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Twitter Galore: Monbiot, Journalistic Distortions And Lack Of Excitement

A quick set of notes and links, mostly acquired via Twitter:

NB: all opinions expressed below in bold italic are mine, not necessarily the original author’s

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AGWers as the unwitting enemies of science:

Seth Sicroff in “On crying “Himalayan Meltdown!!!”

For years, Ives has been warning that the habit of distortion and exaggeration was undermining both science and development. […] Ives has not denied that deforestation, GLOFs, and glacial thinning are problems. He has simply argued that in many cases there is insufficient evidence to establish causalities and projections, and that the misidentification of a crisis or a pseudo-crisis as a supercrisis not only wastes limited resources but also undermines the credibility of science in general. And, coincidentally, Ives has repeatedly singled out Fred Pearce of the New Scientist as a purveyor of unsubstantiated mega-disaster scenarios. Well, those chickens have come home to roost.

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Climate change is boring, boring, boring. More boring than scary:

Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor / March 15, 2010 in “As Climate Change debate wages on, scientists turn to Hollywood for help

Today’s climate story is often framed as a sober warning, not as an exciting adventure. Some of that is by necessity. “It’s important for the public to know that scientists are coming across this evidence [of climate change] – it’s real evidence – that there may be some disagreements among the details but that doesn’t negate the entire picture,” Semper says. But the effort to better understanding earth’s climate is also exciting, a message that has been lost, he says. “The scientific questions are absolutely fascinating.”

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Whose “malpractice”? Whose “lie”?

My comment to Coturnix – A Blog Around The Clock in “Science Journalism must-reads of the day

I find it really telling that of the people now decrying how badly the Daily Mail has reported Dr Jones’ statements, not even one was around when the very same Daily Mail fabricated a story on drowning polar bears.

Journalists able to denounce “malpractice” only when it collides with their beliefs are not showing much in the way of professionalism. They are part of the story and their reporting therefore all the less interesting in a journalistic sense.

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No surprise here: cherry picking on polar bears…

MSNBC: “Arctic winners, losers tied to climate – Survey finds drop in wildlife closest to North Pole“, updated 5:36 p.m. ET March 17, 2010

On polar bears, the iconic species of the Arctic, the report only had numbers for the population in Canada’s western Hudson Bay: a decline from 1,200 in the mid-1980s to fewer than 900 in 2004.

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Another year, another “save the environment” Polar expedition:

Scare, swim, struggles on Arctic trek – Track Eric Larsen’s expeditions to both poles and Everest

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Meanwhile, in la-la-land….:

Shauna Marlette in “USD Forum Discusses Effects Of ‘Global Warming’

“What people need to remember is that weather is not climate,” Sweeney said during his presentation. “Weather is the current state of the atmosphere — hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy. The weather of one year does not change the average conditions over time.”

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A few voices of reason, even (amazingly!) from the AGW side:

Pete Geddes in “What’s Next for Climate Change?

Gwyn Prins, of the London School of Economics, who observes: “Worthwhile policy builds upon what we know works and upon what is feasible rather than trying to deploy never-before implemented policies through complex institutions requiring a hitherto unprecedented and never achieved degree of global political alignment.”

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In case we needed further proof of complexity of climate response:

From Wordclimatereport.com, “Problems with the Permafrost?“, March 17, 2010

“It is unclear how permafrost will respond to a warmer climate: a recent discovery of ancient permafrost that survived several warm geological periods suggests that vegetation cover may help protect permafrost from climate warming…However, higher air temperature does not necessarily lead to higher soil temperature: it has been demonstrated that increases in air temperature sometimes lead to vegetation changes that offset the effect of air warming on soil temperature.”

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Monbiot gets surrounded by skeptics of all sorts:

Jonathon Porritt in “The war of words over home-produced electricity feed-in tariffs could cost dearly

As one or two bloggers have already pointed out, if [Monbiot]’s got it this badly wrong on feed-in tariffs, what’s to say he hasn’t got it equally wrong on other critical issues?

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Some people “get it” but only in part:

My comment to Matthew C. Nisbet’s Slate article “Chill Out – Climate scientists are getting a little too angry for their own good

There’s plenty of positives to be taken from Nisbet’s article but…why oh why couldn’t he complete his reasoning? What is the point of asking to get away from a “bunker mentality” and to create “a public dialogue on climate change” if Nisbet himself is stuck in the obsolete frame of mind of scientists being on one side, and skeptics on the other?

Never mind the silly idea of “skeptics” being at work to “erode the trust” in science. There are many that would say the opposite: it’s scandals like climategate and the bunker mentality of certain climate scientists, what really risks eroding the trust in science.

There are plenty of shades of grey in-between belief in the IPCC and complete skepticism of global warming, let alone anthropogenic global warming. Until those are recognized, first of all by people such as Mr Nisbet, I am afraid all we are going to get is further politicization.

