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Journalistic whiplash

Filed under: — gavin @ 29 July 2008 - (Español)

Andy Revkin has a good article in the Science Times today on the problem of journalistic whiplash in climate change (also discussed here). This phenomena occurs with the more uncertain parts of a science that are being actively researched and where the full story is only slowly coming together. In such cases, new papers often appear in high profile journals (because they meet the ‘of general interest’ test), and are often parsed rather simplistically to see what side of the fence they fall – are they pro or anti? This leads to wide press interest, but rather shallow coverage, and leaves casual readers with ‘whiplash’ from the ‘yes it is’, ‘no it isn’t’ messages every other week.

This is a familiar pattern in health reporting (is coffee good for you/bad for you etc.), but in more recent times has started happening in climate science too. Examples picked out in the article include the hurricanes/global warming connection and the state of Greenland’s ice sheet. In both cases, many new pieces of evidence, new theories and new models are being thrown into the pot, but full syntheses of the problems remain elusive. Scientists are of course interested in knowing how it all fits together (and it usually does), but the public – unaware of what is agreed on and what is uncertain – see only the ping-pong across the media. Unlike more mature parts of the science (such as the radiative effect of greenhouse gases), there is much less context available to relate to these new pieces of science.

This spectacle of duelling and apparently contradictory science fuels the notion that scientists can’t agree on anything. Ironically, just as climate change has made it on to the front page because the weight of evidence supporting a human role in recent warming, increased coverage may actually be leading people to think that scientists are more divided on the basic questions.

Is this inevitable? Or can scientists, press officers and journal editors and journalists actually do anything about it? Your thoughts are most welcome!


287 Responses to “Journalistic whiplash”

  1. 201
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    #179, it is a very sad thing that this ethanol (or food-to-fuel) thing is being used to dismiss and chastize environmentalists. As an environmentalist I can say that I’ve always been against it; as have all other environmentalists I know.

    Years ago, when I first heard about it, I thought, this is going to come down to taking food out of poor people’s mouths so the rich can continue to drive frivolously around in their SUVs. I think it’s actually an agri-biz strategy to increase profits.

    I am, however, in favor of using agri-wastes, such as dung, for biofuel (the remainder makes an even better fertilizer).

    I also thought food crops-to-fuel would likely entail greater greenhouse gas emissions than simply getting & using oil from the ground, due to agriculture being so energy and resource intensive (water & equipment use requires lots of energy) — and I’ve been proven right on that. Maybe it’s also an oil industry strategy to increase profits.

    What I have favored is electric vehicles, especially when coupled with alternative energy. I can’t wait to be driving on the wind in a few years when affordable EVs come out here in America. Of course, they’re already available in India, China, Japan, and Europe.

  2. 202

    #191 Robert

    Just because something is difficult does not mean it should be ignored.

    I am not a member of the greatest generation. But I did work with the ‘Chief Implementation Officer’ of ‘The Marshall Plan’. So I am well aware of the strategies and methodologies used post war. And, he was in intel from day one, throughout the war working with Generals Bradley and Powell and even Winston Churchill, he even had to face off with Patton during a conflict over a certain faux paux of one of his lieutenants and Patton. From him I learned many interesting facets of how things were done during that time.

    What special knowledge are you referring to in your statement? Are you inferring that you are more reasonable than Mr. Gore. If so, in what context, and what is the relevance of your contextual claim?

    You state you have “some insight into exactly what it means”. Could you expound on your insight please, I am always looking for new and relevant information.

    #180 Robert

    Your post has a context problem. Yes, climate always changes. Yes, it always will.

    But you forgot to add that this climate change is human caused. That is fairly important to context and relevance.

    Otherwise, the general statement confuses the issue for those that read your post.

    #179 Robert

    Global food price is not only linked to biofuel production that is only one factor. Resource scarcity, demand, energy and distribution issues are also factors just to name a few. Heck, some of it is likely even linked to global warming, droughts and floods possibly caused by regional shifts of climate systems. But I guess you did not intend to point out those other factors since your point is? I’m not sure what your point is?

  3. 203
    Matt says:

    Re #177

    paulm:
    I agree. Scientists’ apparent reluctance to make strong statements regarding the implications of what they seem to be saying (ie AGW is real and is a big problem) undermines their position. Well, do they think it’s serious or not? If they do, what do they suggest we all do about it? (OK, maybe they’d say they’re ‘not qualified’ to comment on that… but ‘d say they’re still more qualified than the rest of us)

    Or are they just going to spend all their time discussing climate science minutiae and engaging in futile ping-pong arguments with people who deny basic physics?

  4. 204
    Robert says:

    Re 202 – John P. Reisman

    “Just because something is difficult does not mean it should be ignored.”

    Agreed. I don’t recall writing anything to the contrary. The point, as I’m guessing you have gathered, is to put the “solution” in the proper context. There is a harm in being realistic?

    The context of my “greatest generation” comment was merely anecdotal. My Dad lived through the depression and was a WWII combat veteran. Sorry to dissapoint, it was nothing more than that.

    Regarding climate change, again you’re reading to much into a casual comment. It tickled my funny bone that someone would make the statement that the climate is changing as some sort of shocking revelation.

    Finally, a word on food prices and biofuels:

    http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/IW3P/IB/2008/07/28/000020439_20080728103002/Rendered/PDF/WP4682.pdf

    “This paper examines the factors behind the rapid increase in
    internationally traded food prices since 2002 and estimates the contribution of various factors such as the
    increased production of biofuels from food grains and oilseeds, the weak dollar, and the increase in food
    production costs due to higher energy prices. It concludes that the most important factor was the large
    increase in biofuels production in the U.S. and the EU. Without these increases, global wheat and maize
    stocks would not have declined appreciably, oilseed prices would not have tripled, and price increases due
    to other factors, such as droughts, would have been more moderate.”

  5. 205
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Robert, I did not accuse you of being a denialist–merely noted that you had used 3 common denialist memes. I also pointed out the fallacies in the first two. And, actually the past 10000 years HAVE been remarkably stable
    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Holocene_Temperature_Variations_Rev_png

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Ice_Age_Temperature_Rev_png

    Now, as to your third contention–frankly, I don’t know whether massive government intervention will be needed. I suspect, however, that the longer we wait, the more massive the intervention. I can see ways in which government could HELP markets incentivize innovation–e.g. cap and trade or carbon taxes. And clearly, T. Boone Pickens (and many others) expects to reap a bounteous harvest, and I rather doubt that he anticipates to reap it as Comissar. And if you are wary of government intervention, I would suggest that you get your fellow capitalists to stop dismissing good science as “a hoax” and get them thinking in terms of market solutions. Because we will need solutions, and so far only those who favor government intervention are proposing them.

