RealClimate logo


A Tale of Three Interviews

Filed under: — gavin @ 9 April 2007

The release of the IPCC Working Group II summary report (on climate change impacts) lead to a large number of stories on climate change in the media and, inevitably, lots of requests for media appearances for climate scientists on the journalists’ Rolodex. On the same day, there was a short article in Science on the ‘framing’ of science communication.

The Science piece, by Scibloggers Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet, make the point that the way science is expressed in public makes a difference to how it is received. So much, so uncontroversial. However, it generated some trenchant counterarguments, (and countercounterarguments), possibly because they start off criticising a bit of a strawman ‘scientist’ who thinks that ‘if only laypeople better understood technical complexities… controversies would subside’. It’s certainly possible that such people exist, however, they are unlikely to be found among the scientists who are active in trying to communicate to the public. However, instead of arguing about this in a rather abstract way, I thought I’d illustrate the issue by discussing three interviews I did last Thursday and Friday in relation to the IPCC WG II release.

I was asked to do three TV appearances to discuss the upcoming report: CNN (World News Tonight), Bloomberg Media (Peter Cook’s Money and Politics) and the Weather Channel. Each interview was very different – CNN and the Weather Channel pre-taped them, Bloomberg was live. CNN’s interview was from a news reporter who knew the basics, who asked questions that she was interested in and ended up with answers that were comprehensible at the level of the average viewer. The Weather Channel interview was done by Heidi Cullen who is much more versed in the topic (and has a climate science background) and is very aware both of the real issues and the fake ‘pseudo-debates’ that often surround the topic. Her questions were spot on, but possibly at a higher level than would be appropriate on CNN. In both cases, the details of the new report were of less interest than the overall message that the IPCC reports and climate science community are giving.

The Bloomberg producers (who come with a very ‘Wall Street’ focus/attitude) however, still see this as a partisan political debate and while they had a brief factual intro from their reporter, they followed it with a spokesman from CEI, Christopher Horner – author of the “Incorrect guide to climate change” (I’ve possibly got the book title slightly wrong), – and then me. As you might expect, the subsequent 5 minute ‘conversation’ was neither informative nor entertaining, and I doubt that anyone watching was the least bit swayed, intrigued or had their curiosity piqued or their prejudices reinforced. Horner zipped through his grab-bag of talking points (mostly focussed on the imagined failings of the IPCC process), which probably went over the heads of any civilians watching, while I tried to stick to the point that climate change impacts have started and will likely get worse (when I could get a word in edgewise).

So what does this tell us about the ‘framing’ of the issue? First off, the interviewee doesn’t get to change the ‘frame’ in a 5 minute TV interview – however often you are on. Instead the frame is imposed mostly from the editorial and production decisions. It’s easy to see that the CNN and Weather Channel producers see climate change story in a ‘news event’ frame, for which they get outside expertise to explain some of the finer points. Bloomberg see this in a ‘political controversy’ frame and set up their interviews accordingly. Horner would like the frame to be about ‘political/scientific corruption’ which clearly appeals to some, but since he asks you to believe lawyers over scientists, it’s unlikely to get very far (scientists are roughly 3 times more ‘trusted’ than lawyers). Given the other channels decisions’ and the House/Senate hearing a couple of weeks ago, I think that this ‘framing’ has probably had its day but will likely linger on in some corners for a while.

How do frames shift then? Despite what some might think, it is a matter of education – not of the general public though (as welcome as that would be) – but of the gatekeepers: the journalists, editors and producers. Communication efforts are much more likely to succeed if they target the people who communicate for a living, rather than the general public directly. While the overall frame for climate change has clearly moved from ‘controversy’ to ‘news event’, there are still sub-issues that advocates for specific policy changes are fighting over – those are however, more subtle and aren’t so much of a problem of ‘pure’ science communication, and so I’ll leave it for others to discuss those.

155 Responses to “A Tale of Three Interviews”

  1. 51
    Fernando Magyar says:

    As far as frames go this one is pretty funny or alarmist depending on how you look at it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/10/us/10dioxide.html

    “In court filings, automakers have argued that regulating the emissions will increase pollution, cause more traffic deaths and lead domestic automakers to stop selling most of their passenger models in states that adopt such regulations.”

    “Among other points, the industry says more fuel efficient cars could be dangerous, because they will be cheaper to drive and lead people to drive more and potentially have more accidents.”

    Bwahahahaha!

  2. 52
    Figen Mekik says:

    I don’t understand the lawyer/scientist comparison. A lawyer only has the obligation to not lie, not to be truthful. A criminal defense attorney who advises his client to call the police and tell them the truth is a BAD attorney. If you were being sued and in need of a defense, it would be a bad decision to hire such an attorney.

