“...we are the generation fated to live in the most interesting of times, for we are now the weather makers, and the future of biodiversity and civilisation hangs on our actions...”

Tim Flannery (2005) [1]

A Time for Action
The Scientific Peer Reviewed Literature Vs the Popular Press – Who to Believe?
Scientific literature is not for everyone. It is necessarily dry, presenting data and an analysis of what that data tells us about the world as part of the scientific method for testing and proving hypotheses. It is written by scientists, for scientists and importantly it is peer reviewed. This means that scientific literature goes through a review process involving qualified contemporary scientists, to independently check the information that is presented for validity and importance. The process is not perfect, but it implies that most peer reviewed scientific literature is a reliable source of information presented without bias. The goal is get as close as possible to establishing a scientific truth.
The popular press, on the other hand, seeks controversy , and in order to do so will seek out anybody who is willing to provide an ‘alternative’ point of view even if they are far less qualified to provide an opinion. There are of course exceptions and many of the causes that fuel a bias are noble and just causes worthy of the influence they exert. But, other than the potential legal ramifications of deliberate deceit, there is little to keep the media honest. Indeed, the media is rewarded by ratings and newspaper sales if they can sensationalise an issue and stir up a controversy. There are also significant financial gains to be found in influencing the masses, as evidenced by the preponderance of marketing campaigns. The consequece of this situation is that many a scientist has had years of research published in a reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal, only to have the popular press pick it up and give someone who may have little or no qualification equal air time to tear it apart. They sensationalise the issue by creating debate with unqualified opinions from so called experts who gain equal air time and don't have to pass their arguments through the peer review process. The audience, unaware of the ruse, sees two supposedly equal experts and enjoys the joust. They are left with a view that the issue at hand is unresolved. The ultimate casualty is the public's knowledge of the truth. This in itself is not a significant problem until the issue being debated has significant impact and relies on a well-informed public in order to be resolved.
Sadly, there appears no way to overcome this challenge. Freedom of the press is an essential component of any democracy. Of course that freedom does depend on who owns the press, but nonetheless it is freedom – after a fashion. The audience’s only defence is to consider the potential advantages that an expert or their organisation might gain from influencing their opinion. Read the reputable scientific literature on the subject for a reasonably unbiased opinion to inform their decision. If you find a reputable peer reviewed scientific journal that claims there is no human-induced climate change, please forward the link.
We are currently in the process of establishing a blog for you to exercise your democratic right and voice your opinion, after all, the planet belongs to none of us, but is the life support system for us all. For the other 99.99999% of organisms that share this planet and don't have Internet access we'll assume a voice in the affirmative for putting  the planet back the way it was before the industrial age. The blog will be hosted through this page, but in the interim we are interested in hearing any thoughts you might have on sustainable forestry and climate change via our feedback email address below.
A West Indian Mahogany (Swietennia mahogani) in the ‘rainforest hill’ paddock
[1] – Flannery, T. (2005). The Weather Makers: the history and future impact of climate change. The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne. 332pp.
[2] – IPCC. (2007). The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf
A hypothesis that science has been testing for over half a century has now largely been accepted and understood by the world's population: we, Homo sapiens, are directly causing dangerously accelerated global climate change [2]. The trouble is that when measured qualitatively in human memory, the subtle climate changes thus far, barely register with our year-to-year perception of the world. As for the future consequences, they appear sufficiently contested and far enough removed to constitute a problem well left for the future. We are akin to the proverbial frog in the beaker: drop a frog into a beaker of boiling water and it will immediately leap out. Place that same frog in a beaker of cool water, heat it slowly to a boil and the frog will (un)happily remain there until it is poached – or so the theory goes; a love of frogs precludes the independent verification of the experiment on our watch.
The frog experiment analogy is a good one insofar as the frog’s inability to identify the incremental changes to its environment, but the outcome is predictable: the water will boil and the frog will be poached. Furthermore, turn off the heat and the water will immediately begin to cool averting the frog's demise. The Earth's complex system of systems in comparison is far less predictable. Scientists (at least those not influenced by corporate incentives or the infamy of unqualified dissent under the guise of 'the scientific method') are virtually unanimous in their opinion that anthropogenic climate change is occurring [2]. Agreement on the nature and timing of future effects is less unified – though all predictions are universally catastrophic. In short, we are steering the Earth towards uncharted and dangerous waters. One might observe that our preoccupation with immediate issues, like the current financial meltdown, is akin to re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Any stabilization of the financial system will be short-lived if anthropogenic climate change continues without serious efforts to reduce emissions and capture Green House Gases (GHGs). Like the Titanic, the planet's system will take time to respond to any correction to our present course. We have received the '...iceberg dead ahead...' warning, but it seems that even a sharp course correction now with engines full astern will only lessen the impact.
There is myriad scientific information in the public domain and in the scientific literature regarding the science of climate change. We do not intend to replicate or review that information here in any detail. However, for those who still believe that there is a climate debate – that the so called ‘climate sceptics’ might be right – we offer some thoughts below to help penetrate the smoke, lights and mirrors of disinformation. We offer this insight in the hope that we can help others to get beyond debating the existence of a problem and get on with the necessary changes that we all have to make as part of the solution. We also welcome feedback.