  6. 206

    #174 #185 Tenney Naumer

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/01/our-books/

    They most certainly are getting the word out.

    We’re all in the same boat trying to get the word out in the most effective manner. I don’t think you realize how little spare time they (working scientists) have (research, class, admin, family, writing papers, meetings, conferences, field work, breaking in new post doc students, etc.)? They are working very, very hard from what I see and doing a great job. I understand your frustration but let us not request they begin to give up what time the have for sleep as they are able to achieve.

    Personally, I’m beginning to believe Gavin has not slept for about a year. But that does not mean many others are not working just as hard in different areas and making profound contributions to the science. This will all add up to getting the point across more effectively.

    As to your comment about criticism: I don’t know any scientists afraid of criticism. Criticism is one of the nutrients that science thrives on.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I understand your frustration as do so many involved in the debate. There are critical issues at hand. Inertia can be a funny thing when it comes to bureaucracies and awareness, which is why it is important to do the best we can to explain what the science is and what it means.

    #177 paulm

    Lawsuits are all in process and many cases have already occurred and many more will occur. We really don’t want the scientists doing the relevant work to resign. That would be bad for everyone.

    #178 Hank Roberts

    Good point!

  7. 207
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Re: #184 “I do think it is reasonable to make the statement that he(Al Gore) does speak for the AGW cause.”

    Anthropogenic global warming isn’t a cause. Wish it were. He’s not promoting any cause. He speaks, I believe from the viewpoint of someone who has taken the trouble to get familiar with the basics of the inter-relationship of the Earth’s temperature, how it radiates energy, and the composition of our
    atmosphere.

    The temperature of our planet, without the amount of greenhouse gases that existed in the atmosphere in pre-industrial times, would be about -18C or 0F. The “natural greenhouse effect” makes the Earth a more comfortable +15C or about 59F. Changing the amount of these gases,primarily CO2 and H2O, will change the value of this effect (not cause).

    A conspiratorial mindset doesn’t exist among proponents of AGW. The scientists and well informed non-scientists, like Gore, don’t have any conspiracy going on, other than to present the existing science, and the consequences of continuing along the lines of a number of behavioral scenarios.

  8. 208

    #204 Robert

    It may be hard to believe, but some people still deny climate change even. I have a friend that has assured me that the global mean temperature has not changed at all and he can prove it because the FAA has not changed their ref to mean of 29.92 Mercury at a specified temp for density altitude calcs. for pilots.

    There of course is much more controversy about anthropogenic climate change. As I mentioned you forgot to mention that in your post #180.

    By continuing to say climate change rather than human caused climate change or global warming, you either indicate you don’t understand that this global warming event is human caused or you are not presenting proper context pertaining to the known science.

    So I will ask you directly. Do you believe this global warming event is human caused?

    As to assertions of the World Bank report, I would not put all my stock in the report but neither negate the importance of their findings, but rather add it to the compendium of aggregate knowledge and understanding of the matter. We can also add to the list market speculation and even market manipulation, as well as population issues, etc. I am confident that market forces artificially inflated the price during the period in question but I have not studied it in depth as yet. So I would agree with the general summary of the report in the context of the scope of the paper.

    You will note that in my post on the matter above I did include an et cetera for the purpose of illuminating that the issue was not a single factor but a confluence of factors, as the report points out.

    They do mentioned the back to back droughts in the report in Australia which has impacted market prices by the reduction of global grain exports of about 4%. So these are all factors in a bigger picture and I’m still oversimplifying.

  9. 209
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “Because we will need solutions, and so far only those who favor government intervention are proposing them.”

    That’s not really true. There is plenty of private capital — tens of billions of dollars per year — pouring in to important solutions such as wind and solar energy development. Much of it is in countries other than the USA — Spain, Germany and Japan are leaders, and China is on track to become a world leader in both wind and solar.

    But there is also a lot of private investment in the USA. The USA already leads the world in the growth of wind power, and major US utilities are planning even larger investments in wind and solar, including distributed rooftop photovoltaics. Major corporations including General Electric are investing billions in wind and solar. General Motors is partnering with utilities to develop the grid infrastructure and charging stations to support large numbers of electric cars. Nissan has announced that they plan to introduce pure electric (not hybrid) cars in the US market in in 2010 that will be available in large quantities and both affordable to consumers and profitable for the company.

    As I noted in a previous comment above, the “government intervention” that is needed is not at all heavy-handed or onerous: tax credits to encourage private investment in wind and solar, feed-in tariffs to guarantee a fair price paid to small wind and solar energy producers, renewable portfolio standards for utilities, and efficiency standards for appliances, automobiles and buildings. The “government intervention” that might be most objectionable to “conservatives” would be a carbon tax, simply because many “conservatives” have a monomaniacal hatred of taxes of any kind for any reason. But a carbon tax is merely a way of forcing the market to recognize the costs of fossil fuel use that are currently “externalized” (which means foisted off on the public).

    On the other hand, if emissions continue to increase and accelerate, and anthropogenic warming continues unabated, then the resulting impacts and social upheavals will almost certainly lead to “government intervention” of the worst kind, such as the imposition of dictatorships all over the world to try to impose some kind of order on the escalating chaos.

  10. 210
    Paul Melanson says:

    RE: Robert #184

    Can anyone here make the case that in order to accomplish Mr. Gore’s goal that it won’t take a governmental (and societal) effort exceeding any in our countries (sic) history?

    Yes, I can make that case. However, in the spirit of your and other denialist comments here, I won’t back it up. That’s OK, because people who don’t want to believe this can happen won’t be swayed by it anyway.

    Seriously, I deal with this sort of situation (daunting projects) at work all the time. It’s amazing what you can do with some planning and leadership.

    RE: Robert #191

    I think it is a reasonable statement that meeting Mr. Gore’s goal would be a more difficult challenge than overcoming the Great Depression and World War II combined. As a child of a member of the “Greatest Generation” I’ve got some insight into exactly what that means and I think it would pale in comparison with what would have to be done in this scenario.

    My friend Ooog in the cave next door says the same thing about human civilization (or would if he could do more than grunt). For example, who in their right mind believes we can develop agriculture, permanent structures, or a written language, after all it’s never been done before!

  11. 211

    #204 Robert

    It tickled my funny bone that someone would make the statement that the climate is changing as some sort of shocking revelation.

    I’m unsure as to why it tickled your funny bone since you are the one that brought it up in your post #180?

