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Mon, 2011-01-17 06:16Chris Mooney
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Petroleum Geologists and Climate Change, Revisited

The last time I found myself paying attention to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)–which calls itself “the world’s largest professional geological society”–the year was 2006. At the time, AAPG had caused something of an uproar by giving its “journalism award” to the late Michael Crichton’s anti-global warming novel State of Fear. This triggered a variety of criticisms–including this one by the council of the American Quaternary Association, remarking that “In bestowing its 2006 Journalism Award on Crichton, AAPG has crossed the line from  scientific professionalism to political advocacy. In our opinion, the group should be upfront about its new status.” (Later, the AAPG changed the prize’s name to the “Geosciences in the Media” award, which certainly removes one criticism–if not others.)

You can’t say the Crichton award was inconsistent: To this day, AAPG remains an organization that questions the seriousness of human caused climate change.

Wed, 2011-01-12 06:27Chris Mooney
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The House Anti-Science Committee?

The House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology certainly isn’t the most powerful in Congress. It doesn’t wield the budgetary clout of Appropriations. It doesn’t oversee massive agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services.

But it’s a historic fixture of postwar, science-centered America—a committee originally formed after the Soviet launch of Sputnik, and one that today oversees the major research agencies: NASA, NOAA, NSF, and numerous others. For much of its history, whichever party controlled Congress, the committee was therefore run by a legislator with a sympathetic understanding of the scientific community—leaders like George Brown on the Democratic side, and Sherwood Boehlert for the Republicans.

That’s why it’s pretty alarming that the committee’s current leadership appears highly unsympathetic to the views of the U.S. scientific community, and particularly U.S. climate science researchers.

Mon, 2011-01-10 12:11Chris Mooney
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Watching Fox News Can Be Hazardous to Your Facts

In mid December, you may recall, Media Matters exposed an email from Fox News editor Bill Sammon instructing his reporters to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” It was no surprise that Fox was guilty of misrepresenting the science on climate change—anyone who has watched the channel cover the subject has seen this—but it was nevertheless appalling to find the goal so blatantly stated.

But there’s been less discussion of a finding that closely accompanied this revelation. In a survey late last year, Stanford political psychologist Jon Krosnick found that more frequent Fox viewers were significantly less likely to trust climate science and climate scientists than those who don’t watch the channel, or who watch it less.

Wed, 2011-01-05 04:52Chris Mooney
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George Will and Cognitive Dissonance

It was one of the great blogospheric takedowns of scientific misinformation.

In a February 2009 anti-global warming column, the Washington Post’s George Will wrote that “according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade, or one-third of the span since the global cooling scare.” It wasn’t the only wrong or misleading claim in the column, but it was perhaps the most outrageous—for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) not only supports but documents the mainstream scientific view that humans are causing global warming. Indeed, as of the time Will was writing, the WMO had pointed out a much more relevant statistic: Of the 10 hottest years on record, at least 7 had been in the 2000s.

When Will’s column came out, a feeding frenzy ensued in the scientific and environmental blogosphere. Bloggers wanted to know why a columnist writing for such an important paper could get it so dramatically wrong, and abuse reputable sources with such impunity—did any fact checking actually occur? Were there any standards at all for the handling of scientific information in the media?

Wed, 2010-12-29 08:50Chris Mooney
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Warming and Winter Storming

It’s a typical blog comment for this time of year. “I hope,” wrote one of my ‘skeptic’ readers, “the folks in the NE USA and Europe didn’t hurt their backs when shoveling all that global warming.” 

Har har.

This common insinuation–that somehow, human-caused climate change is refuted by the perennial occurrence of bad winter weather–puts us scientific rationalists in a bind. The problem is that unlike many denier talking points, there isn’t really even an argument being put forward here that might be refuted. It’s more of a “nyah nyah,” followed by, “I  never believed you to begin with, but this time of year, I just feel sorry for you.”  

Wed, 2010-12-22 08:00Chris Mooney
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A Critical Science Moment for the Obama Administration

For those concerned about ensuring the accurate use of science in U.S. politics and political decision-making—about stopping what everybody now calls the “war on science”—we now stand at a critical juncture. What happens next will be extremely important. That’s the topic of this post; but first, let’s review how we got here.

1. The Last Administration Misused and Abused Science To a Degree Unprecedented in Modern American Politics.

There are still a few contrarians who question this conclusion. But they’ve long since lost the argument.

A voluminous number of science abuse case studies from the Bush administration were investigated and documented by myself, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and many others across the journalistic and NGO communities. Importantly, we demonstrated that a) during the Bush years, scientific information itself was regularly distorted for political reasons (e.g., these were not just disputes over policy, but over matters of fact and what is true about the world); and b) this happened on some of the most high profile issues of the day, where the scientific facts or scientific consensus was clear and the administration undermined them anyway (like stem cells and global warming).

How did we demonstrate this?

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