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.