Fair balance or censorship?

fair-balance

It doesn’t seize to amaze me when I hear people state that there is a false balance in media coverage in which a couple percent of skeptics get most of media coverage. This is a typical way in which it is being told:.

There is a false balance of media coverage where two or three percent of skeptics get close to 50 percent of the media coverage because the media feels that they have to show a balance where they are showing both sides of the issue. But in the process they are giving that two or three percent 50 percent of the coverage and actually creating a false balance and false perception that there is a big divide among climate experts about the cause of global warming.

Skeptics get 50% of the climate coverage? Really? Media that are compelled to show balance? On what planet those guys live? The realm of skeptics is mostly (specific sites/blogs on) the internet because there they can tell their story uncensored. If skeptics get that much media coverage as we are told, then we would at least hear things like:

  • The pause in global temperatures since 10-15+ years.
    In stead we learn that temperatures are ever rising.
  • The Antarctic ice cover is the largest since the start of the measurements.
    In stead we only learn that the Arctic is melting like crazy. Not a word about the Antarctic, unless there is a calving glacier (giving the illusion that it is melting there too)
  • Polar bears quadrupled to quintupled over the last 50-60 years.
    In stead we learn that polar bears are on the brink of extinction because of the melting ice
  • Positive effects of global warming.
    In stead we learn that increasing temperatures only have negative effects
  • Problems with climate models
    In stead we learn that scientists make definite statements about the results or at best admit that climate models could have problems in the past, but now are fine, yes sir
  • There are LESS storms than ever before.
    In stead we learn that number and/or strength of storms increase with global warming
  • Problems with the temperature measurements or datasets that are morphing in something unrecognizable.
    In stead we learn that scientists make definite statements based on those measurements
  • Backup fossil fuel power is needed because of the intermittent character of wind and solar energy.
    In stead we learn that solar and wind power could perfectly replace fossil fuel power if we want to
  • There are LESS forest fires than before.
    In stead we learn that forest fires are increasing because of global warming
  • Food production is increasing year by year.
    In stead we learn that global warming has a bad effect on food production
  • and many, many more.

These are the things that I wanted to learn from the mainstream media, but instead I had to look for them on the internet. When I found these thing out myself, I felt betrayed that the media doesn’t report on them and instead bring one sided stories or were the writers obviously didn’t check the data.

Another thing I found out by checking the messages in the media was that the scientists use a lot of weasel phrases. For example: the first time I checked a media story there was the statement that “the number of detected thunderstorms in the previous decades did increase comparing the 1980s to the last decade”. At such not a false statement, but when you don’t know there was a change in instrumentation in the beginning 1980s (which was able to capture more thunderstorms than ever before) this would add a different color to it. You have to be very familiar with the data to spot the weasel wording. What they say is not a lie, but it is not the truth either. There is truth in there, but for the layman it will be impossible to dissect it out of the statements. They will be put on the wrong leg reading it. This is no different with the “consensus” statement.

In a way, I can understand what they are saying (when giving a minority view the public perception could be that both have the same strength). But is this how science works?

Sure, when a minority view get as much coverage as a the majority view, it would give a perception that it is bigger than it is. But my experience is if something is told about skeptics, they are portrayed as villains that are wrong anyway, but keep on bickering on the scientists. That’s a completely different picture. This gives the perception that there are no legitimate skeptic scientists or skeptical arguments. That is as false as the first alarmist quote in the beginning of this post. This also gives a emotional response of the laymen if they encounter skeptical arguments, therefor ignoring them without even listen to the merits of their message (been there, done that).

I for one was really surprised to find out that there are scientists that don’t follow the party line. Even more surprise to hear they don’t really question the physical science, but the degree of effects of CO2, the level of certainty in statements, the abilities of the models,… They are basically saying: “Hey, not so fast” in stead of the assumed hindrance of the science. Suddenly it seemed to be a completely different story, but because of my emotional response I was not able to listen to the message previously.

In a chaotic system with scarce data and a lot of uncertainty, who is the expert? In a situation where climate scientists seem to take a political standpoint or act like advocates, who to belief? We hear time after time that the science is solid, but we don’t hear about the complexity and uncertainty, the lack of data, the over representation of models and that science is not ruled by consensus in the first place. In this case, who has to decide what is fair balance, what are the criteria and how to enforce it? And probably here comes the consensus theory of Cook et al and previous attempts into play. How is that 97% being counted? In Cook’s case it was 97% of scientists that had a opinion on global warming as assumed by Cook and his coworkers by reading the title and abstract, providing there was an abstract and it was 1,000 words or less. Why the media doesn’t bring some background and just criticalness write what they have been told?

Why all this effort to convince the people of the “consensus” among scientists?

As scientists become more overwhelmingly convinced that climate change is man-made, why do politicians and the public give credence to global warming skeptics?

A review of scientific literature published this week has found that 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers taking a position on global warming say humans are causing it. Yet, a large proportion of the US public still seems unconvinced.

That is the point. To me this is just a transparent way of seeking a carte blanche to censor the skeptic arguments. First stating a problem that doesn’t exist and then bring the solution by censoring the opposing voices. They want to convince the public (and among them politicians who depend on the voters) that there are no legitimate skeptic arguments. That is not a scientific way of seeing things. Although such statements can be made by (climate) scientists, the message is obviously not scientific, but political in nature. It could well be a smart way of eliminating opposing views.

Let’s look at it from the other side: if one tries to hide behind the consensus, stifle criticism and avoid debate, how sure is one that this science is really correct? Why not just prove it? That shouldn’t be a big deal if the science is soooo clear and the evidence soooo overwhelming.

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