Sunday, June 05, 2011

“Media Too Fair to Climate Skeptics”, say reporters who’ve been unfair to skeptics


Repeat after me: “the media is too balanced on global warming, the media needlessly gives two-sided reports on global warming…..” When ordinary people learn why mainstream media journalists repeat this and where it originates, they will understand how the overall smear of skeptic scientists threatens to turn from the success it is into a failure that can bring the whole so-called global warming crisis to a halt.

What “balance”?! We’ve heard non-stop, one-sided coverage of our certain demise from man-caused global warming for the last decade! In my first American Thinker blog on this in late 2009, I pointed out the sheer lack of skeptic scientists appearing on the PBS NewsHour, while noting instances of this repeated ‘too much balance’ assertion going back to 1995.

Eight months later, I was amazed to see a blogger link to a set of graphics supposedly proving skewed media reporting of global warming compared to an ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’, yet when I looked into it, I found immediate problems with the citation about the media researchers, the Boykoff brothers, and what certainly looked like a circular reference between the Boykoffs and the main promoter of the accusation saying skeptic scientists are corrupted by fossil fuel industry money, Ross Gelbspan. In a 2004 paper, the Boykoffs not only cited Gelbspan’s work four times, they also thanked him for his help in their acknowledgments section. I wrote about those problems at a pair of Heartland Institute blogs.

Such problems are incredibly easy to spot. Consider the following:

A search of the words “balance in the media” turned up one of the most recent repetitions of it at Nature magazine on April 19, 2011, where it says:

Nisbet’s report, Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate, published by American University, also analysed another common complaint of climate scientists, that attempts at ‘balance’ in the media gives too much coverage to the small minority of climate-change sceptics.

The report author, Matthew Nisbet, used quotes from Al Gore’s movie to set up his premises about media balance in Chapter 3 of his study, the first sentence of which contains Ross Gelbspan’s infamous “reposition global warming” accusation phrase:

Gore then goes on to discuss an industry-linked memo that planned to “reposition global warming as a theory rather than fact.” “There was another study of all the articles in the popular press,” says Gore, referring to a 2004 study by social scientists Max and Jules Boykoff. “Over the last 14 years they looked at a sample of 636. More than half of them said, ‘Well, we are not sure. It could be a problem, may not be a problem.’ So no wonder people are confused.”

Further in the chapter, Nisbet claims he replicated the Boykoffs’ study to determine that the same publications were now properly reporting the issue as settled, noting in footnote 19 how this remains true despite people like me who attempt to point out places where skeptic scientists have an audience:

"…blog reading also is highly selective and strongly motivated by ideology and identity. If online users encounter information that is falsely balanced or outright misleading at a conservative blog such as Climate Depot, it likely serves to reinforce already strongly dismissive views on climate change."

Thanks for pointing out how I’m simply an ideologically motivated idiot. Nothing to see here, move along. But, back to the problems.

Another internet search variation such as “two-sides approach” turns up a George Washington University 2003 Up Front article titled “Deciding Who Should Speak on Campus” (pdf file) by Deborah Tannen:

The two-sides approach creates a need to find spokespersons to represent “the other side,” even if it is a widely discredited position. For example, as Ross Gelbspan demonstrated in his book The Heat Is On, there is widespread agreement among experts and ample scientific evidence about the reality of global climate change, yet some Americans still consider this issue “controversial” because any article or program about it includes the same few fringe researchers who question its reality based on dubious research paid for by the fossil fuel industry.

She concludes her article with:

"All individuals have a right to say what they want, but universities have no obligation to amplify the message of any particular individual by providing a platform and the credibility implied by the invitation to speak. On the contrary, all members of a university community have a responsibility to ensure that the halls of learning do not become an echo chamber for the spread of disinformation in the name of free speech."

