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  1. Well done Rasmus for at least acknowledging that a problem exists.
    RE “Not so much because of the science, but because the way it presented the science. The report was written by top scientists, so what went wrong?”

    Well, well, well.

    RE “… now that I finally got around to read it [SPM].” Um, it’s 36 pages. I’ve lightly read though the whole WGI 2,216 pages.

    RE “The authors of the SPM are experts at writing scientific papers, but that is a different skill to writing for non-scientists.” No surprises there Rasmus.

    At the risk of repeating myself and causing problems for readers :)
    There are well qualified people, in and out of Academia, all over the world who would be very willing to donate their time and talents to ensure the IPCC reports, and other Press Releases made about new Climate Science studies are communicated properly and effectively to the Media, to the PUBLIC, and to Politicians globally from the get go.

    They only need to be asked. An ounce of humility by the scientists plus an awareness of their own limitations in PUBLIC COMMUNICATION could only help them to take that step to reach out asking for such help on a regular basis. In my humble opinion. Best

    Comment by Sean — 6 Dec 2013 @ 3:26 AM

  2. After 8 weeks of quoting at other places multiple key items directly from the AR5 WGI SPM in context with URLs to the non-stop false claims by deniers, 5 days ago on Dec 1st I also published a comment that went like this:
    No worries Mark Mc .. extreme high temps, record avg temps, typhoon Haiyan, and the data in the IPCC AR5 WGI these are not issues nor examples confirm AGW/CC as true, but an icebreaker in the antarctic well that definitely proves the whole edifice is falling down about AGW/CC and is thus untrue and unscientific. And you even have newspaper reports to back up your rigourous investigation that proves your opinion is the correct one.

    OK. Very sharp. :)

    Have you yourself read the AR5 WGI Summary for Policy Makers? It is only 36 pages long! If not, why not? Have you also read the References listed in the SPM provided by the IPCC WGI? If not, why not?

    Have you read or already know what the AR5 WGI Full Report – Final Draft Underlying Scientific-Technical Assessment? It is 2,216 pages long? If not, why not? It has been publicly available online for free for over two months now.

    Have you read or already aware of the meaning of all the Jargon and Semantics contained in the IPCC Reports such as Annex III: Glossary? It is only 34 pages. If not, why not?

    Whether one is an IPCC skeptic about the science, or a true believer in it, how could you possibly be able to rationally debate, discuss or argue any point about the current state of the knowledge (or claims made online) of the Climate Science if you are have not even read these multiple individual reports yet?

    The WGI contains over 20,000 citations from over 9,000 separate science Papers. [note science papers, not newspapers, ok]

    The official scientific source of the IPCC Report AR5 WGI – Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis –

    Audio Visual for the time poor … 9:20 mins

    Sharing is Caring

    Comment by Sean — 6 Dec 2013 @ 4:18 AM

  3. I think part of the problem comes from breaking the report into three reports.

    What was published was “The Physical Science Basis”. As such, the report could do little more than talk about evidence and uncertainties. The impacts and options reports are still being worked on.

    You need the second and third reports to get to “what do all those numbers mean for policy makers.”

    Comment by James Cross — 6 Dec 2013 @ 7:57 AM

  4. Yes. I’m working on the Technical Summary, myself, rereading carefully and making notes. It’s often unnecessarily tough sledding, with bits that are wordy yet vague. (An example of that is the section on the ‘hiatus’–I really didn’t get what they were trying to say at all, the first time through.) A few sentences are just structural nightmares. Indeed, it’s not always easy to know what the ‘take-away’ is supposed to be.

    But, on the other hand, there is constant care to state the important contextual parameters to make clear just what is being claimed at a given point, which I do appreciate. That, too, creates a tendency to wordiness, but, I think, in a good cause.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 6 Dec 2013 @ 8:18 AM

  5. Thanks Rasmus, for making your case clearly and without unnecessary drama, posturing, or histrionics.

    Some nice touches in the SPM are the points highlighted in tan boxes which facilitate a fast scan, and also some of those graphics are pretty sweet.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 6 Dec 2013 @ 8:40 AM

  6. I think these are all good points. I agree that one of the most valuable courses that I’ve ever done was the “Writing science for non scientists course” (ran by a journalist). It was a revelation that good science writing is in completely the opposite order from good journalism (starting general and focusing to a conclusion vs headline results followed by backup info).

    I’d like to propose the use of IPython Notebook for reproducible, well documented analysis.

    When combined with geoscience research package such as the UKMO’s Iris, its starting to prove very powerful.

    Comment by Niall Robinson — 6 Dec 2013 @ 9:12 AM

  7. IPCC SPMs are more than just a summary of the full WG report. They are also a political document signed off by contributing government delegations who are likely less concerned with ‘crafting the message’ and more attentive to ‘preventing the wrong message being authorised.’ Add in the hoped-for scientific rigour and the recipe is writ large for a right old hodge-podge.

    Comment by MARodger — 6 Dec 2013 @ 10:08 AM

  8. 2 Sean: Movies are great BUT: OR what? The “Or else” has to be enough to scare a psychopathic politician, and that is very difficult. By definition, a psychopath doesn’t care about anything except having fun. You have to be really graphic about how his fun is going to end right now unless he does as you say.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 6 Dec 2013 @ 10:10 AM

  9. And if you want your charts to look more like a nonscientist drew them, there’s this tool:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Dec 2013 @ 10:21 AM

  10. Rasmus, I think you are looking for something more like the synthesis report than the WG1 SPM. Bullet-pointing a technical summary of a very large amount of scientific material down to bite-size chunks for policy makers is almost unimaginably difficult, especially given the potential hostility of the IPCC’s critics.
    But your point is still valid – because there are fundamental differences between the conventions of scientific reporting (papers, reports, etc.) and those of writing (simplifications) for non-scientists, which makes the SPM especially tricky.
    Even Hansen’s latest (12/03/13) falls victim to the conflict of rigor/academic convention vs ‘message’. That paper contains some real bullets, but they just don’t fly, in the format presented. This is one of the reasons why ‘interface’ websites, such as RC & friends, are so important – because in the end, once the science is done, the important thing is to get the message across.
    One solution for this is to ‘divide’ the work into two – the paper, and the PR (broadly). The paper has the rigor, the press release has the main messages; the danger being that folks may read the PR, but very few will RTFR, and many of those already ‘know’. Mora et. al., a couple of months back, did this quite effectively.
    An abstract doesn’t do the job. If a major paper or report has policy-releant implications, then a secondary message is more or less essential.

    Comment by Fergus Brown — 6 Dec 2013 @ 10:33 AM

  11. #5–Radge is right about some of the figures. In fact, I think that a considerable amount of the missing ‘punch’ in the TS comes from the dissociation of graphics from the text coming ftom its current status as draft.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 6 Dec 2013 @ 11:10 AM

  12. as Rasmus said:

    the order of presentation for non-scientists is opposite to the way papers are presented in sciences.

    Don’t bury the lede.

    There are many examples: Late Lessons from Early Warnings

    I’ve watched research for a decade on how light controls circadian cycles. Scientists have written about this; there’s an the AMA (American Medical Association) warned about nighttime white light years ago.

    The conclusion is: don’t emit light in the blue-green (shorter than 560nm) range at night. The alternatives save energy, reduce glare, favor astronomy, and don’t screw up biological cycles. These are available and specifically_required to protect hatching sea turtles.

    They’d protect people too. But who knew? That’s buried deep in the Conclusions, never up top in the Abstract or first paragraph of the research papers.

    We throw incredible amounts of light into the night sky, to our detriment. We think we’re brilliant, don’t we?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Dec 2013 @ 12:49 PM

  13. Any easy to access version of Pebesma et al is at:

    Comment by Joseph — 6 Dec 2013 @ 12:52 PM

  14. Communicate by starting with the bottom line.
    1. It is really happening and we know why.
    2. “uncertainty” means the range in how bad it will get how soon. A look at the US West drought projection should convince anyone who isn’t just being stubborn that we must change our ways. How?
    3. Stop burning carbon and leave it in the ground. This calls for a new energy infrastructure. The economic side is done by stopping pro-carbon subsidies and shifting same to renewable energy.
    4. The change will take decades even when we start trying hard. So we had better get going.
    5. There is no planet B.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 6 Dec 2013 @ 1:36 PM

  15. Very nice discussion, thanks. Love the xkcd-ification!

    Neven has put up some neat stuff from Mauri Pelto and Peter Sinclair, which ref. probably belongs on Unforced Variations. However, the moving picture of how a simple 30-year data plot was created is for me a perfect window into how patient and careful real scientific observation can be. I wish it were possible to show how slow thinking creates deep roots in our hyperfast culture.

    so silly! “was logydig”

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 6 Dec 2013 @ 1:53 PM

  16. darn, that was not the right link. This is Neven. Please ignore the previous, bad cess to me for not proofing.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 6 Dec 2013 @ 1:55 PM

  17. I have a design background, but also some science, arts, and business experience managing teams and dealing with clients. I take an interest in climate change. My point is Im a generalist in some ways, and have considerable experience communicating with people at a professional level.

    Good communications is paramount, and I would suggest half of all our problems are poor communications. The information is often there, but sometimes people just dont connect on a communications level. Its a two way street as well, politicians also have to be clear and ask the right questions.

    The summary for policy makes wasnt all bad, but could certainly be better. Clarity and simplicity is the key, and it tried and got half way there.

    To me a related but bigger problem is climate scientists talking in the mainstream daily media. There are some very good ones like Mann and Hansen but sometimes others get bogged down in detail, and have not been good at tackling sceptical arguments.

    Plus you simply dont see enough climate scientists in the media. These are the people that get respect, not journalists writing some opinion piece.

    I think this website largely communicates well, which shows it can also be done by the IPCC.

    Comment by nigelmj — 6 Dec 2013 @ 3:30 PM

  18. #12 Hank

    So I click your “don’t bury the lede ” link.

    First thing that comes up is:

    It starts out with:

    “Don’t bury the lede.” That’s what everyone always says to writers. Get to the point. Just give us the information we need.

    It’s great advice for journalists. Horrible advice for marketers.

    Is that what you intended? Is this marketing or propaganda (not in a pejorative sense) or reporting or science?

    I think propaganda guided by science.

    Comment by James Cross — 6 Dec 2013 @ 4:57 PM

  19. I think the thing people have to keep in mind is that far more than the actual WG reports, the SPMs are political documents that have been gone over by the spin-meisters at an almost atom-by-atom level to obscure rather than clarify. It is as if you had given the task to Alan Greenspan and actually told him to obfuscate. I picture some poor scientist or science writer going through the 44th round of reviews and giving up just to be done with it. Any policymaker who actually makes policy based on the SPM rather than having independent experts go through the technical report is an idiot. Unfortunately, most policymakers are even stupider than that.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Dec 2013 @ 5:10 PM

  20. What do practicing Climate Scientists, Climate Modelers, including those connected with the IPCC Reports since the 1990s have to say about critical commentary of the IPCC and Climate Science in general?

    And particularly when made by serving active Scientists or Politicians, and other ‘public figures’ such as David Murray, Hugh Morgan, ‘leaders’ from climate science ‘skeptical’ organisations such as the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), or yesterday ex-PM Mr. John Howard’s “One Religion is Enough” speech for his ‘friend’ Lord Lawson and the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) UK?

    Here is an example of a typical response. It is set back in Nov. 2005. It doesn’t matter how old it is, for he and the others on this ‘climate science communication website’ have been totally consistent in their views up to today.

    The author is Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York and is interested in modeling past, present and future climate. He received a BA (Hons) in Mathematics from Oxford University, a PhD in Applied Mathematics from University College London and was a NOAA Postdoctoral Fellow in Climate and Global Change Research.

    He was cited by Scientific American as one of the 50 Research Leaders of 2004, and has worked on Education and Outreach with the American Museum of Natural History, the College de France and the New York Academy of Sciences. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and is the co-author with Josh Wolfe of “Climate Change: Picturing the Science” (W. W. Norton, 2009), a collaboration between climate scientists and photographers. He was awarded the inaugural AGU Climate Communications Prize and was the EarthSky Science communicator of the year in 2011.

    He would be reasonably considered an “expert” and an “authority” in his field of Science.

    EXTRACTS From : Real Climate – Lawson vs. the IPCC — gavin @ 9 November 2005
    (See url link for references )

    “Nigel Lawson, one of Britain’s Chancellors of the Exchequer during the Thatcher Era (Secretary of the Treasury for those needing a US translation) and more recently known as the father of Nigella Lawson (a UK cooking diva), has weighed into the climate debate with a recent broadside calling for the abolition of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Based on a curious report by the UK House of Lords Economics Affairs committee (in which they made clear that they had no scientific expertise), Lawson demands that the only global scientific assessment process on climate change be shut down, and replaced with ….well what exactly?

    It is worth re-iterating what role the IPCC and other scientific assessments (another example being the WMO biennial report on ozone depletion) are supposed to play. Even for experts in any particular field (and definitely for policy makers), the vast scientific literature needs to be distilled and summarised.

    In the first instance this must be done by scientists who are in that field and familiar with it. Where there is a widespread consensus, and where there are substantial debates or important uncertainties should be made clear. Open expert review is crucial in ensuring that these distinctions are agreed to by most of the field. […]

    The heart of Lawson’s case is the economic criticism of the IPCC scenario generation process which has been pushed by Ian Castles and David Henderson. We are not economists and so we won’t engage in the specifics of this criticism, but as consumers (so to speak) of the product, it’s worth making a couple of relevant points. First, it should be emphasised that the scenarios are used solely for the providing input into climate models, and not for generic economic planning decisions. Therefore only the final differences in the total greenhouse gas emissions actually matter. […]

    A second point worth making is that IPCC is not the sole supplier of scenarios. The GISS group has developed its own ‘alternative scenarios’ (assuming relatively aggressive attempts to reduce emissions for instance, something IPCC explicitly does not consider), and any other group is free to do the same. If they are significantly different from the standards, other groups could be expected to run them as well. In and of itself this line of criticism clearly does not imply that IPCC should be abolished as an institution, since of course the scenario generation and their use in future projections only makes up a very small part of the scientific assessment process.

    However, Lawson’s claims that IPCC’s ‘ignoring of dissent’ is a ‘scandal’ betrays a fundamental ignorance of how the IPCC works. […] The IPCC makes its assessments in a very thorough writing and review process involving hundreds of scientists, open to critics, with transparent and predefined procedures. That it makes no proclamations in between the full assessments is not a ‘scandal’, it simply is sticking to its sound and transparent procedures. […]

    Much of the time these ‘outsider’ critiques are not based on anything other than a desire to confuse (claims that IPCC doesn’t mention this or that, or downplays solar effects etc etc) and have no traction in the scientific community.

    These critiques are therefore easily dismissed. More substantive potential criticisms based on peer-reviewed literature (which may or may not be correct) have to be considered more carefully in the context of similar studies and relevance, and that is generally what happens.

    In the end though, most outlier results do not end up in the mainstream, though investigating them often leads to a better understanding of the process (Lindzen’s Iris effect is a case in point).

    However, the bulk of Lawson’s case actually appears to stem from a confusion between the IPCC and the policy options exemplified by the Kyoto Protocol. These are two quite separate things.

    As Roger Pielke Jr [[edit]] is fond of saying (and with which I agree), scientific description of a problem does not imply a specific policy response. In this case, while the Kyoto process is an attempt to deal with the problems highlighted by the IPCC, it was neither suggested, nor prescribed, by that [UN IPCC] body.

    Therefore, what balance between adaptation (dealing with whatever happens) and mitigation (doing something about the emissions that contribute to climate change) is likely to be more cost effective is not a question within the remit of the IPCC (although many options are discussed in the WG III report).

    One point worth making is that if Lawson really feels that the high end emissions forecasts are unrealistic, then the costs of keeping to a climate-based target are much less – ‘Kyoto for free’ as it were.

    Lawson suggests that economic issues related to climate change should be discussed within economic departments of government, and I doubt anyone would disagree. He goes further though and calls for the dismantling of the IPCC and it’s functions to be transferred to the existing Bretton Woods institutions (that is, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund).

    This is surely a mistake. IPCC is tasked with the scientific assessment of climate change, handing that function to economic institutions not heretofore known for their scientific expertise would surely be an error.

    Just how much of an error is revealed by Lawson’s last paragraphs in which he, ironically, he uses the notion of a scientific consensus to combat (admittedly widespread) popular claims of a direct link between the individual impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and global warming.

    Since no scientists have made a claim of direct cause and effect (see our recent post on potential statistical links between hurricane intensity and tropical warming), any scientific assessment (such as the next IPCC report) will certainly not do so either.

    It is precisely because such anecdotal ‘science’ is not a balanced picture of the state-of-the-art that IPCC exists in the first place. And if IPCC did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it….
    URL Doc
    House of Lords Report


    Related: MAY 21, 2013 – THE IPCC SHOULD BE ABOLISHED – Ross McKitrick (CC Denier activist) has a recent report entitled – “What is Wrong with the IPCC? Proposals for a Radical Reform” at

    The Report has a foreword by John Howard, former Australian Prime Minister.

    It is published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, whose Chairman is Lord Lawson, former British Foreign Secretary and whose Directors and Trustees include four other members of the British House of Lords.

    McKitrick does an excellent job in explaining the origins and structure of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He also provides a damning indictment of its failings.

    Ref URL

    Comment by Sean — 6 Dec 2013 @ 5:45 PM

  21. AND FWIW

    Re: “ex-CBA Chairman Murray’s slur”, “Chicken Littles”, “corrupt science”, and Howard’s Neo-Theocracy “One Religion Is Enough”, “sanctimonious tone “, “a substitute religion”, “denier” has been employed in this debate with some malice, “those with political agendas = a distortion of science”, ” the alleged views of experts “, University of East Anglia emails, “errors” regarding the Himalayan Glaciers, nakedly political agendas of … impartial scientific advice, “Revealing his (Edenhofer) real agenda”, ” a grudging admission”, “warming process … at a standstill for the past 15 years” [an intentional LIE by little honest John? or he simply does NOT read IPCC reports?], “the main reason we lost” [in 2007? You’re deluding yourself JWH], “GFC .. had not affected Australia much at all” [Bollocks, it did], ” as alarmists” [is OK, but not Deniers, sure John]

    Doesn’t any of the preceding fall into the defamation and public slander category under Australian Law?

