When science departs from the scary-story script, journalists are the first to dismiss its importance.
According to Time magazine and the New York Times we’re supposed to be impressed by the authority of science. Scientific research and scientific experts are, we’ve been solemnly advised, the reasons we should be alarmed by human-caused climate change.
In other words, when science tells us scary stories, journalists have no end of enthusiasm for science. It’s a great thing – to be celebrated and respected.
But what happens when science departs from the scary-story script? Here are two examples from yesterday’s coverage of Hurricane, err, Tropical Storm Sandy.
Bryan Walsh, Time magazine’s environmental activist journalist:
don’t be fooled by cautious scientists – we can expect that global warming will likely bring about stronger and potentially more destructive storms and other natural disasters like Sandy.
Don’t be fooled by scientists when they won’t provide me with the dramatic statements I seek. Listen to me, the journalist, instead. I know better than they do what we can expect to see from global warming.
And here’s James Barron, reporter for the New York Times. While he couldn’t avoid mentioning that Sandy had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, he then did his level best to imply that this was mere scientific mumbo jumbo, an irrelevancy in the real world:
That was shortly after the center had reclassified the storm as a post-tropical cyclone, a scientific renaming that had no bearing on the powerful winds, driving rains and life-threatening storm surge expected to accompany its push onto land.
Oh science, how fickle are thy media friends.