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Unforced variations 2

Filed under: — gavin @ 1 January 2010

Continuation of the open thread. Please use these threads to bring up things that are creating ‘buzz’ rather than having news items get buried in comment threads on more specific topics. We’ll promote the best responses to the head post.

Knorr (2009): Case in point, Knorr (GRL, 2009) is a study about how much of the human emissions are staying the atmosphere (around 40%) and whether that is detectably changing over time. It does not undermine the fact that CO2 is rising. The confusion in the denialosphere is based on a misunderstanding between ‘airborne fraction of CO2 emissions’ (not changing very much) and ‘CO2 fraction in the air’ (changing very rapidly), led in no small part by a misleading headline (subsequently fixed) on the ScienceDaily news item Update: MT/AH point out the headline came from an AGU press release (Sigh…). SkepticalScience has a good discussion of the details including some other recent work by Le Quéré and colleagues.

Update: Some comments on the John Coleman/KUSI/Joe D’Aleo/E. M. Smith accusations about the temperature records. Their claim is apparently that coastal station absolute temperatures are being used to estimate the current absolute temperatures in mountain regions and that the anomalies there are warm because the coast is warmer than the mountain. This is simply wrong. What is actually done is that temperature anomalies are calculated locally from local baselines, and these anomalies can be interpolated over quite large distances. This is perfectly fine and checkable by looking at the pairwise correlations at the monthly stations between different stations (London-Paris or New York-Cleveland or LA-San Francisco). The second thread in their ‘accusation’ is that the agencies are deleting records, but this just underscores their lack of understanding of where the GHCN data set actually comes from. This is thoroughly discussed in Peterson and Vose (1997) which indicates where the data came from and which data streams give real time updates. The principle one is the CLIMAT updates of monthly mean temperature via the WMO network of reports. These are distributed by the Nat. Met. Services who have decided which stations they choose to produce monthly mean data for (and how it is calculated) and is absolutely nothing to do with NCDC or NASA.

Further Update: NCDC has a good description of their procedures now available, and Zeke Hausfather has a very good explanation of the real issues on the Yale Forum.

1,394 Responses to “Unforced variations 2”

  1. 1

    Via Twitter, Andy Revkin tells us that climate scientists do not see Australia’s present Big Dry drought as “CO2-driven”. I’ve downloaded the article he points to (, but I don’t think they actually rule out a role of climate change. This is more or less in line with your analysis earlier this year ( Any new insights on this matter?

  2. 2
    David Wright says:

    Isn’t “Climate Change” something of an oxymoron?
    If I understand correctly, climate is the aggregate of weather over a prescribed period of time. If so, then change is inevitable.

  3. 3
    Cthulhu says:

    A paper that attempts to remove ENSO and volcanic noise from the surface record. Does a similar analysis to this realclimate post:

    Thompson et al 2009, Identifying Signatures of Natural Climate Variability in Time Series of Global-Mean Surface Temperature: Methodology and Insights

  4. 4
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Wright,
    1)That is why we usually add the modifier “Anthropogenic” up front, but as this is multi-syllabic, some folks have trouble with it.

    2)Actually, over the past 10000 years global climate has been remarkably consistent. Interestingly enough, the same period is the one where human civilization developed.

  5. 5
    Heraclitus says:

    I was initially disappointed by the misleading headline on the Knorr article on ScienceDaily, but I think this is going to turn out to be an excellent opportunity to expose the idiocy of the deniers. Not, of course, that they have any shame.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Gilles Fecteau says:

    Just as troubling as the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, is the amount absorbed. What ecological impact will that have? We know the danger of acidity level changes in the oceans and its catastrophic impact on the marine ecosystem.

  8. 8
    Tom Dayton says:

    I see that David Archer and Stefan Rhamstorf have a new book appearing on Jan. 31: Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change. But what’s the difference between that and David Archer’s other book due to appear simultaneously: Climate Crisis?

  9. 9
    Andy Revkin says:

    My sense is that the Watts of the world are pushing on the new finding as a way to push back against various assertions recently that natural sinks are losing the race with human emissions and this constitutes one of those “runaway tipping points of no return” that you (Gavin) and I have written about:

    The differences between Knorr and Le Quéré may be somewhat of a distraction from that overarching point?

