Sunday, October 14, 2012

Another Reason to Close Schools of Communication

John Fleck at Inkstain, points to a piece by Lauren Morello at E&E about how farmers view the issue of climate change in the US, and to no one's surprise, they deny it is happening

A February survey of 4,778 farmers across the nation's Corn Belt found that while roughly two-thirds believe the climate is changing, just 8 percent believe human activities are the primary cause.
The farmers are more worried that the government will put them out of business than the weather, but, of course, climate change is doing the job through its cats paw weather
Perhaps unsurprisingly, polls also show few growers are willing to accept measures designed to combat climate change.

Deep-seated worries about regulation

"Talking about mitigation is likely a non-starter with 60 percent of farmers," said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., an Iowa State sociology professor who conducted the Corn Belt poll. "That is one thing I've been talking about with my extension colleagues. And that's a key finding out of this study."
It's a conclusion that sounds right to Wilson.
"Most of the farmers will admit that climate change is happening," he said of the growers he advises in western Kentucky, on the Corn Belt's eastern fringe. "What they don't want to hear is that it's global warming induced by man's activities. In their mind, if we say, 'Yes, we think climate change is real. Yes, we think global warming is happening,' then someone is going to say, 'You are a big cause of it. You use fertilizers and chemicals and big tractors, and we're going to regulate you.'"
 As is usual with such stuff written by graduates of Schools of Communication, the answer is to frame the issue correctly.  Allow Eli a hearty snort as he watches the carnage of this Planck problem.  Planck, of course was the one who pointed out that new theories are not accepted by old scientists, but become established as they die off.
And that means that simply throwing more information at farmers isn't the answer for scientists and others who want to start a productive conversation about climate change and agriculture, experts said.

Paul Vincelli, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Kentucky's agricultural extension, learned that lesson the hard way. As part of the school's working group on climate change and agriculture, he prepared a dense handout packed with scientific facts and figures that "provoked a little blowback" from farmers, he said.

These days, he's trying a different line when he speaks about climate change with county extension agents and farmers: "I tell them this is not something you've caused -- we've all caused it."

Like many agriculture experts working on climate change issues, Vincelli believes farmers are much more receptive to aid intended to help them adapt to environmental shifts, whether it's developing new drought-tolerant strains of corn or wheat or adopting more efficient irrigation practices.

"Mitigation is not yet really something our society wants to talk about, and that's reflected in our farmers," he said.
Much of this puts Eli in mind of a new book, Better Off Without Em:  A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, by Chuck Thompson, which bluntly puts it that the US (or at least the part without Kansas to Florida, would be a lot better off without the South.  The opening says it all
Hang out in my living room on any national election night and at some point in the evening, usually around 7 p.m. Pacific time, you're almost certain to hear me scream something like: "Why in the hell does the United States—and by extension the entire free world, capitalist dominion, and all of Christendom—allow its government to be held hostage by a coalition of bought-and-paid-for political swamp scum from the most uneducated, morbidly obese, racist, indigent, xenophobic, socially stunted, and generally ass-backwards part of the country?"
Oh yeah, they don't know much science either.  This is not to say that there are not brethren in the other states, but that they are not controlling elsewhere and mostly they get ignored or laughed at, after all Chris Monckton is a Brit.   Thompson provides lots of data to buttress his polemic, but the truth is it ain't gonna happen and even if it did it ain't gonna be happy.

Unfortunately this means that things will have to get a lot worse further down the road and much harder to solve because early action is the most effective, but remember the churnalists know that it is the framing, not the reality that counts, and it's the fault of the scientists not the churnalists.

As Eli mentioned not so long ago it's not that scientists are or are not lousy communicators (say that and the Rabett will lock you in a room with Richard Alley for example), but that journalists are lousy communicators. It's their fucking (emphasis added) job and they are screwing it up to a fare-thee-well. It ain't just climate either.

That drew some blood from the Kloor side of the family.


Martin Vermeer said...

I can only agree 110% with the Wabett. As another example, if Eli had paid attention back in school during Finnish class, he might have followed from close up the flap between Finland and the Sov^WRussia about one Russian female living in Finland losing custody over her four children, likely for very valid reasons.

...and Russian liar^Wjournalists are making up the excuse that nobody from the Finnish side provided them with readily digested information in Russian! Lazy bastards.

Anonymous said...

"The Interpretation of Dreams"
-- by Horatio Algeranon

The journalist said
"It's plain to see
There is no actual reality"

"Only dreams
Of Left and Right
Appearing in the black of night."

"My job is not
'Truth' revelation,
But balanced dream interpretation."

Anonymous said...

"As Eli mentioned not so long ago it's not that scientists are or are not lousy communicators (say that and the Rabett will lock you in a room with Richard Alley for example), but that journalists are lousy communicators. It's their fucking (emphasis added) job and they are screwing it up to a fare-thee-well. It ain't just climate either."