    Meanwhile CORRECTING Howard’s “cherry-picked” grossly “re-edited” and “RE-Framed” and “Verbal of a IPCC Report quoting (translation) : Ref 1: Basically, it is a big mistake to discuss climate policy separated from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War. Why? Because we do not have 11,000 gigatons of carbon in the coal reserves under our feet – and we must settle only 400 gigatons in the atmosphere if we want to keep the 2-degree target. 11 000 to 400 – there is no way around the fact that a large part of the fossil reserves must remain in the soil.
    Is the defacto expropriation of the countries with natural resources. This leads to a very different development from that which has been triggered by development policy.
    First time we’ve developed countries, the atmosphere of the world community virtually expropriated. But one must say clearly: We distribute by climate policy defacto the world’s wealth around. That the owners of coal and oil, which are not enthusiastic, is obvious. You have to free themselves from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has to do with environmental policy, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole, almost nothing.

    Nevertheless, the environment IS SUFFERING from climate change – especially in the South.
    It will be a lot to do with the adjustment. But that’s just far beyond traditional development policy beyond, we will see in Africa to climate change, a decline of agricultural yields. But this can be circumvented if the production efficiency is increased – and especially if the African agricultural trade is embedded in the world economy. But then we have to see that successful climate policy just needs a different global trade and financial policies.

    The great misunderstanding of UN summit in Rio in 1992 is repeated in climate policy: the industrialized countries speak of environment, the development of developing countries. [end quote] FULL Text in CONTEXT

    And if Howard is going to VERBAL him, can’t he at least get his name right – it’s “EdenhoFer” not Edenhoper. :)

    Worthwhile to reread Patrick Stokes – Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University “The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.”

    aka “Yes, you are entitled to the freedom to hold your own opinions and beliefs, but in the world of reality you are not entitled to your own Facts.”

    When will the IPCC leadership, or any Climate Scientist take on people like Australia’s ex-PM John Howard publicly and destroy his fraudulent arguments and disinformation and egregious slander of themselves????

    Comment by Sean — 6 Dec 2013 @ 5:49 PM

  22. This:
    “…the SPMs are political documents that have been gone over by the spin-meisters at an almost atom-by-atom level to obscure rather than clarify.”

    What do the actual climate scientists say?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 6 Dec 2013 @ 6:42 PM

  23. Steve Easterbrook shows that you can extract the message (provided you already know climate science.)

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 6 Dec 2013 @ 7:54 PM

  24. Sean asks, “What do practicing Climate Scientists, Climate Modelers, including those connected with the IPCC Reports since the 1990s have to say about critical commentary of the IPCC and Climate Science in general?”

    I would recommend responding in the same way as Leonardo: “As to my critics, I pay no more attention to the wind that comes from their mouths than to the wind that comes from their anuses.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Dec 2013 @ 8:22 PM

  25. The first axiom of communication requires a sender and a receiver.
    The consensus report was written by committee with little regard for the receiver.

    Climate and thermodynamics will convey a very clear message, it will be ruthless and unmistakable – We will receive the message, or not. Either as prepared data or as direct experience – the message will be repeated until received.

    Comment by richard pauli — 7 Dec 2013 @ 12:41 AM

  26. I agree that it is too technical and too much jargon for such a summary for “policy makers”. The uncertainty stuff is not due to the scientists themselves who wrote the report, the IPCC insists on all this. Everything in the SPM must be defendable at the final plenary with all the governments. The whole process is not ideal for producing a document to communicate the main findings to the public. They do also provide a 2 page “headline findings” which I think is better.

    Comment by David Stern — 7 Dec 2013 @ 5:16 AM

  27. Sean @20.
    Do you really mean to say “McKitrick does an excellent job in explaining the origins and structure of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He also provides a damning indictment of its failings.”? Amongst other things, McKitrick is one of a UK-based grouping that would be a stain on the reputation of any hosting country – the Gentlemen Who Prefer Fantasy. I cannot conceive of why anybody here would choose to applaud such a one or to link to a sample of his work that is certainly Gobbledegook With Plenty Fimflam (and could well be Great Wads of Petroleum Funding). This McKitrick reference makes no sense here unless you translate it into Troll.
    BTW – Congratulations – a 1,400+ word comment. A new record for you.

    Comment by MARodger — 7 Dec 2013 @ 5:46 AM

  28. According to Kevin Anderson of the tyndall centre at Manchester, UK – those involved in what do to about climate change pontificate and fly around the world attending conferences and meetings and ultimately achieve little it would seem. His recent presentations speak of a almost certain 4C world whilst the window of probability for a 2C world has gone (due to the level of cuts required to achieve it which makes it nigh on impossible to achieve in the current economic and political climate).

    whatever the future holds for humanity for millions of the poorer perhaps it wont be good.

    Comment by pete best — 7 Dec 2013 @ 5:58 AM

  29. Pete Dunkelberg: “What do the actual climate scientists say?”

    I think the WG summaries are a pretty good distillation of the consensus. I think it would be safe to say that among actual climate scientists there is:
    1)fascination with the complexity of the problem
    2)amazement that the models work as well as they do given that complexity
    2a)high confidence that the basics of the model are adequate to forecast future warming
    3)concern about potential unknown tipping points that could make things a whole helluva lot worse
    4)alarm at the lack of progress on addressing the issue
    5)frustration at the ability of the chuckleheads to hijack the discussion and the vilification of dedicated climate scientists and science in general

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Dec 2013 @ 8:03 AM

  30. I thought that someone here might have commented on Hansen et. al. “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature”.

    Is anyone sulking?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 7 Dec 2013 @ 10:37 AM

  31. As I just told

    “Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not” by Robert N. McCauley
    “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian

    You have to start a lot more basic than you have.
    “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian

    “So the core piece of advice I give may at first sound counterintuitive, but it is simple: When speaking with people who hold beliefs based on faith, don’t get into a debate about facts or evidence or even their specific beliefs. Rather, get them to question the manner in which they’ve reached their beliefs―that is, get them to question the value of faith in appraising the world. Once they question the value of faith, all the unevidenced and unreasoned beliefs will inevitably collapse on their own. In that sense, the book is really about getting people to think critically―the atheism part is just a by-product.”

    “Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not” by Robert N. McCauley
    It is about “basic cognitive trait, observed in young children.”
    1. Biological Essentialism.
    2. Teleological Thinking.
    3. Overactive Agency Detection.
    4. Dualism.
    5. Inability to Comprehend Vast Time Scales.
    6. Group Morality and Tribalism.
    7. Fear and the Need for Certainty.

    All 7 are childish and pre-stone-age thinking.
    The population of Fayette, Missouri was 2,688 at the 2010 census. Central Methodist University is there. The teachers were teaching religion during class time, in violation of the First Amendment.

    Start by suing every small town high school in the country over the issue of religion in the classroom. Once you have gotten religion out of the classroom, you can start teaching science.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 7 Dec 2013 @ 10:53 AM

  32. Gavin, may I nominate for your sidebar:

    > Pete Dunkelberg says

    Steve Easterbrook shows

    That’s by far the most content- and link-rich page I’ve seen on climate, and it’s all science/computation/math, no angst and handwringing and emo.

    Much of it I recognize but have never seen all the links together in one place. Remarkably good resource.

    No crap, no SEO optimizing twickery; a few outdated links out of the dozens that are there — the collection is worth following.

    I think it’s worth promoting.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2013 @ 11:26 AM

  33. The bug ate the link there; it’s

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2013 @ 11:27 AM

  34. Edward Greisch #31, I agree the best way to make people question religion, is to get them to consider how they gained their knowledge and the validity of faith in evaluating the world. One could also ask them if gaining information from faith or the bible is likely to be reliable. As an atheist I point out the bible is most likely an early and valiant attempt at a world history and an attempt to understand the world, and write rules, but knowledge has improved since then, and we should not regard the bible as the only source.

    Of course the same approach can be taken to how people gain scientific knowledge, and how they test its validity. Even the general public can see some experts are more reliable than others, and that the people who do the research deserve respect, and the climate sceptics that make rebuttals without hard data and calculations are scoring cheap points.

    On communicating science, while I completely believe we are altering the climate, climate scientists dont communicate terribly well to the public. Communications is a learned skill, and it may be that the human mind that is good at science isnt so strong in language.

    On your point about religious thought being possibly a product of certain childhood lines of reasoning, this maybe correct, but theres some evidence for a “god gene” in the sense we may be programmed to believe in a god. This doesnt mean there is a god, its likely an adaptive mechanism to provide a sense of subservience and thus order, however this would explain the pervasive nature of religion.

    However we are a product of genes and environment and further adaptive behaviour has made us question the reality of god and where the thinking comes from, and to take a more science based approach.

    Comment by nigelmj — 7 Dec 2013 @ 3:09 PM

  35. Am I wrong?

    IPCC carbon budget: Missing feedbacks ignored.

    If I’m wrong. Please tell me.

    I have a hard time discussing this with climate scientists.

    I get the impression that the UK Met Office want to bury flaws in the AR5 carbon budget.

    What about RC?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 7 Dec 2013 @ 6:37 PM

  36. Yeah, that Easterbrook post is good. Thanks!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Dec 2013 @ 7:24 PM

  37. Pete, Hank:

    I agree. Steve Easterbrooks page on the new IPCC report is a must-read! He ought to be on board when it is time for the next SPM (or at least the Synthesis Report SPM).

    Comment by perwis — 7 Dec 2013 @ 7:58 PM

  38. [edit – belligerent attacks on other commenters get a little tedious Please stop.]

    Comment by Sean — 7 Dec 2013 @ 8:58 PM

  39. “You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” ― Richard P. Feynman

    Comment by Sean — 7 Dec 2013 @ 10:52 PM

  40. Since it is a given that over 90% of people since the world began are “believers” I don’t think pushing against basic human instinct is an effective communication technique.

    Personally, I have a lot of trouble with the many forms of gods made in man’s image, but it doesn’t get anywhere to bash the premise. For example, a much better argument with a christian is to point out that their basic text emphasizes caring for each other and stewardship, as does the core message of almost all the world’s religions.

    Whether it’s cultural, community-based, aesthetic, about avoiding the fear of the unknown, having a reliable friend, or whatever, religion is going to go on being a given.

    It’s better to point out that evidence-based information is a useful tool in day-to-day, year-to-year, and century-to-century understanding and survival.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 7 Dec 2013 @ 11:58 PM

  41. This may help:

    You’ll soon be able to see the Earth from space any time of day — no spacesuit required. Two cameras — one high-def, one medium-resolution — will start streaming near-real-time footage from the International Space Station in early 2014. Operated by the Vancouver-based company UrtheCast ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Dec 2013 @ 12:01 AM

  42. Stand me on a different curb from either Rasmus’s criticism, or a lot of the hijackers who showed up for this one. AR5 SPM was decently written – best of breed over the series. It lacked the traction of previous reports because the world has chosen to reject the warning of the science. It has influences and tilts where it responded to junk collections offering horoscope-level substitutes to refute AGW. That’s where this thing has gone, and those are the points that need focus with policy makers.

    A suggestion to Rasmus – write the document you think it should have been and publish it. Trying to gain credibility with a lead-in strawman labelled ‘what went wrong’ when their coverage is easier to follow than yours, indicates the question should be asked to mirror mirror.

    Comment by owl905 — 8 Dec 2013 @ 1:25 AM

  43. Sean, While I appreciate your concern your pixilations are tedious. The mouse on my computer is exhausted from all the scrolling. Before making your next post, chisel it out on a piece of granite first. Then let us have a look.


    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 8 Dec 2013 @ 4:11 AM

  44. Perhaps worth revisiting:

    Carbon sensitivity – how much concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere change in response to different levels of carbon emissions. A significant fraction (roughly half) of our CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans, but this also takes time. We can think of this as “carbon cycle inertia” – the delay in uptake of the extra CO2, which also takes several decades. [Note: there is a second kind of carbon system inertia, by which it takes tens of thousands of years for the rest of the CO2 to be removed, via very slow geological processes such as rock weathering.]


    It turns out that the two forms of inertia roughly balance out. The thermal inertia of the oceans slows the rate of warming, while the carbon cycle inertia accelerates it. Our naive view of the “owed” warming is based on an understanding of only one of these, the thermal inertia of the ocean, because much of the literature talks only about climate sensitivity, and ignores the question of carbon sensitivity….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Dec 2013 @ 5:56 AM

  45. “I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb.” ― Richard P. Feynman

    Comment by MARodger — 8 Dec 2013 @ 6:27 AM

  46. Sean @~39

    Yeah, however all in all, Feynman was pretty sociable if not downright charming.

    There’s a time and a place for everything, but in the end it all comes down to one thing. You know what they say, good manners are the lubricant of social intercourse.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 8 Dec 2013 @ 8:48 AM

  47. While you discuss the issue of global warming/change and publicising the evidence for it…

    Back in the 1930’s “climate science” described the statistics of local weather for the very practical benefit of local farmers and so forth. Then, an interested group of scientists (of no great popular note, by the way) then agreed in some international meeting that the proper way to describe “climate” and the possible changes of it, was to compute averages, variances, extremes, trends and so forth over a period of 30 years. Which was (and apparently still is) statistically justified.

    It was also agreed that “climate” would be reported over the latest completed 30-year period, as this corresponded with the needs of the data user community. A moving reference designed to eliminate any long term change, in other words.

    This process is still in place, quite intact in most countries.

    Enter “global climate change” science with its physics-based models and hundreds of years’ time ranges. Trying to match its results with the statistical-based older cousin is the source of endless confusion.

    It would be of immense benefit if the “global climate change” community, from the Secretary General of the WMO to the individual researcher presenting his/her results, could agree on a common reference baseline period. Be it “pre-industrial”, or any other time period deemed justifiably stable to serve as a reference.

    The current practice, with each reading referenced to a suitable (and often different) reference period, may well be scientifically adequate, but for the general public it is hopelessly too complicated and serves mainly to confuse the issue.

    (Just from the sidelines …)

    Comment by Pekka Kostamo — 8 Dec 2013 @ 8:50 AM

  48. I think the IPCC WG1 AR5 SPM is well written. The “Highlight Statements” 2 pager ( is a nice touch.

    Rasmus, consider nominating yourself to be a lead author for IPCC WG1 AR6, if there is one. It is a lot of work, but would afford you the opportunity to improve the next IPCC WG1 SPM!

    Comment by The Elf — 8 Dec 2013 @ 11:23 AM

  49. WOOPS! SORRY! Religion wasn’t the intended subject at 31. Methods for Teaching/explaining Climate Science was the intended subject.

    Unfortunately, religion gets into the subject of psychology when you are trying to tell somebody something unexpected. What is going on in the denialists’ brains is all-important in trying to communicate GW.

    [I thought I was commenting on the Unforced Variations: Dec 2013 thread. How did I get here?]

    Whatever the denialist believes, it is a lot like a religion in that it is dogma of whatever type. Facts don’t matter. Not until you teach them how to get facts. And you can’t do that in less than a few years. I think Boghossian’s method is like Socrates’ method, but I haven’t gotten the book yet.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 8 Dec 2013 @ 12:40 PM

  50. Maybe the terms negative feedback and positive feedback could be replaed with disminishing feedback and ampliftying feedback, respectively, when writing for the geneeral public.

    Comment by Mike S — 8 Dec 2013 @ 3:55 PM

  51. While the headline statement from the IPCC are nice are they really what policy makers want to know? Seems like a lot of technical jargon given the supposed audience.

    If I were a policy maker do I care that “It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.”??? Probably not. What I want to know is how is this warming going to affect my — country, state, county, parish, island? What does it mean for my fisheries? my land planners? Give me some time-frames for the effects, etc., etc.

    Comment by BillS — 8 Dec 2013 @ 4:34 PM

  52. Rasmus,

    The SPM is a very formal document. It has to be so, since it must be adopted by the UN member states in a formal session of the IPCC. They go over it line by line. Any statement that does not have a direct reference to the main document (and the member states delagates have seen the main document before the session) will be thrown out by irritated delegates. You know that among the member states are nations that are not very friendly towards the whole process, and their representatives may be quite agressive towards anything they feel is vapid or unsubstantiated. This means that any fact-free nice and snappy summary statement is not likely to survive the adoption process on the floor.

    Indeed, if you read the document you should marvel at the skill of those who wrote it. They actually manage to make a document that survives the adoption process and is not unreasonably watered down or obfuscated.

    Comment by Halldór Björnsson — 8 Dec 2013 @ 8:06 PM

  53. BillS @ 51, A summary of the physical science basis of climate change probably can’t include many details at the regional level, but see Figure SPM.8 for a bit more detail. For (much) more detail, AR5 includes, for the first time in the WG1 report, “Annex I: Atlas of Global and Regional Climate Projections”.

    Comment by The Elf — 8 Dec 2013 @ 8:51 PM

  54. BillS above has nailed the problem and it is not addressing the 100 year timescale issue that is causing climate science issues. Many in the middle look at the timescale and simply go we have time to deal with that or that is not something I can rule or legislate on.

    In fact there has even been push back against civic planners who sought to block developments because in 100 years an area would be underwater. A private individual may be unconcerned by that because they may have magnificent ocean views until they die, they won’t see the 100 year problem. Now that is a vastly different idea to a commercial developer creating a subdivision and selling it to unsuspecting public. So this becomes a legal minefield between individual rights and trying to protect the public.

    Non of our normal bureaucracy is geared to deal with projections of problems in 100 to 300 years time. BillS is right what the bureaucracy wants is better time data not statements about how certain this that or the other is. Climate science needs to get off the political agenda and back on the science agenda and do what it does best provide data. If the world governments decide not to act decisively they still need data on things they can do right for the next 100-300 years.

