A Few Things Ill Considered

Love the title of that post! Keith Kloor tries to defend journalism’s role in fiascos like “Swifthack” (aka Climategate) and climate science in general but really ends up simply providing a perfect example of the problem.

I urge any and all to read the comment thread, it is an excellent and fascinating one, though I am only about a third of the way through. Great contributions from Things Break and Michael Tobis, appearnces by Andrew Revkin and Judith Curry.

It is still going on though I would wager it’s utility has diminished to near zero (I could be wrong).

I would like very much to highlight one well written and well reasoned comment from Michael by quoting it in its entirety:

Let’s acknowledge that there is a divergence of political philosophy about which American-style journalism needs to remain neutral. I don’t want to discuss that model here; let’s accept it for the moment. I want to focus on matters of objective reasoning, without prejudice to matters which are legitimately in the sphere of debate as to values, preferences, goals, ideals etc.

Raven and AMac are smart folk and I am willing to believe that they are well-intentioned, but I assert with confidence that they are really quite thoroughly wrong about matters of evidence and reason. A priori since they say essentially the same about me, we can probably agree that somebody, anyway, is quite thoroughly wrong.

The events of the past few years and especially the last few months have made it absolutely clear that when there are such disagreements, it is the job of journalism to get to the bottom of it.

For instance, the assertion that Obama was born in Kenya is incoherent with the evidence. The press has correctly made that judgment and has moved on. This is a useful data point, I suppose. We have found how ridiculous an assertion has to be before the press makes a judgment.

In the present case, we have a matter of enormous consequence. It matters a great deal whether (insert list of every major scientific body on earth) is correct or Raven is correct. This is a topic where objective evidence applies. It seems the press is confusing objectivity with indifference.

I am not saying you guys (Keith, Andy as representative) are uninterested in the question. Clearly that’s not the case. But you seem uninterested in resolving the parts of it that are already quite resolvable and moving on. As long as there is controversy, you report on the protagonists (as in Lindzen vs Emanuel or Gore vs Will) and not on the credibility of their positions. By doing so, you essentially promote the incorrect set of opinions (whichever that might turn out to be) and prevent the conversation from moving forward. This is the opposite of your role in society. This is why you have failed. This is why I am angry. And this is why I am looking not just for new business models for science and nature journalism, but for ways to encourage new practitioners who have deeper connections to the scientific worldview.

Science makes progress. Society used to do so as well, largely as a consequence. I believe that the failure of science journalism to effectively communicate and model the intellectual progress of science plays a large role in the decline and arguably the reversal of progress in society.

A suitable occasion for examining the role of the press is at hand. Please re-examine your collective role in the CRU email fiasco in the light of who is mostly doing science and who is mostly doing politics. Consider how these minor embarassments are being played in some circles as the “collapse” of the “hoax”.

The role of the press in the larger context is crucial. You are not passive observers and never have been. Since the mass press was invented, nobody has believed for an instant that it was anything but a major player in power politics. Stop hiding behind that pose, please, and take responsibility appropriate to the gravity of the situation.

In short, please stop acting indifferent to who is right and who is wrong on matters of substance.

Comments

  1. #1 maxwell127
    May 20, 2010

    Coby,

    there are several ironic aspects of this comment.

    First,

    ‘And this is why I am looking not just for new business models for science and nature journalism, but for ways to encourage new practitioners who have deeper connections to the scientific worldview.’

    The ‘scientific worldview’ is not about promoting a ‘correct’ position in terms of cutting edge research. Every field sees controversy where there are different camps who promote their own interpretation of the results and models.

    In fact, the issue that this commenter has may be due to the fact that media coverage of climate change reflects the real controversies at the cutting edge of research, ie feedbacks, model predictions, the latest journal articles etc. That is, the media really is reflecting what happens in cutting edge research where answers are very muddled and this fact is frustrating to someone looking for the ultimate legitimacy of scientific fact for his political opinion.

    Ah, irony.

    Second,

    ‘By doing so, you essentially promote the incorrect set of opinions…’

    I thought democracy was all about considering everyone’s ‘opinion’.

    ‘The events of the past few years and especially the last few months have made it absolutely clear that when there are such disagreements, it is the job of journalism to get to the bottom of it.’

    This might be the stupidest thing I’ve read today.

