Climate debate by TV text poll – no contest

By Peter Griffin 09/12/2009 18


TVNZ’s Close Up show last night reverted to the reliable old Wishart vs Morgan set-up to frame a piece about Copenhagen and whether humans are contributing to climate change.

You may recall a similar match-up on climate sceptic Leighton Smith’s Newstalk ZB show around the time Morgan launched his book Poles Apart.

Only this one had a bit of a twist – a text-in poll allowing viewers to weigh in after the ten minute segment with their own verdict on climate change – and pay 75c per text for the privilege.

The sequence of events was rather predictable – Ian Wishart, drawing on all the training from his TV days rattled through a well-rehearsed catalogue of sceptics’ arguments focusing particularly on climategate and the leaked CRU emails. Gareth Morgan sat in the studio in Wellington unwilling to engage Wishart and address his conspiracy theory that climate change is just a carefully manufactured scam to line the pockets of scientists all over the world.

“I’m not going to die in the ditch fighting on that stuff, because I see it on both sides frankly,” said Morgan.

“I’m only interested in the science and what the balance of evidence says,” he added.

However the science didn’t really get much of a look-in and Morgan’s pragmatic approach, however rational, didn’t convince Close Up viewers asked who they believed. When the poll result came in later in the show the results were:

close up

Wishart: 77%

Morgan: 23%

A not altogether surprising result. You have Morgan, fairly laid-back  and non-confrontational, a disconnected image appearing via telelink talking about the “balance of evidence” and the science – fairly dry stuff. You have Wishart sitting next to host Mark Sainsbury in the studio – forceful, choosing his soundbites carefully, stoking up his theory of corruption and subterfuge in the science system – fairly intriguing and emotive stuff. No contest really, which is why the Wishart vs Morgan set-up is a waste of valuable prime time real estate. No one really learns anything, existing beliefs are just reinforced.

However, Wishart did let something slip on Close Up last night, something quite revealing:

Mark Sainsbury: If we do nothing there’s a hell of a lot at stake.

Ian Wishart: The same can be said for belief in God.

Wishart usually keeps his religious views out of his climate sceptic campaign, but he couldn’t resist here. Why does it matter? Because anyone who really does believe in the Creator and that the world is going to end with the Last Judgement would find it difficult to believe that human beings can steer their own destiny with the aid of science…


18 Responses to “Climate debate by TV text poll – no contest”

  • I have a hard time believing that the presentation of the material or the staging of the speakers would have made any difference to the outcome of the poll. I would expect that anyone who actually believes in scientific investigation of the topic wouldn’t be interested in paying the 75c to say so. On the other hand, viewers who believe that hypotheses should be voted on would probably pay much more for their right to have a say.

  • You may well be right, plus there is the Close Up demographic to consider. My parents watch it every night and they don’t believe we are contributing to climate change. They listen to people like Leighton Smith who are very good at making rational-sounding arguments against it. I think the poll result is symptomatic of the problems faced in conveying the science of climate change – the sceptics have a better sounding yarn to spin because it taps into the conflict-loving, anti-authoritarian streak we all harbour deep down…

  • Yes, Wishart appears much more rational on TV than he Is on blog discussions. Not a good format or choice of people.

    Mind you I wonder what public attitudes to science are these days. People are certainly influnced to perceived threats to their back pockets.

  • This poll just means more “antis” were prepared to waste $0.75, nothing more..Given the format and time, it could have been two monkeys talking and the outcome would have been similar.

    Having a few spare hours recently, and feeling bored, I’ve trawled around the local blogs winding up the natives, and it’s very interesting how polarising the climate change debate has become.

    Given those heartfelt responses, it’s not surprising how quickly people become negative about the future, and fail to acknowledge that reality is a broad spectrum. Both sides are often unjustifiably negative about the future, and the poll probably partly reflects that, rather than deep-seated skepticism and unwillingness to make changes.

    Most people who read media reports understand that energy use will change, because we should contribute to fixing an obvious pollution issue. Most will expect some cost, but it have to be equitable and not wasteful.. Recent media reports of ‘unfair” burdens, freebies to despots in the developing world, and doubt in the science have made many people cautious, but not truly entrenched antis..

    The opportunity to change how we use energy is there for the taking, and a whole lot of innovative and effective ideas will transform our use of energy over the next decade. Scientists and engineers are approaching another age similar to the mid-19th century where challenging problems were solved by innovative application of good scientific knowledge. I’m confident that many NZ scientists will be in the vanguard of the movement.

