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  1. Thanks for this reference. I’ve been trying to communicate the basics of climate change based on greenhouse gases to the students of my school and hope this will help.

    In addition I’m a member of groups that attempt to inform the public about such things in Western Pennsylvania. I look forward to reading this book and telling others about it.

    Comment by Bob Reiland — 12 Jan 2009 @ 9:42 AM

  2. In addition, the AAAS, in partnership with NSF, has a web site on communicating science (www.aaas.org/communicatingscience). They have sections on the basics of communication, working with reporters, and public outreach.

    They also have free 1-day workshops. I attended one last year and found it very worthwhile (http://communicatingscience.aaas.org/pages/workshops.aspx). Future workshops are offered in conjunction with the annual AAAS meeting in Chicago on February.

    [Response: Thanks for the heads up Jim. -mike]

    Comment by Jim Angel — 12 Jan 2009 @ 10:24 AM

  3. Another:
    http://www.nps.edu/News/ReadNews.aspx?id=3979&role=pao&area=media

    “… Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Stabilization and Reconstruction Studies (CSRS) recently co-hosted a two-day conference that addressed the economic, cultural, scientific, security and political implications of the region’s dramatic change in climate.
    … approximately 170 participants – who represented industry, environmental, indigenous, government civilian and military groups – an opportunity to work toward preventing conflicts that may arise as global warming transforms the Arctic landscape.”

    ______________
    “Built north-” says ReCaptcha

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Jan 2009 @ 11:03 AM

  4. To succeed in communicating the science of climate change
    there first needs to be a conscience about the quality of
    the environment people will leave for others.

    How do we influence others to develop a deeper conscience
    for the environment?

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 12 Jan 2009 @ 11:43 AM

  5. As a participant in some of those workshops, as well, I agree heartily that the resulting book is valuable read both for scientists and reporters (and others). Two other takes on the hurdles (and opportunities) facing scientists and the media in discussing climate are chapters I’ve done for two books, one fully online, the other from MIT Press:

    One is my chapter in “Climate Change: What it Means for Us, Our Children, and Our Grandchildren” (Editors: Joseph Dimento, Pamela Doughman, MIT Press). The chapter on the media and climate science is online on googlebooks: http://tinyurl.com/ClimBookMITmedia

    The other is my chapter on hurdles to effective environment coverage in “A Field Guide for Science Writers” (Oxford U. Press, 2nd ed., 2005): http://tinyurl.com/NASWrevkin

    [Response: Thanks for the comment Andy. I highly recommend the Dimento and Doughman book to our readers, and not just because I'm quoted on the book jacket ;) -mike]

    Comment by Andy Revkin — 12 Jan 2009 @ 12:09 PM

  6. Timely post.

    Is below realistic… I would have thought that with progressive warming the stability of the ice would worsen?

    Greenland’s Rapid Glacier Retreat May Stall, Scientists Say
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=aXm16yRTS344&refer=germany

    Comment by paulm — 12 Jan 2009 @ 12:55 PM

  7. As Ben Santer said on page 3 of the Executive Summary:

    “Scientists and journalists have a professional and ethical obligation to tell this story”.

    I think moral and religious leaders have an obligation to tell the ethical side of this story.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 12 Jan 2009 @ 1:18 PM

  8. #6: I’m kind of scratching my head over that one. On the one hand, they say that the rapid retreat shouldn’t be extrapolated into the future (linearly I guess they mean?) but they also say:

    — begin quote —
    “We found was that these outlet glaciers are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate and ocean temperature at the terminus,” Vieli said. “When temperatures go up a bit, there’s a strong reaction in terms of mass loss: They start to flow fast and thin rapidly. But also, they adjust very quickly to the new temperature or climate setting.”
    — end quote —

    That implies that the temperature doesn’t go up any more, so the glaciers reach a new equilibrium. That might be the case for a year here and there, or even a few years at a time, but the temperature trend is definitely upwards. So it seems like the glaciers would continue to react strongly when there’s a warming … isn’t this article contradicting itself? Or it’s making an assumption (that the new, higher temperature is stable) that is unrealistic.

    Comment by Maya — 12 Jan 2009 @ 1:40 PM

  9. A paragraph from a recent (unpublished) article that I have written, which I believe is crucial in all climate science communication:

    Our choices of lanuage around the effects of climate change is very important to consider. Consider, for example, the difference between the two sentences:

    ‘As a result of climate change, the Great Barrier Reef will be irreversibly destroyed.’
    or,
    ‘If we fail to solve climate change, the Great Barrier Reef would be irreversibly destroyed.’

    The first sentence implies that climate change, and the Reef’s loss, is a certainty, whereas the second still holds within it the power of human choice, bringing human agency into the equation. Most climate communicators over the last two years have learnt to be very careful to use the language of agency, rather than of imminent destruction beyond our control. This is empowering and motivating language, and encourages the audience to make a choice between alternative futures, rather than accepting fate. Science without movement theory embedded in its communication is depressing and disempowering. When communication resigns someone to accept inevitability, we lose the opportunity to engage them with the movement, and so the movement is weaker than it could otherwise have been. A weak movement, based on language with no vision for change, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Comment by Anna Keenan — 12 Jan 2009 @ 1:50 PM

  10. Paulm, I’d think there is not a conflict, due to differing timescales–the modeled stabilization is effective over a few years, according to your link, and the current warming trend is .17 degrees C per decade. So the study could be correct over the next decade, while your point of view could well be right over the longer term.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Jan 2009 @ 2:01 PM

  11. RealClimate, more than any other site, allows anyone access to the underlying science of this issue. Thank you so much for that, and for postings like these. What a resource !

    (warning: cynical comments: )

    From what I can see, most humans don’t want to know about global warming, and refuse to think they will face climate destabilization, and especially do not want to make the scientifically necessary changes.

    But this deeply established human trait is cemented by our high carbon consuming culture. This kind of thinking is directly encouraged by professional PR campaigns from American Petroleum Institute and just about any fossil fuel company. Just why does ANY carbon fuel company NEED to advertise? What is their real message?

    News organizations themselves are blinded by a commercial bias. Count the advertising content on broadcast TV and printed media and see many automobile, coal, gasoline commercials and ads for products so heavily engaged in carbon fuel consumption.

    When carbon fuel empires help establish media empires, what kind of news stories will be permitted? What brave news editor or media publisher will attack their own funding source with news or opinion? If they do, then how long and how deeply will they analyze the problem?

    This is the very beginning of a battle of perceptions, that must precede fundamental change. The change required is colossal, and few people want to look directly at such a ugly situation.

    (cynicism off)

    Many thanks go to the Metcalf Institute for hosting and disseminating this important information. Kudos to all the other valuable resources for communicating this issue. These are wonderful supports to help improve media outlets themselves, whether broadcast or web or print.

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 12 Jan 2009 @ 2:38 PM

  12. We’d also like to alert our readers to an insightful article on this topic published last year in Eos by Susan Joy Hassol of Climate Communication (linked in our blogroll for those who want to learn more about the organization)

    Comment by mike — 12 Jan 2009 @ 4:06 PM

  13. The science isn’t faulty or broken. The communication pathway from scientists to Joe Public, and the confused concept of “equal time for opposing viewpoints” by the media, are what is broken. Thanks to all, including RC, who are working to fix it.