    Comment by LdB — 8 Dec 2013 @ 9:26 PM

  55. Re- Comment by Mike S — 8 Dec 2013 @ 3:55 PM

    Good idea.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 8 Dec 2013 @ 9:43 PM

  56. I occasionally try to teach technical writing to unsuspecting young scientists and engineers (not always badly, according to feedback). There’s a market for fresh workshop examples. Here’s a candidate from the third paragraph of the SPM:

    “Probabilistic estimates of quantified measures of uncertainty in a finding are based on statistical analysis of observations or model results, or both, and expert judgment.

    OK, stochastic probabilistic modelling is part of my day job, and I reckon I’m getting the drift … on the second or third reading. But your average policy wonk might fairly be running with “WTF?”

    My view: “…breathtakingly ugly prose made worse by the update.”

    Comment by GlenFergus — 8 Dec 2013 @ 11:11 PM

  57. > ocean views until they die, they won’t
    > see the 100 year problem.

    That’s not the problem. The problem is, first, pollution from a higher-than-planned-for water event, whether it’s a storm surge or a tsunami. Leaving stuff around to poison the site is externalizing a huge cost that we can account for. No question it’s there to handle.

    And the problem is, second, that these lovely seashore sites will become intertidal zones and then shallow coastal water in a few centuries.

    And that needs to be cleaned up — cleaned up purposefully, not left for storms to sweep “clean” — because that’s where most of the ocean’s life reproduces, in the coastal shallow water.

    Building where the ocean is going to be is like any other intentionally polluting choice.

    Look at the work done to manage, say, underground storage tanks — which leak, eventually: These links provide state (or Regional) contact information, plus up-to-date data on the UST system universe in each state (or Region) as well as the status of implementing various national program initiatives.

    How many are right along the current seashore? Check it out.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Dec 2013 @ 11:13 PM

  58. I don’t buy that at all Hank … compared to the pollution that get dumped into the ocean year on year this is trivial when you consider it over 100 years. I saw a recent study from Australia that they had 4000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer that is a much bigger problem year on year than a few houses becoming pollution. Most of the houses would be decommissioned just on economic grounds if they were going to be left for the ocean to take. I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill to satisfy an argument.

    Comment by LdB — 9 Dec 2013 @ 4:44 AM

  59. #14 Hear, hear. Easterbrook (your link, #23) cites the “hard to follow” but “most important paragraph in the entire report.” Then he helps a lot by spelling out probabilities stated in the problem paragraph–and he draws “one inescapable conclusion.”

    Then he says:

    “We’ve never done that before. There is no political or economic system anywhere in the world currently that can persuade an energy company to leave a valuable fossil fuel resource untapped. There is no government in the world that has demonstrated the ability to forgo the economic wealth from natural resource extraction, for the good of the planet as a whole. We’re lacking both the political will and the political institutions to achieve this. Finding a way to achieve this presents us with a challenge far bigger than we ever imagined.”

    This is what time it is.

    Comment by patrick — 9 Dec 2013 @ 8:34 AM

  60. #52 Important points. Although it may be old news to you, please note the link Easterbrook provides (08 Oct post) to article by Justin Gillis–spelling out the making of the very formal sausage [“How to Slice a Global Carbon Pie?].

    Easterbrook links the article for background to “a major battle on the exact wording” of the paragraph he calls “the most important paragraph in the entire report.”

    Comment by patrick — 9 Dec 2013 @ 9:21 AM

  61. Halldór Björnsson @52

    Then perhaps some group like the NRC or AGU could develop a friendlier summary for U.S. policy makers and journalists.

    Comment by Mike S — 9 Dec 2013 @ 10:30 AM

  62. > trivial when you consider it over 100 years

    I pray you consider the possibility that you could be wrong.

    Yes, plastic trash in the oceans is a huge problem and a gross example of human stupidity.

    That doesn’t mean the real estate industry can — responsibly — keep building along the coastline and trust people in the future will take care of cleaning up all that crap and restoring the natural conditions there, before the ocean rises over it.

    Seriously. Those big fish you care about in mid-ocean that are swallowing plastic? Look at where their parents’ breeding happens.

    Look at the places around the world where the seacoast is very flat for a long way inland, so the sea will cover great extents of land as it rises even slightly. Bangladesh. Texas. Look at what covers the land there now.

    Then realize, if people want the oceans to continue productive resources, all that crap has to be cleaned out thoroughly.

    Someone buying coastal property now on any area with a low slope is buying land that will be intertidal, shallow coastal water eventually. Yes, for one home builder, it’s “trivial” — except it’s all that one person’s responsibility for putting it there.

    See, dealing with plastic trash washing into the ocean is a point source problem for someone else — your city government, probably. Easy. Carry a cloth bag.

    Dealing with crap that you build along the coastline is a point source problem too.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2013 @ 10:52 AM

  63. ps for LdB — I’d welcome any example of any coastal real estate development property that has been what you call “decommissioned” responsibly by the owners, knowing it will be taken by the ocean.

    Heck, even better, any example of a development built intentionally in a way it can readily be restored to productive tideland condition as the ocean rises.

    Extra credit if it’s in North Carolina (grin).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2013 @ 11:21 AM

  64. pps for LdB, here are some places starting to address this issue:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2013 @ 11:28 AM


    High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis
    By John Englander; Foreword by Jean-Michel Cousteau

    (Publisher: The Science Bookshelf; ISBN 978-0615637952. Suggested retail $19.95)

    While the physical impacts of sea level rise will be on the order of another inch this decade–hardly discernible–what will start to change will be the perception of coastal real estate values. Most importantly, a new perspective will emerge on how to begin “intelligent adaptation”–a true mindset shift that will last for centuries.

    Explains why sea level will rise for at least 500 years regardless of our efforts to limit global warming.
    Looks at sea level rise apart from the broader issues of climate change. Rising sea level is special in that it is easy to visualize, unambiguous and will have huge financial impacts globally on homeowners, cities, businesses, and nations.
    Shows how sea level rise is much more urgent than is currently being reported in the media. Coastal property prices could start being “discounted” in the next decade long before they actually go underwater. This will lead to the destruction of trillions of dollars of assets.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2013 @ 11:37 AM

  66. (BillS):

    “It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010, and it likely warmed between the 1870s and 1971.”


    “Probabilistic estimates of quantified measures of uncertainty in a finding are based on statistical analysis of observations or model results, or both, and expert judgment.

    These and indeed the rest of the document are shaped in part by a warped communications formality, a formality evolved over a couple of decades of concerted, professionally-guided distortion of this process and something now so familiar it’s almost invisible. IPCC communications would be vastly different if they were not created from a posture of defense, with the certain knowledge they’d be subjected to intensive, unreasonable attack.

    “Don’t drop a lit match in a pool of gasoline” is something that could be discussed endlessly given the right circumstances. Bending over backward to an exacting, demanding pyromaniac, we might provide intricate descriptions of how gasoline burns, how likely it is that the match will pass too quickly through the mixed fuel-air layer to cause ignition, how and why the flame front might propagate across the surface of the gasoline. Different report sections could be produced: “The Science of Gasoline Combustion,” “The Impacts of Gasoline Combustion,” “How to Avoid Gasoline Combustion.” The possibilities for ignoring the obvious are almost inexhaustible. Meanwhile the pyromaniac has already dropped the match.

    We usually don’t adopt the style of formality we’ve been guided into in this situation.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 9 Dec 2013 @ 1:12 PM

  67. Dan Moutal – November 29, 2013, 7:56 am says:
    The IPCC has released a very snazzy video that summarizes the fifth assessment report.
    He points to:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2013 @ 1:38 PM

  68. The principles of good technical writing are not so very difficult, and do not entail imprecision or vulnerability to obfuscation.

    Start with short, ordinary words in short, spoken sentences. Sentences you might say rather than think, with a doing-word at the core. Asked how he managed to produce his great tome on the civil war, Ulysses S Grant is reported to have said, “With verbs. I used verbs.” Read it, and be surprised. You won’t fall asleep, as I did four times with the SPM.

    Then think about: targeted, structured, precise, terse. That’s targeted at a particular audience (or audiences), structured to make it easier to assimilate (and provide multiple entry points), precise, because that’s what technical is, and terse because the tech report the reader found too short has yet to be written.

    And use technical words for technical things. The jargon problem is not with the special terms of the field (always defined of course); rather with the those who would try to add gravitas with big words for ordinary things. “Anthropogenic”, anyone?

    “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” If that’s not you, maybe just go out and employ one.

    Comment by GlenFergus — 9 Dec 2013 @ 9:47 PM

  69. Re LdB @ 54

    “In fact there has even been push back against civic planners who sought to block developments because in 100 years an area would be underwater. A private individual may be unconcerned by that because they may have magnificent ocean views until they die, they won’t see the 100 year problem. Now that is a vastly different idea to a commercial developer creating a subdivision and selling it to unsuspecting public. So this becomes a legal minefield between individual rights and trying to protect the public.”

    Miami-Dade County begs to differ.

    Comment by Abi — 10 Dec 2013 @ 7:09 AM

  70. #69–Good for Miami-Dade! But their situation may be past adaptation to a considerable degree. “But the region at highest risk was Florida, which has dozens of towns which will be locked by century’s end. The date of no-return for much of Miami would be 2041, the study found. Half of Palm Beach with its millionaires’ estates along the sea front would be beyond saving by the 2060s. The point of no return for other cities such as Fort Lauderdale would come before that.”

    The source paper was in PNAS…

    I’d also remark that it was a good thing that New York didn’t wait to this November to start planning. ;-/

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Dec 2013 @ 9:07 AM

  71. I have a thought in regards to communicating land warming versus ocean warming.

    Why do they call the larger land warming as land amplification rather then ocean suppression?

    It seems clear to me that the ocean surface warming is being suppressed by its large heat capacity, while the land has very little heat capacity and is not being suppressed.

    If I talk normally while someone else talks with a pillow over their face, I don’t consider that I am amplifying my voice but I do think the pillow is suppressing the other person’s voice.

    My point is to always tell it like it is.

    Comment by WebHubTelescope — 10 Dec 2013 @ 1:22 PM

  72. 57 Hank,

    Remove the valuable stuff and the the worst of the toxic stuff and leave the rest. Artificial reefs work wonderfully.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 10 Dec 2013 @ 3:36 PM

  73. @68 GlenFergus says : “If that’s not you, maybe just go out and employ one.”
    Hi Glen, clearly you know your funk and wagnells on this critical issue. Being one who has written Training Manuals, and Policy Manuals for large Corporations (as well as class room and one-on-one practical training in situ) I know exactly what you are speaking to here and the importance of concise and effective communication. Not to mention Marketing briefs and production of PR advertising packages of all kinds.
    I do suspect that you may be better served writing a note directly to the head of the IPCC or Communications Dept though. Might gain more traction, if you know what I mean.
    So one can present direct clear key points to be taken up by an audience, in the case Climate Scientist on RC, and it can still get lost in the “noise”. It’s also human nature that when being presented with annoying examples of what not to do, but which is done repeatedly by the IPCC and general climate science communication efforts, the key point is still lost on those it is directed at.
    BillS nails it, as do you @56 “But your average policy wonk might fairly be running with “WTF?”” as have many many others, and who stick to the CORE TOPIC of the thread.
    Others way too often instead totally distract the dialogue onto irrelevant personal interest topics such as their google search skills and cleaning up buildings before SLR sweeps us all off our feet. A reminder for all, including the Moderators, the topic is “A failure in communicating the impact of new findings”
    Some consistency is this wouldn’t kill anyone, imho. But given the popular human sport on this venue is “shooting the messenger”, one might find this comment in the Bore Hole. Despite the fact it is polite, humourous and yet still very pointed and directed at the core problem of public communication of complex technical issues.
    Including right here as well as the IPCC SPM. This being 100% ON TOPIC and RELEVANT to the “discussion” asked for by Rasmus writing his article in the first place.
    Showing people what not to do, is as important as training them in how to do it better. The former motivates the latter being taken more seriously, and may I say far more URGENTLY. Bad text never killed anyone. Climate change already has.

    Comment by Sean — 10 Dec 2013 @ 6:18 PM

  74. Hank @67 That Video has already been included here @2 Maybe you missed it?

    Hank @ 57, 62, 63, 64, 65 are all off-topic, argumentative, disruptive, and personally directed at LdB comment made at @54 being “BillS is right what the bureaucracy wants is better time data not statements about how certain this that or the other is. Climate science needs to get off the political agenda and back on the science agenda and do what it does best provide data.”

    Why do you repeatedly distract and detract from the ‘discussion’ and On-Topic commentators (who use a simple example to make their point), not only here but on almost all comments pages?
    Why do you continue to passive-aggressively criticize such people’s “comments” presented here in Good Faith by flooding the board with numerous links found via search barely a minute before? There must be reason but it has nothing to do with the topic under discussion here, nor what LdB was addressing.

    Here you are making FIVE posts that totally ignore the *communication* aspects highlighted by LdB. He was was On-Topic and directing his comments to Rasmus’ article and not to yourself.

    Yet now all I can see here is another personal crusade to prove you are right and he is wrong about his “example”. One that was simply intended as the kind of Information Policy Makers might need/desire from the IPCC materials, in his personal view.
    Now I will be curious to see whether my comments are shoved off into the Bore Hole as being “belligerent” and “off-topic”, whilst yours remain here as usual to bring down the previous positive tone of the discussion for ever.

    Comment by Sean — 10 Dec 2013 @ 6:53 PM

  75. Comments 69 & 70 & 72 prove my point as clear as day about such activity. No longer is the discussion about ““A failure in communicating the impact of new findings””

    [Well if my rational and well reasoned logical point actually gets published – which looks dubious at this point – this enclosure can be edited out of course. ]

    Unfortunately, only those who point this out are summarily dispatched. Not the original long term perpetrators of it. This is supported by manifold evidence. A standard of evidence as high as the Climate Science is – Unequivocal.

    Simply speaking the unspeakable and calling it for what it is in my very humble and very experienced personal opinion. Others opinions may vary significantly.

    Comment by Sean — 10 Dec 2013 @ 9:20 PM

  76. As others have commented the form of the SPM is largely guided by a set of pre-existing restrictions placed upon the document by the parties who call for the IPCC reports. The document must use the calibrated uncertainty language, it must reflect the underlying report structure (which is set by the parties at outset), and so on and so forth. These restrictions guide and strongly constrain the form, structure, and the language of the SPM – it is not an exercise in freeform writing, but rather the exact opposite. Given clearly stated ‘customer requirements’ the scientists involved (caveat emptor: I am down as a contrib author) did an excellent job of communicating the science to those specifications. The customers clearly stated what they wanted and it would be incorrect to then blame the suppliers (scientists) for producing that.

    If you go to a market stall and ask for an apple and the stall keeper provides a pineapple you would be none too pleased and would not pay. Similarly, the report is produced to meet stated and agreed requirements of the parties who called for it otherwise they would be, quite rightly, unhappy and it would not have been adopted. That would be an unthinkable outcome.

    Comment by Peter Thorne — 11 Dec 2013 @ 2:44 AM

  77. I’m curious about a couple of things. One is how it’s viewed by policy makers in general (not just the ones who had a hand in writing the standards). The other is more about the details of the process and specifications. If the process produces a cluttered product, maybe it should be amended or replaced entirely.

    The notion that it was written exactly the way the writers thought it had to be written and therefore is fine seems a little thin to me.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 11 Dec 2013 @ 10:24 AM

  78. If making a strong message is the purpose, then, IMHO, it should clearly state that a shift to nuclear power is the most effective means by far to reduce emissions.

    Comment by Steinar Midtskogen — 11 Dec 2013 @ 10:51 AM

  79. This may help: the IPCC’s pages
    and that leads to

    The IPCC’s work is guided by a set of principles and clear procedures for all the main activities of the organization. This page serves as a repository for all official procedural documents guiding IPCC activities.

    The IPCC’s processes and procedures are constantly being reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain strong, transparent and reliable. For recent changes to IPCC procedures and related information see the Review of Processes and Procedures page that covers all the recent changes to IPCC procedures approved by the Panel in the period 2010-2012.

    (links on the original page)

    The Interacademy Council’s recently completed review of the IPCC’s structure and procedures:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Dec 2013 @ 2:40 PM

  80. Steinar Midtskogen wrote: “If making a strong message is the purpose, then, IMHO, it should clearly state that a shift to nuclear power is the most effective means by far to reduce emissions.”

    That would be a “strong message” indeed. It is also absolutely false.

    In reality, a “shift” to nuclear power is one of the LEAST effective and MOST expensive options for reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation. Wind and solar are already doing the job faster, cheaper and better.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 11 Dec 2013 @ 3:08 PM


    Tom Toles communicating coastal change.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Dec 2013 @ 4:49 PM

  82. From #73: “I know…the importance of concise and effective communication” lol ‘-)

    Welcome back, SA! Where’ve ya been lately?

    Comment by wili — 11 Dec 2013 @ 6:02 PM

  83. @77 Radge Havers “I’m curious about a couple of things. One is how it’s viewed by policy makers in general”

    I can tell you one thing to answer your curiosity here, and you can take it or leave it. But first of all let’s get the SEMANTICS RIGHT and call them what they really are “Politicians”!

    For example Politicians epitomized by the “mind set” of Australian ex- Prime Minister John Howard and the current Government recently elected back into office in Australia NEVER READ THE IPPC SPM NOR ANYTHING ELSE more complicated than the SPM. I suspect the same applies to Canadian PM Steven Harper, UK PM David Cameron and all those within their Government including the latest recruit into parliament. I also suspect on anecdotal evidence and observing Senate and House Committee Hearings that probably +90% of the Politicians in the USA both Federal and State NEVER READ any one of the SPMs either. And if they did they would undoubtedly NOT comprehend a word it and if they did they would not believe it anyway.

    That is, imho, how useful and effective the effort and time put into the feed in Science and these IPCC Reports the last 25 years have been. You may consider my words as pure speculation and dismiss it out of hand. But that kind of response will never make it untrue.