    Most of the population being functionally innumerate: Probably true but deeply frightening. Why do we send our kids to school if they are not going to be taught anything? Is it just to entertain them so they would stay off the streets? What is terrifying about a number? I try to be a kind and approachable teacher, but telling me one has math phobia doesn’t win my sympathy. Because take those innumerate people and ask them about how much interest their money would earn in so and so bank and in so much time, and you get an accurate answer in seconds..

  3. 53
    pat neuman says:

    How do frames shift then? Despite what some might think, it is a matter of education – not of the general public though (as welcome as that would be) – but of the gatekeepers: the journalists, editors and producers.

    About the time that Al Gore’s book made the best seller’s list and record floods were happening in the Midwest (1993), journalists were being told not to bring up global warming in doing interviews with National Weather Service (NWS) supervisors about the heavy rains that summer.

    That’s what I learned from my NWS supervisor, the Hydrologist in Charge (HIC) of the North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) after I told him I planned to make a comment about global warming at an inter-agency Spring Flood Outlook meeting in January of 2000 in St. Paul, MN.

    The NCRFC HIC said I needed to behave like he did in 1993 and to not bring up global warming in talking with people who communicate with the public.

    I did anyway, as shown in a brief summary of the inter-agency meeting, below.

    Subject: Spring Runoff Outlook Interagency Coordination Meeting

    Author: Pat Neuman at W-CR-MSR

    Date: 1/27/2000 9:55 AM

    The subject meeting was held at the St. Paul Corps of Engineers in St. Paul, Minnesota on 1/26/2000. The three hour meeting was attended by 40 people representing federal and state agencies in the Midwest. The State of Minnesota was especially well represented.

    Precipitation, soil moisture, frost, snow, and flows were discussed. Several attendees made presentations on their procedures and operations. Staff from the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices in Grand Forks, ND and Chanhassen, MN, and the North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) in Chanhassen, MN summarized the hydrologic, summarized the hydrologic conditions as dry, with concerns for water deficits, rather than flooding.

    The NCRFC (by Pat Neuman) echoed remarks made last week on CBS News by Dr. James Baker head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “The world continues to get warmer. There is no question we are seeing global warming.”

  4. 54
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 34

    I appreciate the correction, but would like to salvage my pride and remark that 3 out of 4 of my examples of variability stand.

    I based my remarks on 3 things. First, the increase in variability in a system when more energy is available. That’s just standard. Second, the readily available predictions about heat, drought, and rainfall. And third, I remembered a map which showed projections of temperature changes due to GW. There were, I remember, dimly, 2 areas on the globe, like the “eyes” on the wings of a cecropia moth, where temps could be expected to decline. (It seemed to me that if the poles were “hogging” the temperature increases above the mean, then some areas would get short changed. That could mean simply less of an increase, but it could also mean an actual decline in places. Obviously, the greater the actual temperature increase globally then record cold temps would likely be a thing of the past.)

  5. 55
    Ian Rae says:

    Unfortunately for credibility, people don’t distinguish who exactly the talking head on their TV is. Whether it’s a scientist, lawyer, or hack author doesn’t really matter.

    What does matter is what the person is saying. And unfortunately purveyors of doom-and-gloom have a bad track record. From limits-to-growth “experts” in the 1970s, to ice-age-a-comin, to WWII, to AIDS-will-kill-us-all, to peak oil, to global warming. There is a steady flow of this stuff on our TV screens.

    It’s tough then to present a coming danger. What might happen in 100 years is much less important than what’s going to happen in the next 20. Not sure what to suggest, except that any whiff of alarmisms hurts credibility.

  6. 56
    AdrianJC says:

    Gavin replied: “Al Gore is clearly working on taking the science to the public. Two years ago, the idea that anyone would have paid good money to see a powerpoint presentation on climate change would have been laughed at.”

    Since powerpoint is lowercase, I assume you were using the term generically. But not to miss an opportunity to be pedantic, Al Gore did not use PowerPoint, but Apple’s Keynote. This article list what Al Gore did right when making an effective presentation aimed at the wider public regardless of the software.

  7. 57
    Lou Grinzo says:

    re 43, framing by Ed Sears:

    I couldn’t agree more strongly, as I use this same technique with peak oil deniers. While I normally try very hard not to get into debates in a social setting, sometimes I just can’t muster the will power, especially when I hear someone dismiss “high” oil prices by saying, “The oil companies are just screwing us–there’s plenty of oil.”

