Today’s batch of news feeds was great. I have not one, but two, posts to comment on from elsewhere in the climate blogosphere.
“Here’s IPCC author Phil Duffy, whose thoughts on the subject inspired mine:
Things happen, but let’s react appropriately. Medical doctors make mistakes every day. (In fact, medical errors in the US alone kill hundreds of people daily–the equivalent of a jumbo-jet crash.) And no doubt many of these errors happen because established procedures are ignored, sometimes knowingly. Does this mean the entire edifice of western medicine is wrong, or prejudiced, or the product of a conspiracy, and should be rejected? Of course not. Furthermore, the medical profession as a whole is still held in high regard, as it should be.
No one worth listening to is calling for a massive inquiry into the science underpinning modern medicine, or the engineering foundations of the car industry. But pseudoskeptics argue that the IPCC is systematically fraudulent simply because a couple of statements among thousands of pages of heavily edited and re-editing (and re-re-edited) documents cite gray literature instead of the peer-reviewed literature that supplied the science in the first place.
Is it controversial among those study such things that 40% of the Amazon is susceptible to drought? No. Is it controversial that Himalayan glaciers are receding? No. Only the way in which that science was presented and attributed was found faulty. To thrown out anthropogenic global warming because of such missteps is the climatological analog of dismissing an entire faculty of medicine because someone correctly diagnosed a patient because of a story they read in New Scientist instead of the medical journal article on which the story was based. Bad judgment? Yes. Fatal error? No.”
And one more:
“This isn’t about censorship. Thanks to the Internet, everyone can find a way to spread their point of view. It’s about applying the same standards to coverage of climate change that “respectable” media apply to fields like sports, business and other fields. Sports bloggers and journalists for major news organizations couldn’t get away with making up baseball statistics for long. They’d be laughed out of the office. Business reporters can’t supply false stock market numbers because that would be a violation of very essence of what they’re supposed to be doing. And yet climate science is somehow different. If you work for theDaily Mail or Telegraph in the UK, or Fox News (or the Washington Post‘s op-ed section) in the U.S., you can say or print anything you want about climatology, without regard for the facts. That should not be tolerated.”
Read the rest of the article here. While you’re at it, see if you can get the New York Times to print it.
James’ last point about censorship leads nicely into the second post I want to discuss. DeSmogBlog is having some problems in the comment section, and plans to tightly moderate comments in the future.
I certainly sympathize with the DeSmogBlog writers. I find that the vast majority of Internet discussions regarding climate change turn into such a food fight that reasonable and insightful discussion falls through the cracks. Well-meaning and fact-checking people are so busy responding to the same old objections, or are so intimidated by trolling commenters (quick poll – who here has been called a Nazi for explaining basic atmospheric science?), that they do not post the wonderfully thought-provoking things that they have to say.
Keeping comments completely open and unmoderated, therefore, is catering to those who wish to waste others’ time, hold nothing back in their criticisms of individuals, and can’t be bothered to check citations before spreading something around. I don’t think it’s necessary to give that kind of discussion any more space. Instead, I wish to cater to those who have insightful (and accurate!) things to say, by providing a supportive community for them to do so. RealClimate sums up my feelings on this topic quite well:
“Comments that accuse as of bad faith, fraud and dishonesty are not ways to move forward any conversation – how can you have a dialog with people who don’t believe a word you say? We choose to try and create a space for genuine conversation, which means weeding out the trolls and the noise. This is an imperfect process, but the alternative is a free-for-all that quickly deteriorates into a food fight. There are plenty of places to indulge in that kind of crap. There are only a few places where it’s not and we are not embarrassed to try to make this site one of them.”
By the sounds of things, DeSmogBlog’s comment policy is going to be much more stringent than mine. I don’t “tightly” moderate comments – on the contrary, there are many remarks that, in retrospect, I realize should never have passed moderation. But I do have two basic rules that I try to adhere to: 1) provide legitimate peer-reviewed citations for your claims (unless they’re common knowledge – I won’t make you cite Fourier and Arrhenius), and 2) refrain from personal attacks, aggression, etc. I like to show when a person’s comment has been deleted, and give a brief explanation why, so readers can see what’s going on without having to go through the agony of actually reading it.
The first complaint when a policy like this is enacted is invariably “censorship!!!!”, and, almost six months later, I still get those complaints. But “censorship” is not an accurate term for such policies. You can still go and say whatever you want about climate change elsewhere – on your own blog, on YouTube, in a national news release. There are infinite other ways to make unsupported claims and spread rumours about people, so filtering them out of my own blog (or RealClimate, or DeSmogBlog) in effort to promote a decent discussion is by no means totalitarian.