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 amateur scientist.
Some scientists are really fond of rhetoric – take the skeptical Roy Spencer (principal research scientist at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama) writing in the National Review:
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 analyse the rhetoric?