Viewers Guide to David Gregory’s “Hey, I’m self-aware…” segment on climate change.

Feb.
17
I recommend that you read my guide first, then endure the ads and watch the segment, but it works fine the other way too.

Viewer’s guide to: MEET THE PRESS, Feb. 16, 2014. Scientist Bill Nye and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., discuss the politics of weather emergencies and climate change with host David Gregory. (Transcript, news story.)

Gregory wanted to elude a criticism he thought he could anticipate: that he would give undue forum to the climate change resistance forces by letting Marsha Blackburn do her thing on Meet the Press. He had a plan for that. He also wanted to avoid getting lost in the weeds, which is why he picked Bill Nye, a television communicator, rather than ask a climate scientist to debate Blackburn. As the Washington Post put it: “Perhaps Nye — who has perfected communicating complex subjects to children — will have more success.”

Earlier, a simple count by Media Matters showed that Meet the Press had almost entirely avoided the subject of climate change for a year. But now they had a news peg. “This extreme weather moment… is there new urgency to act?”

Embedded in that frame was the show’s design for avoiding a cartoon debate about climate change, in which the existence of any scientific consensus is disputed and the segment is overtaken by reactions and counter-reactions, with the host looking weak for not pushing back hard enough on the denialism when it appears, leading to charges of false balance.

Gregory saw all that coming. His plan was to push back hard, and insist that the discussion “move on.” Meet the Press was going to transcend the dispute over “is it happening?” by asking: what are we going to do about it? The lead-in referred to a “new focus on the need for action,” as against another fruitless exchange about whether the earth is warming and human action is the cause.

Having ignored the debate, Meet the Press figured it would step in and advance the debate. But in order to push back, as David Gregory self-consciously planned to do, you had to have someone pushing, first. You needed as a Meet the Press guest a figure whose way of flirting with denialism was to go there on camera: a show off. Only against that ground could Gregory show up as a figure of resistance.

His resistance included quotations from the Atlantic magazine about consensus in the Republican party moving off the rejection of climate science toward a focus on the costs to address it, and from a large corporation that had begun moving toward acceptance. (Message: Meet the Press is Advancing the Debate.) Other resistance moves included saying before he asked his first question, “In the scientific community, this is not really a debate about whether climate change is real. The consensus is that it is,” responding to Blackburn by reminding her of that consensus, and interrupting at one point after Blackburn tried to say, “There is not consensus there” to re-assert what the real issue is: not whether the earth is warming due to human action, but what to do about it. He also cut Bill Nye short to inject: “I want to stick to the point about what’s going to happen in the future with policy.”

Blackburn’s gambit was to smile and nod and say “that’s right” or “you’re exactly right” when David Gregory said the issue was what to do about climate change — playing along with the Advance the Debate premise — and then slip in when she could the denialist message: the science is unproven, there’s disagreement among scientists, what about the benefits of more carbon in the atmosphere? This naturally led Bill Nye to object, bringing on the very discussion that Advance the Debate was meant to transcend, which then allowed David Gregory (the adult) to continually re-focus things on “what to do.”

Gregory thought he would outwit his critics by accepting the validity of the false balance critique and becoming the enforcer of scientific consensus. Of course, there’s a simpler way to accomplish that: just don’t put on the air political figures who flirt with denialism! The problem with that: David Gregory doesn’t get to interrupt and set things right. He can’t vivify his intention to Advance the Debate and show off what he’s learned from the critics.

Finally, in his self-awareness David Gregory overlooked one big thing. Creating confusion works just fine as a mode of resistance to the scientific consensus he thought he was advancing. (See this study.) Because his Advance the Debate segment required that denialism make an appearance, so that it could be visibly gotten beyond, and because no one on Meet the Press had any intention to stick with the topic long enough to sort out the confusing things Blackburn injected (like the benefits of more carbon) the actual result was an informational mess. Which advances nothing.

