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PBS False Balance Hour - What's Up With That?

Posted on 20 September 2012 by dana1981

We have previously criticized the mainstream media for favoring false balance over factually accurate scientific reporting when it comes to climate change.  In one of the worst examples of this unfortunate and counter-productive practice, the US Public Boadcasting Service (PBS), which is funded by both taxpayers and private donations, (for example, from the Koch brothers) aired a climate story on the PBS News Hour which began by featuring the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project's Richard Muller, "balanced" with a subsequent interview of contrarian blogger Anthony Watts.

Ultimately, Watts' comments suffered from a double standard, dismissing Muller's comments as not yet being supported by peer-reviewed research, but offering his own opinions despite the fact that they were not only unsupported, but even contradicted by Watts' own peer-reviewed research.

Surface Temperature Record Accuracy

When asked to describe his 'skepticism' about human-caused global warming, Watts went into a long discussion about his concerns that encroachment of human development near surface temperature stations has introduced a bias into the temperature record.  However, what Watts failed to mention is that the scientific groups who compile the surface temperature record put a great deal of effort into filtering out these sorts of biases

Watts also failed to mention that there have been many peer-reviewed scientific studies investigating whether these efforts have been successful, and they have almost universally concluded that those extraneous influences on the temperature record have been removed.  For example, Fall et al. (2011) concluded that for all temperature stations classifications with regards to the influence of urban influences, the long-term average global warming trend is the same.

"The lack of a substantial average temperature difference across classes, once the geographical distribution of stations is taken into account, is also consistent with the lack of significant trend differences in average temperatures....average temperature trends were statistically indistinguishable across classes."

The second author on Fall et al. is a fellow who goes by the name of Anthony Watts.

There are also of course many 'natural thermometers' confirming the warming of the globe - rapidly rising seas, melting sea ice, melting land ice, etc. (Figure 1).

warming indicators

Figure 1: Natural thermometers indicating a warming world.

Peer-Review Irony

When asked about the research of Muller and the BEST team, which has also confirmed the accuracy of the surface temperature record, Watts provided a very ironic response.

"Unfortunately he has not succeeded in terms of how science views, you know, a successful inquiry. His papers have not passed peer review."

Anthony Watts himself has co-authored two peer-reviewed scientific papers, one of which was the aforementioned Fall et al., which confirmed the accuracy of the surface temperature record with respect to the average global surface warming. 

On his blog, Watts has attempted to defend his claims on PBS news hour by referencing a preliminary, unsubmitted, unpublished paper he has drafted  which purports to identify problems in the temperature record.  However, that preliminary paper contains numerous fundamental flaws which entirely negate its conclusions, and since it has not passed peer-review, according to Watts' own comments it is not "a successful inquiry."

So we have Watts dismissing Muller's comments because his research has not passed peer-review, and yet Watts' own comments contradict the results of his own peer-reviewed paper.

Global Warming Attributed to Humans

After agreeing that global warming exists, Watts shifted over to the myth "it's not us."

"...the ability to attribute the percentage of global warming to CO2 versus other man-made influences is still an open question."

This comment simply illustrates a lack of awareness of the body of peer-reviewed climate science literature.  A number of studies using a variety of different statistical and physical approaches have investigated how much various factors have contributed to global warming.  These studies have universally concluded that humans are responsible for close to 100% of the observed global surface warming over the past half century (Figure 2).

HvA 50 years

Figure 2: Net human and natural percent contributions to the observed global surface warming over the past 50-65 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), and Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange).

There is a fairly large degree of uncertainty in these figures, primarily because the magnitude of the cooling effect from human aerosol emissions is not well known.  However, the amount of warming caused by human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is known to a high degree of certainty, and these same studies have all found that GHGs are responsible for over 100% of the observed warming over this timeframe (Figure 3).

50-65 years

Figure 3: Percent contributions of various effects to the observed global surface warming over the past 50-65 years according to Tett et al. 2000 (T00, dark blue), Meehl et al. 2004 (M04, red), Stone et al. 2007 (S07, green), Lean and Rind 2008 (LR08, purple), Huber and Knutti 2011 (HK11, light blue), and Gillett et al. 2012 (G12, orange).

Political Tools

In claiming that climate science has become too politicized, Watts claimed

"some of the scientists who are the leaders in the issue have become for lack of a better word, political tools on the issue."

