Archive for the ‘global warming’ tag

Daily Mail turns green?

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I looked at the headline, then up at the name of the paper. Then at the headline again. Yes, it was The Daily Mail. Yes, they had devoted their whole front page to an environmental campaign. ‘Banish the Bag’, the Mail tells its readers today. And it’s not just the front page lead but fills pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, plus an editorial by John Humphrys on page 14, and a leader column.

Wow. That’s not doing things by halves. If I hadn’t checked it three times I could’ve sworn I was holding The Independent.

Does this represent a major editorial shift? Has the Daily Mail decided to go green? What next, how to combat climate change?

Well, if the editorial stance has shifted, then the paper will have a job on its hands convincing its highly paid columnists, almost all of whom seem to believe that this whole global warming thing is some sort of massive cultish conspiracy.

It is, wrote John MacLeod in the Mail back on January 5th, “frankly, a religion; as arrogant and as bonkers as the most COMFORT doom-laden of the Armageddon sects, with its own priests, its own mysticism, its own intolerance, its own bigotry and its own lies”.

Climate change dissidents have, Melanie Phillips believes, been censored. The Mail columnist laments “the successful attempt to suppress debate over man-made global warming, with sceptical scientists deprived of grant funding and subjected to venomous smears”.

One of those dissidents, Martin Durkin, who made the (much criticised) Channel 4 film ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’, is applauded by Richard Littlejohn for making a film which “outs the scientific case against man-made global warming”. It should, Littlejohn believes, be screened in schools alongside Al Gore’s film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’”.

Peter Hitchens, writing in the Mail on Sunday, poo-poos environmental concerns and proudly reports that “LAST week I began to stockpile old-fashioned high-energy light bulbs. I suspect that it will not be long before they begin to disappear from the shops, and I have no intention of being forced to use the horrible, feeble, glaring low-energy bulbs that we are being ordered to employ. I don’t believe in man-made global warming”.

Christopher Booker argues, in both the Mail and the Sunday Telegraph, that “the latest evidence shows that, while CO2 levels are still rising, global temperatures are lower than they were ten years ago and may soon even fall” (this from a journalist with no scientific credentials – see previous blog).

And David Jones went as far as Churchill, Manitoba, in the Arctic Circle to find plentiful polar bears and locals who were convinced that “the world’s being conned by green scaremongers”. “Doomed?” asked Jones, “don’t you believe it”.

So does the campaign against plastic bags augur a sea change in the editorial direction of the UK’s best-selling mid market tabloid?

Or is it perhaps more likely that this is the fruit borne of the the close ties between Gordon Brown and Paul Dacre? Could it be that there is some link between the Daily Mail’s new campaign and a little reported speech by Gordon Brown last November in which the Prime Minister called for an end to the “single-use disposable” plastic bag? (reported here by Benedict Brogan in… the Mail).

Written by Martin Moore

February 27th, 2008 at 9:03 am

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Can newspapers 'do' climate change?

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The science of climate change, complicated even for those who make a career of studying it, is made more complicated still by the way our newspapers cover it.

Depending on their political persuasion, the papers seem quite happy to wade in on one side or the other with the latest ‘proof’ of global warming or countervailing ‘proof’ that global warming isn’t happening.

Read yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph and you’d have seen Christopher Booker trumpeting the sceptical argument (in ‘Even the warmists can feel this chill’). Based on a number of freak snow showers in Greece, Crete and Turkey, and on ‘scientific data showing just how abnormal this winter’s cooling has been’, Booker casts his own serious doubt on whether CO2 is causing global warming. “[S]uch drastic cooling hardly accords with the classic global warming theory”, Booker posits.

Given that Booker is neither a scientist, nor even a science journalist (he studied history at Cambridge according to Wikipedia), it seems odd that he should be so determinedly sceptical of the science of climate change.

But choose another paper – this time the Independent on Sunday – and you get a similarly tenuous assertion, just in the other direction. Page 3 of the paper records the arrival of the Red Admiral butterfly to a Dorset churchyard. It quotes Dr Martin Warren, chief executive of Butterfly Conservation, as saying that this is “real proof that the climate is changing”.

Snowstorms in Turkey or Red Admirals in Dorset. It doesn’t seem like either is a particularly firm foundation on which to base scientific proof.

Written by Martin Moore

February 25th, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Does Channel 4 provoke debate or debase it?

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Channel 4 likes to provoke controversy and is very good at doing it. It often sparks public debates which can be immensely healthy. But is it fair to provoke controversy by blatantly misleading the public on an issue as significant as climate change?
2.5 million people watched ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle‘ last Thursday night on Channel 4 (me included). In a slickly produced 95 minute documentary, 2.5 million people were told that there was not a correlation between CO2 and global warming; that there was a close link between sunspots and temperature rises; and that the unexplained discrepancy between temperatures in the lower atmosphere and those on earth undermined the arguments for man-made climate change. A cast of scientific experts were lined up who told us that the IPCC consensus had been manufactured and that that there was a global conspirarcy of scientists, governments and media trying to fool us into believing climate change is happening.
Since then it has been reported that Martin Durkin (the producer) and his production company (Wag TV) faked data, manipulated charts to prove correlations where none existed, failed to report where theories had already been discredited, and misrepresented the views of some of the participants (see Stephen Connor and George Monbiot)
Channel 4 has defended the film – on the Today programme and in The Guardian (Hamish Mykura letter). As always, the Channel’s main defence is that ‘The debate the film has started is to be welcomed’. But when the debate is based on false evidence, on misrepresentation and on a failure to give any context it is not an informed debate. If anything, by commissioning documentaries like this Channel 4 degrades debate and makes it more difficult for anyone – sceptics or otherwise – to have a proper discussion.

Written by Martin Moore

March 14th, 2007 at 1:45 pm

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Global warming sceptics continue to get their time in the sun

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Is climate change too big and too complex an issue for the media to handle? Reading today’s Mail it would appear so. Professor Richard Lindzen’s article (‘Global warming is the religion of our age: self-righteous, intolerant of dissent and based on superstition’) is self-righteous, intolerant of dissent, and willfully misleading.
Lindzen rails against ‘self-appointed experts’ who warn us about climate change and lambasts the recent Stern Report on the economic implications of global warming. ‘The central theme of it [the report]‘ Lindzen says ‘is that there is a near universal consensus of opnion within the scientific community about the dangers of climate change. But this is not true.’ Isn’t it? Wasn’t that the point of the recent IPCC report, in which almost 2,000 scientists agreed there was a consensus of opinion within the scientific community?
The new issue of British Journalism Review (‘Beyond the Oozone Layer’) has a thoughtful essay which examines how, in an apparent attempt to offer balance and challenge orthodoxy, the UK’s mainstream media have misled the public on a massive scale. Counting the number of qualified scientists who believe global warming is happening against those who don’t, the essay finds a ratio of approximately a thousand to 5. In other words the sceptics number about 0.5%. In any field of research surely 99.5% agreement counts as consensus?
Not according to Professor Lindzen, and not according to a programme being screened on Channel 4 this evening, ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle‘.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Daily Mail and Channel 4 to spend their time investigating how some people are misrepresenting the threat of global warming for their own profit rather than continually promoting the tiny minority of climate change sceptics?

Written by Martin Moore

March 8th, 2007 at 8:23 am