Science, “liberal” and conservative media, and global warming

While I was reading my Twitter feed, I can across this tweet:

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I was curious, because why would anyone ever have a statistician on a radio show (trying to put the general public to sleep?)?  So I clicked.  Beitbart radio was interviewing William Briggs because of the paper he wrote called “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model”.  As far as I can tell, the basic argument of this paper is that projections of the Fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are too high.  In the conclusion, the authors state (emphasis added):

Resolving the discrepancies between the methodology adopted by IPCC in AR4 and AR5 is vital. Once those discrepancies are corrected for, it appears that the impact of anthropogenic global warming over the next century, and even as far as equilibrium many millennia hence, may be no more than one-third to one-half of IPCC’s current projections.

Ok.  So the authors are refuting one climate model’s projections.  That seems reasonable.  As far as I can tell, Briggs is a very good statistician (PhD in mathematical statistics from Cornell #impressive) and has a background in atmospheric science and meteorology.  I’m not making any comments on the scientific merits of their paper, but let’s see what happens if we assume that their conclusions are reasonable.  If that is the case, then climate change isn’t as bad as projected, but it’s still a problem that needs to be dealt with.  Basically, let’s still try to to prevent climate change, but we don’t need to be as alarmed as we currently are.  But even if that is the case, the authors still acknowledge that climate change is man made.  They say:

Finally, suppose that remaining affordably recoverable reserves of fossil fuels are as much as thrice those that have been recovered and consumed so far. Then, the total warming we shall cause by consuming all remaining recoverable reserves will be little more than 2.2 K, and not the 12 K imagined by IPCC on the RCP 8.5 scenario.

“We shall cause”.  They are acknowledging that climate change is driven by humans burning fossil fuels, they are merely critiquing the magnitude of the change predicted by other projections.  They are NOT saying global warming is not occurring.  I know this because I asked one of the authors:

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Let me repeat that: An author of the paper is acknowledging that global warming exists and that that they are simply arguing that the projection models are not correct.  That is a reasonable argument.  For the authors views on global warming see here.

So how did Breitbart cover this story?  Their headline was “Experts smeared by media and Greenpeace for debunking global warming”.  By the authors own admission, this is not what they did.  They didn’t “debunk global warming”.  Not even close.  Not even in the ballpark. This is so wrong.  By the authors own admission.  See the screen shot below from the Breitbart article:

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So here is where I lose it a little bit.  Breitbart is overtly a conservative media organization and one of their favorite past times is yelling about the liberal main stream media.  It seems like they found a paper that sort of fit’s their conservative narrative and then took the conclusions a step further (i.e. global warming was debunked).

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Briggs seems to agree with the part about yelling about how terrible the liberal media is (even if he disagrees with the headline that Breitbart wrote).  A recent post from February 22, 2015 is all about how stupid mainstream reporters are.  That post was called “Goon Squad Fails To Distract Public From Fact That Climate Models Stink: Update 3“.  Here is a fun excerpt:

It turns out they’d [reporters] rather remain wallowing in their muck than learn about the subjects on which they write.

And one more for fun:

So I failed. I was a fool to try. I let myself forget that I was dealing with a class of people where the gap between actual and perceived ability is not only wide, but is a gaping chasm. To expect mainstream science reporters to understand science is like asking an environmentalist to be reasonable. I should have remembered most journalists suffer from reporteritis, the degrading ailment whereby because reporters cover important people and events they come believe they are important, too. Sadly, there is no known cure.

Ok.  Maybe he’s right (I don’t think he is).  Maybe science reporters in the media are idiots (I don’t think that) and we should be outraged that they don’t know what they are doing and are spreading false information to the masses.  If that’s the case then he must also be outraged that Breitbart misrepresented his findings so badly.  Below is his response to the headline when I told him what the headline said:

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It seems like Brigg’s words (“It turns out they’d [reporters] rather remain wallowing in their muck than learn about the subjects on which they write”) could equally be applied to Breitbart.  So here is my challenge to Briggs: If you are going to criticize the “liberal” media with such passion when they get it wrong, you should also criticize the conservative media with that same passion.  I look forward to your post of how much of an idiot the writers at Breitbart are.



Posted on February 23, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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