Rupert Murdoch doesn't understand climate change basics, and that's a problem

Rupert Murdoch has a vast media empire. In the UK, his News Corp assets include The Times and The Sun. In the USA, he has Fox News, The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. In Australia, he's got The Australian and a multitude of local newspapers.

Many of Murdoch's news outlets are also among the worst when it comes to getting climate science wrong and disseminating climate myths and misinformation. Inaccurate media coverage is in turn the primary reason why the public is so misinformed about global warming.

In a recent Sky News interview, Rupert Murdoch expressed his own views about global warming and climate change.

Murdoch's most inaccurate statement was,

In terms of the world's temperature going up, the worst, the most alarmist things have said ... 3°C in 100 years. At the very most one of those will come from man-made, be man-made.

In reality, the worst case scenario considered by the 2014 IPCC report projects about 4°C global surface warming over the next century (on top of the nearly 1°C that we've already caused). All of that 4°C warming would be human-caused. The best case scenario would involve about 1°C global surface warming over the next century, and that's if we take serious action to reduce carbon pollution.

IPCC AR5 projected global average surface temperature changes in a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5; red) and low emissions scenario (RCP2.6; blue). IPCC AR5 projected global average surface temperature changes in a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5; red) and low emissions scenario (RCP2.6; blue).

So the scenario of 1°C human-caused warming that Rupert Murdoch has called "the most alarmist" is in reality the best case scenario – the least amount of warming that will realistically happen even under major international efforts to address the problem. With such a dramatic misunderstanding of what climate experts expect will happen in the future, it's no wonder that Murdoch and his media empire don't view global warming as a serious threat.

Murdoch's misunderstanding of basic climate science didn't stop there. He also said,

Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here, and there will always be a little bit of it. At the moment the north pole is melting, but the south pole is getting bigger.

Of course the climate has changed naturally in the past. And people died naturally in the past as well. However, this argument is a logical non-sequitur:

A cartoon illustrating the non-sequitur of the 'climate changed naturally in the past' argument A cartoon illustrating the non-sequitur of the 'climate changed naturally in the past' argument

Climate changes have physical causes – in the past, natural ones – but the current global warming is predominantly caused by human carbon pollution.

The growth of Antarctic sea ice also isn't evidence for natural climate change. The Antarctic region, including its ocean, is warming. As a result, two recent studies concluded that the collapse of the Western Antarctic ice sheet is already underway and is unstoppable. Moreover, the Arctic is losing sea ice 10 times faster than the Antarctic is gaining it. Climate scientists aren't yet sure if the increase in Antarctic sea ice is related to human-caused climate change, but it's certainly not evidence against it.

Murdoch also invoked what's known as the Tragedy of the Commons and the 'blame China' strategy.

Things are happening, but how much are we doing with emissions and so on? Well as far as Australia goes, nothing in the overall picture. China perhaps.

Every individual or family, town or city, state or province, and country (including China) can argue that its carbon pollution is too small to matter on a global scale. If everyone uses that excuse, nobody will reduce their emissions, and the planet will continue to warm dangerously rapidly. That's why we need international agreements in which all countries – including Australia and China – agree to do their part in reducing carbon pollution and slowing global warming.

Coincidentally, among first world countries, Australia has the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, almost triple China's. Australia's total carbon pollution is relatively low only because it has a relatively small population. Do Australians really want to argue that their country doesn't matter because it's too small?

Finally, Rupert Murdoch again demonstrated why he's not worried about global warming by downplaying the risks it poses.

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Posted by dana1981 on Monday, 14 July, 2014

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