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Communicating Science & Technology

Filed under: — rasmus @ 23 June 2006

I recently attented a conference on communicating science and technology in Tromsø, Norway June 6-9 (CST060606). The conference was filmed and the presentations can be viewed over the internet broadcast. There were many very good presentations bringing up important points, and one by Lawrence Krauss (Science under Attack) should not be missed. Also, the presentation by the nobel laurate Ivar Giaever provides a lot of food for thought, and Janet Sumner told how the science can be ‘jazzed up’ and made more accesible on the BBC (touching onto the climate science – climate chaos season – and showing clips of ‘Rough science’, ‘Labrats’ and ‘Science Shack’, in association with the Open University). The conference was attended by scientists, teachers, politicians, and people from the media. The topics of presentations span issues such as climate, ID, media, schools, and politics (the Norwegian minister of education). [I also gave a fairly diasterous :-( presentation on communicating climate with reference to :-).]

96 Responses to “Communicating Science & Technology”

  1. 51
    tom root says:

    Please forward this to Mr. Riley

    “Pictures tell stories. One of the most dramatic ways, I believe, of communicating the issue of global warming, is to generate a map of future coastal positions due to eustatic sea level rise. We have just tried this at the BGS for Europe. Unfortunately, for 1m rise, the DTM data is not good enough to really bring things out accurately- but the 7m rise that will happen, just by Greenland’s ice going, is quite dramatic- and of course we would reach 7m before Greenland went. We have also done a map at 90m – assuming all the world’s ice goes- and much of the UK, and lowland Europe is thus submerged. Denmark, the Netherlands, the German and Polish plains, and much of western Russia ceases to exist.

    Before we put the map out on the web- can anyone give me the latest estimate (with reference) of sea level rise for if all the ice melted?.

    Comment by Nick Riley – 24 Jun 2006 @ 3:20 am”

    The Fall Line in the southeastern US (and runs up past Maine) is the approximate high point for sea level when all ice has melted. That would be the altitude of cities such as Augusta, Ga., Macon, Ga. or Columbus, Ga. I think that it’s elevation is just under 300 feet.

  2. 52
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #49 (SS): Ray made no reference to a model. In any event, to say that the amount of heat being trapped can be thought of in terms of heat generated by any means one wants to postulate (light bulbs, portable heaters, rodents on exercise wheels, political speeches, Canadian “auditing” blogs) is reasonable to do without addressing the irrelevant question of whether point sources of heat low in the atmosphere would act identically to GHGs.

    Re #50 (SS): You would first have to show that electronics models are in any way appropriate to use for climate. In any case the point you were responding to was discussing climate tipping points, which are hard to model since we have not had the benefit of being able to observe them happening. It seems to me that denialists like you are not at all “agnostic” about tipping points; rather you take the uncertainty surrounding them as a reason to ignore them.

  3. 53
    Wacki says:

    Re: #48

    Lindzen has a ton (216 to be exact) of papers in journals.

    However, he went from 12 journals in 2002 to 1 journal in 2003. 2 in 2004 and 0 in 2005.

    As for his lack of recent papers Lindzen responds in the WSJ:

    “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”

    His response is somewhat tough to respond to given his history and status at MIT. Not that I believe him of course. However, Academia does contain a high percentage of the “far left”. Anyone that has worked in academia has surely seen anti-bush computer print outs taped to a wide variety of lab equipment. Although I am extremely skeptical about some sort of Science/Nature/Cell conspiracy, sometimes I wonder if some how many scientists funding have been cut simply because people simply didn’t agree with their research. And given how tight funding is, it’s certainly plausible. Again, it’s merely something I simply can’t rule out at this point.

    Outside of his Annan bet (which reason had a *somewhat* resonable albeit shady response to) and now this Peiser incident, I don’t have much ammo to use against Lindzen.

    [Response: If Lindzen had any evidence that his funds had been cut off due to his views on global warming, you can be sure that we would have seen it. Similarly, you can see for yourself what kind of research gets funded – I’d be impressed if you can find evidence for exaggeration for the sake of funding. Having been on a number of panels that dish out grant money, I can assure you that a) it’s very competitive, b) panelists and reveiwers are pretty tough on unsupported claims, c) the grants that get funded are the ones that are most interesting, tractable and acheivable, not ones that will support some pre-determined outcome. -gavin]

  4. 54

    #44 None better time to answer Lindzen’s assertion with hard facts, something
    he might respect. A scientist census seems needed on the subject of AGW (aside from impressive IPCC). Its time for a survey with teeth, or if there was one done, to make it known once again…

  5. 55
    Steve Sadlov says:

    RE: #52 – “It seems to me that denialists like you are not at all “agnostic” about tipping points; rather you take the uncertainty surrounding them as a reason to ignore them.”