    Many changes will happen because there are good economic reasons, but others will be because some innovators have discovered superior ways to meet people’s needs. Humanity has demonstrated an amazing resilience to use mysterious technology ( eg cellphones, computers ) and to solve some environmental problems ( CFCs, asbestos, etc. ). It will be the people who didn’t participate in the poll who will carry us forward.

  • Peter, interesting attempt to analyse, but I’ll mark you C-minus for research.

    If you’d bothered to check TBR you’d have seen I elaborated on the God bit. My reason for raising it was amusement that AGW believers are essentially trying to use Pascal’s Wager as a basis for taking action even if the science is not settled.

    You evidently either don’t know about Pascal’s Wager, or you have simply failed to see the irony of the situation.

    As I’ve made the point elsewhere, including to Ken, religious beliefs are irrelevant in the climate debate unless one happens to be a Gaian – of which there are quite a few in the Green movement and the UN.

    Bill McKibben is a Sunday School teacher. Al Gore is a professing Christian. The AGW movement is not above using religious symbolism and analogies when it suits.

    The difference is, the real Pascal’s Wager costs nothing but a soul. The price of gambling US$145 trillion on climate change and adaptation, only to find out the Chicken Littles were wrong, is a very different beastie.

    Gareth Morgan is a nice guy, but ultimately he lost for this reason: Science is not decided by ‘consensus’ or ‘the weight of evidence’, politics is.

    Once upon a time the majority of scientists fervently believed in alchemy, and in a whole host of other things that turned out to be utterly wrong. If scientists are thinking a ‘vote’ determines the truth or otherwise of a theory then sorry, they ain’t scientists.

    NIWA’s pathetic whingeing about facing hard questions or challenges from skeptics, and frankly your aiding and abetting of such by muting a news conference, illustrate an unwillingness to face real testing of the theory.

    In this respect, in another little piece of irony, climate scientists and their cheerleaders have cast themselves in the historic role of the Catholic Church, with skeptics as the Galileo’s who must be silenced.

    There. Now that’s some religious symbolism for you to chew on.

  • Ian, I certainly agree with you that “religious beliefs are irrelevant in the climate debate” but my point was that there is plenty of evidence to suggest you have an inability to separate the two things – as witnessed by your very revealing comment during the Close Up piece.

    The Ian Wishart who wrote the Paradise Conspiracy and who spoke quite convincingly about investigate journalism in front of my journalism class in the late nineties is not the same Ian Wishart running Investigate magazine and writing books like Eve’s Bite and the Divinity Code. Something happened along the way, a sort of rebirth I imagine. That’s fine, power to you, but it has forever put you at odds with science, whether you are examining evolution or climate change or anything in between.

  • You see Peter, that’s again a C- for research. I’ll wager you have not personally read The Divinity Code, or if you have that you didn’t understand it.

    If I was wanting to do a Gore or a McKibben, I’d be lizard-braining the Book of Revelations like they do and preaching the end is nigh through climate change as well.

    But I’m not, so I’d say I’ve happily separated out the issues. I’ve explained my use of the comment on Close-Up, but it is still over your head it appears.

    I’m not sure how you see religion as “forever at odds with science”. What sort of inanity is that? Science is the study of natural phenomena. Insofar as we can establish cause and effect for natural phenomena, science is perfectly valid for explaining the how. It has fundamentally failed to explain the why, and indeed I venture that such concepts are outside the realm of science anyway as long as it requires by definition that first causes must be natural.

    If you want to test your critical thinking skills and take me down over The Divinity Code, I suggest you actually attack it scientifically, showing me where my statements or conclusions are provably wrong. No one in NZ has done that, and the last person who tried to negatively review it honestly in this fashion gave up after chapter 3, conceding my arguments were good much to his annoyance.

    The published review of Eve’s Bite by John Roughan of the Herald was a fabrication – he pulled Gareth Renowden’s trick of misquoting me, deliberately, to set up a strawman arguement. In Roughan’s case he actually inserted words into a quote that weren’t there.

    Instead of waving vague generalities around by way of ad hom attack, how about actually reading the books you are talking about? Perrott can’t do it. Renowden can’t do it. I welcome a takedown of Divinity Code. Bring it on. Prove me wrong.

