Understanding Climate Risk

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Archive for October 6th, 2011

Manne on Bad News

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Robert Manne, Professor of Politics at La Trobe University, authored the latest Quarterly Essay, Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation. He thesis is that The Australian has jettisoned the traditional newspaper role of reporter–analyst to become an active participant in federal and state politics. By becoming one of the most powerful political forces in the country, the paper enjoys “power without responsibility”.

The Australian and the rest of the News media stable leapt to the Oz’s defence against that-bully-Manne with a swathe of articles. They repeatedly defended their right to free speech; exclusive to themselves, of course. Chris Mitchell, editor of The Australian and key Manne target:

To paraphrase another high-profile commentator on media, I say to editors at Fairfax and the ABC, don’t publish crap just because it’s written by Rob Manne. Can’t be that hard (HT Mercurius).

Deltoid was mentioned by Manne for his long running The Australians War on Science series and has already summarised the Australian’s response; here’s a more in depth look at the chapter on climate change. Chris Mitchell, the editor since 2002, defends the paper’s stance of climate change, claiming:

The Australian in the past 10 years has published 29 pieces by climate change “deniers” — that is, three a year. In that period it has published thousands of news stories, opinion pieces and editorials on the issue. This paper has accepted man-made climate change since the 1980s.

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Written by Roger Jones

October 6, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Science controversy and communication

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Two new articles in Physics Today, one open access and the other behind a paywall (you need to be a member of a partner organisation to get access) cover science controversies and communicating the science of climate change.

The open access article, by Stephen Sherwood of the Climate Change Research Centre at UNSW, is excellent (Steve also did a great presentation at Greenhouse 2011 on climate feedbacks). He covers past controversies surrounding Galileo and Copernicus and compares them with climate change. His argument skewers the contention that the Galileo movement puts up of the climate skeptic being the lone holder of true knowledge persecuted by the all-powerful Church of the Holy Global Warming Consensus.

Greenhouse warming today faces an even greater array of bogus counterarguments based on the uninformed interpretation of data from ice cores, erroneous views about natural carbon sources, alleged but unobserved alternative drivers of climate change, naive expectations of the time scales over which models and observations should match, and various forms of statistical chicanery and logical fallacy. Many of the arguments sound reasonable to an inexpert but intelligent layperson. Critics use the alleged flaws to attempt to discredit the entire field.

Debates between mainstream scientists and silver-tongued opponents cannot be won by the side of truth no matter how obvious the fallacies may be to an expert. Incredibly, as recently as the mid-19th century, a highly charismatic figure calling himself “Parallax” devoted two decades of his life to crisscrossing England arguing that Earth was flat. He debated legitimate astronomers—sometimes teams of them—in town-hall-type settings and wowed audiences. For similar reasons, Einstein himself gave up debating his critics early in the 1920s.

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Written by Roger Jones

October 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm