Monday, January 14, 2008

The Herald-Sun Sucks (Part #2): "Climate-Change Skeptics Ignorant of Atmospheric Science? Never!"

I'm not sure what I can say about this one (also published on the 13th).

I mean really, Ron? Carbon dioxide didn't exist in 1939? I presume he meant anthropogenic carbon dioxide here, but even that's not right.

The other fallacy - that short-term weather extremes can be used as evidence against (or in favour of, for that matter) climate change - is all too common. We find a similar sentiment on Monday's pages (7th Jan).

The point here, of course, is that the issue of climate change pertains to global climate trends, not local weather events. As tempted as I am to eviscerate the authors for holding such basic misconceptions on the issue (which apparently didn't make them think twice about weighing in on it), the real blame here lies with the paper.

Publishing letters of such questionable, factual import does nothing to advance debate and serves only to foster ignorance and unnecessary confusion in the community. The paper is giving undue legitimacy to climate-change skepticism and fueling common fallacies about the issue in the process. It would be easy to place the blame for the poor standard of argument in these letters at the feet of their authors (who certainly should not avoid all culpability here), but their ignorance, depending on the circumstances, may well be excusable: the loose criteria by which the Herald Sun chooses the letters it publishes certainly is not. The Herald Sun, remember, the most widely-read publication in this city by a wide margin. For many people, it serves as the primary source of news. When the paper gives legitimacy to spurious argumentation such as this, it succeeds only in polluting the pool of public information that is so integral to the democratic process. Needless to say, this is the exact opposite of what a newspaper should be doing!

I can't help but laugh at many of the opinions that are published in the Hun, but there is a serious side to this. As I said in my last post, these people vote and they are being seriously let down by the poor standard of information that so regularly makes its way onto the paper's pages. I'm presuming that the paper wouldn't deign to compromise the integrity of public debate by publishing letters that question, say, the scope of the holocaust or the legitimacy of the moon-landing, so why should it be any different for the issue of climate-change?

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