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Ed Driscoll

The Balance “Between Being Effective, And Being Honest”

December 27th, 2008 - 2:24 pm

The Telegraph of England has an article titled, “2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved.” (Hey does that mean that the earlier 1970s-version of eco-paranoia, man-made global cooling is now back in style?) If so, one reason why is that the Internet makes it possible to go back in time and compare the predictions of the past with the current reality.

It also allows us to find earlier stories where scientists and journalists suggested that their peers in each profession ditch objectivity and play on the understandable fears of laymen. Flopping Aces has a long blog post written by Dr. Tim Ball, former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg highlighting one example of the latter technique from 1989. This is merely an excerpt:

E. R. Beadle said, “Half the work done in the world is to make things appear what they are not.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does this with purpose and great effect. They built the difference between appearance and reality into their process. Unlike procedure used elsewhere, they produce and release a summary report independently and before the actual technical report is completed. This way the summary gets maximum media attention and becomes the public understanding of what the scientists said. Climate science is made to appear what it is not. Indeed, it is not even what is in their Scientific Report.

The pattern of falsifying appearances began early. Although he works at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Stephen Schneider was heavily employed in the work of the IPCC as this biography notes.

Much of Schneider’s time is taken up by what he calls his “pro bono day job” for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He was a Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II of the IPCC from 1997 to 2001 and a lead author in Working Group I from 1994 to 1996. Currently, he is a Coordinating Lead Author for the controversial chapter on “Assessing Key Vulnerabilities and the Risks from Climate Change,” in short, defining “dangerous” climate change.” – Pubmedcentral.nih.gov

He continued this work by helping prepare the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) released in April 2007.

Schneider, among others, created the appearance that the Summary was representative of the Science Report. However, he provides an early insight into the thinking when speaking about global warming to Discovery magazine (October 1989) he said scientists need, “to get some broader based support, to capture the public’s imagination…that, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we may have…each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective, and being honest.” The last sentence is deeply disturbing-there is no decision required.

And that trend very much continues nearly twenty years later–legacy media trade publication Editor & Publisher actually ran an article last year titled, “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers.” My post about it from August of 2007 is found here; for non-subscribers of E&P, the text of the actual article can be read here.

But then, newspapers have gotten over objectivity on virtually all stories, not just climate change–with disastrous consequences.

(Via Maggie’s Farm.)

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