Graham Readfearn

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Graham Readfearn is an independent journalist based in Queensland, Australia, with 15 years experience as a reporter and writer on newspapers, magazines, radio and online.

In Australia, Graham's features and commentary on climate change and sustainability issues appear regularly for The Guardian, G Magazine, ABC Environment, The Drum and Crikey.

In his native UK, Graham worked on daily regional newspapers for five years at The Gazette in Blackpool and The Yorkshire Post in Leeds. His campaigns highlighted major malpractices at a chemical reprocessing factory and helped secure better payments for war pensioners.

A long-running campaign to increase the levels of physical education in UK schools was quoted in British Parliament and won him the regional sports writer of the year award from Britain’s Sports Writers’ Association.

He moved to London and the BBC’s national 24-hour news and sport radio network FiveLive to work as a broadcast journalist, script writer and producer.

During two years there, he was part of the team producing the live rolling coverage of the New York September 11 attacks and was studio producer as news broke of an IRA bomb in London’s Ealing suburb. In the wake of British race riots, he conceived and co-produced a live three-hour programme on multicultural issues from Europe's largest Indian curry restaurant.

After a career-break to travel the world he returned to the UK as a freelance feature writer covering social affairs, youth issues, regeneration, social enterprise and sustainability for national magazines and newspapers.

After moving to Australia in 2005, he was a feature writer for Queensland's main daily newspaper, The Courier-Mail, where he launched his first environment blog, GreenBlog, writing more than 650 posts and moderating in excess of 14,000 comments.

He likes chickens (he's got six), his kids (he's got two), his wife (just the one), coffee and other things - although not necessarily in that order.

Graham occasionally blogs at www.readfearn.com

Youth Climate Coalition To Peabody Energy Boss: 'We Don't Want Your Coal'

“Mr Kellow will not be doing any interviews,” came the message into the media room at an unofficial G20 side event in Brisbane earlier this week.

Glenn Kellow is the chief operating officer at Peabody Energy – the world’s biggest privately owned coal company.

The news of Mr Kellow’s media shyness was all the more curious given that his company had been the sole main sponsor for the “energy theme” at the Global Café event.

Perhaps Kellow was anticipating a hostile reception over his company’s spearheading of the coal industry’s new message that the climate changing fossil fuel is the answer to global poverty?

If this was his expectation, then it came true – if only for a few fleeting seconds – when a group of seven campaigners from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) rose to their feet in the middle of his keynote speech inside the lavish auditorium of the Brisbane City Hall.

“Peabody: we don’t want you coal. You don’t belong at the G20,” came the bellowing shouts, before the group joined hands to walk out.

Outside, the protestors rode bikes outside the forum entrance with billboards that spoofed Peabody Energy’s “Advanced Energy for Life” campaign developed with the help of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s biggest PR firms who previously worked with the tobacco industry.

“Climate Impacts for Life – Peabody Coal… the only kind of ‘Advanced Energy’ is Renewable Energy,” the billboards read. 

Coal Companies Avoid Coal When Funding Energy Poverty Projects In Poorest Countries, Report Finds

When the coal industry says its product is the only way the world’s poor can lift themselves from poverty, some people in Australia believe them.

Chief among the industry’s promoters has been the country’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who has said that coal is “good for humanity” and that the energy source and main driver of climate change shouldn’t be “demonised”.

But a new report from progressive think tank The Australia Institute (TAI) has put a looking glass up to the industry’s claims to a glistening future and found what it claims is little more than self-serving industry spin.

The industry has been pushing its supposed concerns for “energy poverty” in media statements, columns, industry presentations, reports and advertising campaigns this year.

According to the International Energy Agency, there are about 1.3 billion in the world without access to electricity and about 2.7 billion without access to clean cooking and heating. Almost all these people live in rural areas in either sub-Saharan Africa or Asia.

The coal industry – led by a PR campaign from the world’s biggest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy – has been using the energy poverty issue as way to lobby investors and world leaders.

But the TAI report – All Talk, No Action – finds that the industry’s claim are largely misrepresenting the current economic climate and forecasts for the future.

How Bill Gates and Peabody Energy Share Vision For Coal Powered Future Through Views of Bjorn Lomborg

No doubt a few eyebrows were raised and possibly some palms smashed against faces earlier this year when the richest person on the planet came out in qualified support of policies to burn massive amounts of coal in the developing world.

In June, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates took to his GatesNotes blog to promote the views of Danish political scientist Dr Bjorn Lomborg.