    Paulm, I’ve got really, really bad news for you. Climate always changes. Always has, always will. You don’t have to be in the AGW crowd or a “denialist” to understand that. That much we can agree on I think.

    So why did it tickle your funny bone?

  12. 212
    Robert says:

    #210 – Ray

    I have been known to laugh at my own jokes, but in this case my post(#180) was in reaction to one made by Paulm (#177). Always happy to clarify.

  13. 213
    Robert says:

    Re # 209 – John P. Reisman

    “So I will ask you directly. Do you believe this global warming event is human caused?”

    Interesting choice of a word in your question, believe. I believe in God, but I know I weigh 203 lbs. Get the distinction?

    I know that mankind has an impact on the environment, on the eco system and on the climate itself. To state otherwise would be a denial of my own observation and knowledge. I won’t pretend to understand exactly what that impact is or what the implications are. To state otherwise would be a logical fallacy, at least for me.

    Is the earth warming at an unprecedented rate? You seem convinced, that is you believe it to be the case. I haven’t seen the empirical proof and I doubt it can be produced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the case. So I visit this site and others, to read informed opinions and studies to try and figure things out for myself and gather an informed opinion. I’ve been on the quest for knowledge for quite some time.

    Which brings me to a more direct answer to your question, which is simply I don’t know if I believe in AGW.

  14. 214
    cletus says:

    Matt-#203

    I’m not sure who you’re listening to, but I’m hearing plenty of serious statements from the scientists on the IPCC. There is no ambiguity in their statements about the consequences of not reducing CO2 emissions. That message is not getting across to the general public, which I find incredibly frustrating. But do you really think that more people will listen to and trust scientists who jump up and down screaming at the top of their lungs? Frankly, I don’t know what the answer is, but I’ve received their message loud and clear.

  15. 215
    Andrew says:

    Journalistic Whiplash? Read Andy Revkin’s blog post on accreting river deltas and then some of the comments. In my opinion, his blog entry on the ability of river deltas to maintain themselves or even expand under rising sea levels is journalistic whiplash at its worst.

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/31/can-crumbling-himalayas-protect-bangladesh-from-rising-seas/

    My criticisms are:

    Mr. Revkin cites a news article that predicts Bangledesh’s entire demise (25m of sea level rise) within a century which itself is incredibly flawed.

    Mistake #1: he treats a past published news article as if it were an edited synopsis of years of peer-reviewed research.

    Mr. Revkin then jumps to his own conclusions despite his lack of training or first hand experience in coastal geology and doesn’t first have some experts check them out.

    That’s mistake #2.

    He then publishes his ponderings in one of the most important sources of news in the world and will get back to his readers with some actual facts after he has a chance to talk to some experts.

    Mistake #3. Too damn late.

    His readers have already jumped to the same conclusions he did while apparently writing his blog entry on the toliet or where ever he was when he wrote this dribble and was otherwise too preoccupied to bring a single relevant fact into his blog entry.

    And here enters his commentors mistake. They’ve read and assumed his blog is held up to the same editorial standards as his news articles.

    Here Mr. Revkin in conjunction with other journalists has just convinced (probably most were already convinced) that sea level rise due to global warming is nothing to be concerned with. The continents will magically rise up and all will be well.

  16. 216
    Hank Roberts says:

    > has just convinced (probably most were already convinced) that sea
    > level rise due to global warming is nothing to be concerned with.

    You’re mistaking the chorus of usual posters there for most people.
    There are very few of them, and they fill up any unmoderated climate thread with the same repeated stuff. Sad. Illustrates the problem Brin referred to in the bit I quoted earlier.

  17. 217
  18. 218
    streamtracker says:

    Re #215 Andrew, I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis.

    I posted the following comment at the blog and have yet to get an answer. If any one here has an answer, I would appreciate it.

    This is the second time I’m asking this. But, if I can’t get a hold of this report, how can I evaluate it?

    1)I have only found media articles on this report.
    2) Nothing at the the Dhaka-based Center for Environment and Geographic Information Services.
    3) Nothing found in a search of several academic websites.

    Maybe I am missing something?

    Can anyone tell me:
    1) What is the citation?
    2) Where was it published?
    3) Was it peer-reviewed?
    4) How can I get a copy?

    I feel like we are discussing a ghost.

    Mr Revkin, could you please provide a reference for this mysterious new report.

    I have also emailed the authors a day and a half ago, but I have yet to get a response.

    The way this was reported in the media, really science journalism at its worst.

  19. 219

    Re: #206

    Dear John,

    Let us just take a certain subset of climatologists — the ones who already have tenure, for example.

    And, let us assume, for the moment, that we are not toast, and the world actually has a couple of years for us to move to zero CO2 emissions.

    Does it then make logical sense for said tenured professors to continue to devote so much of their time to what they did last year instead of getting the word out to the public so that public policies can be changed for the benefit of all, or does it make better sense for said climatologists to continue to do exactly what they are doing, refining and improving the research results, while we go past the point of no return?

  20. 220
    Figen Mekik says:

    Tenney,

    Thanks very much for your kind words (#196), and please call me Figen. I heard this year is dryer in Turkey. Even Lake Van (it’s huge) is getting smaller. So I whole-heartedly agree with you that we have to do something fast.
    Cheers,

  21. 221
    Figen Mekik says:

    Robert, how do you know you weigh 203 lbs? Are you absolutely certain of this number? Did you consider the error margin of your scale, how much your muscle tone may affect how much you weigh (living people “carry” themselves somewhat based on their muscle and bone strength, hence the term dead weight)? Would you be willing to admit there is some level of uncertainty, a margin of error, in that number, 203lbs?

    If yes, then you are doing science. There are no absolutes in science. But this doesn’t mean believing in AGW is like believing in God. it is more like believing you weigh 203lbs. there’s a LOT of evidence supporting AGW with some uncertainty. but the signal always far outweighs the noise. Is this really so difficult?

