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Climate Services

Filed under: — rasmus @ 9 September 2009

I recently attended the World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3), hosted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva. Most of the talk was of providing “climate services” (CS) and coordinating these globally. But what are climate services, and how much of what was envisaged is scientifically doable?

Climate services is a fairly new term that involves the provision of climate information relevant for adaptation to climate change and climatic swings, long-term planning, and facilitating early warning systems (EW).

CS includes both data describing past and future climate, and usually involves downscaling to provide information on regional and local scales. It can be summarised by the contents of (also see this link to an article discussing the US National Climate services).

It was stressed during WCC-3 that CS must not only communicate relevant information, but this information must also be ‘translated’ to non-expert in a way that it can be acted upon.

One concern expressed during WCC-3 was that global climate models still do not give a sufficiently accurate description of the regional and local aspects of the climate. The models also have serious limitations when they are to be used for seasonal and decadal forecasting. Climate models were originally designed to provide the large picture of our climate system, and the fact that ENSO, cyclones, various wave phenomena (observed in the real world) appear in the model output – albeit with differences in details – give us increased confidence that they capture real physical processes. For climate prediction, these details, often caricatured by the models, must be more accurate.

Although the dynamical aspects and regional scales are important, one must keep in mind that the atmospheric radiative transfer atmospheric models represent the core of the theory behind AGW, and that AGW involves longer time scales. Few scientists seriously doubt these radiative transfer models, which are closely related to the algorithms used in remote sensing, e.g. by satellites, to calculate temperatures. If one interprets the the New Scientist report from the WCC-3 as that the situation is no longer as dire previously thought, then one is in for a big disappointment. The sentiment is rather that climate change is unavoidable, and that we need to establish tools in order to plan and deal with the problems.

There are some signs, however, that biases and systematic errors in the global climate models (GCMs) can be reduced by increasing the spatial (and temporal) resolution, or by including a realistic representation of the stratosphere. Problems associated with the description of local and regional climates cannot merely be corrected through downscaling.

One concern was that the bit of code called ‘parametrisation’ (employed in the models to describe the bulk effect of physical processes taking place over a spatial scale too small for the model grid) may not be sufficiently good for the job of simulating all local climatic aspects. For this reason, there was a call for a globally coordinated effort in providing computer resources and climate simulation.

Some speakers stressed the importance of a truly global set of climate observation. In this context, it’s also crucial to share data without restrictions, in addition to aiding poor countries to make high quality measurements.

Although the focus during the WCC-3 was on adaptation, it was also stressed that mitigation is still a must, if we are to avoid serious climate calamities. It was concluded that we must move from a ‘Catastrophe handling’ strategy to a ‘Risk management’ policy.

One sad example showing that we are not there yet, was the forecasted June-August 2008 floods over the western/central Africa. It was the first time in history when Red Cross/Crescent launched a pre-emptive appeal based on a forecast. Unfortunately, there was a lack of willingness to donate funds before a disaster had taken place, and sadly, the forecasts turned out to be fairly accurate. The question is whether we are doing the same mistake when it comes to climate change.

Webcasts from the conference have been posted on the WMO WCC-3 web site. In addition to the science, a number of speakers discussed politics. There is also a new book – Climate Senses – that has recently been published for the WCC-3, dealing with climate predictions and information for decision making

201 Responses to “Climate Services”

  1. 151
    Craig Allen says:

    With regard to the planting of irrigated forests in inland Australia and in other such places:

    I’m 99.9% sure it could not be done due to
    a) The astronomical amount of water it would take.
    b) The incomprehensibly huge amount of infrastructure that would have to be put in place to get water to every tree (imagine the emissions involved in constructing and installing pipes to every tree across an area of 2 million square kilometres, let alone in pushing the water there).
    c) It would cause salinity on a scale that would make the dryland salinity catastrophes currently under way in Southern Australia look like minor inconveniences.

    But beside all this, I don’t understand where the water will come from once we have exhausted our existing precious aquifers. The deserts of inland Australia, the Sahara and southern Africa go all the way to the western coasts of the continents. There are entire oceans of water to their west, presumably evaporating vast amounts of water into the air every day. But this does not cause significant rain to fall on those coasts. If you can solve that, and don’t mind the salt-wracked landscapes that occur as a result, then perhaps you might be able to plant forests on the areas that don’t go salty as the saline ground waters rise.

    Beside all that, you’ll first have to go in and dispossess all the traditional peoples who live there (although admittedly in Australia we demonstrated a remarkable capacity for doing this, until we started to feel so ashamed of ourselves a few decades back that we stopped and granted them legal rights to their own land).

