One metaphor I’ve long thought needed to be included in the debate is that of insurance. Climate denial downplays the risk of AGW. So, introduce to the discussion (never EVER use the word “debate” again. It isn’t a debate.) is a comparison to insurable risk. People buy fire insurance for their homes when there’s some small risk. 1-500 or so of a home fire. They buy car insurance when there’s a 1-100? 200? 500? chance of a significant accident in a year. And yet they’re proposing no action when we’re faced with much shorter odds of significant damage from global warming. Since we’re experiencing such bizarre weather after .8C of warming, they can no longer get away with proposing 0 chance of damage.
Put them back on their heels.
(I also want to introduce the concept of a Nuremberg Tribunal for Climate Saboteurs, but that’s probably a tougher sell. In 20 years, it won’t be as hard but so many of the malefactors will be “outside the jurisdiction” by then. )
[Response: Jeffrey, you'll be pleased to hear that I use *both* of these metaphors in The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars. The fire insurance metaphor in this context was used by Steve Schneider decades ago, and its one that I use frequently in media interviews. - mike]
Was it Edward Bernays who gave birth to advertising and marketing and the art of getting eskimoes to buy refrigerators? Or perhaps it was Socrates who was the first in along line of persuaders.
Years ago when I was interested in the creation/evolution debate I discovered that there was a little known group of information managers or handlers, I consider them, on the fundamentalist Christian side. The main organization promulgating religion in schools was of course the Creation Research Society, later renamed the more scientific sounding Institute for Creation Research. But behind them was another group, the “Christian Apologetics and Research Institute”. It was (is?) here that the more solid nuggets of Creationism (and later Intelligent Design) were distilled and honed. It was here that professional arguers like Kent Hovind went to learn the art of persuasion and how to win debates, which many thought he did. As we all know, this led to many battles in schools and courtrooms across the country. It wasted a lot of time and resources trying to defend against.
They went on (I believe) to advise the GOP, and Koch funded rightwing think tanks became adepts. One tactic, as mentioned by Mike in the article above, was how to discredit an entire science merely by finding one small error in it. Piltdown man, was a fraud they said, therefore naturally ALL of evolution was fraudulent. You see this strategy in various forums on the web time and again because it works. Rather than addressing the science (whatever that may be) as a whole, find a small chink in the armor and work on that, while simultaneously casting as much doubt as possible on the rest. Doubt is our product says an infamous tobacco memo. Of course there are entire systems of thought which should be discarded, flat earthism comes to mind. But it takes a rare and truly unbiased mind to be able to find the bits of truth in an otherwise nonsense argument.
The art of persuasion is of course necessary to winning any argument, but make sure you have real, physical, incontrovertible evidence on your side, not just clever words.
What would that accomplish? Revenge? The unworthiest of causes.
It would also be remarkably divisive at a time we most need unity.
Let’s adopt another useful strategy of rhetoric: to stay focused on the goal and not distract with (or be distracted by) contentious issues. Let’s not even discuss it on this thread (*especially* on this thread) Keep your eyes on the prize.
To go along with the point about repetition, very long ago I was taught that the basic format of an essay was: intro [tell them what you're going to tell them], body [tell them the message], conclusion [tell them what you told them] . . . it’s aimed at the fact that folks best remember either the first thing or the last thing they read.
[Response: Thanks for the comment Fixible. Joe actually quotes that maxim verbatim in the book! -mike]
Yes, from the profit-takers and funders of contrariness – even more to the point, if such action was really seen to be possible, that threat alone could put a pretty good damper on the anti-science crowd who are the shills for the profiteers. Put up or shut up.
Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Aug 2012 @ 5:30 PM
I was really affected by Joe’s book, and even went out and bought recent biographies of Churchill and Lincoln. Besides their cadences and use of metaphor, there is something else going on: they speak from the heart. Today’s leaders rehearse and self censor, hedging every sentence. The people sense this.
It was a relief to read this quote from Sir Winston, asked if he wanted to give birthday wishes to Baldwin, his predecessor:
“Actually, it would have been better for our country if Baldwin had never been born”.
We are going to need this kind of language, too. Koch and Tillerson’s people talk to scientists and the American people as if we were punks. Scientists usually respond by referencing a paper.
This won’t get ‘er done. The battleground is in the public dialogue. Since the media has abdicated, from corruption and cowardice, we are blessed to have someone like Joe to step into the breach. Let’s take this book as inspiration, and go to the next level.
As for Nuremburg, The Hague is better, since Nazi associations are not effective. Koch, Boyce, and Tillerson will be brought in on wheelchairs in about 20 years, their heads bobbing around crazily, as they barely understand the charges.
The most relevant part should be the penalty: confiscation of all of their assets. That will get their attention. This could be a popular movement if we phrase it that way. Who cares if they go to prison? Taking their criminally obtained money will hurt them more, and actually do some good.
[Response: Enough already with this "criminality" argument. It is not a crime to express your opinion, no matter how stupid or dishonest it may be. Nor is it a crime (perhaps unfortunately) to spend millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns. This sort of talk simply helps convince others that those on the side of taking the climate change risk seriously are crazy ideologues. Comments of this sort tend to make me agree with them. Enough.--eric]
[Response: Eric, I think you do a disservice to Mike here. It is absolutely a fair argument to say that individuals who knowingly funded dishonest efforts to confuse the public about the climate change threat are participating in what might reasonably be defined as crimes against humanity. The tobacco CEOs were criminally liable for doing precisely that in the case of cigarettes and lung cancer. Arguably, what the funders of organized climate change denial have done might in the long run cost even more lives. Eric, you are certainly welcome to disagree with Mike, but it is wrong of you to attack him for expressing these views. They are quite similar to what James Hansen has said publically. I take it you disagree w/ Hansen? Have you called him out similarly? --Mike]
“… Even a seasoned politician must feel a burning wish to insert a new thought now and then… even just one… that has nothing to do with politics, but instead what he, personally, feels to be missing. Something – perhaps – that he deems to be desperately needed.
Then I heard it… when he listed eight national character traits essential for our success… and there, mixed in with seven expected ones was…
Go back and watch that speech again. You’ll hear that word, which has no possible political redolence in the standard catechisms of the insipid left-right axis. And yet, it is telling… and tells a rich allegory, in light of our nation’s recent, magnificent accomplishment, It also lays down before you the stark clarity of the core difference between two sides in this, our tragic Civil War.
It isn’t about “left” versus “right.” It never was, and don’t let anyone get away with telling you it is.
“2. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repetition is the essential element of all persuasion.”
Ahh, act like trolls?
Trolling and repetition are not the same thing.
Some of you may remember when Anthony Watts and Joe D’Aleo published a document (for SPPI) accusing NOAA scientists of fraud by deliberately manipulating the temperature record via station dropout. I analyzed the entire GHCN data set to prove that this claim was false — and a half dozen or so other bloggers reproduced my analysis, all confirming my conclusion.
When I posted a message to Anthony Watts stating that he owed the scientists an apology, numerous comments appeared trying to disparage my post. Most were of the form “What about (insert irrelevant issue here)?” Sometimes I addressed the issue, sometimes not, but I consistently included a message like this:
Yours is another desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the real issue.
Which is: Anthony Watts used false claims as the basis for accusing NOAA scientists of fraud. If he doesn’t admit his mistake and apologize for the unfounded accusation, he has no honor. None.
Consistent repetition reinforced my statement with tremendous effectiveness. And it soon became apparent to commenters that every attempt to change the subject would be used to reinforce the real subject, and lay bare the dishonesty of avoiding it.
In this case, repetition was not just effective rhetoric, it was also a necessary method to defuse attempts to avoid the issue. Real trolling often involves repeating the same junk even though it has been directly addressed and refuted, with evidence that is spot-on relevant to the topic at hand.
So — don’t repeat a message which avoids the real issue, that’s trolling. But do repeat a message which addresses the real issue, especially if it brings focus back where it belongs while exposing the mendacity of attempts to shift the focus elsewhere.
Any notions of Nuremberg are the decision of future generations alone, because they’ll be the only ones to judge. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be open documentation similar to the tobacco documents. But the only way to get there is through political will, and the only way to get the political will is to let legislators know that they won’t be voted for if they continue to ignore the increasingly undeniable reality, no matter how much vested interests may fund their campaigns or however much the Grover Norquists of the lobby world may threaten them for dissent from their twisted take on the physical universe.
Thank you, and there’s even a carbon light Kindle edition. Maybe I can learn to persuade a few people to examine global warming outside their political framework. So far, my tactics have been, to steal one of the author’s own lines, “We hold these truths to be like duh!” That has been spectacularly unsuccessful unless one considers success as making the converted feel guilty for not doing enough.
In fact, the more I attempt to lead by example and bring my life into alignment with the understanding that we require a carbon-less future, the more I appear out of touch with reality. Recycling…good. PV…OK. Vegan with a zero energy home and an electric car…nutjob.
Inside our much smaller world of family, friends and acquaintances, it’s just as important for those of us who are not scientists to understand the art of persuasion because of our sheer numbers. If we truly want to change people’s views and their willingness to change their carbon footprint, we will have to understand the most useful way to frame our rhetoric. And from my experience, the less you act like, and eat like, the average citizen the more clear, calm, persuasive and rational you have to speak.
I’m a many year loyal reader of Real Climate. This is my first comment.
Mike, I’ve always been fascinated with your work and look forward to your future research.
While I appreciate the sentiment of your review and comments on “communicating” I have to respectfully disagree with your advice.
Right now especially I think scientists need eloquence. They should not “exaggerate” (has that worked in the past?). Describing the climate as being on “steroids” is not elegant or persuasive because of the sports analogy. The insurance analogy doesn’t work either-if it did Geico and Progressive wouldn’t be spending millions trying to tell us whose insurance is best.
Sad to see commentator Jeffrey Davis jump in with Nuremburg Trials comment and another with reparations.
Articles in Real Climate are great. I hope you can continue to shine the light and be a force for education and ignore commentators who seem to swarm around and try to show their bonafides for being in a club whose principals live on higher ground.
Eric i think you have to lead by example and if you talk about transitioning to a low carbon economy, you could focus on the advantages. Advantages like less affected from cancer causing car fumes (inside and outside of vehicles). No more gas price pitfalls. Actually doing something bug when switching to electric transport. Or to take the train instead of airplane. Or using algae fuel for your private plane, instead of conventional fuel. Or adopting biochar techniques to help your garden through a drought. Or how “green” cleaning products are more healthy for the environment and clean equally good, without health implications (like antibacterial soaps for instance). The list is long…
Yes, at this stage depending where you live, not everybody has an easy way to charge an electric vehicle. But most people work and living in the city and drive about 20 miles a day, enough to use an EV. And if your friends see that this is working for you and that you can save money while doing it, they will switch too.
