Catching up on old-ish news

Double yolker actionIT’S been a frantic few weeks, so just time to share some recent links of mine.

First up, I had a look at the phenomenon of the “conservative white male” effect which is a bit like the greenhouse gas effect, in that seemingly the more of it you release, the worse things get.

I also took a look at the new climate sceptic group the Galileo Movement, and their various links to conservative white males like Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and pretty much every climate denier that’s ever stalked the corridors of a free market think-tank. Oh, and they share a PR firm with the Church of Scientology and The Exclusive Brethren.

On the Brisbane Times and across the rest of the Fairfax network, I previewed a court case about to close in Queensland which is hearing a challenge against a huge coal mine development by Xstrata. Over the mine’s lifetime, the coal burned will see about 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases added to the planet’s atmosphere. If you’re following Australia’s carbon tax debate, then this cancels out the Government’s five per cent cut about seven times over.

Also on the Brisbane Times, a look at a report from The Climate Institute into the mental health issues related to extreme weather events like floods, droughts, bushfires and cyclones. If you take your climate science from climate scientists, then you’ll know that adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere increase the chances of events such as these happening more often (or in the case of cyclones, there could be less of them, but the ones we do get will probably be bigger and meaner).

Oh, and one of my chickens laid that egg. Disappointingly, there was no dinosaur inside.

Share

Monckton threatens to sue ABC

CLIMATE change denier Lord Christopher Monckton has described the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Maurice Newman as a “shrimp-like wet little individual” in a speech given in Melbourne.

In the outburst on 20 July, Lord Monckton said he had written to Mr Newman to demand he be allowed to respond to an episode of the ABC Radio National documentary Background Briefing, produced by Wendy Carlisle, which heavily criticised Lord Monckton.

In audio of the Melbourne speech obtained by this blog and available at the bottom of this post, Lord Monckton says:

“I have written to the chairman of the ABC who is a shrimp-like wet little individual and I have said to him, right mate, I warned you about this woman (Wendy Carlisle) orally over breakfast – I then wrote to you saying she is going about my friends pestering them and then she produces and broadcasts this garbage because you did nothing about it. Now I want the right of reply to these lies by the ABC or I will sue. So watch out ABC”

Shortly after Lord Monckton’s previous visit to Australia, Mr Newman told senior ABC staff that some were guilty of “uncritical group think” in accepting that serious climate change was being caused by humans, despite the firm evidence that this is the case.

Lord Monckton caused controversy before arriving in Australia, when it was revealed he had displayed a quote from Australia’s former climate change policy advisor Professor Ross Garnaut beside a large swastika.

The outburst was widely condemned and prompted Lord Monckton to apologise, only for him to then claim that the term “climate change denier” was a reference to Holocaust denial, which it isn’t.

Earlier this week, the House of Lords took an unprecedented step of posting an open “cease and desist“-style letter saying the Lord should stop referring to himself as a member of UK’s upper house of Parliament.

More to follow, no doubt!

Listen to audio here

UPDATE: I’ve done an expanded version of this story with early response from the ABC for Crikey.

Share

Now on DeSmogBlog

THERE are stacks of reasons why the rest of the world would bear more than a passing glance at what’s going on in the climate change debate in Australia.

Obviously we have the current cacophony over attempts to legislate a price on greenhouse gas emissions, set to get even louder come Sunday when Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces what the starting price will be.

But then there’s Australia’s other contributions to climate change. For example, our position as the world’s leading exporter of coal and a booming multi-billion dollar liquified natural gas export industry.

How could we forget, too, our global links with the climate science denial industry, a resource Australians are also more than happy to give and receive, as I wrote recently on The Drum.

Over the last few years, one of my favourite places to go for coverage of the climate change denial industry has been the North America-based site DeSmogBlog.

It’s a site that’s been working since 2006 to uncover the corporate backers and marketing tricks that cloud environmental issues.

A few weeks ago they asked me to start contributing. I said yes. I’ll still be here and elsewhere too, but my first couple of pieces have gone up.

Off you go then.

Share

Skeptically threatening

You will be chased down the street with burning stakes and hung from your f****** neck until you are dead, dead, dead.

ANY academic these days who chooses to speak publicly about the impacts or the implications of human-caused climate change can expect to come under attack.

The above note was contained in an email sent to one of these academics, but it is just one example. There are many scientists who over recent years have been receiving notes and communications like this.

Last Saturday, The Canberra Times revealed it had discovered abuse, threats and intimidation of at least 30 scientists working on climate change across NSW, ACT, Queensland, WA, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

In most instances, the abuse had been in the form of emails. There were other incidents which were not reported.

One researcher, The Canberra Times reported, had received “threats of sexual assault and violence against her children” after she was pictured in a newspaper at a tree-planting event. Continue reading “Skeptically threatening”

Share

Emails reveal nature of attacks on climate scientists

CLIMATE scientists have long been the target for abuse and so the latest revelations that researchers have been on the receiving end of death threats won’t surprise many people engaged in the issue.

From current and past experience of speaking with climate scientists, I know many have been receiving threatening and abusive communications for years.

In some ways it is seen as a part of their role. A quirk of the job which needs to be tolerated and managed, whether they like it or not.

For some, spam filters remove the need to engage directly with the emails. Some say they just brush off the conflict. Others ignore it. Some have internal systems to guard themselves from the communications.

But none of this makes it right.

The latest unsavoury swag of attacks targeting Australian climate scientists is now being reported in The Guardian and other news outlets around the world.

But just what is the nature of the threats? What kind of language is being used?

Here are some extracts of emails sent since January this year to three Australia-based senior scientists researching climate change and its impacts. Information which either identifies the recipient, or the sender, has been removed.

Please be advised the texts contain strong language.

