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Scientists getting organized to help readers sort fact from fiction in climate change media coverage

Filed under: — rasmus @ 24 May 2016

Guest post by Emmanuel Vincent

While 2016 is on track to easily surpass 2015 as the warmest year on record, some headlines, in otherwise prestigious news outlets, are still claiming that “2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record” (Forbes, Jan 2016) or that the “Planet is not overheating…” (The Times of London, Feb 2016). Media misrepresentation confuses the public and prevents our policy makers from developing a well-informed perspective, and making evidence-based decisions.

Professor Lord Krebs recently argued in an opinion piece in The Conversation that “accurate reporting of science matters” and that it is part of scientists’ professional duty to “challenge poor media reporting on climate change”. He concluded that “if enough [scientists] do so regularly, [science reporting] will improve – to the benefit of scientists, the public and indeed journalism itself.”

This is precisely what a new project called Climate Feedback is doing: giving hundreds of scientists around the world the opportunity to not only challenge unscientific reporting of climate change, but also to highlight and support accurate science journalism.

The project uses a new online annotation platform, called Hypothesis, which allows scientists to apply “peer review”-inspired analyses to influential climate change stories in the media. The annotation tool allows scientists to analyze each piece collectively; scientists’ fact-check are layered directly onto the original texts so that readers can see the scientists’ sentence by sentence critique right next to the article (see figure below).

Scientists contributing to these “feedbacks” are also invited to provide an overall credibility assessment of the article in the form of a “5-star” rating (ranging from -2 for ‘Very low’ to +2 for ‘Very high’). The rating measures the accuracy of facts, the logic of the reasoning and the objectivity of the piece, and enables readers to know right away whether what they are reading is consistent with current science.

An example of Climate Feedback in action. Scientists’ comments (and ratings) appear as a layer over the article. Text annotated with Hypothesis is highlighted in yellow in the web browser and scientists’ comments appear in a sidebar next to the article. Click here to see it live.

For an example of how it works, see how 14 scientists recently analyzed a piece published by Bjorn Lomborg in The Telegraph and rated its overall scientific credibility to be “low to very low”. Articles like this one are particularly misleading because they sound reasonable and scientific at first glance, due to the author’s reference of scientific studies. But when scientists –some of whom actually wrote the articles cited– were invited to provide feedback, they explained that the author had misrepresented scientific research to reach unsupported conclusions.

By contrast Climate Feedback also highlighted insightful reporting on climate change. For instance, 7 scientists gave “high to very high” credibility rating to a New York Times article by Justin Gillis on sea level rise; sea-level expert Prof. A Dutton concluded “This article is an accurate and insightful summary of the recently published research on this topic. Justin Gillis has a strong background in this topic which comes across through his careful language and nuanced understanding of the issues.

Beyond informing readers, Climate Feedback provides feedback to journalists, contributors and editors about scientists’ findings, thus pointing a way forward for more accurate science reporting. This approach has already improved journalistic standards; for instance, The Telegraph issued a public correction after scientists reviewed an article claiming that an ice age was on its way in the 2030s.

Climate Feedback’s analyses can also serve as a reference for those who want to uncover media misinformation, as members of the House of Lords did last month in their letter to The Times of London asking the newspaper’s editor to report the reality of climate change more accurately.

Mockup of Climate Feedback’s “Scientific Trust Tracker”

Climate Feedback recently proposed to create a “Scientific Trust Tracker” that would
aggregate all the scientists’ ratings and comments attached to a given news source. This would serve as a reference to inform the public about a source’s past track record, and whether they should be especially skeptical when reading climate news from sources that have a track record of publishing unsupported or misleading articles.

While the project has been more of an experiment up until now, we now plan to scale up and are currently raising funds from the public to hire a Scientific Editor who will coordinate articles’ evaluation on a regular basis. The campaign has already raised more than 85% of its initial $30k goal. If you wish to Stand with Science, you can support this initiative here:

137 Responses to “Scientists getting organized to help readers sort fact from fiction in climate change media coverage”

  1. 1
    Jon Kirwan says:

    I’m probably more interested in the active use of by climate scientists, than I am in a scientific trust tracker.

    About the only use I might make for the trust tracker is to thrust it into the face of some friends who might try and quote articles from certain sources to me. But that doesn’t really work since the fact that they are quoting these articles to me means they likely won’t care about the trust tracker, either. So it’s not terribly useful to me. Others may have their own ideas, though.

