Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Corporate Climate Response

Another event this week, one unlikely to get much national coverage, is a "Green Power" conference on "Corporate Climate Response" here in Chicago. I would go but the fee is over $1K.

I'm a little jealous that Prof. Ricky Rood got a free press pass based on his new blog at Weather Underground.

However I will be going to similar themed conference in Maryland next month. I keep hearing that business is taking climate change seriously and want to see it for myself and also learn about what climate modelers can be doing better for these communities.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Big week for climate news in U.S.

This should be a week where global warming is a big story in the traditional media. The U.N. starts a meeting on climate change today and Bush's climate party is at the end of this week. The traditional media in the U.S. typically ignores the U.N. and the meeting later this week is mostly a way for the administration to whitewash its lousy record. We'll see how they do.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hope and despair in AP wire stories on global warming

My thanks to Climate Progress for pointing out a recent AP wire story by Seth Borenstein, who's work has been followed here before.

This story concerns new maps that the AP has seen of what coastlines will look like with a meter of sea level rise. The depressing part is that a meter of sea level may already be inevitable, its just a question of when. I think this is the kind of journalism Steve Outing had in mind: passionate and truthful.

The downside of these kind of stories is it might make people despair: what's the point of working to de-carbonize our economy if so much damage is already done?

Well the reason is in the hopeful counterpoint to this article, also written by Mr. Borenstein:
"It's hard at times," said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver. "You can't give up hope because what else is there in life if you give up hope? When you give up hope, that's quitting and scientists don't like to quit."

That optimism is based on science and faith.

The science, [Penn State Professor Michael] Mann said, is because climate researchers are sure of one thing that the public isn't: The numbers show that there is still time to avert the worst.

NASA's James Hansen, who forecasts some of the bleakest outlooks on global warming, said in an e-mail: "I am always surprised when people get depressed rather than energized to do something. It's not too late to stabilize climate."
Here's the best anecdote from this article:
Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider has battled cancer and it has colored his outlook. He said the key is not to get overwhelmed by the belief that something is too tough. Sure a 2-degree rise in temperatures is bad. But 4 or 5 degrees would be even worse [emphasis added].

Schneider's wife, Stanford University biologist Terry Root, recalled how in 2002 she was sitting at the hospital as Schneider slept after cancer treatment. The oncology nurse came in, chatted and asked her what she did for a living.

Root said she studied how animals are being hurt by global warming. "That is such a depressing job," replied the nurse who daily deals with cancer patients.

Then they both laughed.
It will be interesting to see which papers pick up one or both articles.

The message that "bad things will happen but we need to prevent worse ones" is a tough one for a political leader to say. But then, saying the tough things is what makes someone a leader. I wonder if any of the current U.S. presidential candidates can convey this particular message about global warming? I know the current office holder can't.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

IPCC Working Group II full report released to silence.

The IPCC process can be confusing. In a nutshell, there are three working groups looking at science of, impacts from and response to climate change, respectively. Each group releases a "Summary for Policymakers" and then a full report.

Working Group II, which looks at impacts, released its summary back in April and the full report earlier this week (Sept 18). While the summary was noticed, did anyone notice the full report? Not that I can tell.

Adam Siegel pointed out the lack of coverage and also noticed this depressing quote from an article in the U.K.'s The Independent:
"If warming is not kept below two degrees centigrade, which will require the strongest mitigation efforts, and currently looks very unlikely to be achieved, the substantial global impacts will occur, such as species extinctions, and millions of people at risk from drought, hunger, flooding."

If preventing a two degree warming is now "very unlikely" and the IPCC says so, that's news. But I can't find that phrase in the report itself. The source of the quote is referred to as "the body" by The Independent. A google search turned up an article on the same subject and with the same quote in Marie Claire U.K. (!?) But here the quote is "A spokesman said". Maybe a reporter can fill me in on the distinction.

The source of this quote must have been from the press conference. In a way, its good that this wasn't in the full report because its supposed to not contain any surprises: all the main conclusions are supposed to be in the Summary for Policymakers. That may also be why the full report isn't getting much coverage. Still, that's a newsworthy quote whatever the source.

(I'm back home for a week. But now each evening I have a choice: unpack or blog?)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another delay in posting

I'm currently at a meeting of the Climate Change Prediction Program in Indianapolis. Probably won't be able to post until I'm back on Thursday.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Latest blogstorm (Oreskes) fails to impress traditional media

Soon after the NASA GISTEMP non-story died away in the blogosphere, a new one started up concerning a yet-to-be-published paper in denier "journal" Energy and Environment that supposedly refutes the notion that there is a scientific consensus on global warming by counting publications. You can get some background at Stranger Fruit here and here, at DeSmogBlog here and here and at Deltoid.