    IF you’d like to hear WHO ex-PM Howard and others like him do listen to and what they DO READ, then go here:
    The 2013 Annual GWPF Lecture – John Howard The actual words are far harsher and more manipulative than the text provided here: John Howard Climate Change Speech: One Religion Is Enough

    I have posted this to RealClimate before but not one commentator nor one RC scientist paid any attention to it. It was ignored. At your own peril, imho.

    When Howard Speaks it always gets onto the TV News for over a week (and not only in Australia – check Google News), and the Voters then hear his OPINION, and more than half heed it, as do other Politicians worldwide.

    And cry in desperation how all the good work Climate Scientists have done is in so many ways been a complete waste of time due to your “communications failure” to not cut through to POLICY MAKERS with the Truth of the matter.

    This may be an issue you all might like to raise and confront at the AGU Meeting over the week end. But honestly and for good reason I have quit trying to help and resign from dealing with Denier propaganda and the professional “Distortionists” they use at every venue and opportunity open to them to destroy the credibility of the IPCC and scientists like yourself and your Science.

    Because if you are not willing or lack the courage to defend yourself and your work, then why should I?

    Comment by Sean — 11 Dec 2013 @ 6:04 PM

  84. Peter Thorne writes: “If you go to a market stall and ask for an apple and the stall keeper provides a pineapple you would be none too pleased and would not pay. Similarly, the report is produced to meet stated and agreed requirements of the parties who called for it otherwise they would be, quite rightly, unhappy and it would not have been adopted.”

    If the problem is that the IPCC reports are being produced to meet the requirements of the national governments who are paying for them, then we need to find a new way of financing those reports. As I recall, at the recent Royal Society meeting to announce the SPM it was suggested that the national scientific societies should jointly publish reports instead of the IPCC. In that case they could employ science journalists from Science and the Nature stable to make the reports readable, as they do weekly alongside the scientific papers they publish.

    Something must be done about the IPCC reports. They have failed to be effective, and with no replacement for the Kyoto treaty efforts to avoid dangerous climate change are
    going backwards. See: Assessing ”Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature’

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 11 Dec 2013 @ 6:42 PM

  85. @76 Peter Thorne re “The customers clearly stated what they wanted and it would be incorrect to then blame the suppliers (scientists) for producing that.” and the rest.

    What we have here Peter is too narrow a framing issue. Within the framing that you perceive is real and valid, as a scientist author (no probs there) you have gone about your work judiciously to meet the requirements as laid down.

    There is a problem with this frame of reference imho. I put it to you to consider it and shift your point of view dramatically.

    First, you are in business and customer sedns you an email with the specifications for an “apple” they wish to purchase. You say, oh yes sir, we can provide when would you like it. 4pm friday please, we will come and collect it.

    When the “customers” arrive, you relaise it was NOT in fact one customer but a committe of disagreeing customers. The most powerful in the band rock to your front counter and say, right now give me that PIneapple we ordered. YOu naively go HUH? You ordered an Apple. The custemoer gets immediately furious abuses you insults you and say no no no, we wanted a Pineapple, and you are a pathetic at running your business.

    You remain humble as best as humanly possible, pull out the email order to show it to him and he grabs it and tears it up, and scrams at you to not be insulting .. HE is the customer and you have NOT provided what the customer really ordered, and what they really wanted. Now give me a Pineapple or I will not pay you and will sue you and shut down your business and also take the issue to the Internet and destroy your reputation for giving me what I wanted.

    Dumbfounded the poor genuine and ethical apple businessman is so shocked he is lost for words, and promises to do better next time. The GROUP of conjoined Customers [20% of them way more powerful the whole of the group] who actually don’t care less about you, your work or your Business shuffle off laughing at each as they ridicule you endlessly. They knew form the get go who to create an “Customer Order” that is un-deliverable to the Specs. Plus they know how to change those specs at will, AFTER you have delivered the next Order, and then they complain about that in the very same way.

    But unlike most Customers, these ones actually come with their own COVERT PR Advertising Campaign of people who moonlight during election campaigns as ideological volunteers and whom are expert at shifting Public Opinion about various “businesses” that operate selling apples.

    Follow that idea to where ever it leads you … or maybe give it up.

    Comment by Sean — 12 Dec 2013 @ 2:37 AM

  86. SecularAnimist,

    > “In reality, a “shift” to nuclear power is one of the LEAST effective and MOST expensive options for reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation. Wind and solar are already doing the job faster, cheaper and better.”

    This is interesting. The reason why I brought this up is that, if the purpose is to provide the best information from scientists to politicians, a summary of the best knowledge of dangers will not suffice. It’s not very constructive if the message does not also provide solutions. If you do not, you just become the wise guy who points out what’s wrong and what wont work, but when asked how exactly it can be done better, he would simply reply that it’s not his job.

    Has the scientific community discussed the solutions well enough and arrived at a consensus on what they are? I don’t think so. And without a consensus, the SPM will have little impact. All the authors then can hope for is the opportunity to say “we told you so”.

    Comment by Steinar Midtskogen — 12 Dec 2013 @ 2:54 AM

  87. Short version @76 Peter = It is a Game! A very long game. And I suggest to you anyone willing to listen that most of those good people in the Climate Science, Environmental, and rational/valid Economics fields have been getting played like a fiddle.
    Anyone who sits down at a p o k e r table and cannot work out the signals that show who has a good hand and who is bluffing within 30 minutes should never play Texas Ho ld em. Or another way, if whenever a Climate Scientist meets a Journalist/TV show presenter or an agent for a “Policy Maker/Politician” and cannot work out instantly when they they are lying to you, then you will get played like a fiddle.
    I suggest you all go hire some decent ethical people who are capable of dealing with these kinds of circumstances, so you guys can just stick to the Real Science.
    Anyone who still doesn’t get it, a million words will make no difference. Which is why I decided to not bother with climate science communication. It’s a no gain no win outcome all downside for me. For Climate Science your only saviour left for you now is going direct to The People.
    in my humble opinion, and yes I could be wrong. But if I didn’t already think I was right, I wouldn’t be saying a word nor taking such personal risks in saying it publicly on the Internet. Now would I?

    Comment by Sean — 12 Dec 2013 @ 2:57 AM

  88. 80 SecularAnimist: That is a taboo subject. Drop it.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 12 Dec 2013 @ 3:31 AM

  89. Is it possible that obstructors like Exxon or Saudi Arabia deliberately use the requirement for 100 percent agreement to get the discussion of uncertainty at the front? Many highly paid lawyers go over the SPM before it is approved, not just scientists. These lawyers can use their influence to have the SPM written in a manner that is not very effective at conveying the information. This would be a simple technique to dilute the content of the SPM. Much of the content cited on this thread sounds like a law brief and not a scientific report to me.

    Comment by michael sweet — 12 Dec 2013 @ 11:49 AM

  90. I agree with Shaun at 83, although he could have stated it more briefly. I generally applaud the efforts of the IPCC and agree we are warming the planet. However on the negative side of things, Im not so sure the IPCC or mainstream climate science community is really getting through to the politicians, or defending itself well enough against the sceptical propoganda.

    That would be the key point, refuting the sceptical arguments and in terms the public can grasp. I understand that the IPCC obviously doesnt want to get into a public debate, and shouldnt, but there are other ways Im sure. Just a little more presence from some notable climate scientists in the daily media might help.

    Comment by nigelmj — 12 Dec 2013 @ 2:29 PM

  91. #86–The IPCC is not tasked with policy-making; that’s the brief of the Conference of Parties. (Not that the latter have been exactly shining in that role.) There are several reasons for that, I suppose, but IMO the leading one is that policy options involve more than efficacy (and of course efficacy is generally not completely predictable in advance.)

    Policy almost always involves questions of value, and those are properly in the political sphere. Consider Germany’s current energy policy, the so-called energiewende. Given widespread public distaste for nuclear power, and also wide support for action on climate change, post-Fukushima they’ve chosen to shut down nuclear very rapidly, and to accelerate the adoption of renewables as much as possible. But they’ve had to accept some short-term emissions increases, mostly due to coal use, during that transition. They’ve also had to accept some price issues and market turbulence as the price of the remarkable progress that they have made toward their goal.

    Was that the best way to proceed? Outsiders have questioned that; and personally, I might have preferred that they taper off nuclear more gradually in order to cut emissions quicker. But it’s not my call to make; I don’t have to live with the consequences. Neither do those miscellaneous outsiders (like the staff at the Economist magazine, for instance.) It’s a political call, weighing the perceived issues with nuclear power and climate change against the economic realities. Science doesn’t afford methodologies for the weighing questions of ethics.

    And it’ll probably never be entirely clear whether the strategy chosen was the ‘best given the constraints’ although I suspect it will be subject to historical debate for quite a while–assuming, of course, our civilization makes enough good choices to endure in some fashion.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Dec 2013 @ 5:15 PM

  92. Yeah, let’s all get advise on effective communication from the guy who writes: “customer sedns you” “you relaise it” “but a committe of” “and scrams at you”…!?

    Look, my sweet Sean. There are probably more people here sympathetic to your essential message than you care to notice.

    But, as MM said so long ago, the medium is the message, and if your medium is carelessly written (drunken?) rants, your message is going to be…less well received than you might like.

    Oh, and try to avoid paragraph-free blocks of text–not particularly inviting to read.

    Of course, if you see yourself as just here to enlighten the benighted, and as someone in need of no friendly, helpful suggestions yourself, then please do ignore this and all other notes from the thoughtful folks at this site.

    Comment by wili — 12 Dec 2013 @ 5:16 PM

  93. Hank @~79


    Comment by Radge Havers — 12 Dec 2013 @ 6:14 PM

  94. Re- Comment by wili — 12 Dec 2013 @ 5:16 PM

    I agree with your and Ray Ladbury’s ( assessment of Sean’s communications.

    Accepting that the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) is not a popular media document, what is most amazing and disturbing is the fact that policy makers at the highest levels of government and who, thereby, have enormous informational resources at their disposal, don’t want to even task someone competent to find out what is going on with the science so that they can generate a reasonable plan of action that would be consistent with their political beliefs. Their attitudes and actions are suggestive of some of the silliest postmodern thinking.

    I think that the larger problem is that the general public, who don’t have the skills to evaluate important scientific findings, make emotional evaluations that inform their political decisions on the basis of what their family, neighbors, religious leaders, and their elected government officials have to say. This is the group that has to be persuaded and facts will not compete with their personal associations and beliefs. One realistic attempt at communicating with this group is being attempted by Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.

    Suggesting a power move of organized communicators and scientists hammering science into a denialist blog is about the most naïve suggestion I have heard. How many here have tried to post on the high school graduate, weather man’s blog, and found that their clarifications of science are off topic, deleted, and banned?


    Comment by Steve Fish — 12 Dec 2013 @ 9:12 PM

  95. @94 Steve Fish … now if i hear you correctly Steve, what you are basically saying here is that you don’t agree. You have a different point of view and opinion about things. If I have that wrong here, do correct me.

    and if I may, correct your good self, not once did I say nor suggest the ‘purpose or goal’ was *hammering science into a denialist blog*.

    So if that is your main take away thought from my fine essay then you have not read it and/or understood it. I know this, because I wrote it. I know what it said and what it did not say. Please try better not to misrepresent my own words publicly by building a Strawman out of them.
    I’m the one holding a match, see?
    Each person is quite capable of reading my essay and making up their own minds as to whether they agree, disagree, or whatever. They do not need an intermediary telling them it says something other than it says.
    This is one of the reasons why Apple created the right click “copy and paste” function when they introduced the Mouse. :)

    Comment by Sean — 12 Dec 2013 @ 11:00 PM

  96. @86 Steinar Midtskogen, you bring up a really good point here imho. The IPCC are ‘precluded’ ie ‘blocked’ by their mandate to suggest solutions aren’t they? This was done in the beginning by the politicians aka ‘customers’ who set it up adn control it. The UNFCCC has similar constraints as it is not really a free agent but controled by Government consensus, and politics etc.
    iow as Michael Sweet suggests quite rightly @89 “These lawyers can use their influence to have the SPM written in a manner that is not very effective at conveying the information.”
    eg US policy makers are called ‘Lawmakers’, most other places we call them Politicians.

    M Sweet @ 89 also asks “Is it possible that obstructors like Exxon or Saudi Arabia [USA/China/Australia/Financiers/ the 1% iow] deliberately use the requirement for 100 percent agreement to get the discussion of uncertainty at the front?”
    Possible? My opinion is more than likely the case.
    The last thing Climate Change recalitrants (in or out of Political circles) are interested in is the validated Science and a clear understanding of it by the public – ie Voters in ‘democratic’ nations.
    btw Australia no longer has a Minister for Science … first time in over 70 years or so.
    re ” Much of the content cited on this thread sounds like a law brief and not a scientific report to me.” which might suggest the ‘communication’ issue has less to do with the complexity of the science being communicated and more about the bottle necks it keeps being fed through? I don;t know, it’s a very complex side of events I am not privy too, bar what people say about it publicly.

    I think it is a mythical belief that every thing will suddenly change once people and the Politicians really do “understand the science” – as it will be ‘obvious’ to all. I believe that is a forlorn hope whilst the current ‘political/economic/geopoltical/media’ issues remain addressed.
    Until those barriers to the communication of the climate science are removed only then will the public across the board be able to listen a clear message and begin to support viable solutions and accept any personal sacrifices. Unfortunately that’s a big IF imho. Fingers crossed.

    Comment by Sean — 13 Dec 2013 @ 2:58 AM

  97. @95.
    I think it is difficult to refute that “hammering science into a denialist blog” was the central message presented @86 elsewhere. This was, of course, presented as a means to an end so was not at all “the ‘purpose or goal’.”
    I do perhaps set for myself higher standards of exactitude than most. While I accept that others will be less diligent, there does come a point when the continuous use of error-filled and slipshod commentary becomes an abuse of the process that requires to be terminated one way or the other.

    Comment by MARodger — 13 Dec 2013 @ 3:49 AM

  98. Refer to comments above on nuclear energy.
    Over the past 40 years misinformation from both the anti nuclear and climate denial groups and popularised in the mainstream media have ensured that fossil carbon fuel use continues to grow. If this growth continues this century human civilisation is facing an AR5 RCP8.5 scenario with CO2 atmospheric concentrations of above 900ppm and rising by 2100.
    Paleoclimatology teaches us that last time CO2 levels were 900 ppm was during the Eocene Climatic Optimum 50 million years ago, when mean global temperatures were about 12 degrees C higher and sea levels about 60 metres higher than today. A climate change of this magnitude is high risk for human civilisation and maybe even for the human species.

    The laws of physics, arithmetic and common sense teaches us that renewable energy alone cannot replace an annual global consumption of 14 billion tonnes of fossil carbon fuel.


    To meet the RCP 2.6 scenario, fossil carbon fuel use needs to be reduced to zero before the end of this century. This will still give CO2 atmospheric concentrations of above 400ppm by 2100. The last time CO2 levels were above 400ppm was during the early Pliocene when mean global temperatures were 2 degrees C to 3 degrees C higher and sea levels 25 metres higher than today. Still difficult for human civilisation to adapt, but maybe manageable.

    Compared to these risks nuclear power issues are miniscule. See the UNSEAR reports on Chernobyl and Fukushima at

    Their reports show that while both these accidents were devastating for the people in the immediate vicinity, the number of deaths from radiation even 25 years later (Chernobyl) are relatively small. Unfortunately the lessons learned from the Chernobyl accident were not applied to Fukushima and the biggest health risk, the irrational fear of radiation caused by misinformation was repeated.
    Jim Hansen analysis is that nuclear not only reduces emissions by reducing the use of fossil fuels it also saves lives.


    Generation 4 fast breeder reactors will not only generate non carbon energy efficiently they can also dispose of nuclear waste.

    The bottom line is; to have any chance of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2100 requires the deployment of every non carbon technology that is available globally including nuclear.

    Comment by Tom Bond — 13 Dec 2013 @ 6:21 AM

  99. #91 “The IPCC is not tasked with policy-making; that’s the brief of the Conference of Parties.”

    Yes, and that is clearly not going anywhere. However, the scientific community does not need to be instructed to present solutions. If the community thinks this is an important issue, it can on its on initiative do so. But it seems more interested in getting the public to agree with the science than to say exactly what to do and how to do it. The credibility and influence of the scientific community in this matter will not increase from apologetics, but rather from its ability to offer pragmatic and scientifically sound solutions.

    And pragmatism should lead the way. One step at a time. Even the use of fossil fuel must be acknowledged as a necessary step towards the ultimate goal of clean practically free energy for all. The low hanging fruits first. I would immediately point out two orthogonal actions: 1. Maximising nuclear energy production, which currently is going in the wrong direction on totally non-scientific grounds. 2. Increased efficiency and energy optimisation, which already seems to be going in the right direction.

    Comment by Steinar Midtskogen — 13 Dec 2013 @ 6:21 AM

  100. Sean, tried to read your #95. When I came to “So if that is your main take away thought from my fine essay then you have not read it and/or…” the eye-rolling set in. It struck me as tendentious, pretentious and unnecessary.

    Steve was offering you his perception of what you wrote. It would further the conversation if you had chosen to follow the “not once did I say…” sentence with a statement about what you *did* intend to say. ‘Cause what you want to say is very often not coming through.

    Speaking for myself, I’d read your stuff if a) it were shorter, b) it were less tendentious (lose stuff like “your good self”) and c) less saturated with ego (“I’m the one holding the match, see?”)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Dec 2013 @ 7:05 AM

  101. @94 Steve Fish re “How many here have tried to post and found that their clarifications about communicating science issues to the public and the dynamics of barriers erected on discussion boards are off topic, deleted, and banned?”

    Comment by Sean — 13 Dec 2013 @ 9:58 AM

  102. Tom Bond wrote: “The bottom line is; to have any chance of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2100 requires the deployment of every non carbon technology that is available globally including nuclear.”

    Tom, as Edward Greisch noted above (#88), the moderators of this site have generally ruled discussions of nuclear power “off topic” here, because more often than not such discussions have degenerated into prolonged. repetitive, vituperative argument, and even name-calling and personal attacks from some commenters. I, for one, have been accused of being a paid shill for the coal industry, because I advocated rapid deployment of solar power as more cost-effective than building new nuclear facilities.

