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Advice for a young climate blogger

Filed under: — group @ 9 March 2009 - (Italian) (Español)

Congratulations! You have taken the first step towards attempting to communicate your expertise and thoughts to the wider world, which remains poorly served by its traditional sources of information when it comes to complex societally relevant issues like climate change. Your aim to clarify the science (or policy options or ethical considerations or simply to explain your views) is a noble endeavor and we wish you luck and wide readership. But do be aware that you are dipping your blog into sometimes treacherous waters. Bad things can happen to good bloggers. So in a spirit of blog-camaraderie, and in light of our own experiences and observations, we offer some advice that may be of some help in navigating the political climate relatively unscathed.

Be honest to yourself and your readers. If your aim is to educate, say so. If your aim is to push for more funding for your pet projects, or advocate for a specific policy, be upfront about it. Don’t however be surprised if people spend their time trying to find hidden motives in what you do. There is a school of thought had has decreed that any public speech must be directed towards public action and that there is no such thing as a pure information supply. In the widest sense this is probably true – everyone blogs, writes or speaks out for a reason. However, this is often interpreted as implying that all public speech must be either pro-or-con some very specific proposal. This is nonsense. One can criticize George Will’s or Alexander Cockburn’s misuse of climate science without agreeing or disagreeing or even having looked at their public policy proposals. Of course, the corollary of this position, that any such criticism of your statements must itself be directed at supporting the opposite political action is very rarely appreciated. On the other hand, assuming that criticism of your statements must be politically motivated is usually a mistake. Sometimes that is true, but there are enough exceptions that it should not be assumed.

Know that there are people who will misrepresent you. Climate science is perceived to have political, economic and ethical implications. Most of the what gets discussed really doesn’t have any such implication, but the ‘scientization‘ of political discourse on this issue means that micro-parsing of published work and blog postings is a common practice. Advocates of all stripes (though predominantly those outside the mainstream) will examine whether a new result or comment appears to project onto their particular agenda, and trumpet it widely if it does. The motives can range from specifically political to a desire for publicity or position, though the exact reasons are often obscure and mostly not worth debating. Thus 15th Century tree rings become an argument against the Kyoto Protocol, just as bacterial flagella are whipped into service when discussing the role of religion in public life.

In the specific world of climate-related blogs there are a number of conduits by which misrepresentations gain wider currency. Matt Drudge for instance, spends an inordinate amount of time finding crackpot climate science stories in fringe media and highlighting them on the widely-read Drudge Report. Marc Morano (who we hear is leaving his post as a staffer for Senator Inhofe) is a very diligent reader of the climate blogs (Pielke2, WUWT, RC etc.) and any misrepresentation found there, or criticism that could be misrepresented, will quickly find its way into many email in-boxes. From there, if you are lucky, further misrepresentations might find their way onto the Rush Limbaugh’s show (via Roy Spencer), or Glenn Beck as throwaway lines confirming (to them) the perfidy of mainstream climate science.

Be aware that the impact that you have might be very different from the impact that you think you should have. Over time, if you find yourself constantly misquoted or used to support positions or ideas you don’t agree with, think about why that might be. You will likely find yourself accused of ‘stealth advocacy’ i.e. of secretly agreeing with the misquoters. If that isn’t actually the case, remember that the abandonment of responsibility for your words (i.e. “how was I to know I would be misquoted so often?”) is not an option that leaves you with much integrity. Being misquoted once might be a misfortune, being misquoted more often smacks of carelessness.

Don’t expect the world to be fair. Read Mamet’s “Bambi v. Godzilla“, and in particular the section containing this line:

“In these fibbing competitions, the party actually wronged, the party with an actual practicable program, or possessing an actually beneficial product, is at a severe disadvantage; he is stuck with a position he cannot abandon, and, thus, cannot engage his talents for elaboration, distraction, drama and subterfuge.”

Since you are presumably stuck with a coherent set of ideas, you won’t be able to adopt ten mutually contradictory inconsistent arguments in the same paragraph, or engage in the cherry-picking, distortion or deliberate misquotation. Though it is occasionally instructive to show what you could have claimed if you didn’t have such ethical principles.

Don’t let completely unfounded critiques bother you. If you speak out in the public sphere, as sure as night follows day, you will be criticized. Some criticisms are constructive and will help you find your voice. Many are not. If you are successful, you will start to come across an online simulacrum of you that bears your name and place of work but who holds none of your views, has no redeeming character traits and would be a complete stranger to anyone who has actually met you. Ignore him or her. There are some people who will always be happier demonising opponents than honestly interacting with real people.

Don’t defame people. This should go without saying, but trivially accusing scientists of dishonesty, theft, academic malpractice and fraud pretty much rules you out of serious conversation. Instead it will serve mainly to marginalize you – though you may gain a devoted following among a specific subset. Don’t be surprised if as a consequence other people start to react negatively to your comments.

Correct mistakes. Again, it should go without saying that maintaining integrity requires that errors of fact be corrected as soon as possible.

Realize that although you speak for yourself, if you take mainstream positions, you will be perceived as speaking for the whole climate science community. Don’t therefore criticize unnamed ‘scientists’ in general when you mean to be specific, and don’t assume that the context in which you are speaking is immediately obvious to casual readers.

Avoid using language that can easily be misquoted. This is hard.

Don’t use any WWII metaphors. Ever. This just makes it too easy for people to ratchet up the rhetoric and faux outrage. However strongly you hold your views, the appropriateness of these images is always a hard sell, and you will not be given any time in which to make your pitch. This is therefore almost always counter-productive. This can be extended to any kind of Manichean language.

