Sunday Age Climate Agenda: ACM's question reported

Fairfax parodies itself - gold!

The Sunday Age today publishes a lengthy article (and deserves a lengthy response) regarding my question on the OurSay website, which was, by way of reminder:

It is accepted that man’s carbon dioxide emissions are causing an amount of warming of the climate. However, the magnitude of any future warming is highly uncertain. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges that its understanding of a number of key natural climate drivers and feedbacks is ”low” or ”very low”. Why is it, therefore, that the Fairfax press is reluctant to engage with and investigate this uncertainty with an open-minded impartiality, and instead continues to publish articles based on a rigid editorial agenda that ‘the science is settled’?

Michael Bachelard, the writer, discovered that the question was from this site – I had used a nom de plume to avoid the question being tainted in any way by being from a “sceptic” blog as I wanted the question to be judged on its merits not its provenance – but given that they had established it had come from this site, I have to admit to being a little disappointed at not being contacted by him to expand a little on the premise of my question before the article was written, which I would have liked the opportunity to do. Never mind.

The article is entitled:

“Majority Report: why consensus is all the rage”

And this is the first trap: consensus is a word of politics, not science. I will return to this later.

The article firstly describes briefly the history of the IPCC, but fails to mention that the purpose of the IPCC, as set out in its Principles (terms of reference) was to investigate, specifically, “human-induced” climate change. This, I submit, is a significant reason why the reports of the IPCC will inevitably have an intrinsic (even if inadvertent) bias towards findings that support the AGW theory.

The article then discusses some of the issues raised by my question:

But despite the endeavours of its 1250 scientific authors and 2500 peer reviewers over four reports – from 1990 to 2007 – the panel still has ”low” or ”very low” certainty about a number of the drivers of climate change. When it measures uncertainty, the panel looks at both the scientific evidence, and also the consensus among scientists about the evidence. If either of these measures is low, then the IPCC flags an uncertainty.

In its most recent report, in 2007, the impact on climate change of clouds, snow, aircraft vapour trails, the ash, soot and chemicals from volcanoes, water vapour, cosmic rays and the ”surface effects” of vegetation, buildings and other things occupying land space, were all considered uncertain. There were further doubts about the history of the changing climate and the growth and shrinkage of ice sheets in the past.

All agreed so far. However, the justification given by Sydney Morning Herald editor, Peter Fray, for running alarmist stories is less convincing. He claims:

”The IPCC … may still be investigating the natural drivers of climate change but that is not the same as saying climate change does not exist or the science is in doubt,” he said.

On the first part of this claim, I would suggest that is not very likely, and on the second, it is a misrepresentation of my position, and the position of sceptics. At no point did I say climate change does not exist – in fact I expressly acknowledged the effect of anthropogenic emissions on the climate. [This is a long post so click through to continue reading – thanks]

Further, the science surrounding the effect of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere is extremely well advanced – thanks to about $70 bn of research spent on it since 1990 as a result of a pre-conceived notion that CO2 was driving the late 20th century warming, a point confirmed by Prof Roger Jones:

”How greenhouse gases influence the energy balance of the global climate is very well understood,” he said. ”We know the climate is warming now and that continued warming this century is virtually certain. What we are not so certain about is … how these changes are transferred through the climate system – how it is distributed between the atmosphere and the ocean, for instance. We’re getting the rough amount right, even if we’re not always getting the process right.”

Fray acknowledges that there is an editorial agenda, but attempts to explain it thus:

”In editorials we have accepted the views of the IPCC, just as we would have accepted the peer reviewed work of a [Sir Isaac] Newton or [Michael] Faraday,” Fray said. ”[But] we have reported, for instance, the Climategate leaks saga and we have often reported alternative or sceptical views about climate science.”

I would certainly not utter the name of the IPCC in the same breath as Newton or Faraday. For a start, the science undertaken by those two greats was not tainted by a highly influential political agenda and an associated Green movement, which has compromised the integrity of climate science to such a degree over the past decade or so. To my knowledge there were no organisations that were ideologically opposed to the concept of gravitation or electromagnetism, whereas there are plenty opposed to the health and prosperity brought to the planet by fossil fuels.

And as for the reporting of alternative or sceptical views, I would refer Fray to the very recent example of an article by Bob Carter being published in The Age [Opinion, 27 June 2011]. The very next day, the same paper ran a piece by John Cook, editor of the (Un-) Skeptical Science website, which rubbished Carter and did everything possible to discredit his views – there was little if any attempt to engage with Carter’s points on any kind of sensible level. If that wasn’t enough, the paper ran yet another story the following day, this time by Jo Chandler, rubbishing Carter again and referring to him (offensively) as “long-term climate change denier” rather than the “highly respected geologist” that he is.