    I ask them how much oil the US and the world uses per day, where it comes from, how much high quality oil is in the ground, how quickly we can extract it, etc. I find that the most effective way to do this is to be as non-confrontational and casual as possible–make it sound as if you’re seeking answers to those questions, and frame the discussion in terms of the points you’re asking about. If pressed for answers, give them, and then add, “But if it’s just he oil companies screwing us, then I guess all that information must be wrong. What numbers are you working with?”

    In global warming I think this would be equally successful. Press people to back up their sweeping conclusions with facts, and focus on the key issues, like what happens to all the carbon we spew into the air, etc.

  8. 58
    James says:

    Re #46: [Because some sorts of conservatism conserve entrenched privilege, and that, any serious response to environmental issues will not do.]

    Err… Why not? Except by the circular argument that a lot of our present-day “greens” might more aptly be called “watermelons” – green on the outside, red on the inside :-)

    I’d argue that entrenched privilege would, at least in some circumstances, act in support of environmental issues. Consider for instance Britain during the Industrial Revolution: much of the land was owned by the aristocracy, whose entrenched privilege gave them an interest in preserving it, while the new industrialists, unprivileged except by the wealth they made, had a powerful incentive to destroy the land if they could profit thereby.

    Indeed, you see much the same thing these days, with for instance real estate developers swallowing up land that the owners don’t have entrenched privilege enough to keep.

  9. 59
    Mark Taylor says:

    Re: #4

    “Many prestigious mathemeticians are beginning to question the relevance of Pythagoras’ Theorem in geometry and are being censored by Pythagorists in government positions”

    Pythagoras’ theorem only applies to Euclidean geometry, ie. when you’re working on a flat plane. There are plenty more geometries in which it doesn’t hold, probably including the real world in which we live (thanks to Einstein complicating matters.)

    I’m not trying to be difficult, but we do need to strive for truth!

    [Response: I can see the headlines now ‘Mathematicians dispute Pythagorean theorem: Lobby groups call for repeal of NAFTA claiming “Area” to be an undefined concept.’…. – gavin]

  10. 60
    Tim Jones says:

    Thanks, Gavin, for posting my rather piqued complaint, but more importantly for posting my effort, #47, to introduce Al Gore’s recommendations into the record, if not the conversation. I see the workaround for the spam filter can be relied on. It’s often been noted that in “An Inconvenient Truth” Mr. Gore was light on telling us what to do. Seems to me that the part of the congressional testimony I posted answers that complaint. Perhaps at some point your evaluation of Gore’s points will become instructive.

    I do recommend copying one’s message before clicking the “post” button, just in case a rewrite becomes necessary.

  11. 61
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #58: “Re #46: [Because some sorts of conservatism conserve entrenched privilege, and that, any serious response to environmental issues will not do.]

    Err… Why not?”

    In principle, James is right – entrenched privilege can in some circumstances favour environmental preservation. However, to deal with major current environmental issues successfully (AGW being the biggest but by no means the only one), we need very widespread cooperation, setting aside short-term interests, across states, ethnic groups, social classes, sexes and age-groups. That will only come about if the distribution of benefits and burdens is perceived as fair – a robust finding of social psychology. That won’t happen unless such benefits and burdens are much more evenly shared than they are now.

    The only possibly workable alternative is to exterminate billions of people using genetically modified pathogens – and I assume no-one here favours that.

  12. 62
    Aaron Lewis says:

    The hard problem is to know when the model has captured enough detail to be accurate enough for the purpose at hand. When the purpose is convincing the public in general, this is a very high hurdle, because the public always thinks that you are ignoring something in the real world – particularly when you are predicting something outside of their experience. (Extraordinary claims DO require extraordinary proof.) Ice concentrations in parts of the Arctic have changed by 6 standard deviations since 1979. That is a lot of change. Is more change coming? How fast?

    Do our models capture what is going on? Is everyone happy with the correlation between model predictions and currently observed ice extant and competence? We have had a good bit of change in the Arctic, and we should be able to say, “Yes our models are absolutely correct” or “No, our models are missing things.” Is there anything to Walt Meier’s (National Snow and Ice Data Centre) statement that “The model forecast may be underestimating what we could expect in the future years.” Do we have to wait for better models? Or, is Dr. Meier talking about old models that are no longer in use? If so, are current models really any better?

