Monday, November 8, 2010

Hop-skip-turnaround on climate science data source

The American Geophysical Union, in an interesting little hop-skip-turnaround, is insisting that its plan for a reporter's scientific resource base is not an anti-climate-denial initiative.

Although you might be forgiven for thinking it would work that way.

The AGU first operated its Climate Q&A Service during the climate summit in Copenhagen last year. The goal was to provide a place for reporters to seek correct basic information amid all the competing claims about what is or is not going on.

The AGU is aiming to restart its service, to tell folks what's going on, but, importantly, not what to do about it.

The organization decided clarification was needed after the Los Angeles Times messily blended the AGU initiative with others aimed at actually affecting policy. If you read it, be clear that the AGU initiative and the "Climate Response Team" are two entirely separate things. It is not clear in the article, and that has confused lots of folks with different positions on climate change.

“Climate Q&A Service...aims simply to provide accurate scientific answers to questions from journalists about climate science,” the AGU says. You can read the organization's full press release here.

“AGU's Climate Q&A Service addresses scientific questions only. It does not involve any commentary on policy. Journalists are able to submit questions via email, and AGU member-volunteers with Ph.D.s in climate science-related fields provide answers via email,” the organization said.

But despite all its protestations, at some level, it will necessarily act as a debunking service. That's because it will operate in a world in which you have folks aggressively promoting wild, sketchily supported assertions, like, “It's not really warming,” or “Arctic ice isn't melting” or “Sea levels aren't rising.”

In Hawai'i as an island state with limited options, correct information is critical. We require good data to deal with the impacts of ocean acidification, sea level rise, changing rainfall patterns, storm frequency and more.

And in a world in which many news outlets get by without a dedicated science writer, a trusted resource like AGU will help replace a veteran science writer's well-worn Rolodex of sources.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2010

No comments: