Another Loss in the Science Newsroom

By Chris Mooney | December 14, 2009 11:24 am

Andrew Revkin, the climate ace, is leaving the New York Times. The trend towards fewer and fewer science journalists in the mainstream media continues….and meanwhile, as we’ve just seen, in their absence we get Fox News style phony balanced coverage and attempts to artificially create scientific “debates” where none actually exist.

The situation is grim out there for coverage of science…just when we most need that coverage to be functional and healthy.

Note: CJR has more on the Revkin departure (he took a buyout and will apparently continue blogging at Dot Earth) here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming, Media and Science

Comments (38)

  1. BartonCreekBett

    I don’t remember Einstein needing “good press coverage” for his theories. They kind of where like “real” science you know, it was what it was like gravity. Force, motion, acceleration and kinetic energy. To truly be scared that the big evil “right wing conpiracy” will debunk scientific fact is laughable.

    Are the gloabl warming “theories” really that hard to decipher and prove that you have to stay up at night and worry about sceptical journalists asking simple questions??

    Light is shining on a subject and the roaches are scampering to find the dark aren’t they?

  2. Robert E

    @Barton

    Wow, that’s on of the most naive statements I’ve seen. Anyone with even a slight grasp of the political system and science funding would realize that if there had been economic gain from debunking any of Einsteins ideas, they’d have been attacking him just as much as they are now attacking climate science.

  3. Lou Grinzo

    Robert: Bingo! The current situation is one of the most extreme examples of why “follow the money” is good advice.

    This is why it bothers me so much when people talk about the efforts to reduce ozone-depleting emissions and acid-rain-producing emissions as “proof” that reducing CO2 and methane will be “easy”. There was nowhere near the heavily funded, ideologically driven opposition to those efforts that we’re seeing regarding now with CO2.

    The stolen e-mails, the death threats aimed at the climate scientists, etc. are just the beginning. This will get much uglier before it’s resolved in any meaningful sense of the word.

  4. BartonCreekBett

    So there is no economic gain in justifying an ever warming world? The more I hang around here the less science I see discussed and the more attacks I observe. If I can produce an expirement that shows CO2 trapping heat and CO2 has drastically measurable risen, why has north america cooled since 1998? Let’s have serious discussion about this. I am not attacking anything just asking questions about the science. I can replicate an expirement in the lab but when applied in reality if the theory doesn’t stick I need to find a new theory.

    Simple question
    Please show me where I can find documented research on why as CO2 in North America has risen dramatically the temparture, as observed at NOAA, over North america has decreased since 1998.

  5. Kyle

    Barton, if you had been reading this site for any length of time whatsoever you would know that a cooling trend since 1998 in North America is meaningless when we’re talking about GLOBAL warming. Actually, you would know this already if you had any interest in actual science. One counter-trend on one continent does not negate the global trend.

  6. Not Amused

    @Robert

    Save your breath trying to respond to this sort of baiting. Similar scorn was heaped upon those that tried to inform people about the harmful physical effects of tobacco smoking, excessive exposure to radiation (once used to x-ray feet for fitting shoes), and washing your hands to kill germs. In the end, look how those radical ideas turned out.

  7. John Kwok

    @ BartonCreekBett -

    As a Conservative Republican who received undergraduate training in paleoclimatology, can you explain why glaciers have been receding at an extremely rapid pace in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the last two decades (which, incidentally, photographer James Balog has been documenting via ample financial assistance from the National Georgraphic Society and technical support from Nikon)? Or why we see are seeing substantial range expansions northward in plants and animals formerly restricted to tropical and subtropical climates?

    @ Chris -

    Am truly sorry to see Andrew Revkin leave. He’s definitely the “dean” of climate science journalism.

  8. BartonCreekBett

    John

    How quickly, 20,000 years ago did the glaciers in Norway melt? How quickly did Greenland become ice covered?

