Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Disgruntled Astronauts & Grumpy Bloggers, Concerning the Equal Time Rule

Persistent debate surrounds the topic of climate change.  At this point, it is widely accepted among scientists and the general public that green house gas levels in the atmosphere have increased, which has affected the climate.  The debate lies in whether humans have had a hand in driving climate change, or whether it is purely a natural change in the Earth's atmospheric composition, or some combination of both.  

Just today, the Huffington Post published an article in which ex-Astronauts challenged the legitimacy of NASA's climate science.  The ex-Astronauts conjecture that NASA's claim that humans contributed to climate change "are not substantiated."  David Freeman, the author of the article, ends the article with a question;  "Is NASA pushing 'unsettled science' on global warming?"

A blogger from Grist (the well-known, notoriously environmentalist, online magazine) responded to HuffPo's article with a critique and a touch of sass.  The blogger, David Roberts, not only disagreed with ex-astronauts' critiques, but labeled the writer as a poor science communicator.

Personally, I found both of these articles to be a slightly irritating.  The HuffPo one challenged whether humans contributed to climate change.  I am tired of this argument because I do not understand the purpose of it.   If we discover that all of the green house gases expelled from human activity into the atmosphere does not, in fact, lead to climate change, what does this prove?  Does it mean, then, that fossil fuels are harmless and should be the main source of fuel forever?  To me, it is evident that we should transition into a society that relies upon less-polluting energy sources, for reasons beyond the impact on the climate.  So, this argument, to me, is becoming tireless, pointless, and is difficult to "prove" either way.

The Grist response by Roberts used unsophisticated conduct while aggressively disagreeing with HuffPo for publishing an article that questioned the human component to global warming.  This made it tedious to read; however, he did make a valuable (albeit vague) point.  A journalist has a responsibility to determine what deserves equal time in an article by doing sufficient background research.  In this case, the HuffPo journalist questioned the legitimacy of NASA's climate science research based on skepticism by a single group and spread this skepticism to his audience.  

Roberts responded as such:

(Freeman, Huffington Post):  What do you think? Is NASA pushing “unsettled science” on global warming?
"Uh. David. I mean no insult to Huffington Post readers when I say that they are probably not the best arbiters of this question. Instead, you might consult, oh, any science academy from any country in the world."

Despite his uncouth demeanor, I agree with Roberts.  There are certainly sources of information that could be consulted to resolve the issue with the ex-Astronauts without planting another seed of uncertainty in the general public mind regarding climate change.

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