Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fighting global bullshit

Quick, read this:

“The Earth has been warming at a rate of 0.36 degree Fahrenheit per decade for the last 30 years, according to the research team led by James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.” – Today’s Chicago Tribune
Now without reading it again, how much has the Earth warmed over the past 30 years?

A) 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit
B) 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit
C) 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit
Be honest.

If you guessed the last one, you got it right.

Yep, the Earth has warmed a little more than one degree according to that article.

So why didn’t that journalist just say “The Earth has warmed 1.08 degrees over the past 30 years?”

Because it doesn’t sound nearly as scary.

And if you didn’t read it very carefully you might not even notice the “per decade” part.

Either way, 1.08 isn’t much over the course of 30 years. But there are ways to make it sound like way more than it is.
I’m not a journalist. But I’ve had the classes.

They teach you how numbers and statistics can be manipulated to create an impression.

They also teach you that it is dishonest.
What sounds longer: Three decades or 30 years?

It's all the same, but 30 always sounds like more than three, doesn't it?
But Heather, Global Warming is real!

Maybe it is.

I’ve read enough on it to believe that the Earth is in fact getting warmer, but who’s to say it’s because of us silly earthlings?

My point today is that journalists do not help matters.

Since we can no longer rely on the fourth estate to provide unbiased reportage, we have to work harder to get through the bullshit.

Because one thing is certain: The bullshit is getting deeper.

And I don't need statistics to tell me when something really, really stinks.
I am listening to: Traffic
I am reading: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
And I am: Still sick (can you believe it?)