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Monday, May 22, 2006

Global Warming Activists Fret: Why Aren't We Winning?

A little light reading this evening: "Americans and
Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action
," a report describing the "findings and recommendations" of a conference of "extraordinary Americans [who] were asked why the robust and compelling body of climate change science has not had a greater impact on action."

In other words, the "we think we're right so why aren't we winning on global warming" conference.

The report cites several dozen recommendations for convincing policymakers, the public, civic leaders, business leaders and religious leaders to agree with the human beings-are-causing-global-warming-theory and then work to implement dramatic, and, in the views of sponsors, critically-needed measures to eliminate these impacts.

Most of the recommendations are the usual ideas people in any political movement come up with: meet with newspaper editors to convince them of the desired point-of-view; create new organizations tasked with delivering information about the issue to opinion leaders; use a variety of mediums to communicate information and opinions to the public; study methodologies for communicating to the public to help them create effective messages; the use of PR gimmicks (for examples, recommendations for the creation of a "National Climate Week" and an "Climate Action Leadership Council").

Same-old-same-old, mostly.

More ominous, in my view, was the recommendation that policies be put in place to use the No Child Left Behind Act to teach and test children on climate change. The report includes this recommendation:
Improve K-12 students' understanding of climate change by promoting it as a standards-based content area within science curricula and incorporating it into other disciplinary curricula and teacher certification standards. Use the occasion of the state reviews of science standards for this purpose, which are being prompted by the states' need to comply with the Fall 2007 start of high-stakes science testing under the No Child Left Behind Act.
In other words, use the public schools to promote a political-policy agenda.

Any hope that kids aged 5 to 18 can expect an objective rendering of the science if the report's authors have any say in the matter is dashed when one reads a later section of the report, which lists as a stumbling block the supposed objectivity of mainstream journalists:
Objectivity is one of the core values of conventional journalism. Journalists strive to be objective by telling both sides of the story. When reporting on climate change, journalists often quote contrarians to introduce "balance" to the story, which ultimately misrepresents the scientific consensus. Some insist that dissenters should be fully covered as an important part of the story, provided their funding or other influences can be disclosed and reported, and that they have something newsworthy and timely to add. In particular, industry scientists should not - in this view - be prematurely dismissed as vested interests; in many cases, they are thoughtful scientists who care about the ecological impacts of their products.
Apparently not all journalists are objective, however, as representatives of several mainstream news organizations were conference participants: Cornelia Dean (identified as a reporter with the New York Times), Eugene Linden (identified as a writer for Time magazine), Steve Curwood (identified as an NPR host and producer), Elizabeth Kolbert (identified as a writer for the New Yorker), Jeff Burnside (identified as a reporter/producer with WTVJ NBC 6 in Miami), and Ellen Susman (identified as producer of SuperwomanCentral, a TV show broadcast on PBS).

Most of the conference participants were academics and leftie environmentalists and/or politicians, but there were exceptions. Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches (roughly speaking, policy-wise, the leftie Christians) and Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals (roughly speaking, policy-wise, the rightie Christians) both participated, although the righties appeared more active: Rich Cizik chaired a working group and contributed a "kickoff paper to set the table" for the conference, while Bob Edgar did neither (although Mr. Edgar did make a "stage-setting" contribution -- whatever that may be -- with, among others, the world-renowned climate scientist Al Franken of the Al Franken Decade. Barrett I. Duke, Jr. of the Southern Baptist Convention also participated, so Christian evangelicals who also are Southern Baptists had the good fortune of double representation -- that is, good fortune as long as their views on United Nations climate treaties are roughly equivalent to those of another conference participant, Senator John Kerry.

The webpage listing the conference participants can be found here; a 221-page PDF of the conference report, "Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action," can be downloaded from Yale's website here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:51 AM

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