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Newsweek staff who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet.

By Joe Romm on February 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm

"Newsweek staff who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet."

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How should scientists respond to the “he said, he said, he said, she said” media world we live in now that science journalism has died?

Another day, another major media outlet libels Michael Mann — and James Hansen.

In a new black eye for Newsweek, their lengthy attack on climate scientists has been exposed as relying on massaged data and tawdry innuendo.  While they have already corrected a number of mistakes, they left a bunch in, and decided not to change the overall theme of their now baseless story.  That would have meant gutting the sensationalistic headline and visuals they apparently believe they need to grab eyeballs for their ever-shrinking magazine.

But Newsweek needs to do more than simply change a few egregious mistakes in its piece.  They need to issue an apology to Mann and Hansen — and Al Gore — and a big-time retraction.

Right now, their credibility on the entire energy and climate issue is hanging by a rapidly melting icicle — see Media stunner: Newsweek partners with oil lobby to raise ad cash, host energy and climate events with lawmakers “” while publishing the uber-greenwashing story, “Big Oil Goes Green for Real.” Indeed, their dubious partnership with Big Oil makes this climate story doubly problematic.

Memo to scientists:  You need to figure out  a new communications strategy in a world where much of the media places more weight on a few discredited anti-science disinformers repeating long-debunked falsehoods a hundred times than they do on two major exonerations by leading academics and the country’s top scientists.

Here’s the scoop.  Newsweek decides to do this big attack on climate scientists.  They gin up a clever headline (with visual to match) and a nasty subhed:

Iceberg Ahead

Climate scientists who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet.

But who are these “Climate scientists who play fast and loose with the facts” that are defamed but unnamed in the subhed?

Newsweek first built their entire case mainly around an attack on Dr. Michael Mann — even though they knew that Mann and his work have been completely vindicated by two major reviews (which is what makes the attacks libelous).

Needless to say, when you’ve been as vindicated as much as Mann has, the only way you can be attacked this way is with a bunch of long-debunked talking points from the anti-science crowd.  Fortunately, before full publication, they were called out in many of their mistakes and changed some of them.  But they left key smears behind.

It is getting quite tiresome to have to debunk this crap for the umpteenth time, but what else can we do if big-time media outlets insist on shilling disinformation for the disinformers?  I’m not going to go through every point in detail because Newsweek is in the process of fixing the most egregious errors online (without apparently telling readers just how many errors the piece had).  The print edition will apparently still have a number of mistakes.

If Newsweek eliminated every mistake in the piece and every baseless smear, they wouldn’t have a story left.

Indeed, they jump the shark right from the very first paragraph:

One of the most impressive visuals in Al Gore’s now famous slide show on global warming is a graph known as the “hockey stick.” It shows temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rising slowly for most of the last thousand years and turning steeply upward in the last half of the 20th century. As evidence of the alarming rate of global warming, it tells a simple and compelling story. That’s one reason the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change included the graph in the summary of its 2001 report. But is it true?

The question occurred to Steven McIntyre when he opened his newspaper one morning in 2002 and there it was””the hockey stick. It was published with an article on the debate over whether Canada should ratify the Kyoto agreement to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. McIntyre had little knowledge of the intricate science of climate change; he didn’t even have a Ph.D. He did have a passion for numbers, however. He also had some experience in the minerals business, where, he says, people tend to use hockey-stick graphs when they are trying to pull one over on you. “Reality usually isn’t so tidy.”

As every climate scientist must know by now, McIntyre’s skepticism of the hockey stick launched him on a midlife career change: he has become the granddaddy of the global warming “denial” movement. McIntyre asserted that the data of Michael Mann, head of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, did not support his conclusions….

This is grotesquely unprofessional.

Newsweek knows (and later writes) that Mann’s hockey stick was in fact vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences review years after McIntyre started pushing his disinformation.  Newsweek apparently has no clue that the hockey stick has been replicated and strengthened by numerous independent researchers.  My favorite recent study is from Science last year — see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds.

But here’s the more grotesque unprofessionalism.  Al Gore does not use Mann’s graph!  And Newsweek never even bothered to interview Gore!!

In fact, if Newsweek had bothered to even look at Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth (pages 60 – 65), they’d learn that Gore uses the slide from Dr. Lonnie Thompson, noting of Mann’s work, “but in fact, scientists have confirmed the same basic conclusions in multiple ways — with Thompson’s ice core record as one of the most definitive.”