  2. 152

    #138 don

    Point one:

    One of the basic precepts of law and justice is that one has a right to face ones accuser. How bout you give your real name along with silly questions?

    Point two:

    Isn’t it interesting that climate services is not yet been fully born and there are apparently already conspiracy theories about how RealClimate is getting “climate service funding from George Sorros,, and the Daily Kos”

    Actually, I don’t think George Soros, or the daily kos are member states of the United Nations. I could be wrong, but don’t you have to be a nation first???

    When ignorance rules, reason suffers.

  3. 153


    Do you know the first thing about climatology? Have you ever even cracked a climatology textbook? Without looking it up on Wikipedia, could you write down the equation of radiative transfer with a gun to your head and your family next to die if you gave the wrong answer? I’d be interested in an honest answer.

  4. 154


    Not to OT as it relates to ocean cycles, predictability and eventually climate services:

    PDO seems to be heading back towards positive.

    I don’t know enough about it but I wonder what correlations might be connected to this shift?

    Does anyone know of studies regarding other ocean cycle periods and correlation that may indicate triggers for the oscillations?

    Does one or more events usually pre or postcede a cycle shift?

  5. 155
    Richard Steckis says:

    Leonard Ornstein says:
    13 September 2009 at 11:35 AM

    “Acacias are also native to the Sahel and all of northern Africa.”

    You are quite correct. I guess that being an Aussie we tend to claim Acacias as our own. After all, of the over 1400 species, 1000 of them are Australian.

    Despite this. Geo-engineering of any description is an ecological and potential climate disaster just waiting to happen. You cannot know all of the consequences of the engineering project that you champion. And the so-called robustness of all your GCM runs fills me with absolutely no confidence.

  6. 156

    Why did so many of you hop all over don for asking a question?

    I know why — you immediately judged him as a troll.

    That might be so — or maybe he was just asking because someone else fed him some bull.

    Replies made with civility will go a long way toward engaging others in possibly productive dialog. I think our President said said something to that effect. It is all part of “loving your enemies.”

    As one who has written several times in the media about the reality of the IPCC findings, I make this observation: Much of the pitter-patter back and forth a people comment on the very fine articles posted here is childish, mean, and tends to put anyone with a genuine question off. Examples abound, but I will refrain from pointing them out.

    To forstall the obvious rebuttals (some chance, but not much), I will also observe that there are some who post here who have shown — over many posts — that they really are trolls. Even these people can be spoken to with politeness, even as their misconceptions are firmly dismissed.

    Some of you have a real gift for the sarcastic phrase. Such retorts go a long way in creating heat, not light, on discussions of issues. Ask yourself — would your mama approve of what you just were about to post?

    In sum: It is possible to disagree in a cilil manner.

  7. 157
    Mark says:

    “Why did so many of you hop all over don for asking a question?”

    This is a blog site, not reality. So nobody hopped all over don.

    And there’s little evidence to show that a verbal drubbing was given to don. Since his post of #105, there have been two answering his assertion with “acacias should work” and one post saying that biomass sequestration is a bad idea (and no mention of don).

    Did you decide that lack of effusive gratitude constitutes “hopping all over don” and assumed that this was for some vague reason of “you thought him a troll”?

    And please note that if someone reads some bull and takes it as true, then what, really, did they to with the IPCC reports? It’s not like they are unable to be found. If they are so open to ideas, why didn’t they read the IPCC stuff?

  8. 158
    Caroline says:

    Another sad example is the drought that plagues Kenya at the moment, killing people, flora and fauna. More accurate forecast would be most welcome for life in areas so sensitive to climate changes.

    Find Green Eco-Friendly Products Here

  9. 159
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hi Burgie,

    A lie doesn’t stop being a lie when you frame it as a question.

  10. 160

    Craig Allen, #151:

    If you read the paper you would know that the water comes from desalination of seawater at the coast, and transport by aqueducts, to the desert – and you’d learn much more;-)

  11. 161

    #157 Mark

    In my post #152 I remarked in a manner that might be interpreted by Burgy as hopping all over him. Although I don’t think I was unduly harsh in context of the insinuated sarcasm/accusatory inference in his post #138 where don said:

    I’m curious, do you brave people get your climate service funding from George Sorros,, and the Daily Kos?

    But I don’t think my post is inappropriate all things considered.

