RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Here is the most effective science video I’ve ever seen, by a long shot:

    This video was made for the “What is Nano?” contest, and it was IMHO the runaway winner. Here you can see other submissions to the contest, including the runner-up:

    So… I would suggest we figure out what we can learn from the Nano Song, and try to apply it to communicating climate change.

    Comment by Bob Fischer — 25 May 2012 @ 7:36 AM

  2. I would say all three videos are, unfortunately, pretty ineffective. It has already been well established that providing more information is NOT a way to effectively communicate climate change.

    Here is the best science communication I’ve ever seen, by far. Everything I know about nanotechnology, I learned from it:

    Comment by Bob Fischer — 25 May 2012 @ 7:54 AM

  3. All three web cam presentations put me to sleep. Of the nine videos Helmuth’s “conversation” is the best but that’s damning with faint praise.

    Comment by BillS — 25 May 2012 @ 9:28 AM

  4. I too found all the presentations deadly dull. I though Dessler’s were best because he outlined more clearly the basics underlying his issues. But I thought the webcams were just talking heads, and the “conversations” just pretty pictures that weren’t really informative.

    Comment by tamino — 25 May 2012 @ 9:50 AM

  5. my response is for white board. But none of them are good!

    DO NOT use low contrast colours like green unless necessary
    Lose the title writing
    Animate graphics. Give figures on the animations for albedo dwlir etc but do not talk about then unless necessary
    Use film clips if relevance can be found
    Use no unnecessary cuts (jumps in presentation)
    loose the shirt – relaxed but do not dumb down! presentation required
    examples of well known positive/negative feedbacks
    No satellite naming – irrelevant
    Give data sources/papers for followup

    1 – no point showing person
    2 – no point showing pictures of clouds

    both cases you lose a asesory input to the viewer

    Comment by thefordprefect — 25 May 2012 @ 9:59 AM

  6. I think you’re trying to comunicate to the general public like me. So here’s what I think.

    First, and most importantly you cannot dumb it down too much so that you’d have to compromise its core science.

    If I were you I’d try to create your surrogates who would be college educated so that they’d hopefuly understand rather scientific talks, explainations better than the general public. But you’d also have to provide some articulations with common/everyday language so that they, your surogates can talk/explain to rest of us.

    I’d guess that scientists study and research details because where it really counts, devils in details(?). But for us, it would be nice if you can connect detailed works, findings to a big picture. How those details matter relatted to the big picture. We are not students in classroom. We don’t progress. It’s always climate change 101 prerequisites.
    Explaination of water cycle earlier thread with pictures was very nice and helpfull eventhough it was too technical to me. But as I said if someone with higher education around me can understand it and explain it to me in everyday language. Do I make sense? Pardon me, english is my learned language.

    Comment by CRV9 — 25 May 2012 @ 10:42 AM

  7. I think the graphics were not congruent with the points the speaker was making and this divides attention. In these sorts of presentations it helps to have a small window with the presenter’s image in a lower corner when a photograph, word, or data slide is up so the presenter can direct the watchers attention with gestures, or by looking at a slide (toward the graphic from a window). A digital pointer should be used on slides to guide the learner’s attention through relevant graphics and graphics should be turned off when they are not needed. I agree that the presentations were unnecessarily dull. Science is fun because it consists of a series of satisfying logical stories, and this is what should be communicated.

    Comment by Steve Fish — 25 May 2012 @ 11:03 AM

  8. Number 2-5 are being too harsh!

    Dessler’s webcam is great at communicating concepts and significance. Helmuth’s whiteboard is great too – lots of information yet still engaging. In general, it seemed important to get the right pacing.

    Do you randomize the order for different participants so there isn’t a bias from increasing comprehension (or boredom).

    Comment by Dan — 25 May 2012 @ 1:13 PM

  9. All nine presentations were dull and didn’t communicate the urgency of the climate problem. The nano video has good production values and is cute, but it’s not very informative either. Maybe something along the lines of the Blazing Saddles hymn at

    would get the urgency message across.

    Comment by Jay Dee Are — 25 May 2012 @ 1:55 PM

  10. There is a rule of thumb well known to every politician: a presentation meant for the general voting public should be understandable to a typical 13 year old seventh grader.

    That means no big words, no jargon or acronyms, no mathematical formulae, degrees in Fahrenheit if in the USA, and lots of easy-to-grasp illustrations, even better if they are animated. If you are going to show a graph or chart, animate it left-to-right forward through time, etc.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 25 May 2012 @ 1:57 PM

  11. “if done right scientific communication can help shape the public debate and lead to more informed decisions”

    Unfortunately, the many millions of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel corporations to legislators have a lot more to do with “shaping the public debate” than do scientists communicating the details of their work to the general public.

    Videos are nice. But they are no substitute for bribes.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 May 2012 @ 2:36 PM

  12. Webcams don’t work for me because the personality gets in the way of the message. I’m too interested in what the face and eyes are doing, what the speaker is thinking.

    Helmuth’s Conversation was best for me because the delivery was loose, relaxed and genuine (seemed like he was reaching for the right words), and because the imagery made what he was saying factual. The Whiteboard version was clearer with the theory, but I didn’t ‘believe’ as much as I did with the Conversation version. It wasn’t as *real*.

    For the other two the Whiteboard version was the best and clearest, but the Conversation versions were just not as well done as Helmuth’s. Dessler’s imagery was pretty mono-themed, and Higgins delivery was a bit shouty. Presentation, unfortunately, matters.

    The simplest fix using the tools and offers on hand: narratve needs to be emphasised. Unless you’re going to sing about it, nothing holds the viewer like a story. Therefore, I’d merge Whiteboard and Conversation, and make the story the journey from theory to data collection to findings. And pick some compelling images, and also images right from the guts of the work, even if its just a computer churning out numbers. We want to *see* the process as clearly as possible. We want to go on a journey.

    Comment by barry — 25 May 2012 @ 8:22 PM

  13. It ever so much depends on the individual. The conversational and whiteboard techniques have the advantage, in my current opinion.

    Also, I think it would be best to convey something more of the essence of science. We’ve all been there. A prof is explaining something, and our mind flashes on the “expected” result/cause, and reality is 180 degrees in opposition, often because the order of magnitude for one of the forcings in our uninformed mind is off by two. (Good thing we didn’t raise our hand too quickly, eh?) Not a big human error, but it changes EVERYTHING in the real world.

    So, tell folks, “Clouds cool the planet because ______. Clouds also warm the planet because ___. Cloud height changes the equations tremendously. With that and all the other variables, determining which effect is stronger is a seriously difficult scientific query. A cloud only shades a small area, but it blocks infrared emissions from a large area of the planet. One’s experience can make one more attuned to the shading, which would be an error, The warming is aided when clouds _______, while the cooling effect is maximized when __. Our research shows that ___.”

    So, describe scientific truths with analogies. Ensure the reader can relate to each and every claim WITHOUT MATH. Then give reasons for their order of magnitude. This substitutes for the math. “This is in this direction and most important because ______. This is next in importance because _______, and in ____ direction because ____. Stressing the relative strengths of effects is crucial. “Higher CO2 yields higher CO2 utilization”. Yep, quite true. Is this a primary factor, or a 10^-3 factor and why? Deniers rely on promoting 10^-3 factors to primary.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 25 May 2012 @ 10:15 PM

  14. I’m glad you are thinking about how to communicate with the public on GW. You have a very long way to go. I like the whiteboard talks the best because being in a classroom is familiar to me. That is irrelevant to the general public. The public will turn you off instantly. I am proud to be a nerd and I expect that you are as well. The public is not like us. Nerds are never popular.

    1. The public needs to know certain things such as that the problem is solvable, scientists don’t conspire, and fossil fuel money has been paying for propaganda, providing fake experts and bribing congress.

    2. To begin, we need to spend many millions of dollars on Madison Avenue. Second, the production has to be done at the Hollywood level, in Hollywood with really beautiful Hollywood people in the cast. If we can’t wrangle the cash, talk to the professors in the marketing department and the drama department. Cybil Shepherd was once a drama student at Carnegie-Mellon University. Reese Witherspoon attended Stanford University as an English literature major. Get the next one like them.