Which is: Anthony Watts used false claims as the basis for accusing NOAA scientists of fraud. If he doesn’t admit his mistake and apologize for the unfounded accusation, he has no honor. None.
Has Anthony Watts ever retracted and apologized for his “dropped stations” claim? It’s been nearly 2 and 1/2 years since he was called out on this. If he hasn’t issued a retraction/apology, then this is something that should be brought up again and again and again.
Thanks for the review of this book Mike. I work in a scientific environment where have to write reports for general consumption and clear and concise language is a passion of mine. There no mileage in talking about avifauna when you mean birds, or herpetofauna when you mean amphibians etc, because most people won;t know what you are talking about. Yet we still do…it drives me nuts!
I shall definitely get hold of a copy of this book.
I think this is awkward for scientists. One the one hand we wish to lead people towards clearer thinking processes, which largely reject thinking by metaphor as too error prone. On the other hand, given the present environment, we need to be able to inspire and convince. So we have a difficult task to accomplish here.
On another possibly note, I tried to order the book at Barnes and Noble this weekend, they had no record of it on their system. Either it is too new, or something fishy is going on. they did have a couple of earlier titles by Joe.
Joe Romm is awesome! But personally, I think that the bulk of the climate science community are already immaculate communicators that need no further instruction in the art. I love reading this blog. I love reading the underlying papers when I can get my hands on them. The art of rhetoric and persuasion seem to be an artifice necessary only to make up for the general lack of education of the voting public. Being well educated, I don’t see the need for such artifice for a body of knowledge that is already skillfully communicated and self-evidently obvious. The real issue that needs to be addressed is the teaching of critical thought and basic education. But, until such time as the populace is sufficiently educated, Power-on Joe!
@ 18, Leading by example matters if there is already consensus regarding your position. One can lead by example by not smoking in 2012 but leading by example in 1970 would have had little effect. I don’t want to speak for Joe Romm but I think that is the main point in his new book. If we hope to lead humanity toward a more sustainable future we cannot only lead by example, we have to lead rhetorically. I’ve found it much easier to set an example than to persuade another person that my example matters. Leading by example is a late stage effort. Early adopters are annoying to almost everyone. We have to explain our position clearly and I don’t think we’re winning in that arena.
It was you who brought up language, which finally moves me to voice my long held problem with Realclimate: tl;dr. “Too long; didn’t read”. All your posts, and this one is no exception, have between 2 and 3 times too much tedious prose for my knat like attention span. The problem is not entirely mine, since I can read Ed Yong’s work with no difficulty (Not Exactly Rocket Science). So, I hope that you can put this book to good effect, and I look forward to one day making it to the end of one of your posts.
[Remedial action: how about a 3 point summary at the start of your posts, like GRL has? Or prize giveaways in the final paragraph? Or, gosh, I dunno - wit? humour? Or even humor (sic).]
[Response: Jules--each of us entitled to our opinions. And our sense of what constitutes wit and humor is quite variable. But my short response: you'll prefer me on twitter (@MichaelEMann). No more than 140 characters, I promise ;-) --Mike]
One metaphor I’ve long thought needed to be included in the debate is that of insurance.
Yes. Denskepticons are constantly banging on about spending trillions to prevent a problem that “might happen in the future.” The current annual global expenditure on insurance is in the $4-6 trillion range, depending on what scope you put on insurance vs. reinsurance, etc. Every year, from now ’til doomsday.
Our active imaginations are already at play, frequently to our benefit.
12 eric: There was at one time a law against advertising falsely in the US. The law didn’t last long. Nor was it enforced much. Sorry I don’t remember dates, but it was during my lifetime.
And now the Supreme Court has confused money with speech. Money is not speech. This is a constitutional problem.
Here are some of the problems: The average person cannot tell the scientist from the liar, but the average person has a moral aversion to being lied to. The average person cannot learn enough science to figure out who is the liar on his/her own. Or maybe even with help.
“The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer. Free download from: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/
Some [many] people believe whatever some “leader” tells them, without checking for self-contradictions. Logic is not innate with most people.
GW itself does not convince those who see the evidence first hand, and in their wallets. So you think better rhetoric will help? Humans are stubborn to an absurd degree. Only humans ……. Will they get the message when there is no food in the grocery store?
Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Aug 2012 @ 12:35 AM
@15: I don’t think Nuremberg is going to be relevant, there is far more money to be made by establishing product liability and negligence in US courts. I belive a number of such cases are already underway, including a class action representing “americans youth” as defined by some age-restriction below the voting age.
That said, I would hate to hold Watt’s legal liability insurance in the years to come.
Comment by Poul-Henning Kamp — 21 Aug 2012 @ 3:28 AM
Great review, Mike. In the spirit of the power of metaphors, I’d like to bring one more, similar to the fire insurance:
Q(denial): GW of 0.8C is tiny compared to the T swings of unpredictable weather. And they (scientists) say they cannot prove GW caused the event like US2012 drought, right?
A: Yes, weather is like a bull in a rink, strong & unpredictable. And your life is like a piece of china treasure in the same rink that you must share. You cannot prove that the bull smashes the treasure if it starts jumping. So, do accept them to enrage the bull by showing him a red cloth?
Eric, implying that the criminal argument is crazy does not jibe with the evidence, but I’ll tone it down at your request. At some point scientists are going to need to address it, as Hansen does so well.
But but but … what if your persuasive message is just plain wrong or nutty? And furthermore, aren’t you handing over your persuasion insights and its toolkit to precisely the people who would use them to persuade the masses into joining their false nutty cult or even worse, some false scientific hypothesis? The whole concept of persuasion in science is worth looking at in greater depth and detail than a simple field guide on using it as some sort of propaganda tool, worthy or not.
(Disclaimer: I am coaching this from a denialist perspective because that is what they will do with it. Plus, the satire is too good to pass up.)
James Hansen very effectively used metaphor when he gave this testimony in 2007:
“If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains – no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species.”
In 2008, he wrote in an article for The Guardian:
“CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”
People may not like these words, but what in them, explicit or implied, is not true?
It is well documented that these companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on false advertising, lobbying, faux science, media manipulation, and any other means that can be used to confuse the voting public on the extreme danger that we are now facing.
Food production is already impaired and will become even more so. People are already dying of hunger and more will die. Food shortages are causing civil unrest and will increase deadly conflicts. Just because we have not yet experienced this in the U.S. doesn’t mean it won’t happen here.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures by these companies each year is what some of us call “real money.”
Does it just appear out of thin air? Hell no!
An actual physical human being has to authorize this type of expenditure. They are the guilty party.
We don’t have laws on the books to criminalize this behavior, but we should.
If we never promulgate such laws, then we are culpable in our own species’ demise.
[Eric, please don't bury your head in the sand.]
[Response:If Eric were interested in burying his head in the sand, I don't think he would be a member of RealClimate. I agree with his comment above, as well as Tamino's.--Jim]
Joe’s book is full of revelations.
The biggest take home point for me is that those who want to do nothing about CO2 emissions have been using the methods in Joe’s book FOR DECADES to take us to the cleaners!
Everybody who cares about the future must read Joe’s book and arm themselves with its techniques in order to win the battle for the planet.
This book will change your life — it has already changed mine!
Edward Greisch: And now the Supreme Court has confused money with speech. Money is not speech. This is a constitutional problem.
Money is free speech. Those who have more money have more free speech. I have less money than Sheldon Adelson, thus he is more free than me. It’s written in the Constitution.
The Constitution depends on unwritten assumptions, among them that it will be read in good faith, by people who subordinate their personal ambitions to the spirit of the Constitution’s words. Take away good faith and the document simply doesn’t work.
That whole “too long, didn’t read” meme is drives me mad. I have an alternative interpretation of tl;dr. “Totally lost, don’t read” as in don’t bother reading what comes after tl;dr because the person is talking about something they couldn’t be bothered to look at, yet still thinks his/her opinion is worthwhile. tl;dr essentially says since you can’t spoon feed complex concepts into my brain without me having to think, i’m just gonna spout my uninformed opinions.
Julia, please don’t take this as an attack on your personally, it’s an attack on the meme, this was just my camel’s back breaking under a hair. Personally I think it would be a shame to see the well thought out and detailed posts that RC is known for to be condensed into what is essentially a bumper on the nightly news. I come here specifically for the reason that working scientists give the subject matter a detailed treatment while bringing it down a notch that non-subject matter experts can understand with a little work and little background knowledge of math & science.
I think Mike’s reply was spot on. If you want snippets, stick to Twitter. I come here to read. In fact, I come here to read the post, then download the primary sources and read those too. Learning takes effort, especially reading. Let’s face it, this post was less than two pages if it was printed on paper. If you can’t read two pages, you’re not actually interested in the subject matter.
Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 21 Aug 2012 @ 12:18 PM
Have to mention Willard Espy, Words at Play. Good clean fun.
Let the punishment fit the crime. Personally, I’m a getting a little tired of people at the top getting a pass. In some respects, it may be practical in the short term, probably it’s not healthy over all IMAO.
I’m a product/program manager by trade in hi-tech and biomed industries. I work closely with scientist doing the R&D which then moves to engineering and then to marketing. All three disciplines are absolutely essential to getting the product out of the door and each requires its own set of skills, knowledge and experience.
To put marketing in the hands of R&D (which I think you are advocating) would be disaster. They do not and should not even try to go together as they will detract from each other. Additional to being completely different disciplines they miss the glue of engineering to knit them together into a working, compliant and practical product.
Climate science has great scientists and huge marketing. Using my analogy above it needs some engineering (glue) to make it credible in the eye of the customer. That’s what I see as missing and no amount of PR will make up for that in the end.
Re long vs. short: “I come here specifically for the reason that working scientists give the subject matter a detailed treatment while bringing it down a notch that non-subject matter experts can understand with a little work and little background knowledge of math & science.”
Too short to contain the narrative means the narrative becomes ambiguous, leaves us scratching our heads, making up stories to fill the lacuna. I’ll offer that disambiguation means we have to think less and that ambiguity is positively correlated with increasing compression, to a point.
People die of hunger every year, and will continue to do so regardless of the climate. Food production has increased several fold throughtout the last century, with no indication of any of oyur impairment. Poverty is the main issue leading to starvation. Food shortages have been casued by climate, but rather by poverty and government actions.
[Response:Both the original statements, and yours here, are simplistic to the point of meaningless. There is an enormous body of literature regarding the effect of weather and climate on agriculture, particularly agronomic crops, and if you and Tenney and anyone else interested want to discuss the topic--without simplistic biases but with reference to the scientific literature-- you can do that in the open thread.--Jim]
With all respect, climate change does have engineers. They are the ones looking at potential consequences and trying to mitigate them. They are the ones who ask, “How bad could things get, and what can we do to ameliorate the consequences.” They are every bit as ignored as the scientists if not moreso.
