Concerned About Increasing Levels Of Doubt Over Climate Science? Thank Journalists
    By News Staff | June 8th 2014 12:11 PM | 17 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Once the public loses confidence in the ability of journalists to be trusted guides for the public, it is hard to regain it. Scientists don't trust journalists because they get a lot of science wrong. The public doesn't trust journalists because they don't ask the awkward questions of people whose work they admire.

    And then there is the framing they engage in.

    During American election season, watching journalists scramble to rationalize and invalidate the anti-vaccine beliefs of Democrats is puzzling. They declare CDC data - and the clear link between the most progressive states and vaccine denial - unimportant, while they are willing to write and blog about anything that says global warming is happening and Republicans are responsible for it.

    The public has become less convinced that journalists are doing journalism and it is becoming increasingly evident that the choice of language in framing climate science can have significant impacts on public and policy debate. For example, the terms 'climate change' or 'global warming' have been shown to mean very different things to different people in different cultural contexts. And they have also led to varying levels of disbelief. Years ago, the scientifically inaccurate term 'global warming' got low acceptance from right-wing people in the US whereas the more accurate 'climate change' got far higher acceptance. On the left, anything that sounded like doomsday got the same result. So journalists started replacing global warming with climate change in the same sentences and now people don't trust that term as much.

    New research in Environmental Communication by Adriana Bailey and colleagues from the University of Colorado, Boulder, examined the concentration of words that suggest scientific uncertainty about climate change in two agenda-setting US newspapers, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, compared with the Spanish national dailies El País and El Mundo.

    Their linguistic analysis identified words or expressions suggesting any room for doubt. These included common hedging verbs (such as "believe", "consider" and "appear"), synonyms for uncertain (such as "blurry", "inaccurate" and "speculative"), as well as adverbial downtoners (such as "almost", "largely" and "pretty").

    The findings suggest a greater preponderance of such 'hedging' words associated with uncertainty in the US papers in their 2001 and 2007 coverage of two newly released reports from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Contrary to what the authors expected to find, such hedging words were more prevalent in 2007 compared to 2001, which is strange given that levels of scientific uncertainty were actually decreasing over that period.

    What happened once journalists began to stop speaking in journalism language and began framing the science as settled more and more? Acceptance of science began to drop.

    The authors believe that scientific language - and journalists use of similar verbage - is what has led to 'green fatigue' and a lack of trust in media accounts about climate science, but the curve shows it is just the opposite. Regardless of personal opinion, science journalists need to be trusted guides for the public and not advocates or defenders of science. Many political journalists on the left and right do it - the problem in science journalism may be that the politics is one-sided and it creates an echo chamber.

    Citation: Adriana Bailey, Lorine Giangola, Maxwell T. Boykoff, 'How Grammatical Choice Shapes Media Representations of Climate (Un)certainty', Environmental Communication
    Volume 8, Issue 2, 2014 DOI:10.1080/17524032.2014.906481


    Here are “MY” doubts and they NOTHING to do with “journalists”…

    1st “Common sense”.
    In order to “believe” that (for instance) the United States cutting a 40% portion (Coal Power Plants) of it’s entire CO2 emissions by 30% is going to do ANYTHING to reverse anthropological Climate Change, I have to believe that the United States is SOLE reason Humans are causing Global Warming.

    2nd “Human Nature”
    Scientists are Human and the people in charge of running the Institutions of research are also Human.
    When faced with loosing research dollars or perhaps more accurately, faced with not getting those dollars Humans will do whatever they have too to get them.
    They will, do and have since the days of Gallileo… hide results that may not please their funding sources, avoid research that may produce results that may not please their funding sources or as in the case of the famous “emails”, flat out lie about their results.

    3rd “Computer Modeling”
    The entire “Climate Change” scare is based on Computer Models. The same Computer Models that tell me it will sunny and warm next week only to have it rain.
    Computer Models used to “prove” Global Warming are a fantasy. They went screaming past “unreliable” and deep into “Fantasy Land” the day they were 1st created by…. people who have since made a VERY lucrative career in “journalism?” NO! “Climate Modeling”.

    Las but not least….

    There’s an old saying that goes; “You are judged by the company you keep”.
    The most vocal proponents of Global Warming also happen to be the very same people who have proven over and over again just in the last 6 years, that they will LIE THROUGH THEIR TEETH if they “believe” it will advance the Agenda.
    They will co-opt ANY “movement” that coincides with their blind faith in more, bigger, more powerful Government. AT ANY COST!
    These are you “Spokesman” and if one of them told me “the sky is blue” I would immediately consult an optometrist confidant that I have become color blind.