    The Madison Avenue people first need to do “market research” to find out how to turn opinions around and get people into a mood to revolt. This is a revolution or insurrection against the powers that be, the 1%. Remember that. Expect to meet repression.

    Again, I’m glad you are beginning to head in the right direction.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 26 May 2012 @ 1:03 AM

  15. It is a good thing to develop a specific communication media for the scientists but what about the international community authorities. They don’t take the new discoveries of scientists related to climate change. The last decade was full of impacts of climate change. Almost 1 million people were eaten by nature and still world governments argue with climate change whistle blowers.

    Comment by Fraz — 26 May 2012 @ 4:19 AM

  16. My background is as a professional video producer and of course video can be the most effective tool to communicate any message to a mass audience. But the key is proper scripting and a strong mix of video, graphics, animations, and on camera narration when necessary. These videos are quite poor in all these areas, but I have offered WRI free consulting on any future videos they’d like to produce.

    Comment by R. Gates — 26 May 2012 @ 9:06 AM

  17. Fraz, If I’m catching your drift, I agree. It may be time to start raising the profile of consequences in public discussions. That is, reiterate current observable impacts of AGW; the list is growing. Look at the meaning of projections in terms of scenarios; as in “Six Degrees”. Reconstruct how the world looked under paleoclimate regimes. In other words, take it from an abstraction, in distracted minds, to something vivid, concrete and therefore intuitively meaningful.

    Short form, there needs to be some world building in which your narrative takes place delivered with a little old fashioned motivational gusto, IMAO.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 26 May 2012 @ 11:09 AM

  18. I watched the videos and here is my comment posted at the survey.

    “So much depends on who the audience is. For most of the public, these videos are okay, but wrongly assume that people actually know what the carbon cycle is. – and that detracts from their impact.

    They fail to explain the ‘how’ of plants contributing to atmospheric CO2. Decomposition of plants is not even mentioned.”

    I post comments on climate change regularly at online news outlets like Yahoo News, CBS, CNN etc. From what I’ve seen at these sites, most people have no idea what the carbon cycle is.

    Being a layman, I hope that my words communicate to the general public, using language they can understand. Here is an example of a comment, that I post regularly.
    I would appreciate any criticism or corrections that would make my communication better. And maybe it will give some idea of how to talk to non scientists.

    “Global warming is NOT just a natural warming like the earth always goes through.

    There has never before been a large species on Earth, 7 billion strong, burning fossil fuels and speeding up the natural short term carbon cycle.
    ( 20% of human caused emissions are from land use impacts. )

    In the short term (or active) carbon cycle, carbon cycles through the atmosphere, water, top soil, and living things. We are made of carbon compounds.

    This cycle has been in a kind of balance or equilibrium for at least the last 10,000 years, and maybe as long as humans have been on earth.

    That balance made possible the Holocene, during which agriculture and civilization emerged in a fairly benign climate regime. Carbon effects all life, the climate, geology, the chemistry of the oceans.

    Have you heard of clean coal technology? It’s called carbon capture and sequestration. The idea is to capture CO2 from power plants and pump it deep underground to sequester it. In other words, take it out of circulation, take it out of the short term carbon cyle.

    Nature has done a kind of carbon sequestration. The carbon from former living things gets deposited underground, where after many tens of millions of years, it becomes coal. This locks it out of the short term carbon cycle, helping keep it in a balance that has made life, as we know it, possible
    We are now taking maybe 65 million years of coal, burning it, and releasing all that carbon back into the active carbon cycle, in a few human lifetimes. That’s a blink of an eye in geological time scales.

    So carbon from fossil fuel emissions are ON TOP OF the normal carbon that naturally cycles through the carbon cycle.

    That is Not just a natural cycle that the earth is going through.”

    Comment by frflyer — 26 May 2012 @ 11:18 AM

  19. As Richard Feynman observed of his children there is no single best educational method for everyone. In addition, there is no single method which is best for all educators. Some might excell at lecturing, others at preparing a presentation using slides and aids.

    I am unclear who the audience is supposed to be. That affects the amount of context which needs to be included.

    I would prefer if the balance between findings and method were to be tilted more in favour of the latter. At least in the UK we already get numerous reports in the media of the conclusions of research. What tends to be missing is the route which is used to get there. This could be an opportunity for researchers to redress the balance. Otherwise there is an empty space which can be invaded by propagandists as happened when Channel 4 (in the UK) presented the GGWS fake documentary.

    In these examples, I preferred the whiteboard format because it devoted slightly more time to the methods involved. The “conversation” format was a failure, but might be improved by devoting much more time to choosing relevant slides.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 26 May 2012 @ 2:53 PM

  20. I thought the whiteboard talks were the best of the three approaches for all three talks (but none were particularly strong). Should probably pass these by a different audience (high school students? other?) rather than the group that frequents this site.

    Comment by Robert Damon — 26 May 2012 @ 3:02 PM

  21. Remember the US average reading comprehension level is around 8th-9th grade for nontechnical, nonscientific reading.

    So if you want to reach more than half your audience — simple sentences, few words, lots of paragraph breaks.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 May 2012 @ 9:11 PM

  22. I’ve seen and commented on the videos by these researchers, each one
    doing important work. The key is good graphics within the conversation.

    The most engaging climate-change info video I know was the one posted by
    rasmus 17 January 2012. The aptness of the analogy plus style makes it work:

    This NRK animation was linked by rasmus to a group post about Foster and Rahmstorf, linked in turn to (graphic) “details” at Tamino. I took the total package as the animation plus the graphics at both links.

    Not every graphic can be a home run, but every one can serve its purpose.

    When a graphic really works, it’s the concept that counts. Here’s another one (no animation):

    Comment by Patrick — 26 May 2012 @ 11:02 PM

  23. I made my comments on the video site. But after reading some of these harsh or unsupported comments, I would like to add:
    1. Talking heads are ok if they look natural, and I thought the first video was sufficiently practiced so that he did a pretty good job. Yes graphics would be nice to add. but just with his talking, he knew what he was going to say ahead of saying it.
    2. the second graphic video was overloaded and it cost the viewer’s attention (unless he viewed the first video). Pacing is a factor, but IMHO there was too much in the second video.
    3. Strongly suggest testing this with real students in High school. By posting this here you do get some feedback,but it is hit and miss. This was the main reason I had a job in aerospace business, because engineers and scientists neglected to test their material with people other than their friends for understanding/comprehension; As i don’t have a scientific academic background.

    Comment by Thomas — 27 May 2012 @ 12:46 AM

  24. I forgot to mention HUMOR!
    A real class of junior high, or maybe high school kids could be given an assignment to make this video humorous and still convey the information.

    Comment by Thomas — 27 May 2012 @ 12:53 AM

  25. Joe Romm has a comment at:
    “Must-See TEDx Video: If You Want Them To Remember, Tell A Story”

    So put GW into a story or 2 and hire R. Gates to produce the video. Make that 2 stories. 1 We win and 2 we loose.

    Climate Ostriches:

    leads to:

    “On the Perpetuation of Ignorance: System Dependence, System Justification, and the Motivated Avoidance of Sociopolitical Information”

    “In the case of energy, nearly 40% of respondents in a Public Agenda (2009) survey could not identify a fossil fuel.” !!!

    “Nearly one third could not identify a renewable energy source and incorrectly believed that solar energy contributes to global warming.”

    “Namely, feeling unknowledgeable should instigate feelings of dependence on those who manage the system (i.e., the government) and, in turn, increase trust in the government and the status quo,”

    So you are going to have to tell them that neither the government nor the status quo will protect them, and that they are going to have to tell the government to protect them.

    “Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control,” by Albert Bandura of Stanford University’s Department of Psychology

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 27 May 2012 @ 1:17 AM

  26. Woops:
    “Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control,” by Albert Bandura of Stanford University’s Department of Psychology
    is a book.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 27 May 2012 @ 1:22 AM

  27. I likes the whiteboard best at about 5/10.

    Agree with CRV9 regards surrogates.

    My personal experience coming off very technical design phases and then having to interact with the general public was that it took and amount of time for me to get to the point where I could condense the essential elements enough in my own head to get the message to the point where it was simple enough but still effective.

