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A "teachable moment" for science communication: Mayor Bloomberg shows how it's done

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

Reported in latest dotearth post on the foreseeably polarizing "Sandy-causation-teaching-moment" meme.

That said, I do wish Bloomberg would stop trying to make people drink small sodas & breast feed their infants!

BTW, by calling Bloomberg's statement a "teachable moment" for science communication, I recognize that I risk insulting the many  many many people who have been urging that Sandy be seized as a "teachable moment" for those communicating climate science to the public. The problem with this phrase is that that it conveys a certain attitude; it comes off sounding as if one views those who need to be "taught" something as dimwitted school children. I'd recommend a different "strategy" -- like, say, treating (even truly regarding) the people to whom one is purporting to communicate science as thinking citizens who are entitled to get information in a form and under conditions that enable them to use their reason.

I promise not to use this obnoxious idiom anymore if you do. Deal?

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Reader Comments (1)

"Our climate is changing."

That's an inane platitude of the truth of which everybody is perfectly cognizant—nobody in the entire history of the climate change debate has claimed that the 30-year average of the world's weather is fixed—but which only one "side" deems it necessary to keep saying out loud. Why, Dan? I can only conclude (and nobody has ever offered another explanation) that the purpose of such a slogan is to promulgate the myth that those of us who will not join the war on carbon dioxide are climate-change deniers. We're not; we have never denied or even doubted the reality of climate change; yet after 20 years, your "side" is unwilling (or unable) to abandon this infantile caricature of us, this straw-man parody of the subject in dispute. It's motivated reasoning of the most dishonest kind, of course; they know they can't win the real argument so they take refuge in an imaginary debate against "climate change deniers."

"And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world"

This isn't science, it's an urban myth. This idea that there's been an "increase in extreme weather" is indefensible from the data. Bloomberg is bullshitting you. The question is why you swallowed it (and worse still, endorse it publicly) without a shred of skepticism, Dan. If I had to guess, I suspect it was congenial to your cultural and political orientation, so the minor question of whether it was actually scientifically *true* never even entered your consideration. Indifference to scientific truth is, in my experience, rife among the climate concerned. For example, not one single person on your "side" cares about the blatant, provable, proven lies in An Inconvenient Truth. You all know about it, you just don't care. Not one single person on your "side" is troubled by the knowledge that schoolchildren are compulsorily, formally subjected to disinformation every time Gore's infomercial is played in a classroom. I'm troubled by it. It disgusts me to know that children are being deceived with their teachers' acquiescence. If I had my way, politicians who delude little children (and, apparently, fully-grown Yale professors) with false ideas about the natural world would score a date with the electric chair. But then, we skeptics are anal that way.

"may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."

How such a conceptual dog's-breakfast qualifies Bloomberg as a communicator of science I cannot fathom. No matter what one's empirical understanding of the current state of the climate, the idea that an increase in extreme weather may or may not be "due to" climate change is gibberish. There is something wrong with Bloomberg's brain if these are the kind of "thoughts" it's generating. Maybe you should investigate the cause of word salad among otherwise mentally-healthy climate alarmists. (I say "alarmists" because I'm not aware of anyone on the other "side" having the same problem—but I'm open to correction.)

September 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Keyes

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