The Tubosphere has been all aglow over recent reports from the BEST team, massive public claims from Richard Muller to the effect that, thanks to his efforts, global warming is now proven. A remarkable lack of grace from Tony Watts adds a touch of irony.
SheWonk has about as good an account as there is out there, with links to plenty more. So if it’s Schadenfreude over Watts’ misfortunes and self-inflicted embarrassment you are looking for, look there.
We are considering adding a separate section to the site in which we look at the excesses of the denialati with some pleasure. We could also join in letting the cat out of the bag; Lord Monckton is himself a hoax, another hilarious character created by Sacha Baron Cohen.
PLANET3.0 PROVIDES THE MISSING NUTRIENT IN YOUR DAILY READING DIET
Call it vitamin S, for “sustainability”.
Our front page is about what is missing from your other front pages.
You can read for hours a day on other sites and the conventional print media, and not even get an inkling that our long term trajectory is broken and that we have the responsibility to fix it, sooner rather than later. But that’s, um, kind of important.
People missing sustainability news are intellectually malnourished, getting a deeply skewed vision of what is going on in the world. Once, due to bad planning, I found myself reading some sort of prognosis of the 21st century by some famed international relations pundit from Newsweek. Not a word appeared in the whole book about climate change, food security, resource constraints. (At least he touched on energy.) If you read such stuff all the time, if you can seriously write such stuff, the media are not serving you well.
No other news site offers this much concentrated sustainability news on a daily basis as the front page of Planet3.0. Check in here on a regular basis, and you will get a clearer idea of where the planet is heading and what we may need to do about it. That’s the goal of the front page – to fill in the gaps left at the rest of the press. If you stop in here, our goal is that you’ll find all important news the New York Times deemed unfit to print.
The goal of the rest of the site is to build a community and a business model to provide the front page news and a decent income for those contributing to it. At present, we are amateurs; our gross income is zero, our net slightly less. We won’t have the resources we would like to have for some time. But we hope you understand that our way to help the world get a grip is to make sure that Justin Gillis and Elizabeth Kolbert aren’t the only two decent journalists making a living on this beat.
BEST IS CELEBRITY NEWS NOT SUSTAINABILITY NEWS
The BEST story provides an excellent case in point.
The story is all over the place. Andy Revkin blogged it, the Beeb has it. The Economist is on it. And the Wall Street Journal gave Muller free rein for an op-ed of self-congratulation bordering on self-adulation. (This last gives reasonable people everywhere the unusual oportunity to be somewhat in agreement with the Egregious Dellingpole.) In other words, for climate, it is Big News. But is it front page material for P3?
Well, what happened?
What happened is that the existing data for recent global mean temperatures were confirmed. How Richard Muller convinced people of the importance of his own opinion on this matter has some peculiar history to it. But if we were doing science and not politics, it would be of no real consequence. Which means that when we pay attention to it, we are paying attention mostly to politics masquerading as science. And one of the few things that both the real science camp and the cynics’ camp agree to is that controversy leads to politics masquerading as science, which in turn interferes with policy.
This means, in turn, that while it may deserve play among the cognoscenti, it doesn’t belong in the major media.
Although the new methods they use are a worthy addition to the arsenal, and it’s generally conceded that the team did serious and diligent work, the results (confirming previous results) as opposed to the new methods, are barely worth reporting in a specialist journal. This is not news. It is in the Wall Street Journal and on the BBC because of politics, not because it delivers any new information. The science has not changed a whit – no serious scientist cares very much that the record has been confirmed yet again. Under ordinary circumstances this paper would have trouble getting published. This is not a red-letter day in scientific history. No new information is on the table. It’s posturing.
Compare it, for example, with other news of this week: according to Nina Chestney at Reuters, a UK report has claimed that “the challenges of human migration due to climate change have been underestimated as millions of people will either move into or be trapped in areas of risk by 2060”.
“We have assumed mass migration away from affected areas, but millions of people will also migrate into vulnerable areas and there will also be those who cannot migrate out,” John Beddington, chief scientific adviser to the British government, told reporters.
“They pose different challenges to the international community,” he added.
The United Nations estimates there were 210 million international migrants in 2010. A further 740 million were internal migrants in 2009.
An average 25 million people a year have been displaced due to weather-related events since 2008, which will likely rise as such events become more extreme and frequent, Beddington said.
The report estimates there will be between 154 and 179 million people living in rural coastal floodplains by 2060 who will be unable to move away due to poverty.
These trapped communities will need to be made more resilient to environmental events.
Up to 192 million people will also move into urban coastal floodplains in Africa and Asia by 2060 in search of work and a better economic situation.
The report suggests that most of these people will eventually be forced out again, and that the world is unprepared for this sort of international migratory pressure.
Now, let’s be fair. This is just one report. And whatever the difficulties of climate science as a physical science, the difficulties of projecting impacts are wtill greater. There’s little doubt that there is room for criticizing this report. If we are lucky, it will turn out to be excessively pessimistic. People have turned out to be excessively pessimistic in the past, after all.
Still, this is a prestigious report and it’s at least not obvious to them to say their results are excessive. Shouldn’t THAT be on the table?
WHY IS THE PRESS SO DISTRACTIBLE?
So, which is more important? Somebody claiming some sort of special glory for replicating a well-studied result? Or evidence that hundreds of millions of desperately poor refugees will face disaster in the lifetimes of many of our readers? Well, let’s not guess from column-inches.
Here’s one question that you might wonder. Should Beddington have waited with his report to see what Muller’s team would say? After all, if there is no global warming, there’s nothing to worry about, is there? Clearly Beddington didn’t think Muller would be important. I’m not sure I understand why the rest of us should. People are making out that Muller is some kind of a hero, which is silly, and somehow missing the point about 350 million poor people flooded out not only of their homes but of their home provinces.
For sure? No, not for sure at all. Prediction is difficult, especially about the future, as the wise Yogi Berra is often quoted as saying.
But if it’s serious enough for a publicly commissioned report, it seems like it belongs on the front page. Maybe it should bump self-promoting glory hogs with nothing new to say off the front page?
Thanks to Tenney Naumer for the idea of how best to report on BEST.