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The news according to Mike Hosking

By Steven | April 3, 2014

I was watching Seven Sharp on Tuesday, and caught Mike Hosking’s closing monologue:

Bad news. I’m afraid the IPCC – the International Panel on Climate Change – has issued its latest report. It’s 2,600 pages long and spans 32 volumes. But I can sum it up for you. Ah, we’re stuffed. The seas are rising, the storms are coming, the locusts are close, we are going to climatic hell in a handcart. That’s of course, if you believe them. Which, as it turns out, I don’t.  Twenty years ago they said we had 20 years to turn things around. We haven’t. The Kyoto Protocol was a last-ditch attempt to save us all. No-one adhered to it. The lesson they have not learned is that freaking people out doesn’t get buy-in. I mean if the met service struggles with the accuracy of a five-day forecast, I’m thinking the accuracy of a long-range prediction that takes in 86 years might be a bit dodgy. So my advice: don’t let it ruin your night.

I was gob-smacked. If you believe them?  Is he really suggesting that hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists have conspired to make this up? Let’s be charitable to Hosking then: he’s merely suggesting that the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists are incompetent.

What expertise does he have to make that call? None, as far as I can tell. Has he even read their report? It doesn’t look like it. Does he disagree with their evidence or their analysis? He doesn’t challenge any of it. He simply thinks he knows better.

It’s as if he said: Almost all the world’s scientists say smoking causes lung disease. That’s if you believe them. Which, as it turns out, I don’t. Don’t lose any sleep over it.

It’s as if he just pooh-poohed the theory of evolution.

There comes a point during a scientific debate when things aren’t a matter of belief any more. The IPCC presents overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening right now.

Hosking’s reasoning is risible. He confuses weather with climate. He proffers the failure of Kyoto as evidence that climate change isn’t happening. He accuses the scientists of trying to “freak people out” in order to “get buy-in”.

Don’t let it ruin your night? This is the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists warning us about what is probably the biggest issue facing the planet.

Let’s put aside the fact that  Hosking’s view is deeply anti-scientific. Let’s even put aside that it’s staggeringly arrogant. He’s allowed to have moronic and galactically egotistical views.

What I can’t get past is that he and TVNZ would think it appropriate to broadcast a comment so inane on a matter of such importance on a prime-time show that TVNZ touts, however euphemistically, as current events. TVNZ is presenting Hosking as a journalist and a credible commentator.

However much slack you want to cut Seven Sharp (and in particular, that closing segment of the show) for its edginess and provocativeness, I think this crosses the line into something that no longer even resembles journalism.  I think Mike Hosking has just disqualified himself as a credible journalist.

[I’m especially grumpy about this because I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading about climate change recently. If you are on the fence about this, I suggest you take a look at . I’ve become so concerned that I’ve joined the lobby group]

Topics: Media ethics |

15 Responses to “The news according to Mike Hosking”

  1. Catweasel321 Says:
    April 4th, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    “I think Mike Hosking has just disqualified himself”

    What do you mean ‘Just’?

  2. Kevin McCready Says:
    April 4th, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks Steven
    Great article. I was going to post something along the lines of Catweasel too.
    I doubt if Hosking is that stupid. Though his association with the Maxim Institute might suggest a blind spot to which we are all subject. I know a guy with 2 PhD’s in science who has this blindspot too. God knows how he or Hosking will come to terms with it once we don’t have a media circus pretending there is a debate about climate change.

  3. ross Says:
    April 5th, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I’ amazed you’ve taken so seriously something said on Seven Sharp. Whatever you do, don’t take 7 Days seriously!

    Make sure you also read Bjorne Lomborg. He’s made the point that spending up large on reducing carbon emissions is not good economics.

