31 August 2015

When Comedians Are Doing The Job Reporters SHOULD be Doing

Posted by Dan Satterfield

From XKCD here: https://xkcd.com/1379/

From XKCD here: https://xkcd.com/1379/

It’s not just John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, now you can add  Bill Maher who called out Rick Santorum, when he made a ridiculously false claim about climate science. Santorum “claimed” that a study showed 57% of scientist had doubts about whether CO2 controls our climate, and Maher responded with (quoting here) “I don’t know what ass you’re pulling that out of..”

A little research online leads to the answer to Maher’s question. The study was done by Bart Verheggen and it says nothing of the kind. What it does say you can find out directly from Bart Verheggen HERE.  Over at ..and then there’s Physics we find that Santorum seems to have gotten (pulled it out..?) it from a political blogger who did not understand what he was reading, or perhaps just liked his version better.

Hey Weather Channel, take a look at the Carl Sagan quote below. Have you thought about covering more weather?

Hey Weather Channel, take a look at the Carl Sagan quote below. Have you thought about covering more weather?

The problem is not so much that Santorum ignores every major scientific society on the planet’s in favor of a blog by non-scientists, it’s that he will likely keep saying it, and most reporters will not challenge him on it! A reporter is not a stenographer, we have tape recorders for that now, and they are very fancy. Reporters are supposed to ask hard questions, and when they are given an answer that’s preposterously wrong, they should point it out, and ask where the information came from. In other words, they should be sufficiently well versed on the issues of the day to do know when they are being lied to or misled.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 12.57.42 AMThey will claim they are, and in most cases it’s true. Only, some journalists seem to think that science doesn’t count. 


So, some advice for reporters covering politics: You need to educate yourself about climate science. More and more, science bloggers are calling out reporters who let candidates get away with spouting non sense. Is it fair game to call out a reporter for doing a lousy job? I think so, and I think most journalists will agree. 

If you are a journalist and are weak on science:

Resources for reporters asking science questions. These sites/books detail basic information that is overwhelming supported by papers published in science journals.

Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer Weart at AIP

Climate Change Myths at Skeptical Science ( I’ve helped write a couple of these, and they are peer-reviewed by many before being posted)

Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change By Bob Henson published by the Amer. Metr. Society. (I know the author and highly recc. this book).

The National Center for Science Education is also a great resource when covering issues regarding climate science/ evolution education in the classroom.

My own advice about not falling for a logical inconsistency. There is NO doubt that CO2 blocks long wave radiation. It’s not just understood at a molecular level, but at the level of quantum dynamics. If someone gives you another reason the planet is warming, then to even be possibly valid, they must ALSO show why the CO2 is NOT doing it. Until they can do that, nothing else matters. You’ll notice they NEVER do this, because they cannot!