A combined search of her name and “ross gelbspan” results in her October 2004 Christian Science Monitor article lamenting the manner in which ‘voices of true opposition are muted by the din’ of balanced reporting. And she cites proof to back this up:
A single-minded devotion to “balance” also creates the illusion of equivalence where there is none. For example, as shown repeatedly by journalist Ross Gelbspan as well as in a recent article by Maxwell and Jules Boykoff…

And then we have the Boykoff brothers’ own words in their November/December 2004 article at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting:

…”balance” may allow skeptics – many of them funded by carbon-based industry interests – to be frequently consulted and quoted in news reports on climate change. Ross Gelbspan, drawing from his 31-year career as a reporter and editor, charges in his books The Heat Is On and Boiling Point that a failed application of the ethical standard of balanced reporting on issues of fact has contributed to inadequate U.S. press coverage of global warming…"

Last but certainly not least, Jules Boykoff told Environment Writer Bill Dawson in a December 2004 phone interview:

"You’ve got 1,600 to 2,500 scientists …, saying global warming is a serious problem and needs serious actions. On the other side is a small collection of scientists, many of whom are funded by oil and … fossil-fuel interests."

To repeat that ‘the media gives too much equal weight to a minority of fossil fuel-funded skeptics as it does to the consensus of mainstream scientists’ is to repeat a strawman argument of epic proportions. It relies on outright faith that somebody actually quantified who the ‘scientific consensus’ is, that fossil fuel money is irrefutably proven to skew skeptic scientists’ reports, and that the media actually presented those skeptic viewpoints in equal proportion to the other side. And it is nothing more than a regurgitated 1991-era talking point. Ad-libs about Climate Depot, Rush Limbaugh, or Fox News pushing lies, or swipes about people like me being ignorant mind-numbed ideology-driven robots simply invites a two word response: Prove it!

Give “Pulitzer winner” Ross Gelbspan kudos for the 2004 brilliant admonition, and all its prior versions, “For many years, the press accorded the same weight to the “skeptics” as it did to mainstream scientists. This was done in the name of journalistic balance. In fact, it was journalistic laziness.”

Can anyone guess how many journalists read those and vowed not to be lazy? Problem is, it goes beyond journalistic laziness into journalistic malfeasance when we see a long-term failure to report how Gelbspan never won a Pulitzer, he wasn’t the first to publicize coal industry memos proving skeptic climate scientists are corrupt, those memos prove nothing when they are read in their complete context…… and it turns out Al Gore received the memos long before Gelbspan, at his Senate office around 1991-92.


Explaining Germany’s Anti-Nuclear Fanaticism

Uwe Siemon-Netto

Germany’s radical decision to quit nuclear power by 2022 has me worried, and not just for economic reasons. My concern is primarily philosophical for this development suggests the robust return of a troubling mindset that has served Germany and the world badly for centuries. It is called Schwärmerei and translates literally into “swarming.” Martin Luther invented this term for a murky combination of utopian mass enthusiasm and fanaticism.

Luther used the word, Schwärmerei, to describe 16th-century theological-political movements that taught that man should give God a helping hand by establishing Elysian entities already here on earth in anticipation of His ultimate paradise. The quintessential “Schwärmer” was Luther’s antagonist Thomas Müntzer (1489-1525), chief ideologue of the 16th-century peasants’ wars in Germany. Müntzer had a great influence on the bloodiest political movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, Marxism and National Socialism.

Both Friedrich Engels, the father of Communist theory, and Nazi chief ideologue Alfred Rosenberg deferred to Müntzer, even though they were atheists and he was not. But it was from Müntzer that they inherited the idea of having to create a miniature paradise with limited access here and now. The Communist self-declared goal was to create a “Worker’s and Peasants’ Paradise;” the Nazis tried to establish an idyllic reservation for one particular tribe, the Aryans. Both proved to be irrational and ultimately lethal schemes.

It would be unfair to suggest that the unattractive alliance between environmentalists and dull populists driving Germany’s exit from atomic power is in a league with genocidal fiends such as the Communists and Nazis. My point is merely that, like those movements, they are responding to irrational sentiments like fear, envy and insularity; the dreaded German word, Sonderweg, springs to mind.

