In response to the opprobrium heaped on The Australian for their constant climate change denialism now that climate change is blindingly obvious to all but halfwits, one or other of the supposed editors of this Murdoch rag have tried to justify their behaviour in an editorial in which they deny their denialism1.
The first paragraph of this drivel is a series of motherhood statements about how grief, fear and recrimination are inevitable; how we need to craft an effective response; how we need open debate and factual reporting; how we need to weigh all sensible options; and how all this will be “impossible without unfettered, credible journalism digging out the facts and bringing to light a wide range of informed viewpoints.”1 All these statements are true, but none of them relate to the activities of The Australian over the last few decades, least of all those encapsulated in the last quote. The Australian, and other organs of NewsCorp, lie constantly to obtain the political outcome they want, and that is to keep the Coalition government permanently in power. As Kevin Rudd says, Murdoch media, which includes The Australian, is a cancer on Australian democracy.2
Much of the opprobrium directed at The Australian in particular, and the Murdoch media in general, has been driven by social media, and as far as I have seen, it is mostly via Twitter (including by me). This has included hashtags like: #ClimateCriminals; #ClimateTrials; and #BoycottMurdoch. The fact that social media is mentioned in this editorial is a measure of its exceptional effect on the psyche of the people who work at The Australian; enough to make the editor or whoever lapse into more denial.
Laughably, the editorial states that: ”The evidence of global warming since the Industrial Revolution is clear”. This admission is just as bogus as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement that: “There is no dispute in this country about the issue of climate change, globally, and its effect on global weather patterns, and that includes how that impacts in Australia. I have to correct the record here, I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government has always made this connection and that has never been in dispute”. Despite this u-turn by both Morrison and The Australian, George Christensen and Craig Kelly don’t seem to have gotten the u-turn memo. Christensen posted on social media the lie that the cause of the bushfires was arson, not climate change4. Kelly posted a piece on Facebook saying ‘listen to the scientists’5, but then posts a link which ignores all climate science and refers to a climate change denier, Roy Spencer6.
As if to justify their lack of veracity in dealing with climate change, the editorial talks about bushfires and refers to two articles, one from September, 2019, by John Ferguson talking about fire seasons, and the other from last week about the Indian Ocean Dipole. Wow; two articles.
Just as I was thinking of writing this, journalist (a real one; not from Murdoch’s media) Graham Readfearn, compiled a Twitter thread listing some of the lies put out by The Australian. They are very instructive and I list them here:
- The title of the article from mid 2013 by was “Experts warn of a coming ice age”. The article was by Graham Lloyd, the ‘environment’ editor of The Australian (yes the same one the editorial mentioned), and its subtitle was “Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age”. Readfearn considers the title would have been more accurate if it was: “One solar physicist in Russia who is a member of a climate science denial organisation says we’re heading for global cooling but all the other people we spoke to say he’s dead wrong”7.
- In early 2013, The Australian ran a story on its front page with the headline “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’” which was supposedly based on the findings of research published in a peer-reviewed journal late last year. The problem with the story, written by the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd (again!) was that, as Readfearn showed, the scientific paper published in the Journal of Climate made no such claim and came to no such finding. The Australian withdrew the article8.
- In 2014, The Australian’s environment editor, Graham Lloyd (who else?) wrote a few stories giving vent to climate change denier Jennifer Marohasy, who has been pushing claims that the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”9. Marohasy is one of the most verbose deniers from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the premier climate change denying organisation in Australia, funded by the fossil fuel industry, tobacco industry, and people like Gina Rinehart.
- Early last year, The Australian published a rant by geologist Ian Plimer complaining about two of the surveys of climate scientists that demonstrate that 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activity. It almost goes without saying that Plimer’s complaints about both surveys are belied by the methodology of the surveys10.
- In 2015, The Australian published an article entitled “Chances of little ice age on rise” by environment editor of The Australian, Graham Lloyd (does he know what truth is?) which referred to a paper from the top scientific journal Nature which refers to the irradiance of the sun decreasing. The study showed that any negative effect that a solar minimum might have on temperatures will be massively outstripped by temperature rises caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, Lloyd did not mention that11.
- In 2014, The Australian published a conspiratorial piece by the Combover (Maurice Newman) attacking BoM’s high quality temperature data network with an example from a weather station that was not part of that network12.
- In early 2013, The Australian published a column from UK-based climate science mangler and anti-wind farm activist James Delingpole that tries to argue that Australia’s then unprecedented heatwave and hottest month on record wasn’t all that hot and that global warming “alarmists” should be answering to a court with the power to issue a death sentence (yes, seriously)13.
