by “half-truths and slanted misrepresentation” and “appalling hypocrisy”.

At one point, Enting’s document notes how one chart  in Taxing Air is taken from a leaked draft of the not-yet-published United Nations IPCC Assessment Report 5 (due out in two weeks).

The chart has been altered, Enting’s document notes, removing a shaded area that shows the uncertainty range which, had it been left in, s

Cover of Killing the Earth to Save It by James Delingpole

hows how climate models agree with the observations within the range of uncertainty. Enting finds dozens of other examples like this.

But my real reason for going into the Brisbane Dymocks store was to hunt out a copy of Killing the Earth To Save It, written by UK-based climate science denialist and wind-farm hater James Delingpole.

In the UK, it was published under the name Watermelons. There was something remarkable about the book which I had read and was keen to confirm.

The book was published by Connor Court, which has published several other climate sceptic books. The editorial board of Connor Court also includes the IPA executive director John Roskam.

The IPA also paid for Delingpole to tour Australia to promote his book in September 2012 – a favour which he returned by running a public appeal for people to donate cash to the Melbourne-based group, which doesn’t reveal its funders but has run a long campaign of climate misinformation.

But none of these are the “remarkable thing” I referred to earlier.

The remarkable thing was an entry in Chapter 8 – “Welcome To The New World Order”. Delingpole continues to spruik on his Daily Telegraph blog, most recently earlier this week. Here’s what Delingpole says on page 174 of my newly purchased copy:

Probably the best analysis of the Club of Rome’s tangible effects on global environmental policy comes courtesy of a website called “The Green Agenda”:

While researching [...] and during my academic studies, I have come across many references to the Club of Rome (CoR), and reports produced by them. Initially I assumed that they were just another high-level environmental think-tank and dismissed the conspiracy theories found on many website claiming that the CoR is a group of global elitists attempting to impose some kind of one world government. I am not a conspiratorial person by nature and was faced with a dilemma when I first read their reports. But it’s all there – in black and white.

Indeed

So what exactly is “The Green Agenda” which Delingpole tells his readers is offering this leading analysis? Here’s the source of the quote, on the website “The Green Agenda”. And who runs “The Green Agenda”? It is a sister site of The Watchman’s Post - which describes itself as a “Christian/ Messianic  End Time Messenger!” based in New Zealand.

That’s right. Delingpole’s “analysis” of a jumped-up conspiracy theory about plans for a one world government come direct from a group of Christian fundamentalists who preach about second comings and “end times”. The watchman’s website details the coming of an “anti-Christ”, “times of distress and tribulation” and “Triads of evil”.

Here’s a taster:

True Christians will be seen at best as ‘insane’ and at worst as worthy of elimination. However, note; the period being introduced at that time and rightly called the ‘Time of Tribulation’ will quickly degenerate into a terrible time of trouble for almost everyone in the whole world, not just believers in Jesus. [We will explain more, later!] We can add with conviction, that we believe the ‘Time of God’s judgmental anger’ is a separate period of time as indicated by the pouring out of the ‘Bowls of Wrath’ when all true Believers will be sovereignly protected! [We will explain later.]

Perhaps it might be worth checking a few more of Delingpole’s sources in “Killing the earth to Save It” which is described by News Corp. columnist Andrew Bolt on the back cover as “wonderful” with “devastating facts and lacerating anecdotes”.

Not just devastating and lacerating, but potentially world ending – apparently – just not in the way Bolt and Delingpole might have expected.

Oh, did I say that Killing the World To Save It and Taxing Air are available in “all good bookshops”?

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New blog Planet Oz gets a slot on The Guardian

YOU might have seen or even read already that I’ve got a new blogging gig with The Guardian.

As you can see it features a lovely little banner and a picture of me which, I’m being told repeatedly, looks like it was taken by a police officer shortly before  charges were laid.

Anyway, the blog is called Planet Oz and it has a little homepage and RSS feed all of its own in the maelstrom of information that is The Guardian’s web-beast. There are already a couple of posts for you to chew over.

One – “How climate scientists are being framed” – looked at how some climate science mangling columnists and conservative opinistamakerpeople are trying in their writings to get us to associate climate scientists with things like sick children and totalitarian regimes. I sneaked onto the site’s front page with that one.

Another post – “Great Barrier Reef is at risk even if it doesn’t make Unesco’s danger list” – reviewed some of the recent research on the future of the reef. I argued that even if the United Nations does put it on its World Heritage “danger list” as it is threatening to do, the evidence suggests the reef is still facing a pretty dire future.

I’ll be hoping to cover a whole bunch of issues on the blog related to climate change, climate science denial, the environment, energy, sustainability and other such stuff. I’m still freelance so I’ll keep contributing to DeSmogBlog and hopefully I can keep writing for places like Green Lifestyle magazine and ABC Environment.

Planet Oz is part of a network of environment blogs which The Guardian has created in the mould of its science blog network project. In the same way that the science bloggers can write about “what they want, when they want” – within the boundaries of The Guardian’s own Editorial Guidelines – the environment bloggers should be given the same freedom once we’ve got our heads around the content management system and how not to fill our posts with garbled html code and pictures that don’t fit the screen.

Despite some confusion, Planet Oz and the blog network is separate from the approaching launch of Guardian Australia (hopefully though the very nice people at Guardian Australia will feature the posts).

The venture was actually announced back in December 2012 and I’m told about 800 people applied to be environment bloggers. Before the launch, some of the prospective bloggers had a little try out. I wrote about Australia’s love of exporting fossil fuels.