    Stopping trying to pigeonhole me. I am trying to solve a problem. Solving it would be good for the environment. So, if you are truly motivated by ecological considerations, you ought to want to solve the problem as well.

  6. 56
    Eli Rabett says: for maps of the US East Coast lower than 3.5 m. Click on the map to blow it up

    Located through Jim Titus’ links

  7. 57
    cwmagee says:

    re 47 (and getting off-topic)
    The runaway greenhouse in the original civ was due to simplicity, not complexity. basically:
    1. unlike later versions, the first game did not equilibrate warming based on pollution levels. As long as the threshhold level was exceeded, it just kept initiating warming events.
    2. In the first version, the AI was incapable of cleaning up pollution, so there was no way to clean up pollution in enemy territory. So if, like my brother, you nuked a large number of enemy cities but then failed to capture them, the pollution in the enemy territory would keep warming the map forever.

    Perhaps the next version will include climate effects in its strategic calculations, so that an AI side in a lush region would intentionally pollute if its adversary relied on irrigated, marginal land.

  8. 58
  9. 59
    pat neuman says:

    re 56.

    Also, public users can now go to:
    click: ChgSeaLevel
    click: EPA maps -regions vul to initial SL rise
    click: little map of east half of U.S. for blow up, …

    … which shows regions vulnerabe to sea level rises based on epa modeled elevations along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

    Note that the comment at the bottom of the image is to the link below.

    At the link it states: Maps of Lands Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise: Modeled Elevations along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts was originally published in Climate Research , 18:205-228 (2001). You can download the underlying geographical information system (GIS) data for an example quadrangle and learn how to obtain the entire dataset underlying this study.

  10. 60
    Matt says:

    I notice the geo engineers are getting a little more communication space in the media.


  11. 61
    Gerald Kelleher says:

    Climate scientists tend to explain global climate norms through and astronomical mechanism based on hemispherical meteorological patterns and extend these patterns over a longer period to morph into ‘climate studies’.

    Take a look at the temperature signatures over the course of an annual orbit of the Earth,a truly global perspective of climate –

    The oscillation of the temperature bands is a consequence of both the inclination to direct radiation and the amou8nt of time the geographical latitude spends in the Earth’s orbital shadow.

    The unfortunate consequence of allowing an archaic variable axial tilting Earth to dictate global climate norms is hardly an occasion to fault the public for its low interest and knowledge on the subject.


    Gerald Kelleher

  12. 62
    Nick Riley says:

    Re #51- Tom,
    Thank you for that link- 300 feet is close to what we have chosen for Europe- we have contoured at 90m rise above present sea-level for the full melt of present day ice.

    This can only be approximate because of isostatic/tectonic effects- but its good enough to convey the main impression.

  13. 63
    C. W. Magee says:

    How “on board” are meteorologists with the whole climate change business? If you REALLY want to wake people up about climate, you need to get the TV weatherman involved. Specifically, instead of comparing the day’s weather to the 30 year mean, he needs to compare it to both the pre-1970 mean, and to the IPCC “best guess” projection.

  14. 64
    Hank Roberts says:

    Kim Stanley Robinson’s book “40 Signs of Rain” reads well next to today’s East Coast weather reports.

    Both predict more rain and higher floods as inland storms collide with Atlantic storms.

    Makes me wonder what one really big longterm rainstorm would do toward melting the Greenland ice, if warm rain went on for days as it’s doing all over the East Coast.

  15. 65
    Kent Bye says:

    First I wanted to thank you for this blog, it’s certainly a very informative resource for those with a science background.

    I realize that you are professional scientists and not in the business of countering every piece of disinformation that emerges from the political arena, but I was wondering if this group could shed some light on this press release from the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works: AP Incorrectly Claims Scientists Praise Gore’s Movie

    The AP published this article: Scientists OK Gore’s movie for accuracy And this EPW committee seems to be trying to muddy the waters as characterized by the Center for America Progress’ blog Think Progress in this post: Senate Committee Launches Taxpayer-Funded Misinformation Campaign About Gore Movie

    This EPW release is getting a lot of play in the Global Warming denying sections of the blogosphere. I realize that you already weighed in with your thoughts on Gore’s movie, but this example highlights the fact that right now the scientific community does not have a mechanism to explicitly express and communicate consensus viewpoints that can counter deliberate disinformation campaigns.

    To make matters worse, the “He Said / She Said” journalistic paradigm fails to handle the complexities of these issues, and so citizens are left with political think tanks and industry-funded propaganda to interpret / minimize the political implications of your work.

    I would love to see this group engage in this dialogue that is emerging right now by doing some truth squatting of this EPW press release in plain English.

