Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Scientists May Cringe

Profiling a 16 year old nonscientist who claims that human activity is not a factor in global warming, David Kastenbaum flatters himself, saying "some scientists may cringe to hear this story." Actually, anyone who wants to think about the complexities of climate disruption will cringe to hear Tuesday morning's sloppy feature offered up as part of NPR's series on "climate connections."

The story employs the odd vocabulary of "some scientists" and "mainstream scientists" to legitimize the type of junk science usually offered up by ExxonMobil. Kastenbaum surely knows that it's not just "some scientists;" it's a consensus of scientists that accepts human activity as a major contributor to global warming. And "mainstream scientists"? As opposed to who? By "mainstream," does he mean scientists on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or at the National Academy of Sciences, or just those environmental advocates over at the Union of Concerned Scientists?

You have to love how Kastenbaum honors the science deniers with the term "skeptics." We're told that the girl being featured "has a quality you want in a scientist, she is skeptical" and that "skeptics loved the web site" she constructed to present her views. Skeptics? I guess it's those same famous skeptics who have debunked evolution and Wikipedia!

Kastenbaum's piece (and most anti-intellectuals) also exploits the complexities and open nature of scientific hypotheses to imply that everything about a theory is up in the air. Near the end of the piece he tells us "the truth is, for people who want to try to get down into the details, climate change science can get very hairy - there are oceans to consider, which can absorb heat, water vapor, clouds..." and that "scientists disagree on some of the details..." So?

As one reader of this blog pointed out, the areas of disagreement would have made an interesting feature story (including Q & A with with actual climate scientists). Instead NPR chose to focus on a social phenomena of the decidedly anti-scientific culture existing in the US now, and to treat this particular example as a legitimate challenge to serious scientific inquiry. Bushco would be proud.

7 comments:

larry, dfh said...

In fact, it is the rise in ocean temperatures which most alarms climate scientists, and may be responsible for the loss of living coral throughout the world.
I didn't hear the piece, but it sounds like it comes directly from the white house. It's not that they are going to be gaining listerners with shit like this, they're just running a propaganda mill. I don't think NPR is all that concerned about increasing listeners, their main purpose, apparently, is to put forth the party line.

darrelplant said...

And so handily timed with this week's release of the intelligent design movie from Ben Stein!

Porter Melmoth said...

I noted that the lead-in to this story purported to legitimize the frivolity to come by stating that 'polls show' a high percentage of Americans have doubts about the human role in global warming.

Anybody can say anything they want while acquitting themselves with the old 'polls show' line.

Liberality said...

and the tobacco companies would be proud as well--pages taken right out of their book which is to create enough doubt so that nothing is done, at least for awhile. stupid. with climate change we don't have awhile to convince people who have their heads up their backsides to agree with 99% of the scientists of the world.

georgem said...

I commend the girl for researching this issue. However, why should anyone value her opinion over the opinions of scientists who are academically more qualified, and who have much more experience?
I think it is improper for her to publish her results on a website before any of her conclusions are published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. If she is really serious, she should try to get her work published in a scientific journal. Until then, she should not be taken seriously.

big!pink!fuzzy!bunny! said...

Perhaps someone should point the brave lil' lady to those before/after shots of some of the Arctic regions that have all but melted away. Whatever the cause (suuuuure, deny that it ain't trapped CO2 - Santa may come down yer chimney too) it ain't very purty.

Keep it up, NoPR - I hope you're losing fans by the day.

Thursday said...

Arctic losses are one thing - one distant, hard-to-imagine thing for a lot of folks. I say, hit closer to home:

What do cows in Montana drink? Oil shipped down from Alberta? Don't think so!

Where is all the the water going, kids? Think one or two degrees won't make a difference? Check your reservoirs and guess again...