    #2: The annual AGU and ESA meetings also typically have workshops on how to communicate with the press/public.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 12 Jan 2009 @ 5:09 PM

  14. Slightly off-topic: I’ve revised my climatology page so the list of papers opposing AGW deniers specifies the gist of each one’s argument. I’ve also added a page for Dr. Roy Spencer’s egregious argument that the fraction of carbon dioxide in the air is too small to make a difference. Take out the hyphens before pasting into your browser:

    http://www.geocities.com/bpl1960/Climatology.html

    http://www.geocities.com/bpl1960/Spencer.html

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Jan 2009 @ 5:10 PM

  15. I’ve created a website/blog for my NGO that focuses on communicating the science of climate change via maps, called Climateatlas. http://blogs.edf.org/climateatlas

    I try to keep tabs on the writers, bloggers, etc. that do a great job in their communications…

    I’ll check out the Ward book. Thanks again for this great blog!

    Comment by PeterB — 12 Jan 2009 @ 5:27 PM

  16. Anna, #6, however, the first one is seen all the time on hospital dramas:

    Doctor: I’m afraid if Jimmy’s lungs don’t start working, he’ll die
    Jimmy’s Mum: Can’t you do something about it????

    IMO, the biggest problem is that for AGW to be fixed the people here and now have to pay for the people in the future. Worse, the people in the least affected areas have to pay for the damage that will be done most to the people in other areas.

    It’s not until the doctor tells you you WILL die you give up drinking. You don’t care about the old man with a bad liver (you at 60) and so stop drinking like a fish (you at 20). You can just about get people to think about their children and grandchildren, and that usually happens when they’re 60 rather than when they’re 30.

    Hence the refusal. There’s no downside to THEM of denying it (accepting it but doing nothing makes you look like a baddie, so that’s out) and plenty of downsides to accepting responsibility (which also means you’ve done some of the damage now, which makes you look like a bad person).

    Comment by Mark — 12 Jan 2009 @ 6:24 PM

  17. Thanks for the reference. I have had a go here http://www.blognow.com.au/mrpickwick/114981/The_skeptic_who_came_in_from_the_cold.html at a response to a friend who I discovered, to my shock and horror, was still a sceptic. We need,I think to distinguish between those who remain genuinely sceptical, and those in denial, and peel off the former from the latter.

    Comment by David Horton — 12 Jan 2009 @ 8:38 PM

  18. Slightly off-topic, but

    “Sea Level Rise Of One Meter Within 100 Years”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090108101629.htm

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Jan 2009 @ 8:52 PM

  19. Very timely. When I get a chance, I need to read up. I was at Montana’s conference on energy futures last weekend-which had a very good turnout. Most people there got it. Much was said about the technical aspects of diversifying our energy future. I did sit with two (coincidentally? politically conservative) state legislators that clearly didn’t “believe” all this stuff about C02, and whether it will really be bad if the planet warms anyway.
    I tried to emphasize science versus opinion, but to little avail. I realized later I should have focused on listening, and get them to describe where they get their information, and take that route.
    There’s nothing like these situations to work on your game.

    Comment by Larry Smith — 12 Jan 2009 @ 11:09 PM

  20. Books on climate are great, I’ve read a number, and I’ve learned a lot from each of them.

    The real problem though, as Michael Tobis points out is the 50%+ of the public who think that climate change (if it’s happening) isn’t caused by humans.

    A large proportion of those 50%+ don’t read books on climate change.

    Most of the probably do read or watch the news, at least sometimes. And the ‘web is slowly becoming a part of the picture too. Activism is the answer.

    Comment by naught101 — 12 Jan 2009 @ 11:35 PM

  21. Science communication, sadly, is a double edged sword.

    http://joannenova.com.au/ is arguably one of Australia’s best qualified and experienced and entertaining science communicators.

    Comment by MattB — 12 Jan 2009 @ 11:58 PM

  22. RE: 19, Interesting Larry. During the election season I interviewed many Montana state and county candidates in Park County. I had a Republican who lived off the grid and won. When told oil and gas leases beaneath the beds of the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers,the candidate called it “shocking.” I put him onto my articles. He didn’t have a TV or a regular subscription to the paper. Anything can happen now, much of it good in this regard.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 13 Jan 2009 @ 12:12 AM

  23. Naomi Oreskes wrote Chapter 4 of the book that Andy Revkin recommended above (#5). It’s available here:
    http://www.ametsoc.org/atmospolicy/documents/Chapter4.pdf
    Excellent reading, as are the slides of here AMS presentation
    (http://www.ametsoc.org/atmospolicy/Presentations/Oreskes%20Presentation%20for%20Web.pdf)
    She goes over different scientific methods and how each of them is used satisfactorily to arrive at the same conclusion: current climate change is real and predominantly caused by humans.
    It does an excellent job of putting the “debate” into context.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 13 Jan 2009 @ 3:36 AM

  24. Is there anybody to answer a question about the greenhouse effect on Mars.
    Actually, in spite of the high level of CO2 in Mars atmosphere a greenhouse effect is not observed there.
    Why so?
    Thanks!

    Comment by Maria M — 13 Jan 2009 @ 3:49 AM

  25. Re #24: Just a guess but Mars has a very thin atmosphere, absorbed IR energy would have more time to be released as a photon (lower kinetic energy tranfer fom molecular collisions).
    About communicating science, how about asking some of your peers to cut down on purile stunts like the recent “google searches warm the planet” thing from Harvard. I have no association with google but I do know they are leaders in efficiency and are putting their money where their mouth is with green energy. What possible gain is there in attacking an ally with mindless trivia?

    Comment by Alan — 13 Jan 2009 @ 9:06 AM

  26. Maria: Mars certainly does have a greenhouse effect, just not much because the atmosphere is very very thin. Googled “greenhouse effect on mars” and found this @ nova.stanford.edu in about 10 seconds (which you can do, too):

    “The atmosphere of Mars is also predominantly carbon dioxide, but Mars does not have a significant Greenhouse condition because the atmosphere is so thin that it cannot absorb much of the infrared energy which is emitted by the surface. The surface pressure on Mars is about 100 times less than it is on Earth, which is itself about 90 times less than it is on Venus. It is estimated that the Greenhouse effect on Mars warms the atmosphere at the surface by less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    Comment by kevin — 13 Jan 2009 @ 9:13 AM

  27. Maria, Basically, the issue for Mars is that the atmosphere is very thin. It’s not just the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere, but the absolute number of molecules standing between an IR photon emitted from the surface and escape into space. There is also virtually no water vapor in the Martian atmosphere.

    One reason the Martian atmosphere is so thin is the lack of a protective planetary magnetic field that would keep the solar wind from stripping away the gas at the top of the atmosphere.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 Jan 2009 @ 9:21 AM

  28. I think the underlying problem with communicating science to the general population is mostly due to the severe decline in science education in the USA. There is this generation problem in America that says science isn’t cool. People simply don’t take science subjects in college, they take arts or some other get rich quick scheme. Even if they do take science, their job outlook is dismal compare to other fields. Companies seem more interested in keeping current technology then creating new technology.

    In short I think American scientist have a larger problem then global warming on their hands. Countries with totalitarianism ideas is growing in power while the west is in the state of decline. This should take priority over global warming in America, however I do worry it may be too late in the game to do anything.

    Comment by EL — 13 Jan 2009 @ 10:18 AM

  29. What possible gain is there in attacking an ally with mindless trivia?

    Situational awareness. Clearly they aren’t as green as they claim. The truth can never hurt, right? And certainly a $100 billion dollar corporation would never spin the truth, right?

