IOP and EurActiv framing climate science

September 27, 2007 at 5:58 am | Posted in Climate change, Framing science, Persuasive essays, Press releases, Propaganda | Leave a comment

Scientists question computerised climate-change models
As world leaders gathered in New York for a high-level UN meeting on climate change, a new report by some of the world’s most renowned scientists urges policymakers to keep their eyes on the “science grapevine”, arguing that their understanding of global warming is still far from complete.

So we are introduced by EurActiv to a report by the IOP. At the end of EurActiv’s words, these links are provided:

For the kids who are learning about persuasive essays and use of framing, here’s my answer to this question: “What is the casual reader meant to take away from this piece by EurActiv?”

In response to the Title:

Scientists question computerised climate-change models

:-| The casual reader’s scepticism is bolstered: “If scientists question climate models, why shouldn’t I?

Note that only one scientist in the world needs to question climate models for this story to be worth writing on behalf of those who gain from business-as-usual. As long as one more scientist is prepared to go on the record, we can use the plural: thus “scientists question” can easily be said to be true.

True statements can be extremely misleading, if the balance of evidence is ignored or unknown.

In response to the Front page AbstractLead:

… a new report by some of the world’s most renowned scientists urges policymakers to keep their eyes on the “science grapevine” …

:-| The casual reader’s scepticism is bolstered: “Politicians need to read this and other documents (published by the IOP), not just listen to official lines from authorities like the IPCC.”

Note that “keep their eyes” implies “on the ball”. Visual language is used deliberately, because the supporting evidence is visual (in this case, it’s a document to read, rather than a powerful inspiring track by your favourite band!), but also encourages observation rather than participation.

[As an aside to show how contrived that red letter language is, have you ever watched a grapevine? Me neither ;-) ]

The EurActiv press release describes the document as “a new report by some of the world’s most renowned scientists”, yet the report has no named author. It simply shows on the back cover:

Climate change prediction:
a robust or flawed process?

For further information about this report, please contact:
Tajinder Panesor
Institute of Physics
76 Portland Place
London W1B 1NT UK
Tel +44 (0) 20 7470 4800
Fax +44 (0) 20 7470 4848
E-mail tajinder.panesor@iop.org
Web http://www.iop.org
Registered charity no. 293851
© The Institute of Physics

In fact, the IOP press release that launches this document as World leaders need to remain alert to latest scientific thought on climate change states clearly that what was published is “A new Institute of Physics’ (IOP) report.” (Why that apostrophe is there, I don’t know.)

In response to the Front page AbstractLead:

… arguing that their understanding of global warming is still far from complete …

:-| The casual reader’s ignorance is justified: “They don’t understand it, so how could I be expected to?”

Lack of understanding obviously buys more time:

  • Time to do nothing
  • Time for more confusion
  • Time to build support for voluntary actions (i.e. inaction)
  • Time for fossil fuel companies to rake in more profits

The lack of clarity as to who ‘they’ are with ‘their understanding … far from complete’ is peculiar. It implies scientists still have a lot of work to do, but could just as easily be taken to mean lack of understanding by policymakers, or even world leaders gathering in New York.

Confused? Well, that’s good, because you are meant to be.

As long as you know that climate modelling is complex stuff that needs more time for others (not you) to figure out, and you go on doing what you have always done, that’s fine—for the promoters of this propaganda. Tajinder Panesor, Manager, Science Policy at the Institute of Physics, who organised the seminar, covers his own self in the small print of his press release, saying “Even though there is evidence around us of climate change, and we need to continue to take action now; greater computing power and further debate is needed in order to make the modelling processes more robust to remove current uncertainties.” (Yes, that semi-colon usage is weird.) Despite the concessionary nod to evidence, the gist and goal of this propaganda is to undermine strong calls for action to combat climate change.

Last, but in no way least, the timing of this release is perfect: right after Monday’s UN High Level Event and further meetings on climate change at the United Nations—and right before Bush’s rug-pulling trick!

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