General

Thu, 2011-05-26 06:44Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Is Global Warming Causing More Tornadoes? Not So Fast, Says Harold Brooks

Recently, I witnessed the destructive power of a tornado nearly firsthand. In Norman, Oklahoma on the evening of May 24, I watched the sky darken and unleash a battery of nickel sized hail. Then a funnel cloud twisted down from the clouds, even as the cloud line itself touched earth in the distance, where a tornado had landed. Later, grass and leaves came flying through the air and stuck to our window, debris propelled from miles away.

It was terrifying—and more than that, awe inspiring. But what happened in Oklahoma that day, while very destructive and deadly, was nothing near the death toll in Joplin, Missouri two days earlier, or in Alabama in April, a month that set a new record for tornado outbreaks. So much tornado destruction this year, and so many deaths, has inevitably led some to ask the question—could global warming be implicated here?

Fortunately, being in Norman, I was also in the place to ask one of our country’s top experts this question—Harold Brooks, a tornado specialist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Along with other mainstream scientists, Brooks agrees that “it’s abundantly clear that the surface temperature has increased, and will continue to increase, and the overwhelming evidence is that it’s due to human activities.” Brooks also thinks global warming is likely to impact many weather phenomena–increasing the risk of heat waves, for instance, and stronger precipitation events.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean that every bad weather event is going to get worse,” Brooks continues, and when it comes to tornadoes, “I get really worried when people oversell the case.” After all, if we’re wrong and we go through a series of quiet tornado years in the coming years, it will be just another weapon with which to attack those who want climate action.

Tue, 2011-05-03 08:52Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Climate Change and Well-Informed Denial

On climate change, we’re politically polarized—which would be bad enough, but that’s not all. The hole we’ve dug is even deeper—as new research clearly suggests.

There’s yet another study out on Democrats, Republicans, and climate change, this time from Lawrence Hamilton of the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Over the last two years, in a series of regional surveys, Hamilton asked nearly 9,500 people questions about climate change—from Appalachia to the Gulf Coast, and from New Hampshire to Alaska. 

Across all these regions, he consistently found the following phenomenon:

Sun, 2011-04-17 15:41Emma Pullman
Emma Pullman's picture

Don't Be Fooled: Fossil Fools Fund Latest Climate Skeptic Petition

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a flashy headline that reads, 900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of “Man-Made” Global Warming (AGW) Alarm’. The article links to a blog post on Populartechnology.net listing more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute “concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic.”

The “900+ papers” list is supposed to somehow prove that a score of scientists reject the scientific consensus on climate change. One might be persuaded by the big numbers. We’re not.

Wed, 2011-04-06 07:05Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

What Motivates a Climate Skeptic?

I always like digging around in the academic literature for insights about today’s politicized science battles. Now that social scientists have begun to apply themselves to public fights over the hard sciences, I find that they have a great deal to offer. The latest exhibit: The work of Andrew J. Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan. 

Hoffman is an “organizational theorist.” As such, he believes that “failing to attend to the deeper social and cultural forces within the climate conflict, and in particular the counter-movements that resist the dominant logic,” is a big mistake.

So he went and studied the “culture and discourse” of climate skeptics—which involved attending their conferences and events–and describes some of the preliminary results in a recent paper in Strategic Organization. As a result, Hoffman argues that three themes are dominant in the movement. And here’s where, to me, it gets really interesting.

Wed, 2011-03-23 06:12Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Good Communication is Good Scientific Practice

It’s always helpful to know what those who disagree with you are saying, and why they do so. Let’s consider, then, a recent article in the conservative American Thinker that espouses climate change denial—and that also, interestingly, whacks climate scientists for wanting to do a better job of explaining themselves to the public.

Anthony J. Sadar and Stanley J. Penkala write:

The revelations of Climategate and ten years of stagnant global temperatures have produced a decline of public belief in human-induced climate collapse. But, rather than strengthening the foundations of climate science by increasing transparency in data analysis, releasing raw data for third party evaluation, and allowing their hypotheses to be debated in the literature, government-funded scientists instead have decided it’s best to just change their method of messaging.  The latest tactic is for these man-made global-warming faithful to sharpen their communication skills and tighten their influence on the editorial boards of the environmental journals of record.  The intent is to deflect or bury challenges to their climate-catastrophe canon, not defend their hypotheses.

First of all, this is another marvelous example of how climate change denial is not postmodern.

Sun, 2011-03-20 13:49TJ Scolnick
TJ Scolnick's picture

Big Differences In Public Opinion of Climate Change In Canada And The U.S.