  12. 162
    William says:

    I’ve never understood why yard waste has to be hauled away from the curb to some central area to be disposed of. Why don’t we promote the idea that people keep their lawn clippings and leaves on their own property as a better way of recyling? On a local level we could implement this kind recycling by taxing heavily the removal of yard waste. I spread my cut grass underneath my bushes and the stuff dries up to almost nothing. In the fall, the bushes get trimmed and fed into a chipper along with all the leaves. That reduces the volume of the material considerably and it’s easily spread around the yard as mulch. We could cut down on trucks hauling yard waste and return yard waste to the soil it came from. We could also cut down on all the obnoxious leaf blowers screaming all year that blow every tiny bit of leaf matter off of manicured lawns.

  13. 163
    David B. Benson says:

    It’s Raining Less Than Scientists Thought:

  14. 164
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I’ve never understood why yard waste has to be hauled away

    William, your local fire department and vector control office will explain to you that not everyone has enough space available for such composting without causing risks for the neighbors. They’ll be glad to talk to you. Your local agencies will know the reasons for your location quite well.

  15. 165
    Hank Roberts says:

    Not looking like another 1998 event

  16. 166
    Donald Oats says:

    Re: Leonard Ornstein #123, #160:

    Just for the record, my name is Donald Oats, not David Oats; no offence taken :-)

    My questions in my post #10 are intended in the spirit of enquiry. My statements concerning tree failure rates is not to discourage but rather to provide an appreciation of what we are up against when the rubber hits the road, so to speak. My old boss Bill Henderson used to grow trees and plant them on his property as part of a greening effort in SA. There are real challenges – not insurmountable – in getting inital cover stable enough that the boundary plants offer some protection to the interior plants on the plantation.

    One idea I’ve got that might be possible is to use the water not just for irrigation but also for energy storage. The arid “wastelands” of South Australia (my town of Murray Bridge included) are some height above sea level. If water is pumped from the low lying coastal areas where desalination takes place up to the plantation area, it could be stored in pools. If it is engineered to provide a fairly steep drop, some of the water could be used as hydro-generation, and at the base of the drop, stored for re-pumping back up again, when more power is being generated from the wind farms you’ve got earmarked for the energy to pump the desalinated water in the first place.
    In other words, I’m proposing to markedly increase the scale of the wind farms and to make extra use of water being pumped uphill; allow some to recirculate through to generate hydro power (eg at night) and this may go some way to providing extra revenue.
    While the engineering task to add extra pools, an underground drop with turbines for hydrogeneration etc, is large, the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme in Australia shows that projects of this size can be accomplished.

    I wouldn’t want to write your plan off; indeed, I hope something like that is achievable as land reclamation after desertification is becoming more important by the day. Climate change for South Australia and other parts of interior Australia is likely going towards a more severe desert climate.

    One thing that I wouldn’t like to see though is the use of subterranean acquifer water as some of the supply to any plantation. However, it would be an interesting question as to whether desalinated water could be stored in the ancient acquifers – my understanding is that in the western part of South Australia and across the border into WA, there is a vast network of underground caves and lakes. Worth looking into.

    Just some talking points,


    Don (not don).

  17. 167
    David B. Benson says:

    Donald Oats (166) — Pumped hydro could well be part of a completely worked out plan. However, the need for extra generation is usually during the afternoon and into the evening; a minor point. In any case, irrigation schemes usually incorporate fairly sizable resevoirs of water stored against future demand.

  18. 168
    James says:

    Craig Allen, #151:

    Cutting down trees caused the salinity (by allowing ground water to rise and evaporate) now putting them back causes salinity by some thought experiment.

    Either we wait (in vain) for earth scientists to invent a cure, or we start to do something, this seems like a nice way to start. Hindsight from failed experiments should stand in good stead.

    My engineering background says CCS, Artificial Trees, Economics and BAU are not going to mix together nicely.

  19. 169

    #165 Hank, It is important to note, especially for “its cooling since 98” chaps and gals, that a weaker El Nino gives similar, at times warmer Global Temperatures. This point is almost always missed, a metric of a climate opinion should be judged by comparisons which creates the correct perspective. Not doing so reflects poorly on the analyst. So for 2005 to exceed 1998 GT wise, look at the graph, the answer is there, the globe is warming
    despite ENSO variations not because EL-Nino is strong.

  20. 170
    CM says:

    Nearly on topic: Finally a climate impact to make Joe Sixpack sit up and take notice. Save our beer!

  21. 171
  22. 172


    When I regress NASA GISS temperature anomalies 1880-2007 on multiple independent variables, I find that the PDO index accounts for about 4% of the variance. So it’s a real influence, but a minor one. Nonetheless, you’ll find plenty of deniers who insist that global warming is due to the PDO, AMO, ENSO, or whatever cool acronym they read about most recently on a denier blog.