41 prok says, “No Copyright Law The Real Reason for Germany’s Industrial Expansion?”
Great example. It’s relevant to peer-review articles, and exact for privately funded research. Of course, for publicly-funded research, the quantity of ownership a journal should enjoy due to its improvement of a publicly owned product is debatable. Current law says 100%, as the publishers are just part of the public enjoying free use of a publicly owned resource. Though every word is written by the public servant, the journal provided guidance and reputation – why even an editor! Surely that merits a mere 100% ownership?
That bothers me, as does the policy where the results of publicly funded research is owned by the private company paid to carry it out. (probably too extreme a case or worded wrong)
Note to scientists:
Create a science-supporting non-profit and only provide peer review through that organization (its not currently in anybody’s job description, right?). Charge tons for your services. You’ve got exactly the same power the journals have – reputation.
re-write every peer-reviewed article with the help of a science-literate “real” writer. Publish online and charge enough to recover costs and a fair wage. Peer comment, constant updating – there’s lots of things which you could do which are more communication than structured science.
Your search facility says it appears 818 times on this site alone. That’s 818 instances of people sounding like they’re not really sure of what they have to say. That makes it all so much easier to ignore and harder to report to a wider audience.
To the average person, “suggest” means “hint”. No-one is inerested in what the data are hinting and no-one will be inclined to take action on the basis of hints.
Garry S-J, you do see the irony in your earlier comment right? The whole my suggestion is don’t use the word suggests. After you’re done writing go change it.
FWIW, I disagree. Using a synonym for the word suggests isn’t going to change how the denialati think. For people who engage the literature honestly it is not a problem. In fact I can remember times I read the word “shows” and thought the author may have been better off using the word “suggests.”
Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 21 Aug 2012 @ 4:27 PM
@ Jim, re: response to #37
Many thing may not be illegal, but yet be deeply immoral.
We humans know when something is wrong and we know when something is unfair. These are innate human qualities.
Why do we even have laws in the first place?
Could it be because we have a sense of what is just and unjust?
And these people running fossil-fuel companies have no sense of shame.
When it comes to trying to destroy the lives of honest, hard-working scientists, they feel no shame at all!
Just look at what they have done and continue to do to Hansen and Santer and Mann and Weaver and Monnett.
Charles Monnett says he’ll never write another paper again!
Oh, but let us not speak of such terrible things here on Real Climate, this is a blog about the science, after all.
This is not the appropriate place for discussing how the tools of rhetoric are cutting us and our descendants off at the knees and for all time.
We’ll just have to stumble mumbling back to our own blogs and wait for them to pick us off, one by one, with the Serengeti strategy.
[Response:I'm not in disagreement about your view of some of the tactics some used. I'm in disagreement that you believe that the solution is totalitarianism.--eric]
May I say, Michael, that you have been a very quick study, and I applaud your transition to Effective Science Communicator! I make my living writing as an advocate for abstract concepts of cultural significance. I was a TA in Art History as a grad student, and I had engineers, commerce majors and science students taking it as a “bird course”. In more than one case when I was marking their written submissions I was surprised to find that English was NOT their second language!
It is ever more important in this era of denial that scientists step up to the mic and speak for themselves, because the bureaucrats and spin doctors are going to take the facts on a tortuous path to nowhere, or rather, to whatever burial ground their political masters specify.
I will read Romm’s book. I have always found him to be credible and thorough. Thanks for a great post.
[Response:Thanks Fern, very kind of you to say. like I said in the piece, it was sink-or-swim in my case. Fortunately, many more scientists (in climate change and other fields) seem committed to outreach & communication these days. Seems especially true of the younger generation of scientists. -Mike]
A fundamental flaw of Western Capitalism is the ability of the self chosen few to profit from the pollution of the commons. The Capitalistic “Corpro/People” then use a fraction of those parasite profits to propitiate themselves by any means both fair and foul.
We all pay fees to dump garbage, waste water and more. Corpro/People dump tons for free and accumulate mega-bucks. Even get tax subsidies. The GOP don’t fund abortion. Fine. A precedent! Why must my tax dollars fund the ecocide of the PLANET via fossil subsidies?!!! We’re talking “MORALS” here. Try throwing 19 pounds of paper cups out the car window for each gallon of gas you burn. Who is making money here and who is losing? Toxins verses paper cups? (I bet you could be real creative about increasing your trash stream if it were paper cups.)
I pay $150/ton to dump my household garbage. $50/T to recycle yard waste. Waste water fees, of course. I even have a rain water run of fee of $5/m. (guide lines here?) Yet Corpro/people piss all over themselves at the thought of $25/ton for TOXINS! Sweet Jesus…
Stop profits from the pollution of the commons.
Go Green, Resistance is FATAL!
We’ve tried being civilized and polite, and it hasn’t worked very well. Over the years, those willing to insult their way to power have almost taken over. Those of you who have followed the conversation around the internet may have noticed that whenever a particularly cogent point is made, there is a concerted and varied attempt to kill the messenger. Some names bring out the masses, such as Gore, Hansen, Pachauri, and Mann (and subject areas such as Arctic melt, which makes Neven’s civilized discussions remarkable). You will notice the variety of tactics used if you take a look.
A favorite is to get us to attack each other.
This circular firing squad should not be attractive to those concerned about our future. Please don’t let these Tom Sawyers get you to whitewash the nasty fences they have created around their me first estates.
@ Eric, re: #54, your response: “I’m in disagreement that you believe that the solution is totalitarianism.–eric”
OK, Eric, that must be the most bizarre leap of irrationality that I have seen in a very long time, or rather, that type of leap is what goes on on Faux News.
I am in agreement with James Hansen, and I rather doubt he believes in totalitarianism.
[Response: Tenney, as noted below, my apologies for my overzealous response. However, you really ought to go back through the thread of comments and see the context in which you wrote yours. Other commenters were calling for criminal investigations of so called "climate deniers", Nuremburg-type trials, and the like. I got the impression that you were in agreement with them, in which case "totalitarianism" (or "fascism" if you prefer) is the right word.--eric]
46 Jim: I would love to read an or several RC articles on the effect of GW on agriculture. How about a guest post by Aiguo Dai?
Dai, A., 2011: Drought under global warming: A review. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 2, 45-65. DOI: 10.1002/wcc.81
says drought in the midwest of the US.
Dai, A., 2012: The influence of the Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation on U.S. precipitation during 1923-2010. Climate Dynamics, DOI 10.1007/s00382-012-1446-5, in press.
says flood due to Pacific Inter-decadal Oscillation
39 Doug Bostrom: Wealth is neither an indication of intelligence nor an indication of knowledge nor an indication of wisdom. Money cannot be free speech. Saying otherwise is undemocratic, indeed Saying otherwise is elitist, plutocratic and oligarchic.
54 eric: Tenney Naumer is not in favor of totalitarianism. You are. Reference book: “The sociopath next door : the ruthless versus the rest of us” by Martha Stout. New York : Broadway Books, 2005.
According to Martha Stout, 4% of all people are born sociopaths/sciopaths/psychopaths. There is no cure because it is caused by a part of the brain simply being missing. A written test, the MMPI [Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory] can identify sociopaths before they cause destruction.
Everybody should have to take the MMPI in high school. Psychopaths should be barred from CEO positions and high political offices. Most CEOs and politicians are probably psychopaths. Who is a psychopath should be public knowledge.
The totalitarianism of the wealthy, alias plutocracy, is anything but democracy. There is no way you can say from Tenney Naumer’s comment that she is in favor of totalitarianism. Freedom does NOT mean the rich own everything, even the government. There should be less financial inequality.
People like Chomsky have said that every post-war president should be hanged for war crimes if the Nuremberg laws would be applied. Why shouldn’t CEOs who knowingly mislead the public on global warming be tried for crimes against humanity? If this case can be made following common principles of justice, why would that be ‘totalitarianism’? Btw, if I’m not mistaken, Hansen himself has at least somewhat been inspired by the courageous example of Chomsky.
[Response: Chomsky is talking about directly aiding and abetting genocide -- i.e. U.S. military action -- not about advertisements on TV or op-eds in the WSJ.--eric]
Comment by Lennart van der Linde — 22 Aug 2012 @ 3:44 AM
Joe’s book too much recalls an Apologetics textbook left over from from Al’s student days at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and may pose may pose similar risks.
To paraphrase one of the perennial bestsellers Joe recommends :
He who lies down with televangelists may get up with a flea in his ear.
Eric’s statement that Tenney’s comment is totalitarian makes no sense whatsoever, and bears no relationship to Tenney’s politics or her comment.
It tells me that Eric’s politics are of the Pielke Jr./Revkin libertarian variety, where state activity should be confined to research funding, while management of our country should be left to Murdoch, Koch, Exxon, Cargill, and Georgia Pacific.
It reminds me of the post mortem on 20th century fascism: “All that was required for evil to succeed was for good men to do nothing”.
Thank God we have men like Mann, Hansen, and Romm, who see reality in all of its dimensions, including the political ones.
[Response: It is pretty hard to figure out someone's politics from a short blog-commentary discussion, as evidenced by your wildly incorrect guess about my politics. Evidently, I made the same mistake as you in my response to Tenney. My perhaps overzealous response was in reaction to the overall tone of many of the comments that led up to Tenney's, calling for Nuremburg trials and the like, which is clearly over the top.--eric]
[Response:Thanks for telling us who the real men are, and are not. We'll be sure to add that to your list of other opinions about who the real scientists are, what they should be doing in your ideal world, etc etc.--Jim]
Money cannot be free speech. Saying otherwise is undemocratic…
I quite agree.
For the time being we are instructed by the Supreme Court that expenditure of money is an ineluctable feature of free speech as it is described in the Constitution. Money being unequally distributed, we must thus accept that some of us are more free than others. That is the law of the land, as Montana was recently required to understand while being made to change its campaign finance laws so as to allow those having more freedom full enjoyment of their extra privileges.
Of course this is also the court that cannot make a cognitive leap across a comma separating two clauses of a sentence. So just as it is not formally inconceivable that one side of a room should become spontaneously warm while the other cools, it’s possible that under the right unlikely circumstances we might see freedom redistributed on a more equitable basis some day in the future. Cosmologists hint at even more improbable things, after all.
I purchased this book immediately on Mike’s suggestion and it is every bit as great as he indicates. I think rhetorical tools are much like statistical tools in that the more one knows about them the less susceptible he or she is to their abuse. And as a bonus, now I actually get the title of Zappa’s Apostrophe album!
Mike Mann in his comment above refers to the liability cases against the tobacco industry. I’m no law expert, but why couldn’t a case be made for liability of the ‘merchants of doubt’ for knowingly misleading the public on global warming? The tobacco case may give some useful insights, for example: http://www.vctc.org.au/tc-res/criminal_liability_paper.pdf
I’m sure experts could give more and better places to start.
