Climate fiction at the Irish Farmers Journal

12th May 2017
Press Release

The Irish Farmers Journal (IFJ) has just published a seriously inaccurate, factually flawed and deeply misleading article on climate change and agriculture.

The Journal, with a weekly readership of in excess of 250,000, is the outlet most Irish farmers turn to first for information. With that power comes responsibility. It owes a journalistic duty of reasonable care to its readers to ensure that it is not used as a vehicle for spreading ‘fake news’.

The article, by former editor, Matt Dempsey, is an unusually unsophisticated flat denial of some of the strongest international scientific consensus – on the reality and causes of climate change – ever achieved on any issue.

An Taisce does not believe it is the sole responsibility of NGOs to have to challenge these damaging falsehoods. Instead, we call on the relevant public bodies and statutory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to come forward to challenge and correct the IFJ’s explicit rejection of robust climate science.

We would also call on the relevant academic institutions with expertise in this area, including UCD, NUIM and the Royal Irish Academy to state for the record if they agree or disagree with the key statements in this IJF article.

With respect, we suggest it might be appropriate for the Climate Change Advisory Council to express a view on the matter.

We would further ask the Irish Farmers Association, which we understand is separate from the IFJ, if it condones the statements made by Mr Dempsey (and supported on the IFJ’s main editorial page by current editor, Justin McCarthy). It is probably no coincidence that Dempsey’s enthusiastic acceptance of these contrarian talking points led him to the happy conclusion that farmers “could and should continue to increase our livestock numbers subject only to the carrying capacity of the land and the availability of profitable markets”. This is nothing more than wishful thinking masquerading as analysis.

Mr. Dempsey must have been aware prior to publishing that Prof John Sweeney of NUIM, Ireland’s pre-eminent climate scientist, in a radio interview (in which Mr. Dempsey also participated) had emphatically refuted the entire basis of the presentation by a noted US climate denier, Richard Lindzen, on which Dempsey based his article.

Despite this clear red flag, he and the IFJ persisted in recklessly publishing an article they must have had good reason to believe was wholly or largely untrue. The IFJ also failed in its basic journalistic duty to caution readers as to the highly controversial and unproven nature of these views.

An Taisce strongly defends free speech and the right of the media robustly to express and defend a wide range of viewpoints. However, the corollary of this is that: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts”.

We will separately make available on request a line-by-line rebuttal of the IFJ article, but our main focus in issuing this statement is to encourage the relevant State agencies to respond in defence of the mainstream scientific consensus and its implications for Irish agricultural policy and practice.

ENDS

Phil Kearney, Chair, An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Tel: +353 86 265 9833
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.