Wednesday, 11 September 2019 11:49

Zero debate on climate change

Written by  Dr Doug Edmeades
Doug Edmeades. Doug Edmeades.

OPINION: The media should allow debate surrounding the causes of climate change.

The media have a vital role to play in a progressive, open democracy.

Its job has been variously described as ‘to serve the truth’ or ‘to provide the balance of opinion’. At least that is the theory, the intention and what society has come to accept. 

But NZ Herald on March 6, 2019 said in a headline: ‘Media should not give climate deniers a platform’. Then came the statement: ‘To allow climate denial is totally irresponsible for the general public and particularly for our children and grandchildren’.

Stuff was more explicit: ‘Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. 

‘We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but we do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. 

‘That applies equally to the stories we will publish in ‘Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comment’.

This same media platform dutifully gave wholesome encouragement to our millennials when they marched and placarded NZ-wide demanding greater action on climate change.

In praising their efforts, Stuff expressed the view that the millennials are well informed. 

This extends logically to regional authorities. The public assumes they are well informed when declaring a ‘climate emergency’ on their patch.

Can you spot the incongruity? How can millennials and regional authorities be well informed on this issue if the media are publishing only one side of the argument? It is more than a bias. 

The media, and indeed sections of the public and academia, reinforce and control this blinkered vision with their choice of words. Those who do not agree with them are called ‘deniers’. It is a label they would readily apply to me. 

I am a climate sceptic as defined in the dictionary: ‘a person unconvinced of a particular fact, theory or hypothesis’. So what is it that I am sceptical about? 

I accept that the climate undergoes changes – it always has and it always will, and these fluctuations occurred long before humans arrived and long before they discovered fossil fuels. No denial there. 

This fact, readily discernible from the geological record, suggests that there are other mechanisms – other than the greenhouse gas effect of carbon dioxide and methane – which affect the temperature of the earth. Many have been suggested and some are being investigated. 

I am also a member of the NZ Climate Science Coalition (NZCSC), a network of normal, honest, intelligent, Kiwi professionals who, like me, are sceptical. This coalition in turn, networks with international groups of scientists. 

Day after day I am exposed to articles and science papers questioning the CO2 global warming hypothesis. (So much for consensus). The public does not hear about these alternative possibilities because, for the media and a cohort of scientists with their heads in the research money trough, that would contradict the carbon dioxide narrative. 

So, who is denying what? 

The question is not, ‘does the climate change?’ but more precisely, ‘is there any evidence that humans are having a discernible effect over and above the ‘noise’ – the natural cycles?’ 

On behalf of the coalition, I wrote to Sir Peter Gluckman, the previous science advisor to the Prime Minister, and to the president of the NZ Royal Society, suggesting that this whole topic should be opened for debate, in the grand tradition of science. No progress. 

Astoundingly, members of the coalition wrote to the NZ Royal Society and to the IPCC asking for the specific evidence, apart from the output of models, proving the theory of dangerous man-made global warming. 

No evidence has been forthcoming. 

Yet New Zealand is soon to vote on a Zero Carbon Bill. The intention is to become carbon neutral by year 2050. The NZ Institute of Economic Research estimates that this will cost about $28 billion per year to achieve 50% of the target by 2050 or, if we go the whole hog, $85b per year. It would cripple our economy. 

I think it is about time we had an open debate about the need for it.

What do you reckon? 

• Dr Doug Edmeades, MSc (Hons), PhD, Dip Management.

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