Yesterday The Australian ran one of the best examples of why we should all be extremely cynical about the role the media play in presenting important public issues. In the column Cut and Paste (a daily editorial section that quotes other sources) was the following observation on global warming:
Climate change skepticism is growing in the US, says a Gallup news release:
Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41 per cent now say it is exaggerated. The represents the highest level of public skepticism about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in more than a decade of Gallup polling on the subject. As recently as 2006, significantly more Americans thought the news underestimated the seriousness of global warming than said it exaggerated it, 38 per cent to 30 per cent. Now, according to Gallup’s 2009 environment survey, more Americans say the problem is exaggerated rather than underestimed, 41 per cent v 28 per cent…
On Lateline on Wednesday, the ABC’s Lisa Millar is immune to the denialism epidemic:
Will Steffen, it seems that the science is saying that what we thought was heppening is definitely happening and it’s happening a while lot faster than anyone thought…
The evidence? Just about anything, says Steffen:
There’s a global pattern. Now these events vary from region to region, but in fact there is good evidence now that they are increasing. In many parts of the world, they’re manifested as flooding events. In our part of the world, we see drying trends.
So let’s see. That’s one argument ad populum (“global warming is wrong because a lot of people are skeptical about it”), selective quoting (the actual Gallup report saysÂ the bottom line is “Americans generally believe global warming is real. That sets the U.S. public apart from the global-warming skeptics who assembled this week in New York City to try to debunk the science behind climate change”), poor statistical interpretation (the Gallup poll has a confidence limit of Â±3% which means that a rise from 38% to 41% is either within or very close to their margin of error — to be fair to The Australian, this was not exactly highlighted by the Gallup report, just added as an endnote), a rhetorical exaggeration (a 3% increase in skepticism about the severity of global warming becomes a “denialism epidemic”), inconsistent application of data (the proportion of people reporting that “global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime” is at its second-highest level ever, 38% v 25% in 1997, but this is not an “epidemic of concern”), a non-sequitur (scientific evidence has to take into account the results of a Gallup poll of beliefs among 1,012 telephone interviewees in the US),Â a creationist-level fallacy (if a physical effect causes different outcomes in different circumstances, then that is evidence against the existence of the physical effect), and another creationist-level fallacy (what a scientist gets to say in 10 seconds of air time is the sum total of the evidence).
Not a bad effort for a handful of paragraphs of direct quotation.
 Â This argument that could be used to prove that cyclones can’t be air currents because they rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anticlockwise in the north.
 The editorial team should apply for jobs at the Discovery Institute.