José Duarte – Hurricanes as imagined, construed, and filtered


José with an interesting look at how some filter information. The afterword is well worth a read.

The study mentioned below appears in Nature Geoscience Active Atlantic hurricane era at its end? and can be seen here

What’s most interesting to me is that you won’t read about this study in the media. Well, you probably won’t.

I think we can say with near certainty that Scientific American will not report this. Justin Gillis at the New York Times will not report it. Chris Mooney will not report it. Ars Technica will not report it. Probably none of the major news outlets will report it other than perhaps Fox News. But they will report anything to do with more hurricanes, and anyone linking it to AGW.

Well, we’re ruining the test by calling them out. One of these outfits might actually report it as a result of being called out, but I doubt it. 

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how mediated and constructed our realities are. We’ve done a lot of work on this in terms of how a person frames events, for example in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We know how powerful a person’s perspective and framing can be. That alone has implications for how we deal with extremely subtle statistical realities like climate change. (Well, one can see them as subtle – or not. That’s the point.)

But in this case I’m talking about exogenous factors – the information that is made available to people. There are a number of quality studies by noted climate scientists and oceanographers that would appear to dampen worries about climate change, or at least catastrophic climate change. However, these papers appear to be virtually ignored by the media. That is interesting.

There’s a swath of reality that is being blacked out by major media outlets, and 

nother swath that is being amplified and emotionalized. I think this is clear, and ideally wouldn’t  be controversial across the political spectrum. What concerns me is that we may not be dealing with a purely political spectrum at this point. There are many reasons for a social scientist to wonder if environmentalism operates as a religion at both psychological and sociocultural levels of analysis. This question deserves a lot of research. So far, little of it has been conducted, likely due to the current popularity of environmentalism in academic culture, including social science. I think it’s clear with specific individuals that environmentalism is their religion (see the Pachauri quote below) – the question is how common this is. Environmentalists are unlikely to be homogeneous.

Perceived reality is such a malleable thing. Lots of people know this, and lots of people use this fact. The whole profession of PR and publicists feeds on it, and it deeply disturbs me to see publicists employed in scientific bodies like AAAS. PR and science are not compatible.

Right now we seem to have a shortage of science writers in general, and an acute shortage of science writers who cover climate and are not also staunch environmentalists. That’s an ethical oversight by their employers. If anything is “unsustainable”, getting our science through such a biased filter must be. I don’t have solutions yet, but this issue should be thoroughly researched. If environmentalism is in fact a religion, this becomes an even bigger problem. We must avoid getting our science from and through a religion, at all costs.


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