[Response:This is a little more reasonable, but it's still a bit of a stretch in my view. The tobacco companies evidently had done research on cancer and suppressed those results. There's no real parallel with the think-tanks and such that have disinformation campaigns on global warming, because they are not doing actual research of their own -- and hence there is nothing they "know" they that could be accused of supressing.--eric]
[Response:Furthermore, the nature of the scientific evidence and corresponding burden of proof are not the same--these are completely different kinds of systems with different levels of noise and different levels of certainty of cause and effect. This relates to the point that J Bowers made up thread, and also Tamino's. Real wisdom is required w.r.t. this issue, not just knee-jerk reactions motivated by anger--Jim]
Comment by Lennart van der Linde — 22 Aug 2012 @ 8:56 AM
To Jim and Eric:
I realize this is a scientific blog, and the best one at that, but as long as we are talking about politics, what is the position of you and Jim on resisting (or not) the fossil fuel companies’ insistence on hiring people to lie to the public about climate science, and influencing our government to do things like maintain oil subsidies etc?
Repeating and refining the scientific evidence is not working, because oil and coal have so much influence in our media. The United States has no effective climate policy, and partly as a consequence the rest of the world doesn’t either. Does this not get you a bit riled up, given what you know about the horrifying changes in store?
This was more of a practical suggestion than a political one, but if you react so severely to my proposal that fossil fuel companies’ assets are seized at some point in the future, what solutions do you propose?
[Response:Mike, there isn't any question that such a practice is wrong. No organization, or individual, of any type should ever knowingly lie to the public on an important issue that affects the public welfare (and there are many such). You can be damn sure it makes me angry; it always has, and likely always will. But the questions are (at least) two-fold here. The first is the question of the strength of evidence, how to prove definite intent by these companies in combination with the causation regarding who is being affected and how exactly. The second is the question of what is, tactically, the best thing to do, given the present situation, political reality, level of awareness of the problem etc., and on both of those questions, you are going to get a wide variety of considered answers. And on top of that, there are some of us that don't particularly care for being told we're not doing enough on this issue, don't measure up to this or that person, to put it mildly. We're all doing what we can here. It's clear from your comments over time that you don't really understand the idea that different people have different knowledege levels, abilities, interests, motivations etc. I mean, do you go down to your local fire department and tell them they're not doing a very good job of waste water treatment or law enforcement?--Jim]
Jim, thanks for your prompt and thoughtful answer. I have great admiration for climate scientists (except for Lindzen et al), especially since you are attacked and distorted so often, and I meant no disrespect.
I used to dream about things like scientific vigils on the steps of the Capitol, complete with handouts about media and political corruption and disinformation. Such a campaign would be more credible than one led by, say, OWS personnel.
Maybe scientists are not temperamentally inclined to perform such actions, or otherwise forcefully take their discoveries to the people. Hansen and Mann are doing inspiring work here, but they should not be out on a limb. A group effort addressed to the media and the public- as opposed to, say, a statement from AGU or the National Academy- might actually awaken the public. Language and communication skills will be extremely important.
Joe Romm’s thoughts could be very valuable here, whether delivered by scientists or someone else. The point is that it’s past time to act, forcefully and fearlessly, because the price of inaction is horrific beyond words.
[Response:Thanks for clarifying Mike. I should add that I very much do want to see more scientists get out there and educate people on important issues, including a whole range of ecological issues (land and forest management, maintaining ecosystem processes (and components), agricultural practices, sustainable resource use, etc). A lot of academics are more reticent to get involved in these things than I would like. But you can't force anything. You have to try to encourage as much as possible, and you also have to remember that those people are having an important impact on people through their daily activities at their institutions.--Jim]
54 Tenney said, “When it comes to trying to destroy the lives of honest, hard-working scientists, they feel no shame at all!”
Well, shame is a counter-productive emotion, financially speaking. What surprises anybody that those in charge of zillions of dollars often have no shame? The best CEO (in that regard only) is one who does as much stuff that ought to be illegal but isn’t (or the law is parsible) as possible, and as soon as it becomes illegal can find a way to continue legally doing essentially the same thing.
[Response:This kind of discussion is not helpful. The topic of the post is how to communicate, let's stick to it. Or rather, get back to it--Jim]
Really? Myself having been bore-holed enough to prevent my return on anything but infrequent basis cannot understand how this type of language passes muster on a moderated “science” forum.
You guys are really doing yourself a disservice, and I think eric is right that this only paints you as extreme . However the proper response is clearly to not allow this type post period.
The irony that this is on a post of “climate communication” is so thick it is unbelievable.
Come on guys, have more respect for your opponents than that, and yourselves. You’re better than this.
[Response: I agree, and thanks. As for comments getting through, our autofilters don't catch everything. Since that one or two got in, I felt that addressing them head on was better than boreholing them. --eric]
For once the prokaryote has a point– the biggest fleas are blocking the ears of some erstwhile conservative editors.
It is unseemly for them to applaud lawyers thrashing scientists bearing unwelcome tidings, when they should be defending the political neutrality of scientific institutions agianst true believers of all stripes.
The effects of the anthropogenic warming now projected (e.g. by MIT and the IEA) to occur during this century will be, in the words of Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in Britain, “incompatible with organized global community”.
When the SHTF, there won’t be any “Nuremberg tribunals for climate saboteurs” for the simple reason that there will not be any functioning institutions capable of conducting such procedures.
Having just read the first chapter of Joe’s book, I was struck by this extract from Aristotle, on rhetoric:
Your language will be appropriate if it expresses emotion and character…To express emotion, you will employ the language of anger in speaking of outrage; the language of disgust and discreet reluctance to utter a word when speaking of impiety or foulness; the language of exultation for a tale of glory…This aptness of language is one thing that makes people believe in the truth of your story.
Taking Hansen as a proxy for all scientists bearing messages of danger, what struck me is that time and again Hansen and his ilk are chastised for any emotionally appealing content they bring to their speech, are advised to castrate their language.
Aristotle had more to say on aptness of language (read his whole chapter here), the full quote of his words being “This aptness of language is one thing that makes people believe in the truth of your story: their minds draw the false conclusion that you are to be trusted from the fact that others behave as you do when things are as you describe them; and therefore they take your story to be true, whether it is so or not. Besides, an emotional speaker always makes his audience feel with him, even when there is nothing in his arguments; which is why many speakers try to overwhelm their audience by mere noise.
Notice that many of those offering sanctimonious advice to Hansen are the very same who follow Aristotle’s advice themselves, the crucial difference being that Hansen is speaking from a foundation of truth, while his tendentious critics often are not. Many even of those who have no issue with Hansen’s facts would prefer him to speak in a rhetorically crippled fashion when he addresses the public square.
Tom Scharf wrote: “Come on guys, have more respect for your opponents than that”
In my humble opinion, those who have systematically, deliberately and blatantly deceived the public about the reality of anthropogenic global warming — including a coordinated, calculated campaign to demonize and vilify climate scientists, which has resulted in a number of scientists receiving death threats — and have thereby delayed action for a generation, virtually ensuring massive suffering for billions of human beings in the decades to come, do not deserve “respect”.
Hansen for one seems to view the courts as potentially the most constructive, or least destructive, place to communicate about climate science.
Comment by Lennart van der Linde — 22 Aug 2012 @ 3:31 PM
Marcus (~66) will not think I’m polite when I say that the most disingenuous and insidious attacks are the disguised ones like that of Tom Scharf, who has managed to wring an apology out of people who if they investigated his work would find him an exemplar of how to mislead people. When I first encountered him elsewhere, I had to do some work to find the false premises. He is very literate and very polite, but not good.
With the whole world at risk, it is time to stop temporizing with the truth.
Some of us may be more able to dance delicately around all this, but regardless of whether it is a stomp or a ballet, it needs full commitment. Nothing else will do.
Yes, my irony was deliberate. Thank you for noticing. :)
I do accept that “suggests” may actually, once in a while, be the appropriate word, but I stick by the point I was making.
If scientists are trying to communicate their findings to a wider audience, the message will typically sound tentative and inconclusive if it is framed as something merely “suggested” (or similar word) by the data.
I am not proposing that scientists claim more certainty than the data and analysis warrant, but I think that most times the word “suggest” is used, a more forthright wording could be found without much trouble. At the very least, an indication of how strongly something is suggested would help.
For example, how often could it be said that “the data strongly support the conclusion that blah blah blah” or “we could find no other plausible explanation” rather than “the data suggest blah blah blah”.
The inclination of many people (journalists included) when confronted with a scientists saying the data “suggest” something or other would be to say “Well, that’s interesting. Just let me know when you’ve made up your mind.”
This is meant to be constructive criticism, by the way.
It isn’t the fault of scientists that their message is so routinely distorted and misrepresented by the deniosaurs, but it does make it more important to get the message across as effectively as possible.
Making a list of wishy-washy words like “suggest” and doing a quick word search for them would be a handy place to start when polishing up your paper or speech.
I am not sure, Eric, but I think you are confused.
If someone authorizes expenditures for services of persons who illegally hack into servers and steal emails (while also hacking into Real Climate, lest we forget) with the intent to take text out of context in order to try to destroy scientists’ reputations and careers and mislead the public on the extreme danger we face, and if they pay someone to break into Andrew Weaver’s office and steal his computers while at the same time sending people to impersonate technicians and try to break into the data center at his university, do you not understand that these are people who have no regard for the law or for their fellow human beings?
Let them keep their miserable assets, but let them be shunned by civil society, let them be booed if they show their despicable faces in public, and for all I care let them be pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes everywhere they go.
Are Aristotelian congratulations due those who register disgust with politicized science by their discrete reluctance to utter a word about it?
If you’re referring to Lindzen, disgust is outweighed by some other muffler we can’t quite identify. Now if the man would commit a transgression having nothing to do with science, if history is any guide we can be fairly sure his peers would chastise him in an official capacity, quite severely.
So what do you suggest when some denialist spinmeister takes some perfectly nuanced explanation of a climate finding and twists it into total irrational stupidity. This is not an unusual circumstance. Listen closely- it isn’t a problem with the message, the message is perfectly clear, it IS the denialist self serving message that is the problem. Steve
I look forward to reading Mr. Romm’s book. I have often wondered why in communicating the complexities of the climate system and the threat posed by global warming, scientists/communicators have not or have rarely invoked analogies to the human body: the most intimately known system to the lay public that must be persuaded. Such comparisons could drive home the potential dangers for continued procrastination in the hopes that some magic bullet will materialize to save us from ourselves. This may not change the views of the most obstinate deniers, but it could begin to shift public opinion back toward a healthy majority capable of motivating some political courage towards action.
