Climate Change Science Attitudes Australia and Koch in USA

Featured

Climate science or climate change denialism have been apparent for some decades since the 1970s with Koch Industries being central along with ‘big oil’ of Exxon Mobil etc. in funding through ‘Dark Money’ academia, research, think tanks, media, politicians and PR techniques to influence society.  Now we see the results including wide-spread climate denialism, avoidance of environmental protections and negative media PR campaigns; meanwhile the roots of this strategy have become more transparent with legal action following. 

 

Climate Lawsuits Are Coming for Koch Industries

 

Dharna Noor June 25, 2020

 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Wednesday that he’s suing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute because the three firms deceived customers about the climate crisis. This is the first lawsuit of its kind to name API and Koch Industries, and it takes a novel approach by suing them solely for the lies they told.

 

The consumer fraud lawsuit alleges that the companies engaged in a multi-decade “campaign of deception,” hiding the fact that they understood as early as the 1950s that oil and gas production contributes to climate breakdown and still chose to extract, market, and sell the fuels. It includes claims for fraud, failure to warn and violations of Minnesota statutes on consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false statements in advertising. As retribution, it calls for Minnesotans to be compensated for their losses and for the defendants to fund a public education campaign about the dangers of climate change.

 

“We’re here suing these defendants, API, ExxonMobil and Koch, for hiding the truth, confusing the facts and muddling the water to devastating effect,” Ellison said at a news conference…..

 

….. But while other lawsuits have targeted ExxonMobil and other major oil producers, Ellison’s groundbreaking suit targets not just the polluting companies but also fossil fuel lobbyists who also deceived consumers. The multinational Koch Industries’ does produce fossil fuel products — in fact, it owns a large Minnesota refinery that manufactures about 80% of the gasoline used in the state — but it is also heavily involved in lobbying for the fossil fuel industry’s interests. And API is the largest U.S. trade association for oil and natural gas companies. Naming these representatives, rather than just fossil fuel producers themselves, lays out that they had a role in the deception as well.

 

Meanwhile in Australia, from SBS on climate change attitudes:

 

The number of climate deniers in Australia is more than double the global average, new study finds

 

News consumers in Australia are more likely to believe climate change is “not at all” serious compared to news consumers in other countries, according to new research.

 

16/06/2020 by Caroline Fisher & Sora Park

 

Australian news consumers are far more likely to believe climate change is “not at all” serious compared to news users in other countries. That’s according to new research that surveyed 2,131 Australians about their news consumption in relation to climate change.

 

The Digital News Report: Australia 2020 was conducted by the University of Canberra at the end of the severe bushfire season during 17 January and 8 February, 2020.

 

It also found the level of climate change concern varies considerably depending on age, gender, education, place of residence, political orientation and the type of news consumed.

 

Young people are much more concerned than older generations, women are more concerned than men, and city-dwellers think it’s more serious than news consumers in regional and rural Australia.

 

Strident critics in commercial media

 

There’s a strong connection between the brands people use and whether they think climate change is serious.

 

More than one-third (35 per cent) of people who listen to commercial AM radio (such as 2GB, 2UE, 3AW) or watch Sky News consider climate change to be “not at all” or “not very” serious, followed by Fox News consumers (32 per cent).

 

This is perhaps not surprising when some of the most strident critics of climate change science can be found on commercial AM radio, Sky and Fox News.

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, climate change, critical thinking, digital or e-consumer behaviour, environment, fossil fuel pollution, marketing & communications, political strategy, populist politics, science literacy, strategic management, WOM word of mouth and younger generations.

 

 

 

Digital Challenges to Traditional News Media Models

Featured

In Australia, and internationally, traditional or legacy print media is being challenged not by its importance in informing people e.g. during bushfires, Covid-19 crisis etc. but related challenges of economics, populist politics, innovation or lack of and now preferred use of digital channels and major social media like Facebook and Google by most people nowadays.

 

Following are excerpts from articles outlining challenges of populism, PR, social media or atomisation of channels, and possible solutions to support news, democracy, innovation and business models in a digital world.

 

From Inside Story Australia:

 

How disasters are shaping Australians’ news habits

 

A new study tracks the rise in news consumption during the bushfires and the pandemic — and finds a glimmer of hope for publishers.

 

In times of great uncertainty, readers and viewers will seek out reliable, accurate and up-to-date news — doubly so when their own safety and wellbeing are at stake. But will the news media continue to be there when they’re needed?

