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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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You brought it on yourself
By amanojaku on 12/17/2010 8:41:22 PM , Rating: 3
First, let me applaud you for attempting to clarify your intentions in writing the original article. When I saw "Fox News Tells Reporters to Deny Earth Has Ever Warmed or Cooled" I was shocked. That's a hell of a statement. However, the title did NOT match the content of the article, which lead me to believe it was all about page hits. I'm sure part of that is true, but the length of this blog implies it wasn't the only reason.

I hate Fox News for its conservative leanings as much as I hate MSNBC for its liberal leanings. Journalism is about fact, not opinion, although there is room for opinions in journals when they are labeled as such. And Fox News, along with the other major outlets from across the political spectrum, has never been known to serve you the truth without spiking it with opinion. Which is why I was surprised to read this:
quote:
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data...

...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.
This does not say "the Earth has never warmed or cooled". This says "some people have falsified data or findings, so be careful with trusting your sources".

I'm not surprised you got so many negative responses. There are people on this site who hate you. I just hate your WRITING, but I could easily name a few visitors I think would leave you dying on the street without calling an abmbulance. Why are they like that? Because you rarely keep YOUR opinions out of your articles. It doesn't help that you don't cover all angles fairly, either.

Instead of writing as an independent observer, you make yourself a target by injecting your thoughts, opinions and quips in an attempt to make this a different kind of news site. You shouldn't be surprised at the backlash. That's just how people are when they don't agree with you. That's why you're not supposed to discuss economics, politics or religion at work.

I'm not telling you to change. I'm just saying that unless you stop personalizing your articles people will continue to attack your person.




RE: You brought it on yourself
By Iaiken on 12/18/2010 11:10:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Because you rarely keep YOUR opinions out of your articles.


That's why it's called an editorial and NOT an article...

quote:
An editorial is an opinion piece written by the senior editorial staff or publisher of a newspaper or magazine.


Of course, I'm no longer surprised by people who don't actually know what the differences are between reports, articles, editorials, expositions, etc, but I digress.

It would actually be nice if Daily tech moved to a more formal separation and categorization of such posts. Personally, I dislike reading "reports" that slowly morph into editorials as you get closer to the end. Instead, it should have been written as two separate pieces, one report, one editorial, but I doubt that's something we'll ever see on DailyTech.


RE: You brought it on yourself
By nstott on 12/22/2010 1:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
In general, I agree with what you wrote here. That being said, I am impressed and pleasantly surprised at the growth Jason has made over the past couple of years, and he's taken many of the more 'mean-spirited' comments by me and others here at DT in stride, which I respect.

However, I find comparisons of FNC to MSNBC as equal in opposite political poles annoying. A better comparison is FNC (right-of-center) to CNN (left-of-center). Most media outlets are so biased to the left that it makes FNC seem more right-wing than it really is. I do admit that FNC was definitely far-right when it started out and CNN was far-left at that time, but I think they both pulled each other closer to the center as they've competed. MSNBC is more like Pravda meets SNL, and I actually find ‘Keif’ Olberman to be hysterically hilarious although sad since the comedy is unintentional. MSNBC reminds me of the KCNA broadcasts coming out of North Korea.


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