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 13 Jan 2009 @ 10:43 AM

  30. EL wrote:

    “arts or some other get rich quick scheme.”

    EL, as resident artsie, I say “You’ve got to be kidding.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Jan 2009 @ 11:39 AM

  31. http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=83947f5d-d84a-4a84-ad5d-6e2d71db52d9&CFID=43985805&CFTOKEN=26963028

    Inhofe’s 650+ article to most people would seem like the peer reviewed parts of the document are true and demonstrate that it might be a hoax ir that the world is warming but is is not CO2 or other GHG’s. It just goes on and on.

    The WWW is full of this blogs and articles relating to this document and the postings on sites and the mass of opinion is just staggering. Therefore the media with its few scientifically trained journalists like debate and something to have a opinion related message in order to drum up column inches. When it becomes a message and involves a lot of potential dramatic changes to the cost of energy available to people, the technologies available to reduce GHG emissions, the life style changes plugged by environmentalists and hence the back lash from the skeptics, deniers, and simply those who refuse to adhere to it as it is a bad vibe on life is already out of hand. Who do ordinary people believe I wonder ?

    The Climate change science needs to be totally cleaned up to stop the interviews in the media from throwing out the contrarian message. George Monbiot posted a very politial message today in the Guardian in his column and the amount of reples and personal battles in the responses part have totaled over 350 thus far and it has wound a lot of people up.

    We ought to stop the environmentalists from making it sound like the planet is screaming for help as it is not helping, same as the other side is not either.

    Comment by Alan Neale — 13 Jan 2009 @ 11:52 AM

  32. #21: If that’s Australia’s best qualified and experienced, then OZ is in a world of hurt. E.g. this pearl of wisdom:

    “Evidence means observations, made by people at some time and place. Things you can see, hold, hear and record. Computer models are not, and can never be evidence.” And this individual claims to be a science writer???

    #20 (Naught):

    I prefer to look at the glass as (more than) half full. The Pew survey shows fluctuating numbers, with things actually being somewhat better, over all groups, in April ’08 than June ’06. And the study cited in the Eos article referred to in #12 above found that while only 41% believed humans were the dominant driver, another 42% believed they were at least a contributor. That’s over 80% who believe humans are at least part of the problem.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 13 Jan 2009 @ 12:30 PM

  33. > We ought to stop the environmentalists

    What you mean “we” Kemo Sabe?

    > greenhouse effect on Mars

    Maria M, if you care to tell us, where did you get the misinformation? As Larry Smith points out above, finding sources that convince people of wrong information is always helpful. Tell us why you trusted the source you got that from, if you will?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Jan 2009 @ 1:23 PM

  34. I’m surprised Maria M is not asking about Venus’ greenhouse effect. Selectivity?

    Comment by Sekerob — 13 Jan 2009 @ 1:51 PM

  35. Let’s see if Maria comes back. I’ve become skeptical about name-plus-single-letter userids. Coincidence, I hope.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Jan 2009 @ 2:52 PM

  36. Did anyone catch Christopher Horner on BookTV with Jed Babbin? That man looked so sad (presumably because of the results of the election) that I spent the entire hour waiting to see tears running down his eyes:

    http://www.booktv.org/program.aspx?ProgramId=9998&SectionName=After Words

    I sent him an e-mail with exactly that message and said that if the conservatives want to remain stuck in the 19th century it is ok because the rest of America really doesn’t care any longer. You can only spend so much time arguing with creationists and flat eathers before surrendering them to their own insanity.

    Though I have observed a substantial decline in conservative responses to denialist trip on the conservative blogs. Perhaps the conservative masses already realize that the battle is lost?

    For a sobering assessment of the Sixth Great Extinction mixed with ominous implications regarding human overpopulation, watch Doctor David Woodruff’s lecture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cy7y1l9g1A

    Though, unfortunately, the lecture does end with “happy-talk” which implies that humans really are going to solve all of these problems before suffering the consequences.

    I think it is already too late for humankind. We haven’t stopped polluting the Earth and we aren’t going to stop. That’s just reality. The human population is still growing and it is going to reach 9 billion before 2050.

    http://www.flickr.com/dmathew1

    Comment by David Mathews — 13 Jan 2009 @ 3:16 PM

  37. Kevin McKinney – hehe, I really didn’t mean to come across that way but just convey the general impression I get from people. They avoid science related classes because their too hard, boring, not cool, or because they have some idea that they’ll get rich by doing something else.

    David Mathews – I think we are looking at something like the period 1348-1350 in European history. The people experienced much of the same thing we are with the global warming issue. Rising populations coping with depleted resources.

    Comment by EL — 13 Jan 2009 @ 4:13 PM

  38. #36 (David):

    I watched a very small part of it. I was surprised to see it on C-SPAN (although barring such viewpoints completely only generates more calls of censorship, so damned if you do or don’t). When Horner launched into the idea that global warming “hysteria” was responsible for some Australian kid being diagnosed with psychological problems (only the tip of the iceberg I’m assuming he must’ve been implying), and kept using the term “global warming industry” I realized I had no time for it. Might watch some more just to get familiar with new “arguments”.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 13 Jan 2009 @ 6:24 PM

  39. @32 – She ran Australia’s leadsing University’s science communication course for 5 years.
    - She used to have a science TV show
    - She is married to David Evans “Rocket Scientist”
    - She is a keynote speaker at the Climate Science 2009 Heartland Institute sceptics gig
    - She is a good looking and smart lady

    Write her off ar your “our” peril. My tip is that she will be a household name in Oz and the USA within a couple of years. Or am I being paranoid:)

    Comment by MattB — 13 Jan 2009 @ 7:15 PM

  40. @39 David Evans writes denialist stuff too – obviously a team effort. So, no, you are not being paranoid. But anyway, you know what they say about paranoids …

    Comment by David Horton — 13 Jan 2009 @ 7:52 PM

  41. You guys are in trouble down there Matt :)

    And it surprises me not in the least that someone with her opinions (yes opinions), is a keynote at a Heartland Institute event. And the “writing off” has nothing to do with her current or eventual notoriety (as in “notorious”).

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 13 Jan 2009 @ 8:45 PM

  42. Thank you everybody, Kevin, Alan, Ray Ladbury for commenting my question and giving advice.
    In the meantime I found some more details about Mars. Not asking about Venus because about its greenhouse effect one can read everywhere, discussed in details. The information about Mars is not mainly concerning the ghe, already know why.
    I found the Real Climate in Internet by a coincidence but the discussion here (except some commenting my question) is very interesting, although I do not have so much time to follow it and give oppinion.
    I am a chemist. Recently lecturing about Earth atmosphere, so how I came to the question about Mars and its atmosphere.
    Maria is my real name.

    Comment by Maria M — 14 Jan 2009 @ 1:56 AM

  43. Hank Roberts “Maria M, if you care to tell us, where did you get the misinformation? As Larry Smith points out above, finding sources that convince people of wrong information is always helpful. Tell us why you trusted the source you got that from, if you will?”
    Here is my reply: When I put my question in the forum I did not have any information about the ghe on Mars. As a matter of fact I was asked and because having vague picture on the subject I started looking around to read. Now I know more.

    Comment by Maria M — 14 Jan 2009 @ 2:20 AM

  44. Re: post # 28 by EL – science education in the USA

    I consider the same for the UK. The standards for all subjects, but especially the Sciences, have been steadily dumbed down for 30-40 years and the ‘promotion’ by careers advice bodies of get rich quick ‘service / financial’ industry jobs together with the personality cult in the media have all contributed to the denigration of science.