That the earthquake and tsunami disaster in faraway Japan should send a majority of Germans, whose country rarely experiences seismic tremors of a magnitude of minor itches, into mass hysteria, and that their center-right government now responds to this frenzy in the manner of populist Pavlovians, is a disturbing development indeed. It seems no less alarming than Chancellor Merkel’s and Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s flip-flop policy of breaking solidarity with Germany’s partners in NATO and the European Union in the Libyan crisis, thus catering to the mushy pacifist mindset that has taken hold of the German people since World War II.

The spectacle of the world’s most successful economic power succumbing to its people’s angst seems unbecoming, all the more so as there is no European nation more dependent on electricity that Germany, and none with more open borders; Germany has 10 immediate neighbors, all with nuclear reactors whose radiation clouds, if there were ever to be a disaster, would not ask Berlin for permission before traversing German territory. Thus it is fallacious Schwärmerei to assume that a nation of 80 million surrounded by ten other nations could be turned into a nuclear-free land of bliss.

Not that concerns about atomic power lacked legitimacy; particularly the issue of what to do with the nuclear waste remains unresolved. But it surely makes no sense to act according to the motto of “stop the world I want to get off.” By all means let’s accelerate the search for alternative energies, but in the meantime build the safest reactors imaginable, which is precisely what German manufacturers have been doing thus far.

It seems sad that the German genius to which my country owed its postwar success has evidently deserted the political arena. But at least it is still present in the economy and in industry, where imaginative minds will doubtless find a response to the mess our latter-day Schwärmer and populists are currently causing. This is of course a statement of faith of sorts. Would it be that I could be as confident about my country’s future leaders!


Germany: An Eco-Dictatorship

It's not just nukes that they are freaky about

Winfried Kretschmann (Green Party) is the new Prime Minister of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. He is the face of the green revolution which forces biofuels, thermal insulation and solar power upon citizens. Resistance? Absolutely useless.

Green minister Winfried Kretschmann has a friendly, innocent face. Last Thursday, when he was making history, he took the oath, "So help me God." He is down to earth, conservative, morally grounded and humble. This is also what his friends say. "I am a slow politician," he says. He fits quite well into the federal state which he now leads. But, he will not be chauffeured in a Mercedes S-class, inherited from his predecessor, for much longer. It is indeed possible to travel leaner and cleaner. Kretschmann and his cohorts draw a picture of a change of power that does not appear to be more radical than a staff car-downgrading.

But Kretschmann deserves a second look. If you compare and contrast top green politicians, then there are those who talk about sustainability but actually denote power, and those who talk about sustainability and are serious about it. Kretschmann belongs to the latter group, who claims that "the emphatic love of nature" drove him to co-found the Green Party. Therefore, his sentences are not tactical political provocation or pure balm for the party base. They have to be taken seriously: "We must bring our way of life in line with the basics of the planet. With our economic model, we damage the planet.” For the car industry, this means: "If the automobile industry is not able to get greener, then it will have no future."

Then the Prime Minister gets serious about the energy company EnBW, which is part-owned by the state. It must be converted to a green electricity supplier, which is the clear goal. Kretschmann's environment minister has already designed the corporate strategy: The energy company EnBW could sell its electricity grid and invest the proceeds in green energy.

Keyword consumer sovereignty

All of this is not harmless: Barely in office, the new government has already started a mental nationalisation of corporations in which the state does not hold majority stake. But nobody has dared to criticise such interventionist plans at a time where the champions for the environment and against nuclear power have both the voters and the morality on their side. It is no longer just the Greens who intervene into private and entrepreneurial freedom in order to jolt the nation into an ecological lifestyle. An eco-tyranny is growing in Germany; it is based on a large majority. And the federal government is at the top.

Examples? Keyword consumer sovereignty: Germany is forcing its drivers to consume a product that they do not want. They are forced to use biofuels (which, incidentally, are ecologically highly controversial), that have been blended into conventional petrol long before the introduction of E10 ethanol.