  22. 222
    Ken says:

    Convincing people of the reality of Global Warming is one thing and convincing people it’s Anthropogenic is another – the former can be shown through real world affects such as loss of ice and phenological shifts, with easy to understand measures such as borehole temperatures preferable to referencing models of climate. The latter is a bit harder but I’d say the groundwork is already laid.
    Personally I don’t find it hard to tell explanations of science from real debate about aspects of the science from attempts to convince me the science is wrong – references to credentialled sources that come with the imprimatuer of scientific institutions that exist for the purpose of finding out how climate works is a start on the problem of who to believe. The alternative tends to be the unsupported “warmers say this and that” minus convenient links and references to allow you to go and look for yourself to see if that’s really the case. Graphs that are small portions of much larger graphs tend to be suspect if they fail to mention the limitations or to point to the larger more complete ones.
    Meanwhile the ability of scientists to inform the policy makers and politicians may be more crucial than the lay public, as the views held by them will flow through to those who look that way for leadership. Whilst there are plenty of politicians who will cynically attempt to sway the public for short term gains,the leading ones can tell the difference between a substantial body of scientific knowledge and an attempt to persuade. They are more likely to find discriminating between the immediate costs of strong action on mitigation and projections of the costs of adaptation in it’s absence a crucial factor. They aren’t likely to be taken in by the crude arguments of denialism. Witness recent events in Australia, where the major political parties accept AGW as reality, despite the vocal protestations of denialists even within their ranks.

  23. 223

    Re #213 Robert

    Good answer. Actually I am quite convinced and unless someone can explain the warming trend and the forcing levels with a natural causation then there is no reason for me to ‘believe’ otherwise.

    You bring up another good point. It really is not about beliefs in a certain sense, it’s about science. So there is a connotative distinction to be made based on the definitions. On one hand, my belief is based on the known science.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/believe

    As in transitive verb 1 a

    Many however, believe it is or is not human caused as in intransitive verb 1 a, 2, and 3

    I believe (intransitive verb 3) that subjects both sides that hold such perspective to be caught up in an endless circle of rhetorical opinion argument.

    So in effect and application, you believe in God (because you accept your religious fatih and opinion) and you believe you weigh 203 lbs. (because you trust the technology that measured your weight).

    You state:

    I haven’t seen the empirical proof and I doubt it can be produced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the case.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empirical

    But empirical proof is exactly what has been produced. The Co2 concentrations have changed, the isotopic signature of the Co2 from burning fossil fuel is known, so it is very easy to measure how much Co2 is from industrial process and how much is natural. The same for methane, nitrous oxide in the quantitative measurement and observations. The approximated forcing levels are fairly well understood and the models and observations match up with the GHG levels, albedo changes and many other factors. So the main part of the argument is empirically known.

    The paleo records also are great indicators just how far outside of the natural GHG ranges we are at this time.

    There are lots of little details left to learn about and figure out, but the big stuff is pretty solid along with its associated understanding of projection.

    As the bible says he who turns from the truth once known… Hebrews 10.26 there is no further sacrifice…

    If you really think there is no empirical evidence, you simply have not examined the evidence, or you have not understood the relevance and context of what you have seen. It’s pretty easy stuff to understand once get into the data deep enough and reduce the noise level sufficiently to see the signal.

    Just to give you some perspective, if we were in line with the natural cycle, we would be around 0 W/m2 or likely less (-.1W/m2) at this time (speaking from a radiative equilibrium perspective.) Instead we are around 1.9 W/m2 based on the mean analysis.

    Clearly we are on a different path, and clearly it is not natural. What more precisely do you need to know or see. Or would you prefer to say it’s solar and the sun is in a quiet phase? Or some other equally unsupported argument like global warming has reversed because we have been cooling since 1998?

    You see it’s all about context and relevance of the science, modeled and observed.

    The sun is in a quiet phase but that does not mean we will stop warming. We have been cooling since 1998, but that does not mean we are not continuing to warm in the long term. The sun argument is simple to understand. take away sunspots and you are left with 1.6 W/m2 on the mean, which means we will continue to warm without sunspots. On the cooling since 1998, the long term trend is warming. Just because we had an unusually warm El Nino event does not mean we are cooling long term.

    Like I said, context and relevance.

    Re #204 Robert

    I agree with you, we need a solution that is in the proper context of the known science and the reality of AGW. There is no harm in being realistic, but if you don’t have the empirical science in context then any policy recommendation will be incorrect.

    I’m still curious why I tickled your funny bone since you brought up the premise of

    I’ve got really, really bad news for you. Climate always changes. Always has, always will.

    in the first place. Or had you forgotten that you said it first when you responded to my post?

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tenney, you disagreed with what Figen wrote; I thought it very well put.

    Have you made this short list of tenured climatologists — limiting it to those tenured, and now publishing relevant work in the climate journals? — I doubt you’ll find on that list any doing less than they possibly can already.

    Imagine if those few were to quit publishing.

    Look back at, say, antibiotic resistance, or any of the many other things that scientists have tried to warn the public about. Look at the whole profession of public health.

    These people aren’t magic. People have to listen, or not. Either we’re going to be smart enough, or we’re not.

    Fermi Paradox — where are all the intelligent species that ought to have evolved? We may be right on the normal course, eating up our planet before we can outgrow it, one flicker then darkness.

    Hope not. Don’t blame the tenured climatologists if doing their best to keep us an intelligent species fails.

  25. 225
    Joao says:

    I think the climate science has serious problems to solve in this matter. The media hysteria and the proliferation of studies indirectly related to global warming is something that is seriously affecting this science. Stories such as the news about global warming and kidney stones for example. And there are millions of others like that, for example see this site: http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

    All this discredits this science even if this science is not directly responsible for this avalanche of news and studies related with global warming and climate science.

    Sorry for my bad english.

  26. 226
    Eli Rabett says:

    Tenney Naumer puts his finger on an important issue, the “Tethered Goat” climate science model. The Goat knows that the wolves are loose, but his job is simply to publish more and graze in a very small circle. Of course, it is not only the self tethered, but there are strong lobbies that are happy with this situation and quite willing to find lose goats (Hansen, Rahmstorf, Schmidt, Pierrehumbert, etc) and try to re-tether them.

  27. 227
    tamino says:

    Re: #226 (Eli)

    I’d suggest that some of the “loose goats” aren’t goats at all; they’re lions or tigers or bears, oh my! You might even run into an especially knowledgeable rabbit, or the occasional bulldog…

  28. 228

    RE this discussion about what we know and what we belief….a little story.

    In kindergarten the teacher accused me of stepping on and squashing a little boy’s Mexican jumping bean (plastic bean with a tiny worm). The boy was in tears, and I felt sorry for his loss, but I refused to admit I had done the dastardly deed. I didn’t see myself do it, so I didn’t do it.

    Apparently young children cannot understand that they may have done something like that, if they didn’t actually see themselves do it.

    Now as an adult I’ve come to believe that I probably did do that dastardly deed. Several kids had said they saw me do it.

    I also trust what the (bonafide, working) scientists have to say. They could be wrong, but I accept their word, plus it does seem logical (I had come to except the idea of a natural greenhouse effect some decades earlier).

