It wasn’t a bad report, but it did end with a quote from Roger Pielke Jr., one which I found particularly silly. It’s vanished from the page, but fortunately Morano has captured it for posterity, and he’s also quoted at NPR
Hansen says now he underestimated how bad things would get.
And while he hopes this will spur action including a tax on the burning of fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, others doubt it.
Science policy expert Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado said Hansen clearly doesn’t understand social science, thinking a study like his could spur action. Just because people understand a fact that doesn’t mean people will act on it, he said.
In an email, he wrote: “Hansen is pursuing a deeply flawed model of policy change, one that will prove ineffectual and with its most lasting consequence a further politicization of climate science (if that is possible!).”
“Hansen is pursuing a deeply flawed model of policy change, one that will prove ineffectual, and with its most lasting consequence a further politicization of climate science.”
What “deeply flawed model” argues against publication and promotion of new information regarding the risks of business-as-usual?
“Model” is the key. Roger is referring to something of a straw man, called the “deficit model”.
In reaction to this bizarre position staked out by Roger, I said on Google Plus:
“Roger argues that the way to convince someone to get off the tracks when there is an onrushing train is to not mention the train but rather to suggest a nice Italian dinner somewhere.”
It didn’t quite fit in 140 characters, so on Twitter I settled for:
“@RogerPielkeJr to get a person off the tracks don’t mention the train. Rather suggest a nice Italian dinner somewhere. http://is.gd/GmfH0u “
“@mtobis Long live the deficit model of science! #socialsciencedeniers”
I understood this bizarre response in the context of arguments I’ve been having with Keith Kloor and to some extent John Fleck.
The history of the phrase “the deficit model”, and how it came to plague science journalism with a ludicrous conceptualization that the job of a science reporter is to NOT report science, is something I’m looking into.
This is not to dismiss the early development of the idea, which had a lot to offer.
It is to argue against the distortions of using the idea to effectively prevent public discourse from being based on actual evidence. You’d think most people would not be in favor of that but that appears to be what “realism” means these days.
In my view, that distortion is at least as much a story about journalism as it is about social science. Here’s an article at Scholars and Rogues which refers neither to science nor to “deficits” that has a lot to do with the dynamic. It just refers to journalism recasting its job as a sort of inferior sort of entertainment. “Saving journalism must also save an audience that doesn’t give a damn”
What do you see, hear, and read on “news” websites? Aggregation sites? Twitter? Facebook? Buzzfeed? Gawker? Drudge? Do you see content news bearing significant, in-depth examination of national, regional, or local problems and priorities? Do you see accounts of planning board, school board, and city council meetings? Do you learn whether the cousin of a city official quietly got the contract for winter road salt without a bid? Have you been told of the factors in city governance that are driving up your property taxes unnecessarily?
Not so much, eh? But you find plenty of sports, entertainment news, “health and fitness” news, personal finance advice, and so on. There’s the old saw, of course, that “the public interest is what the public is interested in.” But I’d argue that the public’s interest is what the public as been induced or trained to be interested in. After all, media theorists might argue, the press can’t tell the public what to think but it can certainly tell it what to think about. And in the digital age, it’s pablum.
The business of journalism is increasingly engaged, I believe, in telling readers and viewers what they want to know. The media business, of course, has always depended on an entertainment value to produce the revenue that allows journalists to produce the democratic value — what readers and viewers need to know. But until the arrival of the digital age (and how the hell is that defined, anyhow?), the balance between the two seemed a workable compromise for that First Amendment protection. Papers made money; the citizenry received a sufficient entertainment fix as well as the accountability journalism that editors adjudged necessary for readers to know to make astute political and consumer decisions.
What citizens need to know …Well, that will now play a far lesser role in saving the journalism business than the rapidly increasing digital provision of pablum.
Now that paywalls are popping up everywhere, the audience expects more: If we’re paying now, we expect a much better show.
That show is overshadowing three fundamental questions journalists should seek to address for the inhabitants of a modern democracy:
• How does the world work?
• Why does it work that way?
• What are the consequences?
But readers and viewers, I fear, have been conditioned to seek material requiring less intellectual strain. The modern audience of news media is uninterested in, bored by, unable to understand, or too damn busy to grasp accountability journalism and its importance. That audience shortcoming is beyond the scope of journalism schools to address in their curricula, foundation threats to withhold funding notwithstanding. None of these saving-journalism ideas matters if the audience remains in this condition of insensibility.
The idea that science communication is sometimes arrogant and ill-attuned to its intended audience should be no surprise to anyone. Every scientist has had his or her share of bad teachers and knows this all too well. But you can disrespect the audience by treading too lightly on their prejudices as well as by trying to bulldoze them. This is why communication is hard.
What we are up against in managing the modern world is, in fact, more than a little bit interesting. Our all-too-apparent failures to manage our society as democracy-deserving adults are interesting too. Planet3.0 is predicated on the idea that sustainability issues are interesting, that a clear-eyed consideration of our collective fate is interesting, that whatever the future will be, it won’t be boring.
But it will be challenging. The “failure of the deficit model” tells one thing only – that most people do not like to be challenged. Why not? That’s another matter.
But some of us would actually like to engage our actual circumstances. Our objective on this site is to challenge each other, not to reinforce our own prejudices. Don’t come here to be reassured that you are right. Don’t come here to yell at somebody you think is wrong.
Those of us who want better need to provide it ourselves. If you want better discourse, pitch in.