    While not directly relevant I think Greenmans “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” are pretty good, but that’s just my opinion. These presentations are about a particular paper but you need to have education about how the scientific method works sort of built in.

    You are not talking to your peers necessarily here.

    He may have a slightly monotone voice, but it is not shrill and it ties into the average persons “current affairs” as well.


    Comment by GrahamD — 27 May 2012 @ 1:51 AM

  28. I agree that these were all quite dull. I think a good example of delivering information effectively in video form is the LFTR in 5 Minutes video

    Comment by CCraig — 27 May 2012 @ 7:22 AM

  29. Aside — if you haven’t asked Tufte, you should.
    He has an active blog.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 May 2012 @ 9:14 AM

  30. I think one problem is rehearsal or the lack of it. Some training by a voice coach might be helpful. We’re not asking for the mellifluous, melted butter tones of a Richard Burton or a Denzel Washington but clear, steadily paced speech in a nicely modulated tone takes a goodly amount of practice, usually helped along by some coaching assistance. It’s not enough to follow some advice to “slow down”, you have to practise talking at a different pace entirely.

    Humour? Not all topics lend themselves to this kind of treatment by Watkins and Braganza at the Australian BOM, but maybe more than we initially think.

    As for presentation tips and tricks, we can’t all aim for the whizbangery of Hans Rosling’s population statistics on TED, but he often uses very simple boxes or other props to make some points. Worth bearing in mind for some presentations. I lack the imagination to work out whether any simple household items might or might not be useful for any of these.

    And why did we come to a full stop – more than once – in the whiteboard presentations to _write_ words like ‘Method’ on the board? Much, much better to write the heading off camera, or use a magnetic strip with the word already printed, and then go on smoothly with that portion of the presentation. “And now we come to ….. ” “Moving along to …”

    Comment by adelady — 27 May 2012 @ 9:23 AM

  31. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks

    “Seeming public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled1. Widespread limits on technical reasoning aggravate the problem by forcing citizens to use unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk2. We conducted a study to test this account and found no support for it. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.” – Nature Climate Change (2012

    Comment by Vendicar Decaruan — 27 May 2012 @ 1:06 PM


    Comment by Jacob Mack — 27 May 2012 @ 1:11 PM

  33. Climate Crock of the Week has videos that I think do a good job of conveying both science and urgency in a compelling way:

    Comment by Kerry — 27 May 2012 @ 6:49 PM

  34. I agree with Kerry (~#33) that Peter Sinclair is an excellent presenter. But also, even though he is even more into debunking, Peter Hatfield (potholer54, is an excellent model for presentation style.

    Comment by Steve Fish — 27 May 2012 @ 8:55 PM

  35. This is stil my favorite..

    Because it connects so well with the youth..
    Especially the NSFW version :)

    Comment by Harmen — 28 May 2012 @ 3:40 AM

  36. I love that WRI & are concerned about this, & are trying different approaches to address it.

    How about running a contest-of-sorts, for a given paper, to see what ideas people can come up with?

    Of the 3 Dessler videos, I preferred the one in front of a whiteboard, but much whiteboarding can&should be shown as sped-up video (what’s the URL for the folks who do this?).
    Also, some Toastmasters-style coaching could be helpful. (Minor but distracting: “What we found was…” -> “We found…”, etc)

    And a general “public science communication” point –
    It’s important not to irk the high end while aiming for a broad-audience message. Suggestion (and this goes for journos like Borenstein, Vergano & Black) – at the end, give a link to a site that goes into more depth+evidence on the issue being addressed.
    (the default, of course, being Skeptical Science)
    Do any already do this?

    Comment by Anna Haynes — 28 May 2012 @ 11:48 AM

  37. p.s. to the “general press” part of my 11:48am comment: e.g., it’s necessary-but-not-sufficient to say “97% of climate scientists agree…”; there should also be a link for readers who want to go further & see what the evidence is.

    (Sorry to go off track here, but I don’t know where better to put it.)

    Comment by Anna Haynes — 28 May 2012 @ 12:10 PM


    “… polarization actually becomes larger, not smaller, as science literacy and numeracy increase (Fig. 2 and Supplementary Table S4 and Fig. S3).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 May 2012 @ 2:48 PM

  39. aw, links broke to the figures; go through the original. Title is

    The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risk

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 May 2012 @ 2:52 PM

  40. #34, thanks, Steven Fish.
    I’ve watched a couple of them. They’re very good.

    Thing is this. There are just so many imformations out there. When I looked it up on the net first 10-15 hits are usually ‘scienfitific fact, fact, truth, truth. AGW is hoax’ ones. I simply don’t have time to comb through them to find legitimate ones. Even among legitemate ones, it’s so hard to find ones that can explain to me and satisfy me. Excuse me for being uneducated and dumb.
    When I ask around people around me, it’s always something like #35 vodeo. It’s no offence but they’re not talking science. It is a typical example of my earlier point, not dumb it down too much. If you can’t explain it, don’t. Don’t belittle.

    If you can’t convince some educated ones what would you expect from me, us uneducated dumb ones? I’ve been around for a while so I can smell ‘snake oil salesman’ talks but I can’t argue against or pin point what’s wrong with their scientific arguments. You’d have to admit they make good arguments on surface if only their logic were consistent. That is also why they bring it to where it counts, one vote at a time. And unfortunately climate change and evolution have become hot issues. It has become science is at stake now.

    Personally I really don’t care if AGW is real or not. I believe it is though. I looked it up only because I happened to engage in this idiotic, dogmatic, stupid, unscientific debate with a man from Galileo Movement of Australia. I just didn’t want to back away because of my ego and their casual disregard for science and scientists eventhough I didn’t know what i was talking about.
    What frustrated me was that there are so many imformations out there yet I couldn’t find anything.
    Thank you for place to vent. Pardon me, english is my learned language. I’m off, truly off. Please keep up your good work.

    Comment by CRV9 — 28 May 2012 @ 6:11 PM

  41. CRV9: start here:

    If you really want to get into it, go to the top left of this page and click on “start here” or go to
    and take the course.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 May 2012 @ 10:08 PM

  42. In order to get the message down to the right level, make it an episode of “The Simpsons.” Have Homer take a job as a coal miner and find a fossil 1 foot long dragon fly in the coal. The dragon fly tries to come back to life and Homer tells it to get back in the coal. End of episode.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 May 2012 @ 10:15 PM

  43. Hello CRV9,

    if you feel that You need a comprehensive primer that does not “dumb down”,
    and your mother tongue is german I can recommend ZAMG (Austrian)


    Comment by Marcus — 29 May 2012 @ 1:24 AM

  44. You need professionals. Here’s a video of about the same length as the three I watched. Which do you think is most effective?
    And the Hungry Beast video Harmen references in #35, I’m a Climate Scientist, ain’t bad, not at all! But it too suffers from overly geeky production values. Just not too much. I enjoy using both videos in discussions.

    Notice the Blue Man Group’s production. Every word was crisp and clear. The message was simple, straightforward, and very easy to understand. They got and kept peoples’ attention through use of humor and novelty. Grin, how many of your videos got cheers at the end?

    To even attempt to fight back against the tens of millions of dollars of the other side’s propaganda, you’ve got to be slick. You might consider hiring someone – someone good.

    Comment by Joe Joyce — 29 May 2012 @ 1:33 AM

  45. CRV9, Skeptical Science contains answers to virtually all of your climate-science-related questions:

    It has the added benefit of having articles translated into 20 different languages:

    I recommend reading about Newcomers, Start Here and The Big Picture

    New seekers after knowledge are always welcome.

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 29 May 2012 @ 12:18 PM

  46. Oh my I am so sad to see how little has been learned about communicating science. Every one of these is bad. The script has no story line. The graphics are unreadable. The production values are low. Each could be used as examples of what not to do. There is no excuse for an organization like WRI to do so poorly. We must do better than this!

    And to top it off, he’s setting up a straw man argument (scientists have thought that plants and soils are only a carbon sink, and aren’t going to be a source) that simply is not true. Read the 1999 US Carbon Cycle Science Plan, or the North American Carbon Program implementation strategy; or the 2011 US Carbon Cycle Science Plan. This community has been trying to better understand sources and sinks of carbon gases, and potential changes due to ecosystem impacts of climate change, for decades.

