March 23, 2009

"The Critical Eye of the Press"

This is a very interesting article from Columbia Journalism Review.
Catastrophe in Context

It takes the media to task for not getting the specifics on what the nu... uh scientist in Copenhagen presented in all their alarmist presentations. The fact is they did not report it because the specifics were sorely lacking.

What I find interesting about this article though is that it basically chides the journalist(?) for not getting details on emissions which will cause the catastrophes, as if the emissions to temperature meme was established science other than computer games. The discussion is no longer about temperatures but emissions, the two are so linked in the minds of the journalist, the idea that increased emissions would not cause catastrophic temperatures is not even a part of the story anymore. Here is an example:

..But are these projections for the worst-case scenario, or for the most likely scenario, if emissions continue rising as they have over the past few decades? Or is this amount of sea-level rise inevitable, even if we stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow? Most articles didn’t attempt to answer this relatively basic question.....

Then they go to the ah so non political scientist to get an explanation

Reporting the latest projections for sea-level rise probably won’t make a dent in the nearly half of Americans who, according to a recent Gallup poll, think the media exaggerate the seriousness of climate change. “Much of the U.S. public—especially conservatives—remain in the dark about just how dire the situation is,” writes Joseph Romm, a scientist, on his blog, Climate Progress.

That could be in part because a lot of coverage misses the big picture. As Romm points out, U.S. coverage of the Copenhagen conference largely failed to highlight one of the key messages from the conference: “Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized.”.........

But the truth is quite different the growing numbers of Americans who think it is exaggerated, (conservatives or not)
are not in the dark at all, the opposite is true, they are becoming more educated on the science and far more skeptical. But again it is all about emissions, not temperatures.

Now that they have succeeded in convincing journalist, if not the public, that CO2 causes cataclysmic temperatures, they can avoid the silly little facts that their computer model projections of increased CO2=warmer temperatures are not panning out. Keep the eye focused on the ball, emissions, not temperature. Unfortunately for the scientist, most people can read a thermometer.

Here is another good point by the author, which does not even touch on the scientific facts but at least makes a good point:

...Some statements in the series were overly certain—and with any area of climate science, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Take this statement: “By the end of the century, more than a quarter of the country will be inundated.” That’s a bold claim—especially since it leaves out a crucial consideration. As I reported for Nature, most of the low-lying areas along the coast have dirt embankments three to four meters high, which protect them from high tides and storm surges—age-old problems in this area.

But rarely do news stories on Bangladesh mention that these embankments should keep rising seas at bay for a few decades at least, and that Bangladeshis are planning to raise and improve these embankments to fight sea-level rise. They might not be able to ward off several meters of sea-level rise, but one meter they could conceivably deal with. Yet the impression that many articles on Bangladesh give, I fear, is that the country is a lost cause....

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