Thursday, September 30, 2010

Missing News: The Times Says: Royal Society bows to climate change sceptics

The Times says:Royal Society bows to climate change sceptics
Britain’s leading scientific institution admits there is greater uncertainty over future temperature rises than previously thought.

BBC SaysSociety to review climate message 
The UK's Royal Society is reviewing its public statements on climate change after 43 Fellows complained that it had oversimplified its messages. They said the communications did not properly distinguish between what was widely agreed on climate science and what is not fully understood.

From the vault - slip of the tongue

Media Room - Media Releases

Incorrect Transcript on "AM" Story 06/10/2005
On ABC radio's "AM" current affairs program yesterday (October 5th, 2005) a story quoted Alamdar Bakhtiari, who (along with the rest of his family) was deported to Pakistan by the Australian Government in December last year.
In that story, Alamdar Bakhtiari said "I don't blame the Australian Government for all this. I myself, now I can understand what's happening, it was not the Australian Government who caused us to be deported. It was all caused by our lawyers."
The transcript of the story was later posted on the ABC's website, and it contained an error.
Due to a mistake in transcription, the word "lawyers" was misheard and written as "lies".
The website has now been amended to correct the error, for which the ABC apologises.
"From the Vault" - digging up past corrections and clarifications from the ABC archives.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Missing News: Too many nuances at Nature

In a piece titled Invited Letter Now Rejected By Nature Magazine Roger Peilke Snr describes how Nature rejected a letter it initially requested about problems with global surface temperature data. Despite submitting the letter, and making revisions as requested by Nature's editorial staff, he reports that the invited letter has been rejected, not because it is not up to standards, is incorrect, or is not on point, but because "there are too many nuances to this situation to be properly communicated by a short item (or items) on our letters page.".
The full letter and Roger Pielke Snr's description of events can be found HERE.

We suspect this news item will prove to be "too nuanced" for ABC to provide coverage.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ICRP Decision: ABC's yellow-cake bake

ABC have now issued a press release and posted the full ICRP report on our complaint about an ABC report that claimed Australian Uranium was found in Antarctica. The PDF is available here

Despite assurances that ABC would look at additional viewpoints on this issue it has never reported on a ministerial statement contained in a  letter  from the Australian Antarctic Division that included the following:
"News reports that uranium dust from Australia was found in an ice core from the Antarctic Peninsula arise from an unpublished study by scientists from Chile, the United States and Brazil. The data were presented at conferences in Punta Arenas, Chile in October 2009 and in Maine, the United States in May 2010.
Data from the World Nuclear Association indicates that in 1995 there was a marked increase in uranium production worldwide. The above mentioned study did not involve fingerprinting or source analysis of the uranium dust, consequently there is no evidence of an Australian source for the dust."

ABC News...baking the yellow cake: sensational icing, raw on the inside.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dried mud in your eye

While looking at ABC's lack of reporting of failed weather forecasts, here's another forecast for the diary...
Australian dust storm could be weeks away
"An earth scientist says another major dust storm over south-eastern Australia is likely within weeks."
This is no surprise given the frequency of dust storms in Australia. See for instance this report titled "Severe Dust Storms" from the Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 27 September, 1938.
We'll look back in four weeks time to see how this particular forecast faired.

Missing News: Taking forecasts to account

One wonders how long it will take the ABC to report on failures in BOM's long term weather forecasts. In a post titled Ongoing BoM utter incompetence Warwick Hughes compares BOM's 3 month temperature outlook for Australia for MAY 2010 with recorded temperatures, finding very little skill in BOM's forecasting capabilities.

ABC are quick to report BOM's long term and seasonal forecasts, but appear to look the other way when those forecasts turn to out to be wide of the mark. The first person to provide a link to an ABC News article critical of Australian Bureau of Meteorology's long term or seasonal temperature forecasts will be rewarded with a copy of "We're not scared anymore Mr Gore". Happy Hunting.

See Warwick's post HERE.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

End of Groupthink culture?

Does the resignation of Kerry O'Brien from the ABC's 7.30 Report herald the beginning of the end of ABC's Groupthink culture, or is it just a speed bump on ABC's path towards a total Groupthink monoculture?

