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Jan 16, 2013

What you won't read in The Australian on climate change

The Australian has backed down from its claim that sea rise is "not linked to warming" -- but to get the full story on the scientific paper at the heart of the controversy, read on ...


The Australian has retreated from its claim that rising sea levels are “not linked to warming” faster than a melting glacier — but it’s still not telling the full story on a recently released scientific paper.

Yesterday, as hundreds of IPCC scientists met in Hobart, The Australian‘s environment editor Graham Lloyd claimed “the latest science on sea level rises has found no link to global warming”. The story cited a paper which ran in the Journal of Climate last year, co-authored by the CSIRO’s Dr John Church.

Church said that was inaccurate, and IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri said “sane and rational voices must respond to … this scepticism”.

The Australian‘s outright climate scepticism on this paper didn’t last long after Crikey published Church and Pachauri’s comments. The heading on The Oz online has switched from “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’, says report” to “Sea level rise ‘linked to climate change’” (AAP copy).

Today, the national broadsheet has written three stories relating to the Journal of Climate paper — a news story, a feature and an editorial — seeking to portray its original story as the product of a dispute between the authors of the paper and criticising the ABC for using a technique favoured by The Oz itself: quoting non-scientists on climate (remember 80-year-old Wollongong local Kevin Court’s prominent views on sea level rise in 2009?). Today’s stories also delve deeper into the research paper’s contents.

Perhaps not deep enough. The stories paint the research paper as casting doubt on whether human-induced climate change is causing sea levels to rise. Here’s what is actually in the paper — and what you won’t read in The Australian.

The paper — Twentieth-century global-mean sea-level rise: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? (lead author is JM Gregory) — is based on the observation that sea levels rose by more than might be expected in the 20th century, and that rise was linear (that is, the rate did not accelerate markedly as humans emitted more greenhouse gases).

The researchers found sea levels were rising largely due to glaciers melting and thermal expansion of the oceans (as water warms, it takes up more space and therefore sea levels rise). It is difficult to reconcile this conclusion with the one reached by Lloyd yesterday.

Sea level rise due to thermal expansion “shows a tendency for increasing rate as the magnitude of anthropogenic global climate change increases”, the paper said. It concluded the sea level rise was linear partly because of a difference in the number of volcanic eruptions between the early 20th century and the late 20th century, which had a greater impact on sea levels earlier on. This may have balanced out the increasing impact of human-induced warming, so that the overall rate was upwards and linear.

The paper found a key factor in sea level rise last century was glaciers melting, “consistent with a warming climate worldwide”. It suggested glacier melt may have contributed more to sea level rise in the early 20th century because low-altitude glaciers are the first to melt, and they contain more mass.

In any event, the paper found the linear trend in sea level rise has changed: “In the last two decades, the rate of [sea level rise] has been larger than the 20th-century time-mean, due to increased rates of thermal expansion, glacier mass loss, and ice discharge …”

The authors also explicitly state the paper is not aimed at “the detection and attribution of climate change”; it did not aim to attribute changes in the climate system to “the agents which forced those changes to occur (such as anthropogenic greenhouse gases …)”. Instead, it aimed at attributing sea level rises to oceans, land ice and water storage. So it was more about the mechanics of where the extra water is coming from, not why.

The Journal of Climate paper is one of many hundreds of scientific papers on climate change published each year. A common theme in recent years is that the impacts of climate change may be more severe, and happening more quickly, than previously predicted. Such papers do not tend to run prominently in The Australian.


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28 thoughts on “What you won’t read in The Australian on climate change

  1. Merve

    The Australian also has no sense of irony. The POE exemplay, Janet Albrechtson, says today “These people are not harmless idealists. They are not even genuine environmentalists. They are dangerous ideologues driven not by reason or intellectual debate, but by zealotry.”

    I get the distinct impression she is talking about herself and her fellow ideologues on The OZ.

  2. Mike Flanagan

    Thanks to Cathy Alexander and Crikey staff to the above follow-up story.
    One can only encourage the Guardian to establish a local edition of their paper to balance the crap that the murdochracy give us as news and facts in both broadsheet and tabloid format.
    It is time that Rupert’s disciples that call themselves journalists advice the sclerotic and Alzheimic fool that his publishing of idiocies, distortion and outright lies throughout the English speaking world are directly relevant to his ever diminishing circulation figures.