    I also accept their word that the earth is a sphere and goes around the sun, even though my personal experience tells me the earth is flat (especially here in Texas) and the sun rises in the east, travels across the sky, and sets in the west.

    However, we have more help in making decisions, and one is Pascal’s (father of statistics) wager. The false positive on AGW (mitigating it when it is not happening) would be a great economic and environmental bonanza, while the false negative (fiddling while the world burns) would be an extreme tragedy (see my post #125), so I opt to act as if AGW is real, and even worse than the reticent, false-postive-fearing climate scientists are telling us. That is, I really into reducing my own GHGs, and trying to get others to do likewise.

  29. 229
    Richard Sycamore says:

    Politics is such a distraction. Gavin is always at his best when he speaks to climate modeling science. With that in mind, I hope he can take the time to respond substantively to #103, which replies to Gavin’s inline in #78. #103 cuts to the heart of the matter. These models are the basis for GHG/AGW attribution. If they are in error, then points #38 and #84 lose all their weight. Either way, #110 is wrong, as #103 proves. Finally, if #106 is true then one should expect a substantive thread devoted to #103.

    Thank you for this forum. Let’s hope for a thread on Koutsoyiannis’s 2008 paper:
    http://www.atypon-link.com/IAHS/doi/abs/10.1623/hysj.53.4.671

    Recap for context [+ my reply]:
    #38 There are >20 global climate models–not one of which works with a climate sensitivity of <2 K per doubling of CO2.
    [Or is it, more simply: "not one of which works"?]

    [Response: Some models are better than others, but all work in that their emergent properties - the mid-latitude storm tracks, the circulation of the ocean, the ITCZ, the monsoons all appear as a consequence of the underlying assumptions (raditative transfer, NS equations, conservation of mass etc.). - gavin]

    #78 Perhaps you could show me one place on this blog where we have claimed absolute certainty on anything remotely contentious? – gavin
    [Multiple claims that all relevant physics are "known" - as though scaling through a fluid hydroatmosphere is a non-issue.]

    [Response: Never been claimed. The radiative properties of CO2 are well known, but scaling issues in turbulence are not. Please do not use "quotes" to imply that I have made statements I have not. - gavin]

    #84 Nobody has figured out how to make a climate model work with sensitivity less than 2 K/doubling.
    [Maybe because the models are broken or the approach to ensemble modeling is incorrect?]

    [Response: The models aren't broken and climate sensitivity has nothing to do with using ensembles. If you can come up with a model that matches the cooling of the LGM that is consistent with no sensitivity to CO2, I have a Nature editor who'd love to hear from you. - gavin]

    #106 RC is relatively probably the best climate science blog/forum going.

    #110 None of the “skeptics” on this thread are going to challenge those basic scientific lines of evidence or the estimates they produce with anything other than recycled and refuted nonsense.
    [Are the GHG/AGW attribution models skillful? Are their projections credible? What's the relevant metric, and how well do they perform?]

    [Response: Not amenable to a one line response - read the IPCC report in the meantime. - gavin]

  30. 230

    Re # 240 Robert

    For the sake of clarity regarding your posts:

    You claimed special insight (#191) that “as a child of a member of the “Greatest Generation” pertaining to “exactly what ‘that’ means” with a casual comment and you are writing in a science blog saying that there is no empirical evidence thus making it clear to us that you know nothing of the existing empirical evidence that is widely available and you are giving equal weight to denialist arguments that are not supported by science when put in context, and now (post #213) you are stating that you do not believe it is human caused.

    You claim you are trying to learn about the science; but what I see is you are merely a part of the background noise confusing people with ambiguous statements and casual comments that have no relevant meaning or significant point. Maybe you should warn people with a statement like I don’t know what I’m talking about and am still trying to figure AGW out; but I’m not examining the relevant science and still listening to denialist arguments and giving them inappropriate weight pertaining to my beliefs. You know, sort of like a warming label.

    That would be less confusing to people reading your posts.

    If on the other hand you are serious about learning. Contact me through my web site by email and I would be happy to discuss the matter with you directly to help you understand the empirical evidence. Or, just click on

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/

    and start reading

    Not knowing is not a good excuse at this time in relation to the empirical body of evidence, the fingerprints, the quantitative knowledge observed and modeled.

  31. 231
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist: ‘The “government intervention” that might be most objectionable to “conservatives” would be a carbon tax, simply because many “conservatives” have a monomaniacal hatred of taxes of any kind for any reason. But a carbon tax is merely a way of forcing the market to recognize the costs of fossil fuel use that are currently “externalized” (which means foisted off on the public).’

    I actually agree with most of your 209 comment.

    As a libertarian who probably hates taxes more than most “conservatives”, I could agree that a _revenue neutral_ carbon tax would be a desirable and useful way to mitigate carbon emissions. The key to getting conservatives and libertarians to agree to a carbon tax is the revenue neutral part. Almost every proposal I have seen from politicians plans to generate revenue for them to distribute in a way that gives them more power.

  32. 232

    #215 Andrew

    You stated that Mr. Revkin made many mistakes. But when I read the piece, I did not get that impression.

    Then you go on to say he indicates everything is dandy, no worries?

    Here Mr. Revkin in conjunction with other journalists has just convinced (probably most were already convinced) that sea level rise due to global warming is nothing to be concerned with. The continents will magically rise up and all will be well.

    So I am confused about what point you are trying to make. You want to say Mr. Revkin is guilty of Journalistic Whiplash? But your contexts and basis are not reasonable from what I can derive from your post.

    A blog is to stimulate discussion so I don’t think it needs to live up to the journalistic standards of an article, in other words, it’s fair game to say he will look into things more.

    I don’t think he is saying that “The continents will magically rise up and all will be well.” He is stating that is occurring in Alaska. If one extrapolates into the future, the rising land will be back underwater soon anyway, so I hope people don’t start building there.

    It is my impression that Mr. Revkin is doing a great job of late and getting better. He has good context and is pointing out multiple perspectives that are relevant.

    Here’s the skinny on the Revkin item as I read it in context with the what is reasonably understood in the science:

    We already doubled the sea level rise rate so that is one basis from which yo calculate. We know we are warming and the forcing is in the system for a long long time.

    Assuming this is a linear progression:

    Let’s say we double again in the next 10 years, and so on…

    2cm and again
    4cm and so on… 9 more decades…
    8 cm
    16 cm
    32 cm
    64 cm
    128 cm
    256 cm
    512 cm

    add that all up and you can see that Hansen was being generous by not adding the last decade

    the total is 10.22 meters of sea level rise (33 feet). But this is assuming a linear progression. There are non linear components and it is reasonable to assess that the non linear will lean toward the acceleration side of the scale due to positive feedbacks overriding negative feedbacks.