    With respect to comment #1 above, here’s the full Tweet, which puts the Australia paper in the context of what’s been asserted about the Australian fires, dust, etc by some:
    @revkin: Joe R still sees Aussie’s Big Dry as co2-driven event Not what climate scientists see:

  10. 10
    Tim Joslin says:

    Knorr 2009 looses [sic] a little credibility with the homophone error in the first sentence of the Abstract!

    As a student of the history of science, I’m also interested to read that:

    “…the statistical model of a constant airborne fraction agrees best with the available data if emissions from land use change are scaled down to 82% or less of their original estimates.”

    Look, guys, there is absolutely no theoretical basis for a constant airborne fraction (AF). Only one of the processes of uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere (equilibration of dissolution in the surface waters of the oceans) certainly occurs in proportion to annual emissions; some (especially removal of CO2 from oceanic surface waters) definitely do not; and others (e.g. increased photosynthetic uptake of CO2, the so-called fertilisation effect) are uncertain.

    The apparent AF constancy is an artefact of the data.

    Estimating land use changes on the assumption of a constant AF is a classic case of “saving the appearances” (of a scientific theory). The Ptolemaic (pre-Copernican) astronomers would have been impressed!

    When I did some back of a fag packet stuff on oceanic CO2 uptake and the AF on my own blog, I found a paper by Terenzi and Khatiwala (pdf) that made some sense, noting that:

    “…results suggest that both the quasi-constancy of AF over the past half-century, and its particular numerical value of ~50%, are essentially a consequence of exponentially growing emissions with a nearly-constant growth rate of 1/40th per year.”

  11. 11
    barry says:

    The confusion in the denialosphere is based on a misunderstanding between ‘airborne fraction of CO2 emissions’ (not changing very much) and ‘CO2 fraction in the air’

    I got up to grade ten science and ditched it for arts, but even a rube like me understood the misconception just from reading the paper – no googling for blog help – when a (cough) skpetic posted that canard at a forum I frequent.

    Sorting that out wasn’t rocket surgery, I suppose. But reading climate-sci blogs like this has helped me be slightly less rub-ish. Thanks, Gavin (et al).

    The full version of the Knorr paper is online.

  12. 12
    bigcitylib says:

    On the Knorr thing. Is this saying that the AMOUNT of CO2 in the air is increasing, but that the FRACTION of the total C02 NOT REMOVED from the air by various means is staying the same? At issue then is, perhaps, the Amazon’s (or the ocean’s) ability to store carbon, which some have theorized might be falling.

  13. 13
    Falafulu Fisi says:

    A quote from “SkepticalScience” thread linked to from Gavin’s article.

    “[Fossil fuel combustion is calculated from international energy statistics. CO2 emissions from land-use changes are more difficult to estimate and come with greater uncertainty.]”

    It should be very difficult, since CO2 molecules are indistinguishable at that level of density therefore it behaves according to quantum statistics (particle indistinguishability – fermion or boson) which deviates from classical maxwellian-boltzman particles which are distinguishable.

    Any claim to measure CO2 emission level from a specific source must be viewed with suspicion, since one cannot distinguish the CO2 that originated from source A or CO2 that originated from source B and so forth.

  14. 14
    Jiminmpls says:

    I googled “co2 not increasing” and sure enough, I got hundreds of hits from the usual conspirators and their brainwashed minions.

  15. 15
    Harry Applin says:

    “Isn’t “Climate Change” something of an oxymoron?
    If I understand correctly, climate is the aggregate of weather over a prescribed period of time. If so, then change is inevitable.” I am not sure what this means. I think Mr. Wright means CLIMATE VARIABILITY over a period of time. A continuous rise in temperature is change and the simple understanding of evaporation and warm air holding more moisture concludes more drought and more downpours.

  16. 16
    Tom Dayton says:

    Ah, I think I answered my own question about David Archer’s paperbound “Climate Crisis” book. Seems to be Barnes & Noble’s incorrect shortening of the number of authors, title, and number of pages (by 50 pages!) of the paperbound edition of the same book. My source for that inference is David’s web page, which lists only the one book by he and Stefan, with links to which lists both hardbound and paperbound versions of the one book.

    Followup question for David or Stefan, if they are lurking here: What’s the difference between this new “Climate Crisis” book and David’s previous “Global Warming” book, aside from the fact that the latter is a textbook? If I were to buy just one (sorry), and I’m not a student, but I am rather technical, my guess is that the newest book would be better suited to me, at least because it’s more recent. What about for the general, less technical public that frequent my public library–which is more appropriate?