  16. 66
    Coby says:

    The majority of that EPW release seems to be sourced on a particular Canada Free Press article that I look a breif look at here and I link to a Deltoid post that does a more thourough job as well.

    The initial stuff about the AP is really kind of laughable…

  17. 67
    pat neuman says:

    re 63.

    In reply, meteorologists were not on board before Bush took office in 2001. Meteorologists at NOAA National Weather Service offices in Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit were telling people (in 2003) that there is no global warming problem. Most meteorologists today probably still think and say to others that global warming isn’t a problem, so most people in the U.S. who listen to them continue to get the message that global warming is not a problem.

  18. 68
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #45 “you see the famiarity as a good thing, I see it as a bad thing,”

    As a scientist, I agree with you fully. But, as a teacher of college biology to non-science majors, I find the more familiar concepts tend to work best. In fact, there are a number of examples of fairly dramatic “environmental” consequences of small temperature increase: If our body temperature increases by 3 degrees C (37 to 40 C) we will end up in the hospital with a very serious fever; if summer sea surface temperatures in the tropics are a couple of degrees warmer than normal for even a few weeks, corals die; I recently saw an article (possibly in Science, but I don’t have the ref. handy) on how climate warming will likely affect disease outbreaks – I don’t recall if it was malaria, or cholera, or some other disease,but the temperature sensitivity was dramatic – e.g., a one degree C rise in temp. is predicted to cause a 5-fold or so increase in disease prevalance. I do teach my non-majors about specific heat and the notion of water being a temperature buffer (they quickly realize why they can’t comfortably swim along the New England coast until mid-summer, yet can continue swimming into October). But, I am a bit skeptical that switching from temperature rise to heat storage units to convey the seriousness of global warming will “resonate” with the general public. But, given the number of people who are still skeptical about global warming, it might be worth a try.

  19. 69
    Stephen Berg says:

    David Parker’s study that concluded that the Urban Heat Island is not responsible for the current records of large-scale global warming is featured in the current issue of Journal of Climate:

    (A subscription is required to view the full document)

  20. 70
    Steve Sadlov says:

    RE: #64 – Indeed, precisely what does happen when one of those East Coast storm systems reaches Greenland? Good question (although, some here might not like the answer)

  21. 71
    Steve Sadlov says:

    RE: #69 – It’s quite a stretch to comment responsibly on a paper from reading only its abstract. In any case, even based on the abstract I can see some possible problems with that paper. First problem is the a priori assumption of clearly defined “islands” of heat that are particular to urban areas. That’s a nice first level way to understand arthropogenic energy dissipation and arthropgenic environmental modifications, but it’s only a highly simplified first level conceptual model. If you are going to treat the aforementioned direct arthropogenic impacts, a global approach that looks at each and every source of dissipation and every modification is really the only accurate way to encompass it. Good luck trying to do that. First one to do it will definitely be a strong candidate for a Nobel Prize.

  22. 72
    Stephen Berg says:

    Re: #71,

    Steve, I have read more than just the abstract, as my university has an online subscription to the AMS journals. I have also read the Nov. 2004 article in “Nature” and have made a bit more sense of both. If you can get ahold of a full-text version, it would clarify a lot of the findings.

  23. 73
    pat neuman says:

    Latest river flood levels and probabilities

    Click town of interest at:

    To view probability plots, from the plot click “Chance of Exceeding Levels” (upper right box). How’s that for communicating science and technology by a federal agency?

    The probability values are based on NO climate change because NOAA’s National Weather Service is in the dark about global warming and ignores climate change in it’s river forecast modeling procedures.

    Flood victims shouldn’t be in the dark about the rivers and people shouldn’t be in the dark about global warming.

  24. 74
    craigthomas says:

    I ve one question plz………Is there any effect of earthquakes on climatic conditions too apart from earthly destruction?????? reply would be a pleasure.

  25. 75

    [[I ve one question plz………Is there any effect of earthquakes on climatic conditions too apart from earthly destruction?????? reply would be a pleasure. ]]

    There would be some release of greenhouse gases, but the amount would be trivial compared to fossil-fuel burning. Fires due to infrastructure destruction might cause a little temporary cooling due to particulates.

  26. 76

    Ok the latest counter argument from a meteorologist with respect to the recent record breaking warm spell, in a nutshell its the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s all over again, with perhaps the 1890’s! :

    ……………………” “KING: Joining us now for our continuing coverage of the weather situation in the east and Boston is Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He was the lead author of “Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological, and Economic Dimensions.”

    In State College, Pennsylvania is Joe Bastardi, expert senior meteorologist for And at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta is Reynolds Wolf, CNN’s worldwide meteorologist and weather anchor.

    Let’s start with Joe Bastardi. How do you explain all this from a meteorological standpoint? Joe, do you hear me? I don’t hear Joe. Dr. Epstein, we’ll start with you. Is this part of what is supposedly a trend in climate getting worse?

