Lene Johansen

Last night I got home from an exhausting and exhilarating trip to New York City. During my stay, I barely got out of the hotel and I am still annoyed at all the wonderful presentations that I missed. Lucky for me, they will end up on the Internet shortly. I attended the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. There was some totally cool and breaking science stories at this conference, and here are some of the impressions I had when I was talking to Gardner Goldsmith at Against the Grain on Monday and Tuesday.



Lazy Ass Reporters!

by Lene Johansen on March 5, 2008

in Politics

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change was a great hit. For the sheer audacity of daring to discuss the questions that IPCC omitted, a ton of reporters could not stay away. The problem with reporters is that they pick the easy story and so far the only story that got out was the political stories.

I found some amazing science stories at the conference, but they take time to develop and sell. The science news cycle is slower than most if it is done properly. The fast science news cycle is faster, but the significance of a story takes experience and effort to follow, it used to frustrate the hell out of me when I started writing about science.

The Columbia Journalism Review published a story headlined the The Skeptics Ball, -Heartland Institute conference tests news judgment. Just by the headline they have dismissed the conference was not labeled Heartland Institute Conference. The Heartland Institute actually has one of those, but this one was the 2008 International Climate Change Conference.

As John Stossel pointed out in his speech on Tuesday, he was impressed by Joe Bast's optimism about the coverage. Bast was probably bolstered by the fact that major media internationally actually carried stories from the conference, it is more than he is used to for his courageous, but counterintuitive approaches to public policy. Mainstream media has been killing people who questions the reasoning and policy approaches to the global warming scare with silence for months and years.

I posted this comment on the Columbia Journalism Review's comment section to Curtis Brainard's story the Sceptics Ball. I have to admit, I did expect the gospel meeting, but I got a kick ass science conference, the reporters that wrote about the gospel meeting was sloppy, lazy, or in non-attendance. National and international reporting involves a lot of assumptions, and as my professors beat into me the hard way in the Missouri School of Journalism (one of the best, in case you are not part of the media mafia), assumption makes an ASS out of U and ME.

The reports that got out so far was the easy, short deadline political reports, but the science reports from this conference will take time to develop. I hope to put Roy Spencer to shame so we can make him a center fold in the magazines that science geeks reads.

"I am not sure if Curtis Brainard actually went to the conference, but I have read a lot of press accounts and I am not sure that some of those guys went to the same conference as I did. There was in fact a slough of reporters there, including a three-person team from BBC who did not find the stories they expected, but they found a whole lot of others according to my conversations with them.

The fact that few stories have surfaced yet is an aspect of science reporting, because there were quite a few interesting science stories there. Some of those stories take a bit longer to develop, because they are complicated stories.

I have participated on a ton of science conferences and a ton of political conferences over the years. I thought I was heading to another political gospel meeting when I got to New York on Sunday, but I soon figured out that I had underestimated this conference. This was a science conference like any of the top ones I have attended. Many of the presentations were breaking science stories, and I know that I have freelance material for several months following this trip.

Roy Spencer's presentation on his upcoming paper in the Journal of Climatology where he identifies a serious omission in most pre-eminent climate models are big news for science journalists, but it is probably too complicated for non-beat journalists to handle. Not because those reporters are lacking in any other department than in the time department.

The stories that have come out so far are the stories that were easy to write. I am willing to bet you that some of these reporters never left the newsroom to write their stories. They stuck with the pre-dominant frame and mostly used sources that did not attend the conference. If you are a science geek reporter and you had a chance to go, but did not, you missed out. However, as any conference we get the stories we want to get out of them and that is a part of the problem. This is our problem as reporters, not the problem of the researchers that attended this conference, but it is their reputations we are dragging through the mud."

James Lovelock is the originator of the Gaia myth and convinced that the world is coming to an end, soon, because global warming is going to get us.

OK, so we have heard that one before. However, what I found interesting about the story is that Lovelock thinks carbon offsetting is a joke and "green ethical living" is a sham.

Although I am sure that the most prominent greens know this, they will not tell you if their life depended on it, so Lovelock's honesty is refreshing even though his reasons for thinking so is logically invalid.

Al Gore had to take the two biggest spin words of 2007 and combine them into a really scary scenario at a UN meeting with institutional investors. He warned the executives that they ought to clean their portfolios of carbon-intensive industries, as those inevitably will lead to huge losses.