It is unclear to whom Watts refers here, since the few contrarian climate scientists like John Christy and Richard Lindzen have been trotted out before US Congress virtually every time a congressional committee has held a climate hearing.  It seems unlikely that Watts would refer to his fellow climate contrarians in such unflattering terms, but they do seem to best fit his description as "political tools."

Watts on His Motives and Double Standards

At Skeptical Science it is against our site policy to speculate about a person's motives, but in this case, Watts volunteered the information.

SPENCER MICHELS: What's the thing that bothers you the most about people who say there's lots of global warming?

ANTHONY WATTS: They want to change policy. They want to apply taxes and these kinds of things may not be the actual solution for making a change to our society.

It is interesting that Watts responds to a question about a science-based opinion with a criticism about policy.  For example, Watts is not most bothered that people are ignoring or unaware of the biases that he incorrectly believes exist in the temperature record.  No, Watts is most bothered that we might implement an economically-beneficial carbon tax.

In another related piece of irony, Watts criticizes his opponents for using "scare tactics" and then claiming that if they get their way, it will mean economic catastrophe.

"Some people don't respond well to scare tactics and there have been some scare tactics used by some of the proponents on the other side of the issue....We can't just rip all that up or change it in the space off five, 10 or 15 years because it'll be catastrophic to our economy."

Watts Fails Risk Management 101

At the interview, Watts illustrates that he understands neither pragmatism nor risk management.

"I would call myself a pragmatic skeptic...I think that some of the issues have been oversold, may have been oversold, because they allow for more regulation to take place."

Pragmatism involves taking a practical approach to problem solving.  In terms of climate change, there is no more practical approach than implementing a carbon pricing system so that the costs of climate change are reflected in the price of the products which cause them.  Without knowing the climate costs of the products on the market, consumers cannot take those costs into account when making purchasing decisions.  Yet this pragmatic approach is exactly the one which Anthony Watts most fears.

There are also two key words in the quote above - "I think."  We know that Anthony Watts personally believes that the consequences of climate change will not be very bad.  However, Watts' opinion is contradicted by the body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence.  There is a very slim possibility that Watts and his fellow contrarians are right and the consequences of climate change will be manageable.  However, when faced with the mere possibility of a catastrophic scenario, the proper risk management approach is to take steps to prevent that scenario from happening.  In our case, catastrophe is not just possible, it is the most likely outcome if we continue in a business as usual scenario.  It is in no way pragmatic to continue along this path.

Peer Review and False Media Balance

Ultimately Anthony Watts was correct to note that peer review is an important step in ensuring the accuracy of a scientific paper.  It is fair to criticize Muller for publicizing the BEST team results prior to their acceptance in a peer reviewed journal.

However, if we apply that same standard to Anthony Watts, his sole scientific argument against human-caused global warming falls apart.  Not only has the accuracy of the surface temperature record been confirmed by BEST and Watts' own Fall et al. (2011), but also by a number of other peer-reviewed papers such as Peterson et al. (2003) and Menne et al. (2010).  If Watts believes these studies are flawed, he should attempt to demonstrate it in a peer-reviewed paper.  Until he has accomplished this, by his own standards his argument is invalid.

It is also very concerning that PBS interviewed Watts to begin with.  Watts only has one two peer-reviewed studies to his name, and they were not even mentioned in the interview.  In fact, hiw own peer-reviewed research contradicts the main argument Watts made in the interview.  The PBS interviewer also failed to challenge Watts' many incorrect and hypocritical statements, instead tossing him one softball question after another. 

Apparently Watts was recommended for the interview by the Heartland Institute.  PBS should obviously not be contacting a fossil fuel-funded global warming denying anti-science think tank which has previously compared climate realists to mass murderers for interview suggestions on a climate story.  This also isn't the first time that PBS News Hour has consulted with the Heartland Institute to provide false balance for a climate story.

PBS has responded to criticisms of their News Hour piece here and here, essentially by saying that they have also interviewed climate scientists and done accurate reporting on climate change.  While we applaud their more accurate and informative climate stories, it does not excuse the Heartland-consulted false balance in this particular piece.  In fact, Michels admitted that he interviewed Watts to "hear more about the skeptical perspective," which is the very definition of false balance - presenting "the other side" for the sake of presenting it, regardless of its factual accuracy.