    PAUL EPSTEIN, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Exactly, Larry. We’re seeing a trend in extreme weather events. The fundamental issue is that the oceans have warmed. Over this past half century, the oceans have warmed 22 times more than the atmosphere.

    So what we see is not what we get. And this is where more water is evaporating, we’re seeing ice melting, water vapor rising, and these kinds of events are becoming more common as the atmosphere fills up with water and then when it condenses, it comes down in these buckets.

    KING: So it’s not just hurricanes?

    EPSTEIN: It’s hurricanes, it’s floods, it’s droughts, it’s wildfires in the West. It’s freak storms in the Pacific right now hitting the coast of Chile all the way up to California. This is a pattern of multiple types of events. And the fundamental issue is that the oceans have warmed, ice is melting, water vapor is rising. The whole earth’s water cycle is speeding up. And this is changing our weather patterns and our seasons.

    KING: Reynolds Wolf at CNN’s Weather Center, how do you view it?

    REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The way I view it is I will defer to my colleague in that regard, but I can tell you that for the here and now, we’ve definitely seen an incredible event. The entire scenario there, Larry — earlier you were talking about is there a similarity between this and a tropical system like a hurricane? Well, very similar. We had a stationary front that was sitting right across the Appalachians, that’s upstate New York. We had a system that was forming right off the eastern seaboard, which very, very closely became a tropical depression. That combination gave us this incredible rain event.

    KING: Do you expect this to be a bad summer, Reynolds? Is this a foreteller?

    WOLF: Well, all signs point to that. I mean, there’s no question that things are very, very active in the inner tropical convergence zone, right along the equator where these storms often form and intensify. There’s plenty of warm water out there to sustain these storms. If you happen to have a storm again in the tropics move into an area where there’s a minimal shear environment, I would say yes, it’s very possible for a very active season. But to see more activity like this, definitely it’s possible.

    KING: We can check with Joe Bastardi now, the expert senior meteorologist at Do you share the views of Dr. Epstein, Joe?

    JOE BASTARDI, ACCUWEATHER.COM: Well I’d say it’s a time of climatic hardship in this country, similar to the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. If you do your research on what happened in this country, in the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, this is straight out of that book there, where the Atlantic warm, the Pacific was in a cooling cycle.

    Let’s take a look at what the ocean water temperatures looked like last year at this time. Notice all the warmth up in the Arctic regions and the Atlantic is cooler, except in the tropics.

    Now, we go to this year and we see a cooling in the Arctic regions, but we also see a very warm off eastern seaboard of the United States and into the Gulf of Mexico, closer to the United States. If you go back and do the research, 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s summers of heat and drought in the Plains and attacks on our coastline by tropical systems and non-tropical systems. So we’re right back into that cycle there we had in the 1890s and early part of the century also.

    KING: So Dr. Epstein, Joe is saying, what’s new?

    EPSTEIN: What’s new is that the deep oceans have warmed. It’s not just the sea surface temperatures. And what we’re seeing in weather is a combination of natural cycles and this long-term warming of the oceans.

    What we’ve seen over the last three decades is that rain has increased over the U.S. about seven percent. Heavy rain events, more than two inches a day, have increased 14 percent, and very heavy events have increased 20 percent, over four inches a day.

    So this is what we’re seeing throughout the world. And it’s not just the sea surfaces. They feed these kinds of storms. They feed Katrina. But it’s the warm water that wells that up feeds Rita and the warm water that continues to well up that feeds Wilma. So it’s the sequences of storms.

    KING: And what can be done about it?

    EPSTEIN: What can be done? This is the good question. Because here we’re seeing the insurance industry affected. We’re seeing them begin to discuss new policies and the need for enabling incentives and regulations that can help us move towards healthy solutions that are profitable that can help stabilize the climate.

    KING: Would you say, Joe — Joe, would you say that’s not necessary?

    BASTARDI: Well, I’m not going to say that. But what explains the down tick in the Pacific cycle since the Atlantic has come up? We’re going through a month of June that ties 1954, 1969 for least activity in the Pacific basin.

    So we have to look at the total picture as far as that type of thing goes. I have no doubt this may be some value to human-induced global warming, but there are a lot of things that are happening now that have happened before.

    For instance, how were we measuring deep ocean water temperatures back in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s when we saw similar cycles? We’ve got new instruments now to look at these things. So we’re measuring the same variable with two different set of instruments and sort of looking at things a different way………………..”

    Cooling in the Arctic? interesting:

    ” June 23, 2006 … Kivalliq smashes temperature records. Temperatures soared in the Kivalliq this week, breaking records in both Rankin Inlet …”

  27. 77
    Jim Redden says:

    Hopefully no one will mind if I revisit Al Gore’s movie as a fine example of science education and technology… A long rambling post, but some may have interest.


