I’ve contributed another post to the Science Progress blog; it’s about how climate skeptics and deniers have been winning the PR battle the past two years, with science defenders and advocates still far too disorganized and ineffective. Here’s a sampling:
The new skeptic strategy began with a ploy that initially seemed so foolish, so petty, that it was unworthy of dignifying with a response. The contrarians seized upon the hottest year in the global temperature record, 1998—which happens to have been a powerful El Nino year, hence the record—and began to hammer the message that there had been “no warming in a decade” since then.
It was, in truth, little more than a damn lie with statistics. Those in the science community eventually pointed out that global warming doesn’t mean every successive year will be hotter than the last one—global temperatures be on the rise without a new record being set every year. All climate theory predicts is that we will see a warming trend, and we certainly have. Or as the U.S. EPA recently put it, “Eight of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.” But none of them beat 1998; and so the statistical liars, like George Will of the Washington Post, continued their charade. Read More
..The entire [Swifthack] episode is an unfortunate case study of our increasingly Unscientific America–an example of how the media distorts a story, partisanship spins the details to suit a particular agenda, and scientists are ill-equipped to manage the PR fallout. I am saddened to observe the state of broad perception of climate science, but not surprised. Further, this is not “the public’s” fault. It’s up to us in the scientific community to figure out how to stay on message. If we aren’t prepared to speak up for ourselves in a united voice about the state of the planet, others with less noble intentions will. And we won’t like the result.
In your ‘note’, you take issue with the concept of staying on message:
Real scientists don’t have a “message.” Politicians and ideologues and science journalists have “messages,” and they have seduced many scientists to betray their science and “speak up in a united voice.”
You are spinning my words out of control. And I find it particularly amusing that a group intent on disputing evolution could have the audacity to accuse anyone else of betraying science. By staying on message, I mean that scientists must be clear when talking about science. As Phil noted, when we don’t, others with a particular agenda will distort what’s said for their own political purposes, and the important message about climate will get lost. [As you’ve just demonstrated].
You accuse Chris and me of being “ideologues..who have perverted science with their hard-left ideology..damaging science in ways that scientists haven’t even begun to comprehend.” That doesn’t even make sense. My allegiances never fell neatly on one side of the aisle and my decisions are dictated by content. As far as global warming, I go with the best science available.
You call me a “science-journalists-with-an-agenda” who is “toxic to science” collaborating with “fools and opportunists” in the scientific community, before going on an incoherent ramble about invoking a “science-civil war.” Now it doesn’t do much good to address these kind of ridiculous remarks, so I will just make one point directed at what I percieve as your primary concern–the same I made in comments in the original post–and notably, the part you chose to omit:
While working on Capitol Hill, I became increasingly frustrated over the number of scientists that would arrive from universities, NGOs, and industry, who ultimately had the same goal regarding upcoming legislation, but a very jumbled mix of presentations with no notion of overlapping efforts. This is an institutional problem–much of which results from competing for limited resources and funding. On top of that, many scientists brought complicated p-values and figures yet did not explain to staffers what they represented. Meanwhile, psuedoscientific groups with a particular agenda were often well organized, articulate, funny, and could pack a briefing room by serving food. Now science, of course, should never be about lobbying. However, it is important to work across institutions and groups if we are to engage decision makers when we share common goals.
This post is simply to say that despite Siegel’s Herculean efforts, essentially the same item now turns up as an op-ed in The Washington Post. I’m sure Carl Zimmer will have much to say about fact-checking and the Post‘s op-ed page; but hey, it’s just presenting the “other side” on climate change, right?
I mean, so what if Sarah Palin asserts that the current warming is just part of a natural cycle, or confuses climate with weather–showing not only ignorance of basic climate science, but embracing positions quite contrary to accepted scientific knowledge. So what–because Republicans need their science too, and op-ed pages exist to let all sides to articulate their point of view–to say what they want to say and what they deeply feel, and do their best to attract lots of fans.
Just like Facebook does.