Doomed Planet

How not to get on the ABC (write for Quadrant)


Enjoying a lazy Sunday morning in bed, I caught Ockham’s Razor that quirky, democratically diverse programme curated by the ABC’s venerable and venerated science presenter, Robyn Williams. (It will be recalled that William of Occam proposed the principle in logic that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one).

The subject on July 28 was Wind Turbine Syndrome, but what made me prick up my ears was the announcement that the speaker was Ketan Joshi, described as a research and communications officer at Infigen Energy, Australia’s largest renewable-energy company (ASX code IFN). The company was founded in 2003 and boasts the title of “Australia’s clean energy provider”. Infigen’s latest annual report lists its productive assets as 18 wind farms in US, with an installed capacity of 1089mW, and six in Australia, producing up to 557mW. Another seven are planned, adding 1,225 – 1,275mW capacity.


I was well aware of the increasingly acrimonious protests over claimed ill-health effects of wind turbines in proximity to dwellings. To some extent these had been amplified by ABC television coverage of the complaints in Victorian rural areas. If I had foolishly hoped for a dispassionate outline of the controversy, I was soon shocked back to the reality of the ABC’s attitude toward “green, clean energy”, derived from its fervent belief in man-made climate change.

Joshi’s talk was a whitewash of the infrasound syndrome and a denunciation of people claiming health effects as insidious disrupters of progress. Read the transcript here:

So who is Ketan Joshi? His Twitter account says: “I work for a renewable (solar+wind)energy company. I do analysis, research, writing and caffeine.”

Slightly more informative is a list of his recent writing, all of which are posted here

  • 9.7.13 The lamentable tale of the non-existent wind turbine.
  • 20.6.13 Ill wind: The real cost of pseudo-scientific scaremongering
  • 4.4.13 Origin’s wind energy analysis based on hot air
  • 28.2.13 Infrasound report: Wind turbine syndrome is everywhere and nowhere
  • 29.11.12 Wind farms and health: The case of the absentee victims
  • 14.8.12 Anti-wind turbine syndrome: We need to clear the air.

You get the gist of the job he is doing for his employers. A interview subject ideally biased — and perfect for the ABC’s purposes.

As it happened, Quadrant had just published Des Moore’s masterly summary of the collapsing scientific hoax of anthropogenic global warming. It occurred to me that his lucid argument, suitably condensed for broadcast, would make an admirable Ockham’s Razor script. So I extracted some of the most piquant phrases in Ketan Joshi’s talk and wrapped these around a suggestion that Robyn invite Des to contribute.

Now I have known Robyn for many years and very much admire his work to bring science to the people. Notwithstanding his (and the ABC’s) very obvious unbalanced commitment to the IPCC/BOM/CSIRO view of AGW. I was surprised at his response. So here is the exchange that ensued. I do not apologise for ventilating these e-mails, as I consider they tell more about the manipulation of science at the ABC, its convention of conformity, and the betrayal by the national broadcaster of the public’s right to know than anything I could write. You judge:

******

Sunday, 28 July 2013
To: Robyn Williams

Hi Robyn

As usual I enjoyed Ockham’s Razor this morning. Some good points and observations, despite the overall impression being severely blunted by the aspect of special pleading from an apologist for one of Australia’s biggest windfarmers.

What struck me however, was the defensive nature of his complaint about the infrasound protesters. He was particularly disturbed that they were well-funded and had the wherewithal to continue to pester the industry with their false science. As I’m sure you will recognise, this is precisely the reverse of the situation in the climate debate, where the critics of the IPCC and its associated support organisations constantly point to the massive resources deployed to promote their theories.

So, from your helpfully supplied transcript, I extracted the following quotes of Ketan Joshi:

  • “not scientifically valid.”
  • “major methodological flaws.”
  • “Health fears seem to arise with increasing intensity.”
  • “The message…successfully exploits several key aspects of the way we consider risk, science and technology.”
  • “This ‘fright factor’ can trigger alarm, anxiety and outrage, separated from scientific estimates of risk.” (It can also influence government policy).
  • “The tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise (may be called) patternicity.”
  • “This seems to be a factor why stories of health impacts are so captivating to journalists, politicians and concerned residents.”
  • “We ought to turn a critical and serious gaze towards groups that seek to spread fear and uncertainty, unforgivably  divorced from scientific considerations.”  