    As I’m sure you are aware, there are many other sites, including Brave New Climate, where people can discuss nuclear power to their heart’s content.

    Having said that, I replied very briefly to a previous commenter who made a claim similar to yours, and I will simply reiterate that you are incorrect. Reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2100 does not “require” the “deployment” of any new nuclear power plants, and in fact we can achieve that goal while phasing out all existing nuclear power plants.

    Indeed, there are multiple, detailed (and in some cases peer-reviewed) plans that have been put forward for reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation to zero by the 2030s, by rapidly deploying existing solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies, along with efficiency and smart grid technologies — with NO expansion of nuclear power.

    The plausibility of such plans is well supported simply by looking at what is happening in the real world with solar, wind, efficiency and smart grid technologies today, in countries like Japan, Germany, Australia and the USA, as well as in the developing world where ultra-efficient, ultra-cheap, off-grid solar power is driving a revolution in rural electrification in countries like India and China.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 13 Dec 2013 @ 1:59 PM

  103. #96–Tom, the nuclear question–or more accurately, the nuclear vs. renewables question–has a history here of triggering long, pointless debates (something of the ‘circular firing’ squad variety, IMO). Hence Ed’s injunction to SA to eschew.

    I agree with you, the main hurdle to be taken is figuring out how the hell we are going to get people to stop (mis)valuing fossil fuels–because that’s what it is going to take if we are to leave roughly 2/3 of proven reserves in the ground–NOT slagging (pun intended) proponents of other non-carboniferous energy sources!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Dec 2013 @ 3:10 PM

  104. I first brought up the n-word here, but my intention was not to spark a discussion for or against it. If the disagreement here on this and related subjects reflects sentiments in the scientific community, i.e. no consensus, then I believe the community can’t expect any significant political impact regarding AGW. For the reasons in #86.

    Comment by Steinar Midtskogen — 14 Dec 2013 @ 7:51 AM

  105. > I believe the community can’t expect any
    > significant political impact regarding AGW

    A proverb I learned as a child:

    When proclaiming something impossible, do not stand in the way of those already doing it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2013 @ 2:10 PM

  106. Steinar Midtskogen wrote: “If the disagreement here on this and related subjects reflects sentiments in the scientific community, i.e. no consensus, then I believe the community can’t expect any significant political impact regarding AGW.”

    Your term “the scientific community” overlooks the reality that there are in fact multiple scientific communities, which represent widely varying fields of knowledge and expertise.

    The moderators of this climate science site are climate scientists who are, I think, wisely well aware that they are not experts on energy technologies, and who wish to keep the focus of this site on climate science, where they have a HUGE amount of knowledge and expertise.

    It is through their knowledge and expertise about climate, and their resulting understanding of the severity and urgency of the problem, that climate scientists can contribute “significant political impact regarding AGW” — rather than through making specific recommendations about which technologies are most cost-effective for rapidly reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation, an area where they have no particular expertise and their opinions may be no better informed than those of ordinary citizens.

    Hence the original topic of this thread — how to more effectively communicate the findings of climate science.

    I think that your comments have a bit of “begging the question” about them, in suggesting that the necessity of expanding nuclear power to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation is an established fact, upon which any “debate” about addressing AGW must be based — rather than an unproven assertion to be argued.

    Personally, I believe it is a false assertion, which is indeed being proved false as we write here today by the explosive growth of solar and wind energy. But again, that is a discussion best taken to other, more appropriate venues.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Dec 2013 @ 2:16 PM

  107. Are there other situations than this where scientists at government agencies in different countries are prevented by politics from talking directly to each other?

    Doing a baseline study before doing anything that is expected to cause some change is — important, and often neglected.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2013 @ 3:23 PM

  108. Re- Comment by Sean — 13 Dec 2013 @ 9:58 AM

    Very few.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 14 Dec 2013 @ 10:25 PM

  109. Tomorrowtoday: Matching speech rhythm with brain wavelength helps communication a lot: Just saw it 15 Dec 2013 in the wee hours.
    Do written words have some sort of rhythm?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Dec 2013 @ 3:09 AM

  110. 102 SecularAnimist: I want you to show us the arithmetic. All of it. YOUR PROBLEM NOT MINE. You are just waving your hands.

    And move this to unforced variations.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Dec 2013 @ 3:15 AM

    “Average citizens do not have the educational background” required to sort emotional nonsense from information.

    No matter who 102 SecularAnimist thinks he is working for, comment 102 is a propaganda victory for the coal industry. It is written on the RealClimate web site that wind and solar are all we need to overcome GW. SecularAnimist is wrong, but RC did not remove comment 102, so the coal industry wins. At best, the idea that there is a real controversy is continued.

    Education in the US, Japan and other countries is so bad that “Average citizens do not have the educational background” required to sort emotional nonsense from information. Or maybe it is the average IQ. People fear all things nuclear because they did not take enough science in the public schools. People do not fear GW because they did not take enough science in the public schools. Let’s attend some school board meetings.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Dec 2013 @ 4:16 AM

  112. OK, folks, nukes have now taken over two threads. Does anyone need an explanation for why the moderators in their wisdom have deemed such discussions off topic. Might I suggest to the moderators that further discussions be carried on in another thread–perhaps the Borehole.

    I realize that the topic of how to address development of a new energy infrastructure is key. I realize that part of the public’s reluctance to embrace the science has to do with the seeming hopelessness of developing such solutions in time to avoid severe consequences. However, the science of climate change is in no way predicated on the acceptance of or even existence of any solution to the problem.

    There are plenty of forums for discussing nukes, energy and mitigation. It would be nice to have at least one place where we can come with the hope of getting the latest on climate science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Dec 2013 @ 10:20 AM

  113. Ed @~108

    Written words have rhythm. The obvious example is metre in poetry, which of course isn’t limited to poetry. You will also sometimes hear reference to various kinds of ‘beats’ in writing, comics, and film.

    Writers are encouraged to read their stuff out loud to make sure the sound is right.

    A little more here:

    As in music think of heart beat, breathing, and on top of that engaging novelty.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 15 Dec 2013 @ 11:13 AM


    “It is written on the RealClimate web site that …

    ReCaptcha says: authority mbianot

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Dec 2013 @ 11:32 AM

  115. Edward Greisch wrote: “SecularAnimist: I want you to show us the arithmetic. All of it.”

    I am not going to do that, Edward, for three reasons:

    1. The moderators have stated that discussions of nuclear power are off-topic. I am doing my best to respect their wishes. As such, I will not be baited into an argument over the alleged “necessity” of expanding nuclear electricity generation.

    2. When I have posted such information in the past, with links to supporting material, you have completely ignored it, and your subsequent comments indicate that you have not bothered to read any of it. As such, I have no desire to waste my time providing information that you will ignore.

    3. Lastly, you have seen fit to insult me and personally attack my character and motives, accusing me of being a “paid shill for the coal industry” (your exact words), simply because I do not accept your assertions about the necessity of expanding nuclear power, and advocate aggressive deployment of wind and solar as more cost-effective ways to reduce GHG emissions from electricity generation.

    Apparently, you believe that the only reason that anyone could disagree with your pronouncements is that they are being paid to lie, or perhaps because they are stupid, ignorant, and driven by “emotion”. In either case, I have no interest in “discussing” anything with anyone whose idea of “argument” is baseless insults and personal attacks.

    [Response: Enough on this. Thank you. – gavin]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 15 Dec 2013 @ 3:03 PM

  116. “Enough on this” Thank _you_, GS!

    And if anyone really wants to see excellent communication in practice, see this video of Gavin’s lecture at AGU (you have to register, its free).

    Comment by wili — 15 Dec 2013 @ 6:18 PM

  117. #109–“Do written words have some sort of rhythm?”

    See, those humanities degrees some of us tote around in our mental baggage really can be useful.


    #111–““Average citizens do not have the educational background” required to sort emotional nonsense from information. Or maybe it is the average IQ.”

    Sorry, but very bright, very well-educated folks still fail to sort emotional nonsense from information. It’s not a matter of intelligence, or information; it’s a matter of self-awareness, humility and confidence, among other traits. One attempt to provide a theoretical framework is the idea of ’emotional intelligence.’

    Without it, in my experience, intelligence and information simply fall slave to ever more sophisticated (and unrealistic) rationalizations when emotional buttons are pushed in some way.

    #112–Hear, hear!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 16 Dec 2013 @ 12:44 AM

  118. Apologies if this has already been linked:


    John Cook

    “Climate change is described as a “wicked problem”, with a range of strategies required to overcome the many barriers to climate action. Nevertheless, closing the “consensus gap”, the chasm between public perception and the 97% reality, will remove a roadblock that has delayed public support for climate action. “

    Comment by wili — 16 Dec 2013 @ 2:45 AM

  119. 115 SecularAnimist: You got me wrong.What I want you to do is show us how you are going to store energy from wind and solar or shut up about wind and solar. MY estimate is that the energy storage for 1 week for the US would cost half a QUADRILLION dollars. I showed you how I got that number before, a long time ago. Show me your numbers. No fair using a fossil fuel backup 70% of the time because that is just an excuse to burn fossil fuel. Your system must burn zero fossil fuel for a whole year. If you can’t do it, don’t bother us again. Ever. Enough on this. Gavin is right. I am very tired of it.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 16 Dec 2013 @ 7:23 AM

  120. The moderators have begun sending comments touching energy politics to the Bore Hole, presumably because energy politics is not a branch of climate science.

    The topic was “failure in communicating the impact of new findings”. My reply to Rasmus is that the problem is not so much the choice of words, but rather that in order to communicate the impact, climate science has to team up with experts in other fields. The scope of the impact is limited by the scope of what is presented. If climate scientists are unable to team up with other experts, the SPM is little more than an internal memo.

    Comment by Steinar Midtskogen — 16 Dec 2013 @ 7:26 AM

  121. #119–Ed, the putative ‘storage issue’ has been discussed at great length in this forum previously; as you may recall, I (among others) presented peer-reviewed studies examining the question, and concluding, essentially, that its magnitude is far, far less than what you allege.

    You can continue to insist on your point of view, but you did not convince previously, and repetition has added nothing to your argument.

    Trust me, I’m just as tired of this as you are.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 16 Dec 2013 @ 11:48 AM

  122. > Edward Greisch …
    > show us how you are going to store energy
    > from wind and solar
    > or shut up

    That’s not how the future works, except in fairy tales.
    You’re not living in a fairy tale. You know that you are asking for a guaranteed future, with specific numbers. Asking for the impossible and not getting it isn’t a good reason to order people to shut up. Especially when it’s not your blog or your call.

    The future doesn’t arrive early. It does, so far, arrive.
    We bet on it continuing to work out — you’ve heard of trends?
    People study trends for a reason — in climate and in tech.

    How good are you at calculating and projecting trends? If you’re not the expert in this area, telling others to shut up is — hubris.


    You know how to find this stuff.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Dec 2013 @ 11:58 AM

  123. 117 Kevin McKinney: Thank you on emotional intelligence. But I don’t see what the humanities have to do with it. Social sciences, yes. My English Lit teacher was too stuck on Freud. I don’t believe Freud.

    Why “very bright, very well-educated folks still fail to sort emotional nonsense from information” is clearly the question. That is what we are trying to deal with here. The human brain seems poorly designed to handle the kind of information provided by climate science.

    What do we do about it? Add social sciences requirements to high schools? Invent a gas that makes people quit believing things for long enough to start questioning? Call it “disbelieving gas.” That is what I was trying to accomplish by adding laboratory requirements to high school curriculums.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 16 Dec 2013 @ 2:11 PM

  124. Edward Greisch,
    I have some very smart, accomplished colleagues who reject climate science. And you certainly cannot suggest lack of intelligence or scientific understanding is behind the denialism of the likes of Freeman Dyson. Sometimes all intelligence does is make us more effective at fooling ourselves. And as to the humanities, I would suggest you read Albert Camus’ “The Plague”. It is a wonderful and ultimately optimistic metaphor for our current predicament.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Dec 2013 @ 2:32 PM

  125. #123–Ed, the reference to ‘humanities’ was intended as relating to the ‘rhythm of words’ bit, as it’s a well-know phenomenon to all sorts of artists falling under the humanities rubric–poets, as Radge pointed out, but also composers (like me), singers, actors, and rappers.

    However, I’d claim that humanities *can* help develop emotional intelligence (though I wouldn’t claim that they are necessary, or necessarily sufficient, to do so.) That’s because they can help us to experience ourselves as emotional and social beings, not merely cognitive ones. If we imagine ourselves as only cognitive, or essentially cognitive, we are not beginning from an adequate base of self-knowledge, and our ’emotional intelligence’ will probably suffer as a result–if we can accept that formulation, at least as a metaphor, if not a ‘scientific reality.’

    Hope that makes something like sense.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 16 Dec 2013 @ 3:59 PM

  126. Ed Greisch,

    this peer reviewed study found that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels. They find that energy storage is not economic and it is cheaper to build more capacity to supply baseline power using renewables. the study area is about 20% of the USA market (NorthEast USA). You are arguing a straw man. This study shows:

    1) Less than .1% fossil fuel backup for 4 years.
    2) Cheap cost.
    3) They find storage is generally not economic, as you are pointing out. Other methods exist to solve your pet peeves economically.
    They find that at 2030 costs renewables can provide 90% of power most cheaply (primarily using wind). 99.9% of power is not that expensive. In the end there will be significant differences in how the energy will be used. They model spilling excess energy, which is unlikely to happen. They do not consider using hydro because they said it made the problem too easy to solve. They do not use nuclear because it is not economic to ramp up to provide peak power and is uneconomic with high renewable market penetration.

    This study answers all your questions in a peer reviewed study. It is a conservative model which leaves much room for improvement in costs using renewables only. You have not provided any peer reviewed reverences for your wild claims. Please provide peer reviewed support for your wild claims in the future.

    Comment by michael sweet — 16 Dec 2013 @ 4:10 PM

  127. Ed Greisch wrote: ” The human brain seems poorly designed to handle the kind of information provided by climate science. What do we do about it?”

    I think that is _the_ (or at least _an_ important) question.

    GW a threat without a face (though the Koch bros are kindly providing a villain for the story).

    It is not obviously immediate (unless you’re in the midst of, for example, the ’03 European heat wave–I was–and can connect the dots).

    It is largely self-inflicted (though not so much for the worlds poorest who have contributed least but are and will be suffering most first).

    And it often just seems too big to easily wrap ones head around. I’m still staggered nearly daily by the latest developments.

    Today it was the report that the very bedrock of the West Antarctic is starting to drift sideways, in response to the loss of billions of tons of overlying ice a year, in response to GW, in response to all of us getting in our cars, buying our crap, over-heating and -cooling our buildings, and generally living unsustainable lives.

    If I have trouble groking the enormity of this reality, who have been reading and teaching about these things for 30-some years, what is the average joe and jane to make of it?

    Comment by wili — 16 Dec 2013 @ 5:02 PM

  128. re 123 Edward Greisch – lab requirements –

    How many people graduate from high school these days without it? I kind’a thought it was standard to have some lab work in chemistry, at least. Maybe not in the sense of a requirement but in the sense that that’s the way most kids get their science quota filled. But maybe my H.S. was anomalous and/or outdated?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Dec 2013 @ 5:03 PM

  129. For anyone who doesn’t know yet how to look this stuff up, when I do this search
    (click the link, or read it as plain text)

    is this 2013 report (PDF) Energy Storage: Current Status and Future Trends
    Yes, it has numbers, charts, graphs.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Dec 2013 @ 6:34 PM

  130. Susan Anderson, thank you for pointing out Mauri Pelto’s video at

    I just kept looking at all that beautiful glacial country (I had to stop it numerous times to admire the beauty) and the people doing mountaineering (granted, sometimes with heavy packs, and sometimes under dangerous conditions) and saying “What?!? People get paid to do this??”

    Also there is “Scientists’ Concerns Challenge Conservative Sea-Level Rise Projections”

    Comment by AIC — 16 Dec 2013 @ 7:54 PM

  131. Ok now, Ed. First of all, some food for thought:

    If you think about it, writing is obviously a temporal art. You’ve no doubt read entertaining and enlightening books that were paced to be page turners or that otherwise successfully hijacked your brain and manipulated your thoughts and emotions. You don’t need an MRI to get that (or to learn how to do it). Which is not to say that there aren’t a lot of gasbags who are into lit — just be real about what it offers.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 16 Dec 2013 @ 9:03 PM

  132. Sigh! Here we go again….I believe that scientists should realise that literature complements science. There’s not much point is knowing your subject to the nth degree and then failing to convey the salient pieces of information to the policy makers and public at large. Universities have a large part to play in this problem. A little more Shakespeare in the program will help no end. Please don’t be smug and think you don’t need it…YOU DO!!!

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 18 Dec 2013 @ 6:22 AM

  133. This may be relevant here:

    “The findings prompted the [Royal Society of Art], a multi-disciplinary institution dating back to the 1700s, to develop a proposed 8-part agenda to fight so-called stealth denial and the need to focus on keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

    One of those parts, ironically, is the need to develop a media communication strategy which no longer focuses on the debate over whether climate change exists. Instead, communications of climate change should solely focus on competing ideas and solutions to fight it.”

    Link to RSA study:

    (Warning: 80 page pdf)

    Comment by wili — 18 Dec 2013 @ 1:33 PM

  134. Perhaps public education would be furthered (at least for the next generation) by presenting the issue as an interactive game, in which the goal is to destroy civilization — with the tools at hand.

    Here’s an example:

    Public Health–Research & Library News
    Taubman Health Sciences Library

    From the CDC’s Public Health Matters blog:

    Plague Inc., an app created by James Vaughan, of Ndemic Creationslayers, allows players to select a pathogen and strategize how to evolve symptoms, transmit the disease, and counter actions taken by world governments and scientists. If the interventions don’t work and the disease is successful, players can watch as governments fall and humanity is wiped out.

