This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
SPOTLIGHT: Tomorrow, June 23rd, is the 30th anniversary of James Hansen‘s historic climate testimony to a US Senate committee.
BIG PICTURE: Nine years after the 1988 event that triggered decades of climate change media coverage, the person who orchestrated the event was interviewed by PBS’s Frontline. Timothy Wirth, a prominent Democratic congressman, and one-term senator, told PBS:
We knew there was this scientist at NASA, you know, who had really identified the human impact before anybody else had done so and was very certain about it. So we called him up and asked him if he would testify.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hadn’t even been established. It hadn’t yet written any of its reports describing an alleged climate consensus. Yet Wirth already believed there was a crisis.
That belief rested on a single scientist. Who was making claims no one else had yet made. Who was “very certain” his ideas were correct.
Wirth neglected to mention that the wider scientific community hadn’t yet examined Hansen’s ideas. At the beginning of his testimony, Hansen said his assertions were “based largely on recent studies” carried out with a team of seven others (my italics).
The paper describing those studies was submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research in January 1988, and was accepted in May. But it wasn’t published until the 20th of August – two months after Hansen delivered his testimony.
TOP TAKEAWAY: Journalists considered Hansen’s 1988 remarks credible. Even though he was an outlier. Even though the broader scientific community had had no opportunity to evaluate his work.
|The Age of Global Warming: A History
→ Receive posts via e-mail by signing up on the right side of this page, above – or by following this blog on Facebook and Twitter.
→ Download or e-mail a PDF of this post by clicking the Print button under Share This below – then select the blue arrow beside PDF at the bottom left.