Gates opined that “as we push to get serious about confronting climate change” it was wrong for rich countries to tell developing countries that they should cut back on burning fossil fuels. He wrote:

For one thing, poor countries represent a small part of the carbon-emissions problem. And they desperately need cheap sources of energy now to fuel the economic growth that lifts families out of poverty. They can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions, and we can’t expect them wait for the technology to get cheaper.

Gates urged people to consider the view of Lomborg and his think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus CenterAlongside the blog post were two “GatesNotes” branded videos where Lomborg presented his arguments. 

In the videos Lomborg said it was “hypocritical” for the developed world to try and deny poor countries access to fossil fuels when so much of the developed world is still fueled on them. Lomborg also linked the issue of reducing the impacts of indoor air pollution to increasing use of fossil fuels. 

In the video, Lomborg said:

The solution to indoor air pollution is very, very simple. It’s getting people access to modern energy and typically that’s electricity and that’s going to mean fossil fuels for those three billion people who don’t have access. We have a very clear moral imperative to make sure that people don’t cook with dirty fuels and make sure those people get out of poverty and have a decent life.

The World Health Organization says indoor air pollution caused by the burning of fuels like wood, dung and coal (Lomborg didn’t mention coal) kills about four million people a year.

While Lomborg argued that the “simple” solution to indoor air pollution is access to coal-powered electricity, the more immediate solution is access to cleaner-burning cooking stoves, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Radha Muthia, the executive director of the alliance, wrote to the New York Times in December last year after the newspaper had published a column where Lomborg had again argued that while more efficient cooking stoves “could help” what the world really needed were “low cost fossil fuels” – chiefly, coal.

Muthia wrote that “fossil fuels are not the only solution” and that the “stakes are too high” to rest on Lomborg’s assumption.

Climate Science Denialist Patrick Moore Tours Australia After Comparing Students to the Taliban

Canadian climate science denialist Patrick Moore is at the beginning of a tour around Australia speaking to audiences across the country.

But here’s a warning. 

If you do find yourself in the audience and don’t want to be compared to the “Taliban” then don’t even think about walking out in protest.

Less than two weeks before flying to Australia, Moore spoke on the campus of Amherst College in Massachusetts. 

When members of the college’s environmental group decided they had heard enough and walked, Moore said they had a “Taliban mindset”. 

When he was later asked to apologise, a report in the Amherst College student newspaper says Moore instead chose to double-down on his remark.

Fifty people walk out, and I say that’s a pretty Taliban thing to do,” Moore is reported to have said, characterizing the behavior of the young students to that of the fundamentalist regime that massacred thousands and committed brutal repression of women.

Coal One of 'Greatest Products In History' Says Australian Coal Industry Figure

THE Australian newspaper has run a free advertisement today for the coal industry in the form of an op-ed column by a leading industry figure that says that coal is one of the best things ever.

And no I'm not exaggerating.

New South Wales Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee, a former advisor to several high-ranking Liberal Party politicians including the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott, writes in The Australian that coal is “one of the greatest overall products in ­history” and is just totally awesome (he didn't use the word awesome, that was me).

Galilee's column in the Murdoch-owned newspaper is the latest repetition of the industry's favourite PR line that coal can end global poverty.

Tony Abbott, the environment minister Greg Hunt and the Treasurer Joe Hockey have all used this coal industry line in recent weeks.

I've written about the industry's attempt to lobby the G20 for The Guardian and looked at Hockey's recent contribution for DeSmogBlog. You should go and read those pieces because they are among the greatest overall products blogs in history.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey Latest Minister To Tout Coal Industry "Energy Poverty" Spin

Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey barely missed a beat when challenged to justify the country's massive fossil fuel export industry and bottom-dwelling record for domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are exporting coal so that nations can lift their people out of poverty,” the Liberal Treasurer told the journalist Stephen Sackur on the BBC's HARDTalk interview program.

Hockey's argument should be recognised for what it is - a line straight out of the coal industry's newest campaign playbook.

As I wrote earlier this week on The Guardian, the coal industry is attempting to hijack the issue of “energy poverty” by claiming the only way that the world's poorest can prosper is by purchasing and then burning more of their product.

The United Nations Environment Programme wouldn't agree. In a summary report of climate change impacts, UNEP says: “In Africa and other developing regions of the world, climate change is a threat to economic growth (due to changes in natural systems and resources), long-term prosperity, as well as the survival of already vulnerable populations.”
 
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of climate change found climate change would “exacerbate multidimensional poverty” in most developing countries and create “new poverty pockets” in both rich and poor countries.

Australia's Climate Change Conspiracy Theorists Get Angry Over Radio Interview That Never Happened

In the space of six days, Rupert Murdoch's The Australian newspaper has published five news stories and an opinion piece attacking the credibility of the Australian government's weather and climate agency, the Bureau of Meteorology.