As ABC's Code of Practice states: 3.4 "Content will be impartial. Editorial judgements will be based on news values. One perspective will not be unduly favoured over others.", perhaps we can expect a host from outside ABC's Groupthink mould to host the 7.30 Report next year?  Then again...

Friday, September 24, 2010

From the vault - "a middle-class rort"

Negative gearing ABC2 News Breakfast

On March 30, 2010 during a segment focussing on housing affordability, a presenter inappropriately stated that negative gearing was a “long-running middle class rort”. The ABC acknowledges that claiming negative gearing on tax returns is legal and not a fraudulent activity.

"From the Vault" - digging up past corrections and clarifications from the ABC archives

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Long term forecasts?

ABC HEADLINE:  "Qld facing severe storm season" News online 21 September 2010
ABC REPORTED: ABC reported on comments made by Queensland's Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts who says "long-term weather forecasts show the state could be facing its worst storm season in years."
THE COMPLAINT: Can ABC clarify which long term forecasts were being referred to? Why didn't ABC's reporter ask the question?
A quick check of the BOM website indicates this years forecast are yet to be released:
"Tropical Cyclone Seasonal Outlook for Queensland
The tropical cyclone season extends from November to April. The outlook for the 2010/11 tropical cyclone season will be issued in October 2010."See
OUTCOME: Pending
COMMENT: Another example of "Faith in Authority". Where's the evidence?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

ICRP Decision: Uranium from Uranus

NEWSFLASH. ABC will shortly be posting a media release about the results of the Independent Complaints Review Panel's deliberations on our complaint about an ABC News report "Australian Uranium dust found in Antarctica".  ABC require confirmation that complainants have received a copy of the complaint prior to its formal release of the report on the ABC website. Here's a copy of a letter sent to Mark Scott ABC Managing Director. The complaint was not upheld, we assume the full ICRP report will be available from the ABC soon, in the meantime a scanned copy is reproduced below.

RE: ICRP Report: Uranium. 
Dear Mr Scott,
Just a short note to inform you I have received your letter of the 13 September relating to the ICRP report about ABC News Online story “Australia Uranium Dust found in Antarctic Ice”.

I note it its comments to the ICRP, ABC News state:
 “It is not normal or appropriate practice when new scientific research is reported to immediately seek political responses to it. It would be the case if the original story had a particularly strong political or policy impact, but in cases like this it was sufficient to simply factually report the original research.”

It is surprising that ABC NEWS still do not see the political implications of the story. If low levels of uranium dust from Australia have been found in Antarctica what would this say about the possibility of higher levels of contamination closer to home? That ABC News did not take the opportunity to scrutinise the original claims (none of which are peer reviewed) or interview representatives of the Australian Uranium industry or government officials to clarify this possibility, does not do much for ABC News’ reputation.

ICRP claim ministerial correspondence I sought has not been made public. This is incorrect. The correspondence was published on ABC NEWS WATCH the 6 July 2010. This includes the following statement that ABC NEWS somehow feel is not newsworthy or relevant to the story:

"News reports that uranium dust from Australia was found in an ice core from the Antarctic Peninsula arise from an unpublished study by scientists from Chile, the United States and Brazil. The data were presented at conferences in Punta Arenas, Chile in October 2009 and in Maine, the United States in May 2010.
Data from the World Nuclear Association indicates that in 1995 there was a marked increase in uranium production worldwide. The above mentioned study did not involve fingerprinting or source analysis of the uranium dust, consequently there is no evidence of an Australian source for the dust."

I am happy for you to issue the press release. 

Earlier posts:
Updated: Uranium from Uranus-Minister's reply

Scanned copy of ICRP report below (click to enlarge)

Friday, September 17, 2010

That history thing again

That history thing again
Tuesday, September 7 2010

Plane crash

7pm TV News
On September 1, in a story about an aircraft crash in Papua New Guinea, the ABC incorrectly reported that “the Lockhart River disaster which killed 15 people in 2005” was Australia’s worst airline disaster. In fact, the worst was Bakers Creek, Queensland in 1943 when a US Airforce plane crashed killing 40 military personnel, and the worst civil disaster was in Mackay on June 10, 1960 in which 29 people were killed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Missing News: IPCC models exaggerate warming

ABC's poor record of reporting science appears to be continuing. Nothing thus far on a new paper published in the Journal Remote Sensing titled "What Do Observational Datasets Say about Modeled Tropospheric Temperature Trends since 1979?" by John R. Christy, Benjamin Herman, Roger Pielke, Sr., Philip Klotzbach, Richard McNider, Justin J. Hnilo, Roy W. Spencer, Thomas Chase and David Douglass.

