In Which I Cause Trouble in OZ

By Chris Mooney | September 18, 2009 11:22 am

I am starting to do a fair amount of media again for Unscientific America–I think there is a renewed interest as people get back to campuses–and just did a major international interview with the television program “Lateline,” a nightly news program aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the other ABC). You can download the video here; it is about 12 minutes long.

Anyways, I see my segment has already prompted an Australian climate skeptic response, in which I and the ABC interviewer, Leigh Sales, are accused of “smearing scientific skepticism.” The critique, from one Jennifer Marohasy, runs like this:

IT was once the case that if you didn’t believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and the climate crisis you were a scientist in the pay of big oil.  That was also an accusation in Chris Mooney’s first book ‘The Republican War on Science’.

No, it wasn’t. I did demonstrate that big oil had sought to influence the climate debate and to sow doubt about the science, but I never said (and never would say) that every single scientist who fails to accept “AGW” is on the dole. That simply isn’t true. Indeed, one such scientist, a climate skeptic not working for the fossil fuel industry, was the main character featured in my second book, Storm World–William Gray of Colorado State.

Marohasy continues:

Mr Mooney now has a second book out entitled ‘Unscientific America’.   I haven’t read the new book yet, but according to an interview Mr Mooney gave last night on Australian television if you don’t believe in AGW you aren’t even a scientist.   Indeed he told well-known ABC journalist and television presenter Leigh Sales that while society hasn’t agreed on the facts, the scientists have.

“If you don’t believe in AGW you aren’t even a scientist…” Um, no. There are some dissenters who are indeed scientists, like William Gray. But as I have explained constantly in the past, there is also a scientific consensus that the current warming is caused by humans. These two statements don’t contradict one another; “consensus” within the field of climate science, or in the scientific literature, is not the same thing as unanimity across every person who ever got a Ph.D.


Ms Sales initially queried Mr Mooney, suggesting that many claim there is no scientific consensus on AGW.   But she didn’t then pursue the point when Mr Mooney reframed, side-stepped the question and then contradicted himself.

Ha! That sounds like quite a maneuver I performed. Anyways, watch the video–although I’ m flattered, I think this report of my agility is significantly overrated.

For my part, I am glad to be sparking debate in another great country, Australia–where I was impressed to learn, from listening to “Lateline” before I myself came on, that global warming skepticism only has a hold on 20 percent of the public down there.

Would that the numbers were so small in America….


Comments (11)

Links to this Post

  1. Unscientific Australia « Evolving Thoughts | September 18, 2009
  1. Sorbet

    Talk about distorting your words! I wonder how they are treating Tim Flannery down there.

  2. Erasmussimo

    A few years ago, I spent some months on Ms. Marohasy’s blog trying to explain the science behind AGW. Despite my best efforts to be courteous and rigorously scientific in my writing, I accomplished nothing; Ms. Marohasy and crew refused to address the matter with intellectual integrity. They repeated all the standard falsifications about AGW and rejected my detailed explanations. It was a frustrating experience; the AGW denier crowd is just as bad as the birthers and the teabaggers.

  3. Marion Delgado

    The less said about Maorhasy, the better, except a very brief reminder that her 15 minutes were up last year.

  4. ShowsOn

    Yeah I thought the Lateline interview was extremely light weight. For example I can’t believe that Sales didn’t notice the fact that Mooney often completely ignores legitimate criticism of his book, and has a habit of labelling anyone who criticises his book a “New Atheist”, as if that means their criticisms can be rejected out of hand. It was a rare bad interview by Sales who is one of Australia’s best young journalists.

  5. DavidMcRae

    Ta for that segment Chris – I saw it last Thursday night and now might have to go and get hold of your book.

    Good interview I reckon. And totally agree with Marion Delgado #4.

  6. MadScientist

    Unfortunately that 20% of self-professed skeptics seem to be in politics.

    Various industries are also playing a peculiar game – manufacture doubt and kick up a stink in an attempt to delay action because this is ultimately the most profitable scenario in the short term. On the other hand industries also look into what could be done in the near future because they don’t want to be caught out if politicians do take action. However the preferred outcome is business as usual. The reality is that there can be no immediate action anyway and that delaying things which will take a long time to get moving is not a good thing.

  7. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Hi Chris

    I spent the better part of 4 years arguing with people on Morohasy’s blog with no success. To gauge the quality of the discussion people like Louis Hissink with the distinction of having the worst post on AGW in history ( and others that regularly dispute most of science including black holes etc.

    Anyway I challenged Morohasy to provide the evidence that she had to prove her statement that Global Warming had stopped over the last 10 years. No great surprise that she did not produce it. I then stopped posting there as have any people with any scientific knowledge.

    Don’t worry about it, whatever Morohasy does Plimer is even worse. What is is about my countrymen lately?

  8. Fran Barlow

    I also saw the Lateline interview, Chris.

    I thought it was refreshing. You acquitted yourself very well and I’m also tempted to read the book.

    I’m a high school teacher, but was shocked when I heard last year that some extraordinary proportion of science teachers south of the Mason-Dixon line were Young Earthers.

    What an embarrassment …

  9. QrazyQat

    Damn that Richard Dawkins!

  10. Bunyip

    Chris, notice the earthquakes and the monumental loss of life in Indonesia and Samoa? More evidence of global climate change’s effects on mankind. Sometimes I fall asleep hoping a sudden plague will rid our planet of mankind. It’s our only salvation.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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