Politicians, journalists, and readers: On thinking with scientific integrity about climate

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“Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is…constrained by standards of evidence…that are similar to the canons of modern science itself,” says Chris Mooney in an excellent op-ed column (“Climate Change Myths and Facts”) in the March 21 Washington Post.  Mooney takes down George Will for shilling for the global warming disinformation campaign in a recent column, but sets the problem in a larger context.

Mooney’s focus in his March 21 column (“Climate Change Myths and Facts”) is on media coverage of climate change.  (Read the full piece for 70 lines that school George Will on how he would think if he were doing his job honestly.)  His conclusion, if journalists and their audiences could live up to it, could be a welcome corrective to the aggressive smoke-blowing efforts by the disinformation campaign to misrepresent the state of scientific understanding of global climatic disruption and its likely impacts:

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists – following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence.  That, in the end, is all that good science really is.  It’s also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be – now more than ever.

The same conclusion could apply to elected politicians and government officials, and lays down a marker for holding them accountable for how they use, or misuse, climate science in formulating policy responses.

See our earlier posts:
George Will recycles global warming disinformation talking points
Lou Dobbs manufactures global warming controversy in junk journalism interview

Mooney’s blog, The Intersection
Low-Ball Warming: There should be a special circle in hell for people who mess with scientific data.”  (The American Prospect, June 20, 2005)

(Chris Mooney is the author of The Republican War on Science and co-author of the forthcoming Unscientific America:  How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.)

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