Darksyde wrote a terrific piece about how the Bush-war Administration is actively undermining the integrity of government scientists, using NOAA/Global Warming/Hurricanes as the most visible (to the public) example (snippet):
|....But if you tuned into a cable news show discussing the relationship between hurricanes and global warming last fall, in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, you might not have heard any of this. Instead you could have been left with the impression that warming, global or otherwise, has no effect on hurricane frequency or intensity or probability of landfall.|
You might have heard instead it's all just a natural cycle, in between station breaks for erectile dysfunction drugs or the All New SUV with onboard wet bar and Jacuzzi! They might have looked you straight in the eyes, peering coyly out of that cathode ray tube as if they've known you all their life with perfect teeth and manicured nails, and told you point blank it was all routine. Then the mantra would all be repeated by the bubble-headed bleached blonde with a gleam in her eye: Nothing to be worried about, before moving on to the real news: Runaway brides and Brad and Jen and maybe a young missing white gal. You know, stuff that's more important than having your house swept away in a storm surge or your neighbor's kids floating face down just out of working mom's grasp, as she haltingly clings to Nana's emaciated corpse with one hand and the tattered rooftop peeking shyly out of a dark, rippling cesspool with the other.
Given the format of commercial news, hemmed in by breaks for sponsors and the need to reduce complex phenomena into less precise soundbites, it's easy to pull a little bait and switch operation. Simply conflate or confuse hurricanes, dangerous hurricanes, tropical storms, and eastern Atlantic tropical depressions all together. It would be no sweat to portray the idea that there's no evidence that warming would increase the frequency or duration and range of hurricanes, or dangerous hurricanes by using the "word" storm loosely and interchangeably, referring to tropical depressions off of Africa and to hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and everything else.
This is just one way to intentionally fool or accidentally confuse the public. Another would be to mix up statistics from TDs, TS's, hurricanes, dangerous hurricanes, and landfall hurricanes, and pick out whatever figures from whichever category that seems to make your case at hand, and apply that subset of stats haphazardly to other subsets with lots of vague techno-babble and pretty graphics to make it look credible: Cinematic sleight of hand to cover poor sourcing and questionable methodology. It even works on blogs, including Daily Kos diaries ...
Now, given all that, suppose you have an underlying agenda where any public awareness of global warming is unwelcome and potentially damaging. You now have a problem: Katrina and Rita have thrust the issue into the public limelight in a huge, negative way. Hypothetically speaking, if you wanted to engage in damage control, as a preemptive strike against any inconvenient concern over the relationship between global warming and ending up a bloated corpse face down in floodwaters, what would you do? What if money, influence, and power were no obstacle? ....
The piece also has a nice refresher course on hurricane formation. You'll definitely want to pass this one around..