  3. burninglog

    I meant ” f*#ken A” Merve.
    (sorry bout that)

  4. Steve777

    In due course the effects of Global Warming will become unmistakeable and will start to impact corporate bottom lines. And when that happens corporations will be screaming for governments to fix the problems and that someone other than themselves pay for it.

  5. Kym Afford

    The Australia (Murdock press) has an sorry history of denial and misinformation in regards to climate change. It cannot be treated as a source of reliable information on this subject.

  6. drmick

    Not swimming…….drowning. Wonder when the sun king will show how he will turn back the tide?

  7. Musrum

    That’s nice. Of course studies have shown that these sort of retractions in no way reverse the original message (and in many cases, just reinforce it).

  8. Jimmy

    Unfortunately these days we can expect little better than this from the Oz.

    Well said Merve, and did you see ALbrechtsen berating the PM for daring to suggest the extreme weather events (in this case bushfires) will become more common as the climate warms up, I meant he nerve of the PM for re-stating what all credible scientists and common sense have been saying for decades.

  9. rubiginosa

    We’ve seen this script before, of course, and we know how it plays out at The Australian. Remember when they shat all over Phil Watson’s paper? The disrespectful and disingenous treatment of the researchers’ own work and words continues apace.

    John Church is no stranger to The Australian’s treatment. He features in the infamous Kevin Court article,

    and has been attempting to explain sea-level rise to The Australian for a long time:

    Just as predictable are their post hoc rationalisations. Compare these paint-by-numbers editorials — The Age and The ABC are interchangable, as are the Royal Society and Met Office:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/vig… (October 14, 2010)
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/editorials/vig… (January 16, 2013)

  10. Mike Flanagan

    Steve 777;
    I would like to add to your prognosis, and point out that industry, and in particular the Resources Industry, are already active in seeking relief via the public purse.
    We only have to drill a little deeper to realise that the persistent chant from the resources industry is about pressuring the public purse to support the escalation in costs of their necessary infrastructure.
    Much of this escalation in the cost of their infrastructure is the necessary re-engineering created by their own understanding of what to expect from the early onset of the dynamics of Climate Change, and its’ dramatic implications.
    Meanwhile they channel, through archaic and opaque accounting systems, vast amounts of funds to deny the public the facts about the truly horrendous implications if we continue their preferred option of ‘business as usual’.
    We only have to observe the numbers of their well funded clique of deniers lead by, PR, so called Think Tanks, Industry Bodies ,Associations, Consultants, Spin Doctors and registered political influence pedarlers together with dishonest academics and outright fraud to begin to understand their lack of ethics, understanding or responsibilities.
    This is all legitimised into tax deductible expenses to be employed to either provoke outright denial or acquiescence to their funders wishes, to slow the public’s reaction and deny them the facts. Much of their funding comes from the same corporates and suits who coolly fan the public’s knowledge into somnolent inaction
    The manner in which the public adopted PV in city areas is evidence that the public will readily and co-operatively adopt new ways of energising and galvanise themselves if they are given the facts.
    It is Industries’ Boards and Senior Management that lags and tries to obfuscate the necessary action to contain, mitigate and adapt to the forth coming maelstrom.
    The contradictions between their investment in the application of engineering principles (and principals) and their public statements together with their hidden financing of the contrariety is a stark example of their dishonest an unethical loads of codswallop they have been feeding the public and trying to influence our politicians with, over the last 20 years.
    Most of our corporate leaders and managers should hang their heads in shame, for they will be recognised for their inadequacies, and their abrogation of their responsibilities to the community, while focussing on their bottom lines
    And, I for one, am happy, but saddened to repeat, that they will be identified in the annals of history and they will be condemned for their both actions and their inaction.


    We are all suitably outraged about the Murdoch minions and their unrelenting distortion of the scientific facts, but are we ready for the next step?

    James Hanson, the veritable grandfather of global warming measurements and climate modelling of the world we are creating has said that belief in the notion that 100% wind, solar,water can meet our energy demands is equivalent to believing in the Tooth Fairy.