If you get noticed by the propagandists, wear that attention like a badge of honor. You will be in very good company.

If you get caught in a blogstorm, know that this too will pass. Being targeted like this is not very much fun (ask Heidi Cullen). But the lifecycle for a blog-related kerfuffle is a few days in general, and the blogosphere as a whole has an extreme attention deficit disorder. After finding that your post and followups were all anyone can talk about on Monday, it likely won’t get mentioned again after Thursday.

Recognize that humor is far more effective than outrage. But try and rise above the level of the schoolyard. Think Jon Stewart rather than Rodney Dangerfield.

If all of the above doesn’t put you off the idea completely, welcome to the blogosphere! Your voice is sorely needed.


434 Responses to “Advice for a young climate blogger”

  1. 151
    Hank Roberts says:

    > How else can we explain how both poles can be losing
    > frozen water without a simultaneous increase in global
    > temperature? Sooner or later the “tipping point”…

    The total volume of water in the oceans is enormous compared to the total amount of ice, and the water is mixing far faster than the ice is melting because most of the ice buried deep in other ice, not exposed to temperature change. You can work this out for yourself.

  2. 152

    Mark wrote in 131:

    The physics that goes into the calculations being done by the models simulating climate are likewise repeatable.

    I wrote in 137:

    It would be strictly repeatable to the extent that it is deterministic and one starts with the same exact conditions one will end up with the same results. However, if the model is at all interesting (like the weather), then it will be a chaotic system and over time a small variation may be amplified until it affects the entire system — and as such, one learns very little from identical runs.

    Mark responded in 141:

    Is true, but that isn’t science behind climate science, is it.

    Not with the individual, exactly identical runs that as a matter of causal necessity result from the same exact initial conditions.

    But then again, I referred to ensembles where the initial conditions would be different.
    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    And you are completely wrong here:

    “and as such, one learns very little from identical runs.”

    Think about it: if the runs are exactly identical, with the same exact number of digits with the same exact values (representing the exact same initial conditions) being performed on an identical machine with identical code (resulting in the same exact “physics”), then yes, the results will be identical. In fact this is what is implied by your statement in 131 quoted above.
    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    Nope. Have you heart of a chaos theory term called “an attractor”?

    You learn A LOT from repeated identical runs. Sensitivity to the accuracy of the inputs, which leads to the determination of how well you can predict your chaotic system when it’s in certain realms.

    You mean like the Lorenz attractor through which Lorenz discovered the butterfly effect.

    Alright, consider:

    The butterfly Effect

    In 1960, Edward Lorenz was creating weather systems in his computer. As a mathematician in a meteorologist’s clothing, Lorenz knew that the best he could do was to recreate, only approximately, the atmospheric dynamics occurring in nature. Coupling that limitation with the primitive computing power he had available, Lorenz constructed a bare-bones simulation of Rayleigh-Benard convection—much like a cup of coffee being heated from beneath—with just three differential equations. His graphics output consisted of letters and numbers printed sequentially on a text printer. Wavy strings of printed characters served as contiguous points plotting airflows and such. At one point, Lorenz wanted to get a closer look at a particularly interesting weather pattern. So, in order to cut short the computation time, he carefully typed in a sequence of numbers obtained from the computer’s previous output. The computer churned out a pattern that soon bore no resemblance to the region of interest.

    Lorenz quickly realized that the increasing deviations were due to the difference in the number of digits stored by the computer during its calculations and the reduced number of digits he input. (To save space, the computer printout listed only three digits beyond the decimal point rather than the six digits stored internally.) It was clear that slight differences between actual and measured atmospheric parameters, such as barometric pressure, temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and humidity, were unavoidable. Based on this limitation and on the observed discrepancies in his mini-weather simulation, Lorenz soon concluded that highly accurate, long-term weather forecasting, his primary interest, was impossible. And so, with little or no fanfare, the science of chaos was born! Eventually, Lorenz submitted an article on his discovery of chaos to the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences.

    http://www.viewsfromscience.com/documents/webpages/chaos_p3.html

    (emphasis added)

    The rounding of six digits to three. Not the same inital conditions.
    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    Next time you look at, say, the Lorentz attractor, have a look at the lines. See how in some places the lines are close together. If your system is in this mode, you can change the system DRASTICALLY with a small change.

    Yes, a small change. Not the same initial conditions.

    So if we fed in the same exact numbers and used strictly deterministic calculations the results would be exactly the same.
    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    Next time you look at, say, the Lorentz attractor, have a look at the lines. See how in some places the lines are close together. If your system is in this mode, you can change the system DRASTICALLY with a small change. See how in some places the lines are far, far apart. Here you can predict with good accuracy for a long time where the system will be, even if your measurements aren’t as perfect as you’d like.

    As I put it in the comment that you were responding to(137):

    However, if the model is at all interesting (like the weather), then it will be a chaotic system and over time a small variation may be amplified until it affects the entire system…

    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    You can learn a lot from rerunning.

    Not with the same exact initial conditions — if you are using the same deterministic computer. This is afterall what we mean by deterministic.

    As I stated immediately after my brief quote from Pete that directly followed the one sentence fragment you chose to quote:

    However, I would make another point: we actually learn very little about a given model if all we do is repeat the same run with exactly the same initial conditions.

    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    If that’s a bit big for some, how about this: you can determine whether your coin is fair or not by repeatedly tossing the coin. The more times you toss (repeating the EXACT SAME experiment) the better determination of the accuracy of the fairness of that coin.

