Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How the news media is damning us all to climate purgatory.

As a reasonably well-educated and literate lay person (corporate lawyer specializing in large real estate projects) I feel compelled to observe that I, on a regular basis, depend on the news media for information as to what matters I should be concerned with (economic trends, new technologies, health risks such as seasonal flu outbreaks, new medical treatments, new scientific developments, etc.).
This information heavily influences my opinions, decision-making and voting preferences. In all of these areas, I depend very heavily on reporters to evaluate, summarize and communicate accurate information — and not to simply serve as stenographers for nitwits. Thus, while I can’t look to financial reporters to provide investment advice, I do expect them to be familiar enough with their area of supposed expertise to call out or cull out information (propaganda?) that is obviously false, misleading or incomplete in light of objective evidence.
I am dumbfounded that climate science is somehow seen as some special sort of bizzaro world where what I see as the normal expectation of news consumers (factual vetting, providing context and assessing implications based on discussions with real authorities) is thrown out the window in favor of he-said/she-said. In what universe do we expect particle physicists to be personally responsible for communicating the scientific implications of their research directly to the public, and then blame the physicists if the public doesn’t “get it”? Ditto for genetic researchers, astronomers, biologists, etc.
I came late to the party regarding AGW – until 2008, the issue was on my radar as a “century away” theoretical problem — it seemed like for every “this will be a big problem” article there was a “no problemo” article. I was accordingly floored in 2008 when I had to do due diligence research for a proposed investment in renewable energy to start reading primary materials and discovering that my media derived “understanding” was grossly in error. (And yes, in an effort to evaluate “the other side of the argument”, I did wind up visiting most of the prominent internet skeptic sites and looked at materials from Singer, Lindzen, Spencer, etc. – I concluded they were virtually useless in providing accurate information.)
I conclude that the views expressed by the moderators, Dr. Curry and others as to the lack of responsibility of journalists in this arena is directly contrary to the (apparently misplaced) assumptions and expectations that lay folk such as I bring to the table – that journalists will provide factual vetting, context and implications based on information in their respective field viewed as most authoritative. If this is the case, and if the former view is correct, media are just “filling space” with random noise and are effectively useless (or worse) in helping ordinary people assess risks, make decisions and make sense of the world.
The Press and Climate: An Anti-Testimonial


  1. Wow. It's not just the media - it's the schools too. Really? It's almost enough to make me want to homeschool!

  2. There you go again, trying to link Creationism with Climate Science Denial.

  3. It's virtually the same thing. Anti-science! It literally makes me feel ill. No exaggeration.

  4. Long time, no post? Picked up "The Greatest Show on Earth" today and thought of you. Hope you're good.

  5. Busy with "All Things Nuclear" & "Scholar As Citizen".

  6. Since the comment cited in the linked post, journalism, communication, framing and messaging have been the main topics at the blogs. As you know, I'm into cutting all the talk and getting right about replacing fossil fuels. So, I took the opportunity to spout off at a couple of places.

    I proposed a model message framed to be clear, concise, consistent; and that appealed to the broadest spectrum of people and contained the least potential for controversy.

    For a variety of reasons, fossil fuel use should be replaced in this century, the faster the better. The technology exists to begin what is a 35 – 50 year process. Replacing fossil is best done and is being done from the bottom up.