NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Let's get our facts right before awarding halos

Anna over at NCFocus is giving out halos for some faulty thinking.

She pats Chris Mooney on the back for writing that the norms of journalism can lead to faulty science reporting. It is bad to present both sides of a science debate according to Mooney. I suggest that Mooney contributes to faulty journalism by not doing his home work. We already have too much one sided reporting on global warming. See details in State of Fear.
In the Columbia Journalism Review article, I argued that the journalistic norm of "balance" has no parallel in the scientific world and, when artificially grafted onto that world, can lead reporters to distort or misrepresent what’s known, to create controversies where none actually exist, or to fall prey to the ploys of interest groups who demand equal treatment for their "scientific" claims. To address this problem, I suggested that when it comes to reporting on science-related controversies, journalists should avoid the trap of "he said/she said/we’re clueless" coverage and instead actually help their readers evaluate the credibility of competing claims. In doing so, journalists should rely on the principle that extraordinary assertions require extraordinary proof to back them up, and bear in mind that the processes of scientific peer review and consensus building should not be discarded lightly, if at all. While some scientific uncertainty remains in the climate field, the most rigorous peer-reviewed assessments--produced roughly every five years by the United Nationsí Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)--have cemented a consensus view that human greenhouse gas emissions are helping to fuel the greenhouse effect.
First, the IPCC assessment Reports are not peer reviewed. It is true that peer reviewed scientists worked on the science sections, but the reports were not peer reviewed.

Second, if you read the full report, not the summary written by non-scientist with a political agenda, you will find a great deal of uncertainty about human global warming.
This position isn’t simply based on deductions from physical first principles (although those are hard to argue with; virtually no one disputes that a greenhouse effect exists or that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas).
Third, the global warming forecast in the IPCC reports is not based on the observation of first principles, it is based on computer models. Computer models are only a simple reflection of a very complex real world. In addition to the uncertainty of climate modeling, Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, found a mathematical flaw in the computer program used to show the rapid increase in temperatures over the past 50 years. When test data made up of random numbers is used in place of 70 climate proxy data files, derived from tree ring growth patterns, the model produced the same results (Geophysical Letters). By the way Geophysical Letters is a peer reviewed journal. More details on modeling errors click here.
In addition to physical reasoning, we are also seeing a string of record temperature years, as well as the early impacts of human-caused climate change--melting glaciers, pronounced Arctic warming, and shifts in the geographic ranges of species, to name a few examples.
Where is his proof that we are seeing a string of record temperatures? We did in 1998 which was an El Nino year. Details of global temperatures here. Note the trend lines in the data. Yes, the glaciers are melting, but their is no proof it is caused by human caused global warming. We are coming out of the Little Ice Age when the glaciers grew due to more snow, created by atmospheric moisture and cold air. In Glacier National Park the glaciers are declining, yet the regional temperature has remained relatively constant over the last 105 years, according to Park Service Records. Humm, some first principle measurements.

Where is the pronounced Arctic warming? The Arctic Assessment Report, reported the warming, yet the data provided in the report demonstrates that the measured temperatures were with in the normal range of variability for the region. Look at the recorded arctic temps here. More first principle data.

Yes, we are seeing more species move farther North, yet this is not proof of human caused warming. This migration would happen regardless of how the warming came about.

As for the PACNC Myths and Facts, see my analysis here.

Anna's halos are beginning to look a little tarnished.

Tell me what you think

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