 

The latest Digital News Report: Australia, the sixth annual study of national news consumption trends, provides further evidence that Australians still rely on the news media — directly or indirectly — regardless of its financial difficulties…..

 

….News businesses, digital platforms and the government will need to reconsider how to maintain a healthy news ecosystem and keep citizens informed. Paying attention to what news consumers are telling us would be a good starting point.

 

Our survey confirmed that social media and search are now the two major pathways to online news, with a growing number of people accessing news through mobile alerts, newsletters and aggregator apps. News consumers are trying to find efficient ways to curate and organise the vast amount of news available to them. Rather than go directly to the news-brand websites themselves, audiences are increasingly relying on Google and Facebook to find what they want….

 

….But we know news media businesses are struggling to adapt to the digital environment, and we know they haven’t yet found a sustainable means of surviving.

 

From The Conversation Australia:

 

Media have helped create a crisis of democracy – now they must play a vital role in its revival

 

In May 2020, with the world still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret MacMillan, an historian at the University of Toronto, wrote an essay in The Economist about the possibilities for life after the pandemic had passed.

 

On a scale of one to ten, where one was utter despair and ten was cautious hopefulness, it would have rated about six. Her thesis was that the future will be decided by a fundamental choice between reform and calamity….

 

….She was writing against a backdrop of a larger crisis – the crisis in democracy. The most spectacular symptoms of this were the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the Brexit referendum. Both occurred in 2016, and both appealed to populism largely based on issues of race and immigration….

 

How the pandemic contracted the media landscape further

 

Alongside these developments, the existential crisis facing news media was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. As business activity was brought to a stop by the lockdown, the need for advertising was drastically reduced.

 

Coming on top of the haemorrhaging of advertising revenue to social media over the previous 15 years, this proved fatal to some newspapers…..

 

Defending against the digital onslaught

 

At a national level, the Australian government took up a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to force the global platforms, particularly Facebook and Google, to pay for the news it took from Australian media….

 

Populism and scapegoating

 

A third factor in the crisis, exacerbated by the first two, is the rise of populism. Its defining characteristics are distrust of elites, negative stereotyping, the creation of a hated “other”, and scapegoating. The hated “other” has usually been defined in terms of race, colour, ethnicity, nationality, religion or some combination of them.

 

Powerful elements of the news media, most notably Fox News in the United States, Sky News in Australia and the Murdoch tabloids in Britain, have exploited and promoted populist sentiment……

 

From Mumbrella Australia:

 

Publishers: Stop expecting handouts from Facebook and Google, start innovating

 

 

Facebook and Google direct enormous volumes of traffic to news publishers. But instead of paying for the privilege, like other brands do, publishers expect to get paid. Simon Larcey says that instead of the ‘last-ditch, half-assed cash grab’, media companies need to, unsurprisingly, innovate….

 

……In a nutshell, this sums up the ludicrous move by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and local news publishers, which have demanded that Facebook and Google cough up cash for any news content that the digital giants share across their platforms. And with Google agreeing to play ball last week, it looks like these demands are being met.

 

While some might regard this move as a digital giant throwing a lifeline to a drowning local news industry, other, more cynically minded people – myself included – might see this a move as one developed by Google’s PR department to win the hearts and minds of stakeholders. Putting Google’s motives to one side, there’s a risk that this is yet another nail in the coffin, an admission of defeat by local publishers who are no longer able to successfully compete….

 

The problem with handouts

 

Welcome to 2020, and after years of lobbying, the government has decided that if the news publishers of Australia cannot build a sustainable digital advertising revenue model, the two tech platforms will be strong-armed into footing the bill……

 

…….The numbers from the digital giants are probably even larger today. At least 50% of all news traffic is directed to Australian news sites via third parties. If Australian news providers did not have these two platforms, their traffic would be cut in half, and they would generate half the ad revenue. Any brand or marketer wanting to get that type of traffic to their site would pay Facebook and Google big money – in fact they do – yet Australian publishers think they should be paid for the privilege. It makes no sense.

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, business communication, consumer behaviour, digital literacy, digital marketing, digital or e-consumer behaviour, media, political strategy, populist politics, social media marketing and WOM word of mouth.

 

Media on China and Wuhan Virus – Critical Analysis or Political PR?