We do appreciate that Spencer Michels referenced Skeptical Science in his follow-up post and provided an explanation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding how we know the temperature record is accurate (which referenced Menne et al. and Fall et al., as we did in the above post).  In fact, this would have been useful information to include in the original PBS News Hour piece - perhaps an interview with NOAA scientists instead of a blogger.  Instead, PBS sacrificed factually accurate scientific reporting for the sake of creating a false perception of balance.

Further Reading:

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 180:

  1. (I hope that Kevin C doesn't object to my tooting his horn for him here) Dale, A few weeks ago, Kevin C, one of the regulars here, posted a *one page* python script that computes global-average temperatures from GHCN v3 data. With that script, you can easily test Watts' favorite claims about the global temperature record. The script will allow you to process rural and urban stations separately, so that you can see the effects of UHI for yourself. You can also generate global-average temperature estimates from raw vs. adjusted data, so that you can see for yourself how much (or little) the "data adjustments" matter on a global scale. You can find Kevin C's original python script here. (After you go to that link, simply do a ctrl-f text search for the string "show code" to find the actual script.) I modified the script ever so slightly to make it easier to perform direct "apples vs. apples" comparisons of the script output with the official NASA/GISS "meteorological stations index" (available at the NASA/GISS web-site). The modified script writes the results out in a format that can easily be imported into Excel or OpenOffice and plotted. I also added a bunch of "newbie-friendly" comments to the script that explain in detail how to get all the temperature data and crunch the data with the script. You can get the modified version here. If you download the script and follow the instructions provided in the comments, you will be able to perform direct "apples vs. apples" comparisons of your own results with the official NASA results -- i.e. you can easily plot up your own rural, urban, raw, and adjusted results and compare those results with the official NASA version. So check it out and see how it goes -- and don't be shy about sharing your findings with us right here. Let us know how your own results square with the claims that Watts has been making. You will probably need to install some additional software on your PC/laptop (i.e. python and OpenOffice), but that additional software is completely free and very easy to install. And a final note -- just want to make it clear that Kevin C did all the real work writing that script -- I just "polished the cannonballs" a bit. ;)
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  2. CRV9, no one here seeks to "suppress every skeptic voice," nor does anyone here advocate allowing no other opinion other than our (scientist's) opinions. However, as evidenced by thousands of posts here, *if* a Watts, a Lindzen, a Christy make outlandish/obfuscaory/flat-out wrong assertions, it is to be expected that those who *do* do this professionally will, in a scientific way, take out their incorrect/badly- or not-supported opinions *vigorously*. On another early thread, I pointed out that science is a blood sport: the main difference is we attack ~ideas~, not the originators' of those ideas. Watt's is the *first* to whine about having his opinions challenged, byt, never, as far as I can see, offers up much beyond his usual snarky comments, then just repeats the lie he got shown ~was~ a lie. PBS' dog-and-pony show, in some feeble effort to show they're "fair and balanced," was, in what it didn't say, bad.
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  3. CRV9 makes some good points about acknowledging "wrong" and letting the public see what it looks like. The trouble is, many viewers are not obsessively fascinated with this topic and (our cognition being what it is) will in the absence of any other story adopt Watts' story as their operative picture of what's going on with climate science and climate change. Leaving aside that the segment was remarkably uninformative on its notional topic, one should set some sort of lower threshold to the "quality of wrong" chosen for illustration. A presentation including somebody such as Richard Lindzen would actually have been better. Lindzen shares many of the ideological fixations as does Watts but is fully able to describe climate science accurately if he so chooses. Based on his track record we'd have been presented with a similarly slanted perspective but one more comprehensive than Watts was able to accomplish, given his limitations. Lindzen is state-of-the-art "wrong" so if the producer's objective was to present the best "wrong" available Lindzen would have been a much better choice, with a cluster of other better alternatives to Watts also in the realm of best fit for purpose. A presentation with Lindzen would still leave open the question of what is the point of parading "wrong" in front of viewers. Obviously the intention is not to present a freak show but rather is a communications effort of some kind. News Hour failed to "speak in its own voice" to properly explain their objective with the segment, leaving us guessing the reason for why a person who is essentially unqualified to solidly improve public understanding of the topic of climate change was chosen to occupy ten minutes' airtime. Other choices would leave open the same question.
