Monday, August 20, 2012

The Age Does Award Winning PR — Oops Was That Meant To Be Science?


RE: “Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions” by Michael Bachelard, The Sunday Age
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The Age, newspaper, satireFor free, and just because I’m a nice person, I’m going to help Michael Bachelard with his science articles.
He’s a Walkley Award winner writing for the two largest “broadsheet” circulation papers in Australia. He knows indigenous issues, politics and industrial relations, so “climate science” was the … er, obvious next step, right?
The Age (and by default, it’s sister The Sydney Morning Herald) decided to pretend to investigate the most burning climate questions the public could offer. But their investigations apparently amounted to phoning up government agents and fans of the policy, and asking them what to write.

It’s titled: Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions, but it could have been titled Journalist: one inclined to parrot groupthink
Poor Bachelard is out of his depth in the science trying to answer Stephen Harper and Harry Hostan’s questions. For an investigative journalist he had odd ideas about how to get answers, almost never contacting the people or groups he wrote about directly. Who knows, maybe the servers at Fairfax don’t allow emails out to non-lefties at the moment, because he doesn’t seem to have contacted anyone who could have helped him get the information right.

PR example number 1: Totally wrong, and with no research!

Forced by a skeptic to notice the massive Petition Project, Bachelard “debunks it” with something that isn’t true. He claims the “institute does not release the full list of names, so it can’t be verified”. But it takes two minutes of searching online to turn up the full list of 31,500 names listed alphabetically, and also arranged by State (it makes that verification easier). Could someone show Bachelard, Bing, Yahoo, or Google?
For further confirmation, I emailed Art Robinson, the man who knows more about the project than anyone, to make sure that all the names were listed and got a reply within hours. Yes, they certainly are.
Dismissing the 9,000 PhDs and 22,000 science graduates, Bachelard offers mindless handwaving: the Petition it seems “has been given credibility by conservative and sceptical commentators”, as if leftie commentators were correct somehow for actively ignoring it. (If only those could think of a good reason why they keep saying “there is a consensus” when clearly there isn’t.) Instead, the Petition got credibility the only way that counts, the hard way, by amassing an enormous list, which includes eminent, highly qualified award winning physicists, as well as professors, doctors, engineers and geologists. Rather than being a two minute web survey, the organizers also published a detailed paper reviewing its highly considered position. It’s been up for years now, if there were fake names, or non-scientists, they would have been exposed.
The list has so much credibility, and is so hard to attack, Bachelard has to resort to saying things are aren’t true and making petty ad hominem attacks on the size of the Institute. The fact that this extraordinary project grew out of one man’s passionate work, starting from his farm, only makes the Petition more authentic. (If it had come from a large institute, presumably Bachelard would have dismissed it because it was well funded, right?)
Make no mistake, scientifically, the petition proves nothing, but politically, it blows the consensus out of the water.

The sloppy journalist misses the real revolution

There has never been an uprising of scientist-whistleblowers like this one, and the petition is just the tip of the iceberg of the revolution online that is changing the way science is being done. Like much of the internet activity, the Petition was done by volunteers, paid for with individual private donations, and all the volunteers and many of the donors are PhD scientists. If Greenpeace could name 9,000 PhD’s on their team it’d be in headlines, across posters, and on bumper stickers too.

PR Example number 2: Invent wacko statements from skeptics

Because lazy journalists think they “know” what skeptics say by only talking to their alarmist buddies, they misrepresent the skeptics. (Note to Bachelard: seriously, if you value your reputation, you can email skeptics, we don’t bite, and we speak English too. We can save you from looking like a sock puppet of a self-interested government agency.)
The basics of greenhouse chemistry are agreed on by most skeptics and the IPCC, it’s a non-point. So it’s a tad embarrassing that Bachelard inadvertantly paints the Prize winning brilliant meteorologist, Richard Lindzen, as a “denier” of basic physics, when Lindzen is strictly in the same camp as the IPCC on this point.  Bachelard implies Lindzen alone does not think water vapor “is the most effective agent of global warming”. Ha ha, what a joke. This is high school physics, and shows how far behind the main game Bachelard is. Every tri-atomic molecule like CO2 and H2O is a greenhouse gas (count the atoms: 1,2,3). H2O is 25 – 100 times as abundant as CO2. In his entire five decade career, Richard Lindzen would never have uttered such nonsense. Bachelard wants to paint Lindzen as a loner, extremist, dare I say it — denier?
Bachelard probably excuses himself by thinking he’s helping the planet (the rocks won’t thank you Michael), but these kind of poorly researched PR statements make him just another patsy tool of tricksters, sloppy thinkers, and religious zealots who come to take away honest citizens money for spurious causes.

