I’m way overdue in putting up a new post and giving an update on the Environmental Writing class that Peyten Dobbs and I are teaching. It has been, without question, one of the most interesting and challenging teaching experiences of my career, and we’ve both admitted to each other that, relatively speaking, we’re a little bored teaching the conventional English curriculum in our regular English classes. (If you’re interested, you can access our class blog here and see what the students have had to say about it.)
At any rate, I’ll write a thoughtful and thorough update at some point, but for now I’ll just say that it’s been exciting for us to go through something of the same learning process as the kids. I’ve followed the climate change issue fairly closely for a decade or so now, but teaching this course has pushed me to dig deeper and question my assumptions, to examine loose ends and fill in the gaps in my understanding, and to follow developments in the scientific arena more closely than usual.
Among other things, watching the science unfold in real time gives one a perspective on the media that you don’t otherwise get.
Yesterday’s big news? Well, I’ll use the headline of the column in today’s WSJ, written by the lead researcher of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team (BEST), to sum up the very latest research findings: The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism: There were good reasons to doubt, until now. The BEST team undertook a series of studies designed specifically to test questions raised by climate skeptics about the validity of global temperature data sets used by climate scientists (regular readers of Nealz Nuze, for instance, will remember breathless revelations about temperature stations sited next to heat sources like airport runways) and came to the following conclusion (in the words of lead researcher Richard Muller):
When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups [of climate scientists]. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections . . . Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate.
Anyway, if you want to know more about these findings, you can read the summary report released by BEST.
What I found particularly interesting and want to comment on, however, is the media coverage of these findings. I first read about it yesterday in The Economist. The Washington Post has reported on it. The New York Times has reported on it. CNN has reported on it. The BBC has reported on it.
And FOX News? Nothing.
We’ve been having an interesting discussion in class over the past couple of weeks about whether or not it was ethical for Peyten and me to create a sense of false equivalence about the science of global warming by giving equal time to “both sides of the story” when the scientific community has reached a remarkable degree of consensus about the issue. False equivalence in the name of “balance” is actually a form of bias, after all. But FOX News doesn’t even seem to reach this level of objectivity. They’ll gleefully report on and hype a single study by a single scientist (one so flawed that it led to the resignation of the editor of the journal that published it) that questions the scientific consensus on global warming, but when a research team—formed in the wake of “ClimateGate” and headed by a noted climate skeptic—releases findings supporting the scientific consensus, there’s not a peep from them.
Fair and balanced? You decide.