Thursday, May 24, 2007

The bias is in the ABC Board

You won't find this reported in the ABC (it's not on their online news service) – ABC radio's highly respected science journalist Robyn Williams has accused the ABC board of putting pressure on the broadcaster's TV programmers to show a documentary that disputes the science of climate change. Fairfax paper The Age carried the story today.

The documentary caused a huge storm in Britain when it was shown on Channel 4 in March – it disputes the climate change science that finds that global warming is caused by human activity, and claims it is caused by changes in sun radiation instead.
Scientists condemned the documentary, saying that "its makers used fabricated data, half-truths and misleading statements".

The Age reports:
ABC science journalist and broadcaster Robyn Williams, who advised the TV division not to buy the program, yesterday accused the broadcaster of "verging on the irresponsible" over its decision to air something that was "demonstrably wrong".
The ABC's Director of TV Kim Dalton rejected the claim of interference from the board, and defended his decision to show the documentary by insisting that there is still a 'debate' about whether global warming is caused by CO2 emissions – i.e. by human activity.

This really gets me – it is hugely mischievous for people to still claim that there is a debate over global warming – either whether it is actually happening, or whether human activity and CO2 emissions cause it. Only this year, the UN's panel of global warming scientists and experts concluded that global warming is 'very likely' to be caused by human activity – and that was coming from a very conservative position. When their report came out in February, The Guardian reported:
The likelihood that the phenomenon has been created by the burning of fossil fuels and other actions is greater than 90%, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its fourth report.

"This day marks the removal from the debate over whether human action has anything to do with climate change," Achim Steiner, the head of the UN environment programme, said.
So, if you have the head of a panel of scientists and experts on global warming saying that the debate is over, why is the head of ABC TV saying there is still a debate? Perhaps the conservatives on the ABC Board have a vested interest in perpetuating the myth of the debate? Or is this the ABC's idea of countering bias and providing 'balanced' coverage of current affairs? Does it matter that they're peddling lies?

Now I wonder if Robyn Williams will have to take a 'leave of absence'.

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At May 25, 2007 2:48 am, Blogger Jim Campbell said...

Perhaps you should do some homework! Could it be that the liberal bias at ABC doesn't want to confuse the issue of the debate being over? The debate has just begun. J.C.

At May 25, 2007 11:38 am, Blogger philjohnson said...

The fundamental problem is that the "doco" is by someone whose various theses have been peer-reviewed and discredited.

Another factor is that while computer models about future projections on pollution/global warming can and should be scrutinised, that is not quite the same thing as asserting the "debate" has just begun.

The question of climate change has been vigorously debated in scientific journals from semi-popular periodicals like Scientific American through to highly technical publications in various disciplines. Books have also come and gone (e.g. John Gribbin, The Climatic Threat; John Daly, The Greenhouse Trap).

The consensus has been reached within the scientific community. The remaining nay-sayers espousing various streams of scepticism tend to be scientists under contracts to vested commercial interests (coal industry, petro-chemical industry etc). Quite a good deal of that scepticism is tarnished not by guily-by-association but by unsound reasoning. The same corps of sceptics are largely unwilling (not suppressed) to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, which is the way the academic community helps to bring to bear critical analysis of claims and counter-claims.

It is also disquieting that the vested industrial interests are following the same tactics that the Tobacco industry followed for decades.

So one can surely be critical and analytical of various claims made by those who do argue the case that global warming caused by human activity is true. However the verdict is "in" that human activity is contributing to global warming and that the consequences of it are not good. One need not envisage Armageddon in order to realise that drinking water is not in endless supply (and water has been chemically contaminated by human and industrial waste), that the air we breathe is polluted by exhaust fumes from cars and airplanes and chimney stacks and so on; that soil used in industrial models of agriculture is denuded and degraded of nutrients, over harvested and soil erosion is occurring at an alarming rate with the underground water table in parts of Australia now contaminated with salt (so undrinkable and the soil cannot be used to plant things (like crops) because of the salt levels.

Where the debate does belong is not on the "science" but rather on the politics of vested groups, and specifically on human attitudes toward consumption, and the conveyor belt assembly-line of never-ending "products" that are advertised as essential but may be nothing more than indulgent luxuries.

At May 28, 2007 1:53 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

The debate about the debate heats up. George Monbiot, author of Heat, said this in an opinion piece published in The Age on Friday criticising the doco:

"The problem with The Great Global Warming Swindle, which caused a sensation when it was broadcast in Britain earlier this year and which the ABC plans to screen, is that to make its case it relies not on future visionaries, but on people whose findings have already been proved wrong. The implications could not be graver. Thousands have been misled into believing there is no problem to address."

The other thing he says that I love is:
"Being a crank does not automatically make you a visionary."

I'd love to put that on a t-shirt!

At May 30, 2007 2:04 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Barista has covered this issue extensively here and here. Well worth a look, as he brings his considerable expertise in documentary making and knowledge of Australian broadcasting to the issue.


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