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Mon, 2010-03-15 18:25Jim Hoggan
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Stanford Study Confirms That “Balanced” Media Stories Quoting Skeptics Mislead The Public

Skeptics Skew Public Understanding of Climate Change

Providing climate skeptics a voice in “balanced” mainstream media coverage skews public perception of the scientific consensus regarding climate change, leaving viewers less likely to understand the threat of climate disruption and less likely to support government actions to address global warming, according to the results of a Stanford University research effort

The Stanford researchers probed the impact on public understanding of climate change when media coverage features a climate skeptic alongside a climate scientist.  Media stories featuring only a mainstream climate scientist “increased the number of people who believed that global warming has been happening and that humans have caused global warming.”

However, when media stories also include a climate skeptic, ostensibly to add “balance” to the story, the result is a “significantly reduced” number of people who understand the issue and endorse government action to address the problem.

“Watching a skeptic decreased perceptions of consensus among scientific experts, and this decreased perception of consensus led respondents to be less supportive of government action in general and of cap and trade policy in particular,” the researchers found.

Thu, 2010-03-04 18:42Brendan DeMelle
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Evidence Provided In UK Parliamentary Inquiry Into Climate Scientists Was Prepared By Oil and Gas Industry Consultant

The Guardian just broke the news that a consultant to Shell and other oil and gas interests was the source of ‘evidence’ provided by the Institute of Physics in the current UK parliamentary review of the controversy in England over climate scientists’ emails stolen from servers at the University of East Anglia.

The Guardian reports:

“Evidence from a respected scientific body to a parliamentary inquiry examining the behaviour of climate-change scientists, was drawn from an energy industry consultant who argues that global warming is a religion

The Guardian has established that the institute prepared its evidence, which was highly critical of the CRU scientists, after inviting views from Peter Gill, an IOP official who is head of a company in Surrey called Crestport Services.

According to Gill, Crestport offers “consultancy and management support services … particularly within the energy and energy intensive industries worldwide”, and says that it has worked with “oil and gas production companies including Shell, British Gas, and Petroleum Development Oman”.

Wed, 2010-02-03 17:51Brendan DeMelle
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Climate Skeptics Try To Spin Penn State Exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into “Whitewash”

Penn State University’s inquiry into climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann’s conduct surrounding the emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University concluded there is no evidence to substantiate the claims made by the right-wing media against Mann.

The Penn State panel cleared Dr. Mann of any wrongdoing in three of the four areas it probed, recommending only that a separate panel of faculty members pursue a follow-up investigation into the allegation that Dr. Mann “engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities.”

Dr. Mann’s response to the outcome:
“This is very much the vindication I expected since I am confident I have done nothing wrong.

I fully support the additional inquiry which may be the best way to remove any lingering doubts. I intend to cooperate fully in this matter – as I have since the beginning of the process.”


Pete Altman over at NRDC’s Switchboard blog notes: “That’s about as close to a silver bullet as you are going to find in terms of shooting down the conspiracy theorists who are touting their ‘climategate’ nonsense.”

Altman notes that Professor Mann has “has been the victim of an extended vicious and unfounded smear campaign.”

But none of that seems to sink into the brain of the self-titled “Junkman,” Steven Milloy, who instead screams “whitewash” and accuses Penn State of ignoring allegations that were never under question.  Milloy would rather Penn State investigate whether global warming is real to suit his own fantasies that there is a debate on that question.  He just can’t stand the fact that a formal inquiry launched by a prestigious university didn’t end up the way he wanted it to.

Thu, 2010-01-28 07:02Kevin Grandia
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The Commonwealth Foundation's Favorite Strawman

When it comes to the art of political rhetoric there is nothing more effective then the straw man technique.

It’s simple: instead of using sound logic and evidence to discredit an idea or policy, just brand an individual as representative of the idea and then knock them down.

On the issue of climate change, you can see this technique in action with the right-wing Commonwealth Foundation trying to discredit the work of a single climate expert, Dr. Michael Mann, as a means of discrediting the entire body of climate change science.

The Commonwealth Foundation recently published a “policy brief” called Climategate & Penn State, a 12-page attack that tries to frame Dr. Mann as the orchestrator behind some grand conspiracy, which is the key to a good stick man attack.

Sun, 2010-01-24 12:24Kevin Grandia
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Nature takes on stolen emails

There’s a great editorial in the most recent edition of the scientific journal Nature Geo Science that takes on the illegal hacking of emails at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit.

The editorial is behind a firewall, so here’s a few of the main points for those who don’t have a subscription:

Amidst the calls for more caution in communication, it must be remembered that e-mails are an essential scientific tool when research groups span continents and schedules are tight. Yes, there is a limit to what should be put in writing. But in messages that are not meant for the public eye, there must be room for an open-minded and opinionated discussion, for example, of the quality of papers published by other authors. And when writing to someone who is familiar with the context, there is generally no need to choose every word quite so carefully.