  4. ross Says:
    April 6th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Expanding on my earlier comment, Lomborg says:

    “The bigger problem for the IPCC is that global temperature has risen little or not at all in the last 10-20 years. To be clear, this slowdown does not mean that there is no global warming – there is; but it does call into question how much….the IPCC has always claimed only that more than half of the temperature rise is due to humans, although in public discussion it has usually been interpreted as all. As the IPCC emphasizes, climate change is a problem; but the report contains none of the media’s typical apocalyptic scenarios, no alarmism, and no demands from natural scientists to cut emissions by X% or to lavish subsidies on solar panels.

    All of this is almost certain to be lost in the hullabaloo from lobbyists clamoring for action and media organizations hungry for bad news. Indeed, though the IPCC, according to its own principles, is a policy-neutral organization, its head, Rajendra Pachauri, will explicitly feed the frenzy by insisting that “humanity has pushed the world’s climate system to the brink,” and that we need to complete a “transition away from fossil fuels,” maybe with some kind of “price of carbon.”

    As a result, the likely outcome of the report’s release will be more of the same: a welter of scary scenarios, followed by politicians promising huge carbon cuts and expensive policies that have virtually no impact on climate change.

    Maybe we should try to alter this scenario. We should accept that there is global warming. But we should also accept that current policies are costly and have little upside. The European Union will pay $250 billion for its current climate policies each and every year for 87 years. For almost $20 trillion, temperatures by the end of the century will be reduced by a negligible 0.05ºC.”

  5. Steven Says:
    April 7th, 2014 at 9:47 am

    I’ve read some of Blomborg’s work.
    This isn’t really the place for a debate on the science, though I’m interested that the only response to the IPCC report that you’re mentioning is by a political scientist whose accuracy is under serious debate, and who anyway accepts that man-made climate change is a problem.
    In the NZ context, I would have thought the reactions are better gauged by the scientists rounded up by the Science Media Centre:

  6. ross Says:
    April 7th, 2014 at 10:46 am

    the only response to the IPCC report that you’re mentioning is by a political scientist whose accuracy is under serious debate, and who anyway accepts that man-made climate change is a problem.

    Sure it’s a problem but it’s not the only problem, nor is it necessarily the biggest problem. There is also the issue that climate change is not completely man-made, and that an awful lot of money is being spent with “little upside.”

    When Mike Hosking says “he doesn’t believe them”, I’m guessing he doesn’t believe the dire predictions. Remember the IPCC said that the Himalayan mountains could disappear by 2035. That was a bad error. If climate change is bad, surely there is no need to exaggerate the facts?

  7. mattb02 Says:
    April 14th, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Steven, if it was a report on almost any other topic you’d have a point. But climate science is politically captured. There is no shortage of evidence over the years of IPCC being selective, and of bending its own submission rules in favour of alarmism. We can see drivers which favour alarmism - alarmism gets you published, establishes an academic reputation and gets funding far faster than the alternative. Michael Mann achieved top publication, fame and funding for work that an unpaid retired mining executive established had no scientific merit. Skepticism does not pay a fraction of the bills that alarmism does: there is (almost) no buyer for skepticism - certainly not governments. Those skewed incentives do not depend on conspiracy.

    The fact is models and experts did not predict the actual temperature pattern of the last 15 years. So when the same group says about the same alarmist things on the same topic, we laypeople can point to reasons other than pure scientific merit for why they might say that. That is a reasonable basis on which to be skeptical of the latest claims of alarmism and this view does not depend on expertise in climate science to be formed. It is essentially a political economy argument. It would be naive to suggest IPCC is only or even mainly about the science.

  8. mattb02 Says:
    April 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    ps this ought to go without saying but may not: I do not doubt the world has warmed or that human activity has had at least some effect. What I do doubt is the case for catastrophe and the capacity of the system for research in climate science to give an honest, unbiased assessment of the case for catastrophe. If it is alarmism that gets funding and publication and not-alarmism that does not, then that system including IPCC cannot inform expectations of catastrophe or the case for change.

  9. Steven Says:
    April 14th, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Call me naive then. I find your claims extraordinary given the sheer amount of data and weight of scientific opinion and consensus around this.

