Angry Summer Down Under: Murdoch Paper Hosts Op-Ed that Attacks Scientists while Australia Sizzles

, senior climate scientist | April 5, 2013, 5:49 pm EDT
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INTRO NOTE: My colleague Melanie Fitzpatrick has just come back on board here at UCS. She’s a climate scientist who originally hails from Australia. She’s traveled the world doing scientific research on the climate, including in Antarctica. We’re very happy to have her back and she’ll have her own blog up soon. In the meantime, we wanted to share her thoughts on climate change in Australia and a disturbing op-ed recently published in The Australian.

Guest Blog: Angry Summer Down Under

Figure from the Critical Decade: Extreme Weather

Extreme weather events are influenced by climate change as shown schematically for Australia. Image source: Australia Climate Commission Report — The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather.

You know something really weird is happening when in a single season more than 123 records are broken. That was the news from my home country, Australia, last month. The Australian Climate Commission, a government-sponsored science group, released a report confirming that the country’s climate has changed dramatically and will change even more if heat-trapping emissions continue to pile up in our atmosphere. I can attest it was a blisteringly hot summer season – I was there experiencing days of extreme heat and seeing smoke from uncontrolled forest fires fill the skies. The oceans were warm in places where they shouldn’t be. There was an eerie sense that global warming is no longer something in the future for Australians – we’re already living with it “down under”.

Commentators are calling it “the Angry Summer.”  Temperature records were broken at more than 44 locations around the continent, and January was Australia’s hottest month ever. In my home town of Hobart, which typically enjoys a pleasant maritime summer climate, the mercury topped out just above 107 degrees F, almost 2 degrees F higher than the previous high record set in 1976. The bush fire danger categories now include a “catastrophic rating” for uncontrolled wildfires and two more color bands have been added to the nation’s extreme temperature maps, both compelling indicators of fundamental changes to the region’s weather patterns.

Murdoch Paper Hosts Op-Ed that Attacks Scientists while Australia Sizzles

That’s why I was incensed when I read the response to the recent report both from the political sphere and in the ideological press this week. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has pledged that if his party takes control of the Australian Parliament, they will do away with the Climate Commission. Well, such a move won’t stop climate change. It would just stop people from having an independent, authoritative, useful source of scientific information about the issue. Read, “censorship.”

The Australian, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, published an opinion piece from James Delingpole, a well-known columnist from the UK who makes a sport of misrepresenting climate science and attacking scientists. Delingpole criticized the head of the Climate Commission and suggested he be tried by a judge in a black cap, a vile reference to a type of trial traditionally reserved for passing the death sentence. Is this a return to the days of vilifying scientists for communicating important science to the public? I had hoped those days were over.

The Australian’s decision to publish this piece is immensely disturbing. Freedom of speech is important, but Delingpole’s views misinform readers and his call for scientists to be put on trial under penalty of death has no place in reasonable discourse about climate change science or policy. Murdoch’s press has a history of distorting the reality of climate change and attacking scientists, as UCS analysis has shown, but this piece was more extreme than any other I’ve read. It’s time to take the climate disruptions seriously and move on from these ugly attacks.


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  • David & Charles Koch donated 67 Million Dollars to Global Warming Deniers Groups just since 1997! Rupert Murdoch may give them a run
    for their money as No.1 Denier. Global Warming is denied by
    (NOT reported on: just DENIED) by most of the Media outlets owned
    by Rupert Moredough. Who has been blamed by scientists (rightly)
    for setting Global Warming remediation back 20 years. And this
    in my opinion this is the DEATH Knell for civilization.
    The Oceans are dying…when they die… we die…The planet is dying…when it dies… we die… I’m wrong the planet is being
    MURDERED. When the planet is getting murdered WE are being MURDERED. So…
    I would like to sue them & ALL the Global Warming deniers
    & Global Warming producers. Like James Delingpole,
    Rupert Murdoch, The Heartland Institute,,
    CFACT, Americans For Prosperity, ALEC, David & Charles Koch,
    for that matter ALL the oil, gas, coal & electrical generators that produce C02 pollution just to make money. I would like to
    sue them and all in a class action lawsuit for Reckless
    Endangerment of the Ecosystem!
    It’s the LIFE support of spaceship EARTH. The class in the suit?
    all of mankind! (Except anyone who actively or for profit denies
    Climate Change. They shouldn’t receive compensation when they are
    part of the delay to save the planet from greed. They should be fined &/or charged as well.)
    Even if we WON the class action suit, and stripped ALL of them
    of ALL their Wealth gave them jail time for their attempted genocide… With damages and punitive damages. It would NOT be enough money to fix what they broke! It would NOT be enough time served(IF they get any at all) to fix what they broke! If anyone deserves to be tried by a judge in a black cap it would be these people!

  • Tads

    A page with common AGW deniers false arguments refuted as mentioned above would be a big help. The moment Skeptical Science does this but when I use it as a source in an argument deniers say it is a non scientific public relations site (it is not, it’s good science A similar page from a scientific authority could not be accused of that bias.

  • Prof Ray Wills

    There are of course contrarian views that are put against all evidence on the clear value of immunisation of populations, the usefulness of seat belts in preventing road deaths, and even still against the clear conclusion that smoking dramatically elevates the risk of cancer, others that originate from religious beliefs denying the age of the Earth or the use of condoms in preventing AIDS, and yet others heading down some extremes such as whether the operation of the large hadron collider may have ended the Earth, and that despite the overwhelming data, climate change is really a global conspiracy to create false evidence to aid the cause for a one world socialist government.

    Perhaps the Union could consider hosting a FAQ page under its Scientific Integrity section to highlight some of the most important of cases made against science to pervert the development of sound policy.

    Ironically in Australia we are very accepting of the evidence that gun control reduces murders or even accidental deaths by shooting, and was one of the most popular political actions by Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard during his ten year term of Government.