The fact that The Age responded in such a way is, I suggest, obvious evidence of a clear editorial agenda at work – to support the alarmist viewpoint, and to dismiss anything which challenges it.

Age editor in chief Paul Ramadge draws a distinction between “editorial opinion” and reporting. However, the reality is that the reporting is similarly skewed towards alarmist stories. An example, very recently, is that there was no coverage in The Age of the results of the recent CLOUD experiment at CERN. Now this is a very interesting scientific story in its own right, on which any newspaper should have at least run a small story. Was the lack of coverage because of the fact that it may provide an explanation for natural warming of the climate rather than by man-made CO2? Contrast this will the swathe of alarmist stories (amusingly parodied in the graphic above), that Fairfax press will run, copied almost verbatim from any Greenpeace or other activist’s press release.

There is also a difference of opinion between the position of AFR editor Paul Bailey, who claims that there has never been a “Fairfax line” on climate (I will leave readers to make up their own minds on that), and Sunday Age editor Gay Alcorn, who concede that the paper had “broadly accepted the IPCC’s conclusions”.

The article also falls into the trap of relying on the argument from authority to justify its position:

Professor Jones says only a few scientists agree with Spencer and Lindzen, and that their work has been refuted in the scientific literature.

A 2009 paper by Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, of the University of Illinois, found 96 per cent of scientists agreed with the proposition that temperatures are rising and it is caused by human activity.

We all know that this is a logical fallacy, and that it only takes one contradictory experimental result to invalidate a hypothesis. Just recall the stomach ulcer story: there was a consensus that said ulcers were caused by stress and spicy foods, but it took a pair of Australian scientists (whom the consensus would have regarded with mild amusement, one would hazard) to prove that ulcers were the result of a bacterium. As mentioned above, consensus is not a word of science, it is a word of politics. And when Jones says that the sceptics work has been “refuted” by the consensus scientists, the exact reverse could also be said to be true.

In conclusion, however, Gay Alcorn acknowledges that climate reporting could be improved:

“As far as I know, we have never done a detailed story before about what the uncertainties around the science actually are. It is one of the reasons why debate on climate change can get so fraught so quickly. It is a complex subject and the reporting in Australia has at times lacked depth and context.”

As I said at the start, I would have like the opportunity to raise some of these points with Michael Bachelard in advance, as it may have given him a fuller opportunity to respond to some specific points. However, notwithstanding that, I must give full credit to Fairfax and The Sunday Age for setting up the Climate Agenda project, and thank them, and Mr Bachelard, for taking the time to respond to my question.

You can read the full article here.


  1. They are right about one thing, the consensus position does cause me to rage.

  2. Does anyone really believe that the Age or SMH would give a balanced view on climate ?
    I challenge these papers to write an article titled “The Evidence for AGW”. It will obviously be the shortest article ever written.

  3. To understand why a lot of the mainstream media supports this scam is a complicated question.

  4. Read or watch any topic you like – outer space to the depths of the seas and all that is in them and somewhere it will be said that man kind has not even touched the surface in understanding. It’s all how and why? we still do not know. Yet climate, with its millions of aspects which is why our weather reports can change dramatically over night or day somehow seems to be the only thing about nature that man boasts he completely understands and is predicting 50 – 100 years what is to be. The bit that is sad is how gullible the general person is and just goes along with it all.

  5. [possibly the most inane comment ever received on ACM – go away]

  6. Is it any wonder that The Age and other Fairfax related media are falling way behind its News Ltd competition.

    2010 circulation figures show News Ltd’s Herald Sun produce around 500,000 copies a day, The Sydney Daily Telegraph just over 354,000. Meanwhile over at Fairfax the Melbourne Age produces 195,000 daily copies and the Sydney Morning Herald 209,644 copies.

    Perhaps those who read the News Ltd papers are sick of the left leaning, basket weaving, sandal wearing, ABC Drum loving, lentil eating, tea-cosy hat wearing, cafe-latte with a twist of lemon set that salivate over every morsel of alarmist crap written in the Fairfax press.

    … and their reply to your question Simon and lack of communication with you on the issue is no different!

