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Communicating the Science of Climate Change

Filed under: — mike @ 12 January 2009

It is perhaps self-evident that those of us here at RealClimate have a keen interest in the topic of science communication. A number of us have written books aimed at communicating the science to the lay public, and have participated in forums devoted to the topic of science communication (see e.g. here, here, and here). We have often written here about the challenges of communicating science to the public in the modern media environment (see e.g. here, here, and here).

It is naturally our pleasure, in this vein, to bring to the attention of our readers a masterful new book on this topic by veteran environmental journalist and journalism educator Bud Ward. The book, entitled Communicating on Climate Change: An Essential Resource for Journalists, Scientists, and Educators, details the lessons learned in a series of Metcalf Institute workshops held over the past few years, funded by the National Science Foundation, and co-organized by Ward and AMS senior science and communications fellow Tony Socci. These workshops have collectively brought together numerous leading members of the environmental journalism and climate science communities in an effort to develop recommendations that might help bridge the cultural divide between these two communities that sometimes impedes accurate and effective science communication.

I had the privilege of participating in a couple of the workshops, including the inaugural workshop in Rhode Island in November 2003. The discussions emerging from these workshops were, at least in part, the inspiration behind “RealClimate”. The workshops formed the foundation for this new book, which is an appropriate resource for scientists, journalists, editors, and others interested in science communication and popularization. In addition to instructive chapters such as “Science for Journalism“, “Journalism for Scientists” and “What Institutions Can Do“, the book is interspersed with a number of insightful essays by leading scientists (e.g. “Mediarology–The Role of Climate Scientists in Debunking Climate Change Myths” by Stephen Schneider) and environmental journalists (e.g. “Hot Words” by Andy Revkin). We hope this book will serve as a standard reference for how to effectively communicate the science of climate change.


106 Responses to “Communicating the Science of Climate Change”

  1. 51
    Kimota94 says:

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

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

    I’m just sayin’…

  2. 52
    PaulC says:

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

  3. 53
    Maria M says:

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

  4. 54

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

    @ 28:

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

    @ 35:

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

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

  5. 55
    Jim Bouldin says:

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

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

  6. 56
    Ray Ladbury says:

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

  7. 57
    David B. Benson says:

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

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

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

  8. 58
    wildlifer says:

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

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

  9. 59
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Spencer

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

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

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

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

  10. 60
    Dan says:

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

  11. 61
    Hank Roberts says:

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

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

    Choose your tools for the work you intend to accomplish.

  12. 62

    David Benson,

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

  13. 63
  14. 64

    11 Richard Pauli Says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    _Vide supra _ , Mr. Pauli.
    ”.

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

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

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

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

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

  15. 65
    David B. Benson says:

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

  16. 66

    David,

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

  17. 67

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

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

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

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

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

  18. 68
    David B. Benson says:

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

  19. 69
    Chris Colose says:

    # 67

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

  20. 70
    Hank Roberts says:

    Worth reading, or rereading:

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

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

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

    “… Analysis of the statements Seitz listed …”

  21. 71
    Hank Roberts says:

    On the same subject, also worth rereading:

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

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

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

    Read the whole thing. Compare it to today.

  22. 72
    Hank Roberts says:

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

    Consult an expert:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  23. 73
    concerned of berkeley says:

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

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

  24. 74

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

    “97% of climatologists agree with AGW theory:”

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

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

  25. 75
    Ray Ladbury says:

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

  26. 76
    Jon says:

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

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

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

  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

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

  29. 79
    Hank Roberts says:

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

  30. 80
    Harmen says:

    Hank Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

  31. 81
    Mark says:

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

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

  32. 82

    Jon writes:

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

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

  33. 83
    Harmen says:

    You are probably right Mark…

    The terror funk is our worst enemy…

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

    *sigh*

  34. 84
    Hank Roberts says:

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

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

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

  35. 85
    Tom says:

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

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

  36. 86
    richard schumacher says:

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

  37. 87
    herbert stencil says:

    Re #85, and Gavin’s Response:

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

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

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

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

  38. 88
    Chris Colose says:

    # 87 (herbert)

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

  39. 89
    Jim Eager says:

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

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

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

  40. 90
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, dear:

    NYT, Tuesday Jan. 27th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Momentum” is another word:

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

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

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

    Nah, too long for a headline.

  41. 91
    Hank Roberts says:

    > bathtub

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

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

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

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

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

  42. 92
    Jim Eager says:

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

  43. 93
    herbert stencil says:

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

  44. 94
    markr says:

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

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

  45. 95
    Mark says:

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

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

  46. 96
    Hank Roberts says:

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

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

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

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

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

    • Download the entire book (15.7MB).

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

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

  47. 97

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

  48. 98

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

    How are such arguments properly handled?

    Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  49. 99
    David B. Benson says:

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

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

    What conclusion would you draw?

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

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

    Review of above:

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

    for further background.

  50. 100
    Hank Roberts says:

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

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

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

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

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


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