Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hurricanes & Global Warming

Chris Mooney and Matthew Nisbet have an article in the Skeptical Inquirer about media coverage of the issue of hurricanes and global warming, and I don't really see that it adds anything to the debate. Instead of argueing about media coverage of an uncertain issue, can we please just examine the issue itself without looking one or two orders beyond into the media question? That's tough enough already. I know Mooney shys away from covering science itself and and so all he has left is to examine media coverage, but in this case its adds nothing to the debate.
In the future, however, [the "just the facts" scientific backgrounder] just isn't going to be good enough. Over the next decade or more, explaining the possible strategies for coping with intense hurricanes even in the face of uncertainty about the ways and extent to which hurricanes might be changing will pose a major challenge for news organizations. Reporters must strive to show the public not only the science in all of its complexity, but also to open a window on why addressing the problem matters and the choices the nation faces over how to do that. This will require balancing the desire to appear objective against the need for precautionary and forward-looking coverage -- coverage that helps set the agenda for how we think about the possible effects of global warming. It will also require getting beyond the tyranny of relying on major new studies, personality conflicts, or overt political conflict as the primary means of defining what counts as newsworthy.
In fact, a "just the facts" backgrounder is precisely good enough--unless you have an ulterior purpose--and getting in to the unscientific territory of the precautionary principle adds nothing to the basic situation. To be clear: it is still a legitimate scientific question about whether global warming is increasing hurricane intensity, and legitimate, well-meaning scientists differ on the question and have not yet reached a consensus. I can live with that. Unless you think media organizations should manufacture reasons out of whole clothe, that's how they should cover the issue--the precautionary principle is unscientific.

It's been known for a long time about how you deal with hurricanes, and global warming doesn't change that, whether it implies stronger storms or not. This just stikes me as a bunch of whooey on top of what is already a significant problem, adding nothing of value to the discussion.


Dano said...

I disagree David.

They are exploring ways of alerting the public to the issue, which will require adaptation.

That is: folk will have to change their lifestyles and expectations in the future.

As most people resist change, folks will have to be educated on why they cannot live the way their parents did, and why their dreams will have to be modified.

That's a monumental undertaking and we need to start figgerin' out how to do it. The article is a shot at how to start. IMO it does, in fact, add value.



Michael Doran said...

Current studies which look at cloud feedbacks and SSTs are controversial starting with Lindzen's Iris and Klotzbach's recent paper. These studies indicate that a green house gas theory in relation to CO2 is flawed. However, no one is looking and clouds and electrics, as well as CO2 as a conductivity variant.

Anonymous said...

I believe that global warming is capusing more huricanes.