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The Earth has gone through a great deal of NATURAL climate change. To order news anchors to say otherwise throws out basic science and throws out one of the best arguments against the belief that man is causing warming.  (Source: Corbis/Royal BC Museum, British Columbia)

The Earth's climate is incredibly complex and we have a long ways to go before we can fully understand it or accurately predict what effect changes to certain variables will have on it.  (Source: NASA)
I thought this analysis was straight-forward, but it appears that I may not have explained my points ideally...

This week a memo leaked from a top Fox News staffer, ordering employees...
...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
Now this memo was leaked by a notoriously liberal-slanted group, Media Matters.  However, that seems largely immaterial as Fox News has not denied the authenticity of this memo, which it likely would have done, had the memo been doctored.  The memo has been reported at the likes of ArsTechnica, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, and The Washington Post.  And yes, I wrote a report on it as well.

Since some people seemed to misunderstand the point I was trying to make, let me reexplain my perspective in further detail, striving for greater clarity. 

First, let me state that I am somewhat skeptical of the notion that man is causing climate change.  I believe that there's a wealth of evidence to show that the climate has naturally and dramatically changed throughout its history.  And there's a lack of definitive evidence that man is indeed somehow "overriding" the Earth's natural cycle and kicking it into a heating one.

In other words, when it comes to global warming, we really don't understand what's going on.  And "trends" are statistics, so we don't know whether the heating in recent years will continue unabated (in fact, some evidence point to recent cooling trends). 

All of this is significant because the nation is contemplating costly legislation that would place what some estimate to be trillions in debt on the backs of the American people.  Now granted, those are estimates from conservatives who have shown themselves, much like anthropogenic warming advocates, to be less than scrupulous in trying to prove their point.  But at the end of the day, most would agree that the cost of a carbon credits scheme would be quite high.

So those who somehow thought I was attacking AGW skepticism clearly misunderstood me.

I did however try to convey how illogical this particular edict -- "we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period" -- was.

There is virtually sound-proof geological, chemical, and paleontological evidence that the Earth has gone through numerous cool periods.  To suggest otherwise is lunacy.  Further, it's somewhat comical considering that the fact that climate has warmed and cooled over many periods is a key argument against the notion that man is affecting some sort of unique change on our planet.

My point I tried to raise was that Fox News (or at least its editor) became so blind in their pursuit of disproving warming, that they ordered their employees, at least at face value, to abandon basic science.  And it doing so they're doing a disservice to climate skeptics everywhere.

As I said, this is an issue that needs unbiased, peer-reviewed research.  But I think that people are increasingly treating climatology like politics, and dirty politics at that.  Science is being thrown under the bus in the rush to be out-point the other side.  And that bothers me, as someone who has bother participated in research and written on a great deal of scientific topics.

When I first started writing for DailyTech, I took a collection of studies from U.S. agencies like the NOAA and NASA as the end all, without objectively evaluating which of their conclusions made sense.  Perhaps that was reasonable to do -- as a reporter.  But as I've increasingly become a news analyst, as well, I've been forced to think more on this topic and reevaluate my stance. 

The Earth has changed a great deal over time, so it's arrogant to assume any change that's currently occurring is due to us.  Carbon levels may be going up, but exactly how much that is influencing warming versus a host of other factors remains to be seen.  Further, as my colleague Michael Asher pointed out on numerous an occasion, a little warming might have some benefits.

But again, I think ultimately climatology research -- assuming it becomes more unbiased -- is still a critical and worthwhile investment because at some point in the future -- perhaps 200 years, perhaps 1,000 years -- mankind will have the power to fully understand the Earth climate -- and perhaps discover ways to control it to its advantage.  Much like space flight or nanotechnology, this is a key arena for progress, looking ahead.

On the other hand, the Fox News memo and many other recent incidents by skeptics and warming "believers" alike illustrate the dangerous politicization of what should be a scientific topic.  That dangerous trend is ultimately fueled by the quest for money on both sides of the debate.  What is desperately needed is for the government and media to look at individual climate studies and cover their conclusions, taking care so as not exaggerate them. 