    On a slightly different note, I have debated Climate Change amongst other things on website. I have found that even a few reasonably level headed people still have some doubts about the science – because the residue of the US religious/business political doubt campaign of the 1990’s still being used by some of the UK media. I think particularly here about the Christophers, (Monkton & Booker), in the Daily Telegraph and ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ TV program.
    The latter particularly prejudiced many people that I came into contact for months after. One single corrupt TV program did more damage to the truth of CC here than pages & pages of science friendly information in the Guardian or Independent papers.
    Ian Stewart’s “Earth: The Climate Wars” recovered the situation somewhat but was a missed opportunity in some ways.

    The dumbing-down of education means, I regret to say, that much of the UK population at least, can only assimilate ‘information’ from ‘visual’ sources and thus I think visual sources are more appropriate for getting messages out to general populations – (the success of Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ still sends the diehard deniers into paroxysms of anger).
    Therefore, in my view, unbiased television is the key to getting the truth to the general population.
    Finally, is there any hope of getting say, the heads of the old ‘Climate Coalition’ to admit their antics on Camera by a really good TV journalist?

    Comment by Bob Clipperton — 14 Jan 2009 @ 4:46 AM

  45. SLIGHTLY OFF TOPIC BUT A MESSAGE OF THE RC MESSAGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

    Fred Pearce who has been a science writer for man years for newspapers and New Scientist and popular books on the climate subject matter has today written an article of hope for the people who just want to see something done about carbon emissions.

    California, massive investment, a liberal president and the USA capability and technological know how (and the need for jobs) will win out with a new perspective and philosophy. But the one thing that comes over from this article is the new found optimism of liberal thinking and its reliance and dedication to science and not necessarily religion.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/13/climate-change-united-states-eu

    The USA can do it and if they have the electricity on hand then they can also plug in all them electric cars required and when the population of the USA realise the cost of running one of these cars it is going to happen.

    The world will hopefully thank America again. Its been a terrible 8 years in many ways although not all.

    Comment by Alan Neale — 14 Jan 2009 @ 7:28 AM

  46. Maria, Welcome. You probably didn’t realize you were reaching into a lawnmower with your question, did you? The thing is that one of the memes in the denialosphere has been that warming has been seen on other solar-system bodies, so there must be a cause to warming on Earth other than anthropogenic. Never mind that many of the claims are flat wrong, even if warming is seen on other celestial bodies, the energetics of the climates on those bodies are quite different than those of Earth. So, ask away. Even if you do generate some skepticism, you’ll get a more reliable answer here than anywhere else. Best of luck to you in your teaching–you’re part of our hope for a better educated populace for tomorrow.

    The oracle of ReCAPTCHA: fast learning

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Jan 2009 @ 9:25 AM

  47. I don’t know if this has been mentioned elsewhere, but debategraph.org has an interactive concept map for debating climate change, the implications and what can/should be done about it. From a cursory glance it looks as though climate change deniers have contributed to it but not people who accept AGW.

    Comment by Richard Simons — 14 Jan 2009 @ 9:29 AM

  48. “For a sobering assessment of the Sixth Great Extinction mixed with ominous implications regarding human overpopulation, watch Doctor David Woodruff’s lecture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cy7y1l9g1A

    Though, unfortunately, the lecture does end with “happy-talk” which implies that humans really are going to solve all of these problems before suffering the consequences.”- David Mathews

    Why “unfortunately”? At this stage, it is by no means certain that “we’re all doomed”; and while doubt remains, despair increases our danger as much as complacency.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 14 Jan 2009 @ 9:32 AM

  49. Re #44. Amen to the dumbing down of education in the UK in the public sector but surely our great private schools have not done such a thing and provided us with a lot of our great scientists of today ;)

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/12/07/very-warm-2008-makes-this-hottest-decade-in-recorded-history-by-far/

    Now here is a man how knows how to put across the climate science slightly better than most and he even knows some of the GISS and other climate scientists and admires your working standards in regard to science (I wish that others understood the standards of the best scientific institutions), measurement and attention to detail as only the best scientists will adhere to.

    My own personal opinion of the communication of climate change is that in regard to AGW it only takes one documentary and headline to convince the masses of this all being an elaborte lie because the media is peoples first line of trusted information and the media as a whole and this has recently in the UK become a you said / he said line of opinion and discussion.

    The BBC have recently stopped this line with climate science as hence it has disappeared from the radar as it not the liberal way to lecture people.

    Comment by Alan Neale — 14 Jan 2009 @ 10:23 AM

  50. Thanks Maria! Keep asking. I read “a greenhouse effect is not observed” as a statement, but you meant it as a question.

    Google (and Scholar) have improved their natural language search routine: type in a question as though asking a human being — put a question mark at the end of the sentence — and it’ll give you a surprisingly good return. HTML for the question mark %3F is, without spaces, % 3 F

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?sourceid=Mozilla-search&q=greenhouse+effect+on+Mars%3F

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Jan 2009 @ 1:40 PM

  51. This is a fantastic site and the comment section is often just as interesting as the main blog posts!

    I think the previous commenters’ reaction to Maria M is somewhat indicative of how things relating to Climate Change tend to go, though. Several people quickly offered helpful answers that addressed her query, but it wasn’t long before the cynics began attributing nefarious intent to her question. While I’m sure there’s good reason for that reaction – based on a long history of deniers coaching words in just that way in order to stir up confusion – it does Climate Change adherents no good whatsoever. This is one of those situations where, just like our parents used to tell us when we were kids in school, we have to always take the high road. No matter how much mud is slung by the other party, if you can keep your head high and put your best foot forward at every step, you’ll come out ahead.

    I’m just sayin’…

    Comment by Kimota94 — 14 Jan 2009 @ 1:53 PM

  52. I see that Dr Roy Spencer has laid down a challenge http://www.drroyspencer.com/ Does Nature’s Thermostat Exist? – are you going to take it up?

    Comment by PaulC — 14 Jan 2009 @ 1:54 PM

  53. Ray Ladbury,
    Thank you!
    “…..you’ll get a more reliable answer here than anywhere else.” That gives a lot of courage!

    Comment by Maria M — 14 Jan 2009 @ 2:02 PM

  54. I’m glad to see an article on communication, given the number of times I’ve said something to the effect that it often appears climate scientists don’t want change given the language that is used.

    @ 28:

    I doubt it’s just that science education has suffered. Dumbing down has been going on for three decades and I don’t think science education crossed some magical threshold in the past few years. There is a lot TO understand and there are areas where legitimate differences of opinion exist.

    @ 35:

    So, what about posters with names like “Furry Cat Herder”?

    I can’t find it, and might have dreamt it up, but I think the problem is this “equal time” attitude and “all opinions are equally valid” I think someone mentioned earlier. There are some opinions where there is validity, but CO2 being a greenhouse gas isn’t one of them. “Can the global economy afford BAU scenarios?” is, but only on the economic front — if the global economy decides to burn every ounce of carbon-based fuel we’ve got in the ground somewhere, we’re in big trouble on two different fronts — no energy, warmer planet.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 14 Jan 2009 @ 2:07 PM

  55. 54: “There are some opinions where there is validity, but CO2 being a greenhouse gas isn’t one of them.”

    Are you serious? If anything on this ultra-complex topic is known with certainty, THAT is. And why would climate scientists not want change?

