In what was an unprecedented move, Australia’s two leading climate science agencies, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, combined this week to release a statement of confidence in Australian climate change science. No doubt this “climate snapshot” will have the blogosphere buzzing and the skeptics up in arms but I for one am glad to see these institutions taking a stand.

Illustration: Bill Leak, The Australian

Only a few days ago around 200 scientists from all over the country descended on parliament house for face-to-face meetings and forums with politicians in Canberra. Everything from new research on facial tumours in the Tasmanian Devil to concerns over biodiversity loss were brought to the attention of the folks on the hill. Not surprisingly, climate change figured prominently and especially the need for politicians and the public to focus on the evidence based science.

Interesting then, that on the very same day, the Chairman of the ABC, Maurice Newman, would publicly criticise journalists over their lack of critical coverage of climate science. On the need for critical coverage of all topics we wholeheartedly agree. The media should provide balance. But this should not be balance for balance’s sake.

It should be balance subjected the most rigorous standards of quality available.

For science, quality means research published in peer reviewed journals.

The process of peer review is almost unique to the sciences (including many of the social sciences). Scientists review and criticise each others’ work before they make it public. It is a form of quality control and when it comes to science, it is the gold standard of twaddle detection.

The peer review process allows very complicated research to be reviewed by people with enough skill, competence and knowledge in that area to sort the wheat from the chaff. Just as few of us would trust the treatment of a malignant cancer to a psychiatrist, similarly not all scientists are experts in climate change science.

So where Maurice Newman and I agree is that the media should be running stories on genuine quality science that contradicts the mainstream view, but the key word is quality.

As one scientist attending the Science meets Parliament meeting put it: “The media, and the ABC above all should report any genuine good science that contradicts the accepted view, but not give credence to claims which are not subject to quality control”.

In all areas of science, research that both agrees and disagrees with the consensus is subjected to the same peer review process.

When Australia’s Nobel Prize winning biologist Barry Marshall first suggested that it was bacteria and not stress causing stomach ulcers, his work was in complete disagreement with the scientific consensus at the time – but he subjected his research to the peer review process and the consensus changed.

Australia’s scientists want that same process applied to climate science.

And remember, climate change has not always been the accepted view: it emerged in the 1980s as a challenge to the dominant view, but through the peer review process has now accumulated a vast array of supporting evidence, to become accepted.

Of course the debates raging on the topic of climate change are not just about climate science. There are many social, political and economic issues and many voices, dissenting or otherwise that deserve an airing and it would be ridiculous to limit journalists to only talking to climate scientists in this debate. But when the scientific evidence underpinning climate change is up for discussion it is this quality control that tells us who and what is credible.

So is critical journalism about balance above all else or is it about ensuring that there is quality reporting on controversial issues? 

Let’s see how this latest statement, backed by quality peer reviewed science, is treated.

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    • Eric says:

      05:35am | 16/03/10

      This article is an example of why Maurice Newman was right.

      You talk about peer-reviewed science, but you fail to mention the Climategate scandal. One of the many troubling aspects of this scandal was the revelation that the peer review process had itself been corrupted by climate change advocates in the science community.

      Until this is widely acknowledged and corrected, the public can have no confidence in what scientists say about controversial issues.

    • iansand says:

      06:21am | 16/03/10

      Gosh.  I thought “Climategate” was undergoing a type of peer review as we speak.  There are at least a couple of inquiries under way into its implications.

    • Eric says:

      06:44am | 16/03/10

      ... and yet Climategate doesn’t rate a mention in this new bit of propaganda from the CSIRO/BOM.

      They’re responding to it, but they don’t address any of the issues it raised. Why?

    • persephone says:

      06:45am | 16/03/10

      The reason the media hasn’t paid much attention to “Climate gate” is because there wasn’t anything there to pay attention to.

      Let’s recap: someone went to the considerable trouble (and broke quite a few laws to do so) of hacking in to the email database of an entire organisation.

      Having done that, they’re not just going to walk away saying, “Oh, there’s nothing there. Major bummer.”

      So they seized on a couple (out of the thousands) of emails, took them out of context, distorted their meaning and ta da! you have a scandal.

      This is why no one’s paying any attention to it, Eric. It’s not a major conspiracy by world governments to keep little mushrooms in the dark. It’s a beat up which even the media have the sense to understand has no substance.

      And yes, as iansand says, there are several inquiries on at the moment, so if there really is anything spooky there, we’ll be told.

    • Eric says:

      07:12am | 16/03/10

      Persephone,

      It wasn’t just about “a couple of emails”. In fact, one of the most important aspects wasn’t an email at all, but a series of comments in computer code showing that the data and results had been fudged.