It remains my understanding that both sides are using the fact that the other sides emotions are overblown against the opposing side.
Using emotion to convey science is therefore, in my opinion, an ineffective technique. I also think it inappropriate and unnecessary as well.
I do agree of course with Aristotle, but only in the context of a give argument with a given audience. Crossing borders and boundaries is an entirely different situation.
When I speak to audiences that are not middle of the road on this issue but simply don’t ‘believe’ that the warming is human caused, I can turn the vast majority of the audience to understanding the issue. I do this without emotion. It works, but one does have to have a particular skill in communication and be acceptable to the audience as a communicator they can trust.
“So what do you suggest when some denialist spinmeister takes some perfectly nuanced explanation of a climate finding and twists it into total irrational stupidity.”
Asking innocent questions worked well for Socrates! (Less illustriously, sometimes for me, too.) It may not seem like it on certain websites, but most people still recognize distortion most of the time. And those innocent questions can certainly point it up for them.
The trouble is that scientists often can’t win either way. If they use words or phrases like “suggests”, “consistent with” etc. they are accused of using weasel words or it is taken to mean “we don’t really know”. But if they use stronger wording they are accused of overconfidence or understating the level of uncertainty.
Ultimately communication is a two way process and however effectively the person trying to communicate tries to be in getting their message across it will come to nothing if the person on the receiving end is not prepared to listen with an open mind, or is even actively looking to misunderstand.
That’s not to say that Joe Romm’s book is not of value – there are people out there who are can be reached and so effective communication is still a worthwhile objective, but when I read some of the criticism of the efforts made so far by scientists and others to communicate the dangers of AGW I feel they often fail to take the above into account.
There’s nothing improper about the language (“Nuremberg Tribunal”) on a science forum since the issue was how to talk about the issue.
The question of AGW is either gravely serious or it is (as its critics claim) another musty academic notion that’s been fanned into importance by the academics who study it. If it is gravely important then many multiples of the people who died during the Holocaust could die as well. Many multiples. What do you think of the post war effort to address the Holocaust? Do your tender sensibilities swim to think of it? It sounds like you think that AGW is an academic curiosity. I don’t. I don’t think it’s “academic” at all, and serious measures need to be considered to address the inaction that we find ourselves mired in. I apologized for bringing Nuremberg up because it had already been brought up by someone far more knowledgeable and serious than I. James Hansen. Because my suggestion was redundant. Not because it was improper.
“hence there is nothing they ‘know’ that they could be accused of suppressing”
In the event of any legal proceedings along the lines of the tobacco lawsuits, I think that would actually be a question of fact to be determined at trial.
If I recall correctly, it was during the course of such proceedings that it was revealed that the tobacco companies’ own scientists had determined that tobacco was both carcinogenic and addictive, and that the tobacco companies had not only knowingly tried to suppress this information, but had actually built marketing plans around that knowledge — e.g. marketing cigarettes to younger people, knowing that they would become addicts and life-long smokers, replacing older smokers who would tend to die from cancer.
So, for the fossil fuel corporations who funded the AGW denial propaganda campaign, the question would be “What did they know, and when did they know it?”
Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Aug 2012 @ 10:41 AM
I tend to agree with you. Those that invoke emotions in their argument tend to be viewed as more activist than scientist, on both sides of the fence. Emotions work well to motivate those who already agree with your conclusions, but to convince those with whom you disagree, stick to the facts. I think approach works best, regards on which side on the debate you are arguing.
John, it’s a terrific situation if Aristotle is correct and the science we’re discussing is usefully true. Being able to ignite people’s hearts by an appeal to logically right reason is a wonderful rhetorical weapon, the very best.
Ethically speaking the choice here is clear and easy, arguably does not present any choice at all: if you’ve got truth on your side and a legitimate reason to appeal to emotions consisting of a threat of the highest order, you use the faculties the Greeks were perfecting 2,000 years ago to help save lives. Doing less is Wrong with a capital “W.”
Denskepticons only have one reliable button to push, emotions, “we’ve” got two, emotions and reason, and as well our emotions button is better because our reasoning is sound. Denskepticon appeals to emotion fail under scrutiny, “ours” don’t.
People come equipped with few action buttons or many; the more effective buttons you know how to push, the better.
Some time ago a study was done on lead paint mitigation in older homes. What was crystal clear from this research was the galvanizing effect children have on intentions to perform lead mitigation in these homes. There’s a situation where emotion and reason are in perfect alignment and where a distilled science message is often ineffective.
“Lead dust is poisonous.”
“That’s terrible. I have to watch TV.”
“Lead dust gets on your infant children’s hands and will mentally cripple them.”
“Aaagh! I’ll fix the problem, immediately!”
People reading this and who have children will understand the imperative. It comes straight from the heart.
Regarding trust, it’s key; the literature is clear on the role of trust in hazard and risk communication. But let’s not obey our denskepticon advisers and conflate emotionally appealing language with being an untrustworthy communicator. We’d be less than trustworthy if we did.
And I stick by mine. There is no reason for scientist to change their lexicon when publishing a paper because of the existence of people who won’t engage them honestly.
The media don’t care about when scientists have made up their mind, it doesn’t sell papers. I don’t think the scientific community could be any clearer that global warming is real, and that is it caused by human activity. Every major scientific society has a public statement about this. But time rolls on with the media giving “both sides” of the story.
Just look at the recent Hansen paper. Are the people who were saying that the baseline period of 1951-1980 ignores the hot US extremes of the 30s appeased by the follow-up release by Hansen et al where they specifically include that time period? No. They just make up some other reason to dismiss it. They ignore the fact that redoing the analysis with that time period actually strengthens the conclusions of the initial paper. The problem isn’t with the word “suggests” it’s with the culture of ignorance that is not receptive to science.
Outlawing the “wishy-washy” words from the literature is just missing the point. It’s like arguing about how we should write our 4′s. Is it one line with a triangle, or two lines with an open box. It doesn’t matter if you’re engaging the material honestly.
Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 23 Aug 2012 @ 12:39 PM
Economic inequality to the degree that is found in Western Capitalism today is Terrorism. Pure and simple. Each require the other to thrive. If there is to be a “War of Choice” let it be the “We All Win War” to stop profits from the pollution of the COMMONS. The truly existential threat to humanity and the root cause of terrorism, in that a population left without justice to address exploitation will spawn terrorists. (Or Revolutions.) It is a given, proven throughout history.
I think you’re talking about the communication between the general public and scientific community. It seems there is nobody from the other side of the fence so I’d like to tell you my personnal anecdotal testimony.
First, I didn’t care of warming. I though it was true just because every major scientific institutions agree with each other though I didn’t know anything about it.
Then I encountered the debate on AGW on the net. Where else?
They said “Consensus is not science. Science is all about facts.”. Well, I thought it was true though it didn’t sound quite wright. And about Galileo, yeah. He did suffer from the consensus. It didn’t sound quite right, though.
“Nature produces CO2 more than 97% and less than 3% from human” Well, well again, we do produce such a small amount, I thought. I didn’t know.
Thing is that I didn’t really change my view or was convinced but I didn’t know any facts or understandings to clear my mind. They successfully left seeds of dubts in my mind. I didn’t really trust them but I was somewhat more open to what they say a bit.
They appeal to my intuitive common sense thus I did really need no facts or data to form my view because I already know them, intuitive common sense.
I started to use my personnal way to see a con while I was looking up for some info on AGW. People tend be inconsistent in their logic, rational and in this case, their science when they make stuff up as they go along. And they also use a lot of big words and conplicated logic. They tend to dance around my fear of embarrassment of lack of knowledge, understanding and pride and vanity.
“Why Greenland is called greenland?” This may sound so ridicuos to you guys but it goes right into the spot in my brain. Maybe because it rhymes.
Until of course, I found that Greenland is almost 1,000 miles long , streching Arctic sea to North Atlantic and it is 5 times the size of Great Britain, 3 time the size of Texas. Now I could ask “What does that mean the place 3 times the size of Texas was green?”, “Do what they found one farmhouse under the ice near southern coast line in the place 5 times the size of Great Britain?”, “Why Iceland is called Iceland, then?”, “Do I also believe the streets in Chin were once paved with gold?”
They also say 3,000 scientis don’t believe AGW. Huh? They now arguing ‘consensus’ now? What pappened to “Consensus is not science”? Isn’t that the very reason why we have ‘peer review’ in scientific field?
This was how I went, fell their rhetrics and metaphors and came back. Here is the thing. I, one of the many general public, don’t have time to look it up or mental capacity to understand all those complicated science. So I tend to be comfortable with or relate to it if I can make an analogy to things in my everyday life and bode well with my intuitive common sense.
My point is starting to point out how or what is wrong in science and rationl in my or sceptics’ misunderatanding before you start to explain conplicated story is better. Question them. Question their science. Ask them “What do you mean by that?” Sorry can’t explain it well.
Thing is when you have debates in public forums, keep in mind sceptics you’re debating are not the one you’re communicating to but people, the public who are listening in or reading silently are the ones you want to convey your message to.
Some of them have already fell into sceptics’ rhetrics and metaphors and they are empathetic and identify with sceptics. Sometimes it is not a good idea to beat up to win an argument for argument’s sake as long as you state your points and help sceptics clearly reveal their logical fallacy and irrational understanding in science. Showing some humanity toward the sceptics makes people who are empathetic more receptive to what you’ve said to take it in. Nobody likes an arrogant ruthless winner. Once it clicked in their mind they’d be willing to listen to you and a flood of underastandings would come in.
Sometimes You do have to go 100% science when you discuss data and facts. there is no room for anything else. You could use rhetrics and metaphor when you talk about basic science in general of the science of AGW because we are usually not versatile in those.
But keep in mind using rhetrics and metaphors is like telling a joke. You have to set up the stage and deliver them so that they’d understand exactly what you mean to mean. As powerful as they are they could backfire bad as well if it sounds somehow condescending or arrogant. Sorry, got too long and might be off main topic.
I can agree with you in part. Emotion can be effective in certain circumstances. And I would add a caveat that with whom, and how it is done counts, a lot.
Example: I was a business meeting in St. Galen where Economie Swiss (lobbyist) was showing how they were able to improve their messaging for building new nuclear plants in Switzerland. They showed the effectiveness of appeal to reason and appeal to emotion. The emotion won, but only as a takeaway. The emotion that got the public was what they would lose.
Of course all that changed with Fukishima and now Switzerland has committed to never build another nuclear plant… at least for now.
I think the takeaway can work in the fuzzier middle, but won’t work on the outer perimeter since that is where the other side is most entrenched and would simply say look, their trying to appeal to our emotions, laugh, and then change the channel.
Context is key.
As I said, my success with those that simply say there is no warming or it’s all natural is in my opinion due to the fact that I only use facts and explain the context so that everyone sees the truth of the science.
