Arquivo da categoria: mídia

>Never Say ‘Diagonal of the Covariance Matrix’: 6 Things Scientists Can Learn from Science Journalists

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Never Say ‘Diagonal of the Covariance Matrix’: 6 Things Scientists Can Learn from Science Journalists
By Maggie Koerth-Baker
Science Editor, BoingBoing.net

The New York Times
February 26, 2011, 2:22 PM

Can Scientists Learn from Science Journalists?
By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of BoingBoing.net, gave a really good talk at the University of Wisconsin aiming to encourage scientists to communicate effectively with other human beings. A starting point: listening. Another: Start a blog.

Here’s a summary of the main points that I got from David Isenberg, who alerted me to the lecture:

  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Don’t just talk, ask.
  • Lay people know more (and less) than you think.
  • Not everything is news.
  • Be critical of your own work.
  • Mistakes last, but pedantry kills.

There are deep divisions between the cultures and norms of science and journalism.

One example: For scientists, peer review occurs before publication, for journalists, afterward.

Another: All lines in a newspaper story or broadcast, in theory at least, have to stand on their own as accurate; in a research paper, the inaccuracies produced by the compression in an abstract are seen as normal and acceptable by many scientists, with the nuance conveyed in the body of a paper.

In a recent conversation I had with Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and communicator, it was clear we had utterly different norms for interpreting summaries of a research paper.

Some of the differences were touched on in my recent coverage of new analysis attributing some changes in extreme precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere to human-driven global warming.

I would add that scientists (and science journalists) would do well to review the talk given by Thomas Lessl of the University of Georgia at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on the limited role of science, even if communicated clearly, in shaping policy and human choices.

There’s a link and excerpt in my recent post “Do Fights Over Climate Communication Reflect the End of ‘Scientism’?”

The take-home thought:

As scientists and science journalists spar over who’s failing in climate communication, an outsider says they’re missing the point

Anúncios

>The Drama of Climate Change (More Intelligent Life)

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Climate science is a tricky subject for the stage, as two new plays in London make plain. Robert Butler puts his finger on the problem …

Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE (Winter 2010)

In the last fortnight two plays about climate change have opened in London that have provoked polar reactions: “Greenland” (pictured top), at the National Theatre, got panned, and “The Heretic” (pictured below), at the Royal Court, got raves. If you go and see both, you could come away fairly confused about climate change.

Sea levels in the Maldives are rising in “Greenland”; sea levels in the Maldives are not rising in “The Heretic”. The Hockey Stick Graph, which links the rise in global temperature to human activity, has been broadly accepted by scientists in “Greenland”; the Hockey Stick Graph is an embarrassment to scientists in “The Heretic”. The UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen might be the last chance for mankind to save itself in “Greenland”; these negotiations don’t get a mention in “The Heretic”. A life-size polar bear comes out in “Greenland”, a cuddly toy polar bear appears in “The Heretic”: one tries to create a sense of wonder, the other is a joke.

Highly divisive issues have generated some important plays: think of McCarthyism and Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, or AIDS and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”, or political correctness and David Mamet’s “Oleanna”. Yet 20 years after the first report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and five years after “An Inconvenient Truth”, no major playwright had written a play about the subject. Many reasons have been suggested for this. The science is complex. The links between cause and effect (on which plays depend) are hard to show. Arts organisations get sponsorship from Big Oil. And everyone has made up their mind anyway.

The National Theatre tried to get round this last point by commissioning four youngish playwrights, none of whom (as they cheerfully admitted in a pre-show discussion) had any special knowledge in this area. As the playwrights put it, they were “on a journey”. Since the National has taken active and informed steps to reduce its own carbon emissions, it sounds as if there were administrators in the building who initially knew more about climate change than the writers.

The title had to be chosen before anything was written. Many of the scenes would revolve around Copenhagen, but that name was out as the National had already staged a superb play about science called “Copenhagen”. In six months the writers industriously interviewed everyone from the British Government’s chief scientific adviser and Greenpeace activists to prominent sceptics and the chairman of Shell. They went on to develop multiple storylines to reflect this complexity. The idea—according to the play’s dramaturg Ben Power—was “to find a new way of talking about this subject”.

The production also comes accompanied with a series of talks (from scientists, sceptics and activists) and panel discussions. There is even something called a ‘talkaoke’, a roundtable discussion that takes place in the foyer immediately after the show, where—amazingly for theatre—people can take the microphone and criticise what they’ve just seen. What’s the result of all this careful, reasonable, fact-checked, inclusive sincerity? “Greenland” was slammed: “crushingly dull” (London Standard), “shamelessly partisan” (Daily Telegraph), “rotten theatre” (Sunday Times).

“The Heretic” took another route. The playwright, Richard Bean, a former stand-up comic, has a sharp eye for modern pieties. His recent play “England People Very Nice” tackled the subject of immigration. Bean particularly admires Joe Orton, a playwright from the 1960s, as someone who would “go around, find the open wound and pour salt in it.” In ‘The Heretic’, he delivers a comedy that fictionalises (and skews) many of the current controversies and “-gates” with plenty of verve and attack.

Bean’s play takes an Earth Scientist at York University (played with crisp disdain by Juliet Stevenson) whose research into sea-level rises isn’t going to help her faculty’s chances of getting a major grant. Her appearance on the BBC’s “Newsnight” leads to her sacking, and she ends up having a regular column in the Daily Telegraph. (This time round the Telegraph’s theatre critic could see nothing “shamelessly partisan” about the play, and said it was “an absolute corker”.)

It’s probably a mistake to worry about the ways in which the science is misrepresented when the rest of the plot is not very plausible either. For the first-night audience, neither failing seemed to matter because “The Heretic” has two much more important things going for it: likeable characters and very funny jokes. It even has a happy ending. The Royal Court, hotbed of radical left-wing plays for so many decades, has produced the most right-wing play in London. It’d be interesting to know how much this cheers its staff.

Only one play so far, Steve Waters’s “The Contingency Plan”, has managed to be authoritative and funny on the subject of climate change. (That play was staged at a tiny theatre, The Bush, and richly deserves to be revived.) This last fortnight has now produced one painfully authoritative play, which tells us the great majority of climate scientists are right, and also one painfully funny play, which tells us the great majority of climate scientists are wrong. The reason why one’s a flop and the other is a hit says more about theatre than it does about climate change.

Jim Thompson, author of “The Grifters”, once wrote there are 32 ways to write a story (and he had used every one of them), but there is only one plot: “Things are not what they seem.” The problem with climate change is that the scientific consensus is a bit of a bore. It just doesn’t catch our imagination. As an audience, we are naturally drawn to deception and mystery, the half-hidden and the shadows. The theatre may be the one place where we hope our trust in authority figures will prove to be misplaced.

The authors of “Greenland” might have had more fun if they had concentrated on the smooth and powerful authority figures who deny the science, rather than the earnest folks who fret over it. That’s where the action is. As David Mamet told an interviewer, “Drama is basically about lies, somebody lying to somebody.” It’s the impulse audiences had in Ancient Greece, when characters were portrayed with masks. Whichever way you tell the story, we want to see the mask slip.

“The Heretic” is at the Royal Court Theatre through March 19th; “Greenland” is at the National Theatre through April 2nd

Robert Butler, a former theatre critic, blogs on the arts and the environment at the Ashden Directory, which he edits. His last article was about the lasting power of “Heart of Darkness”

>‘Rapid Response Team’ Pairs Scientists and Media (The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media)

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By Lisa Palmer | February 16, 2011
The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media


Think of it as the climate scientists/journalists version of “eHarmony.” A volunteer website launched by scientists serves as a matchmaking venue for media outlets and government officials looking for input on climate science topics.

It’s a Friday morning and Scott Mandia is scanning the Climate Science Rapid Response Team e-mail inbox he shares with two other climate science match-makers.

Today, on Mandia’s watch, a message from a journalist arrives at 5:30 a.m. It’s the first of two or three media requests he’ll likely get this day. Mandia’s task now? Ask for a response from one of 135 scientists in his network most qualified to answer the question. You might think of it as the climate scientists/journalists version of “eHarmony.”

Mandia, a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, in New York, and his fellow Rapid Response founders, John Abraham, associate professor of thermodynamics at St. Thomas University, and Ray Weymann, a California-based retired astronomer and member of the National Academy of Sciences, take shifts. Each is a volunteer custodian of e-mail requests that flow in from their climate change match-making website connecting climate scientists with lawmakers and media outlets.

Launched in November 2010, the website tries to narrow the information gap between scientific understanding of climate change and what the public knows. Scientists involved with the group are screened and selected on an invitation-only basis. The experts come from a range of climate change science specialties, everything from climate modeling researchers and ecologists to economists and policy experts. Most are university faculty members or employees of government laboratories. It’s not a collection that most climate “contrarians” might be comfortable with.
The all-volunteer group promises to respond quickly to media requests to make sure science is portrayed accurately in the day’s news. They say turnaround time for requests is as fast as two hours for media operating on a short deadline.

“The scientists became members of our group because they understand that, as scientists, they have a responsibility to engage the public by engaging the media,” Mandia said in a phone interview. Mandia said he and his colleagues operate the service with no funding, and the website design was donated by Richard Hawkins, director of the Public Interest Research Centre in the United Kingdom.

Early on a Confusing Mix-up with AGU Media Project

Coincidentally, the Climate Science Rapid Response Team website debuted at the same time as the relaunch of the American Geophysical Unions’s Climate Q and A service, which has similarities with the Rapid Response Team but strictly limits questions to matters of science. (See Yale Forum related story.) Some confusion ensued when the Los Angeles Times erroneously reported a link between the AGU’s group and the Rapid Response volunteers, and AGU staff quickly initiated a damage-control effort in fear that some on Capitol Hill would find, based on the newspaper’s coverage, their effort overly politicized.

“When that (Los Angeles Times) story came out, it sounded like scientists were fighting back against politicians. We are not advocates about policy, but it made us look like we were the 98 pound weaklings getting sand kicked in their face,” said Mandia. But the bad press proved a boon to increase the numbers involved in the Rapid Response force.

“Scientists then realized they were being criticized unfairly and wanted to get involved,” said Mandia. The number of scientists involved with the Rapid Response Team quadrupled in number.
The AGU’s Q and A Service first formed to support media requests during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. It started again prior to the U.N. talks in Cancun. The Q and A service is open to anyone with a PhD degree willing to provide scientific expertise on a subject.

“AGU is not a partisan organization. We are here to make our science available so there is good information available to the media,” AGU Executive Director Chris McEntee said in a telephone interview.

About 700 scientists are registered with AGU’s service, which has provided answers to 68 media outlets. “We think it is important that policymakers, media, and the public get unbiased, nonpartisan information when making a decision,” said McEntee. “The service fits with our mission to promote scientific discovery for the benefit of humanity.”

Scientists Step Up

Mandia said scientists involved with his effort are usually tapped once or twice a month for media inquiries. No single person carries the burden of too many repeat requests because the group has selected a range of scientists, vetted for their expertise in various disciplines. The Rapid Response Team also has promised confidentiality of its scientists, who can remain anonymous if they wish. But Mandia said that, despite the offer, “none of them has ever requested anonymity.”

Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A & M University, is affiliated with both information services, but is more involved with the Climate Science Rapid Response Team. He was prompted into action because “dealing with climate change misinformation is difficult to do on your own,” Dessler wrote in an e-mail. “Effectively responding to the denial machine absolutely requires coordinated action by the climate science community. In this way, I think the CCRRT [sic] is a model of how scientists can effectively spend their limited resources on outreach.”

Dessler gives the Rapid Response service high marks, especially for institutionalizing the response process from scientists and distributing the communications workload. “You have to realize the asymmetry here. For [some] so-called skeptics, spreading misinformation is their full-time job. Scientists, on the other hand, already have a full-time job: research and teaching. Thus, we need to have mechanisms to level the playing field, and the CCRRT [sic] is one such mechanism,” said Dessler, adding that he encourages scientists to get involved in public outreach. “Because we are mainly funded by tax dollars, I think we have a responsibility to repay this by spreading the results of our research as far and wide as possible.”

A Goal of Precise Pairing

As of early February, more than 100 media organizations — newspaper, magazine, online media, television, and radio — and government officials have used the service to find climate scientists who could comment on a story. Mainstream media users have included The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), CNN International, and American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” among many others. Mandia said many of the media questions in December had to do with severe weather in the United States and in Northern Europe.

The Rapid Response website includes testimonials from such reporters as Ben Webster, of The Times in London: “I asked a difficult question about ice cores and was impressed by the efforts the team made to find the right people to respond. The response was balanced, stating clearly what was known but also the uncertainties.”

Eli Kintisch, a reporter for Science and author of Hack the Planet (Wiley, 2010), called on the service when he was looking for a scientist to serve as a color commentator of a live blog for Science he was producing during a House hearing. Facing time constraints, Kintisch relied on the matchmakers for the legwork of finding someone to fill this role.

“I have my own batch of sources on climate that I have used to comment on stories, and I have used ProfNet in the past occasionally. But I was looking for someone who had some experience with public engagement and would be available for two to four hours,” Kintisch said in a telephone interview. “The hearing was a review of the basics of climate science, and there were some prominent contrarians testifying, so I thought it would be useful to have someone available who knew the basics of climate science.”

While not all climate scientists feel comfortable engaging with the media, they are finding ways to get more involved in communications. Mandia said, “Some scientists are nervous about speaking to the press and worry they will be misquoted, but getting out of the ‘Ivory Tower’ is becoming very important.”

Lisa Palmer is a Maryland-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Yale Forum. (E-mail: lisa@yaleclimatemediaforum.org)

>Catástrofe na região serrana do Rio já é o maior desastre climático do País (Estadão)

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[Talvez o pior evento de deslizamento, mas não chega sequer perto do pior desastre climático. A seca de 1877-1879 matou cerca de 500 MIL pessoas no Nordeste, segundo a maioria dos autores.]



Mortos são 785, mesmo número de enchente no Rio em 1967. Em ranking da ONU, também é o 8º maior deslizamento do mundo

22 de janeiro de 2011 | 0h 00
Bruno Tavares – O Estado de S.Paulo
A tragédia da região serrana do Rio se igualou ontem ao maior desastre climático da história do País. Até as 22 horas de ontem, as autoridades contabilizavam 785 mortos, o mesmo número de vítimas da enchente do Rio em 1967, segundo ranking da ONU. O número tende a aumentar, pois o Ministério Público fluminense estima que ainda existam 400 desaparecidos nos seis municípios devastados pelas chuvas do dia 12.
Marcos de Paula/AE
Marcos de Paula/AE
Fotos de desaparecidos em Teresópolis
O desastre também entra para os registros da ONU como o 8.º pior deslizamento da história mundial. O maior evento dessa natureza, segundo o Centro para a Pesquisa da Epidemiologia de Desastres, ocorreu em 1949, na antiga União Soviética, com 12 mil mortes. O segundo maior foi no Peru, em dezembro de 1941, e deixou 5 mil vítimas.
O deslizamento da região serrana já havia superado o número de vítimas registrado em 1967, em Caraguatatuba, quando 436 pessoas morreram. Por suas características devastadoras, o evento ocorrido há mais de quatro décadas na Serra do Mar paulista era considerado emblemático pelos geólogos.
Apesar da grande quantidade de água que desceu dos morros fluminenses e de vários rios terem transbordado, especialistas brasileiros e da própria ONU classificam o evento como deslizamento de terra. Na avaliação dos estudiosos, grande parte da destruição e das mortes foi causada pelas avalanches de terra e detritos – tecnicamente chamadas de corrida de lama.
O fenômeno é raro, pois depende de uma conjunção de fatores para ocorrer. No caso da região serrana do Rio, todos eles estavam presentes. Os morros são íngremes, o que favorece os escorregamentos de terra. Além disso, é preciso um grande volume de chuva concentrado em um curto espaço de tempo. Foi o que aconteceu ali. Segundo dados do Instituto Estadual do Ambiente (Inea), as estações climáticas localizadas no núcleo da tempestade registraram 249 e 297 milímetros de chuva em 24 horas – a partir das 20 horas do dia 11. Na avaliação da presidente do Inea, Marilene Ramos, um temporal dessa intensidade tem probabilidade de acontecer a cada 350 anos.
Enterro. Por questão “não só humanitária, mas também de saúde pública”, o juiz da 2.ª Vara de Família de Teresópolis, José Ricardo Ferreira de Aguiar, determinou o enterro dos corpos de 25 vítimas das chuvas que estavam em um caminhão e trailers frigoríficos. No Cemitério Carlinda Berlim, o principal dos cinco da cidade, foram 232 enterros desde a semana passada. Pelo Instituto Médico-Legal, até ontem já tinham passado 312 cadáveres. O juiz crê que existam “no mínimo quatro vezes mais soterrados” do que os encontrado.
A maioria dos corpos enterrados ontem – 22 adultos e três crianças – teve a identificação levantada pela equipe de papiloscopistas do IML, da Força Nacional e do Instituto Félix Pacheco. Mas, como os corpos não foram reclamados por parentes, o enterro foi determinado pelo juiz. No caso dos corpos sepultados sem identificação, houve coleta de DNA. Assim, será possível confrontar dados dos parentes que buscarem informações.
A partir de agora, segundo decisão do juiz, os corpos não reconhecidos serão liberados após coleta de material biológico. “Em duas horas o corpo sairá dignamente para ser sepultado.”
No caso dos desaparecidos, o Ministério Público afirma que informações registradas por parentes e amigos têm sido confrontadas com dados de hospitais e do IML. Ontem, fotos foram colocadas na frente de um centro de informações em Teresópolis. / COLABOROU MARCELO AULER

>Baixo retorno político (Fapesp)

>Especiais

2/2/2011

Por Fábio de Castro

Mais educação não se traduz automaticamente em mais democracia, segundo estudo realizado na USP. Entre 1989 e 2006, diminuiu a diferença entre a participação política dos mais e menos escolarizados (ABr)

Agência FAPESP – Na avaliação do senso comum, educação e politização andam de mãos dadas. Para a elite brasileira – de acordo com pesquisas de opinião –, o aumento da escolaridade da população tem o poder de gerar cidadãos que participam mais da vida política do país e que valorizam mais a democracia. Mas um novo estudo mostra que essa visão não corresponde à realidade.

A pesquisa de doutorado de Rogério Schlegel, defendida no Departamento de Ciência Política da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH) da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), utilizou análises estatísticas para interpretar os dados de pesquisas de opinião realizadas entre 1989 e 2006. O trabalho concluiu que a educação brasileira está trazendo ganhos decrescentes em termos políticos.

“O estudo mostrou que os cidadãos mais escolarizados já não se tornam tão participativos e democráticos como ocorria há duas décadas. O maior nível de escolaridade ainda diferencia os cidadãos, mas essa diferença encolheu muito em 20 anos – isto é, os retornos políticos da educação têm sido decrescentes no Brasil. Em alguns quesitos de participação e apoio à democracia, a diferença entre os mais e os menos escolarizados chega a ser inexistente”, disse Schlegel à Agência FAPESP.

A pesquisa de Schlegel foi orientada pelo professor José Álvaro Moisés, da FFLCH-USP, e integra o Projeto Temático “A Desconfiança do Cidadão nas Instituições Democráticas”, coordenado por Moisés e financiado pela FAPESP.