Exactly. Times another 1.10.

I was pondering this earlier today whilst listening to a radio host completely side stepping the point make by an energy expert about matters pertaining to renewable energy*, and especially the fact that increasing costs for electricity are largely due to provider companies shirking the cost of regular maintenance in the drive for maximum profit.

It's the same everywhere. Journalists are often given the facts about a range of subjects, but their capacity for understanding, retaining and objectively representing these facts would put teflon to shame. All that matters is a controversy. In Australia even the public broadcaster is now deeply mired in the paradigm.

In my book aiders and abetters of denialism are as bad as the denialists themselves. As I said at Deltoid:

"If only there was a mechanism to ensure that the stupid and the greedy suffered first, rather than the poor and the innocent."

Which makes me ponder further... The most expedient (if somewhat controversial) solution to the Planck problem would be to not wait passively for the blockage to degenerate and wither away, but to take a plumber's snake to the obstruction. Future generations will wish that we had.

Bernard J. Hyphen-Anonymous XVII, Esq.

[* It may actually be of interest to some here, so I'll put up a linkie when the station uploads...]

cRR Kampen said...

"Unfortunately this means that things will have to get a lot worse further down the road and much harder to solve."

What hope.
Tell them the ice age just begun and there 's nothing humanity can do against it (well-known fact ice ages start with record heat and droughts, remember the thirties :) ).
This 'll work like pink elephants. Do NOT think of pink elephants.

Russell said...

n parvo, the octagenarian publisher of Anerican Farmer has long been cultivated by Marc Morano, who provides a constant irrigation of new drips to write the op-eds that fill the space between the silo ads.

GoldHat MexicanGuy said...

Journalists? We don't need no steenking journalists!

david lewis said...

During an interview I heard when it was aired by the national public radio in Australia, Paul Ehrlich told a story about when he and Steve Schnieder went to the home of Ben Bradlee to hash this issue out with him. (Bradlee was the editor of the Washington Post when Woodward and Bernstein reported on the Watergate story).

Ehrlich said they had a "knock down drag out" fight with Bradlee over the way climate is reported in the media.

Ehrlich: "He [Bradlee] claimed that his reporters should be ignorant of science, so they could be neutral with they're talking about it".

A mere non Paul Ehrlich and non Steve Schnieder type like myself wonders if they asked Bradlee why he didn't (doesn't?) insist that his political reporters, i.e. such as Woodward and Bernstein, be ignorant of politics so they can be neutral while reporting. Inquiring minds want to know.... But back to another action packed quote:

Ehrlich: "And you can see the ignorance of science throughout the media with the idea that the truth often has to lie in the middle. Its always about getting both sides of the story. Show me an historic scientific controversy where the truth lay in the middle.... Do some animals evolve and others are created? Is flogiston real, or is it half-real?"

Aaron said...

We live in a society where money talks, and the rich try to isolate themselves from reality.
Advertising pays journalists salaries.

Watch the news, do you see fancy ads for NCAR or Chevron. Pick up a news paper. Do you see ads for Standford University or Honda?

Journalists do not bite the hand that feeds them. Now, ExxonMobile, Chevron, & American Gas Ass. fund the Newshour.

Compare that to Europe where are government funded news organizations get the science correct, because they are paid to just get the facts correct.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Think about how grimly comic it is that our government can be hamstrung by around 5% of our fellow citizens. The smallest 20 states have around 10% of our population. In practice, it's worse. Non-presidential elections get wretched turnouts.

Immigrants, you're not fixed to one location yet: if you want outsize political influence, move to Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Nevada, etc.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth, phd.

If anything, global warming is helping farmers. If Eli would like to dispute this claim, he needs to present evidence of a food or a grain decreasing in production. According to the Red Cross, more people are overweight than are starving.

Gator said...

Journalism in the USA is just another business, with the same pressures as all other US businesses to do more with less people, or more with less qualified people. The only way a working journalist can hope to accomplish anything is to rely on press releases.

You can blame the journalists, or you can start working with the situation on the ground. Scientists and organizations interested in getting media coverage have to make it easy for the media to assemble their product. Supply video, audio, print media that tells the message you want people to hear.


Max Planck said...

Just because I'm dead everyone and his rabbit thinks they can blame everything on ME. You'll see - it bothers you when they start naming problems after you after you're dead.

I say its Eli's Problem. Call it anything: Wabett's Worry... Eli's Exasperation... Whatever.

Turboblocke said...

If anything, global warming is helping farmers. If Eli would like to dispute this claim, he needs to present evidence of a food or a grain decreasing in production.

