The Global Warming Debate and Media Bias

Few topics have engendered as many claims and counterclaims of media bias as has global warming.* Certainly, there is much bias in the reporting of climate science and that is the main reason the average person is confused or misinformed. The issue of Climate Change and the Media was the subject of a 2006 Senate hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. It is a good place to start to examine the matter.

Media Bias generally refers to accusations of either censorship or propagandismon the part of particular news sources, where such content is framed in the light of a preconceived agenda. Relevant categories of bias include favoring a station’s corporate economic interests, having a political slant, or sensationalism that tends to distort news to make it a better commercial “product.”

The Hearing: The hearing was chaired by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). In his opening statement, he accused the media of over-hyped reporting, of subverting its role as an objective source of information on climate change into the role of an advocate, and of hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism. Apparently no testimony was needed.

It was an interesting cast of characters who testified before the committee, two climate skeptics, a climatologist, a science historian, and an oil company lobbyist.Their testimony and the author’s short comment on each follow below:

Dr. R. M. Carter is a marine biologist and well known author from Australia. Dr. Carter testified that his research showed that throughout history, the rise in global temperatures had proceeded rising carbon dioxide concentration. His claimed that some natural cause must be causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, which released the carbon dioxide.

Comment: After the hearing, he was challenged by climatologists to produce any research showing the natural cause he claimed, but none has yet been produced. He also should have been aware that the recent CO2 increase has come from the billions of tons of fossils fuel burned each year by man. It is interesting that Senator Inhofe was concerned about the media bias in Australia.

Dr. Daniel Schrag is a climatologist from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard. He testified that there is no serious debate about whether the Earth will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase over this century – as it will. The burning of coal, oil and gas, and deforestation are playing a significant role in increasing CO2 levels. The current level, in excess of 380 parts per million (ppm), is higher than it has been for at least the last 650,000 years, and perhaps for tens of millions of years. We know from Lonnie Thompson’s work on tropical glaciers that this warming is not part of any natural cycle.

Comment: His testimony represents the accepted scientific viewpoint on global warming. Skeptics would claim there is still a serious debate, that the science is not settled, and that man is not the cause of global warming. His testimony contradicted that of Dr. Carter on natural causes and he quoted a source for his information.

Dr. David Deming is a geophysicist from Oklahoma University. He reported that his research on oil well borehole temperatures showed a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. He also claimed that the Earth’s temperature has not gone up in the last 10 years and that the Earth had entered a cooling period.

Comment: The one degree temperature rise he reports is consistent with NASA’s data but NASA’s data also shows that 1998 and 2005 have been record highs and that the trend is clearly upward. Dr. Deming is a controversial figure and he has been removed from most of his teaching duties at OU because of his unorthodox views.

Dr. Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California. She testified that in1983 the National Academy formed the Nierenberg committee to examine the scientific evidence of global warming. The committee accepted the scientific conclusions, but declined to view global warming as a problem, predicting that any adverse effects would be adequately remedied by technological innovation driven by market forces. This prediction has not come true as technological innovation has not saved the homes of the citizens of Shishmaref, Alaska, nor stopped the acidification of the world’s oceans, nor prevented the melting of polar ice.

Comment: The testimony was an accurate account of the history and points out some of the effects of global warming on the oceans and the lives of native Alaskans. The village of Shishmaref, inhabited for 400 years, is facing evacuation due to erosion from waves now allowed by the disappearance of year round sea ice, and by the thawing of coastal permafrost. Skeptics would claim that there is no global warming so there was no need for markets to respond, that the melting ice is natural, and the oceans are only more acidic by 0.1 pH unit. (Note: That is 20% more acidic.)

Dan Gainor is a Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Director of the Business & Media Institute (BMI). He testified that journalists claiming to provide the “truth” on climate change are criticizing America for its stance on the issue and on the Kyoto treaty, while ignoring the billions of dollars such an agreement would cost America. The media is obsessed with Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Let’s recall the media’s irresponsible position, when roughly 30 years ago they reported a new ice age was coming and we would all freeze to death.

Comment: He claims journalists reporting global warming are unpatriotic and anti-business. Of course, BMI was formed to combat media bias against America’s free enterprise system and expose the anti-business agenda of environmental extremists. He is correct that some reporters sensationalized the “new ice age”, but after 30 years, he and others are still using the incident to discredit the press and science. His attack on Gore’s movie was unfounded. Interestingly, in 2007, Dr. Carter was the star witness for the plaintiff in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, who sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court apparently did not agree with Dr. Carter and ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown.