      If your claim was true, the enquiries of which you speak wouldn’t be happening.

      Other issues of concern included apparent attempts to evade FOI requests, and the subversion of the peer review process.

      Your claims show that either you are completely ignorant of the nature of Climategate - and the many other scandals that followed in its wake - or you are being disingenuous.

    • iansand says:

      07:46am | 16/03/10

      Don’t be daft, Eric.  Those comments were clearly expressions of frustration from someone trying to unravel the code a couple of decades ago.  It was part of the process of testing the model.

      Each time this misrepresentation appears it makes it more likely that ther charlatans that are feeding it to you are misleading you.

    • get "polly" staff stooges or "Galahs" off the net says:

      07:48am | 16/03/10

      Have you noticed Eric, how desperate the loony, left, red/green/labour coalition is, to give “wall street” an ETS?

      http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/archivos_pdf/nonedarecallit_conspiracy.pdf

      Persephone, care to explain your way out of this one? A book written in 1971 makes fascinating reading in this post GFC age.

      regards the formersnag.

    • Sherlock says:

      08:57am | 16/03/10

      persephone says: The reason the media Han’t paid much attention to “Climate gate” is because there wasn’t anything there to pay attention to.

      Statements like these and the article above does more for the sceptic movement than anything the sceptics themselves can do.

      As a result of the climategate emails one of, if not the, biggest names in climate science has been forced to stand aside form his post as director of the most prominent climate change science institutions while he defends himself against allegations of scientific fraud.

      Yet alarmists like persephone et al quite calmly come out and say there nothing happening. It just assuming people are idiots.

      The mainstream media’s absolute refusal to report, not only on climategate, but a number of scandals since this all started is only pushing more and more people to the sceptic side of the argument.

      People eventually realise when they’re being stitched up and when they do the backlash is quick and intense. As people get to the blogs they start to ask themselves why they haven’t been reading about what must be the biggest scientific scandal ever in their daily newspaper. The more they read the more confused they become about why the media has ignored what is a sensational and obviously newsworthy story.

      Sooner they realise what they have been getting from their morning newspaper isn’t news but opinion, dogma and hyperbole. It’s then they get angry. Many years ago I realised that global warming had gone past being a science and was becoming a religion. Scientists challenged the dogma at the risk of their careers and the treatment of these scientists was on a par with the inquisition. This made me ask myself what these people have to hide and when I found out I joined the ranks of the sceptics.

    • Joe says:

      11:34am | 16/03/10

      I agree with Persephone, the hype surrounding ‘climategate’ doesn’t add up to much.  Really it was simply the debate and communication between members of a single organization about the data they had collected and nowhere in those emails was a ‘smoking gun’ that pointed to fraud or an attempt by the scientists to deceive anyone.  It simply was debate about the data, arguably and to an extent, demonstrating the peer review process at work, where arguments are made and even questioned, to ensure they are valid.

      Likewise there was no suggestion the head of the organization stepped down because of such fraud, but rather over the controversy surrounding the theft of their email archives generated.  The same would be likely to happen to any government department or private organization, if such a theft occurred and their own internal and private records of communication were made public, someone simply has to take responsibility.

      I personally see it as perhaps being similar to what might occur in many financial institutions, who also deal with lots of data, to try and predict future outcomes, analyze trends and offer advice.  There will always be some debate over the exact numbers, what they mean and how to analyze them, with of course questions raised and even likely to be mistakes made, yet no one is suggesting the entire theory and field of economics is a fraud, or attempting to deceive the entire world.  Even though there are obviously some specific examples of those that are fraudulent, such as Lehman brothers or Bernie Madoff, it does not mean every bank around the world, or every stock broker, is also a fraud and the entire theory of economics is to be dismissed.

      Likewise you can’t dismiss the entire field of Climate Science, simply based on a few select examples, that might contradict what the vast majority of the science suggests.

    • Nathan H says:

      03:43pm | 16/03/10

      Eric is on the money again. This article ostensibly deals with the red-herring argument of peer review. The Climategate scandal is so significant because it goes to the issue of trust in the peer review process, and the honesty of those who participate in it.

      Before Climategate, Lyndal’s arguments would carry some weight. After climategate, we know that the BOM data is rubbish. We know that it’s not even publicly available in its undoctored form. We know that much of the original data has been deleted by people who produce much of the AGW-supporting papers, and that these same FOI law breaking, dataset hiding, email and dataset deleting charlatans have so abused the peer-review process of climate journals like “Nature”, that we can’t assume that any of the papers published have been vetted by anyone other than staunch supporters and the authors themselves. With the credibility of the process, the data and the people shredded, why should we trust the BOM and CSIRO when they commission a ‘meta-analysis’ of these same people’s research? The abuse of Meta-analysis is in itself a worthy topic, as we have seen with the IPCC AR4 report.