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  4. CRV9, And why do you think it is that half of USA lawmakers think AGW is a hoax? Imagine yourself in the 1970s. A PBS show presents a number of scientists demonstrating how they have discovered that tobacco is linked to lung cancer. At the end, they add an interview with an acupuncturist who tells the viewer that he's done studies to prove that the air in the scientist's work is tainted by pollution and so not a reliable test of tobacco smoke, and anyway the scientists are in it because they've created this entire cottage industry on doing cancer research. In fact, universities have created entire departments around cancer research. Anthony Watts:
    Well global warming had become essentially a business in its own right. There are NGOs, there are organizations, there are whole divisions of universities that have set up to study this, this factor, and so there's lots of money involved and then so I think that there's a tendency to want to keep that going and not really look at what might be different.
    1970s version:
    Well cancer research had become essentially a business in its own right. There are NGOs, there are organizations, there are whole divisions of universities that have set up to study this, this factor, and so there's lots of money involved and then so I think that there's a tendency to want to keep that going and not really look at what might be different.
    Really? You don't think it was not "that bad?"
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  5. The other half of the equation, Evan Jones, hath spoken in comment at PBS:
    Sorry, but Watts is dead-on correct. If anything, he understated the issue in your program. Menne (2010), which used the data I -- personally -- compiled used the obsolete and fatally flawed Menne (1999) methodology for rating stations. But when applying the new (WMO-approved) Leroy (2010) methodology, the trend differences between well and poorly sited station are stark. Well microsited rural stations without airports show barely half the NOAA-adjusted "official" record. This is true even after accountig for TOBS bias and MMTS conversion. NOAA is going to have to readdress its entire USHCN dataset.
    Hrmmm . . . even after accounting for those factors.
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  6. Just catching up here... @4 Dale makes the comment, "Well, not without taxing your own population into poverty..." This is a huge misconception about taxes. People seem to have this notion that taxes suck money out of the economy and nothing could be further from the truth. Tax revenues do not disappear from the economy. In fact, a carbon tax will more likely turn out to be have net positive benefits for most people. The challenge is that there are clear losers too. The losers are going to be the fossil fuel industry.
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  7. Einstein had a degree in physics (Watts is a college dropout) and was pursuing an advanced degree while working at the patent office. He received his Ph.D. in 1905 and continued to work at the patent office for a number of years because the only teaching position available was as a lecturer (then as now not a full-time position) at the University of Bern. The myths about him being a poor student or that he was not formally trained in the sciences are entirely wrong.
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  8. DSL @55 - if Watts and Jones ever get their paper published, then they can make that argument. Right now all the evidence contradicts their UHI argument. After they bungled their first preliminary draft so horrendously, there's simply no way we can take their word for it that they've now done the analysis correctly and they're still right and every other group is still wrong. Rob @56 - indeed some Republican politicians have started to at least consider carbon taxes as a way to bring in some revenue and help reduce local deficits. Carbon pricing would also create higher demand for low carbon products, which would spur innovation and thus potentially create jobs.
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  9. This is worth the Bill Nye. “I appreciate that we want to show two sides of the stories — there’s a tradition in journalism that goes back quite a ways, I guess — but the two sides aren’t equal here. You have tens of thousands of scientists who are very concerned and you have a few people who are in business of equating or drawing attention to the idea that uncertainty is the same as doubt. When you have a plus or minus percentage, that’s not the same thing as not believing the whole thing at all… We in the science education community chip away at this problem all the time. We have an enormous population of people in the United States that don’t believe in evolution, the fundamental idea in all of life science. It would be like saying, I don’t believe in earthquakes or something. The analogies are disturbing.” I wonder how long it will take (if not done already) for the denialati to shrilly proclaim that Nye is now "one of the warmists." Oy vey gevalt.... Desmogblog (
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  10. dana@58: I hope you will make that same point in the comment stream at PBS. A few weeks back, there was a discussion of how best to 'battle' the landslide of fake skeptics' comments, and I arrived at the conclusion that, to the best of our abilities, where it rares its head, folks like you, Kevin C, Doug_Bostrom, and even me need to inveigle against it/them.
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  11. vrooomie, You're late to the party. Go to WUWT to see: Bill Nye is the anti-science guy when it comes to global warming and hurricanes August, 2011 and Is Bill Nye Smarter than a 5th Grader? May, 2011