Here's the Abstract: 
Updated tropical lower tropospheric temperature datasets covering the period 1979–2009 are presented and assessed for accuracy based upon recent publications and several analyses conducted here. We conclude that the lower tropospheric temperature (TLT) trend over these 31 years is +0.09 ± 0.03 °C decade−1. Given that the surface temperature (Tsfc) trends from three different groups agree extremely closely among themselves (~ +0.12 °C decade−1) this indicates that the “scaling ratio” (SR, or ratio of atmospheric trend to surface trend: TLT/Tsfc) of the observations is ~0.8 ± 0.3. This is significantly different from the average SR calculated from the IPCC AR4 model simulations which is ~1.4. This result indicates the majority of AR4 simulations tend to portray significantly greater warming in the troposphere relative to the surface than is found in observations. The SR, as an internal, normalized metric of model behavior, largely avoids the confounding influence of short-term fluctuations such as El Niños which make direct comparison of trend magnitudes less confident, even over multi-decadal periods.

Making Mistakes. Climate coverage at the ABC Part 4

ABC claim the Keeling Curve is a measure of atmospheric Cobalt!

Groupthink, Sensationalism, Naive and Inept Journalism: Climate coverage at the ABC.
Part 4 Making Mistakes
Last of a four part series looking at climate reporting at the ABC.

Proving bias and lack of balance is a difficult proposition when the goal posts are constantly shifted by ABC’s complaints department; however demonstrating basic errors of fact is less open to interpretation and hence easier to prove.

To coincide with the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009 ABC Online released "A Journey through climate history". This glitzy presentation was "developed to show key events in the climatic history of the planet". The presentation was promoted heavily on ABC’s News home page and still features prominently. It was produced in-house with some unspecified involvement from the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of New South Wales.

13 basic scientific errors were identified in the presentation along with numerous mistakes that suggested a review of the content was warranted. ABC made 7 corrections to the presentation. A subsequent Independent Complaints Review Panel report found against claims of bias on a number of the timeline pages. An independent review of the content was never undertaken and now 30 additional errors have been identified and raised with the ABC for action. The most telling of these probably being ABC’s (and presumably the CCRC’s) confusion between the chemical symbols for Cobalt (Co) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Hence in its defective timeline ABC blame Cobalt for ocean acidification, the enhanced greenhouse effect and suggest the world is endeavouring to sequester Cobalt underground. It also seems the Keeling curve is not a measure of carbon dioxide but of the rare Cobalt compound Co2 (see screenshot above)! One hopes no schools are using the timeline, lest a generation be mislead over the chemistry of Cobalt. There is also confusion between paleoanthropologists and archaeologists; confusion between the roles of geology and archaeology; along with software glitches that reveal an infinitely old universe, and numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes. "Riddled with errors" is an understatement.

ABC NEWS WATCH posts on ABC’s Journey through climate history can be found at A Climate Time Lie.

ABC REPORTED: The report claimed climate change is driving polar bears to cannibalism based on reports from un-mentioned scientists.
THE COMPLAINT: A very quick web search of peer reviewed science reveals that cannibalism is normal among polar bears and is not due to global warming. In fact it can be associated with increased numbers of bears putting pressure on the food supply. Please issue a correction of this report that gives a false impression of the reasons for cannibalism among polar bears.