The same goes for climate skeptics.  By all means, point out studies that support alternative viewpoints or flaws in existing studies.  But avoid making blanket generalizations -- especially misinforming and scientifically inaccurate ones like Fox News did, surely in an attempt to cater to its partisan audience.


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RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By JasonMick (blog) on 12/17/2010 8:37:58 PM , Rating: -1
quote:
It was a short quote. It sounds like he was simply trying to tell his reporters to present both sides of the story at all times.


But that's NOT what he said!

You are responsible for what you write, whether you like it or not.

The fact of the matter is that telling anchors to suggest that there is evidence that the Earth's natural temperature DOES NOT change over time is akin to telling them to dismiss evolution as "unproven".

If that's not what he was suggesting doing, he needs to post a clarification.

It's possible he just sent out a very very poorly worded memo, which I certainly hope. But if he was indeed suggesting that there's no evidence that the climate has ever warmed or cooled as his words suggest, that's unacceptable.

"in any given period" generally means "in the past, present, or future", and in that context the statement is utterly incorrect.

If anything it could be (mis)used by global warming supporters to try to blame current changes on mankind.

It does a disservice to legitimate skepticism, whether he intended it or not.


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By johnsonx on 12/18/2010 2:09:03 AM , Rating: 5
oh come on, it's not that poorly worded. could better wording have been chosen? yes, but the intent is still crystal clear. your line of reasoning is absurd, an in a way, deeply offensive.

You say: ""in any given period" generally means "in the past present, present or future", and in that context the statement is utterly incorrect". Yet before you even start you've already taken the words out of context and expanded them to include all of time. All of time, including past ice ages, is clearly not the context of the statement. Only an idiot could believe that is what was intended. No intended recipient of the memo could have been unclear about the intent. The fact that you have found a way to take the words out of context and twist them to mean something absurd does not make you right, nor particularly clever.


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By Iaiken on 12/18/2010 10:51:37 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Yet before you even start you've already taken the words out of context and expanded them to include all of time. All of time, including past ice ages, is clearly not the context of the statement.


If read purely within the context of the entire paragraph, that is exactly what that specific wording would imply. Mick is not adding an expansive meaning, the editor made the mistake of using a generic statement "in any given period" without restraint or limitations to which period he is referring to. This basically makes it a weaselly ambiguous sentence that he can later apply any meaning he wants to as a clarification. Why? Because any meaning outside of its literal meaning is an inference applied by the reader.

So technically it is actually YOU who has "ound a way to take the words out of context and twist them to mean something absurd". This doesn't make you right, nor particularly clever. :P


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By kattanna on 12/20/10, Rating: 0
RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By Schrag4 on 12/20/2010 12:27:04 PM , Rating: 4
I'm sorry, but you guys are just on a witch hunt here. Is Fox biased? Everyone is biased. BUT, nobody except the "lunatic fringe" left believes that FOX really thinks the earth has never warmed or cooled. The first time I read the text in question I understood that they meant that they should refrain from pretending to know whether or how much the earth has warmed or cooled during "any given period." They didn't mean during all periods. They meant during the period being discussed in their news segment. And they didn't mean it has never warmed or cooled. They meant they, as reporters, shouldn't claim know what can only be theorized based on the evidence we've gathered and analyzed so far.

Seriously, is your hate for FOX really that blinding to you people? Don't get me wrong, they're biased, but trust me, you guys are really trying to nail them on a technicality here (how the memo was worded). And what's worse is you're pretending to know what they meant, when it's clear, to me and others, that they meant something else.


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By adiposity on 12/20/2010 12:42:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
BUT, nobody except the "lunatic fringe" left believes that FOX really thinks the earth has never warmed or cooled.


No one is saying they actually think it...just that they are asserting it.