    Bad script, bad graphics, bad science all add up to an afternoon cup of sadness.

    Comment by Peter Griffith — 29 May 2012 @ 4:33 PM

  47. I watched all nine videos. I don’t agree that a speech coach or video consultant is always needed. The productions are all a little rough, but that may not really matter, because the essential element is the scientist talking about actual work on some small piece of the puzzle. Starting bottom-up, from the details observed in nature (or computer model), shows the scientists as trying to explore the world, wherever the facts may lead, rather than trying to push an agenda. If there’s a feeling of an agenda at the beginning, that will simply turn off people who see themselves as in ‘the opposing camp.’ Scientists who want to do well on video might watch others who have done a good job explaining details of their own research for general audiences. Feynman obviously comes to mind. Edward O. Wilson is great too. Who else?

    Comment by Steve Fentress — 29 May 2012 @ 10:14 PM

  48. I watched some of the videos completely and all of them at least partly.

    I’m not sure that we are the right people to be evaluating them. Participants at this blog know all (well not ‘all’ but a lot) about the science. We can see where the new research fits it regardless of whether the explanation is clear or vague.

    I also wonder whether it’s important for the public to know about the content of the three papers. Granted, they all suggest climate change will be worse than was thought but most of the public don’t understand, or even accept, the basic science: CO2=AGW, CO2+H2O=CAGW.

    [Response: Please find a single ‘basic scientific’ text that defines ‘CAGW’ – let alone uses your definition. Though you are correct that most people do not understand the basics. – gavin]

    Comment by Ron Manley — 30 May 2012 @ 7:10 AM

  49. Completed the survey :)

    Comment by MapleLeaf — 30 May 2012 @ 12:46 PM

  50. > CO2+H2O
    Talking point popular recently, long since debunked. Top of atmosphere is dry.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 May 2012 @ 1:36 PM

  51. I see that Hank Roberts referred to this article @38, but maybe it merits a second try. (If the text below isn’t all formatted the same it’s not for any lack of trying have it be so.)

    Kahan et al. 2012. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Science. PUBLISHED ONLINE: 27 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1547. (free access to full article)

    “For the ordinary individual, the most consequential effect of his beliefs about climate change is likely to be on his relations with his peers.”

    “For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use–or explain away–evidence relating to their groups’ positions.”

    “Although it is effectively costless for any individual to form a perception of climate-change risk that is wrong but culturally congenial, it is very harmful to collective welfare for individuals in aggregate to form beliefs this way.
    One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy of the risk-perception commons. A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict so long as the climate-change debate continues to feature cultural meanings that divide citizens of opposing world-views.
    It does not follow, however, that nothing can be done to promote constructive and informed public deliberations. As citizens understandably tend to conform their beliefs about societal risk to beliefs that predominate among their peers, communicators should endeavor to create a deliberative climate in which accepting the best available science does not threaten any group’s values. Effective strategies include use of culturally diverse communicators, whose affinity with different communities enhances their credibility, and information-framing techniques that invest policy solutions with resonances congenial to diverse groups. Perfecting such techniques through a new science of science communication is a public good of singular importance.”

    Comment by Rick Brown — 30 May 2012 @ 3:09 PM

  52. Tossing my own very lo-fi effort into the ring: State of the Oceans 2011

    Overview of threats to earth’s oceans, including global warming, acidification, overfishing, and dead zones.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 30 May 2012 @ 7:18 PM

  53. Richard Feynman famously attempted to explain the whole of physics in 100-odd lectures given at Caltech in 1961-63. The lectures purportedly targeted first year students, though contemporary accounts suggest that the series was too long, dry and technical to engage that audience. Unfortunately there is no video record to judge (though there is audio and the published notes).

    More interesting is his much later attempt to explain his own field (quantum electrodynamics) to a non-special_st audience without using a single line of mathematics. These four lectures given at the University of Auckland in 1979 are compelling stuff. No PowerPoint, no audiovisuals, no clever animation; just this guy and his chalkboard. But you can’t help watching.

    Why does it work? Three things:

    1. A presenter whose knowledge of the subject is beyond question (i.e. not Al Gore).
    2. One who knows how to package the material in an accessible way (no math … can’t be done, err, yes it can).
    3. Someone with that spark; that little piece of humanity that an audience will grab and hold.
    Such combinations are unusual, but they’re not actually rare. I reckon there’s a few in every university and research institution. Find, encourage, improve, market.

    Comment by GlenFergus — 30 May 2012 @ 7:30 PM

  54. Given 51 Rick Brown, there is no hope. Homo Sap is a dead end species. That is Unacceptable. Recent books:
    “The Social Conquest of Earth” by Edward O. Wilson
    “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsch
    “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer
    “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer

    We are in the middle of the awakening process. “The Garden of Eden” was the “dream time.” GW is a giant hammer that will awaken us or kill us or drive evolution without mercy.

    Forget the real video. New task: Spread the Enlightenment [awakening] to all voters. Do the survey at The polarity or parity of the impact of science literacy must be reversed. Teaching climate science by itself doesn’t work, so forget it. We have to do “conversions” or “exorcisms.”

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 May 2012 @ 11:14 PM

  55. Instead of reinventing the wheel, perhaps climate scientists should do as James Hansen has done: step-up to the plate on a TED lecture (

    These provide dynamic venues and impose a time limit (18 minutes) to make the point you need to make. TEDs can be global, national, regional and even local. I would certainly consider this type of venue as a very appropriate way to get the message out.


    [Response: Here is one I did last fall at TEDxPSU. It was sort of an audiovisual abstract for my book, “The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars”. -mike]

    Comment by Pierre Bigras — 31 May 2012 @ 7:08 AM

  56. Rick Brown,
    I remember when that study came out I was rather shocked at how low they set the bar for science/numeracy. Rather than illustrating inverse between scientific literacy and concern over climate change, it seemed to me to reinforce the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    What is more, I don’t think it is telling us anything new. We already knew that we had a tendency to fool ourselves, and that harmony within our social group was a big reason why. That isn’t the point. The point is that such tendencies are maladaptive, and that we need science to help us overcome these tendencies so that we can accurately assess and address risk.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 May 2012 @ 9:31 AM

  57. Ron Manley says:
    “the basic science: CO2=AGW, CO2+H2O=CAGW.”
    [Response: Please find a single ‘basic scientific’ text that defines ‘CAGW’ – let alone uses your definition. Though you are correct that most people do not understand the basics. – gavin]

    I think Mr. Manley was trying to illustrate that the feedbacks mostly from water vapor and clouds amplify the somewhat mild direct warming from anthropogenic CO2 emissions to the point of being dangerous.

    Taking the Measure of the Greenhouse Effect
    “If, for instance, CO2 concentrations are doubled, then the absorption would increase by 4 W/m2, but once the water vapor and clouds react, the absorption increases by almost 20 W/m2 — demonstrating that (in the GISS climate model, at least) the “feedbacks” are amplifying the effects of the initial radiative forcing from CO2 alone.”

    Research Finds That Earth’s Climate is Approaching ‘Dangerous’ Point
    “Based on climate model studies and the history of the Earth the authors conclude that additional global warming of about 1°C (1.8°F) or more, above global temperature in 2000, is likely to be dangerous.”

    Mr. Manley’s oversimplification highlights, I believe, a gap in the communication of the case for mitigation. In my experience, one can easily find information that is either technically correct but extensive or concise but technically incorrect. There doesn’t seem to be a widely distributed version that is as simple as possible but not one bit simpler.

    My attempt at an “Einstein’s Razor” version of the case for mitigation:

    1) Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere in quantities that exceed the natural sinks such that atmospheric CO2 increases even though anthropogenic sources are small in comparison to natural sources because they a large in comparison to sources not matched by sinks. Burning fossil fuels basically transfers carbon from the geologic carbon cycle into the biologic carbon cycle faster than the natural transfer from biologic to geologic causing an imbalance in the system manifested by an increase atmospheric CO2.

