Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Staying On Task with Global Warming

The Fox News Channel is determined to play as still controversial an issue that much of industry, not to mention the public, not to mention Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, has decided is not controversial. Al Gore has won fair and square, but since Fox has no use for Gore, that's easily discounted.

If Fox really wants to play the opposition, though, the network has to be sure everyone stays on task. And unfortunately, that's becoming difficult, a sign that the opposition has become increasingly irrelevant.

Fox and Friends is the network's breakfast show - I think it used to have a puppet as a co-host. Human host Alisyn Camerota brought on MIT Professor of Meteorology Kerry Emanuel and this happened:

Introducing him, [Camerota] gushed that [Emanuel]  is one of THE most influential scientists when it comes to global warming and its link to hurricanes; he used to think that climate change caused more tropical storms but now, he's changed his mind. Three years ago he published very alarming findings that established a link between global warming and hurricane activity, and a few weeks later Katrina hit.

Emanuel responded that the reports that he's changed his mind have been "greatly exaggerated." ... They've developed a new technique for inferring hurricane activity from global climate data, which doesn't itself contain hurricanes. When applied to the past twenty-five years data, it is a startling confirmation of his findings of three years ago; hurricane power has increased by about 50% over the last thirty years. Applying that to hundred-year forecasts under a scenario of increased carbon dioxide output, they see increased activity in their models but not nearly as much as if they simply extrapolate the past thirty years forward.

Gulp! Here are the chyrons Fox and Friends used leading up to the chat: GLOBAL FLIP-FLOP: Warming doesn't cause hurricanes -SCIENCE OF STORMS: Global Warming 2nd thoughts - and
REVERSED SCIENCE: Scientist changes warming position.

Maybe networks still have pre-interview staffs that can weed out off-message guests before they get on-air - Emanuel only said what he came on to say - so somebody goofed. Now what?

Camerota and [Fox and Friends co-host Steve] Doocy did damage control, summing up that the models are forecasting "something different than what nature is showing us" and "we just don't know" whether global warming and climate change are making hurricanes more intense. Emanuel replied that the bulk of the evidence says they're getting more intense, we just don't know by how much.

Note that Fox and Camerota could be as right as reindeer about global warming: it's all complete hooey. But being right is clearly secondary to the agenda, which is to sound the correct theme. Fox News often gets dinged for its relentless promotion of conservative ideology masquerading as unvarnished truth, but here the network is getting stung by pursuing a rearguard action that is moving ever further to the rear. Global warming has just about moved beyond the ideological, where Fox often dwells, and into an article of modern secular faith.

It's scarcely a new phenomenon.

Our goal here is not to suggest that Fox is right and Emanuel wrong - Emanuel, in his short interview, behaved just as one would like: he stated what he knew and hesitated to draw conclusions or causal connections. Rather, we wanted to mark a cultural passing, as the last remaining bastions of opposition fade away. Noisily perhaps but none-the-less fading.

7 comments:

Demesure said...

Translation in plain English please ?

Anonymous said...

Mark Flanagan,

Fox is a welcome change to the left wing socialist ideology of virtually all the rest: CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, etc. Indeed, one wonders why GE (which owns MS NBC and is partner to GE-Hitachi which is marketing the ESBWR) doesn't reign in the liberal Democrat idiocy of MS NBC. Truthfully, I rarely watch any of the secular news channels any longer - too much horse manure. I prefer Raymond Arroyo on EWTN news:

http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/headlines.asp

At least then I know I'll be getting thr truth instead of left wing liberal distortion from the overwhelming majority of news media or right wing distortion from just one - Fox News. So it's great that you pick on Fox News. Now go after Jane Fonda's CNN and the rest of the liberal networks. That's where the problem really lays. Not in Fox News.

But you know that.

Mark Flanagan said...

I think our anonymous poster can agree that all news outlets, including ewtn, have an ideological slant that informs their view of what is news. After that point, the goal of objectivity is applied in greater or lesser measure.

All the cable news networks favor personality and opinion over a plain delivery of the news, so that's a wash. If you're a consumer of those channels, you just have to decide who represents your views better - Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann or Anderson Cooper - and take it from there.

My goal wasn't to knock Fox News in favor of, say, CNN, just to note that many Fox hosts have taken the perspective that global warming is hogwash while the larger culture is moving away from that perspective - leading to the embarrassment detailed in the story.

Newshounds, from whence the link came, is decidedly anti-Fox, but we're studiously neutral here.

We'll happily link to ewtn if they have an interesting story or perspective to share. By all means, anon, send such links if you want us to take a look and they're on-topic for NEI Nuclear Notes.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Your link, "this happened" seems to be bad.

Mark Flanagan said...

Link fixed. Thanks for the heads up.

Mark

Anonymous said...

What has changed since 10 years ago is that now it is clear that warming is occurring. The debate has now shifted to whether this warming is coming from natural variability in climate or is linked to the positive forcing from the increase in CO2 which has come from burning fossil fuels. We are going to increase CO2 concentrations substantially from current levels, so it will likely take another 10 years before it would become indisputable that the rise is coming from CO2 increases and not from natural variability. Of course, by then if it proves to be due to CO2, we will be locked into a much larger temperature increase. So in 10 years the only remaining argument may be that it's too expensive to reduce CO2 emissions. But whenever we've decided we want to control some type of pollutant (and CO2 is a pollutant if it is indeed changing global temperatures), we have discovered that putting a price on that pollutant results in large reductions at much lower cost than conventional wisdom had predicted, simply because humans have ingenuity.

GRLCowan said...

It turns out to be fairly easy, in energetic terms, to remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as was put there years earlier by a coal-fired power station in the process of producing 1 electrical kWh. It takes about 0.05 kWh(e) to pulverize the necessary olivine, and another 0.05 kWh(e), if necessary, to lift the powder 10 km into the atmosphere. The idea would not be that it stay up there -- it would not -- but that it disperse itself widely before coming down. More here.

So in calling for a price on the pollutant CO2, beware of the danger of negative ingenuity. So far this century, governments have already collected trillions in CO2 fees.

Many seem intent not on solving the problem but increasing the fees. They are eager to display negative ingenuity: overstate the difficulty of the problem, collect huge amounts of money, attempt to solve it in ways they believe will fail, repeat.