    So it may not be prudent to rule out 25 meters of rise just yet.

    Revkin referenced other articles and that is not unreasonable considering the context he gave it.

    Add another decade to the linear progression on top of the previous calcs. and we are at 20.5 meters of sea level rise

    The overall tone and content was quite informative in my opinion.

  33. 233

    Ken, your #222 is well-put. I was trying to say some of the same things, quite differently, in my much earlier post in this thread. Assessing the value of the argumentation on each side of a debate is not purely a matter of assessing content: it is also a matter of assessing process and procedure. So those of us who are at best scientific amateurs may find it useful to consider not just the arcana (for us!) of integrations over differently-shaped surfaces, interrelations between forcings, sensitivities, and responses at varying timescales, etc., etc., but also the internal consistency and consistency over time, the reliability and transparency (in terms of sources/cites), the responsiveness (or lack thereof) in confronting objections to one’s own argument, and level of relevance of points made of each side. For some of us, it may be a good deal easier to recognize a good or bad faith argument by means of such markers than to simply to “do the math” (which some of us, sadly, are not so well equipped to follow.)

    It’s not easy, in the sense that it takes time and effort to do such an analysis, but this individual response is, I think, an important part of dealing with the “journalistic whiplash.” The other part is sharing what we learn with those who may be less able or willing to put in that effort. Most on this site are clearly involved with both parts of this process: educating themselves, and sharing the understanding(s) that they develop.

  34. 234

    Back on-topic. There is also a problem with the sources and press-releases newswriters choose to use.

    Last Oct I was upset by a segment on EWTN’s (Catholic channel) Rome Reports (aired thru Raymond Arroyo), “Is Pope Benedict the First Eco-Pope?” [Of coure not, John Paul II was.] It’s past the middle of the video at http://www.romereports.com/index.php?lnk=750&id=461 .

    It featured Lord Monckton, and a spokesperson from the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, who dismissed environmentalists as nature worshippers.

    Acton (see http://www.acton.org) does press releases and provides speakers, I’m guesssing mainly for Catholic news orgs and groups, perhaps for other religions, as well.

    I just found out this week that ACTON IS HEAVILY FUNDED BY EXXON, which as you know is notorious for its funding of climate change disinformation. See: http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=5 .

    This makes one wonder about Rome Reports’s funding, and Raymond Arroyo’s, and EWTN’s. Not sure about Monckton either. And what other Church or quasi-church orgs might be so funded.

    At any rate either Catholic news providers are unwittingly getting duped,…or wittingly.

    This whole media wrongful reporting is just another nail in the coffin of our belief and trust in society. In addition to this church-media corruption, when you also consider our other institutions — government, educational (many funded by corrupt industries), and the corrupt industries themselves — that trust in society is getting pretty much smashed to smitherines. I imagine this all-pervasive corruption might culminate in taking a large toll on society. If you can’t trust anyone, even your own mother….

  35. 235
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan: “The false positive on AGW (mitigating it when it is not happening) would be a great economic and environmental bonanza…”

    Since the above statement conflicts with the position of most peer-reviewed economists, I curious why you seem to have so much faith in climate science and so little faith in economic science.

  36. 236
    Hank Roberts says:

    Worth remembering, when puzzling over why the media get this so wrong:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/opinion/15krugman.html

    ——excerpt———

    “… The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right. In 1992, George H. W. Bush mocked him as the “ozone man,” but three years later the scientists who discovered the threat to the ozone layer won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In 2002 he warned that if we invaded Iraq, “the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.” And so it has proved.

    But Gore hatred is more than personal. …

    Consider the policy implications of taking climate change seriously.

    “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said F.D.R. “We know now that it is bad economics.”

    ———end excerpt——–

    reCapcha says: “Puzzle War”

  37. 237

    Re: #224

    Dear Hank,

    First, let’s try to keep the word “blame” out of the discussion because that is not what I am doing. (I chose “tenured” professors because they are no longer in the situation of “publish or perish.”)

    Second, I would refer you to my comment #219.

    Third, I would ask you to consider if it makes logical sense for scientists to continue in a state of scientific reticence or should they act as if they believe in their own error bars?

    Fourth, I realize that it is difficult to ponder the fact that we are heading toward self-annihilation given the fact that whenever I personally try to contemplate that future, my own brain insists on changing the subject in remarkably short order.

    Fifth, I must ask you to try to believe in the butterfly effect. If I didn’t believe in it, I would not be typing this comment.

  38. 238
    SecularAnimist says:

    Robert wrote: “Is the earth warming at an unprecedented rate? [...] I haven’t seen the empirical proof and I doubt it can be produced …”

    The empirical proof has been produced, and is readily available in the public domain, including documents linked from this very website, so if you “haven’t seen it” that is your own shortcoming, not a shortcoming of the science.

  39. 239
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #171: The problem with public perceptions is far more intractable than mere ignorance. I’ve linked these here before, but once again:

    Understanding Public Complacency About Climate Change: Adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter

    Abstract: “Public attitudes about climate change reveal a contradiction. Surveys show most Americans believe climate change poses serious risks but also that reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sufficient to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations or net radiative forcing can be deferred until there is greater evidence that climate change is harmful. US policymakers likewise argue it is prudent to wait and see whether climate change will cause substantial economic harm before undertaking policies to reduce emissions. Such wait-and-see policies erroneously presume climate change can be reversed quickly should harm become evident, underestimating substantial delays in the climate’s response to anthropogenic forcing. We report experiments with highly educated adults-graduate students at MIT-showing widespread misunderstanding of the fundamental stock and flow relationships, including mass balance principles, that lead to long response delays. GHG emissions are now about twice the rate of GHG removal from the atmosphere. GHG concentrations will therefore continue to rise even if emissions fall, stabilizing only when emissions equal removal. In contrast, results show most subjects believe atmospheric GHG concentrations can be stabilized while emissions into the atmosphere continuously exceed the removal of GHGs from it. These beliefs — analogous to arguing a bathtub filled faster than it drains will never overflow — support wait-and-see policies but violate conservation of matter. Low public support for mitigation policies may be based more on misconceptions of climate dynamics than high discount rates or uncertainty about the risks of harmful climate change.”

    Why Don’t Well-Educated Adults Understand Accumulation? A Challenge to Researchers, Educators, and Citizens

    Abstract: “Accumulation is a fundamental process in dynamic systems: inventory accumulates production less shipments; the national debt accumulates the federal deficit. Effective decision making in such systems requires an understanding of the relationship between stocks and the flows that alter them. However, highly educated people are often unable to infer the behavior of simple stock-flow systems. Poor performance has been ascribed to complex information displays, lack of contextual knowledge, the cognitive burden of calculation, or the inability to interpret graphs.