    My task for this week is to prepare for meetings on California water supplies. Do I tell those lawyers, engineers, and bean counters that they should invest huge sums on infrastructure based — not on years of engineering experience and weather records, but on basis of a computer climate model? Must they discard all that expertise because climate is changing at X Standard Deviations per decade, and that rate of change may increase in the future? Must they rely on some “pointy-headed” scientist’s computer model? If that model over estimates changes in California’s climate, then they will waste millions of dollars. If they under-invest for the actual climate effect, then the costs could be huge.

    Engineers like experience. Lawyers like precedent. Accountants like paper trails that lead to “the correct number.” These are not the prime characteristics of the current generation of climate models. Anybody that thinks that those meetings are going to be fun has not spent much time sitting across the table from lawyers, engineers, and bean counters.

  13. 63
    pat neuman says:

    Re #18 #60

    I finally saw Gore’s Movie a few weeks ago at the neighborhood library. After seeing it I it seemed to me that the political humor should have been left out of the movie.

    Recently I got into a discussion at a thread about an article titled:

    Forecaster blasts Gore on global warming

    which includes this excerpt about Al Gore:

    “He’s one of these guys that preaches the end of the world type of things. I think he’s doing a great disservice and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Dr. William Gray said in an interview with The Associated Press at the [NWS] National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans, where he delivered the closing speech.

    That got me digging back into my archives from year 2000, while Clinton and Gore were in there final year at the White House and Dr. Baker was NOAA Director and my becoming aware of what National Weather Service (NWS) supervisors were telling national media stations in 1993 about no questions dealing with global warming and the 93 floods (#53).

    That led me to wondering if Al Gore’s book on Earth in the Balance influenced orders at NOAA’s NWS not to bring up too political subject of global warming, but I didn’t’ know the date Gore’s book became popular. I did a search and found that Gore was working on the book during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thus, it seems Gore’s book did have an influence on NWS staff not being allowed to talk with media about global warming in 1993.

    Now I’m curious, with NWS having a staff of 5500 meteorologists and technicians and about 120 Weather Forecast Offices who’s staffs talks to media, universities, local governments and the public on a day to day basis pretty much, mostly off the record, it seems likely to me the NWS supervisors got all bent up about Al Gore’s book in the the mid-late 1990s and 2000, which probably cost Al Gore the election in 2000. The arrogance of National Weather Service government workers, in their views about a non meteorologist speaking his views about atmospheric and global warming, probably cost Al Gore the election, in my view.

    … We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization. .

    Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit

    http://www.answers.com/topic/al-gore

  14. 64
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #62: Aaron Lewis — I wouldn’t find it fun either! While just an amateur at this, I know that Hadley Centre prepared a region-by-region prediction for 2050 which is being used locally by air quality and agricultural scientists for this region.

    Also, I happen to know of some changes already occuring in California: San Diego is becoming sub-tropical and snowpacks are declining in the Sierra Mountains. (The snowpacks were mentioned in comments on the thread about snowpacks in the Cascade Mountains.)

    But fundamentally, yes, you need to rely on the climate modelers work. Plural, not just one model, as in the recent IPCC reports. If I had your task, I would use the above changes to California climate to start right off by noting that neither experience nor precedent are going to be of much use as we are taking the climate into an artificial regime about which little is known…

  15. 65
    James says:

    Re #61: [That will only come about if the distribution of benefits and burdens is perceived as fair – a robust finding of social psychology. That won’t happen unless such benefits and burdens are much more evenly shared than they are now.]

    Except that you then have the problem of getting everyone to agree on your definition of what’s fair – or of course getting you to agree with someone else’s definition. I’m pretty sure this is not a solvable problem. I’m sure, just to continue the example, that your average aristocratic landowner, family farmer, or member of an indigenous people will not think it fair when their lands are taken by developers, just as the developers won’t think you’re being fair when they’re blocked from doing so.

  16. 66
    Rod B. says:

    re 42: Ike, it’s not intuitively obvious why allocation of the carbon pie by population is any better/fairer than some other method… But your point is interesting.

  17. 67
    Rod B. says:

    re #43: Ed, insurance companies will raise their risk premium for any illusion they can get buy with — reality and reason have little to do with it, unless they get called. Don’t use them as more proof of AGW.

  18. 68
    Dr. Paul Harris says:

    If you check out this link, you will find the latest NZ news report in which scientists slam the ICPP report as unscientific. Us lay people need help in refuting these sort of arguments; any suggestions?