    On the other hand, it is of tremendous, and almost daily, value to me to have the comments of comprehensively informed scientists regarding popular news web pages dealing with climate reporting. I am NOT comprehensively informed about anything regarding climate. At best, I might be ‘slightly dangerous’ on a very narrow ledge or two. And even then I’m sure I’m not comprehensively knowledgeable and would still benefit from a better view. It helps me a great deal to be exposed to a more thorough and encompassing viewpoint when reading. Both for my own education as well as when I’m trying to compose an accurate and balanced response to someone who is asking me a climate question. (And that happens often enough that it matters to me to become informed before I attempt to reply.)

    I also have a sense of appreciation for what it asks of active climate scientists to “deal with” the deluge of news that piles out into the world every day. So I don’t imagine scientists will spend as much time as I might like on this. But if they are already reading something for their own reasons, and otherwise feel able and willing to add commentary here and there, I don’t mind being the beneficiary of that effort. So I really do have some hopes for (or something similar.) I’d invest money in funding scientists to do that, if there was a credible approach offered there, because of its value to me.

  2. 2
    Edward Greisch says:

    Good luck. Not to be sarcastic, but who signs the journalists’ paycheck? What are the science requirements in journalism school? For a degree in English Lit? None or a Mickey Mouse course for either. Science journalists have been laid off in the past few years. The fossil fuel companies go to the publisher of the periodicals an say: “Say what we want said or we pull our advertising.” You/we don’t have clout like that.

  3. 3
    Titus says:

    There’s a much bigger problem here. Just one example:

    Scientists got organized and convinced the media, politicians and public that eating fat was bad. This was pushed into every facet of life. Now we understand, 50 years later that fat does not make you fat, in-fact the opposite. That food triangle that was produced is now completed inverted 180 degrees. It’s actually the carbs that make you fat.

    Over those 50 years there were folks arguing against the status quo and being suppressed as the climate deniers are today.

    Here’s the problem. Folks remember these events and intelligently are raising the same doubts for the same reasons. Why not learn from the past and encourage this. This is how I understand that science works.

    Or am I missing something?

  4. 4
    Dan DaSilva says:

    How about reading and making your own decision?

  5. 5
    Edward Greisch says:

    3 Titus: You are missing something. We can’t give anybody a college education in science in words only. They have to do the laboratory experiments for themselves and they have to do the mathematical homework for themselves. There is no royal road, and many things can only be understood in math or in graphics. Every journalism school should require their students to take at least the Engineering and Science Core Curriculum [E&SCC].

    Correcting the work of the journalists after the fact will only help a little. If you wrote the stories for them, the stories would still go through the editor and the publisher, both of whom would re-mangle the science. And the advertisers would make sure no truth ever got published. You are still back at square one, but maybe on the top edge of square one.

    4 Dan DaSilva: Reading and making your own decision is not a possibility because most people do emotions rather than think. To think, first you have to know how. Most people don’t. To think, first you have to know some true facts to start with. Most people start with what their ignorant parents or ignorant friends told them. So they have to know how to find some truth to start with.

    3 Titus: Nobody has been suppressed. It is the climate deniers who have the big fossil fuel company money to run a propaganda machine.

    In a technological society, all citizens need to know a great deal of science. Notice how many people get the wrong answer on critical issues because they haven’t studied the science and math. All high school students should be required to take 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry, 4 years of biology and 8 years [double classes] of math.  Probability and statistics should be included starting in the third grade.

    [Note that I actually meant what I just said. A watered down version will not do. At one school they had a big problem because the teachers were unable to do the homework in the high school algebra 2 class. My question is: How did ANY teacher get a degree in teaching without being able to do the homework in the high school algebra 2 class? One teacher I met asked if I meant that they should teach physics first. My answer is an emphatic “NO”. You teach 4 years of English and 4 years of history. Give science equal status. Teach 4 years of physics and 4 years of chemistry. To do that, you have to teach the math required for physics and chemistry. And I mean all students, not just the college bound upper half.]

    In college, Everybody, regardless of major, should be required to take the Engineering and Science Core Curriculum [E&SCC] plus a laboratory probability and statistics course plus more physics lab courses plus one course in computer programming.

    E&SCC = 2 years of calculus at the college level, 2 years of physics and 1 year of chemistry. All engineering and science students are required to take the E&SCC in their freshman and sophomore years.

  6. 6

    “How about reading and making your own decision?”

    Yeah, what could possibly go wrong? Obviously, right now all members of the reading public are well-grounded in science, math and logic, and would never consider voting for a candidate who would scuttle all efforts to address the climate change because the priority should be ‘making America great again.’

