Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.
You won’t find more blantantly obvious example of cherrypicked science than in today’s New York Times, which has an article on two new peer-reviewed studies on hurricanes and climate change. Given the debate over climate change and hurricanes the new studies are certainly newsworthy. However, it is what is left out of the Times story that makes the cherrypicking stand out undeniably.
The New York Times makes (and has made) no mention of two other just-published peer-reviewed studies (links here and here) providing somewhat different perspectives on the hurricane-climate issue and its policy significance (I am a co-author on one of the studies. It does not deny a global warming-hurricane link, but instead characterizes the literature in the context of an exchange with others with a different view). These studies, which are two among a larger family of research, are not necessarily “the other side” but they do add important context selectively ignored by the Times. In today’s article, for balance the New York Times interviewed NOAA’s Stanley Goldenberg, who is a respected scientist, but who hadn’t seen either of the papers referred to in the article or published a peer-reviewed study this month. Interviewing one of the authors of recent peer-reviewed work would have necessarily required referencing that work.
To the extent that the New York Times has a powerful role in shaping how policy options are framed and discussed, it does a disservice to the public and policymakers when it cherrypicks science. I suppose this is because they have decided to pick sides in the political debate over climate change and that political calculus shapes its editorial decisions.