Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Media is the Massage.

What Jonah Goldberg said yesterday about pom-pom journalism's scrupulous inattention to the scientific fraud perpetrated by the leading proponents of global warming applies across the board to any and all stories that do not fit the ideological style sheet to which most media now cling.

As Mark [Steyn] put it yesterday: "If you follow online analysis from obscure websites on the fringes of the map, you'll know what's going on. If you go to the convenience store and buy today's newspaper, you won't."

It is amazing how so much of the news today is stuff you don't find in the news. You'd think some of these dying outlets would try to catch up. There's always been a lot of talk about the legacy media are a bunch of gatekeepers who work to give you the news you need. I'm beginning to wonder if the metaphor has the guards on the wrong side of the gate. These days the press seems more interested in guarding you from the news they don't want you to know, even if you would very much like to hear it.

Source: here.

13 comments:

Dave Evans said...

Gil - you are going to have to tell me why you are so horrified by these emails and yet not disgusted by all the examples of dishonesty that the deniers have been guilty of?

Doughlas Remy said...

Again, Gil, it is just astonishing to me that you can so enthusiastically propagate climate change denial when you have repeatedly admitted that climate change is not your issue and that you know very little about it. That you know very little about it is abundantly obvious from the total absence of evidence that you offer for your views. It is also obvious from your inability to intelligently respond to the claims made by climate scientists. You dismiss the whole thing with a wave of the hand, and for support, you quote someone else who, like yourself, is long on opinions and woefully short on facts.

Who do you imagine is impressed by these weighty pronouncements from the non-experts who can’t even cite an expert? If you want credibility, show us your creds. You don’t have to be a scientist. I’m not. But you could at least read a bit of science and consult some experts. Somewhere up the chain of authority for your skepticism about climate change, you must imagine there is someone who is really well-informed about the issue. Maybe it is someone that Jonah Goldberg reads? Or Mark Steyn? If so, maybe you could find out who that is, and then you could tell us. I would like to know where the skepticism is coming from. (And puh-leeze don’t quote the Wegman Report...)

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

Dean said...

In December 1941 the use of Radar was in its infancy. It was a new technology, largely untried and unproven. But the science was strong enough from various field tests to implement the system as a warning device for potential air attack. What happened? The science worked. The people entrusted with operating the new system did their job. They reported what their findings told them. They didn't fabricate the data. They didn't lie about what the saw. It was two men, sitting on a hill, looking at a radar screen. They reported it. But those in the chain of command who were hesitant to place their trust in an untried system ignored the data on the radar screen that said a large formation of unidentified aircraft were heading for the island mainland. Why were they so invested with disregarding the warnings? Because someone thought the worst case scenario was improbable, and that they'd be ridiculed out of the service if they took major action to forestall a tragedy that couldn't be happening? Who knows. The only thing that matters is the result. We all know what happened next.

Exposed climate emails that paint the entire scientific community as alarmists who do nothing but fabricate data to arrive at a foregone conclusion are putting way too much trust in their skepticism. This is a distraction that will have little if any impact on the final result unless we decide to ignore what the data tells us. Climate science is also in its infancy. But the collected science suggests that if we fail to take action the consequences will imperil our future, unless we move on it. Who do you want to trust? Those who say, "leave the planes on the landing field and the ships in the harbor" or "get everything moving just in case we're being targeted." Where are the exits if we're wrong?

George Monbiot on climate change emails.

Doughlas Remy said...

The George Monbiot interview, linked at the end of Dean's comment, just above, is a "must listen." Don't miss it.

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

ignatius said...

The comments here do not address the main point of the article, i.e. much of the mainstream media is ignoring this scandal. I believe global warming is taking place and is partly caused by human activity, but the scepticism of others is understandable when the global warming scientists manipulate or suppress data and the newspapers do not report this side of the story.

Dave Evans said...

Ignatius - you raise an interesting point and it is worth exploring. In Britain virtually all the papers have given space to the story - though few have really shed much light on it. It is one of those stories that needs indepth reporting in my view.

