Desmog Blog posted an excellent piece calling for the various media groups to officially apologise and make corrections within their articles over the hacked university emails following the investigation into “Climategate” by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Clive Hamilton also wrote an excellent piece that can be found here, which went into more detail of the findings.
I personally couldn’t agree more and feel that everyone else should also make the demand for media outlets to be held accountable for their misinformation, as they themselves demanded of the scientist involved.
As Morgan Goodwin writes; “Legitimate news organizations have standards of accuracy to uphold and should correct the record.”
What sparked off my desire to write so much of late was a weekend of debate with family members who were entirely educated on the subject of climate science by the media, and due to the doubt industry, were incredibly sceptical of the whole field. They also thought passive smoking did no harm (oh, people like Nick Minchin would be proud!).
When I mentioned my training and field of work the response was, “Oh, so you must know that all this climate change is nonsense then?”
Once, I had a door-knocker who, when I mentioned my work in biology, replied, “Oh, so you must know that evolution is rubbish then?”
…I don’t like being so heavily argumentative in general, however, when I witness such things, I cannot help but plead to logic and commonsense…
On climate science, we have the knowledge that;
- CO2 is a greenhouse gas, very important to our survival as it has the physical properties to “trap heat” in our atmosphere;
- we are changing land use which reduces the recapture of CO2 and mining buried fossilised forests, which we then burn and pump millions of years of CO2 collection back into the atmosphere, noticeably increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere;
- we are quite clearly seeing an annual loss of ice mass at Greenland and the Arctic; and,
- we know that more than 30% of the CO2 released by our activities is taken up by the oceans, decreasing pH which may be bad news for many oceans species (Pelejero, et al. 2010; Paleo-perspectives on ocean acidification, which I found here).
It seems a no-brainer that our actions are causing damage and that we know enough to both see what’s happening and to take steps to be more sustainable. We are accountable for what we do and will have no excuse for inaction to future generations.
As communicators to the general public, media outlets should be ethical and moral with their representations of events or, as we see, propaganda such as is sprouted by many people who deny climate science, is taken as legitimate and unfairly damage the reputations of hardworking scientist. At Climate Shifts they make a point that many of the sceptics themselves lack scientific credibility (I think I’ll probably reference to this fairly often as it’s a point I like to make). Many of them are taken to have authority on climate science and trot around the world labelling climate scientists whatever will scare the audience (Minchin puts climate science in with de-industrialising communism and Christopher Monkton has, on a number of occasions, made Nazi comments in relation to climate science, to name two such individuals). Unfortunately, a number of respectable scientists have been forced into public debates with such people which, unfortunately seems gives them some sort of borrowed credentials without ever deserving them. We, as the general public, allow this to occur and media outlets that indulge in promoting such individuals make themselves little more than trash entertainment.
The whole “Climategate” situation has without a doubt caused a great deal of damage to the trust that the public have in the science community and the two groups largely behind this are the media and the climate change doubt machine. Morgan makes the point that there will never be an apology made by the latter group, but certainly we should expect better from the former.
The various examples made by both Morgan and Clive, as well as the countless others that have jumped on the Climategate truck, branding pitchforks and torches should be at least asked to do what’s right by both apologising for their baseless accusations and correcting the errors in their statements. Those who do so should continue to be part of what is worth reading. Those who don’t obviously expose themselves as agents of doubt and should be ignored as such so that we can get on with addressing those problems mentioned above as well as the myriad of other issues related with sustainable practices.
Let’s hope the days of the investigative journalist are not over; we still require honest writers willing to go to the front line and report the truth of the situation, not a lot of puppets who cannot sense the change in their climate-controlled shoeboxes.