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return to Sound Waves article: Scientists and the Media: Impacts of Sea-level Rise

Cynthia Barnett

Freshwater Impacts

Clip 2: Communicating about uncertainty—confusing readers and emboldening skeptics

Journalist Cynthia Barnett expresses concern about respected scientists' differing sea-level-rise predictions, fearing that the differences will confuse readers and embolden skeptics.

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Cynthia Barnett: But as a journalist in Florida, I am facing so many other uncertainties, and these are the ones I'd like to talk about. First is sea-level rise: you know, some of the most well-respected coastal and climate scientists in Florida are making pretty different projections about just how high the sea is going to rise. And that's what I want to know as a journalist, "OK, so how high is it going to rise?"—you know, "How wide is the inundation going to be?" So you have Harold Wanless and Stephen Leatherman in South Florida predicting up to a 5-foot rise by 2100; Dr. Stephen Mulkey at the University of Florida predicts 1-meter rise by 2100. You have the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, URL] predicting about a 2-foot rise, so—and I could go on and on and on with some of the most respected scientists in our state—so my worry is that when I report such divergent numbers in a story, one: that I'll confuse readers about climate change, but even worse: I'm afraid of emboldening skeptics. I'm afraid that skeptics use scientific uncertainty to—they use it as a weapon to try to debunk climate-change science.


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cover story:
Corals, Habitats, and Paleoclimate in the Drake Passage

Scientists and the Media: Impacts of Sea-level Rise

USGS NWRC Celebrates National Women's History Month

USGS Promoted at National Science Teachers Association Conference

Meetings Field Trip for Association of American Geographers Meeting

USGS Modeling Conference

Publications New Poster Depicts Complex Bathymetry in Northern Monterey Bay

August 2008 Publications List U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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