In a 2010 editorial, the journal Nature told embattled climate scientists to wise up and “acknowledge that they are in street fight” with their nastiest detractors. At the time, this seemed like a reasonable admonition, since climate scientists were indeed under siege following an illicit disclosure of emails that put the climate science community in an unfavorable light. In truth, climate scientists were already grappling with how to deal with their harshest critics.
It’s probably safe to say that a few of these scientists are (understandably) embittered by this experience and that several have come to mirror their antagonists. You often see them trading rhetorical blows and insults on Twitter and in climate blogs. It’s quite a spectacle. At some point, you have to wonder if the endless sparring will exhaust all the combatants and perhaps run its course. For the sake of climate science, that can’t happen soon enough.
Meanwhile, the poisonous debate has grown worse, with self-appointed soldiers of the warring sides seeing enemies at every turn. Some of these climate soldiers are always on the lookout, like snipers, eager to take out (or at least undermine) a perceived foe. A case in point happened on Twitter today, when climate blogger Dana Nuccitelli fired this missive: Read More
In a world where everything from revolutions to extreme weather events is attributed (in some way) to global warming, it is helpful when a body of diverse experts come together to review and discuss what we currently know about the impacts of climate change. So the report issued yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences is very much worth reading if you are interested in this aspect of the climate debate. Its importance is captured nicely in this nugget from the news release: Read More
By now, the pattern is pretty well established. If there is a famine, drought, catastrophic flood, wildfire, a major hurricane or typhoon, then you can be sure that trailing behind these disasters, like ambulance chasers, is a brigade of climate-concerned activists, scientists and their enablers in the media.
And trailing behind them is an Anthony Watts/Marc Morano led brigade of chortling denialists, whose main objective is to exploit, for ideological/political purposes, the exploitation of disasters by the climate ambulance chasers.
Much of this plays out like a game of charades. Read More
As far as explainers go, I thought this Guardian piece discussing possible links between climate change and extreme weather was pretty good. What’s interesting to me is that it was written by Bob Ward, the policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. It’s part of a larger Guardian series called, “The Ultimate Climate Change FAQ.”
Let’s leave aside the questionable decision to let a PR person author an important article on a complex climate science question. Read More
Many people lament the sulfurous climate change discourse, myself included. At this point, the well is so poisoned that I find myself increasingly avoiding the topic. Most of those who read this post already have a strong opinion on climate science. Anything I write is automatically viewed through a skewed lens.
True, none of us are blank slates; we all have predispositions and biases. And yes, other highly charged topics, such as GMOs, are also filtered through a political or ideological lens. But climate change has become a sport where the most passionate followers belong to one of two opposing teams that really, really hate each other. If you want to participate without joining either team you will always find yourself being harangued or yelled at by affiliated members of one team, because anything you say on climate change will be viewed as ammunition for the other team. Even something as innocuous as the name of a blog gets caught in the maw. There is no neutral ground. You are either an ally or an enemy. Read More
Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions
The media pounced with equally sobering headlines, like this one from NPR:
Global Warming is Irreversible, Study Says
Since then, there have been similar (sometimes modified) pronouncements. As the Guardian reported in 2011, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that the world was on the cusp of irreversible climate change. Last year, a different batch of scientists said the same thing.
This repeated warning about “irreversible climate change” is usually accompanied with a last chance pitch, as in: Act Now or Climate Catastrophe is Assured. But convincing the world to hurry up and get off fossil fuels is not as easy as selling the “smart mop” or “buns of steel” on late night informercials. Some scientists have also become concerned that people may be misunderstanding this whole “irreversible climate change” thing. Read More
There is much to recommend this article in the New Republic by Nate Cohn, starting with the sub-headline:
Grappling with climate change nuance in a toxic political environment
It is an ungrateful task to interrogate the complexities of climate change (which extend to the policy side of the equation) so props to Cohn for taking it on. That he does so with an even tone and lucid writing makes the piece all the more impressive.
This milieu is reliably explored by Andy Revkin at Dot Earth, which has made it an essential blog. It’s good to see more journalists drilling down into some of the thorniest climate questions of the day, but make no mistake, it’s a fraught undertaking. This is especially so for scientists, as Cohn writes in his New Republic piece: Read More
Sometimes I think the climate debate remains stalled because those who are most concerned refuse to ask the pertinent questions. Instead, they keep refighting old battles that are no longer relevant to a constructive discourse. The latest example is this survey by John Cook et al that is getting a lot of undeserved attention in the mainstream media. I say that because, questionable methodology aside, the survey tells us nothing new and is, as science journalist David Appell noted, “a meaningless exercise.”
The main finding, which was just published in the journal Environmental Research Letters:
A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are causing global warming.
This strikes me as T-shirt worthy. Oh wait…
In a short post at his blog, Appell says these kinds of survey numbers
are made for lazy journalists who don’t want to examine the complexity of the science, reporters who just want a number that quickly and easily supports their position.
He’s right. In a minute, I’ll get to the kinds of complexities that would be good to examine, but first let’s look at the premise for the survey, as stated: Read More
The Guardian reports that Prince Charles is standing up for climate science and criticizing the forces of climate change denial.
If you know about the Prince’s GMO fear-mongering and falsehoods about GM crops and his dangerous promotion of alternative medicine (such as homeopathy), then you know he is not the best emissary for science. Indeed, one well-respected scientist has called him a “snake-oil salesman.” Read More
Here’s a trick question: Is climate journalism slanted? Before you answer, let’s look at a series of tweets by atmospheric science researcher Ryan Maue, who clearly has an opinion on this. We’ll start with this one from today:
Every AP story on weather starts fine then at end includes climate change advocacy … it’s “left wing weather” bigstory.ap.org/article/2nd-bl…
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) February 27, 2013
The story he’s referring to is mostly about the second major blizzard in two weeks to hammer parts of the Midwest. The piece is straightforward reporting on a nasty winter storm, until near the end, when the journalist weaves in a climate change angle. Maue views the insertion as “left wing weather.” His next tweet emphasizes this point:
Leftist climate scientists are natural bedfellows for liberal journalists & all reporting should be seen thru partisan prism for bias.
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) February 27, 2013
This strikes me as a bit feverish, but hey, everybody is entitled to his own prism. At this point, I’ve read the AP story and actually, it does suffer from a bias. It’s just not a political one. Read More