Recovering, slowly, at the moment from a bit of a health thing. My tendency to over-do things has been a bit, umm, overdone of late.
I know nothing about the particular case, but the debate around it raises some interesting issues around media coverage of climate change and related issues. Poneke considers the coverage of climate change by the media has been sensationalist and alarmist. I’m inclined to agree.
Journalists, as a group, are not good on issues to do with science and maths. Most of us – myself included – are people who gravitated towards subjects like English and History and – when we got to tertiary study – Politics, Philosophy and Sociology. The closest we get to anything science is economics, which isn’t science at all, although it does involve maths. Sometimes.
That has always meant that journalism, as a profession, is incredibly vulnerable to anyone who comes along with a plausible sounding story involving science. Its a vulnerability I feel we’re not sufficiently careful of.
This is most noticeable on any stories to do with medicine and health.
My own views on climate change? A qualified agnosticism. I’d break my views into four parts.
- My knowledge of history tells me the earth has been through periods of apparent warming (and cooling) before. But my knowledge of history also tells me that we have lived through a very unusual time. Over the past 200 years we’ve taken a whole heap of stuff out of the ground and converted it into energy, and shoved the waste from that into rivers and into the atmosphere. The chances of that not harming the atmosphere, and the waterways, strike me as being pretty slim.
- Which means that, just like we don’t shove stuff into rivers with anything like the abandon we did a couple of generations back, we should be a lot more careful about what we shove into the atmosphere. Reducing emissions, in other words, seems to me to be a sensible thing to do.
- Climate Change itself? Don’t know. We won’t know until its too late to do anything about it.
- Kyoto Protocol? Very very dubious about it. Grandiose schemes like this have never worked. It also seems to me to be primarily aimed at reducing economic growth.
But to return to the issue of media coverage of the issues: If I was running journalism training I would be pushing very hard to recruit more people who can understand scientific issues. It strikes me that, whatever your views on climate change, we’re being a bit short-changed as far as quality coverage is concerned.