    Glaciers are alive always moving always changing. So your saying because glaciers over the last two decades have been shown to be melting it proves humans are causing the earth to heat up?

    What created the kettle ponds in yellowstone park 1,000 + years ago? Why as I sit here well inland in Austin TX can I walk outside and find sea shell fossils? Must have been really dam warm at one time for this to be sea.

    Why does anything migrate? Favorable terms. So your basis for the one time historic plant migration north is human caused global warming? So if studied at no time in the last 20,000 years can you find plan migrations north, south, east or west? come on, ever been to the Sahara desert, it used to be green and lush

  9. John Kwok

    BartonCreekBett -

    You may think you’re funny, but yours are not insightful remarks. Paleoclimatologists and climatologists have at their disposal a substantial amount of data derived from ice cores, tree rings, and the chemical composition of fossil and subfossil protists, especially foraminifera.

    Animals and plants don’t migrate because of “favorable terms”. They migrate in response to changing climatic patterns. The reason why tropical and subtropical organisms are moving into temperate zones should be the number one reason why we must recognize that global warming is occurring. True, we can debate the cause of such warming up to a point, but I think the evidence is quite persuasive that this is anthropogenic global warming; in other words, caused by humanity.

    Given your breathtakingly inane use of logic, I hope I am mistaken in concluding that you may be an evolution denialist too (And no, I’m not going to say that one who automatically denies global warming also denies evolution, especially when there are notable conservatives like George Will and Charles Krauthammer who have demonstrated their recognition of evolution as sound science, while casting ample doubt on global warming itself.).

  10. ponderingfool

    How do you even go about changing this? Short-term profits do not seem to favor scientific journalism beyond a niche market.

    The time it takes to train scientists to communicate to a mass audience is not trivial, not to mention the resources needed to accomplish this. Limited resources in sciences actually makes it even more challenging, as individual scientists become more focussed on generating data, getting grants, writing papers, etc. and less tolerant of a post-doc/grad student taking time away from. With the demise of scientific journalism it becomes harder to get more money for research feeding the cycle. Less education and more focussed scientists creates a larger disconnect between science and the rest of society, further shrinking the marketplace for scientific journalism. It is a negative feedback loop.

    Maybe it is time to go after the profit in the short-term system we have rather than hoping scientists pick up the slack. Room has to be created for scientific journalism to revive. Keeping with the current economic system just is not going to allow that. Scientists communicating better is nice but it is like keeping the town from flooding by sticking fingers into the holes in the dam.

  11. BartonCreekBett

    Settle down, no need to get POLITICAL and ATTACK character right? Not being funny just asking questions on aspects of “scientific consenus facts”.

    So plants moving a bit north is your solid proof of man made global warming? So the plants are the only species to ever migrate? But there has been plant and animal migrations due to “climate change” for how many hundreds of thousands of years before 1950 and the industrial age, so what caused those “Global warming” migrations? Maybe we can study some of the frozen over animal and human carcasses found under solid ice when the glaciers thaw.

    Again let’s talk science on the science blog, no evolution and politics need apply.

    Simple question
    Please show me where I can find documented research on why as CO2 in North America has risen dramatically the temparture, as observed at NOAA, over North america has decreased since 1998

  12. BartonCreekBett

    Simple question
    Please show me where I can find documented research on why as CO2 in North America has risen dramatically the temparture, as observed at NOAA, over North america has decreased since 1998

  13. John Kwok

    BartonCreekBett -

    Use some commonsense please. If I am telling you that tropical and subtropical plants and animals are extending their ranges northward, then it must mean that the climate is getting warmer as they move northward. This has been documented by scientists for the last two decades. Ditto for the rapid retreating of glaciers in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

    You are merely throwing at me one set of regional data, while I am making reference to long-term observed worldwide phenomena. Who, may I ask, is being unreasonable here? I think the answer is obvious.

