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Tuesday July 5th 2011


Must-hear audio of press call with Dr. Jeff Masters and me on record snowstorms, extreme weather, and climate change science

NOTE:  I am keenly interested in your thoughts on my answers (and Dr. Masters’).

Regular readers know what uber-meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters and I think about extreme weather and climate science [see "Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record — and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science"].

But what makes the call a must-hear is the window into the media’s thinking from the collective set of questions posed by the many journalists on this call:

We had incredible press interest — in part because of the pure coincidence that the press call came on the same day that Dr. Masters and I were featured in that front-page NY Times story with the bad headline

One answer in particular a couple of people mentioned  they liked, so we transcribed it:

First, Blake Snow of FoxNews.com asked me “In light of recent errors in [the] 2007 UN climate report, are public concerns about the validity or cause of climate change justified?”  I gave a way-too-long answer, and Snow followed up, “So in this case would you ask the public to overlook these errors given that they are minor?”

I answered:

Well yeah. Look, each of you works for media outlets that publish corrections. Yet you expect day by day the public should come back and not think because you made a mistake and admitted 2 or 3 or 4 mistakes every single day that somehow your reporting is not trustworthy. Now, in the case of the scientific body, these are reports every 5 or 6 years. And they publish like three 1,000-page reports. It’s going to be very difficult for errors not to creep into it. But again I encourage you to draw distinctions between the wealth of observations in this scientific liteature and these reports, which are an effort to collect everything and digest it. It would be very difficult for it to be error free.

Yes, I know the irony of saying that to FoxNews.com.  And yes, in general I think the media are infinitely less reliable than the IPCC or scientific literature.  But the point is framing.

Every reporter knows he or she has made mistakes and yet they generally view those mistakes as inconsequential, while expecting people to trust their body of work and their next story.

As I said, comments are desired.  For me, many of these are questions I haven’t heard before, and I am just working out the best answers, and I’ll be doing many more interviews in the coming days and weeks, especially with my book coming out.

In a larger sense, though, these are the questions that the media will be asking over and over again — and by extension these are the questions that opinion-makers and the public will be asking — so everyone who communicates on this issue needs good answers.

This article was originally posted on Climate Progress