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0704/S00023.htm

  19. 69
    Dr. Paul Harris says:

    See also the following ‘critique’ of the IPCC (pardon my earlier typo) report by Dr Vincent Gray.http://www.climatescience.org.nz/assets/20072141112360.SPM07GrayCritique.pdf

  20. 70
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #68: Dr. Paul Harris — Spiegel Online has published an interview with Dr. James Hansen today. This is a starter for you, although not directly a refutation of Dr. Vincent Gray’s mistakes…

  21. 71
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paul Harris’s pointer to Scoop above is a story
    Scoop cites a press release, from http://www.climatescience.org.nz/
    (same actual source as in 69).
    The article has a graph claiming to show temperature hasn’t changed at all
    The graph (bottom right corner) attributes to this source: http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/public/msu/t2/uahncdc.mt
    See also: http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/public/msu/t2/readme.15Dec2006
    which starts with:

    “Update 15 Dec 2006 ******************************

    Due to a dumb mistake, the values for MT were in error when loaded up
    for the period ending Nov 2006. Rather than eliminating NOAA-16 data
    (the bad satellite) I had eliminated NOAA-15 (the good satellite)
    after Sept 2005. So, the values for MT have all been rerun and replaced….”

  22. 72
    Jim says:

    Re 48.

    You got your point across, but not in the sense that you thought. Anytime you call a tv or radio station, it confirms that you are tuning in. (Ratings!) They will then adjust their programs to make you keep calling back! They know you are watching now.

  23. 73
    Jim says:

    Re 67.

    I second that! My wife works in insurance regulation doing rate research. They slip anything they can into getting a rate increase. It can be comical in what they list as reasons for a rate increase. Some food for thought. What is more risky to insure in florida with seasonal storms, or to insure in california where the earthquakes will come? Or last, to insure in tornado alley with twisters every year and big cities that can be struck by those twisters?

  24. 74
    Pat says:

    I just haven’t had time to read all these comments, so forgive me if I’m just repeating someone else’s idea, but –

    When someone brings up Copernicus or Einstein, the idea that the consensus was against them and they turned out to be correct, here’s what I would say:

    “So, if someone now goes against the consensus and says relativity is wrong, or the sun really does go around the earth, should I expect that the consensus will be overturned yet again in favor of that person’s idea?”

    (PS Newt Gingrich brought up Einstein in a debate with John Kerry today. But Kerry later got him to agree to a statement about the urgency of anthropogenic global warming. (I wonder then if Gingrich meant his Einstein reference (despite it’s placement in the debate) to apply to the focus of the debate – cap and trade verses prizes and tax breaks and other incentives.))

  25. 75
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aaron, you should insert a blank in this line:

    >_____ years of engineering experience and weather records,

    And offer them the following:

    Based on the past 10 years of engineering experience and weather records,….
    Based on the past 100 years of engineering experience and weather records,…
    Based on the past 1000 years of engineering experience and weather records,…

    Possibly you ought to invite a professional gambler along, if they have trouble with risk probabilities.

    Below are not best examples by any means, just from a quick and lazy search for samples. Any professional in this research area can come up with plenty of climate records — not models, actual physical records laid down layer upon layer — documenting the range of drought and length of drought common in the past.

    You don’t need the change from global warming to scare a water planner, that’s gravy.

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2004/0319dustbowl.html
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/100/5/2483
    http://intl-hol.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/1/21

    You’ll have to explain just a little bit about things like the sediment record from the California lake beds, but not too much for any lawyer or engineer to understand.

    If you need help before the end of the week, post again.

    I’ve worked with people in those professions for decades. There are some who know the answer they want and won’t hear anything else. If you’re fortunate, you’ll be talking to those who stop, look, and listen before making major decisions.

    I assume you know the record I’m talking about, right?

  26. 76
    Matt McIrvin says:

    #59 and #74: Amusingly enough, one of the books in that Regnery series, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science,” was written by a guy who previously wrote in The American Spectator denouncing Einstein’s theories of relativity as left-wing obscurantist nonsense.

  27. 77
    Len Conly says:

    Re.#5
    Christopher Horner is not the author of the PIG on Darwinism.

    The PIG to Darwinism and Intelligent Design is by Jonathan Wells, the author of the similarly egregious Icons of Evolution.

  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

    Another for Aaron. I hope you follow up on this upcoming meeting; if it’s true that the people you work for are insisting you provide modeling information, and insisting that modeling information has to be perfect, they’re just using you to pretend to consult without actually wanting facts; if it’s your choice to present them with modeling info as best available, pray reconsider.

    Follow the citations and count them; that’ll help. Don’t miss this one, a couple jumps away in the lists of cites from one of those I posted earlier, as another example:

    http://apps.isiknowledge.com/CEL/CIW.cgi?SID=2F2Eg38m2M2nK2KbeiA&Func=Abstract&doc=2/17

  29. 79
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #65 “Except that you then have the problem of getting everyone to agree on your definition of what’s fair – or of course getting you to agree with someone else’s definition. I’m pretty sure this is not a solvable problem.”

