It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Amen re the Press

Sorry I've been incommunicado for the last couple of weeks. A family matter I'd rather not discuss here has occupied most of my attention and I've had very limited internet access as well.

To try to get the conversation going again, I'd like to quote Frank Bi's comment from a recent thread:
John Fleck:

"And there's good research suggesting that, in such situations, a very large fraction of a naive audience [...] remembers the bunk rather than the debunking."


...
Frank Bi:
I'm calling bunk on this latest blanket assertion until I see for my own eyes what the "good research" actually says in detail -- I'd guess the solution isn't to discard the story, but simply to devote less attention to the bunk itself (it's bunk after all) and more attention to the debunking.

And in any case, in between yourself and Kloor throwing out all sorts of excuses for not changing the way you do things, aren't you missing a really big picture?

Let me put it this way:

The public has a need -- indeed, a right -- to be aware that

(a) there's a climate inactivist noise campaign out there;
(b) it's very well-funded, very calculated, and very deliberate;
(c) it uses morally (and sometimes legally) dubious tactics; and
(d) we have evidence to show for it.

It's not just about debunking random pieces of bunk. It's about shining the light on the entire noise campaign, and calling it as it is. I don't see what purpose is served by not talking about it.
History will record the climate bunk as one of the principal characteristics of our time. Why won't the press touch it? That's one of the biggest questions around.

19 comments:

Hank Roberts said...

Climate bunk is just a subset of the problem. It's about to be decided by the Supreme Court, who were in a real hurry to get their stamp on this by a 5-4 vote before another moderate gets appointed.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/249055/september-15-2009/the-word---let-freedom-ka-ching

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/249057/september-15-2009/citizens-united-v--federal-election-commission---jeffrey-toobin

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125314088285517643.html

This is why the media are quiet -- because the big question about to be decided is whether money is speech, so freedom to buy media time is freedom of speech.

Guess who can buy media time?

Hank Roberts said...

Climate bunk is just a subset of the problem. It's about to be decided by the Supreme Court, who were in a real hurry to get their stamp on this by a 5-4 vote before another moderate gets appointed.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/249055/september-15-2009/the-word---let-freedom-ka-ching

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/249057/september-15-2009/citizens-united-v--federal-election-commission---jeffrey-toobin

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125314088285517643.html

This is why the media are quiet -- because the big question about to be decided is whether money is speech, so freedom to buy media time is freedom of speech.

Guess who can buy media time?

King of the Road said...

Michael, I'm glad to see that you're back. I was actually getting a bit worried. Without treading into personal areas, I sincerely hope that all is well.

Rob

John Fleck said...

Michael -

Hope all's well, I second KOR's comment that it's nice to have you back.

I've penned a more detailed response over on Inkstain.

keith said...

Michael,

I echo King of the Road's sentiment.

As for where this thread left off, I believe (no surprise) that John Fleck made some points in his comments here and two posts on inkstain that have gone unchallenged by you: notably this from his latest(http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/?p=4006):

"But Michael’s analysis of the media-public piece of this issue is increasingly unhitched from the data.

Aaron said...

I look at the numbers on sea level rise (2m@2100) being passed out over the last few days in the context of the numbers published as recently as 2007 (26 to 59 cm). That is ~ 5X change in 2 years!

When the numbers are changing that fast, I do not see how the press or anybody can consider them as “useful”.

How can you expect the press and the public to accept the model projections when they keep changing? Whena guy keeps changing their story, do you believe them? Would you buy a used car from that guy?

James Annan said...

"Whena guy keeps changing their story, do you believe them? Would you buy a used car from that guy?"

They are different guys. IMO it would be a big mistake (in general) for advocates to pin their arguments on the latest hot-off-the-press (and probably disputed) research rather than the IPCC assessments, for a number of reasons. OTOH the IPCC did chicken out of addressing the sea level rise question in a rather spineless manner.

gravityloss said...

IIRC it went like this:

"sea ice dynamics" change the sea level numbers substantially (make them worse) but they are hard to predict.

So IPCC put the numbers of sea level rise in the summary with no sea ice dynamics effects. And people made huge headlines that the IPCC predicts lower sea level rise than in the past reports...

And blah and gah lots of stupidity ensued. Which would have been obvious to the people doing the report. (I think there was a mention of the difference in the report but many didn't read it and of course many intentionally ignored it.)

Next time better? This is all IIRC and AFAIK.

Steve Bloom said...

That should be "ice sheet" dynamics, not "sea ice."

James Annan said...

Not sea ice, but (land) ice sheet loss. But otherwise, yeah, that's the excuse, but if the risk of land ice sheet loss is really significant then they should have dealt with it more explicitly rather than just basically ignoring it. Rumour has it they are aiming to give it more emphasis this time round.

Hank Roberts said...

http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/09/cassandras_of_climate.php#comment-1984987

What the IPCC authors thought after they were done, some excerpts and link

Anna Haynes said...

> "History will record the climate bunk as one of the principal characteristics of our time. Why won't the press touch it? That's one of the biggest questions around."

There does seem to be a pattern to the backgrounds of those members of the press who've been most instrumental, Wurlitzer-wise, in fomenting inactivism; and that pattern, along with a pattern to the background of some now allied with the fossil-fuel-energy industry, could shed light on the answer to your question.

But how anyone could present proof without risking imprisonment, I haven't yet figured out.

Michael Tobis said...

Anna, according to this story, recent court decisions may help.

Anna Haynes said...

> "...recent court decisions may help."

Interesting.

"the second circuit said this is just another tort-type case. It's a big one, of course, and it's loaded with complicated science questions, and cause-and-effect questions, but at bottom it is a tort case."

I wonder if this would explain some of the Limbaugh faction's desire for tort "reform".

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Aaron simply spots for keywords and spews talking points that are irrelevant to the original topic. Let's ignore him.

* * *

keith:

"As for where this thread left off, I believe (no surprise) that John Fleck made some points in his comments here and two posts on inkstain that have gone unchallenged by you"

You asked for constructive suggestions on how to improve climate journalism. We offered some (dig up the background of groups like the Heartland Institute instead of just saying they're a 'conservative think-tank'; stop contacting Roger Pielke Jr. for 'contrarian' opinions; don't worry about time scales for the wrong reasons).

What did you do? After asking for construtive suggestions, and getting them, you simply ignored all of them and threw out stuff to "challenge" us.

-- bi

Michael Tobis said...

Aaron may or may not be of interest, but I thought the question was interesting.

keith said...

bi-

Yeah, like I said, constructive. Also, different thread.

John Fleck's larger points about all this so-called "bunk" being bunk remains unchallenged (and ignored) by the readers here and Michael Tobis.

Michael Tobis said...

I hate to not let a comment from a valued regular reader, but I have to draw the line once in a while and I just did.

All, please refrain from pointless bickering.

It's clear we have a disagreement. I may be fruitful to try to understand it. It's not especially useful to just reassert it in increasingly hostile tones.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

keith:

OK, let me say again: There exists a well-organized, deliberate, and morally dubious noise campaign aimed at spreading climate inactivism. There is more than ample evidence of this -- Tom Harris's exhortations for "coordinated local activism"; the Policy Communications Inc. network of astroturfers; you name it. Much -- perhaps most -- of this campaign is still uncovered by the mainstream press.

What will you say is the big reason that (say) you cannot/will not cover this?

-- bi