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Nature Weighs in on Nisbet Report

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorApril 21, 2011 3:20 PM


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An editorial in Nature says that Matthew Nisbet's Climate shift report "dismantles three of the most common reasons given by those who have tried, and failed, to garner widespread support for policies to restrict greenhouse gases." I guess they didn't get the memo from the climate capo or the reprint over at the watchdog site. The Nature editorial helpfully lays out the three widely help assumptions that the Power shift report challenges:

First "” the failure of the US Senate to pass a cap-and-trade bill in 2010 cannot be blamed directly on the financial lobbying muscle of the conservative movement and its allies in industry. In 2009, the report says, although a network of prominent opponents of cap and trade, including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, spent a total of US$272 million lobbying policy-makers, environmental groups in favour of cap and trade mobilized $229 million from companies such as General Electric and other supporters to lobby for environmental issues. Indeed, the effort to pass cap and trade, Nisbet notes, "may have been the best-financed political cause in American history". Second "” most of the mainstream media coverage of climate change gets it right. During 2009 and 2010, Nisbet writes, around nine out of ten news and opinion articles in The New York TimesThe Washington Post and CNN's online site reflected the consensus scientific position. The Wall Street Journal regularly presented the opposite view in its opinion pages, but eight out of ten news items still backed the science. Third "” conservative media outlets such as Fox News and controversies such as the coverage of e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom have a minimal impact on public attitudes to climate change, because such influences tend to only reinforce the views of those who already hold doubts.

That Nature is taking the report seriously and not the partisan potshots lobbed at it, is encouraging. The reason why this is important is nicely put by Gary Bowden over at Ecological Sociology:

It is tidy and simplistic to feel that there are powerful forces out there that are corrupting the public's view. The reality is much more complex. Unfortunately, [Joe] Romm has drug the discussion down to a focus on simplistic and, if not irrelevant at least secondary, concerns. If the climate change advocacy community dwells exclusively on these matters and fails to address the need for serious attention to the content of their message and the way it is framed, Romm will have won the battle while helping lose the war.

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