    Not solvable in the sense of having a solution everyone will agree, true – but you don’t need everyone to do so, just as not everyone needs to agree particular laws, tax regimes etc. are fair for them to be enforceable – although if too many people disagree, they are not. So basically you need a combination of voting and negotiation of compromises between interest groups, as already happens both within and between states. The hard point is that this needs to be done globally – or at least, including enough of the world to make enough difference. The reason for (guarded) optimism is that is really is objectively better for everyone concerned about what happens more than a few decades hence to come to an agreement, even at the expense of accepting significant sacrifices. Of course, you may be right that individual and/or collective selfishness and short-termism will prevent agreement. If so, we’re stuffed – and I’d expect the resulting turmoil to result in global nuclear and/or biological warfare.

  30. 80
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re: #77

    “Christopher Horner is not the author of the PIG on Darwinism.”

    *ouch*

    My bad.

    You are correct. I’ve known about and have spent some time with all of the books cited but did not take the time to confirm authorship I mistakenly inferred from Post #1.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/

    In addition, I was also wrong re authorship of the Politically Incorrect Guides to American History & Islam, by Woods & Spencer, respectively

    http://www.amazon.com/Politically-Incorrect-Guide-American-History/dp/0895260476

    http://www.amazon.com/Politically-Incorrect-Guide-Islam-Crusades/dp/0895260131

    That said, my comments about the intent of the writer(s) remain.

    In addition, I would elaborate on my note/suggestion regarding talkorigins.org and how they address the “controversy” surrounding evolution with their “Index to Creationist Cliams”.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

    As you can see, it is a remarkable tool in that it allows anyone desiring solid cited information regarding why claims made by the other side are wrong or even outright fraudulant to get the right answer with relative ease.

    If I have one complaint with Real Climate, it is it lacks this mechanism that allows the layman to comprehend specifics within arguments in a concise fashion.

    [Response: You might like Coby Beck’s “How to talk to GW Sketpic Guide” then… – gavin]

  31. 81
    Ed G. says:

    Slightly off topic, but the full WGII-AR4 report is now linked to from ClimateScienceWatch

    [Response: Full link: http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/ipcc_wg2_chapters_posted/ – gavin]

  32. 82
    Greg Laden says:

    Yes, absolutely … it is a matter of education, not spinning.

    It may be helpful also to consider the broader theoretical context and history of Frame Analysis. For the masochistic, here is some babbling on this:

    http://gregladen.com/wordpress/?p=667
    http://gregladen.com/wordpress/?p=669

  33. 83
    Jacob Tanenbaum says:

    I think the issue we are discussing here goes deeper than simply the way science is presented in the media. This goes more towards how scientific information is produced and consumed in our society today.

    A meteorologist, for example, sees a storm in Nebraska and predicts that it will move east towards the US east coast and then out to sea. Maybe they are not sure exactly where it will cross the coast because of a wind out of Canada. So they predict that there is a 60% chance of rain in New York for a given day. Now, lets say the storm moves a little to the south and New York stays dry. The meteorologist was got things generally correct. The storm moved east, then out to sea just like they said it would. It hit the coast more or less where the prediction stated. The possibility of the winds pushing south were acknowledged even while the storm was way to the west. But 20 million viewers in New York wind up with the mistaken impression that the person on TV was dead wrong. People who consume the science for the most part donâ??t really care one way or another about what kinds of clouds are overhead or where the frontal boundaries are. They just want to know if they should pack a picnic lunch or not.

    I think the majority of the US population still looks a climate science the same way the look at the weather report. They are looking at how it will effect them and thinking that the climate scientists are about as reliable as their perception of the weather report on TV. If we, as a society want to do something real about climate change, we have to educate people not just in how climate works, but more importantly, how to understand and interpret scientific data. Thatâ??s why realclimate is so important. Every time we allow the media or anyone else to present watered down versions of science to us, we do a great disservice to the public. Keep presenting complete information simply, but without watering it down and let the public rise to understand what you are saying. They can, and will. We donâ??t need to be entertained by the news. We need to be informed.

  34. 84
    kainin says:

    68 & 69, Dr Paul Harris. A quick web search of the two “expert” sources in your cited article will reveal to you what you need to know about their credibility. One is a chemist, the other a geologist. Neither has any publications in peer-reviewed climatology journals. They appear to be respected and published within their own fields of expertise. They also appear to have financial connections to organizations that have vested interest in retaining the status quo with respect to current CO2 emissions.

