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Green Communications: Show Your Work, Climate Change Denial Version

October 18th, 2013 | Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Communications

Remember when your math teacher said, “Show me the work?”

That’s what the people who maintain  Skeptical Science do with climate science denial. They collect and debunk articles and arguments that claim climate change isn’t happening, isn’t caused by humans, and isn’t a grave threat to humanity.

(They are.)

I can’t even imagine the amount of work it takes. Hat’s off to them.

Showing your work–what we call transparency in accounting, business and government–means other people can trace the steps and have confidence in your result.

It’s a fundamental concept for good business, good science, and good policy.

So in the spirit of showing my work, here are my thoughts on a climate change denial article that is about, of all things, climate change denial.

This Fox News op-ed piece is in response to a Guardian article that reported that “Conservative media outlets [are] found guilty of biased global warming coverage.”

Balance is not bias — Fox News critics mislead public on climate change

What amazes is that Abraham and Nuccitelli still pin their hopes on the cult of consensus. Forging an inter-governmental consensus has been the IPCC’s mission for 25 years, unavoidably politicizing climate science in the process. It has long since begun to backfire. People get suspicious when government-appointed experts define “the science” for the purpose of advancing an agenda that just happens to increase government control of energy markets.

Abraham and Nuccitelli have learned nothing if they think that demanding even greater fealty to groupthink will do anything except energize skeptics and increase their popularity.

The good news is that conservative media are not going to take their advice, because doing so would allow one faction of experts to monopolize the discussion. Scores of government agencies, hundreds of mainstream media outlets, and thousands of Web sites serve up daily diets of climate alarm. Presenting contrarian analysis and commentary is balance, not bias.

Nope. That’s not right.

Fox News made it look like there are two equally valid sides to climate change discussions.

But there’s not. The science is compelling, convincing and terrifying.

And the Guardian reporters are right to call them on it.

Anyway, here’s my work on the response.

* * *

Lewis starts by saying that the 97% consensus among scientists worldwide, that humans are causing climate change and it’s a very big problem, is bunk*

Then he says:

That most scientists agree climate change is happening, but that it’s not all man-made.

But even if climate change is happening and is man-made, that there’s no evidence that it’s really a problem.

Furthermore, even if climate change is a problem, the solutions being proposed aren’t any good.

And finally, if you keep on telling the truth, it’s only going to encourage the denialists, so you might as well give up.

* * *

This line of anti-science reasoning comes straight from the Big Tobacco playbook. Sow uncertainty and spread confusion.

I really hate gotcha stories that cherry pick facts and demand absolute certainty. It’s not how we live in the real world. The real world is messy, complicated, and full of daily compromises.

Consensus is pretty much how humans get things done. See also: sharing, caring and cooperation.

Continuing to needle and pick and focus on the edges in an effort to sow doubt is (click the link for the curseword version,) being a not-nice person.

Every minute we spend dithering around about “how truely true is climate change?” is a minute lost to solving our energy needs, helping people out of poverty, preparing for weather extremes, and leaving a habitable planet for our children.

With gratitude to the world’s climate science community, I’m going to focus on covering and sharing news about solutions.

* * *

* I found an error in the first step, where Mr. Lewis makes a misleading assumption.

He says, “University of Delaware Prof. David Legates and three colleagues examined the Cook team’s database, and found that less than 1% of the 11,944 abstracts explicitly endorse the so-called consensus.”

Here’s the error.

The majority of these abstracts don’t explicitly state that “humans are causing global warming or refers to anthropogenic global warming/climate change” because, as the Cook report goes on to detail, human-caused global warming is a known fact to scientists qualified to write about it in peer-reviewed journals.

Scientists arrive at consensus, and they stop having to talk about it. Because they are talking about bigger things.

A shorthand example of this would be: “Most peer-reviewed marine biology papers don’t explicitly state that the oceans are salty.”

In everyday life, there are known facts that we assume others know about too. That’s how we are able to go on about our lives.

Here’s the Cook report.

 

**Gratuitous hat tip to me for spotting the typo. Change site to cite.

 

***And one for the editor for a really confusing headline. Most readers I bet are going to miss the word “critic” and read it the opposite of how intended.

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