On Saturday, my mum said she doesn’t know what to think of global warming:
You hear one thing, one day, and the opposite, the next.”
Here’s an example of why that happens…
A biologist from the University of Queensland said the Bureau of Meteorology doctored data
Dr Jennifer Marohasy claims the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) doctored some old temperature data, to make it fit with theories of global warming.
The Australian wrote 4 stories about it
Over the last 9 days, The Australian has dedicated 4 stories to the claim:
- Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures’ – Aug 23
- Heat is on over weather bureau ’homogenising’ temperature records – Aug 23
- Climate records contradict Bureau of Meteorology – Aug 27
- Weatherman’s records detail heat that ‘didn’t happen’ – Aug 30
So my mum didn’t know who to believe
Confronted with yet more claims denying global warming, my mum became even more confused. Who should she believe?!
But the BoM didn’t doctor the data!
According to the BoM, what actually happened is some temperature stations were moved inland to a cooler location, a few decades ago. So they ‘homogenised’ the data from those stations, to account for the move. This is an accepted, peer-reviewed method (unlike the IPA’s accusations).
But if that’s not enough for you, there’s also the fact that it’s the only one of their data sets that’s been homogenised. In the graph below (which includes satellite temperature data too), it’s the yellow line. Looks pretty much the same as the rest, doesn’t it?
Then why the accusation against the BoM?
The person making the accusations is Dr Jennifer Marohasy. Here’s a bit about her:
- She switched from research to management in 1997.
- She spent 6 years working at the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a lobby group for big businesses like News Ltd, BHP, Western Mining, Monsanto, big tobacco, and the fossil fuel industry.
- She’s a foundation member of the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), which, among other things, lobbied to have 70,000 hectares of World Heritage listed Tasmanian forest de-listed.
- Her research is funded by a Perth-based climate science sceptic, and long-standing IPA member, Bryant Macfie. He gave the University of Queensland $350k (facilitated by the IPA) to pay for environmental research scholarships, claiming science had been corrupted by a “newer religion” of environmentalism. At the time, Macfie owned 634,846 shares in a mineral exploration company called Strike Resources.
- She’s even spoken at a Heartland Foundation event in the US. (They’re the mob that claim carbon dioxide is NOT a pollutant at all, and that it’s good for us!)
And why would The Australian push the story?
The Australian is owned by Rubert Murdoch. He’s a donor and outspoken champion of the IPA. In fact, his dad, Keith, was one of the its founders (p.2). In other words, he’s a key part of the same club as the big mining and fossil fuels companies, and their rich owners.
Not hard to see why my mum was confused, is it?
For better or worse, many people trust The Australian. So when it suggests global warming isn’t real, people tend to believe it, or at least wonder. They don’t know or research the real story, they just take it at face value.
This is a deliberate tactic used here and in the US to muddy the waters of environmental debate and policy-making. Michael Mann, director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, explains it like this:
Every once and a while there’s some contrarian paper that gets published in a journal and immediately the climate change contrarians trumpet this new study and it gets air-time on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and inevitably — in almost every case that I can think of — the study turns out to have been fundamentally flawed. But it may take a year before a peer-reviewed article assessing that particular study is published. It takes time for scientists to independently look at the data, test the hypotheses, and either replicate or refute an analysis in a previously published article… But it becomes very easy for those looking to throw doubt and confusion into the picture to select some late-breaking study, take it out of context, milk it for all it’s worth and neglect the fact that there’s a much larger body of scientific research upon which our understanding is based.”
Or, put another way, throw enough mud, and some of it’s gonna stick.