Jan 4, 2012

Sydney Morning Herald shows the way on climate change

Australia was an exception to the downward trend in international media coverage of climate events during 2011. The debate over a carbon tax kept the issue in the news with the Australi

Richard Farmer

Crikey political commentator

Australia was an exception to the downward trend in international media coverage of climate events during 2011. The debate over a carbon tax kept the issue in the news with the Australia Broadcasting Corp. publishing 60 percent more climate stories in 2011 than it did in 2010, while the Sydney Morning Herald saw a 21 percent jump. Yet according to analysis of DailyClimate.org’s archive of global media, coverage internationally of climate change continued to tumble in 2011, declining roughly 20 percent from 2010′s levels and nearly 42 percent from 2009′s peak.

Last year at least 7,140 journalists and opinion writers published some 19,000 stories on climate change, compared to more than 11,100 reporters who filed 32,400 stories in 2009, according to DailyClimate.org.

The decline was seen across almost all benchmarks measured by the news service: 20 percent fewer reporters covered the issue in 2011 than in 2010, 20 percent fewer outlets published stories, and the most prolific reporters on the climate change beat published 20 percent fewer stories.

Particularly noticeable was the silence from the nation’s editorial boards: In 2009, newspapers published 1,229 editorials on the topic. Last year, they published less than 580 – half as many, according to DailyClimate.org’s archives.

DailyClimate.org is a foundation-funded news service that covers climate change. The website’s data extend reliably to mid-2007. The nonprofit news service offers a daily aggregation of global “mainstream” from center-left to center-right. The aggregation is meant to provide a broad sampling of the day’s coverage, not a comprehensive list.

The Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado, which has tracked media coverage of climate change since 2000, finds a similar slide in five major U.S. newspapers during 2011.

While Daily Climate cautions that by-line counts are an imprecise  – and flawed – way to measure a journalist’s productivity, it is interesting how the Sydney Morning Herald features so prominently on 2011’s most prolific list.

Reporter Affiliation 2011 stories
Fiona Harvey  – Guardian  – 132
Andrew Revkin  – New York Times  – 118
Matthew L. Wald  – New York Times  – 96
Richard Black  – BBC  – 92
Darren Samuelsohn  – Politico  – 92
Nina Chestney  – Reuters  – 87
Bryan Walsh  – Time Magazine  – 84
Lenore Taylor  – Sydney Morning Herald  – 79
Alister Doyle  – Reuters  – 76
Ariel Schwartz  – Fast Company  – 76
Damian Carrington  – Guardian  – 75
John Vidal  – Guardian  – 72
Mike De Souza  – Postmedia News  – 68
Louise Gray  – London Daily Telegraph  – 63
Jeremy Hance  – Mongabay.com  – 63
John M. Broder  – New York Times  – 59
Juliet Eilperin  – Washington Post  – 59
Adam Morton  – Sydney Morning Herald  – 58
David Fogarty  – Reuters  – 57
Maria Gallucci  – Inside Climate News  – 56
Suzanne Goldenberg  – Guardian  – 56
Thomas Content  – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  – 54
Gerard Wynn  – Reuters  – 54
Timothy Gardner  – Reuters  – 53
David Biello  – Scientific American  – 52
Bruce Gellerman  – Living on Earth  – 47
Alyson Kenward  – ClimateCentral.org  – 46
Evan Lehmann  – E&E News  – 46
Ben Cubby  – Sydney Morning Herald  – 44
Andrew Restuccia  – Washington Hill  – 44
Ben Geman  – Washington Hill  – 42
Justin Gillis  – New York Times  – 40
Elizabeth McGowan  – Inside Climate News  – 40
Lauren Morello  – E&E News  – 40
Felicity Barringer  – New York Times  – 38
Sid Maher  – Australian  – 38
David R. Baker  – San Francisco Chronicle  – 36
Pilita Clark  – Financial Times  – 34
John Collins Rudolf  – New York Times  – 34
Michael Marshall  – New Scientist  – 34
Arthur Max  – Associated Press  – 34
Marlowe Hood  – Agence France Press  – 33
Neela Banerjee  – Los Angeles Times  – 32
Pete Harrison  – Reuters  – 32
Tiffany Hsu  – Los Angeles Times  – 32
Fred Pearce  – Freelance  – 32
Deborah Zabarenko  – Reuters  – 32
Phillip Coorey  – Sydney Morning Herald  – 31
Saqib Rahim  – E&E News  – 31
Tom Arup  – Sydney Morning Herald  – 30
Jean Chemnick  – E&E News  – 30
Andrew Freedman  – ClimateCentral.org  – 30
Lisa Friedman  – E&E News  – 30
Darren Goode  – Politico  – 30
Margot Roosevelt  – Los Angeles Times  – 30
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13 thoughts on “Sydney Morning Herald shows the way on climate change

  1. Mike Flanagan

    In my above post I referred to Paddy McGuinness (god rest his right wing soul) but I meant Paddy Manning. His work at the SMH has been both informative and very much to the point and issues that confront us.
    Apologise to McGuinness and his audience and followers of bygone days.

