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February 22 2012

23:48

Evaluation shows "Faked" Heartland Climate Strategy Memo is Authentic

A line-by-line evaluation of the Climate Strategy memo, which the Heartland Institute has repeatedly denounced as a "fake" shows no “obvious and gross misstatements of fact,” as Heartland has alleged. On the contrary, the Climate Strategy document is corroborated by Heartland’s own material and/or by its allies and employees.

It also uses phrases, language and, in many cases, whole sentences that were taken directly from Heartland’s own material. Only someone who had previous access to all of that material could have prepared the Climate Strategy in its current form.

In all the circumstances – taking into account Peter Gleick’s explanation of the origin of the Heartland documents, and in direct contradiction of Heartland’s stated position – DeSmogBlog has concluded that the Climate Strategy memo is authentic. 

read more

June 02 2011

13:44

Will the IPCC Be Ready to Communicate About Its Fifth Assessment Report?

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world authority on the science of climate. But at the same time, it has been increasingly beset by controversies that call into question its approach, and its preparedness, when it comes to communication.

Essentially, the IPCC releases highly technical reports, fairly infrequently, that get an initial flurry of mainstream media attention and then get attacked viciously until the next report comes out. And when attacked, IPCC has opted for an ill advised strategy of “hunkering down,” as Andrew Revkin puts it. Indeed, following “GlacierGate”—when a very real error was found in one of IPCC’s reports—IPCC came off as defensive and was very slow to admit the mistake.

Following the various “-Gates” of 2009 and 2010, a cry went out in many circles that we need to improve climate science communication. As a result, all kinds of communication innovations are now going forward, many of which are ably summarized by Revkin in a recent article in the Bulletin of the World Meteorological Organization (which was central to creating the IPCC itself in 1988).

But where does IPCC fit in the context of this innovation wave? It still seems to be dragging.<!--break--> Revkin reports the following:

As the IPCC prepares its Fifth Assessment Report, it does so with what, to my eye, appears to be an utterly inadequate budget for communicating its findings and responding in an agile way to nonstop public scrutiny facilitated by the Internet. I would love to think that the countries that created the climate panel could also contribute to boosting the panel’s capacity for transparency, responsiveness and outreach.

I made this point recently in an e-mail exchange with three leaders of the climate panel’s next assessment – the chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri, and Thomas Stocker and Christopher Field, scientists respectively co-leading the reports on climate science and impacts.

They all agreed that more resources and a clear communications strategy are badly needed. “Despite several years of highlighting the need for effective communications and outreach, we have really made very little headway, and I know that we cannot delay action in this area much longer,” Dr. Pachauri wrote. “If we do, it would be at our own peril.”

Since Revkin wrote this, there is at least one positive sign. The IPCC just released a “Communications Strategy,” drafted at its May Abu Dhabi session, which says many of the right things. The organization will apparently be hiring a Senior Communications Manager and trying to coordinate a mechanism for rapid response. And there is much else in the document to praise—but I also note the following:

There are significant resource implications in communicating IPCC work effectively, and the Panel will require regular updates on the financial implications of implementing the strategy. 

Revkin puts it a lot more bluntly: “without more resources from the 194 countries that sponsor the effort, I see scant prospect for concrete improvement.

It appears that the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report is due out in 2013 and 2014. So basically, the IPCC has about two years to really get together a serious communications mechanism for the moment when it is going to be needed most. Let us hope that the current strategy document is only the beginning, and that dollars will follow good intentions.

The IPCC, like every scientific organization, needs to understand that the work is not over just because you’ve finished doing the science and published it. In fact, the work has only begun.

November 27 2010

03:13

2010 In Review: Scientists and Journalists Take Stock and Share Lessons Learned

 

There's no doubt about it. It’s been a challenging year for climate science and climate scientists, for journalists, and for the public. A string of legislative and regulatory disappointments coupled with dizzying political spin have left many more confused than ever about the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change. 

It's been a particularly grim year following the Citizens United decision that ushered in a new era of rampant electoral spending on climate change denial; the U.S. midterm elections produced a Senate filled with climate change skeptics and deniers; a failed climate bill or two, and after the Copenhagen talks failed to produce any real results.  In addition, many pundits and analysts are giving us good reason to believe the U.S. won't see a climate bill for two years, and little reason to believe that real climate progress will be made in Cancun next week. it seems there's a lot of reason to feel distressed.  

Last week marked a year since the so-called Climategate "scandal" sent climate change deniers into an echo chamber frenzy.  Bud Ward and John Wihbey aptly note that to even call it “climategate” lends it credence that is undeserved.  But, it is important that we try to learn lessons from it.   This certainly won't be the last difficult year for the climate change movement; an increasingly challenging political environment promises more interesting times ahead, both for the science and for the scientists who devote their lives to the subject.  In a nutshell, we've got our work cut out for us. <!--break-->

In this great two part series from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, Ward and Wihbey explore what climate scientists have learned in the last year, and share what the reporters whose responsibility it is to share and help evaluate their findings have learned. 

