Monday, 30 October 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Tanya, Sarah, and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth on the weekend. It was a bit odd, since it felt like preaching to the choir, but I wanted to see what was supposed to be a finely honed presentation. And I have to give credit to Al Gore; he's an excellent public speaker. Whatever you may think of the content, you have to concede that the presentation and film were superbly produced and presented.
So I enjoyed it for that aspect, since I'd already read about most of the content. But one social statistic in particular jumped out at me, and I thought it was more enlightening than all the statistics about natural phenomena:
In a random sample of scientific, peer-reviewed literature over the past 10 years on climate science, in which over 900 papers (968 from memory) were reviewed, 0% of papers doubted the existence global warming.
In contrast, in a review of the popular media - TV, newspapers, web, etc. - 53% of reports doubted the existence of global warming.
Most people don't understand climate science. I don't. That's fine. We don't understand nuclear physics or medicine either; but we trust those who do. That's what I like about this statistic. It encapsulates everything in the debate about global warming into one, easily understandable bit of information.
Scientists: 0%; Media: 53%. Who would you trust? The sad thing is, I suppose a lot of people would answer "Media" :(
Anyway, another reason I found that particular statistic interesting was the close parallel with the recent Evolution vs. Intelligent Design farce. The popular media persists in portraying controversy and uncertainty where, really, none exists. I guess controversy sells more adspace...

2 comments:

Luke said...

Good points. To me, the real criminals in this saga are the media because of the reasons you cite. Absolutely disgusting state of affairs. Everyday the so called 'Respectable Media' becomes more and more aligned with the 'Woman's Day' genre of content that should be banished from existence.

Nick said...

The media plays a role, to be sure, as does industry for relentlessly pursuing the bottom line; government for not reigning in industry; and all of us for electing our government...

Hmm. You have a point though. One could conclude the above with "...and the media for informing our vote!"