    Here is his blog.

    Read it: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110729_BabyLauren.pdf

  12. klewso

    “The Australian – what lies between you and the truth!”

  13. Mike M

    I perused the main stories and commentary pieces on the free side of their paywall. I was astonished to see that almost every article had some sort of right wing political agenda…..who would actually pay to read such biased dribble?

    The Australian seems to have become little more than a daily post for right wing activists.

  14. klewso

    Merve, with no apparent obvious sense of balance, who better than a “Murdoch troll” (like Albrechtsen) to define “dangerous ideologues, driven not by reason or intellectual debate, but by zealotry.”?
    Given their influence, through market dominance, to edit, as if out of existence, alternate reasoning – strangling it before publication. The way they wield their market share to the exclusion of competitive opinion in their virtual monopoly of our hard copy “viewspapers”, the way they’re allowed to set the news agenda by the lazier/less well-resourced purveyors of our news, happy to parrot them (partly because they can then point the finger if their Limited News source is wrong too)?

  15. klewso

    Who’d pay?
    Mike M if you were a frequent “fallow traveller” on it, looking for enlightenment and validation of your sort of pre-set thinking, afraid of being wrong, wouldn’t you pay to use it (their “comfort stop”) on the Misinformation Hi-way?

  16. drmick

    This has been the go with the noberals since knucklehead scared away a potential lower house majority by being as sincere as he and his clacker could pretend to be after the last erection.
    Projection – they act like bitter losers, trying to wreck everything… then try to claim everyone else did it except them …..then the compliant press claim that each is as bad as the other; e.g. in spite of clearly only one side initiating the white dirt folder, discrediting and undermining the authority and credibility of the law, the judiciary and qualified professionals, demonstrated facts and inconvenient laws
    This perception then becomes “fact” when reproduced ad infinitum, till there is a claim that the 2 parties are exactly the same! wtf?
    Obversely & perversely, (as detailed by the knitting hag albrectsen perched beside the limted news guillotine), they lose the truth altogether and believe the rubbish they spread.

  17. Andybob

    As Max Planck said, Science advances one funeral at a time. Rupert’s will be an important one.


    (Crikey, there’s not much point commenting if you’re not going to “moderate” a link to James Hanson’s blog, is there?)

    We are all suitably outraged about the Murdoch minions and their unrelenting distortion of the scientific facts, but are we ready for the next step?

    James Hanson, the veritable grandfather of global warming measurements and climate modelling of the world we are creating has said that belief in the notion that 100% wind, solar,water can meet our energy demands is equivalent to believing in the Tooth Fairy.

    Here is his blog.

    Read it:

  19. David Hand

    Well you lot can all bang on about evil capitalists running agendas through the Australian to manipulate public opinion against action on climate change. It is ironic that Albrechtson’s article was actually about socialists shifting their anti-capitalist campaign to the environmental movement when the Berlin Wall came down and what we have here is proof.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese, Indians and the USA are putting enough carbon into the atmosphere as we debate this to blow every IPCC target going. If the climate lobby is correct, this window of opportunity they talk about is sheer fantasy. It’s all over folks.

  20. Suzanne Blake

    Not to fear. The ABC is loaded with one sides extreme greeny climate change debate. No balance there at all. Its completely lopsided


    So on the on the one Hand, the greenhouse is being driven to catastrophe, and on the other Hand any critical commentary about our fossil fuel industries is the ranting of anti-capitalists.

    Confused much?

  22. David Hand

    I’m not confused but you make a good point. I guess I’m trying to say that the IPCC process talks about a window of opportunity to change things when a simple extrapolation of their own projections shows the proposed measures are futile.

    I have long been a critic of the climate change industry which constantly comes back round to the brinkmanship contained in a push to radically change our way of life by undoing or disrupting our market economy.

    Evil corporations have long been a favourite bad guy in pop culture. I challenge the view that a socialist revolution will save us from global warming. The IPCC should be meeting in rotation in Washington, Beijing and Dehli. Not Cancun, Durban and Bali.


