Media thinks scientists hype dangers of climate change

Written by tim


Spiegel Online recently published a narrative of the politicization of climate science over time, from James Hansen’s 1988 Congressional testimony all the way to last year’s “Climategate.”

The abbreviated story goes like this: scientists in the 1980’s first discovered and proved the link between a warming planet and human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The politicization began when Hansen, in his Congressional testimony in 1988, described being pressured by a Republican-controlled White House to play down the risks associated with global warming.

The UN set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to research the problem, and the flame war really began. Large, multinational fossil fuel companies obviously had a huge financial stake in the outcome of the debate, and obfuscation was the goal. According to an oil-industry shill group, “[v]ictory will be achieved when average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science.”

The fight over climate change in the political sphere boils down to this reality: climate science is inexact, and the earth’s future climate is being predicted using computer models that are programmed to represent the entire globe – its biota, the extent and status of forests, deserts, drylands, wetlands, and agriculture, the cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere and the geology underpinning it all – frankly, these models try to predict everything on the face and underneath the sky of this planet.

These large and extensive variables make it tempting to dismiss the whole endeavor. But we’re already seeing the impacts of a warming world: higher temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification, altered precipitation patterns, melting glaciers, a change in the migratory patterns of birds and the timing of plant growth cycles. These are the realities we’re living in right now, and they match the effects predicted by climate scientists and modelers.

Should these trends continue, there’s a real possibility that the effects could be catastrophic. The future is inherently uncertain, no more so than when considering the earth’s climate. The science of climate change may not be exact, but it is clear: action is needed to prevent catastrophic change now, and it is our responsibility to take that action.

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  1. Ralph Bennett

    In John Derbyshire’s We Are Doomed, he lays out the role for conservative pessimism in all things, as a counterforce to liberalism and its collectivism optimism about group action – which often and logically involves government initiative.
    But when liberals come to the conclusion that we are demonstrably doomed, conservatives feel obliged to debunk the evidence to the point of psychopathic denial.
    Intellectual hypocrisy, or manifestation of underlying agendas?

  2. Wayne Dickson

    A wide statistical sample, presented in a chart with lots of colored lines, is important for establishing context.
    But let’s not forget that “media” is an abstraction. You need to take names and make lists. Who — specifically — wrote/said (or failed to write/say) what? Follow it on up the food chain.
    I’m not talking about finding someone to blame (or praise, I suppose, depending on your point of view). I’m just saying that the phenomenon described here was created by particular individuals at particular media organizations making particular decisions.
    They should not be allowed to scurry behind a generalization to avoid individual responsibility.

  3. michael

    Somebody has to make a prediction. If we gave the same figures to 10 different scientists we might be amused by the number of different predictions…for a whole bunch of plausible reasons.
    Contrary to the title, I think the media sew a pretty good stitch either purposely or unknowingly. The scientific community shouldn’t feel too left out either…some of the modeling required to make accurate predictions have had temperature – of all things – tampered with to make the model appear correct.
    Mother Nature freely associates in ways we cannot predict and we little humans are no different. But what happened yesterday cannot be argued with.

  4. djrabbit

    michael said “Mother Nature freely associates in ways we cannot predict and we little humans are no different.”
    Uhh, actually we can “predict” – with great accuracy — that human-caused warming will continue to drive average temperature increases absent a strong policy response.
    We can also predict with a high level of confidence that this trend will be very bad for human economies, given the trillions of dollars we have invested in reliance on the stability and predictability of existing coastlines, rivers, rainfall patterns, and temperature ranges. In other words, we can accurately predict that the global-warming trend will make many other aspects of the future less predictable, to our collective detriment.