UPDATE:  Newsweek has corrected a few more mistakes, rendering the subhed smear and entire story even more devoid of substantiating detail.  They write:  “Editor’s note: This story was corrected to acknowledge that Al Gore’s slide show used data from a hockey-stick study other than Michael Mann’s,  that Mann made all the data germane to the study available online, and that Mann’s study data stopped at 1980.” I look forward to seeing how they rewrite the piece to fix the Gore error (which they hadn’t done as of 1o pm ET).

Here’s even more grotesque unprofessionalism.  The reports and editors take at face value every single thing McIntyre says — even though he has been widely debunked again and again (see, for instance, the entire category on him at Deltoid) — whereas they simply repeat every utterly debunked smear they can find against Mann — even though they know they are false charges.

Even after fixing the most egregious mistakes, here is what Newsweek says of Mann’s methods:

It also required some massaging of the data. This is not to say Mann was conspiring to deceive; the National Academy of Sciences gave this work a thumbs-up in a 2006 review. The troubles started after the results were published, when McIntyre began asking Mann for his data. McIntyre says Mann gave him raw data, but not the meta-data needed to make sense of them. Mann insists that he handed over all the data it was in his power to divulge. Some of the most damning passages in the climate­gate ­e-mails, however, involve some of the scientists discussing ways of fending off requests from McIntyre and other bloggers. Penn State recently cleared Mann of wrongdoing.

Massaging of the data?

Here’s what Penn State found (see “Penn State inquiry finds no evidence for allegations against Michael Mann“).

After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data. While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State.

But Newsweek still floats the notion of “conspiring to deceive” if only to say that that isn’t what they are saying.  Hmm, perhaps I should write of Newsweek‘s article, “this is not to say that Newsweek was conspiring to deceive its readers.”  As experts on communication know, people don’t register negatives strongly so, as George Lakoff says, when someone says “don’t think of an elephant,” an elephant immediately pops to mind.

Note how the author cleverly sticks in the part about “the most damning passages in the climate­gate ­e-mails, however, involve some of the scientists discussing ways of fending off requests from McIntyre and other bloggers.”  Except, of course, Mann was exonerated of wrongdoing on this issue.

Note also how Newsweek cleverly places the phrase “the troubles started” after The National Academy review and vindication, when in fact their own story makes clear the Academy vindication came years after McIntyre started (see NAS Report and here).  The news story in the journal Nature (subs. req’d) on the NAS panel was headlined:  “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph“!

This is not to say that Newsweek was conspiring to deceive its readers.  After all, why take he word of an exhaustive analysis by our most prestigious scientific panel and his university’s academic review when a widely discredited disinformer keeps saying over and over and over and over again that something is wrong?

In fact, all of Mann’s data has been online since 2000 — and here is all the climate data anyone could want.  But nothing satisfies the anti-science crowd and their ideological allies, who just keep attacking and making stuff up, hoping that somebody in the media will be gullible enough to reprint their falsehoods unchallenged (see “Independent” critique of Hockey Stick revealed as fatally flawed right-wing anti-science set up).

So Mann is not an example of “Climate scientists who play fast and loose with the facts” and Newsweek knew it when they published the piece.  So if not Mann, who are these “Climate scientists”:

The first thing to fix is the institution that has borne the brunt of the recent public-relations disaster: the IPCC itself. Recently there have been several minor revelations of sloppiness. A line in the group’s 2007 report stating that glaciers in the Himalayas will melt entirely by 2035 turns out to have come not from the peer-reviewed literature, but from a 1999 article in New Scientist, a popular magazine in the U.K.

Well, “minor revelations of sloppiness” certainly doesn’t equate with “Climate scientists who play fast and loose with the facts,” so Newsweek has thankfully exonerated the IPCC.

More damaging, IPCC chairman Pachauri has been acting as a consultant to financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus, an investment firm. Although he says he has donated the proceeds to the nonprofit organization he founded in Delhi to promote charitable programs in sustainability, many people have wondered whether the head of a scientific organization that calls itself “policy neutral” should be consulting with banks. Some have called for his resignation.

Pachauri isn’t climate scientist and in any case these are not accusations of playing fast and loose with the facts.  Moreover, as climatologist Ken Caldeira emailed me when the NY Times published similar charges, “For a man with a $49,000 salary, donating all of his consulting fees to nonprofit organizations would ordinarily be seen as a sign of professional integrity and dedication.”