Continue reading “Emails reveal nature of attacks on climate scientists”

Share

Climate scientist rappers reveal why they did it

WHEN asked about the key climate change issues, IPCC lead author Professor Roger Jones echoed the concerns of colleagues by saying: “Feedback is like climate change on crack. Denialists deny this in your dreams, Coz climate change means greater extremes.”

“Shit won’t be the norm,” added others.

If only all interviews on climate change could be this colourful, this frank and this… well… lyrical?

Earlier this week, Australian ABC show Hungry Beast screened an original rap video staring nine actual climate scientists, complete with “mutha f******”, a slammin’ gangsta baseline and scores of peer-reviewed science papers and decades of research to back it up.

Since the original rap was posted on YouTube and other blogs (including this one) three days ago , the video has been viewed more than 56,000 times and reposted on sites in the UK, Australia and the US, including the Huffington Post, one of the world’s most popular blog sites.

For a viral online clip which features neither Justin Beiber, Charlie Sheen, Osama Bin Laden or the unlikely and hilarious antics of domesticated cats, this is a remarkable return.

Hungry Beast presenter, comedian Dan Ilic, co-creator of the clip, told me he had “basically blackmailed” the climate scientists several weeks ago into taking part by threatening to “burn a pile of 100 spare tyres” if they didn’t do it. Continue reading “Climate scientist rappers reveal why they did it”

Share

Climate scientists rap

STATEMENTS from actual climate scientists don’t usually come with a language warning, but this one does. Terribly rude words coming your way, courtesy of a sneak peek of the ABC’s Hungry Beast show, screening tonight, and some actual Australian climate scientists. Not a beard in sight.

Alan Jones impersonator: “The Greenhouse effect is just a theory.. sucker”
Climate scientists: “Yeh, so is gravity. Float away M***** ****”

Share

The 7PM Project and a dose of climate misinfotainment

This post originally appeared at Crikey.

LAST Monday evening between 7pm and 7.30pm about 755,000 everyday Australian television viewers were told by two people that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels wasn’t worth worrying about.

Two other people, told them that it was.

During the four-minute segment on Channel Ten’s flagship “infotainment” show The 7pm Project, there was claim and counter-claim about the role of carbon dioxide on the greenhouse effect.

“Will the estimated $863 annual bill [from a carbon tax] actually see temperatures fall any time soon,’’ asked host Charlie Pickering, with no hint of irony.

After the segment was shown, on-air panelist Tracey Curro, a communications consultant and Al Gore-trained climate presenter, turned to her three co-presenters with a look of despair. “You would think from that sort of reporting that the evidence was equally divided… and it’s not,” she said.

Almost everything that is wrong with the way climate change is being presented for public consumption was condensed into those four minutes of pre-recorded material.
Continue reading “The 7PM Project and a dose of climate misinfotainment”

Share

Nice bit of gas-powered Churnalism

THERE’S a new service over in the UK set up by the Media Standards Trust which allows the public to check for cases of “Churnalism”.

Churnalism, says the trust, is “a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added”.

Using the free Churnalism website, you can paste text from a press release into a box. The service then goes off and finds any news articles that resemble the text of the press release – articles suspected of being “churn”.

The site lets you see the press release placed side-by-side against the original and gives a percentage of how much of the release was cut-and-pasted and how many characters overlap.

In the last few days, they’ve added a service where you can do this exercise in reverse and search news outlets against press releases from some companies and government agencies.

For example, the site suspects that in the last three years 495 articles in The Guardian online may be churn. The Daily Mail online scores more than 700.

Now obviously, there are lots of occasions when there’s nothing at all wrong with a press release being churned. The trust points out that

Some press releases are clearly in the public interest (medical breakthroughs, government announcements, school closures and so on). But even in these cases, it is better that people should know what press release the article is based on than for the source of the article to remain hidden.

Unfortunately,the site is only available in the UK but you can rest assured there’s plenty of churnalism that goes on in Australia too. Some of it is harmless, but some of it is clearly not.

Which brings me to a recent article which appeared online in the Gladstone Observer and an almost identical story which appeared online in the Toowoomba Chronicle – both news sites owned by APN News & Media.

The story reported how the Queensland Gas Company had stopped work on clearing land for a coal seam gas  pipeline because “environmental plans for soil and species management have not been approved”, the report said. A serious issue no doubt and well worth the time of an APN journalist in reporting it. After all, QGC has reported it is spending $15 billion on the project which the delay was part of.

There were quotes from “QGC senior vice president Jim Knudsen” who explained the company didn’t believe their work so far had caused any  “adverse impact on protected plants and animals”.

I asked QGC if they had issued a press release into the incident. They said they had and they sent me a copy. It’s now here online. Well, you’ve guessed the rest.

The story on the Towoomba site was almost identical to the press release, with only 5 words of the original 251-word press release changed. They didn’t even bother to write their own headline. “QGC stops work on pipeline”.

The Gladstone Observer story was identical, except for the addition of a 13 word intro popped on the top of the text. The rest of the story was a complete and unchanged cut-and-paste from the QGC release.

Why am I worried about this? Because a news outlet should not be just a distribution service for a major corporation, especially one which is drilling 6000 wells and laying more than 700 kilometres of pipeline in the areas being served by the news outlet.

I know regional newspapers have resources issues but surely its online readers should have been made aware that the story printed on its website was just a cut-and-pasted press release?

Good on QGC for admitting the breach, but you can only hope that the print versions of the Gladstone Observer and the Toowoomba Chronicle do better.

You can make the comparison between the two stories for yourself if you keep reading. I recently wrote a feature on some of the concerns related to the Coal Seam Gas industry on ABC Environment.

Continue reading “Nice bit of gas-powered Churnalism”

Share