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By Schrag4 on 12/20/2010 1:49:13 PM , Rating: 3
No, they're not. The memo says "...we should refrain from asserting ..."


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By Mortando on 12/23/2010 12:46:08 PM , Rating: 1
Unless you're being facetious I think you should go back and read the quote again.


By Schrag4 on 12/25/2010 12:38:05 AM , Rating: 2
Which part? "...we should refrain from asserting..." or "It is not our place as journalists to assert..."? I'm still missing how you guys read this as anything other than them saying they don't really know what happened in the past.


RE: Talk about taking things out of context
By kattanna on 12/20/2010 3:03:03 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Seriously, is your hate for FOX really that blinding to you people? Don't get me wrong, they're biased, but trust me, you guys are really trying to nail them on a technicality here (how the memo was worded). And what's worse is you're pretending to know what they meant, when it's clear, to me and others, that they meant something else.


first off, i have no love or hate for any news source, as that would imply some sort of emotional attachment, of which i have none. I shift through a wide variety of local and foreign firms for news. not caring for them personally, but the quality of their news content.

my view of the fox memo is not based on solely this one incident, but over a long history of them. they have well known, and many more not so well known instances of them exaggerating the truth. which in and of itself most news sites seem to do. but they also have gone to the point of lying and intentionally fabricating news stories. so, IMO, they rate no higher then "weekly world news". actually lower as with the weekly world news can be good for a laugh!

me personally i willnt even click on a web link that goes to any fox news website anymore. so this email is just one more step in their long path of shenanigans.

I am also having to continually correct the news my poor grandmother gets from them, which ranges from worryingly wrong to amusingly wrong.

what worries me is how people could NOT see fox news for what they are, but alas it seems most are content to be entertained, not educated.


By Schrag4 on 12/20/2010 5:39:25 PM , Rating: 2
So...since they're biased and you think they make up news, then you know what they really mean in this memo? Even though it says something else? I'm sorry, but that sounds kind of like Dan Rather saying that the Bush National Guard documents were fake but accurate.

Let's stick to the memo at hand, shall we?


By phanmc on 12/18/2010 7:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
According to MediaMatters, the offending email was sent 15 min after a Fox correspondent reported that the UN's WMO announced that the current decade is on track to be the warmest on record. Presumably, this email is a response to that particular piece of news. So the "any given period" in this case would be the current decade.

Perhaps I'm assuming too much but it makes much more sense than him denying that the climate ever changes.

I don't think anyone else came to the same conclusion you did. Most of the other sites criticizing him do it because to them he's promoting skepticism.


By mkrech on 12/20/2010 2:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
Nice job generating traffic. DT is succeeding largely on these type of posts. However, I believe you can do better.

quote:
a memo leaked from a top Fox News staffer

The comment was to a targeted audience. To imply that the meaning was not carefully written is absolutely presumptuous. I would agree that a better wording should have been used if the statement was written for a public audience but it was not.

Stop fishing Mick. There are plenty of factual issues from both sides of the warming debate that could be presented by DT to entice discussions (and traffic) within these forums.


By nstott on 12/22/2010 12:10:17 PM , Rating: 2
Reporters are supposed to report news, not tell us what they think or push their ideas (That's the job of commentators). If anything, this memo shows FNC to be, as you mocked, "fair and balanced" on the issue. They aren't supposed to push warming OR cooling, and, despite your mischaracterization, they were not told to DENY anything either. They are not scientists, and ancient climatology is not exactly NEWs . They have climate experts and political pundits from both sides of the issue and allow them to present those points during the interview process. That is good journalism: they allow experts from both sides to present the facts without journalists pontificating on what they are not experts in.

The point you made would only be valid if the memo told reporters to not allow experts onto FNC to discuss warming or cooling. What this shows is that you didn't really think about it before spreading the György Soros-funded propaganda from Media Matters. Don't be such a useful idiot, comrade.

Jason, I'll give you credit for having come a long way, but your old biases are proving to be difficult to discard.


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