That has made it more crucial than ever that journalists are able to separate fact from opinion, says Emmanuel Vincent, a project scientist at the University of California, Merced, who launched the website Climate Feedback three years ago as a forum for scientists to weigh in on the accuracy of media coverage. “Rick Perry said that climate change is due to the oceans, and a journalist may just let it go and say that’s his opinion, but it contradicts reality,” he says. “It should be the job of the journalist to say that.””
Climate scientists have volunteered by the dozens to review the accuracy of stories about climate change. Now they’re collaborating with computer experts to develop ways to scan the internet for fake and misleading stories about climate.
“The concept is to try to bring the scientists to have a voice of their own in this media environment, and the way we are doing it so far is by asking scientists to review articles for accuracy and credibility of information,” Emmanuel Vincent, founder of climatefeedback.org, said Thursday in Chicago.
[…] He told an overflowing crowd at the University of Chicago’s Computation Institute Thursday that his website’s purpose goes beyond fact checking, because there are other forms of misleading information, such as cherry-picked half truths, biased information, rhetorical manipulation, and ill-defined terms.
In January 2016, the final temperature measurements from the previous year were coming in from around the world. “2015 was hottest year in historical record, scientists say” declared a headline in The New York Times. The very same week, a headline from Forbes read “2015 was not even close to hottest year on record.”
In a world where the answer to a yes or no question like “Was it hotter last year than ever before?” is up for debate, how can you know what to believe?
Emmanuel Vincent and colleagues at the Center for Climate Communication at UC Merced had an idea: What if scientists could review online articles about climate change for accuracy?
Their online project, Climate Feedback, has made this a reality, powered by a growing group of Ph.D.s from around the world who volunteer their time to review articles on climate change in the mainstream media. There are currently over 100 scientists in the ranks at Climate Feedback, hailing from institutions all over the globe, with expertise in climate science and related topics including public health, food security, forestry and marine biology.
« Personne ne le dit jamais, mais dans bien des cas, le réchauffement climatique sera une bonne chose. » C’était le titre d’une tribune du célèbre climato-sceptique Bjorn Lomborg, publiée le 5 mai par The Telegraph. Hélas pour le quotidien britannique et le statisticien danois, quatorze chercheurs en sciences du climat se sont penchés sur l’argumentaire développé dans le texte : à peu près toutes les chevilles du raisonnement contreviennent à l’état des connaissances.
Ce « raid scientifique » sur le texte de Bjorn Lomborg, désormais affublé de surlignages et d’âpres commentaires, n’est pas le fruit du hasard ou d’une action isolée. Il est le résultat d’une initiative académique, Climate Feedback, lancée par l’université de Californie à Merced.
The goal, explains founder and University of California, Merced, project scientist Emmanuel Vincent, is to give scientists a voice and a means to impact the quality of the information that reaches the public. Both the scientists and journalists who work with the website believe that climate scientists can make a crucial impact on media coverage of this important topic. “Climate scientists have a form of information that is relevant to almost everyone on the planet,” says journalist Eric Holthaus, who requested that the group critique one of his pieces last summer. “Their discipline, whether they chose it for this reason or not, is a very political one. It makes sense for them to know that, and that their opinion matters beyond just academic circles.”
At the request of The Associated Press, eight climate and biological scientists graded for scientific accuracy what a dozen top candidates said in debates, interviews and tweets, using a 0 to 100 scale.
McCarthy, a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, called Trump’s comments “nonsense,” while Emmanuel Vincent, a climate scientist at the University of California, Merced, said, “the candidate does not appear to have any commitment to accuracy.”
The eight scientists are Mann, Dessler, Elsner, McCarthy, Bradtmiller, Vincent, William Easterling at Pennsylvania State University and Matthew Huber at the University of New Hampshire.
One growing community of scientists has a new tool at their disposal to assess the credibility of climate change stories and commentary online. And it’s not a rusty teaspoon. Using the Climate Feedback tool, scientists have started to diligently add detailed annotations to online content and have those notes appear alongside the story as it originally appeared.
[…] The project is the brainchild of climate scientist Dr Emmanuel Vincent, a tropical cyclone expert at the University of California. He told me:
As a climate scientist, one of my personal motivations is the frustration I have when I read some news on climate that I know are inconsistent with science and I have no efficient way of sharing this knowledge. I wanted to develop an effective and scalable way for scientists to share what they know with readers and journalists.
Also, many of my friends or colleagues –who do not have expertise in climate– are often genuinely confused by contradictory stories on climate change, for instance when one outlet says polar ice is melting and another says it isn’t. If my friends are confused, I’m sure there are plenty of others who could benefit from a thorough analysis by those knowledgeable on the topic.
In the arena of climate change coverage, there is often a gap between science-based facts and what is actually reported. In efforts to remedy this, Climate Feedback is a collective of accredited scientists using a browser plugin to annotate climate change news. Bob speaks with the project’s founder and researcher at the University of California Merced’s Center for Climate Communication, Emmanuel Vincent.
When melting ice disappears from the arctic, it exposes more of the ocean’s dark surface, which absorbs the sun’s warming rays. The water heats up and more ice melts, the cause and effect feeding each other in a example of a phenomenon known as climate feedback.
It’s an appropriate name for a group that’s attempting to slow some of the runaway misinformation about climate change, by doing what scientists do with their published work: review it.
“The availability of accurate information is a necessity if we are to make good decisions about climate change as a society,” says Emmanuel Vincent, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University who recently completed a fellowship in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). “When I read something I know is incorrect, I can blog about it, but only a few people will read the post. Moreover, the comments below blog posts tend to get acrimonious. It depresses me.”
To improve the situation, Vincent channeled his frustration into launching Climate Feedback, a method that aims to help journalists, science writers, and scientists who write for the public, to assess the quality of their reporting on climate science and find better sources of information. It also allows the general public to investigate the accuracy of climate stories.