March 13, 2007

Broad Irony

The first rule when criticizing popular science presentations for inaccuracies should be to double check any 'facts' you use. It is rather ironic then that William Broad's latest piece on Al Gore plays just as loose with them as he accuses Gore of doing.

We criticized William Broad previously for a piece that misrepresented the scientific understanding of the factors that drive climate change over millions of years, systematically understating the scientifically-established role of greenhouse gases, and over-stating the role of natural factors including those as speculative as cosmic rays. In this piece, Broad attempts to discredit Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" by exaggerating the legitimate, but minor, criticisms of his treatment of the science by experts on climate science, and presenting specious or unsubstantiated criticisms by a small number of the usual, well-known contrarians who wouldn't agree even if Gore read aloud from the latest IPCC report.

This article is very disappointing, not just because it gets things so wrong, but because it misses an opportunity to address a much more substantive issue. It is inevitable that working scientists will find popular presentations of their work lacking in depth and nuance (after all, depth and nuance are what we do!). Whatever you may think about Al Gore's movie, it is indisputable that it has raised awareness of the issues and left a substantial part of the public hungry for more information. That hunger can only be fed by people who are closer to the science than Gore, and it is inevitable that the AIT will be used as a springboard or contrast for further presentations. A better article would have investigated how that is happening and how that is affecting public awareness of the science. Unfortunately, this article does nothing to improve public awareness, and that is deeply ironic.
Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt
Edited by WestTexasBliss
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Global Warming Debate

Along with Richard Somerville (UC San Diego) and Brenda Ekwurzel (Union of Concerned Scientists), I'll be appearing at a debate on Wednesday (March 14th) about whether Global Warming is a crisis (or not). That might have gone without notice (like most of my public talks), except that our opponents are Michael Crichton, Richard Lindzen and Philip Stott. The preliminary position statements (from me and from Philip Stott) are available on the ABCnews site. It's sold out, but the proceedings will be broadcast on NPR (for instance, WNYC 820 AM on Friday, March 23, 2007 at 2PM) and there will be a podcast (though I don't know if it will stream live). There's an online poll as well for what that's worth.

I'm quite looking forward to this, but I have to admit to conflicting thoughts. Does participating help perpetuate the idea that global warming per se is still up for debate? Is this kind of rhetorical jousting useful for clarifying issues of science that most people there will only superficially grasp? Can this be entertaining and educational? Or does it just validate the least serious opposition? Is it simply a waste of time that would be better spent blogging?
I'd be interested in any thoughts people might have.

Swindled: Carl Wunsch responds

The following letter from Carl Wunsch is intended to clarify his views on global warming in general, and the The Great Global Warming Swindle which misrepresented them.

Partial Response to the London Channel 4 Film "The Global Warming Swindle"

I believe that climate change is real, a major threat, and almost surely has a major human-induced component. But I have tried to stay out of the `climate wars' because all nuance tends to be lost, and the distinction between what we know firmly, as scientists, and what we suspect is happening, is so difficult to maintain in the presence of rhetorical excess. In the long run, our credibility as scientists rests on being very careful of, and protective of, our authority and expertise.

The science of climate change remains incomplete. Some elements are so firmly based on well-understood principles, or for which the observational record is so clear, that most scientists would agree that they are almost surely true (adding CO2 to the atmosphere is dangerous; sea level will continue to rise,...). Other elements remain more uncertain, but we as scientists in our roles as informed citizens believe society should be deeply concerned about their possibility: failure of US midwestern precipitation in 100 years in a mega-drought; melting of a large part of the Greenland ice sheet, among many other examples.

March 01, 2007

Al Gore's energy bill…

I don't believe this; this is it? Al Gore's energy bill… This has ExxonMobil's finger prints all over it. This is a page out of Karl Rove's play book. Let me see if I have this straight. ExxonMobil $$$, Karl Rove's play book and Drew Johnson's Stink Tank and the best they can come up with is Al Gore's energy bill! This is a spin if I ever seen one. If, you ExxonMobil ($$$), Karl Rove (play book), Drew Johnson (Stink Tank) are going to have me believe that Al Gore is the bad guy, you better think again. I have seen what you did to people like McCain, John Kerry, Joseph C. Wilson and Valerie Plame. Typical smear campaign. Tell me Drew Johnson what is your energy bill? Where do you get your funding from? Maybe someone should start digging in your trash-can. Let me go over this again, ExxonMobil $$$, Karl Rove's play book, Drew Johnson's Stink Tank and Al Gore, devoted 30 years of his life to educating people about global warming.

You can attack the messenger but the message remains the same". Mr. Gore's fuel bills failed to tell the whole picture. All the energy used for the Nashville home came from a green power provider to the Tennessee Valley that draws its energy from solar, wind-powered and methane gas supplies, among other sources.

Laurie David, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, said that the furore was only to be expected. A leading global warming campaigner, she is familiar with criticism of this kind having been called a "jetstream liberal" for using private planes. "What this lame attempt to discredit Al Gore tells me is that we are winning.