A press release title that irks me
I’m sure this will make the rounds in the geoblogosphere … at least I hope so. I don’t have the time right now to find and read the paper … please comment and/or link to it below.
A press release with this title just came across my feed reader:
Hot Climate Could Shut Down Plate Tectonics
Oh no!! Not another negative impact of global warming! Oh wait … no, it’s just another sensationalized press release title that could mislead the public.
Here’s the key statement from one of the authors of the paper:
We found the Earth’s plate tectonics could become unstable if the surface temperature rose by 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more for a few million years,” Lenardic said. “The time period and the rise in temperatures, while drastic for humans, are not unreasonable on a geologic scale, particularly compared to what scientists previously thought would be required to affect a planet’s geodynamics.
Hmm … a rise in surface temperature of 100 deg Farenheit over a few million years … let’s say it again … 100 deg Farenheit over a few million years
Another statement within the press release reveals what the study is actually about:
Lenardic said the research team wanted to better understand the differences between the Earth and Venus and establish the potential range of conditions that could exist on Earth-like planets beyond the solar system.
This sounds really cool!! I’m interested in learning more for sure.
My beef is that the title of the press release (which I would bet wasn’t written by the scientists) is extremely misleading. It’s difficult to imagine that whoever did write this title did not anticipate some confusion with respect to the hot (pun intended) topic of the day — global warming. The scales of both temperature change and time are not even close. Several degrees vs. 100 and several centuries vs. a few million years. Furthermore, the title explicitly refers to a prediction. With prediction and forecasting of climate at the decadel and centennial scale getting increasingly more attention in the press, might it have been prudent to qualify this statment with the “few million years” caveat?
To me, this is another example of sensationalized sound-bite science that has the potential to mislead the public. I’m all for getting the public excited about science news … but, at what cost for perpetuating or instigating significant misunderstandings?