In short, he is a man of ideologies, not someone you can trust. Sadly, he writes more on climate change than any other journalist in Australia and quite happily points to distortions of climate science or misinterprets easily understandable science to push his own line. Yesterday he launched a full scale attack on two University of NSW climate researchers that ran in three major metropolitan newspapers - two are the most read in the country - and online at the second most read website in Australia, The response from the climate science community has been...nothing.
However, unlike academics, who for some reason feel tabloid papers are beneath them (and then wonder why more Australians don't support the science of climate change) I feel there is a need for a response to this article. This is my take on Bolt and his ridiculous piece, Confusion should give alarmists pause for thought, and why he and News Corp editors who run his bile should apologise to all Australians.
Open response to Andrew Bolt
If it wasn't for his trawling of the internet, he would struggle to fill up a 500 word quota with original material. And a lot of that trawling seems to be done by his hangers on rather than the man himself if you read the comments under each of his blog posts.
In this case he went one better than cut-and-paste from public statements, instead taking a quote from Prof Matt England in a private correspondence to another member of the public. I deal with that below.
But let's get to the science rather than his woeful journalistic ethics and deal with each part of this editorial one section at a time.
HOW TO CONTRADICT YOURSELF IN TWO EASY SENTENCES
The extraordinary slap-dash approach of Bolt's piece starts right away, when he displays a breathtaking contradiction just three sentences in.
You would think scientists of the NSW Climate Change Research Centre had done enough damage to their warmist crusade.
A month ago, its Professor Chris Turney got his ship of researchers stuck in Antarctic sea ice he had claimed was melting away.
“Sea ice is disappearing due to climate change, but here ice is building up,” Turney’s expedition wailed.
Then in the very next sentence, in a line taken directly from the Spirit of Mawson expedition website, he quotes Prof Chris Turney saying, "but here ice is building up". Exactly the opposite of what Bolt just stated.
How on Earth did the News Corp sub-editors miss that one - or are they too scared to actually sub this bully's work?
THE OLD HALF A QUOTE TRICK
The very next line of Bolt's epistle to the deniers manages to pack another lack of understanding of the science and a misleading quote all in one line. It's pretty special. Here is the sentence.
In fact Turney’s team — planning to examine parts of the Antarctic “highly susceptible to melting and collapse from ocean warming” — apparently hadn’t realised sea ice there had grown over three decades to record levels. - ANDREW BOLT
But then Bolt rolls out a half quote that seems to support the case that Prof Turney got it wrong, quoting the fraction of a phrase “highly susceptible to melting and collapse from ocean warming”.
Except if you read the entire paragraph from the Spirit of Mawson website it becomes clear that far from showing that the researchers got it wrong about sea ice, the expedition website is actually talking about ice sheets.
Until recently it was thought this ice sheet (my emphasis) was stable, sitting on the continental crust above today’s sea level. However there is an increasing body of evidence, including by the AAE members, that have identified parts of the East Antarctic which are highly susceptible to melting and collapse from ocean warming. - SPIRIT OF MAWSON WEBSITE
Either Bolt doesn't understand the difference between ice sheets and sea ice or he is intentionally misleading his readers. It's hard to tell with Bolt, he is either a tricky and deceitful commentator or lacks understanding. I'll let you decide.
As a start to an opinion piece this is pretty exceptional even by Bolt's woeful standards. Three absolute howlers from a climate denier propagandist in just four lines. Four out of four if you count that ridiculous first line.
How we laughed.
But, as is always the case with Bolt, the joy doesn't stop there.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GLOBAL WARMING AND GLOBAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURES
We now come into the bit where Andrew Bolt doesn't seem to understand that global average temperatures are not the same as global warming.
He goes after Prof Matthew England - the man he didn't interview - with the following line.
Two years ago, Professor Matthew England appeared on the ABC’s Q&A to attack Nick Minchin, the former Howard government industry minister and a sceptic. Minchin had raised a puzzling fact: the planet had not warmed further since 1998.
“Basically we’ve had a plateauing of temperature rise,” he said. CO2 emissions had soared, but “we haven’t had the commensurate rise in temperature that the IPCC predicted”.
“What Nick just said is actually not true. The IPCC projections from 1990 have borne out very accurately.”
In addition, the projections of later reports lie well within the range until around 2010 when they just start to move to the bottom of that range.
But the real question here is, does a dip in global average temperatures mean global warming has stopped?
Not at all, as Bolt should very well know, after all he writes more about global warming than any other journalist in Australia. Surely with that record he can't be ignorant of the truth.