      Lyndal simply loves the CSIRO and BOM’s stance because their stand supports her existing world view, not because they have any credibility left.

    • Nathan says:

      04:03pm | 16/03/10

      Joe says: Likewise you can’t dismiss the entire field of Climate Science, simply based on a few select examples, that might contradict what the vast majority of the science suggests.

      Firslt, AGW proponents should be careful not to be so arrogant as to suggest the team they happen to be backing somehow IS climate science, or that science is some sort of democracy. Secondly, all new evidence must be taken into consideration. If there is any evidence that those who they so revere are being dishonest, then we should treat their conclusions with the utmost scepticism. That’s the whole point of the scientific method! A fact is a fact, no matter how many people wish it wasn’t so, how few people noticed it, or which venerable institutions are telling us to ignore it.

      Galileo was wrong according to both majority scientific opinion and his peers who reviewed his work. He was also absolutely, scientificly correct.

    • Eric says:

      04:49pm | 16/03/10

      If warmists have to lie about Climategate, it shows that the have no answers.

      An honest acknowledgement of the issues, and an undertaking to rectify the problems with the science, could help to make climatology reputable again.

      But the outright denial and lies we are getting from the alarmists do not impress. These responses only give ammunition to skeptics.

    • iansand says:

      12:47pm | 17/03/10

      Gosh Eric.  If lying about anything means the whole thing should be dismissed I’m surprised that any sceptics dare show their heads.

    • WHR says:

      05:57am | 16/03/10

      Scientists are all well and good claiming that “we should take action on xyz” since their computer models tells them that we should. Their computer models should also tell them that action by Australia alone is literally insignificant to the global climate since we are 1.4% of global emissions and falling.

      Any cuts should only be done as part of cuts by all countries. Remember China builds 2 coal fired power stations each week, and the UN wants us to lower standard of living while they do that? Give me a break.

    • Tim says:

      07:54am | 16/03/10

      Computer models?

      The models have shown to under-estimate what is happening.  If anything IPCC AR4 was way too conservative.

      IIRC, it didn’t take into account Siberian and Canadian CO4 forcing.

      Things are going to be a lot worse than the models predict.

      Risk management, much?

    • Tim says:

      07:52am | 16/03/10

      Does Monckton present any peer reviewed research?

      Does he participate in the process? Or is he so prejudiced based on whatever reasons he couldn’t bring himself to do so.

      This whole argument about GW/CC/AGW being a belief system is absolutely hilarious.

      There’s nothing to believe in. You either acknowledge scientific theory, best practise and look at what is actually happening, and come to a commensensical conclusion, or you constantly look in the shadows for things that aren’t there.

      Some of you ought to go do some serious reading: Tamino’s blog is a good start.

    • Fog Badger says:

      08:05am | 16/03/10

      Tim, the fact that the climate models apparently underestimate what is happening means the models are wrong. And that’s all.

    • Charles says:

      06:31am | 16/03/10

      It is fairly obvious that the author has no understanding of the peer review process.  In fact, when you get peer review by ‘mates’ as what seem to be standard operating procedure in the climate sciences, you don’t get too much at all.

      Quite funny when Phil Jones of CRU fame was dragged before a public enquiry and when asked if anyone ever asked to see his raw data, maintained that “no one ever did”.  This lack of curiosity by ‘mates’ has let a lot of rubbish into the system, and this is what is called peer review.

      So, I don’t think I would be hanging the fate of billions onto this level of peer review.

    • monkeytypist says:

      09:46am | 16/03/10

      Charles I look forward to reading your scientific literature in the appropriate professional journal.  I’m glad you understand the mechanism at least.  How many papers have you submitted to peer review, out of interest?

    • persephone says:

      06:52am | 16/03/10

      WHR

      Do you apply the same standards to water use? Or do you follow the restrictions, understanding that is everyone does so, the water will last longer?

      And of course it needs global action, which is why we’re looking at an ETS and why we went to Copenhagen.

    • David C says:

      07:30am | 16/03/10

      So then if Al Gore is alloweed to “communicate” peer reviewed science is Lord Monckton allowed to “communicate ” peer reviewed science as well and will they both get equal treatment?
      If Tim Flannery (a marsupial scientist) is allowed to “communciate peer reviewed science is Bob Carter (a geologist) allowed to as well and will he also be given equal treatment?

