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Jan 28, 2010

Hamilton: Fran Kelly falls for Monckton's media manipulation

Fran Kelly and the ABC are the latest victims to fall prey to notorious climate change sceptic Lord Monckton's media manipulation. Why did Kelly not question her controversial guest and his preposterous claims?

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Fifty metres from where I sit at the ANU, 300 meteorologists and oceanographers are listening to the latest research on climate change at the annual conference of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.

But you wouldn’t know it. Instead of sending someone over to hear what the scientists are saying, Radio National this morning decided to give over its program to a charlatan, Lord Monckton, who expounded unchallenged his bizarre theories.

He earnestly told Fran Kelly on Radio National that decades of climate science research could not be believed because the scientists are being paid by governments and governments want to cede national sovereignty to a “world government”.

He compared climate scientists, like those at the conference next door to me, to the eugenicists of Nazi Germany and to the Soviet scientific fraud Trofim Lysenko. It was one of the most shocking slanders ever heard on the ABC.

Fran Kelly allowed Monckton to present himself as a credible scientific voice, and could not challenge his repeated absurdities. She did not ask him what his qualifications were. She did not ask him why he lied about being a member of the House of Lords, or why he claims to be a Nobel laureate.

She did not ask him about his preposterous claims to have won the Falklands war or to have invented a cure for Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV.

Nor did she ask Monckton why Kevin Rudd, Barack Obama and the leaders of Europe, Japan and the developing world would participate in a process designed to relinquish national sovereignty to a communist world government.

Monckton’s views are so extreme that even some of Australian’s hardened climate deniers will not go near him. Tony Abbott will not meet him. Even Barnaby Joyce regards him as too dangerous to associate with.

Janet Albrechtsen, the Australian’s right-wing attack dog, laments the fact that “…while Monckton has mastered the best arts of persuasion, he also succumbs to the worst of them when he engages in his made-for-the-stage histrionics.”

Most of Australia’s leading climate scientists have declined requests to debate Monckton on air because they understand that debating him on the science carries the implication that Monckton is a scientist with something worthwhile to say.

They also know that what Monckton lacks in credibility he more than makes up for in showmanship. In a 10-minute radio or TV debate the showman who is willing to lie brazenly will usually come out on top, especially against a scientist hamstrung by the quaint belief that truth emerges from the careful presentation of the evidence.

One of his former editors said of Monckton that he has the ability to talk nonsense in a very compelling way; some naïve members of the public lap it up.

Fran Kelly is not the only journalist suckered by the denialists, although one would expect the ABC to have a better understanding of the scam than Channel 7’s Sunrise.

Some in the profession have been known to express bewilderment at the rise and rise of climate denial. When Al Gore was interviewed on Lateline a while back, Leigh Sales spent the first half of the interview asking him to respond to the claims of the sceptics.

She then asked “Why do you think the sceptics are so influential?”, apparently unaware that she had answered her own question by spending half of the interview talking about them.

Over recent months we have witnessed a sustained assault on the reputation of Australian climate scientists led by the Australian newspaper, which magnifies and gloats over every real or confected mistake by the IPCC and promotes the opinions of every mad-eyed denier, including Monckton.

Throughout this trashing of scientists, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have been missing in action. The Academies of Science have been silent too. It’s well past the time they roused themselves from their slumber and muscled up to those now ditching three centuries of science in favour of a fanatical belief.

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