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 14 Jan 2009 @ 2:52 PM

  56. Jim Bouldin,
    Down, Boy. I think, FCH was suggesting the greenhouse nature of CO2 was a fact, not an opinion.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Jan 2009 @ 2:56 PM

  57. Maria M (42) — You may find this 2 page link helpful:

    http://www.geo-cities.com/bpl1960/Greenhouse101.html

    You’ll need to copy the url and take out the “-” because, unfortunately, the g-e-o-c-i-t-i-e-s site is mark as spam.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Jan 2009 @ 2:57 PM

  58. Lou Dobbs yesterday featured three “skeptics” who denied the current trends on the coming ice age …. Sad, really.

    [Response: I know. Look for a comment later on today. - gavin]

    Comment by wildlifer — 14 Jan 2009 @ 3:09 PM

  59. > Spencer

    Sounds like an invitation to a new version of the old debate about how many teeth a horse has. Why debate?

    “Well, as I get older I have less and less energy. So this debate helps keep me awake.” — RS
    http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2008/10/post_55.html

    A reliable answer isn’t found through debate, it’s people looking at enough horses and publishing.

    http://www.google.com/search&q=spencer+iris+climate&btnG=Search

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Jan 2009 @ 3:53 PM

  60. re: 58. It is no small coincidence that Lou Dobbs had those skeptics on during the current short-term Arctic air outbreak over a large portion of the US. It feeds the small-minded mentality re: weather vs. climate. Absolutely disgusting by Dobbs.

    Comment by Dan — 14 Jan 2009 @ 4:39 PM

  61. Wups, bad search link. Try this one:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=%2BSpencer+%2Biris+%2B%22climate+change%22&as_ylo=2007

    Note Spencer’s current main argument seems to be that the science isn’t trying or intended to answer the question he wants to debate: “Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?”

    Choose your tools for the work you intend to accomplish.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Jan 2009 @ 5:08 PM

  62. David Benson,

    Thanks for recommending my site! :) I have fixed the broken link at the bottom.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 Jan 2009 @ 8:36 AM

  63. President ‘has four years to save Earth’.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 18 Jan 2009 @ 6:27 AM

  64. 11 Richard Pauli Says:

    ” . RealClimate, more than any other site, allows anyone access to the underlying science of this issue. Thank you so much for that, and for postings like these. What a resource …( . (warning: cynical comments:
    From what I can see, most humans don’t want to know about global warming, and refuse to think they will face climate destabilization, and especially do not want to make the scientifically necessary changes.”

    I wish Mr. Pauli would explain scientifically what changes will necessarily stabilize climate – and how to educate the public to recognize the stability thus achieved. Failure to do so may provoke cynical comments from physicists and educators .

    ” But this deeply established human trait is cemented by our high carbon consuming culture. This kind of thinking is directly encouraged by professional PR campaigns from American Petroleum Institute and just about any fossil fuel company. Just why does ANY carbon fuel company NEED to advertise? What is their real message?”

    Why don’t the foundation PR executives that have created such outreach campaigns as RC make it a point of honor to publicly invite their opposite numbers to all their events- even the Cold War had its SALT talks.

    ” News organizations themselves are blinded by a commercial bias. Count the advertising content on broadcast TV and printed media and see many automobile, coal, gasoline commercials and ads for products so heavily engaged in carbon fuel consumption.

    Ever since Earth Day 1970, Green TV has cut a swathe through prime time and the children’s hour alike , Fossil fuel advocates never got equal time on _Captain Planet_ , and from Teletubbies to NOVA , public television is connected to the environmental movement by a revolving door the Pentagon might envy, providing literally billions in free time for climate activism’s advertisements for itself.

    ” When carbon fuel empires help establish media empires, what kind of news stories will be permitted? What brave news editor or media publisher will attack their own funding source with news or opinion? If they do, then how long and how deeply will they analyze the problem?”

    _Vide supra _ , Mr. Pauli.
    ”.

    ” This is the very beginning of a battle of perceptions, that must precede fundamental change. The change required is colossal, and few people want to look directly at such a ugly situation…. (cynicism off)

    Many thanks go to the Metcalf Institute for hosting and disseminating this important information. Kudos to all the other valuable resources for communicating this issue. These are wonderful supports to help improve media outlets themselves, whether broadcast or web or print.”

    What an important valuable and wonderful reminder that though a climate war presupposes confrontational symmetry, the first amendment and the growth of webcasting guarantees that any number of ideologues can direct high bandwidth propaganda at audiences of all ages without fear of their opponents securing equal time .

    All citation is to some degree selective, but it is not in the semiotic interest of those who speak of “hosting and disseminating this important information “ to remind their audiences that they are acting as self-appointed arbiters—and censors — of popular culture. Will enlisting the Advertising Council and Vanity Fair, or GE and Swiss Re in this high crusade tend to advance science more than the temptation to politicize it ?

    Few foundations, or television networks, seem anxious to explore that dark frontier.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 18 Jan 2009 @ 12:31 PM

  65. Barton Paul Levenson (62) wrote “I have fixed the broken link at the bottom.” I don’t understand. Please explain more fully. Thank you.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Jan 2009 @ 1:45 PM

  66. David,

    The link to my planetary temperatures page was to the old AOL site. AOL shut down all its web hosting in October, so I had to move to a new location. The new link links to the new location (http://www.geocities.com/bpl1960/NewPlanetTemps.html, remove the hyphen and paste in to see the page

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 19 Jan 2009 @ 9:33 AM

  67. At the AGU meeting in december there was a workshop on “Effectively Communicating Climate Change”.

    Some useful materials that were used are at http://cires.colorado.edu/education/k12/makingclimatehot/

    I remember one participant making the following analogy to clarify what the IPCC process is all about:
    Imagine that you are very sick, but you’re not entirely satisfied with the diagnosis of your doctor. You decide to ask for a second opinion, and it basically confirms the original diagnosis. Still not sure whether they have it right or wrong, you decide to sollicit the opinions of hundreds of experts from all over the world, have them go through all the professional literature on your symptons and background. They write up their findings in three large volumes. The original diagnosis is by and large confirmed by this bringing together of the world’s knowledge on the topic.

    It then is up to you to ignore or take to heart such a consensus amongst experts on the diagnosis and associated risks.

    [Response: The doctor analogy is a very effective one, and I believe that Richard Sommerville is the original source of it. I participated in the AGU session mentioned above, and there were a number of extremely insightful talks, including one by Tony Socci who is mentioned in this post. Unfortunately, the session was up against Jim Hansen's public lecture and didn't get a fraction of the audience it deserved to. Hopefully AGU will plan things better next time. -mike]

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 20 Jan 2009 @ 4:52 AM

  68. Barton Paul Levenson (66) — Thank you. My file of useful links is now updated. :-)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Jan 2009 @ 2:52 PM

  69. # 67

    But Bart, imagine if 31,000 dead people and veternarians and smoke alarm makers signed a petition against those experts!!

