How the “Climate Debate” Works

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Note, to make matters clear, the horizontal axis above refers to an unconstrained emissions (“business as usual”) scenario. The vertical axis is roughly proportional to the probability of finding that an expert’s opinion is matched at that point on the horizontal axis.

Since the general public likes to be reasonable, they distribute themselves roughly into the middle of the band proposed by the press.

Joe Romm had this exactly right:

And the MSM remains, well, mainstream. They follow. They don’t lead.

They aren’t being deliberately misleading, they are just doing their job as they understand it, representing the positions viewed by the public as reasonable. A sort of vicious circle of inertia results, so that by now there are major oil companies that are actually more in favor of regulation than the general public or the press!

See also “Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias” from FAIR (2004).

Update: Also, in response to an offhand comment on RealClimate about how “anyone who starts off about how the lizard overlords of earth have impregnated our women to take over the universe are considered mad”, Barton Paul Levenson responds

I consider myself a moderate on the lizard overlord issue. They are, of course, impregnating our women. But this is not done in order to rule the universe. It is simply part of their culture to impregnate females of other intelligent species.

There has been obfuscation and denial on both sides of this issue. It is not only the defenders of the reality orthodoxy who have been reviled and suppressed. Indeed, there has been much censorship and denigration directed at those of us who are skeptical of reality. Truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

Update: Revkin turns around and makes a liar out of me. Just this once anyway. Way to go, Andy! Much better. Please cover the whole spectrum from now on.

Update Ides of March 2009: More Jay Rosen, this via the Opinionator on NYTimes:

What is the adjective you have for someone excessively in love with the bipartisan dream? What is the term for the guy who attempts to balance an imbalanced situation? What do you call it when there is regression toward a phony mean? Is there a snippy, snooty, dismissive, reductive adjective–comparable to shrill–for the one who exits from a really tough situation with a “he said, she said” account? Is there one for over-the-top insider-ism? You don’t criticize those people, do you? You don’t even see them as people worth criticizing.


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