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Should Australian newspapers publish climate change denialist opinion pieces?

 
Gina Rinehart, Australia

Gina Rinehart has increased her holding in Fairfax to nearly 19%. Photograph: Tony Ashby/AFP/Getty Images

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Should Australian newspapers publish climate change denialist opinion pieces?” was written by Alexander White, for theguardian.com on Saturday 4th January 2014 04.02 UTC

Should Fairfax — or other media publishers — give a platform for climate change denialist opinion pieces?

The most recent example is Fairfax publishing a piece by John McLean, a member of the International Climate Science Coalition.

In the opinion piece, McLean repeats various lines designed to create uncertainty about the recent report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and to impute a sinister motive on IPCC members of political and scientific deception.

He states that the IPCC “still hasn’t produced credible evidence to support that claim” that “anthropogenic emissions of CO2 were causing significant and dangerous climate change”, and that reports are “modified” to better align it with the thinking of a “hard core group of IPCC supporters” and governments.

McLean even brings up the discredited bogeyman of “Climategate” as evidence that a “clique of scientists has in the past sought to control the material cited by these reports.”

What is the International Climate Science Coalition?

It’s website claims that it aims to “move debate away from “implementation of costly and ineffectual ‘climate control’ measures” and “publicising the repercussions of misguided plans to ‘solve the climate crisis’. This includes, but is not be limited to, the dangerous impacts of attempts to replace conventional energy sources with wind turbines, solar power, biofuels and other ineffective and expensive energy sources.”

Heading the ICSC is a former Canadian energy company public relations consultant, and the ICSC earlier this year released a report attacking the United Nations climate report alongside ultra-conservative climate denialist group Heartland Institute.

Amongst its policy advisory board sits Christopher Monckton, international climate crank, and other scientists involved have a chequered history with tobacco apologist groups.

The piece by McLean is part of a long and highly successful attempt by denialist groups to create confusion and doubt.

These groups, like the ICSC that McLean represents, have links to fossil fuel industry backed institutes and foundations. The role that the ICSC plays as part of the climate denialist machine is explained in this DeSmog Blog article from earlier in 2013.

It is now widely documented that fossil fuel corporations have followed in the footsteps of the tobacco industry in creating faux-scientific organisations to attack the mounting scientific evidence pointing to fossil fuels’ principal contribution to global warming.

The question as to whether news publishers should publish climate denialist views was recently canvassed after the Reddit /r/science forum banned content that promoted climate change denialism.

The reason for this, according to Reddit science moderator Nathan Allen, is that climate change denialists:

could not or would not improve their demeanor. These problematic users were not the common “internet trolls” looking to have a little fun upsetting people. Such users are practically the norm on reddit. These people were true believers, blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking. They had no idea that the smart-sounding talking points from their preferred climate blog were, even to a casual climate science observer, plainly wrong. They were completely enamored by the emotionally charged and rhetoric-based arguments of pundits on talk radio and Fox News.

As a scientist myself, it became clear to me that the contrarians were not capable of providing the science to support their “skepticism” on climate change. The evidence simply does not exist to justify continued denial that climate change is caused by humans and will be bad. There is always legitimate debate around the cutting edge of research, something we see regularly. But with climate change, science that has been established, constantly tested, and reaffirmed for decades was routinely called into question.

Over and over, solid peer-reviewed science was insulted as corrupt, while blog posts from fossil fuel-funded groups were cited as objective fact. Worst of all, they didn’t even get the irony of quoting oil-funded blogs that called university scientists biased.

 

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