Dominion Post editorial as shaky as Herald’s

When I was writing the post on the Herald’s acceptance of journalistic say-so in its editorial on the IPCC Gareth drew my attention to the fact that the Dominion Post had also produced an editorial claiming that the ethics and integrity of climate scientists is being called into question.  I was too engaged with the Herald to consider including the Dominion Postin the ambit of my attention at the same time, but now that I’ve had a closer look I rather wish I had.  The editorial is four days old, but still deserves taking apart.

The evidence the editorial draws attention to is first the publication of the stolen emails, suggesting, it claims, a conspiracy to hide data and play down information which didn’t fit the theories of the scientists concerned.  Then the Himalayan glacier error.  Nothing new here and comment familiar and predictable.

But the editorial had a  revelation (a different one from those offered by the Herald):


“Now it has been revealed that another IPCC warning –- that global warming could wipe out 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest –- was extrapolated from an unsubstantiated claim by two green campaigners who had no scientific expertise.”

Looks pretty serious.  Where did the revelation come from?  It turns out from the same journalist as one of the Herald’s revelations.  Yes, Jonathan Leake in a different article in  the UK Sunday Times.

I’m relieved of the need to track down the details of Leake’s supposed exposure of yet another bogus IPCC claim by Tim Lambert of Deltoid who has a detailed analysis of the shady process by which Leake got to where he did. It turns out that Leake had been told by the scientist concerned, Dan Nepstad, that the IPCC statement was correct, but there had been an error in the citations listed in the WWF report (yes, WWF – no prizes for guessing who’s been trawling through the IPCC references looking for the letters WWF). I won’t try to cover the details of the account Nepstad has given to Lambert, which you can read on Deltoid, but the essential point is that Leake in his article concealed the fact that he had been told by the scientist concerned that the statement was correct. Presumably it would have made his story unnecessary. Why bother telling the truth when it would interfere with a story which opens like this?

A startling report by the United Nations climate watchdog that global warming might wipe out 40% of the Amazon rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise.

The Dominion Post is as guilty as the Herald of uncritically passing round journalistic stories which drastically and groundlessly distort the work of the IPCC. Its editorial doesn’t draw the conclusion that climate change is not happening, but makes this extraordinarily sweeping and ignorant statement:

“Why trust a panel that confuses opinion and fact, wrongly attributes that opinion, tries to shout down critics and displays a determination to make the facts fit the theory rather than the other way around.”

Evidently in the editorial sections of our leading newspapers where the IPCC is concerned  ignorance and carelessness won’t be permitted to inhibit confident assurance.

19 thoughts on “Dominion Post editorial as shaky as Herald’s”

  1. If decisions on how to deal with climate change were driven by the scientific facts alone we would have had carbon taxes or cap and trade schemes long ago. As it is we can’t even manage to ban the incandescent light bulb in NZ.

    Jonathon Porritt and Andy Revkin both take a wider view of the recent attacks on climate science and Porritt says:

    So should we be pressing the panic button? I think we should. The damage done to the credibility not just of climate science but also of the UK’s entire approach to climate change is already serious – and getting worse. This could be extremely problematic in the run up to the general election.

    Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia has a piece in the Guardian where he attempts to explain why the IPCC has attracted so much editorial attention in recent weeks and in Nature Dan Kahan from Yale explains why cultural values are just as important as scientific facts in the climate debate.

  2. I note Mike Hulme treats the Sunday Times articles of Leake as if they were genuine discoveries of evidence of inaccurate or poorly warranted statements and claims. Rather depressing confirmation of how widely once these sort of claims get into the media they are treated as established. Hulme also takes the opportunity to reassert his objection to the notion that science demands any particular action, which I found puzzling and opaque when I reviewed his book.

    If public opinion is prepared to run with the deniers, and enough politicians are prepared to go along for the ride, we are indeed in a sad state. Denial opposes science and I don’t see how there is much scientists can do to counter that other than to keep doing their work. The transgressions of the climategate scientists seem to me wildly exaggerated, but they’re becoming simply accepted as serious in journalistic discourse. I took a crumb of comfort from the fact that both the Herald and Dominion Times editorials accepted that climate change was a serious matter. But how often do they proclaim that as the major message of an editorial? Kahan’s sociological analysis implies more careful marketing of climate science, and the banishing of communicators who are identified with particular cultural outlooks or styles – Greens, perhaps? I have found climate science profoundly unsettling, and I’m not sure how it could be communicated to anyone of any political persuasion and not be unsettling.

    1. The BBC have just published the results of a recent poll of public opinion about climate change. It looks as though the East Anglia and IPCC "trivialities", as you referred to them in a previous thread, may have had an impact on peoples’ views.

      I’m surprised that Dan Kahan’s article didn’t ring a bell for you. I thought that his conclusion was eerily reminiscent of much of the comments section on this blog:

      The prevailing approach is still simply to flood the public with as much sound data as possible on the assumption that the truth is bound, eventually, to drown out its competitors. If, however, the truth carries implications that threaten people’s cultural values, then holding their heads under- water is likely to harden their resistance and increase their willingness to support alternative arguments, no matter how lacking in evidence. This reaction is substantially reinforced when, as often happens, the message is put across by public communicators who are unmistakably associated with particular cultural outlooks or styles — the more so if such advocates indulge in partisan rhetoric, ridiculing opponents as corrupt or devoid of reason. This approach encourages citizens to experience scientific debates as contests between warring cultural factions — and to pick sides accordingly.

      1. And my own comments over the last few months about “communication”. There isn’t any in either the deluge of corroborating information nor the “contests between warring cultural factions”. Ignore this area at your risk I suspect.

