Archive for the ‘Masden Pirie’ Category
Following on from my previous post – and elaborating upon the research described on my About page – what follows is a summary of why non-scientific journalists are now a threat to the long-term survival of human beings (in anything like current numbers)…
Strictly speaking, Andrew Montford is not a journalist, although he is a published author and is the creator of the sceptical Bishop Hill blog. With regard to his Hockey Stick Illusion book, however, it should be noted that:
– He wrote this after being directed (via Tim Worstall’s blog) to Stephen McIntyre’s Climate Audit blog; and
– Whereas neither Montford nor Worstall is a scientist, Canadian mining consultant McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick are two of the key players in the denialist campaign.
Therefore, although sceptical journalists rarely identify them, this is indicative of the likely sources of their misinformation.
In a wide-ranging assessment of both conventional and new media, political science academics Neil Gavin and Tom Marshall report research findings that, leaving aside the output of individual sceptics, suggest editors have come under pressure since “Climategate” to give sceptics more exposure. However, referring to that scandal, they concluded that the leaked emails “…did not suggest the scientific consensus was fatally flawed, peer-review undermined, or IPCC reports worthy of dismissal. Consequently, if the broadcasters continue to give climate sceptics significant coverage, they will be doing the public a serious disservice, especially in the run-up to the next IPCC report around 2012–2013” (2011: 8 – Abstract viewable here).
Unfortunately, there is as yet no sign that many journalists are either willing or able put a stop to the nonsense of giving discredited minority views equal exposure. On the contrary, as I highlighted yesterday, the Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) are trying harder than ever to get their voice heard; and non-scientific journalists are just blindly repeating the propaganda. This is why the empirical research first published by Peter Jacques et al in 2008 is so important; it provides detailed evidence to back up the claims made by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt implicating US- and UK-based CTTs in a deliberate misinformation campaign.
In prefacing their research, Jacques et al. observed that:
“Since environmentalism is unique among social movements in its heavy reliance on scientific evidence to support its claims… it is not surprising that CTTs would launch a direct assault on environmental science by promoting environmental scepticism… (2008: 353).
Furthermore, based on their findings, they concluded that:
“Environmental scepticism is an elite-driven reaction to global environmentalism, organised by core actors within the conservative movement. Promoting scepticism is a key tactic of the anti-environmental counter-movement co-ordinated by CTTs…” (ibid: 364).
Jacques has also highlighted the central aim of CTTs as being to cause confusion and doubt amongst the general public, in order to prevent the creation of a popular mandate for change (i.e. achieved by using a tactic developed by the tobacco industry of countering supposedly “junk” science with their “sound” science), which he refers to as the “science trap” (2009: 148).
Based on the findings of the research published in 2008, Jacques therefore also concluded that environmental scepticism is a social counter-movement that uses CTTs to provide “political insulation for industry and ideology from public scrutiny”; and that this deliberate obfuscation stems from a realisation that “anti-environmentalism is an attitude that most citizens would consider a violation of the public interest” (2009: 169). However, Jacques does not blame the CTTs for the ecological crisis he feels we face, as they have merely exploited a dominant social paradigm; “because neoliberal globalism and its logic are protected from critique” (ibid: 119).
Protected from critique or not, I believe the current financial crisis is just the latest in a series of wake-up calls (of which AGW is the loudest) that would, apart from human pride and irrationality, make us change our ways…
Gavin, N. & Marshall, T. (2011), ‘Mediated climate change in Britain: Scepticism on the web and on television around Copenhagen’, Global Environmental Change 21(3), pp.1035-44.
Jacques, P. et al. (2008), ‘The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’, Environmental Politics, 17(3), pp.349-385.
Jacques, P. (2009), Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life. Farnham: Ashgate.