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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 climatecodered.net), 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 http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040256&ct=1
    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. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PBWxX9QAmI

  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: http://sunday.ninemsn.com.au/sunday/archives/feature_stories.asp

    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!

  11. Keith Bradbury

    Why does Crikey publish articles written by prats like Jonathan Doig, people are not allowed to have a contrary view? what is this Germany 1936? anyone thinking outside the official thought will be punished.
    Yes Lucy Goosie the sky IS falling

  12. Chris

    Why anyone thinks 60 Minutes churns out credible material I’ve no idea. The program has evolved into thin spin on general topics. Just 24-hours separates it from its condensed version – A Current Affair.

  13. JamesK

    Interesting Richard McGuire wants to listen to ‘bofins’ who publish in peer reviewed scientific journals. That is good. here a recent sceptical one: http://www.itia.ntua.gr/en/docinfo/864/

    The problem some ‘bofins’ who publish are climate alarmists whilst others bofins who publish are sceptics but most are open minded – all true scientists by definition are. Probably most agree that warming is real and considerably less believe that it is significantly man made. Less again believe that we can do anything about it.

    The IPCC is as a political structure as scientific.

    If you do not want to think for yourself then leave it to your betters. If you want to be informed then perhaps read both sides of the debate. I suggest a recent debate in the American Physical Society to start:

    It would be reasonable to assume that most intelligent people of substance would wish to act in the planets best interest. Not all sceptics are evil and not all warmists are good guys. This may be patronising but then your post suggests you need it……..

  14. JamesK

    Tom, ever heard of obtaining a second opinion?

    Which climate scientist should I believe? The alarmist like Hanson who says anyone who questions him should be imprisoned or a sceptic?

    Even amongst scientist AGW believers there are many who believe that we can little to we can do little to prevent it and our resources would be better spent on management.

    If we do accept a carbon reduction scheme we do with our eye open and our minds flexible and able to respond to new information as it arises.

    And remember no ‘sceptic’ calls him or herself a ‘denier’ that is an alarmists term.

    Perhaps ur a debate denier?

  15. Tom McLoughlin

    Yeah, regarding Sunday 9 feature story by Adam Shand – about a month before curtains – they made a big stuff up. Referred to 1816 summer cold, winter warm in Europe to ‘prove’ climate is far more uncertain than scientists can really say just now. Then cut to Senator Bob Brown who got served this exact conundrum to which he said ‘ well actually it was particulates from Krakatoa, it was scientifically understood and resolved’.

    Ellen Fanning dropped that line of questioning like the super heated hot potato it was and Adam Shand’s feature died a terrible gurgling death in 1 second flat. Go to their website for the day of broadcast – it’s even deleted from their website out of shame! The day was …..June 29 08 and here it is:

    “BB: Good morning, Ellen. I’m well, thanks.

    EF: You will have just seen our cover story. Do you have any concerns about some of the zealotry attached to the climate change campaign is preventing genuine scientific inquiry?

    BB: Well, some of the zealotry of the sceptics, for example, on there it was talking about the winter in summer of 1816 and we didn’t know the cause of that. We do – it was the biggest volcanic explosion in 1600 years which took place in Indonesia and it sent ash into the atmosphere and produced extraordinary weather. There is good scientific basis for much of the weather phenomenon of the last couple of centuries and there is huge consensus that we’re warming rapidly, and that’s the feeling of the populous. People know that things have changed. The droughts, the loss of snow, the melting glaciers, and the rise in sea levels of 20cm over the last century. That’s all tied in to the predictable outcome of more greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere.

    EF: Alright. Let’s turn to the balance of power in the Senate and allow me a cheeky first question, if you will. Given what happened with Cheryl Kernot, is there anyone in the Labor Government who turns your head?

  16. Chris

    There are many climate scientists who have questioned the current AGW theory. (BTW Tim Flanerry is not a climatologist).They just dont get the media air time. The IPCC, some 2000 “scientists” have around 60 climatologists. New York held a conference earlier this year , had around 5000 “scientists” attend and discuss “climate change” but nothing mentioned in the media (because of their skepticism??) . Al Gore’s movie uses the “hockey stick” that conveniently ignores the medeval warming period.”The Great Global Warming Swindle”, as shown on the ABC, had to have a panel to “discuss” the documentary. Did we ever get that with Gore’s movie…which is being promoted in workplaces and probably schools. The facts are that the opposing views are not aired. Why??