    David, I think we’re on the same page regarding the urgency, and I also share some of that exasperation with the ‘evil capitalists’ stuff. (In my experience, many of the ‘captains of industry’ were ahead of the masses on this stuff in many ways a good decade or so ago).

    The blog of Hanson linked above, goes to this very point: the ‘green left’ is happy to take token gestures with renewables as a solution, when on the empirical evidence (which he graphs out), they cannot possibly be.

    A serious attempt to replace fossil fuels would require replacing coal fired power with nuclear, a subject the green left religiously objects to.

    So there you have it: the anti-capitalists are content to criticise the fossil fuel industry and accept tokenism as the solution.

    We just might be finished.

  24. Mike Flanagan

    David; It is not, to my mind, a question of ideology versus science. It is a question of a national cohesive response to what the physics tells us.
    The enormity of the challenge that confronts us requires not only our government, but our state and local government leaders together with our business and community leaders to put a shoulder to the wheel.
    There will be mistakes made in our responses,of that I am sure, but so were there in getting to where we are today.
    We will learn from those mistakes but the continual denial of the facts serves little or no purpose or adds one iota of value to our search for the quickest ways to prepare the nation’s population, business’s and stock of infrastucture and bio-diversity banks, for what the science tells us is on offer..
    Our august business community leaders have a role to play too.
    David I would like to add that I fully concur with your last sentence.

  25. Ian


    James Hanson is probably right but does that mean we just do nothing? I’d say not. We should set to it and do our utmost to prove him wrong and if we fail at least we would have tried.

    I think it is now all too late and the next generation are going to have to live (or die) with the consequences of our inaction. Pity because if we acted 10 or 20 years ago we may just have succeeded. Who knows.

  26. Peter Young

    Christopher i share your concerns im’ a green moderate centralist i have no problem with Nuclear, geo thermal, solar , i dont realy like wind its too variable to be useful for baseload power, but if we used the wind and hot air fromm the so called skeptic lobby ( code for paid Denialist lobby) might be a game changer!.

    The best option for Nuclear is thorium , also can’t be used for a nuclear weapons programme and the power plants are smaller and more efficient.

    There is also an Elephant in the room our current power grid needs replacing it was never designed to have as much power feedbacking into the grid as is happening.

    the governments tried to get people to go solar but they chose the wrong way feeding it back in to the grid and subsidising that option, then stand alone Solar power like i have.

    without grid upgrading there is potential for grid blowouts. unfortunately the pollies of all persuasions don’t want to deal with the grid needs upgrading they’d rather fund ponzi schemes like comomonwealth games etc. but it needs a serious bi partisan look at.

    and the other problem is the coal mining lobby are the biggest anti nuke lobyists in the business . because they don’t want to lose their political influence or monopoly on power generation..

    iam not anti coal mining we need it for steel. its time for Australia to change and prove its for real by gradualy phasing out our industrial revolution blinkered power generation policies .

    Its to easy for the bussines as usual approach plus there’s the donations factor .

    Also its easier to Scaremonger by the lunatics on either fringe of the debate then be honest about what needs fixing and to replace the current grid and power generation system i have no idea how much money or time it would take unfortunately not that it isn’t something worth doing for Australia as a nation.

    Also to do it would make you “unelectable”..

    iam an unafilliatated voter iam no member of any political party i would probably be disendorsed by every one for what i have posted if i was one that’s how stupid the politics are of the equation.

    the thing that gives me hope is the people are waking up to the business as usual approach campaign donations the follow the money trail.

    i think we have lost our opportunity but iam an optimist at heart but its a very cynical nation and world we live in.

    good posts every one.

  27. Ian


    It takes a lunatic to recognize a lunatic I would say… or don’t you think so. Nuclear is BS as either a short term or long term fix. It takes too long to get them up and running, it is one of the most dangerous energy technologies available, in all sorts of ways and it (in the absence of commercially proved technologies taking over from the existing crop of nuclear plants) will simply transfer the problem from global warming to nuclear waste disposal etc and rely on a very finite uranium resource.

    I’d also like to know what a “green, moderate centralist” is if you wouldn’t mind defining the term so I and others can distinguish these people from the lunatics.


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