Posts Tagged ‘Media’


The conspiracy to capture the Australian media

5 February 2012

If you’ve paid attention to the news recently then you may know Australian mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has been buying up shares in TV channels (Network Ten) and newspapers (Fairfax Media). What you may not be aware of is a video of Christopher Monckton and other climate change deniers plotting how to “capture” the Australian media to promote their views.

The video has to be watched to be believed. It’s surreal, almost like something out of a conspiracy thriller: a cabal of crazy people plotting how to control the media, and thus control people’s thoughts. Though Monckton may be prone to delusions of grandeur (this is coming from a man who believes he’s found the cure for AIDS), the things he says in this video are actually plausible. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Fake Scandal of Climategate

23 November 2010

This post was written for Skeptical Science as the first part of a series on the fake scandal of Climategate.

It’s bad enough that global warming contrarians are successfully misleading the public by propagating misconceptions about climate science. But recently it has become popular to attack climate scientists themselves, to accuse them of fraud and conspiracy. Exhibit No. 1 of the climate conspiracy theory is a collection of emails stolen (or possibly leaked) from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA), which appeared on the internet in November 2009.

Founded in 1972, CRU is only a small research unit with around 16 staff. CRU is best known for its work, since 1978, on a global record of instrumental temperature measurements from 1850 to the present, or CRUTEM. CRU’s land surface temperatures are combined with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre’s sea surface temperatures to form the global land-ocean record HadCRUT. CRU has also published reconstructions of pre-1850 temperatures based on tree rings, and CRU scientists have been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The 1,073 emails span 13 years of correspondence between colleagues at CRU. Much of it is mundane, but in this digital age it took only a matter of hours for contrarians to do some quote-mining. Contrarians alleged that the CRU scientists had manipulated data to support predetermined conclusions, that they had stonewalled Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for data, and that they had corrupted the peer review and IPCC processes.

The story was quickly dubbed “Climategate”, and it spread rapidly from arcane contrarian blogs through conservative columnists to the mainstream media. The hyperbole was turned up to eleven. Conspiracy theorists had a field day, claiming that anyone even mentioned in the emails, or remotely connected to CRU, must also be part of a conspiracy. In this way, the Climategate conspiracy theory snowballed to include the entire field of climate science. The Climategate emails were held up as “the final nail in the coffin of anthropogenic global warming”, and the media were only too happy to play up the controversy.

The CRU scientists have been cleared

In the months that followed, there were several inquiries into the allegations resulting from the emails. When a few of the more suggestive email quotes are reeled off by pundits without much context, they can sound pretty damning. But each and every one of these inquiries has found no fraud and no conspiracy. Read the rest of this entry ?


Americans Know Nothing About Climate Change

19 October 2010

A new survey of 2,030 American adults (weighted according to demographics and political party allegiance) confirms what previous surveys have suggested: that the American public’s understanding of climate change is dismal. The researchers graded the participants based on percentage of questions answered correctly (although some questions were harder than others). A majority, 52%, received an F. 25% got a D, 15% a C, 7% a B, and only 1% got an A.

I am not aware of any similar surveys of Australians — I hope we are not quite as bad, but there is a powerful climate change denial lobby here too. For context, it’s not just climate science about which Americans are ignorant; it is part of a larger problem of general scientific ignorance. Surveys have consistently found that about 40% of Americans think the Earth is only a few thousand years old; about 20% do not know that a year is the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun.

The results are pretty depressing considering that the US is a democracy:

  • Only 63% of Americans say global warming is happening. 19% think not, and 19% are not sure.
  • Only 50% say humans are the main cause of the current warming (compared to roughly 97% of publishing climatologists). 35% say natural changes are the main cause.
  • Only 39% say that most scientists agree global warming is happening; 38% think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists. (Clearly the contrarian line of “no scientific consensus” is working.) Read the rest of this entry ?

My View of the Election Campaign

21 August 2010

This is my second post on Australia’s 43rd federal election, which is taking place today. Part 1 contains some background on the Australian electoral system and political parties. I had hoped to say everything that I wanted to say about the election before it was over; but time is fast running out, so I decided just to post what I can. I’ll write a followup post tomorrow. The split is not entirely logical, but this post has more of an emphasis on rhetoric and tomorrow’s will have more of an emphasis on policy. By the time I post the rest of my analysis, the polls will have closed and the result will probably be known. Sorry, I decided not to write the followup. However, I have posted a summary of the results. I am not entirely happy with this post, but I was forced to compromise between writing the perfect wrapup and writing something I could post in time. Kind of like politics, I suppose. Anyway, here is what I’ve written so far.

To recap: the incumbent centre-left Australian Labor Party is led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The centre-right Liberal Party of Australia led by Tony Abbott is in a long-standing Coalition with the rural conservative National Party of Australia. A growing third party, the progressive Australian Greens, is led by Bob Brown.

Most observers, including I, agree that there is little difference between Labor and the Coalition other than their rhetoric, and unfortunately rhetoric is mostly what the campaign has been about. So I’ll briefly summarize some of the spin that’s been flying around. Both major parties have framed the economy, population, and “border protection” as the major issues of the election, while attempting to neutralize the issue of climate change. Read the rest of this entry ?


Scientific Opinion versus Media Balance

2 August 2010

Renegade Conservatory Guy has created an infographic showing the discrepancy between scientific opinion on global warming and public opinion. I think this speaks for itself.