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  12. I tend to find Mr Watts methods similar to those of other 'citizen scientists' of the past such as Eric von Danikien who also had his own theories that the mainstream was wrong and produced voluminous and detailed work analysing and explaining why his ideas were more likely to be correct. It has always been easy to produce ideas that are superficially revolutionary and appeal to a wide audience. It creates a frission in the followers who feel they are on the inside track of a revolution in understanding. However this is why we have science. Not a body of knowledge, but a way of approaching problems. Its not easy, it long, boring and arduous. You need to build a large body of proof for your ideas that offers a better description of what is happening than the idea you are challenging. Mr Watts fails woefully by not explaining things like the much faster rate of warming in the high latitudes, the retreat of sea ice, the drop in NH summer snow cover, the receding glaciers and so on. Anyone can speculate and come up with plausible sounding ideas. And in this case PBS have broadcast little more than plausible sounding speculation.
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  13. "You're late to the party." Sph@61, somehow, I was afraid, though not surprised, that I was...;(
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  14. The hilarious epic fail of Dana Nuccitelli . He forgot about the decrease of solar insolation they always harp on when they announce the Ice Age beginning tomorrow or something like that. 'Forgot' deliberately - never underestimate climate revisionism. Posted a reminder at WUWT but it will be disappeared (as they say in the Middle America's).
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  15. cRR @64 - oh boy, I seem to have sent Watts into full meltdown mode. This comment of his is absolutely embarrassing:
    "Gosh. GHG’s are responsible for over 100% of the observed warming? That’s an epic fail if I’ve ever seen one."
    Apparently citing peer reviewed research is an epic fail now? I guess Watts can't comprehend how GHGs could be responsible for over 100% - apparently he needs to read SkS and educate himself. It's not a difficult concept to grasp. The rest of his post is just a bunch of personal attacks directed towards me. This morning Watts emailed me to warn me that "the gloves are now off." For his own benefit he should really put those gloves back on, because this is just embarrassing.
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  16. To illustrate my "epic fail" point as simply as possible, take the formula x + y = z. Say x = 3, y = -1, and z = 2. In this case x is larger than z. Another way of saying that is that x accounts for more than 100% of the contribution to z. Like I said, it's not a difficult concept.
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  17. "The rest of his post is just a bunch of personal attacks directed towards me. This morning Watts emailed me to warn me that "the gloves are now off." " Sad more than anything else. Its as if the poor fellow cannot understand sulphate cooling.
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  18. As expected, a spluttering emotional outburst from Watts, including rolling in the gutter. These folks have no compunction about traducing others, but if somebody points out their own failings? Watch out! Epic tantrum sure to follow. I wonder if Watts thinks he's scoring some kind of points with the general public by wallowing in database compost? Especially, I wonder how the producers of News Hour are going to feel about that? The same guy they featured just a few nights ago is now raving in public about years-old messages dug out of a stolen database? First and last time for Watts on -that- program. :-)
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  19. Here is the link for the Huffington Post article PBS NewsHour's Climate Change Report Raises Eyebrows (VIDEO) referred to by John Hartz at 21 above.
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  20. You know, when Watts says "the gloves are off," what does he mean? The only fists that matter are the fists of scientific research. What's Watts going to do? Ramp up the rhetoric? Rhetoric*0 = 0.
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  21. Sphaerica@54, I don't dispute what you said. But you know we still can buy cigarettes, legally. I know a nuclear scientist who knows it causes cancers and still smokes. No, I'm not trying to be a smart ass. In this democratic society every dumb, ignorrant, gullible mind like mine has the same one vote as a brilliant mind like yours has. I'm trying to talk about reality in a democratic society. As much as cAGW is real and an inconvinient fact to some, the half of our representitives say it is a hoax is real and an inconvinient fact. And the PBC show clearly said so. I really thought that was its main point. The fact Bill Nye is speaking out publicly or the media is picking it up, the fact PBC is doing AGW with Mr. Watt are the fact we are talking about it in main public. Which is a good thing. And this is not about cAGW only. This is about science as a whole. I think we tend to look at the trees and not seeing the forest. Debate, controversy, pseudoscience shouldn't just hang around in blogsphere where the sun don't shine. It should be out there in main poblic for everybody to see. You are not afraid of your scientific stance, are you? Even the bad publisity is good sometimes.