  17. 17
    Didactylos says:

    Tom Dayton: One is hardback, one is paperback. The Amazon descriptions, titles and authors are identical, so it looks like Barnes and Noble were a little sloppy with their pre-release information (the UK publication date was yesterday).

  18. 18
    Andrew says:

    Lindzen has a recent paper where he examines data from Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) . In the tropics, it appears that outgoing long wave radiation is increasing with increasing sea surface temperatures; a negative feedback.

    Response time increases with increasing climate sensitivity. So, the negative feedback implies a very short response time. Considering how response time and sensitivity correlate, an extrapolation of the ERBE data imply that an infinite climate sensitivity should be considered as opposed to the commonly considered maximum value of 5C/CO2 doubling.

    According to Lindzen:

    “Indeed, Fig. 3c suggests that models should have a range of sensitivities extending from about 1.5°C to infinite sensitivity (rather than 5°C as commonly asserted), given the presence of spurious positive feedback.”

  19. 19

    I think I scooped you guys by an hour or two on this one, but I’m glad you’re talking about it. My article doesn’t contribute much that isn’t here, except for a link to an earlier discussion on Knorr on R Pielke Jr.’s blog. Notable, Knorr says, to Pielke’s approval, “Climate critics will always find something, no matter what the results are. It’s not an indication not to do anything and you can always misinterpret results. But I think that kind of misinformation dies out quickly, I don’t see a problem.” We’ll see how he feels now that his is the misinterpretation du jour.

    The good news is that Chip Knappenberger (usually counted among the naysayers), in the comments to the Pielke Jr. article, correctly states “Not sure how this [is] ammunition for ‘deniers’ – CO2 from anthropogenic activities is still building up in the atmosphere at an increasing rate.” One hopes this sane message gets through the confusion engendered by Science Daily, but the early indications aren’t good.

  20. 20
    Leo G says:

    Well hell has certainly frozen over! WUWT is featuring the same article. Should be fun going back and forth from both these sites to see how it is commented on by different “optics”.

  21. 21

    Re #9. @Andy Revkin: Even in your full tweet I read that climate scientists do not see the Big Dry as a CO2-driven event, but that’s not the conclusion of the paper you refer to. In the Discussion, the author’s recommend to further look “into the degree to which anthropogenic climate change contributes to the current drought (the Big Dry) and if/how the risk of drought may change in the future.”
    In his earlier RC contribution, prof. Karoly comes to the conclusion that “it is clear that climate change is increasing the likelihood of environmental conditions associated with extreme fire danger in south-east Australia and a number of other parts of the world.”
    I recognize the limits of 140 characters, but most people will not bother to purchase and check the full text of the paper.

  22. 22
    barry says:


    On the Knorr thing. Is this saying that the AMOUNT of CO2 in the air is increasing, but that the FRACTION of the total C02 NOT REMOVED from the air by various means is staying the same? At issue then is, perhaps, the Amazon’s (or the ocean’s) ability to store carbon, which some have theorized might be falling.

    Yes, the airborne fraction seems to be constant, according to Knorr09. Some papers have tentatively suggested that the airborne fraction may be increasing. That’s science for you. We’ll see how it unfolds.

    I’m wondering why AR4 gives the airborne fraction as 60% and Knorr (and Gavin) puts it at 40%.

    The relationship between increases in atmospheric CO2 mixing ratios and emissions has been tracked using a scaling factor known as the apparent ‘airborne fraction’, defined as the ratio of the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 to the CO2 emissions from annual fossil fuel and cement manufacture combined (Keeling et al., 1995). On decadal scales, this fraction has averaged about 60% since the 1950s. Assuming emissions of 7 GtC yr–1 and an airborne fraction remaining at about 60%, Hansen and Sato (2004) predicted that the underlying long-term global atmospheric CO2 growth rate will be about 1.9 ppm yr–1, a value consistent with observations over the 1995 to 2005 decade.

    AR4 Ch 2, p 139

    Hopefully I didn’t, rube-like, overlook something obvious.

  23. 23
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andrew, re your posting about the Lindzen ERBE paper —

    see the Search box in the upper right corner of the page?

    (Gavin — could the same Search invitation be displayed right above the “Leave a Reply” line? That might help people remember to check!!)

  24. 24
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Falafulu Fisi says “Any claim to measure CO2 emission level from a specific source must be viewed with suspicion, since one cannot distinguish the CO2 that originated from source A or CO2 that originated from source B and so forth.”

