This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
What happens when you slice half a pie into 9,000 pieces? You get a few crumbs of pastry.
The Billings Gazette describes itself as “the largest newspaper in Montana and Northern Wyoming” and “the region’s primary source for news and information.”
Like the Calgary Herald, it has grievously misled its readers this month. In a headline, it falsely described ecology professor Steven Running as a “Nobel laureate.”
This is how the article began:
A Nobel laureate who is a recognized expert in global ecosystem monitoring will make several public presentations in Billings on Thursday and Friday.
If you type Running’s name into a search box over the website of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), only one result is returned. He was one of 22 people who worked on a single chapter in a 44-chapter-report issued by the IPCC back in 2007.
Later that year, the IPCC was awarded half the Nobel Peace Prize. The Peace Prize is not a scientific honour. Unlike a Nobel in chemistry or physics – which gets awarded to individuals in recognition of their scientific excellence – it’s all about symbolism.
As I’ve discussed previously, it’s common for organizations to receive the Peace Prize. Over the years, many of those organizations have been United Nations bodies like the IPCC.
When the IPCC took its turn at the Peace Prize podium, it’s worth noting that it didn’t win outright. Instead, it shared the glory with lifelong politician Al Gore.
In other words, only half of the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization.
The IPCC’s 2007 climate assessment contained 44 chapters. It’s 2001 report contained 43. Prior to that there was the 1995 climate assessment and the 1990 one – not to mention numerous smaller reports.
To keep things simple – and this is being charitable and conservative – let us estimate that the IPCC has produced 300 chapters of written material during its 25-year history.
In this 2007 chapter, 46 people are credited with helping produce it. But again, in the interests of keeping things simple and not exaggerating the absurdity of this already preposterous situation, let us assume that 30 individuals were involved in writing each of those 300 chapters.
That means 9,000 individuals have helped write an IPCC chapter over the years. Steven Running was one of those 9,000 individuals.
What happens when you slice half a pie into 9,000 pieces? You get a very small slice. No more than a few crumbs of pastry and a fragment of fruit. The portion is so tiny it might – just might – feed a bird.
This, my friends, is the basis on which the media has bestowed the title of “Nobel laureate” on Steven Running.
The Billings Gazette story is backed up here.