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  22. Watts is a shill, and while it's important to examine him and why the Newshour brought him on, his credentials as a "climate scientist" are easily debunked. Few comments here are about Muller, who is also controversial, but much more interesting too. Through books and classes he has advanced scientific literacy among the public, including regarding warming. But he loves media attention too. I wrote about him here:
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  23. It might be worth comparing Muller @ PBS with Muller at CBC. Deep Climate discusses the latter, in Richard Muller Radio Rambles, part 1: Kochs “very deep”, “very thoughtful” and “properly skeptical”.
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  24. Yes, false balance, false equivalence and false controversy. Michaels, the segment producers, and News Hour obviously only wanted to put up a show that would keep the views in their seats and News Hour was not interested in factually accurate reporting that would correctly inform the public on climate change. Watts is of course completely transparent. He is only interested in sowing doubt in order to avoid any tax or carbon trading scheme or regulation that, in his opinion, would be "catastrophic to our economy." He is happy to use scare tactics to further his unsubstantiated opinions while ignoring the truly alarming effects of global climate disruption. This is situation we in the US find ourselves in. The only scientists the Republicans in Congress are willing to listen to are Christy and Lindzen so I would say the deniers have won for now. Watts should actually be very pleased. He needn’t worry about what the vast majority of climate researchers are saying because the vast majority of US media outlets are not paying attention. Watts should be basking in the glory of the national attention he has gotten from News Hour. The weak online responses from News Hour will not detract at all from that.
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  25. dana@65: I wanna know *lots* more about the "secret web forum/off limits forum" Tony prattles on about: We *all* love a good conspiracy rant, especially if it's true! /sarc off Amazing how, when I plug the alleged "secret forum" comments into the Googlator (and let it be known that I have two left hands, wrt to really serious drilling down using the Interwebs) the only source of the alleged quotes from Tamblyn/Nuccitelli are....on WUWT. think Tony would ~leap~ at the chance to provide the actual *link* to your "secret web forum," no? If it existed....;)
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  26. Aha....I found that the alleged (and untrue) quotes from Glenn Tamblyn, on WUWT, were in fact a commenter on Lewandosky's blog; seems Watts has once again misattributed a commeter's rant with a person that Watts just conveniently dislikes. Typical. I hope Glenn sets the record straight, although I know setting records straight with Watts is a fool's errand.
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  27. CRV9, My main point is that same one exemplified by your statements that people can still buy cigarettes (i.e. the tobacco companies beat/rigged the system before) and the realities of a democratic society. It's exactly why what PBS did isn't "not that bad" but rather horrifically bad. Three Days of the Condor: the closing shock ending is that Robert Redford has given information on a secret government plan to take over the Middle East oilfields to all the major newspapers.
    Higgins: Hey Turner! How do you know they'll print it? You can take a walk… but how far if they don't print it? Turner: They'll print it. Higgins: How do you know?
    Back then, people believed that journalists were the sentinels of both government and society. They kept everyone shooting straight by letting people know, and letting democracy work. Of course that was always something of an idealistic fantasy, but even in an incomplete incarnation it's an important part of making democracy work. And that's exactly why PBS is so dramatically, epically wrong on this one. You can't say "oh, well." You can't let the Koch brothers buy our future by buying the media that's funded by our tax dollars and once existed as the unwritten check-and-balance to the other three branches of government (Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Journalistic). I don't think the point that you took from the interview, that AGW is important (please drop the small "c", it's unnecessary), was at all conveyed, and they clearly made no effort to do so. They didn't ask any hard questions. They didn't follow with a quick summary of how wrong he was on how many points. They just put it out there so that people could nod and doze and agree with whatever made them feel good about themselves. Epic fail.
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  28. No worries Dana, Watts' tantrum is very revealing. More troubling is that his email yo you could be construed as a threat of violence against you. His emotional blog post also shows that instead of trying to rebut the substance of your excellent article he has elected to engage in vitriol, personal attacks, hyperbole and promulgating falsehoods (e.g., claiming that the forum is "secret"). But let us ignore Watts' empty rhetoric and address the one scientific issue that he tried to argue against. His failure to comprehend the >100% number is just yet another example of why Watts is not an expert in the discipline of climate science. On the one scientific issue that he did try and argue, he failed miserably and made a rookie mistake. As far as the >100% figure goes, a recent paper in Nature by Huber and Knutti (2011) determined that (my highlighting): "Greenhouse gases contributed 1.31°C (0.85-1.76°C) to