This was a piece of reporting so bad it required ABC editors two bites of the cherry to repair. ABC issued this advice: On December 5, in an article about the melting of Hudson Bay sea ice in Canada, the ABC used the heading that climate change was “driving polar bears to cannibalism”. The story explained that the sea ice which the bears need to walk across when hunting, was not appearing until weeks later than usual. This means the bears had a shortage of food and there had been cases reported of the bears eating cubs for food. The ABC acknowledges that polar bears are not necessarily driven towards cannibalism because of climate change; this claim should have been attributed to conservationists. The heading has been changed to: “Climate change drives polar bears to cannibalism, conservationists say”. Also, the story did not include sufficient balance and reaction of an Inuit spokesman to the cannibalism claims was added to the story.
The editorial notes at the end of the current version read:
Editor's note (December 23): The headline on this story has been changed to make it clear that conservationists are saying climate change is driving polar bears to cannibalism. On February 9, the reaction of an Inuit spokesman to the cannibalism claims was added to the story.
 Here’s how a professional news organisation covered the story:
But Inuit leaders have dismissed the idea, saying that it is a normal occurrence totally unconnected with global warming.

Still it’s not as bad as a report on a heatwave in Rio that was so bad ABC expurgated it in its entirety from the ABC News Archive.

Kingsley Amis stated “Laziness has become the chief characteristic of journalism, displacing incompetence”. It’s vice-versa at the ABC.

In summary, yes Auntie’s climate change coverage has been biased, but the evidence does not support Clive Hamilton’s claims of a right wing conspiracy, just bias born from plain old fashioned sensationalism, naivety and incompetence, skewed by ABC’s Groupthink culture that misrepresents the scientific debate about climate change. We expect more from the ABC because they have sold themselves as Australia’s premier news service; however increasingly it seems the product is failing to live up to the sales pitch.

The complete essay now available HERE

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aunty is mistaken not malicious

Groupthink, Sensationalism, Naive and Inept Journalism: Climate coverage at the ABC. An edited version now featuring in The Australian under the headline "Aunty is mistaken but not malicious."
For the complete essay:

Part 4 " Making Mistakes" released on Thursday

Putting faith in Authority. Climate coverage at the ABC Part 3

Part 3: Putting faith in Authority
Part3 of a four part series looking at climate reporting at the ABC.

ABC’s editorial guidelines 5.2.2 (f) state: Be questioning. Serve the public interest by investigating issues affecting society and individuals. One interpretation of this clause would be “don’t be naive”. When ABC seeks comment from authorities it seems in some cases very little work goes into verifying the claims that are made. Prior to the politicization of climate science this was arguably a fair call, experts should know what they are talking about, however things have changed significantly over the last few decades, and the motives of experts and authorities alike are not as pure as they once were. Just because they wear a sheriff’s badge doesn’t necessarily mean they are on the side of the good guys.

One example is a recent story 2010 on track to be hottest year. The story featured an interview with Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Dr David Jones in which Dr Jones listed a number of weather events that he considered were “uncharacteristic”. However, on closer examination it turns out that these weather events were not unprecedented. It’s a shame ABC’s reporter did not take the 30 minutes or so required to verify Dr Jones claims, instead the ABC let a number of half truths be promulgated, misleading its audience in the process. These included the following:
Half truth: “We actually got into the low 50s for parts of the Middle East and Pakistan a couple of weeks back”
Truth: Parts of the Middle East and Pakistan record temperatures into the low 50’s pretty much every year[1].
Half truth: Beijing the other day just fell short of 41.
Truth: The recorded temperature was 40.3 (104.5F)[2], and no where near historical highs of up to 46.1C (115F)[3].
Half truth: We're seeing 40s right up and down the US eastern seaboard.
Truth: What an exaggeration! Apparently 40 reported at just one location.[4]

In early June I requested ABC substantiate claims it made in its report borrowed from the BBC titled, Melting ice making Everest climbs dangerous, that: "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia." We requested ABC provide details of the studies. ABC replied with the following:
Received 2 August 2010
"On receipt of your complaint, we have investigated whether it could be established that a significant error had been made that warranted correction, as required by section 5.2.2(c)(ii) of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. Audience and Consumer Affairs note that studies do appear to show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia, as illustrated in Table 10.2 of the Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007: In view of this, we are unable to conclude that a significant error has been made which warrants correction. However, should you have specific further information which you feel is relevant to our decision on this point, we would be happy to consider it."