    You will not be repeating the “EXACT SAME” experiment because the initial conditions will always be different. The currents of air will be different. The force, start position, direction and angle with which you toss the coin will be different. (A bit different from a series of computer simulations in which you feed the computer the same exact numbers with the same precision for the initial conditions each time.) As I understand it, though, you don’t have to worry about quantum fluctuations, at least with a coin toss.
    *

    Mark continued in 141:

    Learn nothing? Only before Chaos was investigated. That’s Victorian thinking.

    And at this point I have analyzed your entire post — as opposed to a single sentence fragment.

    Mark, you are a great deal brighter than this. Much brighter.

    *

    Captcha fortune cookie:
    reduction Clear

  3. 153
    Craig Allen says:

    RE: #135 Jim Prall’s comment about display in Internet Explorer:

    Gavin,

    Verdana scales better when zoomed in Internet Explorer. I can give you the code for implementing a conditional css style for IE if you like.

    While we are at it, I can help you make the header look a little more stylish and less clunky. I’ve made a version of the header graphic which is shorter with clearer text. I can also help you to make the main page links look better and take up less space. Especially since it appears that the site runs on EE?

    [Response: That sounds great. Email to contrib - at- realclimate.org with more details. Probably showing my ignorance, but I have no idea what "EE" is..... - gavin]

  4. 154
    Rando says:

    …Mark and Timothy. You guys should get together for beers to finish hammering this out. Very interesting exchange though, but better suited to channel 39 (UFC).

  5. 155
    Will Denayer says:

    Are you people ready for some more nonsense?
    This ‘discussion’ (see below please) can be found at:
    http://rybkaforum.net/cgi-bin/rybkaforum/topic_show.pl?tid=9559

    Rybka is a chess engine, people discuss everything including climate change at this site.

    The author of the message below is a certain Turbojuice, who, according to someone else, has quite a reputation in attacking climatologists.
    I agree that, in itself, this is not so interesting (and I apologise if this is boring to you), but he goes on and on about it and no one knows how to counter him, so the drawing people to his side.

    [edit - this is not the appropriate place to simply cut and paste rubbish]

    Another poster gave Spencer’s CV which sounds quite impressive. Etc.
    Best, Will

  6. 156

    [Sorry Gavin, I accidentally posted this on the wrong thread.]

    #131 Ryan O

    Our discussion illustrates a problem in the debate that I have noticed in others. You seem to be comfortable making statements that are vague, contradictory, incorrect, without context, or even hypocritical and then saying well, if your going to do a critical deconstruction of what I am saying, then I don’t want to engage.

    So it’s okay for you to make statements and deconstruct what I said, but it’s not okay the other way around. If you don’t like your words being deconstructed, don’t write them in a blog well known for debate and discussion, and don’t ascribe motives to others, while stating that it irritates you when people do that.

    The fact is you mistranslated my words.

    Your direct and vague statements do not make sense as applied (imo), which I believe I clearly pointed out. Now you have no further interest in discussion.

    If you will not admit your own mistakes, or your clearly illustrated hypocrisy, then there is no good reason for further discussion.

    I will not ascribe a motive to your stance, but I will say that it seems you prefer things to be left in the air, generally speaking, rather than resolved, based on what I have read in your statements; just as you remain “skeptical of the IPCC’s predictions”, “the accuracy of model impacts”, “the accuracy of the temperature record” without giving relevant context of why, and on what basis.

    Proper context will get you relevance, I’m sure your understanding will increase in time, as will mine.

    Best,
    John

  7. 157
    Alan of Oz says:

    RE #142

    John, if I’m not mistaken I think the answer has something to do with the fact(?) there is no temprature change associated with the phase change from ice to water. I also think that somewhat ironically, manmade areosols are the most important “buffer” at the moment because the capacity to cool (negative forcing) has change in line with the increase in GHG (positive forcing) for it to act as a “buffer”. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong on either count, I realise “buffer” and “capacity” are not really appropriate words for what I’m trying to say.

  8. 158
    Mark says:

    Tim, don’t be dumb.

    ” you can change the system DRASTICALLY with a small change.

    Yes, a small change. Not the same initial conditions.”

    What is the difference between a change and a change in the initial conditions?

    the model isn’t starting from the big bang, you know, so it’s ALREADY sitting partway through the system, the mode of which you have measured in your initial conditions.

    Learn nothing? Seems that’s all *you* have managed.

  9. 159

    Rando wrote in 154:

    …Mark and Timothy. You guys should get together for beers to finish hammering this out. Very interesting exchange though, but better suited to channel 39 (UFC).

    Wrong continents, I believe. I live in Seattle, and I have a hunch he might read the Scotsman. (Excellent paper: pro-science, and the editor can’t stand creationism.) Besides, I have high triglycerides and take lamictal for a bipolar condition, and neither mixes well with alcohol.

    However, we both believe that repeatability is important, but obviously it isn’t applicable to chaotic systems to the extent that the initial conditions of a system is unrepeatable, however small the difference between it and other systems so long as a difference exists. So perhaps he can have a beer and then a Guinness Stout for me — which happens to be my favorite beer.

    Anyway, he can have the last word if he chooses. However, here are links to a few posts of mine that might be worth reading, and which I mentioned above, but weren’t directly part of my argument with him.

    I am including them because they are somewhat important elements in the philosophy of science, and in my view, part of the defense of climatology as a branch of science.

    Please see:
    Scientific Consensus (comment in thread of different post)
    Duhem’s Thesis (comment in thread of different post)
    Repeatability and the “Dichotomy” Between Historical and Observational Sciences (comment in the thread of this post)

    *

    Captcha fortune cookie:
    Whitehouse beer

  10. 160
    Mark says:

    “I have a hunch he might read the Scotsman.”