Wow. Thank you for your kind words, Mr. john O Reiman.
Main point is you can’t change the sceptics’ mind. You have to know who is you are communicating to and whom you are conveying your message to. You maybe debating with the sceptics but you are actually talking to the 3rd party who are listening in or reading your debate in public forums. Remember the young girl who wants to learn more?
John: I think the takeaway can work in the fuzzier middle, but won’t work on the outer perimeter…Context is key.
Never succumb to dogmatic application of a single tool. Yes, absolutely. I’d offer that your thoughts are in keeping with “many buttons; some have more, some have fewer.”
As my own anecdote, prior to 2007 I was interested in climate change in a detached way, the “mile wide, inch deep” way I find so many things fascinating. I’m the very shallowest, widest and mostly useless type of dilettante; climate change was obviously a threat but not something I felt engaged with.
My closer engagement began when the ongoing sea ice vanishing act in the Arctic called my attention to something not scientific at all, namely the traducing of numerous scientists (really, a boundless pool given the interdisciplinary nature of the affair) by actors who themselves clearly were not deeply attached to truth.
I know lots of scientists; my dad was a geophysicist, I’m married to a scientist, my social landscape is positively littered with researchers. I’m keenly aware of their attachment to truth and how unlikely and rare it is that researchers in fields not directly attached to lucrative commerce will risk their reputation by lying.
The jackals baying at the heels of such as Michael Mann aroused my ire, enraged me, touched my emotions. Since then as a very peripheral and gnat-like entity I’ve contributed quite a bit of money, material support and a fair amount of actual work to the matter of slowing our plunge into disaster, as well as dissipating a lot of energy on catharsis at such places as RC.
My conversion from vaguely interested to more attentive was purely to do with personal and emotional connections that really didn’t have much to do with climate science.
Re- Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Aug 2012 @ 8:30 AM currently at #91:
You say- “Asking innocent questions worked well for Socrates! (Less illustriously, sometimes for me, too.) It may not seem like it on certain websites, but most people still recognize distortion most of the time. And those innocent questions can certainly point it up for them.”
I say- Would it be so. Please explain how the mass of media from cute to well nuanced that explains the very simple rules and dramatic results of evolution can leave a large proportion of US citizens rejecting evolutionary theory. I think the answer is just simple but emphatic opposition. Most folks don’t have the time, ability, or inclination to keep track of which of two sides of a scientific issues are correct. When dealing with the Koch brothers money machine telling The Big Lie (see- http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Big_lie – and note the link to Denialism in the See also section), simple honesty and innocent truth don’t have a chance.
CRZ9 wrote > They said “Consensus is not science. Science is all about facts.”. Well, I thought it was true though it didn’t sound quite wright. And about Galileo, yeah. He did suffer from the consensus. It didn’t sound quite right, though.
Yeah, it’s not right. He suffered from religious ideologues, not from scientific consensus. It was the Church that sentenced him to house arrest. It was the political pressures put on the Pope (who used to be friends with Galileo) that heliocentrism was against the scriptures that got him into trouble. He wasn’t told by other scientists that he was “bucking the consensus” and therefore needed a timeout. That’s just a myth spread by the denialati. Ironically, Galileo was trying to protect the Church from making a huge mistake. Galileo was Catholic, not Protestant like his contemporary Kepler. He was trying to convince the Church that heliocentrism didn’t go against Scripture. It didn’t work and the attacks on science by religious & political ideologues continue to this day (see evolution, stem cell research, climate, etc.).
Where he may have gotten into trouble with the intellectual elite is his consistently answering (and teaching his students to give as an answer) “I don’t know.” Perhaps his two greatest achievements were the popularization of the scientific method based on mathematics (he wrote his work for the common man), and standing up against the political and theological powers of the day for the right of scientists to pursue research unencumbered by those powers’ ideologies.
Galileo gets misused as an example of “standing up to consensus” all the time by the anti-science ideologues, and they have history completely backwards (not surprising). The idea that Galileo was made to suffer at the hands of other scientists is just wrong. See Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo (Johannes Kepler’s Conversation with the Starry Messenger) in which Kepler endorsed Galileo’s work, and Kepler again published Narratio de Jovis Satellitibus further supporting Galileo. Those who are using him as an example of scientific consensus holding back scientific research are wrong and quite often represent the modern equivalent of the political and theological powers against which Galileo so indomitably fought. Even when facing the threat of torture by the Church, Galileo would not back down.
dbostrom said, “if history is any guide we can be fairly sure his peers would chastise him in an official capacity, quite severely.”
Ah, to wish upon an ad hominum.
84 Garry talks of wording.
Yes, from “theory” to “likely”, the words of science need to be translated or defined when discussing things with the public, and defining things up front doesn’t work. Definitions have to be included in each instance.
94 Secular said, “So, for the fossil fuel corporations who funded the AGW denial propaganda campaign, the question would be “What did they know, and when did they know it?””
So as long as they stick to Fox News, they’re safe. Fox News is safe as their product is entertainment, not news. Win win situation! Hiring Muller could have been a big mistake….
97 Unsettled said, “There is no reason for scientist to change their lexicon when publishing a paper because of the existence of people who won’t engage them honestly.”
Sure, but it does warrant a translation of the paper, including all equations, into a form which answers the dishonest in a public fashion. I’d pay $1 to see Hansen’s latest as explained by Hansen.
79 prok says, “If we get there, all hope is eventually gone,”
Heavens no. There are many billions of revolutions left in Earth, and humans will survive on its surface as long as any other species we care about. AGW is about degrading a million years, not some sort of irreperable harm (man, that felt good to type).
I’d say we are in general agreement on the many buttons. That’s why there are so many professional marketing companies to handle target marketing.
As I said, emotions can work and there are various ways to use appeal to emotion.
There are many interpretations and contexts too.
No need to worry about me submitting to dogma though.
I’ve said this here in RC in the past, and in communications meetings. There are many ways to achieve the same goal and each communicator has his or her own style that works for different audiences and applications.
Please send $1 to the American Cancer Society, Global Fund for Women, Autism Speaks or other charity of your choice ;)
Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 23 Aug 2012 @ 6:33 PM
Steve Fish @88: What do I suggest “when some denialist spinmeister takes some perfectly nuanced explanation of a climate finding and twists it into total irrational stupidity”?
Well, argue with them or ignore them, expose their lies and their motives. The usual. What I’m saying is that maybe the initial explanation is not always “perfectly nuanced” or – as you put it – “perfectly clear”. Sometimes it is, too often it isn’t, at least to non-scientists.
Otherwise Joe Romm has wasted his time writing his book.
I’m not blaming the victim here, guys. Communication can always be improved and when the forces of stupidity are trying to twist your words it just makes it more important to make the message as clear as possible.
Mike I am unclear, do you think we should read this book? ;)
I will get a copy using some gift cards I have. I read a lot, so I get a lot of gift card from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It seems a way to help scientists to be better communicators, but as I have pointed out before here on RC communicating science and doing science are different skill sets. I hope that this book can bridge that gap.
I recommend channeling the late and great Johnny Cochran. Like him or hate him he was a great lawyer. The contrarians have done so by saying about anthropogenic global warming “if it’s not a fact we must not act”. An equivalent statement that advocates for action needs to be said. I though don’t have any ideas what that might be.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 23 Aug 2012 @ 9:58 PM
““if it’s not a fact we must not act”. An equivalent statement that advocates for action needs to be said. I though don’t have any ideas what that might be.”
dbostrom, thanks for pointing out The Climate Science Defense Fund. I actually tried to think of a climate related charity, but I couldn’t. So I just rattled of 3 that were in my head and I respect.
Jim Larsen > Got two side salads for lunch, and dropped a buck in the slot, so sick kids’ families will be together thanks to you.
Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 24 Aug 2012 @ 12:27 AM
Jim Larsen, #108:
Fox hired Muller? I hadn’t heard it, other than his appearance touting (ugh) natural gas. If true, it’s important news, indicating a strategy shift by the fossil fuel companies. They may now instruct Heritage and CEI to admit AGW but point to natural gas as the only solution that won’t “wreck the economy”.
Please confirm if he’s on the payroll. I don’t see him leaving the UCB faculty, but weekly guest appearances could be quite interesting. One thing we know for sure- Muller smells that Koch money.
We are all very frustrated, and some times it leads to poorly worded comments. We should be frustrated. We see the danger, but we can’t change what the driver is doing [driving toward the cliff]. Is Homo Sap smart enough to survive this one?
I am almost half way through “The Moral Molecule” by Paul J. Zak The moral molecule is spam filtered. Zak talks about several other spam filtered. Some of them he applies to his test subjects by spam filtered or spam filtered. Zak talks about what #99 CRZ9 talks about but in greater length and detail.
Now, if we could just create a worldwide fog of spam filtered…….
But sometimes it doesn’t work. It is the steep rise in spam filtered rather than the level, and what is going on with spam filtered, spam filtered, spam filtered, etc. matter as well.
The human brain was designed by evolution to survive the threat from lions. The threat of GW is a very different one that very few people can see. The book “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer does a good job of explaining this, but doesn’t give a spam filtered for dealing with denialists.
spam filtered gestures spam filtered….. We have to devise a way to get around the problems imposed by the poor architecture of the average human brain. Zak has a clue, and we have a few other clues. The spam filter makes them harder to communicate.
@#109 Jim Larsen wrote: “AGW is about degrading a million years, not some sort of irreperable harm”
On the one hand, this can easily be disproved by pointing out the species that are being driven to extinction by GW. Those are harms that cannot be repaired.
On the other hand, one cannot know for certain what the biological diversity of the earth is going to be in the coming millions of years, and saying that you can, one way or the other, is essentially lying.
And keep in mind that GW is only one of multiple global and local assaults we are inflicting on the biosphere.
The cumulative impact:
of all of the chemicals we’ve produced that the earth has never seen before,
of other toxic wastes,
of nuclear wastes,
of destroyed eco-systems,
of ocean acidification…
of all these and more over thousands and millions of years to come cannot possibly be accurately calculated in any reasonable way.
Also recall that we were already well into the current mass extinction event well before anything like the full force of the consequences of GW started to kick in. So in a way, GW can be seen as a mass-extinction event on top of a mass extinction event. Again, the long-term consequences of such multiple assaults on the global eco-system cannot possibly be calculated. And of course, we are not done inflicting insults–nano-tech and GM may end up being even greater assaults than everything else we have created.
These are largely uncontrolled experiments on the only planet we have. As things really start to become unglued, and agriculture fails even as population continues to soar, people are more and more going to start to look as every remotely palatable species as a potential dinner, and every burnable species as fuel to cook said dinner. With 9 billion or more of us scavenging the earth for every last bit of flesh or plant, there will likely be precious little left for the living world to jump-start complex life forms from.