And here’s where Newsweek really implodes:

Other scientists have gone further than Pachauri in casting aside the appearance of impartiality. James Hansen””head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University””has unimpeachable scientific credentials. He was a pioneer in building computer simulations of climate and piecing together the temperature record. But in recent years he’s become an unabashed advocate for draconian cuts in greenhouse gases, coming out against cap-and-trade””the preferred mechanism of the IPCC and its parent, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to limit greenhouse–gas emissions by setting a ceiling and allowing countries to trade emissions credits. He has also gotten himself arrested while protesting mountaintop coal mining in West Virginia last summer. Has his and his colleagues’ advocacy come at the expense of their scientific reputations? “Absolutely,” says Hansen. “But what are we supposed to do? Tell our grandchildren to buzz off, that we don’t give a darn about them?”

That paragraph boggles the mind.  In an article whose primary aim is to identify “Climate scientists who play fast and loose with the facts,” the climate scientist Newsweek devotes the second most amount of ink attacking is the country’s top climatologist — and the only thing they can criticize him for is having the courage of his convictions.

Apparently Newsweek believes climate scientists should be seen and not heard.   So if a scientist with impeccable credentials who has been researching this for decades determines that unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions would have devastating consequences for billions of people, he or she must just shut up about that for fear of “casting aside the appearance of impartiality.”

It’s like saying your doctor can diagnose you with diabetes and warn that your health is at grave risk, but if he or she actually offers a treatment, they are immediately discredited.

Newsweek tosses in this piece of editorial nonsense:

The hockey-stick saga is an example of why advocacy and hubris may have been the wrong reaction to the assault of McIntyre & Co.

Huh?  The “advocacy” wasn’t a response to the anti-science crowd, it was a response to the science, which shows catastrophic consequences on our current emissions path — and perhaps to the dreadful media reporting which has failed to explain that to the public and policymakers.  And all the hockey-stick saga shows is that no matter how many times research is vindicated or replicated, the media will continue to be suckered into a criticizing it as long as a bunch of disinformers keep questioning it.  But I digress.

So, again, who exactly are these climate scientists playing fast and loose with the truth?  The entire charge boils down to this virtually unintelligible final paragraph:

Twenty years ago, before anybody outside a small circle of meteorologists cared about climate, Phil Jones completed a study that reads like a parody of dull science. Called “Assessment of Urbanization Effects in Time Series of Surface Air Temperature Over Land,” it was essentially a look at thermometers around the world. Even Al Gore probably gave it a miss. For the past few months, however, tabloid headlines (climategate chaos and how climategate boss broke rules by hiding key data) have screamed at Jones for missing documents that don’t have an impact on the study’s results, among other indiscretions. Last week Jones told Nature that his team’s handling of the missing documents from the 1990 study was “not acceptable.” It was a welcome moment of contrition from one of the world’s eminent scientists. If we’re lucky, it will mark a turning point.

The highlighted sentence doesn’t make bloody much sense, but the point seems to be that Jones’s missing documents aren’t consequential.  Duh.  In fact, as Nature itself reported, Jones said what he did was sloppy and “not best practice,” but not intentional and again not consequential:

Jones says that he did not know that the weather stations’ locations were questionable when they were included in the paper, but as the study’s lead author he acknowledges his responsibility for ensuring the quality of the data. So will he submit a correction to Nature? “I will give that some thought. It’s worthy of consideration,” he says.

“The science still holds up” though, he adds. A follow-up study verified the original conclusions for the Chinese data for the period 1954-1983, showing that the precise location of weather stations was unimportant. “They are trying to pick out minor things in the data and blow them out of all proportion,” says Jones of his critics.

Like a true scientist, Jones takes responsibility for unintentional mistakes and failing to follow best practice, even if it has no bearing on the scientific conclusions.

So this is all Newsweek has to justify its own tabloid headlines.  The magazine can’t identify any actual consequential mistakes and doesn’t identify any evidence a single scientist was “playing fast and loose with the truth” — which is to say, recklessly and knowingly trying to deceive.  Newsweek‘s authors and editors, on the other hand, have made a number of consequential mistakes here, and recklessly focus on Mann in their attack piece even though they know he has been twice vindicated.  And I still can’t figure out how they possibly justify including Hansen in this piece.

This is not to say that Newsweek was conspiring to deceive its readers.  But they need to issue an apology to Mann and Hansen — and Al Gore — and a big-time retraction of the whole damn piece.

Finally, the Newsweek article is by Fred Guterl With Daniel Stone and Craig Simons.  But there’s no way an article like this doesn’t get signed off on by senior editors — particularly given the potential libel involved and how little new material the editors have to review in the ever shrinking newsweekly.

It’d be very welcome to see a moment of contrition from one of the eminent journalists running the magazine.  And if we’re lucky, this dreadful piece will mark a turning point, but right now it’s just another reminder that scientists are going to have to figure out a new strategy for communicating to the public, one that I think will require them to bypass the status quo media.