    But as I have repeatedly said, religion has nothing to do with climate change or science, for that matter. It is not I who has difficulty separating the issues, it is you and the aforementioned.

    Ken waves around “conspiracy theorist” repeatedly like a deranged parrot. What conspiracy theory is he talking about? The Winebox? Proven. Agent Orange manufactured and later buried around New Plymouth? Proven – I had a director of the company brief me and explain how it went down. I forget how many investigative stories I’ve done that have been utterly correct. We can all make mistakes, but my accuracy rate is far higher than other comparable media.

    Maybe Ken is calling, like Renowden, the idea of a global government agenda behind climate change “a conspiracy theory”. Well, they’d be a couple of numbnuts because it is actually there in black and white in the UN’s own scoping documents and the Copenhagen draft.

    “New ways of enhancing democratic representation and citizenship at world level should be encouraged…Member states should make way for an enhanced role for parliamentarians in global governance…At some point, contemplation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly will be needed to complement the UN General Assembly, where the states are represented. Such a development should be supported by the gradual emergence of a truly global citizenship…International democracy is feasible and politically necessary. Such an Assembly should be more than just another institution. It would have to become a building block of a new, democratically legitimate, world order.”

    I mean, seriously, do you guys actually do ANY research before taking a contrary position against anything I say?

    The class I came and lectured in the late nineties was full of aspiring journalists Peter. Sadly, some have graduated merely into PR. No journalist would shut down inconvenient questions at a news conference where it was billed as “all your questions will be answered”.

    Sorry mate, your credibility and that of the Science Media Centre took a big hit the moment your ‘independence’ was exposed as a thin veneer.

    Global warming is your own “religion”. You find me uncomfortable to deal with because I threaten your belief system. That’s fine. Just don’t pretend you are objective.

  • Ian, I just read the John Roughan review you referred to. Very interesting, particularly this quote he took from Eve’s Bite: “He (Dawkins) poses the idea that someone must have designed the designer … He forgets one very important little fact. Time. Time only exists within the four walls of our universe. Dawkins, sitting inside the universe, assumes that the laws of physics, chemistry, biology and time must apply to God as well … ”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10437680

    As Roughan says, “enough already”. Arguing with you is pointless, Ian. I didn’t say that religion is forever at odds with science, I know a number of scientists who are religious. I said whatever transformation you went through has put you forever at odds with science as the above quote demonstrates.

    And for the record, we muted you in the climate science briefing because you had asked your two questions and we had 25 journalists in the room and online waiting patiently to ask their questions – something you seemed to have little awareness of or respect for. Despite what you may think, it is not all about you.

    I think the fact that the scientists David Wratt and Tim Naish took the time to answer fully your remaining questions via email and your blog says a lot about their willingness to engage and explain the science. Your following that up by attacking Dr Wratt and colleagues personally and professionally over the NIWA temperature data speaks volumes more about you.

  • Peter…now go away and read Eve’s Bite or The Divinity Code in context. Roughan’s review was a crock.

    Dawkins got skewered on his ‘who designed the Designer” argument by the Divinity Code – you would do well to read it.

    As for your actions in the news conference – I got cut off mid sentence. It was an embarrassing question for Reisinger who had just done the big presentation about animal extinctions, and my question quoted an Oxford biologist telling the climate community to pull their heads in because of their stupid alarmist claims about extinctions.

    Of course NIWA had no answer – there it was caught in the headlights making stupid alarmist claims.
    No wonder I got cut.

    Science Media Centre – home of ‘unbiased’ and ‘independent’ advice to the media, then cut me from the future alerts list. Like I said Peter, you are merely a paid PR disciple of the new religion. Journalists don’t run from hard questions. That’s why I have a blog where anyone under the sun can challenge me. The ultimate peer review.

    The questions were not fully answered, by the way, which I will return to in due course.

    NIWA then got caught using invalid statistical techniques as “international best practice” and deservedly got dumped on by me from a great height.

  • Wishart says: …he pulled Gareth Renowden’s trick of misquoting me, deliberately, to set up a strawman arguement

    For the record: the quotes from Air Con that I used in my review were taken directly from the book. No misquotation involved, though it seems that Ian is happy to claim misquotation on radio and in comments around the web. I wonder why?

    Wishart continues: NIWA then got caught using invalid statistical techniques as “international best practice” and deservedly got dumped on by me from a great height.