    …”Journalists”, PLEASE!

    Some of the particulars in this post were distressing, and I felt compelled to reply. Allow me to comment on each of the four points in turn:

    1. The first point is the most baffling, in part because the author's thesis is unclear. It seems to take anthropological climate change as a given, although this is likely granted hypothetically. Awkward wording aside, the logical leap in the point's conclusion defies reason. It is true that the proposed cut to CO2 emissions will be only a "drop in the bucket," and if the author had said as much it would not have been wrong. However, the emphasis on the word "anything" makes it clear the author equates the drop in the bucket to literally zero, which is mathematically false. More gravely, the argument misses the true point of such legislation: it is attempting to set a new policy that the world will, eventually, follow.

    2. To summarize the author's second point: "researchers are biased in favor of their funding sources." This point successfully flirts with rational thought; unfortunately, examples of science becoming biased by funding are not hard to find. However, the author forgets two important details. First, the funding that comes from government sources ought to be relatively neutral; the government itself, after all, is split on the issue. Second, a large amount of funding comes from sources with a stake in the disproving of climate change. As an aside, it should be pointed out that (most) scientists are not so flimsy as to be tied to the wills of donors. For anecdotal evidence (not a proof), consider the case of Richard Muller, a "skeptical" climate scientist who concluded that climate change is real and human-caused, despite being funded by sources that hoped for the opposite conclusion.

    3. The third point betrays a staggering lack of basic computing knowledge. It mistakenly claims that the computer models used in weather prediction are the same ones used in climate science. This couldn't be further from the truth. A weather model predicts weather, and makes no attempt at predictions beyond a few days into the future. A climate model predicts climate. Metaphorically, weather is a ripple in the ocean, while climate is an ocean current. Any lay person should correctly infer that the tools used for measuring water ripples are nothing like the tools used for measuring ocean currents. The next sub-point makes an interesting claim about science being "a VERY lucrative career" (emphasis author's). While the average scientist does have a comfortable salary, there are far better careers for those interested only in money. Better options include (many but not all kinds of) engineering and finance. For the amount and quality of education it requires, science is a poor career move if money is the deciding criterion.

    4. The final point veers into the stuff of conspiracy theory, claiming the "proponents of Global Warming" have an "Agenda" to advance "more, bigger, more powerful Government." While it is true that academia leans politically left, it is ridiculous to accuse climate scientists of faking an entire scientific field to expand government power. If they were interested in government, they would have become politicians (and would probably make more money that way). Instead, they were interested in science, and became scientists. I can't prove it, but most scientists are interested in things like nature, mathematics, and the mysteries around us; not in things as boring and illogical as politics. Finally, the author derided the "blind faith" of climate scientists; the last sentence, while likely meant to be a humorous hyperbole, reveals a lack of self-awareness by exclaiming the author's own blind faith that climate scientists only tell lies. The irony seems lost upon the author.

    In conclusion, the above post is rife with factual error and logic that might be generously deemed "fuzzy." The various arguments employed seem like misguided attempts for the author to prove the point he or she already "knows" to be true.

    @Summer Glau

    While the original post may be rife with factual error, I disagree with a couple of your points.

    The new EPA coal emissions reductions of 30% are based on a reduction from 2005 levels of 2.182Gt/yr CO2. A 30% decrease amounts to .6546Gt/year or a total coal emissions target of 2.182 minus .6546 = 1.5274Gt/yr by 2030. However the USA has already lowered its coal emissions to 1.6875 (avg. of 2012 & 2013 from data linked below) which means we are only looking at another .1601Gt/yr of emissions reduction from coal by 2030. Thus the cumulative total reduction of CO2 from coal from 2014 to 2030 amounts to roughly 1.2808Gt CO2. When I load that amount into a computer model, the amount of warming reduction by 2030 is 0.0F degrees and indeed makes no significant difference from a global perspective.

    Another consideration is that China alone is adding .6Gt/yr of emissions and has stated that it will double coal use by 2040.

    Thus the public is being misled by journalists that portray EPA coal regulation as significant. The EPA coal limits are are a symbolic gesture in that the 2030 reduction goal was already 75% accomplished when the EPA announced the cuts. This was due to the the free market switch from coal to NG in the mid 2000s.