  7. 7
    Gordon Shephard says:

    Actions, not words, are what elicit my trust. (Granted, writing a comment is an action, but it is an action that creates only words. It doesn’t, for instance, grow any food, or reduce any carbon dioxide emissions.) “Do as I say, not as I do,” does nothing for me.

    If you want me to trust your words, show me that they influence your actions. If you say that carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced, show me how you are reducing your carbon dioxide emissions. (Do you walk to work instead of drive? Do you keep your house at 62F instead of 72F? Do you buy your vegetables from a sustainable grower instead of a “conventionally” farming mega-corporation?)

    Otherwise, don’t bother me. Let me read the science for myself. (Don’t hide it behind a “paywall.”) Scientists are people too. If I trust you, it is because I trust the person that you are. Otherwise, just give me the data.

  8. 8
    Peter Trabant says:

    My simple method is to immediately send in letter to editor of local paper the so called Arkansas “democrat” Gazette any time they publish such rubbish. My rebukes allways provide requisite references to the facts and point out lack of qualified sources in the articles. Fun and games for retired earth scientist who also lectures anyone who asks in academia, religious or civic group on tbe history of our knowledge from Milankovitch to Emiliani and beyond.

  9. 9
    Hank Roberts says:

    Suppose there were some counter running for each person frequently found in the Comments sections of, oh, say,

    Suppose this credibility number were assigned to the top ten commenters each month
    (counted two ways — by verbosity, and by total number of posts, though there would be some overlap)

    Would commenting improve, if we commenters had (more) expert feedback about our frequently posted opinions?

    I mean, yeah, I do take the good advice to read my own draft comments out loud to myself but it’d be better to have someone more competent doing that ….

    Would the site be improved here if the bigtime commenters regularly earned a recent credibility rating?

  10. 10
    Adam R. says:

    6 Kevin
    Indeed. The much-trumpeted Information Age has turned out to be the Mostly Bad Information Age. It is impossible for someone not well grounded in science and math to discern the legitimate nuggets of fact in the heaps of dross disgorged by the popular media every day.

    Edward Greisch (5) is essentially correct, but such an educational revolution is far beyond the vision of the benighted US electorate, which is putty in the hands of a know-nothing, populist demagogue.

  11. 11

    Regarding #5 by Greisch– To the list of courses required in Engineering and Science Core Curriculum [E&SCC], I would add at least one rigorous class emphasizing geology and its relation to climate change, from plate tectonics to paleo-climate studies. The configuration of continents and ocean basins, and hence, their interrelationships, are major factors in climate change, and have been for several billion years.

  12. 12
    Jamie Wilson says:

    I was really interested to see the comments on Climate Feedback about a recent newspaper article that said some dubious things about ocean acidification. I was surprised to find a scientist’s comment about the marine carbonate chemistry that, as a marine biogeochemical modeller, I viewed as at least debatable if not wrong…so do we need a Climate Feedback Feedback website?!

    I think this highlights a broader problem with website’s concept: there is a difference between accurately reporting the results and providing a context for those results. Accurate reporting is clearly important but the context will be dependent on the media outlet, e.g. its political leaning, and is something the scientists may also disagree with. Is it possible to critique the context dependent content without alienating people or further polarising debate and should we being critiquing it in the first place?

  13. 13

    I like the sentiment of, but it seems to rely on scientists volunteering their time. I knew someone who tried starting a similar company to combat inaccuracy in the media. However, the company never got going because most people saw it as extra work that had no value to further their scientific career. I guess we could have a section of our CVs listing the articles that we’ve reviewed on Climate Feedback, but I don’t see this happening.

  14. 14
    Silk says:

    Titus, re: #3 ” Now we understand, 50 years later that fat does not make you fat …. That food triangle that was produced is now completed inverted 180 degrees. It’s actually the carbs that make you fat.”

    Where did you read that? Citation please.

    It seems to me (and I’m not food scientist) that no food scientist would EVER have made the statement “The key to avoiding obesity is to avoid eating fatty food. Each as much carbs as you want.” and likewise no food scientist today will EVER say “The key to avoiding obesity is to avoid eating carbs. Each as much fat as you want.”

    What you appear to have done is take a complex problem (diet), generated a strawman (all scientists insisted we should have a low fat diet and that would make us healthier), shot the strawman down (with dubious science. Do the body of food scientists think that high fat diets are good for us?) and used that as an example to trash the original science.

    Climate science is complicated. Climate science changes. Climate science does not deal in absolutes like “Changes to the climate are 100% caused by CO2”. Climate chance does not promise solutions like “If we reduce human emissions of CO2 to X billion tonnes per year then the GDP loss from climate change will be 1%, which is manageable”. Climate science is about risk management.