[Response:What, you think there's a "right" and "wrong" when it comes to viewpoints on the issue? And I wasn't arguing about whether climate change deniers use the same methods as cancer deniers did--read it again. I was arguing that the nature and strength of the evidence on the two topics were different.--Jim]
I do wish that when you reject a comment you would put it in the borehole, that way we could know if it is a mechanical glitch or intentional. Full disclosure: I have a great admiration for Tenney Naumer, and if her phrasing is a bit stark at times, it is necessary as a counterbalance for the habit of understatement prevalent in the scientific community. So far, that’s not working, is it?
Her blog is eclectic, but she keeps a vast archive of scientific literature and thought-provoking material here, which you might add to her sidebar. Many of us feel the time for discretion has long passed, and while not condoning distortion, some strong language is quite welcome and a wake up call long overdue. http://climatechangepsychology.blogspot.com/
I am aware that I am at times an intruder and occasionally an enabler of the worst trollish types because of my lack of expertise in the subject area, and try to back off when I do so. But discussions of language and denial are something I believe I can contribute to. Also, as an informed layperson I can put paid to the idea that one must have advanced maths to understand the drift of climate change and climate change science.
Humor, brevity, graphics, and an avoidance of boring are all useful in the ongoing effort to reach over the footlights.
[Response:Shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Aside from the fact of insulting Eric and making a non-sequitir response to his points (and thus not apparently understanding them), the idea of "pelting people with rotten eggs and tomatoes" has no place here. Aside from decency considerations, just think for a second about the wisdom of saying something like that. That's why it was boreholed. Obviously some others think this is acceptable behavior. I don't.--Jim]
OTOH, I wholly support the “by scientists for scientists” majority postings here, and would not remove one jot of detail or analytic sophistication.
[Response:Susan, I have no idea how that ended up in the borehole. It has been restored. --Mike]
Comment by Susan Anderson — 24 Aug 2012 @ 10:53 AM
118 Mike R wondered about Fox VS Muller.
Fox doesn’t financially support anybody. If you ain’t increasing Fox’s bottom line (and supporting the political/”scientific” views of Fox’s owners), you’re the enemy. As you noted, it’s the Koch brothers that financed Muller. My post was made with the assumption that the typical reader knows what you know.
Thinking about it, I don’t believe I’ve ever used “suggest” in a comment. So it’s possible to delete it from the mindset.
Comment by Susan Anderson — 24 Aug 2012 @ 11:02 AM
Mike, oh dear, you did not put my comment in the borehole! My apologies for not being clear. It was Tenney who wondered where hers went, and it was over a day ago, but since I had a similar disappearing comment I thought it would be helpful to know if it was the computer problem or intentional. If you all have a problem with a comment, that’s your prerogative which I respect, regardless of whether it feels personal. It’s helpful for growth to know what or why something, trivial or not, disappears.
[Response: Yes, I've restored *Tenney's* comment. And, no, I didn't place it in the borehole in the first place. I don't know how it got there. --Mike]
too funny: ostriches in my recaptcha!
Comment by Susan Anderson — 24 Aug 2012 @ 11:06 AM
I decided to say “million years” instead of the maybe more accurate “billion years” to give the statement more diversity – billions of revolutions VS a million years. Plus, the target audience, more-or-less-skeptics-who-aren’t-sure, would respond to “billion years” with derision, but “million years” with a sort of negative awe, hopefully. Sometimes shaving the truth down to what does the motivation but doesn’t alert the “bull” flag is best. (talk about opening up a can of worms – I’ll close by saying all tools have their purpose)
[Response:Millions and Billions of years are meaningless. We need to know what's going to happen in the next century, and that alone is a wicked problem.--Jim]
121 wili: “what the biological diversity of the earth is going to be in the coming millions of years”
If you read enough paleontology, you may come across a graph of species diversity over time. Species diversity sort of has a “constant” equilibrium. The great extinction events disrupt that equilibrium. It takes something like 20 Million years to return to equilibrium, depending on the “size” of the event. After the Great Death alias the Permian-Triassic Boundary extinction event, 40 Million years went by before diversity returned to “normal.”
I’m putting in lots of ” because diversity tends to grow over billions of years and because the terms are not exact. Our extinction event started from a high level. That isn’t exact either. I wish we had some paleontologists instead of me saying this.
Jim, in the context of this thread, “millions” and “billions” both translate to “forever”. The point is that our actions over this 100 years will have permanent and very substantial effects (or hopefully not). The original joke, that it isn’t permanent, just permanent, well, I stand by it as reasonable science communication – and that it got a rise out of somebody, that’s also a sign of effective communication.
[Response:OK. My point is simply that we need to try to get a handle on what's most likely to be most heavily impacted in the nearest term future, so that we can (hopefully) take appropriate actions on the adaptation front. Better yet, on the mitigation front.--Jim]
(And when your audience believes the Earth is 10,000 years old, a million sure sounds big, eh?)
And while 131 Edward’s analysis is grand, it would have ruined the original sound bite. Sound bites are paramount nowadays. Make them provocative, catchy, and essentially true, but expecting rigour is a sure-fire way to kill a sound bite.
Knowing one’s audience is critical. Climate scientists should remember that their audience is not the folks who flock to their speeches, but those who avoid them like the plague (other than to heckle or protest).
The only good “you” could do in communicating with me is to improve my effectiveness with “your” true target audience, the convincible skeptic.
The choir is already saved (in theory).
And, I think the whole thing is quickly becoming moot. An ice-free Arctic ocean is what it looks like it will take, and that looks like it’s just a couple years away, so, we’ve probably frittered away as much time as we’re going to.
[Response:What, you think there's a "right" and "wrong" when it comes to viewpoints on the issue? And I wasn't arguing about whether climate change deniers use the same methods as cancer deniers did--read it again. I was arguing that the nature and strength of the evidence on the two topics were different.--Jim]
Jim the difference between tabacco denial and climate change denial is the impact on humanity. With systematic denial and manipulation of the public opinion in regards to climate change, often with falsification of data – the time to act on the problem runs out. Our environmental setup “Holocene climate” has changed drastic and the result is, survivability of your civilization and the habitability of the places we call our home and use to feed is at stake. It doesn’t get more existential than this.
Climate scientist should speak up about this problem on “National Security” and tell the public how it is. You need to outline the big picture (a multitude of problems) and offer the solution (climate action).
[Response: I agree with you Prok. Indeed, I express many of these very sentiments in my recent book "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars". -mike]
[Response:I don't disagree with anything you say, but I was not arguing against this and you keep shifting the focus of the original argument. Of course climate change has big implications for the planet. But if you were dying of lung cancer or emphysema you might have a different perspective on which of those two issues were more important to "humanity"--particularly your own.--Jim]
Here’s an example of how to look at responsibility:
Rather than proclaiming opinion and emphasizing belief, do the research
“… to explore the following four questions: (a) What did tobacco companies know about the health risks of smoking and when did they know it? (b) What evidence is there that tobacco companies conspired to deliberately mislead the public about the health risks of smoking? (c) How were scientists involved in the cigarette controversy? (d) Have tobacco companies changed the way they do business ….?”
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev June 2007 16; 1070
Note the links with the abstract provide access to source documents.
Jim: Did Tenney say that? I thought the conversation with Eric clarified that she had been falsely associated with those remarks. It is not a non sequitur to point out that earth is in the balance and it might be time to have the accusations of criminality not be exclusively directed at the truthtellers on this issue.
If I have this wrong, I apologize, have to run or would check back carefully, will do later.
Comment by Susan Anderson — 25 Aug 2012 @ 10:56 AM
#123 Susan Anderson
Susan, you say “as an informed layperson I can put paid to the idea that one must have advanced maths to understand the drift of climate change and climate change science”.
Susan, the layperson ipso facto and without qualification is hopelessly uninformed. And part of what you deny is in fact incontestable, viz “one must have advanced maths to understand”.
Not so much–this isn’t a theological problem, after all, but (ultimately) a practical one. Environmental correctness will not put one morsel of food into one’s mouth, if the ecological systems needed to provide it are toast.
Re: advanced math required to understand climate science.
I contend that climate science is quite easy to understand without advanced math. See the skeptical science site, beginners series.
Understanding that CO2 blocks IR does not require details of bond angles, vib-rot states, Clebsch-Jordan coefficients. Comprehending the isotopic signature of fossil fuel loading of the air does not need calculations of nuclear states and decay paths. Grasping that CO2 warming leads to water vapor feedback does not require van der Waal calculation or Gibbs surfaces. Seeing that applying a substantial fraction of a watt in radiative imbalance to every last square meter of the world will heat it up does not require a MODTRAN calculation.
What _mis_understanding of these simple ideas requires is a conscious denial of the science … and requires no advanced math either.
>>> “as an informed layperson I can put paid to the idea that
>>> one must have advanced maths to understand the drift of climate change
>>> and climate change science”.
>> the layperson ipso facto and without qualification is hopelessly uninformed.
>> And part of what you deny is in fact incontestable, viz “one must have
>> advanced maths to understand”.
>> I was talking about understanding, being able to answer “how” questions,
>> to know reasons and not jump to easy conclusions.
Susan, don’t fall for it.
You clearly said one can understand ‘the drift’ — where we’re headed, where we’ll end up if we keep going the way we are — without the math. True — and you point to where we can read information that’s been scrutinized by those who do understand the math and the science. We can find reliable sources.
Simon truncates the quote from you, then claims understanding the drift equals being able to answer the “how” questions, so nobody can do that without the math, so what we _can_ do can’t help jumping to conclusions. Nonsense.
It’s a “voters don’t understand calculus so there’s no hope for change” argument.
The only way to avoid the easy obvious conclusions – is willful ignorance, not being “hopelessly” uninformed. Go to WUWT discussion of the Arctic collapse to see what contorted hoops of willful misinterpretation the denialists are jumping through, in a desparate attempt to deny reality.
Anybody arguing that we don’t know enough to act is arguing for more data – more drought, more heatwaves, more floods, more food riots, more dead people. The experiment we are performing on our climate(“how bad will the consequences of unregulated emissions be?) would never pass an IRB(Institutional Review Board, which must approve any experiments on humans at all institutions doing such experiments – except fossil fuel companies &;>).