Was the hearing biased? It would seem balanced in that two of the four scientists who testified represented the scientific side and two were skeptics. However, it was actually heavily weighted toward the skeptic side. A CNN survey found that 97% of climatologists who are active in climate research say the Earth is warming and humans play a role, yet two of the four scientists who testified do not agree. Dr. Carter and Dr. Deming have research records in other fields that give them credibility as scientists but they are also journeymen for climate skepticism who can be counted on to deny global warming. Dr. R.M. Carter claimed the warming was from natural causes though he has not published or produced any research to back his claim, though asked. Dr. David Deming claimed the Earth warmed until 1998 and then entered a cooling trend. NASA’s data shows that 2005 was the warmest year on record so that is clearly not right.

Dan Gainor’s testimony was not balanced by an opposing view and there were not really any testimony from journalists. The witnesses might have included Eric Pooley, deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, who thinks that the press misrepresented the economic debate over carbon cap and trade, failed to perform the basic service of making climate policy and its economic impact understandable to the reader, and allowed opponents of climate action to set the terms of the cost debate.

The purpose of the hearing was seemingly to discredit the journalists and the scientists who do not agree with Senator Inhofe’s views. In his opening statement, he named and criticized a number of journalists and news organization who had been critical of him or his views those those accused were not there to defend themselves. He claimed they were not accurately reporting the “hard science”, though his own beliefs are inconsistent with the “hard science” produced by scientific research. His stance on global warming, which he has stated many times is “Global warming is a hoax”.

Is the media biased? The “media” includes many sources, but overall the answer seems to be “Yes”. The media likes to sensationalize stories to attract attention and it often moves on without correcting the errors it commits. The story about the “Coming Ice Age” is an example. Few scientists believed that story at the time, but some editorial writers are still pointing to it as a failure of science. TV weather reporters often claim that a particular weather event is caused by global warming. That cannot be proven but it keeps the controversy stirred up and provides easy targets for skeptics. There is also a rush to be first with a story before the matter has been investigated as in the case of Climategate. After all the controversy, charges, and counter-charges, the investigations cleared the scientists of scientific misconduct. But, once a story is “out there”, it can never be taken back.

The media also has a general bias toward the status quo. It’s easy, it involves little risk to the newspaper, and it is fine with those who have a financial or political interest in continuing the status quo. In 1997, the Wall street Journal published an article titled “Science Has Spoken, Global Warming Is a Myth”. The article turned out to be a hoax but it came right before the Senate was to consider the Kyoto Treaty and may have influenced the Senate to reject ratification, thus maintaining the status quo.

The press also presents stories as controversies to catch readers interest. They sometimes try to present both sides, even though there is little evidence to support one side. This is certainly true in the case of global warming where all the world’s major scientific organizations have endorsed statements that global warming is occurring, that it is caused mainly by mans’ activities, and it is causing undesirable changes in the environment. Sometimes the press doesn’t even try to present both sides. Newspapers often report politician’s statements critical of climate science without balancing it with a scientist’s opinion. One example would be that many newspapers print Senator Inhofe’s famous statement “Global warming is a hoax.” but never point out that all four scientists at his hearing, even the skeptics, testified that the Earth was warming. Another point of view was presented at the hearings by another committee member, Senator James M. Jeffords (I-VT) who said” I can only say that I am sorry that I was not able to do more to change the minds of the few skeptics that remain in our nation. The climate is warming, it is due to human activity, and only a change in human behavior will ensure that my grandchildren will not suffer the consequences.”

Journalism Ethics: The solution to much of the bias would be for journalists and news media to follow the Ethical code of The Society of Professional Journalists, who believe that it is the ethical duty of the journalist to:

Seek Truth and Report It: Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Act Independently; Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Be Accountable Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

It is a principle of professional ethics that anyone who practices the profession, whether a member of the organization or not, is bound by the code of ethics of the profession. In this case, the Journalist’s Ethical Code should apply to anyone who is involved in reporting the news.