- Chris ‘Fido’ Kenny published a piece in The Australian in which he said the ABC had shown Al Gore’s documentary “An Incovenient Truth” and hadn’t given it the same scrutiny as when it showed the “Great Global Warming Swindle”, even though the ABC had never broadcast Gore’s documentary! Readfearn opined that “someone should give Kenny a job on a stone fruit orchard, such is his ability to pick cherries”14
- The Australian published a column by the idiotic Ian Plimer attacking a group of Australian scientists who had written a letter to the owners of coal-fired power stations. He said “No evidence is provided for this statement and no signatory to this letter has published anything to support this claim. The scientists pilloried by Plimer were Professor David Karoly, Professor Barry Brook, Dr Karl Braganza, Professor Matthew England, Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, Professor Lesley Hughes and Professor Barrie Pittock. Between them, they have published over 700 papers providing evidence Plimer says was missing. Plimer, of course, has published none15.
While Readfearn has been targeting The Australian longer than me, I have had cause to demonstrate the lies included in several of The Australian’s stories over the last year. Some are by are a few of the same suspects identified by Graham Readfearn. These include:
- Last week, David Ross and Imogen Reid published an article in The Australian in which they lied about the number of arsonists who had been arrested lighting bushfires16.
- In December 2019, Chris ‘Fido’ Kenny stated in The Australian that “Rational arguments, hard facts and intelligent debate have been cast aside in favour of woke whingeing. In this information age, ill-informed emotionalism dominates public debate. This is rich coming from a climate change denier who has jettisoned any pretence at rational arguments based on the evidence accumulated by scientists over the last 100 years or more17.
- In November 2019, Ian Plimer published in the Australian, a diatribe against climate change which had two of the weirdest statements I have ever seen in any denialism drivel. He said: “There are no carbon emissions. If there were, we could not see because most carbon is black”, and “reef material is calcium carbonate, which contains 44 per cent carbon dioxide. Reefs need carbon dioxide; it’s their basic food.” Both are so ludicrous as to be suspected as coming from someone who is not the full shilling18.
- In November 2019, Greg Brown and Olivia Caisley acted as stenographers for Barnaby Joyce’s lie about the Greens being responsible for a decrease in the number of hazard-reduction burns19.
- In September 2019, Geoff Chambers, in the Australian stated that electric vehicles generate more carbon dioxide pollution that internal combustion-engined cars. This is only true if all the electricity used by electric vehicles is from coal-fired power stations20.
- In May 2019, Terry McCrann, who usually writes on business for The Australian, published a piece in which he conflated burning biomass and burning fossil fuel21.
- In March 2019, Maurice ‘Combover’ Newman opined in The Australian that the children striking for climate were pawns in a plot to undermine capitalism, which in turn is a plot to undermine ‘the west’, and that these children have little concern for the damaging consequences of rising dependence on renewable energy22.
These are just the tip of the iceberg of lies spread by The Australian. Like Readfearn, Ketan Joshi has compiled a long list of others, with editorials alone consistently lying about climate science, having headlines such as: “Climate science far from settled”, “Climate science should be read, not believed as faith”, “Climate change hysteria a folly”, “Stuck on a ship of (cold) fools”, “Fear and warming on the climate campaign trail”, “Climate change science highlights uncertainties”, “Warming to the facts on climate”, and “Wallowing in gloom and doom”23.
On top of all these bizarre anti-science lies in The Australian, it is clear that their staff are starting to realise that this sort of behaviour cannot continue, with the now publicly available resignation letter from Emily Townsend24 and the resignation or retirement of numerous quality journalists and cartoonists (David Speers, Malcolm Farr, Jon Kudelka, Dennis Atkins, Rick Morton, Anthony Klan, Scott Murdoch, Stephen Fitzpatrick and Ben Butler), not just from The Australian but also from other Murdoch outlets demonstrating this disquiet25.
Unless there is a shakeup at NewsCorp, and it would have to be a very serious shakeup, then this kind of constant lying will continue. Given that the editorial under discussion is so replete with more lies, mostly the denial of their denialism, I wouldn’t hold out much hope of such a shakeup occurring. The only recourse for those of us who want a future for our children and our children’s children is to boycott all Murdoch media. Murdoch media interests include: The Australian, the online news site news.com.au, the Daily Telegraph (Sydney), the Herald Sun (Melbourne), the Courier Mail, Brisbane News (both Brisbane), the Advertiser (Adelaide), the Sunday Times (Perth), the Mercury, Sunday Tasmanian (both Hobart), Northern Territory News and Sunday Territorian (both Darwin). The company also owns numerous smaller suburban and regional newspapers. It also owns Sky News and Foxtel26. All of these need to be put out of business. Why? Because their denialism, coupled with that of the federal Coalition and similar deniers in Australia and around the world, both in politics and the media, will leave us with a planet, large parts of which will be uninhabitable, and in which many ecosystems will be at best greatly reduced or will have collapsed completely, and with it, the communities and nations which depend on them for survival. This denialism is a crime against humanity which will may make those perpetrated by the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot pale into insignificance by comparison. Those who have indulged in this denialism need to face justice.
- Anonymous. 2020. Cool heads needed to craft response to bushfire crisis. The Australian, January 11.