The right wing assault on climate science continues. The argument has a commonplace structure. Take one small piece of evidence, misconstrue it and then build a whole narrative edifice on the misinterpretation, claiming it as proof positive, whilst leaving the originators baffled, struggling to know how to respond.
This is a pretty standard technique for constructing a false argument, has a resonance in popular culture as it is a mainstay of thriller writing, and it certainly isn't confined to the political right. The troubling aspect for me is the way it is being reported in news broadcasts. Unlike Murdoch's Fox News, which allows opinionated star presenters to rant and rave regardless of fact, British news broadcasts are supposed to be balanced. And what worries me is that this notion of balance seems to divorce reporting from the foundation of good journalism, research.
Rather than investigate and present the findings of that investigation, the style used is to take an accusation from whatever source and present it, often in the style of an advocate, to someone who disagrees and elicit a brief response. Either that or they stage a three minute debate between two people of opposite views, regardless of their credibility, and call the process balanced reporting. Often, it seems that the broadcaster's research team has read little more than competing press releases. In the reporting of the hacked emails from the University of East Anglia, I have yet to hear evidence that anyone has bothered to read and analyse them. Climate scientists' lack of expertise in PR has been exposed, throwing them on the defensive, and only now are they belatedly trying to catch up.
So where is the authoritative research? How is balance served by treating fact and fiction as equivalents and truth to be simply a mater of opinion? It isn't as if the truth isn't out there and easily available. The person who put this video together probably had a bit too much fun making it, but it clearly and accessibly deals with the claims in a way that I have never seen on broadcast news.
All of this is not to deny that there is a deeply polarised debate. But it is political, social and economic. Material changes in our environment are forcing us to ask serious questions about how we respond and the nature of the world in which we wish to live, not just about the technology we use. It is a vital debate and by wandering off into the byways of denial, the right is excluding itself. In a perverse way I find that rather gratifying.
Video via here