    Poll after poll over the past two decades have shown that the average American puts climate change at the bottom of list after list of issues facing the nation. Given this fact, why should media organizations, who are already in the worst of times, spend resources to ‘get to the bottom’ of this issue?

    What does it even mean to ‘get to the bottom’?

    That the media should legitimize this person’s political position with information that supports his opinion?

    This is really what troubles me about the role of science in this ‘discussion’. People on both sides think that the ‘science’ supports their position unequivocally. As I have said here before, it’s very hard to use state of the art research to promote policy. It’s hard because seemingly contradictory evidence is constantly being produced. The same group might produce two papers in a single year that totally disagree.

    But that’s the nature of science. If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.

  2. #2 kkloor
    May 20, 2010

    I’m rather surprised you haven’t pointed people to John Fleck’s comment:

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/05/18/why-climate-journalism-is-a-rotting-carcass/#comment-5084

    Which Michael Tobis has yet to respond to.

  3. #3 Dappledwater
    May 20, 2010

    “But that’s the nature of science. If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.” – Maxwell

    So according to you, no scientific field knows what they are doing. How uncharitable.

  4. #4 M
    May 20, 2010

    In fact, the issue that this commenter has may be due to the fact that media coverage of climate change reflects the real controversies at the cutting edge of research, ie feedbacks, model predictions, the latest journal articles etc.

    This is utter BS, and you know it.

    The “media coverage” of climate change still pretends like there is reasonable doubt about if the world is warming, let alone if man is causing it or if it would be a good or bad thing. Those three questions are hardly at the cutting edge, with the “controversy” over them being a fabrication pushed for political reasons, and yet they get the majority of the play as far as the public-at-large sees.

    The media coverage today is still reporting levels of uncertainty in climate science that represent the status of the field nearly 50 years, and because of it the people believe that’s what scientists are really up against in the lab. No wonder it’s so easy to make the average person think climate science is a fraudulent hoax.

  5. #5 Otto
    May 20, 2010

    Yikes: Monckton and Ben Lieberman now on WGN-AM’s 50 kW blowtorch in a taped interview, followed by a live hour with Joe Bast of the Heartland Institute at 11p CDT.

  6. #6 coby
    May 20, 2010

    kkloor,

    I only just got to the bottom of that thread now, and John Fleck’s comment was very interesting and encouraging. Sometimes good news is hard to hear when one has been banging their head against a wall for too long.

    Maybe Michael really is reading more into “climategate” coverage than was there, but I don’t think he is wrong at all about the general problem of false balance in the press on this issue, nor about the need for a genuine concern for objective truths.

    I also think that when an overwhelming consenus of experts are trying to warn the public of grave danger that it is the height of irresposibility to allow the focus to be controled by partisans of any side.

    In the current circumstances that means the focus should be on what society wants to do about climate change and not whether climate change is real or not. That is a legitimate question for researchers, special in depth coverage or books, but not headlines and daily news reports.

    The biggest problem in that discussion and all too often is the bait and switch of issues. Climate is changing and humans are causing it, that debate is long over in the scientific community, tiny minorities notwithstanding. Do we go nuclear, stop coal burning, geoengineer, say to hell with it, that is a legitimate conversation to have.

    And that conversation suffers when we continually get sucked back in to defending the temperature record or use of tree rings.

  7. #7 Greg
    May 20, 2010

    Don’t know if this really belongs here but thought some of you might be interested in it.

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/59362/title/Oceans_warmed_in_recent_decades

  8. #8 GFW
    May 20, 2010

    So, Maxwell chose to play word games instead of thinking about the real issues.

    When Tobis talks of the responsibility of journalists to separate fact from fiction, responsible disagreement from lunacy, and mentions “the events of the past few years and especially the last few months” I don’t think he’s just talking about climate change. The critique applies to “Death Panels”, any number of other ridiculous Fox/Tea Party myths, and especially to the fact that at one point 70% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. There was never any evidence for it. Shortly after 9/11, only 4% of Americans thought that. But the Bush administration kept insinuating it, and the press didn’t point out that it was bullshit.

    Climate change has been a terrible stumbling block for journalism, but only because it’s a focused example of two much larger problems – that of “false balance”, and an inability to tell truth that opposes the truly powerful.

