Stuff’s stuff-up: climate liars on the loose

Stuff Nation was introduced a couple of years ago as the reader-led section of Fairfax Digital’s NZ news site Stuff.co.nz1, home to quiz groups and news submitted by readers. Sadly for them, one or two of their readers have been taking them for a ride, to judge by one of this weekend’s lead stories — a “reader report” by one Tom Harris titled We must adapt to climate change. Harris is highly unlikely to be a regular reader of Stuff Nation, being based in Ottawa, but he is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, a spin-off from the NZ Climate Science Coalition established with money from US extreme right-wing lobby group the Heartland Institute.

The ICSC lists Bryan Leyland and Terry Dunleavy — two of the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that are trying to avoid paying the costs they incurred in taking an idiotic court case against NIWA and the NZ temperature record — as key players, and it is probably safe to assume that Leyland, who has in the past boasted about his ability to “twist arms” in Fairfax newsrooms2, is responsible for placing Harris’s piece with Stuff. It’s an op-ed riffing off John Kerry’s comments about climate change during his recent Indonesia visit, so compelling and well-argued that it’s been featured in high profile outlets around the world including The Bahamas Weekly, and — well, that’s about it.

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  1. Internet home of Fairfax’s NZ newspapers, principally The Dominion Post (Wellington) and The Press (Christchurch). []
  2. See update 2 to this post. []

Sustainable Energy NZ #14 – how much energy hides in food and ‘stuff’

Welcome to the fourteenth post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series. After our previous posts on hydro power, geothermal and wind (and a summary on the big three), solarbiofuelsmarine and waste energy, we’re now looking at answering the question:

How can we achieve a BIG reduction in our personal and national energy consumption?

Remember, as before, the units are in kWh/day/person – ie. if you ran a 40W lightbulb for 24 hours, it’d take ~1 kWh over the space of a day. We then divide it by person to give you a sense of the scale of the resource proportionate to the size of the population. Be sure to check out the methodology. For reference – we’ve been looking to replace around 55 kWh/d/p of energy currently generated by fossil fuels.

Food

Farming and food processing cost about 8kWh/d/p of the NZ energy bill, much of which is of course exported. This is only energy consumed in food production – a great deal more energy is directly incorporated into our food from the sun. When looking at land for either biofuel or solar production, energy production competes directly with food. We could grow a lot more biofuel if we produced a lot less milk, for instance. For the purposes of national energy supply, we doubt much can be gained in terms of energy efficiency to support current production.

New Zealanders eat more beef than the UK population, but we eat next to no grain-fed beef and barning is rare. Overall, the 15kWh/d/p for a UK person is probably pretty similar here. Reduce that to 10 for vegans, but remember that crops cannot be grown on much of the land that we graze (especially not continuously).

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Fairfax and Stuff.co.nz: presenting propaganda as opinion and lies as fact

This morning the Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece by well-known Aussie climate denier David Evans, and later in the day the Fairfax New Zealand news web site Stuff.co.nz decided to feature the Evans article in their science section. Two small problems for Fairfax: Evans “opinion” piece is nothing more than propaganda masquerading as opinion, and contains straightforward lies about our understanding of climate.

We last met Evans back in April, when he unleashed on an unsuspecting world a risible political analysis of those who want action on climate change. Even so, the SMH, for reasons best known to themselves, chose to let him loose on their pages to present a “scientific” argument. The problem? Evans scientific understanding is as weak — if not weaker — than his political analysis. His deliberate misrepresentation of the state of scientific understanding of the climate system renders his “opinion” on the matter worthless, and calls the editorial judgement of the SMH and Stuff.co.nz into question.

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Stuff unstuffed (a bit)

Fairfax New Zealand’s news web site Stuff has responded to criticism [Hot Topic, The Atavism, From the Morgue] of its ‘Solar minimum’ could trigger Ice Age [WebCite#1] story last week by posting a substantially revised version [WebCite#2], now titled Research considers solar cooling period. The latest version gives a much better picture of the paleoclimate research that was ostensibly the subject of the original story, but Stuff‘s editors have neglected to address the lifting of material from the Daily Mail. Remarkably, the only sentences retained from the original are those that were directly “borrowed” from the Mail article.

Here’s what the Mail piece originally said, with the sections used by Stuff in bold:

The link between Solar ‘moods’ and the weather down here on Earth was first noticed in the 1970s, when the American astronomer Jack Eddy noticed a strong correlation between historic weather records and contemporaneous accounts of Solar activity, most notably the long record of sunspots published a century before by the astronomer Edward Maunder. Eddy noticed that a ‘quiet’ Sun correlates with cold weather and a manic phase means warmer conditions.

Here’s what Stuff published in the first version of the story, and left unchanged in the latest revision:

It was first noticed in the 1970s when the American astronomer Jack Eddy noticed a strong correlation between historic weather records and accounts of solar activity. He noticed that a ‘quiet’ sun correlates with cold weather and a ‘manic’ phase means warmer conditions.

Remarkably similar, I’ll think you agree. Neither Stuff story gives any credit to the Daily Mail, so unless Fairfax has a syndication arrangement with the Mail that allows uncredited use, the site has been incredibly sloppy, both in allowing the original nonsense to make it to the front page of their site, and by correcting the piece without addressing the clear plagiarism. An apology to Stuff‘s readers on both counts would seem in order.

Stuff stuff up (another bloody ice age)

There’s a major fail today for the new science section of the Stuff.co.nz news web site — the web portal for Fairfax NZ, home to The Press (Christchurch) and the Dominion Post (Wellington) newspaper web presences. A front page teaser — “Could cooling sun cause ice age?” (see image at left) — leads to a page with a headline that screams ‘Solar minimum’ could trigger Ice Age [Web Cite]. It’s a short piece that originally began thus:

The world could be heading for a new ‘solar minimum’ period, possibly plummeting the planet into an Ice Age, scientists say. Researchers say the present increase in sun activity with solar flares and storms could be followed by this minimum period.

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of global-warming alarmists.

This alarming introduction, helpfully archived by morgue, has since been rewritten to change the final sentence:

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of further global-warming.

Two small problems for Stuff: “scientists” aren’t saying anything at all about a coming ice age, refuting predictions of global warming, or projecting new solar minima. The paper they’ve based the story on is a lot less exciting, suggesting that there may be a plausible link between changes in solar activity and regional climate a few thousand years ago as measured by varves from a German lake. The story — one of the day’s “top stories” on their iPad app — is made up nonsense. And there’s a second problem: it may have been lifted in part from an earlier item in Britain’s Daily Mail

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