    2) Doubling CO2 increases GHE heat flux by about 3.7 W/m2 (per Q=5.35Ln(pCO2f/pCO2i)) and suppresses outgoing long wave radiation (IR) via absorption and re-emission.

    3) The 3.7 W/m2 increase in down welling heat flux (Radiative Forcing(RF)) causes the surface to be warmer on average by reducing net radiative heat loss at night and adding to the direct heating during the day.

    4) The warmer surface emits more IR and causes the atmosphere to become warmer via convection, conduction, and radiative heat transfer.

    5) The earth-atmosphere system as a whole must warm enough for the effective radiative TOA (~20km) to emit the additional IR to space, basically obtain radiative balance.

    6) The climate warms about 1 degree Celsius on average globally to accomplish the initial radiative balancing on a decadal timescale termed the Transient Sensitivity (TS).

    7) The 1 degree Celsius warming causes changes in the system such as increased relative humidity and changes in cloudiness which amplifies the warming to 3 degrees Celsius on a centurial timescale termed the Equilibrium Sensitivity(ES), via an approximate feedback factor (ff) of about 0.8, (note: feedback factor is less than 1, so there’s no danger of “runaway” GW) [per] dT=[ES][dRF] and [ES]=[TS] + (ff)[TS] + (ff)^2[TS] + (ff)^3[TS] + (ff)^4[TS] ……… to convergence for all practical purposes.
    (dT = change in temperature and dRF = change in radiative forcing)

    8) 3 degrees C of warming globally on average above pre-industrial global average would cause significant harm to civilization(s) and ecosystems around the world.

    Any improvements/corrections welcome, especially a replacement for “per” in #7 which I don’t think is strictly speaking technically correct (yikes).

    Comment by John West — 31 May 2012 @ 9:39 AM

  58. Ray @56 – Thanks, I think my point in posting the link to the paper by Kahan et al. ( was consistent with what you’re saying. (The paper came out all of 3 days ago, so perhaps you’re recalling another one.) The authors are some of the scientists studying how our brains fail us and, most importantly, how to try to overcome those failings. (For an excellent history and overview of this science by one of the leaders in the field I recommend Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.) When it comes to communication about climate change, this science will be as essential as climate science or risk analysis and it has to do with a lot more than how people look at the camera or use a white board.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 31 May 2012 @ 11:09 AM

  59. John West wrote: “3 degrees C of warming globally on average above pre-industrial global average would cause significant harm to civilization(s) and ecosystems around the world”

    The warming that has already occurred as a result of the GHGs we have already emitted is already causing “significant harm to civilization and ecosystems around the world”.

    By the time we reach 3C of warming above the pre-industrial average, the harm will be a lot more than “significant”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 May 2012 @ 12:37 PM

  60. I recently saw Richard Alley speak, liked his style quite a lot. Bad news needs laughter to be digestible and Alley seems naturally suited make people laugh. He’s also able to make a plausible case for how we might yet extract ourselves from the mess we’ve made while simultaneously not glossing over the truth.

    Here’s a video of the his current talk.

    Comment by dbostrom — 31 May 2012 @ 1:01 PM

  61. Rick, I think I saw the preprint. I’m afraid I don’t have a whole lot of patience with the whole “framing” idea. People simply need to stop being stupid. Period.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 May 2012 @ 1:25 PM

  62. Ray, people need to be helped to stop appearing to be stupid. Sticking with “it’s stupidity” is fallacy, as is being increasingly demonstrated and explored.

    This challenge of helping people to better help themselves turns out not to be a simple problem. Why should it be? Of how many parts is one person composed? What happens when we replicate the mechanism somewhat imperfectly, billions of times?

    Simple? No, emphatically.

    Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring research because it’s not in your field; we’re still learning about damage that happens when people are too parochial in their beliefs and you don’t want to be part of that problem.

    Comment by dbostrom — 31 May 2012 @ 2:07 PM

  63. Sorry folks, but all three left me quite bored. I think this is a FABULOUS idea. Scientists can explain their paper in general terms that anyone should be able to understand. But the example formats fell flat. In my opinion… how would these scientists relay their information to a group at a local church, library, high school? Use a keynote presentation with colorful graphics, not a lot of heavy science speak, and without a flat voice. The same can be done with these videos. Since the idea here is probably to keep this on the cheap so that it is accessible to any scientist who wants to do this, then a slide presentation with a voice over is probably the best way to go. (not a whiteboard that uses markers too lightly colored to see, a video of the scientists head, or a video with a bunch of imagery that is unrelated…)

    Comment by Jennifer — 31 May 2012 @ 3:20 PM

  64. dbostorm, I’m afraid I have little sympathy for folks who gauge truth by how nice the presenter is or by how much they like the conclusions. Truth is sometimes ugly and it is always indifferent to what we want. We need to be sufficiently mature to accept that and base our opinions and beliefs on the best evidence available.

    It is one thing to be ignorant. Ignorance is curable. Stupidity–which I define as simply believing things because we want to–will ultimately prove fatal.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 May 2012 @ 7:07 PM

  65. Ray, efficient critical thinking skills are key to our progress given the blizzard of bullshit in which we must function.

    Unless specifically trained otherwise our critical thinking skills substantially operate subconsciously and are riddled with defects having to do with atavistic cognitive processes and anachronistic responses to novel input. Even when we’re trained to think critically these hidden processes influence our conclusions.

    For a long time these mechanisms were invisible to us but we’re beginning to tease out some understanding and hence ability to make predictions about how information can be presented to us in a way that accounts for our defects and thus improve communications outcomes. It’s senseless to ignore this emerging information, just as senseless as it would be to ignore better understanding of climate and our role in shaping the future of the planet.

    My brother took some pictures w/a digital camera during x-ray therapy and the resulting interestingly speckled photos led me to search for information on the effects of ionizing radiation on integrated circuits. I happened to bump into your research as a result. Analogizing w/your domain, you could still do statistical analysis of IC response to ionizing radiation without knowing the details of the IC internals but you’d also have to engage in uninformed speculation about why the dies behaved as they did. If you have knowledge of the actual IC structures you can form conclusions about how to improve the performance of dies, make wiser component selections by taking into account geometry and fabrication methods, best of all make better predictions about what’s going to happen to a population of parts without having to exhaustively tax each and every specimen.

    In the case of our squishy wetware, we’re running the platform but were not privileged to have a set of blueprints made available. We’re drawing them now– slowly and laboriously– and each additional sheet added to our collection helps us figure out how to run better.

    Comment by dbostrom — 31 May 2012 @ 7:40 PM

  66. “…I have little sympathy for folks who gauge truth by how nice the presenter is…”

    OK, but what I think some people here are trying to get at is that you can assume that a given audience may be easily distracted; therefore it’s a good idea reduce the funky noise in your presentation and make it attractive. That’s attractive as in attracting and keeping attention.

    Also quite a lot of people aren’t interested in proving themselves in a grueling, nerdy boot camp. So the message has to be NOT bias confirming, but accessible to the way in which they apprehend the world.

    “…We need to be sufficiently mature…”

    On occasion shaming can be effective, although these days, politically, we live in a pretty shameless environment.

    “Stupidity–which I define as simply believing things because we want to–will ultimately prove fatal.”

    Anger can be effective in so far as some people, politicians, don’t think people are serious unless they’ve formed a screaming mob outside their door — though these days, maybe not so much. (I mostly use it to push back against bullies.)

    More constructively, all this can be addressed by ___________?

    Comment by Radge Havers — 31 May 2012 @ 9:10 PM

  67. The human brain was designed by evolution to avoid being eaten by a lion. In the old days, you were either very nervous or lunch. The human brain is very susceptible to learning anything that might help detect a lion. False positive detection methods are called superstitions. We keep them because a false positive [alarm when there is no lion] is better than a false negative [no alarm when there is a lion]. So people believe a lot of nonsense along with a few right things. There is no separate system in the brain to sort out the nonsense.

    The human brain is mal-adaptive for modern civilization. Most people do exactly the wrong thing, whatever the subject. They don’t do it a little wrong, they do it perfectly wrong. Doing it perfectly wrong makes learning impossible. You can only learn when you can make successive approximations that keep getting closer to right. A little mistake is necessary to start. So they don’t get it on GW. That is Not news.