    Comment by Chris Colose — 20 Jan 2009 @ 3:10 PM

  70. Worth reading, or rereading:

    The Many Travails of Ben Santer
    Paul D. Thacker
    Environ. Sci. Technol., 2006, 40 (19), pp 5834–5837
    Publication Date (Web): October 1, 2006 (FEATURE)
    DOI: 10.1021/es063000t
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es063000t

    M Lahsen, “The Detection and Attribution of Conspiracies: The Controversy Over Chapter 8,” book chapter in George E. Marcus (ed.) Paranoia Within Reason: A Casebook on Conspiracy as Explanation, Vol. 6, Late Editions Series, 1999 9 – books.google.com

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=M7t938YH5C4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA111&dq=%22Benjamin+Santer%22+Seitz+correction&ots=omO-T5y9_Z&sig=iQcI9LnHdHUVEUHObB3DJinisiY

    “… Analysis of the statements Seitz listed …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jan 2009 @ 4:50 PM

  71. On the same subject, also worth rereading:

    http://www.ucar.edu/communications/quarterly/summer96/insert.html

    “… On behalf of the Executive Committee of the American Meteorological Society and the Trustees of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), we take this opportunity to support you and the other scientists who have participated in the preparation of the recent IPCC report, Climate Change 1995…

    There appears to be a concerted and systematic effort by some individuals to undermine and discredit the scientific process that has led many scientists working on understanding climate to conclude that there is a very real possibility that humans are modifying Earth’s climate on a global scale. Rather than carrying out a legitimate scientific debate through the peer-reviewed literature, they are waging in the public media a vocal campaign against scientific results with which they disagree….”

    Read the whole thing. Compare it to today.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jan 2009 @ 5:01 PM

  72. > I wish Mr. Pauli would explain scientifically
    > what changes will necessarily stabilize climate …

    Consult an expert:

    http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2008/11/18/f-savory-broecker.html
    CLIMATE CHANGE Q&A
    Wallace Broecker: How to calm an angry beast

    ———
    This reminds me of a story that the rangers at Wind Cave National Park used to tell, that happened back in the 1950s but could still happen today.

    Wind Cave is the smallest Park, an open range for wildlife, with fences at the perimeter and around the little visitor center. Otherwise you’re out on tallgrass prairie. The signs at the pullouts warn that buffalo are easily angered and run faster than you, so leave them alone.

    The story, a park legend after decades, goes something like this:

    Someone reported an abandoned car at a pullout. The rangers went to look and found it. Looking around, they found, far out on the prairie, a tourist, still alive, but badly broken in all his major parts, trampled.

    They sent him off, but impounded his camera as evidence and developed the film.

    The series of photographs showed what happened:
    – a buffalo through a car windshield.
    – a buffalo from a higher vantage, perhaps on top of the car.
    – a buffalo from fairly close, it was a big male, and asleep.
    – the same buffalo from all different angles, still asleep.
    – the last picture — a shoe nudging the buffalo in the ribs.

    So, you ask, what can one do to stabilize an angry beast? Think about it. Something will occur to you.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Jan 2009 @ 7:30 PM

  73. You know what guys?? I just don’t get it. You keep claiming that the real climate scientists have all the answers, but when real questions arise – guess what – no meaningful responses come.

    Please please please get your act together, and provide meaningful responses to the questions being asked at CA, Icecap et al. Seems to me that they are reasonable questions, and I am baffled as to why you don’t come out, all guns blazing. In not responding, you cede the game to them. Is that what you really want??

    Comment by concerned of berkeley — 21 Jan 2009 @ 4:25 AM

  74. This won’t be a shock here, but worth noting:

    “97% of climatologists agree with AGW theory:”

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas

    /01/19/eco.globalwarmingsurvey/index.html

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Jan 2009 @ 8:22 AM

  75. concerned, Did it ever occur to you that Gavin et al. have day jobs? In fact their day jobs include the answers to the questions posed by the tin-foil hat crew at CA and WUWT, etc. However they hide them in a diabolically clever hiding place where the wannabes over there would never find them: in the open, peer-reviewed science literature. Shhh! Don’t let them know I told you.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Jan 2009 @ 9:13 AM

  76. I have a basic question. Something unknown causes an initial rise in temperature, which causes an increase in CO2 and a feedback effect which causes a further rise in temperature. I would like to know what causes this warming period to end and what is then going on during the following cooling period?

    Comment by Jon — 21 Jan 2009 @ 11:28 AM

  77. Jon, try the “Start Here” button on the top toolbar, and the first link under Science in the right hand sidebar, you’ll find various answers to that for different times in the past.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Jan 2009 @ 11:48 AM

  78. Jon, purely as an example, if you can get to a library, look this one up. Note there’s a correction, that’s for a typo in the stated length of the time period in the first article.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=plankton+cooled+greenhouse

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Jan 2009 @ 12:06 PM

  79. Another reminder that early work in science need not even be right, and certainly need not be complete. Science doesn’t descend from some original work by some grand founder on a pillar; science grows like, well, like life, it turns out. Success is measured by offspring.
    No single root, no single stem, no single founder’s work on which everything later depends. Science succeeds like kudzu or dandelions.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126921.600-why-darwin-was-wrong-about-the-tree-of-life.html?full=true

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Jan 2009 @ 6:26 PM

  80. Hank Roberts

    That is kind of interesting..I remember 1995 well..

    If you take a look at the temperature data again you will notice that 1994 and 1995 were also relative cool years (below the warming trend)…

    I bet if we plot the amount of denialist crap posted against it we can find some kind of correlation..

    relative cool year (below warming trend) => more main stream media climate change smoke screens and other forms of dubious anti climate science lobbies and campaigns…

    Better prepare…
    The climate change infowar will be intensified in 2009..

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/12/07/very-warm-2008-makes-this-hottest-decade-in-recorded-history-by-far/

    Comment by Harmen — 22 Jan 2009 @ 12:13 AM

  81. Harmen, 80, I read that as “smoke screams”.

    Which when I think about it, is probably more appropriate!

    Comment by Mark — 22 Jan 2009 @ 3:57 AM

  82. Jon writes:

    I have a basic question. Something unknown causes an initial rise in temperature, which causes an increase in CO2 and a feedback effect which causes a further rise in temperature. I would like to know what causes this warming period to end and what is then going on during the following cooling period?

    It’s a converging series rather than a diverging series. 1 + 1/2 + 1/4… instead of 1 + 1 + 1…

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 Jan 2009 @ 9:02 AM

  83. You are probably right Mark…

    The terror funk is our worst enemy…

    I dumped my tv but i still have radio..
    http://anti-television.tribe.net/thread/fff6e703-a299-45b7-a76c-fa725084c4a9#a9f7e116-9247-419e-a7dc-85f169e4f815

    *sigh*

    Comment by Harmen — 22 Jan 2009 @ 11:04 AM

  84. Aside on science education generally — don’t neglect the blogs in the sidebar; there are some by scientists doing very interesting work (“Head in a Cloud” is one of my favorites). They could be helped out by people asking questions to draw the authors out on their areas of expertise.

    I’d love to see more people drawing out these scientists who’ve put themselves out there by posing them questions that a smart middle-schooler might think to ask and learn from.

    What would your grandchildren, okay, children, okay, younger siblings (grin) want to know?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Jan 2009 @ 2:11 PM

  85. This week I listened to a story on NPR about climate change. In this piece, people often referred to the problem of feedbacks, mostly the positive ones. I understand the concept of feedbacks and their significance to physical or chemical systems that undergo rapid changes. In climate change, it is not simply the greenhouse effect of CO2 that is most significant, but the feedbacks which are driven by it. For example, greenhouse warming as a result of more CO2 causes more water evaporation and since water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, we have even more warming and so on. My question is, if the earth’s climate is so sensitive to something like atmospheric CO2 concentration that it is quickly driven to a point of instability why hasn’t one of the myriad number of natural perturbations to the earth’s heat balance already triggered an environmental catastrophe? If significant global warming can result from atmospheric CO2 levels, it seems like it would have already occurred.