    Nah, I don’t read newspapers.

    They *used* to do news. Now they do sensationalism.

    Like one Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, you can tell the in-depth articles because they have a full-page pictures beside them.

  11. 161
    Mark says:

    PS I Love Guiness.

    It doesn’t Love Me, though. Maybe too much sulphur compounds in it.

    But as the Macc Lads said, you are what you drink, and I’m a bitter man…

  12. 162
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Chuck Booth @146, actually I have mentioned CBC’s 3-part podcast of Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars before.
    http://www.podcastdirectory.com/podcasts/33624

    It is essentially a compressed presentation of Dyer’s book of the same title, which I am just finishing.

  13. 163
    wmanny says:

    to #156 – John, your exchange with Ryan is an interesting one which seems to rest on an interpretation of the phrase:

    “As to those not connected with fossil fuels that are arguing AGW is not real, that’s mainly because they don’t have enough of the relevant context yet.”

    That’s a broad statement, though not one which I would interpret to mean that all skeptics are the same if only because it is unclear to me what you mean by “not real”. I’m not sure there’s a lot of debate about whether AGW is real – there is, of course, quite a bit of debate about how much warming is attributable, how much is predictable, what is the degree and even [lately] the sign of feedback, and how much is dangerous. “Relevant context” is also a bit vague – one would have expected you to write “relevant facts” – so perhaps you would be willing to be more precise?

    Walter Manny

  14. 164
    Alan of Oz says:

    A childhood hero of mine the completely mad, Julius Sumner Miller has something to say about models, and somewhat tangentialy (elsewhere in the clip) the relevance of repeatability once you have found a good one.

    “A proper understanding of the affairs of nature lies in the mathematics which describes it, because words are very weak!”

    Unlike any other TV educator I have ever seen he was never perturbed by his demonstrations that frequently didn’t work out. Rather than editing it out he would point it out and say “Experiments never fail! It is I who have failed to set the proper conditions for nature to cooperate”. There are quite a few (to my mind humourous and infromative) clips of him on youtube, great stuff from a great man.

  15. 165
    Vernon says:

    Since Hansen does believe that UHI matters and Jones does not, do these new studies prove that Hansen was right and Jones wrong? If so, does this mean additional work needs to be done for UHI off-set since the study of Northern China shows that position within the UHI matters?

    Gutierrez, et. al. (2008) Urban Heat Island effect from Satellite Remote Sensing and Land Surface Modeling

    Urban heat island (UHI) was traditionally examined using WMO 2m surface air temperatures. Such effect was considered as significant at night, namely, a nighttime phenomenon. Using the recently available satellite remote sensing data from NASA MODIS, we find that UHI can also be identified from surface skin temperature and that the daytime UHI is more evident than the nighttime UHI. Furthermore, the regional climate model simulations reveal that the albedo reduction in urbanization area contributes the most for the daytime UHI.

    Zhang et. al. (2008,) The relationship between remotely-sensed surface parameters and urban heat islands in the USA

    The amplitude of the urban heat island is remarkably asymmetric: it is larger during summer where it reaches 4.3 oC, while during winter the excess heat due to urbanization is only 1.3 oC. In desert environments we find that the LST response to ISA is bowl-shaped. Zones with moderate ISA are cooler than the surrounding desert but as ISA increases above 75% the LST becomes more like the non-urban desert fringe. These observational results are in line with previous studies and indicate an increase in the urban heat island amplitude with increase in city size that is consistent among cities across a broad climatic range.

    Ren et. al. (2008) Urbanization Effects on Observed Surface Air Temperature Trends in North China

    The contribution of urban warming to total annual mean surface air temperature change as estimated with the national basic/reference station dataset reaches 37.9%. It is therefore obvious that, in the current regional average surface air temperature series in north China, or probably in the country as a whole, there still remain large effects from urban warming. The urban warming bias for the regional average temperature anomaly series is corrected. After that, the increasing rate of the regional annual mean temperature is brought down from 0.29°C (10 yr)−1 to 0.18°C (10 yr)−1, and the total change in temperature approaches 0.72°C for the period analyzed.

    I do not want to imply that Jones ignores UHI only that CRU does not adjust for UHI. Well, actually, I cannot find any organization other than GISS adjusting for UHI.

  16. 166
    Hank Roberts says:

    With a hat tip to:
    http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/better-and-brighter/

    This is worth contemplating:
    http://www.susanjacoby.com/

    —–excerpt follows——-

    Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a culture at odds with America’s heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern knowledge and science. With mordant wit, the author offers an unsparing indictment of the ways in which dumbness has been defined downward throughout American society—on the political right and the left. America’s endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism, feeding on and fed by a popular culture of video images and unremitting noise that leaves no room for contemplation or logic.

    The book surveys an anti-rational landscape extending from reality TV and “infantainment” videos for babies to a pseudo-intellectual universe of “junk thought.” This vast kingdom of junk thought reaches from semiliterate blogs of all political persuasions to institutions of so-called higher education that offer courses in “fat studies” and horror films but do not require students to obtain a thorough grounding in American and world history, science, and literature. Throughout our culture, disdain for logic and evidence is fostered by the infotainment media from television to the Web; aggressive anti-rational religious fundamentalism; poor public education; the intense politicization of intellectuals themselves.

    Finally, the author argues that anti-rational government is not the product of a Machiavellian plot by “Washington” but is the inevitable result of “an overarching crisis of memory and knowledge” that has left many ordinary citizens and their elected representatives without the intellectual tools needed for sound public decision-making. The real question is not why politicians have lied to the public but why the public was so receptive and so passive ….