    Read an interview with Mr. Vaughan that discusses the app as a non-traditional way to raise public awareness on epidemiology, disease transmission, and diseases/pandemic information here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Dec 2013 @ 3:49 PM

  135. 128 Patrick 027: Go to a small town, meaning one with less than 2000 residents. They can’t teach chemistry or physics in their high school. Go to a moderate sized city with maybe 40,000 residents. Only half of the students take physics.

    A single year of physics is not enough. A single year of chemistry is not enough. All students need to do enough experiments to understand and believe the following:
    Nature isn’t just the final authority on truth, Nature is the Only authority. There are zero human authorities. Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on an X-ray or with another instrument.]
    We build confidence by repeating experiments.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 19 Dec 2013 @ 8:42 AM


    … Live Like Your Children Will Be Adults on Earth.

    Why do I keep harping on this subject? Why do the rest of us keep ignoring it? …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Dec 2013 @ 3:35 PM

  137. 126 michael sweet: “Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time
    Is a repeat. Here is the answer I gave Kevin McKinney + a little more:

    If you think 99.9% of the time is reliable enough, please go ahead and try it out in NY city and Westchester County. You will be on the next train out of town, with tar and feathers.

    There are 8772.48 hours in a year. 99.9% up time leaves 8.77 hours of down time. Check “Estimated Value of Service Reliability for Electric Utility Customers in the United States” at to get the cost.
    Dick Glick’s 99.998% reliability is more reasonable, but still gives you .175 hours = 10.5 minutes of down time per year.

    “For scenarios in which backup is used rarely and at moderate fractions of load, LOAD CURTAILMENT is probably more sensible than fossil generation.” Nope. You can’t turn off my air conditioner when I need it most. Or my CPAP.

    “If renewable generation is insufficient for that hour’s load, storage is used first, then fossil generation.”

    Fossil fuel is used 9 hours/year. A great improvement but not quite as advertised. A very expensive facility, given that it is used only 9 hours/year.

    They use 3 times as many wind turbines as nameplate power would suggest. I expected 4 or 5 times nameplate power would be required, but they make up for it with solar. Their price for wind turbines is unrealistically low. So you have to multiply the cost of wind power by 3 to 5.

    They assume zero line loss.

    Meteorological stations are sparse. This is unrealistic, especially because they have no meteorological stations in hilly or mountainous regions. There is almost no wind in the valleys. You are forced to build very tall structures on the peaks only since the mountains are forested and may be off limits. That applies to West Virginia, the western 2/3 of Pennsylvania, part of Virginia and maybe Kentucky. This is where “Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time” fails.

    Good try. Doing it for nuclear is a 1 liner. France already does it 80%.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 20 Dec 2013 @ 1:37 AM

  138. 132 Lawrence Coleman & 131 Radge Havers: Theory of mind, OK. Shakespeare wrote in a foreign language. Languages change with time, and Shakespeare’s is just too old.

    English Lit should not get into a jurisdictional dispute with psychology. English isn’t psychology or psychiatry. Freud’s psychiatry isn’t the latest psychiatry. Psychology is a lot easier to understand than English Lit. It is a matter of English Lit claiming territory it has no right to claim since psychology came along. Having a degree in English does not qualify one as a psychologist.

    The IPCC report 5 SPM could have used some editing, but it didn’t need more irony. Less overworked scientists could have done fine.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 20 Dec 2013 @ 2:10 AM

  139. > You are forced to build very tall structures
    > on the peaks only since the mountains are forested
    > and may be off limits. That applies to West Virginia ….

    I refute it thus

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Dec 2013 @ 10:27 AM

  140. Edward Greisch,
    A layman does not need 2 years of science. Nor do they need to be able to do science. What is needed is training on how to be an intelligent consumer of science. This could be accomplished quite easily in a year if one spent less time on specific scientific facts and a bit more on stories of science in action.

    As to literature, psych and science, most scientists I know could benefit from a bit more breadth in the humanities, not to mention formal training in statistics. Humans have been telling stories to each other since we developed language. Literature can help them tell the very exciting story of science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Dec 2013 @ 11:02 AM

  141. EG@~138

    Eh? What are you on about? I was responding to what I read as rather sweeping generalizations from your quarter.

    Just a technicality, Shakespeare did not write in a foreign language. Middle English maybe. Beowulf definitely.

    And another. There have been numerous approaches to literary criticism, Freudian is a niche and probably out of fashion these days anyway. These days we have Greischian which is broadly dismissive and equally dubious.

    This thread is about communication, the principles of which can be applied with some variations to any number of subjects. I’m sorry if they made you do something in college that you didn’t like, but it’s starting to sound like this is more about grinding axes for you than anything else.

    Practicing art has the potential to offer insight into people. It’s not science in the sense that it deals with complexities that we don’t have sufficient math to deal with. However if you have practiced an art, you know that it is experimental, verifiable, and occurs in public. The process is much less ‘hard’ than behavioral science–which in turn is softer than physics– and so it is indeed very vulnerable to b.s. But it is not therefore a waste of time (even though it can be put to frivolous uses with disturbing effectiveness).

    Comment by Radge Havers — 20 Dec 2013 @ 11:19 AM

  142. ” You can’t turn off my air conditioner when I need it most.”

    Odd you should say that. Highest use of ac is most likely to correspond to highest solar PV output. And there are obviously thousands of other items whose timing of use could be timed according to when electricity was most available. It just takes thinking of electricity as part of nature rather than as something that is constant…but constantly destroying nature.

    Comment by wili — 20 Dec 2013 @ 12:24 PM

  143. 139 Hank Roberts: You haven’t refuted me. Mountaintop removal removes the wind farm that could otherwise have been put on the mountaintop. Go to Olean N.Y. and check the wind in the valleys for a year. It isn’t like it is out here in the flatland. There is little wind in the valleys. Above the trees above the Allegheny Plateau [the mountain tops] there is wind just like there is in Iowa.

    140 Ray Ladbury: Laymen: Everybody needs to be mathematical enough to figure out what is dangerous and what is safe.

    Journalists [and that includes a lot of people with degrees in English] need to be able to understand the language of science, which is math so that they can understand the scientists whom they interview. Writers need to be able to tell nonsense from science. A 4 year requirement in science would be better than a 2 year requirement. It takes quite a while for “what science is” to sink in.
    Other laymen: Need to know enough to debunk the climate denialists and the anti-nuclear coal company propaganda and to figure out the propaganda on TV and other places. Other laymen need to know enough to debunk all of the nonsense that their parents taught them. That leads to an even more taboo subject, so I will stop there.

    If you looked at
    you saw that children and people who have not been trained in science believe some very strange things. Everybody needs to get the nonsense out of their heads. Training in science and math is the only way to do it that I know of.

    You are free to define some other curriculum that you think will accomplish contact with reality sufficient to enable every citizen to debunk their own foolish beliefs. So far as I know, it takes quite a lot of science training to debunk your own previous nonsensical beliefs. Rethinking continues long after you quit going to school. Experiments you do in college and graduate school are instrumental/fundamental to this process. Doing experiments with your own hands demolishes wrong thinking. Nothing else does. Science is about experiments. Nothing else is.

    141 Radge Havers: Shakespeare is Greek to me. We can say that you are better than me at learning foreign languages.
    Literary criticism is rather irrelevant. We don’t want to do literary criticism. What we want to do is teach stuff to people who don’t want to learn it. Could it be done in a novel? It could help. So do it. Write. Use psychology. Advertisers use psychology. We need to use psychology to fight back.

    142 wili: If you had read the URLs I gave you, you would have found out that solar power sometimes has dropouts in the middle of the day in the desert for no apparent reason.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Dec 2013 @ 1:53 AM

  144. “If you think 99.9% of the time is reliable enough, please go ahead and try it out…”

    Actually, I think that’s probably pretty close to what I experience now in suburban Atlanta, and nobody breaks out the pitchforks. (Just the candles and oil lamps, and, in some cases, generators.) Last significant outage was a couple of months ago, when a large branch took out the feeder line for the whole neighborhood for several hours. Last year, it was a car hitting the pole supporting the transformer. Stuff happens…

    As to the overall ‘response,’ oh, please! It’s a mishmash of the unconvincing and the irrelevant, a determined missing of the point worthy of our friends over at WUWT. (Don’t mean to be harsh, but, yeah, I really find it that bad.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Dec 2013 @ 9:27 AM

  145. Ed @~143

    I hasten to point out, I’m not necessarily any better at languages. If I had worded my comment better, I might have said that linguists divide English into three periods: Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Modern English. Shakespeare is in the modern period. Anglo-Saxon is generally considered to be mutually unintelligible with Modern English. Middle English is, well, somewhere in the middle. Not sure that’s any better…

    As for the rest, I guess we’ll let it rest but for this: effective communication requires empathy and conscious examination and application of it.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 21 Dec 2013 @ 9:59 AM

  146. Edward Greisch: “Everybody needs to be mathematical enough to figure out what is dangerous and what is safe.”

    Well, then we’re screwed, because not everyone thinks mathematically. Nor do they find mathematical arguments particularly illuminating. What is needed is the ability to separate honest inquiry from bullshit and to recognize wishful thinking. This involves developing sufficient critical thinking skills to recognize expertise as well as bias.

    Journalists are another problem–what we see most of the time now is not journalism but simply shoehorning the facts into a series of templates whether they fit or not. I swear that the next journalist I meet who has written a “One crazy trick…” story will receive a swift kick in the shins.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Dec 2013 @ 10:26 AM

    “Study finds shift to ‘dark money’ in climate denial effort”
    “A shift to untraceable donations by organizations denying climate change undermines democracy, according to the author of a new study tracking contributions to such groups.”

    Communication cannot succeed because “In all, 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010.
    Meanwhile the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared.”

    Scientists are not advertisers with billion dollar budgets for advertising. Given the opposition, we are doing amazingly well. Effective communication requires an absence of monetary motivation to tell people things that are wrong. A target audience that is smart enough and well enough educated in science will understand RealClimate and be almost immune to denialist messages.

    “Empathy?” Not applicable to an audience of scientists. Not what we need because we need voters who can figure out every future issue on its scientific merits. In a technological civilization, the voters have an unending stream of technical issues to decide. Empathy is a one-time thing. Empathy doesn’t help with the next issue. Effective communication requires voters/listeners who are scientists, at least to some extent.

    Democracy depends on voters who can act intelligently. In the past, everybody could understand the issues because there were no issues that required science. Everybody was at the same level. That has changed.

    Robert Brulle of Drexel University used to get his data.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Dec 2013 @ 10:46 AM

  148. Ed@~147 on empathy.

    No, no, no, no, no, no, no…

    Oh wow, where do I begin?

    Forget empathy. Start here:

    Holy moly.

    Just as an aside. For those scientists who don’t have software that automatically writes publication-ready reports from their data, there is still a need to properly craft language so that other humans can read it. And that’s in an environment where communication is highly formalized. It’s even more critical in the complex and shifting social contexts outside of expert inner circles.

    I gotta ask. Are you goofing on RC? Tell me you’re goofing.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 21 Dec 2013 @ 12:30 PM

  149. Public Broadcasting [PBS] is helping us with shows like “The Electric Company”, “Sid the Science Kid” and others I can’t remember the names of. One has a song that says: “I am a scientist. I can live by science alone.” Catchy tune.

    Communication depends on listeners who are prepared to hear the message. An unexpected message contains more information than an expected message. An unexpected message may contain too much information to be learned all at once or at all. PBS is preparing children to be able to hear our message.

    “Conservatives” hate PBS. No wonder. PBS is undermining their propaganda hold on their children. We need to free all children from instinctive unscientific ideas and from parental brainwashing so that they can become free adults.

    We should be in favor of PBS because PBS is doing some of the teaching that the public schools are not doing. Public schools could do better by showing PBS shows during class time.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Dec 2013 @ 5:19 PM

  150. 148 Radge Havers: What does “goofing on RC” mean?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 21 Dec 2013 @ 5:23 PM

  151. “Empathy”–IMO, a crucial word in this discussion. Yes, it is very helpful to communication.

    And it’s rather the point for fictional literature–you are not primarily meant to respond cognitively, but rather in a complex cognitive/emotional manner which enables you to ‘grasp’ another’s subjective reality–to ‘see’ *and* ‘feel’ how it coheres and why it makes sense to that other.

    It’s not so much about facts–as Vonnegut pointed out, fiction is using carefully selected lies to tell the truth–as it is about experience. (Imaginitive experience.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Dec 2013 @ 7:29 PM

  152. “goofing” — teasing, making fun of, as in perhaps a poe. In other words, “Are you putting me on?”

    Maybe it’s not used that much any more or is a regional thing…

    As to empathy, I think it operates on a number of levels not least of which is being able to identify and connect with your audience; something I seem to be having trouble with myself currently.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 21 Dec 2013 @ 9:54 PM

  153. Re- Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Dec 2013 @ 7:29 PM

    My lifetime partner (wife) is an expert in early human socio-emotional and cognitive development and she says that perspective taking is an under appreciated but primary component of intelligence. I believe her and I think Vonnegut would agree.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 21 Dec 2013 @ 10:18 PM

  154. Thank you Kevin for speaking of “empathy”. This to me is key, as in one of the AGU lectures, the development of a sophisticated and open attitude towards the community of humankind as something like a forest of trees, where the health of the whole is dependent on the inclusion of individuals. Grinspoon, Sagan lecture (usual login necessary as noted elsewhere):

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 21 Dec 2013 @ 10:40 PM

  155. 151 Kevin McKinney: Empathy is irrelevant to this discussion. Fact: The species Homo Sapiens is headed for probable extinction. The appropriate emotions are fear and panic. According to Bart Levenson and Aiguo Dai, BAU makes our collapse happen between 2050 and 2055. Nobody needs empathy under the circumstance. People need sanity and education in science and math. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Nope. Feelings are useless, except for fear that gets channelled into action. Control them and get to work.

    Feelings: Gut feeling is High level thinking, for a worm. Humans should be able to do better. Gut feeling is sure to lead you astray in the situation we are in. ONLY math and science can lead you to do the right thing to save our species from extinction. We will still have a population crash, but it can be lessened. Human Evolution will probably once again be driven by rapid climate change.

    Writing: I learned to write in philosophy classes. What I learned in English Lit is that Marmaladeoff’s character opposite is MarmaladeON. Our supervisors [in the US government] sent us to writing class several times. Each time we came back “worse.” The English teacher taught us the queen’s English. The supervisors wanted either Federalize or Army jargon. One supervisor punctuated only with dashes, and besides that he couldn’t write. When supervisors say they want better writing, they could also mean they don’t want to hear anything “inconvenient.”

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 22 Dec 2013 @ 1:51 AM


    video “How Climate Change Became a ‘Liberal Hoax’ by Emeritus Professor Noam Chomsky”

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 22 Dec 2013 @ 11:36 AM

  157. Edward Greisch #155,

    “Empathy is irrelevant to this discussion. Fact: The species Homo Sapiens is headed for probable extinction. The appropriate emotions are fear and panic.”
    I agree with your assessment as to where we are headed, although you may be a generation or two early. I don’t know how you define “appropriate emotions”. I have known a wide variety of people who were facing personal extinction (death) from different causes, and they displayed a wide spectrum of emotions. Some displayed ‘fear and panic’, especially at first, but a greater number came to display ‘acceptance and resignation’. Which was the most appropriate; does ‘appropriateness’ even make sense here? The real challenge to avoiding climate change extinction is to figure out what will motivate people to preserve life on Earth, and then channel that motivation into action. There are many different motivations; it is not ‘one size fits all’. That’s what makes the problem so challenging. Add on to that the external forces that are profiting from, and want to preserve, the status quo, and the problem becomes doubly challenging.

    Comment by DIOGENES — 22 Dec 2013 @ 11:47 AM

  158. Edward Greisch @155.
    I don’t think Aiguo Dai is anywhere saying “BAU makes our collapse happen between 2050 and 2055.”
    Bart Levenson may be saying it but I don’t know where. His much-mentioned thesis “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series” appears still to be unpublished. As a result, the comment that has been cut & pasted around the blog-o-sphere that it says “Under BAU, desertification will cause agriculture to collapse some time between 2050 and 2055” may be premature as it can be no more than unsubstantiated tittle-tattle without a sight of Levenson’s thesis. There is no sign of such a paper at Levenson’s bibliography page Indeed, that it appears it has taken over two years and yet to gain that publication suggests the thesis may have fundamental problems.

    Comment by MARodger — 22 Dec 2013 @ 11:54 AM

  159. Edward,
    Science is a human activity–anything that facilitates the ability of humans to work together is relevant–most especially empathy.

    Likewise the ability to speak cogently, coherently and clearly–and that is something you are more likely to learn in a lit class than a physics class.

    Your portrayal of scientists as disinterested robots is not helping.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Dec 2013 @ 11:57 AM

  160. Edward Greisch wrote in 155:

    Empathy is irrelevant to this discussion. Fact: The species Homo Sapiens is headed for probable extinction. The appropriate emotions are fear and panic. According to Bart Levenson and Aiguo Dai, BAU makes our collapse happen between 2050 and 2055.

    Could you point to where Aiguo Dai makes the claim that our civilization will collapse by mid-century? As I remember it, this is a claim made by Bart Levenson who loosely bases his work on Aiguo Dai’s. But I have no reason to think that Dai himself is aware of the claim or would endorse it if he were. But perhaps I missed the memo.

    Incidentally, given the lag-times involved, I believe what we do now till mid-century have very little effect by then, but our present continuation of BAU will mean a great deal more later in this century.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 22 Dec 2013 @ 12:07 PM

  161. Ed, I don’t think you’re getting what people a talking about here. If it isn’t intuitively obvious and you haven’t followed the Wikipedia link on Theory of Mind (which isn’t what it sounds like) take a look. It’s about the functioning of the social brain, “the ability to attribute mental states…to oneself and others”. It’s a place to start.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 22 Dec 2013 @ 12:26 PM

  162. Edward Greisch says: “Fact: The species Homo Sapiens is headed for probable extinction.”

    Well, yes, over some timeframe that is almost certainly true. But positing 2050-2055 our event horizon is far from “fact”.