    Which brings me to Maxwell’s hilarious “democracy” comment. Everyone has a right to their own opinions-of-value, but not opinions-of-fact. Physical laws are not determined by plebiscite. When alternate “facts” are allowed free reign to oppose hard-won real knowledge, democracy can be subverted by anyone with the means to promote their own favorite alternative.

  9. #9 maxwell
    May 21, 2010

    DW,

    no, I don’t think that state of the art research in most fields is about knowing what to do. In fact, here at UMichigan in the physics department, we’ve put the phrase I cite at the end of first comment is on the back of our shirts. Your disagreement with such a sentiment, however, is just an opinion you are more than welcome to share.

    M,

    I haven’t seen any news coverage that explicitly denies that the earth is warming. Do you have any citations in the last few months of a newspaper or telecast saying such a thing?

    GFW,

    the media is a business. As such, it is going to partake in practices that will make the most money. This unfortunate truth has lead to ‘niche news’ like Fox where ideology is sold as ‘news’. But this has been true since the beginning of time and to focus one’s attention on this fact as though it is representative of all media I think is misguided.

    Every editor has an agenda. As a proud sponsor of my local public radio station, I find it hard to swallow some of the stories NPR puts together on climate change. Usually figures like JFK jr and Al Gore are cited as people to believe or whose opinions on scientific matters are of value. It’s a bit depressing to me to so transparently see the newsroom editor’s bias, but that’s the way it goes.

    I would also like to point out I am not saying that people are entitled to their own facts, though I know that’s a much easier target for you. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Most of the rise in CO2 is from people. Thermometer recordings have increased in magnitude in measurement era. I think anyone who disagrees with those statements is objectively wrong.

    But I gathered this wasn’t what Michael wanted. To me it seems he wants the media to legitimize his whole position (climate change is man-made and we need to change our culture immediately to stave off the end of the world) as though such a position is supported unequivocally by science. I don’t think that is the purpose of media either, especially for someone calling for journalists to ‘get to the bottom’ of this issue. It almost seems hypocritical.

    As for democracy, it may be hard for you to see this, but most of you have written here is value driven. You and I are not climate scientists, but because we are physicists we feel we can project our own scientific intuition onto this issue. That’s a value based judgment by us both and I think it serves us well to establish this fact. Because behind the statements I wrote above, it’s hard for me to see what the facts are and, therefore, how our differing opinions could be factual.

    Cheers.

  10. #10 kiantone
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell:” I haven’t seen any news coverage that explicitly denies that the earth is warming. Do you have any citations in the last few months of a newspaper or telecast saying such a thing?”

    Read the editorial by Tom Morgan “Carbon Policy” that was in my local newspaper April 4. tomasinmorgan.com Morgan is a syndicated writer with books, radio, and tv outlets. The local paper still has not corrected the errors made. Morgan has not explained his math. The local paper had a poll that found two thirds of its readers not concerned about climate change.

  11. #11 maxwell
    May 21, 2010

    kiatone,

    while it’s obvious Tom Morgan doesn’t want a carbon tax for ideological reasons, I don’t see any ‘errors’ in the piece in question. He cites that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and then goes into what percentage of gases in the atmosphere are greenhouse gases. I guess he could have pointed out that this percentage fluctuations with the relative humidity in a locality or region, but that’s not really an ‘error’.

    Again, I think you disagree with his policy position, which is fine. Unfortunately, you’re confusing your disagreement with him with something based on ‘science’ when it is not. This seems like the larger issue, especially at what some call a ‘layman’s’ blog.

    Cheers.

  12. #12 coby
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell,

    I’m not sure why you constrain your request to “the last few months”, but given the recently “snowpocalypse” in Washington it is not hard to find examples of MSM questioning the reality of a human caused warming trend. Here are a few examples from a Media Matters search for “global warming”

    http://mediamatters.org/research/201005190055
    http://mediamatters.org/research/200912040052
    http://mediamatters.org/research/201002190012
    http://mediamatters.org/research/201002150015
    http://mediamatters.org/research/201002090032

    You can also browse Deltoid’s “the australian’s War on Science” series:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/the_war_on_science/

    There are many nuanced and interesting facets of the issue Michael is speaking of, your question does not touch on one.

  13. #13 GFW
    May 21, 2010

    Maxwell, I’m very glad to learn that we agree that

    CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Most of the rise in CO2 is from people. Thermometer recordings have increased in magnitude in measurement era. I think anyone who disagrees with those statements is objectively wrong.

