Climate Feedback Keeps Mainstream Media in Check, Seeks Funding on IndieGoGo

Climate Feedback has been busy correcting reporting on climate change inaccuracies within the mainstream media. Now the site is looking to expand its efforts as a watchdog for scientific reporting by asking for funding through IndieGoGo.

Climate Feedback has been busy correcting reporting on inaccuracies within the mainstream media. Now the site is looking to expand its efforts as a watchdog for scientific reporting by asking for funding through IndieGoGo.

Climate change shouldn't be a divisive issue. There's an overwhelming amount of evidence showing our climate is warming due to human activity. Yet, one in two Americans don't believe climate change is caused by human activity. Part of this is due to misinformation spread through the mainstream media.

Climate Feedback highlighted a piece published just this month in the Wall Street Journal claiming an impact report released by the United States government overstated the damage done by climate change. The article was written by Bjorn Lomborg, a well-known climate denier.

Climate Feedback weighed-in on Lomborg's op-ed piece, giving it a low grade. “Ten scientists analyzed the article and found that Lomborg had reached his conclusions through cherry-picking from a small subset of the evidence, misrepresenting the results of existing studies, and relying on flawed reasoning,” the summary reads.

Another piece of climate denial Climate Feedback criticized, appeared in Forbes on January 14, 2016, where the author claimed “2015 was not even close to the hottest year on record.” The author James Taylor seems credible at first glance, his bio says he “studied atmospheric science and majored in government at Dartmouth College.” It also says he works for the Heartland Institute, a public policy think tank and one of the leading forces in climate denial.

Climate Feedback and its army of accredited scientists once again weighed-in, annotating the piece and finding it lacked credibility. They summarized that the op-ed was an “inaccurate and misleading report. It only comments on the temperature in the troposphere (not at the surface of the Earth, where people live) and ignores most of the data available to discuss whether or not Earth’s climate is warming.” 

Climate Feedback's website shows us trends in the media community. Websites which were once in high-standing in my own mind quickly fell from the pedestal. Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and The Telegraph being the worst offenders featured have an undeniable track record of publishing op-eds about climate denial. Climate Feedback's work has already helped boost media standards. The Telegraph issued a public correction following Climate Feedback's analysis of Dan Hyde’s article Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years.

But consider the harm done in the interim. Going back to the article by Taylor posted on Forbes, just a few days later another article by a different author reported that 2015 was the hottest year on record. This scientifically accurate article received 2,572 views, whereas Taylor's inaccurate climate piece received 45,478 views.


Climate Feedback also works to promote and praise good science journalism. Chris Mooney's article What we’re doing to the Earth has no parallel in 66 million years, scientists say received high marks, as did Andrew Freedman’s article How Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane on record so quickly.

The team uses the annotation platform to highlight, comment, and discuss the accuracy of the piece. It allows scientists to directly address comments made by the author in the article and provide counterpoints in the form of research.

Though this open plugin and its community of over 100 scientists, Climate Feedback has drawn our attention to inaccurate reporting. This site is a tool the public can use to demand more accurate science reporting from journalists and bloggers.

Climate Feedback's founder Emmanuel Vincent says he wants to increase the frequency of the articles they analyze to effect change at a broader level. But in order to do this the site needs help to expand.

The site is looking for funding on IndieGoGo to help them build the Scientific Trust Tracker. It's a reference tool, which would allow people to easily “compare and contrast the credibility of a variety of websites and news organizations,” based on how they've reported on climate issues in the past.

As you can see from the mockup, sites like The New York Times and Mashable tend to feature accurate reports on climate change, whereas Forbes and The Wall Street Journal are less trustworthy when it comes to climate news.

Journalists are what help a democracy function. It's our job to observe and report to the best of our ability, so the people can make well-informed decisions on policy. It's a shame sites, like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Telegraph would ever give a megaphone to climate deniers. Climate Feedback may help set sites that would do such a thing down the right path.

Climate Feedback hopes to raise $30,000 in a month. On it's first day it's already raised $7,197.


Photo Credit: Climate Feedback

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

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  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
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The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.