This piece has gotten too long, so I’ll offer up suggestions in a future piece, but I welcome any ideas you have for how scientists should deal with the “asymmetric” standard skeptics are held to, as Steven Chu put it.

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43 Responses to Newsweek staff who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet.

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    More Problems With Newsweek

    Joe, I’m glad you are pointing out these problems. It makes one sad. Do the vast majority of journalists “not get” how important it is to convey actual understanding to the public? No more Newsweek for me.

    Also, I’d like to point out that, in my view, the Newsweek ranking (some time back) of the greenest and least green companies was dismal, full of confusion, and grossly misleading. When it came to key industries, they were comparing apples to oranges to rocks to PBJ sandwiches, trying to make their readers think that their methodology (complex and obscure as it was) somehow put things on a comparable footing, which it didn’t even get close to doing.

    CJR and The Observatory, here again, what are you going to do about the state of journalism today?

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  2. David B. Benson says:

    At the risk of appearing rational, here are the decadal averages from the GISTEMP global temperature anomaly product (computed by BPL):
    1880s -0.25
    1890s -0.26
    1900s -0.27
    1910s -0.28
    1920s -0.16
    1930s -0.03
    1940s +0.04
    1950s -0.02
    1960s -0.01
    1970s +0.00
    1980s +0.18
    1990s +0.32
    2000s +0.51
    For Newsweek reporters (and others), what do you notice about the last 30 years?

  3. Jeff McLeod says:

    I’m so proud of Hansen for what he said here. It’s unbelievable that it has to be this blog’s job to rectify grievous reporting errors in mainstream media outlets. Major publications should be notifying the public about the grave dangers we face in the next 50 years, not lending legitimacy to the jokesters who are making a living off of libeling scientists. How many publications has Joe had to debunk? Washington Post, NYtimes, WSJ, the Economist…now Newsweek. These are major publications with huge readerships, and they wouldn’t have to answer for their mistakes if it weren’t for climate blogs like this. The public has just as much of a right to know about how unfounded and badly researched these news pieces are…I wish there was a way of communicating this to them in a major media event. Someone has to be held accountable for this crap.

  4. Tom Servo says:

    Waah Waah Waah! I am Joe Romm SOOPER GENIUS and EVERYONE IS MAKING FUN OF ME!!!! WAAAAAHHHHH!!! They have all turned – TRAITORS TRAITORS ALL OF YOU! YOU WILL RUE THE DAY, RUE THE DAY I SAY!!!!!

    SOMEBODAY CALL THE WAAAAAHMBULANCE!!!

  5. Jay Fitz says:

    Truly vile reporting. We’re rapidly drawing near the point where direct personal action is the only answer. Appears to me those capable of being persuaded are persuaded already. It’s now high time for us to spend less time arguing and advocating and more time preparing for this apocalypse. Our preparations may have more power of persuasion than our words.

  6. Leif says:

    As a Newsweek subscriber headed toward “X,” I am sending them a link to this article and and my take of theirs. I will however wait until I get my issue in a couple of days.

    Thank you for your diligence and efforts on this front, Dr. JR.

    Two Palms Up,

    Leif

  7. B Amer says:

    Thanks, Joe. Keep up the fight. We’re with you!

  8. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Given that the US corporate media are the prime channel of disinformation to the public, which consequently leaves dubious senators un-lobbied & obstructive-
    surely it is time that individual culprits’ offices were held up to street theatre inconvenience and public ridicule ?

    Once named corporations and their hacks face visible public accusation of malpractice, they’ll attract notoriety and act as a warning to others.

    So where does 350.org stand on raising media conduct ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

  9. James Crabb says:

    As the physical evidence of Climate change becomes more obvious ie warmest January, record heat waves and drought in Australia etc, no longer will the ‘powers that be’ simply be able to pay lip service to action on Climate change. In an effort to continue innaction, the next, more boorish, desperate stage of inaction comes into play, an increased attack on Climate science and the people involved.

    Article on spiteful, threatening e-mails to Climate change scientists etc:

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2826189.htm

  10. Fred Teal says:

    Joe,
    Thank you so much for what you are doing.

    Considering the current condition of the print media industry, I am not surprised that they have caved in to Big Oil. With Big Tobacco it took many years to defeat the misdirection and obfuscation. Fortunately, in that case, the years were available. In this case, that is not so certain. Keep your eye on the Arctic tundra.