I have now read much of the debate on it and the emails themselves and whilst there are a couple of outlying questions much of what seemed the most damaging emails are actually either innocuous or irrelevant to the debate.

'Hide the decline' and 'trick' and the bit about keeping out one of the reports from the 2007 IPCC report are all once contextualised i.e. read in the context of the emails they were responding to (or just with a knowledge of the date it was sent) of little consequence and certainly not surprising in any way.

If you have a question I will explain further. Of course one or two of the issues I don't know enough about (like most people I'd guess) and could prove to be very damaging - highly unlikely as the remaining issues aren't really about the science.

I sometimes use irony when writing anyone who doesn't know me well would think I completely contradict myself frequently. (I could come to the conclusion that Jesus advocated self harm if I had little understanding of the context of the gospels)

Context is everything and if even without that, these are the most damaging examples that can be highlighted then there is little of real interest to those who know a little about the science and how scientists work.

Gordon said...

Doughlas,
A thought experiment: I know it’s impossible, but what if AGW never pans out? Perhaps in five or ten years. Imagine those with what you consider scientific “cred” still making excuses for AGW being just around the corner, imagine a moment to consider what Gil is saying: in the absence of God men are almost fanatically inclined to fill the void with things that don’t fit, a plan that always ends badly (this is also called idolatry). Not because they want to believe in God, but because they can’t help being made in God’s image. That’s why a theory about weather becomes a vision of what drives the world, a warning about how things might turn out if we don’t repent, an offer to help save humanity.

Same thing happened with a theory about economics in the 19th and 20th centuries. Which explains why veterans of Sovietized Easter Europe, like the Czech Republic’s Vaclav Klaus, are on the front line calling AGW psuedo science and a new excuse for totalitarianism. They may not believe in God, but they’ve seen the same act before, and they know how vulnerable the self-consciously intellectual crowd, the brights, are to the conceit that the world would run so much better if under their wise control.

Dean,
Your analogy with WWII radar would only work if, once developed, that radar discovered a threat that nothing else detected (an invasion of invisible alien ships perhaps). Real radar could be tested by experiment, then applied to an already existing threat. AGW is a theory that predicts disasters that aren’t happening yet on the basis of theories that only work if it can be demonstrated that they reliably convert old data into what actually happened. And there’s the rub. They hid recent declines and obscured history (as though the Medieval Warming never happened) because the data didn't match the theory.

Doughlas Remy said...

Imagine those with what you consider scientific “cred” still making excuses for AGW being just around the corner.

Gordon, AGW isn’t just “around the corner.” We have been experiencing it for many years (eight of the ten warmest years since 1850 have occurred since 2001), and its effects are already observable in ways too numerous to even list here. If you’ll do a Google search on the following terms, you’ll discover this for yourself:

Maldives disappearing
Permafrost methane release
Arctic shrinkage
Bangladesh and climate change

These places are far away, so their fate may seem irrelevant or unimportant. But it is not. Take permafrost, for example. Higher average temperatures in the Siberian Arctic are causing the permafrost to thaw. The permafrost covers nearly 400,000 square miles, an area 1.5 times the size of Texas. As it thaws, huge amounts of trapped methane are released. Like CO2, methane is a greenhouse gas. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory declared methane release to be one of the most serious scenarios for abrupt climate change.

Here’s another scenario for you: Your kitchen stove is leaking gas. You haven’t begun to feel any ill effects yet and there hasn’t been an explosion. What do you do?

Maybe it’s hard to relate such a familiar scenario to a global one. But that’s why scientists all over the world are publishing their studies—to help us understand the consequences of inaction. If you start searching on the Internet, you will find a mountain of data, and it is growing exponentially. But be careful out there. Check the sources.

The fact that a 19th-century economic theory was proven wrong has no bearing on whether global warming is happening, and the veterans of Sovietized Eastern Europe should know that. Theories consist of testable hypotheses, and communism failed the test. By contrast, we know from observation that AGW is occurring. It is measurable, and its effects are there for us to see. Of course there are lots of unknowns about its future effects, but there are also enough certainties to warrant immediate action.