That’s what I recommend you watch for. Now watch:

19 Comments

  1. Mr. Wonderful says:

    Well said. And let’s also admit that Nye wasn’t that great. He didn’t respond to the loathsome Blackburn’s lies and half-truths with the contempt and dismissiveness they so richly deserved. I doubt he could see either of them, and only had a feed in his ear. But still. He should have said what you did–that confusion serves the purposes of denial just as well as outright propaganda. And then he could have suggested what interests Blackburn represents.

    In other words, he was the wrong guest for the job.

    • Bill Owen says:

      Guests are carefully chosen. This the way prize fights are fixed. No one takes a fall, they simply put a grade A guy up against a grade B guy. Nye is great, but sucks at the bare knuckle sport called Climate Change Denial.

  2. PXLated says:

    When a movement has to change their slogan – global warming > climate change – They’ve lost the debate to a certain degree already.

    And when you use terms like “denialist” you get put in the same category as a Sarah Palin with her “death panels”.

    Most people I know that you’d pigeon hole in the “denialism” camp don’t actually deny that there’s a change in climate – after all, there has been climate change since the ice age or we’d still be in it. The issue with most is not the change but the cause and what to do about it.

    There is also of course the fact that no matter how smart people think they are, they don’t know what they don’t know – scientists have been wrong before (or at least wrong in their specific conclusion). Mother nature is a complex bitch.

    So cut the “denialism” crap – It falsely denigrates those with a different view, sets you up as an elitist and will never move the real issue forward.

    • gpsguy says:

      In fact, you are denying that climate change is anthropogenic, , suggesting that it’s a result solely of “Nature”. Evidence that this is incorrect have been accruing for decades. That’s what led to some of the climate investigations in the first place.

      Do we have a single, deterministic model to describe climate? No. That’s why, when you look at all the myriad models of climate “function” (how it works), there’s frequently disagreement in the fine details, e.g., value, but rarely is there disagreement in the sign of the parameters.

      I suggest you reconsider your position, and either review the consensus literature, and there’s a lot, or admit you just don’t believe good science.

    • REVSON says:

      PXLated… you are much too kind to the smug, ignorant leftists who demand unquestioned ideological embrace of their Gaianism — and public condemnation of the supposed heretics (denialists ?) to that irrational faith.

      This Global-Warming/Climate-Change stuff is the largest ‘scientific’ hoax in history, thanks in large part to an eagerly compliant American media. It began in the 1950’s as a small money making ploy for Federal funding by a Scripps Institute oceanographer named Roger Revelle. The alleged science behind it has been non-existent from the getgo.

      But rational argument & exposition is futile with any religious fundamentalism … from Christian evangelists to this AGW media crowd. Futile because their position is not based on reason, but rather ideological faith & fancy & emotion.

      Do you think TV performers David Gregory & Bill Nye or politicians John Kerry & Al Gore have the slightest factual knowledge of what percentage of Earth’s atmosphere is composed of man-made CO2 emissions– or how that tiny amount could ever possibly control average planet temperatures ? Facts are unimportant to them. And many MSM journalists wonder why the the witch hunt for denialists is so ineffective.

      • Science is real says:

        Revson, clearly you don’t understand even the most basic laws of physics. What idiocy.

        Do tell how your “science research” refutes established physics: http://www.skepticalscience.com/CO2-trace-gas.htm

      • Jay Rosen says:

        This Global-Warming/Climate-Change stuff is the largest ‘scientific’ hoax in history, thanks in large part to an eagerly compliant American media. It began in the 1950′s as a small money making ploy for Federal funding by a Scripps Institute oceanographer named Roger Revelle. The alleged science behind it has been non-existent from the getgo.

        Culture war discourse overflow saturation ratio: 97.6 percent.

        If you’re not familiar with this metric, it means only 2.4 percent of the nominated comment has origins in any sphere of discourse other than thrice-distilled culture war maximal auto-play vitriol.

      • Dan Tomkinson says:

        The science of climate affectation goes back to the 1820’s son. When the heat trapping characteristics of gaseous CO2 were first acknowledged and proven. Since then, other gasses have been characterized as well, including the much more effective heat trap CH4 (methane).