There are some cracking blogs already launched as part of the network and I’m kinda chuffed to be in their company. There’s Nafeez Ahmed’s Earth Insight, Jenni Duggan’s China’s Choice, John Abrahan and Dana Nuccitelli’s Climate Consensus – the 97%, Kavitha Rao’s Terra India, Canadian journalist Martin Lukacs’ True North, Emma Bryce’s World On A Plate and Africa Wild by Paula Kahumba. I think there are one or two more still to launch (I’ll add them here when I get them). UPDATE: Also now launched, fellow Aussie Alexander White’s Southern Crossroads, Peru-based David Hill’s Andes To The Amazon and  New York-based Sputh African film maker Adam Welz’s Nature Up.

Please go off and check them all out and share the posts if you like them. Even if you don’t like them, share them anyway and keep the comment threads healthy.

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The Australian publishes James Delingpole’s call for climate “alarmists” to face court with power to issue death sentence

James Delingpole

I IMAGINE only a small percentage of people reading this have had any journalism training, but don’t let that stop you from pondering the following ethical question.

If you read a newspaper story that included a direct quote from someone – let’s say, for instance, UK climate scientist Dr David Viner – would it be acceptable to put quotation marks on the headline of that story and claim it was a quote from Dr Viner? You can have a minute to think about it.

It might help you to know that the headline was not written by the reporter who interviewed Dr Viner and wrote the story, and certainly not by Dr Viner himself. In short, a third person – a sub-editor – wrote the headline.

You don’t need a minute? Of course not: it would be unprofessional, unethical and factually wrong to pass off a sub-editor’s made-up words as Dr Viner’s.

The Australian newspaper has just published a column from UK-based climate science mangler and anti-wind farm activist James Delingpole that tries to argue that Australia’s recent unprecedented heatwave and hottest month on record wasn’t all that hot and that global warming “alarmists” should be answering to a court with the power to issue a death sentence (no, I don’t exaggerate, but we’ll get to that at the end).

In the story, Delingpole says that Dr Viner had “famously declared” in 2000 that “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”.

But here’s the thing. Dr Viner never did utter those words. He was indeed quoted in a story in the UK’s The Independent newspaper which carried the headline “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”. But the headline was a gross over-statement: the first paragraph makes the  far more modest claim that a trend to warmer winters meant that  “snow is starting to disappear from our lives”.

The reporter, Charles Onians, quoted Dr Viner as saying that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. Note the absence of quote marks on the time frame being within a few years – they were Onians’s words, just as the headline was the sub-editor’s.

So Dr Viner’s actual prediction was that at some point in the future snow could become “a very rare and exciting event”. As well, the story paraphrases him as adding an important qualifier – that heavy snow will return occasionally and catch people unprepared. But Delingpole leaves this bit out.

Delingpole then uses the non-quote that Dr Viner didn’t say as a launchpad to ridicule him. “Viner has since become a legend in his own lunchtime, frequently quoted on the internet, sometimes having his name joshingly used as a synonym for snow. This isn’t because he got his prediction right, of course. It’s because, like Flannery, he got it so spectacularly, hilariously, hopelessly wrong.”

Hopelessly wrong, Mr Delingpole? What, like hopelessly attributing a quote to someone who never said it?

Delingpole is of course “reporting” from an unseasonably cold and recently snowbound United Kingdom, which the BBC reports has just experienced its second coldest March since records began.

Scientists are now reporting a link between the loss of sea ice in the Arctic – driven by human-caused climate change – and cold snaps in the northern hemisphere like the one experienced by the UK. A recent scientific paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explained the link.

Delingpole also says in the column that Australia’s recent record-breaking summer heatwave wasn’t that hot. “The thermometers were higher when the First Fleet arrived in the Sydney summer of 1790-91,” writes Delingpole, presumably having travelled back in time to check that the First Fleet thermometer was positioned within something resembling a Stevenson screen to ensure sunlight or incorrect air flow didn’t corrupt the reading.

It’s possible that Delingpole based his statement from this guest blog post by Australian MP Craig Kelly on Watts Up With That, where Kelly wrote that on December 27th 1790 one of these First Fleet thermometers near Observatory Hill in Sydney recorded a temperature of 42.8C.

It’s a shame that Delingpole didn’t check this figure. Four days after Kelly wrote that story, Sydney recorded its hottest day ever with 45.8C at Observatory Hill on 18 January – a full three degrees hotter than Kelly’s favoured First Fleet thermometer. Even The Australian reported it.

But in any case, Australia’s recent record breaking heatwave wasn’t a heatwave confined to one temperature reading in one place. As a Bureau of Meteorology special climate statement pointed out, “maximum temperatures over the period 1–18 January have been 6 °C or more above normal over a wide area of interior central and southern Australia and 45 °C has been reached at least once during the event over 46.9 per cent of Australia.”

You might think that The Australian would be wary about using Delingpole, after a recent Australian Press Council upheld a complaint about one of his previous contributions to Australia’s only national newspaper.

In that story in May last year, Delingpole quoted an un-named sheep farmer as saying that the wind farm industry  was ”bloody well near a pedophile ring. They’re f . . king our families and knowingly doing so”.

The APC said this was “highly offensive” and “the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech”.

But rather than heed the blunt-toothed press council’s finding, Delingpole was given more space by The Australian to respond. He wrote: “I stand by every word of the piece – especially the bit about pedophiles. I would concede that the analogy may be somewhat offensive to the pedophile community.”

How could even Delingpole top this statement for offensiveness?  He has a prime contender at the bottom of his most recent column, where he writes: “The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap.”

To those not au fait with the traditions of the English courts, black caps were only worn by judges when handing out death sentences.

By continuing to publish such low-grade and offensive polemics, in my view the only things hanging limp from the gallows are The Australian‘s credibility on climate change and its professional standards.

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