Once again ABC put its faith in the IPCC and did not bother to check the source. We sent ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs the following reply:
“The ABC report states: "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia." You have now provided the IPCC table 10.2 as a reference for this information, however for South Asia this table indicates temperature rise in Sri Lanka at "2°C increase per year in central highlands " while the annual increase for the Himalaya is given as "0.09°C per year in Himalayas". Clearly the values for Sri Lanka greatly exceed those of the Himalaya, and Sri Lanka, not the Himalaya, is the area where temperatures are rising faster in South Asia. Clearly both trends are also worthy of further journalistic inquiry for if continued both would greatly exceed IPCC forecasts.”

It seems that the IPCC table 10.2 contains a number of errors, worthy of their own headline. These are summarised below but have been dealt with in more detail at ABC News Watch and in a post on Watts Up With That
Errors in Table 10.2 IPCC Working Group 2 report
1. Table 10.2 indicates that warming in the Himalaya is 0.09º C.yr-1 however warming citing for Si Lanka is 2°C increase per year in central highlands. On the IPCC’s figures the ABC and BBC claim does not stack up.
2. IPCC provide the incorrect reference to back their figure for the Himalayas. They cite two conference papers and one peer reviewed paper that related to precipitation, not temperature. The correct reference is found to be: Shrestha, Arun B.; Wake, Cameron P.; Mayewski, Paul A.; Dibb, Jack E., 1999. Maximum Temperature Trends in the Himalaya and Its Vicinity: An Analysis Based on Temperature Records from Nepal for the Period 1971–94. Journal of Climate, 9/1/99, Vol. 12 Issue 9 pp:2775-2786.
3. The references for the Sri Lankan Temperatures are not from peer reviewed journals, they relate to precipitation, not temperature.
4. The figure quoted for the Himalaya is the winter trend, not the annual trend. The annual trend is 0.057 º C.yr-1.
5. The highest annual trend for Nepal cited in Shrestha et al., 1999 is 0.09º C.yr-1 for the Trans-Himalaya (an area that excludes Mt Everest).
5. The basis of the Himalayan trends (Shrestha et al 1999) is just 6 weather stations. The average trend of 5 of these stations dating back to the 1960s is (Max/Min) 0.013º C.yr-1, much less than the 0.057º C.yr-1. All five of these stations are located in the eastern Himalaya.
6. The trend cited for Sri Lankan is incorrect and was brought up in the review of IPCC AR4 WGII.

We have passed this on to the IPCC for comment but have not yet received a reply.
To the ABC’s credit they spent considerable time investigating the matter. Remarkably this was undertaken by ABC's complaints division and not by ABC News. In the end ABC amended the report and added the following note: "Editor's note (September 1, 2010): A reference to studies of climate in the Himalayas has been removed from this story because the ABC was not able to verify its source." However the damage had been done.

Sadly, it is now necessary to treat statements by authorities, some climate scientists, and press releases from some university departments with the same cynicism as those of politicians and government departments. While published papers are necessarily restrained in their conclusions, as they need to pass peer review, the same level of rigour does not apply to IPCC reports, press releases and public comments, and in these, some scientists apply liberal coats of varnish to bolster somewhat tepid claims and hide somewhat shonky science. Astute journalists can see through the gloss. It seems ABC needs to employ some of these sceptical journalists to balance its current crop of gullible reporters.

A list of posts by ABC NEWS WATCH reporting on ABC climate change stories where more questions could have been asked can be found HERE.

Groupthink, Sensationalism, Naive and Inept Journalism: Climate coverage at the ABC- Part 1.
Cherry picking the science. Climate coverage at the ABC Part 2

Next: Part 4 Making Mistakes

[1]  For Saudi Arabia: “The average summer temperature is about 45° C, but readings of up to 54° C are not unusual.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cherry picking the science. Climate coverage at the ABC Part 2

Groupthink, Sensationalism, Naive and Inept Journalism: Climate coverage at the ABC.
Part 2 Cherry picking the science.
Part 2 of a four part series looking at climate reporting at the ABC.

A recent report by the Australian National Academy of Science rightly indicates that climate science is an amalgam of various scientific disciplines including geology, physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology. The amount of time and money spent on climate research spread across so many disciplines ensures the output in the form of peer reviewed papers published in scientific journals is overwhelming. Even those in the business find it hard to keep up with the deluge. With such rich pickings judging which research is newsworthy is a subjective decision. In this case Auntie’s bias is most obvious in those stories that have gone unreported. Two examples from recent weeks, and many more missed over the last few years indicate that there are some real problems with ABC’s nose for news.