        By the 1850’s the theory of human activity putting heat trapping gasses in great volume into the atmosphere was gaining traction. By the 1890’s we had documented laboratory proof that putting CO2 and CH4 into the atmosphere in relatively small amounts causes significant changes to the heat trapping characteristics of the atmosphere.

        There is no dispute among scientists. The only dispute is among those who’ve been brainwashed for the last 30+ years that they should never ever trust “the liberal”.

        When you are referred to as a denialist I take issue with that characterization. In my mind, denial of climate change is more a function of the bigotry of the conservative mind that refuses any concept put forth by anyone deemed as “liberal”.

        Frankly, I no longer have much tolerance for small minded bigotry so I won’t be following up to check for responses. Instead, I will just offer you this to counter your ignorance:

        I hope you can tread water sir.

      • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Provide compelling proof that thousands of scientists and researchers have conspired collectively for decades to pretend that Global Warming exists.

        I’m not holding my breath.

    • Karen says:

      And all you do here is parrot George Will’s discredited b.s. No wonder you are pixilated.

    • Denialist PXLATED said:

      “When a movement has to change their slogan – global warming > climate change – They’ve lost the debate to a certain degree already.”

      Right. So I wonder why Frank Luntz felt it was necessary to instruct the GOP in 2003 that they should use the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming”, because it sounded less scary? http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2003/mar/04/usnews.climatechange

      Oh, right, because you and other deniers had “lost the debate to a certain degree already”.

      For the record, as if you care about it, the terms have long been used largely interchangeably and, in fact, “climate change” was in use before “global warming”.
      http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=326

      You’re welcome!

      “So cut the “denialism” crap – It falsely denigrates those with a different view, sets you up as an elitist and will never move the real issue forward.”

      Actually, it accurately denigrates those with the unsupported DENIALIST view. But ExxonMobil thanks you very much for spreading their fossil fueled propaganda.

  3. Methuselah says:

    Pxlated, Frank Luntz told the GOP to call it climate change back in 2003. Try to keep up. You don’t have a different view, you’re a denier. Admit it, and stop pretending you know or care about the science. The global scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is clear. Most Americans have moved beyond your easily-disproved denier tropes.

  4. How disingenuous was Gregory’s claim that what he was hosting was a debate about what to do? Which policies should be adopted in the face of ongoing global warming?

    I mean, apart from the obvious answer — that his set-up piece failed to list the menu of policy options whose pros-and-cons would be up for discussion.

    No, the tip-off to the host’s disingenuousness was when he failed to interrogate Bill Nye’s fatuous prescription that policy should consist of “everything all at once.” Such an answer — “everything” — in the context of a serious policy debate is ridiculous.

    For all of Marsha Blackburn’s non-sequiturs, idiocies, straw men and obfuscation — I had not heard the term Gish Gallop before Kent Pitman cited it in PressThink’s twitter feed — the congresswoman was correct about one thing: a cost-benefit analysis is indispensable when making decisions about how climate policy should proceed.

    There is quite a debate looming about whether it is better to invest resources into the (probably vain) project of preventing climate change, or to spend them on mitigating the (inevitable) disasters that we must expect it to precipitate.

    Contra Nye, there are not enough resources to spend to the maximum on both prevention and mitigation simultaneously. That trade-off needs to be debated and those cost-benefit studies conducted.

    Thanks to Blackburn’s Gish Gallop for including this one nugget of insight amid her torrent of gobbledegook.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    World’s full of denialists. Even the redoubtable James Hansen, late of NASA, who once called for energy company execs to be tried for crimes against humanity or something, has admitted temps have been level for 15-18 years. If Hansen has to admit it, things must be pretty bad.’course, he puts the best face on it. Level now, hell when it breaks loose.

    Point is not the level period, although it should be. Point is the models, each and every single one of them, show higher than the last couple of decades.