CO2 absorbs IR, is the main GHG, human emissions are increasing its concentration in the atmosphere, raising temperatures globally; the second GHG, water vapor, exists in equilibrium with water/ice, would precipitate out if not for the CO2, so acts as a feedback; since the oceans cover so much of the planet, water is a large positive feedback; melting snow and ice as the atmosphere warms decreases albedo, another positive feedback, biased toward the poles, which gives larger polar warming than the global average; decreasing the temperature gradient from the equator to the poles is reducing the driving forces for the jetstream; the jetstream’s meanders are increasing in amplitude and slowing, just like the lower Missippi River where its driving gradient decreases; the larger slower meanders increase the amplitude and duration of blocking highs, increasing drought and extreme temperatures – and 30,000+ Europeans and 5,000 plus Russians die, and the US corn crop, Russian wheat crop, and Aussie wildland fire protection fails – or extreme rainfall floods the US, France, Pakistan, Thailand(driving up prices for disk drives – hows that for unexpected adverse impacts from AGW?), and the Aussies while they’re still recovering from the drought and wildfires. All this is happening while denialists are touting the end, er slowdown, uhm, statistically insignificant warming since 98, 2002, … whenever. One might think that if the sensitivity is low – “See, it’s paused, or only warmed a little, but CO2 is still rising” – but the consequences are already as bad as we now see, the hairs on the nape of their neck would be rising.
There’s understanding and then there’s understanding. When it comes to climate science, compared to most at RC, I understand little. But it’s enough to see that AGW is real and serious, and it’s a heck of a lot better than having a head stuffed full of crackpot memes.
As for calculus, it’s generally a good thing, and I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t bashing math who would suggest that those who are able, and society in general, would be better off with less of it. (That whole hopeless without calculus characterization is bogus.)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, know your audience and speak to it. Some need lots of info, others not so much.
Something to ponder from your TV, and applicable beyond the classroom:
“In its essence, teaching is a performance art. In the classroom paradigm, the teacher has the responsibility to communicate as well as entertain and engage.”
Amy Farrah Fowler,
Big Bang Theory
The Thespian Catalyst
Persuasion doesn’t work. I used the August Unforced Variations thread to try to come up with a consensus of smart folks who are RC regs. Total failure. No matter what the input – pure electric car owners will freeze in winter and boil in summer because the range will wither if one uses climate control – uh, no difference in thought patterns at all. Spreading the available batteries amongst the vehicles we have would use the batteries more efficiently. Again, no effect at all. 100% battery power is the ONLY acceptable solution, even when the vehicle being built will be landfill long before we generate all electricity carbon-free.
Naw, it’s all about results. When Iowa’s farmers can’t grow corn or raise cattle profitably, then Iowa farmers will “vote AGW”. (Not the best example – Iowa farmers are voting AGW because of government handouts on wind farms, too. Note that’s buying the vote, not persuasion.) When the arctic sea ice is obviously imminently doomed, people will figure they were uninformed (NEVER wrong), and the solution is to use the same theories and thought processes that led them to believe that AGW was a myth. Yep, failed theories will become EXACTLY the theories and thought processes that will solve AGW, according to those who hold that opinion.
So, it’s NOT about scientists talking, NOT about science at all. It’s about common folks having their lives ruined. Do that to enough voters and their friends, and things can change. But thinking the brilliant folks who lead the opposition will do anything but use their great wealth to slow progress, well….
So pray for arctic ice to melt. Pray for devastating droughts and heat waves. Death and destruction are unfortunate but KEY components to persuasion. If thousands of “real” people, or millions of “undeveloped” people don’t die, tis a yawner. So unless enough people die sooner, later is gonna be fracked.
Language is best directed to those who are most affected; the young and very young in the demographic bulge who will live in increasingly inclement climes to come. There are many in Asia and Africa. Have we any capable volunteer translators into the languages ? It would be quite expensive to hire such talent, maybe a Kickstarter type crowdsource ?
Just to clarify, the state of the art for a series hybrid car is the Volt, which uses an 80 hp biofuel (or even fossil, if you want) engine. I immediately dropped that by 75% to 20 hp, which represents an incredible compromise. I then further compromised to 3 hp, which is a total compromise of about 96%. Those who already had an opinion laughed at a mere 96% compromise. Others who hadn’t formed an opinion yet, well, perhaps the discussion made a difference.
You will never persuade a person who already has an opinion. (though I will always believe I’m wrong)
Yes, the post is a little screwed up (to pray for people to die to save others, is a little bit morbid). However, you make some rather good points. An example would be New Orleans before Katrina. Everyone new that the levees were old and in disrepair, but until the storm hit, and thousands died, they did nothing. Today, they are better prepared for Isaac.
Also, I am not sure you went far enough before the people will stand up and take notice. Thousands of real and millions of undeveloped people die all the time, and it is currently a yawner. It would take a greater catastrophe to move the masses in such a way as you laid out, smaller changes are adaptable. People will generally pay a smaller price to adapt, than a larger amount to change altogether.
The small changes witnessed in recent years, are not enough to affect the people. Predictions well into the future are also not great motivators (“I will be dead by then, so who cares” attitudes). Even less motivators are predictions that do not occur. Unless some of the predictions start occurring soon, no real action will be taken.
By the way, you forgot to mention the corn subsidy for ethanol, when referring to the Iowa farmers. They must have a great lobby in Congress.
[Response: I take your points, and agree overall. "Hoping for a catastrophe" to motivate people is naive, not to mention raising all sorts of moral issues. But when you say "Unless some of the predictions start occurring soon", I assume you mean "unless some of the way-out-there really obvious and catastrophic predictions" rather than simply "predictions". Most of the actual scientific predictions (declining sea ice, just to take a timely example) have certainly come true. Let's not conflate what the newspapers and tabloids say with what the science actually tells us.--eric]
132 Jim, thanks for the response. (It thrills me when one of the Mods thinks my ramblings merit a response) One problem is that logic and communication don’t mesh very well. Scientists are trained to ignore human frailties, to go logical. But you can logic the average human to zero effect all you want. They will retain all their false assumptions and grade your logic by how well it fits their axiomatic errors.
The declining sea ice is relatively on cue, although Maslowski’s ice-free in 2013 may be jumping the gun. Some of the “way-out-there really obvious and catastrophic predictions” like BBQ summers, snow-less winters, Himalayan meting, and 3m sea level rise, while headline grabbing, are not realistic (at least not in the foreseeable future). However, these are the predictions that the media publishes because it sells. The more benign, but more reasonable, predictions just produce a yawn (to quote Jim earlier).
Figure 3: Global sea-level anomalies.
From Relative outcomes of climate change mitigation related to global temperature versus sea-level rise
Gerald A. Meehl et al.
Nature Climate Change 2, 576–580 (2012)
Published online 01 July 2012
“Globally averaged sea-level rise anomaly (relative to 1986–2005) owing to thermal expansion (red line, as in Fig. 2), and the example from the IPCC AR4 (dashed green line) for RCP8.5 (a), RCP4.5 (b) and RCP2.6 (c). Note different vertical scales in the three panels; 1 m and 3 m sea-level rise values are grey dashed lines in each panel. Shading highlights uncertainty in future total sea-level rise projections, with lighter shading becoming less certain. Estimates calculated from a semi-empirical method lie near the upper limit of the shading that becomes less distinct with higher values.”
1) This sequence of comments provides useful excercise in language intelligence. Discussion has been diverted, consider how and why.
2) I have many farmers who are my friends. Some are staunch denialists, others otherwise. But all to a man, agree on the need for reforestation, which I note is a stabilization wedge. I find it more useful to work with them where we agree, rather than evangelize. This is not so much language as intelligence. But I will say, that while, and after, planting trees together, I find them more receptive to my opinions. Language is important but action sometimes better.
The reforestation is a good common ground. Planting trees has many benefits to a wide range of people. Historically, farmers were at the forefront of tree cutting to make way for cropland. They later bemoaned the loss of good soil to citification. Lately, they have acknowledged the usefulness of the root systems in stabilizing the soil, and have replanted, although not to the extent that existed prior to agricultural use.
Overall, I have found farmers much more in tune with weather-related events than the average person. This is especially true on second- and third-generation farms. This is not necessarily true about far-reaching climatic effects. Farmers have a higher stake in the weather than most, and consequently, take the time to become well-informed (usually during the winter months).
“…privilege of immunity from critique. They obtain this immunity by the simple act of being offended and making sure everyone knows that. This strategy may not seem like a very effective one (try it for a while, it won’t work for you over the short term) but if a social institution does it for, oh, 800 years or so at every opportunity it tends to stick.”
That privilege seems to have bled via ideology into certain politics.
“When looking at a single piece of work in isolation, it is almost necessary, certainly very tempting, to abide by the premise that there is a single framing or marketing technique that is most appropriate for the entire science/anti-science discussion. But there are several, and as a community I’m pretty sure we’ve mostly agreed that multiple strategies are needed.”
The political parties are giving classes on communication. As in: “On Tuesday, you’ll learn to create an aspirational message that connects to people’s hopes and values.”
In a way, that is simpler than our message, but it is also more complicated because emotions are so illogical. That word “aspirational” is a hard one all by itself. The root word is “spire,” I think. They had aspirations, and we have to say: “Forget that. Times are going to get hard.”
The Pokemon cartoon seems to be teaching evolution. If that works, can we teach any more science by means of cartoons? All students need to take enough laboratory courses to realize that truth comes from experiment, not argument or old books. But maybe cartoons are the right place to start.
A Review of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why they Deny Science—and Reality by Chris Mooney, John Wiley, New York, 327 pages.
Reality has a well-known liberal bias.
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.
You can’t convince of believer of anything, for their belief is not based on evidence but on a deep-seated need to believe.
Hearing the speakers at the GOP convention spout their ideas this week, I’m again reminded that an entire American political party is proudly and openly espousing views that are demonstrably contrary to reality, from claiming that rape does not cause pregnancy, to claiming that global climate change is a hoax, to even weirder idea, like the bizarre notion that the President of the United States is a Kenyan Muslim.”
“I hear a lot of questions from organizers and candidates who are fighting for progressive change in rural areas. The most common of those questions goes something like this: “How do I create a message that resonates with rural voters?”
Whether you’re working in the bluest of blue cities, a deep purple suburb, or a flame-red ranching community, my answer is the same: create a message that’s built on values, not policy. Policy is important, but it has to come second. First, you have to convince people that you’re LIKE them, and that you share their same values. Here are a few of the big picture hows and whys for that, with a focus on why it’s powerful in rural or “conservative” areas.
Decide what values you want to convey. Progressive policy goes hand in hand with small town values. Sticking together in tough times. Looking out for your neighbors. Hard work. Sacrifice for the greater good. Figure out which values you share with your community, and how they relate to your goals.
Build a narrative that conveys those values. Use the art of Public Narrative to develop a Story of Self, and a Story of Us and Now, which you’ll use to connect with voters in a powerful way.
Show how the values match the policy. Finally, draw a line between values and policy. For example, most progressive policy is based on the idea that we all look out for one another. Rural communities often have strong bonds between neighbors, and communities take pride in coming together in tough times. Show how your proposals match that value.
Your ten point plan for fixing the local schools or investing in roads is important, but if you can’t connect those policies to values, you won’t connect at all.”