National anthems and flags

Oct. 11th, 2017 08:47 am
[personal profile] swaldman
Given the kerfuffle between Trump and the NFL at present, it seems pertinent to trot out a little thing that I've mentioned elsewhere before, but I don't think on here: Subjects of national anthems.

Most of the national anthems in the world are about the countries concerned, or about people (sometimes The People, sometimes a monarch, and so forth). A few are about battles, or about military prowess in general. There are only five in the world (four, if you don't count Somalia as really being a state at the moment) that are specifically about flags. Not nations, not people, not great deeds, but sheets of cloth. It's quite unusual for the flag itself to be revered in this way, rather than it just being seen as a symbol of what is actually valued.

There's a neat map here.

Climate comms continued.

Oct. 10th, 2017 08:13 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
A rather belated followup to the previous post (I would say that I've been busy, but I haven't. I've been reeling in just-finished-thesis-draft and end-of-contract at the same time, and chilling instead).

To recap: After publishing their original paper, one of the paper's authors published an article on Carbonbrief explaining it in non-technical language, in which he said that his findings showed that we probably have a bit more leeway in the emissions budget to keep below 1.5 degrees of warming than we thought. Basically everybody in the world except climate scientists took this to mean that the climate models had been overpredicting temperature rise slightly, and the usual suspects went off on a "IT WAS ALL A HOAX" trip.

A day (?) later, the authors of the paper put out a press release saying that this interpretation is incorrect. Carbon Brief posted a new article trying to explain this in more detail. For anybody with time to read it carefully (I didn't), here's RealClimate on it.

I've only read these fairly quickly, but not in detail. I don't fully understand the distinctions between what seemed to be said, and what is actually said. I suspect it may be a difference between the results of a single model, and a full ensemble of different climate models. But I'm not sure - and that's fine, because I trust the experts here.

But I'm a relatively well-informed, if time-poor, reader, who doesn't doubt the existence of anthropogenic global warming, and even I read the original Carbonbrief post and came away thinking that the models were overpredicting (by a small amount - the situation's still dire, however one reads it, but slightly better is slightly better). If I can read the article and get a misleading impression, then most of the population - and, importantly, the press - will too. And they did, and the deniers had a field day. And I bet we'll still be hearing about this "admission that the models were wrong" for years, because the subsequent clarification will never see the light of day in denialist outlets.

So IMHO this was a major failure by the author. Sure, one can expect the journal article to be technical and not to spell things out for laypeople, but to write a non-technical version that is so misleading? He needed to stop for a minute, and think "what will a layperson understand from this?". And if unable to step that far back, get somebody else to do it. No, media management is not his job, but for somebody working in such a (outside science) controversial field, I think some responsibility applies. And frankly, writing a non-technical article that is misleading to laypeople is rather missing the point of doing the non-technical version in the first place ;-)

(I still feel bad about having a strong opinion on this without fully digesting the various things I've linked and understanding the detail of what was and was not said - but I guess that's kind of the point. Most people won't do that, and the impression that they come away with is important)

EDIT: This is not directly related, but is worth a read anyway: Interpreting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature limit. CarbonBrief seems to be becoming a rather excellent site for thoughtful and scientifically-literate lay comment / discussion.


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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."