  17. 167
    David B. Benson says:

    Current cooling factors include a prolonged solar minimum and ABC (Atmospheric Brown CLud, brown fug which comes all across the Pacfic from Asia). Maybe so-called ocean oscillations play a part, but ice melt is too insignificant to mention.

  18. 168
    Rod B says:

    Hank (164), I could quibble with some of the degree and maybe the implication that this applies exclusively to the U.S (though she didn’t actually say that…), but I think there is much truth and insight in what you reported.

  19. 169
    Daniel J. Andrews says:

    @Will…if you have an account with the Rybka forum, send Turbojuice over to chessninja.com/boards, and look for the global warming thread.

    http://www.chessninja.com/boards/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=124082&page=123

    Two of the main posters, Ken and Spock, both in the sciences it seems, did a lot of the rebuttals (123 pages worth so far). Things are pretty quiet there now so maybe they’d be happy to have Turbojuice liven things up a bit.

  20. 170
    wildlifer says:

    Off Topic
    Can anyone show me where (or if) this website’s claims have been addressed somewhere?:
    http://www.warwickhughes.com/hoyt/scorecard.htm Some “skeptic” shotgunned a thread with it.

  21. 171
    thingsbreak says:

    @145

    Gavin-

    Thank you for that. She has done amazing work and really deserves to be commended. There is a documentary on ocean acidification inspired by her New Yorker piece (“The Darkening Sea”) called A Sea Change that debuts tomorrow (3/14/09) at the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival.

  22. 172
    Brian dodge says:

    re melting ice and global “not” warming – I plugged a number for the current energy imbalance due to GHGs (2.8e22 joules/year) into a spreadsheet and calculated the amount of ice it would melt, and compared it to the annual arctic melt (~9e6 km2 at an assumed thickness of 3 meters) and found that would account for ~30% of the energy; not enough to account for a big lag in warming, but not an insignificant portion of the energy budget either(it would be good for someone else to do the same calculations – I’ve been known to misplace a decimal point in the past). The other ice melting in antarctica, greenland, and glaciers is a much smaller contribution. I’m aware that there are gross simplifications in this “back of the envelope” calculation; not all the energy contributing to ice melting is this years insolation, but some comes from stored heat in the oceans; not all the heat given off by freezing the arctic ice in the winter gets radiated into space, albedo changes probably are important, more evaporation from more open water and condensation/latent heat transport to other regions likely has an effect, and so on. An interesting question is where is the energy not melting ice going? My SWAG is mostly it’s being absorbed by cooler ocean surface waters brought about by ENSO, PDO, and some of the other alphabet soup of internal climate variations. I also wonder how much hotter would the Sahara have to be to radiate an extra 1e22 joules over the course of a year? My knowledge of physics isn’t good enough to let me calculate this. Any takers? area is 4.62e6km^2, and assume it’s a black body at thermal radiation wavelengths.

  23. 173
    Alan of Oz says:

    Hank, nice post especially the question at the end. My take is that critical thinking is a skill that is taught rather than inherited. Humans in general don’t like to be told how to think and this leaves them wide open for others to subtley tell them what to think.

    Ignoring Palin, I think politicians in general are smart people who recognise this and often act dumb for Machevalian reasons, in general they are more interested in herding people than enlightening them, although this often changes when they retire and are no longer constrained by the ballot box.

    As far as I can tell a strong science based public service is the only effective counterweight that has ever done much to temper that behaviour but we are constantly told “govenrment beuracrats” are oxygen thieves.

    The debate over wether modern media should entertain or enlighten goes back to Edison vs the Lumier(sic?) brothers. I think we need a bit of both and I would put the biting satire of people such as Carlin and Colbert under the heading of infotainment but definitely not “junk-thought” (which in itself is a bit of an oxymoron).

  24. 174
    Will Denayer says:

    Gavin, This concerns post 155. I decided to post an excerpt here (the one you deleted) after some thinking because this thread is about advice for a blogger, and so it seems to fit in as it deals with internet wars. I also find it interesting to see that some people will use the most crooked arguments, data, pictures and everything they can find to deny the existence of climate change. It’s also interested to notice that the other participants lack the technical expertise – after all, they are not climatologists – to fight back and to these deniers are winning a propaganda battle hands down. I find all of these very sad. Please take a look: http://rybkaforum.net/cgi-bin/rybkaforum/topic_show.pl?tid=9559
    Best, Will

  25. 175
    Alan of Oz says:

    Re: Disappearing ice as a buffer:

    John/Brian, I think the “buffer” is only the average anual anomoly not the entire 9M km2 melt that happens every year. As the good proffesor states the phase change of one gram of ice into one gram of water requires 80 calories (1cal ~= 4.18j).

    Here’s the back of my envolope.

    The average rate of september ice loss is a bit over 10%/yr
    Recent september minimums are 4-5M km2 (say 5)
    Assume 3 meter thickness.
    0.5M km2 X 0.003Km = 1500Km3.

    1 gram ice = 1.1cm3, 1500km3 = 1.35×10^18 grams of ice to water.

    Which gives about 4.5×10^18Kj, given your forcing figure of 2.8e22 joules/year I find the ice to water buffer absorbs about 0.00016% of the GHG forcing without raising the temprature.

    I too am bad with decimal points so it’s probably somewhere in between our figures, can anyone point to a real answer?

  26. 176
    Alan of Oz says:

    Heh, I can see an error already…

    4.5×10^18Kj, given your forcing figure of 2.8e22 joules/year, that makes it 16%.