  7. Think of CO2 like a blanket with the fibers intertwined a kilometre apart. Where the fibers join put a standard 1000watt heater. So now you have this heaters spaced a kilometre apart and it’s a cold night and you want to get warm. Got the picture? CO2 is something like that blanket at 385 parts per million. CO2 absorbs heat reflected from surfaces on the land at 3 BAND WIDTHS. It is not very efficient at capturing heat, see the Galileo movement and Jo Nova website for more info. On a hot muggy day did you ever hear the weather man say it’s the high CO2 or how often have you heard it’s the high humidity. Did the media ever tell you about ATMOSPHERIC BLOCKS that cause heat waves and cold snaps? Never ever have they mentioned this once, yet with the way they carry on in a heat wave you’d think they would have the intelligence to report on this common phenomena. Yea, this journos don’t even know the moon is closer than the stars, or that the stars are not some decoration in the night sky.

  8. You might like to follow up on the Doaran and Kimmerman article (cited by the Age editor) that claims 96% (the article says 97%) of scientists support the AGWw hypothesis. Turns out that, after all the people they considered ineligible to comment on the subject, their sample size was 77. It was also a Master’s thesis – so not exactly the high-powerred of research.


  9. billfromthebush says:

    Well said Baldrick, I’ve had-it with these hair shirt wearing, unwashed, green nazis too.

    • Bill, its all about money and lots of it. Scientists will say anything or persist with a paid agenda for the right money. They have to survive too. No goverment or organisations pay scientists to report that nothing is really happening or preventable. The bigger the scare the more money is thrown about. Unfortuantly TheAge has taken the bait and thats what the question relates to.

  10. Boiling Frog says:

    An annoying response from a lot of AGW supporters with respect to the opinions of “a majority of scientists agree” claim is the comment:
    ” if you were diagnosed by a specialists with some form of disease which could be life-threatening, you’d accept his/her opinion and take measures to treat the disease wouldn’t you? ”
    The obvious answer form em would be ” I’d seek at least a second opinion and investigate thoroughly, through my own research as well as a specialist’s investigation, other possibilities- only then would I seek radical treatment”
    Its the same as climate science- there exists a great deal of peer-reviewed research into alternative causes for the observed rise in global temperatures since records have existed and assumptions of previous warming and cooling episodes (prior to recorded climate history)- its just that through self-interested editing and group-think of the recognised learned journals and biased MSM reporting that this research doesn’t come to light. Hence the perception is, that the “science is settled”. Having done original research at master’s degree level, I know that this statement is so un-academic and non-intellectual, I cringe when I hear the statement made. Good research will question the dominant thought paradigm- Darwin never claimed in his work that his theory “was settled”. In fact the more research done into biological evolution, the more questions are raised.

    • The AGW prescription for curing the “disease” is lifelong enslavement – so I would want to question the diagnosis in great detail before even considering the “cure”.

      BTW – sometimes death is better…

    • Nameless warmists opined:

      “if you were diagnosed by a specialists with some form of disease which could be life-threatening, you’d accept his/her opinion and take measures to treat the disease wouldn’t you?”

      Well if I only told them I had a bit of a cough and they immediately predicted that cancer was the cause, and that it would get much much worse, and the specialist got their degree from the Lenin School of Haemosuckology, and their solution to the alleged cause was a course of leeches, and not just any leeches from the nearest creek but leeches that can only be found in the upper Ruhr river of central Germany and are the most expensive leeches that have ever been prescribed to any person in history, then yeah I’d just take that at face value and sign the cheque. – No wait, I wouldn’t, and neither would anyone else faced with this (contrived) scenario.

      The contrived scenario we have actually been presented with would be funny if it were not so serious in the parliamentary precedent it has set as well as the cost to society made for no measurable benefit to any living thing.

  11. that “96 per cent of scientists agreed with the proposition that temperatures are rising and it is caused by human activity” sounds vaguely familiar… I read somewhere (Bolts column maybe?) that the number of scientists who were eventually included in the survey results numbered around 77. There were initially a lot more surveyed but lots of those who disagreed were excluded.

  12. The fact that the planet is billions of years old and man has been keeping global temperature and global climate data for 30 years, which adds to the doubt significantly, is never mentioned . I read The Age online everyday just to keep abreast of their blatant bias, the letters page cannot be defended, and any real contra evidence to their agenda just NEVER gets published, I know, I have sent many over the years.

  13. For a detailed summary of the status quo I recommend

    Well worth reading.

    • Agree gyptis … it is an excellent summary of all the is wrong with the Alarmist Nostradamus Brigade and their predictions of impending doom. Well worth a read.

  14. Robert, it’s also a mercantile and establishment idea; to use government for defining who makes money and who pays, by force. Here in America, many from all walks of life are wrapped up in the racket because they can make money while doing nothing to earn it.

    The carbon credit trading scam has put honest, hardworking folks out of work and driven up the cost of energy, incrementally.