Segundo Schlegel, uma pesquisa de opinião coordenada em 2000 pela professora Elisa Reis, do Departamento de Sociologia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), já mostrava que, na avaliação da elite brasileira, a baixa escolaridade é o maior entrave para a democracia no país.

“Por trás dessa ideia há um pressuposto de que a educação só tem impacto no comportamento político por meio da capacitação cognitiva – isto é, basta fornecer mais educação e as pessoas terão mais recursos para acompanhar a política, discutindo, lendo jornais e fazendo exigências. Mas na realidade há caminhos alternativos para a entrada nessa vida política. Os resultados do estudo indicam que não há uma relação linear entre obter mais acesso à educação e obter mais instrumentos para participar da democracia”, afirmou.

Foram analisados vários mecanismos capazes de explicar os retornos políticos decrescentes da escolarização. A hipótese mais plausível é que o fenômeno tenha sido causado pela queda na qualidade da educação brasileira.

“Ao falhar na capacitação cognitiva do indivíduo e na transmissão de conhecimentos, o sistema educacional brasileiro estaria deixando de dar as ferramentas que ajudam o cidadão a atuar na esfera política. O resultado é que o aumento do acesso ao ensino ou do volume de escolarização – em tempo passado na escola ou anos de estudo completados – não é acompanhado pelos ganhos esperados em matéria de comportamento político”, disse.

O estudo teve fundamento em quatro pesquisas de opinião realizadas pelo grupo ligado ao Projeto Temático, a primeira realizada logo após a redemocratização, em 1989, e a mais recente – financiada pela FAPESP –, em 2006.

A partir desses dados, Schlegel utilizou análises estatísticas para controlar as diversas variáveis sociodemográficas disponíveis e observar, de forma isolada, o efeito da escolaridade no comportamento do cidadão ao longo do tempo.

“Na sociologia econômica é comum o uso, por exemplo, do conceito de ‘retorno econômico da educação’ para avaliar até que ponto uma maior escolaridade pode se refletir em maior renda, ou em maior arrecadação de impostos. A partir desse conceito, o estudo trabalha com a ideia de ‘retorno político da educação’”, explicou.

Indiferença política

O retorno político foi avaliado por meio de diferentes quesitos, como participação, apoio aos princípios democráticos e confiança nas instituições. Os resultados mostraram que a distância entre mais e menos escolarizados caiu marcadamente em relação à demonstração de interesse por política, consumo de notícias sobre o tema e hábito de conversar sobre ele.

“Em alguns quesitos, o nível de escolaridade é praticamente indiferente. No caso da participação em partidos, sindicatos e associações de bairro, por exemplo, o envolvimento é igualmente baixo entre os menos e mais escolarizados”, disse Schlegel.

A maior perda de retorno político, durante os 17 anos do período analisado, deu-se na faixa do ensino médio – faixa de escolarização que teve a maior expansão de alunos nas últimas duas décadas.

“Na média, hoje não se diferencia alguém que se formou no ensino médio de um cidadão com fundamental incompleto, em termos de preferir a democracia como forma de governo ou rejeitar a concentração de poder nas mãos de um líder centralizador”, afirmou.

Em 1993, de acordo com o estudo, a chance de um universitário ser muito interessado em política era 3,6 vezes maior que a de alguém com o ensino fundamental incompleto. Em 2006, as chances se reduziram para 1,6. “A diferença entre o universitário e alguém sem nenhum diploma escolar era enorme, em termos de interesse na política. Agora, a diferença ainda existe, mas é muito menor”, ressaltou Schegel.

Em 1989, uma pessoa com o segundo grau completo tinha 66% mais chance de preferir a democracia a qualquer outro regime, em comparação com alguém sem diploma do ensino fundamental. “Em 2006, já não havia mais diferença estatística entre os dois públicos. Nesse quesito, havia no passado uma distância que desapareceu entre os diferentes níveis de escolaridade em termos de comportamento político”, disse.

A confiança nas instituições tem uma relação especial com a escolaridade. Em 1993, quem tinha mais escolaridade confiava mais nos partidos que em 2006. Mas os dados não permitem concluir se houve de fato um aumento ou diminuição da confiança.

“Tratava-se de um momento em que os partidos estavam em reconstrução e havia uma noção generalizada de que eles eram o caminho para construir a democracia. Em 2006, essa noção já havia sido desfeita pelos partidos de aluguel e isso pode ter desencadeado a maior desconfiança dos mais escolarizados”, explicou.

Para Schlegel, os resultados do estudo, ao identificar que a escolarização vem trazendo ganhos decrescentes em termos políticos, desaconselham apostas na educação como panaceia capaz de promover uma cidadania superior e fazer superar os déficits democráticos no Brasil.

“A educação importa, mas sozinha não resolve. Os efeitos benéficos da escolarização para a convivência democrática precisam de ensino de qualidade para todos para se concretizarem plenamente”, disse.

>Cinema, psicoses e neurônios reprogramados (CH)

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Em sua coluna de estreia, o biólogo Stevens Rehen aproveita o lançamento do filme ‘Cisne Negro’ no Brasil para falar das origens, desenvolvimento e efeitos da esquizofrenia, doença que atinge 1% da população mundial.

Por: Stevens Rehen
Publicado em 28/01/2011 | Atualizado em 28/01/2011

Natalie Portman em ‘Cisne Negro’. O filme, que estreia no Brasil no dia 4 de fevereiro, fala sobre situações que podem desencadear psicoses, transtornos mentais caracterizados por deterioração afetiva e perda do contato com a realidade. (foto: divulgação)

No próximo dia 4 de fevereiro estreia no Brasil Cisne Negro. Com seis indicações ao Oscar, o filme retrata as demandas físicas e emocionais que as bailarinas enfrentam no competitivo mundo do balé profissional.

O enredo do longa-metragem, dirigido por Darren Aronofsky, gira em torno do primeiro surto psicótico de Nina (Natalie Portman), dançarina que luta para se firmar como figura central de uma companhia de balé que ensaia uma nova versão do Lago dos Cisnes.

Cisne Negro é um retrato cinematográfico sobre situações que podem desencadear psicoses e, a reboque, suscita o interesse dos espectadores a respeito da esquizofrenia, um dos mais misteriosos transtornos mentais.

A incidência da esquizofrenia na população mundial é de 1%, com homens e mulheres igualmente afetados. Há mais pacientes esquizofrênicos do que doentes com Alzheimer ou esclerose múltipla, por exemplo.

Há mais pacientes esquizofrênicos do que doentes com Alzheimer ou esclerose múltipla

Os prejuízos sociais decorrentes do desenvolvimento da esquizofrenia são bastante significativos. A doença é caracterizada por delírios e alucinações que levam a uma deterioração afetiva e perda do contato com a realidade.

Os primeiros sintomas surgem na adolescência e começo da vida adulta. Há um forte componente genético associado à enfermidade, que, entretanto, não explica a maioria dos casos. Infecções virais durante o período perinatal, desnutrição materna e disfunções do sistema imunológico também são fatores de risco.

Atualmente, é considerada uma doença do desenvolvimento, associada à má formação do sistema nervoso. Apesar de não existir uma teoria de consenso capaz de explicar suas causas, há indícios de que o estresse oxidativo tenha papel fundamental na geração da patologia.

Entre o bem e o mal

O estresse oxidativo ocorre quando as defesas antioxidantes de nosso corpo falham em controlar as espécies reativas de oxigênio geradas pelo metabolismo normal de nossas células. Para entendermos como essa condição biológica está associada aos transtornos mentais, é preciso que conheçamos o “paradoxo do oxigênio”.

O oxigênio desempenha papéis contraditórios. É essencial para a vida e, ao mesmo tempo, pode ser tóxico. A molécula de oxigênio, formada por dois átomos, é quebrada durante a respiração, para a conversão de nutrientes em energia. Durante esse processo, subprodutos conhecidos como espécies reativas de oxigênio são gerados. Aí é que está o problema.

Estrutura do ácido ascórbico, um conhecido antioxidante. Disfunções no sistema antioxidante estão relacionadas ao desenvolvimento da esquizofrenia. (foto: Wikimedia Commons)

Espécies reativas de oxigênio são capazes de interferir em processos inflamatórios e na diferenciação de neurônios, mas estão principalmente relacionadas a modificações deletérias de macromoléculas como ácidos nucleicos, proteínas e lipídeos.

Infelizmente, em pacientes com esquizofrenia, elementos essenciais que normalmente reagem ao estresse oxidativo encontram-se comprometidos. Há relatos de disfunção do sistema antioxidante nesses indivíduos e de pequenas alterações em seus genes que reduzem a capacidade de se protegerem da ação danosa dos radicais livres.

Estudos em animais e relatos de pacientes sugerem, inclusive, que o aumento induzido nos níveis de radicais livres causa alterações cognitivas em indivíduos saudáveis e exacerbam psicoses em pacientes esquizofrênicos.

Cérebro frágil

Curiosamente, o hábito de fumar é até três vezes mais comum em pacientes esquizofrênicos do que na população em geral. Há indícios de que tal hábito seja uma tentativa inconsciente de compensar a carência de receptores para nicotina em seus cérebros. Por outro lado, o fumo reduz drasticamente os níveis de antioxidantes, comprometendo mais ainda a capacidade desses pacientes em lidar com o acúmulo de espécies reativas de oxigênio.

Devido ao alto consumo de oxigênio, o cérebro é mais vulnerável ao estresse oxidativo do que outros órgãos do corpo. Alterações de expressão gênica e de proteínas causadas por radicais livres comprometem a plasticidade neural e o funcionamento do sistema nervoso.

Já há antioxidantes que previnem ou aliviam distúrbios associados à esquizofrenia

Em concordância com essas observações, há uma relação entre a eficácia de sistemas antioxidantes e a severidade dos sintomas da esquizofrenia, o que pode levar ao desenvolvimento de novos medicamentos.

Já há, inclusive, descrições sobre antioxidantes que previnem ou aliviam distúrbios associados à doença. Sua utilização aumentaria a eficácia dos antipsicóticos, melhorando o quadro clínico de pacientes com transtornos mentais.

Múltiplo impacto

De fato, há evidências que todo o metabolismo energético esteja comprometido nessas pessoas. As mitocôndrias, organelas essenciais à respiração celular, também parecem alteradas nos pacientes esquizofrênicos.

Para a geração de energia, além de oxigênio, é necessário açúcar. Em 1919, F.H. Kooy descreveu um aumento na incidência de hiperglicemia em pacientes esquizofrênicos, sugerindo que comportamentos depressivos influenciariam os níveis de glicose no sangue.

Mais recentemente, pôde-se comprovar uma maior prevalência de diabetes com resistência à insulina nesses pacientes. Há novas pesquisas avaliando a aplicação de medicamentos antidiabéticos como co-fatores no tratamento da esquizofrenia.

As principais evidências de alterações bioquímicas dos sistemas antioxidantes associadas à esquizofrenia foram obtidas a partir de fragmentos cerebrais de pacientes já falecidos.

O estabelecimento de novos modelos de estudo, como, por exemplo, neurônios reprogramados a partir de células da pele de pacientes esquizofrênicos, deverá contribuir para um melhor entendimento sobre a influência do estresse oxidativo no desenvolvimento do sistema nervoso desses indivíduos.

Neurônios reprogramados a partir de células da pele (na foto) de pacientes esquizofrênicos podem ajudar a explicar a influência do estresse oxidativo no desenvolvimento do sistema nervoso desses indivíduos. (foto: Bruna Paulsen/LaNCE-UFRJ)

Sem revelar mais detalhes sobre o filme, o surto psicótico da bailarina Nina deve ter sido provocado por uma combinação de herança genética, abuso na infância, estresse ambiental e má alimentação.

Apesar de ainda serem necessários muitos estudos para comprovar o papel das espécies reativas de oxigênios como agente causador da esquizofrenia, cabe dizer que Nina deveria ter se preocupado um pouco mais com a dieta, optando por alimentos saudáveis, principalmente numa fase da vida de estresse ambiental tão extremo. Melhor prevenir do que remediar.

Stevens Rehen
Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

>Um céu de probabilidades (O Povo)

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O cearense carrega uma memória cultural, muitas vezes inconsciente, sobre a escassez de água que afetou as famílias no passado. Em entrevista ao Vida&Arte Cultura, o professor da UFRJ, Renzo Taddei, traça aspectos sobre a compreensão do clima e como isso reflete no cidadão

05.02.2011| 17:00

Em Quixadá, os profetas da chuva fazem suas previsões todos os anos (DÁRIO GABRIEL, EM 9/1/2010)

Diante dos ciclos da natureza, profetas preveem o futuro. Os cientistas tornam públicas as medições matemáticas e físicas que ditam a probabilidade de nublar ou fazer sol. Mediadas pela imprensa, as previsões meteorológicas afetam o cidadão e sua maneira de perceber o clima e a cidade. Professor-adjunto da Escola de Comunicação da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Renzo Taddei tem relacionamento íntimo com o semi-árido cearense.

Pesquisador há quase uma década das manifestações populares na previsão do clima, em especial na atuação dos profetas da chuva de Quixadá, Renzo vez por outra vem à Fortaleza ministrar palestras, participar de encontros e pesquisas sobre o tema. Na última quarta, o professor recebeu a reportagem numa das salas da Funceme. Na entrevista que você lê a seguir, o pesquisador chama a atenção para alertas globais, como o aquecimento climático. “Já se percebeu que o tom alarmista de catástrofe iminente raramente produz algum efeito positivo. O que produz é uma sensação de impotência geral, como se não há nada que se possa fazer”. (Elisa Parente)

O POVO – Como é possível entender o clima para além do efeito atmosférico?
Renzo Taddei – A questão do clima no Ceará é muito interessante porque, ano passado, segundo a Seplag (Secretaria do Planejamento e Gestão), a economia cearense cresceu 8%. O que é um número incrível. Em 2010, tivemos o pior ano em chuvas nos últimos 30 anos. Foi a pior seca e um ano de bom crescimento para o Estado. Claramente, a agricultura contribui pouco para a economia no Ceará e, cada vez menos, as pessoas se sentem terrivelmente vulneráveis com relação ao clima. Por vários fatores, inclusive por causa dos programas sociais do governo Lula, pelas melhorias de infra-estrutura dos últimos governos do Ceará. Ou seja, a vida está um pouco mais fácil.

OP – De que maneira isto afeta na organização da cidade?
Renzo – Existiu uma estatística onde mais da metade da população acima de 40, 50 anos tinha nascido fora da Capital. Então a presença do imaginário rural é muito forte. Esse é um dos elementos do peso psicológico da seca. Até quem não tem nada a ver com agricultura, se alegra ao ver chuva. A história do bonito pra chover traz uma continuidade e uma ruptura, principalmente com relação às gerações mais novas que nasceram em Fortaleza. Entrevistei um agrônomo que me disse ter o hábito de desligar a água enquanto se ensaboava no chuveiro. E o filho dele perguntou por que ele desligava a água se o banho não tinha acabado. Ele se deu conta de que a geração mais nova sequer tem memória a respeito da escassez de água do seu Estado. A última grande crise em Fortaleza foi 1993, na construção do Canal do Trabalhador. Fortaleza é a única capital encravada no semi-árido, mesmo assim as pessoas não têm essa consciência. Você anda por Fortaleza e vê que cada lançamento imobiliário precisa ter um parque aquático, não é nem piscina. É o uso arquitetônico e recreativo da água. Só se compara a Las Vegas, que é outro lugar de abundância irresponsável encravado no deserto. Então as pessoas não têm experiência da falta de água, mas têm uma herança cultural de hipervalorização dela. Fortaleza é orgulhosa de sua pujança e gasta como novo rico. É um lance que tem a ver com cultura. Enquanto isso, o Canal da Integração está trazendo um mundo de água e a transposição do Rio São Francisco vai trazer ainda mais para Fortaleza não ter problema pelos próximos 30 anos.

OP – Mas isso também pode ter efeito contrário.
Renzo – Isso é perigoso porque, a longo prazo, não dá para achar que é sustentável você consumir. O grande debate da transposição, da construção do Castanhão e do Canal da Integração é esse. Está sempre aumentando a infra-estrutura que acumula água ao invés de educar a população para consumir menos. Não que dê para fazer os dois ao mesmo tempo, mas o fato é que os últimos governos têm preferido aumentar a oferta de água.

OP – Uma das linhas da sua pesquisa centra foco na antropologia da incerteza e do futuro. De que maneira isto está ligado ao estudo do clima?
Renzo – Isto talvez seja a parte mais desafiadora de entender qual o papel que o clima tem na nossa vida cotidiana. Porque a meteorologia rapidamente se deu conta de que a atmosfera é algo muito complexo. Agora a estação chuvosa no Ceará é algo muito mais complicado. Porque o agricultor quer saber hoje se vai ter chuva em maio. Não tem nenhum radar que mostre isso, mas a meteorologia usa a física e a matemática criando modelos que simulam no computador a maneira como funciona a natureza. Mas isso tem limitações. Por isso se fala em termos de probabilidade, porque às vezes uma coisa pequena pode mudar tudo. Então a meteorologia tem que conviver com essa relação complicada com a sociedade.

OP – Porque é tão difícil lidar com a incerteza?
Renzo – Tem inúmeras pesquisas que mostram que temos dificuldade tremenda de reter isso. A informação probabilística demanda um esforço cognitivo muito grande. É realmente complexo. É como se fôssemos programados mentalmente para não operar com probabilidade e para fingir que tudo é certo ou errado. Temos essa tendência a polarizar as coisas. E isso influencia a relação da sociedade com o clima. Veja, por exemplo, a estratégia dos agricultores. O agricultor familiar está o tempo inteiro prestando atenção em previsões do clima, só que não usa nenhuma. Ele espera o solo ficar úmido numa certa profundidade, para depositar a semente. Só que as primeiras chuvas da estação são fracas, o broto morre e ele precisa começar tudo de novo.

OP – A incerteza é parte da natureza.
Renzo – Acompanho os profetas da chuva desde 2002. É muito recorrente que alguns deles se digam observadores da natureza, e não profetas. Ser profeta tem uma carga simbólica religiosa muito forte e é um peso muito grande pra eles carregarem nas costas. Então eles fazem as previsões e, no final, dizem que quem sabe mesmo é Deus. O interessante é que, em termos de conteúdo, eles dizem exatamente o que a Funceme diz em termos de probabilidade. Existe uma incerteza envolvida. Então as pessoas aceitam, mas não dão à ciência o direito de viver as incertezas.

OP – Como a meteorologia figura nesta história?
Renzo – Uma parte dessa confusão tem a ver com a história da meteorologia no Ceará. Ela começou com muita fanfarronice, voando de avião, fazendo uma pulverização nas nuvens com sal de prata pra fazer chover mais rápido. Só que você percebe que o spray não produz chuva, só apressa. Então essa tecnologia sempre foi muito controvertida. Para uma mentalidade do sertão, isso equivaleria dizer que o homem da cidade se acreditava com o poder de produzir chuva. E tanto é assim que o Patativa do Assaré fez o poema Ao dotô do avião, onde ele coloca vários elementos importantes. O homem se adequa ao ciclo da natureza e não vice-versa. No Ceará, o clima sempre esteve ligado à religião. Então era desrespeitoso e absurdo achar que o cidadão iria produzir chuva.