    “Here, we demonstrate that poor understanding of accumulation, termed stock-flow failure, is more fundamental. In a series of experiments we find that persistent poor performance is not attributable to an inability to interpret graphs, lack of contextual knowledge, motivation, or cognitive capacity. Rather, stock-flow failure is a robust phenomenon that appears to be a function of the mental models constructed and used when encountering a dynamic system. We show that many, including highly educated individuals with strong technical training, use what we term the ‘correlation heuristic’, erroneously assuming that the behavior of a stock matches the pattern of its flows. We discuss the origins of stock-flow failure and implications for management and education.”

    Some related research is available here.

    This apparent incapacity to grasp the problem appears to be uncorrelated with intelligence (and in my entirely unexpert opinion is probably genetic, much like color blindness). Combine this grouping with those who can see the problem but choose for reasons such as short-term self-interest to ignore it, and IMHO we have ourselves a majority of the population.

    On the plus side, it does seem clear that things can and probably will change quickly the moment large numbers of humans are affected by a climate disaster (or a series of them, more likely). Unfortunately that point in time may be too late to prevent rather a lot of very bad further effects.

    (Here it’s worth pointing out that the views of people like Lomborg and Pielke Jr. are dangerous because the approach of favoring adaptation over mitigation would have the effect of maximizing the response lag by the countries that are simultaneously most responsible for the problem and have the most resources to implement solutions.)

    For anyone thinking that I’m being too pessimistic, consider the response of the U.S. to the problems of energy security and peak oil. It was crystal clear thirty years ago that both were going to become huge problems within the lifetimes of many then living, and even as the consequences of both have recently become much more pointed it seems our society would do almost anything to avoid grappling with them in a serious way. One day historians may mark the day Ronald Reagan had Jimmy Carter’s solar installation removed from the White House roof as a “Day of Infamy” much worse than the Pearl Harbor attack.

  40. 240
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tenney, you’re asking individuals to take on an industry.
    Remember what happened to Ben Santer? They do, I’m sure.
    People have human limits on what they can do. Industries don’t.

    http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/91/11/1749
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=20&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&cites=13366054661093759722

  41. 241

    Dear Hank,

    Let’s just agree between the two of us to disagree on this point, but I would point out that your comments are all about why something can’t be done and mine are about how it can be done.

    As long as people repeat to themselves that something can’t be done, then it won’t get done.

    And here we are, needing the whole world to get on a new path or there won’t even be a viable planet much less this blog or peer-reviewed research publications.

  42. 242

    #235, Steve, I do lack belief in neoclassical economic theory to address issues in the anthropocene. It probably held up somewhat in the holocene. I’ve discussed that elsewhere — http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=568#comment-89450

    More importantly, I myself reduced my GHGs since 1990 by two-thirds, without lowering my living standard, and Amory Lovins figures America could reduce its GHGs by three-fourths, without lowering productivity (in economic terms we are way off inside the production possibilities frontier).

    Furthermore, there is a tremendous amount of subsidies and tax-breaks going to oil and coal, not even counting military costs to secure oil supplies. So those of us on wind are paying for other people to pollute on April 15th.

    We do not have a free market. So, well, maybe a free market might even work, but I guess we can never know.

  43. 243
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan: We do not have a free market. So, well, maybe a free market might even work, but I guess we can never know.

    I agree that we do not have a free market, but I also agree with economists that being closer to one is better than further.

  44. 244

    #235 #243 Steve Reynolds

    I have faith in economic models to the extent they are relevant to the economics of related interdynamic systems.

    For example if the interpretation of use of a particular economic model ultimately destroys one economy in favor of another that may of may not be good.

    In my interpretations every system has an economy that has components. As in living systems theory and the 20 critical subsystems.

    The economy in this case is the give and take between the inter-dynamic systems.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/economy

    Definition 3a applies to systems theory.

    So if you are talking about all inter-dynamic economies that is one thing, if you are only referring to the monetary economy and the industrial economy, then the scope is sufficiently narrowed to render any monetary economy arguments irrelevant in relation to the aggregate economy of the planet earth. You could of course extend that to the parent system and economic exchange with the solar system, but that would be out of context on a geologic time scale with the more relevant discussion pertaining to the economy of climate and bio-systems, GHG’s, forcing, and the human subsystem of earth and its co-lateral, parent and subsystems.

    “Every living dynamic system is tied in some way to all other systems. What happens at the macro-level effects the micro-level and vice versa, with resonance’s equivalent to the relevance of the individual event.”

    Since we have no objective value basis for the monetary economy it is not possible with the current systems to have even a remotely free economy. What we seem to have though is corporate social-ism, where they get the benefits and we get to pay for it. But that can’t last either i.e. the tragedy of the commons, which Gavin recently brought up. It is something that should be well considered and with tempered care.

    Economists that argue for free market economy are full of hot air literally since they are merely supporting in the well marketed ideas that foster corporate social-ism.

    Ike Solem pointed out some relevant points on this in #110

    Others are still basically committed to the fossil fuel economic model, for example ExxonMobil, Senator Inhofe, and the current United States government. Their response to the problem has included paying large sums to ex-tobacco science public relation firms to press the denialist talking points, halting any political efforts to regulate fossil fuel emissions, and censoring government scientists and defunding climate satellites, all in an attempt to keep us all firmly on the “business-as-usual” projection path.

    and taminos #60 pointed out the means

    #72 pointed out a method of solution

    I may be going the long way around the barn, but the reality is economy is not just monetary and we’re going to have to get more economical and more conservative in our conservation if we are to preserve a sustainable global socio-climatological-biosphere-monetary economy that is more, rather than less, livable.

    If we over tax the global economy we all lose.

  45. 245
    Andrew says:

    Re: 232

    “Here’s the skinny on the Revkin item as I read it in context with the what is reasonably understood in the science:”

    First, I do regret the tone of my post.

    Mr. Revkin doesn’t understand the science. A meter of sea level rise over the next century will inundate vast areas of Bangladesh and make vast areas unsuitable for farming and the delta building of the Ganges will be unable to prevent this. Certainly there are means of artificially enhancing the delta building process to reduce the losses. Such means are now employed at the mouth of the Atchafalaya in Louisiana (Mississippi Delta). But they are no match for rapidly rising sea levels.

    The news article he cites sets up a strawman argument which Mr. Revkin then sets alight. That is that 25m of sea level are required to cause catastrophic losses in Bangladesh.