(c) 2010 J.C. Moore

Lesson Techniques For Educational Technology

Social studies is not one of those school subjects that automatically generates ideas of educational technology. After all, for years it was about civic projects, maps, governments and other elements that could prove to be a little bit less than stimulating for some students and even their teachers. Fortunately, that is changing.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) have developed the 21st Century Skills and Social Studies Map. These free online maps document various social studies projects, tasks and outcomes to corresponding skills. Such capabilities allow teachers to implement concrete examples of how 21st century skills can easily be integrated into the classroom at different grade levels, while also demonstrating the critical connections between these skills and social studies.

The map delivers guidance on how to align teaching and learning to the demands of the 21st century through lesson examples that combine core skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and innovation with interdisciplinary themes. Using educational technology, the map also cites specific student outcomes and provides project models to enhance student achievement. “I am confident we have developed an invaluable resource for social studies teachers and educators in general as we move toward a 21st-century education system,” said Michael Yell, NCSS president. “This map represents the intersection of 21st-century skills and the social studies and provides an exciting tool for teachers and students.”

As teachers work to implement educational technology in the classroom setting, the skills map offers a number of tools that will support each activity. These tools include such things as Internet access, graphics software, interactive online sites, social networking sites, video conferencing and Web publishing software. In utilizing these tools, students understand how these core skills and interdisciplinary themes are taught.

One P21 vice president, Valerie Greenhill, leads strategic content work. She highlighted that the organization is often asked what the integration of 21st century skills should look like in the classroom, as well as how these skills should be taught. Greenhill noted that the map aims to answer these questions, making it easy to integrate educational technology in every learning environment. The organization offers a number of core subject maps to ensure 21st century skills are incorporated throughout the curriculum. “For us, that is the promise of these maps–that it makes these skills understandable and achievable by practitioners, and it also paints a picture for policy makers to understand that these skills have a natural fit in the core subjects,” Greenhill said.

According to P21, the 21st Century Skills and Social Studies Map is the first in the serious of planned core content maps. Designed and targeted to educators, administrators and policy makers, these maps help to integrate educational technology in the classroom. Other maps are slated for mathematics, English, geography and science throughout 2008 and 2009.

Tips For Creating a Fun and Educational Playroom For Children

You can create a fun and educational playroom for children simply by keeping things at their level, both physically and mentally. Bright colors, simple words, sturdy furniture and well made children’s rugs can make your kid’s playroom an adventure in learning as it provides a rich learning environment.

Toddlers learn at a phenomenal rate. Everything they do increases their knowledge base. At the same time, you want your toddler’s playroom to be fun and entertaining. By using educational kid’s rugs, low shelves and child-sized furniture when designing your playroom, you can create an environment that is both fun and entertaining.

Educational Children’s Rugs Serve Multiple Roles

Let’s face it – children sometimes spill things. That’s a fact of life. They also want to learn and play. Children’s interactive play rugs serve multiple jobs, protecting your floor, providing a comfortable play area and offering educational experiences. Children’s rugs can teach geography, the alphabet and animals. They also come designed as miniature communities and cities, and you can even purchase kids’ rugs that will teach your toddler about your home state!

Children’s rugs are designed with toddlers and young children in mind. They are soft and plush and come with plenty of padding. The materials used are easy to clean and durable enough to last for years of enjoyment. Your children’s playroom will be all the more fun with an educational kid’s rug. Children’s interactive play rugs can even help young children learn important social skills as they explore the possibilities with their play group friends.

Sturdy Children’s Furniture Is a Must

As appealing as inflatable or plastic children’s furniture may appear, it is generally unsafe and it certainly won’t last. Children are still learning about the laws of physics that rule our world. Sturdy, well made, child-sized furniture will help your toddler maneuver in their playroom safely and constructively.

By providing child-sized furniture, you will help your child learn how to use their body properly. This type of furniture is also far less likely to tip, causing a fall. In addition, children’s furniture comes in a variety of colors and patterns, allowing you to create a customized playroom, best suited to your kid’s interests and personal style.

Personal Touches Add Educational Fun

You can make your children’s playroom all the more enjoyable and educational with personal touches that you create together. Index cards make great learning tools when used to label common features of the playroom, such as taping a card marked “chair” to a chair. Other labeling opportunities can include walls, tables and dressers. You can also create a word wall using pictures and words of common items such as books, shirts, dogs, family members, trees, cars, and so on. The possibilities are limitless and you can make working with these label cards a game for you and your toddler.