    While the sharpest bullets of climate change information can be had at the World Resources Institute, ,

    in the form of a short annotated brief, Gore’s movie (and book) has entertainment and education value in that it’s a bit more digestible.

    By intention, the level of language and graphic explication of “An Inconvenient Truth” book seems to reside at the high school level or below; thus, the viewer’s cognitive load is less allocated towards unfamiliar terminology, and more associated with engaging the material.

    Moreover, the key talking points are humanized. In the movie, the creative use of a man-lift to illustrate the “off the charts” level of carbon dioxide, emphasizes “the moving into unfamiliar uncharted territory”. The printed material uses a very strong layout and color scheme, with foldout pages effectively.


    A few weeks after the release of the movie and book, I shared a conversation with a bookseller and customer at the Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica, CA. The 20 year old fellow, who worked at the bookstore, voted for George Bush the last election. The patron, a woman in her late thirties, or so, had seen the movie.

    What was interesting is that the bookseller had read the book, but had not seen the movie–he did, however, feel compelled to see the movie, even though he had missed the free employee screening.

    And the woman: I queried her to determine her level of recall. One thing that stood out for me was that she said that Gore indicated that the hurricanes as of late were caused by global warming. She was unclear on the names of Revelle, and other mentioned players.

    Yet she did clearly grasp the mileage differences amongst the various cars sold in the US and the rest of the world.

    Having seen the movie twice, and read the book, but also after hearing Hugh Willoughby speak on the “hurricane gang’s” view on the random nature of hurricanes, I wondered if the implication of the movie went a bit far. Consistent with global warming? Very. Proven? Not in total.

    Curious, as Gore never states Hurricanes frequency is caused by global warming per se… just that heat drives the engine. My point is that she seemed comfortable with talking about the concepts, and the young Republican, who claimed “compassionate conservative” status, had also experienced an attitude shift as a result of the book.


    One can contrast the modalities of a movie and a book–100 year technology and 600 year technology. A certain humor is afforded by the audio-visual modality of cinema when Gore alludes to the sixth grade teacher who disdains a notion that the continents all fit together (Pangaea), while in the book, this statement is played straight. The cinema also allows the use of sound to cue an emotional orientation.

    Seminal social scientists in the fifties and sixties took to movies as an area of great interest in purposeful activities of attitude change, even when the viewer has self-stated views that contrast and conflict with those presented in a movie. Six to eight weeks later there is a measurable shift.

    In contrast, the book, An Inconvenient Truth, provides insight into how urban living can act to falsely and dangerously separate us from an experiential knowing of the forces and energy exchanges of nature that we all depend on… in the book, Gore relates his past arm’s length interaction with nature, and an implied humility in dealing with nature. These asides are called out on the yellow pages of other anecdotes to round out the human experience.


    Still, I was left to wonder if–now–that an awareness of the situation will result in widespread behavior change. For me, it is pretty clear that when 10,000 scientists converge in San Francisco for an AGU meeting, that there is a lot of oxidized carbon and soot imparted to all levels of the atmosphere. The situation will be the same this year. So what kind of changes, that are beyond the level of individual action, can be made?

    I ride my bike to work, only to watch Arnold Schwarzenneger’s G3 burn more fuel taxiing on the runway than I would burn in an entire year of driving. Other than a karmic point of view, what is the point? Should the externalities of consumption be born by the consumers? This would be a hard pill for America to swallow.

    It’s clear by presenting the work of Scolow and Pacala, Gore acknowledges and supports our need to find structural and big solutions in the motivators of self serving economic behavior..


    Akin to the very technological nature of this forum, online discourse is an interaction that could be carbon neutral. Conferences can be networked via the Internet on a more global level–using technology very much like that I used to view the various presentations linked to at the instigation of this discussion. Bravo.


    When I consider someone like Sallie Ballinaus, with a Manhattan bound urban developed point of view, and a fantasy life of Star Trek, perhaps a lack of experiential learning of nature and the circular relationships contained therein blind her to the sensitivities of the Earth’s life flux. A little money from oil companies also can bind an opinion per Gore’s quote of Upton Sinclair.

    To sum up, it would seem that a minimum base level knowledge of physics and biology, along with ecology, is a requisite to understanding one’s personal involvement (and responsibility) in consumer roles, as well as reasoned democratic action. Therefore, a goal of an education, like David W. Orr has written about, is to ensure that any institution of education weaves ecology into the all of the curriculum. Otherwise, we just continue on a course of ripping the stuff out of the ground faster, thoughtlessly advertise to more pollution, and televise the end of civilization.