    BTW, just for the record, do you accept evolution as a valid scientific fact and do you reject creationism – including Intelligent Design – as pseudoscientific religious nonsense (I regard creationism in all of its forms as mendacious intellectual pornography.)?

  14. Jon

    BartonCreekBett–what a joke. 1998 may be the warmest year, but the 00′s will be the warmest decade, even if 2009 is absolutely frigid. One year doesn’t define a trend. Please write when you have a grown up argument.

  15. BartonCreekBett

    John
    I am saying as life goes on and has gone on this planet for a million years, there have been many migrations due to climate changes. To simply say the planet has warmed a bit in the last twenty years, and say plants migrating north prove it is human caused global warming is a stretch. Maybe the plants are coming after our excess CO2 emissions, and once they get here they will devour the CO2 to live and solve our problem for us?

    The argument is not the world has not warmed. Let’s get serious. The real scientific argument is the root cause of climate change, warming and cooling. To simply say it is CO2 that causes warming, negates so much real world scientific data dating back thousands of years one must be very naive. The fact is the climate has and always will change with or without human input.

    Not throwing a regional set of data, throwing a question about the fundamental basis of CO2 and atmospheric temp’s. Why do satellite photos show the areas where glaciers are melting to have lower amounts of CO2 if that in turn is what causes the glacier to melt.

    Maybe the temp has risen a bit melted some stuff and is now going to cool a bit, remaking those glaciers or creating new ones?

  16. bilbo

    If I can produce an expirement that shows CO2 trapping heat and CO2 has drastically measurable risen, why has north america cooled since 1998? Let’s have serious discussion about this.

    Lets indeed have ourselves a serious discussion about climate change, Barton.

    You can begin by talking about global trends rather than cherry-picking data from a single continent.

  17. bilbo

    Save your breath trying to respond to this sort of baiting. Similar scorn was heaped upon those that tried to inform people about the harmful physical effects of tobacco smoking, excessive exposure to radiation (once used to x-ray feet for fitting shoes), and washing your hands to kill germs. In the end, look how those radical ideas turned out.

    Unfortunately, Not Amused, many of the Silly Little Denialists here have expressed in other threads that they still think that things like tobacco smoking is harmless, acid rain doesn’t exist, and DDT has no environmental effects.

    Old political lies die hard.

  18. bilbo

    I am saying as life goes on and has gone on this planet for a million years, there have been many migrations due to climate changes. To simply say the planet has warmed a bit in the last twenty years, and say plants migrating north prove it is human caused global warming is a stretch. Maybe the plants are coming after our excess CO2 emissions, and once they get here they will devour the CO2 to live and solve our problem for us?

    …and if Barton has really informed himself on what evidence exists for anthropogenic climate change, he would already know that: i.) climate scientists have already address his point above, ii.) the very strong conclusion that climate scientists have reached regarding that topic, and iii.) why it is so damning to skeptics.

    As it is, however, Barton appears largely ignorant of what the evidence actually is for AGW, despite seeming to have a strong opinion of it. Seems we’ve either got a political pawn or a shill (or both) in our midst, folks.

  19. Jon

    I linked to the studies that attribute climate change to man-made CO2 in the other thread, right next to one of your comments in fact. I’m not going to repaste it here and waste my time, or anyone elses.

    And as for the “climate changes all the time” canard:

    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/01/climate-is-always-changing.php

    Yawn. Just curious, BartonCreekBett, how much are you paid to waste our time?

  20. bilbo

    Simple question
    Please show me where I can find documented research on why as CO2 in North America has risen dramatically the temparture, as observed at NOAA, over North america has decreased since 1998

    First, that’s not a “simple question” because it’s written in sub-par grammar.

    Second, that’s not a “simple question” because you’re using a blatant cherry-pick, which is climate stupidity at its dullest. Try again, Barton. Better yet, actually go inform yourself on climate science and THEN form an opinion – don’t get your facts distilled through the filter of someone’s blog, as it is vividly apparent you have….

