Monday, May 03, 2004

The Rhetoric of Panic

The Sunday Torygraph yesterday quoted a report by Oxford academics on the "woeful misrepresentation of the underlying science" of climate change and species loss by the WWF and Friends of the Earth.

The report itself is good for a few chuckles too. It blames poor journalism, including over-reliance on press releases, ambiguous conclusions in the scientific literature and hyperbolic publicity by pressure groups. Notice how the Telegraph picked the one theme of misbehaving charities and were silent on the other two. Is it just me or are British journalist much, much sloppier than their counterparts elsewhere, apart of course from those in my beloved homeland?

Energy at the Crossroads
Reading Chapter 3 of Smil's book, where he lays out the evidence on the level of remaining oil reserves brought home to me how effective panic is as a persuasive tool. I had read the more optimistic sources, but skimming the book, I had an uneasy sensation of fear and uncertainy, lasting until the author presented his own synthesis and rebuttal.

Dismal scientist that I am, I have a strong distaste for anyone trying to jerk my emotions, rather than make a reasoned argument, which seems to be the modus operandi of most pressure groups.

While I mistrust environmentalists, and I'm also skeptical of the skeptics: I'd trust Lomborg's intentions somewhat, but not take as given his analysis before comparing it with contrasting views. In the case of his work on oil, I was incorrect in taking it as being completely sound and finding out about the work of Campbell and others in his book would have boosted its credibility in my eyes.

Also, I came across interesting UK blog The Daily Ablution this week via

Peter 笔德