    May I infer that you also agree there’s a strong causal connection between the rise in CO2 and the rise in thermometer readings? If so, may I inquire as to what range of climate sensitivity values you find most likely?

    I ask because I believe those are also questions of fact, although they have ranges and probabilities attached. I also believe questions of impacts are *also* questions of fact, albeit with less precision and certainty again.

    It’s only beyond that point that value judgments arise. Someone who says “I believe the sea level rise ranges predicted in “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” are probably right, but let’s not de-carbonize because f-ck Bangladesh” is making a value judgment, and should be perfectly free to do so. But if you look at the arguments actually being put forth by the “other side”, they usually don’t take the form of value judgments. They instead attack the questions of fact, with arguments like “it’s all natural cycles and we’ll start cooling soon”. The entire “hide the decline” canard, although you and I know better, is intended to mislead an audience into disbelieving the thermometer record (i.e. a very basic question of fact). Only rarely do they make a more values-oriented argument, but it’s usually vague and ignores most of the facts. Example: “The MWP was much nicer for people than the LIA, therefore bring on the warming!”

    I can’t speak for M.T., but I would be thrilled if the media would consistently report the known facts with their confidence ranges. When someone puts forth a claim that does not make sense within the body of facts, they should (yeah, that’s a value judgment about the role of media) point out the inconsistencies. When real inconsistencies exist (e.g. Trenberth’s “missing heat”) of course they should report that, and what effect it could have on the uncertainties in the full body of knowledge. In that example, they can point out that if the heat is really missing due to an albedo increase, then sensitivity may be lower … but sensitivity still has to be high enough to allow glacial/interglacial cycles.

    I could tell you what I values-believe would happen if the press did this consistently. I suspect that the values of ordinary people would cause them to view climate change as more important – still not as important as putting food on the table on a daily basis, but important enough to make steps in the direction of saving their grandchildren from the more serious fact-likely impacts.

    PS: You’ll note in the last paragraph I started using “values” and “fact” as prefixes for words of belief and probability. I could have done that for the full post, but it would have been tedious. Nonetheless, I thought about whether every statement was of fact or of values. It might be a worthwhile exercise to make such substitutions into the published work of say, the IPCC on one hand and prominent deniers on the other. See whose fact-statements actually agree with the range of what is scientifically known, and how that affects the sense of their value-statements.

  14. #14 GFW
    May 21, 2010

    Ugh, I don’t know whether I’m responsible for that formatting error or the blog software is. Oh well.

    [formatting fixed. Just remember to start new paragraphs before and after blockquotes. – coby]

    Coby, thanks for those links to the MSM going off the rails in matters of fact. I think they really complement my post that follows yours. I think it should be noted that the ease with which Coby found those is indicative of the spectacular (in my value-judgment) quantity of fact-wrong statements regarding climate change in the media. Those are just a tiny sample.

  15. #15 kiantone
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell: I wrote this for my local paper they printed it three weeks later.
    Are you saying co2 is 80 ppm?

    In Tom Morgan’s editorial, “Carbon Policy” (tomasinmorgan.com), some huge errors of fact were made.Tom multiplies two percent (his claim for the amount of all greenhouse gas in the atmosphere) by .04 percent (his claim for the amount of carbon dioxide).This yields an answer of .000008,  a truly small number but a truly meaningless number because the fact is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is .0389 percent or 389 parts per million–still a small number, but 36% more than in the pre-industrial era.To make an error of this magnitude on something so easy to fact check is inexcusable. Rising carbon dioxide levels are highly correlated with warmer temperatures. 

        Tom also claims that thermometers “have not co-operated for over a decade” with global warming. NASA states that 2009 was the second warmest year on record and January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record–that is what the thermometers say.The climate change debate should stay focused on science and not on politics. The people with factual data and the best explanations should inform society, not those who merely have a political agenda. Global warming deniers do not present coherent scientific theories or accurate data; instead the often substitute pot shots and brick throwing for science and reason. 

        Mr. Morgan accuses the government of ridiculous and “desperate” fear mongering.  Yet, he says that the government wants “to tax all carbon based fuels. And all that.” All that hot air emitting from politicians and editorialists?  Tom resorts to the same tactics that he alleges the government and global warming proponents use.  We are suffering as a nation from the consequences of the government coming in late with a positive role in alternative energy, higher mileage vehicles, pollution control, and reducing the need for foreign oil imports.  I would like to have more environmentally responsible choices for my own energy consumption.     

