Climate myths: Assessing the evidence – what about the rhetoric?

The ” has a link to Assessing the evidence on  climate-change which includes some useful advice on reviewing scientific claims.

What it doesn’t touch on though is how to identify or assess the rhetoric and propaganda evident in the arguments.  It acknowledges that:

As the political battle over climate change has heated up, so has the propaganda campaign. On one side, green activists sometimes exaggerate claims about the possible consequences of global warming. On the other, sceptics seize upon anything that appears to suggest that climate change is not happening, is not due to human emissions, or will not be a problem.

The media tend to give both of these extremes rather more column inches and airtime than they do to the mainstream scientific position.

Source credibility is mentioned in terms of looking at who is making any claims – but what is interesting is the language actually used in distinguishing “a scientist whose career is dedicated to studying the complexities of the climate” from “the pet theory of one of the many amateurs who think they know more than the experts after a few hours surfing the web“.

Amateur here is being used as a pejorative term – although the field of science owes much to the

Some scientists are really fond of  – take the skeptical  (principal research scientist at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama) writing in the :

Pulitzer Prize-potential pontificating is never more appropriate than in a journalistic exposé of heartless, power-hungry villains oppressing powerless victims and raping the Earth. And Vanity Fair’s 2007 Green Issue oozes with righteous indignation toward all those evil executive-branch politicians and big businesses which exploit the earth for power and profit.

His viewpoint is marvellously apparent in the enthusiastic choice of language – but others may be more subtle in their use of rhetoric in presenting a position.  So as part of understanding the arguments around climate change – don’t we need to be better equipped to

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

4 thoughts on “Climate myths: Assessing the evidence – what about the rhetoric?”

  1. Acceptance still requires understanding a situation, which means assessing the rhetoric of those who are trying to influence us – the deniers, the skeptics, the scientists, the amateurs, the politicians, the corporates, the NGOs, etc etc etc. So many messages and vested interests each making rhetorical arguments that affect anyone’s ability to understand or accept any situation.

    Unfortunately an end result is likely to be apathy to both the messages and any action to stop, mitigate or accept it.

  2. Climate change has been hi-jacked by politicians to some extent. It is one of those things that they know will not come back to bite them in the arse. They can bang on about it forever without fear of anything happening to them politically, either one way or another. Climate Change is not like crime, education or hospitals – that’s why they love it so much.

  3. Richard – cynical, but I think you are right. The lack of agreement on actual solutions etc also serves their interests as they can never be wrong. It is the Millennium Bug of its time. A way for a lot of nay-sayers to speak loudly knowing that if things continue to decline their predictions will be right, because we can never do enough to stop “climate change”, but if things change, then it was the result of their warnings.

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