    So, as the precautionary principle suggests, we don’t do anything until we’re absolutely certain no harm will come from it. And since the models are all wrong, maybe this is the time to think about turning things inside out.

    I believe the Brit Met office predicted level until 2017 and decided not to embarrass itself further by projecting beyond that. Insisting that colder and wetter was really warmer and dryer can only go so far.

    And somebody should drop the physics and get into history, to tell us what was so bad about the Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period, The Holocene Maximum…. And good about the Dark Ages Cold Period and the Little Ice Age.

    Do those things…or call me a denier.

    I have a relation who has no dog in the fight, he says. No connections to start a bogus green company like Solyndra, no connections to the windpower subsidies, no way to make a buck off the entire warming thing. So he figures he’s objective. Except he’d have to give up a major support of his personality–green, knows more than the lesser orders, voted green, contributed green, talked green. All including warming. I can understand his reluctance.

    And not only his.

    Well, anyway, maybe you can root for Mann against that mean old National Review and Mark Steyn and maybe the hockey stick will put itself back together.

    • So, as the precautionary principle suggests, we don’t do anything until we’re absolutely certain no harm will come from it.

      The “precautionary principle” could suggest the opposite…

      …namely, that we take prophylactic, reversible, mitigatory measures now, until we are absolutely certain that the predictions of probable catastrophe generated by the scientific models are in error.

      • Dan Tomkinson says:

        To wit: There is no planet B.

        As an aside, the planet’s going to be just find for the next few billion years. It’s mankind that’s screwed.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Andrew. Reverse is a selection in your transmission.

    In the rest of the world, it’s more difficult. Al Gore admitted that corn-based ethanol is an energy wash. Saves no energy, and increases food prices.

    But, he said, he was fond of the farmers in Tennessee, and later, prior to the Iowa caucus, of the farmers in Iowa.

    How do you reverse the tax-funded subsidy to the agricultural community? How do you reverse the subsidies to windpower? Had a panic in our area a couple of years ago. A town was going to get $11 mill to put up a couple of Large Wind Energy Turbines–aka allwet–to power their water purification plant. Save about $500,000 a year. In the research, it turned out the things turn less energy in their expected service life than it costs to make them. An energy loss. We reversed them by refusing a zoning exception which they needed to go up to about 450′. But we were NIMBYs–we weren’t the town wanting to do it, they didn’t have to put up with the infrasonics, the ice throw, the dead eagles, the flicker and the collapse of real estate prices.

    Other communities aren’t so lucky, and mostly that’s because a sufficient number of the population is spooked about global warming.
    The Brits are building a big collection of allwets. In order to take up the slack in slow wind days, or when the weather’s so cold and stormy the things freeze up as happened in Scotland a couple of years ago, they’re also building some gas-turbine plants. Gas turbines are clean at speed, dirty at idle.

    So the result will be dirtier air, no more energy, but a bunch of people who are connected are going to get well. How do you reverse that?

    They NEED a population spooked by this scam, or they’d have to get honest jobs.

    See, as I said, Solyndra.

    There was a battery plant started up with a green subsidy which produced nothing, but allowed the workers to study on company time, or knit, or something. Eventually, it went bankrupt and was sold to Koreans a pennies on the dollar. Courtesy of the US taxpayer. But questioning such goings-on makes you a denier. You can’t hand out money to cronies and bundlers like this unless you have a sufficient proportion of the sheeple spooked on AGW.

    I figure, anybody with shares in ADM is not eligible to discuss this issue.

    In addition, news programs are not supposed to be a version of the knock-out game. They should have gotten the Watt guy of the site Watts Up With That (WUWT) on the subject. It would have been Nye crawling for the door. If that’s the sort of fun they want to have.
    Which, if it’s journalism, they shouldn’t.

  7. Jozef Imrich says:

    My two unscientific cents of observation relating to news and debates. What’s news about global warming? In the medieval world, it consisted of a little truth and a lot of rumor and misunderstanding. It is to that world that we’re returning… http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/02/how-newspapers-have-failed-us