    Likewise, we all should have responsible and varied sources of information available.  The internet has many reputable sites and podcasts on the science of global warming: the Earth and Environmental Systems podcast from Dr. Shorey is available from Itunes.  His entertaining, fact-filled, free  lectures numbers 23 through 27 deal with climate.  The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies website contains climate research findings (www.giss.nasa.gov), as does the NOAH Satellite and Information Service (www.ncdc.noaa.gov). The blog “All Things Ill-Considered has a topic by topic section on global warming skepticism (http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php). 

     Several editorials in the PJ by Tom Morgan and Walter Williams promote global warming denial.  I have not seen the viewpoint of 98% of publishing climatologists who accept anthropogenic global warming represented.  Is this “Truth Above All Else,” or is it “Our Political Agenda Above All Else?”

  16. #16 maxwell
    May 21, 2010

    Coby,

    that’s right. I forgot you’re impenetrable to reason when it comes to defending those who share your political position. Vague and poorly defined statements and all.

    Maybe you could help understand some of the ‘points’ he has to make a bit more clearly.

    GFW,

    I definitely believe that CO2 and temperature should be related in the same direction. That’s a sound physical model. But the whole physical model of the climate is more than just greenhouse forcings.

    How much more? I don’t know. I think that this is still a highly controversial research question.

    As for possible ranges of sensitivity and their likelihood, again, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows this either as the IPCC had to create an ad hoc technique in determining a probability distribution function to capture likelihood.

    How do we know that this technique reflects nature?

    It seems to me that they are just relying on where the computer simulations of climate models put the sensitivity and hoping these outputs reflect reality. Since the simulations have a hard time producing the climate we are currently seeing, I find this method of finding probabilities hard to believe.

    I think you and I disagree on the line where things stop being facts and start being judgment. I think this difference is a real matter of opinions of values, not facts.

    kiatone,

    I didn’t read the post too thoroughly, but it seemed to me that Mr. Morgan was saying that 0.04% of all gases were CO2. I’ll read it again. If he indeed say what you say he did, then you’re right, it should have been corrected.

    As for standards in argument, I think everyone, including yours truly, could spend a great deal more time focusing on making our own arguments stronger. It’s a fault many of us fall prey, especially in highly polarizing issues such as this.

    The NASA thing is funny because you make it seem as though they keep the only record. I’m not certain, but I don’t think any other agency (NOAA, HadCru, etc) had last year as the warmest year in their respective records. I’m not even sure the observational satellite data corroborates the GISS analysis, though I’m not sure that they have gotten to the level of sophistication where those things are calibrated well enough against each other to make such comparisons. Something to look into I guess.

    ‘Is this “Truth Above All Else,” or is it “Our Political Agenda Above All Else?”‘

    I don’t think it’s either in most cases, as you have pointed out that it is rather easy to find scientific materials that support your position. I think the media represents a spectrum of opinions and viewpoints on this issue and, like all issues, some of them are stupid positions that represent more about ideology than reality.

    To all,

    The real question is, ‘why do you care so much?’ Do you think that there are reasonable people who still think that the earth is flat, 4000 years old and evolution is wrong? I don’t. I think the only people that believe those things are totally irrational and unreasonable people who wouldn’t listen to the media if it said the opposite of everything they believed every single minute of every single day. They’d make up their own media.

    It comes down to why you guys care so much about ‘deniers’ or ‘denialists’. I don’t get it. It’s like you want every single person in the entire world to agree with you and until the media, the government, the internet and all under the sun share your position, you’re gonna be pissed. I just don’t get it.

    I don’t mind that you don’t agree with me. Hell, I enjoy it most of the time because from criticism comes a greater understanding the issue, even for those who think they hold the perfect position, as some contributors here do. That’s the point of criticism, and I have to say from the great deal of experience I have here and other places on the internet, no one is interested in criticism and, therefore, refining their arguments/values/views. It’s just about validation.

    Why do you need so much validation?

    Cheers.

  17. #17 Ian Forrester
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell said:

    ‘why do you care so much?’ Do you think that there are reasonable people who still think that the earth is flat, 4000 years old and evolution is wrong? I don’t. I think the only people that believe those things are totally irrational and unreasonable people who wouldn’t listen to the media if it said the opposite of everything they believed every single minute of every single day.

