Some years ago ‘The Conversation’ website came into existence. It was to assemble the writing of academics in their areas of interest, conveying them to the broader public. It seemed a good idea for a while, but before long it became clear to me that only some academics were to be favoured, while the editorial tendency was very much to the current Left-leaning orthodoxy. Nowhere was this tendency more obvious that in the area of ‘global warming’, or as it later became, ‘climate change’. I thought some of the stuff that was being published was so biased that I wrote my own temperate essay, pointing out the uncertainties in the whole climate change scenario. It was rejected, on the ground that I was not an expert in this field. I responded that no single person could be an expert in the field, which was a vast one, that many of the essays that had been published had little scientific background, and that I had published in the field myself.
I received a dismissive reply, and gave up, finally ceasing to read anything in the website unless it was directly of interest to me. I avoided all essays on climate change until a few days ago, when the opening lines were so striking that they had to be nonsense. Here they are (the bolding is mine):
On a sunny day in Sydney last Sunday Tim Flannery, former Australian of the Year, appeared on a panel of international journalists convened to discuss the reporting of climate science. Kerry O’Brien kicked things off by asking about the prognosis. Flannery said he wouldn’t answer until the young people at the Sydney Opera House had been given a chance to leave. Things were so dire he feared for their mental health.
The editor went on: My first reaction was that Flannery had developed a taste for the theatrical. No. In the conversation that ensued it became clear that the world cannot avoid 1.5 degrees of warming and the devastating damage that entails, and many far worse scenarios were in play. Flannery’s deep anger and distress was palpable. He said that once he’d viewed climate sceptics with the same indulgence you might afford an eccentric uncle, but now the gloves were off. Deniers were destroying the lives of our children.
Really? How are they doing that? The editor again:So how do responsible journalists sound the alarm without sounding alarmist? At The Conversation we are committed to bringing you the voices of scientists and researchers who understand the evidence. We think the proper role for journalism is to provide the clean information that is the lifeblood of democracy. But we also understand it’s vital that these messages gain traction beyond the academic communities from which they emanate.
And she finishes: We see this as the beginning of a new phase in our climate coverage, a vital conversation between scientists and politicians. We don’t want to be alarmist, but if Flannery and the scores of scientists who share his view are right, we are sleepwalking toward disaster. We cannot rest until the scientists are being heard, and solutions are in place that can provide a secure future for all our children.
Dear Editor, This is not a conversation but a rant. I don’t think I have read worse rubbish in The Conversation. Tim Flannery is no expert on global warming, though he does know about tree kangaroos. He is well known for failed predictions (‘Perth will be the 21stcentury’s first ghost metropolis’; ‘ …even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and river systems’; ‘Brisbane and Adelaide … could run out of water by year’s end’). There are many others. He fears for the mental health of young people. I fear for his own state of mind. To suggest that what he is going to say about climate change could affect the mental health of a young audience is an extraordinary example of hubris. Imagine saying something like that in a different environment. ‘I warn all those over 60 that I am going to talk about death. Please leave now if you feel threatened.’ I can imagine at least some of the responses.
The Editor tells us that the proper job of journalists is ‘to provide the clean information that is the lifeblood of democracy’. I’m happy with that, but what does she mean by ‘clean information’? What I’ve read in The Conversation is one-sided climate activism: ‘we cannot rest until the scientists are being heard, and solutions are in place that can provide a secure future for all our children’. Which scientists are not being heard? By and large the media publish a great deal of scientific stuff on climate, and little of it is opposed to the current orthodoxy. With nine children and step-children of my own plus fourteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren, I am unimpressed with appeals to think of my children. They are more than capable of thinking for themselves, and they do not all follow the orthodox line, by any means.
What has irritated me for the past decade is the assumption that the CAGW orthodoxy (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) hypothesis— which is all that it is, a hypothesis — is beyond discussion or analysis. It is presented as the Truth, and anyone who objects to it is labelled a ‘denier’. This is further rubbish. No one has been able to show that increases in carbon dioxide actually cause increases in global temperature. No one has been able to fix an accurate figure for ‘climate sensitivity’, and a low figure means that carbon dioxide may have little or no effect on the atmosphere. The models that are supposed to show the awful future awaiting us have not been validated, and their results are most unimpressive. Altogether we should be having a serious and informed discussion about global warming, not going into hysterics about the children and their fate, let alone encouraging them to demonstrate in the streets. How much do their teachers know about global warming anyway?
CAGW may not be a scam, but it is beyond doubt a quasi-religious social movement that has attracted people who seem to need a cause. This isn’t and shouldn’t be it. It is simply a most expensive way of wasting money, both public and private. If The Conversation wants to provide ‘clean information’ on climate change it could start by organising a series of public discussions where nothing is taken for granted, and no one is excluded because they are thought to be ‘deniers’. It will be hard work, but it is certainly worth doing.