  2. Finntastic

    Rummel –

    it depends how you define ‘no warming in years.’ If you use the old zombie argument that 1998 was the hottest year ever so, therefore, the planet hasn’t warmed, the bet money should be returned.

    Here’s a nice explanation of how trends actually work – http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/01/16/399014/video-global-warming-goes-to-the-dogs-difference-between-climate-and-weather/

    One final thing, isn’t religion the blind faith in a concept despite all the evidence to the contrary?

    If so, to use your analogy, thousands of peer reviewed scientific papers point to climate change and humans’ role in it. It has been backed up by the scientific academies across the world, as well as NASA, CSIRO etc.

    This evidence, from multiple sources, then forms the view of what is happening.

    There are precisely zero peer-reviewed papers that refute this theory or come up with an alternative theory. Nada. And yet the deniers keep believing it is all a massive, worldwide hoax. So which one is the religion again?

  3. rummel


    No Warming for years wins bet against religious faithful.

    ”Almost at the last minute the programme-makers came up with the idea of a bet. It was for £100 that, using the HadCrut3 data set, there would be no new record set by 2011. It was made between climatologist James Annan and myself. His work involves analysing climatic data and validating climate models. He accepted enthusiastically as he has a perchant for taking on ‘sceptics.’ The presenter said that if the global temperature didn’t go up in the next few years, “there would be some explaining to do.”

    Later today, January 13th, “More or Less” returns to the bet, which I am pleased to say I won, though I note that this bet, or its conclusion, is not yet mentioned on Annan’s Wikipedia entry despite his other climate bet being discussed.”

  4. Finntastic

    Johnfromplanetearth –

    er, yes, I’m quite regularly in Melbourne.

    I also understand the difference between the words, and meanings, of ‘weather’ and ‘climate.’ You seem to have the two horribly confused.

    Dismissing decades of global peer-reviewed temperature analysis by saying ‘well it’s a bit nippy today’ makes you look a little foolish. It’s like saying you can’t detect a decline in the birth rate because you can still see people walking around in the streets.

    Alas, your view seems to be the one most readily embraced by Australia’s media. To the detriment of us all.

  5. 2dogs

    And the posts here sum up the problem perfectly. One side say that it is going to rain brimstone the other saying that it is cold and nothing has changed since they were a wee tacker.

    As Finntastic rightly said the hottest recorded years on the planet (since 1880): 2005, 2010, 1998, then basically the rest of the 2000`s. But of course you are right John, Melbourne is the capital of the world for world temperatures after all.

    We have the Arctic melt opening up for longest periods of time that have ever been know, the VAST majority of glaciers retreating, and an increased frequency in extreme weather events and still the trolls come out to play saying “it is all a scam”.
    I will agree that the carbon trading emission scheme is not the best way to tackle climate change, I will agree that Al Gore did not get all of it right and I will agree that there will be people and companies who will push a their own agenda through the guise of climate change but it is nonsense to claim “it is not happening”.

    Oh and ditto to Mike, thank you Crikey for continuing to open up the topic to discussion.

  6. Johnfromplanetearth

    Finntastic, you clearly have not visited Melbourne in a very long time, the alarmists have been pushing this barrow for the past decade and now mother nature has placed an almighty steep hill in their way. Gen Y’s brainwashed by Gore’s Inconvenient Lie probably have never heard of the term down here ‘four seasons in one day’ to describe Melbourne’s Climate. Well we got it this week and we’ve been getting it for the past 18 months. It’s hard to swallow your zombie argument allegations when all you have to do is look out the window this week. It will be hot again next week, it might be cool again 3 days later, that’s Melbourne. I’ve lived through over 40 summers and i’m not seeing anything different, now what happened to those scientists in the 70’s who were predicting a new ice age coming to a city near you! What happened to those who told us all “we will never see rain like we used to again” So let’s spend $billions on a desal plant that has lost nearly 90 days of work due to flooding! Melbourne has never looked so green, so lush, it’s parks and gardens have recovered wonderfully from the drought. Warmist allegations of a fiery earth are perpetrated to scare people into accepting radical plans to cripple economies and destroy capitalism. Now where did i put my coat, i’m bloody freezing down here!