    • iansand says:

      07:42am | 16/03/10

      That would be fine if Lord Monckton had any to communicate.

    • boy on a bike says:

      10:32am | 16/03/10

      Monckton is a mathematician.

      Gore is a theologian.

    • monkeytypist says:

      12:08pm | 16/03/10

      Sure; and then we’ll listen to the actual climatologists, who by a margin greater than 99 to 1 believe that anthropogenic global warming is a demonstrable and clear phenomenon.  Oh, and every major independent science organisation around the globe.  And then we will award the Nobel Prize to someone who, to their very very great credit and popular acclaim, can authoritatively disprove such an overwhelming scientific consensus.

    • Tim says:

      07:48am | 16/03/10

      Climategate was a, hmmm, how can one say, beat up.

      This is a fantastic post, and the right wing loony bleating in response only serves to strengthen your argument.

      Nature carries no political will, and so, we see plants and animals simply responding to warmth by migrating north or southward to the polls or upward to the skies, and glaciers etc melting.

      Anyone wishing to deny what is happening is either very simple in the head or up to mischief.

    • Ryan says:

      09:14am | 16/03/10

      @Tim: please don’t dismiss “climategate”, regardless of what you think “climategate” was a travesty and the FACT that the university of East Anglia were fudging figures “hiding the decline” and withholding data has had a much larger impact on the average public’s trust in these so-called scientists. Whether you subscribe to the theories of human induced global warming or you do not, if AGW turns out to be something other than a computer modeled graph with dodgy code behind then I fear that these “scientists” (I use this term loosely) have set the AGW pious message back many many years, anyone dismissing this fact does not bode well for their grasp on reality and credibility in my opinion.
      This climategate scandal would have been better played out in the public eye, at least then it would not be perceived as being a major cover up, then again, perhaps it was.

    • catter says:

      08:06am | 16/03/10

      Persephone et al miss the point that Systemic bias and sytemic failure to be objective have occurred here. Climatgate is not about one or even a few emails, but a deliberate and systemic failure to follow scientific principles amongst key leaders.
      One ought go to the BOM’s own website.
      Run a tempertaure graph for 120 years over Sydney, Observatory Hill. There Is warming, no question, assuming the figures have not been ‘normalised”  as per Climategate. But then do the same for Nobby Head at Newcastle, not surrounded by additional thermal mass. None. Then do the same for Dubbo, for Wellington NSW. No Global Warming Whatsoever over 100 years.
      Unlike ICCC I am open to persuasion either way, but the facts are not so clear to me which leads me to question the credibility of those “scientists” like Penny who say “the science is in”, it is heresy to question it.

    • Luke says:

      08:33am | 16/03/10

      “Then do the same for Dubbo, for Wellington NSW. No Global Warming Whatsoever over 100 years.”
      Global warming doesn’t occur in a single town, it occurs… well… globally (that’s why they call it “Global” Warming). Your logic is flawed.

    • boy on a bike says:

      10:34am | 16/03/10

      Luke

      Some of us find it a bit odd that the cities are getting hotter, but not the rural areas. It might be more accurate to call it “global metropolitan warming”. All that concrete and asphalt trapping heat all day does have an impact on temperature, without a doubt.

    • Sarah says:

      08:22am | 16/03/10

      This article makes an excellent point. Scientists need to back up their opinions with research and data that survives the peer review process, and articles on climate change should undergo a similar process.

      At the moment there are 97% of climate scientists worldwide actively publishing papers that support the consensus on man made global warming. Why not collaborate with scientists specialising in climate change on these articles?

    • Sherlock says:

      09:13am | 16/03/10

      One of the tactics the alarmists use is that they try and convince you that the science is settled and there are only a few dissenting scientists. That tactic actually worked for some time but the rise of scepticism has meant that scientists are now more confident in speaking out.

      Lyndal pushes the peer review process which although seriously flawed at least should give some credence to a papers veracity. However like most alarmists Lyndal implies that all the peer reviewed papers support the theory of climate change. Well like most things alarmists say, a little bit of digging shows that what they say isn’t strictly true. There are thousands of peer reviewed papers that, if not directly challenging the climate change theory, at least cast doubt over various parts of the theory.

      For Lyndal’s benefit here’s 500 or so to start her off.

      http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

    • Realist says:

      11:10am | 16/03/10

      “When Australia’s Nobel Prize winning biologist Barry Marshall first suggested that it was bacteria and not stress causing stomach ulcers, his work was in complete disagreement with the scientific consensus at the time – but he subjected his research to the peer review process and the consensus changed.”