Children love to learn and play. You can make your kid’s playroom a wealth of fun and information with sturdy, child-sized furniture, children’s interactive play rugs and other educational children’s rugs, homemade labels and plenty of books and positive learning games. Your children will enjoy hours of educational fun in their very own playroom.

Backpacks And Rucksacks: Some Points You Should Know Before Buying

Backpacks – known in Europe more commonly as rucksacks – are a key piece of walking equipment – but with so many on the market, which do you go for? This article aims to give some helpful hints on choosing the right one for you.

Backpacks (I’ll call them this for the sake of convenience) come in many different sizes, materials, weights and colours. You are simply spoilt for choice. The right backpack for you will largely be determined by what kind of outdoor activity you undertake and, like most pieces of personal equipment, getting it right can make a lot of difference to the fun you get out of your day. Let’s look at some different types.

Small backpacks – sometimes known as daysacks – are typically made of lightweight nylon and have a capacity of 20-35 litres. They are usually fitted with a pair of padded shoulderstraps and may have a couple of outside pockets fitted with zip closures. The main bag should have a drawstring with a stay-tight sliding toggle fitted and a top flap fastened by a couple of click-buckles. This type of backpack isn’t normally reinforced in any way.

These are fine for taking a day’s walk in fine weather in gentle countryside. The nylon is usually showerproofed but won’t keep out a real downpour – it’s not intended to. This size backpack will hold a packed lunch, a bottle of water and your jacket, with the side pockets handy for gloves, keys and the like. It will be very light and should be easy to carry – look for well-padded shoulder straps!

Medium backpacks normally have a capacity of between about 45 to 90 litres. The material is usually again nylon, although of a heavier grade than the daysack. They will again have the main bag, two or more exterior pockets that should have storm flaps in addition to the zip fasteners, and are far more weatherproof than the daysack. The main bag will again be closed by the drawstring and stay-tight toggle but the top flap will be thicker and far more water resistant. It may also include a pocket as well and there’s usually ice-axe straps fitted to the outside back of the backpack, together with various ‘d-loops’ for attaching a tent or sleeping bag. This size of backpack is suited to more serious trekking with maybe a night or two out.

Large backpacks are generally in the range of 100 – 150 litres (and that’s big!) but in construction are similar to medium backpacks, though they obviously have more room and more pockets. This size of backpack is normally only used on serious hikes that may last many days and will hold just about everything you will need for this kind of extended expedition.

Medium and large backpacks can be had in a variety of material weights, from fairly light nylon up to really thick cordura-type material that is very tough indeed. They can also be fitted with waterproof liners though many now come with ‘Gore-Tex’ type lining as standard. The weight and durability of material is determined by conditions you think you might experience – there’s no point getting a backpack that will stand an Arctic winter if you normally go hiking in Nevada in the summer!

The other thing that is normally fitted to larger backpacks is a waistbelt and, on some, a chest stabiliser strap. These are not for show – they make a huge difference to your comfort and stamina when walking. In older-type backpacks the belt was an added-on item – in modern backpacks it’s built-in. Wear it as tight as is comfortable. It should sit on the hips and these will then take a lot of the weight from your shoulders – the shoulder straps become more like stabilisers, aided by the cheststrap, and keep the backpack in place. Large backpacks often have a rigid internal frame to stop sagging – this is also a real boon on a long hike.

Another feature to look for, especially if you’re planning to walk in summer or hotter areas, is an ‘aeroback’ design. This is a rigid plate that forms the part of the backpack nearest your back. It’s curved slightly away from your back and holds the backpack in such a position that air can circulate, helping to avoid the ‘soaked shirt syndrome’. I have one myself. They’re great.

One other thing to remember. When you go to buy your backpack, take all the clothing and equipment you think you will need for your kind of hiking. If it doesn’t fit the backpack you first look at, try a bigger one! Nothing is more frustrating than trying to cram everything into a too-small sack. Things break, bottles burst – you get the picture.

In summary, always get the best backpack you can afford and perhaps one size bigger than you think you might ever need. It’s surprising how things mount up! Visit a reputable outdoors retailer and don’t be shy about trying several out until you find one that really feels ‘right’ for you. You’re going to be together for a while – take your time and you’ll find your backpack really is the best friend you can have on a hike.