    [Response: 'Feedback' in a climate science context is not a runaway process - it is an amplifying or damping process. Thus feedbacks due to ice-alebedo or water vapour or clouds affect all environmental perturbations (whether drive by CO2, the sun, the orbit or volcanoes). See this post for more details. - gavin]

    Comment by Tom — 25 Jan 2009 @ 3:23 PM

  86. Global warming, simple version: CO2 traps heat. Adding CO2 to the Earth’s air is like putting a lid on a pot of water on a cooktop. It is very hard to predict where every bubble of vapor will form and rise, and where every droplet of water will condense and fall, but it is a simple physical certainty that the pot will get hotter and boil faster.

    Comment by richard schumacher — 27 Jan 2009 @ 11:23 AM

  87. Re #85, and Gavin’s Response:

    “For example, greenhouse warming as a result of more CO2 causes more water evaporation and since water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, we have even more warming and so on.”

    I thought that Tom had it wrong, since my understanding is that there is a negative temperature feedback associated with water vapor that is quite well known – that is, rising temperatures cause more water evaporation, which generates more clouds which increase albedo which reflects more of the sun’s heat, resulting in a cooling process. However, I checked the link Gavin provides, to find:

    “the water vapour feedback (as air temperatures rise, water vapour amounts increase, and due to the greenhouse effect of the vapour, this leads to more warming)”. This in a section headed “Positive Feedback”. Gavin goes on to discuss negative feedback, but somehow omits to mention the increased cloud effect. Is it not a factor in moderating tropical temperatures?

    [Response: Cloud feedbacks exist of course, but since clouds can be warming or cooling dependent on altitude and type, the overall feedback is complex. Obviously it is important to climate, but it isn't what people are talking about when they talk about water vapour feedbacks. - gavin]

    Comment by herbert stencil — 27 Jan 2009 @ 12:51 PM

  88. # 87 (herbert)

    As Gavin mentions, the water vapor and cloud feedbacks are different issues (though not unrelated). Water vapor is positive, and clouds…well…they are likely positive, but that’s more uncertain. You certainly can’t decide based on thought experiments like “more evaporation means more clouds which means higher albedo.” If this were so self-evident than there would not be as much uncertainty as there is. Cloud formation is not just based on absolute values of water vapor and evaporation, and also, whether a cloud provides a net warming or cooling effect depends on its altitude and other things.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 27 Jan 2009 @ 2:18 PM

  89. Re Richard Schumacher @86, I’m just a lay reader here, but I think your lid on a warming pot is even worse than the greenhouse analogy. Both add warmth because the lid/glass prevents convection, not because of radiative forcing.

    Greenhouse gases add warmth by 1) through absorption and emission of infrared energy they redirect some outgoing IR back down to the surface, and 2) through molecular collision they convert some of the outgoing energy into kinetic energy in the atmosphere. Both mechanisms raise the temperature at which outgoing IR reaching space will once again equal incoming solar insolation.

    The sink analogy with a fixed inflow rate but a restricted drain, and therefore a reduced outflow rate, is a much better analogy, but since it uses reduced water flow and the resulting increase in water pressure as the sink fills, rather than heat, it does not translate well for some people.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 27 Jan 2009 @ 4:46 PM

  90. Oh, dear:

    NYT, Tuesday Jan. 27th:

    “Emissions Cut Won’t Bring Quick Relief, Scientists Say
    By CORNELIA DEAN

    Researchers said hopes that global warming will be slowed once emissions of heat-trapping gases decline are ill-founded, at least with regard to carbon dioxide….”

    YEAH, DUH! Excuse me. But …
    Well, it’s true, but it’s not news.

    And reading the various little blurbs around the NYT about it, it’s being pitched almost like that ‘Darwin Was Wrong’ thing in New Scientist last week, or the Newsweek cover last year. Pitched to make it look like it’s news about scientists changing their minds.

    Is this just pandering to get people to pick up and read the story? Or am I overreacting?

    Andy Revkin, if you’re here — sanity check please?

    We know — we’ve known for a long time — about “committed warming” or “warming in the pipeline” or “lag time” or “climate sensitivity” — it’s been studied.

    It’s like one of Piaget’s stages, I guess.

    Kids below some critical age don’t understand that when you change the size or shape of a container, the liquid inside. remains the same volume. Kids outgrow that.

    Adults even with PhDs in most cases don’t understand that when you increase greenhouse gases, the climate takes centuries at least to reach a new equilibrium temperature. Whether people outgrow this remains unproven.

    It’s the same basic principle — conservation of matter — but in a far more complicated presentation.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/f367413412565006/
    “… We report experiments with highly educated adults – graduate students at MIT – showing widespread misunderstanding of the fundamental stock and flow relationships, including mass balance principles, that lead to long response delays. GHG emissions are now about twice the rate of GHG removal from the atmosphere. GHG concentrations will therefore continue to rise even if emissions fall, stabilizing only when emissions equal removal. In contrast, most subjects believe atmospheric GHG concentrations can be stabilized while emissions into the atmosphere continuously exceed the removal of GHGs from it. These beliefs – analogous to arguing a bathtub filled faster than it drains will never overflow – support wait-and-see policies but violate conservation of matter…..”

    Even the good educational models
    http://www.sustainabilityinstitute.org/tools_resources/climatebathtubsim.html
    don’t convey how long warming goes on before new equilibrium is reached.

    “Momentum” is another word:

    “… most people do not have a good understanding of the climate system and, in particular, persistently underestimate the momentum of the climate system.”

    But, egad, the NYT ought to do better.
    But I tried to write a pithy headline and couldn’t do it.

    “Climate ‘Angry Beast’ — Public Finally Gets Clue, Scientists Say”

    Nah, too long for a headline.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Jan 2009 @ 10:57 PM

  91. > bathtub

    Here’s the simulator explanatory page for it:
    http://www.seed.slb.com/en/scictr/watch/climate_change/challenge.htm (click on the image where it says to)

    This simulation is very simple, all you can do is all we know how to do right now, alter our use of fossil fuel:

    – allow increased CO2 emissions (current practice)
    – level off CO2 emissions
    – reduce rate of CO2 emissions

    Goal — keep the bathtub from overflowing, which roughly equates to making a real mess of the world.

    The rate of removal (the “drain” or biogeochemical cycling”) is fixed in this simple simulation. That would be the wished-for-pony, that we don’t yet have control of.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Jan 2009 @ 11:07 PM

  92. Excellent, Hank. Bookmarked!
    With the concurrent graphs that simulation makes it much more clear and easy for the average person without a strong science background to understand the analogy.
    Thanks.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 28 Jan 2009 @ 10:40 AM

  93. Some interesting lessons to be drawn from events of the last week or so, I would think.

    Comment by herbert stencil — 8 Feb 2009 @ 1:17 AM

  94. RE: #85 “if the earth’s climate is so sensitive to atmospheric CO2 concentration…why hasn’t (it) already triggered an environmental catastrophe?”

    Just wait until the oceans cannot absorb further CO2, and it is then reflected back into the atmosphere. I think then we will see a magnification of the greenhouse effect, with a sudden and steeper shift upwards in concentration and effect. M

    Comment by markr — 9 Feb 2009 @ 9:35 AM

  95. Tom #85, so how sensitive should CO2 be then?

    “It’s rising but it can’t be CO2 because if it WAS CO2 then it would be rising FAASTER” seems to be your latest Bright Idea ™.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Feb 2009 @ 11:05 AM

  96. From Island Press, at this link:
    http://www.islandpress.org/challengeofglobalwarming

    A book from 21 years ago, now free as a download:

    The Challenge of Global Warming
    ~Download the book or James Hansen’s chapter for free~

    On June 23, 1988, NASA Scientist James E. Hansen testified on Capital Hill before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Hansen told the Senate committee that global warming was real – and was happening now. One year later, Hansen wrote about this issue along with a group of other contributors in The Challenge of Global Warming, edited by Dean Edwin Abrahamson.

