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The only way a reporter ought to look at a climate skeptic is down.
Alex Steffen, 27 Mar 09

Having wasted 20 years here in the U.S. on a completely non-factual "debate" about whether fossil fuels were implicated in climate change, it's a bit shocking to see this story by Azadeh Ensha, where an industry-funded spokesperson is allowed to get away with the statement, "It is beyond dispute that any connection between meat production and global warming is a false one."

As science journalists have been discussing for a few years now, he said/she said journalism around climate change (where industry groups are allowed to lie without direct factual refutation in the same story) is bad journalism: it puts the journalist and his/her organization in the role of serving an industry PR message, rather than the truth.

Ensha punts on her responsibility to reality check the industry message, merely quoting another source saying "This is what the food industry always does ... obfuscate without ever looking at facts." By failing to provide those facts, she leads a casual reader to believe that this is an actual debate.

But the industry statement here is simply not true. It is a lie. There's quite well-established science refuting it. Cows cause climate change, to put it simply. We know that.

Ms. Ensha's story is precisely the kind of cheap-shot "controversy" story that's landed us in the mess we're in. In this stage of the climate crisis it should have been beneath the Times to publish it, but even more importantly, it should have been beneath a reporter as smart as Ms. Ensha to let herself be used this way by writing it.

In contrast, check out Elizabeth Kolbert's excellent New Yorker post Donating to the Deniers, a skillful revelation of the anti-science reality behind the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, an industry front group that claims to want strong action on climate change, but who's member companies have been strong supporters of politicians and causes which deny the reality of climate change.

In this day and age, the only way a reporter ought to look at a climate skeptic is down. That's doubly true when the skeptic is getting paid by an industry involved in melting the ice caps.

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Comments

You're a reporter, which tells me you don't know much about science. Judging by the phrase "who's member companies", you don't even know basic grammar. Whose, not who's.
I have a Ph. D. in meteorology. For that reason, I'm definitely a climate sceptic. I note you repeat the silly, self-important nonsense that anyone who dares disagree with you and your arrogance must be paid by someone in industry. Even if you can't understand science, you should be able to understand data. Worldwide satellite measurements tell us temperature doesn't correlate well with CO2. There's been no warming for years; now temps are going down.
But don't let facts change your mind.


Posted by: luckyleif on 28 Mar 09

I have a Ph. D. in meteorology. For that reason, I'm definitely a climate sceptic.

Funny how many climate change deniers are meteorologists (or retired meteorologists). Not to be too high-handed, but when your profession can't predict the weather 24 hours out -- such as the "washout" we were supposed to get this weekend in New York -- maybe you oughtn't be skeptical about the results in other fields.

(Written like a true physicist, I know. Guilty as charged.)

But seriously, even a weatherman should be able to understand that a trend of half a degree a decade can be temporarily overwhelmed by short-term cycles such as ENSO and random year-to-year variations. And someone with a PhD ought to know that the "temperatures are going down" line is not supported by actual data.

See http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.lrg.gif

I work as a journalist, and feel pretty lucky that my bosses don't expect me to give equal time to every crackpot and shill whenever I write about global warming. I'm careful about how I present the material, since I don't believe that the scientific consensus has embraced the most dire of predictions (though things are trending that way) but that to me is better journalism and better truth-telling than setting an extreme claim against an outright lie and congratulating myself for my objectivity. I don't do my readers any favors by presenting falsehoods to them.


Posted by: jlw on 30 Mar 09

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