    Well, except that 1)we can calculate how much CO2 we are producing from burning fossil fuels using simple chemistry, 2)we can estimate CO2 from other sources with varying levels of uncertainty, and 3)carbon from fossil fuels has a higher ratio C-12/C-13 and almost no C-14, and we see C-12 content of atmospheric CO2 rising in lockstep with CO2 concentrations.

  25. 25
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Barry says of the Knorr tempest: “I got up to grade ten science and ditched it for arts, but even a rube like me understood the misconception just from reading the paper – no googling for blog help – when a (cough) skpetic posted that canard at a forum I frequent.”

    Yes, Barry, but then you aren’t an ideologically blinkered idiot!

  26. 26
    Don Shor says:

    I guess the headline writer didn’t understand what “fraction” or “percentage” means.
    I realize there are numerous models. But do they, in general, assume a rising amount of airborne CO2 based on an increasing percentage of CO2? If so, then I assume those models will tend to show a faster rate of global temperature increase than would be expected based on Dr. Knorr’s article.

  27. 27
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Barry #22, it seems that the IPCC-defined airborne fraction is referred to fossil fuel burning emissions only, not considering land use changes.

    Not exactly a ‘rube’ mistake ;-)

  28. 28
    JS says:

    “Isn’t “Climate Change” something of an oxymoron?”

    Interesting note: The original paper from Plass (year 1956) was called “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change” (someone pointed me to it in another thread). This should put end to speculation as to where the term “climate change” originate; there were claims that it appeared for political reasons.

  29. 29

    Science Daily is off the hook for the terrible headline about the Knorr work. Anna Haynes (thanks!) traces it back to (are you sitting down) an AGU press release!

    I am more and more convinced that science journalism must be done by trained scientists.

    [Response: Oh dear. However, I don’t think your solution is the right one (in this instance). Most scientists (until this happens to them directly) have no idea how dumb some of the ideas floating around out there really are – and so it wouldn’t even occur to them to think that someone would mess up the interpretation of this paper so badly. Same with the ‘methane from plants’ guys, or Wilerslev’s ‘greenland stability’ quote and there are dozens of other examples. Truly understanding the milieu into which we are putting information is much more important than technical expertise. Just being a scientist is not enough. – gavin]

  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    JS says: “there were claims” — not about where it originates, you’re misinformed. You can look this stuff up, instead of relying on people who are misleading you (unless you misunderstood this for yourself from doing your own research, of course).

    Luntz–responsible for the PR change in language by the Bush administration, from “global warming” to “climate change”– describes it in many places. Here, you’ll want to get this correct next time, right?“global+warming”+”climate+change”+luntz

    The Luntz Research Companies – Straight Talk. Page 132 … “climate change” instead of global warming and “conservation ” instead of preservation.

    Frank Luntz has since changed his position on global warming.

  31. 31
    Doug says:

    German physicists Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner recently published … [edit. Still trash]


  32. 32
    SteveF says:

    Science Daily publish press releases, they don’t write their own articles.

  33. 33
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS for JS — Lightbucket turns out to have much that will help you understand how this stuff works. Try this one too:

  34. 34
    Deech56 says:

    RE Micheal Tobis

    I think I scooped you guys by an hour or two on this one,

    Yep – it was interesting to see how this was spun by Ken Green in the other thread.

    At IIFTG, dhogaza pointed out that this has been on WUWT. The new and old threads on WUWT are so much fun to read. Despite the backtracking, it appears that the initial WUWT posters (like a lot of other people) believed that CO2 levels were not increasing. “Smoking gun” “smoking CANNON”

    If these results just restate what was in the IPCC report, how is this a “bombshell”?

  35. 35
    CM says:

    How consistent is the observed relatively constant airborne fraction in Knorr’s paper with the projections of coupled climate-carbon cycle models for 1850 to the present?

    Or to get to the bottom line, is there anything in these findings to suggest the models may be exaggerating the carbon-cycle feedback to come over the 21st century?

    (I’ve looked at AR4 WG1 and am guessing Knorr’s findings may be well within the pretty wide spread of model results. But I wouldn’t mind being spoon-fed.)