Keyword tenants' rights: Germany’s federal government wants to restrict the right of tenants if a landlord ‘eco-renovates’ his property. Usually tenants are allowed to reduce rent if they are severely affected by a renovation. They may not do so anymore if the renovation is beneficial to the climate. That homeowners are not yet forced to insulate their homes, as the Christian Democrats (CDU) have planned, is only due to their liberal coalition partners. The proposal will come up again once it transpires that households are saving less energy than the federal government estimates.

Keyword green power: citizens are not only forced to pay for expensive solar and wind power plants, which they did not request in the first place. The massive payments with their long lifespan are - once approved by parliament – largely beyond democratic control, which distinguishes them from traditional subsidies.

"We are moving towards an eco-dictatorship'

However, the preferential treatment of green schemes goes even further: in construction law, wind farms are already privileged. Now the governments plans to speed up the approval of hotly contested high-voltage pylon lines because they have been opposed by citizens campaign groups. The power lines are needed to bring wind power from northern Germany to the south. To achieve this goal, citizens’ legal rights are to be limited. The economist Carl Christian von Weizsäcker calls this style of government "force-feeding the public with environmentally-correct products." This policy ignores consumer sovereignty and freedom of choice. Those who dissent are vilified. The Porsche driver, the long-distance travellers, the meat eaters, none of them can be secure from public pillory. "It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority," wrote the British liberal Lord Acton more than 100 years ago. "We are moving towards an eco-dictatorship," says Weizsacker today.

Some say that this is not all that bad. Above all, climate scientists lose patience with tough democratic processes. The world-renowned climate scientist James Hansen, director of the prestigious NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, regularly raises doubts that democracies can stop global warming. Recently, he praised China's autocratic regime as a hope. There, sustainable living could be simply prescribed. Angela Merkel's supreme climate advisor, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has proposed to supplement Parliament with a non-elected Zukunftsrat (Future Council), which co-legislates and acts as a representative for future generations - a kind of welfare committee.

Modesty is called for

The "Scientific Advisory Council on Global Change", which is chaired by Schellnhuber, has presented the Cabinet with a 32-page paper which bears the title "Social contract for a Great Transformation." It is the short version of a list of recommendations that will be published in June. It is full of morality and revolution. The authors consider the German economic model ("fossil industrial metabolism") to be ethically unacceptable. "The transformation to climate sustainability is morally as necessary as the abolition of slavery and the outlawing of child labour." The decarbonisation of the global economy has to happen fast, nuclear power and coal have to be abandoned at the same time.

And because emergency rules, and it has to happen quickly, it needs a strong state that provides for the necessary conversion of today’s life styles and the "social problematisation" of unsustainable lifestyles. It overcomes "stakeholders" and "veto players" who "impede the transition to a sustainable society."

This is nothing less than a social re-education program. The legitimacy of this agenda is also presented in the paper. "It is immoral to limit the life opportunities of future generations by an unsustainable lifestyle," argues the social scientist Claus Leggewie, one of the co-authors of the report. "The enjoyment of freedom by individuals shall not lead to the blockade of third parties," he says. Modesty is in right now, if not asceticism: "Freedom can also be in the self-restraint. One doesn’t have to buy asparagus from Chile in winter if this leads to excessive greenhouse gas emissions."

Green Prime Minister with ambitions

The sociologist argues very cunningly with the "but-you-want-this-too" argument. Since lifestyles are changing anyway towards sustainability, it’s not that bad if the state uses its powers to push things further along. This, however, belittles the issue since the populace of developing and emerging nations are reluctant to restrain activities that affect the climate.

Leggett is a renowned critic of capitalism and growth who has allied himself with the climate scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He senses momentum. The scientists reshape the whole world on paper as if it were inevitable.