And finally, your comment was a mix of theology and science, so I’ll tell you what struck me as paradoxical about it: You seem to be very keen on evidence for AGW, and you disbelieve the evidence that is offered by the National Academies of the G8 nations. On the other hand, you demand no evidence whatsoever for belief in an omniscient, omnipotent creator.

What sort of evidence about AGW would convince you?

And what sort of evidence would convince you that God doesn’t exist?

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

Dean said...

Hello Gordon,

I respectfully dispute your claim that AGW predicts disasters that "aren't happening yet". But more on that in a moment. Let me comment on my radar analogy.

Radar, in fact, did discover a threat that nothing else detected. Science was not specifically conceived to detect threats to the environment or the climate, but it does so very convincingly when applied to those fields, East Anglia emails notwithstanding. The point I was trying to make is this: Why put a system in place whose purpose is to warn you about unseen threats if you then disregard the data which that system provides? The radar worked, because men trained in detecting the signals and distinguishing them from background noise were able to use their training to correctly interpret what they saw. The advantage of the radar was the lead time it gave in preparing for an attack. Women in their backyards hanging laundry, or people walking on the beach eventually saw the planes flying over. But by that time it was too late to prepare an adequate defense to ward off the consequences. Wasn't a certain legendary boat builder ridiculed by the naysayers when he built his Ark? The story may be mythological but the revelation about human nature is cogent, unchanged and topical.

AGW isn't hamstrung by old data. It's informed by empirical observation and reinforced by historical corroboration. Johann Hari, columnist for the London Independent, is sympathetic to the spirit of denial when he writes:

"The fever of denialism is natural. This is so far outside our experience that is seems intuitively untrue, wrong, or even mad. I desperately wish the deniers were right: I would jump on the next flight to Tahiti for a month-long party. But the scientific consensus is overwhelming – as strong as the consensus that smoking causes lung cancer, or HIV causes Aids. The deniers are a discredited fringe with virtually no scientists currently working in the field. If you release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on an industrial scale year after year, the world will get much warmer, and many of us will die.

I have seen it happen. In the past few years, I have reported from three places where global warming is having a catastrophic effect – the Arctic, Bangladesh, and the borders of Darfur. I spoke to Inuit who are watching in disbelief as their historic hunting-lands disappear and the ice-sheets crumble into the sea. I stood on the drowning coast of Bangladesh as villagers pointed to a spot in the middle of the sea and said: “That is where my house was.”

“When did you leave?” I asked.

“Last year,” they said, shaking their heads.

(continued)

Dean said...

Part II

But it was in Darfur that I got the plainest glimpse into a much warmer world. The settled farmers and the nomadic pastoralists had developed a peaceful way to share the water supplies of the area – but then, in the Nineties, the water started to vanish. As one refugee put it to me: “The water dried up, and so we started to kill each other for what was left.” (The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has said this is due to global warming, summarising the reports of his leading scientists.) When the things we require to survive vanish–water, food and land–we don’t wait to die. We kill for them."

Peter Kelemen, a professor of geochemistry at Columbia University's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences says:

"Climate models—which represent the good-faith efforts of a lot of very dedicated people to use a combination of physics and observations of past climate to make the best possible projections—predict some very unfavorable outcomes for humans within the next 50 to 100 years, unless we take substantial action to reduce and mitigate CO2 emissions, starting right now. There is plenty of room for uncertainty, but the time to act is now."

Here's Kelemen's article on the recently released climate emails that puts things in perspective:

East Anglia emails

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

You asked me two questions:

1) “What sort of evidence about AGW would convince you?”

Start with warming. I would already be convinced if temperature had continued to rise in tandem with higher levels of CO2. I’ve heard every excuses why colder temps aren’t really colder, but as Geologist David Gee of Uppsala University put it recently, “how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming?” I promise you that if flat to cooler temps was really a point of contention they wouldn’t have just spent tens of millions rebranding Global Warming as Climate Change. Bastions of AGW orthodoxy like the BBC and NYT were admitting as much months before “hide the decline” e-mails came out.