    Comment by MartinJB — 22 Dec 2013 @ 12:37 PM

  163. Oh Ed, I missed this. From Gavin in the Unforced Variations thread: [Response: Sorry, but the idea that “positive feedback and/or BAU implies extinction” is just nonsense. Please take it somewhere else. – gavin]

    Or are you just trying to instill “fear and panic”?

    Comment by MartinJB — 22 Dec 2013 @ 12:45 PM

  164. Oh, look. There’s an elephant in the room.

    Conservative Donors Pump $1 Billion A Year Into Climate Denying Groups, Study Finds
    By Kiley Kroh
    December 22, 2013

    Organizations that actively block efforts to address climate change are funded by a large network of conservative donors to the tune of nearly $1 billion a year, according to the first in-depth study into the dark money that fuels the denial effort.

    The study, published Friday in the journal Climatic Change, analyzed the income of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups, and industry associations, funded by 140 different foundations, that work to oppose action on climate change. The study’s author, Robert Brulle, refers to these organizations as the climate change counter-movement, and concludes that their outsized influence “has not only played a major role in confounding public understanding of climate science, but also successfully delayed meaningful government policy actions to address the issue.”


    The result is not just an obfuscation of fact and deliberate effort to slow any progress on addressing the most pressing issue of our time, but an assault on democracy. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” said Brulle. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Dec 2013 @ 2:34 PM

  165. 158 Ray Ladbury: I do not portrayal of scientists as disinterested robots. I was a scientist. What you are more likely to learn in a Lit class is that the professor is either not sober or not sane. Philosophy, not physics, is the place to learn to write.

    159 Timothy Chase: Just look at the maps Aiguo Dai put in his paper and try and figure out how we are going to grow food in 40 years. 2012 was bad enough here in the corn belt.

    160 Radge Havers: I read the Wikipedia link on Theory of Mind. That isn’t what Lit is about. Lit is about indoctrination into Freudianism.

    162 MartinJB: Saw that later. Am I just trying to instill “fear and panic”? No. I’m pushing for meaningful action. Fear and panic come naturally with understanding what GW is all about.

    163 SecularAnimist: The same story is being repeated by many email news letters. It is also in books that are years old.
    Reference: “Climate Cover-Up” by James Hoggan
    “Merchants of Doubt” by Oreskes and Conway
    “Denying Science” by John Grant
    That is why I said earlier in the past week that the scientists are good enough communicators.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 22 Dec 2013 @ 5:38 PM

  166. I agree with one of Mr. Greisch’s assertions, that science education ought to be improved. Given Mr. Greisch’s evident passion, surely he will greatly contribute toward science education. I await news of his initiatives in pedagogy with great interest.

    I disagree with almost every thing else in his post.

    1) Dai nowhere proposed human extinction by midcentury.

    2) Nothing humanity can do before midcentury will appreciably affect climate at midcentury, short of deliberately setting aflame surface coalbeds of the size of Powder River.

    3)Most of all I disagree with the statement “Empathy is irrelevant.”

    Without empathy, we are all psychopaths. And by empathy I mean not just empathy for one’s fellow man, but also empathy for all of Nature, all the countless, unnoted, little scurrying, squirming swimming, buzzing, flapping and sessile things that make up this wonderful living world. Call me animist. But I go further, I claim that it is possible to feel an emotion very akin to empathy for as vast and indifferent a thing as the Ocean, to wish it to remain clean, not because a clean Ocean is of benefit to Man, but rather because a clean Ocean is a happier ocean, in a very real sense, at least for all the life it harbours.

    Science education is all very well, but science alone can do no more than prescribe means towards particular ends. Science can tell us how to do something, but cannot tell us what is worth doing.

    I submit that sanity requires empathy, a person devoid of empathy is not fully sane.

    “We must all love one another or die.”


    Comment by sidd — 22 Dec 2013 @ 7:52 PM

  167. Edward Greisch: “Philosophy, not physics, is the place to learn to write.”

    Actually, I learned to write in a geography class in high school–not because of the subject matter, but because the teacher insisted on it.

    I have also benefitted from reading great writers, some of whom give explicit advice on writing. In particular, Mark Twain had advice that ought to be taught in every class on technical writing.

    Abraham Lincoln learned to write by reading the King James Bible.

    I would commend to you “The Plague,” by Albert Camus. It will teach you more about literature, philosophy, and indeed about the situation we face with climate change than any other piece of writing I know of.

    What humanity lacks in confronting this threat, more than anything else, is courage: the courage to accept the truth; the courage to act without guarantee of success; the courage to push forward into uncharted waters; the courage to confront the rich, powerful and unprincipled and perhaps most important, the courage to realize that we are responsible for our own fate. If we fail, the blame lies with us. If we succeed, I am sure some of our progeny will claim there never was a crisis and it was all fearmongering. We must be courageous and wise, so that our progeny have the luxury of being as cowardly and foolhardy as we have been.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Dec 2013 @ 9:12 PM

  168. Ed @~165

    160 Radge Havers: I read the Wikipedia link on Theory of Mind. That isn’t what Lit is about. Lit is about indoctrination into Freudianism.

    Again with the Freud. We discussed this. Get over the Freud already.

    And btw, I posted that link in reference to communication (with a small ‘c’) not Literature (with a cap ‘L’).

    Comment by Radge Havers — 22 Dec 2013 @ 10:32 PM

  169. Edward Greisch wrote in 165:

    159 Timothy Chase: Just look at the maps Aiguo Dai put in his paper and try and figure out how we are going to grow food in 40 years. 2012 was bad enough here in the corn belt.

    Which paper? The most recent that seems relevant is the open access:

    Dai, Aiguo. “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models.” Nature climate change 3.1 (2012): 52-58.

    However, the only mapped projections were for soil moisture (Palmer drought severity index and revised) from 2080-2099 and comparing 2099 to 1950 under the “intermediate future GHG emissions scenarios”. But you had specifically said in 155:

    According to Bart Levenson and Aiguo Dai, BAU makes our collapse happen between 2050 and 2055.

    As such it would seem you could not be speaking of this paper? So which paper?

    Now when you wrote that sentence, it was immediately after you stated:

    Fact: The species Homo Sapiens is headed for probable extinction. The appropriate emotions are fear and panic.

    I assume that by “collapse” you do not mean our “probable extinction”, but as Levenson speaking of it, the “collapse of civilization.” This is a claim of his that I am familiar with. But it is not a claim that I have heard Dai make regarding 2050-2055 or even 2099.

    Not being able to grow corn in the corn belt does not imply the collapse of civilization. Widespread drought or even starvation does not imply the collapse of civilization, even were Dai specifically speaking of the 2050-2055 timeframe. And even if you could somehow argue that the collapse of civilization will necessarily follow given Dai’s projections regarding drought, this would not be equivalent to Dai stating that “BAU makes our collapse happen between 2050-2055.”

    What maps of drought are you speaking of? And why focus on maps when the question at hand isn’t drought or widespread starvation, but the collapse of civilization between 2050-2055? I have seen nothing to suggest Dai has ever made any claim that remotely resembled what you are attributing to him. Is it possible that you are mistakenly conflating Bart Levenson’s and Aiguo Dai’s views?

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:03 AM

  170. 167 Ray Ladbury: We can agree on courage of a strange kind. I remember Camus vaguely.

    166 sidd: Empathy is the opposite of psychopathy? Well OK then, as long as Empathy doesn’t have to mean being an “Empath” like councillor Deanna Troy. Psychopaths don’t care about themselves either.

    168 Radge Havers: So what do the Lit professors use instead of Freud these days? How the human brain works is ongoing research in the social sciences, medicine and computer science. There is no place for Lit professors in that bunch.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Dec 2013 @ 3:00 AM

  171. Edward Greisch,
    I’ve read that one of the reasons Gandhi was so formidable an opponent was because of the deep empathy he had with his opponents. It made it possible for him to understand their fears and motivations, mollifying the former and subsuming the latter.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2013 @ 9:00 AM

  172. #153–“My lifetime partner (wife) is an expert in early human socio-emotional and cognitive development and she says that perspective taking is an under appreciated but primary component of intelligence.”

    Thanks, Steve. Mine, too. ;-)

    #154–Susan, thanks for the kind words and the link.

    #155–Ed, no. The topic is communication. Empathy, for reasons discussed above and below in this thread, is highly relevant. (Consider, for example, Ray’s point at #171–not just the obvious ‘touchy-feely’ aspect, but Gandhi’s great (if under-appreciated) gifts as a deal-maker: if you don’t know what is important to your opponent, how will you know what will move them to agree to compromise?)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Dec 2013 @ 10:14 AM

  173. Ed,

    If you must, schools of literary theory:

    This isn’t about Lit profs usurping science. Not that there isn’t an over abundance of malarkey in the arts; this is about learning to communicate and understanding people’s differing perspectives. Much of that learning takes place by analogy and so probably doesn’t work the way you think it does. Otherwise it’s perfectly understandable that artists would be interested in anything that might deepen their understanding of what they do for a living.

    Your comments on the topic so far have been anecdotal, over generalized, and parochial almost to the point that they sound trollish. Not to get too personal, but this doesn’t sound like you.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 23 Dec 2013 @ 10:36 AM

  174. Radge Havers wrote: “Your comments on the topic so far have been anecdotal, over generalized, and parochial almost to the point that they sound trollish. Not to get too personal, but this doesn’t sound like you.”

    It’s pretty much what I have come to expect.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:03 PM

  175. Ray at 167 wrote: “What humanity lacks in confronting this threat, more than anything else, is courage: the courage to accept the truth; the courage to act without guarantee of success; the courage to push forward into uncharted waters; the courage to confront the rich, powerful and unprincipled and perhaps most important, the courage to realize that we are responsible for our own fate. If we fail, the blame lies with us. If we succeed, I am sure some of our progeny will claim there never was a crisis and it was all fearmongering. We must be courageous and wise, so that our progeny have the luxury of being as cowardly and foolhardy as we have been.”

    Very nicely put. Unfortunately the kind of courage and wisdom you speak of seem to be in short supply.

    Comment by wili — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:10 PM

  176. Timothy Chase wrote: “Not being able to grow corn in the corn belt does not imply the collapse of civilization. Widespread drought or even starvation does not imply the collapse of civilization …”

    That depends on the meaning of “collapse” and the meaning of “civilization”, as well as on the severity and extent of the drought and famine.

    And drought is only one of multiple GHG-driven threats to humanity’s food supply.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:11 PM

  177. wili,
    Courage is never common–hence its intrinsic value.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:25 PM

  178. SecularAnimist (176), not much disagreement coming from here on any of those points.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 23 Dec 2013 @ 12:33 PM

  179. A side note on the drought issue: it’s one of the very few areas where AR5 finds increased uncertainty WRT AR4. The Technical Summary says something like “AR4’s conclusions of drought are no longer supported.”

    The problem as I understand it is in considerable part that there are a number of metrics for drought, and the trends found for instance in Dai 2010–the basis for Barton’s unpublished statistical study–are not robust across those metrics.

    The usual hot-spots as identified long since in “Six Degrees” and in the professional literature–the American Southwest, the Mediterranean basin, South Africa, and quite possibly the Amazon–are still expected to dry quite considerably, as the expansion of the Hadley Cells seems to be well-supported, and said drying is a straightforward consequence, and because that drying has been so robust across generations of models.

    But global trends are now considered quite uncertain. It’s modestly good news from AR5–not great news, there isn’t any of that. But it’s an area where the story got a little less dire than it had been.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Dec 2013 @ 1:57 PM

  180. Ray, nicely put, again.

    KM, you might want to check out the latest post on drought and GW at SkS:

    Comment by wili — 24 Dec 2013 @ 12:42 AM

  181. Kevin McKinney (179), in line with what you wrote, there is a study that just came out that discusses some of the uncertainties regarding the question of whether there will be a trend towards increased drought. Different studies regarding drought have reached different conclusions, and the authors argue that much of this is due to methodological differences but also in data sets. It calls for better data, but also states towards the end:

    Increased heating from global warming may not cause droughts but it is expected that when droughts occur they are likely to set in quicker and be more intense.

    The paper is discussed against the backdrop of drought research in:

    Global warming will intensify drought, says new study
    John Abraham (Guardian UK), 2013-12-23

    The study itself is here:

    Trenberth, Kevin E., et al. “Global warming and changes in drought.” Nature Climate Change 4.1 (2014): 17-22. (Paywalled)

    There are of course other threats to food security. One recent story:

    Dramatic decline in industrial agriculture could herald ‘peak food’
    Nafeez Ahmed (Guardian UK), 2013-12-19

    The paper itself:

    Grassini, Patricio, Kent M. Eskridge, and Kenneth G. Cassman. “Distinguishing between yield advances and yield plateaus in historical crop production trends.” Nature Communications 4 (2013). (Open Access)

    Also of possible interest…

    ‘Whole world’ at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines, epidemics: scientists
    Nafeez Ahmed (Guardian UK), 2013-12-17

    … regarding a special feature from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that includes ten papers that are all Open Access:

    Global Climate Impacts: A Cross-Sector, Multi-Model Assessment Special Feature

    The elephant, the blind, and the intersectoral intercomparison of climate impacts; Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation responses to future climate and atmospheric CO2; Multimodel assessment of water scarcity under climate change; Constraints and potentials of future irrigation water availability on agricultural production under climate change; Assessing agricultural risks of climate change in the 21st century in a global gridded crop model intercomparison; Hydrological droughts in the 21st century, hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment; The Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI–MIP): Project framework; Global water resources affected by human interventions and climate change; Multisectoral climate impact hotspots in a warming world; First look at changes in flood hazard in the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project ensemble

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 24 Dec 2013 @ 12:45 AM

  182. 169 Timothy Chase: Please read:
    “Drought Under Global Warming: a Review” by Aiguo Dai
    “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series”  by Barton Paul Levenson, not yet published. Under BAU [Business As Usual], agriculture and civilization will collapse some time between 2050 and 2055 due to drought/desertification caused by GW [Global Warming].

    Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. When agriculture collapses, civilization collapses.   Fagan and Diamond told the stories of something like 2 dozen previous very small civilizations. Most of the collapses were caused by fraction of a degree climate changes. In some cases, all of that group died. On the average, 1 out of 10,000 persons survived.

    Not being able to grow corn in the corn belt does imply the collapse of civilization. That is the way it has happened many times in previous civilizations. No semblance of civilization remains within hours of the moment the food runs out.

    ANY change in climate can put the food supply in jeopardy. Warmer, colder, wetter, dryer. Whatever changes makes the farmers’ former practice not work. Farmers are traditional people in that they strongly tend to grow the same thing year after year.

    Search climateprogress for what is happening already. The searcher there does not work well for me, so take some time.

    172 Kevin McKinney: Nature does not compromise. We do it right or we experience human evolution.

    181 Timothy Chase: Thank you very much.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 25 Dec 2013 @ 11:23 AM

  183. > No semblance of civilization remains
    > within hours of the moment the food runs out.

    Depends on whether you’re a scientist or not, some evidence suggests:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Dec 2013 @ 11:48 AM

  184. Edward Greisch wrote in 182:

    169 Timothy Chase: Please read:
    “Drought Under Global Warming: a Review” by Aiguo Dai

    I was asking you for a statement by Dai where he claims that civilization will collapse in 2050-2055, and expressly not a map showing severe drought in some parts of the world, not others, later in the century. Are you unable to find or quote a relevant passage?

    You continue:

    “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series” by Barton Paul Levenson, not yet published. Under BAU [Business As Usual], agriculture and civilization will collapse some time between 2050 and 2055….

    Irrelevant. As I stated, I am aware of Levenson’s unpublished claims. I was asking about Dai’s.

    You continue:

    Not being able to grow corn in the corn belt does imply the collapse of civilization.

    Not if it can be grown and shipped in from elsewhere. And if some nations run out of food those nations may collapse, but this does not imply the collapse of civilization itself.

    Incidentally, Aiguo Dai is listed as the second author of the paper:

    Trenberth, Kevin E., et al. “Global warming and changes in drought.” Nature Climate Change 4.1 (2014): 17-22. (Paywalled)

    In the conclusion they state:

    Increased heating from global warming may not cause droughts but it is expected that when droughts occur they are likely to set in quicker and be more intense.

    … as quoted by:

    Global warming will intensify drought, says new study
    John Abraham (Guardian UK), 2013-12-23

    Even were Dai to have made the claim that you attribute to him in one of his earlier papers, wouldn’t you agree that in judging an author’s opinion a more recent paper supersedes a less recent one?

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 25 Dec 2013 @ 9:06 PM

  185. Edward Greisch, I don’t doubt that what we face under Business As Usual is serious, particularly later in this century and in the centuries that follow. My point is simply that if one attributes a given view to a given author that attribution is accurate. Further, I believe that the consequences of inaction are serious enough we do not need to exaggerate them. Do you think this sensible?

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 25 Dec 2013 @ 9:25 PM

  186. > corn belt

    Civilization already broke down there. Several short-sighted greedy varieties of stupidity replaced civilized thinking some time back. It’s another classic example of failures communicating the impact of new science, for the Cassandra file.

    The scientists who called for caution now are saying “I told you so”


    … if they plant just corn, year after year, rootworms are likely to overwhelm any weapon someday.
    The problem, Meinke says, is that farmers are thinking about the money they can make today.


    Some people are smarter: Woody Agriculture

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Dec 2013 @ 10:15 AM

  187. 184 Timothy Chase: You should have been here last year. The rain came at the wrong time at the wrong intensity. Look at Aiguo Dai’s drought maps again.

    2012 in Iowa and Illinois: Spring: drought; Summer: drought; harvest time: flood. Corn and soy beans made very little grain. In the fall, you couldn’t drive a combine across the fields because the mud was too deep. Farmers waited for the ground to freeze before harvesting what freeze-damaged grain they could.
    Missouri: No corn, it died.

    Looking at Aiguo Dai’s drought maps, I see 2050 as worse by far than 2012. There won’t be any corn in the 2050s. Corn will not be imported from somewhere else. Aiguo Dai’s drought maps are global. Agriculture won’t work in those other places either. Since we have almost no reserve and no surplus, we can’t stand any glitches.

