Friday, February 02, 2007

Irresponsible Journalism

Today's buzzword on the environment is "unequivocal", the term used by the new climate change report to describe the evidence of global warming. It's simply amazing that The National Post has the following as their lead online story:
The real deal?
Against the grain: Some scientists deny global warming exists

The basic thesis: Dr. Shariv's digging led him to the surprising discovery that there is no concrete evidence -- only speculation -- that man-made greenhouse gases cause global warming.

Why is The National Post giving credibility to objectively ridiculous propositions? The debate is over, finni, done. There is no journalistic motive to tell the "other side"- it has been de-bunked, discredited, relegated to the fringes, completely irrelevant to the discussion. It is in fact irresponsible to continually give a platform to nonsense. The National Post is willingly confusing the question, acting as though we are in the point, counter-point stage that demands balance. We don't have time for this crap, and any paper that finds it necessary to elevate crazy ramblings is nothing more than a useless rag.


Olaf said...


The debate is over, finni, done. There is no journalistic motive to tell the "other side"- it has been de-bunked, discredited, relegated to the fringes, completely irrelevant to the discussion.

I mean, I agree that there doesn't seem to be much reason to deny the preponderance of scientific evidence, and I agree that the Posts article is inappropriate all things considered, but if it's so "unequivocal", why did the scientists use the 90% number? 90% is not unequivocal. 100% is.

Haven't we been told for a couple years now that absolutely no credible scientist disagrees with the science (eg. Al Gores 0 peer reviewed articles denying)? Shouldn't the number have been 99, or 100%, if the debate is over?

In short, I don't think the debate is done; established "science" has been debunked before. It is and likely always will be a point of contention, especially regarding not whether, but to what degree, humans affect climate. Anyways, I just have difficulty saying that people shouldn't be allowed to talk about things because scientists are "90%" sure.

Again, the Post shouldn't be publishing the "findings" of one scientist against the findings of thousands. But you shouldn't be telling people that it is somehow no longer grounds for discussion (if that was your intent, with your over, finni, done statement).

Steve V said...


"Even doubling the amount of CO2 by 2100, for example, "will not dramatically increase the global temperature," Dr. Shaviv states. Put another way: "Even if we halved the CO2 output, and the CO2 increase by 2100 would be, say, a 50% increase relative to today instead of a doubled amount, the expected reduction in the rise of global temperature would be less than 0.5C. This is not significant."

He is denying CO2 as cause, that is seperate from cow farts or humans :) The timing of this publication is embarrassing, this isn't journalistic fairness.

Anonymous said...

Thankfullly the NaPo editor decided to pull the photo of Oil Executives wearing World War II concentration camp prison clothes with stars on their chest... it wasn't that they didn't think it accurate, just that they thought it detracted from the real tragedy of this poor one scientist who is being ganged up on.

Oh and Steve, a possible topic for your blog?
One minority gov't, with the NDP's support led to a new agreement on nationally funded child care program; led to a historic accord, signed by all provinces and territories, to deal with First Nations issues; led to major strides in getting a slow-footed gov't to implement programs towards the Kyoto Accord; led to the lowering the income tax for middle and low income canadians.
A year later, different gov't, same party bucking them up - the reward is a $30m donation to a new park in BC; the flushing of billions of dollars from corporate, senior and union savings portfolios in income trusts; resulted in the re-staging of the former gov'ts climate change programs, minus any admission or support of a global Koyoto approach; not one child care space created, but $100 taxable payouts to parents of children; severe cuts to funding of women's centres, museums and education scholarships. Oh yeah, and the NdP can also take credit in there being no Kelowna accord or Child Care.
The story of 2 NdP parties? Or the makings of the next Toronto Maple Leafs general manager?

WesternGrit said...

One needs to take a closer look at the amount of shares in big oil companies held publicly by the combined ownership group of the CanWest-Global (Fox light) consortium. One will quickly see that these wankers are simply taking care of whichever side their bread is buttered on.

Objective reporting for private news agencies stopped existing the day large corporate advertisers began sponsoring the evening news. The last few reliable news agencies in the world are those owned by the public in Western Democracies - ex: BBC, CBC.

Olaf said...


The timing of this publication is embarrassing, this isn't journalistic fairness.

I granted this. I was just saying that the debate will likely never be "done, finni, over".

Steve V said...


I guess I mean done, as it relates to the mainstream debate.

ottlib said...


It was during the 1960's that a general consensus was reached in the medical community identifying the link between smoking tobacco and cancer.

However, Big Tobacco produced its own scientists who fought hard against that consensus. We all know that BT finally lost that argument for good but it took another decade or so after that initial consensus was reached.

I believe we are at the initial consensus stage with regard to ghg emissions, climate change and the link between the two. Expect Big Oil, and other deniers to continue the fight for at least another decade, trotting out any scientist and/or hack that will back their fight.

And I guess we can put the National Post into the deniers column. (Quel surprise!)

wayward son said...

"but if it's so "unequivocal", why did the scientists use the 90% number? 90% is not unequivocal. 100% is."

I believe that the percentages used by the report for "very likely" is 90 - 99%, but the media seems to be using 90% with a lot of frequency.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I would disagree for the simple reason that on no issue do I think debate from the other side be shut down no matter how wrong I think they are. What is irresponsible is to point out these scientist are a small minority. After all if we say certain things are decided and just ignore the other side, the danger I worry about is we might start ignoring the other side when they are right.

In this case they are almost certainly wrong, but I worry this attitude sets a dangerous precendent

Steve V said...


In this age of the new media, you can never "ignore" the contrary opinion. Look at all the 9/11 theories, without a stitch of MSM coverage. The point I make, The National Post is doing a whole series on the dissenters, while we simulateneously have agreement from mainstream science. Leave these guys on the fringe where they belong, we don't have time to waste giving the deniers more useless fodder.

Anonymous said...

Looks as if nobody has answered Olaf's original question: if it's so "unequivocal", why did the scientists use the 90% number? 90% is not unequivocal. 100% is..

So I'll take a shot. I'm no scientist, just an enthusiast, so this is from a layman's perspective.

First, scientists are a cautious lot to begin with, and this 90% confidence level represents the consensus of all 2500-odd scientists who contributed to the report. See what that means? Even the most skeptical and hard-nosed and I'm-from-Missouri-so-show-me types in that 2500 agreed that 90% is the minimum confidence level. The "actual" confidence level, which I guess would be the median, would be much higher.

Second, no honest scientist would ever, ever say that a prediction, or a projection, is 100% certain. No such beast in scientific discourse, because there is always the chance that something new, something as yet undiscovered, or something discovered but not properly understood, could change the theory and therefore the prediction.

But with this particular prediction, these 2500 scientists are saying that the evidence supporting the theory is so overwhelming, and the evidence against it is so vanishingly small (or in some opinions completely absent), that, taking a deep breath, they are collectively prepared to declare it unequivocal.

And that means you can take it to the bank.