  10. mattb02 Says:
    April 14th, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Steven I suspect you are mistaking evidence for climate change, of which there is plenty notwithstanding the trickery, with making the case for mitigation, a quite different, harder question with the evidence more mixed and arguably against. This is the obvious non sequitur throughout the climate debate. It does not necessarily follow from establishing human influence on climate that mitigation is in our interests.

    Even the IPCC can no longer find catastrophe in the data, only mild warming and mild sea rises. In which case I personally find it hard to see the moral or economic case for us today to make sacrifices, beyond pricing the carbon externality which we already do to a first approximation in this country, in order to add perhaps 2% to the GDP of our vastly wealthier descendants. I personally do not support steeply regressive policy or wasting resources while human misery today goes unaddressed.

  11. Steven Says:
    April 15th, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I note that the argument you’re advancing is not the same one as Mike Hosking was making.

    The IPCC does not describe its findings as “mild” and given that they cover fatal heatwaves, droughts, floods, crop failures and the spread of diseases - causing human misery right now - I’m not prepared to dismiss them as readily as you, nor to assume that just because there’s debate about mitigation that means we should do nothing.

    I’ve said this isn’t a place for a general debate on the science, and frankly I wonder how useful it would be anyway, since you regard scientists as self-interested and unreliable, and are prepared to make what seem to me to be blase and overstated claims about the work of the contrarians. For anyone interested in whether Matt’s retired mining engineer in fact established that Michael Mann’s work has “no scientific merit”, they might like to read this report, which concludes that Mann basically got it right:

  12. ross Says:
    April 15th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    I’m not prepared to dismiss them as readily as you, nor to assume that just because there’s debate about mitigation that means we should do nothing.

    I’m not aware anyone is saying we should do nothing. But certainly whatever we do will cost and we should know in advance if we are throwing good money after bad. You might have missed this quote: “The European Union will pay $250 billion for its current climate policies each and every year for 87 years. For almost $20 trillion, temperatures by the end of the century will be reduced by a negligible 0.05ºC.”

  13. ross Says:
    April 15th, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    As for Michael Mann, hasn’t his hockey stick schtick been “completely discredited?

    As for anti-science, even scientists can have that label thrown at them.

  14. Steven Says:
    April 15th, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    You are seriously quoting an article by Fred Singer? Please read Merchants of Doubt, which explains the unethical methods he and a small group of others used to try to create spurious doubt on a range of issues from the harms of tobacco smoke to climate change.

  15. ross Says:
    April 16th, 2014 at 1:27 pm


    I didn’t realise there was a list of approved people who I could quote. Anyway, I presume Judith Curry is someone you approve of. So, what does she say about climate change?

    “The climate community has worked for more than 20 years to establish a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. The IPCC’s consensus building process played a useful role in the early synthesis of the scientific knowledge about dangerous anthropogenic climate change. However, I have argued that the ongoing scientific consensus seeking process has had the unintended consequence of oversimplifying both the problem and its solutions, introducing biases into the both the science and related decision making processes.

    When uncertainty is not well characterized and there is concern about ‘unknown unknowns,’ there is increasing danger of getting the wrong answer and optimizing for the wrong thing. I have argued in favor of abandoning the scientific consensus seeking approach in favor of open debate and discussion of a broad range of policy options on the issues surrounding climate change.

    There are frameworks for decision making under deep uncertainty that accept uncertainty and dissent as key elements of the decision making process. Rather than choosing an optimal policy based on a scientific consensus, decision makers can design robust and flexible policy strategies that are more transparent and democratic, and avoid the hubris of pretending to know what will happen in the future.

    The politicization of the climate change issue presents daunting challenges to climate science and scientists.

    I would like to close with the reminder that uncertainty about the future climate is a two-edged sword. There are two situations to avoid: i) acting on the basis of a highly confident statement about the future that turns out to be wrong; and ii) missing the possibility of an extreme, catastrophic outcome. Avoiding both of these situations requires much deeper and better assessment of uncertainties and areas of ignorance, as well as creating a broader range of future scenarios than is currently provided by climate models.”

    Not quite Mike Hosking but not as strident as you appear to be.


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