  11. Bill Waterhouse says:

    I wonder if Newsweek sent any reporters to the AAAS conference in San Diego and if they will report on all the real climate science stories presented there? There was a big name panel reaffirming IPCC conclusions on Friday headed by Cicerone. Still looking for coverage of it in any major mass media magazine or paper.

  12. Leif says:

    Just caught a piece of an NPR report about Iceland becoming a “safe haven” for investigative journalists and “whistle blowers.” Kind of like Switzerland is for money. It sounded very interesting and should warrant watching.

  13. Larry Coleman says:

    Thanks, Joe, and thanks again.
    My dominant impression from the Newsweek piece was the utter lack of anything that finds the slightest fault with climate change science. The writer did what Washington journalists do best: go for scandal even if they have to make it up. We know, after all, that they would rather avoid dealing with science at all costs.

  14. Wes Rolley says:

    As amply demonstrated by the 4th automated comment from Tom Servo, it does not good to tell a grade school boy that it is bad manners to pull that hair of the girl who site in front of him. They still act like little boys.

    In a similar manner, it does little good question Fox News about the freedom of expression that they give to O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, etc. It all comes down to rating. I would guess that, in the case of a Newsweek, it comes down to the number of copies they sell. I would love to see the publication data on various issues after validating the nature of the stories they carry.

    Next, they will be blaming the Canadians for trying to hold the winter Olympics in sub-tropical climes.

  15. Andy says:

    This line from Newsweek is the one that really got me “…..have screamed at Jones for missing documents that don’t have an impact on the study’s results, among other indiscretions.”

    So, if the missing documents had no impact what exactly was the indescretion? Good housekeeping?

    The lesson learned by Dr. Jones was what? Say you’re sorry for nothing other than to please the ego of those demanding an apology?

    I see an emerging trend here. The last line of the Newsweek story was:

    “It was a welcome moment of contrition from one of the world’s eminent scientists. If we’re lucky, it will mark a turning point.”

    This is familiar. I read this same line from the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune last week. They also had taken climate science to task.

    Here is the last bit of their editorial:

    “”Meanwhile, the critical question of what can and should be done to slow global warming — how fast and at what expense — remains open to debate, as it should.

    One climate expert, John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, wrote in Nature: “The truth, and this is frustrating for policymakers, is that scientists’ ignorance of the climate system is enormous. There is still much messy, contentious, snail-paced and now, hopefully, transparent work to do.”

    Hmm. Humility. How refreshing. And scientific.”"

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-climate-20100216,0,2980279.story

    Of course if you know Dr. John Christy’s work you know why this is such a farce. Pick a scientist whose dismal work can’t hold up to second looks and use this disgruntled person to deliver the mea culpa for the thousands of climate scientists whose work is robust.

    Most journalists know global warming is a problem, but some of them want climate scientists to fawn at their feet and stroke their ego. Exhibiting humility is as important in science as it is in professional sports. I guess journalists see too many climate scientists as they do those really good atheletes who refuse to play the all American good all around kind of guy. Everybody loved Bret Favre until he left the Packers. Then he was demonized. But he still played the best ball of his career. Everybody loved Dr. Hansen, but then he started participating in public protests. But he is still doing some of the best climate science out there. These journalists need to grow up.

  16. MapleLeaf says:

    NewsWeek should be ashamed. Fortunately, some media outlets are getting it:

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2826189.htm

  17. paulm says:

    Western democracy is a self-deluding mess.

  18. It’s time to stop talking about libel and start filing some lawsuits. Any lawyers out there?

  19. Donald says:

    couple of typos:

    Pachauri isn’t [a] climate scientist

    The highlighted sentence doesn’t make bloody much sense..

    much bloody sense?

    Didn’t think you used “bloody” on that side of the pond- the usage above doesn’t sound right to a UK reader like me. Ignore this if it does over there.

  20. Jeff Huggins says:

    The New York Times: An Embarrassing and Dangerous Joke!

    (Calling Joe for help!)

    The just-released editorial on climate change from The New York Times ends with the following lines:

    “The underlying thought is that the ultimate goal is a safe planet, and that absent a top-down global treaty, that goal is probably best achieved by aggressive, bottom-up national strategies to reduce emissions. Not that these are a sure thing; the United States, embarrassingly, has no national strategy. Until it gets one, it can hardly lecture anyone else. Nor will the world stand a ghost of a chance of bringing emissions under control.”

    Can you believe it? How can The New York Times write such things with a straight face, or with any credibility, when its own coverage has been so dismal, under-informed, unclear, intermittent, often on back pages, focused on the “controversy”, and full of so many other problems? Does its left hand know what its right hand is doing? Is it schizophrenic? Do they “get it”? Does The New York Times not understand that IT is a big part of the embarrassing problem and that we won’t have a ghost of a chance unless the media, including it, get their act together?