OP – As pessoas já absorveram a gravidade do aquecimento global?
Renzo – Não sei se, algum dia, entenderemos o aquecimento global. A natureza funciona em ciclos. O dia e a noite, as estações do ano. São ciclos que, por serem curtos, a gente consegue entender bem. Só que existem aqueles que são muito longos. Costuma-se dizer que, aqui no semi-árido, existem ciclos onde duas ou três décadas são mais secas, depois outras mais chuvosas. Pode ser que exista um ciclo bem mais longo que a gente não tem nem ideia. Se o futuro provar que estamos errados, tudo bem, fizemos o que tinha de ser feito.

OP – Então existe uma visão positiva para o futuro?
Renzo – A ciência é feita por incertezas, ela só caminha porque ensina o que não sabe. Mas existe o que chamam de princípio precaucionário. Que diz que você precisa medir o quanto você perde se tiver certo e não fazer nada e o quanto perde se estiver errado e fizer muita coisa. Então imagina que não existe aquecimento global nenhum, só que tomamos as atitudes necessárias. O que a gente perde? Existe uma perda em termos de crescimento econômico. Agora a outra opção é que existe um aquecimento global, ele está acontecendo, tem a ver com produção industrial, mas a gente assume que não está acontecendo e não faz nada. O que perdemos no futuro? Várias pessoas dizem que não fazer nada pode ter um custo muito alto. A chance de estarmos certos é grande e mesmo que estejamos errados, tem como recuperar. Existe ainda um outro lado em que talvez não tenhamos como recuperar. Talvez a gente de fato passe por uma sequência grande de eventos extremos. O lance do aquecimento climático não tem a ver com o mundo ficar mais quente todo dia. O ponto é que eventos extremos, como chuva, furacão, tendam a ser mais frequentes. O nível do mar já está subindo, algumas nações já começam a se transferir. E voltamos à história de Fortaleza ser a Las Vegas do semi-árido. Não dá pra falar em cortar a emissão de carbono sem reduzir atividade industrial. E não podemos falar de aquecimento global sem redução de consumo. E como faz para a população da Aldeota parar de consumir tanto? Nos meus momentos mais pessimistas, eu penso que a humanidade só consegue se re-programar mentalmente em escala continental numa experiência de quase morte. O que significa uma imensa catástrofe. E aí todo mundo para e se repensa. Mas eu sou professor e tenho que acreditar que a educação tem o seu valor.

>Negar para não mudar (Pesquisa Fapesp)

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Política de C & T | Mudanças climáticas
Livro mostra como um trio de físicos se dedicou a combater a ideia do aquecimento global nos EUA

Marcos Pivetta, de San Diego*
Edição Impressa 175 – Setembro 2010

Nos tribunais, quando as evidências são enormes contra o réu e a condenação parece questão de tempo, os advogados de defesa sempre podem recorrer a uma derradeira tática: fomentar uma dúvida qualquer, às vezes sobre um aspecto secundário do delito, para turvar o raciocínio dos membros do júri e, assim, evitar ou ao menos postergar o quanto for possível a sentença. A partir do final dos anos 1980, uma versão desse clássico estratagema judicial – que, dentro e fora das cortes, fora usado eficazmente pela indústria do cigarro durante décadas para negar e minimizar os conhecidos malefícios do tabagismo – passou a ser empregada nos Estados Unidos para questionar a existência do aquecimento global e a contribuição das atividades humanas, em especial a queima de combustíveis fósseis emissores de gases de efeito estufa, no desencadeamento das mudanças climáticas.

Sempre que era divulgado um novo estudo de peso sobre a natureza do aquecimento global, três veteranos pesquisadores de enorme prestígio, abrigados numa entidade privada em Washington, o George C. Marshall Institute, saíam a campo para questionar os novos dados. “Primeiro, eles disseram que as mudanças climáticas não existiam, depois afirmaram que as variações de temperatura eram um fenômeno natural (tentaram atribuir a culpa a alterações na atividade solar) e então passaram a argumentar que, havendo as mudanças e mesmo sendo culpa nossa, isso não importava porque nós sempre poderíamos nos adaptar a elas”, afirmou a historiadora da ciência Naomi Oreskes, da Universidade da Califórnia em San Diego (UCSD), numa palestra realizada para jornalistas latino-americanos durante o 7o Taller Jack F. Ealy de Periodismo Científico, que ocorreu em julho nessa universidade. “Em todos os casos, eles negavam que havia um consenso científico sobre a questão, apesar de serem essencialmente eles mesmos os únicos que estavam contra.”

Ao lado do também historiador da ciência Erik Conway, que trabalha no Instituto de Tecnologia da Califórnia (Caltech), Naomi lançou em maio nos Estados Unidos o livro Merchants of doubt – How a handful of scientists obscured the thuth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming (“Mercadores da dúvida – Como uns poucos cientistas ocultaram a verdade em temas que vão do cigarro ao aquecimento global”, numa tradução livre para o português). Na obra, muito bem documentada e que recebeu elogios na imprensa leiga e nas revistas científicas, Naomi e Conway, um especialista na história da exploração do espaço, mostram que já existe, e não é de hoje, um consenso científico sobre o aquecimento global, detalham a trajetória dos líderes do instituto e suas táticas de negação das mudanças climáticas.

Nos Estados Unidos, país que historicamente é o maior emissor de gases de efeito estufa e também o maior refratário a adotar políticas para mitigar as mudanças climáticas, a ação dos céticos do aquecimento global foi encabeçada nas duas últimas décadas por uma trinca de influentes físicos aposentados ou semiaposentados, todos hoje mortos: o especialista em física da matéria sólida Frederick Seitz (1911-2008), que participou do projeto da construção da bomba atômica durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial e foi presidente da Academia Nacional de Ciências dos Estados Unidos na década de 1960; o astrofísico Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), fundador e diretor do God-dard Institute for Space Studies da Nasa nos anos 1960 e uma figura importante na condução de vários projetos da agência espacial; e William Nierenberg (1919-2000), pesquisador apaixonado pelo mar que foi durante mais de 20 anos diretor do prestigioso Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Nenhum deles era um especialista em modelos climáticos, mas esse detalhe não diminuía sua influência na mídia e na administração norte-americana, sobretudo em governos republicanos.

Em 1984 os três fundaram o George C. Marshall Institute, cujo slogan era (e é) “ciência para uma política pública melhor”. O think tank, expressão em inglês usada para denominar esse tipo de instituto, tinha como objetivo original fazer lobby a favor do polêmico projeto de construção de um escudo espacial capaz de defender os Estados Unidos de um eventual ataque de mísseis balísticos disparados pela União Soviética. Apelidada de Guerra nas Estrelas, a iniciativa de defesa, concebida durante a administração de Ronald Reagan, nunca saiu do papel. Com a derrocada do império soviético entre o fim dos anos 1980 e o início dos 1990, o projeto do escudo espacial foi arquivado e Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg redirecionaram a atuação do instituto para um tema mais atual: o combate ao ambientalismo em geral e à negação do aquecimento global. “Eles tinham aquela ideia de que os ambientalistas eram como melancias: verdes por fora e vermelhos por dentro”, disse Naomi.

Ozônio e DDT – A dupla que escreveu o livro se conheceu numa conferência sobre história da meteorologia em 2004 na Alemanha e logo ambos perceberam que haviam chegado à mesma constatação: os cientistas que mais ativamente combatiam nos Estados Unidos a ideia de que a temperatura global do planeta estava aumentando eram os mesmos que, no passado recente, tinham negado ou ainda negavam a existência do buraco na camada de ozônio, os perigos da chuva ácida, os malefícios do pesticida DDT e os problemas de saúde causados pelo tabaco em fumantes passivos. “Em todos esses temas científicos, eles sempre estiveram do lado errado”, afirmou Naomi, que já deu aulas em Harvard, em Stanford, na New York University e hoje dirige o Sixth College da UCSD. “Quando descobrimos que Seitz tinha coordenado entre 1979 e 1985 o programa de pesquisa da R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, que investiu US$ 45 milhões em estudos científicos, vimos que tínhamos uma boa história.”

A atuação dos membros do instituto visava (e visa) mostrar que não havia consenso científico sobre a existência das mudanças climáticas e muito menos certeza sobre quais seriam as suas causas. Logo, diziam os cientistas do George C. Marshall Institute, o debate nesse campo da ciência estava totalmente aberto e não fazia sentido os Estados Unidos adotarem qualquer medida legal ou prática para diminuir o consumo de combustíveis fósseis. Exatamente a mesma tática foi empregada durante décadas por pesquisadores e médicos ligados ou patrocinados pela indústria do cigarro, que, a despeito das crescentes evidências dos malefícios do tabaco, negavam e minimizavam as conclusões dos estudos científicos.

Posta dessa maneira, a negação do aquecimento global parece ter sido alvo de uma conspiração encabeçada por um grupo de cientistas conservadores. Os autores do livro, no entanto, se apressam em descartar qualquer insinuação nessa linha. Eles dizem que não encontraram nada de ilegal na atuação de Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg e que tudo foi feito mais ou menos às claras. Entre os estratagemas do instituto, estava o de invocar um princípio clássico da imprensa norte-americana e ocidental: lembrar os jornalistas de que eles sempre têm de ouvir e dar espaço equivalente a visões contrárias às dominantes. Nas reportagens sobre mudanças climáticas, os dirigentes do George C. Marshall Institute e outros céticos do aquecimento global eram com frequência o outro lado.

Merchants of doubt apresenta Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg como fervorosos defensores da desregulamentação da economia, anticomunistas convictos, “falcões” a serviço da indústria dos combustíveis fósseis e de interesses conservadores. “O lobby deles foi muito eficiente porque a cultura americana da finada Guerra Fria era permeada pela crença no fundamentalismo dos mercados, na ideia de que os mercados eram, sempre e em todo o lugar, bons e que a regulamentação é sempre ruim”, diz Conway. “Essa ideia permitiu que a negação do aquecimento global funcionasse tão bem. A propaganda é mais eficiente quando se assenta em algo que as pessoas já acreditam.”

Reação ao livro – A publicação do livro levou a uma reação dos atuais comandantes do George C. Marshall Institute. Num artigo divulgado em junho no site do think tank, William O’Keefe e Jeff Kueter, respectivamente CEO e presidente do instituto, dizem que a obra carece de fundamentação científica e distorce a realidade. Eles defendem os bons serviços prestados à ciência pelos fundadores do instituto, dizem que Seitz, Jastrow e Nierenberg sempre foram anticomunistas e defensores do livre mercado – e que isso está longe de ser um defeito nos Estados Unidos.

De concreto, a resposta não desmente nenhum dos fatos centrais relatados no livro. Por exempo, O’ Keefe e Kueter admitem que Seitz realmente chefiou o programa de pesquisas da R.J. Reynolds depois de ter se aposentado do cargo de presidente da Universidade Rockefeller, algo que, segundo eles, não era segredo e estava na autobiografia do físico. Mas dizem que o intuito do programa não era gerar dados que questionassem os malefícios do cigarro. Pelo menos esse não era o objetivo de Seitz, ainda que pudesse ser o da indústria do tabaco.

Sobre a questão das mudanças climáticas, as respostas dos atuais dirigentes do instituto parecem dar mais razão a Naomi e Conway do que contradizê-los. “Na verdade, o único consenso (sobre o aquecimento global) que existe é entre aqueles que escrevem (o relatório do Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas, o IPCC, na sigla em inglês)”, afirmam O’Keefe, ex-vice presidente do Instituto Americano do Petróleo, e Kueter. Por isso, eles advogam mais pesquisas científicas sobre o tema e nenhuma ação imediata para diminuir as emissões de gases de efeito estufa: “Somos contra as políticas de reduções das emissões de poluentes e de mecanismos semelhantes ao Protocolo de Kyoto? Sim. Elas são caras e vão trazer pouco retorno ambiental”.

Para o climatologista Carlos Nobre, coordenador do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais e do Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre (CCST) do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), a atuação de lobbies conservadores ligados à indústria dos combustíveis fósseis, como o realizado pelo George C. Marshall Institute, atrasa a obtenção de um grande acordo mundial para a redução das emissões de gases de efeito estufa. “Eles sabem que estão numa batalha perdida, a exemplo do que ocorreu com o debate em torno dos malefícios do tabaco”, argumenta Nobre, que faz parte do time de 600 cientistas de mais de 40 países que compõem o IPCC. “O que eles querem é atrasar o máximo possível a adoção de medidas que forcem a indústria americana a reduzir suas emissões de poluentes.”

O físico Paulo Artaxo, professor da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), outro representante do Brasil no IPCC, pensa de forma semelhante. “Eles querem ganhar tempo”, afirma Artaxo. “Em ciência, nunca há 100% de certeza. Mas os dados compilados pelo IPCC representam a melhor ciência disponível sobre a questão do aquecimento global.” Em seu último relatório, o IPCC atribuiu, com um grau de 95% de confiabilidade, as mudanças climáticas ao aumento das atividades humanas no planeta. Criado em 1988, o IPPC não é perfeito e está corrigindo suas imprecisões e a forma de trabalhar. Mas seus dados, diz a maior parte dos pesquisadores, são uma razão para agir – e não para o imobilismo como defendem os céticos das mudanças climáticas.

A visão de Washington sobre o aque­cimento global mudou com a chegada do democrata Barack Obama à Casa Branca? Para Conway, a atual administração parece aceitar a realidade de que as mudanças climáticas são reais e decorrem essencialmente das atividades humanas. “Mas os Estados Unidos não têm sido muito pró-ativos nessa questão”, reconhece Conway. “Somos os líderes mundiais em ciência do clima. No entanto, em termos práticos, de medidas mitigadoras do aquecimento, os países escandinavos estão muito na nossa frente.”

* O jornalista Marcos Pivetta participou do 7o Taller Jack F. Ealy de Periodismo Científico a convite do Institute of the Americas.

>Essay Review: The Climate Change Debates (Science)

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Philip Kitcher
Department of Philosophy, Columbia University
E-mail: psk16@columbia.edu

Originally published in Science Express on 27 May 2010
Science 4 June 2010: Vol. 328. no. 5983, pp. 1230 – 1234 – DOI: 10.1126/science.1189312

In one of the earliest and most eloquent pleas for open discussion and debate, John Milton wrote:

And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. (1)

Two centuries after Milton, in the same year in which Charles Darwin published the Origin, John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty (2) added further arguments for the free exchange of ideas, suggesting that such exchange is vital for intellectual and social health. Although both Milton and Mill stand behind our current acquiescence in the value of extensive free discussion, both of them knew that they were opposing ancient suspicions about the viability of democracy. The political theorists and philosophers of the Greco-Roman world viewed ordinary folk as vulnerable to deception and exploitation. Allowed to determine the direction of the state, the folk would be easily seduced into believing falsehoods aligned with the interests of charismatic leaders, so that the popular voice would enthusiastically clamor for disastrous policies. Better, then, to entrust the ship of state to wise navigators, whose wisdom embraced both depth of understanding and moral integrity.

The contrast between these two perspectives on public discussion and policy bears on our own times, although the risks may affect our species as a whole and the stakes may be far higher. For three decades, prominent climate scientists have been warning of the dangerous effects of the continual emission of greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. They have been attempting to identify and to explain just what those effects are likely to be—for ourselves, our children, and our more remote descendants. And they have been urging a variety of measures that might prevent some of the disasters whose possibility they claim to foresee. Yet it is evident that substantial disagreement remains about the consequences for humans and for other species. This is so even in those countries where citizens have largely accepted the conclusions that anthropogenic global warming exists and is likely to raise the average temperature on our planet at least 2°C by the end of the century. In the United States, the state of discussion is less advanced: Denying the reality of human-caused climate change continues to figure as a serious possibility in public debates. And a large fraction of the populace believes that scientists’ warnings about the impact of any increases in global temperatures are exaggerated.

For those who play the role of Cassandra in this drama, such as climatologists James Hansen (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and Stephen Schneider (Stanford University), a 30-year effort to alert policy-makers, politicians, and the public to what they perceive as significant dangers can only be seen as frustrating. They have been moved to write books, accessible to a general readership, that will record the ways in which their warnings have been ignored—and their voices sometimes muffled. In Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen attempts to combine the story of his own efforts with (yet another) attempt to explain the pertinent parts of climate science as clearly as he can. Science as a Contact Sport presents Schneider’s insider account of the struggles to understand and moderate human-induced atmospheric changes. Other climate scientists, like Mike Hulme (University of East Anglia), who live in societies where the level of discussion has usually been more informed, are inclined to see matters differently. They hold that continued debate reflects the genuine difficulties of the underlying issues and sometimes explicitly chide their colleagues (as Hulme does in Why We Disagree About Climate Change) for a tendency to “apocalyptic” pronouncements. So, in reflections on the debates of the past decades, there opens up a genuine dispute about the role of scientists in influencing public policy, with some urging a stronger voice for expert testimony and others recommending reticence and even quietism.

In part, the differences between Hansen and Schneider, on the one hand, and Hulme, on the other, stem from their concerns with rather different controversies. It is useful to differentiate three questions. First is the issue of whether human activities, specifically actions that increase the emission of greenhouse gases, are contributing to a significant average warming of Earth. (As all the expert authors point out very clearly, there is no suggestion that the temperature of every region will rise during the next decades.) Second are questions about the probabilities with which various phenomena (complete melting of ice sheets, for example) will occur and about their consequences for human beings and other species. Third are considerations about what might be done to halt (or even reverse) the warming and to limit the damaging consequences. Hulme emphasizes the complexity of the third set of issues. He notes how they are intertwined with difficulties about understanding economic trends and changes, about global justice, about the values assigned to things that are hard to assess in economic terms (ecosystems, the continuation of particular forms of human social life), about practical geopolitics, and even about religious perspectives. Focusing on this intricate web of problems, he elaborates an extensive case for the naturalness of continued disagreement.

For Hansen and Schneider, however, the first two questions are primary (although Hansen ventures some proposals about the third as well). Both contributed to repeated attempts to persuade successive American administrations of the existence and importance of anthropogenic global warming, and Schneider participated in lengthy discussions during the preparation of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports—discussions in which voices representing political interests seem to have forced compromising the eventual presentation of the pertinent scientific ideas. Their experiences incline them to emphasize the importance of expert judgment, effectively renewing the ancient worries about the dangers of democracy. Both believe that genuine democratic participation in the issues can only begin when citizens are in a position to understand what kinds of policies promote their interests. To achieve that requires a far clearer and unmistakable communication of the consensus views of climate scientists, with respect to the existence of anthropogenic global warming and to the chances of various effects, than has hitherto been available. In his choice of title, Hansen implicitly questions the frequent assumption that effects on future generations are subject to some “deep discount.” He explicitly notes that people’s common concern for the fates of their children and grandchildren provides a shared starting point for responding to the changes that might threaten them. Consequently, if citizens are to be able to express their views about things that matter most to them, they need informed views about the planet on which their descendants will live. Serious democracy requires reliance on expert opinion.