Maybe he just needs a new prescription lens for his ideological glasses to see the science a bit more clearly. I'll let him pop off and get them while I explain where he has come unstuck.
A global warming lesson for Bolt (and News Corps subs)
Point 1: Of all the heat that is being absorbed into the atmosphere, at least 93% goes into the oceans (which explains this graph).
Point 2: Global average temperatures measure just the 2m above the surface of the Earth and 2 metres below the ocean. The tiny envelope where we live. The average depth of the troposphere is 17km and the ocean is even deeper. In fact the location where global average temperatures are measured makes up around 0.0002% of the atmosphere by area (and that may be an overestimate).
With this little bit of knowledge we can pretty safely assume that far less than 1% of the energy of global warming goes into that tiny 2m envelope of atmosphere, while the majority goes into the oceans, melting ice on land etc.
This means that unlike ocean heat content that takes up 93% of global warming, global average temperatures are very susceptible to natural variability. With this in mind, it is clear why global average temperatures wobble around with every decent sized volcanic eruption, rise in aerosols or ENSO phase. It explains why we have had longer "pauses" of global average temperatures in the past than we are currently experiencing (if we are experiencing one at all - more on that below).
So, by this measure, if global warming was continuing we would see it most clearly in global ocean heat content, which, as you see below, has a graph that looks like the side of a mountain.
As you might note, unlike Bolt, Mr Readfearn actually interviews scientists. That's what real journalists do, even if they are commentators.
The conclusion: we can have pauses, hiatuses or whatever you like to call them in global average temperatures but it does not mean that global warming has stopped.
COMBINING TWO UNRELATED IDEAS TO MAKE A NON-EXISTENT POINT
Now, let's get back to Bolt's article where he produces another one of his favourite conceits, linking two unrelated points within a sentence of each other and suggesting they mean something.
Here is a delightful example in a three sentence quote from his deniertribe that essentially suggests Prof Matt England got it wrong.
England later even accused sceptics of “lying that the IPCC projections are overstatements”.
So imagine my surprise when England admitted last week there had been a “hiatus” and “plateau in global average temperatures” after all. Startled readers asked England to explain how he could call sceptics liars two years ago for mentioning a “plateau” he now agreed was real.
Are IPCC projections overstatements? No they are not. We noted that earlier.
Is there a plateau on global average temperatures? That one is actually still up for discussion in scientific circles.
Tamino, for instance, thinks the idea of a plateau is a load of bollocks and makes a very convincing case.
The UK Met Office (pdf) reckons there has been one and discusses possible reasons.
In short, Bolt has used a classic lame journalist trick of taking two unrelated ideas:
- the (arguable) plateau in global average temperatures and
- the untrue suggestion by deniers that IPCC projections are overstated
and made them appear as a "single" linked idea.
But in truth, the two ideas exist separately.
The first comment about IPCC overstatements is little more than a thoroughly discredited thought bubble rolled out by deniers when they don't like the direction the facts are going.
The second is up for grabs in the scientific community. And as Matt England shows in his paper, which I'm sure Bolt didn't read, the extra heat going into the oceans alters the temperature projections downwards, although only temporarily. When the trade winds slow again, his work shows average global temperatures rapidly spike back to the centre of the original IPCC projections in AR4 (2007) in as little as eight years.
As we have noted before, global average temperatures are very susceptible to outside influences, which for the past 10 years have been negative - yet we have still managed two of the hottest years on record in 2005 and 2010.
THE UNREFERENCED QUOTE SUGGESTING BOLT INTERVIEW PROF ENGLAND
And then he tops this conflation of ideas by rolling out the following quote by Prof Matthew England.
“In terms of my comments on Q&A, I stand by them. Back then, the observations had not departed from the model projection range. In the past year or two, 2012 average and also 2013, that’s no longer the case.”
PROF MATTHEW ENGLAND
This may seem a small thing to most readers but by not ascribing a quote to its source, it sounds like Bolt talked directly to Prof England.
As an old journalist, I see this as borderline unethical behaviour.
It also causes others in the climate science peer group to question Prof England's judgement in speaking to Bolt, a known denier. Two people have directly contacted me questioning why he would speak to Bolt. Until I explained what had occurred they were wondering what the hell Prof England was doing.
How many people out there, who haven't been enlightened about Bolt's conduct, have thought the same?
But the Bolt festival of denier obfuscation doesn't stop there.
LET'S PLAY PICK YOUR EXPERT
To bolster his already spectacularly dismantled case, Bolt then seeks out a 100% reliable climate expert, former Family First senator and Heartland supporter Steve Fielding to point out that there is a hiatus in global warming.