  23. 173
    Paul Segal says:

    James, #168

    “Cutting down trees caused the salinity (by allowing ground water to rise and evaporate) now putting them back causes salinity by some thought experiment.

    Mostly correct on the first part, though it doesn’t always rise to the surface, it might be a little below the surface. The act of growing trees by itself does not raise the water table, the irrigation part can if not done very carefully.

    Most tree planting in salt affected places is done with very little or no irrigation for that reason. Quite large areas of Australia have been sea bed at one time or another. There are also large areas that have not.

    If you are going to try and revegetate areas that have not been deforested since European settlement then some form of irrigation is going to be necessary, the climate is already too harsh for our dry climate trees to establish by themselves.

    Quite apart from the issue of asking the people who do already have a right to the land (to pay for others transgressions, nothing they had much to do with), ecosystem destruction, and the enormous rates of evaporation some thought will need to be given to predators, mainly rabbits, camels and wallabies in the drier areas.

    I think the idea generally has merit but, it would be much easier and less destructive to start revegetating the huge areas where we know trees once grew, then we don’t need massive infrastructure inputs to get the job done. Put the money into larger incentives to plant trees, or just to let them grow, with better average returns than dry land cattle or goat grazing. Carbon Credits don’t quite make the grade, aside from their counter productive emissions offset side.


  24. 174

    #156 John (Burgy) Burgeson

    Your post here raises other important concerns, though likely not the ones you thought you were raising.

    Everyone’s mama is different, but if mama cares about her kids and grandkids, I think she would approve of these chastisements aimed at reducing the silly factor, clever retorts, or even the use of a blunt phrase once in a while, in response to anything that gets in the way of the health and well being of her offspring.

    As far as ‘civil manner’. Everything needs context. Delays in mitigation of AGW and adaptation will be costly. The toll will be measured in rising costs and human limits in adaptability while the economic system is further and further strained. Therefore, participation in the delay game due to ineptitude, no matter how innocent, or guilty, in origin is merely costing society that much more. How civil is dons question really?

    don, came in here and asked a question with a veiled accusation in it, whether intentionally, or not.

    It is the sort of question that would come from someone that believes this is all just a grand conspiracy to make scientists rich.

    Why are you hopping all over those that have responded to him addressing facts and reasonable perspectives?

    Also, just because you speak with what appears to be a civil tongue, does not mean that you are speaking in a civil manner (short and long term considered).

    In other words, your post #156 can be interpreted as a retort and an admonition without meaningful substance in perspective of the problem of AGW. You have freedom of speech yes, but putting perfume on a pile of garbage does not change the character of the garbage, but merely the superficial impression to the nasally aware and visually impaired.

  25. 175
    Hank Roberts says:

    There are trolls, and there are concern trolls. Trolling is a sophisticated multiplayer gaming approach to disruptive conversation. The Troll FAQ is easy to find and, while more Usenet- than web-centered in its terms, does a very good job of how the tag-team approach is executed.

    The goal is usually to get regular participants in the forum arguing with each other either about an offtopic notion or about demeanor and politeness.

    You know how to find the FAQ. You know if you’ve already read it.

    You know you need to if you haven’t. RTFM.

    Don’t F’ing Feed the F’ing Trolls.

  26. 176
    chris says:

    re #172

    No doubt we’ll hear more on this, but it’s worth pointing out that Swanson and Tsonis have just published a paper in PNAS describing an analysis of internal variability contribution to the 20th century global anomaly trend.

    The consider that the net contribution of internal variability (which they consider to be pretty much exclusively related to ocean dynamics) to 20th century warming is close to zero. However (in their analysis) internal variability was responsible for a significant amount of the 1910-1940 warming, much of the 1940-1970 temperature “statis” and some of the post-70’s warming. The residual externally-forced (greenhouse) contribution is a pretty monotonic warming that resembles a quadratic fit to the actual 20th century global temperature anomaly.

    I wonder if there is a little bit of a shift in our understanding of 20th century warming contributions, first with a “down playing” of solar contributions to early 20th century warming, and now with an increasing role for internal (ocean) variability and less of a role for aerosols to mid 20th century temperature “statis”. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. The anthropogenic greenhouse contributions remains as strong as ever…

  27. 177
    Chris S. says:

    Hank, I don’t disagree with a lot of what you say in #175. However, whilst it may be true that there are (plenty of) trolls contributing it is not true that the majority of readers (commentators & users) will have the experience of the Usenet veterans. It costs nothing to respond to potential troll posts with respect & dignity (at least at first). To respond with bile, patronising comments and the like costs goodwill and risks alienating less ‘battle-scarred’ readers. Speaking personally, I tend not to delve into the comments at RC much any more as I tend to come away feeling slightly soiled by the sickening bile often displayed by some regular commentators (of course it’s not half as bad as certain denier sites which leave me despairing of the human race, but the point still stands).

