Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Independence of Climate Change Scientists

Last week, the big climate change news was that a group of scientists who had previously expressed climate skepticism analyzed the data and found that they indeed show that global temperatures are rising.  While I was glad to see some skeptics having to eat their words, I was disheartened by the use of the term “independent” in the media’s reporting.  Many news outlets actually used the term to describe the climate skeptics, even though they were partly funded by the Koch brothers.  And by implication, to the average reader, all those other climate scientists aren’t independent.

Here are a few examples (emphasis added): 

Guardian headline and tagline:   “Global warming study finds no grounds for climate sceptics' concerns: Independent investigation of the key issues sceptics claim can skew global warming figures reports that they have no real effect

CNN headline and first line: “New climate study deals blow to skeptics.  An independent study of global temperature records has reaffirmed previous conclusions by climate scientists that global warming is real.”

BBC headline:  “Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

(And it turns out that Fox News didn’t report the new study at all, according to

On the other hand, my respect for news outlets that placed the modifier correctly grew.  For example:

Christian Science Monitor headline and tagline: “Climate study, funded in part by conservative group, confirms global warming: The latest global warming results confirm those from earlier, independent studies by scientists at NASA and elsewhere that came under fire from skeptics in an episode known as 'climategate.'”

- Lesley McAllister

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