More misrepresentation of climate science

A YouTube user called greenman3610 sometimes puts up videos in a series called the ‘climate change crock of the week.’ One that he put up recently is illustrative of how scientific information about climate change is misrepresented in the media.

The initial remarks concerned how there is always random variation around the overall warming trend being caused by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. The featured later media discussion suggests that the original speaker has now abandoned the view that greenhouse gasses cause warming – something that is blatantly contradicted by the original transcript.

The fact that such misrepresentation occurs is depressing for two reasons. First, it shows how low the ethical and journalistic of at least some media outlets have become. Second, it reveals the extent to which people in general are too ignorant of climatic science to identify which claims are credible and which are absurd.

Thankfully, sources like DeSmogBlog and RealClimate put a lot of effort into rebutting faulty arguments that find purchase in the media.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

21 thoughts on “More misrepresentation of climate science”

  1. I find it interesting you can examine cases like this and not become completely disalusioned with the current state of democracy in America.

  2. Does the fact that people lie in the media mean a democracy is weak?

    If anything, the above reflects the poor state of scientific knowledge and education in the US.

  3. The standards of journalistic integrity that these lies imply does mean democracy is in trouble. Democracy needs a fair and independent press. These lies are not independent lies, they are part of structured deception.

  4. The remedy to this kind of deception should be better education, not some state clampdown on what people can say.

  5. “The remedy to this kind of deception should be better education, not some state clampdown on what people can say.”

    Who exactly is supposed to do this education? Grade 10 science class? It will take a while before the majority of the voting public has gone through post-global warming consensus high school science.

    In the real world, the media does much of what falls under “public civic education”.

  6. Clearly, education is not just high school.

    How would you suggest getting a media that reports the issue more responsibly? Anything that smacks of repression will reinforce the martyr persona that climate change deniers are already happy to adopt: “We’re like Galileo!”

  7. It’s a good question, I’ll have to think about it some more. My intuition is a partial solution might involve strictly limiting the size privately owned news companies could become, i.e. no corperation can own more than a single major newspaper or television station. It might be more difficult for corruption to be coordinated between owners if there were many more of them.

    A way of thinking about this is when someone owns a newspaper or news station, they “own” a part of the public discourse – and that there should be a maximum of the public discourse that any single controlling interest might control.

  8. Corporations opposed to climate change mitigation are experts at setting up false fronts: fake NGOs and ‘grassroots’ organizations that pretend to be defending the interests of working families, etc.

    I am not sure if limiting how many media outlets can be owned by one corporation would do anything to reduce that.

  9. Astroturfing
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Astroturfing is a word in English describing formal political, advertising, or public relations campaigns seeking to create the impression of being spontaneous “grassroots” behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass, AstroTurf.

    A basic explanation would be, if a grassroots movement is the collective efforts, on a local level, of dedicated people donating their time and efforts to further the cause of a political party or to help a candidate get elected, because they deem it to be good for the many, then Astroturfing (Astroturf being an artificial grass) is an artificial grassroots movement, one that is made to appear as though it is a real grassroots movement, but it is usually done to satify the desires of people or parties with interests, such as lobbyists or PACs, or other such group(s), and most often not at a local level.

  10. “Corporations opposed to climate change mitigation are experts at setting up false fronts: fake NGOs and ‘grassroots’ organizations that pretend to be defending the interests of working families, etc.”

    Can we stick to the existing misrepresentations of climate science? Can we stick to the they-don’t-deserve-to-be-called-journalists who have just blatently lied to the public? Yes, I know there are fake NGO’s and grassroots organizations – but how is that relevant here? What is relevant here is a total lack of journalistic integrity, which can’t exist unless there is some incentive. No one would freely become a journalist to give reports like this.

  11. Even rather good news sources often forget that warming is a trend where there is natural variation and randomness as well. The article isn’t actually bad, but people will get the wrong idea from the headline and introductory paragraphs.

    What happened to global warming?

    By Paul Hudson
    Climate correspondent, BBC News

    This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

    But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

  12. So , are you actually saying that this climate change misrepresentation if the week is an honest
    mistake? No. It’s flat out deception. the fact that there are other problems is not a response to my previous recommendation.

  13. “Even rather good news sources often forget that warming is a trend where there is natural variation and randomness as well.”

    No good news sources watching the lecture in question would “forget” this – since the talk in question was concerned with this exact topic. Anyone not interested in deceptively manipulating the public would not have made this mistake in this situation. The fact there are other situations where similar results are produced without obvious corruption, does not mean this is not an example of obvious corruption.

  14. I am saying that the BBC is a good news source that often reports well on climate, but even they fell victim to the notion that if temperatures aren’t rising every single year it somehow suggests that GHGs don’t cause climate change.

  15. The resemblance to the case at hand is superficial. Yes, the confusion is about the same topic, but here we have deception produced as a direct result of an explicit attempt to avoid such deception.

  16. The central fact is that most people still don’t understand the basics of climate science and, for the most part, the media isn’t helping.

    Some newspapers seem determined to actively confuse people. Others just don’t put enough energy into representing things accurately.

  17. The BBC asks “What happened to global warming?” during the hottest decade in recorded history!
    October 13, 2009

    Existential question of the day: How can Paul Hudson’s byline be “Climate correspondent, BBC News” when his ‘reporting‘ doesn’t correspond to the climate, which continues to warm?

    It is tiresome debunking yet another poor researched article by a media outlet that has historically had a great deal of credibility [see “NYT’s Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation”]. The BBC headline inanely asks “What happened to global warming?” Answer — it keeps on keepin’ on:

    * Very warm 2008 makes this the hottest decade in recorded history by far, according to NASA
    * Sorry deniers, Hadley Center and WMO say 2000s are easily the hottest decade in recorded history

  18. The science was in years ago. Hudson should try reading the literature or at least the summary of the literature in the 2007 IPCC report, “the largest and most detailed summary of the climate change situation ever undertaken, involving thousands of authors from dozens of countries,” which found

    * “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
    * “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    The “debate” over what is causing global warming has been ginned up by clever deniers and spun to the public by lazy or easily duped journalists.

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