    As Burgy points out, many comments on these threads come across as childish and mean. Is this really the public face the AGW commentators wish to show?

  28. 178
  29. 179

    I like it, Chris S.

    You can refute without name-calling, and you’re probably going to be more, not less, effective.

    Of course, that doesn’t invalidate Hank’s advice in general. In fact, for a real troll there’s nothing more tasty or nutritious than a good, childish insult. Your best tactic against them is the one Hercules used on Antaeus.

  30. 180
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the one Hercules used

    Uh — pick ’em up and give’em a great big hug?

    Aside — I asked the hosts of that NOAA page on ice core drilling and got a prompt and cheerful reply.

    “Yes, that page could stand to be brought into the current century! I’ll update it shortly…”

    Lesson being, when you do find outdated or incorrect information, see if the person maintaining the blog page will update or correct it. That’s a strong test to apply to a source you’re wondering about.

  31. 181

    “Uh — pick ‘em up and give’em a great big hug?”

    Pretty much.

    Just make sure your back is OK first.

    (Well, maybe the hold ’em up in the air idea is a metaphor for denying contact. Approximately equal to starvation. . . ?)

  32. 182
    RichardC says:

    178 Chris – The Republicans just said that a guy who called Republicans “***holes” was too decisive to be allowed to work in the administration. The Hypocrite card will certainly be played and we’ll have another resignation. Ah, the pageantry of politics.

    Climate services are a difficult sell until this issue gets beyond partisan politics. Climate services smells a lot like scientists setting policy. It will be difficult to stay out of a big fight.

  33. 183
    James says:

    Paul #173
    No quibble with any of your post …

    I think the idea generally has merit but, it would be much easier and less destructive to start revegatating the huge areas where we know trees once grew, then we don’t need massive infrastructure inputs to get the job done. Put the money into larger incentives to plant trees, or just to let them grow, with better average returns than dry land cattle or goat grazing. Carbon Credits don’t quite make the grade, aside from their counter productive emissions offset side.

    The trouble is that the Amazonians et al want crops and grazing and wealth producing infrastructure not rain forests. WE want THEM to have rain forest.
    So either we make it worth while (financially) for them to do so or we pursue alternatives.

  34. 184
    Craig Allen says:

    Leonard Ornstein #160, James #168, Paul Segal #173:

    Salinity is caused when ground-waters rise to near the surface. In arid parts of the Australian inland (and other desert and semi-arid regions of the World) the mosaic of trees and shrubs extend their roots systems out in a matrix through the top foot of soil and are able to catch most of the rain as it falls, preventing it from getting down to lower strata. Once the vegetation is cleared, as has occurred on a massive scale in our semi-arid mallee woodlands, the water penetrates and ground waters rise. Salt is not present in the inland subsoils because of ancient inland seas millions of years ago. Rather it is an accumulation of the low concentrations of ions present in rain water, and is ultimately from the ocean. Even if ground waters are initially fresh, as they rise through strata that contain salt they bring it to the surface.

    Irrigation in arid and semi arid landscapes is an alternative route to the same end point.

    The afforestation proposal will create a third route to the same end – even if the irrigation is done perfectly with no excess water – because it is designed to increase rainfall, which will of course increase the downward movement of water through the strata across vast areas of landscape down-wind of the irrigated forests.

    But setting aside this issue, let’s examine some of the other aspects.

    In your paper Leonard, you suggest creating a vast array of desalination plants along the coast and pumping the water inland along aquaducts. It would then have to be distributed to the plantations across millions of square kilometers and sprayed onto the trees at exact rates in order to minimise subsoil penetration. (the aquaducts may get the water to the plantations, but a monumental amount of infrastructure and energy would still be needed to get it to the trees).