    To commemorate Hansen’s crucial testimony, we are making the book (or just Hansen’s chapter) available as a free download to help educate people on the effects of global warming, greenhouse gases, and what policy responses are needed to combat what is still the “environmental challenge of our time.”

    • Download the entire book (15.7MB).

    • Download James E. Hansen’s chapter, “The Greenhouse Effect: Impacts on Current Global Temperature and Regional Heat Waves” (3.6MB).

    It’s at the link.
    Along with a lot worth reading, and audio files, and more.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Feb 2009 @ 12:11 AM

  97. Great site. I write about GW for the Rico (Colorado) Bugle, a small town newspaper, and frequently cite your stuff. Now that I’ve “broken the code” on posting, I expect I will have some questions.

    Comment by John Burgeson — 11 Feb 2009 @ 4:51 PM

  98. Just after posting the above, I got an email from a “friend” with “breaking news.” I have appended some of it below.

    How are such arguments properly handled?

    Thanks

    John
    ———————-
    Physics professor Nir Joseph Shaviv, one of the world’s leading researchers into astrophysics and climate science, has joined the lineup of more than 70 presenters at the second International Conference on Climate Change in New York March 8-10. (note — a skeptics conference. – jb)

    Dr. Shaviv, 37, an associate professor at the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is a leading proponent of the theory that solar and cosmic rays, not human activity, are the driving forces behind climate change. He will join other elite climatologists, economists, political leaders, and global warming skeptics as they confront the issue, “Global warming: Was it ever really a crisis?”

    James M. Taylor, senior fellow at The Heartland Institute … said,”Nir Shaviv is unquestionably one of the world’s most expert scientists studying the link between fluctuating solar output and resulting temperature changes on Earth. His research into solar activity casts substantial doubt on the theory that humans are causing a global warming crisis.”

    Taylor added that prominent scientific and political proponents of the assertion that the Earth is in crisis due to man-made global warming–including former Vice President Al Gore, NASA’s James Hansen, and Michael Mann…were invited to speak at the conference. None accepted the invitation.

    Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, producer of the event along with more than 50 co-sponsors, said, “In the past nine months, the science has grown even more convincing that global warming is not a crisis. The crisis has been cancelled by sound science and common sense.”

    Several hundred are expected to attend the event, which will feature presentations by:

    Vaclav Klaus, the Czech Republic’s opinionated president and current president of the European Union.
    American astronaut Dr. Jack Schmitt
    Richard Lindzen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading experts in dynamic meteorology, especially planetary waves
    William Gray, Colorado State University, leading researcher into tropical weather patterns
    Willie Soon, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    Roy Spencer, University of Alabama at Huntsville, principal research scientist and team leader on NASA’s Aqua satellite

    Comment by John Burgeson — 11 Feb 2009 @ 5:06 PM

  99. John Burgeson (98) — We have been through this many times before:

    (1) No change in GCRs or average solar activity for many decades now;
    (2) Continued increase in measured CO2 concentration, since at least 1958 CE;
    (3) Carbon dioxide is a global warming (so-called greenhouse) gas, as first measured by John Tyndall in 1859 CE.

    What conclusion would you draw?

    I recommend reading “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html

    Review of above:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E7DF153DF936A35753C1A9659C8B63

    for further background.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Feb 2009 @ 6:07 PM

  100. John, when people email you such stuff, try this:

    – taking likely strings from it and pasting them into the Google Scholar search bar. Often you’ll find nothing.

    – Then try pasting the same string into Google. Often you will find multiple instances of copypaste; sometimes you can track them back to an original source. If not, see if any of the places it appears look like science sites. If so

    – ask what the person’s source is and why they consider it reliable. Then look _that_ up.

    That will often save you the trouble of repeating in full the same stuff once again.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Feb 2009 @ 7:39 PM

  101. P.S. to John — you did download — and read– the book described at the top of the post already?

    http://metcalfinstitute.org/Communicating_ClimateChange.htm

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Feb 2009 @ 7:41 PM

  102. John Burgeson, One way of assessing the credibility and influence of a researcher is to look at their publication record. For climate science, this is an invaluable resource:

    http://www.eecg.utoronto.ca/~prall/climate/climate_authors_table.html

    You will note that the Heartland attendees are WAY down the list. This is not because they are industry shills or bad researchers. Rather it is because their prejudice against the consensus science leaves them at a terrible disadvantage when it comes to explaining the climate. The consensus is agreed upon because the ideas it contains are so bloody useful. One of those ideas is the importance of CO2 as a long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gas. One inescapable consequence of that is that humans are responsible for the current warming epoch.

    Enjoy your retirement. BTW, where were you at IBM. I have an Uncle who is also retired from the Boulder branch, and one of the post docs on my experiment when I was in grad school is also an IBMer.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 Feb 2009 @ 8:26 PM

  103. Are you folks aware of the recent work of Bruce J West and Nicola Scafetta? See
    http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/opinion0308.pdf
    for a brief summary with references. I know the variations of the irradience of the sun are considered to have a negligible effect on climate due to their small size, but it’s possible these guys have a new approach to analysis that uncovers some previously overlooked effects.

    [Response: Yes we are aware, and no they don't uncover any overlooked effects. Their approach is simply a single factor statistical fit where they vary the different frequencies to match the observed variance. It has the same physical content as a fourier transform (i.e. none). - gavin]

    Comment by Bill Hamilton — 13 Feb 2009 @ 2:56 PM

  104. To Hank, who posted: “P.S. to John — you did download — and read– the book described at the top of the post already?”

    Yes, I read most of it yesterday afternoon. Great book. I have recommended it in another thread.

    To all — thanks for comments. I am still feeling my way along this site.

    To Ray — thanks for link reference. I worked for IBM from early 1957 through the summer of 1994, in Akron, Cleveland, Endicott, Chicago, Boca Raton and Austin.

    Comment by John Burgeson — 13 Feb 2009 @ 3:59 PM

  105. Gavin,

    Are you sure that’s all there is to it? Yes, I agree that Scafetta’s claim that he used wavelets doesn’t necessarily add any content beyond Fourier. But they claim to have found a stochastic resonance, wherein a small excitation can lead to a large response. Obviously the temperature increase must be governed by the total input energy — they are just saying the temperature increase needs to be apportioned differently.

    [Response: But this is simply based on statistical fits that are done independently in each frequency. There is no physics there. -gavin]

    Comment by Bill Hamilton — 13 Feb 2009 @ 8:17 PM

  106. Good blog on communicating science, here:
    http://www.themadnessofscientists.blogspot.com/

    Hat to http://kenmacleod.blogspot.com/ (always worth reading)
    where he introduces the above link with:

    “Scientists themselves would be the first to agree that portrayals of them on TV and in films are always wildly unrealistic. But then so are most portrayals of musicians, journalists, violinmakers and others whose numbers are so low that most people never meet one. (From a very interesting and amusing (if long-winded) disillusioned account of the whole worthy enterprise of ‘public understanding of science’.)…”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Mar 2009 @ 9:38 PM

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