  7. Mike Flanagan

    You are right, non of the above contrarian blogs are supported by anyone else but frauds and imposters.
    Richard Farmer
    Yes the analyis is flawed, but representative of the overall attitude of the media and reporting of the greatest dilemma and challenge man has had to confront since the beginning of the industrial revolution.
    Although the SMH does deserve some credit for its’ coverage of the Climate Change debate I note Paddy McGuinness is not included in your list of correspondants covering the subject. Some of his work, research and reporting on the subject has been excellent and certainly deserve recognition. I have always felt that the editorial policy of relegating his reports to the back of their Business Section on a saturday as dereliction of their duty to the public.
    Crikey is the only mass media organ that devotes a section on the Environment in the Australin press and should be congratulated and encouraged.
    Thankyou Crikey and keep up the responsible journalism on the subject for the rest of the media to follow.

  8. Finntastic

    Rummel – the warming has stopped? Really? Care to post a link to any peer-reviewed science or data to support that claim? Because everything I’ve seen shows that the last decade was the warmest on record, with 2010 being the joint warmest year ever.

    The warmest decade before that? The 90s. Before that? The 80s. Pretty simple really.

    Unless you’re pushing the zombie argument that there has been no warming since 1998? If so, maybe some actual data here might help you out on that one http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-stopped-in-1998-intermediate.htm

    As for the ‘scare tactics’, or ‘science’ as some of us like to call it, you may be aware that the major emitters’ governments all agreed to legally-binding carbon cuts at Durban recently.

    For this kind of international co-operation, which will cost a fair bit of money initially and displease those that must be appeased in the fossil fuel industry, to take place, the science must be pretty solid. Or do you think the leaders of China, Russia, UK etc etc have ALL been taken in by a global conspiracy involving tens of thousands of scientists in different countries?

  9. rummel

    ”In 2012, it’s clear that scare tactics and apocalyptic predictions have failed to persuade. The environmental movement is not gaining traction with either legislators or the public. As Tom Borelli puts it, “They’re now going to be playing defense. And they’re not used to that.”


  10. rummel

    Good for SMH, the warming has stopped and so has most of the BS media reporting of it. Though a few good rippers out there like the mutent sharks taking over the world because of the scary global warming… sharks! mutant SHARKS!!! oh no please tax me more and i shall redempt my heathen life style and save the world.

  11. Finntastic

    JamesK –

    which intellectual do you turn on the topic of climate change, exactly? Lord Monckton? Andrew Bolt? The Saudi Royal family? Gina Reinhart? The US Republican party?

    I’m not being facetious – there has not been one peer-reviewed scientific report that rejects the theory that pumping billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere alters our climate.

    In fact, quite the opposite has occured. We’ve seen a mountain of evidence emerge from scientific bodies across the world, from CSIRO, NASA to the Met in the UK and even Plimer’s Geological Society brethren showing how temperatures have risen and the link to carbon emissions.

    If only the fantasy world of Al Gore ‘inventing’ climate change were true, rather than the reality (that CO2 has been known to be a greenhouse gas since the 19th century and AGW warnings have been flagged since the 50s).

    The evidence is overwhelming. Even more so than in 2006 or 2009.

    Alas, the change in coverage has much to do with a very well co-ordinated campaign by those who see their short-term interests hurt by any action to move to clean energy, aided and abetted by their friends in politics and the media.

    These interests haven’t been able to win on the science (as even their own funded reports show the AGW process) so they have resorted to tobacco industry tactics – smear your opponent, create doubt in the minds of the people, cherry pick facts and distort them etc.

  12. JamesK

    Be fair Frank.

    Crikey is a long way from intellectual in the same way an activist leftist uni student is a long way from intellectual.

    The trouble is both Crikey and said vile leftist student delusionally believe themselves to be both intelligent and intellectual.

    Dersion and condescension from a place of ignorance and incuriousness is not a sign of intelligence.

  13. Frank Campbell

    Indeed a huge drop from the peak of Gore-hysteria in 2006-7 and the Copenhagen/climategate hit of 2009.

    A more revealing question would be: the increase in neutral/negative stories/op-eds on global warming…

    Crikey itself has changed- not the official line (which is one of the most extreme and authoritarian pro-AGW positions in the media) but quiet retreat: far fewer propaganda pieces from zealots such as Hamilton, far more negative/neutral comments, greater awareness of climate policy messes. But mainly less interest – “climate change” has slid down the Crikey agenda too. The passing of the carbon tax has accentuated this process.

    Crikey’s enviro blog “Rooted” now actually has some stories which are not AGW-related.

    But Crikey is a long way yet from intellectual integrity on this subject.

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