Monday, August 20, 2007

The deniers screamed and nobody listened

For the last couple of weeks, the climate blogosphere has been a-buzz with the story of how a small error was spotted, and corrected, in the NASA GISS global temperature record. The correction was very minor and did not alter the global trend (up) at all. See coverage at realclimate, ClimateProgress (reprinting much of an email from James Hansen), and the August 19th edition of GW news.

Here's what's really interesting about this event: despite the coordinated effort from the deniers and their supporters in Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the Washington Times, this "story" was completely ignored by the traditional media. About all I could find was a mention in the Washington Post, where it was portrayed as a "look at what those bloggers are in a tizzy over now" story. The LA Times also had a brief mention where the change in the data is appropriately described as "negligible" and the blog reaction is a big part of the story.

This non-reaction underscores a point I've been making a lot on this blog: the traditional media have shut the door on the climate deniers. When they're mentioned at all, they are always qualified with their conservative and other agendas. They aren't portrayed as scientists engaged in a legitimate debate.

So what should climate bloggers do? Take a cue from the traditional media reporters: when climate deniers say they have "proof" that GW isn't happening or is a hoax, ignore them. No matter how much they post in your comment section, ignore them. They will only sap your strength and time for the real fight that will begin when Congress returns in the fall: the debate about what to do about global warming.

Update: The paper of record, the New York Times, has weighed in with a story by their main climate reporter, Andrew Revkin. Again the emphasis is on the over-reaction in the blogosphere. There's some interesting words on what James Hansen and Stephen McIntyre agree on (a surprisingly large amount). This passage was interesting in what it didn't say:
Everyone appears also to agree that too much attention is paid to records, particularly given that the difference between 1934, 1998, and several other sets of years in the top 10 warmest list for the United States are so small as to be statistically meaningless.

And who is it that pays all this misleading attention to records? The media, Mr. Revkin.


Ugo Bardi said...

You may be curious to know that there was at least one article on this story in an Italian right wing newspaper, "Il Giornale", written by one Mr. Franco Battaglia, well known denier here in Italy. As you would expect, he wrote a standard denial story, never mentioning that the correction was for the US only and not for the whole world. But no other Italiam paper reported it.

Michael Tobis said...

An alternative strategy to ignoring them is mocking them, which is really not very difficult.

Rob said...

Hi Michael,

Mocking is fun. But you know how frustrating it is that these folks continue to deny reality? Ignoring them is the only way to impart an equal level of frustration. The serial blog-comment deniers are especially attention starved, I think.


Rob said...

Hello Ugo,

Thanks for the Italian perspective. Is "Il Giornale" widely read outside of the right wing? If not then it sounds like this "news" got the same non-reaction in Italy. Although see my update to this story.