It is all too easy to be beguiled by an opposite thought: that democracy demands that there be extensive public discussion, even on technical matters, discussion in which all participants operate as equals. Those in the grip of this idea will view Hansen and Schneider as hysterical and arrogant people who aim to short-circuit the proper airing of alternative views. (Although sympathetic critics might also ponder the fact that these two eminent scientists have been rebutting the same “alternatives” for decades). Perhaps continued discussion could be tolerated, were there no urgency about the issue under debate. If they saw no compulsion to act soon—and if they were convinced that the fight were fair—Hansen and Schneider might share Milton’s confidence that truth would ultimately emerge as victor. Yet the stories they tell in their gripping narratives reveal all too many points at which messages have been distorted and suppressed because of the short-term interests of economic and political agents. They also demonstrate many ways in which the arena of public discussion has been set up to block the widespread acceptance of conclusions based on an increasing body of evidence.

The insiders’ stories of ways in which crucial information has effectively been withheld from voters, particularly in the United States, should give us pause about the functioning of our democracy. Even more powerful is the account provided by two outstanding historians who have reviewed a sequence of controversies around topics of public concern. In their fascinating and important study, Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway offer convincing evidence for a surprising and disturbing thesis. Opposition to scientifically well-supported claims about the dangers of cigarette smoking, the difficulties of the Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”), the effects of acid rain, the existence of the ozone hole, the problems caused by secondhand smoke, and—ultimately—the existence of anthropogenic climate change was used in “the service of political goals and commercial interests” to obstruct the transmission to the American public of important information. Amazingly, the same small cadre of obfuscators figured in all these episodes.

Oreskes (University of California, San Diego) and Conway (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) painstakingly trace the ways in which a few scientists, with strong ties to particular industries and with conservative political connections, have played a disproportionate role in debates about controversial questions, influencing policy-makers and the general public alike. Typically, these scientists have obtained their stature in fields other than those most pertinent to the debated question. Yet they have been able to cast enough doubt on the consensus views arrived at by scientists within the relevant disciplines to delay, often for a substantial period, widespread public acceptance of consequential hypotheses. They have used their stature in whatever areas of science they originally distinguished themselves to pose as experts who express an “alternative view” to the genuinely expert conclusions that seem problematic to the industries that support them or that threaten the ideological directions in which their political allies hope to lead.

The extraordinary story of deliberate obfuscation that Oreskes and Conway document begins with the delight of the tobacco companies in recruiting Fred Seitz and with Seitz’s own connections to “scientists in their twilight years who had turned to fields in which they had no training or experience.” It moves through the forging of a network of industrial and political alliances, and the creation of a variety of institutes and think-tanks devoted to challenging various forms of expert consensus, to a brilliant chapter in which the authors analyze the reasons why, as of 2009, a significant percentage of Americans (43%) continued to dissent from the minimal claim that there is “solid evidence the Earth is warming.” As Oreskes and Conway conclude:

There are many reasons why the United States has failed to act on global warming, but at least one is the confusion raised by Bill Nierenberg, Fred Seitz, and Fred Singer.

This apparently harsh claim is thoroughly justified through a powerful dissection of the ways in which prominent climate scientists, such as Roger Revelle and Ben Santer, were exploited or viciously attacked in the press.

None of this would have been possible without a web of connections among aging scientists, conservative politicians, and executives of companies (particularly those involved in fossil fuels) with a short-term economic interest in denying the impact of the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. But it also could not have produced the broad public skepticism about climate change without help from the media. As Oreskes and Conway point out, “balanced coverage” has become the norm in the dissemination of scientific information. Pitting adversaries against one another for a few minutes has proven an appealing strategy for television news programs to pursue in attracting and retaining viewers. Nor is the idea of “fair and balanced” coverage, in which the viewer (or reader) is allowed to decide, confined to Fox News. Competing “experts” have become common on almost all American radio and television programs, the Internet is awash in adversarial exchanges among those who claim to know, and newspapers, too, “sell” science by framing it as a sport (preferably as much of a contact sport as possible). Oreskes and Conway identify the ways in which the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal have nourished the public sense that anthropogenic climate change is a matter of dispute, how they have given disproportionately large space to articles and opinion pieces from the “merchants of doubt,” and how they have sometimes censored the attempts of serious climate scientists to set the record straight. Even the New York Times, the American newspaper that takes science reporting most seriously, typically “markets” scientific research by imposing a narrative based on competition among dissenting scientists.

Media contributions to public confusion—what Schneider labels “mediarology”—are elaborated in a number of these books. There is a serious question as to whether American science journalists have conspicuously failed to discharge what might have seemed their central function: to enlighten the public about topics of concern, in areas where an expert consensus has been reached. Howard Friel’s The Lomborg Deception offers a careful analysis of the ways in which the “skeptical environmentalist,” Bjørn Lomborg, has selectively used (and sometimes distorted) the available evidence. Friel (an independent scholar whose previous books have critiqued the foreign and Middle East coverage of the New York Times) shows how Lomborg’s claims and his status as an expert were uncritically accepted. Apparently, the idea of framing environmental science in terms of a duel between rival “expert perspectives” was too seductive to resist.

For half a century, since the pioneering work of Thomas Kuhn (3), scholars who study the resolution of major scientific debates have understood how complex and difficult judgments about the probative value of data or the significance of unresolved problems can be. The major transitions in the history of the sciences, from the 16th and 17th centuries to the present, have involved intricate debates among competing research programs, among well-informed scientists who gave different weight to particular sorts of evidence. It is an absurd fantasy to believe that citizens who have scant backgrounds in the pertinent field can make responsible decisions about complex technical matters, on the basis of a few five-minute exchanges among more-or-less articulate speakers or a small number of articles outlining alternative points of view. Democratic ideals have their place in the conduct of inquiry, for it is arguable that there should be more communication between scientists and outsiders in the construction of research agendas, in the discussion of standards of acceptable risk, and in the articulation of policies based on scientific consensus. Genuine democracy, however, requires a division of labor, in which particular groups are charged with the responsibility of resolving questions that bear on the interests of individuals and societies. Other groups, those covering such questions in the media, have the duty to convey the results so that citizens can cast their votes as an enlightened expression of freedom, justifiably aimed at the outcomes for which they hope. Staging a brief disagreement between speakers with supposedly equal credentials, especially when it is not disclosed that one of them is answering to the economic aspirations of a very small segment of the society, is a cynical abnegation of that duty.

Because it is so thorough in disclosing how major policy decisions have been delayed or distorted, Merchants of Doubt deserves a wide readership. It is tempting to require that all those engaged in the business of conveying scientific information to the general public should read it. And that science journalists should abandon the obfuscating practice of presenting alternatives with inferior justification as if they were on a par with the scientific consensus.

* * *

Even if American public opinion were reformed overnight, so that virtually all citizens were convinced that anthropogenic global warming is likely to raise the average temperature of the planet by at least 2°C, that would be only the beginning. Beyond that minimal acceptance lie the difficult issues of deciding just what the consequences of a warmer planet will be and what can be done about them. Here, too, denial can easily be induced. Those who want to resist regulatory actions contend that the difficulties that are likely to arise for our descendants have been greatly exaggerated, that whatever problems arise will be addressed by people in a better economic position than we are today, that human beings have shown an admirable ability to adapt to changing environments, and so on and on and on. In countries that have long taken anthropogenic climate change as a settled question, agreeing on the expected consequences and the appropriate response has not proved easy. American discussions are likely to be haunted by the long denial, so that suspicions about alarmism linger. As psychologists have repeatedly discovered, those who are misinformed and later corrected often lapse into versions of their original error.

Scientists who believe that there are grave consequences for Earth and its future inhabitants face a difficult dilemma. They can talk in probabilistic terms—typically very imprecise probabilistic terms—about possible scenarios. If those potential futures are to be made vivid in ways that might engage citizens and inspire them to action, then the scenarios need to be given in some detail. Yet, as they become more specific, the precision about probabilities goes down, even to the extent that it is only responsible to declare that some outcome lies within the range of possibilities. Occasionally, those who raise the alarm are more definite. If the Arctic ice (including the Greenland ice sheet) melts, polar bears will lose their habitat and the species will go extinct; if sea levels rise in the most probable ways, low-lying islands (and many coastal areas, such as the Ganges delta) will be submerged. Outcomes like these are often met with an uncomfortable shrug. They are to be regretted, of course, but if avoiding them really requires a serious modification of civilized life, then it seems better to adapt: relocate some polar bears to artificially cooled preserves; transport the unfortunate flood victims to higher ground.

Concentration on scenarios that can be presented in detail and also justified as likely entails a serious cost. For it encourages a public perception that these are the only outcomes the Cassandras of climate science fear. A stereotype easily follows. The movement toward action derives from an ideology, one centered in a dislike of competitive market capitalism, a fondness for regulation, a tendency to give priority to the needs of the poor, and an overemphasis on environmental conservation. Global warming is a device used by Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, business-hating liberal intellectuals for advancing their political aims.

“Ideology” is a word that appears relatively frequently in Hulme’s Why We Disagree About Climate Change (although he never explains what he means by it). A climatologist who has devoted some serious time to studying history and social studies of science, Hulme aims to offer a broader perspective on the debates that arise once the initial question of the reality of human-caused global warming has been settled. His book is valuable for its diagnosis of the many different levels at which disagreement can arise and the variety of political stances and value judgments that can incline people to divergent conclusions about what is likely to happen and what might be done. In delineating that diversity, he moves the discussion beyond any appeal to polarized stereotypes: on this side, the captains of industry, their tools, and their dupes; on the other, the flower children in sandals.

Yet Hulme’s book invites misreading. His immersion in the language of various domains of social studies leads him to write as if the theoretical conceptions he deploys in classifying various positions were as reliably grounded as the scientific findings he so clearly and concisely explains. Sometimes, there is even a fashionable indulgence in skeptical distancing, the use of inverted commas (scare quotes) to raise a knowing eyebrow. He announces, for example, that he will tell the story of “how we ‘discovered’ that physical climates could change,” before going on to give a lucid account of how the discovery (real discovery) occurred. In a similar vein, he tells us that the “‘post-normal’ character of climate change” requires a wider range of expert voices, that scientists must concede ground to “other ways of knowing,” and that climate change can become “a mirror into which we can look and see exposed both our individual selves and our collective societies.” The concerned environmentalist who presses on through Hulme’s discussions of the “opportunities” provided for “us” by climate change may eventually give up when he tells his readers to “change our position and examine climate change as an idea of the imagination rather than as a problem to be solved.” Tell it to the Maldives!

That response, however, is too impatient. Hulme’s ideas are more subtle than the (often maladroit) jargon in which he expresses them. If his book more explicitly differentiated areas in which particular groups of people might have greater authority, it would be possible to recognize the value of his diagnoses of the difficulties that attend debates about climate change without supposing that he is advocating the narcissistic quietism his words often suggest. He could accept, for example, the judgment common to Hansen, Schneider, and Oreskes and Conway: that conclusions about the reality of anthropogenic climate change and about the risks that attend some scenarios for the future are matters that can be—and have been—authoritatively decided by a scientific community to which he himself belongs. He should then agree with the implication that, in this domain, it would be foolish to introduce “other ways of knowing.” Hulme could reasonably suppose that the public becomes properly engaged at the moment when risks have been specified—to the extent that they can be specified—and that citizens’ judgments are crucial to decisions about what risks count as acceptable. He could emphasize, as he comments in one of his best discussions, that any decision as to whether a possible future can be tolerated (or even welcomed) should be informed by economic considerations, even though ethical values are crucial to any serious assessment. Finally, his apparently passive recommendation to see ourselves in “the mirror” of climate change—like his Kennedyesque injunction to ask “what climate change can do for us”—can be interpreted more sympathetically as a call for a more systematic investigation of the global challenges that confront us today and those that our descendants will face, one that formulates strategies for safeguarding the future without sacrificing the interests of those currently living.

To make progress on these issues, there will be a need for generally accessible accounts of the likely impact that various levels of global warming will produce. Both Hansen and Schneider describe potential futures, with Schneider being particularly insistent on the important point that scientists owe the public a specification of probabilities (to the extent that that is possible). Two other recent books—The Climate Solutions Consensus from the National Council for Science and the Environment and Climate Change Science and Policy (for which Schneider served as one of its editors)—offer some helpful and relatively nontechnical information for concerned citizens. The organization of Climate Change Science and Policy is particularly valuable, because of the volume’s focus on specific types of changes that would affect the lives of future people. It breaks free of the stereotypical concerns about marooned polar bears and dispossessed islanders to emphasize facts about rising sea levels and melting glaciers that are not sufficiently appreciated. Thus Peter Gleick’s chapter on water concisely identifies the likely disruption of water supplies and the serious chances of flood-induced pollution. Similarly, Kristie Ebi delivers a useful summary of a variety of ways in which our descendants will probably be more vulnerable to infectious diseases and respiratory conditions. (Although she omits concerns about the possible effects of environmental change on the evolution of disease vectors and cross-species transmission—perhaps because, in assessing these events, the chances are unspecifiable.)

Even though discussions of the predicaments people will face in the future do not exhaust the relevant considerations for deciding what actions we should take now, it is wise to bring them to the fore. Citizens need to understand the challenges with respect to shelter, food supply, water supply, and disease that are likely to arise for their descendants. Hansen’s clear perception that an overwhelming majority of the world’s population can share a concern about the kinds of lives that will be available to their children and grandchildren is echoed in the decision by the distinguished social theorist Anthony Giddens (London School of Economics) to ground his recommendations in the thesis that “objects in nature can only have value through us” (4). Although some environmentalists would demur, Giddens’s approach in The Politics of Climate Change has the advantage of increasing the chances for consensus. Like Hulme, he is much concerned to recognize the connections among global problems, insisting, from the beginning, that the challenges of responding to climate change and of meeting the energy needs of the human population must be faced in tandem. He differs from Hulme in not attempting any wide survey of sources of disagreement, and, as readers of his previous works might expect, he is lucid and precise in outlining potential courses of social action. If his book, conceived as a guide for the perplexed citizen, has a flaw, that lies in the breadth and number of the ideas he explores. Those ideas are offered in response to threats he views as profoundly serious:

It will be a colossal task to turn around a society whose whole way of life is constructed around mobility and a ‘natural right’ to consume energy in a profligate way. Yet it isn’t as hopeless an endeavour as it looks.

* * *

All the books reviewed here were written before climate change deniers exultantly exposed the mistakes made by the IPCC in announcing the imminent demise of the Himalayan glaciers and the “conspiratorial e-mails” from the East Anglia climate center. In the wake of these “important revelations,” the merchants of doubt were back in business. In December 2009, Reuters published a discussion by Singer in which he claimed that the IPCC report was based on “distorted raw data” and algorithms that were not shared with other scientists (5). Few readers of Singer’s presentation, or those given by other longstanding climate-change deniers, learned that there is significant independent evidence for Himalayan glacier melt, although not as rapid as the erroneous sentence implied. Probably still fewer understood that the competitive-cooperative interactions among scientists often involve unguarded remarks about the work of rival “teams,” and that references to “tricks” frequently advert to strategies for simplifying complicated mathematical problems or (as in this case) graphical methods of presenting a conclusion perspicuously, rather than to stratagems for deceiving the public. Captured by a naïve and oversimplified image of what “objective science” is like, it is easy for citizens to reject claims of scientific authority when they discover that scientific work is carried out by human beings.

These revelations probably retarded any serious American consensus even on the minimal judgment that is the preliminary to the longer and more difficult debate. Meanwhile, the disappointment at Copenhagen can be seen as evidence that the world is lapsing into a state of resignation. The emissions, of course, do not take a break from the hard decisions.

Nevertheless, there are grounds for the hope expressed by Giddens. Among them is the fact that serious scholars from a variety of crucial disciplines have written valuable books on which future deliberations can build. Those deliberations will require a new synthesis that involves scientists, social scientists, historians—and others, too. It is an embarrassment (at least for me) that philosophers have not contributed more to this necessary conversation. We might clarify some of the methodological issues—for instance, those concerning the variety of risks involved in model-building. Perhaps more important, we could use recent ethical work on responsibilities to future generations and to distant people to articulate a detailed ethical framework that might help a planet’s worth of policy-makers find their way to consensus. With luck, a broader group of dedicated scholars may be galvanized by the books discussed here, so that the potential disasters Hansen and Schneider have been warning us about for 30 years will be averted. Perhaps, in the end, truth—and wisdom—will prevail.

References and Notes

* 1. J. Milton, Areopagitica (London, 1644); http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/608.
* 2. J. S. Mill, On Liberty (London, 1859); http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/mill/john_stuart/m645o/.
* 3. T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962).
* 4. Giddens derives this view about values from the political philosopher Robert Goodin [see, for example, (6)].
* 5. http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/tag/climate-change-conference/.
* 6. R. Goodin, Green Political Theory (Polity, Cambridge, 1992).

Books Discussed

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
By Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Bloomsbury, New York, 2010. 365 pp. $27, £25. ISBN 9781596916104.

Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity
By Mike Hulme. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009. 432 pp. $80, £45. ISBN 9780521898690. Paper, $29.99, £15.99. ISBN 9780521727327.

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
By James Hansen. Bloomsbury, New York, 2009. 320 pp. $25, £18. ISBN 9781608192007.

Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth’s Climate
By Stephen H. Schneider. National Geographic, Washington, DC, 2009. 303 pp. $28, C$35, £16.99. ISBN 9781426205408.

The Lomborg Deception: Setting the Record Straight About Global Warming
By Howard Friel. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2010. 270 pp. $28, £18.99. ISBN 9780300161038.

The Climate Solutions Consensus
By David E. Blockstein and Leo Wiegman. Island Press, Washington, DC, 2010. 328 pp. $50, £31. ISBN 9781597266369. Paper, $30, £18.99. ISBN 9781597266741.

Climate Change Science and Policy
Stephen H. Schneider, Armin Rosencranz, Michael D. Mastrandrea, and Kristin Kuntz-Duriseti, Eds. Island Press, Washington, DC, 2010. 542 pp. $95, £59. ISBN 9781597265669. Paper, $49.50, £37. ISBN 9781597265676.

The Politics of Climate Change
By Anthony Giddens. Polity, Cambridge, 2009. 272 pp. $69.95, £55. ISBN 9780745646923. Paper, $22.95, £12.99. ISBN 9780745646930.

Comments posted on the essay review here.

>Society to review climate message

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By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News
27 May 2010

The UK’s Royal Society is reviewing its public statements on climate change after 43 Fellows complained that it had oversimplified its messages.

They said the communications did not properly distinguish between what was widely agreed on climate science and what is not fully understood.

The society’s ruling council has responded by setting up a panel to produce a consensus document.

The panel should report in July and the report is to be published in September.

It is chaired by physicist John Pethica, vice-president of the Royal Society.

Its deliberations are reviewed by two critical sub-groups, each believed to comprise seven members.

Each of these groups contains a number of society Fellows who are doubtful in some way about the received view of the risks of rising CO2 levels.
Continue reading the main story

It’s not clear to me how we are going to get precise agreement on the wording – Review member

One panel member told me: “The timetable is very tough – one draft has already been rejected as completely inadequate.”

The review member said it might not be possible for the document to be agreed at all. “This is a very serious challenge to the way the society operates,” I was told. “In the past we have been able to give advice to governments as a society without having to seek consensus of all the members.