But this blog is about traditional media coverage of which there's been none so far for this story. The NASA GISTEMP story took about 3 weeks between its first appearance on blogs and mention in the New York Times, although not how the deniers would want it. This one started around late August so time is running out. It might get another push when the paper is actually published.

Update: The best summary of this story is at the Stranger Fruit blog here and here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

No posts, moving.

I just finished moving within Chicago and will resume posting when things are somewhat back to normal.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hansen releases GISTEMP source code

Jim Hansen and colleagues have made available the source code that generates their global temperature plots. From Hansen's latest email:
Because the programs include a variety of languages and computer unique functions, [my colleague] Reto [Reudy] would have preferred to have a week or two to combine these into a simpler more transparent structure, but because of a recent flood of demands for the programs, they are being made available as is.
The data which this source code uses was corrected slightly and this was the subject of a lot of hot air from the denier crowd who tried to take an insignificant data correction, blow it up and then sow doubt about the whole process. Gavin Schmidt maintained that the references for the algorithms were enough (see comment #44 and #67). I think open source is always better. Not publishing the source just gives deniers more mud to throw in people's eyes. Cheers to Hansen and his colleagues (especially Reto Reudy).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Editor and Publisher columnist: "Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity"

I've argued on this blog that the denialists haven't been getting nearly as much of their material in to the traditional media since the IPCC report came out in February (when I started this blog). They're mostly heard in the right wing outlets and in editorial and columnist pages (and in the non-traditional media.)

But other's are still concerned. The excellent column by Mark Lynas (below) started out haranguing the false balance in global warming stories. Now Steve Outing, a columnist for the newspaper trade magazine Editor and Publisher, has published a strong argument for abandoning "objectivity" about climate change.

He starts out thinking about what he can do do make his kid's world better:
I've also been thinking about the newspaper industry and global warming. And frankly, I don't think newspapers are doing enough. Indeed, newspapers' fabled commitment to "objectivity" has been a detriment to efforts to combat global warming.

The industry still has a lot of power to influence people. How about if newspapers abandon their old way of doing things when it comes to the issue of global warming, and turn their influence to good? It just might be that through this issue alone, newspapers revive themselves to some extent. Editors are shirking their responsibility to improve our world, in my view, so let's change that.
This echo's Mark Lynas' call for a "more rigorous and honest approach".

He then goes on the say where objectivity is meant to be used:
I have no quibble with the status quo when it comes to controversial issues where there is a significant split of opinion. Outside of the opinion section, most newspapers are not going to allow writers and editors to express an opinion on hot debates like the right to abortion, or public funding for stem cell research. There are sizable groups of people lining up on both sides of those issues (not to mention those who fall in between). It would be journalistic suicide to take a mainstream paper and go on an advocacy tear about abortion, for example.

But advocacy in terms of encouraging people to act to alleviate climate change is really a wholly different issue. There's clearly scientific consensus that humans are altering the planet's climate, and that the effect is accelerating. Stronger hurricanes, melting glaciers and sea ice, worse wildfires and longer fire seasons, more severe droughts and flooding, and more frequent bizarre weather events overall.
Wow. I'm glad that message has gotten through to this non-scientist professional newspaperman.

For me the most interesting part was this mini-history of "objectivity":
The problem with that kind of coverage is that it doesn't permit journalists to find the truth in an issue, like global warming. Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University and a respected new media observer, points out that journalistic objectivity first arose in the 1920s and '30s -- following a period of sensational, "muckraking" reporting by newspapers.

"Part of the problem is that journalists don't realize what objectivity was in the first place," says Rosen. "From the beginning it was a way of limiting liability, and allowing journalists to take a pass when it's hard to figure out who's right and what's really going on. From the beginning it was meant to dull the knife edge of the press. It was meant to 'de-voice' or defang the individual journalist, so that more people would be comfortable with the product. But the costs of that system have built up over time.

"One of the most insidious and deceptive things about the system of objectivity is how it persuades journalists that the alternative to it is 'subjectivity.' From this angle, to relinquish objectivity means to surrender to partisanship, opinion, bias. Not very attractive, that. But what if the real alternative is truthtelling itself?" Rosen adds.
That's a powerful observation that should be repeated often to anyone trying browbeat the media into downplaying or denying global warming. The alternative to false-balance "objectivity" in global warming reporting is not advocacy or subjectivity but truthtelling.

