1. They love you not… but then, I wasn’t too impressed with the slant of the story either 🙂

    More seriously, what exactly is this “2nd International Conference on Global Warming”? The session on the next ice age – what came of it? And so on…

  2. Upon reading today’s angry letters, I re-read the article to see if, as was alleged, John’s statement about the current consensus was put off till the end, after many readers would supposedly have stopped reading. And, at basically the beginning of the article (Paragraph Five; the first two paragraphs basically stated what the consensus is, and the next two introduced the Skeptics), I found this:

    Chylek is a dissenter from the scientific mainstream. While most scientists think greenhouse gases are responsible for changes already seen in Earth’s climate, Chylek believes the “data are inconclusive.”

    Maybe many of today’s letter writers should re-read the piece. Comprehension should always precede an attack, not follow it.

    Cheers, Dave

  3. Well, prompted by Wm’s comment, I read your piece during lunch, John.

    I understand your Editor likely ‘improved’ your tone, but I think this piece is an excellent one to use when, say, you comment at Chris’ place about the role of journalism in directioning society. That is: often, journos don’t do a good job by themselves (sorry). Why?

    This ‘hot air’ piece obfuscates, rather than clarifies the issue – perhaps this is why the letter writer was prompted to pen his reply, in order to point out the obvious that got glossed over.

    For example: when the semiseptic Chylek tries to sow doubt by saying in effect: ‘golly, what about the sun? It’s like real hot!’, and ‘gosh, fer certain we can’t say exactly the proportion of contribution, so WTF!’ you don’t explicitly call him on his BS.

    Trotting out RP Sr to do his land-use thing to balance the story didn’t do enough to point out that, yes, there are multifactorial reasons why climate is changing, and it changes differently in different places, even to the effect that places on, oh, Greenland can be both warming AND cooling.

    What do do, you ask? Dessler’s OTA reconstitution is a good start, but only for policy-makers.

    It’s too easy to screw up the context for the public, esp. by maintaining the false journalistic balance that is really beginning to annoy me. The balance in this piece didn’t do a thing to clarify or explain. That’s why the letter.




  4. Dano –

    Thanks, but I think you’ve missed the point of the story. That obviously means I failed, so let me try again.

    The central point was an effort to address what I see as a widespread public misunderstanding of science – the distinction between crisp textbook knowledge (science as what is known) and the messy reality (science as process of finding out). This misunderstanding greatly complicates climate change and other public policy debates.

    In the political/policy debate over climate change, advocates on both sides exploit the misunderstanding by citing individual scientists without providing the context of where they lie, either within the mainstream of what is known or out on the messy edges. The story’s purpose was not to tell readers who to believe, but to arm them with a better background understanding of the process of science, and where debates like those I singled out involving Chylek and Pielke Sr. fit into the broad sweep.

    P.S. The ‘tone’ was all mine.

  5. Hmmm.

    I missed it.

    I thought you stated your thesis as:

    [scientists disagreeing] is the sort of thing that happens all the time in science: researchers doing their best to make sense of imperfect and sometimes conflicting data.

    And your text expanded on that theme.

    Certainly your first three paras set the topic of the arty as ‘dueling scientists’, and your turn to policy wasn’t until just before the bullets. I don’t see your intent coming across here (in this particular arty).

    The majority of the letter-writers (I just read them this morning, prompted by your comment here – hmmm…time-constrained in my reading…typical reader…what message comes across in the newspaper to time-constrained readers…) in the paper mentioned – explicitly or implicitly – something about the tone of the arty and the ‘balance’ that IMHO is becoming problematic.

    I like your work, John, which is why I’m here.

    I’m just saying this particular arty (not the body of your work) didn’t clarify the situation. The overarching point that I mention above is that conveying useful information to diverse sets of [readers, stakeholders, publics, whatever] is something that we don’t do a good job at. And conveying context is the beginning of conveying useful information.

    Contextualization is dependent upon the reader – ‘joy is in the ears that hear, not in the mouth that speaks’ – and is what makes it difficult to convey useful information.



  6. WC –

    The conference is Petr Chylek’s attempt to bring together interesting people on a bunch of topics that fascinate him. That’s really the best way of explaining it. I only went to part of the meeting – there was a bunch of aerosol stuff too (his speciality) that I skipped, as well as the ice age stuff. Sorry.

  7. John-

    If it makes you feel any better, I thought your article was pretty good. And not just because you quoted me, although that does help — and you didn’t quote Bill Gray, which also helps. However, I suspect your article would have been better received if you’d said upfront that AGW is real, etc., etc., and what the article was really about was “the controversy” and how it plays out. Ultimately, however, I suspect it will be hard to really do that subject justice in 500 words.


  8. Well, let us put it this way, Chylek and the Pielkes are to climate what Joe Liberman was to Democrats. Having said that, I think you medium constains you to a he said, she said format. A great deal of the problem is that the reporter cannot be seen as expressing an opinion, even an expert on in the Mainstream Media. OTOH, when you get to the FOX News/Washington Times side of the axis, this goes out the door.

    “You really cannot say for certain what is causing current climate change,” Chylek said in an interview.

    calls for a straight out statement that you damn well can tell beyond all reasonable doubt.

  9. Been on hols. Sorry for late reply. So…

    I thought it might be a bit like that. So if its a one man band, isn’t the conf title a bit misleading? Oh… and why was the start of the next ice age so boring?

  10. John, I see that your story was picked up both by SEPP and FreeRepublic, no doubt because they considered it fair and balanced.

    I note this news about Chylek and his first conference (to which William refers):

    “Petr conceived and organized the first international conference on Global Warming and the Next Ice Age at Halifax in 2001. He felt that the declaration by manadarins of the climate research community that global warming is a certainty, needed further investigation, that contrary research was being pushed aside. This controversial conference was a success and most participants felt it was refreshing to hear so many different viewpoints about climate.”

  11. Tom –

    But if you look at the comments on Free Republic, it’s clear that many of the readers did *not* think it was fair and balanced because of my repeated references to the mainstream consensus.

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