  15. Anyone who tries to get your quick agreement to something and actively tries to stop you being informed at the same time is a scammer, pure and simple.

  16. Bob Campbell says:

    The reference to ‘A 2009 paper by Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, of the University of Illinois, found 96 per cent of scientists agreed with the proposition that temperatures are rising and it is caused by human activity.’ is a terrible thing to cite when claiming it’s about science.
    Maggie was Peter’s post grad student and as far as I know it was only ‘published’ on Peter’s website.
    It has been well picked apart as being scientifically meaningless. From an email request to participate a third of 3000 did. Then with the problem of them self selecting as climate scientists to some degree and unknown importance it turns out of 79 96% agreed.
    A large scale survey indeed and very scientifically rigorous.
    At the start of this survey report it mentions how many others have been tried but that this is going to be the best sort of thing.
    All the others have sunk without trace and I had thought this one had like all the rest.
    I think there was another just a few weeks ago but I can’t be bothered with them.

    • Bob in Castlemaine says:

      Yes Bob, just like the pompous nonsense we see coming from the IPCC about their rigid adherence to appropriately peer reviewed sources. When, as is common knowledge to all, except it would seem Fairfax, that the IPCC’s has regularly attempted to passed off as peer reviewed science, what ultimately turns out to be the unsubstantiated alarmist pap generated by the likes of Greenpeace and other environmental activist organisations.
      In similar vein the hand picked 77 upon which the “96% [97%] of scientists agree” research by Doran et al. of University of Illinois has about the same scientific credibility as the advertising line “four out of five dentists prefer Colgate”.
      The Sunday Age response also describes the IPCC’s findings as having been peer reviewed by 2500 scientists. Maybe that’s true, but the overwhelming majority of these reviewers are not commenting on the science of the IPCC’s climate projections but rather factors such as the economic and demographic impacts of scenarios predetermined for them based on Chapter 9 of IPCC Assessment Report 4, 2007 Understanding and attributing climate change. So the overwhelming majority of these 2500 IPCC reviewers aren’t then reviewing the science underpinning IPCC climate projections, but rather the potential impact of these predetermined scenarios. In fact Chapter 9 Understanding and attributing climate change had only 117 reviewers, not 2,500. But then I guess the Fairfax leftist cabal is hardly likely to let trivial details like facts interfere with their defence of the indefensible?

  17. On the stomach ulcer thing, one of the scientists had to ingest the H. pylori bacteria to prove his point. Let’s hope no one has to go that far to refute the AGW theory.

  18. David Gregson via Facebook says:

    @Robert spot on mate. Climate Change is all a scam, and the science is definitely not “in”. Consensus does not equate to scientific fact, no matter what Flannery thinks or Gillard says. The scientists who have pushed AGW are compromised by the vested interests of their funders, and their science is flawed. As for a worldgovernment, one only has to read the Earth Charter or Agenda 21, or read the ICCC Copenhagen document Lord Monckton made available for evidence if this.

  19. Simon, you’re being very gracious, but way too trusting, about what the Sunday Age is doing. Gay Alcorn is not a climate zombie, but is surrounded by them at the Age where staff cannot freely discuss climate change, where polarised leftwing orthodoxy is so rigidly in place that any staff member who spoke out against the Fairfax climate line would, at the very least, be ostracised and, at worst, forced out of the place. There are many reasons why Fairfax ceased to be an accurate news publisher of record in the 1990s; not the least is that Fairfax has correctly deduced that, so save its falling readership, online and in print, it must appeal to young people. So, on climate, it has interpreted that to mean it must pander to youth, for whom blind acceptance of climate catastrophism (and loathing of the boomers who “caused” it) is very fashionable. I can assure you that the purpose of “The Climate Agenda” is window-dressing designed to win back the tens of thousands of readers the Age has lost through its mindless parroting of the IPCC’s junk science. There will be no new effort by The Age to cover science impartially. Sceptics will have to fight media organisations like Fairfax for many years to come.

    • You may well be right. But I think we should engage in debate in the manner that we ourselves would like to be engaged, rather than sinking to their standards…

  20. GrazingGoat66 says:

    Google “Lawrence Solomon 97%” and read the full blow by blow gutting of the 97% fallacy that the alarmists peddle as being the final word in peer review.

  21. I can’t comment in a way most erudite and eloquent as ACM contributors about the finer details of all this, but I just have to say how good it is that Simon’s question has put some focus on media bias. Let’s see if this will have an immediate effect on climate change reporting from now on.