When Victoria experienced its horrific bushfires last year Clive Hamilton was quick to attribute the disaster to man made global warming. He recently repeated the claims in an article in The Australian. However a peer reviewed study[1] accepted for publication in the journal Weather, Climate and Society has found: “There are relationships between normalised building damage and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Indian Ocean Dipole phenomena, but there is no discernable evidence that the normalised data is being influenced by climate change due to the emission of greenhouse gases.” For some strange reason ABC News, Science and Environment did not consider the story newsworthy, amazing considering the subject, the findings and the authors. Instead of reporting on this important study, ABC provided a report with the alarming headline "UN climate scientists link Russia, Pakistan calamities". The necessary peer reviewed studies to support this assertion have not been undertaken and preliminary reports by the US NOAA, not covered by the ABC, indicate the event in Russia was linked to an infrequent natural weather event: “The extreme surface warmth over western Russia during July and early August is mostly a product of the strong and persistent blocking high….The indications are that the current blocking event is intrinsic to the natural variability of summer climate in this region, a region which has a climatological vulnerability to blocking and associated heat waves (e.g., 1960, 1972, 1988).”  In regard to Pakistan, the Indus River floods every year at around the same time and the disaster has more to do with bad governance and a lack of natural disaster planning than climate change.

In the same week ABC missed news about what caused Victoria’s Bushfires they also missed another study that once and for all smashed the infamous Hockey Stick Graph to pieces.
Anyone following the climate debate in recent years will be familiar with the Hockey Stick Graph and the debate surrounding its veracity. The IPCC have built a case that recent temperature rises are unprecedented over the past 2000 years, but if this is not the case and similar warming occurred in the recent past, say during the Medieval Warm Period due solely to natural causes, then a major plank of the IPCC’s case for alarming anthropogenic global warming is shredded. With the recent publication of a paper in the Annals of Statistics[2] the ABC have missed an opportunity to report on one such shredding. In the paper, statisticians Blakeley McShane and Abraham Wyner found “Climate scientists have greatly underestimated the uncertainty of proxy based reconstructions and hence have been overconfident in their models.” Concluding about the Hockey Stick: “the evidence for a “long-handled” hockey stick is lacking in the data.” This concurs with previous published studies[3] that also showed the Hockey Stick to be fundamentally flawed; somehow ABC missed covering these papers as well. That ABC News and Science divisions completely ignored this new study reflects poorly on their capacity to recognise significant develops in science as they arise. The Hockey Stick is broken, but ABC denies its audience the evidence, so it lives on like a Zombie.

Looking over ABC’s missing climate science stories brings the following quote by Karl Popper to mind:
“Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve”

A selection of ABC’s missing news stories can be found at “Missing News”.

Next: Part 3 Putting faith in Authority

[1] Crompton, R. P., K. J. McAneney, K. Chen, R. A. Pielke Jr., and K. Haynes, 2010 (in press): Influence of Location, Population and Climate on Building Damage and Fatalities due to Australian Bushfire: 1925-2009. Weather, Climate and Society

[3] For instance ABC never reported on McIntyre S. and McKitrick R., 2005. Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L03710, doi:10.1029/2004GL021750, 2005

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Groupthink, Sensationalism, Naive and Inept Journalism: Climate coverage at the ABC- Part 1.

Groupthink, Sensationalism, Naive and Inept Journalism: Climate coverage at the ABC- Part 1.

This is part one of a four part series looking at Climate coverage at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

On ABC’s opinion site The Drum, so called “Public Intellectual” Clive Hamilton suggests the ABC has been infested by a nest of climate “deniers”. According to Clive, Auntie has handed editorial control of her climate change coverage to a bunch of extremists from the far right. It’s a pity he forgot to provide any evidence to back his claims. Even the most superficial look under Auntie’s skirt reveals nothing to substantiate the right wing conspiracy alluded to, just everyday sensationalism, along with plenty of examples of naive and inept journalism, operating under an umbrella of Groupthink in which Auntie’s reporters have closed their eyes to the on-going scientific debate raging around them.