    Some may say that these ideas are not promoted in peer review journals, but the fact is nor are the AGW articles. The real science is that the jury is still out. So the MSM can run its own show, with its own “experts” who are getting huge govt grants.

    We have been told bull by the MSM quite openly in recent years,on many topics eg WMD in Iraq etc, Bin Laden as a threat etc which have resulted in millions of dead and when proven to be based on lies we dont even get an apolgy from the MSM. (re OBL check out Bhutto’s last western interview with David Frost NOT the BBC archive version, but the live version where she very casually states about OBL’s assasination by another “most wanted” by the USA and Frost doesnt even blink. This lady knew she was probably going to die and had nothing to lose). Murdoch and his media have said they will “promote” AGW and even Peter Sutherland from BP said “WE MUST EMBRACE THIS”. So whose wagging the dog.

    Gore is a member of the Club of Rome. Read about these people , especially Maurice Strong and check out his “wizard of bacca grande”. Disturbing stuff. I will paraphrase one of their quotes “we have to create an enemy ….real or imagined…..that enemy has to be humanity itself”.

    Take it as you will. I have made my mind up, as most people have. My conclusion is obvious….the Carbon bull is about transferring wealth from the middle class to the mega rich. Gore is in line for billions and it isnt going to make one iota of diference in climate on this planet…

    We should be cleaning up our rivers and oceans and stopping bio fuels and forest destruction. Carbon emissions are a smoke screen.

  17. Tom#3

    OK, had a look, so here’s the drill – not a bad story really. Glorious landscapes. Suitably sceptical to pander to big commercial interests. And the resolution of the “statistics” is pretty clear and it does relate to the Krakatoa riposte of Bob Brown above: Concurrent with the plateau of global temperatures still at an elevated position has been the massive particulate pollution with the escalation of the Chinese but also combined Asian economies.

    So C02 and other greenouse gases are forcing temperature up this last 12 years. BUT the well studied phenomenon of Global Dimming, as per this ABC 4 Corners show in 21/3/2005 is dampening that upward trend a tad:

    Refer http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2005/s1325819.htm

    With profound scientific referencing there. So that haze over China as big as the State of Victoria is literally blocking out 10% plus sunshine reaching the earth’s surface. These particulates are killing off maybe 1 million Chinese etc a year from respiratory illness and pissing off South Korea and other neighbours no end.

    And reducing global warming a bit … for now. Until the Chinese etc get tired of dying of lung cancer at which time they will reduce air pollution. And then up goes the global warming again with all that 100 years emissions momentum built in to the famous tipping point(s). Either that or Beijing conditions each and every day here too. Choose your poison.

    Conclusion: reduce greenhouse gases as per Rudd exhortation (even if he only half believes it) and give peope the human right of clean air to breathe too.

  18. Richard McGuire

    Despite the names rattled off by Mr K, the fact is that David Evans and Kevin Rudd dominated the story. One is a scientist one isn’t. If 60 Minutes were on a serious fact finding mission there are many qualified people scattered throughout universities and research institutions, who unlike Kevin Rudd, were more than capable of responding to the points raised by David Evans. Tim Flannery I think at best, got 10 seconds and was not given an opportunity to respond to Evans. And on what basis does Tara Brown claim the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the last two decades? If David Evans is so sure of his “hot spot” theory why does he not publish it in a reputable science journal. If his theory were to stack up against peer review, governments around the world, including the Rudd goverment would be ecstatic. Evans would be guaranteed a Nobel Peace Prize. Until this happens this happens we’ll just have rely on those published peer reviewed boffins from the IPCC.

  19. JamesK

    er erratum: 150 = 150 years later

  20. Tom #4

    No Doig is essentially right – they don’t dare interview real climate experts like David Karoly who would eat Evans alive.

    All these tepid claims are way below the intellectual bar of the top scientists and the IPCC. It’s pathetic how little respect is shown here for the awesome discipline and endeavour these researchers carry out for years and decades. It’s not some half cocked airport lounge novel. Or who dunnit. Of course they’ve investigated the f*cking sun spots. The equitorial hot spots and just about every other variation of the bogus sceptic argument – serve them up just don’t expect them to stand long.

    You’re like whining children trying to teach grandpa how to suck eggs. Peer reviewed science is far more cut throat and competitive than the general public and some nitwits on this string would have a clue about. To cut through in top journals like Science and Nature you have to sweat blood and have about 10 cross checks. It’s not group think either – it’s just bloody hard work. Most of them don’t have time dealing with nincompoops in the mass meeja or on Crikey.com.au (and yes I have a science degee).