Peter H. Gleik of the Pacific Institute writes,

...there is an improved realization of how impossible it is to keep the climate science questions and debates separate from the political and ideological debates. And I hope we’ve learned the importance of communicating accurately and constantly. Being passive in the face of political repression, ideological misuse of science, and policy ignorance moves us in the wrong direction. I would like to think the community has learned that depending on the “honesty” and “impartiality” of journalism is not enough … that without strong input from climate scientists, the wrong stories get reported, with bad information, and ideological bias.

Similarly, Andrew Revkin writes, 

If science media tried to sustain coverage of science (including climate science) as a process, including the ugly parts, the public might be less apt to be surprised by occasional revelations of conflict like those illuminated through the batch of hacked/liberated (pick your adjective depending on your worldview) e-mails and files.

Beware the lure of the front-page thought in gauging developments in complicated science pointing to a rising human influence on climate, lest you end up giving readers whiplash. Try rigorously to include context on the overall state of knowledge when framing stories on science around conflict, given that conflict is a constant in science.

Develop patience. The story of humanity’s entwined climate and energy challenges will outlive you. No single treaty, meeting, e-mail hack, IPCC report, or climate bill is a keystone.

Read on about climate scientists' and journalists inspiring and thoughtful lessons and ruminations on the 'climate' of climate change in the last year at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media (Part IPart II). 

 

February 16 2010

17:59

A Look Back on Climate Disinformation

Writing on his Dot.Earth blog, the New York Times' Andy Revkin passes on a long and insightful quote from the historian Dr. Spencer Weart, to looks back from a dark future to analyse what happened in the early part of the 20th century to bring the world to ruin.

It's well worth the read and is something of a credit to Revkin, who quoted the passage regardless of references like: "... the media coverage represented a new low" and "even in leading newspapers like The New York Times, critics with a long public record for animosity and exaggeration were quoted as experts."

But then for most of his career, Revkin has been a little like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, fallible, but still the a leading voice for reason - at his paper and among most North American newspapers.

<!--break-->

December 03 2009

23:28

Emails Trigger Criticism of Media Performance

Thacker Whacks the New York Times

The pressure building over the hacked East Anglia emails came to a head today when much-lauded science journalist Paul Thacker took a quite-public whack at New York Times environment report Andrew Revkin (inset) for the quality of the coverage so far.

In a testy open letter, reprinted below,Thacker expresses some of the frustration that the science community is feeling, particularly given how clearly the email "scandal" is being served up as "evidence" that the science behind climate change has been seriously compromised.

You can judge for yourself the quality of Thacker's critique overall, but on one point, at least, he catches Revkin pretty dead on. Criticizing Revkin for giving the climate deniers a podium in the NYT, Thacker says:

"More than a couple of your sources have been discredited so many times that I don't even know if it's responsible or professional to quote from them."

Ah, clean shot, Mr. Thacker. <!--break-->For example, in his Nov. 20 story about the emails, Revkin wrote this:

“ 'This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud,' said Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist who has long faulted evidence pointing to human-driven warming and is criticized in the documents."

Yet nowhere in the story did he mention that, perhaps next only to Dr. S. Fred Singer, Michaels is the most discredited voice in "science," so often has he been tied to the fossil fuel industry and so long it has been since he actually committed anything that might reasonably be called science.

We have all said in the past that everyone is entitled to have a voice, but New York Times readers should also be entitled to full disclosure when one of its leading environmental reporter's colorful commentators is, in fact, a paid flak for industry and not a practicing scientist at all.

Thacker may have gone a little over the top in this criticism, but it's relevant to hold the country's best and most prominent journalists to the kind of standard that - usually - they would expect of others.

The Thacker letter is below.

Andy,

I'm concerned that a great deal of your "reporting" on the leaked emails has been below par. I have to put the term reporting in quotes, for reasons laid out below.

I think the most disappointing thing for me was finding out that there was no "scandal" with the Jones email about possibly redefining peer review to keep a couple of garbage studies out of the IPCC. Peer review is all we've got, so that email kind of alarmed me. Until I learned that those studies did in fact appear. So there was no scandal. Despite the alarms and innuendo raised by several people you have quoted from. But I didn't learn this from the New York Times; I found this in an editorial in Nature.

An editorial, Andy! Since when is it the job of editorial writers to uncover and report the facts? When did this start happening in American journalism? I've always thought it was their job to write opinions based on facts uncovered by actual reporters.

