Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dunn-Rankin: Global Warming is a Media Concoction

Well, he didn't say conspiracy: he said "media consensus."
The "he" in the "who" is our esteemed newsman, Dunn-Rankin the elder. The "where" is his column this sunny Sunday morn. The "what" is a Goldilocks opinion, "Not too hot, not too cold," wherein our scribe purports to do some myth busting.

Because ice ages and thaws come and go, the nice newsman concludes global warming is a myth, sprung whole from a "media consensus" (and a wrong one at that) that ignores what he knows for sure: this is just the warming trend side of a natural cycle.

Time for a short lesson in close reading.

First, readers will recognize that it's illogical to believe that "the media" have come together to create a consensus (or did we just miss the memo that the meeting was called?). Second, it's illogical to believe that a newspaper's or a television station's efforts can answer a scientific question. That's not their job. (The "media" practice journalism, not science -- two different things with different methodologies, aims, etc.)

However, we'll play along with the media angle for a moment and cite (for bevity's sake) one medium, The New York Times, which the columnist seems to have overlooked. Two years ago, scores of reporters covered a meeting of international climate scientists in Paris. The story ran under this hed:

Science Panel Calls Global Warming Unequivocal.

The reporters summarized the work of "hundreds of scientists and reviewers" who convened first in 1988. Over the next two decades, they collected and weighed data and evaluated possible conclusions. Their 2007 Paris meeting was summarized like this:

"The panel's four [published] assessments since 1990 ... asserts with near certainty -- more than 90 percent confidence -- that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities have been the main causes of warming in the past half century," the Times reported.

Dunn-Rankin is, of course, entitled to deny every bit of the massive scientific evidence for rapid-onset, human-induced climate change. He is also entitled to print and publish his denialism. And, being in a position of great privilege -- he owns tons of newsprint and barrels of ink -- he can broadcast that global-warming evidence is a media conspiracy (which seems weirder and weirder the more we think about it), and along the way he'll undoubtedly garner a few "atta boys" and "way to go's" from the conspiracy theorists at the yacht club.

This reader, however, chalks it up to weak analytical skills combined with willful ignorance of evidence. The two may be marks of a local curmudgeon, but they render the opinionmaker more pitiable than believeable.

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