PR Example number 3: Only show the public what they are “allowed to see” (hide those weather balloons!)

Michael, the sites or the people who told you the hot spot contained “discrepancies” that don’t matter didn’t show you just how obvious, unequivocal or blatant the “discrepancies” are. You linked to this graph of the hot spot, and called it “frightening”:
Figure 9.1. Zonal mean atmospheric temperature change from 1890 to 1999 (°C per century) as simulated by the PCM model from (a) solar forcing, (b) volcanoes, (c) wellmixed greenhouse gases, (d) tropospheric and stratospheric ozone changes, (e) direct sulphate aerosol forcing and (f) the sum of all forcings. Plot is from 1,000 hPa to 10 hPa (shown on left scale) and from 0 km to 30 km (shown on right). See Appendix 9.C for additional information. Based on Santer et al. (2003a).

But what’s frightening, is that the IPCC are not honest enough to show you what the 28 million weather balloons actually found. That graph shows you what the modelsexpected to find (see especially c “well mixed greenhouse gases” and f “the sum of all forcings”). That’s the hot-spot they predict, which amplifies the warming from CO2 by a factor of three. Without the amplification from water vapor, the IPCC predictions collapse from 3 degrees to 1 degree or less.
Now cast your eyes on the graph of millions of weather balloons released since 1959 below. Repeat after me: “the models are accurate, I can see that the discrepancy between the weather balloons and the models predictions in (f) above is inconsequential, and yellow IS red!”
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Propaganda trick number 4: The Questions they won’t ask the other side
And here’s another give- away that Bachelard is a PR writer disguised as a journalist (though he may not know it himself) — the questions he asks the skeptics. They are fair questions, but I’ll bet that Bachelard has never asked a believer of the theory the same thing. Do correct me if I’m wrong, but try on these questions below — imagine a journalist asking these of Greg Combet, or Julia Gillard, Ross Garnaut or Tim Flannery?
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3. When did you become a [believer in climate change]?
I mean really, when did the passion overtake you, Julia? Was it years ago, in your lawyer days, was before you told Rudd to drop the CPRS, or was it in the three weeks after the last election?
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4. What are your main sources of information?
Dear Greg, the nation depends on you getting the policy right, have you spoken to Richard Lindzen, Bob Carter, William Kininmonth or Garth Paltridge, or do you just assume the Yes-men in the Department of Climate Change are telling you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
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5. What are your general political views?
Tim, belief in man-made warming is much stronger in leftie voters, which way do you vote?
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6. Do you ever have doubts?
Ross, your reputation depends on a complex science issue. Do you ever have doubts that the IPCC models have exaggerated the effects of feedbacks, and that your entire economic analysis is based on flawed science?
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7. Do you think there’s a conspiracy to push [against] global warming?
Julia, Greg, Tim, Ross: Do you believe that thousands of scientists are being paid by Exxon to put their names on petitions and write comments on blogs? Has the $23 million paid by Exxon been able to neutralize the $79 billion paid by governments and the vested interests of all the financial houses who benefit from over $100 billion of carbon trading turnover each year?
Michael, any time you want to do a real investigative story on climate science, genuine questions will be welcome.

See Stephen Harpers comment at #4 on the interview, and the print copy complete with him labeled a “contrarian” because he dares to ask for evidence.


Ps: YourLustForLifeStartsRightNow!

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