Flabbergastingly Strong Climate Change Report

The media is bit by bit beginning to accept that the scientific consensus really is that serious human-induced global warming is a go. It has taken years for us to get to this point, and we’re not fully here yet anyway. One of my most grumpy moments this summer was on a day off in town, standing in a line up in a king sized grocery store, staring at a 3″ National Post headline claiming that global warming skeptics have been unfairly ignored.

Strangely enough, it hasn’t been very difficult to figure out what the scientific community has actually been thinking on this issue. Not for years. There is a single credible and comprehensive international body which coordinates global warming research and goes to great lengths to assemble and summarize findings on the topic. I can’t offhand think of any other major science-related issue that has been made as transparently easy to research.

But I guess that wasn’t enough for the press. They could hardly be expected to, you know, read the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change’s reports. They had stories to write and deadlines to meet. Poor buggers. It must be a real existential challenge, keeping a sense of reality when you are charged to make it up without reference to it on a daily basis.

I’m not complaining here about the editorial position of journalists or journalism outfits. People are free to dismiss the findings of the scientific enterprise if they have doubts about its integrity or value. The thing is, the media haven’t been casting doubt on the value of the science, they’ve just been routinely misstating that science, for years. For the most part it’s been to play up the uncertainty angle. Maybe it made for more exciting reading. You would think certain impending social and environmental disaster would be more interesting than uncertain impending social and environmental disaster. Guess not.

So the poor folks at the IPCC who have been writing these reports every few years have, I imagine, been getting more and more desperate each year at the lack of impact of their crucially important publications. The last one came out in 2001. The next one is due out in 2007.

Looks like the scientificos are trying some tactics this time round. In particular, individual scientists are giving interviews talking up the report as being wildly important and containing amazing information. Which it is and does, no doubt, it’s just not like an esteemed international scientific body to pimp it’s pubs with teasers and interviews.

There are, for example, some great lines in this newspaper article from CanWest:

”I can tell you for sure that the statements in that report will be far stronger than what existed in 2001. It will be flabbergastingly stronger.”

Holy crap, that’s a lot stronger. Let’s hope the brave new edition of the report will be enough to do it. And let’s hope that if it is action-jam-packed with unequivocal statements of flabbergasting strength, that they will be interpreted for what they are: the highly unusual result of the highly unusual situation in which the level of doubt around a scientific question has drained almost completely away; and not for what they aren’t: evidence that the scientists have lost objectivity and are making personally motivated overclaims.

I guess we’ll see. If anybody pays attention.

leave a comment