I've covered the guts of the early stories over on my Planet Oz blog for The Guardian.

But the core of it is that Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a former Institute of Public Affairs free market think tankerer, is claiming that the BoM has, in her words, “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”.

Marohasy is a researcher at Central Queensland University with her work funded by another climate change “sceptic”.

She has has not published her analysis in any journal, yet The Australian's Graham Lloyd has deemed the claims of a climate science sceptic on blogs worthy enough of five news pieces.

I just want to deal with his latest story here, that comments on the BoM's process of transparency.  The story includes this bit:

The bureau has been under fire for not making publicly available the methodology used for homogenisation. Michael Asten from the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University said confidence in BOM’s data would increase “if and when BOM publishes or supplies its homogenisation algorithms, a step which would be quite consistent with existing ­requirements of the better peer-reviewed journals.’’ BOM said its methods had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals but did not say where or in what form.

This claim is - oh what's the word - bolloxxs (sorry kids).

Advertising Watchdog Says Peabody Energy 'Clean Coal' Advert Was Misleading

CLEAN COAL, it's the two-word catch phrase the coal industry has used for years as it tries to convince the world its climate changing energy source has a future.

While the term “clean coal” is rightly met with ridicule and derision by many, up until this week it has been allowed to stand — at least in the world of advertising.

But now the UK’s advertising authorities have told Peabody Energy that it can no longer freely dangle its “clean coal” mythology in front of consumers without explaining itself.

The advert, devised by global PR agency Burson-Marsteller, claimed that Peabody was using “today’s clean coal technologies” to “improve emissions”.

In an adjudication, the Advertising Standards Authority said:

Notwithstanding the fact that “clean coal” had a meaning within the energy sector, we considered that without further information, and particularly when followed by another reference to “clean, modern energy”, consumers were likely to interpret the word ”clean” as an absolute claim meaning that “clean coal” processes did not produce CO2 or other emissions. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.

The ASA said that the complainant, environment group WWF, had argued the term “clean coal” was misleading and that it “implied that the advertiser's impact on the environment was less damaging than was actually the case”.

Michael Mann's Opponents In Hockey Stick Defamation Case Regurgitate Half-Truths In New Court Filing

Michael Mann

Put up your hand if you’ve been a follower of news about climate change in recent years and haven’t heard of the “hockey stick” graph.

Nobody?  No, didn’t think so.

These graphs get their name because of their shape. 

They are reconstructions of the temperatures on Earth over several centuries to several millennia and they all have a repetitive tendency to turn sharply skyward showing the recent rapid warming of the Earth.

The most famous and first “hockey stick” came from research in the journal Nature in 1998 led by Professor Michael Mann, then of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Mann used historical data from tree rings and ice cores – known as “proxy records” - to determine what temperatures were like over the Northern Hemisphere over the 600 years or so before we had a reasonably well-dispersed network of thermometers.

When plotted on a chart… well, you know the rest.  It looked like a hockey stick.

Mann followed up that work in 1999, refining the research for a study in Geophysical Research Letters to give a full 1000-year history of the planet’s temperatures.

His work appeared in the 2001 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.  This is what it looked liked in that report (notice the red and blue colors - we'll come to that in a bit.)


  

Australian Press Watchdog Criticises Climate Report From Rupert Murdoch's Flagship Newspaper

The headline on The Australian newspaper’s story about a leak of a major United Nations climate change report read “We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC”.

But an investigation by Australia’s press watchdog has found that in fact, it was the Murdoch-owned national newspaper that “got it wrong”.

The Australian Press Council has upheld complaints about the coverage, led by a story from the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd.

The council also found the newspaper’s attempts to correct its story had failed to meet the press standards.

Lloyd’s original story, published on page one in September 2013, was an echo of a story published the previous day by the UK Daily Mail’s David Rose.

The story claimed a leaked version of the fifth UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report into the scientific basis for climate change would state that “over the past 60 years the world has in fact been warming at half the rate claimed” in the previous 2007 report.

Rose and Lloyd seemed to want people to conclude that the IPCC didn’t know what it was doing, had shown to have got things badly wrong and that global warming was only half as bad as people had been making out.

Except as I explained in The Guardian at the time, the Daily Mail, The Australian and several other outlets that parroted the story had badly misread the numbers.

The rate of warming over the past 50 years declared by the two IPCC reports was in fact almost identical (a difference of only 0.01C) when you compared apples with apples, rather than comparing, say, a newspaper with a bowl of cheese.

The Australian Press Council adjudication, handed down this week, said:

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