    Sensibly you would not use the Eucalyptus species suggested – E. grandis – which is indigenous to the cooler, relatively humid, high rainfall east coast ranges. Rather, you would plant a mix of the extremely hardy ‘Mallee’ Eucalyptus trees and shrubs. Mallee woodlands naturally occur in the sub-arid regions of southern Western Australia, SOuth Australia and Victoria. The plants can live for hundreds of years, forming massive ligno-tubers below ground. And they coppice after fire, sending up dozens of thin trunks from each lignotuber. The lignotubers ensure that the carbon is permanently sequestered regardless of the massive fires that will periodically rip through the new plantations. And there are experiments underway in Western Australia with mallee plantations that will be harvested regularly for biofuel. These operations will take advantage of the coppicing – the machinery cuts the trunks at ground level and new ones sprout. They can be harvested every 5 to 10 years. Mallee trees and shrubs are drought, heat and frost tolerant, and thrive in low nutrient soils. Ideally you would also plant a broad suit of the other species that naturally grow interspersed with mallees so that every square inch of soil is occupied. There are several thousand species to choose from.

    Some quick volume and cost calculations:
    My hometown is at the cusp between the mallee woodlands and the saltbush drylands in South Australia. The average rainfall is (was) 10 inches or about 250mm. If you take that as the application rate you would need in order to support your new mallee plantations, then to irrigate 1 million square kilometers, you would need about 250,000,000,000 kilolitres. To account for losses through evaporation along the aquaduct network, and for the higher temperatures in the interior you would have to double that at least, so we get 500,000,000,000 kilolitres. A quick Google search reveals that the cost of desalinized water is about $1 per kilolitre (depending on how you generate your electricity). So we need to find $500,000,000,000 per year to keep this forest going. (And that doesn’t include the infrastructure and pumping costs!) Mind you, perhaps after 100 years we will have enough carbon stored away in all those ligno-tubers, and we can just let it all die and leaving an interesting mosaic of saline scalds, dead burn out forests, and decaying infrastructure.

    Sorry to be negative. The scheme just seems to be a very expensive, destructive, probably ineffective alternative to actually reducing emissions.

    It’s an interesting though experiment though. I wonder if the scheme of shooting giant geysers of seawater into the air off continental west coasts in order to raise atmospheric humidity might achieve the same effect?

  35. 185

    Chis S. #178:

    “This guy” (Andrew Freedman) is right for the wrong reasons. Liars don’t deserve respect. As a matter of passionate personal belief, I do not respect anyone that doesn’t respect physical reality.

    I may pretend respect for such folks as a matter of debating tactic — if I remember in time after my anger has subsided. I try to remember that my real audience is not the liar (or the victim, often with little formal education or science savvy, that was lied to and got enlisted as a liar-by-proxy), it is the multitude of quiet readers honestly trying to learn something. They deserve a respectful tone.

  36. 186

    #177 Chris S, #179 Kevin McKinney

    Regarding Antaeus: Heracles held him up so he could crush and kill him. Are you suggesting crushing and killing deniers, as the story suggests?

    Furthermore, my interpretation of the story in the context of denialism is that when deniers stand on the ‘facts’ learned on denialist web sites (which largely do not have scientific basis in the larger context of the body of science) then their story is so weak as to be easily killed if you remove them from their foundation.

    While true in concept, extricating them from the foundation of a belief can not be done by lifting them physically. One needs to directly combat the belief itself and reason combined with evidence is the best weapon.

    Since most of what they say is either a lie (known or not) or facts out of context, and based in belief rather than evidence or models, then the battle must occur by attacking the belief itself with evidence and reason. There is actually no other way to do this.

    Wrong is wrong, no matter how many people are hugging each other.

    If you want a hug fest go visit a commune.

    I don’t see those that understand AGW as childish and mean, but rather direct and succinct. Your pointing it out is actually, in my view, an immature attempt to paint yourself as ‘mature’ while painting others with a label ‘childish and mean’ that when weighed in context of what we hear from the other side of the debate (the denialists) is actually quite immature (on your part), or interpreted could be considered ‘childish and mean’, when extrapolated to its logical conclusion given the context.

  37. 187

    #177 Chris S, #179 Kevin McKinney

    As to your other points:

    I don’t see a lot of the AGW side throwing bile around? Neither do I see unnecessary name calling? I’m sure you can find instances of such but in what context, and was it really unnecessary name calling, or did it have reason and substance in context?

    In contrast, what you find on denialist sites is much more effusive and derogatory. Have you actually read Lord Moncktons work. Insults. veiled and unveiled, intertwined with pompous arrogance. If you disagree with my assessment, prove it – Read his work. If you don’t like people that are direct, their are I’m sure other web sites where people entertain each other with obtuse, obfuscative and like mannered veiled pleasantries of such ilk. Otherwise, take a serious look at the denial sites and those like Lord Monckton. There is a time for everything, pleasantry and direct communication. Choose your battlefield first, then choose your weapon.

    Moncktons Paper

    Rebuttal to Moncktons Paper

    Web Page covering the subject of Monckton in the debate

    It is bizarre to hear denialists on their sites calling people liars, morons, idiots and such, and then to hear you both say people here need to be nicer.

