Hard News by Russell Brown


Don't call it a consensus

Just to spoil your enjoyment of the congenial weather hereabouts, Joseph Romm has an excellent column on Salon this week in which he wishes people would stop talking about a "consensus" on global warming, and also stop saying "the science is settled".

That doesn't mean, however, that he doubts the science:

The science isn't settled -- it's unsettling, and getting more so every year as the scientific community learns more about the catastrophic consequences of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions.

The big difference I have with the doubters is they believe the IPCC reports seriously overstate the impact of human emissions on the climate, whereas the actual observed climate data clearly show the reports dramatically understate the impact.

But I do think the scientific community, the progressive community, environmentalists and media are making a serious mistake by using the word "consensus" to describe the shared understanding scientists have about the ever-worsening impacts that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are having on this planet. When scientists and others say there is a consensus, many if not most people probably hear "consensus of opinion," which can -- and often is -- dismissed out of hand.

Campbell O'Fee, Executive Assistant - House, Government Whips' Office has an important observation about yesterday's post:

It may be worth noting that the IP address you list is attached to the whole parliamentary complex. Therefore if anyone in the Parliamentary complex makes an edit it registers as being from that IP address. One individual did not make all those edits, it was an entire building's worth, which explains why this mystery editor seems to have an impossibly wide range of interests.

Whilst your question regarding political editing of information is valid, I think the way you described this situation paints it in an inaccurate light, there is no masked wikipedia editor at parliament rewriting history, just executive assistants making changes at the request of their members and researchers and press secs updating pages as part of their job. I think in the interest of providing a completely accurate story you may want to edit your own page.

Also FYI I have never edited a wikipedia page as part of my job, or personally. I am merely concerned with misconceptions being spread as to the nature of these edits.

Yes, and although I noted essentially that point in comments yesterday, I didn't consider it when I wrote the original post and I should have. It was remiss on my part.

Another person observed of the Parliamentary set-up:

There's a couple of different proxies, NATing firewalls etc for traffic in and out of the place, and who you are and where you physically are at the time will determine the path taken.

Indeed, there are a number of Parliamentary IP addresses logged as making edits, but the fact that so many are associated with that particular address is not evidence of a single Parliamentary dervish doing it all.

That said, there's a pattern of editing that suggests a smaller number of individuals are particularly prolific; too much so for it to be appropriate for such editing to be done anonymously. In this case, I'd like to see Wikipedia accounts registered and declarations of interest in the associated profiles.

As I said yesterday, there's no particular problem with MPs' staff adding or correcting information on their respective articles, and reasonable people might differ on the removal of the information from the Bill English article (the Allan Peachey incident is more clear-cut -- that was someone deleting something that was demonstrably notable, but embarrassing to their boss) but I think we're at the point where transparency is required.

And one more thing: Please, stop emailing me or posting comments associating these edits with the individual whose name can be found through a reverse IP lookup of that address. It's the IT guy, okay? Just stop it.

Yesterday's discussion covers a range of issues about Wikipedia and its status, and is well worth a read if you have time. And any news story that has me and Whaleoil on the same page has to be worth a chuckle.

Anyway, I spoke twice about Media7 yesterday as part of TVNZ's public briefings about the soon-to-launch (end of March) TVNZ 7 factual channel on Freeview. It was enjoyable and the reception was pleasing, but that was a loooong day and I'm fairly knackered today.

So let's go for a lighter note. I downloaded and watched The Brits, the British music awards, this week, and although most of the bits in between were crap, the stage performances were brilliantly produced. No more so than Rianna's collaboration with The Klaxons on that song. It looked and sounded huge, and it appears it may actually get a proper release.

In the meantime, there's a YouTube clip of that performance, and, just because I'm feeling generous, a high-quality version you can right-click to download, probably only for today. It's 52MB QuickTime movie, but I suspect it won't play in QuickTime Player unless you have the Perian components installed (which you probably should on a Mac, because they rock). VLC Player will do the trick otherwise.

Staying with the music: two releases I've been loving lately are Hot Chip's new album Made in the Dark and the locally-connected New Telepathics' You Have Been Warned, which pulls of the kind of fusions (a protest song for Fela Kuti, anyone?) that frequently make bands look silly. And it's certainly pretty cool having someone who played with Sun Ra in your band …

PS: Warmest congratulations to our design genius Matt Buchanan and his wife Catherine on the arrival yesterday afternoon of Elliot Rose Buchanan, 4.57kg. All well.

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