    I am absolutely sure that in 50 years you’ll be able to look back at some aspects of what climate scientists think today and say “That was wrong”.

    I’m also absolutely sure that looking back 50 years from now most of it will be right. (I’m largely sure that if you look back at food science in the 1960s and compare it to food science today, you won’t see massive changes, but like I say, I’m not food scientist)

    Of course, this assumes that in 50 years there is still a civilisation that has access to today’s scientific journals and has the scientific capability to interpret them. Which is not a given.

  15. 15

    The problem is that most at this site, while posing as bastions of science, have as shallow an understanding of the atmospheric physics of CO2 as the food scientists’ late understanding of the metabolism of fat.

    Attempts to gate keep the press will backfire, but if hypothesis becomes a legitimate scientific forum accepting input from all sides of scientific debate…

  16. 16
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dan DaSilva:

    How about reading and making your own decision?

    How will you know when you’ve read enough to not fool yourself?

  17. 17
    Ron Taylor says:

    I think this is a terrific idea. I have read several of the feedbacks and found them quite helpful. They will be especially useful this fall as I prepare a presentation on climate change for our church in southern Florida. I especially appreciate it when the limitations, as well as the strengths of an article are described.

  18. 18
    Jon Kirwan says:

    @4, Dan: “How about reading and making your own decision?”

    Don’t know if that was directed at me, or just generally. Doesn’t matter.

    I have to say that I do expect to learn a lot from those who are actively involved in researching a subject, as they are far more likely to have a more comprehensive view of the current state of knowledge in their subject area. Science is an open process (despite Elsevier’s attempts otherwise) and anyone can certainly do their own thinking. But in practice, in my attempts in the area of black body radiation physics, triplet/singlet state transitions in lattices, and the phonon model, where I have some modest knowledge, I still miss considering important details or concepts that those working these issues have developed over time for the purposes of climate.

    I can definitely recognize the importance and validity of ideas here, once they are stated, and apply them well enough afterwards. But it remains a learning experience for me, just the same, because these factors aren’t needed in the work I do on my own. And I just don’t have the time to spend studying all of the prior work and development, in order to “come up to speed.”

    So it is quite a blessing to me, to be able to read, understand, and follow the work where I may. And, otherwise, to be able to gain some really interesting new bits to hang onto and think about later, in areas where I have still much less on my own to rely on.

    I actually learn a lot about a lot of things, this way, in fact. It’s a great segue into subjects that are all around me, and matter for entirely different reasons. For example, I’ve learned a great deal more about forest ecology from studies at Woods Hole, starting with the work in Brazil by Dr. Lovejoy circa 1980 and later. Additional studies done in North America have added to that, as well. I’m currently communicating with a specialist there regarding boreal forests and learning still more about carbon storage below and above ground, as well. It’s just wonderful to have such access, especially two-way access, to professionals who have dedicated their lives to a subject in this way.

    I am very lucky to live in this time and to be so fortunate that some scientists are willing to share their thoughts with me. Couldn’t be better.

    None of this takes away from being able to think for myself to come up with ideas of my own on technical issues that I can test out or bounce off of someone else. And I do that, too. But what a terrible loss to me it would be if I had to do this entirely alone and without the benefits of those thoughts of others actively pursuing their subject areas!

    And yes, I do make my own decisions about the larger contexts. I don’t agree with some of the conclusions about likely expectations expressed in the IPCC reports. I consider them to be far too careful, guarded, and ultimately far too conservative. They are doing, in my opinion, “complete risk avoidance” rather than “prudent risk management.” But these conclusions aren’t really so much a matter of applied physical theory and they really don’t have a good handle on what people will do in the future (yet an important ingredient for making such projections.) Where things are less concretely understood, I allow myself more freedom.

    There’s a saying that I made up years ago that may be useful here:

    An equal right to an opinion isn’t a right to an equal opinion.

  19. 19
    Matthew Marler says:

    I can see it being of service if the scientist/trust-raters stick with peer-reviewed literature (granted it’s flawed, but it’s also not been bettered, as far as I can tell) on science, and avoid ad-homs and such. It would be helpful if they relied upon evidence and avoided “expectations” (scenarios, forecasts, model output, predictions, etc) that go beyond evidence.