    The human brain needs to be re-designed from the ground up. Can evolution do it in a billion years? Maybe. So there is going to be a population crash within the lifetimes of people who are reading this. Can RC do anything to preserve some remnant of civilization and science? That is a better question.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Jun 2012 @ 1:04 AM

  68. Ray – I assume that you would call this stupidity? It certainly goes far beyond “mere” ignorance!

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 1 Jun 2012 @ 2:27 AM

  69. Craig, that goes beyond stupid and verges on criminal. There are real world consequences to such legislation. Were I an insurer, I’d be looking to cut my losses in NC.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jun 2012 @ 7:56 AM

  70. dbostrom and Radge,
    To be clear. We are not talking here about a lack of knowledge or a lack of expertise. Rather, we are talking about an utter inability to reason correctly, free of fallacy. This is something Europeans could do in the Middle Ages, and other cultures well before that.

    We would have better luck discussing climate change with a Medieval monk than we would with a contemporary libertarian. These are people who would dismiss anything I said purely because I have an advanced degree in a relevant field–and may the nonexistent deities help you if you are an actual expert (in any field) trying to talk to these people. These people have not simply embraced insanity, they’ve glorified it. And unfortunately, it is they who hold the future of humanity hostage.

    Let me be clear. This is not simply a war about climate science–nor about evolution or vaccinations. This is a war about whether humans will realize the need to perceive reality accurately.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jun 2012 @ 8:08 AM

  71. “This is a war about whether humans will realize the need to perceive reality accurately.” — Ray Ladbury

    Reality according to who? Experts? Physicists?

    “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”
    – Lord Kelvin, 1895.

    [Response: Kelvin undoubtedly had more faith in his opinions than was warranted by actual evidence, but the quote you use is unsourced (as far as I can tell). He did have a lot to say about the difficulty of aerial navigation, but he was aware at least by 1902 that heavier-than-air flight was possible. on the larger point, we have stressed numerous times that opinions of indivuals ate no where near as important as assessments for guiding policy – precisely for the reason you allude to. – gavin]

    Comment by John West — 1 Jun 2012 @ 10:06 AM

  72. Ray, keep in mind that the deliberate disinformers — the fossil fuel funded propaganda mills, media outlets and other purveyors of denialism — are not “stupid”. Many of them are, in fact, brilliant.

    Among their number are some who understand the science of anthropogenic global warming and climate change thoroughly and well, and who use that understanding precisely to craft deliberately misleading denialist pseudo-science that will be plausible-sounding and convincing to the general public — especially to that portion of the public who have some degree of scientific literacy.

    More importantly, many of them have profound expertise in the psychology of manipulation, and the tools and techniques of propaganda, advertising and brainwashing, and have conducted a great deal of in-depth research on how to effectively exploit every conceivable weakness and vulnerability of the human mind. Some of the more blatant manipulation occurs through the so-called “right wing” media, where it’s pretty obvious that some well-programmed buttons are being pushed (Al Gore! Al Gore! Al Gore!), but there is plenty of more subtle brainwashing through the so-called “mainstream” media as well (e.g. false equivalances).

    AGW denialism among the general public does not just arise spontaneously out of human “stupidity”. It is the result of a massive, long-term, far-reaching campaign of deliberate, systematic deceit.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Jun 2012 @ 10:25 AM

  73. Ray, you are clear as always. I guess I’m not though.

    Unless you are an unusually gifted communicator with the right cred, there are some audiences you practically shouldn’t bother to address. Fortunately it’s not libertarians, or whatever, all the way down.

    Their time in the sun will pass, one way or another. Whether that happens in a timely fashion, well human society is a lot messier than physics. They’ve got the best position on the board, but they are not omnipotent. In any case, I’m pretty sure that simply scowling at the bastards won’t produce much results.

    You are a problem solver by trade, so I’ll ask again; more constructively, this can be addressed by ___________?

    Comment by Radge Havers — 1 Jun 2012 @ 10:58 AM

  74. Commented on the survey site. But putting on my tinfoil hat, perhaps these videos were done so we’d all be shaking our heads saying “No no no”, and in a month there’ll be an appeal for money so they can make the truly good communication videos they wished to make in the first place. We’ll be relieved and gladly donate. “Donate money to communicate climate science to the general public or we’ll show them THIS!” “NOOOOOOOooooooooooo!” :)

    That’s not to disparage the individuals who did the talks. For me, the whiteboard presentation worked (although not enough colour contrast in the writing). But you’re doing this for the general public and as someone noted, many of them will tune out right away. Someone suggested having high schools give feedback rather than the audience here, and I think that is a good suggestion.

    And yes, I’d be happy to donate to a fund that would provide a good communication-style video.

    Comment by Daniel J. Andrews — 1 Jun 2012 @ 11:19 AM

  75. John West, the fact that you seem to think that reality is subjective speaks volumes. Good luck with that. Let us know if you want to refult the laws of graviation and we’ll film it for Fail Blog.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jun 2012 @ 11:43 AM

  76. Further to SecularAnimist’s remarks, improved science and technology are being used as weapons against progress in a war over perceptions. Wishing that the Gatling gun does not exist and continuing to rely on javelins and leather shields is a recipe for defeat.

    Ray correctly identifies that certain folks are beyond hope but it’s not perfection we need, rather communications reaching enough people to be reflected in policy. There are tools that can help with that objective.

    “Hard” scientists often look askance at the “soft” sciences but leaving aside prejudice both arenas are highly reliant on statistics to describe aggregate behavior than cannot be reliably ascribed to individual samples. So it is with the scientific study of risk communication; we can’t predict how individuals will react to a given risk and how it’s perceived but we can tease out predictions of how populations will behave in the face of given communications about given risks.

    Use Google Scholar to look up risk communication. It’s a bit long in the tooth but Fischoff’s Risk Perception and Communication Unplugged: Twenty Years of Process (don’t be frightened, “process” is a joke) is a handy platform for catching the train. Of particular relevance to the topic of RC is Risk Communication on Climate: Mental Models and Mass Balance

    There’s hard work to be done to catch up on the deep topic of risk communication. It’s easier to push it away but that leaves us with the problem of asymmetry as mentioned by SecularAnimist.

    Comment by dbostrom — 1 Jun 2012 @ 2:32 PM

  77. I just stumbled onto a nicely produced video

    Produced by WPSU (a PBS affiliate) and the Rock Ethics Institute, this short film reviews the current state of scientific understanding about the human influences on climate change through straightforward explanations by top geological, meteorological, and geographic scientists working on climate related research at The Pennsylvania State University. The film concludes with the argument that while the sciencehas reached a high degree of certainty and there is little remaining disagreement about the causes of climate change, there remain questions as to what to do about climate change which are fundamentally ethical in nature and are now the responsibility of decision-makers and the public-at-large. The film features professors Richard Alley, Katherine Freeman, Michael Mann, James Kasting, Petra Tschakert, Klaus Keller, and Nancy Tuana.

    Comment by richard pauli — 1 Jun 2012 @ 3:11 PM

  78. Here’s a pretty good video about the dangers of anthropogenic global warming — from 1958, thirty years before James Hansen’s famous testimony to the US Congress:

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Jun 2012 @ 3:51 PM

  79. Hmmm, the links looked okay in preview, but not in moderation. Apologies if this is redundant.
    Here’s the link to Sterman’s website –

    and to the Pidgeon and Fischhoff 2011 paper –

    Comment by Rick Brown — 1 Jun 2012 @ 5:19 PM

  80. Radge and dbostrom,
    While I have to admit that there are some brilliant propagandists on the other side, the truly remarkable thing about the Skeptic arguments is how bad they are. It is not even that they are technically wrong, but rather that they are so inconsistent, paranoid and downright silly as to be risible. For most, it simply becomes a game of Whack-a-Logical-Fallacy. Hell, I’m thinking of printing up Logical Fallacy Bingo cards. I mean really these guys aren’t that smart. So, the queation that comes to my mind is why in the hell does the average idjit American fall for this crap. And the only thing I can come up with is that the denialati are telling them what they want to hear.

