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The Earth May Spin, but Journalism Shouldn't
on July 15, 2007
This is not Hollywood and it is not Talk Radio. Mooney has written a passionate book about how hurricane events unfolded in 2004 and 2005 in the Atlantic Basin, and how climate researchers reacted to the storm events, and to each other. Not all of it was pretty, but very much came to be overstated in both journalism and politics. Mooney gives us the drama without giving us the dirt.
I am surprised by the moderate viewpoint. Since Mooney took the time to get to know William Gray, he has developed some appreciation for Gray's motivations and viewpoint, in my opinion. The result is a rare but real book that should be remembered, rather than a bestselling fabricated slant that is quickly disgarded.
Besides being a testimony to the puzzling relationship between hurricane intensity and global warming, the book is a case study on how scientific communities resolve conflict. One has to appreciate the way scientists have to compete for slim research dollars. Sometimes there is more than one good way to go about good science, and so conclusions can differ. Then there are journalists that want to sell scientific research to an unsuspecting audience in the form of a story, and to do so the journalist must market it as being incredible, glamorous, and positive. In other words they spin the story. Finally, politicians use the journalists' story (the words that have already been spun) to benefit their own power struggle. In the end researchers get to stick with the ivory towers, the news media moguls get rich, and politicians go back to roost in power. The truth becomes the victim, suffering in poor perspectives, bad quotations, fantasy conflict, and everything else contained under the heading of yellow journalism.
I'm not a skeptic, but the million dollar quotation comes from skeptic Chris Landsea, which elucidates dire reality with precision:
"They don't even have building codes in some of the unincorporated areas of Texas and Louisiana. So, much less getting ready for any potential scary changes [due to] global warming, we're not prepared for hurricanes as they are today."