Falling Short

I recently created a multi-genre document which explores discrepancies in the way the media reports on climate change.

Falling Short

Apologies that the visual quality isn’t too great. I conveniently lost my digital copy of this file and all I had was a hard copy, which I scanned, losing some of the quality in the process.



6 thoughts on “Falling Short

  1. If you scanned it, you did a really good job. I’ve read some important mathematical papers that were tilted sideways.

    I think that that document is a pretty good summary of what you’ve written about so far. I can definitely see Greg Craven’s handprint in it (is that a real expression, or did I just make it up?), but it’s more scientific than his stuff. Of course, some climate change deniers will say that scientists are biased. Scientists are biased because they need grant money, peer review is flawed, scientific organizations are run by bureaucrats and don’t represent the opinions of their climatologists, etc.

  2. There’s a lot of good fun and good sense in there but two things leaped out at me.

    1) You might want to add a note explaining how 97.4% of climate scientists can believe that human activity is causing the Earth to warm while only 96.2% believe that the Earth is warming. (The answer: Two of the climate scientists in the survey didn’t answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question about human activity so Doran and Zimmerman excluded them from the total when calculating the percentage. If included in the total – as they surely should be – the second percentage is 94.9%.)

    2) From the Conclusion: climate change threatens ‘our very survival as a species’. This absurd hyperbole destroys the aura of rational scientific neutrality you had so carefully projected in everything that preceded it.

    • Where did you get the info about the two scientists being excluded? It wasn’t mentioned in the report anywhere, nor in the FAQ, and EOS would have published a retraction if such a complaint had come through.

  3. Thanks Vinny,

    Looking at it again, I’ll probably replace “species” with “civilization”. That’s a lot less extreme and, sadly, a pretty distinct possibility. I’m working on typing it up so it’s better quality, so I’ll change it then.

  4. I got it wrong. It looks like they excluded themselves by not answering the question (or not answering it legitimately). Figure 1 in the Doran and Zimmerman study shows three responses to Question 2: ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘I’m not sure’. Measured off the screen, the lengths of the relevant bars (palest blue) are consistent with 75, 1 and 1 votes. When I posted, I assumed that the chart supported the notion that there had been two votes each for ‘No’ and ‘I’m not sure’ and that the latter had been dumped. Sorry about that.

    That’s the good news. The bad news is that while checking this I noticed that your presentation misstates Question 2. You say:

    ‘Then the scientists were asked if the warming was caused by human activity. This time, 97.4% said it was.’

    The actual Question 2 was: ‘Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?’

    No mention of warming. It is, of course, very likely that most of the study’s respondents would agree that human activity is a significant factor in increasing mean global temperature, but that wasn’t the question. The answers to Q2 shouldn’t be used to support something that wasn’t asked.

    But don’t worry. You’re not alone in doing this. Doran and Zimmerman do it themselves: ‘It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.’

    And here’s Professor Doran in the press release announcing the study: ‘So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you’re likely to believe in global warming and humankind’s contribution to it.’

    His take-home message is probably true, but you can’t take it home from his study.

    (I wonder if the two missing experts refused to answer Q2 because they knew it was the wrong question.)

    • I agree, I rephrased question 2 slightly, but mostly just to simplify it for the younger audience this document was originally aimed at. Perhaps in the next revision I’ll phrase it a slightly different way.

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