    These people are in the same league as you AGW deniers, they are anti-science. However, there is a big difference. If politicians listen to the three groups that you list then nothing will happen. They can believe all they want about flat earth, 4000 year old earth and creation science. The future well-being of my children and their children will not be affected by this rubbish. Perhaps their scientific education will be compromised if these junk scientists succeed in shoving their nonsense into into the educational curriculum.

    However, AGW deniers will affect the future well-being of future generations. Do not stick your head in the sand but look around and you will see that these effects are already visible in many different places and in many different ways. Things will only get worse if we listen to people like you. Do you have no conscience? You should be ashamed of your self, especially if you are a scientist as claimed previously.

    You and your ilk are not motivated by science but by personal greed and political prejudice.

  18. #18 coby
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell,

    Coby,

    that’s right. I forgot you’re impenetrable to reason when it comes to defending those who share your political position. Vague and poorly defined statements and all.

    Frankly I find this comment rather offensive and completely unwarranted. Where have I ever shown such disrespect to you?

    Don’t blame others if you are unable to understand what they are saying, maybe just maybe, it is your deficit and not theirs.

    Maybe you could help understand some of the ‘points’ he has to make a bit more clearly.

    I can’t say as your preface inclines me to provide any help. And the reason I did not try after your initial post is that what you seemed to take away from the quote I posted bore so little resemblance to what it was saying, I did not know where to start.

    For example you declared:

    The ‘scientific worldview’ is not about promoting a ‘correct’ position in terms of cutting edge research. Every field sees controversy where there are different camps who promote their own interpretation of the results and models.

    I mean really. You don’t say? But what does that have to do with anything it is supposed to be a response to? The rest of your comment is similarily off the mark conflating and confusing politics and science, empirical reality and opinion. You also seem to be from another planet when it comes to describing what the media tends to talk about. As you demonstrate exactly zero effort in understanding Michael’s points, what would be the purpose of me investing further effort explaining them?

    What do you people care so much?

    It’s called empathy. This is not some abstract intellectual exercise, real lives and real ecosystems are in the balance. That is a fact. What should we do about it? That is opinion. We don’t get to vote on the facts, only the opinions.

  19. #19 maxwell
    May 21, 2010

    Coby,

    ‘This is not some abstract intellectual exercise, real lives and real ecosystems are in the balance. That is a fact. What should we do about it?’

    Is blogging ‘doing something about it’? Is trying to convince people on the internet ‘doing something about it’? What change are you directly affecting by constantly badgering those of differing opinions on global warming when it comes to ‘real lives and real ecosystems’?

    How do you quantify that change.

    I also think that you will find a great deal more common ground with people when it comes to taking steps to affect specific environments or ecosystems than on global warming. Why haven’t you tried that route instead of getting people to agree completely with you on specifics of global warming? Do you have some posts on how people can get involved in protecting their local environment or ecosystems?

    I haven’t seen any.

    ‘As you demonstrate exactly zero effort in understanding Michael’s points, what would be the purpose of me investing further effort explaining them?’

    Zero effort? Because I don’t agree with every point he makes?

    The main point that Michael is making is that he wishes that his political position would be legitimized by media presented as it is proven by ‘science’. That’s because he thinks his position is proven by ‘science’ despite the fact that its mostly based on opinion.

    Sorry Coby, I think you’re just mistaken here.

  20. #20 Dappledwater
    May 21, 2010

    “Do you have no conscience? You should be ashamed of your self, especially if you are a scientist as claimed previously.” – Ian Forrester

    Well put Ian. It always fascinates me how one can claim to be a scientist, and then blithely ignore the rather mountainous body of evidence for Anthropogenic Global Warming.

  21. #21 coby
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell@19:

    Is blogging ‘doing something about it’?

    Yes.

    Is trying to convince people on the internet ‘doing something about it’?

    Yes.

    What change are you directly affecting by constantly badgering those of differing opinions on global warming when it comes to ‘real lives and real ecosystems’?

    It’s hard to know for sure. It is about education, doing my small part to move the conversation past the denial stage. My “How to” material has been read millions of times, mostly in re-postings on Grist. Though I fail to see how posting articles on the internet can be characterized as “constantly badgering” anyone..? Are you daft?

    How do you quantify that?

