I’ve been meaning to comment on this for some time but have been quite intensely engaged with my professional writing and in an action research project involving urban Geography. Now I’m finally getting back to one of my other interests, the problem of global warming.
Back in March of this year the head of the CSIRO, Dr Megan Clark, said that the evidence of global warming is unquestionable, and in Australia it is backed by years of robust research.
Just a few days before Dr Megan Clark’s statement Maurice Newman, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation asserted that climate change was an example of “group think” and that contrary views on climate change have not been tolerated and those who express them have been labelled and mocked. He went on to say “It’s really been the question of what is wisdom and consensus rather than listening perhaps to other points of view that may be sceptical“.
He added that:
My view on any of these topics is to keep an open mind, and I still have an open mind on climate change.
Many of the people who have a different point of view on the climate science are respectable and credentialed scientists themselves.
So as I said, I’m not a scientist and I’m like anybody else in the public, I have to listen to all points of view and then make judgments when we’re asked to vote on particular policies.
He believes the ABC has been more balanced than other media organisations when it comes to reporting on climate change.
Maurice Newman is certainly not a scientifically independent or rigorous commentator on these matters.
At the time Glenys Stradijot, a spokesperson for the Friends of the ABC observed that Mr Newman is entitled to his personal views on controversial matters. But his expression of them while he remains head of the ABC damages public confidence in the national broadcaster’s independence. She also noted that It is difficult not to consider Mr Newman’s comments in the light of him being a former director of the right-wing Centre for Independent Studies.
To add a little global balance, there’s a useful UN paper of the media’s coverage of climate change called “Media Coverage of Climate Change// <![CDATA[// : Current Trends, Strengths, Weaknesses” by Boykoff, Maxwell T, and J. Timmons Roberts. One of the points they make is that coverage about global warming in UK tabloid newspapers, in particular, has significantly diverged from the scientific consensus that humans contribute to climate change.
There seems to be an obsession, within some parts of the mass media, to ensure ‘balance’ in reporting on climate change. Unfortunately the scales are azctually tipped far towards the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the existence of climate change patterns that are producing an overall increase in global average temperatures. To give equal media time to both sides of the argument is to deny scientifically established realities. Much of this relies on a combination of avoidant or self interested behaviours on the part of media owners or managers, the essential role of controversy in selling media, and an absence of sound scientific education amongst vast numbers of people.
One excellent website confronts the views of the sceptical, the agnostic or the plain naive, with a thorough summary of the scientific arguments. It presents a complete listing of arguments in an article called “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic,” by Coby Beck. The website contains responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies in which the arguments are divided into:
- Stages of denial;
- Scientific topics;
- Types of arguments; and,
- Levels of sophistication.
It’s time the media shows some real balance and highlights the significance of climate change.