There's also this constant theme you've been drumming on about "transparency." Maybe we should also have a climate science that is "just" or has "diversity"? I can keep reeling off the platitudes and bromides, but I'm cynical from living in Washington. What hasn't come out from you, are the pros and cons of open versus confidential peer review. Or the fact that some of these databases and algorithms are proprietary. You just leave those issues hanging out there. What we get is some simplistic "clarion call" for transparency. Okay. Who is against something like that? My mother doesn't understand climate change or read the New York Times, but I'm pretty certain you've won her over.

The only real issue out there is if Jones did something illegal by calling for the deletion of emails. We have a whole lot of innuendo from people in your reporting about this, but nothing substantive. Were any emails deleted? If so, what are the FOI rules in England and how do they apply in the case of Jones? That second question would be very simple for you to answer....if you just did some reporting.

And you've show this trend with sources and "experts" who are most charitably described as tertiary or
quaternary figures in climate science. More than a couple of your sources have been discredited so many times that I don't even know if it's responsible or professional to quote from them. But you're the expert in this area.

When I spent my own time, maybe 20 minutes going through some of the emails, I stumbled across a couple with paranoid scientists worried that data would be skewed by denialists and the resulting controversy played up in the press. Now why would they feel like that?

You seem to have really lowered the bar in favor of controversy and entertainment. Okay. If that's the direction where journalism is going, if what really needs to happen is to write stories to drive internet traffic, then so be it.

But I'm not reading you and thinking Pulitzer Prize. I'm thinking Saturday Night Live. A skit from the eighties with Martin Short playing an affected, yakky talk show host: "World War Two. It wasn't a war, and the whole world didn't participate. Discuss amongst yourselves...."

I hope that next year you start over with the type of reporting you did in years past.


Have a nice day,
Paul

<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->
<!--[endif]-->

Thacker Whacks the New York Times

The pressure building over the hacked East Anglia emails came to a head today when much-lauded science journalist Paul Thacker took a quite-public whack at New York Times environment report Andrew Revkin (inset) for the quality of the coverage so far.

In a testy open letter, reprinted below,Thacker expresses some of the frustration that the science community is feeling, particularly given how clearly the email "scandal" is being served up as "evidence" that the science behind climate change has been seriously compromised.

You can judge for yourself the quality of Thacker's critique overall, but on one point, at least, he catches Revkin pretty dead on. Criticizing Revkin for giving the climate deniers a podium in the NYT, Thacker says:

"More than a couple of your sources have been discredited so many times that I don't even know if it's responsible or professional to quote from them."

 

Andy,

I'm concerned that a great deal of your "reporting" on the leaked emails has been below par. I have to put the term reporting in quotes, for reasons laid out below.

I think the most disappointing thing for me was finding out that there was no "scandal" with the Jones email about possibly redefining peer review to keep a couple of garbage studies out of the IPCC. Peer review is all we've got, so that email kind of alarmed me. Until I learned that those studies did in fact appear. So there was no scandal. Despite the alarms and innuendo raised by several people you have quoted from. But I didn't learn this from the New York Times; I found this in an editorial in Nature.

An editorial, Andy! Since when is it the job of editorial writers to uncover and report the facts? When did this start happening in American journalism? I've always thought it was their job to write opinions based on facts uncovered by actual reporters.

There's also this constant theme you've been drumming on about "transparency." Maybe we should also have a climate science that is "just" or has "diversity"? I can keep reeling off the platitudes and bromides, but I'm cynical from living in Washington. What hasn't come out from you, are the pros and cons of open versus confidential peer review. Or the fact that some of these databases and algorithms are proprietary. You just leave those issues hanging out there. What we get is some simplistic "clarion call" for transparency. Okay. Who is against something like that? My mother doesn't understand climate change or read the New York Times, but I'm pretty certain you've won her over.

The only real issue out there is if Jones did something illegal by calling for the deletion of emails. We have a whole lot of innuendo from people in your reporting about this, but nothing substantive. Were any emails deleted? If so, what are the FOI rules in England and how do they apply in the case of Jones? That second question would be very simple for you to answer....if you just did some reporting.

And you've show this trend with sources and "experts" who are most charitably described as tertiary or
quaternary figures in climate science. More than a couple of your sources have been discredited so many times that I don't even know if it's responsible or professional to quote from them. But you're the expert in this area.

When I spent my own time, maybe 20 minutes going through some of the emails, I stumbled across a couple with paranoid scientists worried that data would be skewed by denialists and the resulting controversy played up in the press. Now why would they feel like that?

You seem to have really lowered the bar in favor of controversy and entertainment. Okay. If that's the direction where journalism is going, if what really needs to happen is to write stories to drive internet traffic, then so be it.

But I'm not reading you and thinking Pulitzer Prize. I'm thinking Saturday Night Live. A skit from the eighties with Martin Short playing an affected, yakky talk show host: "World War Two. It wasn't a war, and the whole world didn't participate. Discuss amongst yourselves...."

I hope that next year you start over with the type of reporting you did in years past.


Have a nice day,
Paul

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