    I can’t. Now what does any of this completely personal angle of yours have to do with anything we have been discussing?

    Zero effort? Because I don’t agree with every point he makes?

    No, because you clearly demonstrate an utter lack of understanding. How can you disagree with something you don’t understand? To wit:

    The main point that Michael is making is that he wishes that his political position would be legitimized by media presented as it is proven by ‘science’.

    Please provide a quote in which Michael presents a political opinion, claims it is fact and decries the media for not agreeing with him or STFU.

  22. #22 kiantone
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell, From Morgan’s editorial”‘

    “Tell me, what proportion of the entire atmosphere is composed of what the scare monkeys call greenhouse gasses?  Take a stab.
    The answer is 2 percent.
    Yes, only 2 percent of the atmosphere contains these evil greenhouse gasses.  But wait.  What portion of that 2 percent comes from carbon dioxide?
    Less than .04 percent.
    Hard to believe, isn’t it?  Do you know how small .04 percent of 2 percent is? We are talking miniscule.”

    You did not see the error? What do you do for a living? How many times would he need to write it for you to read it? The first time I read it I sent cheerios flying all over my kitchen.
    I really couldn’t believe it. I was sure I was wrong, that some one would have caught the mistake before it was printed.

  23. #23 kiantone
    May 21, 2010

    maxwell:

    “The NASA thing is funny because you make it seem as though they keep the only record. I’m not certain, but I don’t think any other agency (NOAA, HadCru, etc) had last year as the warmest year in their respective records.”
    I was writing to my home town newspaper audience, I would have lost them explaining all the different sources of data. Are you not splitting hairs here?

  24. #24 Phil
    May 22, 2010

    The linking of cause and effect is one of the scientific method’s great attributes.

    Yet few commentators on the media coverage of climate change take issue with the mass-media’s complete refusal (or inability) to report on causality, which, to me, is one of the media’s greatest failings.

    The media is still filled with glowing, enthusiastic reports of great new oil discoveries, always couched in positive terms, as though it was good news and not bad. These reports never come with explanatory paragraphs informing us that burning that new-found oil would be one of the worst things that we could do.

    That inability or refusal to see the oil beam whilst discussing the climate-change mote is one of our media’s greatest failings.

  25. #25 PaulinMI
    May 22, 2010

    Well, now that you’ve just about proven that even considering the fact of global warming is all politics, just wait until the solutions are being considered.

    And yes, Coby has been doing something about it, for those who care to see it.

  26. #26 Michael Tobis
    May 23, 2010

    Wow.

    I’ll try to get back to y’all. Thanks for the interest!

  27. #27 Quantos
    May 24, 2010

    Coby, I have an honest question about some of your assertions, and an observation about the roles of journalists.

    Specifically what media outlets and what kind of media within them are the targets of your condemnation? I ask this because outside of nakedly partisan news outlets (Fox is the prime example, but can be extended to most NewsCorp publications) most serious news reporting has been generally in line with reporting with what scientists and yourself have concluded.

    This is from the New York Times’ Climate Change Page, which I think nicely sums up what the bulk of the controversy has moved on to:

    “On the one hand, warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, as an increasing body of science points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases — produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forests. On the other, the technological, economic and political issues that have to be resolved before a concerted worldwide effort to reduce emissions can begin have gotten no simpler, particularly in the face of a global economic slowdown.”
    http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=climate%20change&st=cse#

    Other outlets have responded similarly. The Washington Post has an entire climate change section and run editorials about the importance of climate change. Likewise with the Los Angeles Times (to quote a recent editorial, “there is overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is happening and that the greenhouse gases resulting from industrialization are the cause”). Currently the cover story of Science News is about ways to fix the climate. Newsweek, Time, USA Today and US News & World Report have all run articles or editorials about the perils of a changing climate.

    Sure there are different takes on it by different authors, but that’s part of political discourse. It’s unfair to make generalizations, or cherry pick individual’s opinion pieces and conflate it with true reporting or claim it represents the perspective of the entire “media.” The “media” is vast full of countless opinions and perspectives, and very very difficult to make generalizations about.