      No! What happened was that he was so frustrated with the response he drank the bacteria himself and became violently ill!

      THe same must be done in a lab somewhere, you can recreate and calibrate earth’s atmosphere EXACTLY and work out how much of the warming is due to CO2, my guess is, bupkiss!!  But I’m just a scientist who wants to test a situation to identify a thermal constants contribution to heat capacitance, not some climate tea-leaf reader who wants to get a computer to predict what the beach will be like in 400 years..

    • monkeytypist says:

      12:12pm | 16/03/10

      You’re right Sherlock.  I’m sure not one of the qualified professionals in NASA, the CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meterology, or any one of dozens of other scientific organisations. *really* understands those papers.  That’s why they’ve all released official pronouncements supporting the existence of anthropogenic global warming.  But wait - the same people who contribute to these bodies are the people who participate in peer review!  Wait a second. . .

    • The Duck says:

      10:42am | 16/03/10

      Just out of curiosity. If you do not accept the current scientific consensus on climate change at the moment, then what do you require for your opinion to change? Or in other words, can you present an example of what evidence would convince you that human induced climate change is most likely a problem, and does require human intervention?

    • Tom says:

      01:48pm | 16/03/10

      That’s just it, isn’t it? Seemingly the only real way many will be convinced it is happening is by observing it after it actually happens.

    • Greg Locock says:

      07:48pm | 16/03/10

      I would need to see a physics base model of climate that does not use historically based fudge factors for things like water vapour (4 times more important than CO2), and that also includes physics based feedback models for the CO2 cycle.

      Currently the models you trust are based on fudge factors derived from historical observations, because (quote) clouds are too complicated.

      These models probably have a reasonable grasp on the effect of atmospheric CO2 on some sort of global temperature, but being able to predict 20% of the problem, while the other 80% could be of any magnitude or even sign (quote from Ramanathan’s Volvo lecture) is absurd.

      That is, a leading climate scientist is saying that if the temperature increases by 1.4 degrees C due to CO2 doubling, he cannot predict whether the net effect due to water will lower it or raise it by several degrees. And is not prepared to even commit to a direction.

      FWIW I think Lomberg is on the right track, we are better off coping with climate change than trying to guess what is causing it.

    • The Duck says:

      06:45am | 18/03/10

      Is such a model feasible at the moment? If not and human induced climate change is at least still a possibility, then how would you suggest we validate or invalidate the theory with certainty. If there is no way to determine the truth for sure, and we are already committed to the cost of adaptation, then shouldn’t we commit to the extra, comparatively small cost of CO2 reduction, which still could save us the full cost of adaptation in the future.

    • Max says:

      10:44am | 16/03/10

      Having worked in scientific research for more than 30 yrs. I can tell you that research scientists are overwhelmingly cautious and conservative in their work methodology and this is often reflected to their opinion on political matters in the tea room.

      It is absurd that they are being accused as leftist greeny co-conspirators and kind of ironic that they are now being eviscerated at every opportunity by the very people they would normally vote for in an election. It will be interesting how this vitriolic betrayal of their natural belief in conservative politics will play out in the future.

    • S.L says:

      02:32pm | 16/03/10

      Max having worked in scientific research are you now a Union rep? I’ve read your two paragraph contribution several times and still can’t work out what you are saying!
      Who is accusing your former workmates in such a way? Obviously by your remarks they believe in man made climate change. Anyone with a differing view usually accuses them of smudgeing figures to continue their grants, not of being leftist, greeny co-conspirators.
      Finally why would a scientist normally vote conservative?

    • Eric says:

      04:56pm | 16/03/10

      Max, if you are a research scientist, then you will understand exactly why Climategate was such a blow to the credibility of climatologists.

      Perhaps you would be so kind as to explain the reasons to the Climategate denialists?

    • iansand says:

      03:41pm | 16/03/10

      I think what Max is saying is that, in his experience, the broad run of scientists are not greenie lefties but tend to the opposite side.  Notwithstanding that tendency they accept that there is a significant chance that the current warming is anthropogenic and are not impressed by the hysteria with which their careful and painstaking work has been met.

      Why would you assume that a scientist is a leftist greenie?  Have you ever met one?

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      04:18am | 19/03/10

      hello need some help !
      my name is Anna Karamyan , i’m a student (journalist) ,, i have a hard time with one of my articles the topic of which is -if the Global changes have any influance on tectonic movement and if yes HOW? could you please help me to find an expert who can give me some direction
      Thanks
      Regards
      Anna

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