“There is very clear evidence that governments are right to be very worried about climate change. But in any society like this there will inevitably be people who disagree about anything – and my fear is that the society may become paralysed on this issue.”

Another review member told me: “The sceptics have been very strident and well-organised. It’s not clear to me how we are going to get precise agreement on the wording – we are scientists and we’re being asked to do a job of public communication that is more like journalism.”

But both members said they agreed that some of the previous communications of the organisation in the past were poorly judged.

Question everything

A Royal Society pamphlet Climate Change Controversies is the main focus of the criticism. A version of it is on the organisation’s website. It was written in response to attacks on mainstream science which the Royal Society considered scurrilous.

It reads: “This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change…”

One Fellow who said he was not absolutely convinced of the dangers of CO2 told me: “This appears to suggest that anyone who questions climate science is malicious. But in science everything is there to be questioned – that should be the very essence of the Royal Society. Some of us were very upset about that.

“I can understand why this has happened – there is so much politically and economically riding on climate science that the society would find it very hard to say ‘well, we are still fairly sure that greenhouse gases are changing the climate’ but the politicians simply wouldn’t accept that level of honest doubt.”

Another society protester said he wanted to be called a climate agnostic rather than a sceptic. He said he wanted the society’s website to “do more to question the accuracy of the science on climate feedbacks” (in which a warming world is believed to make itself warmer still through natural processes).

“We sent an e-mail round our friends, mainly in physical sciences,” he said.

“Then when we had got 43 names we approached the council in January asking for the website entry on climate to be re-written. I don’t think they were very pleased. I don’t think this sort of thing has been done before in the history of the society.

“But we won the day, and the work is underway to re-write it. I am very hopeful that we will find a form of words on which we can agree.

“I know it looks like a tiny fraction of the total membership (1,314) but remember we only emailed our friends – we didn’t raise a general petition.”

Precautionary principle

He said the agnostics were also demanding a “more even-handed” bibliography.

The first “climate agnostic” also said he was angry at previous comments from the previous president Lord May who declared: “The debate on climate change is over.”

Lord May was once quoted as saying: “‘On one hand, you have the entire scientific community and on the other you have a handful of people, half of them crackpots.”

One source strongly criticised the remarks.

Lord May’s comments were made at a time when world scientists were reaching a consensus (not unanimity) that CO2 had warmed the planet and would probably warm it more – maybe dangerously so.

Lobbyists funded by the fossil fuel industry were fighting to undermine that consensus and science academies were concerned that public doubt might deter governments from taking precautionary action to reduce emissions of CO2.

Climate change doubters among the society’s Fellows say that in their anxiety to support government action, the academies failed to distinguish between “hired guns” and genuine scientific agnostics wanting to explore other potential causes of climate change.

The remit of the society panel is to produce a new public-facing document on what scientists know, what they think they know and which aspects they do not fully understand. The task is to make the document strong and robust.

It should answer the complaint that previous communications have failed to properly explain uncertainties in climate science.

Language of risk

At the Heartland Institute climate sceptics conference in Chicago, Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), criticised the current society president Lord Rees for what he described as exaggerating the certainty in a joint public letter with Ralph Cicerone, president of the US National Academy of Sciences.

The letter, published by the Financial Times newspaper, states: “Something unprecedented is now happening. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising and climate change is occurring, both due to human actions…. Uncertainties in the future rate of (temperature) rise, stemming largely from the ‘feedback’ effects on water vapour and clouds, are topics of current research.”

Professor Lindzen says the “unprecedented” statement is misleading because neither the current warming nor the CO2 level are unprecedented. He complains that the statement on uncertainties is also misleading because it does not reveal that uncertainties about future climate projections are, in his view, immense.

A spokesman for the society defended the letter, saying that the rise in man-made CO2 was indeed unprecedented. But Professor Lindzen told me: “This is part of an inflation of a scientific position which has sadly become rather routine for spokesmen for scientific bodies.”

The forthcoming Royal Society publication – if it can be agreed by the review panel – will be scrutinised closely because the society carries huge weight in global science. Under Lord May it was prime mover of a joint letter of international academies stating that climate change was a major concern.

The comments from the current president Lord Rees in his first Reith lecture next week are rather carefully measured and couched in the language of risk rather than certainty – but even in this speech, critics are likely to say that in some particulars he does not sufficiently distinguish between what is certain and what is very widely believed.

Anthropology and Climate Science Controversies

Brad Walters (Mount Allison U.)
Anthropology News (American Association of Anthropology), vol. 51(5):36-37 (May 2010)

Enormous research effort has been invested in the study of climate change. Many scientists reveled in the acclaim that followed last-year’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This year, some of these same scientists have faced an onslaught of criticism as a result of a few mistakes found in published reports of the IPCC and leaked emails from an eminent, UK-based science group that revealed an all-too-human side of the scientific endeavor (so-called “climate-gate”).

The editors of the pre-eminent science journal Nature commented that these supposedly explosive revelations would be laughable were it not for their policy consequences. Like many, they recognize that the real scandal has little to do with climate change science, but everything to do with its political ramifications.

The scientific consensus on climate change is rock solid on the most critical issues: greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are now warming the earth’s climate at a rate that is extremely rapid by historical and recent geological standards and this poses increasingly serious risks our well being (Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2010, “U.S. scientists and economists’ call for swift and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” http://www.ucsusa.org). The evidence for this general conclusion is so broad, diverse and compelling that virtually no reputable scientist doubts it.

Yet, large swaths of the American public and many opinion leaders continue to doubt the reality of climate change. A major reason for this is that the controversies over the credibility of climate science are to a large degree intentionally contrived by people and organizations with vested interests in the economic status-quo and fear of government regulation, particularly members of the oil, gas and coal industries. What we are witnessing today, according to authors James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore (Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming) and George Monbiot (Heat), is a similar but much more ambitious replay of the tobacco industries’ campaign in the 1980s and 1990s to sew doubt about the scientific consensus on the health risks of smoking. These climate deniers understand what many social scientists do: where there is uncertainty in the minds of the electorate, the political cost of inaction falls while the cost of decisive action rises.

These climate controversies raise intriguing questions for anthropologists who may have interests in issues of public knowledge formation, risk perception, and the application of expert and non-expert knowledge in policy making. But, what motivated me to write this column is a different question: do many anthropologists also not trust the credibility of the scientific “experts” on the matter of climate change?

I came to this question as a result of recent exchanges on the Environmental Anthropology (E-Anth) List-serve that revealed a far less solid consensus on the matter than is found within the mainstream climate science community, which is dominated by natural scientists. Specifically, postings by some list members revealed a surprising lack of trust in the credibility of scientific bodies like the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences. Even more troubling was their referencing of scientifically un-credible sources—climate skeptics’ blogs, for example—as the basis for their opinions on the status of climate science.

Anthropologists are not alone in having within their ranks credentialed scientists who espouse views on climate change that are totally unsupportable in any reasonable scientific sense. But is it possible that anthropologists are particularly vulnerable to this kind of anti-scientific way of thinking about the issue? Has the disciplines’ deep emersion in subjects like the social construction of knowledge produced social scientists with so little trust and respect for the work of natural scientists that they won’t (or can’t!) distinguish between peer-reviewed research and politically-motivated blog postings?

There is a point reached—and we are now well passed it in climate science—where theoretical arguments and empirical evidence are so overwhelmingly compelling that positions contrary to the scientific consensus are simply untenable. Perhaps it is time for the AAA to step-up as a body and officially state their position on this most critical of issues.

>The Climategate Chronicle (Spiegel Online)

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How the Science of Global Warming Was Compromised

By Axel Bojanowski
14 May 2010 – Spiegel Online

To what extent is climate change actually occuring? Late last year, climate researchers were accused of exaggerating study results. SPIEGEL ONLINE has since analyzed the hacked “Climategate” e-mails and provided insights into one of the most unprecedented spats in recent scientific history.

Is our planet warming up by 1 degree Celsius, 2 degrees, or more? Is climate change entirely man made? And what can be done to counteract it? There are myriad possible answers to these questions, as well as scientific studies, measurements, debates and plans of action. Even most skeptics now concede that mankind — with its factories, heating systems and cars — contributes to the warming up of our atmosphere.

But the consequences of climate change are still hotly contested. It was therefore something of a political bombshell when unknown hackers stole more than 1,000 e-mails written by British climate researchers, and published some of them on the Internet. A scandal of gigantic proportions seemed about to break, and the media dubbed the affair “Climategate” in reference to the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon. Critics claimed the e-mails would show that climate change predictions were based on unsound calculations.

Although a British parliamentary inquiry soon confirmed that this was definitely not a conspiracy, the leaked correspondence provided in-depth insight into the mechanisms, fronts and battles within the climate-research community. SPIEGEL ONLINE has analyzed the more than 1,000 Climategate e-mails spanning a period of 15 years, e-mails that are freely available over the Internet and which, when printed out, fill five thick files. What emerges is that leading researchers have been subjected to sometimes brutal attacks by outsiders and become bogged down in a bitter and far-reaching trench war that has also sucked in the media, environmental groups and politicians.

SPIEGEL ONLINE reveals how the war between climate researchers and climate skeptics broke out, the tricks the two sides used to outmaneuver each other and how the conflict could be resolved.

Part 2: From Staged Scandal to the Kyoto Triumph

The fronts in the climate debate have long been etched in the sand. On the one side there is a handful of highly influential climate researchers, on the other a powerful lobby of industrial associations determined to trivialize the dangers of global warming. This latter group is supported by the conservative wing of the American political spectrum, conspiracy theorists as well as critical scientists.

But that alone would not suffice to divide the roles so neatly into good and evil. Most climate researchers were somewhere between the two extremes. They often had difficulty drawing clear conclusions from their findings. After all, scientific facts are often ambiguous. Although it is generally accepted that there is good evidence to back forecasts of coming global warming, there is still considerable uncertainty about the consequences it will have.

Both sides — the leading climate researchers on the one hand and their opponents in industry and smaller groups of naysayers on the other — played hardball from the very beginning. It all started in 1986, when German physicists issued a dramatic public appeal, the first of its kind. They warned about what they saw as a “climatic disaster.” However, their avowed goal was to promote nuclear power over carbon dioxide-belching coal-fired power stations.

The First Scandal

At the time, there was certainly clear scientific evidence of a dangerous increase in temperatures, prompting the United Nations to form the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to look into the matter. However, the idea didn’t take hold in the United States until the country was hit by an unusually severe drought in the summer of 1988. Politicians in Congress used the dry spell to listen to NASA scientist James Hansen, who had been publishing articles in trade journals for years warning about the threat of man-made climate change.

When Washington instructed Hansen to put more emphasis on the uncertainties in his theory, Senator and later Vice President Al Gore cried foul. Gore notified the media about the government’s alleged attempted cover-up, forcing the government’s hand on the matter.

The oil companies reacted with alarm and forged alliances with companies in other sectors who were worried about a possible rise in the price of fossil fuels. They even managed to rope in a few shrewd climate researchers like Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia.

The aim of the industrial lobby was to focus as much as possible on the doubts about the scientific findings. According to a strategy paper by the Global Climate Science Team, a crude-oil lobby group, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science.” In the meantime, scientists found themselves on the defensive, having to convince the public time and again that their warnings were indeed well-founded.

Industrial Propaganda for the ‘Less Educated’

A dangerous dynamic had been set in motion: Any climate researcher who expressed doubts about findings risked playing into the hands of the industrial lobby. The leaked e-mails show how leading scientists reacted to the PR barrage by the so-called “skeptics lobby.” Out of fear that their opponents could take advantage of ambiguous findings, many researchers tried to simply hide the weaknesses of their findings from the public.

The lobby spent millions on propaganda campaigns. In 1991, the Information Council on the Environment (ICE) issued a strategy paper aimed at what it called “less-educated people.” This proposed a campaign that would “reposition global warming as a theory (not fact).” However, the skeptics also wanted to address better educated sectors of society. The Global Climate Coalition, for example, an alliance of energy companies, specifically tried to influence UN delegates. The advice of skeptical scientists was also given considerable credence in the US Congress.

Nonetheless, the lobbyists had less success on the international stage. In 1997, the international community agreed on the first-ever climate protection treaty: the Kyoto Protocol. “Scientists had issued a warning, the media amplified it and the politicians reacted,” recalls Peter Weingart, a science sociologist at Bielefeld University in Germany, who researched the climate debate.

But just as numerous industrial firms began to acknowledge the need for climate protection and left the Global Climate Coalition, some scientists began getting too cozy with environmental organizations.

Part 3: How Climate Researchers Plotted with Interest Groups

Even before the UN climate conference in Kyoto in 1997, environmentalist groups and leading climate researchers began joining forces to put pressure on industry and politicians. In August 1997, Greenpeace sent a letter to The Times newspaper in London, appealing on behalf of British researchers. All the climatologists had to do was sign on the dotted line. In October of that year, other climate researchers — ostensibly acting on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF — e-mailed hundreds of colleagues calling on them to sign an appeal to the politicians in connection with the Kyoto conference.

The tactic was controversial. Whereas German scientists immediately put their names on the list, others had their doubts. In a leaked e-mail dated Nov. 25, 1997, renowned American paleoclimatologist Tom Wigley told a colleague he was worried that such appeals were almost as “dishonest ” as the propaganda employed by the skeptics’ lobby. Personal views, Wigley said, should not be confused with scientific facts.

Researchers ‘Beef Up’ Appeals by Environmental Groups
 
Wigley’s calls fell on deaf ears, and many of his colleagues unthinkingly fell in line with the environmental lobby. Asked to comment by WWF, climate researchers in Australia and Britain, for example, made particularly pessimistic predictions. What’s more, the experts said they had been fully aware that the WWF wanted to have the warnings “beefed up,” as it had stated in an e-mail dated July 1999. One Australian climatologist wrote to colleagues on July 28, 1999, that he would be “very concerned” if environmental protection literature contained data that might suggest “large areas of the world will have negligible climate change.”

Two years later, German climate researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and from the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Meteorology also drew up a position paper together with WWF. Germany’s Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy scientific research institute was a pioneer in this respect. It was very open about working together with the environmental group BUND, the German chapter of Friends of the Earth, in developing climate protection strategy recommendations in the mid-1990s.

Part 4: Industry and Researchers Fight for Media Supremacy

From then on, the battle was all about dominance of the media. The media are often accused of giving climate-change skeptics too much attention. Indeed theories that cast doubt over global warming with little scientific backing regularly appeared in the press. These included so-called “information brochures” sent to journalists by oil industry lobbyists.

This is partly because the US media, in particular, are extremely keen to ensure what they see as balanced reporting — in other words, giving both sides in a debate a chance to air their views. This has meant that even more outlandish theories by climate-change skeptics have been given just as much airtime as the findings of established experts.

Media researchers believe the phenomenon of newsworthiness is another reason why anti-climate-change theories are reported so widely. The more unambiguous the warnings about an impending disaster, the more interesting critical viewpoints become. The media debate about the issue also focused on the potentially scandalous question of whether climatologists had speculated about nightmare scenarios simply in order to obtain access to research grants.

Renowned climate researcher Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology rebuffed these accusations in a much-quoted article in the German newspaper Die Zeit in 1997. Hasselmann pointed out that scientific findings suggest that there is an extremely high likelihood that man was indeed responsible for climate change. “If we wait until the very last doubts have been overcome, it will be too late to do anything about it,” he wrote.

‘Climatologists Tend Not to Mention their More Extreme Suspicions’
 
Hasselmann blamed the media for all the hype. In fact, sociologists have identified “one-up debates” in the media in which darker and darker pictures were painted of the possible consequences of global warming. “Many journalists don’t want to hear about uncertainty in the research findings,” Max Planck Institute researcher Martin Claussen complains. Sociologist Peter Weingart criticizes not just journalists but also scientists. “Climatologists tend not to mention their more extreme suspicions,” he bemoans.
Whereas the debate flared up time and again in the US, “the skeptics in Germany were quickly marginalized again,” recalls sociologist Hans Peter Peters of the Forschungszentrum Jülich research center, who analyzed climate-related reporting in Germany. Peters believes that the communication strategy of leading researchers has proven successful in the long run. “The announced climate problem has been taken seriously by the media,” he says. He even sees signs of a “strong alignment of scientists and journalists in reporting about climate change.”

Nonetheless, scientists have tried to apply pressure on the media if they disagreed with the way stories were reported. Editorial offices have been inundated with protest letters whenever news stories said that the dangers of runaway climate change appeared to be diminishing. E-mails show that climate researchers coordinated their protests, targeting specific journalists to vent their fury on. For instance, when an article entitled “What Happened to Global Warming?” appeared on the BBC website in October 2009, British scientists first discussed the matter among themselves by e-mail before demanding that an apparently balanced editor explain what was going on.

Social scientists are well aware that good press can do wonders for a person’s career. David Philips, a sociologist at the University of San Diego, suggests that the battle for supremacy in the mass media is not only a means to mobilize public support, but also a great way to gain kudos within the scientific community.

Part 5: Scientific Opinion Becomes Entrenched

The leaked e-mails show that some researchers use tactics that are every bit as ruthless as those employed by critics outside the scientific community. Under attack from global-warming skeptics, the climatologists took to the barricades. Indeed, the criticism only seemed to increase the scientists’ resolve. And worried that any uncertainties in their findings might be pounced upon, the scientists desperately tried to conceal such uncertainties.

“Don’t leave anything for the skeptics to cling on to,” wrote renowned British climatologist Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in a leaked e-mail dated Oct. 4, 2000. Jones, who heads UEA’s Climate Research Unit (CRU), is at the heart of the e-mail scandal. But there have always been plenty of studies that critics could quote because the research findings continue to be ambiguous.

At times scientists have been warned by their own colleagues that they may be playing into the enemy’s hands. Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, for example, came under enormous pressure from oil-producing nations while he was drawing up the IPCC’s second report in 1995. In January 2001, he wrote an e-mail to his colleague John Christy at the University of Alabama complaining that representatives from Saudi Arabia had quoted from one of Christy’s studies during the negotiations over the third IPCC climate report. “We are under no gag rule to keep our thoughts to ourselves,” Christy replied.

‘Effective Long-Term Strategies’
 
Paleoclimatologist Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University also tried to rein in his colleagues. In an e-mail dated Sept. 17, 1998, he urged them to form a “united front” in order to be able to develop “effective long-term strategies.” Paleoclimatologists try to reconstruct the climate of the past. Their primary source of data is found in old tree trunks whose annual rings give clues about the weather in years gone by.

No one knows better than the researchers themselves that tree data can be very unreliable, and an exchange of e-mails shows that they discussed the problems at length. Even so, meaningful climate reconstructions can be made if the data are analyzed carefully. The only problem is that you get different climate change graphs depending on which data you use.

Mann and his colleagues were pioneers in this field. They were the first to draw up a graph of average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years. That is indisputably an impressive achievement. Because of its shape, his diagram was dubbed the “hockey stick graph.” According to this, the climate changed little for about 850 years, then temperatures rose dramatically (the blade of the stick). However, a few years later, it turned out that the graph was not as accurate as first assumed.

‘I’d Hate to Give It Fodder’
 
In 1999, CRU chief Phil Jones and fellow British researcher Keith Briffa drew up a second climate graph. Perhaps not surprisingly, this led to a row between the two groups about which graph should be published in the summary for politicians at the front of the IPCC report.

