UPDATE: Don’t forget to vote again at ABC’s website – the results prior to the show have been disappeared…
ABC’s documentary “I Can Change Your Mind about Climate” was an interesting experiment, but ultimately unsuccessful.
Throwing together veteran of the Senate, Nick Minchin, a well-known climate sceptic, and Anna Rose, founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, each attempted to change the mind of the other by calling on their own selection of experts and commentators.
Prior to the documentary, the ABC did an excellent job of attempting to skew opinion. Catalyst, ABC’s science show immediately before the documentary, linked climate change to dying trees, and again showing excellent timing, ABC chose to begin the rehabilitation of Tim Flannery, by trailing his touchy-feely documentary alongside trailers for this show.
Furthermore, ABC Environment managed to post no less than THREE articles supporting the consensus, with not a single sceptical viewpoint for balance. Desperation, perhaps? You be the judge.
The choice of Rose as an adversary for Minchin was unfortunate for a number of reasons, primarily that as founder of AYCC, she is hardly likely to abandon her position on AGW – her entire career is based on sustaining that belief. Furthermore, she is married to Simon Sheikh of GetUp! (thanks to a comment for that little gem), which again reinforces the perception that her mind was already made up.
Perhaps another politician would have been better – someone on the Labor side who was a believer and not so entrenched in alarmist activism and advocacy would have made for a better match.
Rose’s choice of experts was patchy. Her first, a farmer offering anecdotal evidence of a changing climate, was an obvious wasted opportunity. Matthew England, a well known alarmist scientist (see here for example) was a better option, but his certainty with regard to the magnitude of climate feedbacks was unconvincing. Richard Muller, of BEST fame, did his “best” to present himself as that rarest of commodities, a heretic who became a believer, but again was to my mind unconvincing. Personally, I would trust satellite data a thousand times over land data when you see the adjustments and fudges applied to the raw records.
An expert on measuring CO2 at Mauna Loa similarly raised question marks – I don’t think anyone seriously disputes that CO2 is rising.
Minchin’s first experts were Jo Nova and David Evans, who in the very short time they were seen, acquitted themselves well. It was unfortunate that Rose made such a meal out of Nova’s “recording the recording”, in order to ensure that there was no unfair editing, but given the history of bias at the ABC one can understand Nova’s concerns.
UPDATE @ 11.10am on 27/4/12: Comment from Jo Nova at her blog here:
“I just watched the online streaming version. We did 4 hours of footage at our house, and they showed not one single point I made, not one answer to Anna Roses questions. I repeated my favourite lines about 28 million weather balloons, 3000 ocean buoys off by heart at least 4 times. Obviously everything I said was too “dangerous”. But we have the full tape of the whole event, so sooner or later the world will see the parts that the ABC deemed to be not “interesting” to the Australian public. So all in all, pretty much as we expected. They trimmed it down to the point where it’s tame, they gave the alarmists the last word (they always do), and while they were happy to grill us about where our money came from just like Wendy Carlisle, when the question backfires (because we are not shills for anyone) they won’t show it. We can’t let the public know that Jo Nova and David are volunteers.”
He then paid a visit to Richard Lindzen who believes that climate sensitivity, the essential crux of the climate debate, is low, due to various feedback acting to reduce warming from CO2. Rose then demonstrated an unfortunate tendency towards the cheap ad hominem attack, by accusing Lindzen of denying links between smoking and cancer. Such allegations were treated by Minchin and Lindzen with the contempt they deserved.
Rose’s low point was her introduction to Marc Morano. She refused to engage with someone who was “not a climate scientist”. Neither was her first “expert”, the farmer, but that didn’t stop Minchin from listening politely. Her petulant schoolyard attitude unfortunately betrayed her youth and inexperience, and harmed her cause. Morano was pretty well controlled in the circumstances.
Minchin’s choice of Bjorn Lomborg was again interesting. Lomborg, with his trademark shock of blond hair, is the warmist the warmists love to hate, being a believer in AGW but rejecting the draconian emission reductions most of them advocate. I agree with his logic, yes invest in renewable research, but it should not be foisted upon an economy until it is competitive. This provided one of the few meeting of minds in the show.
In conclusion, there was no way that Rose’s mind would EVER be changed – she is too wrapped up in the whole socio-political agenda of AGW for that. She unfortunately resorted to cheap tactics when the answers weren’t going her way, and her discourtesy to Morano was unforgivable. Furthermore, the evidence she presented was unlikely to be persuasive enough to change Minchin’s mind (or mine).
On balance, however, and putting my own views aside, it would be hard not to award a win to Minchin. Rose was outclassed – her youth and inexperience showed at every turn, and her open-mindedness compromised from the start.
I’m not going to say a great deal about the Q&A debate afterwards. It was horribly biased as would be expected: four against two (including host Tony Jones, of course). Rose continued her ad hom theme by accusing sceptics of accepting funds from Heartland, and Jones appointed Matthew England, who was astonishingly in the audience, as “official” climate scientist to the panel, the go-to person whenever Minchin or Clive Palmer made a claim about the science – an appalling lapse of judgment on Jones’ part.
Palmer and Minchin landed some good punches, however, although one must wonder why they put themselves through the ABC wringer…
LINKS TO REACTION AND COMMENT
- Minchin has an opinion piece in The Age here, in which he reveals that his visit to a cosmic ray scientist at CERN was left on the cutting room floor…
- Anna Rose has a piece up at Unleashed here, in which I briefly saw the word “denialist” and closed the window. Let’s face it, we know what it’s going to say.
- Jo Nova has a reaction here entitled “The intellectual vacuum – alarmists are afraid of debate, they namecall and break laws of reason”
- The ABC website for the show is here
- Michael Ashley, warmist at UNSW, writes at The Conversation here. I’ll leave it up to you to deconstruct this essay, but in the first few lines he misrepresents Minchin’s position as being “sceptical of ANY human impact on climate” and it’s all downhill from there