How The Australian Newspaper Warps The World of Climate Science

Read time: 4 mins
Cover of Bad news, an essay by Robert Manne

THERE is a publication in Australia where for every one story you read which agrees society should take firm steps to combat climate change, there are four stories suggesting we shouldn’t.

When climate change is viewed through the pages of this publication, most of the world’s “experts” think it’s either not happening, not worth worrying about or not caused by humans.

Advocates for strong action on climate change are variously described as “prophets of doom”, “greenhouse hysterics” or “hair-shirted greenhouse penitents”. 

As extreme as these positions might appear, this publication is not a newsletter from a fringe group or a bulletin from the Tea Party.
This is the divisive state of climate change science in the pages of the nation’s sole national newspaper The Australian, according to a 115-page examination of the publication’s role in shaping how Australia thinks.
The essay – Bad News (paywalled) - is written by author Professor Robert Manne, one of the country’s leading political thinkers.
In an excerpt from his essay, published in The Age, Manne writes
As we shall see, what The Australian has contributed on climate change under editor Chris Mitchell's watch is a frightful hotchpotch of ideological prejudice and intellectual muddle
The Australian’s owner is Rupert Murdoch, who in 2006 said the planet deserved “the benefit of the doubt” and that it was now time to “take a lead” on the issue.
Manne analysed climate change articles printed by The Australian between January 2004 and April 2011 and found that 700 articles were “unfavourable” to action on climate change.
That is, they either disagreed with the consensus of climate science, didn’t support Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto protocol or didn’t support previous governments’ steps towards a carbon trading scheme. 
Balanced against these 700 articles, there were 180 stories and columns “favourable” to  action on climate change. 
Climate skepticism and denial also heavily dominated the newspaper’s columns and opinion articles, Manne found.
Dozens of articles were published by “scientists” which rejected the consensual view.  

Sceptics including Bob Carter, Ian Plimer, Christopher Monckton, Richard Lindzen, David Bellamy and John Christy were all given space in The Australian
In particular, Bob Carter wrote nine articles, Bjorn Lomborg penned 25 and two members of the Australian “free market” think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, well known for dissemination of climate denial, wrote 16 articles. 
Contributions from recognised climate science experts, such as James Hansen and the immediate past president of the Australian Academy of Science Professor Kurt Lambeck, were outnumbered by ten to one.
Among The Australian’s in-house regulars, Manne documents the “comical degree of self-confidence” with which its writers disagreed with established climate science.
While in its official editorials, The Australian has said it accepts the science of climate change, Manne looks closer at the newspaper's record.

In its coverage of climate change, The Australian had failed to acknowledge the distinction between genuine expertise and “contrarians or cranks” and had “threatened the always vulnerable place of reason in public life”.
Manne's essay is just the latest to question The Australian's coverage of climate change.
Astrophysicist Michael Ashley recently documented on The Conversation the newspaper's questionable record and described its climate change coverage as resembling an “event horizon” where “our normal perception of reality is so completely overturned”.
In a long-running series, Tim Lambert’s Deltoid blog has been documenting The Australian’s “war on science” - a list of errors and misrepresentations - which is currently up to 70.
In a profile of The Australian’s editor Chris Mitchell, published in the August issue of magazine The Monthly, it was revealed that News Limited’s environment and climate change manager Dr Tony Wilkins had himself canceled his subscription to The Australian over its coverage of climate change.
When a former journalist at The Australian complained during a conference last year that writing on climate change for the newspaper had been “torture”, Mitchell threatened to sue academic Julie Posetti, who had tweeted the comments.
Legal letters went backwards and forwards in what became known as #Twitdef – the hashtag used by followers of the case on Twitter. The threat has not been withdrawn.
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The feeders like Quadrant, the IPA, The Lavarosa group, the Chamber of commerce & other industry groups have a lot to answer for too. There are many of them that not only feed the Australian, but together they act to echo each others propaganda.



Are there documents available to the public that show these groups support the Australian?  I like to collect some of the telling memos, tax documents, etc.

I have a few pdfs for ExxonMobil that show clearly donations to Heartland Institute for the purpose of “climate change research”.  Also, that American Petroleum Institute planning memo to make “Kyoto obsolete” is a classic.

“Are there documents available to the public that show these groups support the Australian?”

No , unlike say WUWT who actively hide their funding sources despite having direct ties to Fox news, the funding for the groups I mention is well know & a matter of public record.

“I like to collect some of the telling memos, tax documents, etc.”

I do too & probably have the same or similar collection to you. One day I will start a visio on the web of denial in Australia & how the right wing echo chamber is tightly intertwined & interlinked. The ones on exxon secrets & source watch are difficult to visualize.

Also, above I had a typo. It’s not the Lavarosa group, it’s the “Lavoisier Group”. I was traveling & the name slipped me.

Proudly displaying a story in the Australian on their site:

It’s a who’s who of mining execs & fossil fuel execs, who reference the work of Australian denier scientists like Bob Carter, Ian Plimer or William Kinnimoth, David Evans , Jo Nova & Jennifer Marohasy to name a few & who have no peer reviewed papers published in the relevant field, but are frequently asked for their “expert” opinion. They also contribute to stories in the Australian. Most have their own blogs with David Evans & his Wife Jo Evans ( Jo Nova) havingtheir own separate websites.