the increase, that is 159% (106-212%) of the total warming. The cooling effect of the direct and indirect aerosol forcing is about -0.85°C (-1.48 to -0.30°C). The warming induced by tropospheric ozone and solar variability are of similar size (roughly 0.2°C). The contributions of stratospheric water vapour and ozone, volcanic eruptions, and organic and black carbon are small." Dr. Gavin Schmidt has also addressed this (my highlighting): "Over the last 40 or so years, natural drivers would have caused cooling, and so the warming there has been (and some) is caused by a combination of human drivers and some degree of internal variability. I would judge the maximum amplitude of the internal variability to be roughly 0.1 deg C over that time period, and so given the warming of ~0.5 deg C, I'd say somewhere between 80 to 120% of the warming. Slightly larger range if you want a large range for the internal stuff." So Dana is in very good company, because he actually follows, respects and understands the science. At this conjecture he has a choice 1) Either he is ignorant of the science, or 2) He knows better and is pandering to the emotions and gullibility/ignorance of his readership. Either option reflects very poorly on Watts and underscores the reason why the media should be ignoring him.
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  29. Albatross - I would completely agree, many of the posters on that Watts thread - including, primarily, Anthony Watts - appear unaware of negative numbers, or their effect on sums (as I noted there, with somewhat predictable responses). Between the choices of (1) Watts being ignorant of the science, and apparently of basic math, or (2) Watts being deliberately misleading, in what I would consider a highly unethical manner - well, I cannot say which conclusion is more damning to Anthony Watts. Because, quite frankly, either conclusion is rather horrible. And there really aren't any other choices...
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  30. Albatross @78 - Huber and Knutti (2011) is the light blue bars in Figures 2 and 3 above, coincidentally. vroomie - we have a post partially about the SkS forum which will be published tonight. Watts is not going to like that one either. It may very well cause him to blow another gasket.
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  31. I'm trying to find a reasonable disagreement with Albatross' final point on how to understand Watts' presentation of net warming. I'm not very motivated to help but surely there's somebody who can step forward and explain via a third way? Is it so simple? Innocently ignorant, economical with the truth, or... what?? It would be very easy for Watts to resolve the problem, by amending his blog entry to correct himself, vanish the problematic paragraph, or explain how he's correct. I suppose at the end of the day there's no alternative but to let him set his own standard of reliability. Nobody else is going to be able to address the issue with the same degree of authority as Watts himself.
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  32. "Watts is not going to like that one either. It may very well cause him to blow another gasket." I'm an old mechanic: I'll stand by with the Bar's Leak. Though, I'm not sure there's enough data to assume it'll work on that model of blown foo-foo vlve.....;)
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  33. "Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa" ["don't talk about them but look and move on"] Dante, Inferno They don't deserve our (limited) spare time.
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  34. In his meltdown post, Watts noted that he's actually co-author on two peer-reviewed papers. I've revised the above text accordingly, and linked to the second (which is about land use change influences on climate - very long list of authors on that one).
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  35. Talking about Watts' "Epic Fail" in arithmetic, I'm wondering if it's true that he's never seen a multiplier greater than 100%. Maybe he is of the view there are no negative forcings or feedbacks, which would be really funny :)
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  36. What is really interesting over there is that so many people seem unable to grasp that the figure could be greater than 100%. Lots of huffing a puffing about it too.
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  37. This is turning out to be quite a bit of a frenzy. If you just Google news search PBS Climate Change as of 9am Thursday Sydney time, you will see the top four: PBS gets pummeled for showing balanced global-warming piece From a self confessed skeptic looking to challenge the scientific consensus PBS Attacked for Allowing Global Warming Skeptic to Speak From NewsBusters (blog) PBS NewsHour's Climate Change Report Raises Eyebrows (VIDEO) From Huffington Post (considered Left leaning I believe) PBS NewsHour Propagates Confusion On Climate Change From Media Matters for America (blog) It would be very interesting to perform some sort of metric to see the direction and weighting the different organisations discuss this event. I know something like that was done on The Australian (Newscorp owned) a while back. Since someone brought up Einstein I think it is pertinent to put a quote from him here:
    This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation
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  38. @ yocta - seems to be a phenomenon more common to the USA than other countries, going by opinion polls. (Would be good if Lewandowsky or someone could determine if there is a cultural bias in addition to the ideological bias.)