What bull. In fact, five years ago the pause was already so obvious that Family First senator Steve Fielding confronted Penny Wong, Labor’s climate change minister.
“Global warming quite clearly over the last decade hasn’t been actually occurring,” Fielding said, and showed Wong the temperature charts. Wong and her advisers — chief scientist Penny Sackett and climate scientist Will Steffen — said he was wrong. Journalists mocked him. Except, of course, the warming pause is now so obvious even England now admits it.
Stephen Fielding has proved himself to be a world class global warming denier and - what a surprise - he has absolutely no expertise in the field. Sorry, but even Bolt knows a Master of Business and PhD in Electronic Engineering have nothing to do with climate science.
With experts like this, who needs amateurs.
And we must remind Bolt, yet again, a possible hiatus on global average temperatures is not a hiatus in global warming. Can he please get that simple fact right.
BOLT GETS IT RIGHT
Sadly, as Bolt notes, in an exceptional moment where he actually gets something right, the ABC reported Prof England's new paper on what may be causing the hiatus in global average temperatures as a paper on what is causing the hiatus in global warming.
The fact is, too many news outlets did exactly this - which shows a sad lack of understanding about what global warming really is.
AND THEN GETS IT WRONG - IT'S ALL ABOUT TRENDS
But Bolt doesn't stay with this moment of clarity long. He quickly falls back into his same foolish patterns of misunderstanding the data in the very next part of his clutter of assumptions and misrepresentations with this interesting pairing of paragraphs.
True, the warmists always have excuses and the ABC reports each without noting how the latest contradicts the last. Last week it reported England’s new paper explaining the warming pause: “Stronger than normal trade winds in the central Pacific are the main cause of a 13-year halt in global surface temperature increases ...”
England now claims those stronger winds somehow drove the missing warming into the deep ocean.
But only eight years ago the ABC reported the opposite: “The vast looping system of air currents that fuels Pacific trade winds ... has weakened by 3.5 per cent over the past 140 years and the culprit is probably human-induced climate change.”
The first paper, as he identifies, talks about trade winds over 140 years. So there has been a decline in trade wind strength of 3.5% over a century and a half. Fair enough.
Prof Matt England's paper talks about an increase in the past 20 years, noting that trade winds are now at the highest strength on the observational records. Observational records of trade winds go back about 93 years - at best.
One paper talks about a long term trend, the other talks about a recent rapid acceleration. The two can and do co-exist. You can have a 140 year decline of 3.5% and a recent 20 year increase to the highest strengths ever recorded without nullifying the research of either scientist.
The best comparison for this idea of variability despite a long term trend might be... oh, I don't know - global average temperatures, perhaps? As you can see with global average temperatures (among NASA's other key climate change indicators), you can have spikes up and and down but the trend is still the same - upwards, ever upwards.
Oh, and a note to Bolt, I chose NASA because they are an authoritative, reliable, peer reviewed resource.
TIME TO APOLOGISE
And now Bolt wants the ABC to apologise for reporting the facts? The ABC remains the most trusted news organisation in the country, because unlike Bolt they do their best to report facts and don't try two string to disparate ideas together to create a misleading point.
Despite Bolt's call, Robin Williams has no reason to apologise for a valid point, unlike the sceptics who linked Michael Mann's research to a child molester and accused him of fraud. I believe Bolt is no fan of Mann's hockeystick either.
The Climate Change Research Centre will not apologise for doing internationally recognised, high quality research in climate science. If only Bolt could do some high quality research for the articles he writes.
And Prof Andy Pitman won't apologise for pointing out the obvious, that sceptics like Bolt and funders like the Koch brothers have together poured money and time into what must be the largest communications budget to oppose science ever seen.
Bolt asks, where is my warming dude? It's in the oceans, as anyone with even a basic school education could understand.
Australians should demand some apologies from Andrew Bolt and News Corp.
I want Bolt to apologise for repeatedly maligning scientists while ignoring his own ignorance.
I want an apology for his lack of basic journalistic research around climate science.
I want an apology from Bolt for being a head cheerleader of anti-science propaganda that has the potential to undermine our economy, our environment and the future of the next generation.
I want an apology from News Corp sub-editors and editors who repeatedly allow his denier work to go out with no consideration for accuracy or what his campaign of willful denial means to our future. You are part of the problem.
I also want each of those editors and sub editors to look into the eyes of their children and young relatives and to apologise for the direction they are willfully taking us as it relates to climate change and then stop this deceit.
Until they can do that and start dealing with scientific facts, rather than fantasy belief systems, I struggle to understand how any of them can sleep well at night.