  36. 36
    Nick Barnes says:

    The whole “airborne fraction” idea seems like nonsense to me, although I’m a total amateur. A certain amount of the CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans (etc) every year, because the carbon cycle isn’t in equilibrium. This amount depends on the total CO2 level in the atmosphere, and on some other factors such as temperature, ocean pH, etc. But one of the things it does not depend on is the source of that CO2: whether an individual CO2 molecule is from burned fossil fuels, or from respiration, or oxidation of bio-methane, or has come out of solution in the oceans. It’s just a coincidence that (about) 50% of our total fossil emissions are still in the atmosphere. If we suddenly stopped emitting, the fraction would rise (as ongoing absorption took up more of our emitted CO2). If we suddenly emitted much much more, the fraction would fall (as the absorption rate would stay about the same). Or so it seems to me.

    It is very important that (let’s say) 2GtC, net, is absorbed by the oceans every year. But that number, the net absorption amount, is the figure of merit. Not where that CO2 came from, or what proportion of fossil carbon remains in the atmosphere.

  37. 37

    #21 Kees van der Leun, #9 Andy Revkin

    en addendum to Kees:

    My general assumptions based on my current understanding:

    ‘The Big Dry’ is related to ENSO and likely other oceanic cycles in variant degrees. The ENSO pattern rides on top of the ocean temperatures and systemic affects.

    It certainly seems more than reasonable to see how ‘The Big Dry’ can be affected by, and likely is influenced by AGW. Exacerbated effects in various degrees must be part of considerations. The connections need to be assimilated by the public to better understand the reality and potentials.

  38. 38
    RichardC says:

    6 David, the article comparing Y2K to AGW was seriously flawed. As a programmer, I spent the end of 1999 laughing at people who thought Y2K would be an issue. Yep, some things would print 1900 instead of 2000, but generally people are smart enough to figure out that it wasn’t really 1900. The biggest Y2K bug for the vast majority of systems was that reports would crash if an attempt was made to run them for both 1999 and 2000. Running reports across multiple years is rare, and the easy workaround was to run the report twice, once for each year. This small bug was also self-healing. Once 1999 was past, multiple year reports worked again. There are probably still y2K bugs out there, all harmless until 2100.

    In contrast, AGW is about physical reality. Those CO2 molecules are real, and their effects are real. Remember the moral of the story about the boy who cried, “Wolf!” which is that though some panic about non-problems, a situation with real danger is still to be taken seriously. The article seems to suggest that fire departments should stop responding to real fires because some people phone in false alarms.

  39. 39
    Icarus says:

    Not sure if this is entirely on topic but I was thinking about our measurements of sea level change – do we have the technology to measure (or calculate) volume, rather than just sea level? It seems to me that sea level is greatly influenced by local tectonics and weather and tides, which must make it very difficult to calculate a single valid number for the whole planet which can be compared to subsequent years. If it was possible instead to calculate the *volume* of all the world’s oceans for a particular point in time, rather than sea level, I think it would give us a more reliable and accurate measure of thermal expansion and ice melt. Can this be done, e.g. with radar from satellite or some other means?

    [Response: Altimeters measure volume. Gravity measurements capture mass. We have both (at least for the time being) and they are indeed complementary. – gavin]

  40. 40

    Gavin, Re your reply to 29:

    Not every scientist could make a good science journalist or science PR person. Not every journalist could either.

    Do you think the best communicator among 50 typical scientists would learn such a profession better or worse than the best scientist among 50 typical professional communicators?

    So far we have been mostly trying to find science communicators among people trained as communicators rather than among people trained as scientists. It does keep the costs down a bit, but how well is that working out?

    [Response: Point taken. But since you can’t ensure that all communications go through the best spokespeople you are always going to have these outbreaks. I don’t have a solution to this other than to suggest spending a fair amount of time educating scientists about the world outside their office. – gavin]

  41. 41
    Dappled Water says:

    comment#1, huh?, there are plenty of climate scientists in Australia that do suspect warming is causing the big dry, by intensifying the sub tropical ridge and altering rainfall patterns. See the South Eastern Climate Change Initiative:

  42. 42
    Don Shor says:

    Gavin: “I don’t have a solution to this other than to suggest spending a fair amount of time educating scientists…”
    Mandating that graduate students take courses in rhetoric, as is often done to undergraduates, would help. Public speaking would be best, but any good course in communications would be a start. Having spent countless hours at seminars, listening to researchers and graduate students, in order to get continuing education hours in my field, I can tell you that most communicate poorly.

