Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Myth of Climate Consensus?

I'm not entirely familiar with Hernando Today. Still, this article on a recent survey conducted by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals caught my interest (hat tip: Moonbattery). According to the survey, the idea that the scientific community is 99.9999%+ sold on global warming might be spurious. Their results:
  • 34 percent disagree that global warming is a serious problem facing the planet
  • 41 percent disagree that the planet's recent warmth "can be, in large part, attributed to human activity"
  • 71 percent disagree that recent hurricane activity is significantly attributable to human activity
  • 33 percent disagree that the U.S. government is not doing enough to address global warming
  • 47 percent disagree that international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol provide a solid framework for combating global climate change
The article doesn't get into the survey methodology, so I can't speak for the accuracy of these statistics. Still, if they're even remotely comparable to reality, then the claim that "scientists" as a whole are on board with Al Gore is at best misinformed and at worst deliberately misleading.

After browsing through the actual survey results, I do see a few problems with the article in question. For example, Hernando Today says that the survey participants exceeded 12,000; the reality is that is the number of participants in the NREP. The actual number of survey respondants was ~800. Still, the general reach of the article seems to be reflective of the survey results.

For me, the bottom line is that the general media is, at best, untrustworthy when it comes to scientific reporting. Most of those doing the punditry and reporting know little about the subjects they cover and tend to insert their own politics or opinions into the coverage. Yes, it's become convenient to let the larger media outlets act as the gatekeepers, crunching the swell of information out there into compact, digestible bits, but reality is a bit more complicated. The public at large would be much better served by having access to research and information, especially if more effort is poured into helping the public to interpret those results rather than simply telling them what the interpretation should be.

The internet age is bringing more of just that, but I'd prefer to see the transformation speed up a bit.

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