Global warming debate rages on
Harsh summer weather that maroons researchers in the Southern Ocean near the South Pole feeds the global warming debate. With the group of global warming doubters on one side and the believers on the other, some say it is ironic imagery juxtaposed with some rather convincing scientific graphs. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and by now you might have seen dramatic images of passengers on stranded icebreaker Akademik Shokalskiy being rescued by helicopter last Friday after becoming lodged in Antarctica sea ice on Christmas Eve.
Another type of picture - the graph - plays a major role in science. No one could look at the graph below, which shows the extent of arctic ice during the past 1,450 years, without realizing that the polar ice cap has been melting at a rapid and wholly unprecedented rate over the past few decades.
Similarly, my own research has shown that if people are shown a graph with global temperatures during the past few decades, they invariably understand and predict that further warming is in store - this is true even for the few people (less than 10% in my sample) who denied that climate change is taking place.
Graphs and pictures are powerful scientific analysis and communication tools.
Graphs and pictures, and the anecdotes they can evoke, are also powerful means by which people can be misled, inadvertently or otherwise.
It is well known that the national newspaper, The Australian, has a track record of distortion and misrepresentation when it comes to climate reporting, so it is informative to examine what role pictures, or the anecdotes they evoke, often play in their reporting.
The recent adventures of the Australian expedition to Antarctica are a case in point. Under the headline "Stuck on a ship of (cold) fools", the newspaper opined:
"You have to feel a touch of sympathy for the global warming scientists, journalists and other hangers-on aboard the Russian ship stuck in impenetrable ice in Antarctica, the mission they so confidently embarked on to establish solid evidence of melting ice caps resulting from climate change embarrassingly abandoned because the ice is, in fact, so impossibly thick."
An ice breaker gets stuck in ice - we've all seen the pictures - and somehow this is an embarrassment to "global warming scientists".
Read more at ENN affiliate The Ecologist.