    For example, recent reports (Nature, Science) support the hypothesis that climate change since about 1880 has increased the productivity of terrestrial and marine vegetation (and some animal life, e.g. coccolithophores.) It may be the case that the future will be more threatening, but the evidence to date should be acknowledged, and any evidence supporting the idea that the future will be more threatening ought to be balanced by what has happened so far. The information that Lomborg is judged “unreliable” because of expectations of scientists that the good trend can not continue is not a reliable guide to anything. What might happen might be envisioned, but what will happen is not known. What is known is that the warnings of 30 years ago have been undercut by research conducted since then.

  20. 20
    SecularAnimist says:

    Titus wrote: “Now we understand, 50 years later that fat does not make you fat, in-fact the opposite. That food triangle that was produced is now completed inverted 180 degrees. It’s actually the carbs that make you fat.”

    Falsehoods and nonsense. The equivalent of “climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting an ice age”.

    If this were a nutrition blog the moderators would send that to the Bore Hole.

  21. 21
    Russell says:

    “Scientists contributing to these “feedbacks” are also invited to provide an overall credibility assessment of the article ”

    Invited by whom ? Inviting fellow activists to reinforce their own narrative is hardly a disinterested approach to the problem of bad journalism, but it should be sport to watch the usual suspects battle the usual corporate conscripts for control of this brave new echo chamber.

  22. 22
    Radge Havers says:

    Dan DaSilva @ ~ 4

    How about reading and making your own decision?

    Reading what by whom? What is your point? Did you read and understand the article? Is there some reason you think this project might not be an excellent idea? If you have something to contribute, spit it out.

  23. 23
    Victor says:

    “This is precisely what a new project called Climate Feedback is doing: giving hundreds of scientists around the world the opportunity to not only challenge unscientific reporting of climate change, but also to highlight and support accurate science journalism.”

    Gee, I thought that was the service I was providing here.

  24. 24
    CCHolley says:

    I think this is fantastic and I highly commend the founders and participating scientists for their efforts. I know I will find this a highly useful resource. Need to continue to get the word out.

  25. 25
    Titus says:

    Edward @5 says ‘Nobody has been suppressed’.
    Checkout ‘RICO 20’ on Google, read up on ‘Climate Gate’ then do some of your own digging around. You will find shedloads.
    On education you don’t need a college degree to know how to think and discover for yourself. In my education (60 yrs ago) we were taught the basics and more importantly how to discover and think for ourselves. This creates questioning, which if handled positively, produces a constructive and informing environment.

  26. 26
    Al Solomon says:

    3 Titus. Yes, you are missing something. There were very few scientific articles supporting the concept of fat is bad, though logic seemed to support it. In contrast, there are now 10s of thousands of articles confirming climate change is real and deniers (those refusing to accept new facts opposing their preconceived notions) are unable to refute that massive evidence. Like night and day. Otherwise, yes, there is little difference!

  27. 27
    Jef says:

    ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’
    Upton Sinclair

  28. 28
    Charles says:

    What Kevin said in #6. And every individual still retains the right to read and make her or his own decision; such an individual can completely ignore the Climate Feedback folks.

    What I have observed is that public opinion over the last ten years has slowly, gradually shifted so that more people, presumably because they are better informed and thus able to make informed decisions, are agreeing that climate change represents a significant challenge that must be addressed by reductions in anthropogenic CO2 generation.

  29. 29
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    #4 – “How about reading and making your own decision?”

    Over the last week I encountered one young adult man who couldn’t estimate what 13 percent of $160 was. When I tried to step him through the process he got hung up on adding 7 to 6.

    I also encountered an a middle aged women who couldn’t imagine why something that was 14 inches tall couldn’t fit in a 13 inch hole, because 14 was bigger than 13. “So it should fit.”

    And I encountered a Trump supporter who calculated that 2016 – 1980 = 30 and that 22-8 = 16. This was written as 2016-1980=30-8=22-8=16.

    These people are as incapable of making their own decisions on even simple technical issues, because they have even less technical skill than the authors of nonsense articles which are attempting to misinform them.

    Put a little button at the bottom of the page which returns a link to a science rating for the article in question.

    Provide some technical guidance to the technically illiterate.

  30. 30
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    #5 – “All high school students should be required to take 4 years of physics, 4 years of chemistry, 4 years of biology and 8 years [double classes] of math.”

    Do you intend to hold them at gunpoint?

    I agree with your goals 100 percent. Technical illiteracy is everywhere, and is the primary reason the U.S. is dead as a nation, but the fact is in a free society, students have the right to simply not attend class.

    You can’t force people to learn when they don’t want to.

  31. 31
    sidd says:

    I think this is good, and i suggest an addition: a “not even wrong” tag.