Your wish...
UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis in 2013
• Global grain reserves hit critically low levels
• Extreme weather means climate 'is no longer reliable'
• Rising food prices threaten disaster and unrest

david lewis said...

John Cook put up a post some months ago about the attitude to climate change some Australian farmers had and how it changed as a result of an educational effort conducted by the Farm Business Resilience Program. Before the program:

"33% reported that they agreed climate change was occurring and just 19% believed climate change was human induced. Surveys at the end of the course assessed perceptions, knowledge and attitudes again, now showing that 80% of the farmers understood the impact of climate change and variability change on their businesses".

Holly Stick said...

George Monbiot points out that farmers cannot plan for extreme weather. With droughts and fires, the US is not exactly escaping the consequences of AGW; the farmers will figure that out as they go bankrupt from yet another crop failure.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Sorry, lump. Food stocks are down worldwide to their lowest levels since the early 70s.

Anonymous said...

Down with Planck's Principle! Let Eli live!

That of hand remark of Planck's about the acceptance of new theories depending on old fogies dying does not hold up very well if at all.
Safe tenured old ones may entertain new ideas while fresh PhD's fear career damage.

some links - I think there is a good study from 2000 give or take a few years that I have not been able to recall that puts Planck to bed.
some links - not the greatest but something -;jsessionid=FA69D3A1200374FA605C407A1B7BD4B8.journals?fromPage=online&aid=7575060

Pete Dunkelberg

Brian Dodge said...

"...present evidence of a food or a grain decreasing in production." Okey-Dokey

"What had started out as a promising year for U.S. crop production, with high total acreage planted and favorable early-season planting conditions has turned into one of the most serious adverse weather situations in decades. Crop production estimates for corn, soybeans, sorghum and hay declined throughout the summer as the drought intensified, and by September USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) production estimates for corn were down 27.5 percent from those reported in May, and production estimates for soybeans and sorghum fell 16 percent and 26.5 percent, respectively, over the same period."

"We analyzed weather data at the International Rice Research Institute Farm from 1979 to 2003 to examine temperature trends and the relationship between rice yield and temperature by using data from irrigated field experiments conducted at the International Rice Research Institute Farm from 1992 to 2003. Here we report that annual mean maximum and minimum temperatures have increased by 0.35°C and 1.13°C, respectively, for the period 1979–2003 and a close linkage between rice grain yield and mean minimum temperature during the dry cropping season (January to April). Grain yield declined by 10% for each 1°C increase in growing-season minimum temperature in the dry season, whereas the effect of maximum temperature on crop yield was insignificant. This report provides a direct evidence of decreased rice yields from increased nighttime temperature associated with global warming."

"Australian drought in 2006 led to a shortage of wheat in the international market, which drove grain prices up further."

[end of part 1]

Brian Dodge said...

[part 2]

"Drought has become more frequent and more severe in recent years and drought‐affected areas are projected to increase in extent."
"The significant increases in global cereal prices during the 2007/08 and 2010/11 food price episodes were largely weather related, sometimes exacerbated by government policies. Droughts in large cereal producing countries, namely the Russia Federation and Ukraine, coincided with the start of the most recent price increases. These increases were compounded by subsequent floods in Pakistan, and then in Australia and the USA, which all contributed to concerns about global supplies, putting further upward pressure on prices."

"The weather we experience at mid-latitudes is largely dictated by these waves in the jet stream. The slower the waves move, the longer the weather associated with them will persist. Essentially, “hot,” “dry,” “cold,” and “rainy” are all terms to describe very normal weather conditions. It’s only when those conditions persist in one area for too long that they are dubbed with the names of their extreme alter egos: heat waves, drought, cold spells, and floods. And these kinds of extreme events are precisely what we’ve seen more of in recent years." Dr. Jennifer Francis, research professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University - also see

"As we have seen in the origins of the Arab Spring, high food prices and the inability of governments to continue price supports can help trigger significant political upheaval. Climate change will only exacerbate these threats to political stability, increasing the pressures on governance, institutions and the political economy more broadly worldwide. Our analysis indicates that emerging resource scarcity patterns, particularly in the areas of food, water and oil, combined with climate change are placing a much larger set of countries at risk of increased political instability than previously estimated. Such additional risk not only endangers the ability of governments to discharge basic functions, including any required support for food security and nutrition, but also in more extreme cases, can serve to undermine the state's legitimacy, and with it security and the rule of law."

Do you think that food riots and their effect on the social and political fabric of civilization can only happen in third world countries, and so are of no consequence?

Jeffrey Davis said...

The Arab Spring that Brian alluded to is made all the more piquant by noting that this is the 3rd harvest in a row that Pakistan has lost due to floods. And that this years loss in the central plains has been augmented by drought in the north.

Pakistan isn't Arab, but it is Muslim.

And they have a large, well-funded Islamist underground.

And nukes.