Australian government including the Prime Minister, supported by senior journalists, have been following the Trump administration and pointing the finger at the PRC or Chinese government regarding causes and management of the Wuhan Coronavirus or Covid-19 outbreak. Has Australian media been neutral while applying critical analysis to the trade situation, some think not.

Journalists on the ramparts

HAMISH MCDONALD

20 MAY 2020

 

Has the press gallery forgotten we’re not at war with China?

 

Another triumph for Canberra and the Morrison government’s deft and resolute diplomacy, it would seem. Support for an inquiry into Covid-19 from more than half of the 194 countries at this week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva was “a major strategic victory for Australia.”

 

So declared a story by two members of the Sydney Morning Herald’s press gallery bureau based on “sources familiar with the negotiations” over the draft resolution.

 

Once again, Australia saves the world. Yet a closer examination of the emerging resolution, which Chinese president Xi Jinping also supported, reveals it to be nothing like as strong as the original proposal from Scott Morrison’s office.

 

Recall 22 April, when multiple news outlets carried reports from their Canberra correspondents that Australia was calling for reform of the World Health Organization. If necessary, went the plan, independent investigators would be given “weapons inspector powers” to investigate the source of disease outbreaks.

 

“Just got off the phone with US President @realDonaldTrump,” Morrison tweeted the same day. “We had a very constructive discussion on our health responses to #COVID19 and the need to get our market-led and business-centred economies up and running again.”

 

But almost immediately it became clear that Canberra was way out on its own. Emmanuel Macron, Boris Johnson and other leaders phoned by Morrison demurred at the timing and nature of the proposal.

 

China already had its hackles up after foreign minister Marise Payne’s earlier floating of an “independent investigation,” which a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman described as “political manoeuvring.”……

 

….. This threat of “trade retaliation” then blew up into a major theme of Canberra politics the following week. And instead of cool rationality, a wave of patriotic flag-waving took hold of senior members of the press gallery, urged on by China hawks in Canberra’s military-industrial circles.

 

The latter notably include Peter Jennings, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, financed by the defence department, military suppliers including Lockheed Martin, BAE, Northrop Grumman, Thales and Raytheon, and the governments of Japan and Taiwan. It was time for Australia to diversify its trade away from China, he wrote. Just like that.

 

Business leaders and vice-chancellors who tried to point out that the finger-pointing at China could have economic consequences were derided as traitorous. They “can’t handle the truth” about China, said Channel Nine’s Chris Uhlmann. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher described Cheng’s rather mild words as “gangsterism.”

 

“Cheng’s warning laid bare what those in political, diplomatic and foreign affairs circles have always known about the regime in Beijing,” wrote the Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey. “It was a glass-jawed bully that viewed bilateral relations as one-way affairs that should be skewed in Beijing’s interest.”

 

Iron ore tycoon Andrew Forrest’s springing of a Chinese consul on a press conference with health minister Greg Hunt, “followed by a similar attempt at appeasement” by Kerry Stokes (who has the Caterpillar machinery franchise for China), “came as no surprise to those in the know,” wrote Coorey.

 

As James Curran, Sydney University’s specialist on the US alliance, observed, “It is one thing to be rightfully wary of the brand of Chinese exceptionalism espoused by Xi Jinping, quite another to thrash about in mouth-foaming fulmination.”…….

 

…….As the editorial board of the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum, headed by trade expert Peter Drysdale, noted, there was already “furious agreement” — including from Beijing — about the need for an investigation of Covid-19……

 

….Trump is clearly out to scapegoat China for his own mishandling of the pandemic as he approaches the November elections. Poking Beijing further on trade and technology has already started……

 

……… Rather than preparing for war or butting directly against Chinese communism, Smith advocates “patience, no quick judgements, and no emotionalism.” Which doesn’t make a good media story.

 

Instead of constantly looking for what “the Chinese” are up to, our journalists could take a step back and learn some lessons from this latest episode. They could go to Hartcher’s own recent Quarterly Essay, Red Flag, which concluded with the reasonable point that despite the pervasiveness of China’s political influence-buying efforts and its United Front Work within the diaspora, Australians can have faith in their institutions’ capacity to resist subversion by a regime that, unlike the Soviet Union of the 1940s, has no local following.