    But eveyone one of you will take your doctor’s advice about medical threats to your life but you can’t trust climate science about the climate. How dumb is that? You might think it’s clever farting around impressing the 75% of Australians with less than a tertiary education but I just think you are wankers.

  21. JamesK


    David Evans devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. He is a scientist and he did write the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia’s compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.

    The IPCC’s predictions are computer model projections. The predictions from such models do not always accord with scientific measurements. Such discrepancies call into question the model.

    His recent article alluded to in the article above but not cited: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24036736-7583,00.html

    James Hansen of climatecodered.net is perhaps infamous for his climate change alarmism suggesting that those that question his theories should face criminal charges and also the suggestion that he has manipulated his data to vbetter support his theories. (His lab is one of 4 in the world recognised and used to measure global temperature but compared to the other 3 is a significant outlier).

    I think Tara Brown presented a balanced report if short on detail and I suspect that Jonathan Doig is a rabid AGWarmist.

    Eminent scientists do question the IPCC’s predictions and we have a right to be made aware of such concerns.

  22. B Meers

    My letter to 60 Minutes Mailbag:

    It’s refreshing to see investigative journalism presenting both sides of the issues in Crunch Time.

    One of the biggest barriers to a rational discussion about climatology, is the persistent and sinister use of the ‘consensus’ argument. The idea that there is a consensus between ‘the world’s top scientists’ is used to brow beat politicians, to forestall media criticism of the global warming orthodoxy and to marginalise and ridicule those scientists who dare to speak out against the theory of man made global warming.

    Patrick Moore believes it is a political ideology or political activist movement hugely influential at a global level – not an environmental movement. It is a distortion of whole area of climate science.

    Dr Roy Spencer states that climate scientists need there to be a problem to get funding. They have a vested interest in creating panic cause then money will flow to climate science.

    But the scare over man made global warming may prove to be the first great example in the modern Western world, when science was betrayed by scientists themselves, was the weakness of the case for man made global warming, and the quantity and quality of the evidence which flatly contradicts it.

    Why have journalists been so craven or biased? How has a theory which demonstrably lacks really solid supporting evidence become an indisputable fact? What of the impressive, much talked about scientific ‘consensus’ which is used to forestall any awkward questions about the evidence?

    Climatologists can’t reliably predict the weather next week; only the politically motivated pretend they can foresee it 50 years out.

    What of the one claim that we hear over and over again, that 2,500 of the world’s top scientists endorse the IPCC position? Let’s ask the IPCC for their names – I cannot find a list of their names on their website!

    Professor Paul Reiter IPCC states that the claim the IPCC is the world’s top 2500 scientists is simply not true when you look at the bibliographies of the people – there are quite a number of non-scientists There are many specialists who don’t agree with the polemic and resign but still put on the author list and become part of the worlds 2500 top scientists – not 4000 as claimed by Kevin Rudd!

    Professor Richard Lindzen IPCC claims that to build the numbers up to 2500 they have to start taking reviewers and government people and anyone who ever came close to them – none of them are asked to agree – many of them disagree.

    One central problem for those who promote the idea of man made global warming is the earth’s temperature record – on almost all time scales. Over longer time periods of course, the earth has much hotter than it is today and also far colder. The Earth’s climate has always changed, and changed without any help from us.

    But there is a major problem for those who promote the idea of Co2-led global warming. According to global warming theory, if an enhanced greenhouse effect is responsible for warming the earth, then the rate of temperature rise should be greatest in that part of the earth’s atmosphere known as the troposphere, specifically in the tropics. And yet the observations (including Dr Evans), from weather balloons and satellites have consistently shown that not to be the case.

    Mr Rudd is misguided and naive if he believes the unproven claims of Al Gore and the IPCC. Perhaps Mr Rudd should consult the many eminent scientists who disagree with the IPCC. Even the IPCC’s own reports contradict the Co2 view.

    This is too big an issue for Australia & the world to rubber-stamp the declarations of a semi-political body such as the IPCC whose final conclusions are politically driven.

    There are indeed many scientists, journalists and others who have built careers and staked their reputations on man made global warming. We should not accept their protestations that ‘the debate is over’, and ‘there is no more room for doubt’.

    All Australians need to examine the question, and make up our own minds. Is this global warming alarm built on solid evidence?

    I suggest everybody watch the movie “The Great Global Warming Conspiracy and read all the relevant literature


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