Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of The Spectator magazine. I am normally quick to point out that I do not support their underlying political persuasion (which can head in the direction of Conservatism quite quickly) – this is important in the UK, where magazines and newspapers are very aligned politically, and what you read says almost more about you than what you say.
For the record, I mainly enjoy the magazine for its brilliant use of the English language, and the insightful analysis of current events (even if I don’t always agree with the application of the analysis).
But last week’s edition was a HUGE disappointment. The cover story banner read: “Relax: Global Warming is all a myth”. At first, I thought it was spoof cover – they do have a good sense of humour at The Spectator. Sadly, it was not. But that is not the issue. When a good magazine, with excellent journalists, does a lead article on any topic, it captures my attention, even if I don’t agree with them. But I was disappointed.
The lead article was a fairly facetious toned report of an interview with an Australian geologist who has written a book on cliamte change, called “Heaven and Earth”, in which argues – over 500 pages, and 2,300 footnotes – that humans are not causing climate change at all. The “tudh factor” of his book, and the look of academic scholarship in the footnotes unfortunately blinded an otherwise decent journalist. And that’s the disappointment. Thirty seconds on Google would given enough contrary evidence to alert the journalist to the possibility that “Professor Ian Plimer” (to use the full title accorded him in the story’s byline) has not quite got all his facts straight. The fact that no mention was even made of the contrary views (some of which are by the experts Plimer himself quotes to back up his version of the story) indicates that the journalist lost some journalistic integrity and did not do a good job on the story.
There is just way too much misinformation on this topic, with too much at stake, for shoddy journalism to dictate the debate. Please, Spectator, make sure you do the basics of editing and journalism. It’s what you’re known for. Don’t turn to dumbed down sensationalism just to sell magazines.
If you’d like to make up your own mind, then follow these links:
- The original article in The Spectator
- A review of the book in The Australian newspaper, by a professor of astrophysics
- Prominent scientists refute Plimer’s main points, posted by The Australian Science Media Centre
Why don’t you also do a search for Plimer’s published academic papers. Someone with as powerful a message as he has, purporting to do so from a scientific basis would surely have worked within the accepted bounds of science to prove his point (that other scientists have not been scientific). Yet, Plimer has NO peer reviewed publications on the topic of climate change. None at all. Why not? His book, then, is what he has submitted to the scientific community, and the peer reviews are scathing.
There may well be arguments against the “Global Warming consensus”. Governments may well be responding in incorrect ways. But The Spectator putting up Plimer as a lead story shows disdain for the truth, and is an insult to its readers. I’m disappointed.
I’ll leave my last word to Mike Post, from his review of the book:
“[We] would do well to reject the science fiction espoused by Plimer. That may be a bit harsh on science fiction writers whose work is often prescient, even plausible. No such claims can be made for Ian Plimer’s book.”