And this:

“The alternative — making every private e-mail between scientists unambiguous and fit for public consumption — would seriously hinder the progress of science.”

 

Wed, 2010-01-20 12:51Brendan DeMelle
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Climate Denial Industry Blowing Hot Air On Himalayan Glaciers

The climate denial industry is once again trying to make a huge to-do about a tiny error by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

With the Climategate Swifthack episode fading from the limelight, after a thorough debunking of far-fetched accusations that scientists made up global warming, the climate science attack machine now wants the world to focus on one paragraph out of a 938-page, three-year-old report.

The contrarians are questioning a single reference to Himalayan glaciers included in a 2007 IPCC report that does not meet the IPCC’s well-established evidentiary standards.

Here is their alleged smoking gun: The second of three 2007 reports from the IPCC included a statement that the likelihood of Himalayan glaciers disappearing “by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high.”

But the reference to Himalayan glaciers melting at that early date didn’t originate from a peer-reviewed study, meaning it should not have appeared in the IPCC report. 

Sure, that’s slightly embarrassing.  But it isn’t grounds to declare the entire library of climate science a fraud. The IPCC’s findings have been validated and substantiated by assessments conducted by leading scientific institutions the world over. 

The real news here is that a single ‘error’ was discovered in just one of the IPCC’s reports, collectively reams of paper thick, and the ‘error’ isn’t an error at all.  The Himalayan glaciers are melting.  There is no debate about that in the scientific community.

Tue, 2010-01-19 11:40Kevin Grandia
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Republican Candidate Scott Brown's Flip Flopping on Climate a Loser for Clean Energy and Green Jobs

What a difference a year makes for Republican candidate Scott Brown. Just last year Brown voted to support a regional greenhouse gas emissions trading plan and now he saying he’s not even sure climate change is a problem.

While uncertainty remains about what a Republican win in Massachusetts means for health care reform, there seems little doubt that it would be bad for the clean energy package making it’s way through Congress.

Just over a year ago Brown voted in favor of a regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade initiative in his capacity as a state legislator.

Tue, 2010-01-12 13:01Kevin Grandia
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Massey Energy running attack ads against "tree hugging extremists"

Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE), the 4th largest coal producer in the country is running political-style attacks in West Virginia claiming that “tree hugging extremists and self-serving politicians” are killing jobs, while the coal industry is “fighting hard for Appalachian jobs” and “what’s right.”

I am assuming that when Massey talks about fighting for Appalachian jobs they aren’t referring to the fact that earlier in 2009 they cut employee pay by 6% and then recently increased the performance bonus for Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship, by $600,000.

And I think it’s also safe to assume that when Massey talks about fighting for “what’s right” they aren’t talking about the major environmental violations over the years culminating in a record $20 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA stated that Massey had violated its Clean Water Act permits “… more than 4,500 times between January 2000 and December 2006.”

Fri, 2010-01-08 11:48Brendan DeMelle
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BBC Trots Out Skeptic Benny Peiser To Question Global Warming In A Snow Storm

The BBC used Britain’s recent snowy cold snap to trot out the climate skepticism of Dr. Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool’s John Moores University with absolutely zero scientific expertise in climate change. 

In a segment titled “How the big freeze fits theories of global warming,” exploring “how one of the longest cold snaps for a generation fits in with theories of a warming planet and global climate change,” the BBC oddly shoehorns Peiser’s climate change denialism into an otherwise decent piece explaining the difference between weather and climate and why the existence of snow and cold weather does not in any way negate the realities of climate change.

So what could Dr. Peiser - whose greatest achievement in science is getting an asteroid named after him – have to offer on the subject of climate change?

Fri, 2009-12-18 03:51Brendan DeMelle
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Breaking: LEAKED final draft of Copenhagen treaty declaration

[Update: I’ve added in analysis of the key text]

With only hours left in the Copenhagen climate treaty talks we have obtained an early version of the final agreement’ draft text.

President Obama’s speech wrapped up a few minutes ago with nothing new announced. But as long as this session continues there remains hope that world leaders can deliver a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal.

Things continue to evolve and according to the draft version of the agreement, the major issue of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions cuts by what year, remains unanswered.

As it stands, the text states:

Annex I Parties to the Convention commit to implement, individually or jointly, the quantified economy-wide emission targets for 2020 as listed yielding in aggregate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of X per cent in 2020 compared to 1990 and Y per cent in 2020 compared to 2005…

Based on the best scientific research these numbers should be 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

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