Home > AGW, Climate Change, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Skepticism > The Unknown Skeptic – An Essay On “Poles Apart” – 7of7 – Conclusions

The Unknown Skeptic – An Essay On “Poles Apart” – 7of7 – Conclusions

THE UNKNOWN SKEPTIC – Journalism, awaiting to be freed

If I choose a side, It won’t take me for a ride – paraphrasing Peter Gabriel, 1975

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Quasi-Discovery Of the Natures of Skepticism
  3. Limitations
  4. Silent Sorrows In Dubious Sources
  5. In The Cage
  6. The Unconnected Dots
  7. Conclusions

7- Conclusions

If everybody reported climate change (skepticism) the way Mr Painter and co-authors did in “Poles Apart: The International Reporting of Climate skepticism“, most statistics about skeptical voices in the media (possibly, elsewhere) would be zero. Indeed, they do hover near zero, apart, that is, from the GWPF, both in the media and in “Poles Apart”. QED. “Poles Apart” surely risks being remembered as just another example of what it was meant to report, the attitude of the media to “skeptical voices”.

This is why “Poles Apart” ends up a frustrating read, in spite of the effort made to put it together. Potentially huge stories are missed by experienced and passionate journalists. How can that be possible? This series of blog posts has illustrated one explanation, the reliance on unreliable sources combined by a self-imposed conviction that the world could be understood from a single point of view. It’s like having to follow to a whole season of football from the ManU TV channel, when Chelsea FC wins the Premiership: you know the commentators are professionals and speak with knowledge and expertise, yet you also know there is a lot of the actual story they are going to miss.

There is simply no way certain ideas will be uttered, true and real as they might be. “We wuz robbed” will always take precedence over “they were robbed”: analogously “skeptics are funded by right-wingers and Big Oil” will be taken as granted whilst “let’s look at the arguments instead of labelling people” is perhaps briefly pondered, only to be quickly hidden away. In both cases, extremely little space will be provided to the opponents’ remarks. True Believers won’t find anything controversial for their eyes to read, in “Poles Apart”.

This is what happens when only one channel is listened to: mental closure, oversimplification, time wasted in caricaturing the ‘enemy’, ultimately ‘reductio ad certamen’, i.e. the transformation of science (and journalism) into team sports.

To talk about skepticism to a warmist audience becomes like explaining Nostradamus followers they should really start reading something else. Or opining about foreign policy to some of the current Republican presidential hopefuls in the USA. Ironically, Dr Nadin might have been even especially right when she told the RISJ:

“Journalists and other key communicators often lack the knowledge base, skills and online and offline resources to cut thought the confusion and accurately report on the complex science of climate change and this can be especially true in developing countries.”

Poles Apart” is close to the solution and yet stubbornly and half-blindly refuses to consider it. Still, the cage’s locks can be broken. Dear Mr Painter! Start from Geoffrey Lean’s words!

(p115) All but the extremists on either side agree that the planet is warming that humanity is at least partly responsible – and that we don’t know how big its contribution is, or what the effects will be

Expand the report. Include skeptics, their propositions, their first-hand quotes, especially what argument they make for their particular brand of skepticism. Include the online activity, and analyse the full spectrum of ideas in much detail. Don’t be afraid to admit there is scientific and policy variety among the non-skeptic, and by all means never ever conflate people away, to debate regions resembling the areas marked “Hic Sunt Leones” in ancient maps, literally “Here there are lions” with the meaning of “This is the deadly dangerous unknown region to avoid at all cost”.

Mr Painter, and anybody else who says they care about AGW: it’s time you realise the future is in opening up the debate. At the risk of sounding like an unreformed Libertarian: let the fact, and the truth free. They’re struggling within.


  1. pjl20
    2012/02/06 at 12:25

    The whole subject of climate change cannot be explained even in a lengthy essay.

    This subject requires detailed study at the environment centre of a good university before any worthwhile opinion can be offered. Why? Because the subject area requires a grasp of the scientific facts as opposed to the theory and hypotheses, much of which has been published in scientific journals and is much debated by the academics.

    Too much dogma exists; such as ‘All but the extremists on either side agree that the planet is warming that humanity is at least partly responsible – and that we don’t know how big it’s contribution is, or what the effect will be’.

    It is not even possible to explain climate change adequately by grouping people into extremists at either end of the opinion spectrum or as moderates. Why should this be necessary?

    Too many unknowns still exist for a general and genuine consensus to have emerged. We need first to have carried out extensive and detailed research into the causes and impacts of the ice ages over the past two million years and why Earth suddenly became effected by this phenomena after ten of millions of years without any.

    The best we can say is that much original research is still required into the many aspects of the subject before the matter of policy can be considered. What policy do we need and why?

    I believe that the politicians and the United Nations in the form of the IPCC have a great deal of responsibility for the confusion and misinformation circulating in the public domain as regards so-called ‘global warming’ or ‘global cooling’ and the effects upon Earth’s global climate conditions.

  2. 2012/02/05 at 17:05

    Just to say thank you, Maurizio, for your thoughtful and excellent analysis of the “Poles Apart” essay.

    Also, to echo Hilary earlier, I think a downloadable pdf of the entire piece might come in very handy.

    • 2012/02/07 at 01:02

      Alex – Hilary has sent a list of corrections for parts 1 and 2. I will go through those, then put together the PDF (and a short blog for the laziest readers with the main points).

  1. 2012/02/07 at 03:30
  2. 2012/02/06 at 05:43
  3. 2012/02/06 at 05:42
  4. 2012/02/06 at 05:41
  5. 2012/02/06 at 05:40
  6. 2012/02/06 at 05:40
  7. 2012/02/06 at 05:37

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