    “Suppose this credibility number were assigned to the top ten commenters each month
    (counted two ways — by verbosity, and by total number of posts, though there would be some overlap)”

    Hehehehe. I, for one, welcome our new overlords. Alas, I shall be bereft of their wisdom, since i see almost infallible positive correlations in my killfile for word count/time and number of comments/time


  32. 32
    gmb92 says:

    A good one for climate scientists to review:

    Seems to be quite an overreach.

  33. 33
    Silk says:

    #19 “What is known is that the warnings of 30 years ago have been undercut by research conducted since then.”

    Unsupported assertion. Evidence please.

    30 years is a nice figure, since it accords with the seminal paper “SCOPE 29 – The Greenhouse Effect, Climatic Change, and Ecosystems” (B. BOLIN, J. JÄGER. AND B. R. DÖÖS) which can very much be seen as a precursor to the IPCC reports. It was published 30 years ago.

    Anyone looking at it would be impressed by how measured it is, and how accurately it predicted the challenges faced by climate scientists and the likely direction of travel in climate science.

    In short, what scientists believed they knew 30 years ago was REMARKABLY GOOD and has been STRONGLY SUPPORTED by evidence since then.

    There is no reason not to expect this trend to continue, given the resources dedicated to studying the subject.

  34. 34
    Titus says:

    Silk @14 you say ‘Where did you read that? Citation please’:
    There’s been a lot in the main stream news recently. I’m surprised you haven’t seen it. A very well researched and written book on the subject. Great reviews all round:

    However, that was just an example of how intelligent thinking folks are coming across these examples of bad science and questioning the whole basis as to why science appears so corrupted.
    Another example is pharmaceuticals. Just do a simple Google search. There’s shedloads of this stuff. I’m just highlighting that climate science gets positioned in the same light.
    IMO this is the problem that needs to be addressed. Not more scientists giving more of the same.
    Hope this helps.

  35. 35
    Victor says:

    I’ve been to the site and find it both interesting and informative, but also naive in the assumption that research or reporting that appears to go against the mainstream view can be fairly evaluated by scientists so clearly supporting that view. The responses of these scientists to specific claims, dubious or otherwise, is certainly valuable. But the assumption that their responses represent some sort of last word on the issue is troubling to say the least.

    For example, the responses to the Forbes article, “2015 Was Not Even Close . . . ,” accuse the author of cherry picking because he’s chosen to highlight the satellite data over the ground-based data, ignoring his argument that the satellite data is more reliable. The same responders seem unaware that, by ignoring or downplaying the satellite data they too are cherry picking.

    As a website devoted to supporting the mainstream view by “debunking” any and all opposing viewpoints, Climate Feedback would be a useful and honest resource, along the lines of SkepticalScience. But the pretense that the site represents some sort of purely objective, “truly scientific” view cannot be maintained, as there has been no effort to avoid the obvious bias that colors literally all the responses.

    While I do find many of the responses very useful and sometimes enlightening, the attempts to rate each publication in terms of some purportedly “objective” standard strike me as childish and should be omitted. Such a rating system would be meaningful only if a serious attempt to recruit raters from both sides of the issue had been made.

  36. 36
    Mal Adapted says:


    Checkout ‘RICO 20’ on Google, read up on ‘Climate Gate’ then do some of your own digging around. You will find shedloads… In my education (60 yrs ago) we were taught the basics and more importantly how to discover and think for ourselves.

    Sadly, it hasn’t prevented you from fooling yourself. You do understand that you can’t believe everything you find on the Internet, don’t you?

  37. 37
    Ockham's Hammock says:

    There are two issues. First, scientists need to identify and publicize the worst journalistic offenders. Forbes is certainly one. It seems anything owned by Rupert Murdoch tends to peddle nonsense on global warming and alternative energy.

    The reality is that a lot of reporters would like to be better informed on global warming. Here’s the trick: charge them for it (but not too much), schedule it in the summer, do a 3 day to 7 day seminar in an attractive location and with various topics. Have at least one senior scientist with a name who can be looked up and reasonably recognized. Have a couple of more scientists, or a first rate blogger, even if they’re grad students who are definitely good at talking about global warming. Open it up just enough so non-journalists can sign up (you might get teachers in other fields who want to learn more).

  38. 38
    Titus says:

    Mal Adapted @36 says “You do understand that you can’t believe everything you find on the Internet, don’t you?”

    Totally agree. You make my point precisely. However, it seems an odd remark in the context of your post.

  39. 39
    Edward Greisch says:

    30 Vendicar Decarian: Until they are old enough to drop out of school, we can get most children to at least attend. If they don’t learn, we don’t have to give them diplomas.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  40. 40
    Scott Strough says:

    Not sure how it happened, but somehow this conversation got sidetracked into recent failings of food science and somehow that relates to possible failings in climate science?

