Two climate-related meetings are being covered quite extensively this week, the American Geophsyical Union meeting in San Francisco is being blogged for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the COP/MOP meeting in Montreal is being podcasted by the New York Times and blogged by other attendees. Hopefully this is a sign that scientists are starting to use these tools more effectively than they have so far.
We here at RC continue to be disappointed with the tendency for some journalistic outlets to favor so-called “balance” over accuracy in their treatment of politically-controversial scientific issues such as global climate change. While giving equal coverage to two opposing sides may seem appropriate in political discourse, it is manifestly inappropriate in discussions of science, where objective truths exist. In the case of climate change, a clear consensus exists among mainstream researchers that human influences on climate are already detectable, and that potentially far more substantial changes are likely to take place in the future if we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates. There are only a handful of “contrarian” climate scientists who continue to dispute that consensus. To give these contrarians equal time or space in public discourse on climate change out of a sense of need for journalistic “balance” is as indefensible as, say, granting the Flat Earth Society an equal say with NASA in the design of a new space satellite. It’s plainly inappropriate. But it stubbornly persists nonetheless. [Read more…] about The False Objectivity of “Balance”
There is an interesting article in this month’s Global Environmental Change journal. The paper, Climate of scepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change (subscription only at the moment) by L. Antilla, documents the way in which the mainstream media (at least in the U.S.) tends to present climate science as more controversial than it actually is. A major focus of the paper is an analysis of the way in which climate science is “framed” (in the journalistics sense of “highlighting certain aspects of a story so as promote a particular interpretation”). In a recent Scientific American article (here), a similar argument is made with respect to the health industry; in this case the writer, David Michaels, is quite blunt that the “framing” is the purposeful fomenting of doubt by powerful industry lobbyists, rather than innocent errors by naive journalists. Antilla doesn’t go so far, but she does give some striking examples, such as an Associated Press piece about the impact of soot on the albedo of snow, which AP titled “Scientists blame soot for global warming”. As if the title weren’t misleading enough, the article goes on to say that “Many scientists believe the burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, triggering … the greenhouse effect.” Whether purposeful, or merely due to careless writing, this kind of statement casts the science (and the opinion of scientists) as far more uncertain that it is in reality — in this case implying that there is doubt that CO2 levels are increasing, something which actually has zero uncertainty. [Read more…] about Framing of climate science
There was an interesting piece that appeared in the October 12 edition of the Seattle Times, “Q&A: Global warming — a world of evidence”. This follows up on a previous article by journalist Sandi Doughton in the October 9 issue of the Times, “The Truth About Global Warming”.
In the Q&A, a group of University of Washington scientists, including atmospheric scientist and climate researcher J. Mike Wallace, weigh in with answers to questions fielded from the paper’s readers. Many of the questions, such as “Isn’t it true that scientists in the 1970s said the earth was cooling?” are quite similar to those we’ve addressed here at RealClimate (see “The Global Cooling Myth”). [Read more…] about Q & A: Global Warming