  21. Jon

    (Sorry, was responding to BartonCreekBett )

  22. bilbo

    Just curious, BartonCreekBett, how much are you paid to waste our time?

    I’m conflicted as to whether Barton is just genuinely ignorant of climate science and only knows what he’s read on someone’s politcially-motivated blog, or if he’s truly a shill.

    …although I will admit, the “Innocent Bystander Shill” is one of my favorite shill games, and Barton is fitting it perfectly with phrases such as “I am not attacking anything just asking questions about the science.” That’s a classic, bread-and-butter response of the Innocent Bystander Shill.

  23. Robert E

    @12
    Search for “GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L23706, doi:10.1029/2009GL041188, 2009″

    It has a nice explanation of regional cooling in North America.

    [summary: "North America would have experienced considerably colder temperatures just due to the impact of such natural ocean variability alone, and that the simultaneous presence of anthropogenic warming reduced the severity of cooling"]

  24. bilbo

    Good post, Robert E. This is totally irrelevant, but interesting nontheless:

    Back in 2000, an scientist whose work on climate modeling had been published in the IPCC gave a talk at my university on the validity of climate models in AGW research. I remember one of his major points being that most of the major models showed a pronounced, regional cooling trend over North America in the next 10 or so years (this, again, being in 2000) while much of the rest of the globe continued warming. And just look at what happened: dead-on.

    This must be one damn good conspiracy to be able to correctly predict the future.

  25. Unklar

    and the rant continues. You accuse Fox News, but at least they are trying to discuss all sides of this very complicated issue. It seems climatologists believe that being the loudest and most obnoxious make them right on this issue. If you don’t have anything substantive to add to the debate, then stop ranting.

  26. @bilbo:

    Back in 2000, an scientist whose work on climate modeling had been published in the IPCC gave a talk at my university on the validity of climate models in AGW research. I remember one of his major points being that most of the major models showed a pronounced, regional cooling trend over North America in the next 10 or so years (this, again, being in 2000) while much of the rest of the globe continued warming. And just look at what happened: dead-on.

    That’ss very interesting. I wonder if there are any slides or recordings from that.

  27. at least [Fox News is] trying to discuss all sides of this very complicated issue. It seems climatologists believe that being the loudest and most obnoxious make them right on this issue.

    Oy. In fact, double-oy. A sample of headlines from Fox Nation:

    Global warming activists red-faced in Arctic
    Putting the Burning Question to Global Warming Alarmists
    Colossal Holes in Man-made Global Warming Theory
    The Global Warming God Is Dead
    Is The Great Global Warming Scare Over?
    Record Low Temps in July Challenge ‘Climate Change’
    Global Warming’s Waterloo?
    Scientific Evidence Now Points to Global Cooling?
    Is Global Warming a ‘New Religion’?
    Kids Exploited for Climate Change
    Obama’s Climate Report Immediately Discredited By Experts
    Global Warming? New Hampshire Temps Dropping to 30s
    Glacier Advances Despite ‘Global Warming’
    BBC Notices World Is Not Getting Warmer
    Global Temps Have Dropped Since Gore Released ‘Inconvenient Truth’
    Global Warming “Consensus” Collapsing
    and many, many, many more

    But I guess it’s balanced, since there is one post on the other side:

    AP Impact: Statisticians Reject Global Cooling

    Now, this really strikes you as “discussing all sides”? And it doesn’t strike you as “loud and obnoxious”?

  28. John Kwok

    Barton -

    You’re hopeless. I am trying to explain to why the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is incontrovertible, but instead, like many creos I have dealt with, you seem more interested in throwing smoke and mirrors at me, not discussing at all, the relevant and credible scientific data.

    Again, I would like to know whether you accept evolution as valid science and reject Intelligent Design and other similar forms of religious pseudoscientific nonsense, which are known collectively as creationism.