The hockey stick graph was appealing on account of its convincing shape. After all, the unique temperature rise of the last 150 years appeared to provide clear proof of man’s influence on our climate. But Briffa cautioned about overestimating the significance of the hockey stick. In an e-mail to his colleagues in September 1999, Briffa said that Mann’s graph “should not be taken as read,” even though it presented “a nice tidy story.”

In contrast to Mann et al’s hockey stick, Briffa’s graph contained a warm period in the High Middle Ages. “I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago,” he wrote. Fortunately for the researchers, the hefty dispute that followed was quickly defused when they realized they were better served by joining forces against the common

. Climate-change skeptics use Briffa’s graph to cast doubt over the assertion that man’s activities have affected our climate. They claim that if our atmosphere is as warm now as it was in the Middle Ages — when there was no man-made pollution — carbon dioxide emissions can’t possibly be responsible for the rise in temperatures.

“I don’t think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I’d hate to be the one to have to give it fodder,” Mann wrote to his colleagues. The tactic proved a successful one. Mann’s hockey stick graph ended up at the front of the UN climate report of 2001. In fact it became the report’s defining element.

An Innocent Phrase Seized by Republicans
 
In order to get unambiguous graphs, the researchers had to tweak their data slightly. In probably the most infamous of the Climategate e-mails, Phil Jones wrote that he had used Mann’s “trick” to “hide the decline” in temperatures. Following the leaking of the e-mails, the expression “hide the decline” was turned into a song about the alleged scandal and seized upon by Republican politicians in the US, who quoted it endlessly in an attempt to discredit the climate experts.

But what appeared at first glance to be fraud was actually merely a face-saving fudge: Tree-ring data indicates no global warming since the mid-20th century, and therefore contradicts the temperature measurements. The clearly erroneous tree data was thus corrected by the so-called “trick” with the temperature graphs.

The row grew more and more bitter as the years passed, as the leaked e-mails between researchers shows. Since the late 1990s, several climate-change skeptics have repeatedly asked Jones and Mann for their tree-ring data and calculation models, citing the legal right to access scientific data.

‘I Think I’ll Delete the File’
 
In 2003, mineralogist Stephen McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick published a paper that highlighted systematic errors in the statistics underlying the hockey stick graph. However Michael Mann rejected the paper, which he saw as part of a “highly orchestrated, heavily funded corporate attack campaign,” as he wrote in September 2009.

More and more, Mann and his colleagues refused to hand out their data to “the contrarians,” as skeptical researchers were referred to in a number of e-mails. On Feb. 2, 2005, Jones went so far as to write, “I think I’ll delete the file rather than send it to anyone.”

Today, Mann defends himself by saying his university has looked into the e-mails and decided that he had not suppressed data at any time. However, an inquiry conducted by the British parliament came to a very different conclusion. “The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure,” the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee announced in its findings on March 31.

Sociologist Peter Weingart believes that the damage could be irreparable. “A loss of credibility is the biggest risk inherent in scientific communication,” he said, adding that trust can only be regained through complete transparency.

Part 6: From Deserved Reputations to Illegitimate Power

The two sides became increasingly hostile toward one another. They debated about whom they could trust, who was a part of their “team” — and who among them might secretly be a skeptic. All those who were between the two extremes or even tried to maintain links with both sides soon found themselves under suspicion.

This distrust helped foster a system of favoritism, as the hacked e-mails show. According to these, Jones and Mann had a huge influence over what was published in the trade press. Those who controlled the journals also controlled what entered the public arena — and therefore what was perceived as scientific reality.

All journal articles are checked anonymously by colleagues before publication as part of what is known as the “peer review” process. Behind closed doors, researchers complained for years that Mann, who is a sought-after reviewer, acted as a kind of “gatekeeper” in relation to magazine articles on paleoclimatology. It’s well-known that renowned scientists can gain influence within journals. But it’s a risky business. “The danger that deserved reputations become illegitimate power is the greatest risk that science faces,” Weingart says.

From Peer Review to Connivance
 
In an e-mail to SPIEGEL ONLINE, Mann rejected the claims that he exercised undue influence. He said the editors of scientific journals — not he — chose the reviewers. However, as Weingart points out, in specialist areas like paleoclimatology, which have only a handful of experts, certain scientists can gain considerable power — provided they have a good connection to the publishers of the relevant journals.

The “hockey team,” as the group around Mann and Jones liked to call itself, undoubtedly had good connections to the journals. The colleagues coordinated and discussed their reviews among themselves. “Rejected two papers from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia,” CRU head Jones wrote to Mann in March 2004. The articles he was referring to were about tree data from Siberia, a basis of the climate graphs. In fact, it later turned out that Jones’ CRU group probably misinterpreted the Siberian data, and the findings of the study rejected by Jones in March 2004 were actually correct.

However, Jones and Mann had the backing of the majority of the scientific community in another case. A study published in Climate Research in 2003 looked into findings on the current warm period and the medieval one, concluding that the 20th century was “probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climactic period of the last millennium.” Although climate skeptics were thrilled, most experts thought the study was methodologically flawed. But if the pro-climate-change camp controlled the peer review process, then why was it ever published?

Plugging the Leak
 
In an e-mail dated March 11, 2003, Michael Mann said there was only one possibility: Skeptics had taken over the journal. He therefore demanded that the enemy be stopped in its tracks. The “hockey team” launched a powerful counterattack that shook Climate Research magazine to its foundations. Several of its editors resigned. Vociferous as they were, though, the skeptics did not have that much influence. If it turned out that alarmist climate studies were flawed — and this was the case on several occasions — the consequences of the climate catastrophe would not be as dire as had been predicted.

Yet there were also limits to the influence had by Mann and Jones, as became apparent in 2005, when relentless hockey stick critics Ross McKitrick and Stephen McIntyre were able to publish studies in the most important geophysical journal, Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). “Apparently, the contrarians now have an ‘in’ with GRL,” Mann wrote to his colleagues in a leaked e-mail. “We can’t afford to lose GRL.”

Mann discovered that one of the editors of GRL had once worked at the same university as the feared climate skeptic Patrick Michaels. He therefore put two and two together: “I think we now know how various papers have gotten published in GRL,” he wrote on January 20, 2005. At the same time, the scientists discussed how to get rid of GRL editor James Saiers, himself a climate researcher. Saiers quit his post a year later — allegedly of his own accord. “The GRL leak may have been plugged up now,” a relieved Mann wrote in an e-mail to the “hockey team.”

Internal Conflict and the External Façade
 
Climategate appears to confirm the criticism that scientific systems always benefit cartels. However, Sociologist Hans Peter Peters cautions against over-interpreting the affair. He says alliances are commonplace in every area of the scientific world. “Internal communication within all groups differs from the facade,” Peters says.

Weingart also believes the inner workings of a group should not be judged by the criteria of the outside world. After all, controversy is the very basis of science, and “demarcation and personal conflict are inevitable.” Even so, he says the extent to which camps have built up in climate research is certainly unusual.

Part 7: Conclusive Proof Is Impossible

Weingart says the political ramifications only fuelled the battle between the two sides in the global warming debate. He believes that the more an issue is politicized, the deeper the rifts between opposing stances.

Immense public scrutiny made life extremely difficult for the scientists. On May 2, 2001, paleoclimatologist Edward Cook of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory complained in an e-mail: “This global change stuff is so politicized by both sides of the issue that it is difficult to do the science in a dispassionate environment.” The need to summarize complex findings for a UN report appears only to have exacerbated the problem. “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same,” Keith Briffa wrote in 2007. Max Planck researcher Martin Claussen says too much emphasis was put on consensus in an attempt to satisfy politicians’ demands.

And even scientists are not always interested solely in the actual truth of the matter. Weingart notes that public debate is mostly “only superficially about enlightenment.” Rather, it is more about “deciding on and resolving conflicts through general social agreement.” That’s why it helps to present unambiguous findings.

The Time for Clear Answers Is Over
 
However, it seems all but impossible to provide conclusive proof in climate research. Scientific philosopher Silvio Funtovicz foresaw this dilemma as early as 1990. He described climate research as a “postnormal science.” On account of its high complexity, he said it was subject to great uncertainty while, at the same time, harboring huge risks.

The experts therefore face a dilemma: They have little chance of giving the right advice. If they don’t sound the alarm, they are accused of not fulfilling their moral obligations. However, alarmist predictions are criticized if the predicted changes fail to materialize quickly.

Climatological findings will probably remain ambiguous even if further progress is made. Weingart says it’s now up to scientists and society to learn to come to terms with this. In particular, he warns, politicians must understand that there is no such thing as clear results. “Politicians should stop listening to scientists who promise simple answers,” Weingart says.

Translated from the German by Jan Liebelt

A colorful oracle: A visitor watches an animation demonstrating oceanic acidity levels at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

Red colors equals a warmer future: Climate prognoses forecast a noticeable warming of the planet if greenhouse-gas emissions are not curtailed.

Several climate researchers are calling for the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, because he took too long to acknowledge that the panel published inaccurate research on climate change.

The German Climate Computing Center (DKRZ) in Hamburg uses supercomputers to predict future climates.

>Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons (N.Y. Times)

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By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: May 24, 2010

LONDON — Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?

Nowhere has this shift in public opinion been more striking than in Britain, where climate change was until this year such a popular priority that in 2008 Parliament enshrined targets for emissions cuts as national law. But since then, the country has evolved into a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated.

A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.

And London’s Science Museum recently announced that a permanent exhibit scheduled to open later this year would be called the Climate Science Gallery — not the Climate Change Gallery as had previously been planned.

“Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,’ ” said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. “But now I have my doubts, and I’m wondering if it’s been overhyped.”

Perhaps sensing that climate is now a political nonstarter, David Cameron, Britain’s new Conservative prime minister, was “strangely muted” on the issue in a recent pre-election debate, as The Daily Telegraph put it, though it had previously been one of his passions.

And a poll in January of the personal priorities of 141 Conservative Party candidates deemed capable of victory in the recent election found that “reducing Britain’s carbon footprint” was the least important of the 19 issues presented to them.

Politicians and activists say such attitudes will make it harder to pass legislation like a fuel tax increase and to persuade people to make sacrifices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Legitimacy has shifted to the side of the climate skeptics, and that is a big, big problem,” Ben Stewart, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said at the meeting of environmentalists here. “This is happening in the context of overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and a threat. But the poll figures are going through the floor.”

The lack of fervor about climate change is also true of the United States, where action on climate and emissions reduction is still very much a work in progress, and concern about global warming was never as strong as in Europe. A March Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 percent a year ago.

Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media’s intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.

Two independent reviews later found no evidence that the East Anglia researchers had actively distorted climate data, but heavy press coverage had already left an impression that the scientists had schemed to repress data. Then there was the unusually cold winter in Northern Europe and the United States, which may have reinforced a perception that the Earth was not warming. (Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a United States agency, show that globally, this winter was the fifth warmest in history.)

Asked about his views on global warming on a recent evening, Brian George, a 30-year-old builder from southeast London, mused, “It was extremely cold in January, wasn’t it?”

In a telephone interview, Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank and a climate change expert, said that the shift in opinion “hadn’t helped” efforts to come up with strong policy in a number of countries. But he predicted that it would be overcome, not least because the science was so clear on the warming trend.

“I don’t think it will be problematic in the long run,” he said, adding that in Britain, at least, politicians “are ahead of the public anyway.” Indeed, once Mr. Cameron became prime minister, he vowed to run “the greenest government in our history” and proposed projects like a more efficient national electricity grid.

Scientists have meanwhile awakened to the public’s misgivings and are increasingly fighting back. An editorial in the prestigious journal Nature said climate deniers were using “every means at their disposal to undermine science and scientists” and urged scientists to counterattack. Scientists in France, the Netherlands and the United States have signed open letters affirming their trust in climate change evidence, including one published on May 7 in the journal Science.

In March, Simon L. Lewis, an expert on rain forests at the University of Leeds in Britain, filed a 30-page complaint with the nation’s Press Complaints Commission against The Times of London, accusing it of publishing “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” about climate change, his own research and remarks he had made to a reporter.

“I was most annoyed that there seemed to be a pattern of pushing the idea that there were a number of serious mistakes in the I.P.C.C. report, when most were fairly innocuous, or not mistakes at all,” said Dr. Lewis, referring to the report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, groups like the wildlife organization WWF have posted articles like “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic,” providing stock answers to doubting friends and relatives, on their Web sites.

It is unclear whether such actions are enough to win back a segment of the public that has eagerly consumed a series of revelations that were published prominently in right-leaning newspapers like The Times of London and The Telegraph and then repeated around the world.

In January, for example, The Times chastised the United Nations climate panel for an errant and unsupported projection that glaciers in the Himalayas could disappear by 2035. The United Nations ultimately apologized for including the estimate, which was mentioned in passing within a 3,000-page report in 2007.

Then came articles contending that the 2007 report was inaccurate on a host of other issues, including African drought, the portion of the Netherlands below sea level, and the economic impact of severe storms. Officials from the climate panel said the articles’ claims either were false or reflected minor errors like faulty citations that in no way diluted the evidence that climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, successfully demanded in February that some German newspapers remove misleading articles from their Web sites. But such reports have become so common that he “wouldn’t bother” to pursue most cases now, he added.

The public is left to struggle with the salvos between the two sides. “I’m still concerned about climate change, but it’s become very confusing,” said Sandra Lawson, 32, as she ran errands near Hyde Park.

*   *   *

A response to the article above appeared at the Climate progress blog: “Brulle: ‘The NY Times doesn’t need to go to European conferences to find out why public opinion on climate change has shifted…. Just look in the mirror.‘” Access the post here.

>Climate sceptics rally to expose ‘myth’ (BBC)

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By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News
21 May 2010

In the Grand Ballroom Of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Hotel, dinner was over.

Beef, of course. A great pink hunk of it from the American Mid-West.

At the world’s biggest gathering of climate change sceptics, organised by the right-wing Heartland Institute, vegetarians were an endangered species.

Wine flowed and blood coursed during a rousing address from Heartland’s libertarian president Joseph Bast. Climate change is being used by governments to oppress the people, he believes.

After years of opposing government rules on smoking and the environment, Mr Bast now aims to forge a global movement of climate sceptics to end the “myth” that humans are endangering the atmosphere.

He urged the audience to spread the word among their families, friends and work colleagues that climate science is too uncertain to guide government policy, and that plans for climate laws in the US would bankrupt the nation.

“We just didn’t realise in those days how important and controversial this would all become” – Professor Roy Spencer, University of Alabama

In turn, he introduced an all-American hero, Harrison Schmitt, one of the last people to walk on the Moon and still going strong.

Mr Schmitt trained as a geologist and like some other geologists believes that climate change is part of a natural fluctuation. He’s also a former Republican Senator and he made the case that the American constitution contains no powers for government to legislate CO2.

The audience, containing some international faces, but mostly American libertarians and Republicans, loved the small-government message.

They cheered when a member of the audience demanded that the “Climategate criminals” – the scientists behind the University of East Anglia (UEA) hacked emails – should be jailed for fraud.

‘Anti-climax’

And the fervour reached a peak when the reluctant hero, Steve McIntyre, shambled on to the stage.

Mr McIntyre is the retired mining engineer who started enquiring into climate statistics as a hobby and whose requests for raw data from the UEA led to a chain of events which have thrown climate science into turmoil.

The crowd rose to applaud him to the stage in recognition of his extraordinary statistical battle to disprove the “Hockey Stick” graph that had become an emblem of man-made global warming.

There was a moment of anticipation as Mr McIntyre stood nervously before the podium – a lugubrious bear of a man resembling a character from Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon.

Steve McIntyre has worked to “break” the hockey stick

“I’m not used to speaking in front of such big crowds,” he mumbled. And he winced a little when one emotional admirer blurted that he had travelled 10,000 miles from South Africa for the thrill of hearing him speak.

But then came a sudden and unexpected anti-climax. Mr McIntyre urged the audience to support the battle for open source data on climate change – but then he counselled them to stop clamouring for the blood of the e-mailers. McIntyre does not want them jailed, or even punished. He just wants them to say they are sorry.

The audience disappointment was tangible – like a houndpack denied the kill.

Mr McIntyre then advised sceptics to stop insisting that the Hockey Stick is a fraud. It is understandable for scientists to present their data in a graphic way to “sell” their message, he said. He understood why they had done it. But their motives were irrelevant.

The standard of evidence required to prove fraud over the Hockey Stick was needlessly high, he said. All that was needed was an acknowledgement by the science authorities that the Hockey Stick was wrong.


Political associations

This was clearly not the sort of emollient message the sceptics expected from one of their heavy hitters. And the speech slipped further into climate pacifism when Mr McIntyre confessed that he did not share the libertarian tendencies of many in the ballroom.

As a Canadian, he said, he was brought up to believe that governments should govern on behalf of the people – so if CO2 were reckoned to be dangerous, it would be the duty of politicians to make laws to cut emissions.

The quiet man said he thought that the work of his climate-statistical website was probably done. He sat down to one-handed applause.

Not so much of a call to arms as a whispered advice to the adversary to lay down his weapons and depart the battlefield.

His message of climate conciliation was reinforced by Tom Harris, founder of the International Climate Science Coalition.

He says he’s not a right-winger, and he told the conference that many scientists sharing his political views had misgivings about establishment climate theory, but would not speak out for fear of being associated with their political opponents or with the fossil fuel industry.

Indeed some moderate climate sceptics told me they have shunned this conference for fear of being publicly associated with a highly-politicised group.

And Sonia Boehmer Christiansen, the British-based climate agnostic (her term), brought to a juddering halt an impassioned anti-government breakfast discussion with a warning to libertarians that they would never win the policy argument on climate unless they could carry people from the Left with them.

Governments needed taxes, she said – and energy taxes – were an efficient way of gathering them.

Cloud effect

Even some right-wingers agreed the need to review the language of scam and fraud. Professor Roy Spencer, for instance, is a climate sceptic scientist from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

But when I asked him about the future of Professor Phil Jones, the man of the heart of the UEA e-mail affair, he said he had some sympathy.

“He says he’s not very organised. I’m not very organised myself,” said Professor Spencer. “If you asked me to find original data from 20 years ago I’d have great difficulty too.

“We just didn’t realise in those days how important and controversial this would all become – now it would just all be stored on computer. Phil Jones has been looking at climate records for a very long time. Frankly our data set agrees with his, so unless we are all making the same mistake we’re not likely to find out anything new from the data anyway.”

Professor Spencer admits that he is regarded by orthodox climate scientists as a renegade. But as a very conservative Christian he is at home here, and his views carry weight at this meeting.

Like most climate sceptic scientists, he accepts that CO2 is a warming gas – this is basic physics, he says, and very hard to dispute.

But he says his studies on incoming and outgoing Earth radiation measured by satellites suggest that changes in cloudiness are mitigating warming caused by CO2.

He thinks all the world’s climate modellers are wrong to assume that the Earth’s natural systems will augment warming from CO2, and he hopes that a forthcoming paper will prove his case.

He admits that he has been wrong often enough to know it’s easy to be wrong on a subject as complex as the climate. But he says that means the modellers can all be wrong, too.

