Remember the last time you tried to reason with someone who constantly took your words out of context in an attempt to argue an opposite futile point? If that left you smiling politely while shaking your head, you probably felt like me after reading the article “Coral Reefs and Climate Change: Unproved Assumptions” by the Idso family posted on their website “CO2 Science” at the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. The article is another sad addition to their more than 500 un-reviewed pieces – all with the obvious agenda of making their readers believe that climate change science is nothing but alarmist propaganda.

In their latest anti-science scribble (Vol 12, No 3) the Idso’s attempt to build the case that “it is premature to suggest that widespread reef collapse is a certain consequence of ongoing bleaching” and that “nature is far more resilient [to climate change] than many people give it credit for..”  All of their quotes are from a recent paper by a group of young and excellent Australian marine biologists, Maynard, Baird and Pratchett published in Coral Reefs (27:745-749). Contrary to the Idso’s claims, Maynard et al.’s paper does not question that climate change is a threat to coral reefs.  The purpose of Maynard et al.’s paper is to provoke debate around some specific assumptions of thermal thresholds and coral reef’s adaptability to climate change and the functional link between reef degradation and fisheries.

Rest assured, Maynard et al. will get the debate they have provoked within the scientific community. Critiques and responses are part of the quality control system of the scientific process and add to the foundation on which our knowledge system is built across disciplines from physics and engineering to medicine. However, by running with a few bits of quotes, stitched together in a fabricated “they say” story, the Idso’s are not doing their readers any favours. Instead, the Idso’s demonstrate two points quite clearly: (1) they have very limited understanding of the science, and (2) their agenda is to write journalism that systematically attempts to discredit the best available climate-change science.

After reading a number of their smear campaigns, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change takes shape of a law firm defending a client’s case (wonder who they could be?) that is up against an overwhelming amount of opposing evidence. Like rookies, they fumble in their exhibits folder, hoping to win the jury over by causing confusion. The danger of their practise is that they generate disinformation about climate change in a time when the public, the media and governments are in urgent need of good information.

Here’s an analogy that adds perspective. Although most addicted smokers don’t like to hear that smoking is unhealthy, confusing them about the medical recommendations based on decades of rigorous science is a crime. With good information, people can make informed choices. Similarly, keeping the media and the public confused about the seriousness of climate change by producing demagogic journalism – has the effect of delaying critical action on an issue that needs immediate action to minimise damage in the future.

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