A Technical Apology to Juliet Eilperin

March 7th, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

It has been close to 2 weeks since WaPo reporter Juliet Eilperin interviewed me for an article about why some climate scientists become so outspoken on climate issues. After that interview, I had a bad feeling (as I always do) about how my views would be portrayed in the mainstream media, and so I had a blog post which ended:

“It will be interesting to see how Juliet represents my views. I predict spin. But if she accurately and fairly represents my views, I will apologize for doubting her.”

So how did she do in her article, “In climate wars, advocacy by some researchers brings risks“?

Well, she did not actually “spin” my views, so for that unusual gift of journalistic balance, I will gladly apologize for doubting her.

On a first, quick read the article seemed more balanced that I was expecting (keeping in mind my expectations are usually pretty low in such matters). So, in response to her e-mail to me a couple mornings ago, I said my apology would be forthcoming when I get a chance (I was busy with a corn growers-related meeting in Kansas City).

Now, after re-reading the article, I realize that while she did not actually misrepresent my views…she instead simply did not bother to represent most of what I said.

On the positive side, she accurately described me as one of the scientists who questions the level to which humans are responsible for recent climate change. A great step in the right direction, since we are not “climate deniers”. In fact, we believe more in climate change than the anthropocentric scientists who believe only humans can change climate.

But that was it. The meat of what I told her was ignored, which was on the topic of why scientists on both sides of the global warming debate choose to speak out publicly.

She provided several paragraphs alluding to why scientists on the other side of the issue speak out, but nowhere could I find reasons why WE speak out.

I had told her that ill-conceived energy policies that hurt economic growth kill poor people. Was that not a sufficiently interesting thing to report on? Or, was she afraid that anyone reading a statement like that might actually start thinking for themselves about the unintended consequences of carbon dioxide regulation?

Instead, her article continues the tired tradition journalists have of making the “consensus” scientists sound like they are the only ones who have the best interests of humanity at heart, while continuing to ignore the reasons why I (and others like me) feel WE are really the ones who have the best interests of humanity at heart. I believe we are the ones who own the moral high ground.

She gave more ink to someone from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a misleading name for an organization if I ever heard one. You remember them, they are the ones who even let dogs join, as long as they have a credit card.

So, Juliet, your article was a step in the right direction. But if you are going to have a balanced article about why scientists on both sides of the global warming issue speak out, then please, represent both sides.

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