  3. Bryan,
    Good post. Yes the Herald Editorial, although noting that climate change is happening, nonetheless flirts with denial.
    I think this may be the sign that the lobby opposed to emissions reductions have changed their P.R. tactics. I think some have moved away from endlessly repeating any of the classic ‘top ten’ denials (i.e. CO2 is a nutrient’, no warming since 1998′, ‘no proven link between CO2 and warming’, ‘water vapour has more effect’) . These are all variations on the theme of ”the science isn’t settled”.
    The current approach seems to be ‘attack the messenger, not the message’. Fred Pearce writes in the Guardian that this isn’t a new approach, but a tried and true one.
    I think ‘attack the messanger’ is now being used more frequently as the old-fashioned ‘classic’ denialists like Plimer and Monckton and Bellamy are more and more being perceived as caricatures and parodies. Also their special techniques – such as their skills in debating, avoiding the question, changing the subject and their rhetorical flourishes – don’t help spread the denial message as they can’t be repeated by the target audience.
    ‘Attack the messenger’ in the form of criticise the IPCC, works because it allows anyone to say ‘Yes of course, I agree that climate change is happening, but the IPCC/East Anglia climate research unit hid data/used ‘grey’ literature etc. etc. That enables commentators to avoid being cast as deniers, yet still appear knowledgeably skeptical. I heard a perfect example a couple of days ago on National Radio’s “The Panel” where Jim Moro’s panellists repeated the meme.
    I mentioned this to a friend yesterday and he said “XXXX is a ‘softcore climate change denier’ “. I thought that was a brilliant term and I think it does sum up the approach taken by the NZ Herald’s editorial. You never utter any of the discredited ‘science isn’t settled’ mantras, but you strongly criticise the IPCC on the basis of 500th footnote of FAR WG2.

    PS. Obviously this terminology makes Plimer and Monckton into ‘hardcore’ deniers! How apt!

  4. Quite frankly – we are toast.
    The Main Stream Media are merely the mouth pieces for the super wealthy who control far too much of the world’s resources. The jounos may not know it and they would strenuously deny that that is the case – but if they were to follow a hard line editorial policy on tackling global warming they know as well as you and I that their jobs would be on the line. Why? Because those who control the purse strings call the tune. And those who control the purse strings almost invariably are investors, or who have friends who are investors, in industries that are heavily dependent on Carbon emissions. (NZ’s newspapers are not owned by NZers). There is never going to be a fair debate on dealing with Climate Change until there is a “free press”.
    Fortunately having said that, there is one glimmer of hope. The MSM is under financial attack from the internet. Blogs such as this are being increasingly used by individuals as the sure way to gain a far better understanding of the matters of the moment. Newspapers, deprived of readership, (and as a consequence dropping in advertising revenue – their main income) begining to think of charging for online readership! This reactionary move will no doubt further exacerbate the drop in their overall readerships – meaning they will become less and less an influence in the thinking of people. And all I can say – as one who never reads the Herald or the Dominion or any other paper for that matter, and yet still manages to stay up with the play in all matters of moment. – GOOD RIDDANCE!

  5. AGW-Denier

    If you can be bothered with science you might like to read this recent post in which James Hansen addresses the question with a little more finesse than your imaginary Tui billboard. There’s a link provided to his full essay.

    1. To which I would only add that, as Jeff Masters points out, the two big snowstorms this winter in the NE USA are a very rare occurrence. Has something changed that’s affected the probability of heavy snow in that region? Masters’ next post may discuss that — it’ll be an interesting read.

      As warm, moist air from the south & east meets cold air coming down from Canada, you get snow. My suspicion would be that the air is warmer than in the past, and therefore able to carry more moisture (might also linked to be warm water off the US coast, see this post at Daily Kos). The cold air might also be a bit warmer than in the past (I don’t know the detail), but it’s still cold enough to cause precipitation to fall as snow rather than rain, so the chances of big snowfalls increases. Also worth noting that Arctic warming is expected to increase snowfall around the ocean, for the same reason.

  6. AGW-Denier, I can hardly believe you have produced Steve Wrathall to counter James Hansen. Hansen is a distinguished scientist, well regarded by his peers, an elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences. Question his science if you wish, but do so by countering science, not by sneers.

  7. AGW-Denier, your lesjones graph simply expunges two of Hansen’s scenarios. Hansen provided three to try to cover various possible trajectories of emissions in the coming years. Scenario A assumed a higher level of emissions than actually occurred. Scenarios B and C assumed lower levels of emissions, closer to what in fact occurred, and his predictions were pretty good. You can’t see that on the lesjones graph because he has fraudulently removed scenarios B and C. But there are plenty of places you can see it, as here for instance.

    Incidentally, Hansen may have assisted Al Gore, but that is a very minor matter alongside his position as long-time Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. You can view his CV and publications here:

  8. Its amazing, annoying and actually deeply worrying how the strong wish to continue our exponential growth journey is driving denial. We are at the bottom of the 11 year solar cycle. Its worth about 7 years of CO2 increase at current rates to the GW potential. So when we reach the next top, in about 6 years, then today’s shameful lambasting of the climate science community by the deniers camp will hopefully played back to them at nauseam. We live surely in wired times. The signs of human caused environmental degradation, AGW included, are everywhere and the current economic collapse is most likely a result of sane minds no longer believing in the continuation of exponential growth as we know it – which would be required to allow a continuation of our debt fueled economy. The AGW debate seems like the last battle of the die hard liberal capitalists who can not and will not accept that we have entered the time where we must begin to live inside of an sustainable footprint or bust.
    Blasting climate scientists for minor errors of judgment seems like a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable.

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