    Please, Joe, can you do something about this? It’s time to name names. Who wrote that editorial, and who is in charge of The Times’ climate change coverage and front pages?

    Enough is enough. Really. Climate change is no game. Let’s DO something.

    Jeff

  21. Sou says:

    I wonder if you have any influential and scrupulously honest contacts with impeccable reputations who would be prepared to set up an international ‘fighting fund’ that scientists can access to underwrite legal cases for libel and slander against them. I would be happy to donate to such a fund, and if just 5,000 people donated $100 apiece it would raise $500,000 – which would be a good start.

    In the 1980s in Australia, the National Farmers’ Federation set up such a fund and was very successful in challenging decisions of governments and others that were shown to be highly disadvantageous and unfair to farmers. http://www.nff.org.au/fighting-fund.html

    It seems that the only people who can take on the newspapers for libel are the fabulously wealthy. Ordinary people just can’t afford it on their own. I understand the laws in the US aren’t very good, but the laws in the UK and here in Australia are reasonably good for people wanting to defend their reputation, even though it can be costly to start proceedings.

  22. LT says:

    I agree Jo that science journalism has all but died. Here, Downunder, while we do have to contend with the tripe printed by The Australian newspaper about climate change and other environmental issues, we are fortunate to have an island of hope in the science reporting of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). I can’t imagine having come to terms with the subject without their informative, and generally balanced reporting. The work of the ABC (on radio, television, the internet and in special documentaries) deserves to more widely known. Some of your readers might like to keep an eye on the ABC website.
    http://www.abc.net.au
    http://www.abc.net.au/science/topics/?topic=enviro
    http://www.abc.net.au/science/tag/browse.htm?tag=climate-change

    Some excellent examples include:

    The “Science Show” which has been presented on ABC Radio National since 1975 by the amazing Robyn Williams. Podcasts available. http://search.abc.net.au//search/search.cgi?form=scienceshow&num_tiers=1&num_ranks=20&collection=rn&query=climate+change&form=scienceshow&meta_v=%2Brn%2Fscienceshow%2Fstories .

    George Monbiot crosses swords with Ian Plimer on “Lateline” 15/12/2009
    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2009/s2772906.htm

    “Four Corners” documentary, “The Winds of Change” asks the question, “Will Climate change revolutionise Australian agriculture?”.
    http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20080317/drought/default.htm

    “Four Corners” on Peak Oil
    http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20060710/

  23. Chuck says:

    We have two problems here: the reporting isn’t good, and these publications are not doing well financially. Isn’t the solution obvious: the government needs to take over these media outlets. That would ensure that the press survives, and the Government could ensure that only the truth gets reported. I think Obama needs to create another task force to investigate this means of saving print publications from the ravages of the internet.

  24. Stephen Watson says:

    When you think of the government/military rubbish, distortions, lies and evasions that the press here in the UK regurgitated over Saddam Hussein, Iraq, WMDs, dodgy dossiers, uranium and the like in the run up to and aftermath of the Iraq invasion and what they are now doing with Iran (Deja Vu?), I shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for informed and unbiased news reporting in our mainstream media. All the more so when the science implies that the West’s lifestyle will have to undergo a radical change as a result. At the moment, serious CO2 reduction can only happen as fast as required by burning less fossil fuel which means having less of everything that people want more of. The time taken to deploy fleets of electric cars, nuclear power stations, African CSP supergrids and ‘clean’ coal (which I don’t see as real solutions anyway) means that such measures would not even begin to have an effect for decades assuming they can even implemented. We don’t have decades to make these changes.

    The mainstream media exist to sell advertising and make people buy things otherwise their cover prices would be so high nobody would buy them. Advertisers want you to buy things and those things need energy to manufacture. Where is that energy coming from? Yep, fossil fuels. And of course, the global media conglomerates that own these titles have a vested in the status quo too.

  25. Sou says:

    Not all businesses are lobbying against climate change. Some peak business policy bodies support an emissions trading scheme, but with provisos, of course. The BCA board includes one of Australia’s largest retail / mining / insurance conglomerates, legal firms, BP and academics.

    “The BCA remains committed to working with both sides of politics to ensure workable policies are put in place that assist Australia to transition to a low-emissions economy.”