    Though this may reflect an “American perspective,” it is not the job of journalists to create a political consensus that would be propagandizing. It is the journalist’s job to get the news, report facts and yes report controversy even if one side is off base, especially if one side has a large following, including law makers (Inhofe is the prime example, but there are others). It is always better to know what “the other side” is saying. However just having the facts out there and knowing what the other side is saying isn’t the end of the debate, and it is now the role of political leaders (not journalists) to lead and motivate the public behind the solutions for climate change. The reason there has been such stagnation has been because of poor political leadership, not because of journalists having the audacity to report what (unfortunately) many people say and believe.

  28. #28 coby
    May 24, 2010

    Hi Quantos,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and substantive comment, and my apologies for not having the time to give it the full answer it deserves. Hopefully this brief response will help a bit…

    Specifically what media outlets and what kind of media within them are the targets of your condemnation?

    What comes to mind quickest in terms of outlets are the following: WP op-eds, National Post stories and editorials, Deltoid,s favorite target – the Australian, the UK in general on recent climategate coverage. In terms of issue coverage that has been most egreious I would nominate reporting on “hide the decline”, recent “global cooling”, the errors (one or two real, the rest imagined) “uncovered” in the IPCC reports and the alleged “data manipulation” of the temperature record.

    Admitedly this is anecdotal evidence and I can’t claim it proves a pattern. But as evidence that it is a pattern I can offer two items: work by the media watch group FAIR and the recent changes in US public opinion. This opinion comes from somewhere and it certainly does not reflect peer reviewed literature. On reviewing the FAIR link I offer above I think there is a case to made for improvement and I had initially been looking for the more outdated work they reference.

    Sure there are different takes on it by different authors, but that’s part of political discourse.

    This is indeed the crux of the issue. I absolutely agree that the full range of political discourse should be covered, but is it political discourse to suggest that modern climate change is natural or has ended? These are matters of empirical reality and I submit are not fair game for the opining of ignorant pundits.

    It really boils down to whether or not journalists and columnists have any responsibility to tell the truth or not.

    It is the journalist’s job to … report controversy even if one side is off base

    It would take some convincing for me to believe there would be any “large following” for crackpot ideas (birthers, “death panels”, WMD in Iraq, no AGW) if the press were behaving as more than stenographers for “news makers”. But where such a controversy exists and it is a matter of fact, not opinion, reality deserves to be emphasized well above false statements no matter who is making them.

  29. #29 Quantos
    May 24, 2010

    Thank you for your well reasoned response. A rebuttal of my own:

    Reality does deserve to be emphasized above false statements. The reality is that AGW is happening. The tricky bit is that the reality is also that some lawmakers and public opinion leaders are claiming that AGW is not happening. Are they wrong about their conclusions, yes. Should the public know what their conclusions are, also yes if they wield influence. It’s not an arbitrary pick calling someone a “newsmaker.” Sen. Inhofe is an excellent example. He’s way off base on AGW but he’s also the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It is VITAL that the public know where he stands and what he believes on issues, especially if the GOP takes back the Senate.

    If there are people disputing reality but who wield influence over policy or public opinion, then yes it is important to report that.

    It seems that you’re conflating the reporting of what people say is happening vs. what is happening. Much of the content in the aforementioned newspaper sections devoted to climate change predominantly report that climate change is happening. Reporting that people are disputing that conclusion is not the same thing as reporting it is not happening.

    You offer changes in recent public opinion as evidence of shoddy reporting, however that is a very narrow view of what shapes public opinion. US public opinion is shaped much more than what is present in the press, one cannot ipso-facto say that if public opinion sways one way or the other, it is journalism’s fault. This is especially the case these days when more and more people are getting information off of highly partisan and factually questionable websites and blogs.

    Is there room for improvement in the press? Always is
    Is there some irresponsible reporting? Yes
    Is it the predominant characterization of climate journalism: No
    Is climate journalism a “rotting carcass”: Not at all

  30. #30 Quantos
    May 24, 2010

    Coby:

    What fortuitous timing. I would be curious to see your take on this New York Times article from today:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/science/earth/25climate.html?hp

  31. #31 coby
    May 25, 2010

    Thanks for that link, Quantos. I thought it was a well presented and interesting piece. It at once confirms what I am trying to say, making the same points about public opinion and the recent CRU and IPCC media frenzy, and counters it by being an example of what I would call very good journalism in the mainstream.

    Does this article make you more sympathetic to my point of view? Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the press has a responsibility toward demonstrable realities, but it think it is harder to argue they have not had a significant role in the changing public opinions cited by that article.

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