The key question for the future, he said, was the one that has been asked for the past 30 years with inconclusive answers – how sensitive will the climate be to a doubling of CO2?

‘Climate resilience’

The godfather of climate scepticism Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been pre-occupied with this question for decades.

He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a former lead author for the IPCC. But he is immensely controversial and his views run directly counter to those of his institute, which, he says, is looking forward to his retirement.

He has been accused of ignoring recent developments in science.

He believes CO2 is probably keeping the Earth warmer than it would otherwise be, but says he is more convinced than ever that the climate will prove increasingly resilient to extra CO2.

He thinks that this greenhouse gas will not increase temperature much more than 1C in total because the positive feedbacks predicted by computer models will not occur.

The final word of this conference – part counter-orthodox science brainstorm, part political rally – was left to a man who is not a scientist at all, Christopher Monckton, former adviser to Mrs Thatcher, now the darling of climate sceptics worldwide.

In a bravura performance he had the audience roaring at his mocking impersonation of “railway engineer Rajendra Pachauri – the Casey Jones of climate change”; hissing with pantomime fury at the “scandal” of Climategate, then emotionally applauding the American troops who have given their lives for the freedom that their political masters are surrendering to the global socialist tyranny of global warming.

His closing words were delivered in a weeping whisper, a soft prayer of praise to the American constitution and individual liberty.

As the ecstatic crowd filtered out I pointed one delegate to a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the table. A front page paragraph noted that April had been the warmest on record.

“So what?” he shrugged. “So what?”

>The root of the climate email fiasco (The Guardian)

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Learning forced into silos of humanities and science has created closed worlds of specialists who just don’t understand each other

George Monbiot
The Guardian, Tuesday 6 April 2010

The MPs were kind to Professor Phil Jones. During its hearings, the Commons science and technology committee didn’t even ask the man at the centre of the hacked climate emails crisis about the central charge he faces: that he urged other scientists to delete material subject to a freedom of information request. Last week the committee published its report, and blamed his university for the “culture of non-disclosure” over which Jones presided.

Perhaps the MPs were swayed by the disastrous performance of his boss at the hearings. Edward Acton, the vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia, came across as flamboyant, slippery and insincere. Jones, on the other hand, seemed both deathly dull and painfully honest. How could this decent, nerdy man have messed up so badly?

None of it made sense: the intolerant dismissal of requests for information, the utter failure to engage when the hacked emails were made public, the refusal by other scientists to accept that anything was wrong. Then I read an article by the computer scientist Steve Easterbrook, and for the first time the light began to dawn.

Easterbrook, seeking to defend Jones and his colleagues, describes a closed culture in which the rest of the world is a tedious and incomprehensible distraction. “Scientists normally only interact with other scientists. We live rather sheltered lives … to a scientist, anyone stupid enough to try to get scientific data through repeated FoI requests quite clearly deserves our utter contempt. Jones was merely expressing (in private) a sentiment that most scientists would share – and extreme frustration with people who clearly don’t get it.”

When I read that, I was struck by the gulf between our worlds. To those of us who clamoured for freedom of information laws in Britain, FoI requests are almost sacred. The passing of these laws was a rare democratic victory; they’re among the few means we possess of ensuring that politicians and public servants are answerable to the public. What scientists might regard as trivial and annoying, journalists and democracy campaigners see as central and irreducible. We speak in different tongues and inhabit different worlds.

I know how it happens. Like most people with a science degree, I left university with a store of recondite knowledge that I could share with almost no one. Ill-equipped to understand any subject but my own, I felt cut off from the rest of the planet. The temptation to retreat into a safe place was almost irresistible. Only the extreme specialisation demanded by a PhD, which would have walled me in like an anchorite, dissuaded me.

I hated this isolation. I had a passionate interest in literature, history, foreign languages and the arts, but at the age of 15 I’d been forced, like all students, to decide whether to study science or humanities. From that point we divided into two cultures, and the process made idiots of us all. Perhaps eventually we’ll split into two species. Reproducing only with each other, scientists will soon become so genetically isolated that they’ll no longer be able to breed with other humans.

We all detest closed worlds: the Vatican and its dismissal of the paedophilia scandals as “idle chatter”; the Palace of Westminster, whose members couldn’t understand the public outrage about their expenses; the police forces that refuse to discipline errant officers. Most of us would endorse George Bernard Shaw’s opinion that all professions are conspiracies against the laity. Much of the public hostility to science arises from the perception that it’s owned by a race to which we don’t belong.

But science happens to be the closed world with one of the most effective forms of self-regulation: the peer review process. It is also intensely competitive, and the competition consists of seeking to knock each other down. The greatest scientific triumph is to falsify a dominant theory. It happens very rarely, as only those theories which have withstood constant battery still stand. If anyone succeeded in overturning the canon of climate science, they would soon become as celebrated as Newton or Einstein. There are no rewards for agreeing with your colleagues, tremendous incentives to prove them wrong. These are the last circumstances in which a genuine conspiracy could be hatched.

But it is no longer sufficient for scientists to speak only to each other. Painful and disorienting as it is, they must engage with that irritating distraction called the rest of the world. Everyone owes something to the laity, and science would die if it were not for the billions we spend on it. Scientists need make no intellectual concessions, but they have a duty to understand the context in which they operate. It is no longer acceptable for climate researchers to wall themselves off and leave the defence of their profession to other people.

There are signs that this is changing. The prominent climate change scientist Simon Lewis has just sent a long submission to the Press Complaints Commission about misrepresentation in the Sunday Times. The paper claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s contention that global warming could destroy up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest “was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise”. It quoted Lewis to suggest he supported the story. The article and its claims were reproduced all over the world.

But the claims were wrong: there is solid scientific research showing damage on this scale is plausible in the Amazon. Lewis claims that the Sunday Times falsely represented his views. He left a comment on the website but it was deleted. He sent a letter to the paper but it wasn’t published. Only after he submitted his complaint to the PCC did the Sunday Times respond to him. The paper left a message on his answerphone, which he has made public: “It’s been recognised that the story was flawed.” After seven weeks of stonewalling him, the Sunday Times offered to run his letter. But it has neither taken down the flawed article nor published a correction.

Good luck to Lewis, but as the PCC’s treatment of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal suggests, he’s likely to find himself shut out of another closed world – journalism – in which self-regulation manifestly doesn’t work. Here’s a profession that looks like a conspiracy against the laity even from the inside.

The incomprehension with which science and humanities students regard each other is a tragedy of lost opportunities. Early specialisation might allow us to compete in the ever more specialised labour market, but it equips us for nothing else. As Professor Don Nutbeam, the vice-chancellor of Southampton University, complains: “Young people learn more and more about less and less.”

We are deprived by our stupid schooling system of most of the wonders of the world, of the skills and knowledge required to navigate it, above all of the ability to understand each other. Our narrow, antiquated education is forcing us apart like the characters in a Francis Bacon painting, each locked in our boxes, unable to communicate.

>Brasileiro se preocupa com aquecimento global, mas muda pouco

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Mudança latente

Por Ricardo Voltolini*, da Revista Ideia Socioambienltal
28/04/2010 – 11h04

Pesquisa do Datafolha divulgada no último dia 21 de abril revela que pouco mais de nove entre 10 brasileiros acreditam no fenômeno do aquecimento global. Três quartos dos entrevistados acham que a ação humana é a grande responsável pelas mudanças climáticas.

Os números diferem muito dos registrados em estudos com americanos e ingleses. Nos EUA, metade dos cidadãos não crê na responsabilidade do homem pelo aquecimento global. Na Inglaterra, são 25%. Nesses países, mais do que aqui, o recente ataque dos negacionistas climáticos –que tem confrontado duramente as pesquisas do painel de cientistas do clima das Nações Unidas – fez crescer o número de céticos.

Especialmente no caso dos Estados Unidos, ideias que contestam ou atenuam o impacto humano nas mudanças climáticas costumam ter boa aceitação seja porque oferecem salvo-conduto para não deixar de lançar gases de efeito estufa seja porque reduzem a culpa por um estilo de vida considerado perdulário para o planeta muito conveniente. O país é, como se sabe, o maior emissor de CO2. E, em dezembro último, seu presidente, Barack Obama, ajudou a desandar o acordo do clima justamente por não aceitar metas de redução de emissões mais ambiciosas. Para os EUA e –também para a China, sua grande concorrente no mercado global– diminuir emissões significa abrir mão de crescimento, coisa que causa arrepios no norte-americano médio e seus representantes políticos no senado.

Outros números do estudo do Datafolha merecem atenção. Segundo os dados, o número de brasileiros que se consideram bem informados sobre o tema saltou de 20% (em 2009) para 34%. Isso é bom, claro. Talvez signifique um primeiro passo. Mas sentir-se bem informado não quer dizer estar preparado para fazer as mudanças individuais necessárias visando a reduzir o impacto ao planeta.

Nesse sentido, apenas para estimular uma reflexão, lembro de uma pesquisa feita pela Market Analysis, em 2007, em 18 países. Aquele estudo, o primeiro do gênero no País, revelou que os brasileiros estavam entre os mais preocupados do mundo com as mudanças climáticas. No entanto, 46% achavam que um indivíduo pode fazer muito pouco diante de um problema tão grave.

Considerando as variáveis competência e capacidade para mudar o quadro, o estudo identificou quatro grupos. O mais numeroso (40%) seria formado por pessoas com bom nível de informação sobre o aquecimento global, alinhadas com a atuação das ONG´s, críticas em relação às empresas, mas que não necessariamente fazem algo para mudar seu dia a dia. Apenas um em cada seis integrantes desse grupo, no entanto, mostrava-se consciente e mobilizado.

O segundo grupo reunia 38% de brasileiros bem informados sobre o problema, dispostos a adotar mudanças em seu estilo de vida e sensíveis à idéia de que é possível conciliar crescimento econômico com respeito ao meio ambiente. Eles acreditavam que, individualmente, podiam dar uma resposta mais clara do que a sociedade como um todo. O terceiro grupo (12%) confiava mais na sociedade do que em sua própria capacidade de mudar a situação. E o quarto (10%) não acreditava nem no potencial do indivíduo nem no da sociedade. Ambos se caracterizavam por uma postura desinformada e acrítica.

A considerar que esses dados seguem atuais –e penso honestamente que sim- são grandes os desafios brasileiros. O mais importante é mobilizar os indivíduos, fazendo com que percebam que pequenas ações de redução de pegada ecológica somadas a outras ações de consumo consciente no dia a dia podem fazer diferença na luta para esfriar o planeta. Como já foi dito logo após o fracasso de Copenhague, o aquecimento global é um tema importante demais para esperar que as soluções venham apenas de líderes de estado comprometidos mais com a sua política doméstica do que com o futuro saudável da grande casa que habitamos.

*Ricardo Voltolini é publisher da revista Idéia Socioambiental e diretor da consultoria Idéia Sustentável: Estratégia e Inteligência em Sustentabilidade.

http://www.topblog.com.br/sustentabilidade

(Envolverde/Idéia Socioambiental)

>Marcelo Leite: Águas turvas (FSP)

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“Preconceitos, estridência, falácias, invenções e estatísticas, aliás, transformam todo o debate público numa bacia amazônica de turbidez. Não é privilégio da questão indígena. Tome a usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte. Ou o tema explosivo da disponibilidade de terras para o agronegócio”

Marcelo Leite
Folha de S.Paulo, 09/05/2010 – reproduzido no Jornal de Ciência (JC e-mail 4006)

Por uma dessas coincidências sintomáticas que a época produz, duas frases que abrem a reportagem de capa da presente edição do caderno Mais! – “No Brasil todo mundo é índio, exceto quem não é” e “Só é índio quem se garante” – estão no centro de um bate-boca entre seu autor, o antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, e a revista “Veja”.

A abertura foi escrita antes do quiproquó, mas pouco importa. Se ela e todo o texto sobre educação indígena forem recebidos como tomada de posição, tanto melhor.

De qualquer maneira, é instrutivo ler a reportagem da revista que deu origem a tudo, assim como as réplicas e tréplicas que se seguiram. Permite vislumbrar a profundidade dos preconceitos anti-indígenas e da estridência jornalística que turvam essa vertente de discussão no país.

Preconceitos, estridência, falácias, invenções e estatísticas, aliás, transformam todo o debate público numa bacia amazônica de turbidez. Não é privilégio da questão indígena. Tome a usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte. Ou o tema explosivo da disponibilidade de terras para o agronegócio, epicentro da indigitada reportagem da revista “Veja”.

“Áreas de preservação ecológica, reservas indígenas e supostos antigos quilombos abarcam, hoje, 77,6% da extensão do Brasil”, afirmam seus autores, sem citar a fonte. “Se a conta incluir também os assentamentos de reforma agrária, as cidades, os portos, as estradas e outras obras de infraestrutura, o total alcança 90,6% do território nacional.”

É provável que a origem omitida seja o estudo “Alcance Territorial da Legislação Ambiental e Indigenista”, encomendado à Embrapa Monitoramento por Satélite pela Presidência da República e encampado pela Confederação Nacional da Agricultura e Pecuária do Brasil (CNA, leia-se senadora Kátia Abreu, DEM-TO). Seu coordenador foi o então chefe da unidade da Embrapa, Evaristo Eduardo de Miranda. A estimativa terminou bombardeada por vários especialistas, inclusive do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe).

Nesta semana veio à luz, graças às repórteres Afra Balazina e Andrea Vialli, mais um levantamento que contradiz a projeção alarmante. O novo estudo foi realizado por Gerd Sparovek, da Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz (Esalq-USP), em colaboração com a Universidade de Chalmers (Suécia).

Para Miranda, se toda a legislação ambiental, fundiária e indigenista fosse cumprida à risca, faltariam 334 mil km2 – 4% do território do Brasil – para satisfazer todas as suas exigências. O valor dá quase um Mato Grosso do Sul de deficit.

Para Sparovek, mesmo que houvesse completa obediência ao Código Florestal ora sob bombardeio de ruralistas, sobraria ainda 1 milhão de km2, além de 600 mil km2 de pastagens poucos produtivas usadas para pecuária extensiva (um boi por hectare). Dá 4,5 Mato Grosso do Sul de superavit.

A disparidade abissal entre as cifras deveria bastar para ensopar as barbas de quem acredita em neutralidade científica, ou a reivindica. Premissas, interpretações da lei e fontes de dados diversas decerto explicam o hiato.

Mas quem as examina a fundo, entrando no mérito e extraindo conclusões úteis para o esclarecimento do público e a tomada de decisão? Faltam pessoas e instituições, no Brasil, com autoridade para decantar espuma e detritos, clarificando as águas para que se possa enxergar o fundo. De blogueiros e bucaneiros já estamos cheios.

>SBPC: o jornalismo irresponsável da revista Veja

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Em nota, SBPC repudia reportagem de ‘Veja’

Jornal da Ciência – JC e-mail 4007, de 11 de Maio de 2010

Reportagem trata da demarcação de terras indígenas e é acusada de distorcer informações

Intitulada “A farra da antropologia oportunista”, a reportagem foi publicada na edição de 5 de maio da revista semanal. O texto já havia sido objeto de nota da Associação Brasileira de Antropologia (ABA). Leia a nota da ABA em http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.jsp?id=70689.

No domingo, a coluna do jornalista Marcelo Leite, no caderno “Mais!”, da “Folha de SP”, também tratou da polêmica reportagem e da reação de membros da comunidade científica da antropologia. Leia a coluna em http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.jsp?id=70771

A reportagem da “Veja” pode ser lida no acervo digital da revista, em http://www.veja.com.br/acervodigital/home.aspx

Leia abaixo a íntegra da nota da SBPC:

“A Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC) vem a público hipotecar inteira solidariedade a sua filiada, a Associação Brasileira de Antropologia (ABA), que em notas de sua diretoria e da Comissão de Assuntos Indígenas repudiou cabalmente matéria publicada pela revista ‘Veja’ em sua edição de 5 de maio do corrente, intitulada “Farra da Antropologia Oportunista”.

Registra, também, que a referida matéria vem sendo objeto de repulsa por parte de cientistas e pesquisadores de diversas áreas do conhecimento, os quais inclusive registram precedentes de jornalismo irresponsável por parte da referida revista, caracterizando assim um movimento de indignação que alcança o conjunto da comunidade científica nacional.

Por outro lado, a maneira pela qual foram inventadas declarações, o tratamento irônico e preconceituoso no que diz respeito às populações indígenas e quilombolas e a utilização de dados inverídicos evidenciam o exercício de um jornalismo irresponsável, incitam atitudes preconceituosas, revelam uma falta total de consideração pelos profissionais antropólogos – cuja atuação muito honra o conjunto da comunidade científica brasileira – e mostram profundo e inconcebível desrespeito pelas coletividades subalternizadas e o direito de buscarem os seus próprios caminhos.

Tudo isso indo em direção contrária ao fortalecimento da democracia e da justiça social entre nós e à constituição de uma sociedade que verdadeiramente se nutra e se orgulhe da sua diversidade cultural.

Adicionalmente, a SBPC declara-se pronta a acompanhar a ABA nas medidas que julgar apropriadas no campo jurídico e a levar o seu repúdio ao âmbito da 4ª. Conferência Nacional de Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação, que se realizará no final deste mês de maio em Brasília.”

>História e arqueologia do mundo digital

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Site arqueológico

25 de abril de 2010 – 17h40
Por Heloisa Lupinacci
Estadão.com.br

Em 2001, o cientista Joseph Miller pediu à Nasa dados coletados pela sonda Viking em Marte nos anos 70. A Nasa achou as fitas, mas os dados gravados ali não puderam ser abertos. O software que os lia não existia mais, e, como disse Miller à época à agência de notícias Reuters, os técnicos que conheciam o formato estavam todos mortos.

Essa é uma história. Há muitas outras. Parte do conhecimento produzido de maneira digital já era. De dados científicos a modinhas da internet. “Temos poucos serviços de preservação da história da cultura digital e muito conteúdo já se perdeu ao longo dos últimos anos”, diz Roberto Taddei, coordenador do Simpósio Internacional de Políticas Públicas para Acervos Digitais, que discutirá o tema em São Paulo de hoje até quinta.

Decifra-me ou… Se um pergaminho pode ser desenrolado por qualquer pessoa, um cartão perfurado, bisavô do disquete, não se deixa abrir facilmente. Carlos Augusto Ditadi, da Câmara Técnica de Documentos Eletrônicos do Conselho Nacional de Arquivo (CONARQ, que já cuida de parte patrimônio digital do País), dá a medida da encrenca: “o disco depende do driver, que depende do computador, que depende do software, que depende do sistema operacional: isso se chama interdependência”. Some a essa equação o fato de computadores ficarem obsoletos, programas saírem de linha e linguagens caírem em desuso: o cartão perfurável fica tão indecifrável quanto hieróglifos egípcios.

A preocupação com o patrimônio digital é recente. Em 2002, foi apresentada pela Unesco a Carta pela Preservação do Patrimônio Digital. Diz o documento: “Muitas dessas fontes têm valor e relevância duradouros e, assim, constituem um patrimônio a ser preservado”. A organização criou o órgão E-Heritage, dedicado, sobretudo, à conscientização de governos e à capacitação de arquivistas. É um bom começo, mas o patrimônio digital tem lá seus obstáculos específicos.