I can't help but feel that there is some magic in his words, as Al Gore himself has worked hard to make it harder to run and operate carbon-intensive portfolios. Maybe I can get paid $100,000 per speech to explain the investment consequences of the policies I have promoted, that would be sweet!

He is "misunderestimating" one thing though, human ingenuity and adaptability. As energy rationing makes it harder to run carbon-intensive industries, those companies will find other energy sources and transform their companies. The other ones will die at the hands of capitalisms creative destruction. That is an investment tip from me, and its totally free!

The global temperature has been stable since 1998 according to Ole Humlum at the University of Oslo. In the largest paper in Norway, he is stating that this stabilization can mean one of three things:

1. We have achieved a stable temperature
2. We have reached a "plateu" and rise again in a bit
3. We have reached a top in the global temperature, and it will soon start sinking again.

As a true scientist, Prof. Humlum says we do not have the knowledge of which one of these three alternatives will come to pass, but considering the fact that we have had an increase in CO2 concentration without a warming the last decade, the greenhouse theory  should be considered debunked by now.

The dogmatics in Norway is stating that Humlum cannot use the record year of 1998 as a benchmark year, although they have no problem using the cool 1970's as the benchmark to prove that its getting warmer. I am not sure how they can throw out a decade's worth of stable temperature as benchmark related though.

Even though media in Norway has shunned the climate skeptics in Norway for a long time, but their media climate is finally warming up. A push for less campaign journalism by the Norwegian trade publication for reporters on the week of the Nobel Prize gala in Oslo is slowly changing the debate. I talked to Prof. Humlum a few weeks before the Nobel award, and he had several tales of editors that told him that his research was not welcome on their pages, now he has a full page story on the biggest newspaper in the country.

Energy alternatives

by Lene Johansen on January 17, 2008

in Science

Harvesting the body heat of Svedes, cheesy floor and cars running on chocolate is some of the environmentally friendly energy alternatives in a recent Guardian article. Great story that shows how innovation happens between self-interested actors, rather than through government planning.

There was only a question of time until politically correct energy rationing and reality TV would meet…

The Netherlands is officially on my list of countries with cool research and development of alternative energy sources. I have previously written about nightclubs where dance floor activity provide the energy need of the club, and now I bring you HOT ASPHALT!

I know what you are thinking, there is no innovation in hot asphalt, cause we all know it burns when you step on it barefoot. The cool thing is that this company is draining the heat out of it, to heat buildings and such.

It is like our roadways is one gi-nourmous solar panel, one might even consider a possible future where environmentalists might ask for more pawed ground for cleaner energy purposes, although that might be too much wishful thinking from a big-city girl.

Wrong reason, right decision

by Lene Johansen on January 12, 2008

in Blog

Climate change is used to justify the most insane political decisions, but for once it is used for a sensible decision. Although there is no direct link between climate change and the drought in Australia, the Aussies have decided to give plants bred with molecular plant breeding techniques (a.k.a. GMO's in politically correct greenspeak) a chance. The problem in Australia is that irrigation has led to droughts and high salinity, but we can blame global warming. As long as they give plant biotech a chance, I really don't care what reason they give.

Norwegian author Onar Åm, took IPCC's chairman Rajendra Kumar Pachauri to task at a debate at the University of Stavanger, Norway on Monday this week.

Åm published his book "Battle over climate –In defense of humanity" in December at the Press Club in Oslo. I have only leafed through the book so far, but its choked full of hard science, mixed up with the same moral argument that Bjørn Lomborg makes; we have to prioritize our resources, and poverty is more pressing than anything else. He is also a very well known figure in the Norwegian blogosphere.

According to Norwegian Aftenbladet, Pachauri had done his usual alarmist presentation in a good mood. He even included a joke about 20-30 percent of species will die out as a cause of global warming, and this extinction would include climate skeptics.

Åm had done his homework and disproved the outrageous statements, and concluded by accusing the IPCC of committing scientific fraud. One of his strongest points was the scientific critique of the hockey graph that the climate alarmists love so much.

Personally, I have read so many science reports discrediting that graph that it is hard to believe that IPCC is still using it with a straight face, but that is just my meager science reporter opinion…

Pachauri did not take kindly to the accusation of scientific fraud, but was not able to turn room back around after Åm's devastating debunking according to Aftenbladet.

After the debate, Aftenbladet asked Åm what his scientific credentials on climate science was, and Åm answered "I have the same credentials as Al Gore".