    I really wish I knew what to do. After all, science shows us its greatest value when it forces us to face things we’d rather not believe. That’s when we need it most. And it freakin’ well works. I had entertained fond hopes that humans would avail themselves of this valuable invention and thereby attain a more realistic approach to risk. I no longer think this is possible.

    To me, that is the real issue. We may manage to flatter and cajole our fellow humans into addressing the serious risks now facing them, but so what? Unless they become a whole helluva lot smarter in the process, they will fail to address the next threat or the one after that. It’s getting harder to see the poing.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jun 2012 @ 7:38 PM

  81. Ray, true enough as a group we’re at risk of proving every bit as intelligent and helpful as an enormous mass of rock either spilling messily from the mantle or mindlessly intersecting with Earth’s orbit. It’s pretty annoying to contemplate that our largest and most durable artifact may yet prove to be a self-inflicted wound, perhaps not the smear of isotopes in the geologic record we once worried about but another equally useless memorial.

    Homo Bolidus? “Dumb as a bag of rocks” is surely not an accurate description of the human race?

    Improving ourselves should prove no more difficult than building a space elevator. Technically doable but…

    Comment by dbostrom — 1 Jun 2012 @ 8:37 PM

  82. Ray,

    Hard to say what the average American falls for. That’s a pretty large and diverse chunk of people. Probably most Americans don’t give it a lot of thought to begin with. What we need are smarter leaders and more engaged followers. Smarter average people would be a bonus.

    In terms of numbers, I’m not sure what fraction hard core denialists actually represent. I’m inclined to think that much of what they do is provide cover for a corrupt political process, as something of a stalking horse that has little to do with what most people think and is instead a part of the game that power brokers play with each other.

    What’s the point? Mitigation I guess. Personally I don’t have much stake in the matter, but I start itching whenever I try to ignore it.

    I can’t tell you what to do, but at least print up a batch of those Bingo cards!

    Comment by Radge Havers — 1 Jun 2012 @ 9:03 PM

  83. 52 Jim G,

    Great job, but the lo-fi is frustrating. The powerpoint is out of focus and small. Zooming in x2 would have helped. Many slides were unviewable, but they sounded cool! And the promised link to the powerpoint?

    The current-trawling with anchored boats doesn’t sound as devastating as drag-trawling. I’d assume the net was held pretty stationary, so why all the sediment disturbance?

    You might want to mention how big fish like tuna start their lives as small prey fish. As tuna become rare, the small fish who eat tuna fry become far more common. The fry end up getting hit hard by greater predatory pressure, lower supply from a declining population of adult fish, and a chemical assault from anoxic conditions and species.

    IIRC, this was in a church, yet near the end you mentioned your belief that humans are just another species!! :-)

    I really enjoyed it. You do good work.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 2 Jun 2012 @ 12:07 AM

  84. As a non scientist, part of the general public:
    Memory, and attention, are boosted the more they are stimulated: audio (webcam/speech alone) isn’t sufficient. Sight and hearing should be associated.
    I preferred the whiteboard presentation (speech had immediate relavance with whiteboard) : best way to present graphs, but where possible photo, animation or video illustrations are more attractive (experience tanks…). Music was annoying though.
    In my opinion no one method of presentation is superior to all others but each should be employed where most effective. Look to popular science vulgarisation series for inspiration (national geographic, c’est pas sorcier…)

    Comment by Eric Davies — 3 Jun 2012 @ 3:07 AM

  85. Jim Larsen, thank you for watching and for the kind feedback. I’ve updated the post with links to the slide deck:

    State of the Oceans 2011 [pdf]
    State of the Oceans 2011 [pptx]

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 3 Jun 2012 @ 11:06 AM

  86. I was going to comment on the videos, but instead, you should just listen to R. Gates’s advice. And dbostrom’s. I don’t think you’ll need to match the slick production values or megadollar megaphone of the denial industry. But expert help on communications is definitely worth some investment.

    Comment by Paul Torek — 3 Jun 2012 @ 6:15 PM

  87. As a communications professional specializing in applied research, higher education and public health, I can tell you it’s not easy to present complicated material to the public in a way that’s informative and compelling and I dare say, entertaining. This kind of communication is both an art and a science that requires relevant expertise.

    Evaluating the video options from that perspective, I have to admit that despite my eager anticipation at the onset, I abandoned all three options within the first couple of minutes (sorry – I so wanted to like them).

    Communication is a professional discipline complete with many subject matter experts — strategists, directors, writers, editors, “the talent”, graphic designers, programmers, videographers etc. I highly recommend that you consult with a creative agency and work with their team of experts to develop a system that showcases scientists and their work in a way that can be both branded and templated (replicated). This is important as you go forward as you want to stay consistent and within budget.

    For what it’s worth, you do a great job with Real Climate; but speaking to the general public is another matter entirely. You have to engage them without trivializing the science or yourselves; then you’ll have a winning strategy.

    One more thing… In addition to individual multi-media-produced papers, you also need a series of videos that serve as an introduction to the bigger picture. It’s important to always present information within context for the public.

    I could go on but suffice it to say you’re on the right track. Now do it right. It’s time.

    All the best.

    Comment by Keme — 3 Jun 2012 @ 8:33 PM

  88. I think that anyone interested in climate change communication should read the Debunking Handbook. The principles it describes are based on some really interesting psychological experiments.

    Comment by Bob Fischer — 4 Jun 2012 @ 6:24 AM

  89. Re- Comment by Keme — 3 Jun 2012 @ 8:33 PM @ #86:

    Keme, I think that what you say is right on! However, climate scientists don’t have, and probably cannot get, funding to do what you suggest. Most of their efforts to get the attention of the general public regarding important aspects of their research findings is not in their job description and detracts from their research time. What they do in this regard is pro bono. This being the case, why don’t you get together a group of professionals who would do their part pro bono. Pro bono publico, for the public good.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 4 Jun 2012 @ 10:03 AM

  90. Keme @ 86, well said!

    Here’s an interesting perspective from McKibben on the state of denial, and I think a reason to press even harder on the communication front.

    Crazy people jump shark, intimidate weak kneed politicians, normal people try to get on with life:
    The Planet Wreckers: Deniers of Climate Science Are On the Ropes — But So Is the Planet

    Wisdom from “Yes, Minister”
    [How to guide ministers to making the right decisions]
    Sir Humphrey: If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn’t accept it, you must say the decision is “courageous”.
    Bernard: And that’s worse than “controversial”?
    Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes! “Controversial” only means “this will lose you votes”. “Courageous” means “this will lose you the election”!

    Comment by Radge Havers — 4 Jun 2012 @ 10:26 AM

  91. Steve Fish @ 87

    “climate scientists don’t have, and probably cannot get, funding to do what you suggest.”


    But if the costs are socialized across different agencies and universities, then a robust presentation system can be put in place that can be “templated”. By templated, I mean the overall look and feel, style sheets, concept, platform, etc are all pre-developed and then disseminated to individual scientists/departments with detailed instructions for customization. Ideally, this would be rolled out as part of an overall integrated communications campaign with generic and subject or regional-specific supporting materials including print, online and other media support, especially social media. In the world of communication, the more the merrier. Modest efforts here and there just get lost in the noise.

    If this is to be done right and if you actually want to make an significant and measurable impact, this can’t be done merely as a pro-bono, albeit some of it can. As I mentioned before, the costs can be spread across different agencies and institutions. This is done all of the time. It’s just a matter of developing a proposal and negotiating the budgets.

    Comment by Keme — 4 Jun 2012 @ 12:30 PM

  92. By templated, I mean the overall look and feel, style sheets, concept, platform, etc are all pre-developed and then disseminated to individual scientists/departments with detailed instructions for customization

    A fine idea; big cost savings and “branding” in one fell swoop.

    Sharing costs would be the tough nut to crack; rise through the strata of university administrations and witness the nonlinear increase in friction. The first layer of parochial departmental self-interest is a mere cakewalk, relatively speaking.

    NOAA’s climate center maybe could have pulled this together but it was aborted by anachronistic fossils in the House.

    Comment by dbostrom — 4 Jun 2012 @ 1:17 PM

  93. First, I agree that the presentations won’t be satisfactory until professionals — those who know how to create media that communicate to the masses effectively — are involved. You wouldn’t ask Spielberg to revise your models for Greenland ice sheet decay, would you? Don’t ask scientists to produce the next installment of “Star Wars.” Sure, there are a few scientists who have that ability. When did Neil Degrasse Tyson agree to do your videos?

