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Aug 19, 2008

60 minutes‘ climate change story just plain irresponsible

When the world is facing a genuine climate emergency, a story like that which appeared on 60 Minutes is irresponsible, writes Jonathan Doig of the Sutherland Climate Action Network.

In Sunday night’s program, Tara Brown based her assertion that there is still substantial doubt about the science of global warming on one interviewee, whom she used extensively: David Evans. She introduced him by implication as an “eminent scientist”.

A quick Google search would have shown that David Evans is not a scientist, let alone an eminent one. He is a software engineer.

He describes himself (in jest?) as a “rocket scientist”, by which he simply means he has an impressive maths-based degree (in Electrical Engineering in his case) from a prominent US university. He is not a climatologist and has published nothing in climate science literature. His role at the Australian Greenhouse Office was writing computer software.

He has presented to the Lavoisier Group, a right-wing lobby group known for their denial of climate science.

Interestingly, the Lavoisier Group was founded by Ray Evans, Executive Officer of Western Mining Corporation, while David Evans’ views have been cited by Richard Evans of the Australian Retailers Association to support his own opposition to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Are the three Evans related? I’ve no idea, but if I were a journalist running a story about David Evans, I’d make it my business to find out.

Everything David Evans said on the program has been resoundingly refuted, and this is also easily found online. Tara Brown could have interviewed any one of a number of real Australian climate scientists for the counter-arguments. And more fundamentally, if David Evans had a scientific case, he should publish it, not on 60 Minutes, but in a reputable scientific journal. He hasn’t, and he couldn’t, because his argument is full of holes and wouldn’t make it past peer review.

Ordinarily, this kind of sloppy journalism would be par for the course for 60 Minutes. But when the world is facing a genuine climate emergency (see, this is unforgivably irresponsible.

I expect a written response to these questions:

  1. Will Channel Nine investigate this complaint?
  2. Does Channel Nine agree that David Evans is in fact not a scientist, let alone an eminent scientist?
  3. Does Channel Nine agree that he was misrepresented as an eminent scientist on your program on 17th August?
  4. Will Channel Nine publish a correction and an interview with a genuine “eminent scientist” (such as Michael Raupach, Barry Brook or Barrie Pittock)?
  5. What action will Channel Nine take to ensure this kind of mistake is not repeated on your news and current affairs programs?

For references on most of the above, see SourceWatch.

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22 thoughts on “60 minutes‘ climate change story just plain irresponsible

  1. John

    JamesK, I didn’t mention Newton, Einstein, Faraday, Planck or Fred Hoyle. They have NOTHING to do with my prediction of the trajectory of an egg to 2 significant figures. For the same reason, I ignored air resistance, the centripetal force of the earths rotation, and the possibility of pixie dust.

    Others far more talented than me have proven global warming exists, and refuted denials. To paraphrase Galileo, and yet, it melts!

    What have you got against Tiny Tim anyway?

  2. JamesK

    John, Newton’s Law of Gravity is a theory which eventually was proved wrong. Subsequent scientific measurements 150 could not be explained by it and it was supplanted by the Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

    The point is that present day measurements are not explained by IPCC computer generated model predictions. AGW is not a fact just because you say it is so. Provide at least an argument!
    But you are correct in at least one assertion: Tom is wrong!

  3. John

    Tom#4, with the greatest respect, you are wrong.There are many people who _don’t_ believe what their doctor says.
    Climate change deniers are similar to HIV deniers (and they are still about – despite the success of antiretroviral treatment). When powerful people like Thabo Mbecki are part of their ranks, you get the result that AIDS spreads faster than otherwise, people die sooner, and terrible things happen like the rape of virgins at all ages due to the mistaken belief that this is a cure. The arguments used are even the same. see
    JamesK, sometimes there is no second opinion. If I drop an egg from 1m it will hit the ground at a speed of 4.4 metres per second 0.45 seconds after I drop it. This will happen whether I know the physics or not and indeed if I believe in gravity or not.
    Climate change is real, the evidence is overwhelming, and no amount of obfuscation will do a thing about it. Tiny Tim had it right 40 years ago.