But it’s not as simple as CO2 getting untethered from warming. There was in fact a correspondence between a lull in solar activity and no-longer-rising temps. The days of dismissing solar flares and sunspots as insignificant are over. If CO2’s impact has been thwarted by this, you need a bigger theory that accounts for both inputs. And if solar activity turns out to be the prime driver, we might need to spend our money on coping with temperatures that we can’t control by buying a Prius.

It seems to me that you’re going to have a hard time separating natural from man-made inputs until the AGW establishment accounts for the robust temperature shifts before there was anthropogenic input, but after the advent of civilization: the Akkadian Cooling (5,600-3,500BC), the Minoan Warming (3,500- 3,200BC), the Bronze Age Cooling (3,200-2,500BC), the Roman Warming (500BC-535AD), The Dark Ages (535-900AD), the Medieval Warming (900AD-1300 AD), the Little Ice Age (1300AD- 1850AD). AGW advocates have so far largely ignored the historical record and relied on speculative proxies to get milder temperatures than the historical records suggest.

At least account for the Medieval Warming Period. Don’t bury it in bogus statistics like Michael Mann did with his hockey stick (cf. McIntyre and McKitrick’s dismemberment of Mann’s method -- seconded by Edward Stegman [Chairman of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences committee on applied and theoretical statistics]) to flatten out the Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age and thus make our time look hotter. Don’t do what Real Climate does and blather on about the limits of wine grapes as a proxy as though a single anecdote by Fred Singer about northern English wine grapes is all we know about the period. The direct historical evidence that this period was considerably warmer than today is overwhelming, and positing speculative proxies to dismiss the written record of literate people is a sham.

So that’s all: show me a theory that accounts for the past, both ancient and recent, and try again with that whole CO2=warming for the next five years. If the temps stay flat you might want to try another theory.

2) “And what sort of evidence would convince you that God doesn’t exist?”

If Christ is not risen, the God I believe in doesn’t exist and I'm probably insane.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gordon, I don’t know where you found information that global temperatures are not rising. Information from the most reliable sources that I can find—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the IPCC, among others—confirms that temperatures have increased by about 0.7 degrees C since 1900. These organizations, together with the National Academies of the G8 countries, state that this increase is anthropogenic in nature. The IP is projecting a further increase of about 3.6 degrees C before the end of this century.

According to IPCC data, 2007 was the warmest winter on record, 2006 was the fifth warmest year on record, and 2005 was the warmest year on record.

I am not in a position to judge whether solar flares are producing this warming, so I will have to defer to the scientific community. The consensus is that global warming is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The effects of atmospheric CO2 are well understood, and we know that human activity is putting about 70 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every day. It stands to reason that all that CO2 is causing warming.

It is true that global warming has had other causes in the past, but that doesn’t invalidate the IPCC’s claims about the current warming.

As for the “branding” of AGW, the term “climate change” is preferred by some scientists because, in fact, warming in some areas might cause cooling in another. For example, the thawing of the Greenland Ice Shelf could cause the Gulf Stream to cool, thereby reversing its direction. If this were to happen, the British Isles would become colder.

Since 1954, there has been an industry of manufactured doubt in this country. It started with the tobacco industry’s hiring the PR firm Hill and Knowlton. In 1967, the asbestos industry used the firm’s growing expertise, in 1975, it was the CFC industry, and in the 1980s, we began to see the growth of “product defense” firms and “think tanks” whose role was to flood the media and the halls of Congress with misleading science and false controversy.

The think tanks that worked on behalf of these chemical and tobacco industries are now the key players in disinformation efforts regarding AGW. These include the George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, and Dr. Fred Singer's SEPP (Science and Environmental Policy Project).