A interdependência é um deles. E, nesse caso, uma das melhores soluções veio de um jeito que é a cara da web: dos usuários. “A primeira geração de gamers percebeu, nos anos 90, que não tinha mais acesso a jogos da infância. Eles foram os primeiros a usar emuladores, que sempre existiram, como ferramentas de preservação. Graças a eles há emuladores para quase qualquer plataforma computacional”, diz Andreas Lange, diretor do Museu de Jogos de Computador, em Berlim, que tenta evitar o desaparecimento de games. O emulador é um programa que recria qualquer ambiente de computador: softwares extintos, consoles não mais fabricados, etc.

…devoro-te. Outro desafio evidente é o volume. Em 2009, de acordo com o Instituto de Pesquisas IDC, a humanidade produziu 750 bilhões de GB de informação. Como escolher o que preservar? “Não fazemos nenhuma seleção. Tentamos fazer o registro mais exaustivo. Arquivamos tudo o que encontramos sob o domínio .pt”, diz Daniel Gomes, coordenador do projeto Arquivo da Web Portuguesa. A declaração da Unesco sugere: “Os principais critérios devem ser significância e durabilidade (cultural, científica). Materiais ‘nativos digitais’ devem ter prioridade”.

Decidido o que guardar, falta definir como guardar e arrumar dinheiro para isso. Duas questões nada simples. Segundo Ditadi, o site é das coisas mais difíceis de preservar. “Ele deve permanecer navegável, mas como garantir os links? E eles levam a coisas protegidas por direitos autorais. É um registro muito dinâmico.” E o armazenamento custa caro. É preciso fazer uma cópia no formato nativo, chamada cópia de testemunho, que é a garantia de que aquele documento é real. Então, é feita a versão de preservação, em uma extensão mais duradoura – quase sempre um formato aberto, baseado em software livre. Daí, grava-se a cópia de acesso, aquela que fica disponível para consulta. Multiplique, portanto, tudo por três.

Por essas e outras, muitas vezes a memória da web é preservada justo por quem a alimenta. De novo, o usuário. Mas daí não há novidade. “Muitas bibliotecas foram montadas por usuários e depois doadas a instituições ou bibliotecas”, lembra Taddei.

* Visite os marcos: Parceria firmada entre Google e Unesco colocará todos os 890 sítios tombados pelo órgão no Google Earth e no Maps. O Street View permite a ‘visita’ em 19 patrimônios da humanidade.

* Histórico e natural: A Unesco divide o patrimônio da humanidade em duas categorias, o patrimônio histórico e o patrimônio natural. Há sítios mistos, tombados em ambas, como Ibiza, na Espanha.

* Patrimônio no Brasil: Há três esferas de tombamento histórico no Brasil, a municipal (na cidade de São Paulo é o Conpresp), a estadual (no Estado de São Paulo é o Condephaat) e a federal, o Iphan.

* Biblioteca de tweets: A coordenadora de mídias digitais da Biblioteca do Congresso dos EUA, que arquivará tweets, fala sobre a preservação de informações digitais na insituição.

* Biblioteca de tudo: A Wayback Machine, parte do Internet Archive que guarda sites, foi incorporada à Biblioteca de Alexandria após parceria com o E-Heritage. Para navegar pelo acervo, vá a Archive.org.

* Todos juntos: Comparando o fim do Geocities à destruição, pelo Taleban, dos budas de Bamyan, no Afeganistão, o holandês Jacques Matthei conclama todos a resgatá-lo em seu Reocities.com

>A tragédia no Rio e o jornalismo participativo

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Leitores dão show de jornalismo

Por Larissa Morais, do Observatório da Imprensa
Envolverde/Observatório da Imprensa – 08/04/2010 – 11h04

O dia em que o Rio de Janeiro parou, submerso por chuvas de abril, entra para a história do jornalismo brasileiro como marco da participação dos leitores no noticiário. No fim da manhã, enquanto muitos jornalistas ainda tentavam chegar às redações, ilhados como tantos cariocas, sites de notícias já veiculavam fotos, vídeos amadores e depoimentos de cidadãos registrando o caos instalado em toda a cidade.

A força desse conteúdo levou ao noticiário áreas da cidade normalmente esquecidas pela grande imprensa: Pavuna, Olaria, Rocha Miranda, Niterói e São Gonçalo, entre outras. Sim, no dia em que a Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas transbordou, Rocha Miranda teve um lugar na cobertura.

O site do Globo, que desde 2006 vem apostando no jornalismo participativo, inovou ao produzir, com a ajuda dos leitores, um mapa da devastação na cidade. A equipe de arte apontou no Google Maps pontos de alagamento, locais de acúmulo de lixo e lama, pontos de deslizamento e postos de doação. Navegando pelo mapa, era possível ter acesso a fotos e indicações de leitores e/ou jornalistas “da casa”. Dicas como “nessa rua a queda de uma árvore bloqueia a passagem de automóveis”, com a indicação do horário de envio ou atualização da informação.

Outro padrão

O Twitter do blog de Ricardo Noblat ganhou na terça-feira (7/4) 390 novos seguidores graças à rede informativa que criou para a troca de informações sobre as conseqüências das chuvas. Das centenas informações que chegaram, nenhuma estava errada – o que, nas palavras de Noblat, “derruba a idéia cultivada por muitos jornalistas de que leitores não jornalistas carecem de compromisso com a veracidade do que relatam”.

O G1 se destacou em relação ao outros sites pelo excelente aproveitamento dos vídeos produzidos pelos leitores (esclareço que nesse termo incluo também internautas, espectadores, ouvintes e quem mais vier). Ao fim do dia, o portal da TV Globo havia colocado no ar mais de 70 vídeos e 60 fotos de leitores – material claramente selecionado mais por seu valor informativo do que por sua qualidade técnica.

Foi curioso ver tantos vídeos tremidos, escuros e com som ruim no site da emissora conhecida internacionalmente pela alta qualidade técnica de seus produtos jornalísticos e de entretenimento. A produção dos leitores ficou ali, lado a lado com as imagens produzidas pela equipe da Globo. O “ibope” dos leitores foi tamanho que parte do material foi aproveitada em uma longa matéria levada ao ar no mais tradicional dos telejornais brasileiros, o Jornal Nacional.

O JN aproveitou flagrantes como o do motociclista que perdeu a moto em uma cratera sob a águas. De seus celulares e câmeras amadoras, os leitores deram conta de mostrar o que não era possível para uma única emissora ou site, simplesmente porque não havia como distribuir equipe em tantos lugares num espaço tão curto de tempo. A capilaridade que os cidadãos deram ao noticiário pesou mais do que o fato de seus registros fugirem a um padrão estético vigente.

Quem arrisca?

Acredito que a maior participação do público no noticiário já está alterando, e vai alterar ainda mais, a estética e as práticas produtivas do jornalismo mainstream, e o episódio de terça-feira reforça essa impressão. Vejo, por exemplo, a tendência a uma maior valorização do flagrante em relação ao pautado, e das narrações espontâneas – nas quais caibam as tensões do momento – em relação às roteirizadas. Ganham força ainda os relatos participativos dos leitores que fazem registros jornalísticos e dos jornalistas que se colocam como testemunhas dos acontecimentos, como os leitores.

Como fez na terça-feira o jornalista e apresentador Márcio Gomes, que deixou sua casa, na Fonte da Saudade, rumo à TV Globo, no bairro vizinho do Jardim Botânico, com uma câmera amadora na mão e uma pauta na cabeça. No trajeto foi gravando imagens, colhendo depoimentos e narrando impressões do alagamento da cidade, num registro que misturou o estilo que vem ganhando força com os leitores com o modelo jornalístico da emissora na qual fez carreira. A matéria foi ao ar no RJ TV, telejornal que ancora, e, mais tarde, veiculada em rede no Jornal Nacional.

Quem ainda se arrisca a estabelecer fronteiras rígidas para o jornalismo de hoje?

© Copyleft – É livre a reprodução exclusivamente para fins não comerciais, desde que o autor e a fonte sejam citados e esta nota seja incluída.

>Google, China and hacktivism (N.Y.Times)

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Google Links Web Attacks to Vietnam Mine Dispute

By BETTINA WASSENER
The New York Times, March 31, 2010

HONG KONG — Google, fresh off a dispute with China over censorship and intrusion from hackers, says it has identified cyber-attacks aimed at silencing critics of a controversial, Chinese-backed bauxite mining project in Vietnam.

In attacks it described as similar to but less sophisticated than those at the core of its spat with China, Google said malicious software was used to infect “potentially tens of thousands of computers,” broadly targeting Vietnamese speaking computer users around the world.

Infected machines had been used to spy on their owners and to attack blogs containing messages of political dissent, wrote Neel Mehta of the company’s security team in a post late Tuesday on Google’s online security blog.

McAfee, the computer security firm, said in a separate blog posting that it believed “the perpetrators may have political motivations and may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

It added: “This incident underscores that not every attack is motivated by data theft or money. This is likely the latest example of hacktivism and politically motivated cyberattacks, which are on the rise.”

Google said that while the malware itself was not especially sophisticated, “it has nonetheless been used for damaging purposes.”

“Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country.”

Bauxite is a key mineral in making aluminum and one of Vietnam’s most valuable natural resources. Plans by the Vietnamese government to exploit bauxite in the Central Highlands region, in partnership with a Chinese state-run company, have generated much local criticism, including from a well-known war hero, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

General Giap and other opponents say the project will be ruinous to the environment, displace ethnic minority populations and threaten the south-east Asian country’s national security with an influx of Chinese workers and economic leverage.

The role of China in the bauxite project also has stirred up anger in a nation that still fears its bigger neighbor: Vietnam was a tributary state of China for 1,000 years and was invaded by China in 1979, and the two countries continue to joust for sovereignty in the South China Sea.

>O Globo nega-se a publicar anúncio de campanha pró cotas raciais

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COTAS RACIAIS
O Globo nega-se a publicar anúncio

Por Mariana Martins em 17/3/2010
Observatório da Imprensa

Reproduzido do Observatório do Direito à Comunicação, 16/3/2010; título original “O Globo nega-se a publicar anúncio de campanha pró cotas”

A negativa do jornal O Globo, no início do mês, em publicar uma peça publicitária da campanha “Afirme-se” em defesa das ações afirmativas relacionadas à questão racial recoloca de forma explícita um importante debate acerca do direito à comunicação. O episódio estabelece uma situação de fato em que liberdade de expressão é confundida com liberdade comercial das empresas privadas de comunicação. A publicação, mais antigo veículo do maior grupo de comunicação do país, alega seguir uma política comercial específica para o que chama “peças de opinião” e, por esta razão, teria mais que decuplicado o valor a ser cobrado pela veiculação do anúncio ao tomar conhecimento de que se tratava de uma campanha pró cotas.

O pesquisador sênior da Universidade de Brasília Venício A. de Lima diz que este é um caso que merece ser observado a partir das diferenças entre liberdade de imprensa e liberdade de expressão. A primeira, na opinião do professor, está relacionada à proteção dos interesses daqueles responsáveis pelos veículos de comunicação e não deve ser confundida com a segunda, que é um direito humano e, no Brasil, constitucionalmente positivado. Lima pondera que a liberdade de expressão, no atual contexto das práticas de comunicação, depende da inserção de opiniões diversas nos grandes veículos de massa. Estes, portanto, precisariam refletir não só a opinião dos seus donos.

No caso da não publicação do anúncio da “Afirme-se”, o que está colocado é, justamente, a utilização de uma política comercial, justificada supostamente pelo princípio da liberdade de imprensa, para restringir o direito da campanha publicizar sua opinião a favor das ações afirmativas e o direito dos cidadãos de receberem informação sobre o tema desde uma perspectiva diversa da dos veículos das Organizações Globo. Segundo Lima, na página de O Globo na internet o jornal apresenta a tabela de preços comerciais e nela está escrito que a empresa cobra de 30% a 70% a mais em anúncios de conteúdo opinativo. Contudo, no caso em questão, o valor variou em aproximadamente 1300%.

Preços acordados

Curiosamente, a tentativa da campanha “Afirme-se” publicar o anúncio está intimamente relacionada ao fato de os grupos a favor das ações afirmativas perceberem que não conseguiam espaço editorial, ou seja, lugar na cobertura jornalística regular para apresentar seu ponto de vista. Assim, por ocasião da audiência pública no Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) que discutiria – entre os dias 3, 4 e 5 de março – duas ações de inconstitucionalidade movidas contra a criação de cotas nas universidades públicas para descendentes de negros e indígenas, a campanha resolveu fazer intervenções publicitárias em jornais de grande circulação nacional em defesa da constitucionalidade das leis que estão em vigor.

A intervenção publicitária produzida pela agência Propeg, que também é parceira da campanha, contava basicamente com três produtos: um manifesto ilustrado que seria publicado em jornais considerados formadores de opinião pelos organizadores da “Afirme-se”, um spot de rádio e uma vinheta, que estão disponíveis no blog da campanha.

De acordo com Fernando Conceição, um dos coordenadores da “Afirme-se”, as doações das entidades que fazem parte da campanha e a captação de recursos com outras organizações foram suficientes para pagar a publicação do manifesto em quatro jornais de grande circulação – O Estado de S. Paulo, Folha de S. Paulo, A Tarde (BA) e O Globo (RJ). “Nós resolvemos comprar especificamente nesses veículos porque eles já vêm fazendo campanhas sistemáticas contra as cotas há tempos. Como nós temos outra visão e não encontramos lugar livremente para expor um outro ponto de vista, resolvemos comprar o espaço”, explica Conceição.

Como é de praxe nas campanhas publicitárias, a agência responsável passou a negociar o preço do anúncio de uma página inteira a ser publicado no dia 3 de março com os veículos selecionados. Por se tratarem de anúncios ligados a organizações não governamentais, os preços acordados ficaram em torno de R$ 50 mil. O valor exato negociado com O Globo foi orçado em R$ 54.163,20.

Valor impraticável

Fechados os valores, a agência enviou a arte aos jornais. Dois dias antes de a campanha ser publicada, a coordenação da “Afirme-se” foi comunicada pela agência Propeg que o anúncio havia sido submetido à direção editorial de O Globo e que os responsáveis julgaram que a peça era “expressão de opinião”. O jornal dizia que, sendo assim, o valor deixava de ser o negociado anteriormente e passava para R$ 712.608,00. “Um valor irreal, impraticável até para anuncio de multinacional”, queixa-se o coordenador da campanha.

Procurado pela equipe do Observatório do Direito à Comunicação, o jornal O Globo não respondeu aos pedidos de entrevista. No entanto, o diretor comercial da publicação, Mario Rigon, concedeu entrevista ao portal Comunique-se ao qual disse que considerou a peça da campanha como “expressão de opinião” e, diante disso, “seguiu a política da empresa, que determina um valor superior para esse tipo de anúncio”. “De fato vimos que se tratava de uma expressão de opinião, mas não nos cabe julgar o mérito da causa. É a nossa política comercial, tratamos assim qualquer anunciante que queira expressar sua opinião”, disse Rigon ao portal.

Este Observatório também buscou consultar o Conselho de Autorregulamentação Publicitária (Conar). Por intermédio da assessoria de imprensa, o conselho adiantou que não tem posição sobre o caso, visto que foge do escopo da entidade se posicionar sobre a política comercial dos veículos. “Nós não nos posicionamos sobre regulação de mídia exterior, atuamos exclusivamente sobre o conteúdo das mensagens publicitárias”, disse Eduardo Correia, assessor de imprensa do Conar. O assessor disse ainda que a entidade precisa ser provocada por processos para se posicionar sobre o conteúdo de uma peça e que nas questões de política comercial das empresas ela não devem opinar.

O pesquisador Venício Lima lembra que, diante da falta de regulamentação da mídia no Brasil, as empresas privadas, na maioria das vezes, podem agir como bem entendem e praticar os preços que lhes convêm. Lima acredita ainda que seja provável que O Globo esteja, a partir da lógica comercial, protegido legalmente para fazer esse tipo de cobrança, o que é apenas “um lado da moeda”.

É fato que a liberdade comercial baseia-se na lógica de que as normas podem ser estabelecidas pelas próprias empresas e que, portanto, podem causar distorções quando estas se cruzam com questões editoriais. No caso em questão, fica evidente a falta de transparência quanto aos critérios adotados por O Globo para considerar o anúncio como conteúdo opinativo e aplicar um valor diferenciado. Os outros três jornais que publicaram a peça publicitária não tiveram a mesma compreensão e a tabela aplicada foi a de anúncio publicitário comum.

A “Afirme-se” fez uma reclamação contra O Globo no Ministério Público do Rio de Janeiro por conta do episódio. A campanha pede que, com base no que diz a Constituição Federal com relação à liberdade de expressão, o jornal seja obrigado a publicar o anúncio por um valor simbólico.

Fernando Conceição defende que a atitude de O Globo foi claramente de abuso de poder econômico e que configura dumping, prática condenada pelo próprio mercado. “Foi uma maneira que a direção de O Globo encontrou para cercear o direito constitucional que é a liberdade de expressão por meio do abuso do poder econômico”, denuncia Conceição.

Anticotas

Pesa ainda contra as Organizações Globo como um todo uma constante militância contra as ações afirmativas relativas à questão racial, dentre elas as políticas de cotas para negras e negros nas universidades públicas. Esta militância é liderada inclusive pelo atual diretor da Central Globo de Jornalismo, Ali Kamel. Kamel é autor do livro Não somos racistas: uma reação aos que querem nos transformar numa nação bicolor, que nega a existência do racismo e, portanto, da necessidade de políticas reparadoras.

Pesquisa do Observatório Brasileiro de Mídia, citada por Venicio Lima, revela que grandes revistas e jornais brasileiros apresentam posicionamento contrário aos principais pontos da agenda de interesse da população afrodescendente – ações afirmativas, cotas, Estatuto da Igualdade Racial e demarcação de terras quilombolas. A pesquisa analisou 972 matérias publicadas nos jornais Folha de S.Paulo, O Estado de S.Paulo e O Globo, e 121 nas revistas semanais Veja, Época e Isto É – 1093 matérias, no total – ao longo de oito anos.

Lima chama a atenção para o fato de a cobertura de O Globo merecer um comentário à parte na pesquisa. Dentre os três jornais pesquisados, foi aquele que mais editoriais publicou sobre o tema, mantendo inalterados, ao longo dos anos, argumentos que se mostraram falaciosos, como o de que as cotas e ações afirmativas iriam promover racismo e de que os alunos cotistas iriam baixar o nível dos cursos.

Lembrando destes dados da pesquisa, Lima acredita que O Globo estabeleceu uma barreira comercial e que, do ponto de vista legal, eles podem estar cobertos pelos princípios da livre iniciativa. “Mas, esta conduta, tendo em vista o conteúdo que deixou de ser publicado, infringe o direito à informação. A questão que fica para o Ministério Público do Rio de Janeiro é legal. Cabe a eles encontrarem alguma forma jurídica de pensar o caso sob o ponto de vista do direito à informação. Para mim, essa postura deixa as Organizações Globo numa situação difícil para posteriormente falar de liberdade de expressão”, conclui o professor.