    I’d submit to instruct learners in these issues, we must acknowledge and consider diversity, in both state of intellectual development, and also, in encouraging novelty and designing intrinsic rewards of the process.

    The move for scientists to write abstracts with less jargon and more common understandable language is a good one.

    With respect to curriculum development, the learner must be able to interact with the material in both abstract mental, and perhaps even electronic and traditional manual interfaces. The more psychic energy and modalities used to interact, the greater the likelihood of retained learning, and a facility of knowledge.

    B.F. Skinner has a compilation book, The Technology of Teaching, that is actually more relevant today than at the time of publishing, since the tools and acculturation of computer based learning is more receptive. He makes some very interesting points about encouraging exploration and diversity, that to those who have only a superficial understanding of behaviorism, will find surprising.

    Overall, our market driven system seems to work against the short term reward of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Perhaps a systems view and analysis of education and educational systems is on order.


    The flip side of the coin is that any competent leader must have a facility to understand the reliance and overlay of economic systems on general earth systems, and also be able to apply system thinking to the broad scope of social issues to help determine courses of action and predispose human behavior to realize an outcome we all might find tolerable.

    After an “inopportune” chance meeting with Mr. Gore, when he signed some copies of his book in Westwood, it’s clear that Al Gore certainly evidences awareness… Hope he has much luck on this particular mission.

  28. 78
    Mark A. York says:

    The shame is the same disproven fallacies are widely accepted by politicians like this Calif. state senator.


    I appreciate your letter regarding Assembly Bill 32 (Pavley), which
    expands the responsibilities of the California Climate Action Registry
    by requiring certain regulations of greenhouse gas emissions.

    This bill is one of several being pushed through the Legislature that
    advocate a theory that humans are perpetuating catastrophic global
    warming. This theory is based on faulty and incomplete science, and
    given the potentially devastating economic impact of such proposals,
    policymakers must be confident that sufficient scientific evidence
    exists to support the underlying premise of global warming.

    Our planet is subject to natural, periodic shifts in climate. In fact,
    we have seen three distinct periods of atmospheric climate change just
    in the last century: warming in the early 1900’s, cooling in the
    mid-1900’s, and warming toward the end of the century. And remember,
    only three decades ago a TIME magazine cover story warned of apocalyptic
    consequences as a result of the earth’s cooling trend, which gave rise
    to congressional hearings warning of an “Ice Age.”

    While AB 32 is relatively modest, it is still based on the same alarmist
    rhetoric and incomplete science, and I find it difficult to support such
    a measure.


    George Runner

  29. 79
    Steve Sadlov says:

    RE: #76 – certainly, with the ongoing moisture deficit in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, it would appear that at least one aspect of the 1930s appears to be repeating somewhat.

  30. 80

    #79, There are of course familiar weather signs, but none so prevalent as lately,
    this message gets drowned with long time recurring climate disasters. There is as I write, world wide events occurring simultaneously, like melting glaciers, abnormal Arctic warming, continent wide above normal temperatures amongst other features which didn’t occur in the recent past. There is also human history, either oral or written, which reminds us that these days of warmer weather are unusual. Who has ever heard of a planet wide retreat of glaciers in the 30’s?

  31. 81
    llewelly says:

    Who has ever heard of a planet wide retreat of glaciers in the 30’s?

    There was world wide glacier retreat in the 1930s. See Retreat of glaciers since 1850:

    The Little Ice Age was a period from about 1550 to 1850 when the world experienced relatively cool temperatures compared to the present. Subsequently, until about 1940 glaciers around the world retreated as the climate warmed. Glacial retreat slowed and even reversed, in many cases, between 1950 and 1980 as a slight global cooling occurred. However, since 1980 a significant global warming has led to glacier retreat becoming increasingly rapid and ubiquitous, so much so that many glaciers have disappeared and the existence of a great number of the remaining glaciers of the world is threatened.

    Emphasis mine. It is warmer now than it was in the 1930s, and today’s glacier retreat is more severe, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t world-wide glacier retreat in the 1930s.
    I’d call this a nit, but it seems popular to believe AGW is limited to the last 30 years or so. But see this IPCC TAR graph of forcings .
    You can see that the forcing of well-mixed GHGs increases from about 0.5 W/m2 in 1900 to about 0.9 W/m2 in 1950, and the solar forcing increases by about 0.2 W/m2 in the same period. 1980 is not the year global warming began; it is the year it overwhelmed all other forcings.

  32. 82
    Jim Redden says:

    RE: 78 Mark, I can relate to your frustration…

    The response of California congressman George Runner seems to be a variation of a standard response message–as inferred–we have all heard it before from various officials.

    Perhaps the relativistic world of reactive politics, where a specious reality can be created out of rhetoric, makes for a poor lens to determine fact, analyze risk, and be proative.

