Sunday, April 18, 2010

Science Reporting

Pretty much the only evening news show I watch is NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  It's usually pretty good reporting, and I'm a big fan of Brian Williams.  I've always enjoyed his appearances on late night talk shows -- I sometimes wish he'd ditch that whole serious reporting thing and do his own late show!

Anywho, tonight's show had a segment about the environmental effects of the recent volcanic eruption(s) in Iceland.  It was doing well until Anne Thompson, the "NBC News Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent", threw out this particular gem:

But [Sulfur Dioxide]'s reflective properties can also cause global cooling, leading some to wonder if this isn't the silver lining in the volcanic cloud.  Could it actually help reverse global warming fueled by man-made carbon dioxide, CO2?

You're right, a single volcanic eruption is going to spew enough sulfur dioxide into the air to reverse global warming.  Before I could even start to laugh at this idea, immediately after she stated this, it cuts to Richard Wunderman of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who says:

And it's pretty hard to reverse that [global warming] without reducing the greenhouse gases like CO2.

Why would she even pose the question like that if the next person is going to refute it?  To me, it seems like she's leaving the possibility open and acting as though this one particular expert says no, but people are still wondering if this is our cure-all for global warming!  With a subject like global warming, it seems to me that she shouldn't have left the idea lingering such that people might start thinking that these volcanoes are going to solve climate change.  It would have been much better to tack on something like "but climatologists say that these small effects are not significant enough to impact global climate change" before cutting to Wunderman's clip.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but I strongly believe that the media as a whole does a piss poor job when it comes to science reporting.  It's always about painting this picture of a big controversy that doesn't actually exist (e.g. the false notion that vaccines cause autism).  It's incredibly frustrating to watch. 

But you be the judge and check out the clip:

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