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Just News and Muses

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 7:08 AM GMT on March 01, 2010

Just News and Muses :

It’s been very busy, and I have had some issues of keeping up, not to mention upkeep. In the climate world there has been a lot going on.

It was two weeks ago, Valentines, when there was a curious BBC interview of Phil Jones. The interview advertised that it featured questions gathered from “climate skeptics.” Of course, the interview is part of the continuing waterfall from the published emails from the Climate Research Unit. The questions in the interview read like a setup, and even in the best of cases, an interview with Dr. Jones on climate change and the credibility of the science of climate change is a no-win situation. In the situation where there is a persistent effort to discredit climate science, the scientists at the center of the email discussion are fundamentally powerless to advance their case. They are more than able to fuel the enemy. In the world of blog, Jones' interview was immediately all over the blogs (for example), with some of the headlines screaming that he had admitted that all climate science was flawed. (Untrue, of course). This is a prime example of the ability to use uncertainties as expressed and nuanced by a scientist to support any position, including disruption.

Jones' interview was all over the blogosphere. I asked my class on the Tuesday after the interview if they had paid attention to the interview and the response, and the answer was “no.” By the standards of the world this is a group of climate-interested people and this whole flash in the blogosphere went unnoted.

A little before Jones' interview I was a guest lecturer in a journalism class on environmental journalism. I shared the podium with Nolan Finley who is the Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit News. The Detroit News is the conservative leaning newspaper in Detroit. The discussion with Mr. Finley and the students focused around the decline of the outlets for rigorous journalism, and the rise of “point of view” journalism. One of the interesting facts of point of view journalism is that people read or listen only to the point of view they are predisposed to agree with. Hence, it contributes more and more to polarization and tribalism. Hence, it seems that all of the blogs about Jones' interview only fuel the rant, but does not reach out beyond their particular group of believers. (Yes, I am smart enough to know the same is true for this blog.)

This all raises big questions not only about the evolution of climate policy and the like, but the future of journalism and the free press - one of the corner stones of a functional democracy. But keeping it focused, there is an interesting discussion on Science Friday on where to get information about science. This is a take not only on the decline of rigorous journalism, but in particular the disappearance of the coverage of science in the general press. (And now the blog becomes important.)

And the real world goes on. NOAA announced its intention to develop a National Climate Service, in the spirit of the National Weather Service. This is envisioned to be an organization that provides climate information, and potentially its existence will be a step in de-politicization of climate science. More on the National Climate Service: Climate Service on Science Friday and from NOAA.

In the absence of comprehensive policy to address change in the U.S. the 2007 Supreme Court Decision that allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon dioxide becomes more important. As the EPA moves forward with the foundation to address climate change, some legislators are moving to block the EPA. ( see also) The prospect of regulation is an intense motivator for policy; companies and states don’t like the uncertain environment of regulation and litigation.

So the world moves on, some things that make a difference are happening. President Obama has announced a program to guarantee loans for building new nuclear power plants. (more details). And a group of Senators are looking to propose something different from a cap and trade market (more). These seem like good things to me.


And here is

Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.