    Success in politics doesn’t seem to ensure clarity of thought. The solution is a tricky puzzle that seems to elude an easy fix. Education does fit in there somewhere…

    A groundswell of votes seems harder than finding the right levers.

    If 20 scientists lined up, as you were ready to board an airplane, and told you the plane was going to crash, and one, who was paid by the manufacturer, said all was good, would most folks board the plane?

    Perseverance is one key I suppose.

  33. 83
    Mark A. York says:

    “Perseverance is one key I suppose.”

    It is for me.

  34. 84
  35. 85

    I wanna know a lot about “Global warming”, as such i preparing a theisis on it.

    Your site prooved a much better than “Climate audit”. Thanx for the links and loads of information on other subjects too.

  36. 86
    Wacki says:

    Here is a quick question. Of all the mainstream newspapers, who is the most accurate regarding climate change?

    Obviously the WSJ is not on the list.

  37. 87
    Grant says:

    Re: #86

    I certainly don’t know the answer to your question — but I got a good laugh thinking about it! If it’s to be decided by majority vote, I’ll pick “none of the above.”

    I only trust two sources for *accurate* information about global warming: 1. peer-reviewed scientific literature; 2. RealClimate!

  38. 88
    Chuck Booth says:

    An interesting essay by Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert [excerpt]:

    Published on Sunday, July 2, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times
    If Only Gay Sex Caused Global Warming
    Why we’re more scared of gay marriage and terrorism than a much deadlier threat.

    by Daniel Gilbert

    No one seems to care about the upcoming attack on the World Trade Center site. Why? Because it won’t involve villains with box cutters. Instead, it will involve melting ice sheets that swell the oceans and turn that particular block of lower Manhattan into an aquarium.

    The odds of this happening in the next few decades are better than the odds that a disgruntled Saudi will sneak onto an airplane and detonate a shoe bomb. And yet our government will spend billions of dollars this year to prevent global terrorism and â?¦ well, essentially nothing to prevent global warming.

    Why are we less worried about the more likely disaster? Because the human brain evolved to respond to threats that have four features â?? features that terrorism has and that global warming lacks.

    First, global warming lacks a mustache. No, really. We are social mammals whose brains are highly specialized for thinking about others. Understanding what others are up to â?? what they know and want, what they are doing and planning â?? has been so crucial to the survival of our species that our brains have developed an obsession with all things human. We think about people and their intentions; talk about them; look for and remember them.

    That’s why we worry more about anthrax (with an annual death toll of roughly zero) than influenza (with an annual death toll of a quarter-million to a half-million people). Influenza is a natural accident, anthrax is an intentional action, and the smallest action captures our attention in a way that the largest accident doesn’t. If two airplanes had been hit by lightning and crashed into a New York skyscraper, few of us would be able to name the date on which it happened.

    Global warming isn’t trying to kill us, and that’s a shame. If climate change had been visited on us by a brutal dictator or an evil empire, the war on warming would be this nation’s top priority…

    The human brain is a remarkable device that was designed to rise to special occasions. We are the progeny of people who hunted and gathered, whose lives were brief and whose greatest threat was a man with a stick. When terrorists attack, we respond with crushing force and firm resolve, just as our ancestors would have. Global warming is a deadly threat precisely because it fails to trip the brain’s alarm, leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed.

    It remains to be seen whether we can learn to rise to new occasions.

  39. 89
    Brian Gordon says:

    Re: 86: Reliable media

    I have found the BBC Online to be quite good (as a non-scientist). On the whole, they report the news with some perspective, and without the deceptive ‘he said/she said’ reporting practised by US media. The BBC actually has a Science/Nature section, apparently staffed by editors with some background.

  40. 90
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 1950-1980 cooling

    We’ve heard elsewhere about atmospheric nuclear testing correlating with cooling.

    I wonder — Has anyone looked at the amount of iron and other material dispersed in the oceans during and after World War II? Any ideas on the biological availability of that material?

    I know much shipping tonnage burned before it sank, which would speed disintegration of sheet steel; a lot was sunk in relatively shallow water, and the war also dispersed a lot of munitions (nitrogen source) at sea. But I haven’t turned up any studies on this, poking around.

  41. 91
    Grant says:

    Re: 1950-1980 cooling

    First of all, there isn’t really cooling from 1950 to 1980. There is *very small* cooling from ~ 1945 to ~ 1947, but no statistically significant trend from there, until about 1975 when we get significant *warming*. There is, however, a period of no trend (~ 1947 to 1975), which is believed to be a period when GHG warming was offset by aerosol cooling.

