Hello, I’m Paul Barry, welcome to Media Watch.
And last week’s dramatic report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change really sounded the alarm on the future of our planet, with scientists predicting the Great Barrier Reef could be wiped out by 2050 if we don’t act to slow down global warming.
And you would have thought that would make big headlines in Australia, given the reef is on the World Heritage list, our largest tourist attraction and gives jobs to 60,000 people.
So what was front-page news in the local papers?
On Tuesday and Wednesday, News Corp’s Cairns Post had this.
News Corp’s Townsville Bulletin had this.
And News Corp’s Daily Mercury in Mackay had this.
Inside the paper they all had something on climate, but typically only a few paragraphs and the reef barely got a mention.
But in News Corp’s tabloids around the country the story was the same.
Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph had a horse on its front page:
And, its only climate story was six paragraphs inside the paper about going nuclear.
The Courier-Mail had this on the front, and the same small piece on nuclear power.
And Melbourne’s Herald Sun had this on the front and nothing at all in its news pages about climate or the reef.
So how could those News Corp papers all but ignore this huge story, which The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan and ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger reckon is the media’s absolute duty to report?
Back in Australia, News Corp’s columnists did think the IPCC warnings were worth noting, but only to ridicule the threat and the idea of doing anything about it, with Miranda Devine writing scornfully:
So, is Miranda a scientist? No.
Nor is the Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann, who went off even harder, branding the threat to the Reef:
Quite a broadside.
Another good article in the Cairns Post.
To its credit, The Australian did give the IPCC front-page treatment, with Environment Editor Graham Lloyd running a couple of stories.
But within hours the paper’s columnists had switched to all-out attack, with Chris Kenny deriding the scientists’ warnings as “alarmism”, “virtue-signalling”, “sanctimony” and “crying wolf”.
And Judith Sloan joined the chorus of derision, by claiming that the IPCC report – written by 91 climate experts and citing 6000 peer-reviewed papers – was not science and all old hat.
Meanwhile, Environment Editor Graham Lloyd – who should know better – had two swipes, declaring the scientists to be living in a parallel universe, and attempting to discredit the data on which the warnings were based:
Lloyd’s story mirrored identical attacks from leading climate sceptics the day before.
Led by James Delingpole, another non-scientist who says global warming is a scam, on the notorious alt-right website Breitbart:
And by Joanne Nova – who is a scientist, but says the world should thank Australia for its CO2 emissions – who claimed:
All three attempted demolition jobs relied on data analyst Dr John McLean, whose work they all claimed showed the IPCC had got it hopelessly wrong.
So, who is McLean?
Well, let’s get another of his fans, One Nation’s climate expert, to introduce him:
McLean’s audit of the data earned him a PhD from James Cook University in Townsville, where his supervisor was Peter Ridd, another well-known climate sceptic who was recently sacked.
So how good is McLean’s track record?
Well, seven years ago, he famously predicted:
That was 100% wrong. According to NASA:
A previous academic paper of McLean’s in 2009, claiming El Nino was responsible for most of the rise in global temperatures, was ripped apart by climate experts who accused him of cherry-picking the data.
His co-author then was yet another famous climate sceptic, the late Bob Carter, who liked to tell his admirer Alan Jones that man-made global warming was rubbish:
The work that backs up McLean’s new data audit is dedicated to Bob Carter.
So, is McLean to be believed ahead of 91 leading climate experts and 6000 peer-reviewed scientific papers when he claims the IPCC’s work is worthless?
The Australian, Breitbart, Joanne Nova and Miranda Devine clearly reckon he is.
And so does Alan Jones, who cited McLean last week in telling his listeners:
One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts is also convinced by McLean’s argument:
But how convincing is John McLean? We asked a number of climate experts to review his audit.
Professor Steven Sherwood at NSW University’s Climate Change Research Centre told us it:
And he added:
The ANU’s Nerilie Abram, lead author of a coming IPCC report on the oceans, told Media Watch:
And the UK Met Office was just as emphatic, putting McLean’s, quote, “70 problems” into context by pointing out that the HadCRUT dataset which it looks after:
And that takes us back to the bigger picture, where the concern is that so much of News Corp treats climate science, and the threat to our planet, with such contempt.
Why is that so? Presumably, because Rupert Murdoch is a non-believer.
But sadly, it’s not new, and not just in Australia. Back in 2012, America’s Union of Concerned Scientists audited News Corp’s coverage in the US and concluded:
And it then gave examples of what that coverage contained:
Six years later, the same determination to deny and denigrate climate science is flourishing in Australia.
And what makes it even more serious is that in Australia News Corp controls around 60 per cent of our daily newspaper circulation.
Not to mention a whole bunch of websites and of course Sky News which, for once, we have not even bothered to audit because we know too well what we’ll find.
And we should add we put a series of questions to John McLean. He declined to answer them. You can read the emails on our website.
Read the questions put to Dr John McLean and his response and biography.
Read an academic comment on one of Dr John McLean’s papers and Dr McLean’s response
Read Stephan Lewandowsky’s article about Dr John McLean’s work
Read the Press Council’s adjudication on a Crikey article about John McLean
Read the response from the UK Met Office
Read the response from Professor Steve Sherwood
Read the response from Associate Professor Nerilie Abram
Read the response from Professor David Karoly, Leader, Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub National Environmental Science Program, CSIRO
Read the WMO’s 2017 Statement on the State of the Global Climate
Global temperature anomaly 1850-2017 to 1981-2010
The IPCC warning is clear we are in a climate crisis and unless we act quickly humanity may not survive.
We must take the warnings seriously, if the threat was from a sovereign nation, would we allow their propaganda on our media during a time of war?
Multinational Corporations are more powerful than sovereign nations and their propaganda is a huge threat to our democracy.
Remember Lord HAW-HAW