The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, May 16, 2011

For the Misleading Headline File

Body of article:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairman Rajendra Pachauri said the general observation that climate change was bringing about an increase in extreme weather events was valid but scientists needed to provide much finer detail.

"Frankly, it is difficult to take a season or two and come up with any conclusions on those on a scientific basis," Dr Pachauri said.

"What we can say very clearly is the aggregate impact of climate change on all these events, which are taking place at much higher frequency and intensity all over the world.

"On that there is very little doubt; the scientific evidence is very, very strong. But what happens in Queensland or what happens in Russia or for that matter the floods in the Mississippi River right now, whether there is a link between those and climate change is very difficult to establish. So I don't think anyone can make a categorical statement on that."
Headline:
Summer of disaster 'not climate change': Rajendra Pachauri

8 comments:

Michael Tobis said...

Not that the reporter was blameless: "said the general observation that climate change was bringing about an increase in extreme weather events was valid but scientists needed to provide much finer detail" What does that mean?

Still, the headline is a fine example of unfair editorializing by the copy editor. And I expect Pachauri will prove correct that "these events ... are taking place at much higher frequency and intensity".

But is he correct to assert that "On that there is very little doubt; the scientific evidence is very, very strong"? Can anyone quote chapter and verse on that?

Steve Scolnik said...

C'mon, man, it's THE AUSTRALIAN:

The Australian's War on Science 45
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/02/the_australians_war_on_science_47.php

Michael Tobis said...

Sure, but it's also an example of the copy editor completely overriding the actual news with spin.

byron smith said...

The comment about it being the Australian is that that publication over the last few years has developed a very strong reputation for all kinds of journalistic trickery and shoddiness regarding climate stories. They have a fairly openly denialist editorial policy and see no problem in pushing this at pretty much every opportunity.

The link is to a blog that has been faithfully recording these abuses in some detail.

Apologies if this is all old news and you are already quite familiar with Deltoid and the Australian, but I thought I'd put in my 2p in case you weren't.

byron smith said...

The relevance of the comment about it...

Same Ordinary Fool said...

I also had to peek. The issue of how to interpret extreme events has even more significance in a country more ravaged than the US, by the events that just happen to be the expected consequences of climate change.

The issue is a universal condition that is the same everywhere. And that won't be changing anytime soon.

The situation calls for a well reasoned, already prepared, explanation/warning like the Miranda warning or the warning on a package of cigarettes.

When it reaches occasional use most reporters and copy editors (but not those at The Australian) will lose the ability to become creative with that part of the interview.

Andy said...

The Australian is the national Murdoch mouthpiece.
Media Watch did a show about the exact same crazy headlines last week: http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/764003

Holly Stick said...

A better headline and subheader in an Alberta paper:

Freakish weather may be here to stay:
Scientists finding more links with climate change

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Freakish+weather+here+stay/4794681/story.html