In August 2012 I decided to make a wholly futile gesture: I would stop buying The Australian newspaper. This was in protest at the grossly irresponsible way in which that paper (and in fact the entire Murdoch stable) has stoked the fires of public misunderstanding and mistrust of climate science over the past decade. (See for example: How The Australian Newspaper Warps The World of Climate Science; and Top physicist accuses The Australian newspaper of misrepresenting his climate change views). For whatever reasons — whether it be contrarian delight in stoking the culture wars with the ‘inner city elites’, or a belief that strong action on climate change is a threat to their bedrock neo-liberal belief in unending economic growth — the editorial team at The Australian seem to wear their fake climate scepticism as a badge of honour.
I have maintained my no-buy policy with total consistency and absolutely no ill-effects. With the new online world, it is entirely possible to get a full range of news and opinion without adding a cent to the Murdoch empire. This is not to say that I never read The Australian— but my strict no-buy policy means I only read it when I happen to stumble upon a free copy (for example Qantas sometimes has free copies at airports).
Might it be too ambitious to hope that my individual purchase decision along with those of others who are similarly motivated, has contributed to the large decline in Murchoch newspaper revenues in Australia this past year, as reported at the Watching the Deniers blog? (see Bad news for Murdoch, good news for us: Australian newspaper division revenue plunges $350m in one year). Well that is a tad far-fetched, as much as it would be a delicious irony if the exercise of consumer sovereignty in the ‘free market’ were to actually bring down the Murdoch neo-liberal propaganda machine.
If I am actually going to pay to read news and opinion I would prefer to know that the journalism is not in the service of the proprietor’s campaign against climate science. These days I am paying for a subscription to the Financial Review — admittedly quite right wing these days but at least it does not have an axe to grind on environmental issues and climate change in particular.
But I digress from reporting to you the following shocking news: today I actually shelled out $3.30 for a copy of the Weekend Australian. The reason? I was intrigued to know how Team-Oz responded to the release of the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For the sake of my personal research into the state of mind at Team-Oz, I parted with some of my hard-earned. And I am pleased to say that, in a perverse sort of way, I was not disappointed.
Sure enough, their leader entitled the politics and science of a climate consensus was an extended if not convoluted rumination about the “inevitable compromise” at the heart of the IPCC report. With furrowed brow, Team-Oz expressed a concern about “whether the strong desire for a politically acceptable document to galvanise global action has been allowed to compromise the quality of the science being conveyed.”
The background to this point is that Team-Oz is very excited that it has found a new favourite expert, Prof Judith Curry, who is pushing the line that the IPCC cannot be objective in its deliberations because it is now trying to defend and reinforce the positions it has taken in past reports. According to Team-Oz, the new IPCC report “bears this out by saying there is now a greater level of scientific confidence about the role played by humans in observed global temperature rises.”
Well, yes, that is one interpretation — it is possible the IPCC is ramping up the confidence level because of some murky combination of group think, motivated reasoning and control by vested interests. This is standard conspiracy theory fare for the denier community. But might it also be possible there is actually IS a greater level of scientific confidence that human-caused warming is real? In fact might this not be the more likely conclusion, given that IPCC involves a comprehensive global review of all current scientific knowledge on the subject — versus the views of one climate scientist who, it seems, has a record of some rather wild statements which have attracted strong criticism from her scientist peers (see Judith Curry opens mouth, inserts foot and Judith Curry and the Ocean Heat Content).
Team-Oz also conveniently ignore that fact that there is a plausible case to be made that the IPCC process, rather than exaggerating its findings or defending bogus claims, is actually conservative and cautious, and understates some findings. For example, according to Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, “The report gives an upper limit of roughly 1 meter (3 feet) of sea-level rise by the end of the century under business-as-usual carbon emissions. However, there is credible peer-reviewed scientific work, based on so-called “semi-empirical” approaches that predict nearly twice that amount — i.e., nearly 6 feet (2 m) of global sea-level rise this century.” (See Michael Mann: Climate-Change Deniers Must Stop Distorting the Evidence (Op-Ed)).
So Team-Oz continues to speak with forked tongue, insisting in the penultimate paragraph of their leader that of course they accept the climate science, despite their taking every opportunity to find and amplify the slimmest doubts about both the science and scientific review process. Not to mention their campaign against wind power — see Australian Press Council, Adjudication No. 1555: Blair Donaldson and others/The Australian (December 2012), and full of hot air: the Oz’s case against a non-existent wind turbine.
But it’s a free country and who am I to deny freedom of speech to billionaire newspaper proprietors? When I want to pay for a good dose of fake scepticism I know where to find it. But why bother when I can read for free the rantings of denier trolls on any number of online sites?