    The timing of the true cooling period coincides so closely with the explosion of the first three nuclear bombs (test at Los Alamos, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki) that I investigated a possible relationship between above-ground nuclear explosions and cooling. Although the “non-warming” period (1945 to 1975) is also the period of nuclear testing, there’s no real correlation of global average temperature with the number of explosions, or with the total megatonnage. In fact the only demonstrable cooling (1945 to 1947) corresponds to the period of (as far as I know) only 3 nuclear detonations, and those are the weakest of all. The only thing I can think of that would make these three more effective in inducing cooling, is that they were the crudest, and therefore probably the “dirtiest” of the bombs.

    So I’m very skeptical about the possible relationship between nuclear testing and global temperature. But I too, am curious how wartime activity (WWII) might have affected global climate. After all, there’s more than just nuclear explosions; there are massive wildfires association with “saturation bombing” of European cities by the allies toward the end of the war, and other effects of which I’m not aware.

  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:

    Speaking of fires, here’s a contemporary view of what’s burning where:

  43. 93
    Hank Roberts says:

    And the first six months of the year finds the country divided between “red states” and, er, “pink states.”

  44. 94
    Claire Kenyon says:

    I just had a frustrating conversation about the dangers of global warming. The objections which I had to face:
    – who said a warmer world would be bad anyway?
    [My answer: the transition to the next equilibrium is the most dangerous part of it]
    – there have been climate changes in the past and the world has adapted just fine
    [My answer: the timescale is different, things are happening much faster and it is not clear that the natural world will have time to adapt.]
    – these climatologists’ predictions are just based on models; models rely on hypotheses, and are only as good as the hypotheses. The data is only a sample and is too recent anyway. There is no way models can predict 50 years into the future.
    [I didn;t know how to answer that in social conversation.]

    [Response:I may write a short post soon to give some counter-arguments to this statements. -rasmus]

    – statistical correlation is not the same as causality.
    [My answer: of course. Scientists are well aware of that and use physical explanations, not just statistics]
    – if a few animal species go extinct (such as polar bears), that hardly qualifies as a catastrophy on a global scale.
    – Scientists are unduly worried and we’ll be just fine; we’ll deal with problems as they come up. Without being daring there can be no progress. See the development of trains for example. Scientists had all predicted that going through tunnels was a physical impossibility because people would suffocate, but engineers went ahead and built train tunnels anyway, and found solutions to safety problems as they came up.
    [My answer: but how will we solve these huge problems? We need some ideas and we currently have no clue!]

    Basically: there is supposedly nothing to worry about. The person I was talking to was not interested in learning about the science: his point of view was already set, and nothing I could say would be able to change his mind. Plus, there was a blind optimistic faith in the future.

    I have hit a brick wall. There is no way to raise awareness with just science. Symptoms of a disturbed world won’t do it either, because each of them is only a symptom, not a catastrophy in itself.

    I am beginning to think that we will need exceptional catastrophic events to actually occur in order for people to take climate science seriously.

  45. 95
    Ron Taylor says:

    I just watched a two-hour special on global warming on the Discovery Channel, hosted by Tom Brokaw. To my layman’s eyes, it was excellent. It covered all the major issues, had interviews of good people, including Jim Hansen, and did NOT include the usual skeptics “for balance.” It covered that issue by having some of the experts used in the show comment on how they had been converted from skeptics to believers.

    The DC website also has some excellent resources for the average citizen. See here, and especially the “Signs and Sources” item on the left

    Unfortunately, DC has also done some hokey stuff, which does not help its credibility. But this piece seems very good. Have any of you experts seen this and care to comment? I would like to refer it to others, but with some expert recommendation.

  46. 96
    Hank Roberts says:

    I’ve seen a few comments about the Moyers piece elsewhere but nothing from any of the climate experts I’m aware of.

    On communicating science and tech — specifically electric demand — here’s how the California electric system load is being presented.

    During the previous summers’ electric shortages I’ve been impressed; seems to me the demand drops noticeably within an hour after the news comes out about the need for people to reduce electric demand right away.

    Today the demand only just now jumped up to the predicted level — right at sunset — and people had been told to please hold off during the day on unnecessary electric use.

    There was a major plea out for conservation today again.
    As I write this the page is showing:

    Current System Demand: (numbers in megawatts)
    (Actual Demand at this point in time) 43163

    Today’s Peak Demand:
    (Highest point thus far today) 45765

    Today’s Forecast Peak Demand:
    (HIghest point expected today. 47690
    Tomorrow’s Forecast Peak Demand:
    (Not included on graph) 52336

    Air conditioners — people asked to set at 78F (for those who have them); turn off unnecessary lights; and not use heavy appliances and electronics during the day. And not to drive; photochemical smog’s pretty bad all over.

    Tomorrow (Monday) the forecast peak demand is much higher of course.

    This system came in during or a bit after the Enron energy crisis here. It’s a decent job of communicating the situation on a realtime basis, I think.