Debates over Anthropogenic Climate Change deal with probability in complex nonlinear dynamical systems. The issues are difficult for lay people to understand at the best of times due to their complexity, however any understanding of ACC is likely to be undermined by poor quality journalism.
In debates over media democracy stemming from Internet based telecommunications, professional journalists have consistently argued that their value lies in providing reputable, well sourced analysis, which they hold in contrast to the often heavily biased, unsourced, amatuerish blogosphere and independent media.
Imagine my surprise then, when browsing the BBC’s website I found this article
In what is currently the third most popular news story on the BBC website, this rather odd text appears…
‘Switching from beef to kangaroo burgers could significantly help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says an Australian scientist.
The gas produced by sheep and cows through belching and flatulence is a huge contributor to global warming – much more than carbon dioxide.’
According to the IPCC’s 4th report, carbon dioxide emissions currently have a far greater radiative forcing (contribution to global warming) than methane. In fact, no one, anywhere currently claims that methane from animal belching and flatulence has a greater radiative forcing than global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Except for a blundering BBC journalist that is.
What then was this professional journalist trying to say? He may have meant to communicate the fact that an amount of methane will have a greater radiative forcing than an equal amount of carbon dioxide. However as carbon dioxide emissions dwarf methane emissions this cannot be extrapolated to give the conclusion the BBC journalist draws.
Such inaccurate, unsourced nonsense coming from a public service broadcaster will simply confuse people who look to professional journalists to communicate complex scientific issues in a clear and accurate way. If professional journalists want to maintain their place in the 21st century their standards have to improve significantly.