  43. 43
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Gavin and Michael Tobis — it’s worth taking a look at what’s here:

    STATS: We Check Out the Numbers Behind the News
    Nicholas Kristof: STATS winner of the worst “science” journalist of the year … Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University shows how experts view the risks … Spinning heads and spinning news: Statistics in the media … disagree on dangers, and don’t trust the media’s coverage of climate change …

    That’s a site posing as an evenhanded, academically sound source of writing assistance for journalists about science and statistics.

    Look at what they write — for example on climate change, or endocrine mimics — compared to the published science. Highly professional spin.

    Here’s a report on them worth reading, on the hormone mimic coverage:
    (“Acronym Required observes science and technology.”)

    “… We’ve been incidentally covering Butterworth’s employer Statistical Assessment Service and Center (’s)** campaigns since 2000-2001. We couldn’t have been writing about BPA industry astroturfing here at AR since 2005 without reading their stuff. …. You can read 27,000 word defense of BPA, which we assume they got paid for — perhaps by the word, or you can read this post, which is about 2,700 words and mentions their large document. (We’re not paid per word.)”

    Good science coverage. Worth following.

  44. 44
    David Horton says:

    #41 thanks for the reference Dappled Water (sadly ironic name), although the links to the research papers are a bit confused from that site. I think Mr van der Leun at #1 is falling for the old trap of “can we specifically link a particular climatic event to climate change?” Well, no, of course we can’t. But we can see that the current drought (and yes, Virginia, there have indeed been droughts in Australia before) is being exacerbated by the warming planet. It also seems likely to me, sitting pretty much on the sub tropical ridge, that the pattern of rainfall (as well as its absolute amount) has changed in this area, and this is a big worry for the future.

  45. 45
    Sam says:

    Anyone who thinks the folk who run this site are proper scientists should take a read of

    an assessment of the CRU / IPPC etc Climategate emails written between them, by John P. Costella, B.E.Elec.Hons./ B.Sc.Hons./Ph.D.(Physics) / Grad.Dip.Ed.

    [edit yada yada yada]

    [Response: Check out the rest of that website: 9/11 Truthers, Kennedy assassination conspiracy nuts, faked moon landings and intelligent design. You couldn’t wish for a better framing. – gavin]

  46. 46
    Larry Lidar says:

    re #39. AFAIK, altimeters measure altitude, not volume, yes?

    [Response: Yes. But in a fixed bowl, the height measurement is directly related to volume. (In the real world, the ocean ‘bowl’ is not quite fixed, but this is a small correction). – gavin]

  47. 47
    Andrew says:

    Hank Roberts:

    Thanks for the feedback regarding Lindzen paper.

    I have now searched this website and see that there are a few comments about the paper, but nothing appears to fully explains it.

    Am I missing something or not?

    Was thinking I understood the paper well enough and was hoping to see if anybody else does.


  48. 48
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Regarding science reporting for popular consumption, I think it is uniquely important as a form of continuing adult education, for many of us the only continuing education in the sciences we’re likely to receive.

    To that extent, science journalists labor under a special requirement to sort out facts from unsupported opinion prior to committing a story for publication. Judicious consideration of the content of scientific reporting is imperative if the job is to be done correctly. This is what we demand of educators, after all.

    This stands in opposition to how coverage of qualitative subjects should be handled, such as reporting on religious or political affairs. Perhaps it needs a conscious act of shedding inappropriate techniques for a reporter to move from reporting of human affairs and into the world of discrete facts.

    As well, it would be good to remember that first impressions count, especially in a world where demands on attention are so many and so clamorous. For example, correcting the misapprehensions caused by the bungled Knorr press release is essentially impossible, if for no other reason than editors are not going allocate sufficient space for that task. Thinking of this from a continuing education perspective, I cannot remember a time when a teacher or lecturer appeared to tell me that the lecture I heard yesterday was wrong in its facts, that I should dismiss what I heard and instead listen to today’s corrected version. It’s unthinkable that such a thing should happen, and ideally the same standard should apply to science reporting.

    Of course this is probably impossible in an era of shrinking newsroom budgets. It’s very easy to criticize, not so easy to suggest how to repair the sad allocation of resources to such an important activity.

  49. 49
    mike roddy says:

    Facts are not really the issue. Here’s my take on what’s going on in the denialosphere: Pants On Fire
    This is an online magazine popular on college campuses. The editor helped with the excellent denier are portraits and the “comeuppances”. Young people who know what’s going on are a lot more angry and frustrated than people realize. Maybe this will help put it in focus, with a very different attitude, but certainly a debt to Roggan’s book.

  50. 50