Saturday, March 13, 2010

Should Obama Send His Science Team on a National Campaign to Explain Climate Science?

It's been a couple months of seriously bad PR for climate science, both due to unfortunate errors made by scientists and (okay, mostly) a well-funded noise machine intent on preserving the status quo at any cost. So how can climate scientists dig themselves out of the negative publicity trench and help reeducate the public on the dangers of climate change? The answer's not debating skeptics on TV, that's for sure. So would a full-on national media blitz by Obama's Nobel Prize winning science team--Stephen Chu and John Holdren--help do the trick?

That's what Climate Progress's Joe Romm suggests, after taking advice from a recent editorial in the scientific journal Nature.

Here's an excerpt from the Nature article (subscription required), entitled Climate of Fear (via CP): The integrity of climate research has taken a very public battering in recent months. Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.

Climate scientists are on the defensive, knocked off balance by a re-energized community of global-warming deniers who, by dominating the media agenda, are sowing doubts about the fundamental science. Most researchers find themselves completely out of their league in this kind of battle because it's only superficially about the science. The real goal is to stoke the angry fires of talk radio, cable news, the blogosphere and the like, all of which feed off of contrarian story lines and seldom make the time to assess facts and weigh evidence. Civility, honesty, fact and perspective are irrelevant.

And all that is exactly why it's all but futile for a climate scientist to go on TV to attempt to refute anti-science misinformation. So what to do? Scientists, who were never trained for and therefore aren't particularly adept at "street fights" aren't the ideal candidates to get in the ring. But scientists, despite the recent deluge of bad PR regarding climate, remain more trusted than almost any other group in relaying information to the people--and rightly so. When I write about a scientific report, for instance, the skeptical are apt to write me off because of my involvement in the media and my 'liberal bias'.

So here's what Romm suggests:
"I urge the administration to send science advisor Holdren and NOAA Administrator Lubchenco and Energy Secretary Chu on a media blitz and national tour to explain and emphasize the science ... Launch a cross-country tour and media blitz with the science advisor and NOAA Administrator. They should be joined by local scientists and, whenever possible, our energy secretary. When you are in a street fight, you want to bring your biggest guns.

What do you think? Could a media blitz from our nation's top-ranking scientists help quell the onslaught of denier misinformation being peddled in outlets like Fox?


1 comment:

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