maurice newman lateline 22 april 2014

Maurice Newman, the junked business advisor to junked prime minister Tony Abbott, grabbed headlines today for describing climate change evidence as “junk science.”

Above: Newman on Lateline in 2014.

Penning a piece for The Australian’s opinion pages, where science degrees are as rare as sceptic climate scientists, Newman claimed world leaders were “like ancient Druids pleading with the gods for good seasons” at the successful COP21 meeting a few weeks ago.

“They embrace junk ­science and junk economics and adopt wealth-destroying postmodern pseudo-economics, which teaches that taxpayer subsidies can produce desirable ‘economic transformation’ and faster growth,” he said in the piece published today.

How do I know this? A well-shared article on the Guardian Australia website.

Maurice Newman spitting crazy climate change denial is not new, nor is it news. His words should have been left to fester in The Australian’s archives where they could do little harm to its already “enlightened” population.

Humanity’s contribution to climate change is acknowledged so widely by climate scientists around the world you can count on one hand the percentage of researchers who diverge. (Newman’s preferred source is creationist Roy Spencer, a former NASA scientist whose colleagues disagree with him.)

So why does such a vast number of people around the world disagree with the massive majority of climate scientists who actually know what they are doing? The answer is media coverage giving a huge voice to the tiny sceptic minority.

As the late Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider said, balance in science reporting does not mean the same as balance in political reporting.

“There are rarely just two polar opposite sides, but rather a spectrum of potential outcomes, oftentimes accompanied by a considerable history of scientific assessment of the relative credibility of these many possibilities,” he said.

“A climate scientist faced with a reporter locked into the ‘get both sides’ mindset risks getting his or her views stuffed into one of two boxed storylines: ‘we’re worried’ or ‘it will all be OK.’ And sometimes, these two ‘boxes’ are misrepresentative; a mainstream, well-established consensus may be “balanced” against the opposing views of a few extremists, and to the uninformed, each position seems equally credible.”

It was surprising to see the Newman story be picked up by the Guardian Australia – the UK and all international arms of the paper have a strong history of climate reporting and advocacy based on scientific fact.

We should ignore the likes of Newman, who will willingly put the entire planet at risk for a few bucks. From what I can tell, Fairfax has not touched the story. Good show.

Speaking of good shows, here’s a reminder of one of the first times Maurice Newman made the news, care of the (sadly axed) The Roast:

If you would like to read more of the Lateline interview sampled in that package, click here.

I am aware I will be accused of hypocrisy for suggesting we ignore Newman while writing a whole post about him, but this is not a positive article for sceptics. We should ignore Newman, but we should not let the kind of coverage The Australian and The Guardian gave him today go unquestioned.

This was my first, and hopefully last, post about Maurice Newman.

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