    This is just about the reverse of the truth. The “invalid statistical techniques” were used by Treadgold and the NZ CSC, not NIWA. One might expect an investigative reporter to have noticed that. But perhaps that would have been inconvenient…

  • For the record Gareth, I have a Statement of Claim awaiting final sign off that sees things a little differently. I did give you an opportunity to correct but you chose to reject it. While both you and Roughan ‘misquoted’, I use the word against you in terms of overall context, whereas Roughan simply inserted words that weren’t there. Two shades of ‘misquoting’.

    And much as I hate to burst your bubble, if you have an issue with CSC take it up with them, but my interview with David Wratt and NIWA’s press release on the Kelburn/Thorndon guesstimate took the story in a new direction as far as I’m concerned. NIWA’s adoption of an Airport/Kelburn offset for the never measured Thorndon/Kelburn figures is bad science, and bad statistical analysis. And if that’s the level of expertise in NIWA on how to analyse sites then truly they need a whole lot more dumped on them.

  • More threats, Ian?

    You clearly have problems with comprehension. A “misquote” is an inaccurate quote, one wrong in important respects. I accurately transcribed your words, in every quote I used from your book.

    I presume you mean that I quoted you “out of context”, or in some other respect misrepresented your words. I dealt with that in this post, and I am confident that what I wrote accurately reflects the views you expressed in Air Con. In fact, a full record of your blog posts and comments there and elsewhere (including Amazon.com, where you claim that I reviewed your book without reading it!), would amply support the points I made.

    And as for the NIWA figures, it interesting to note that you are happy to promote and support a “report” which was statistically naive to the point of ignorance, and to continue Treadgold and the NZ CSC’s smears of NIWA. From your blog today:

    What Al Gore and NZ’s NIWA have in common:

    They make things up.

    Hard on the heels of NIWA’s highly dodgy temperature manipulation, one of its top climate scientists Jim Renwick has been caught on New Zealand’s discredited Science Media Centre website trying to claim the killer Australian bushfires were caused by climate change:

    Of course, Renwick made no such suggestion. He said:

    The climate in 2009 show a mix of events, underlining the effects of climate extremes upon humanity, from the Victorian bush fires, to drought in China, and heat waves in Europe and India.

    And you quoted him in full in your own post! Not a misquote, but a comprehension failure on your part, perhaps? Whether Renwick or NIWA consider your editorialising defamatory is a matter for them, but I would suggest in light of your willingness to threaten me with action, that pots and kettles are in a discussion about colour.

  • Ian, you are welcome to sign up for our alerts via email or RSS – but you are not on the list for embargoed material. When you have no respect for the Science Media Centre, the scientists we work with and science in general, why would you respect embargoes on scientific papers, particularly climate science papers?

    Still, check out Sciencemediacentre.co.nz – everything we have ever published is there – over 500 releases, 100 podcasts and for registered journalists, hundreds of research papers.

    On the other matter, I’ve flicked through Eve’s Bite and Divinity Code, usually while killing time in Whitcoulls. I’ve read enough to know Roughan was bang on the money. But anyone wanting to save themselves the cash and interested in some analysis on Ian’s belief that science is based on faith should check out this interesting website someone sent me http://www.sillybeliefs.com/wishart.html

    Among the choice Wishart quotes listed there: ‘Pushed to its extremes, science relies on faith just as much as Christianity does, more so in fact.’

    And this classic… ‘Science has not proven the Old Testament is wrong. Not even in one little paragraph.’

    The more you read the quotes gathered from Investigate over the years, the more the antipathy towards science is obvious. Separating out the two things, science and religion, has become impossible to Ian since he experienced his rebirth – and hence he equates science as a sort of religion in itself.

    What was the trigger Ian, when exactly did the moment of surrender come?

  • Ian – this is a bit rich. Accusing NIWA of using “invalid statistical techniques.” Did you bother to check oif the Climate Science Coalition and Climate Conversation group had used any statistical techniques in their “research paper” before you released it as a press release?

    No, of course not.

    Well, people are starting to ask questions and a few scientific inputs to this are in New Zealand’s denier-gate and Peer Review for the Climate “Science” Coalition

    You are the last person to raise questions of scientific authenticity as anyone who looks at the stuff you peddle can see.

  • Ken, firstly, I reported on the CSC release AND rang Wratt for a right of reply, and quoted his response verbatim. Just like any journalist does with a news story.