He concludes the philosophical discussion:
The good professor would seem to support my idea that newspapers' sacred commitment to journalistic objectivity perhaps is hindering the power of the press to impact humans' behavior, because in the name of objectivity, reporters must give equal time to the tiny minority of skeptics and not go too far out on a limb to declare that climate change indeed is caused by humankind. (Perhaps that's why during recent news coverage of severe summer flooding in the Midwest US and historic wildfires in Greece, seldom is mentioned the possible -- I'd suggest, likely -- link between those events and human-caused climate change.)

As long as news organizations keep alive the idea that there's still a "debate" about whether human-induced climate change is real or not, people have an excuse for not changing their behavior.
What I take away from this is that editors need to go beyond making sure their reporters don't fall for the denialist spin, they need to also clean up their editorial pages.

Mr. Outing's inbox was apparently filled with flames from a few newspaper people and some denier usual suspects. Lets let him know his views are appreciated.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The morality of global warming and its reporting

I've been aware of the movement to describe global warming as a moral issue but mostly saw it as a way to bring more people, such as religious leaders, in to the effort to stop it.

However this excellent column by British reporter and activist Mark Lynas, called "Neutrality is cowardice", has made a connection between this moral side and reporting which I had not appreciated.

The BBC was planning an "Earth Relief" day of climate-change related programming. A little complaining from some anti-environmentalists and the BBC executives couldn't disown it fast enough:
The spat at last weekend's Edinburgh International Television Festival was a classic example of this impulse to timidity. When the anti-environmentalist film-maker Martin Durkin and his Channel 4 commissioning editor Hamish Mykura attacked the BBC's upcoming Planet Relief project - a proposed day of climate change-related programming and entertainment modelled on Comic Relief - corporation executives present rushed to disown it. "It is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet," insisted Newsnight editor Peter Barron. "I think there are a lot of people who think that it must be stopped."
Yes its not the BBC's job but if you could help save the planet, wouldn't you? Here's the passage that really struck me:
If Barron is really suggesting that the BBC should be "neutral" on the question of planetary survival, his absurd stance surely sets a new low for political cowardice in the media. It is also completely inconsistent. On easy moral questions, such as poverty in Africa, the BBC is quite happy to campaign explicitly (as with Comic Relief or Live Aid), despite the claim by the corporation's head of television news, Peter Horrocks, that its role is "giving people information, not leading them or prophesying". By analogy, the BBC would have been neutral on the question of slavery in the mid-19th century, and should be giving full voice today to the likes of the British National Party - all in the interests of balance and fairness. Likewise, it should not cover the plight of Aids orphans in South Africa without constantly acknowledging the views of the tiny minority who still dispute the link between HIV and Aids.
Another example that immediately came to mind was Apartheid in South Africa which the press here easily condemned in the eighties. More from Mr. Lynas:
It is worth re-stating again what a more rigorous and honest approach to climate change might look like. First, it would recognise that, despite small uncertainties regarding the specifics, the larger scientific question regarding causality has been settled for a decade at least. Second, it would acknowledge the moral repercussions of our failure to act so far: on people who are already suffering and dying in more frequent and extreme weather events, on future generations of human beings who will suffer a far worse fate, and on other species that will be driven to extinction as a result.
Mr Lynas has a lower opinion of reporters, editors and producers then I do (some of them know what to do). But this does put the onus on the traditional media: its not enough to not give deniers space in your pages or patiently explain the latest scientific findings. They need to talk about how this is ruining lives now and in the future and why action is necessary now. More on this in a future post.

I'll also track down and comment on an interesting reference Mr. Lynas found comparing denier-speak with pro-slavery arguments from 19th century America!

Update: BBC canceled the Planet Relief special. Cowards.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More on religion and climate change

I continue to be fascinated by the growing involvement of religious leaders of many different faiths in stopping global warming. Here's a few recent articles on the topic:

A small gathering of church leaders was held in Charleston:
It is an issue of stewardship, Rose Edington, co-minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said.

“Regardless if the science on global warming is true, half true or not true, we have to be stewards of our planet for the next generation,” he said.

A group of scientists and Evangelicals took a trip to Alaska together to discuss climate change:
The historic collaboration between leading scientists and Evangelicals to protect the environment, spearheaded by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) continues this week with a trip to Alaska.

"The goal of our trip is to witness together what human-caused climate change is doing to our world," said co-leader of the trip Eric Chivian, who shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize and is Director of the HMS Center. "While this collaboration may come as a surprise to some, it makes perfect sense. Both scientists and Evangelicals see life on earth as sacred and share the same deep sense of responsibility about protecting it."