A fresh public survey and a new report [PDF] from the The Public Policy Forum and Sustainable Prosperity, confirms that a wide gap exists between Canadian and American perceptions of climate change.

In the fall of 2008, nearly three-quarters of Americans accepted the reality of global warming and for a time, it seemed that American and Canadians views of climate change were quite similar.

What a difference two years makes. Four in five Canadians believe that climate change is occurring and this figure has been relatively stable over time. South of the border, as recently as several months ago, and after incessant attacks on the science of climate change, support fell to barely half and has only just been rising to around 60%.

Thu, 2011-03-10 08:25Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

The Consequences of He Said, She Said Journalism

For a long time, those closely watching the climate debate unfold have denounced “he said, she said, we’re clueless” journalism, in which reporters present a “debate” between those who accept the science and those who do not, and leave it at that. Let the reader figure out who’s right, the philosophy seems to be. It’s journalistic “objectivity” not to “take sides”—right?

Those criticizing this approach—myself emphatically included—are working under a key assumption: If journalists would take a stand on matters of fact (such as whether global warming is caused by humans), rather than treating them as un-resolvable, the broader political discourse would also shift onto a firmer footing. That’s because we would move towards having a shared factual basis for making policy decisions, rather than fighting over the very reality upon which policy ought to be based.

It’s in this context that a new study (PDF) published in the Journal of Communication, would appear to break new ground–by actually examining the psychological effect that “he said, she said” or “passive” journalism has on readers, and in particular, on their views of whether it’s possible to discern the truth.

Tue, 2011-02-22 13:11TJ Scolnick
TJ Scolnick's picture

Are Climate Deniers and Front Groups Polluting Online Conversation With Denier-Bots?

There appears to be an increasingly sophisticated and planned effort by conservatives and polluter front groups to use “persona management” software to pollute social media outlets and website comment forums with auto-generated sockpuppet swarms designed to mislead and misrepresent real people.

Leaked emails from Aaron Barr, CEO of a federal subsidiary for HB Gary, disclose the latest efforts and technology used underhandedly for “ganging up on bloggers, commenters and otherwise ‘real’ people to smear enemies and distort the truth.”

This phenomenon was first reported by Happy Rockefeller over at Daily Kos.

ClimateProgress is following this issue, particularly when it comes to the online discussion about climate change, noting that readers joke about pre-programmed ‘denier-bots’ and “how the same arguments and phrasings keep cropping up in the comments’ section of the many unmoderated news sites on the web.”

Thu, 2011-01-27 14:31TJ Scolnick
TJ Scolnick's picture

New Mexico's Supreme Court Overrules Climate Skeptic Governor: Greenhouse Gases Will Be Regulated

On Wednesday, New Mexico’s newly elected Governor Susana Martinez, a climate change skeptic, suffered a major defeat. After suspending global warming regulations on her first day in office, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the Governor, requiring the state to regulate global warming emissions and to implement a carbon reduction program.

Highlighting years of climate action during his administration, and following two years of deliberation, members of former Governor Bill Richardson’s (D-NM) Environmental Improvement Board (EIB)  voted 4-3 in November to mandate global warming emissions reductions from large stationary sources (3% per year from 2010 levels, starting in 2013); and to approve a state cap and trade system.

Riding the Republican climate skeptic wave to power in the fall elections, however, Martinez wasted little time undoing her predecessor’s progress. She issued Executive Order 2011-001 on January 1st in an effort to halt proposed and pending science-based rules and regulations (including the EIB’s decision) for a period of 90 days. The new governor had no scientific reasoning for her position, however, it was purely based on ideological opposition to climate action.

Wed, 2011-01-19 11:06Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?

UPDATE: After posting this, I realized that the idea that climate denial is ideological, rather than corporate driven, is also the explicit and central argument of Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt. There was no intention to slight them–it’s just that I’d read Dunlap and McCright more recently, so their work was at the front of my mind. I’ve added a reference below, and my apologies to Oreskes and Conway.

Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US, and in particular, on the role of conservative think tanks in driving this resistance.

In a series of 2010 papers, however, I’m detecting a theme that runs contrary to what many often assume about the driving forces of climate denial. It is this: McCright & Dunlap argue that while corporate interests may once have seemed front-and-center in spurring resistance to climate science, at this point it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ideological motivations are actually the primary motivator. Or as they put it: “conservative movement opposition to climate science and policy has a firm ideological base that supersedes the obvious desire for corporate funding.”

Pages

Subscribe to General