Friday, November 25, 2005

The False Objectivity of “Balance”

From Real Climate

"We here at RC continue to be disappointed with the tendency for some journalistic outlets to favor so-called "balance" over accuracy in their treatment of politically-controversial scientific issues such as global climate change. While giving equal coverage to two opposing sides may seem appropriate in political discourse, it is manifestly inappropriate in discussions of science, where objective truths exist. In the case of climate change, a clear consensus exists among mainstream researchers that human influences on climate are already detectable, and that potentially far more substantial changes are likely to take place in the future if we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates. There are only a handful of "contrarian" climate scientists who continue to dispute that consensus. To give these contrarians equal time or space in public discourse on climate change out of a sense of need for journalistic "balance" is as indefensible as, say, granting the Flat Earth Society an equal say with NASA in the design of a new space satellite. It's plainly inappropriate. But it stubbornly persists nonetheless."

2 Comments:

At 10:41 AM, Blogger the martian said...

tol:

this is an interesting piece. i remember my first long paper at the open university was about global warming and the kyoto protocol. as part of the process of conducting an academic research, i had to look at the "other side" of this issue. of course, i put more weight then on the so-called "consensus" within the scientific community. recently, this friend of mine in florida started writing about it on our high school batch e-group. biglang nagkaroon ng mukha sa akin yung mga no-global warming arguments. as with other environmental issues, green positions would often be contraposed to employment and other gut-level economic concerns. magmumukha ka tuloy "dogmatic" at "inhuman".

there was a recent article in Nature citing another study that seem to point to a faster rate of increase in the mean global temperature per year. and the study concluded that only fifty percent of the increase since the beginning of the industrial revolution can be attributed to normal processes in nature. the other fifty percent was due to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.

i haven't read much on recent no-global warming arguments. but, based on what i read a few years ago, most of these arguments tend to focus on this point about how much of the actual increase in mean global temperatures can be linked to background processes and how much to human activities. my friend pointed out the sketchiness of existing data about global temperatures in ancient times. i think the recent study cited in nature was meant to fill such gaps in our knowledge (they've been taking samples of ice from the polar caps wherein gases from the earth's ancient atmosphere have been trapped. from these samples, they should thus be able to figure out the composition of the atmosphere then.)

i do agree with the article's position that any self-respecting publication catering to the public should aim for an objective presentation about the existing scientific consensus and the diverging views on climate change. as i've implied above, this would indeed be hard to achieve in an issue as politically laden as global warming. those who stand to benefit from the persistence of a fossil fuel-dependent global economy would of course like to highlight the gaps and the still debatable points in the growing body of knowledge on climate change. those of us who want a greener future could continue to refine our arguments as new supporting data come in.

in any case, difficult times are ahead of us. in dumbledore's terms: we would soon be pushing people to decide between what is right and what is easy.

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger roy choco said...

pre,

the blog that i got the quote from real climate, is actually dedicated to explaining why such "misgivings" are without basis.

 

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