  27. 177
    Ike Solem says:

    You know, I think there are some flaws with this advice, just on the grounds that no climate denialist blog would ever follow any of that advice – yet the climate denialists have been remarkably effective in maintaining doubt among the general public. Why is this? They follow none of the suggested rules – indeed, quite the opposite. So, here is a revised list.

    “Be honest to yourself and your readers.”

    Response: Telling people to be honest is usually not a good place to begin – you’re implying that they are dishonest and need to be reminded of the need for honesty. Also, just because you honestly believe something to be true, that doesn’t mean it is – and we really can’t afford any more honest mistakes based on fervent beliefs – instead, strive for scientific accuracy and clarity. That will be appreciated by your readers.

    “Know that there are people who will misrepresent you.”

    Response: Yes. Don’t be thin-skinned or thick-skinned.

    “In the specific world of climate-related blogs there are a number of conduits by which misrepresentations gain wider currency.”

    Response: Yes, the fossil fuel lobby’s echo chamber.

    “Be aware that the impact that you have might be very different from the impact that you think you should have.”

    Response: I wouldn’t worry about that – just stick to the reliable facts, IPCC reports, peer-reviewed journal articles. You have to have a little faith that people, once they get reliable information, will make logical decisions. If they refuse to do so, well, then, defame away.

    “Don’t expect the world to be fair.”

    Response: How patronizing. I expect reporters to accurately report scientific discoveries and facts – I’m not sure if that’s fair or not. Is it fair to harass reporters who repeatedly obfuscate details? Is it fair to target banks who get bailouts from the federal government while also helping to finance denialist front groups? Maybe not – maybe it’s not fair to blame some poor reporter for policies set by their corporate and editorial board – but then, life really isn’t fair, is it? Laws and regulations, however – we can certainly expect and demand that they be fair, can’t we?

    “Don’t let completely unfounded critiques bother you.”

    Response: If those critiques are being fed to the American public by the leading media organizations, than it should definitely bother you.

    “Don’t defame people. This should go without saying, but trivially accusing scientists of dishonesty, theft, academic malpractice and fraud pretty much rules you out of serious conversation.”

    Response: Trivially, sure. However, you left out “of being fellow travelers” – like all the scientists who quietly follow the funding allocations, switching their interests to the politically safe areas of research in the Bayh-Dole dominated U.S. academic system – which does not include renewable energy research. Second, for scientists who misrepresent facts repeatedly, defamation (based on scientific facts) is needed – or would you rather Lindzen still dominated the discussion? He’s now claiming all climate scientists are inspired by Nazi eugenics, by the way – so much for the WWII rule.

    Fundamental changes at the DOE will be needed to really develop more renewable energy technology.

    and Renewable energy is disruptive technology.

    “Correct mistakes. Again, it should go without saying that maintaining integrity requires that errors of fact be corrected as soon as possible.”

    Response: 100% agreement. Stephen Hawking said the same thing, by the way.

    “Realize that although you speak for yourself, if you take mainstream positions, you will be perceived as speaking for the whole climate science community.”

    Response: Scientists are not sheep (or shouldn’t be) – no one speaks for the whole climate community. Second, the climate science community doesn’t really seem to be better informed on renewable energy issues than the pharmaceutical science community – I like what Hansen has to say on climate, but his comments on energy make me wince.

    Avoid using language that can easily be misquoted.

    Response: It seems that any scientist can be misquoted and have their statements cherry-picked and taken out of context, and that’s going to be true unless you stick to neat one-liners, the way politicians do. You won’t have much luck explaining anything that way. For an recent example of cherry-picking, see this:

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/13/scientist-warming-could-cut-population-to-1-billion/

    “Don’t use any WWII metaphors. Ever.”

    Response: Not true. One useful WWII metaphor regards the business relationships between fascist regimes and American oil and auto companies – the oil companies did business with the Nazis up until the outbreak of WWII, and even after – not because of ideology, but because they wanted the sales. These companies put profitability first, which is to be expected – and that’s why we need government regulations (which were also passed in 1942, I think – the “Trading with the enemy act”). In fact, WWII was mostly about oil, on both the Japanese and German sides – it’s an interesting topic. It’s a useful metaphor for the behavior of fossil fuel interests, but perhaps not for climate change.

    “If you get noticed by the propagandists, wear that attention like a badge of honor. You will be in very good company.”

    Response: It’s not about you or your honor or the company you keep – it’s about accurate discussion of scientific results, period. “It’s not about you” is what Stewart said to Kramer, by the way.

    “Recognize that humor is far more effective than outrage. But try and rise above the level of the schoolyard. Think Jon Stewart rather than Rodney Dangerfield.”

    Response: Did you see Jon Stewart and CNBC? I think Jon Stewart was displaying outrage – and it was quite effective – but he had backed it up with a whole lot of evidence, hadn’t he? Trivial and ignorant outrage is what is damaging.

    To sum up, it is best to begin with politeness and decorum, but if you make the information available repeatedly, and it is ignored in favor of fossil fuel lobby talking points, than outrage is probably the most effective response – but only with all your evidence in hand. If they ask to see the evidence, go back to being polite and informative.

    That’s really the more effective strategy. However, most people won’t read your blog, most likely – but a whole lot of people read the comment sections of sites like RealClimate (hint, hint). You get free, hassle-free hosting and decent comment moderation as well – comment moderation is the real problem, I could never do it myself – so, three cheers for RC!

  28. 178
    Alan of Oz says:

    Re #174.