    Sea level has been fairly stable for 6,000 years and this has allowed the build up of large deltas along the world’s coastlines. These are vast areas that are very flat and without much slope. Sediments tend to accumulate in these deltas near the high tide elevation and only above that fairly slowly. The result is that relatively small amounts of sea level rise (eustatic or subsidence-driven) inundates vast areas of delta land. For example, where I live on the upper coast of Texas, one foot of sea level rise will cause the shoreline to retreat 1,500 feet. But in Louisiana on the Mississippi Delta, one foot of sea level rise will cause the shoreline to retreat over 15,000 feet.

    This characteristic of deltas is why the temporary sea level rise seen in tropical cyclone driven storm surges cause such huge casulties and crop losses when they strike delta areas such as Bangladesh or Myanmar or New Orleans.

    One meter of sea level rise will be catastrophic in Bangladesh, but even more so in Louisiana as the microtidal climate (seasonal lunar tides fluctuate only about 1.5 feet) that that delta has formed in means that very little of it is above 1 meter in elevation. It now seems inevitable that the world will lose some of its most valuable real estate in terms of food production, human habitation and habitat for wildlife and fisheries over the next century due to AGW.

  46. 246
    Andy Revkin says:

    Wow, quite a thread. Two thoughts. One on Whiplash, the other on Bangladesh’s coastal troubles.

    1) I’ve got to rebut the assertion by #28 above that The Times hasn’t reported on corporate disinformation efforts related to global warming. Such stories began in 1998, with Jack Cushman’s page-one piece on the extraordinary memo laying out a corporate-funded plan to sprinkle uncertainty in the climate discourse; my story in 2001 on Exxon Mobil’s effort to get Robert Watson dumped as IPCC chairman; my 2005 piece on the former oil lobbyist sprinkling uncertainty in government climate reports; etc.

    2) On Bangladesh, I felt obliged to start a thread on the Bangladesh news without access to the data and researchers simply because it’s the kind of assertion that reverberates far and wide. I didn’t write a print piece because the whiplash threshold is higher in print. As it turned out, Kevin Trenberth of NCAR (in an update to that post) says sediment accretion is not something to sneeze at.

    I’ve written before on the mixed value of blogging (my Dot Earth post calling for a “Slow Blog Movement” gets into this a bit).

    I’m hoping Gavin et al weigh in yet on whether the IPCC has considered sediment accretion at all in assessing regional impacts of climate and sea-level change.

  47. 247

    When one considers the sheer length of Bangladesh’s coastline, it seems incredible to assume that accretion from Himalayan sediments will suffice to save Bangladesh from the rapid sea-level rise occurring today. Just look at a map.

    captcha: beside crude

  48. 248
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tenney, I haven’t explained myself well if you think I’m saying ‘can’t — I’m saying the scientists I’ve known pretty much do all they can to educate people in and out of classrooms. I grew up a ‘faculty brat’ and saw this kind of outreach all my life. I still see it going on. It’s part of being a scientist for a lot of people. Yes, not all do it, some are so specialized, or so introverted and so focused, they don’t do much public contact.

    Pushing them into the PR grinder won’t improve public understanding. The public has fun, too many of them, watching charming mountebanks humiliate smart people.

    I think even RC, well moderated as it is, is too harsh an environment for some of the scientists I know. Let alone a site like Dot Earth. Let alone the local church or club or other public venue — which is where I see those scientists willing to speak to people doing exactly that.

    If there’s some individual scientist you think is wasting his time by doing work instead of say joining you in the dot.earth threads, ask her or him why, eh? Otherwise you’re just proclaiming “they” should be doing something different.

    I think they’re as human as anyone else, though often far better informed, and as open and available as anyone to helping people learn.

    But if they had wanted to be in PR or sales they’d be there. You’re asking them to jump into that arena. Could you offer to teach them how to do it? Find the reluctant ones and offer to be their mentor?

    Heck, all of us who aren’t scientists and do pop up here — and wherever we work, play, have contact with other people — really have to be available not just to convince other nonscientists, but to be helpful to any scientist who, watching us, thinks we can help them explain this stuff.

    Part of being in the milieu is being available. If you’re convincing and your skill doing this is obvious to the scientists you think aren’t outspoken enough they’ll ask your help in speaking up. OK?

  49. 249
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andy Revkin wrote
    > to rebut the assertion by #28 above that The Times hasn’t reported

    Andy, how did you find those examples? Can you tell us not just the fact but the way to find those stories, so any other reader here can look up the NYT’s reporting on corporate disinformation on climate?

    I’m fair at searching, and I can find that stuff — but it means reading through huge amounts of chaff. Do you have a search tool AT the NYT you can tell us how better to use, limiting terms, or such?

  50. 250
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andy also wrote:

    > But, of course, the echo chamber was already reverberating.
    > You may have noticed several Dot Earth visitors who reject
    > the idea that humans are warming the planet posted links to the
    > initial barrage of criticisms of Mr. Clinton….
    > …
    > Does anyone out there want to start a “slow blog” movement?

    Oh yeah, we know the regulars. Others besides me have suggested several times (as I suggested above, here) doing parallel threads, one for the scientists’ conversation, one for the peanut gallery.

    That would be your “slow blog” movement, Andy. I think it’d fit the need the science authors and journals all have to be heard, slowly, as they write, thoughtfully.

    The science discussion would probably accumulate 1/100 of the volume the peanut gallery thread would. You’d want one or more authors (the corresponding author?), someone from the journal, the authors of some of the _cited_ papers especially those critiqued. You’d be doing something delicate in parallel with the usual academic do-se-do of publishing. RC does it now, when papers are in preparation but not yet published. Mention, put a placeholder, revisit.

    You could be doing this with dot.earth. Others have asked too.

    If you did, eventually, nobody would read the peanut gallery thread — it would be so popular with the === crowd that nobody would go there any more except to paste more rhetoric.

    Pull that stuff out of your current threads and they’d lose most of the volume and none of the information.

    Yes, you want to _know_ these people are out there. Where’s that sociology team study you were talking about in the earlier climate thread? Is it really happening?

    I really hope you (journalists, scientists) can do something like this, whether by separating threads in dot.earth, or elsewhere.
    RC does it well now but I wish there were more scientists either invited, or encouraged, to speak up. People like me who’d like to help are around, we don’t need our names posted, invite us to do library grunt work for you, check cites, do careful excerpting, if you will.

    Even to (gack) read the peanut gallery thread looking for pearls.

    ________
    Captcha: heats discharged


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