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And finally…AGW as a dumb green idea indeed:

Shea Gunther in “The danger of being hysterically green

We can’t waste our time on dumb green ideas. A green idea is dumb if it has no chance of really happening and just stands to turn off a lot of people to the cause when they hear it. An idea can have the best of intentions and ideals behind it and still be a dumb one, a lot of the times it’s the ones with the best of intentions and ideals that end up being the dumbest.

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  1. Tony Hansen
    2010/03/19 at 22:38

    ‘….The weather of one year does not change the average conditions over time – Shauna Marlette .’
    Does this mean that the answer remains the same regardless of input data?

    • 2010/03/19 at 22:47

      Tony – I think it does. I am still looking for what kind of observation would ever change “the answer”. Even if we had 50 years of cooling, still people would be able to claim that as a “black swan”, or the consequence of aerosols, or whatever else of their fancy.

  2. ScientistForTruth
    2010/03/19 at 22:10

    Seth Sicroff had a sideswipe at my blog http://buythetruth.wordpress.com , even though everything he writes confirms the details in the particular post that deals with the Himalayan glaciers http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/un-ipcc-rotting-from-the-head-down/

    That post was first to show that the scientific community knew that the 2035 date for glacier melting (IPCC AR4 from WWF from Fred Pearce/New Scientist from Syed Hasnain) was nonsense years before AR4 was published, rather than something that was discovered just before the Copenhagen Summit when it could be contained no longer because of the scrutiny after Climategate. AGWers have been asking why it took so long to discover the ‘error’ if it was so manifest as the ‘sceptics’ have demonstrated. It’s the wrong question: the question should be, why did the scientific community knowingly keep the public misinformed about the Himalayan glaciers for so long? Until the ‘sceptics’ rumbled them, in fact.

    As Sicroff says:

    “One of the recurrent themes in this controversy, also featured in the EPA suit, is that the IPCC must have known all along that there was well-founded scientific argument against the Himalayan meltdown forecast because of the work of Jack D. Ives. Jack Ives was my thesis advisor at the University of California, Davis, and is my mentor, friend, and collaborator. The article most cited in this connection, “Himalayan misconceptions and distortions: What are the facts?” appeared in the peer-reviewed Himalayan Journal of Sciences, for which I happen to be an editor. [HJS Vol 3, No. 5, p. 15-25; available at

    http://www.nepjol.info/index.php/HJS/article/view/457/447%5D

    For years, Ives has been warning that the habit of distortion and exaggeration was undermining both science and development. In Himalayan Dilemma: Reconciling Development and Conservation (1989) Ives took aim at the so-called Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation, a popular construct that supported projections of catastrophic deforestation. More recently, particularly in Himalayan Perceptions: Environmental Change and the Well-being of Mountain Peoples (2004), he has urged caution on the subject of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs). Ives has not denied that deforestation, GLOFs, and glacial thinning are problems. He has simply argued that in many cases there is insufficient evidence to establish causalities and projections, and that the misidentification of a crisis or a pseudo-crisis as a supercrisis not only wastes limited resources but also undermines the credibility of science in general. And, coincidentally, Ives has repeatedly singled out Fred Pearce of the New Scientist as a purveyor of unsubstantiated mega-disaster scenarios. Well, those chickens have come home to roost.”

    While confirmation of my research and exposure is welcome from Sicroff, much less satisfactory are the following unworthy comments from him:

    “There have been numerous articles on the subject, both in mainstream media (including BBC and The Times), as well as the blogosphere (notably, right-wing hatcheteers such as Buy The Truth and Skeptics Corner)…while it is flattering to have a lot of bloggers fluffing up the reputation of our little journal and of our friend Jack Ives, we’ve got to keep in mind that the fluffers are basically the same crew as the tea-baggers, creationists, and corporate tools.”

    He could add more epithets at will: how about ‘flat-earther’ or ‘bigot’ or ‘oil shill’? As I responded to Sicroff’s comment on my post:

    “There is nothing in this post that deals with anything other than Pachauri’s misbehaviour and the fact that the IPCC claim, based on WWF, Fred Pearce, and Hasnain’s 2035 date, was known to be nonsense by the scientific community itself years ago. I provided the author and journal reference as proof, rather than make unsubstantiated allegations. With this Seth Sicroff, the editor, concurs – nearly two months after my post that was first to reveal the same. He says,

    ‘One of the recurrent themes in this controversy, also featured in the EPA suit, is that the IPCC must have known all along that there was well-founded scientific argument against the Himalayan meltdown forecast because of the work of Jack D. Ives.’

    Indeed, and I’m glad to be the one that brought it to the attention of the interested public, and that there are now lawsuits against the EPA. That’s because, as a scientist myself, I’m interested in truthfulness and openness, not the occult and cabals.

    Since Seth Sicroff knew about the error in the IPCC AR4 report, why did he not expose it years ago? Why did it have to wait until a supposedly nasty right wing, fundamentalist, oil shill fascist investigated the truth and exposed it? How many more years would have gone by if I hadn’t exposed this, and some of the other issues on this blog?”

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