    Will, I had to register just to take a look, I had no intention of commenting. I found most of the comments near the top are over a month old. Aside from the loaded question that kicks off the forum and the Tweedledee and Tweedledum routine that follows between “turbojuice1122″ and “Alan”, there a lot of other comments that have pointed to sound information.

    I think the “Don’t let completely unfounded critiques bother you” rule in the article applies here. I also think you don’t want to be accused of trying to start your own astroturf campaign (which btw I’m not accusing you of doing).

  29. 179
    Alan of Oz says:

    Re #177

    Ike, two points on your intro: “You know, I think there are some flaws with this advice, just on the grounds that no climate denialist blog would ever follow any of that advice – yet the climate denialists have been remarkably effective in maintaining doubt among the general public. Why is this? They follow none of the suggested rules – indeed, quite the opposite.”

    1. You assume the psuedo-skeptics are winning the propoganda war and will continue to do so. Not my experience over the last decade and also not the way things worked out for another similar campaign in recent history, ie: “tabacco scientists”.

    2. The means of the psuedo-skeptics do not justify ANY political ends no matter how justified the outrage is.

  30. 180
    Brian Dodge says:

    Ooops, my bad. you’re correct Alan, I should have plugged in just the anomaly, which means that any signal is getting buried in the noise.

  31. 181
    ehmoran says:

    To pseudo-skeptics and others:

    It has come to my attention that Mt. Redoubt, an active Alaskan Volcano, at this time is spewing approximately 10,000 TONS of CO2 per day into the atmosphere; however, I have not asked for the Temperature Data.

    To Gavin and the rest: Congratulations to RealClimates posting of this Article. I’m somewhat quite impressed with the professionalism and desire to respectfully debate both sides of the issue.

    HATS OFF…..

  32. 182

    Since I am now sure this will not appear, let me say that I am very disappointed that you will not respond to my hypothesis that it is the melting of polar and glacial ice that is the major cause of the delay in global warming. This is just to set the record straight. History has a way of straightening these matters out. I will see to that.

    Sincerely,

    John A. Davison

    jadavison.wordpress.com

  33. 183

    wildlifer,

    The “predictions” shot down in the table are bogus. Nobody said the 20th century would warm 1.1-3.3 K from greenhouse gases. That’s the warming you would get a) eventually, and b) without factoring in negative forcings such as aerosols.

  34. 184

    Re: #177

    Dear Ike,

    You are doing a fantastic job on DE. Thank you so much! I can’t keep up with it — you know the science so much better. I just put the hammer down where I see the meme creep.

    My blog gets about 500-600 pages views per day, depending on what I post there, but I very rarely write my own posts. (So far, the blog has received over 76,000 page views.)

    I view my blog as a source of useful information that ordinary people are desperately trying to find.

    I try to find articles that illustrate for non-scientists the results of recently published research articles.

    Then, I also generally post the abstract of that research article.

    I also include the links back to the sites where I lifted the articles.

    I do not receive that many comments, but when a nutcase does show up, I just delete them. I don’t spend time on them.

    I don’t post articles about penquins or polar bears or whales unless a reader specifically requests it.

    I do not post dramatic or hysterical articles.

    However, on occasion, I will post the more gossipy disputes and even put my two bits in — after all, my readers and I are only human.

    Gavin, this was a great post — it brought a lot of bloggers out of the woodwork and now I so many more great sources — thanks so much!

  35. 185
    Alan of Oz says:

    RE #182 by John A Davidson.

    John, what are you complaining about? Brian and myself were both interested enough to post on your idea and you have ignored those posts. Sure our numbers are a bit screwed up but we both figure it’s insignifigant(less than 1%).

    Why don’t you get a calculator and have a go for yourself, there is enough data in our posts to work it out. If you still think your on to something then tell us what it is and why you think we are wrong.

    After all that is how science works…

  36. 186

    Has anyone here a comment on BEYOND FOSSIL FOOLS by Joseph Shuster?

    Shuster lays out a roadmap to Energy Independence by 2040, depending primarily on nuclear plants.

    It does not appear (to me) to be a persuasive argument but I’m willing to hear people who might think otherwise.

    I just wrote a short essay on the energy issue as it might appear in the year 2100 for the Rico Bugle. It is on my website at

    http://www.burgy.50megs.com/what.htm

    I am not entirely satisfied with it; I invite comments.

    Burgy

  37. 187
    Alan of Oz says:

    RE #180

    Brian, I wouldn’t expect anything in the way of a reponse from John A Davidson. I went to his blog and posted a message prompting him to look at our comments. I then read some of his comments on his own blog, here is a short quote to give you an idea…

    “Keep the pressure on Myers and Dawkins too. They are both on the verge of nervous breakdowns. Trust me.”

    Anyway, it was still an interesting excercise.

  38. 188
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, re energy independence/nuclear, you might compare that to this;
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/03/10/total-energy-independence-in-12-years/

  39. 189
    Will Denayer says:

    To no. 186. Dear Mr. Burgeson, I did not read Shuster’s book, but I took a look at your text. IMO it is a good text, but not very detailed. I am opposed to all talk concerning energy independence, as I think it is a dangerous illusion. An interesting book is Robert Bruce, 2008, The Dangerous Illusions of ‘Energy Indepedence’, NY, Public Affairs. I have big problems with this text, esp. with his recommendations, but his part on EI is on the mark. One book that I find really excellent is David Strahan, 2007, The Last Oil Shock, London, Murray. For a discussion on nuclear energy, go to the rocky mountains website, as there is some very useful information to be found there. There is also a discussing going on about nuclear energy on the website of Mark Lynas (author of Six Degrees). He is very much pro nuclear – IMO he is dead wrong.