    Business Council of Australia policy

  26. Sorry for off-topic, but hydrogen cars NEVER dies, see:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/22/hydrogen-taxi-cabs-london-2012-olympics

    hydrogen fueled cars will be available at the Olympic games in London 2012… so, lets see…

    Alex

  27. fj2 says:

    10. Fred Teal, ” Keep your eye on the Arctic tundra.”

    This is one vision of planet-wide Pearl Harbor. Others include the rapid disappearance on the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps. Others are glaciers disappearing before our eyes. These are feedback systems being put into place by a planet reacting to the massive amounts of poisons we are pumping into the air.

    This is the rapid dissipation of the planet’s buffering systems that have stabilized climate on this planet for many thousands of years allowing humanity to grow and prosper and create vast populations rapidly moving to a global near-utopian civilization. We have been getting so close. And, now we are blowing it!

    There is 6,000 times the amount of solar energy hitting this planet that we require for energy! And, mostly we ignore it. Well, we won’t be able to ignore it much longer. As the ice caps melt that heat and light is reflected back into space and the vast Arctic tundra will melt faster and ultimately decomposing will release huge amounts of methane twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide in retaining the heat from the sun and other stuff putting in place feedback systems reacting to the massive amounts of poisons we are pumping into the air.

    A Pearl Harbor of unprecedented scale is unfolding before our eyes and we are doing nothing. We are watching it. We wring our hands. We say stupid things. We argue about things of little consequence. We act crazy. And, we try to figure out how many angels we can fit on the head of a pin!

  28. Debunker says:

    The GLOBAL WARMING SWINDLE MOVIE and ARGUMENTS DEBUNKED

    When the Great Global Warming Swindle was first broadcast – climate deniers thought that at last they had the definitive polemic to beat back the forces of science and reason…..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boj9ccV9htk&feature=player_embedded

    Why are the people who created the movie “the gw swindle” not in prison? They quoted scientist out of context and manipulated data. The media should focus on the criminals now!

  29. mark says:

    “It’s time to stop talking about libel and start filing some lawsuits. Any lawyers out there?”

    I agree with this.

    Unfortunately these cloistered scientists are absolutely unprepared to deal with the media. completely incapable of understanding what they are faced with.

    Other than James Hansen,

    (though they still smeared him in the nauseating manner that is their only skill, since it is so much easier than learning some science and doing some honest reporting; no that would be “hard work”, something these people avoid above all)

    I think climatologists should stay in their labs, and let someone who is up to this task, deal with these media hounds.

    or, just not talk to them at all. since the “journalists” don’t give a rat’s ass about the truth.

    sorry , but this makes my angry.

    Why these morons (media) have decided, en mass, to go with this “scientists conspiracy theory” story, is beyond me. It is so transparently stupid.

    Mr. Rohm, please continue, you are, I think, very effective.

  30. mike roddy says:

    Thanks, Joe, and I also like the idea of suing Newsweek for libel, and issuing press releases. They deserve to go broke for this story. Malcolm X once talked about the American media, and how it could make the hero of the story the villain, and vice versa.

    The tipoff was the phony narrative about Steve McIntyre reading the paper one day and being shocked by the hockey stick. Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that his company was heavy into tar sand oil in Venezuela. He has been completely exposed by DeepClimate, including relationships with APCO and The Marshall Institute, among others.

    Newsweek probably knew this, and didn’t care. Their mission to sell magazines at any cost shows far more depraved morals than, say, those of a streetwalker.

    The truth of course will out and win eventually, maybe after the Pine Island glacier melts. The race is going to be whether we can wake up the public before events like that may make it too late for all of us.

  31. Leif says:

    Yes, just when is humanity going to get a seat at the table? We continue to bicker back and forth about the least offensive method of cleaning up the mess left primarily by capitalism’s disregard of life support systems in blind pursuit of higher profits. We are an economy on steroids. Complete disregard for future health for today’s pumped performance. In the end the financing will come from somewhere or we all perish. The rich control ~90% of the world’s economy! There is absolutely no justifiable reason to mortgage humanity one more time to secure salvation so that capitalism can continue it’s addiction. Or come out on TOP.
    Take capitalism to court, charge corporations to factor long term sustainability into the equation before shareholder profits. Make capitalism WORK for the well-being of humanity.

    HUMANITY FIRST, STATUS QUO, NO!

    Fist held high,

    Gray Panther

  32. Bob Horn says:

    Is there any way scientists could meet with their colleagues at Journalism schools and systematically and relentlessly issue assessments of articles like the Newsweek one. Yes, it would take time and effort away from other things, but it would show their students and other members of the press that the press must be held accountable. It might help in libel cases as well.

