Should newspapers ban climate deniers like Reddit’s science forum? | Environment |


Here’s an interesting one, from the Graun: Should newspapers ban climate deniers like Reddit’s science forum? In short, the argument goes that, since deniers can’t really back up their arguments with scientific data, and frequently take their views from extremely biased sources (e.g. funded by oil companies), they’ve been banned from Reddit’s science forum. And it turns out that most of the crappy postings were coming from a tiny minority.

Like our commenters, professional climate change deniers have an outsized influence in the media and the public. And like our commenters, their rejection of climate science is not based on an accurate understanding of the science but on political preferences and personality. As moderators responsible for what millions of people see, we felt that to allow a handful of commenters to so purposefully mislead our audience was simply immoral.

What struck me about this was that the BBC should take heed, too. The Beeb has this infuriating habit of “balancing” its news coverage with just such ignorant, unscientific, unsupported views, on the basis that it can’t be biased. But the question (as always) is whether the BBC has a duty to be unbiased towards two sides of a ridiculous debate (giving equal weight to the idiots/liars) or whether it has a duty to be unbiased towards the truth. Or, put another way, unbiased towards the weight of scientific evidence.

This idea has come up recently in another context, in George Monbiot’s campaign to force the BBC to acknowledge when its contributors are being paid by a lobbying organisation, pressure group, or industry body to have an opinion. This was prompted by a recent “debate” around the question of plain paper packaging for cigarettes. The BBC interviewed a spokesperson from a “think tank” which of course gets at least some of its funding from tobacco companies, a fact that the BBC did not acknowledge when introducing the piece.

For the BBC, they were simply looking to provide the illusion of a debate, when in fact the only people who want tobacco companies not to be regulated are, you know, tobacco companies. The question of how these people sleep at night is never discussed.

via Should newspapers ban climate deniers like Reddit’s science forum? | Environment |


That sleighbell winter? It’s all part of climate change denial | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian


Here’s an interesting article by George Monbiot in the Guardian, all about the tabloid treatment of the Met Office and their use of “independent” weather forecasters. In another weather-related story this week, a long-term study of weather forecasting accuracy is being proposed, to see just who is more accurate. According to Monbiot, the tabs have been using independent companies, notably Exacta and PWS. The Daily Express in particular has been predicting a Siberian winter on its front page since the summer.

Who are they, and what are their credentials? I have been trying to obtain answers from Exacta since 20 December, without success. Among other questions, I asked whether it is true that the company consists of one undergraduate student and a computer.

PWS was more forthcoming. It admitted that its forecasting record had not been independently audited, and agreed that this was a failing. It also admitted that it does not keep a record of its prior forecasts on its website, which means that the public has no means of assessing its hit rate. But it failed to provide the qualifications or identities of the “independent meteorologists” it uses.

via That sleighbell winter? It’s all part of climate change denial | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

New Statesman – Cloud control


Interesting angle on the global warming debate from the New Statesman, in which Bjorn Lomborg dares to suggest that the environmental pressure group consensus on what to do about climate change is wrong. He points out how the discourse in the media is being controlled, with the use of words like “denier” and “sceptic” acting as sticks to hit people with. Use the word “denier” about somebody, and you’re immediately aligning them with the neo-Nazi holocaust deniers.

Lomborg argues that the cost of cutting carbon emissions as radically as some propose (including The Guardian newspaper, with its 10:10 campaign) would actually cause more damage than the predicted rise in global temperatures.

Anyone who reads science fiction will already know about some of the more radical weather engineering solutions (look at Kim Stanley Robinson’s series of three books, for example), and Lomborg argues that pumping sea water into the air to whiten the clouds is one idea worth considering, which would cost a fraction of the unrealistic and unreachable carbon emissions targets.

The researchers conclude, remarkably, that we might be able to cancel out this century's entire global warming with 1,900 unmanned ships spraying seawater mist into the air, at a total cost of about £6bn. When the benefits from averted warming are calculated, this is the equivalent of doing more than £2,000 worth of good with every pound spent.
Marine cloud whitening would obviously not solve every aspect of global warming. But it would achieve more, much faster, than any plausible carbon cuts could ever do, and at a fraction of the price. If we are concerned with solving global warming, then we have a moral obligation to research what we could achieve with this technology.

Michael Crichton Dead


Almost unnoticed today, the death of Michael Crichton, an author who was the inspiration behind a wide variety of media texts, from Westworld, The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park and Time Line to ER, the second-best medical drama.

Crichton always published books that were stuffed with contemporary issues, usually relating to cutting-edge scientific developments. He usually combined genres – science fiction thriller, for example. His books were fast-paced, well-informed, and sometimes controversial, as in the case of Climate of Fear, his debunking of the anthropogenic global warming movement. He predicted in that book, four years ago, that the rhetoric around climate change would shift from, “In a hundred years…” to ,”Sudden onset rapid change…” which is exactly what happened.

And how dramatic would you like that graph, sir?


Questions about the key concept of representation in Media Studies can cover everything from race and gender to lifestyle and profession. Anything you see in a media text is a representation of something. Two current continuing news stories rely heavily on the representation of data, for example. The first is the Credit Crunch/Coming Recession; the other is climate change. Here, for example, is the BBC’s representation of the Dow Industrial average, as of 15 minutes ago:

Looks bad, doesn’t it? But note that the base of the graph is 8200, and the top is 8700: just 500 points. Here’s the same data, more or less, drawn on a graph that starts at zero:

Oh. Right. That looks… serious.

On global warming, we’re frequently shown the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in parts-per-million. Here’s a fairly standard view:

And a slightly less dramatic version:

A picture speaks a thousand words, so it goes. The graph above goes from zero to 1,000. If you want to see a really undramatic version of that graph, try one that goes from zero to a million (parts-per-million).