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  39. is a bizarre space. I've seen Gaia, magnetic, and chemtrail stuff show up there. Newsbusters is akin to NewsMax, which is basically Tea Party News. Huff is also a weird space. It used to be bourgeois left, but now it's simply liberal-sensational. Media Matters is low rhetoric left. The Einstein quote is spot on, and Watts is simply encouraging the madhouse.
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  40. As to the mystery of why climate change is so nearly invisible on mainstream television, I suppose we're seeing the reason. For the person looking at viewer feedback there's no equation for success. Ordinarily this wouldn't be an issue but when folks are running anger machines bent on turning back the clock of knowledge the whole situation becomes chaotic. --Network runs piece on threats from climate change. --Network gets beat up by synthetic outrage from gullible people who've been coaxed back into the Dark Ages. --Network is traumatized. --Network attempts to show "other side." --Network is beat up by people attached to reality. --Network is traumatized. --Network decides to tiptoe away from topic entirely.
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  41. ANTHONY WATTS: "They want to change policy. They want to apply taxes and these kinds of things ..." So who are "they", Mr Watts? Not a conspiratorial cabal, I trust. Heaven forfend.
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  42. Advice to John and Dana: Don't let trolls post here. They will waste you and your readers' time, and drive you crazy, too, since evidence is something they prepare as if for a high school debate. At least in high school, the other side shut up after a while. These guys never do. Some of us have learned this the hard way.
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  43. Watts rant on Dana is uncalled for. I may read his site (sometimes there's a really good article on science, but they are definitely drying up), but sometimes he makes it easy to be embarrassed for being a sceptic. *sigh* Dana, please don't take Watt's rant as indicative of what all sceptics are like. Some of us actually respect our fellow humans.
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  44. @doug_bostrom #90: With all due respect, you have ignored the 500 pound gorilla in the room -- the humongous amount of advertising revenues flowing to the media from the fossil fuel industry.
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  45. @Dale #93: My repsect for you just went up a couple of notches. Civil discourse between two parties is always better than throwing hand grenades at each other.
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  46. Yeah John, I shouldn't say "the reason." After all, for most networks selling soap is job one. The "battered network syndrome" is just one of several reasons for cowering silence, I'm sure.
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  47. Dale @93 - thanks. I wouldn't generalize about anyone in any given group based on the behavior of a single individual (unlike Watts, coincidentally). That being said, Watts does have the most traffic of any 'skeptic' site, and while I haven't read the comments on his post about me, I'm pretty sure I can guess what they say. That being said, the post kind of made my day. Watts tells me he's going to 'take the gloves off' and the best he can do is post a photo of me on an electric moped and illustrate that he doesn't understand how negative numbers work? Yikes.
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  48. "...I haven't read the comments on his post about me, I'm pretty sure I can guess what they say." I think this clip sums up the comments, fairly well. Summation of WUWT comments about Dana and his electric scooter
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  49. Actually, I have absolutely no problem with PBS - or anyone else for that matter - interviewing Watts or any other 'sceptic'. What I do have a problem with is the reporters not doing their job and not asking the hard questions and taking 'sceptics' to task for their misrepresentations. When Watts remarked that Muller had not been peer reviewed, the reporter should have asked Watts if his work had been peer reviewed. When Watts raised the issue of UHI, the reporter should have asked him about adjustments etc. That would be the best way of dealing with people like Watts. Hold them up to the light so everyone can see just how lacking in substance they really are. While they hide out in their blogs, or only get interviewed on Faux News, they will not be exposed for the charlatans they are. PBS gets a mark for putting him on, but get marked down for not asking the proper questions.
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  50. mandas @99 I agree. The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) has occasionally broadcast the views of "skeptics" for the sake of presenting a "balanced" view and my objections have been exactly the same as yours - and of course because the views expressed by the person interviewed (Lord Monckton) were so blatantly wrong yet went unchallenged. The upside of that interview was that it gave me, and more notably Dr Tim Lambert (UNSW), the opportunity of showing how wrong Monckton was, and is. While I do deplore public radio broadcasting unchallenged views on any subject which are wrong and unsupported by science, my particular criticism of PBS (and the ABC) is the failure to engage a well informed alert interviewer able (and willing) to quickly pick-up on the rubbish espoused by the person being interviewed.
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