    Muller never was a skeptic and said so himself in an interview with Huffington Post. I believe Muller not the NYT. If you don't believe Muller himself , ask his co-worker Steven Mosher from Berkeley if Muller was ever a skeptic, as Mosher is easy enough to find at the “The Blackboard” or “Climate Etc.”. Here is Muller's own words.

    Muller suggested the bluster on all sides was somewhat misplaced. "It is ironic if some people treat me as a traitor, since I was never a skeptic -- only a scientific skeptic," he said in a recent email exchange with The Huffington Post. "Some people called me a skeptic because in my best-seller 'Physics for Future Presidents' I had drawn attention to the numerous scientific errors in the movie 'An Inconvenient Truth.' But I never felt that pointing out mistakes qualified me to be called a climate skeptic."

    Let's review the science, shall we?

    1: We've been in a ~16 year "warming hiatus" that was not predicted by any of the "respected" climate models. Science is about making testable predictions, and then passing the tests. Climate "science" has failed at that, no?

    2: Thanks to ClimateGate, we learned that the East Anglia CRU can not provide the data behind many of their published papers. Yet those papers have not been retracted. This tells us that the entire field, top to bottom, beginning to end, is a joke, because there is no legitimate scientific field where you get to have a published paper where no one else can replicate your results. And the inability to provide the data means no one can replicate their results.

    3: When no one is allowed to publish in any journal of the field, unless and until they have released the complete data and tools so that anyone, anywhere, how has sufficient computer power can replicate their results, THEN, and only then, will Climate "Science" have any pretense to being a legitimate scientific field. (note: you do a tree ring study, then with the first published paper you have to release every single tree ring result your grad students collected. No cherry picking, no "saving data for later papers").

    Until these basic scientific rules are imposed on the field, the people who are destroying faith in climate "science" are the so called climate "scientists".

    @Firefly fan (Summer Glau). If I've read you correctly, I think you are in favor of a reduction in coal as an energy resource. The United State seems to have an insatiable hunger for energy. If we reduce coal what do we replace it with? Natural Gas? Nuclear energy?
    "This page intentionally left blank." --Gödel
    I personally think nuclear energy is the way to go. But not from a preventing global warming point of view - simply from an energy density and ease of disposal point of view.

    I'm starting to lose track of who is responding to what. Please use one name, "Summer Glau" or "Tara Li." Pick one and stick with it.
    "This page intentionally left blank." --Gödel
    Or get an account so they don't have to deal with captcha. Why people are afraid to use real names is a mystery.
    Well, by some standards, this *is* my real name, at least as far as the online community goes. And the Captcha isn't that big a deal, for the relative infrequency I comment. *shrugs* No clue who "Summer Glau" is in this particular case (love the actress and her work on Firefly, and as a dancer).

    I'm a fan too. seen her on Firefly, Serenity, and Knights of Badassdom.
    "This page intentionally left blank." --Gödel
    the problem in science journalism may be that the politics is one-sided and it creates an echo chamber.
    Interesting.  A couple of weeks ago, I attended an Open House at our UK’s National Physical Laboratory,  where from my point of view the most significant event was a lecture on the Global Energy Challenge and discussion following, focussing especially on the Carbon balance.

    But the last thing I looked at before I had to go for my train was a twin display of a reverb chamber and a hemianechoic chamber.  Maybe those political journalists should be put in the reverb chamber for a while, and when they’ve got the point allowed to recover in the hemianechoic one.

    (Am I starting to get like Daedalus?)
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Katherine Hayho is a whore for Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. One step above seventh day adventists.

    "Journalists." That anonymous amalgam of purveyors of curiously concurrent opinions, using phrases so similar that they give plagiarists a bad name. "Who wrote this?" is a question you'll never get answered when you confront that clan with their blatant lies.

    Then again, I can't put my finger on who wrote this piece either.

    Adding that tiny bit of information would lend credibility to this piece - and that would be more than the Green Disciples and their Crucified Climate Christ would ever reveal.

    Journalist have no credibility, all media is now opinion media and each organization pushes their agenda.
    Government funded sources have reduced credibility because we have governments forcing us to believe in a non-proven hypothesis because are 'leaders' are bias and push false agendas.

    Our 'leaders' are telling us, trust us, you need to give us Billions and we can spend it wisely.
    Sorry, we have been lied to so much by 'leaders' that all citizens MUST question.

