The news media coverage last week of the NRC “hockey stick” report provides a stark reminder of the point Dan Sarewitz made in his How science makes environmental controversies worse. While everyone prattled on about whether the hockey stick is now really broken, or the handle has been properly taped back together, or whatever, last week’s paper in Science about warming-induced threats to Andean water supplies seems to have been completely ignored by the news media (at least the English-language news media).
One, the hockey stick, seems to have essentially no effect on the decisions we might make about climate policy, but got huge attention. It’s the high ground that everyone in the scientized debate is trying to win. The other is of profound importance, has real policy relevance, and seems to have been ignored.