There are right wing think tanks & lobbying groups who seem to have a cross pollination of membership across these various organizations & who often start up additional front groups, from the front groups themselves. Also part of the feeder streams of information is:

1) The Institute of Public Affairs. Funded by Exxon.

Who have an additional front group called:

With ties to the logging industry.



4) Australian Climate Science Coalition :

Then there is right wing publications & blogs that also feed the Australian & who’s contributors often write stories for the Australian.

That is part of my list & ties. If you have a look at the members of each of these organizations, you will see that many of them are members of 2 or 3 of these organizations & are also members of American & European denial machines as well, like the SPPI, or the Fraser Institute, or the Heartland Institute etc.

It’s truly a web of denial with industry funding & conservative party backing. They then get their fingers into the mainstream press through conservative papers owned by Murdoch which feed 70% of the newspaper market to Australians for consumption. You can do a search of nearly any member of one of the organizations above on the Australian newspapers website & find either a story or opinion piece written by many of them.

The public at large don’t know who these organizations are & just see an innocent enough sounding name: “The institute of Public Affairs”, the “Australian Environment Foundation”, “Centre of Independent studies” .

They are also nutured & refered to by the right wing arm of the Fairfax press here through their commercial AM radio stations.


Holy cow…

Thanks much, I’ll have to parse/check this information a bit at a time, but I’ll definitely refer back to it.  

>> “No , unlike say WUWT who actively hide their funding sources despite having direct ties to Fox news, the funding for the groups I mention is well know & a matter of public record.”

WUWT has ties to Fox News?  I recall an interview Watts had with Glenn Beck, but I didn’t know there were lasting ties.

WUWT has ties to Fox News?  I recall an interview Watts had with Glenn Beck, but I didn’t know there were lasting ties.”

Anthony Watts, the owner of WUWT, works for KPAY-AM, a Fox news affiliate.

Personalities & shows on KPAY-AM

Personalities and shows

  • Matt Ray, Mike Baca
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Sean Hannity
  • Lars Larson
  • The Savage Nation
  • Coast to Coast AM

KPAY showing the Fox logo.

WUWT, is pretty much an avenue where FOX can dedicate their right wing attentions nearly entirely to conservative propganda on AGW.


Media outlets and websites that are agreeable talking to each other. Its a conspiracy!!

This is just the sort of issue desmog needs to crack open. Maybe they can get some help from climate progress and media matters!

“This is just the sort of issue desmog needs to crack open. Maybe they can get some help from climate progress and media matters!”

Rick, some of this is covered already in the desmog disinformation database. Some in Exxon secrets & more in source watch & PR Watch, as well as other resources.

The information you are so keen to distract people from is as the desmog database says :

An extensive database of individuals involved in the global warming denial industry”

People willing to lie, obfuscate, distract, derail, confuse etc on behalf of select corporations & political parties to draw peoples attention away from the consensus & swathes of scientific evidence on AGW.

It’s not just about different media outlets agreeing with each other. It’s about the fact that there is an industry of deniers & liars for hire, who operate surreptitiously through a complicated web of front groups, for the sole purpose of power & profit.

The warnings from our major scientific institutes across the planet is a call to arms for these folk, as it threatens their profits. They in turn need lobbyists, front groups, media outlets, journalists, scientists, “experts”, votes etc to bend the opinion of the greater public to their will.


Phil - most every website has some pre existing bias. If I was to quote something from Beck or wuwt you would reject it out of hand because of their pre existing bias.

Something called “exxon secrets” is obviously biased
Sourcewatch pretends to be neutral. Newsflash Phil - so does Fox.

So called “fair and balanced” news sources and “watch” sites are never neutral, fair or balanced.

Phil - most every website has some pre existing bias.”

Rick, we are not talking about a blog here. We are talking about a newspaper. A newspaper that is part of an organization that supplies 70% of the print media to Australians. There is no political guage/meter/compass  (maybe there should be) that is printed on the front of any paper that shows it’s political position on the spectrum.

The general public just assume it’s “news”, when really, it’s “views”.

A view of a story through the many filters of their sponsors, shareholders, advertisers & associated political parties.

So if you are an Australian & newspapers are your predominant source of news & you are unaware of the political leanings of the newspaper, then the news is read uncritically.

If it’s TV or radio or a blog, it’s easy to move between options. With newspapers in Australia, there is virtually no choice. It seems the news now, is less about the actual raw informational facts & more about how it can be covered or not covered at all so as not to step on the toes of sponsors, share holders, advertisers or the readership/viewers/listeners it caters for.


Here is a small web of denial I created on the exxon secrets site. It’s a bit messy & was done more for myself than anyone else, but you get the picture of the size of the web & the inter-connection between denier institutions & it’s members or people of interest.

Remember, this is just EXXON’s funding &web of front groups. If one were to be done for Chevron, Shell, BP, Texaco, Koch, Conoco, Peabody etc, the web would be gargantuan.