The Skeptics' Ball

Arriving in Las Vegas yesterday for the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, the taxi driver taking me to the Mandalay Bay Hotel cheerfully informed me that the temperature was 106 degrees. The hundreds of scientists, activists, journalists, and concerned citizens gathered here have noticed that for 17 years now the predicted global temperature rise has failed to appear, and are not about to fazed by normal summer weather in the desert.

As with the other multi-thousand room Vegas hotels, registering in the late afternoon requires waiting in a long Disneyland-style line. The conference attendees stood out among the crowd, which tended toward shorts and tank tops, for the business casual dress and computer carry-on cases.  It’s no easy thing to stand against the combined might of government funding agencies, the media, and elite opinion, and even in the world capital of frivolity a certain seriousness remains.

The cocktail reception and dinner that followed loosened things up a bit, and I got a better sense of the crowd. These are people unafraid to call BS when they see it.  It makes for liveliness.

I was seated at a banquet table with two journalists from French television who were shooting a documentary on what they called “deniers.”  Their angle is to examine the “power” of the movement, because in France there is no longer much open dissent against the orthodoxy of man-made global warming. People at the table informed the female correspondent that we didn’t feel as though we had much power, what with scientific funding and government actions all pushing against us.  But she insisted that we did have remarkable power, and public opinion surveys demonstrated this.

Asking her what she thought the source of our power was, she said, “First, money.” This elicited laughter and the conversation quickly turned into an effort to explain that skepticism does not pay well. They mentioned the financial power of Big Oil, and we attempted to point out that oil companies like BP and Exxon have signed on to the warmist agenda. I found it mildly shocking that a reporter and cameraman would travel all the way from France and do a documentary without checking to see the financial basics. The Heartland Institute, sponsor of he conference, makes do with a budget of about two million dollars, a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars a year wielded by Greenpeace and others, not to mention the billions lavished on “climate research” in the US.

But at least they were willing to come and talk to us. That won’t be the case at the BBC. Politico reports:

The BBC issues a call to reason, with the money quote in bold (via The Telegraph):

BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’ ... The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed. ... “The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors. ... “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.”

Slate's Phil Plait celebrates the news, and suggests going beyond climate change:

Obviously, the topic most abused in this way was the reality of global warming. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention at all. ... But more broadly, most TV news shows do this, especially when they are done with a talk show format. It’s all too easy for a news program or other venue with a biased ideological objective (cough cough Fox News cough Wall Street Journal cough) to bring on people who sound authoritative, but who are in fact simply cranks or contrarians with outlandish claims. ...

Just as we’d be a whole lot better off if all our politicians acknowledged the reality of reality, and our media kicked folks who think otherwise to the curb. I applaud the BBC for its stance (as well as The L. A. Times and other venues), and hope to see a lot, lot more of this in the near future.

You can watch livestream coverage of the entire conference here: http://climateconference.heartland.org/ 

Arriving in Las Vegas yesterday for the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, the taxi driver taking me to the Mandalay Bay Hotel cheerfully informed me that the temperature was 106 degrees. The hundreds of scientists, activists, journalists, and concerned citizens gathered here have noticed that for 17 years now the predicted global temperature rise has failed to appear, and are not about to fazed by normal summer weather in the desert.

As with the other multi-thousand room Vegas hotels, registering in the late afternoon requires waiting in a long Disneyland-style line. The conference attendees stood out among the crowd, which tended toward shorts and tank tops, for the business casual dress and computer carry-on cases.  It’s no easy thing to stand against the combined might of government funding agencies, the media, and elite opinion, and even in the world capital of frivolity a certain seriousness remains.

The cocktail reception and dinner that followed loosened things up a bit, and I got a better sense of the crowd. These are people unafraid to call BS when they see it.  It makes for liveliness.

I was seated at a banquet table with two journalists from French television who were shooting a documentary on what they called “deniers.”  Their angle is to examine the “power” of the movement, because in France there is no longer much open dissent against the orthodoxy of man-made global warming. People at the table informed the female correspondent that we didn’t feel as though we had much power, what with scientific funding and government actions all pushing against us.  But she insisted that we did have remarkable power, and public opinion surveys demonstrated this.

Asking her what she thought the source of our power was, she said, “First, money.” This elicited laughter and the conversation quickly turned into an effort to explain that skepticism does not pay well. They mentioned the financial power of Big Oil, and we attempted to point out that oil companies like BP and Exxon have signed on to the warmist agenda. I found it mildly shocking that a reporter and cameraman would travel all the way from France and do a documentary without checking to see the financial basics. The Heartland Institute, sponsor of he conference, makes do with a budget of about two million dollars, a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars a year wielded by Greenpeace and others, not to mention the billions lavished on “climate research” in the US.

But at least they were willing to come and talk to us. That won’t be the case at the BBC. Politico reports:

The BBC issues a call to reason, with the money quote in bold (via The Telegraph):

BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’ ... The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed. ... “The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors. ... “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.”

Slate's Phil Plait celebrates the news, and suggests going beyond climate change:

Obviously, the topic most abused in this way was the reality of global warming. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention at all. ... But more broadly, most TV news shows do this, especially when they are done with a talk show format. It’s all too easy for a news program or other venue with a biased ideological objective (cough cough Fox News cough Wall Street Journal cough) to bring on people who sound authoritative, but who are in fact simply cranks or contrarians with outlandish claims. ...

Just as we’d be a whole lot better off if all our politicians acknowledged the reality of reality, and our media kicked folks who think otherwise to the curb. I applaud the BBC for its stance (as well as The L. A. Times and other venues), and hope to see a lot, lot more of this in the near future.

You can watch livestream coverage of the entire conference here: http://climateconference.heartland.org/