You mentioned Steve McIntyre of ClimateAudit.org. I would invite you to check his bio on Wikipedia. Notice where he spent most of his career.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, there are currently 2,663 climate change lobbyists working on Capitol Hill. That’s five lobbyists for every member of Congress. Only one-eighth of these are working for environmental, health, and alternative energy groups. The rest are working for major industries.

In the second quarter of 2009, the fossil fuel industry spent $36.8 million on climate change lobbying, while the environmental, health, and alternative energy groups spent $2.6 million.

The Manufactured Doubt campaign against AGW is funded by the richest corporations in the world. ExxonMobil is estimated to have spent $20 million from 1998 to 2007.

For the most accurate information, consult the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report. If that’s too dense and technical, try Bob Henson’s Rough Guide to Climate Change, which is based on information from the IPCC, the NOAA, and other reliable sources. These are both online in their entirety.

Finally, here are some links to IPCC charts that you may find illuminating:

http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig1-1.jpg
http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig2-3.jpg
http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig2-5.jpg
http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig3-1.jpg
http://www.ipcc.ch/graphics/syr/fig3-2.jpg

Doughlas Remy
http://thebentangle.wordpress.com/

Gordon said...

Doughlas,

I don’t want to prolong an argument that you see as settled. I stand by my numbers and the quality of my sources. All I can say is if you’re completely confident in your position I challenge to go the U.S. Senate minority report on Global Warming and read the sample from the 700 scientists who signed on. Link to their articles.

Decide either way on the way the science, but don't imagine the money business is pushing AGW denial.

To the point, you say Exxon spent $20 million over 10 years in on AGW denial. In that same period that fellow who just stepped down at the CRU personally brought in $19 million in AGW funding. Last year alone GE spent way over $20 million lobbying for their part of AGW (they bought Enron’s “cap and trade” operation and have more invested in windmills, nuclear and non-biofuel alternate energy than any other American company).

Speaking of lobbying. You site the Center for Public Integrity’s report that there are 2,633 “climate lobbyists” (representing 1,150 clients) buzzing Washington, but read the whole article on their web site. Energy and Manufacturing companies were 70% of the lobbyists in 2003. Now they’re down to 45%. So who is doing the lobbying? And which of the manufacturing and energy companies are supporting Cap and Trade?

Let’s see who the Center lists are the most recently registered lobbyists: Aurora Biofuels, Corn Refiners Association, Fulcrum Bioenergy, GeoSyn Fuels, Green Earth Fuels, Growth Energy, Kai Bioenergy, National Biodeisel Board, New Generations Biofuels, Patriot Renewable Fuel, Petroalgae, Poet LLC, Renewable Biofuels, Novogy, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, Targeted Growth.

Look at those names. Every single one of these companies is pushing for Cap and Trade. If we get Cap and Trade they’ll be the new concept stocks, the hot IPO’s, just like internet stocks in the 90’s; if we don’t, they won’t exist.

The one company doesn’t scream “alternate energy IPO” is Poet LLC, the top producer of corn ethanol in the country -- Wesley Clark represents their interests.

The Center says 200 manufacturers were represented, but there’s no way to know how many of those lose on the carbon trade and how many gain. There are 130 power companies and utilities but their interests vary wildly. Natural gas and nuclear utilities are wild about cap and trade since their the low carbon players (Exxon is in on this big since they bought up most of the companies that can build nukes 20 years ago.) Even companies that lose on the surface, gain after lobbying. Quoting the Center: “Coal and coal utility interests were seen as making out well in the climate bill, especially regarding provisions requiring the federal government to initially give away carbon emissions ‘allowances’.

This is a situation where lobbyists are fighting for their company’s piece of the pie. This has nothing to do with denying AGW or getting out of Cap and Trade. Why on earth would they want to. It’s easier and more profitable to buy into the government trough.

We’ll see how it turns out. Either way, I wish you well and deeply respect your commitment to the truth -- which means you could never be a lobbyist.
The logic of your arguments is fine, I question your premises. We’ll see how it turns out. Either way, I wish you well and deeply respect your commitment to the truth -- which means you could never be a lobbyist.