Posts Tagged ‘Media’


Nothing New Under the Sun

Science in the days of John Tyndall, the man who in the mid 19th century identified the greenhouse gases (the greenhouse effect itself was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824) certainly had to deal with Deniers.

After all, it was a period of great scientific discovery, including Darwin’s Evolution by Natural Selection. Scientific discoveries that threatened orthodoxy and ignorance.

Tyndall knew the consequences of Denial and the measure of the people who wallow in it:

It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste.” ~ John Tyndall

He also knew how much point there was to presenting them with facts and reason in the hope that they would assess the facts fairly and objectively:

Religious feeling is as much a verity as any other part of human consciousness; and against it, on the subjective side, the waves of science beat in vain.”

So it’s no surprise that Tyndall took the time to try and help educate a broader public about science and scientific matters (“Fragments of science for unscientific people“). Those were simpler times when gentlemen wrote books and gave public talks for other gentlemen. Now with dozens of different types of media and instant global communication that can potentially reach almost any inhabitant on the planet the art of communication has become mind boggling.

Actually it’s not particularly any more complicated or difficult than it ever was, it’s just more incoherent and bewildering. What could and needed to be done was easier to discern then, now it is not so obvious, but the fundamentals remain the same.

In an earlier post I spoke of the need for a coherent, proactive media strategy. It is not my intent to lay one out, but rather to talk about what a media strategy is and what some of the options might be for implementation.

Further, as I stated in another earlier post: “Granted the climate science community is a loose network of a broad spectrum of individuals and groups, with occasional nodes that might be described as coalitions and the like, so I am not suggesting a unified strategy. It’s not only impractical, it’s probably impossible.

Even so, it is possible for us to have a loose strategy that is constantly discussed and reviewed, and which many in the network implement in ways that are suited to their strengths and abilities.



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Recently Joe Romm was very impressed with Dave Roberts’ Policy in an age of post-truth politics” where “the referees have left the building” and for the most part I have to agree (hint, read it).

However, I think there is one significant disagreement, less so with Roberts than Romm I think, who summarized Roberts’ article as:

“It speaks to what happens when the referees — the media — don’t call balls and strikes anymore but mainly report the play-by-play.”

The referee metaphor is indeed Roberts’, and he does say “But the referees [media] have left the building.” He is talking about a broken system, ie civic society generally, and the dysfunctional dynamic between the Republicans and the Democrats in the US specifically. The media reference is about the medias’ failure to play a watchdog role.

To which I say, what? Since when has the media been an impartial referee? Below is a sampling (and it is merely a small sampling) of quotes about the press over the past two and a half centuries. Use a search engine to find ‘Quotes “the press”‘ for many hours of more like them.

“The press is the hired agent of a monied system, and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where their interests are involved. ” – Henry B Adams


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Method without Science,

or method

… “Opps!”

Seeing the recent “Science without method” post at Climate Etc I opted to first read the Nicol paper it was discussing before reading Dr Curry’s discussion of it.

The article alleges to highlight failures of climate change science, and in an obviously unintended way both it and Curry’s discussion of it does.

To give credit where credit is due, the exercise led me to rethinking how we frame the question of our current impasse. How it is possible for drivel like Nicol’s to somehow be taken seriously by anyone, never mind winding up actually influencing policies of countries.

First let’s get some context. In his paper Nicol said:

Yet in contemporary research on matters to do with climate change, and despite enormous expenditure, not one serious attempt has been made to check the veracity of the numerous assumptions involved in greenhouse theory by actual experimentation.

greenhouse theory“, seriously? Has he not read any scientific literature post-1860?

That aside, this is just idiotically wrong as a general statement. Can he cite any specifics? Loaded as it is with qualifiers he would no doubt cite all of the relevant reserach (which he is clearly not familiar with, or simply doesn’t understand) as not “serious” attempt(s) (ie No True Scotsman fallacy).


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Shoot out at the “I’m OK” Corral

BPSDB Tom Yulsman at CEJ is not upset. Apparently people are criticising media coverage of climate issues, leading him to ask “Environmental journalists: Are we really that awful?

At first he was upset with Anthony Watts, Brad Johnson and Joseph Romm, but now the list includes  Michael Tobis, Scott Mandia, Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, and Kevin Trenberth.

This began as a very different post, but then I read the materials more closely and it changed everything. Actually reading the material I intend to discuss is a nasty habit which ruins all of my best ideas; I really should stop doing that.

A day in Tombstone

At the Progress Saloon

1) Joseph Romm posted “And the 2010 Citizen Kane award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to …“, an overview of quite a lot of really ghastly penny dreadfuls masquerading as irresponsible tabloids reporting on climate in 2010.

