Writing about the World Meteorological Organization’s temperature analysis, however, The New York Times’s Andrew Revkin and James Kanter observed that “it was the gulf between rich and poor nations, not the science of global warming, that dominated talks here on Tuesday as delegates fretted about different pieces of draft language for a new climate treaty [The Danish Text mentioned above] circulating in the halls.”
Indeed, political battles over details of possible agreements will become more prominent with each passing day. Revkin and Kanter filed another piece Wednesday about delegates “racing among the booths and offices of countries large and small, comparing competing ‘nonpapers’ — sections of the proposed text with no official existence — in the quest to hash out a realistic draft of a new climate agreement by the weekend.”
While climate science may not have been a big topic of conversation inside the conferences halls, it was certainly conspicuous in the media. A “skeptics conference” taking place nearby the U.N. climate summit got limited attention, but many articles coming out of Copenhagen are still making some mention of the controversial e-mails hacked from a British climate research center two weeks ago, as well as the arguments they engendered about climate science.
The most egregiously dimwitted of these was a Wednesday op-ed in The Washington Post by Sarah Palin. The former vice presidential candidate argues that the “scandal calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen.” Palin doesn’t evince any knowledge of the process there, however, and delivers one of the most simplistic assessments of the controversy so far:
The e-mails reveal that leading climate ‘experts’ deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to “hide the decline” in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. What’s more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd.
The charges are, respectively, wrong, out of context, wrong, and wrong (please refer The Observatory’s initial review of the controversy to understand why; or see Marc Ambinder’s factcheck of Palin’s op-ed at Atlantic.com). CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s special report on the e-mails did much better (parts one and two are on YouTube). At least she called guest Chris Horner on his unsubstantiated allegation that the e-mails are indicative of widespread “fraud” within climate science. And she got Steve McIntyre, an object of scorn in the e-mails, to concede that he isn’t opposed to “practical” climate and energy policies. Yet Brown’s interview, which also included climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, was still too polarized to be informative (one wonders why CNN’s John Roberts, who was in England investigating the e-mails and participating via satellite, didn’t moderate the interview); a more helpful explanation of specific points of controversy in the e-mails was provided in a video report by Brooke Baldwin, however.
Most other articles coming out of Copenhagen have now pushed the e-mails to their bottom halves, but one hopes that the reporters there will soon move on. Reporters at home can continue delving into the hacked e-mails story, but journalists in Denmark should merely bear in mind the questions they raise about scientific and political review processes and apply them to their coverage of the summit. Although he filed from Washington, D.C. rather than Copenhagen, John Broder’s front-page article in The New York Times on Wednesday about the “price tag” of a climate deal is a good example of nuanced reporting that attempts to answer some important and timely questions.
Meanwhile the Copenhagen conference has become a “trending topic” on Twitter, a gauge of popularity on this social media site along with topics like “Tiger Woods” and “Santa” (we kid you not). Following the Twitter threads (try #Copenhagen or #COP15) provides a quick Rorschach test of how the social-media crowd feels about the conference. There is, of course, much hand-wringing about the Danish text leak: “First we had the Danish cartoons. Now we have the Danish text. What’s wrong with this country?” wrote a distressed @danish_novelist.