"The idea is for all of us to experience what human activity is doing to God's Creation so that we can understand the urgent importance of caring for it," added expedition co- leader Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the NAE. "We dare to imagine a world in which science and religion cooperate, minimizing our differences about how Creation got started, to work together to reverse its degradation."

Counterpoint: On the other hand, some Evangelicals are not yet convinced.

Update: The Pope is also saying climate change is a serious issue.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Did anyone in U.S. cover U.K. climate protests?

This is now old news but I want to write about it before its really old.

On Saturday, August 18th, and the week prior, groups of protesters conducted a coordinated protest of global warming over multiple sites in England including Heathrow airport where early rumors the protests would shut the airport down didn't pan out. It all went peacefully.

Despite getting lots of coverage in the U.K., I didn't see anything in the traditional U.S. media except for this story in the L.A. Times.

The traditional media missed a great story. From the L.A. Times article:
The greatest show of force was a midday parade through this village's streets -- shadowed by Heathrow's lumbering jets overhead -- as demonstrators carried placards reading, "No Third Runway," "Altitude Sickness" and one of the catchier slogans of modern protest, "We Are Armed Only With Peer-Reviewed Science."
Heh, heh. I love British humor.
From the same article:
Over the last week, an estimated 1,200 activists set up makeshift tents, a fleet of bicycles on loan and a sophisticated recycling center in the Camp for Climate Change near the site of the proposed runway. In addition to preparing for Sunday's showdown, camp leaders conducted workshops on civic activism and environmental science and oversaw a series of earlier protests leading up to Sunday's clashes.
This was a large, well coordinated protest. Besides Heathrow, there was action at other places. From The Guardian:
Demonstrators from the Heathrow Camp for Climate Action today glued themselves to the Department of Transport in the latest action to highlight their protest against the airport.

Around 11 protesters arrived at the building in Horseferry Road, central London, at around 8.15am.

Six superglued their hands to its rotating doors, police said, while another two climbed on top of them with a banner protesting against airport expansion. A further three chained themselves to the doors
. Clever. Also from The Guardian:
Climate change activists who set up a camp at Heathrow airport nine days ago yesterday began to wind down their protests after a second day of civil disobedience which saw financiers, oil and nuclear power companies and even carbon offset firms targeted. In the past week there have been 12 separate actions and 71 arrests.

The climate camp's promised 24 hours of direct action, which began with protests at Heathrow against the aviation industry on Friday evening, spread to protests in Oxford, the City of London and Essex. Targets included organisations which campaigners said were contributing to climate change through their emissions at Heathrow or which they judged were not offering solutions
Here's my favorite story:
Two carbon offset firms staffed by committed environmentalists also found themselves targeted. Climate Care in Oxford was invaded by people dressed as red herrings and the CarbonNeutral Company in London was leafleted. Both offer to "neutralise" the emissions of consumers and companies by investing in projects which lower emissions elsewhere.

"Carbon offsets are ineffective, based on dubious science and lead people to believe they are helping when they are not," said Sophie Nathan, who took part in the CarbonNeutral Company action.
Now I realize that U.S. newspapers usually ignore domestic events in other countries but this particular domestic event involves an issue that affects all of us so maybe that should change.

You can catch up with this story at Google News and YouTube.

Update: H. E. Taylor of GW News has provided a collection of links to coverage, mostly on non-traditional media. I've put the summary here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who killed the DSCOVR climate satellite? An experiment in blog-to-traditional media crossover

DeSmogBlog is launching an investigative series into how a NASA satellite called the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) was killed before launch even after 90% of it was done. The DSCOVR satellite is designed to sit at an L1 point, very far from the earth, and measure its energy budget. This can provide a very simple and direct measurement of global warming and also help bound a few important parameters in climate models.

Despite being ready for launch for about 5 years, the satellite has sat in storage. I've always heard this was because it was 1) a climate thing and 2) championed by Al Gore and the Bush administration is just that petty.

DeSmogBlog investigative reporter Mitchell Anderson hints that the oil lobby may have requested that it be killed. In an odd move, DeSmogBlog is asking for donations to support the ongoing (?) investigation in to this story. Don't you want to keep the investigation a secret until the story is done so you don't spook sources? And what if there's no story there? Unlikely, but still....

Anyway, good for DeSmogBlog and I wish them luck. It will be interesting to watch and see if this story makes it in to the traditional media. Blogs are often criticized (unfairly (by the traditional media)) for only feeding off the original reporting of the big papers and news networks. But lefty blog Talking Points Memo is credited with pushing the fired U.S. attorney scandal back in to the traditional media, thus making it a scandal, by a combination of linking and original reporting. It will be interesting to see if DeSmogBlog can accomplish something similar.