    Note also: enthusiasm is no substitute for skill. I’m sorry that the “My cousin has a video camera, and my dad has a barn we can rehearse in!” approach isn’t sufficient — but that’s just the way it is.

    Yet there’s another, even more important point. Do we really need to expend precious resources communicating to the public at large the impact of climate change on the predatory habits of sea stars? When it comes to global warming, we’re in a fight for our lives. Is this the best use of our time? I don’t mean to belittle any of the research presented, I was quite impressed. But like most research, it represents the fine details which scientists find so fascinating, but makes the general public start snoring.

    It is perhaps all the more crucial to accept that fact, when you consider that the enemies of sensible climate action will *not* make that mistake. While WRI works to inform the public of the impact of soils on the carbon cycle, the so-called “Heartland Institute” is developing a curriculum for teaching their fake brand of climate skepticism to students in grades K through 12.

    To the creators of the videos, I salute your enthusiasm and I admire — even share — your motivation.

    But I hope you’re still reading this thread, because I think your efforts are misguided. Is it any wonder that in spite of an utter lack of scientific validity, when it comes to the public-relations war, the fake skeptics are kicking our asses?

    Comment by tamino — 4 Jun 2012 @ 1:50 PM

  94. dbostrom @ 92

    “Sharing costs would be the tough nut to crack…”

    Well, I didn’t say it was going to be easy!

    But it can be done. I’m presenting working on a project co-sponsored by several governmental and non-governmental agencies and a university. It’s surprising what can be accomplished when you leverage mutual objectives.

    Comment by Keme — 4 Jun 2012 @ 2:53 PM

  95. Tamino @ 93

    “Do we really need to expend precious resources communicating to the public at large the impact of climate change on the predatory habits of sea stars?”

    Maybe not sea stars, but landmark papers MUST be communicated to the public in a more engaging way.

    “When it comes to global warming, we’re in a fight for our lives. Is this the best use of our time?”

    Yes and no. Yes, communication is crucial and no, not every paper should be made into a visual/multimedia; but key papers definitely need to be. For example, papers like Anderegg et al 2010, should be made into a “visual op-ed” and liberally distributed.

    “I don’t mean to belittle any of the research presented, I was quite impressed. But like most research, it represents the fine details which scientists find so fascinating, but makes the general public start snoring.”

    Agreed. What’s missing is context — the big picture. The public needs context to make the details interesting and relevant. You also have to weigh and prioritize the details and decide how big of a role each one needs to play, if at all.

    “Is it any wonder that in spite of an utter lack of scientific validity, when it comes to the public-relations war, the fake skeptics are kicking our asses?”

    Hear, hear!!!

    The science community (as a whole) has to acknowledge the need to make communications a bigger priority and proceed accordingly.

    Comment by Keme — 4 Jun 2012 @ 3:21 PM

  96. tamino wrote: “Do we really need to expend precious resources communicating to the public at large the impact of climate change on the predatory habits of sea stars?”

    What the public needs to know about is the impact of climate change on their food and water supply. Scientists need to be willing to use words like “drought” and “famine”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jun 2012 @ 5:09 PM

  97. Excellent thoughts from a good few. Frank Capra in 1958 is a revelation. Blue Man Group. Bill McKibben does very well. Penn State well done! Dryasdust academic, not so much for the public arena.

    Fear, hatred, and rage are being leveraged into ignorance. There has to be a way to reach over those footlights. Otherwise we will have the kind of violence we’ve only read about in history books and see on the news elsewhere in the world. Famine and drought, for a few, indeed.

    My other concern is with our addiction to spectacle. American Idol and all its spinoffs, sports events, rock concerts, humor show, all our entertainment is now accompanied by high speed spectacular performances and lots of pyrotechnics. The Queen’s Jubilee was accompanied by guns, more guns, and airplanes, fireworks, the lot. We have come to feel that we are not celebrating if we do not have the biggest, the best, the most cosmetic.

    To present reality in the face of all this requires a variety of extraordinary skills.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 4 Jun 2012 @ 9:18 PM

  98. @ 89, 92
    Funding and coordination: sounds like the sort of thing that WRI and perhaps the AMS could have a hand in.

    Keme @ 94
    Just curious, if you can say, what is the project mentioned that you are working on– or for that matter projects that you could point to that might be models?

    Susan Anderson @ 97
    Spectacles. I sometimes wonder why there aren’t major concerts, festivals, etc. to raise awareness about climate change and/or money for organizations (including even a fund for communications projects).

    Comment by Radge Havers — 5 Jun 2012 @ 6:36 PM

  99. Radge Havers@98:
    Al Gore did try, it was quite a big effort. One of the reasons for the kill the messenger campaign. I don’t think scientists – except those on the firing line (WHOI, Mann et al.) – get the concentrated viciousness of the escalating campaign to conceal and help people hide from reality, or the vulnerability of a wired and addicted public struggling to survive and dependent on commercial interests for their entertainment.

    BTW, Pauli’s referenced Penn State effort is *not* dry, but still aimed at folk who are already open enough to look at the message. The genius of Gore was that he actually got people’s attention. One has to respect, if not admire, the expertise of the folks who successully got to work to take down his reputation.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 6 Jun 2012 @ 6:22 AM

  100. I watched the 3 videos on clouds again, by Dr. Dessler. The good doctor, and I know he is, is sadly not a good speaker. Video 1 sucks. [Which is odd, because that implies a vampire movie…] Video 2 is totally distracting. I found the Martian Face in one of the clouds, and that was the high point of video 2. Video 3 I overall liked. Dropping the 3 breaks where Dr. Dessler titled the following section would greatly improve his whiteboard presentation, as would computer enhancement of his drawings because it would be nice if we could actually see them all.

    Improve the drawing in video 3, from the perspective of a totally naive viewer. For example, don’t use the quarter sun in the upper left hand corner, use an entire sun with complete rays all around, preferably colored bright sunshine yellow. Use common [standard if possible] icons, simple and obvious to all, not shorthand icons

    I would like to see several take-offs from the third video to explain in significant detail the ways and means used to subtract out the other components of the system to leave clouds, and those used to compare ENSO and expected climate change in general, then specifically for clouds, just for starters.

    It should also be an entry for a series of video lectures on clouds, the first of which gives a general overview of what we know and don’t, the body of which gives a sketch of the overview and concentrates in depth on 1 aspect, or a few related aspects, like aerosols, height, temp, etc, and the final [assumedly long, or longer] video gives summation and discussion. If I were getting greedy, I’d say the discussion would be the basis for another series of videos that go into more depth, doing modelling and such, but being realistic, the most I can probably hope for is a better video 3.

    But I will point out that I am far more choir than audience. Been following climate for 5 decades, been aware of global warming for 4, and aware it was a “current event” for 3 decades. So I’m obviously interested and I want more. But I’m not your typical layman. again, let me use a musical analogy to make my point. The following 2 performances are ostensibly of the same piece of music. While that may be debatable, both performance claim such. Please watch both to the end, in the order presented. Grin, there will be a short quiz at the end. [It will also allow you to kill the commercial which seems to have become attached to the end of the second video.]

    1] Which video did you enjoy more? I liked both, but found one more compelling than the other.

    2] Which audience enjoyed the music more? Why did they find their performance better than the other audience found theirs?

    3] Which audience do you need more, and why?

    Comment by Joe Joyce — 8 Jun 2012 @ 11:26 PM

  101. “Don’t Be Arrogant, Do Tell a Story: An Interview with Congressman Robert Walker about How Scientists Should Interact with Congress”

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 8 Jun 2012 @ 11:58 PM

  102. What is at stake is indeed most important. I advise you to take a look at this survey. It was published by fondapol, a French think tank. The survey is about world youth and its connection to sustainable development.
    It was created as an extra study for the Rio+20. Given the fact that it studies the evolution of mentalities in the world, it’s a great study!

    Comment by donny — 20 Jun 2012 @ 10:10 AM

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Close this window.

0.267 Powered by WordPress