  22. People still read The Age/SMH?


  23. 22 years ago the UN decided to attack the fossil fuel industries and get us all off fossil fuels. They floated the IPCC and the IPCC got everybody on the planet to fund their own climate change industry, the IPCC is very successful in this strategy because the world is made up people who wish to be convinced of the unknown and people who will take advantage of them. Throw in the carpetbaggers who are willing to take money on any scam going, Read: “scientists” who make a good living in Universities all over the planet. Climate Change now has a life of it’s own, until it’s alarmism is exposed, and then it will become passe and a form of derision very quickly and all of the above will disappear into the woodwork.

  24. A most interesting question that begs exploration is why there exists such divided opinion on this issue of climate change when we are all looking at the same pool of facts.

    The changeists love to assert that anyone with even the slightest denialist mindset is either on the payroll of big oil or on the verge of internment into a mental institution. I do not fall into either of these categories – ie I am just an average guy, with average intelligence with nothing to gain from adopting a denialist mindset.

    I am sure that it is equally true that not all changeists are tree hugging greenies or banking bags of money by doing government research at their local climate institute.

    So why this massive divide in belief?

    I can’t help but think that human genetics plays a big part here. I often shake my head at how easily humans can be manipulated to follow a particular cause. It is the greatest human wonder that tens of thousands of near adult men can be made to run across a battlefield, risking their lives for an often dubious cause. That millions more can bow before imaginery gods or believe their local stockbroker when he insists that the market will always go up.

    The vast majority of people simply want to belong to a tribe or a movement and this part of their genetic make-up is stronger than their instinct for logic, rationality and good sense.

    Is the climate change movement good intentioned? For most changeists the answer would definately be “yes”. Unfortunately all such movements start out with good intentions but ultimately fall into the hands of the extremists within the ranks. Similar to religion or socialism, good intentions are eventually swallowed by power, egos, self interest and propaganda.

    I personally do not think that climate changism is going to disappear as a movement any time soon. The mark of any great belief based movement is that there exists sufficient flexibility in its mantra to adapt to any rational challenge. We are already starting to see a shift in changeist rhetoric to adjust for the fact that parlous predictions regarding drought or other extreme weather events have simply not come true.

    It is beyond dispute that those who preach forthcoming armageddon are one day going to be proven correct – natural history shows that no life form will last forever. The human sheep will however forget that the doomsdayists incorrectly predicted our demise a million other times in the past and will put the idiots on top of a pyramid just before that final meteor strikes.

    Climate change is just one in a long line of armageddon theories but it still does merit respect. I respect it in the same was as I respect John Edwards (the one who talks to the dead), Ron L Hubbard, the Las Vegas Casino industry or the investment banking / financial planning industry.

    Any person or group of persons who can manipulate millions of people to believe something that on obvious face value is prepostorous is indeed demanding of respect.

    I respect them for their blind faith, gall, greed for power or whatever it is that motivates such people.

    I have little respect however for the blind followers and will no doubt ponder to my death bed why the light will simply just not come on for these poor souls.

  25. Boiling Frog says:

    See latest research out of the CERN Laboratory here (
    The relation ship between the solar cycle and the weather and (over time) the climate has been known for a long time.
    Long-range weather forecaster and his disciples Lennox and Hadyn Walker at the Chromhurst Observatory used planetary orbit -solar magnetism-solar energy cyclic methodology to provide rainfall predictions for over a century. They worked on patterns of rainfall events and their links with the solar cycle.
    The BOM, of course, pooh-poohed their methodology based on its “unscientific methodology”. However, farmers have been placing their faith in their accuracy for generations.
    The Australian Dictionary of Biography says this of his methods-[i]”The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology reported adversely on his methods in both 1939 and 1953. He dreamed nevertheless of seasonal forecasting and tried to forecast sunspot activity several years ahead. Testing the hypothesis that the magnetic fields of the planets, especially Jupiter, influenced sunspot activity, he sought connexions between planetary positions and the weather since the first century and was unfairly branded by opponents as an astrologer. His hypothesis is now disproved, but in the 1930s Jones was ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of magnetic fields in space.[/i]
    This work by CERN is building on a previous work done by Danish Physicist Henrick Svensmark which was dismissed by the IPCC. Lets hope the ongoing CERN- CLOUD experimentation will go to prove empirically what the observations have shown for ages that climate cycles (cooling and warming) are influenced by, you guessed it, the Sun.

  26. theservicer says:

    Get your facts straight, Carters article was full of flaws in reasoning logic and fact. Cooks response was totally valid.

    • Wow, I am just totally blown away by the power of logical reasoning in that comment. You’ve convinced me.

  27. Russell Hamstead says:

    Are the climate agenda questions making it into print editions of the age or just their website?

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