 

They could consider that the 1.2 million people of Chinese descent in Australia came here mostly to get away from the People’s Republic, not replicate it. They, and the 230,000 students normally resident here, are a threat more to the communist system than ours, especially if we upgrade the student experience. (Melbourne University’s Fran Martin has found that a majority go home disappointed, not having made Australian friends.)

 

They could consider that our own expertise, along with that of friends like the United States, Canada, Europe, South Korea, Japan and Israel, at least keeps us up with the level of cyber espionage coming out of China and Russia.

 

In short, we are not at war and we don’t need to match the “patriotic” journalism of Beijing’s intemperate Global Times.

 

Critical Media Analysis from the ABC Media Watch:

 

Virus lab theory. Where did COVID-19 come from? And is the Wuhan Institute of Virology to blame?

 

Wuhan lab dossier.  The Daily Telegraph’s “bombshell” Wuhan lab dossier is dismissed by the intelligence community, with claims it was leaked by the US embassy.

 

For more articles and blogs about Asian century, Australian immigration, critical thinking, economics, global trade, populist politics, media, Australian politics, white nationalism and Covid-19 click through.

Coronavirus – Trade Issues – US, China and Australia

While the Australian media and government, following the Trump US White House, demand action on China regarding Covid-19 causes or sources, and trade tariff issues, Australian publicly owned and listed miners Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue Metals Group have made their first iron ore export deals with China in Yuan, what does this mean for USD as a reserve or trading currency?

 

BHP completes first yuan-based iron ore sale to China’s Baosteel

Min Zhang, Tom Daly

 

BEIJING (Reuters) – The world’s top listed miner BHP Group said on Tuesday it had made its first yuan-denominated sale of iron ore to China Baoshan Iron & Steel Co Ltd (Baosteel) and would explore using blockchain for such transactions in future.

 

The sale of a Cape Size vessel of lump and fines, worth nearly 100 million yuan ($14.1 million), shows the Chinese currency is making further inroads in iron ore trading after Baosteel, the listed arm of the world’s biggest steelmaker China Baowu Steel Group, bought iron ore from Brazil’s Vale SA in yuan in January.

 

BHP said the deal was a part of a 12-month trial and will involve multiple cargoes.

 

The miner is also expecting to be able to complete its first blockchain iron ore transaction with Baosteel soon, it said in a statement. China, the largest iron ore consumer, brought in over 1 billion tonnes of the steelmaking raw material last year and has long sought to gain influence over pricing to help its steel firms weather market fluctuations.

 

In a separate statement, Baowu noted it had now struck yuan-based deals with the “three giants” of iron ore – BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale.

 

The fourth-biggest iron ore miner, Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group, is also selling in yuan after setting up a trading entity in China in April 2019.

 

“The active promotion of renminbi settlement in iron ore transactions is not only for operational needs, but also in line with the trend of yuan internationalisation,” Baowu said.

 

Baosteel recently concluded its first yuan-based iron ore purchase with Rio Tinto supported by Standard Chartered, blockchain financial platform Contour and other parties, according to a Rio Tinto statement sent to Reuters.

 

China’s iron ore imports jumped more than 11% in April from a month earlier as steel mills raced to restore production after the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the economy earlier in the year.’

 

Related News:

 

How the Yuan Could Become a Global Currency

 

China’s Plan to Replace the U.S. Dollar. As China’s economic might grows, it’s taking steps to make that happen. A slim majority of institutional investors see it as inevitable, but don’t say when. Could we see a switch from a greenback to a redback-dominated world? If so, how and when would that happen? What would be the consequences’

 

China pushes ahead with making yuan a global currency.

 

But  Beijing still has its work cut out to rival the mighty US dollar. Beijing’s bold steps to globalize the yuan, such as its launch of yuan-denominated crude oil futures and its highly anticipated issuance of a digital currency, are in the limelight. But experts say that China has a long way to go to achieve its ambition to make the yuan a key global currency’

 

Rio Tinto, Baosteel use Contour blockchain for iron ore trade.

 

Earlier this week, Contour trade finance blockchain announced Rio Tinto and China’s Baosteel completed a yuan-based iron ore trade using its platform. It was the first blockchain-based letter of credit transaction on the platform for DBS Bank after it joined Contour on Monday. The Chinese government is encouraging trade to be denominated in the yuan / renminbi rather than the U.S. dollar and Baosteel is state-owned.

 

For more related blogs and articles on Australian Politics, Business Strategy, COVID-19, Economics, Global Trade and Nationalism click through.

Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.