    Try

    http://www.desmogblog.com/node/1215

    and http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bob_Carter

    With respect to their specific criticisms of AGW, lurk on this site for a few weeks and you will soon learn to recognize and debunk the hackneyed arguments that these gentlemen and their ilk circulate again and again.

    cheers,

    kainin

  35. 85
    Hank Roberts says:

    >70, 71, the claim of no warming:
    Bogus, data’s taken from high up at a level of the atmosphere between the troposphere (warming as predicted) and the stratosphere (cooling as predicted); they’re picking the exact altitude in between those two trends; http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/04/bob_carter_claims_its_not_warm.php#more

  36. 86
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#50,
    I suppose the fear of numbers is partially true, but I think in terms of ‘framing’ the issue of the need to eliminate fossil fuel CO2 emissions, a carbon pie is about as good an image as you can come up with. It’s simple, and everyone understands that there is only so much pie to go around, and that if you eat too much pie you’ll get sick. You have to make the pie last for about a century, so eat it very slowly – what better way to frame the issue is there?

    The numbers can be confusing, but with respect to Wally Broecker’s article in Science, it’s just simple arithmetic, not compound interest. Everyone understands pie, after all. :)

  37. 87
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #83 So they predict that there is a 60% chance of rain in New York for a given day.

    According to a meteorologist who writes a column in the local newspaper, that prediction means that 60% of the area covered by the forecast is expected to receive rain. The forecast can still be wrong, of course, but 40% of the area would not have received rain even if it were right, and no one knows for sure if they are in the area that will receive rain, or the area that won’t receive rain. Of course, some people will complain about the forecast no matter what happens.

  38. 88
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #32 to me environmentalism seems at base a very conservative philosophy.

    You only have to look back to James G. Watt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan to see how the current liberal/environmentalist vs. conservative/anti-environmentalist dichotomy became entrenched in the U.S.:

    “We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber.”

    “I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It’s liberals and Americans.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Watt

  39. 89

    Re 1
    Christopher Horner has indeed pointed to a climate forcing that escaped IPCC notice.

    Writing in National Review,he warns Mr. Gore’s Live Earth concert risks acceleration of global warming in response to the mass exhalation of CO2 by the assembled crowd.

  40. 90
    Dan says:

    re: 87. That meteorologist does not know what he is talking about. “60 percent chance” means that there is a 60 percent chance of measurable precipitation (0.01 inch or greater) at a particular location, say an airport. It does not mean that 60 percent of an area will receive precipitation. That is fundamental meteorology and I very seriously question that meteorologist’s credentials.

  41. 91
    pat neuman says:

    Re #89, #63

    Russell,

    After reading your comment in #89 about Gore’s Live Earth concert, I’ve changed my mind on what I said in #63 about Gore’s movie. I now believe that the political humor in Gore’s movie was in fun and in good taste. Thanks.

  42. 92

    [[Writing in National Review,he warns Mr. Gore’s Live Earth concert risks acceleration of global warming in response to the mass exhalation of CO2 by the assembled crowd. ]]

    Some allegedly humorous comments come off as more stupid than anything. People will exhale pretty much the same amount whether they are at home or at a concert. And in any case, the respiration-plant decay-photosynthesis cycle is nicely balanced. The extra CO2 that’s building up in the atmosphere comes primarily from burning fossil fuels.

  43. 93
    Numb Nuts says:

    I have read the most recent IPCC report and it includes shocking admissions like this footnote:
    “7 A subset of about 29,000 data series was selected from about 80,000 data series from 577 studies. These met the following criteria:
    (1) Ending in 1990 or later; (2) spanning a period of at least 20 years; and (3) showing a significant change in either
    direction, as assessed in individual studies.”
    What the scientists did was selectively mine only data that supports the Global Warming theory. Sounds like science to me.

  44. 94
    Dan says:

    re: 93. Then you do not understand how science research is conducted. One does not simply select data series from, for instance, 50 years ago that end in 1980. You want to investigate current warming, with data series that end during the period of greatest warming. The warming that has occurred since about 1970 is outside the range of natural forcings alone. The science behind global warming is basic physics and is quite strong. The idea that a layman knows something that literally thousands of climate science researchers who publish peer-reviewed studies do not is absurd.

  45. 95
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 93 3) showing a significant change in either
    direction, as assessed in individual studies.”

    If they selected data sets in which there was a significant change in either direction, it would appear they were not biased toward data showing warming.