    Note: Maybe Chris S. and Kevin McKinney are unwittingly, or knowingly, playing the tag team trolling technique in saying people here (in RC) are meanies and not being kind and loving (by not hugging those that are obviously ignorant and/or naive)?

    Of course, the story they refer to is not about hugging though, it’s about killing your opponent, or in the metaphor, killing their belief.

    The problem of communicating the science is complex and it is easy to get lost in the debate of mannerism, but even that is largely a red herring to distract from the real issues.

    Let’s stick to the science and its relevant issues as best we can. It’s complicated enough without adding whether or not we might offend. People get offended by all kinds of things. Like the phrase: ‘AGW is going to be very expensive and we should try to mitigate the future costs’.

    You can’t not offend. It’s a debate of which the foundation for denialists is mythology, and the foundation for those that understand it is science; let’s just do it as civilly as possible and not distract too much.

  38. 188
    Chris S says:

    #s 185, 186, 187

    If I’m playing at trolls it is unwitting – I am though rehashing some of the ground I tried to cover in the Girma thread at Deltoid (before it became the ongoing trainwreck it now is).

    I spend a fair bit of time in ‘science outreach’ activities as part of my role as a Stemnet Science Ambassador. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been approached by a member of the public (often, but not always, elderly) who proudly spouts the latest guff he’s (it’s almost always a he) read in the Telegraph or the Mail as if he’s discovered the achilles heel of all science. Do you think I’d get anywhere in laughing in his face & calling him a stupid liar? I think I’d get the sack!

    It would do us all well to remember that not everyone in the world has been following the climate debate very closely and that a basic google search will throw up as many (or more) denialist sites as sites that cover the science with any honesty. People are going to be exposed to denialist claptrap – this is a matter of fact. How can any one commentator be sure that the regurgitation of such claptrap here is “trolling” or an inexperienced “seeker after truth” with possibly clumsy phrasing. At the top of this page is a response to don from BPL “Do you know the first thing about climatology? Have you ever even cracked a climatology textbook? Without looking it up on Wikipedia, could you write down the equation of radiative transfer with a gun to your head and your family next to die if you gave the wrong answer? I’d be interested in an honest answer.” Now, don may well deserve to be metaphorically threatened with a gun to his head and accused obliquely of dishonesty. Or he may not – I don’t know, and neither would anyone else (the comment “…brave people…” may be an indication of trollism or it may be a figure of speech, can we be sure which it is?) including the multitude of quiet readers honestly trying to learn something (thanks Martin V.).

    As I said earlier, it costs nothing to at least attempt to remain civil at first. I agree that you can’t not offend, but surely we (as a community) can have enough self respect to not confuse ‘direct’ with ‘mean’ and to appreciate that the battle for hearts and minds will not be won by thrashing around attacking any voices of doubt indiscriminately but rather through patience and explanation. I’ve pasted my “ideal scenario” for dealing with denier comments from the Girma thread @ Deltoid at the end of this (of course, it needs refining but it would be a start).*

    With regard to #187: As I stated in #177 the comments here are not half as bad as certain other sites but that does not negate my point. “Monkton did it too” is no better argument than “Clinton/Gore did it too”. I also had a paragraph on being accused of immaturity for attempting to raise the tone but, in the spirit of civility I’ve removed it.

    *The scenario I’m envisaging would negate the need for expending too much energy on refuting long debumked claims. I’ll try a bit harder to spell it out:

    Stage 1) A question is asked that may appear to originate from the denialsphere, or it may not. Respondent(s): “That’s covered here (link) have a look and come back to us. (IMPORTANT: every responder gives the same link)

    Stage 2a) Questioner returns with further questions related to the link given – these also may be denier memes but they show they have read the initial link. Respondant(s): “Good point – see here (link) for further work in this area”

    Stage 2b) Questioner returns with further questions that make it clear that they have not read the link. Respondant(s): “You don’t seem to have read the last post come back when you have (no further reponse)

    Stage 2c) Questioner returns with unrelated question to his/her first. Respondant(s): “Did you check the link I gave you earlier – what did you think? (No further response until 2a is fulfilled or 3b occurs)

    Stage 3a) Questioner returns with further related questions – continue linking to answers.

    Stage 3b) Questioner continues to ignore the link(s) given or continues to post unrelated FUD. Respondant(s) “Dhogaza, Mark etc. he’s all yours, have at it”

    There, no extra work, no chance of accusations of ad hom or unreasonableness and denialist memes firmly refuted.