  29. So, anyway, since this one is supposedly about Andy Revkin, ’tis a shame. But it will be interesting to see where he lines up in his planned books when he doesn’t have to wear his “I’m a Times reporter, gotta report both sides even if I have to make one of them up” hat. I’ve long suspected that he’s always given much more space to the Pielkes of this world than he would if he had his druthers.

    It’ll also be interesting to see if the dynamic of DotEarth will change (assuming he keeps it) when he’s not actually a reporter.

  30. Jon

    15 years ago our anti-science trolls would be sporting poofey haircuts and insisting “No, cigarettes don’t cause cancer. They’re good for you! And thank you for smoking.”

  31. Brian Too

    The denialists continued focus on “since 1998″ and “the medieval warm period” simply shows desperation.

    There is a very good record of climate change in the polar ice cores that goes back, at minimum, 700,000 years. All the denialists favourite whipping boys are in there and have been part of the scientific record for at least a decade now and probably longer.

    But’s let’s make this a little more concrete. Glacier National Park is projected to have no glaciers at all in, what is the latest estimate? Was it 50 years or 20? The very thing it was named after, it’s most prominent feature and main claim to fame, will be gone.

    There will still be a park of course, but no glaciers. I wonder which denialist will stand up and recommend they change the name?

  32. SLC

    Re John Kwok

    Try asking Mr. Bartoncreekbett how come the Northewest Passage is open for the first time since European settlers arrived in North America? When this subject was raised on Matthew Yglesias blog by myself and a commentor calling himself Don Williams, we were met with total silence from the global warming deniers. It would appear that they don’t want to respond to that one.

    By the way, I always get a laugh from commentors who state that 1998 was the warmest year on record and that every year since then has been cooler, evidence of global cooling according to the denialists (actually, 2005 was about the same as 1998). Why pick 11998? With the same justification, one could pick 1997. Every year since 1997 has been warmer then 1997, therefore global warming must be true by the same reasoning.

  33. John Kwok

    @ SLC -

    Yes, thanks for the reminder about the Northwest Passage. Who knows? If Henry Hudson was alive today, maybe he and his crew could have sailed from England to the coast of China, instead of finding himself, his son and several other loyal sailors set adrift by a mutinous crew in what would be known as Hudson’s Bay back in 1610 (Or was it 1611?), never again seen by a living soul.

    I am still waiting for Bartoncreekbett to state that he accepts evolution as valid science, but I’m inclined to think not, since he thinks life on Earth has existed only for a million years (courtesy of course through the timely interventions of time travelling Klingons who conveniently seeded the earth with the Burgess Shale fauna, ostracoderms and placoderms, Tiktaalik, Dimetrodon, Coelophysis, Microraptor, etc. etc. at various times).

  34. BartonCreekBett Says:

    Why do satellite photos show the areas where glaciers are melting to have lower amounts of CO2 if that in turn is what causes the glacier to melt.

    It’s always amusing that “skeptics” readily accept any data that they think support their claims. All other data are manipulated by the global conspiracy.

  35. SLC

    Re John Kwok

    Here’s something else for the global warming denialists to explain; how come glaciers in Bolivia are disappearing?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/science/earth/14bolivia.html?em

  36. bilbo

    Try asking Mr. Bartoncreekbett how come the Northewest Passage is open for the first time since European settlers arrived in North America? When this subject was raised on Matthew Yglesias blog by myself and a commentor calling himself Don Williams, we were met with total silence from the global warming deniers. It would appear that they don’t want to respond to that one.

    Here’s something else for the global warming denialists to explain; how come glaciers in Bolivia are disappearing?

    Lets indeed have ourselves a serious discussion about climate change, Barton. You can begin by talking about global trends rather than cherry-picking data from a single continent

    I am still waiting for Bartoncreekbett to state that he accepts evolution as valid science, but I’m inclined to think not

    ….you’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do, Barton the Silly Little Denialist.

    Surely you’re not Barton the Cowardly Little Denialist, too….

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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