But there is also criticism. "The report reveals a problematic understanding of democracy, says climatologist Hans von Storch. He adds: "The authors reduce the world's problems to the topic of carbon. This is one-dimensional and even quite arrogant." There is, for example, also world hunger, but this topic is not on the agenda at the moment.

Ecology and criticism of economic growth fully correspond to the German zeitgeist. This zeitgeist has brought Germany an ambitiously Green prime minister. Even federal ministers who seemed all but adrift before the Fukushima accident smell their chances: "The proposals of the Scientific Advisory Council are a support for our pending government actions for the development of renewable energies, energy efficiency and climate protection," said Germany’s Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen (CDU).

SOURCE. (translation Philipp Mueller)

Emissions For Me But Not For Thee

Meet Britain's new anti-tax activists: government-funded scientists researching low-carbon technology and the union that represents them

This least likely of lobbies is fighting for exemptions from the government's new "carbon reduction commitment," a cap-and-trade scheme targeting those industries that are not already subject to Britain's and Europe's other anti-carbon laws. The new regime will hit banks, hospitals, fire stations, schools, hotels, and thousands of other organizations whose annual electricity bills top roughly £500,000. To the dismay of those same groups that have spent years pushing for cap-and-tax, it will also include research facilities working to develop low-carbon energy sources.

All these groups will have to pay £12 per ton of CO2 that they emit in excess of their government-mandated limits. Whitehall expects the rule to yield nearly £1 billion annually in additional revenue, which is almost as much as Britain spends every year subsidizing low-carbon technology. But the Prospect union, which represents some 50,000 scientists and engineers, is now lobbying for a carve-out that would exempt carbon-generating activity from the tax, if the activity aids the low-carbon cause.

"Otherwise this means they can't do their research to the same extent, their experimental work to the same extent, because of the additional financial cost they now face," Sue Ferns, head of research at Prospect, told us yesterday.

That's a decent summary of the effects of all taxes on all industries. So why not scrap cap-and-tax for everyone? Because, as Ms. Ferns put it, low-carbon research contributes so directly to "the public good." While one could make the same argument for many other activities, Ms. Ferns also notes that much low-carbon research would be impossible on a low-carbon diet.

A case in point is Oxfordshire's Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, where research into zero-carbon energy requires one of the world's largest fusion reactors—and a lot of electricity. The lab is now facing hundreds of thousands of pounds in additional costs to pay for its emissions, which are unavoidable given the current state of technology and the nature of the lab's work.

It's hard to miss the irony of a tax hitting organizations trying to accomplish precisely what the tax is meant to encourage. Given that Britain's low-carbon research projects receive the overwhelming majority of their funding from the government to begin with, would it not make more sense to just decrease public subsidies to such research?

Little surprise, Prospect doesn't like that prospect one bit.


The unhappiest Greenie

There is no such thing as a happy Greenie but David Suzuki must be the unhappiest Greenie of all, NOTHING is right according to him. I diagnose him as a screaming neurotic. See the hype below:

Our collective ecological impact far exceeds Earth's capacity to sustain us at this level of activity.

We are facing a challenge unlike any we’ve ever had to confront. We are in an unprecedented period of change. Exponential growth is causing an already huge human population to double in shorter and shorter time periods.

When I was born, in 1936, just over two billion people lived on the planet. It’s astounding that the population has increased more then threefold within my lifetime. That staggering growth has been accompanied by even steeper increases in technological innovation, consumption, and a global economy that exploits the entire planet as a source of raw materials, and as a dumping ground for toxic emissions and waste.

We have become a new kind of biological force that is altering the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale. Indeed, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen has suggested that the current geologic period should be called the Anthropocene Epoch to reflect our new status as a global force – and a lot of scientists agree.

As noted in a recent Economist article titled “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” we are altering the Earth’s carbon cycle, which leads to climate change, and we have sped up the nitrogen cycle by more than 150 per cent, which has led to acid rain, ozone depletion, and coastal dead zones, among other things. We have also replaced wilderness with farms and cities, which has had a huge impact on biodiversity.