    Science is about establishing hypothesis and allowing the facts in evidence to conform to the hypothesis or reject it.
    The science community in particular has a DUTY to pursue to DISPROVE a hypothesis using all reasonable and sometimes even unreasonable means.

    Climate change is a fact.
    Man-made climate change is hypothesis.
    We have proof of many man made chemicals and their impact on the environment.
    Burning coal without scrubbers produces acid rain and other pollutants down wind.

    For governments to focus exclusively on CO2 is not something I understand.
    The impact of JUST CO2 and the impact on the earths temperature requires proof, not mere conjecture by journalist and scientist. If we are going to spend Billions on clean energy, can we focus on reducing ACTUAL pollutants!

    I understand statistical analysis and logic, I have three degrees, the highest is a Doctorate level.
    This should be simple, show the historical facts on CO2 and temperature correlation?
    If the hypothesis is correct then CO2 should be a LEADING indicator of HIGHER temperature.
    Look at the ACTUAL data, the historical facts show that CO2 is a LAGGING indicator.
    CO2 has been historically MUCH higher and the 'runaway effect' that GW advocates claim is not in the record.
    If the Earth came off very high CO2 levels, then CO2 can't be the primary statistical cause.
    If we are using the tools of science, we must at least understand the logic of cause and effect.
    The EFFECT cannot be the CAUSAL influence.
    Bottom Line:
    There is not a correlation, CO2 does not explain, in a positive or negative correlation with temperature.

    Based on Ice core data CO2 and temperature have no significant coefficient of correlation over the millions of year of data. Man made global warming advocates conveniently ignore all CO2 data older than 3 Million years, since humans have come into the fossil record. Why? This is simply to remove the data that disproves their theory.
    CO2 has been a much higher levels and has had no 'LEADING indicator' corresponding impact on temperature.

    Future models and data manipulated by the left & their governmental minded people because government simply wants more control, to pass a carbon tax for it's own sake, is not objective science.
    Extra-ordinary claims, require extra-ordinary proof.

    We need to move on from the BS of CO2 only impacts and focus on solving REAL Problems:

    1) Make power cheaper more convenient for our citizens by developing market incentives for distributed power generation.
    2) Give people incentives to use less, lower costs on consumers, people vote with their dollars and time.
    3) Govt and industry should be focused on improvements in battery technology
    4) Govt and industry should focus on the removal of ACTUAL pollution in air, water and land.

    I don't trust the media b/c it's clear they have an agenda:

    No mainstream media org has ever cited algores numerous Inconvenient Truth mistakes. For example the polar bears "stranded" on the ice - they were no stranded; that's how the straddle ice.

    Second: The msm has yet to report that Ohio now has two growing seasons which produce 2X the food per year... and two growing seasons will become commonplace with AGW.

    You mention the "the scientifically inaccurate term 'global warming' vs 'climate change' and how global warming gets more buy-in from the public. But as you state the term 'global warming' is inaccurate... watch as the MSM starts using it anyways thereby proving they are not interested in science but politics.

    You are quite mistaken in this statement:

    "Contrary to what the authors expected to find, such hedging words were more prevalent in 2007 compared to 2001, which is strange given that levels of scientific uncertainty were actually decreasing over that period."

    During this period, the Climate Model Intercomparison Projects were started and a wealth of diagnostic literature was produced. So by the time of the IPCC FAR in 2007, we knew how the models had errors much larger than the energy imbalance and a lot of those errors were correlated so couldn't be hoped to cancel by combining their results into ensembles. The "confidence" proclaiming in the 2001 IPCC TAR was found to be unwarranted, yet it was politically and financially impossible for the authors of the FAR to admit less confidence. So they lied about how confident they were. They have finally backtracked some in the most recent report. You haven't been following the peer review literature on the pause/hiatus if you don't realize that the uncertainty has continued to increase. Hedge words are particularly called for in the areas of model skill and claims of climate sensitivity higher than the observed trend of 1.2C to 1.5C per century.

    The models used for the first report were wrong, hadn't been validated, the only reason they admitted it in the new report was because of skeptics calling them out, and that pesky pause that they couldn't find a way to hide. Anyone with a bit of knowledge about models knew they were wrong, I've been saying that for over a decade.
    The scientists on the first report either knew that and lied, or are incompetent.
    Never is a long time.