    Ironically those two widely divergent topics are in fact related.

    It occurred to me the reason climate scientists find such difficulty in coming up with a balance in their models is related to land use change primarily focused on deforestation and afforestation, while ignoring changes in agriculture and restoring desertified land to healthy grassland, both of which have a far greater impact/potential impact. The climate models are using inputs for agricultural methods at minimum 30 years out of date, and in some cases agricultural methods thousands of years out of date.
    If we are locked into the current industrialised agricultural models and rangeland management and/or subsistence agricultural models, yes nearly an impossible task to model a world that stays below 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial…maybe nearly impossible to keep it below 2.0°C warmer. But change that management on what is by far the majority of the earth’s productive land, and it becomes far easier. But that option isn’t even in the model! No wonder it is so difficult for people advocating such a change to find any traction!
    For example, just to get a rough estimate of scale: A pretty average case study of a no till method called pasture cropping done by Dr. Christine Jones in Australia found a 10 year average of 17.1 tonnes/hectare on long term sequestered CO2 into the soil. (A-horizon, not O-horizon) There are approximately 1.5 gigahectares of arable land currently in the world that is currently on average actually an emissions source rather than a sink. So do the math:
    17.1 tons/hectare/year X 1.5 gigahectares = 25.65 gigatonnes CO2/ year potential sink just on arable land already in crop production.
    The total emissions from fossil fuels and cement are approximately around 36 gigatonnes CO2/year, of which approximately 50%+/- is already entering natural sinks like the ocean and natural ecosystems, weathering etc….
    So do the math 36 Gt CO2 X .5 = 18Gt CO2 /year net emissions.
    18Gt CO2 /year – 25.65 Gt CO2/ year = -7.65 Gt CO2/year net
    And that’s just arable land. The world area of Pasture and Fodder Crops is another 3.5 gigahectares and another even larger area of desertified/desertifying rangeland. The scale is enormous, far larger than fossil fuel emissions. So anyone serious about mitigating human caused global warming, but ignores agriculture, is fooling themselves IMHO. At least put it in the models, so one can see the potential effect agriculture could have as methods gradually change. If it was in the models, we could adjust the time it takes to convert from our antiquated current methods of production, to more modern climate, soil and ecosystem friendly methods of production, and get an idea of time needed for the conversion thus giving policy makers something to work with. Might even get to model how amplifying and stabilizing feedbacks effect things in a dropping atmospheric CO2 scenario.

    And how does that relate to fat and human health? Well it turns out that the current AGW causing industrial models of feeding animals with grains like corn and soy effects the lipid profiles of those animals. And of course since we too are animals our lipid profiles can also be affected by those same foods in our diets, or from eating those animal products either one. So “FAT” is not specific enough. It turns out the entire lipid balance is important and “butter” can be both healthy and unhealthy depending on how it is produced.

    Ironic because as it turns out, what is healthy for the planet’s climate system is also what is healthy for the public food supply. And ironically the same forces preventing us from fixing AGW are also preventing us from fixing public health. You fix one and by default you fix the other.

    Now of course this is all extremely simplified in order to fit it in a post here at realclimate. Fat is not the only thing affecting human health and agriculture is not the only thing affecting climate. But it does ironically seem to be linked.

  41. 41
    patrick says:

    “This new approach is already improving journalistic standards.” –video (2:09) at the site or:

    Great concept, organization, execution, site. And not an old boys’ club. Well, not too much. Don’t burn out.

  42. 42
    patrick says:

    Russell, 21: > “Invited by whom?”

    The answer to that question is at the ClimateFeedback site under “Who We Are.” And brave they are. They are all practicing climate scientists or direct participants. The Standards are high and the process is open. Reliable journalism is scored along with the unreliable, per the archived Feedbacks, which make an excellent review in themselves.

  43. 43
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Weaktor: “I’ve been to the site and find it both interesting and informative, but also naive in the assumption that research or reporting that appears to go against the mainstream view can be fairly evaluated by scientists so clearly supporting that view.”

    This, right here, represents one of your most profound misunderstandings of science. The core of the scientific method is that your idea has to be able to survive vivisection by the most hostile critics out there–your rival scientists.

    Ultimately, if your work proves invulnerable, your fellow scientists will adopt your method and say you didn’t do too bad for a jerk–the highest praise you can get in science.

    Nerds can be very vindictive.