On top of that, according to The Economist, a “single engineering project, the Syncrude mine in the Athabasca tar sands, involves moving 30 billion tonnes of earth – twice the amount of sediment that flows down all the rivers in the world in a year.” As for those global sediment flows, the article goes on to point out that they have been cut by nearly a fifth, eroding the Earth’s deltas “faster than they can be replenished,” thanks to the almost 50,000 large dams built in the world over the past half-century.

We now occupy every continent, and are exploring every nook and cranny of the Earth for new resources. Humanity’s collective ecological impact far exceeds the planet’s capacity to sustain us at this level of activity indefinitely. Studies suggest it now takes 1.3 years for nature to restore what humanity removes of its renewable resources in a year, and this deficit-spending has been going on since the 1980s.

For the first time in human history, we have to respond as a single species to crises of our own making. Until now, this kind of unified effort has only been seen in science-fiction stories, when space aliens invade Earth. In those stories, world leaders overcome human divisions and help people work together against a common enemy.

Now, as comic-strip character Pogo said (via a poster created for Earth Day) in the 1970s, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Humans have long been able to affect the environment, but never before on such a large scale. In the past, even people with primitive tools and weapons had impacts on local flora and fauna, as Tim Flannery outlined in The Future Eaters and Jared Diamond described in Collapse. But diminishing resources forced those people to come to grips with the need to sustain their resources or to move in search of new opportunities.

The only way to come to grips with the current crises, and to find solutions, is to understand that we are biological creatures with an absolute need for clean air, clean water, clean food and soil, clean energy, and biodiversity. Capitalism, communism, democracy, free enterprise, corporations, economies, and markets do not alter those basic needs. After all, those are human constructs, not forces of nature. Similarly, the borders we throw up around our properties, cities, states, and countries mean nothing to nature.

All the hopes that meetings such as the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), and the climate conferences in Kyoto (1997), Copenhagen (2009), and Cancun (2010), would help us resolve major ecological challenges will be dashed as long as we continue to put economic and political considerations above our most fundamental biological, social, and spiritual needs. We humans may be heavy hitters, but we must remember that nature bats last.


Australian National University Warmists moved to safe location after threats

The proposed carbon tax is threatening a lot of jobs so it is no wonder some workers are angry

A CANBERRA university has increased security following death threats to its climate scientists, some of whom were moved to a safer location. The Australian National University has received a large number of e-mails with threatening and abusive language directed at some of its scientists.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian Young, said staff should not have to put up with such behaviour.

"Obviously, climate research is an emotive issue at the present time, but these are issues where we should have a logical public debate," Professor Young told ABC News 24. "In fact, it's completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this."

Professor Young said the threats had unsettled the scientists. "Academics and scientists are actually really not equipped to be treated in this way," he said. "The concept that you would be threatened for your scientific views and work is something that is completely foreign to them."

The Australian Federal Police said it had not been contacted by the university although it was aware that threats had been made.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here



NikFromNYC said...

Media Too Fair to Climate Skeptics"

"Boykoff and Boykoff telegraphed their point about the mainstream media in the title of their paper "Balance as Bias." Journalists in the modern age find it all but impossible to stay up to speed on every issue, especially every issue of science. To protect themselves, they very frequently fall back on the notion of balance: they interview one person on one side of an issue and one person on the other. There is even a fairly common conceit in North American newsrooms that if both sides wind up angry about the coverage, the reporter in question probably got the story about right." -
John Hoggan ("Climate Cover-Up", 2009)

NikFromNYC said...

"Suzuki must be the unhappiest Greenie of all, NOTHING is right according to him. I diagnose him as a screaming neurotic."

Suzuki's PR firm second-in-command green banker financed pal John Hoggan (author of "Climate Cover-Up" 2009) on Suzuki:

"He's always reading. I am therefore the least surprised that he is outraged, that he periodically snarls. I am angry enough, and I haven't read a fraction of the material that David regularly consumes on science and the environment."