    Rain timing matters. Rain intensity matters. Just a little drought with the wrong timing and intensity is as bad as a lot of drought. Floods during planting wash seeds away.

    Barton Paul Levenson’s paper is not irrelevant. I read it. Why don’t you write your own paper from the same data?

    I am not exaggerating. I happen to be in the corn belt where I can talk to farmers and drive past fields. 2012 was a bad drought year even if the average rain for the whole year was average.

    186 Hank Roberts: Hazelnuts & Chestnuts grow on trees that take many years to grow. Farmers can’t take 40 years off to let trees grow.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 26 Dec 2013 @ 11:22 AM

  188. Apparently, however, we are willing to pay any price for oil, even at the cost of renouncing to a number of things that, once, were taken for granted, such as public health care, social security, public transportation, and the like.

    It is a choice that we made and that we may well regret in the near future because we are not only beggaring ourselves but creating a much worse problem: a true climatic disaster. As depletion is forcing us to consume more energy in order to produce energy, the final result is that emissions are growing and they show no sign of abating.

    Plundering the planet: an update

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Dec 2013 @ 11:25 AM

  189. > Griesch … many years to grow …. Farmers
    > can’t take 40 years off to let trees grow.

    You make up numbers.


    Stay with a plan that the scientists are telling you is failing, or make a transition to a plan that the scientists are telling you works better. Hmmm. How to decide?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Dec 2013 @ 2:27 PM

  190. Hazelnuts & Chestnuts grow on trees that take many years to grow. Farmers can’t take 40 years off to let trees grow.

    Ed needs to quit blathering on with speculative opinions about things. Hazelnuts are actually produced on the Hazel shrub, which should start producing within 3-5 years, the same as most fruit crops, which are grown by many farmers profitably without “taking 40 years off”. Hazels are also quite drought tolerant and can be expected to continue good production for 40 years or more. Chestnuts are more properly large [fast growing] trees, but also start producing within 5 years.

    Comment by flxible — 26 Dec 2013 @ 3:29 PM

  191. Edward Greisch @187.
    My apologies if this is repeating comment @158.
    Levenson’s paper has not been presented in this thread for folk to comment on. Yet you have more than once recommended we take on board what it contains by reading it. Either point to this fabled paper or present the substance of its content, or be quiet about it. The only shred of information we otherwise have is some three year-old comment from the man himself (that fits uneasily with other comment from him) and nothing but hand-wringing from you. This is a level of support for your argumenting which is very far from satisfactory.

    Comment by MARodger — 26 Dec 2013 @ 4:18 PM

  192. According to AR5, global drought projections are no longer supported, as the projections are not robust across various drought metrics. (Dai used Palmer.)

    “Do [we] feel lucky?”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 26 Dec 2013 @ 8:35 PM

  193. MARodger, the title of Levenson’s paper is “Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series”. It was submitted to Science but rejected in late 2010. Judging from a search for that title and the his name in Google, despite its apparent unavailability, the paper has been the subject of considerable discussion, including at the Economist, New Scientist, Scientific American, and The Conversation.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Dec 2013 @ 12:08 AM

  194. Correction: that should read “search for that title and the his last name in Google”.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Dec 2013 @ 12:15 AM

  195. Hazelnuts & Chestnuts in 3 to 5 years! That is amazingly fast growth for a tree. Even the engineered tree is supposed to take 11 years to grow here. If a tree can grow in 3 to 5 years, I want to plant some! How tall will the trees be in 4 years? I have never seen any tree grow that fast.

    191 MARodger [Dr Martin Rodger]: 11 Aug 2010 comes after 14 May 2010. Bart Levenson was in doubt in May and had a firm answer in August. I can’t find my copy of his paper to check the date.

    If you ask Bart Levenson, he might let you read his paper. But you are a PhD climate scientist, so you should be able to do the same analysis and publish before Bart Levenson does. I would like to have more than one paper to go by. Please do write a paper like that.

    Nobody else is doing the same type of analysis that I know of and nobody else is producing the same type of result that I know of. Why? Agriculture is the most critical industry. It seems to me that the majority of climate science from now on should be devoted to GW effects on agriculture.

    I got the data, but I need training in the R programming language. I am slowly learning some Python. Bart Levenson knows more statistics than I do. I will not be able to duplicate the same paper, but possibly I could do a lesser paper if a computer language remains accessible for long enough. Computers and computer languages change too fast for my budget.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 27 Dec 2013 @ 2:43 AM

  196. Ed, you seem to be your own worst enemy, here.

    You are essentially asking us to trust _your_ reading of a mysterious paper.

    Even if said paper exists, the fact that we can all see that you can’t seem to read or comprehend the word “shrub” in fixible’s post at #190 is not likely to make anyone here very confident that you are accurately representing what is in that Levenson paper.

    Comment by wili — 27 Dec 2013 @ 9:32 AM

  197. Back on topic: The ‘other side’ has been putting considerable resources into communication for the last decade. And they don’t have to bother funding research–it is much easier to concoct lies than to discover something close to the truth. (Apologies if these links have already been posted):

    “Not just the Koch brothers: New study reveals funders behind the climate change denial effort”

    “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organization”

    Robert Brulle

    Climatic Change
    DOI 10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7

    Comment by wili — 27 Dec 2013 @ 11:35 AM

  198. Timothy Chase @193/4.
    I do appreciate you your looking but, as I said @158, a single comment about that Levenson paper has been extensively cut&pasted round the web. A search of New Scientist & Scientific American (The Economist appears not to have a search function for its website) yields only that same cut&paste blog comment within their comment threads, all from the same source, & no discussion of this elusive Levenson paper within the articles published by New Scientist & Scientific American.

    Edward Greisch @195.
    But I am not a PhD Climate Scientist. And you ask “Nobody else is doing the same type of analysis (as Levenson’s) that I know of and nobody else is producing the same type of result that I know of. Why? “ Perhaps this is because you haven’t looked? There are certainly others conscious of the potential impact drought will have within a future AGW world.
    For instance, while the full text of SREX Chapter 3 Seneviratne, S. I., et al., 2012 ‘Changes in climate extremes and their impacts on the natural physical environment.’ does not make the point directly, within the overview of SREX Chapter 3 the point is made concerning projections of drought under AGW – “Limited number of regions with agreement, but including important agricultural regions – therefore – global implications”

    Comment by MARodger — 27 Dec 2013 @ 11:53 AM

  199. Hazelnuts & Chestnuts in 3 to 5 years! That is amazingly fast growth for a tree. Even the engineered tree is supposed to take 11 years to grow here. If a tree can grow in 3 to 5 years, I want to plant some! How tall will the trees be in 4 years? I have never seen any tree grow that fast.

    And we’re expected to accept your anecdotal incredulity as the science of agriculture? The growth rate of a plant says nothing about the productive potential of it, and food producers don’t depend on “engineered” trees, whatever those are. If you want a hybrid nut ‘plant’ appropriate for your climate, consult a local nursery, they do well in zones 4-9. Hazel shrubs are 8 – 15 feet at maturity, depending on how they’re pruned and cared for, and can gain 2 feet or more per year.

    Comment by flxible — 27 Dec 2013 @ 1:23 PM

  200. If Barton Paul Levenson was unable to, or decided not to publish his analysis in a peer reviewed journal then it is just an interesting opinion. BPL used to comment here and he is a pretty smart guy so I think he would probably agree.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 27 Dec 2013 @ 3:00 PM

  201. Edward Greisch, one part of the problem is that Barton Levenson’s paper simply hasn’t been published in a peer reviewed journal. A paper that has not been published in this fashion typically isn’t given much weight in the scientific community. Peer review is a quality check by experts in the field that, while allowing for differences of opinion recognizes that the paper has met certain minimal criteria necessary to be brought to the attention of others for further consideration.

    However, a deeper problem is that Levenson’s work presupposes Dai’s results and currently there is some question as to just how robust those results are. In fact, one recent paper disputed whether there had been significant change in the fraction of land experiencing drought.

    Please see:

    Sheffield, Justin, Eric F. Wood, and Michael L. Roderick. “Little change in global drought over the past 60 years.” Nature 491.7424 (2012): 435-438.

    … which you might contrast with:

    Dai, Aiguo. “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models.” Nature climate change 3.1 (2012): 52-58.

    Analysis of the differences between Sheffield et. al. and Dai may be found here:

    Sheffield vs. Dai on Drought Changes
    Posted on 23 November 2012 by dana1981

    … along with links to further commentary, and as I pointed out earlier, there is more recent work by Trenberth and Dai himself where they acknowledge some of the controversies and analyze the sources of uncertainty.

    For a prepublication version, please see:

    Trenberth, Kevin E., et al. “Global warming and changes in drought.” Nature Climate Change 4.1 (2014): 17-22.

    … and for an overview:

    Still Uncertain: Climate Change’s Role in Drought
    Bobby Magill (Climate Central), December 20th, 2013

    Then there are the recent PNAS papers I pointed to that are part of:

    Global Climate Impacts: A Cross-Sector, Multi-Model Assessment Special Feature

    In particular, you might look at:

    [Abstract] Drought severity is defined as the fraction of land under drought conditions. Results show a likely increase in the global severity of hydrological drought at the end of the 21st century, with systematically greater increases for RCPs describing stronger radiative forcings. Under RCP8.5, droughts exceeding 40% of analyzed land area are projected by nearly half of the simulations.

    Prudhomme, Christel, et al. “Hydrological droughts in the 21st century, hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2013): 201222473.

    It should be noted, however, that RCP8.5 is considered a high emissions scenario.

    Please see the online textbook:

    A set of four RCPs were selected. The most extreme one, RCP8.5 displays a continuous rise in radiative forcing during the 21st century, leading to a value of about 8.5 Wm–2 in 2100.

    Introduction to climate dynamics and climate modelling
    6.1.3 Representative concentration pathways (RCPs)

    … and as such their projection of 40% in of the land surface in drought by end of century may be considered overly pessimistic.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Dec 2013 @ 5:30 PM

  202. PS to 201:

    I hadn’t noticed earlier, but:

    Trenberth, Kevin E., et al. “Global warming and changes in drought.” Nature Climate Change 4.1 (2014): 17-22.

    … includes Justin Sheffield of:

    Sheffield, Justin, Eric F. Wood, and Michael L. Roderick. “Little change in global drought over the past 60 years.” Nature 491.7424 (2012): 435-438.

    … in addition to Aiguo Dai of:

    Dai, Aiguo. “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models.” Nature climate change 3.1 (2012): 52-58.

    I am guessing the discussion between coauthors was at times somewhat lively.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Dec 2013 @ 11:53 PM

  203. 202 Timothy Chase: You have given me a lot of stuff. Starting with
    Aiguo Dai has reproduced his prediction that GW brings increasingly severe drought over this century in the major food growing areas of the Earth. The thing that is lacking is a decision point for failure or collapse to be declared.

    Agriculture has collapsed when you personally go to the grocery store and find no food. Bart Levenson’s contribution is to estimate when that will happen. Collapse has to happen some time unless we manage to irrigate every farm on Earth. Irrigation is generally not permanent because irrigation water is rarely perfectly salt free.

    There are a lot of variables to play with. To simplify the matter, Bart Levenson chose the time at which 70% of the land surface becomes too dry to support growing food. Changing to different food could stretch the time available, but is not a permanent solution. There is still a date this century when food runs out. It has happened before.

    For the average person to understand that GW is a bad thing, you have to tell them about something that GW will do that they do not want to happen. Famine is the perfect example. Other predictions are not that meaningful to most people.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Dec 2013 @ 8:48 AM

  204. “Famine is the perfect example”

    Yep. Contemplating that brings out the best in everyone.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Dec 2013 @ 11:12 AM

  205. On the other hand, each time we get a better look at the planet, more people seem to understand that keeping it is a really good idea, and not a given. Several new very high resolution satellites are coming available to the general public:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Dec 2013 @ 11:58 AM

  206. PS — it’s clear which demographic/political group needs help understanding the impact of the science, from this (hat tip to MT and

    That’s why announcing inevitable famine isn’t a good approach to those who are susceptible to the notion they can just bunker down and wait it out, rather than inspired to become more cooperative and work together with everyone.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Dec 2013 @ 1:41 PM

  207. I’m not sure I catch your meaning here, Hank. I get pretty much the opposite interpretation from the graph at your link .

    It shows that nearly all those who think that GW is real and is a serious threat are also egalitarians and communitarians, while those who don’t think it’s a threat at all (and who probably correspond pretty well with the people who assume that it isn’t real) are the hierarchical/individualist types.

    So the more those communitarian folks understand the threat to be even more dire, I would assume the more they would react in a cooperative way, working together to build resilient communities…

    That is pretty much what I see in my neck of the woods: many egalitarian/communitarian types forming ‘Transition’ groups, getting together to see how they can make their communities less dependent on ff’s and more resilient to the shocks that they understand are coming down the pike.

    The hierarchical people who don’t believe in GW at all anyway aren’t going to become more of survivalists than they already are just because some scientist they don’t trust tells them that GW which they don’t believe in is going to be even worse than the warnings already given which they have already been ignoring.

    But I am probably missing your meaning here, somewhere. Care to elaborate?

    Comment by wili — 28 Dec 2013 @ 3:54 PM

  208. Hank Roberts wrote in 206:

    PS — it’s clear which demographic/political group needs help understanding the impact of the science… That’s why announcing inevitable famine isn’t a good approach to those who are susceptible to the notion they can just bunker down and wait it out, rather than inspired to become more cooperative and work together with everyone.

    One word: Flooding.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 28 Dec 2013 @ 4:10 PM

  209. wili, in an essay at Skeptical Science Andy Skuce looks at a study by the same author:

    Kahan, Dan M., et al. “The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks.” Nature Climate Change 2.10 (2012): 732-735.

    … and comes essentially the same view as yourself:

    We know that we are unlikely to win over many hard-core contrarians with our rebuttals or blog posts. In reality, our target audience is that large group of people who are not yet committed or engaged. We hope that people who have questions about climate change will come here via a Google search or a reference from somewhere else. Our basic rebuttals, in particular, are aimed at people new to the climate discussion and are intended to nip misinformation in the bud.

    Scientific literacy and polarization on climate change
    Andy Skuce (Skeptical Science), 2012-06-15

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 28 Dec 2013 @ 5:51 PM

  210. wili,
    > people who don’t believe in GW at all anyway
    > aren’t going to become more of survivalists …

    I’d imagine that Edward G’s suggestion — talking up famine as inevitable — would drive that group further away from cooperation.

    > nearly all
    I don’t think we can say that from looking at the chart. The cluster of blue dots is clearly nearly all up in one quadrant. The rest are more spread out (more diverse)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Dec 2013 @ 6:53 PM

  211. On famine, etc., the point of Catton’s Overshoot is that, as long as we have cheap reliable transportation, any local area can indeed run out of food or anything else from local sources and yet have what’s needed brought in from elsewhere. That’s what allows exceeding carrying capacity — overshooting the limits to growth. Vast areas aren’t occupied by people yet — the oceans, remember? — yet are having their production hoovered up and transported to human uses. 90 percent of the big fish are gone.

    We’re eating or burning or trashing the life on the planet — the carbon sink — at the same time as we overload the atmosphere and oceans with carbon.

    But I doubt anyone’s managed to come up with a climate model that puts in, say, a complete reforestation, a halt to burning forests, and recovery of the large fish and whale populations that kept the plankton populations healthy (as top predators do).

    I wonder what it’d look like to punch in returning the hundred-year-old forests all over the world and having the whales back in great numbers — what would the climate look like with a recovery — getting primary productivity and biological cycling back to using every CO2 molecule multiple times through many living things rather than turning it rapidly into dead sediment sinking to the seabottom?

    See, a thriving biosphere captures energy too — by holding it and passing it around as molecules doing living things.

    We lost most of the thriving biosphere in the same three or four centuries over which we we pumped up the carbon dioxide. We traded off trapping energy as life in abundance — “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful ” — and instead have been trapping energy as heat.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 12:42 AM

  212. PS re arguing “famine” — Catton’s argument in Overshoot (cited above) is holding up well several decades after he wrote that cautionary book. Here:

    From Food Insufficiency towards Trade Dependency: A Historical Analysis of Global Food Availability

    Miina Porkka et al, December 18, 2013
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082714

    While food supply has increased globally, food self-sufficiency (domestic production>2500 kcal/cap/d) has not changed remarkably. In the beginning of the study period insufficient domestic production meant insufficient food supply, but in recent years the deficit has been increasingly compensated by rising food imports. This highlights the growing importance of food trade ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2013 @ 10:40 AM

  213. Hank at #210:
    >> people who don’t believe in GW at all anyway
    >> aren’t going to become more of survivalists …

    >I’d imagine that Edward G’s suggestion — talking up famine as inevitable — would drive that group further away from cooperation.

    That’s the point–people who don’t believe in AGW aren’t going to give one fig for EG’s arguments that AGW will bring famine, as far as I can see. And see TC’s note at #209. In any case, this is a side issue from the central question of the validity of warnings of imminent famine. The standard prediction, iirc, is that for every one degree C of GW we should expect a 10% decrease in global food production; but other factors obviously come into play, since our so-far .8 degrees increase has not witnessed any net loss on food production, afaik. But we may be about to play some rather grim ‘catch up’ on that front:

    “In the run-up to the holidays, few noticed a rather horrifying number California water managers released last week:


    That’s the percentage of requested water the California State Water Project (SWP), the largest manmade distribution system in the US, expects to deliver in 2014. The SWP supplies water to two-thirds of the state’s 38 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland.”

    Comment by wili — 29 Dec 2013 @ 4:28 PM

  214. … an interesting experiment in science communication and teaching dreamed up by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb. Realising that the average Aussie has quite a few questions about ‘how stuff works’, but has little idea how to answer those questions, Ian engaged former Quantum star and science editor, Leigh Dayton, to put together a short, punchy, topical and easily understood book about why science is good for the country.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Jan 2014 @ 12:22 PM

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