The Press: head buried deep in Brighton beach

The Press is my local newspaper. It’s one of New Zealand’s top four daily papers. I read it, on the web and on paper. It is a very important part of South Island, and especially Canterbury life. It even published a letter from me earlier this week, in which I pointed out a few factual errors in an opinion column in last Saturday’s paper (an economist getting his climate science wrong). I was therefore a trifle concerned to read its editorial today, which chastises the world’s diplomats for their high carbon antics in Bali (there are 15,000 of them, from all over the world, after all), and then concludes with this choice paragraph:

But failure to agree in the end may not be a bad thing. There are some who argue that muddling through with more ad hoc adjustments to climate change may be all that is needed. A major worry in the debate over climate change is that, where so much is contentious, any proposed overall “solution” may wind up doing more harm than good. The confusion of thought that led the UN to hold what looks like a jamboree for bureaucrats on a tropical island shows why that worry can sometimes seem justified.

Newspapers, like people (even economists) are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. Failure in Bali may be inevitable. To believe that the world will work together to beat a global problem requires a leap of faith that flies in the face of historical precedent, but if we get no deal on emissions reductions, or a deal that delivers meaningless or insufficient cuts, the prospect for the world is not rosy. “Muddling through” is not an option to be preferred. The science does not support that contention. The editorial writer must have ignored his own paper’s news coverage of the issue and preferred to take the advice of the sceptical rump – Lawson, de Freitas and their sponsors. To further suggest that the solution could do more harm than good simply flies in the face of the evidence – from the IPCC, Stern, even the NZ Treasury.

If The Press expects its views to have influence and command respect, it will need to ensure that its opinion writers demonstrate some acquaintance with reality before they commit words to paper. The politics belongs in the response to the problem, not in denying that it exists.

6 thoughts on “The Press: head buried deep in Brighton beach”

  1. I have unashamedly pinched the following from a comment by dmatthew at energyresources:

    “The Threat to the Planet: Dark and Bright Sides of Global Warming”

    Pay special attention to the slides:

    This sort of scientific information ought to terrify and motivate us
    to change our ways before it is too late. But it won’t, of course.
    We’re not going to change for anything. This civilization would have
    to die before anyone finally concedes that it can collapse.

  2. Dear Gareth

    The DomPost has a similar anti climate science bias especially in the busines section (Is it because they are both Fairfax papers?).

    On Wed there was an article that relied heavily on the climate expertise of Byran (I love nukes) Leyland. The article had a short list of climate “facts’. From cursory look it was apparent that every one of them was factually wrong!

    I was tempted to write to the editor but life it too short.

    Cheers Doug

  3. Did you see that review of Svensmark’s book “The Chilling Stars” that The Press ran a couple of weeks back? You could play disinformation bingo with it. The reviewer seemed to have no real knowledge of climate science, and was pushing a pretty tired political conspiracy theory kind of line. I guess asking newspapers not to opine based on an absence of fact would be asking too much…

  4. Yes, I saw that review, and it was made the more piquant by the fact that, for some reason best known unto themselves, The Press has not yet reviewed HT.

    The reviewer, Charlotte Randall, is a first-class novelist (The Curative is very good indeed), but the review read as if this was her first exposure to the climate “literature”. Perhaps I should send her a copy of my effort…

    Andrew: Thanks for the Hansen links. The presentation is pretty similar to many he’s given over the last few years (see Notes & Sources for links to some), but he’s recently introduced an idea for dealing with sea level rise: creating massive inland lakes in Canada and Russia (towards the end of the slides). The Canadian one is called Lake Woebegon, rather appropriately. I’ll have to see if I can dig up more info on that…

    BTW, how did you get hold of that Arctic temp anomaly plot. It’s worried a few people I’ve passed it on to!

  5. When Tim Flannery visited I attended a workshop and one person raised the question of if one day it might be necessary to hold Nurenburg type trials for those who had deliberately misled the public and persisted telling lies after their errors were pointed out.

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