    Secondly, I’d put my understanding of climate science above yours, Gareth’s or Peter Griffin’s any day of the week.

    Peter, SillyBeliefs is another hopeless idiot like one of the commenters here who quotes things out of context. The guy is a rabid atheist, for whom religion is culturally offensive. I suspect from the way you dwell on religion that you may be too. Are any of you able to put your prejudices to one side and debate the substance of an issue?

    As I have said to you on a number of occasions now, The Divinity Code skewered Dawkins. It skewered the atheist site Infidels. You want to take me to task – read the book and prove me wrong. Same goes for you Ken.

  • Oh, and Peter, Science Media Centre is not independent, it is not unbiased, and you are not a journalist in the accepted definition of the word. You are a PR hack. Don’t pretend to be anything else. Some of the journalists who attend your ‘briefings’ have also woken up to this fact.

  • Ian, I’m not rabid about anything (except maybe Pink Floyd)! I may be a PR hack now (I think you were one yourself for a period) but we run the SMC like a newsroom.- albeit a small one with only 2.7 people.

    Anyway name-calling gets tiresome… but finally on the subject, maybe you could answer this – why, when Dr Salinger made his comments about climate change deniers being like holocaust deniers did you suggest it stooped to the “lowest debate level ever” yet when Christopher Monckton repeatedly called young (and Jewish) climate activists in Copenhagen “Hitler Youth” you stayed silent.

    Maybe it has something to do with the fact that “Lord” Monckton endorsed your latest book with a quote on the cover. If that wasn’t the lowest debate level ever, I don’t know what is Ian. It seems like any journalistic credit stored up 15 years ago during the Winebox enquiry is rapidly being vaporised thanks to you allying yourself with these people…

  • Peter, firstly I’ve been on a double deadline the past week and a half, so I’m not staying across everything coming out of Copenhagen or I’d bore myself silly. I haven’t watched the insipid coverage that passes for TV news because it’s indoctrinated rubbish, so I can honestly say hand on heart I haven’t seen the footage of riots or the like. My input regarding Copenhagen has been internet blogs, newswires (including the ones supplying Investigate and TGIF) and Google news.

    Having now said that and read your comments and perused a bit of video from Copenhagen, I’d have to say that the brainwashed kids reminded me very much of Hitler youth. Blind loyalty to a cause whose science they actually know very little about, and whose recruitment has been the result of carefully focussed propaganda and PR campaigns.

    One of the biggest themes in Eve’s Bite was about the slick skill of social engineering PR campaigners, and if I were to add a chapter to that book the Climate propaganda would make a suitable case study.

    How does that differ from Salinger’s sick comment?

    Simply this: Hitler youth are a textbook example of using emotive imagery and concepts to indoctrinate, and how to harness the enthusiasm of youth for a cause without troubling them with annoying detail. Keep the message simple, stupid.

    The green lobby groups are the same – take a listen to the Greenpeace activist who gatecrashed Monckton’s news conference, and the conversation that followed which Newstalk ZB played this week. She was utterly, and I do mean utterly out of her depth. Knew nothing. Had been relying on Greenpeace news ‘bulletins’ and quite possibly releases from your good self at the Science Media Centre, and had no knowledge of the basic facts, even uncontested ones.

    I’m not sure of the timeline, but I’m pretty certain Monckton’s Hitler Youth analogy followed that encounter rather than preceded it.

    So the comparison between the substance and style of the youth wings of climate change and NAZI indoctrination styles is perfectly valid because there are in fact close analogies between how the Nazis did it, and how Greenpeace and the others have done it. It is not about marginalisation, it is actually a matter of empirical observation. I can quote you some of Goebbels’ lectures on the point, and show you the same techniques in use by Chicken Littles in the climate change battle.

    Salinger, on the other hand, was purely trying to marginalise the same way that Gore tries to refer to critics as flat earthers or moon landing conspiracy theorists. There’s no substance to Salinger’s and Gore’s comments. There are tens of thousands of highly qualified scientists who think the idea of significant human caused climate change is a crock and they are unimpressed at the climate science community’s antics. Some of those critics are Nobel prize winners.

    On the other hand, I’m unaware that there are tens of thousands of highly qualified scientists who are also holocaust deniers. And Salinger’s “I’m Jewish therefore I’m allowed to say it” says more about his own IQ than it does about anyone else.

    Nice to see Salinger and NIWA skewered this weekend in the Hessell paper, by the way.

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