Auntie’s main problem is not opinion sites like The DRUM that has given Clive Hamilton a handy megaphone, and also posted a range of views from climate experts and non-experts alike; even finding room for my pieces on Mr Gore, Prince Tim and the Climate Dementors. THE DRUM is a side show, the main problem is Auntie’s news and science reporting that continues to let its loyal audience down.

It does this in a number of ways. Firstly the natural inclination of the media, particularly government sponsored news agencies, to favour alarm over calm, results in stories with screeching headlines such as Oceans on brink of mass extinction: study, or Climate check-up 'screams world is warming' getting prominence over less sensationalist stories such as Is climate change new (and bad)? ABC looks at the science through its Groupthink looking glass, cherry picking those science stories that can be beaten up to provide the scariest headlines that agree with its reporters alarming world view. The considered restraint of sceptical scientists simply does not attract as much attention, and all too often news of their less sensational findings end up on the copy room floor.

Secondly, certain ABC reporters seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to interviewing scientists promoting climate alarm. They appear so besotted they are failing to properly scrutinize experts and authoritative documents like IPCC assessments and government reports. They put their faith in authority without bothering to properly verify the facts, the way journalists did in the good old days. In doing so they act as echo chambers spreading misconceptions and exaggerations in the process.

Thirdly, bias in ABC climate reporting is not so much due to a grand conspiracy of misguided amateurish environmental activists acting as reporters, though it seems many now walk the corridors of ABC’s head office, but stems from ineptitude. As Napoleon Bonaparte suggested “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

Over the next 3 posts we will examine each of these points in more detail starting with Cherry picking the science in part 2.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Before the ABC: Famine and Pestilence in Brazil

The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 16 May 1879
Inspired by: Fires rage across drought-ravaged Brazil
Before the ABC: an occasional snapshot of news in the days BABC 

A climate time lie - saga continues

Cobalt. According to ABC the cause of Ocean Acidification
ABC have indicated they will not adjudicate on our complaint about the 30 additional errors in its presentation "A journey through climate history". They did indicate that the list was passed onto the editorial team whom we hope will be busy making corrections.

Received 9/9/2010

Audience & Consumer Affairs (A&CA) have reaffirmed that they will not accept your complaint for review, given:
-          the considerable resources already spent on dealing with your complaints about this item
-          the significant lapse of time since the item was researched, compiled and published; and
-          the nature of your most recent complaint does not merit further commitment of A&CA investigative resources.
However, your comments have been relayed to the relevant editorial team for their information.
Accordingly, in the absence of a new investigation by A&CA - a decision clearly based on the provisions of the ABC’s Editorial Policies and supported by the Complaints Review Executive (CRE) - there is no further reason for the CRE to respond.

To which we replied:
Thanks for your reply. As previously stated, given the seriousness of the errors and possibility that the presentation will mislead and misinform ABC's Audience, I will take the matter up with the relevant minister and opposition spokesperson. Again, I find it surprising that ABC will not take the opportunity to make the corrections. You may recall I pointed out in my first compliant that the presentation should be subject to an extensive review and it is disappointing that ABC have never taken the opportunity to carry one out. Of course had the necessary resources been expended conducting a proper review of the production prior to publication we would not be having this exchange.

We have sent a letter to the Minister for Communications. Here's an extract.
"Given the seriousness of the errors and possibility that the presentation will mislead and misinform ABC's Audience, including school students I find it surprising that ABC will not take the opportunity to make the corrections.
My simple request is that if ABC wish to continue to promote the presentation it make the simple corrections required. Can you as Minister please ensure ABC make the necessary changes."

Missing News: Arctic Ice Melt not unprecedented

Yet another story missing for over 2 years....
According to the Geological Survey of Norway.....
Recent mapping of a number of raised beach ridges on the north coast of Greenland suggests that the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free.
”The beach ridges which we have had dated to about 6000-7000 years ago were shaped by wave activity,” says Astrid Lyså. They are located at the mouth of Independence Fjord in North Greenland, on an open, flat plain facing directly onto the Arctic Ocean. Today, drift ice forms a continuous cover from the land here.
Astrid Lyså says that such old beach formations require that the sea all the way to the North Pole was periodically ice free for a long time.

Wonder if ABC Science will provide any coverage.