  40. 190
    Hank Roberts says:

    One d: Google “John+A+Davison”+internet+blogger
    long famous on the intertubes

  41. 191
    Joe says:

    Anyone aware of a blog where alarmists and denialists are conversing in polite manner, using facts and scientific arguments only and not getting to personal attacks? To finally, finally, uncover the truth about this whole warming issue.

    Your blog is not bad information-wise but it is really biased on the alarmist side.

    [Response: Unfortunately, so is the real world. - gavin]

  42. 192
    John Mashey says:

    Back to the original topic – generally good advice.

    I offer a wish for a blogging software feature/methodology that would improve the long-term usefulness of blog threads.

    OBSERVATION: even in a good, well-moderated blog like RC, it is very easy for threads to get filled with junk that has little to do with the original topic. (In many blogs, this is totally out of control.)

    a) Sometimes that is OK, as interesting connections get made.
    b) Sometimes a bunch of long-debunked dumb things get inserted.
    c) Sometimes, people post “Not even wrong” comments, or in some cases, appear to post things that derail the original topic, particularly as the thread grows.

    d) BUT OFTEN, this dilutes the useful threads with a lot of irrelevancies, that at best should be in other threads. As a result, if someone wants to read a thread later, the Internet version of Gresham’s Law applies, and bad info has driven out good, or at least diluted it so much that it’s painful to read.

    I strongly suspect that this is sometimes done on purpose, or if not on purpose, some people are natural complexifiers and can’t help making side-tracks. Filling threads with junk is a good way to discourage people from reading.

    e) Obviously good/bad are judgements of the moderator(s), and reasonable people can disagree. But, since a moderator makes judgement calls already, this seems like it would be a useful option.

    SUGGESTION FOR BLOGGING SOFTWARE FOR MODERATED BLOGS

    1) Have an an easy way to make a “shadow thread” for a thread. [Or use an standing open thread.]

    2) A moderator should have a simple command that:
    a) Puts the post into the shadow thread, adding an auto-inserted link back the placeholder b) in main thread.

    b) Creates a post in the main thread that has one line:

    ###. PERSON moved to

    Hence, anyone can still try posting what they want, but the S/N ratio of the main thread might well improve substantially.

    In addition, it would take less time to recognize posters who actually ask useful questions or contribute something, and ones that seem to go off into irrelevancies.

    ===
    Note: this comes somewhat from watching some USENET newsgroups that once had very high S/N ratios badly degrade, and from watching blogs appear to go through a similar evolution, even with the best of will.

  43. 193
    Jim Eager says:

    Joe, it’s kind of hard for denialists to use facts and scientific arguments since the facts and the science don’t exactly support their beliefs.

  44. 194
    Hank Roberts says:

    John Mashey, yes yes.
    Got a programmer in mind? If so please open a tip jar or something.
    This tool you describe so well would solve many problems.

  45. 195

    #191 Joe

    You wouldn’t happen to be aware of a family that doesn’t squabble, or perhaps a government that doesn’t argue ;)

    Seriously, you are saying this site is biased on the alarmist side. If you can give me a good reason not to be concerned, I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    John

  46. 196
    Richard Vineski says:

    Haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, but here’s one thing that I think everyone would find useful. The most useful course I ever took in my life was in Officers Training School many years ago in wartime, where we were required to analyze a situation and then issue the necessary orders to the various groups under our command. Once you did that, it was the enjoyable job of all the other students to deliberately misinterpret your orders any way they could. And you couldn’t make any excuses; if they misinterpreted you, it was because you did not express yourself clearly and precisely enough. You did not want some of your men to get killed because nthey misunderstood your orders. This will not work when you’re dealing with really dishonest people, but you just ignore them, or forcefully point out their dishonesty. But don’t confuse ignorance and miseducation with dishonesty; a common mistake is to assume the other person knows as much as you do. Put yourself in his/her place, and pretend you are just as ignorant as you think they are. You can actually have fun getting someone to criticise your writing in a friendly way.

  47. 197
    spilgard says:

    Re #193:
    This reminds me of something from 2006.

  48. 198
    Hank Roberts says:

    > if they misinterpreted you, it was because you did
    > not express yourself clearly and precisely enough

    Or they were a mole working for the opposition, to misinterpret directions so your side would fail, of course. There are people
    in politics who do that. Listen to AM radio.

  49. 199
    Joe says:

    What I was getting at was that maybe someplace there might be a thorough analysis of the whole warming issue w/o politics, personal issues etc etc, and with the arguments of alarmists and denialists carefully taken into account. This is probably naive thinking, the discussion seems to be completely political.

    I called you alarmists because I think that you heat up easily if someone is in disagreement (yes, that happens to me too), and because all your articles seem to point to the same direction, which is that the doom will come (and maybe it will)

  50. 200

    Ray Ladbury #149

    You ask me “to do the math” without providing the data. Personally, I do not believe that variations in solar output have ever had anything much to do with climate change. Neither does Tim Flannery. I stand by my hypothesis that it is the continued melting of polar and contnental ice that is countering the warming resulting from atmospheric water vapor, CO2, methane and other anthropogenic molecules. The major unknown is what fraction of that depleting ice reserve will no longer be sufficient to counter the greenhouse effect. Surely no one is questioning that our ice reserves are diminishing are they? I am sure not. I have discussed this with a model experiment on my weblog and elsewhere. I regard my explanation as sound science.

    I will not be deterred by “do the math.” Thank you very much.


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