  44. 44
    zebra says:

    @Edward Greisch 5,

    “in a technological society, all citizens…”

    More over-the-top absurdity. You’ve obviously never taught “all citizens”, or even thought about knowledge and reason yourself. Indeed, you sound like someone who needs to take some courses in language and logic and psychology.

    I can teach any willing citizens the physics they need to comprehend these issues if you give them to me with good language and logic skills and good quantitative reasoning skills and maybe the ability to use a spreadsheet. And a decent lab. None of that requires anything beyond a sound liberal education in high school.

    When I say comprehend, I mean the ability to make political and economic decisions from a foundation of fact.

    What you suggest is completely counterproductive. We already produce plenty of “well-prepared” rote-bots who have taken math from teachers who can do Algebra II. In my experience, teaching them physics can be much harder.

    You know, I long ago gave up having this discussion. Too many people like yourself just can’t see beyond their own experience, and so can’t recognize their own limitations. But your rant was too egregious to let pass.

  45. 45
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Titus: “On education you don’t need a college degree to know how to think and discover for yourself.”

    While this is true, it does not mean that expertise does not matter. Education should also teach one that while expert opinion should not be taken as gospel, it must be understood before one can be said to have an informed opinion.

    What Jon Kirwan said: “An equal right to an opinion isn’t a right to an equal opinion.”

    [I am so stealing this.]

  46. 46
    gmb92 says:

    Victor (#35),

    I looked at your example of the feedback of the Forbes article, and your criticism is off base. For starters, Taylor did not make any real claims about the satellite vs surface record reliability until an update to the article he made on Jan. 25, after the Climate Feedback article was written, so your claim that the article is “biased” or “ignores” his argument does not follow the sequence of events. Mr. Taylor’s frantic update seems it may have been prompted by some excellent articles or a related video on the subject, written by or directly quoting working scientists, although since he didn’t actually respond substantially to the points made in these articles, or actually cite them, it’s hard to tell. If he had read these 2 articles, it would refute most of his thesis.


    Note also that Carl Mears, one of the satellite experts quoted in the original article, considers the surface record to be more reliable than the satellite record. They have several times less the uncertainty range as the satellite products, trends vary significantly between analyses and assumptions made (note the recent RSS 4.0 update and UAH Beta 6.0), and Mears has published detailed analysis of the satellite product uncertainty. Taylor’s claims about the surface record are way off base as well. Had he read these articles and studied in depth how surface record analysis is done, he wouldn’t be making those claims.

    A contrarian favorite seemed to agree not too long ago – although it may have been easier to concede this when internal variability was coincidentally more favorable to her long-term hiatus hypothesis.

    “Based on this analysis, its difficult to get away from the idea that the best (most mature, highest quality) data set for inferring recent climate change is the surface temperature data record.”

    As a constructive critique, I would like to see the Climate Feedback team include more citations. Some of the feedbacks do a good job of this. Others are a bit short.

  47. 47

    Zebra, #44–Yes.

    If we were to try to add the first two years of a B.Sci. degree onto every other program, we would:

    –make most 4-year degrees into 6-year ones;

    –drive graduation rates way, way, down, through mismatches between student interests and aptitudes and the required curriculum;

    –increase degree costs by 50%;

    –and breed enormous ill-will toward STEM among the college-educated populace.

    That might be OK if that’s ‘how the world gets saved.’ But how fast can we ramp up, given that we need huge additional resources in personnel, facilities, and administrative and financial support? Then consider that each class of graduates amounts to probably well under 1% of the electorate, and that we need to be mitigating hard NOW.

    Yes, improving STEM ed is a good thing. But it’s not going to solve the climate crisis. We have to educate the electorate we have; there isn’t time to build another one.

  48. 48
    Mal Adapted says:


    Mal Adapted @36 says “You do understand that you can’t believe everything you find on the Internet, don’t you?”

    Totally agree. You make my point precisely. However, it seems an odd remark in the context of your post.

    Titus, I’ll try to be clearer: if you think the 2009 theft and posting of private emails between climate scientists was an Adlai Stevenson moment for AGW-deniers, then you are fooling yourself. To anyone familiar with the actual culture and practice of science, it was more a Colin Powell moment: no evidence of mass deception could be found.

    If that still isn’t clear, I can try again.

  49. 49

    We don’t need to load all the science and math onto students. Just one course in formal logic and one in statistical analysis should do it.

  50. 50
    Edward Greisch says:

    Zebra & Kevin M: There isn’t time to build another electorate, but there may be enough time to evolve another one, if some of us survive. I figure it comes down to that. Perhaps Homo Sap 2.0 will be worthy of the name.