  4. Peter

    Is this arguement that we take the word of a Physics and Astronomy trained scientist over that of a Computer Engineer…

    What sort of argument is that?

    A quick google search proves any argument is wrong – depends on what sort of search terms you put in…
    Google isn’t the truth…

    Critical Analysis would get us towards Facts – but we seem to be in a the middle of the biggest drought of critical analysis since the last Ice Age, maybe even since the middle ages when the tempratures on Earth were significantly higher than now…

    It’s getting increasingly difficult to have a rational argument with anyone concerning the Climate Change Theory – please remember it is not a fact, only a theory…

    And it’s more like the theory of intelligent design than the theory of evolution …

    One of Hansen’s research interests is the analysis of radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres. Such data, appropriately analyzed, may be one of the most effective ways to monitor and study global change on the earth.

    It’s becoming increasingly apparrent that the Climate Change Theorists are not capable of appropriate analysis…

  5. Richard McGuire

    Good effort Jonathon. Yours is the first response I’ve come accross to the shameful and pathetic effort of Sixty Minutes. Normally one could count on a quick response from science blogs like Deltoid. This time they were missing in action. Recently the Sunday programme tried something similar. What is it about Channel Nine? While Bolt and his fellow flat earthers applauld, efforts like Sixty Minutes make it that much harder for goverments to reign in carbon pollution. Best of luck with your five questions, though some how I doubt they’ll turn up in Peter Harveys mail bag.

  6. Phil Diamond

    Why shouldn’t Engineers look at Complex Climate Models? One of the major problems with complex models is the issue of sensitivity. Invariably, models are far more sensitive to some parameters and some of the form of the equations used in the model simulations. These are commonplace problems in Engineering Modelling and Simulation and, if the modellers are halfway competent, are varied slightly to check the sensitivity of the model to each. If a 1% change to a parameter, or a small change in an equation leads to 10% changes in model output, put the thinking caps back on! Doesn’t anyone remember the “Club of Rome” in the 1960s, who predicted very short term crises in commodities and the demise of society as we know it? A year or so later some relatively unsophisticated engineers did a sensitivity analysis and found 100% sensitivity for 1% changes in many parameters. I have not heard of such an analysis in the Public Debate about the varying models used. Even the ones that predict climate change vary with their predictions. What is different in their various assumptions and parameters. To add to the confusion (and I am an agnostic on the whole issue), it is well known that climatic systems are chaotic. This is the very essence of sensitivity, the paradigmatic “Flap of a butterfly’s wing”.

  7. Tom #2

    As I was saying deleted out of shame here:

    and Tara Brown is related to all this because she is now presenter of the Sunday News Hour in it’s place. But if she wants to slum around junk journalism (though I missed this story) perhaps she should also go back to the ch7 police scanner room where it all began?! (as per recent press profile).

    But really what are their ratings against Dr Who on Sunday night anyway? Advertisers probably should think again.

  8. Jack

    JamesK: re pineapple cream sponge reference

    I am horrified that my erudite comments may be attributed to the “John” in this thread who in a classic case of apples, oranges & carrots connects global warming deniers to HIV-deniers to Doctors !

    My views on global warming are those of the simple man – show me the proof. I do wonder why global warming acolytes have such religious fervour and complete belief that they are right & any other viewpoint CANNOT BE GIVEN OXYGEN.

    I’m sure in time that Gulags will be built for non-believers – a quick trip & dunking in Flannery’s hot rocks first though for a last chance to REPENT !

    The artist formerly known as John

  9. JamesK

    John ur so self effacing…..I’m just strine and I do not automatically accept all I am fed especially when delivered with religous fervour!

    Mmmm …..time for a slice of pineapple cream sponge……as I tiptoe thru’ the tulips

  10. Even the Rocket Scientist

    I took it 60 Minutes set out to show there is another side to the zealotry that is Global Warming. The point 60 minutes was making is; it’s far from a done deal in the minds of many. First it was Global Warming and now it’s Global Change. If the gaiaists can’t even get their brand right, can you blame the sheeple wanting to know more when they’re being asked to pay a whole range of new taxes. Personally, I’ve got no idea what is going on or who to believe. All I know is; I want to hear everyone out. Even the rocket scientist!