  33. Esop says:

    A little more than 50 days into 2010 and the average global temperature (UAH lower troposphere) has been above or way above the previous daily high for approx. 45 of them. The previous highs were generated from a number of different previous years, and yet, this single year is warm enough to beat them close to 9 out of 10 days so far. This with a negative PDO and in a much heralded solar minimum.
    I would think this would be interesting news for a sensation hungry media like Newsweek, but obviously it isn’t. Seems odd. Or maybe not.

  34. Marc Anderson says:

    One of the big environmental organizations needs to fire up a legal program and find a good libel suit to bring. One good settlement might show these hacks that they can’t get away with this.

    Thanks, Joe. Based on what I’m learning through your blog, I’m beginning to take the press to task here in Portland, Maine.

  35. Uosdwis says:

    This is why I don’t even flip through Time/Newsweek/USNWR on the newsstand or in the library any more. They’re little better than Entertainment Weekly or US/People. Even Rolling Stone is mainly filler around the Matt Taibbi articles.

  36. Thanks for writing this, Joe.

  37. Doug Bostrom says:

    mark says: February 22, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Dawning recognition. See this interview w/Michael Mann, touching on the the need for robust counterattack:

    http://thebenshi.com/2010/02/18/14-mike-mann-part-ii-interview-who-will-provide-communication-expertise-and-leadership-for-the-science-community/

  38. Barry says:

    If the climate does react to our emissions as the best science says is very likely to happen, there will be lots of very bitter and upset people in coming decades. Billions in fact.

    At least these folks who find themselves stuck in a future world of increasingly energetic and unpredictable weather extremes will have sites like this to help sort out exactly which anti-science voices pushed for society to delay in acting quickly enough. History shows that suffering peoples have always been very interested in the “who & why”.

    At this point in the media’s anti-science chase-the-dollar-at-all-costs game, the least we can do is document the anti-science voices of delay as Joe is doing here.

    The silver lining to the fact that the media has become a beast that must have controversy to live is that the pendulum will swing back at some point.

    With all the denier’s main arguments completely falling apart in recent months (watt’s weather stations, spencer’s satellites, global cooling, urban heat islands, snow vs cold) … and with climate conditions set for the next few years to be even hotter than recent trends … the media feeding frenzy could easily swing back with: “deniers in hot water as false claims debunked amidst searing global heat”.

    Media folks are playing with fire to bet their future reputations against 95% probability of harm according to the best science. Who would put even the deed to their home on such long-odds bet?

    The audience for anti-science articles like this is far larger than today’s readership.

  39. Joe, you asked what communications can we do better. I believe we are past that point. Probably there is only one person scientists should communicate with and that is the president, Mr. Obama himself. Almost no Americans understand science at all so it is hopeless to talk to reporters, the public, and most politicians. But Mr. Obama seems to understand the issues involved in climate warming. I am sure Dr. Chu has advised his president often. Nevertheless, we need Jim Hansen and Joe Romm and many others to make appointments with the White House and make hard hitting presentations. Keep up your excellent work!

  40. fj2 says:

    39. Philip Eisner, “Nevertheless, we need Jim Hansen and Joe Romm and many others to make appointments with the White House . . . ”

    Yes, that would be nice, but kind of guess The President knows and understands all too well what they are saying. He spent time at Columbia. And, what Krugman is saying, Stiglitz, and Lester R. Brown.

    Being in power at his level wraps one in a strange brew. Magic helps.

  41. Dorothy says:

    I’m really a straggler in commenting so late. I’ve been dealing with tidal waves of mail and “small stuff.” But reading this post this morning, days late, is a reminder to me to never miss a day of Climate Progress.

    To Joe, and all your supporters – your intelligence, passion and rightful outrage create an powerful energy that inspires people who care to action and give us all courage. Thank you all for keeping the flame of hope burning. I personally am deeply grateful.

  42. Andrew says:

    Barry @39: ‘History shows that suffering peoples have always been very interested in the “who & why”’.

    Schadenfreude is delicious when there are no consequences – but… I fully understand the sentiment and that you agree with the science and are concerned, however there is little comfort to be taken in just being right for correctness’ sake alone.

    We need to mitigate what is going to happen to our childrens’ world. What can you and I as individuals do to this end is the question we need to be asking ourselves. And we need to act on that regardless of being able to huff about being right all along.

    I gave up private transport even though I love my cars (I’ve had an Audi RS4 sitting in my garage for the last 4 years – I need to sell it..). I started using my feet and using public transport when appropriate even though that is less convenient for me. I expect I will need to make more personal sacrifices too (honestly though – some are no-brainers).