  46. 96
    James says:

    Re #88: [You only have to look back to James G. Watt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan to see how the current liberal/environmentalist vs. conservative/anti-environmentalist dichotomy became entrenched in the U.S.]

    The basic mistake there is in holding up Watt as typical of conservative ideas; about as realistic as claiming Warsaw Pact industrial policy makers as representative of liberals. As I recall, he was in fact the sort of religious extremist who believed that the world would end sometime around Y2K, which of course would make conservation fairly pointless.

  47. 97
    John Mashey says:

    re: #94 & #95
    Numb Nuts quoted a footnote, somehow without the statement to which it was attached:

    “Of the more than 29,000 observation series (7), from 75 studies, that show significant change in many physical and biological systems, more than 89% are consistent with the direction of change as a response to warming. (Figure SPM-1 [1.4]).”

    Figure 1.4 shows a nice analysis of the types (physical/biological) and geography of the data sets.
    From that chart:
    Of (765+28,671) = 29,436 total, ~(719+25,804) = 26,523 Warmings, versus
    ~(29,436 – 26,523) = 2,913 Coolings, a 9:1 ratio.

    Of the ~(80,000 – 29,000) = 51,000 data series that were not used:
    a) Let X be the number that dropped out as ending before 1990 or being <20 years.
    b) That means that S = (51,000 – X) dropped out because there was no significant change. I have no idea what X and S are (presumably the full report will say more), so back-of-the-envelope sensitivity analysis

    Given W(arming) = 26,523 and (C)ooling = 2,913 (9:1 ratio)

    Unused —X– S(ame) Rough S:W:C ratio
    51,000 00,000 51,000 17:9:1 (63%, 33%, 4%)
    51,000 10,000 41,000 14:9:1
    51,000 20,000 31,000 11:9:1
    51,000 25,000 26,000 9:9:1
    51,000 30,000 21,000 7:9:1
    51,000 40,000 11,000 4:9:1
    51,000 45,000 06,000 2:9:1

    Given the amount of work it takes to get good 20-year series, I’d guess X bigger than smaller, but the conclusion is the same, varying only from a strong conclusion (17:9:1) to an overpowering one (2:9:1).

    Consider: would you invest in a stock market where 63% of stocks were staying about the same, 33% wee going up, and 4% were going down? I would! And the odds only go up from there…

  48. 98

    [[The basic mistake there is in holding up Watt as typical of conservative ideas; about as realistic as claiming Warsaw Pact industrial policy makers as representative of liberals. As I recall, he was in fact the sort of religious extremist who believed that the world would end sometime around Y2K, which of course would make conservation fairly pointless. ]]

    I’ve heard that was a misquote and that he actually stated that he was for preserving the environment, although, of course, his policies didn’t match the statement.

  49. 99
    barry says:

    Congratulations on a stimulating and educational site.

    From what I’ve gathered on the (unscientific) fora I post to and in the media skeptical of AGW, it’s not that people distrust scientists, it’s that they distrust science. Politics and science have in common complexity and (seeming) ambiguity. People trust maths because it is (thought to be) about ‘proof’. People who are not well-versed in science defend their skepticism on AGW by conflating science with politics.

    I debate some people who hold that climate science models are too inexact to be of use. The same people hold that climate scientists are avaricious and/or trapped in some kind of group think. I’ve asked them to produce models that support their theory, preferably more valid than the models used in climate science, but no one has taken me up on it yet.

    :)

  50. 100
    Numb Nuts says:

    John Mashey states: “Given the amount of work it takes to get good 20-year series, I’d guess X bigger than smaller, but the conclusion is the same, varying only from a strong conclusion (17:9:1) to an overpowering one (2:9:1).

    Consider: would you invest in a stock market where 63% of stocks were staying about the same, 33% wee going up, and 4% were going down? I would! And the odds only go up from there… ”

    I’m sorry John, this is science not “I’d guess…” or the stock market.
    You have done the very same thing that the IPCC “scientists” did. You started with their data set, which specifically excluded data which showed no significant variation and was dismissed. For years now, we will have to endure “peer-reviewed” work which cites this “scientific study”. This isn’t science at all. You’re right, it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time to collect valid data and my hat is off to the scientists that are dedicated to achieving this goal. But for an agenda driven body to take their work, extract only the portions that support their preconceived conclusions and indeed magnify them, is disingenuous at best.
    And Dan you state: “Then you do not understand how science research is conducted. One does not simply select data series from, for instance, 50 years ago that end in 1980. You want to investigate current warming, with data series that end during the period of greatest warming.”
    Dan, you make my point (“with data series that end during the period of greatest warming”). Thank you.