2) Brad Johnson of Think Progress comments on the piece, being critical of media generally, environmental journalists and climate scientists in particular. A bit over the top in some respects, but he makes some good points.

Down by the stables

3) Time Magazines’ Bryan Walsh did a piece Holiday Blizzard: More Signs of Global Warming discussing how snow storms were consistent with the science of climate change and in no way supported the Denier position.

4) Watts Earp(withthat) took exception to the Walsh (3) piece. He strongly objected to the “Preemptive straw man arguments” in Walsh’s “annual piece on global warming causing blizzards.”  Presumably what upset Watts most was that Walsh’s “preemptive straw man” anticipated Watts’ idiotic annual piece on blizzards proving there is no global warming.


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BPSDBThe “George Will Defense” is, having been caught in a series of flagrantly ridiculous lies, tell some more in an attempt to justify them.  It seems that Manthrope’s uncritical idolizing of Ian Plimer’s climate change Denial discussed in Vancouver Sun: Perpetual Motion Works, Earth is Flat! has upset some of the Vancouver Sun‘s readers. So much so that a response seemed called for.

Unfortunately we do not get a thoughtful and honest reflection on the whys and wherefores of having published drivel. Far from it. The title “Opposing views draw scientists’ scorn” tells you exactly how Manthrope is going to try to spin it.

You see, the problem is not that the Plimer’s book is a load of unscientific nonsense, or that Manthrope was either incompetent or unethical (or both) as a journalist in his partisan and unabashed promotion of Plimer. Oh no, the problem is that scientists are intolerant of “opposing views.” We’re not talking about facts and science here, we’re talking about “views”, opinions, and tolerance.


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I love PR (public relations)BPSDB The headline may as well have read like that since the actual one was just as idiotic; “Global warming is the new religion of First World urban elites.” The article in question is allegedly reporting on the “science” of Ian Plimer, “an unremitting critic of “anthropogenic global warming”.”

The article by Jonathan Manthorpe is so fawning and gushing that it would be embarrassing as text for Plimer’s book jacket, never mind as an Opinion piece or book review. For breathless and brainless worship it’s about on a par with an adolescent’s Hannah Montana Myspace fan page. Yet according to the Vancouver Sun, this article was supposedly “News”?

In and of itself it’s just another piece of popular media climate change Denierism which has already been responded to by others. However, since the piece is so extreme in several senses I thought it might be a good example to use to look at the issue of climate science in the media generally.

Let’s begin with Plimer and his book. “Heavan and Earth” was published back in April and has been thoroughly reviewed by a number of reputable scientists (see ‘Plimer, a sampling’ below), including a point by point critique (38 page pdf). Real Climate’s summary pretty much covers the response by scientists:


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  • Spin Cycles
  • That’s curious
  • Not this idiot again
  • Oh oh at NSIDC
  • The Boy Who Denied Wolf

Spin Cycles

CBC’s show “And the Winner Is…” re-broadcast the documentary series Spin Cycles: Spin, the spinners and the spun.

Episode Six exposes the industry funded “think tanks” and astroturf (ie bogus) citizen’s groups that specialize in providing climate denial PR for their clients.


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It is easy to be dismissive of the Climate Change / Global Warming Deniers1, but it is a mistake to ignore them.

The fact is the Denial machine has been effective, that’s why industry funds it. Polls show almost half of US citizen’s think that the current warming / climate change is natural. Lest you think this is perhaps due to the complexity of the climate issue or some such, I note that it is about the same number of people who are unsure if Obama is a Muslim. Hardly a complex issue, but one which is also plagued by lies and disinformation.


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As per my last post, the Daily Mail ran a piece on ‘The Monckton Affair’ titled “BBC investigated after peer says climate change programme was biased ‘one-sided polemic’“. I attempted to post the following comment to the story, but my comment has never appeared.


Arther Smith http://www.altenergyaction.org/Monckton.html and other climatologists and scientists http://www.realclimate.org/wiki/index.php?title=Christopher_Monckton have repeatedly shown that Monckton’s ‘work’ is laughable, and ‘potty peer’ is a rather kind way of describing him. I hope Ofcom will show good sense and compliment the BBC for having been decorously restrained in their treatment of Monckton


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Given that there has been no serious dispute about the reality of anthropogenic climate change for at least 15 years how are we to understand the ongoing media presentation of climate science as uncertain? Granted it has toned down from even a year ago, but it still goes on; why?

I suggest at least three reasons: lack of resources, naivete and intent.

Lets start with conceding that in too many cases it is simply that understaffed and overworked newsrooms toss whatever they can into the blank space or dead air. Uninformed and overwhelmed they see a wire story on climate change that seems topical and controversial, so in it goes without much thought and certainly no fact checking.


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