Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ACMA: into the looking glass

Image from Wollongong Library-South Coast Road, NSW  circa 1880
(Reality at right)
The very lengthy response from ACMA in regard to our complaint about ABC's factual errors and weak reporting in its Background Briefing story on Lord Monckton brought back memories of a disagreement I had a few years back with a librarian over the orientation of a photo I had printed from a historical negative. The photo printed was a mirror image of reality; the print having been taken from the negative turned upside down, hence reversing the image. When I pointed out the mistake, showing a recent photo of the same location, which I was extremely familiar with, complete with exactly the same features, but reversed, there was a blank response and flat out denial of the evidence presented. No point in arguing with some people.
It appears this is also the case with ACMA's report, and with the ABC in regard to their broadcast. However....

Here again are a few of the substantive points:
1. Death of four Polar Bears. In the broadcast Lord Monckton pointed to errors made by Al Gore in his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" about the deaths of four polar bears in the Arctic. Monckton pointed to a paper (Monnett and Gleason 2006-see full ref below) about the deaths of four polar bears that indicating the bears drowned in a storm. Monckton described the deaths thus "They drowned because there was a big storm with high winds and high waves and they got swamped.” ABC claimed the deaths of the four Polar bears in the Arctic was due to them being "drowned because of there was less sea ice for them to rest on because of climate change." The paper on which this was based reported that the particular bears in question "drowned during a period of high winds and correspondingly rough sea conditions between 10 and 13 September 2004. No other deleterious environmental conditions were present that might have led to the deaths of those polar bears.” 
ACMA acting in "Quincy" mode claim the bears "died from exhaustion due to the extra exertion of swimming in turbulent seas for longer distances." (We note no autopsy was performed on the bears in question)
A UK judge who found 9 other errors in Al Gore's movie agreed with Monckton's view:
Justice Burton:  Mr Gore says: “A new scientific study shows that for the first time they are finding polar bears that have actually drowned swimming long distances up to 60 miles to find the ice. They did not find that before.” The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm. That is not to say that there may not in the future be drowning-related deaths of polar bears if the trend continues.
In an interview (see page 35) to do with an investigation of potential scientific misconduct, the author of the very paper in question, Charles Monnett, puts the deaths down to: "Um, this paper is very narrow in that it only focuses on the swimming and drowning and what, and what we thought was related to it, in other words, a storm."
The paper in question was reviewed by "Um, Lisa Rotterman, my wife". (To quote Media Watch's Jonathan Holmes “so much for peer review”.)
We referred ACMA to this transcript but it appears it was never looked at. Somewhat surprising given the time for the investigation was over 6 months.

Monnett, C., and J. S. Gleason, 2006. Observations of mortality associated with extended open-water swimming by polar bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. Polar Biology, 29, 681-687.

2. Sea Level Rise: ABC claimed Lord Monckton made erroneous claims about sea level. The facts show otherwise. ACMA didn't even bother to check the relevant section of the IPCC report "ACMA does not consider it necessary to consult the relevant IPCC literature in this instance". In six months it didn't think to check the facts. Again here's what Justice Burton had to say about the matter"This is distinctly alarmist, and part of Mr Gore's 'wake-up call'. It is common ground that if indeed Greenland melted, it would release this amount of water, but only after, and over, millennia, so that the Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea level rises of 7 metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus."
Along with not looking at the IPCC report it seems ACMA's investigator didn't even bother to consider the only relevant judgement on the issue. The question of competence comes to mind.

3. On the question of bias. When alarmists such as Al Gore receive the same critical scrutiny from the ABC as sceptics I'll put aside the issue. Until then, sadly for public journalism, the balance it tipped is favour of ABC's alarmist groupthink position.

In its report, ACMA placed great emphasis on the opinion of an ordinary listener. Seems an ordinary UK Judge was able to see through Al Gore's spin in much the same way as Lord Monckton did. And what of you dear reader? Based on the above, and ACMA's report, what do you make of the evidence provided? 
Which reality do we live in?


  1. *Is Monnett still suspended and under investigation by the DOI (Department of ?) because of the very wide bow he has drawn in this study? He extrapolated rather wildly and no-one took notes I believe.

    PS Perhaps I really am a robot.

  2. I'll check into where the investigation ended.

    "Perhaps I really am a robot."

    Perhaps I'm one too!

  3. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/26/nation/la-na-arctic-scientist-20110826

    According to this article it seems he's back at work but not managing research contracts.

    "The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement confirmed that Charles Monnett — whose suspension in July sparked an outcry among fellow scientists, climate change researchers and opponents of offshore oil and gas drilling — has been recalled from six weeks of administrative leave. But he won't be resuming his previous work managing research contracts, the bureau said."


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