Environment

The Climate Middle Ground

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorDec 2, 2011 3:57 PM

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As someone who's long been interested in paleoenvironmental research--especially with respect to archaeology--I have a soft spot for tree ring researchers. The development of tree ring chronologies plays a major role (under-appreciated by the public) in the understanding of many ancient cultures and the prehistoric land use and climatic changes of their time So it's been a little frustrating that the extent of my recent twitter exchanges with one paleo researcher has focused on climategate 2, when I would prefer to be learning about what environmental reconstructions he's currently at work on, and what new knowledge it is yielding. But Columbia University's Kevin Anchukaitis has been exceptionally gracious and thoughtful in our bite-sized discussions, of which there has been much disagreement between us. Today, he's given me something to think about it again, with this tweet:

Being in 'The Middle' has this almost mythic quality to some. In science, it's often just halfway between a right and a wrong answer.

I'm guessing he's referring (at least in part) to some of our recent back-and-forth and perhaps to some of my related posts from the past week, such as this one and this one. I think Kevin makes a fair point, that the proverbial middle ground might also be a no-mans land, where truth can never be found. But I also think it depends on where you define the middle. Climate change, as it is discussed and interpreted in the public sphere, does not reflect the full spectrum of perspectives. Rather, most debate is characterized by hyperbole and spin from opposite ends of the spectrum. In this world, which journalists must navigate, being in the middle is not such a bad place to be.

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