How perceptive, I thought. What insight! How universally applicable to all excursions into science and pseudo-science!

Now, Robyn, all we need is a programme of O.R. devoted to the application of these sound principles to the questionable science of AGW, the frightening predictions of the IPCC, the political hectoring of Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut, and their unforgiveable acceptance by government. Were it not for the ‘fright factor’ we would not be facing the economic damage wrought by current policies – and there would need be no windfarms or infrasound dispute. When?

I commend the attached rational analysis – the sort of thing not heard from the ABC – as a possible basis for an invitation. https://quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2013/07/refuting-the-myths-of-climate-change

Kind regards

Geoffrey

******

From: Robyn Williams
Sent: Monday, 29 July 2013 10:32 AM
To: Ockhamsrazor_Rn
Subject: RE: Wind Farms 28/7 

Dear Geoffrey,

How nice to hear from you.

I’m afraid I’m constrained by the published evidence on AGW — though I do sometimes put on propaganda from the critics.

Delighted to see you recommend a journal with no ideological taint for reference.

You will be pleased to know I fail to broadcast at least half of the AGW published material as it seems so repetitious: that there is a problem.

RW

******

From: Geoffrey Luck
Sent: Monday, 29 July 2013 6:20 PM
To: Ockhamsrazor_Rn
Subject: Re: Wind Farms 28/7

Dear Robyn

To say that I was disappointed in your response would be an understatement. It would be preferable to say that it does you no credit.

But I was particularly interested in your statement that your are “constrained by published evidence on AGW.” Does this imply that the ABC has coerced you into conforming with appropriately approved scientific statements or does it mean that you have a selective view of the definition of “published evidence”? I note you did not comment on my recommended referral to the paper prepared by Des Moore, so it could be the latter. Or the former. Or both.

Disappointedly, you offered a sneer about the journal which hosted his work. If we are going to start throwing “published evidence” from ten paces, who knows where it could end? My real worry is that you don’t seem to read contrarian views — otherwise how could you endorse the “science is settled” view and overlook the slithery regression in IPCCC disaster confidence levels since 2001? Repetitious?

Even to this layman, there seems to be heaps of new data, regularly. I know – almost all of it is not very supportive of the ABC line.

Kind regards

Geoffrey

******

From: Robyn Williams, 10:27 AM
Sent: Tursday, July 30, 2013


Dear Geoffrey,

You are kind.

I would like you to come in to the ABC as soon as possible to join me in the studio with either Prof. Matt England or Andy Pittman from the UNSW.

You can go through each of your objections to the evidence and hear their answers. We can then broadcast the result.

A few weeks ago, at a forum at UNSW, I listed a few of Matt Ridley’s objections and they were answered.

I had dinner at the Melbourne Club a couple of years ago when Lord Rees (Martin Rees), former President of the Royal Society, was guest of honour. Des Moore’s performance was extraordinary and insulting. You think he is an expert in this?

What is the ABC line?

Anyway, please let me know when you can come in and I will tee up a professor. It has to be before 24 August.

Robyn

******

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 11:28 AM
To: Robyn Williams

Dear Robyn,

I suggested that you consider inviting Des Moore to contribute an Ockham’s Razor script on the basis of his careful analysis of the AGW issue and you respond with an invitation to subject myself to a kangaroo court with a couple of your favourite professors on the bench! A non sequitur, surely?

Did you read Des Moore’s article on the link I supplied, or is your judgement based on your prejudicial memory of an event some years ago?

The question that the ABC has to answer is how it fulfills its obligations under the Act and its Code of Practice by inflicting the personal conclusions of its broadcasters on its audience. It’s against the principles of scientific inquiry and a disappointment in the programmes which have contributed so much to public understanding of science.

So, no thanks.

Kind regards,

Geoffrey

******

Tuesday, 30 July, 2013 11:36 AM
To: Geoffrey Luck

Dear Geoffrey,

I have followed Moore’s eruptions in the Age, SMH and Quadrant over many years. They are splenetic, assertive and, on science, demonstrably wrong. If there is any ‘ABC line’ on this it is to go for expertise and not lobby groups.

You will find that the Royal Society recently tried to build a bridge via Nigel Lawson’s Foundation. It got nowhere.

I invited you, some years ago, to write an Ockhams Razor on this. You did not.

Never mind.

R

Geoffrey Luck was an ABC journalist from 1950 until 1976

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