    Now, this approach requires two things – a repository of standard (good) answers to possible questions and, more importantly a degree of co-ordination amongst the AGW blog community that we have not yet seen. We know that there is such a community – it includes such regular commentators as (in no particular order) BPL, dhogaza, Hank Roberts, Marion Delgado, Eli, Truesceptic, ScruffyDan, John P Reissman, tamino, MAB, Penguindreams, CM, Ray Ladbury, Greenfyre, Timothy Chase, frankbi, Mark, Mark Byrne etc. etc. (apologies to those I’ve left out). If this community can come together & form a united front refusing to be distracted by FUD then we can start chipping away at the edifice of crud that the deniers have constructed.

    One last thing – although the questioner may be a denialist troll, there may be genuine seekers for knowledge “lurking” looking for the answers and looking to see if the answers they’ve been given by the Watts crowd have any traction – these are the people we should be taking into account in these exchanges.

    Aggression never works in the teaching environment, we must view these comments threads as opportunities to teach, not get our rocks off shouting down the ignorant.

  39. 189
    Mark says:

    “How can any one commentator be sure that the regurgitation of such claptrap here is “trolling” or an inexperienced “seeker after truth” with possibly clumsy phrasing.”

    This site helps in so many ways in that, Chris:

    And this one should be a port of call for anyone who wonders what AGW is about:

    What amazes me is that so many people rush to these denialist sites and read what’s there and come away and don’t bother to read up on that last site AT ALL.

    If yhey don’t do that, what, really, is the difference between a troll and one of your obscenely naive “seekers of truth”? After all, the didn’t seek very hard, did they. Then never even looked at what the AGW position WAS, did they?

  40. 190

    Craig Allen, #184:

    Some of your points are well taken. I suggest that you compare your calculations with the ones in our paper.

    Eucalyptus Grandis was ‘chosen’ because it’s well-studied, and very productive at the latitudes of the Sahara and Outback. We noted that monoculture is probably not the way to go.

    Sprinkling is also probably not appropriate – nor are open aqueducts.

    When it rains, you don’t irrigate, so with appropriate monitoring, salt can be kept out of the root zones.

    Ours is certainly a ‘monstrous’ proposal – but for a monstrous problem.

    And we show it costs out at a fraction of a dollar per ‘equivalent gallon of gasoline’, as a ‘tax’ for the CO2 released when it’s burned. It also would provide an ‘endless’ sustainable renewable supply of carbon to replace nonrenewable dwindling fossil carbon – for use as fuels and ‘petrochemicals’.

  41. 191

    #188 Chris S

    You have made a good point. But there are many battlegrounds and on different battlegrounds one needs different weapons. Sometimes a feather is more effective than a hammer but it all depends on the situation.

    I may be quite foolish at times and possibly display a bit of wisdom now and then, but I always try to notice where I stand when i speak. The message is the same, but the angle of swift and parry may be different.

    I do also agree with BPL in his questions. Let’s just look specifically at “Do you know the first thing about climatology?”

    This is a fair question along with it’s follow-up. While I understand that one might be able to catch more flies with sugar, one might also utilize a fly swatter now and again. Both sides of the argument have validity, but circumstance has a hand in determining the method of response.

    Many make blind statements that have less to do with reality and more to do with what they read on the internets. Then we have the time factor. This is a critical issue. Delay is money and potential lost to save an economy that will be strained to survive. We can go around hugging folks all day but if they don’t learn the context of the perspective they brought to the table, then hugging is just a feel good delay that does not advance knowledge or understanding.

    There are so many delicate aspects and nuances in communication.

    Most are quite civil here, but I admit I sometimes use a feather and other times choose the hammer, sometimes sugar and sometimes a fly swatter. I don’t pretend to have enough wisdom to know precisely what is most effective at a given moment but do exercise what caution I am capable of.

    I suppose my main point is that its not always immature to choose a harsher instrument in method, sometimes its just getting to the point.

    Your method idea has some substance to it, but with the myriad of minds and perspectives involved no single angle answers all questions. And many have their preferred links to answer the question. I made a bunch of arguments on the OSS site mainly because I did not want to have to search for answers every time someone asked a question.

    Lastly, if someone comes in here or any where with a question that is seeking in nature rather than accusatory, then that person will be treated in accord with the tone. But many a time it is copy and paste arguments and accusations, that are so blatantly recognizable that many here have been there, done that so many times it is dizzying.

    Aggression does work sometimes. There are different types of aggression, an aggressive presentation can work in some circumstances and in others it may not but it depends on the audience. Most of the RC regulars are so good at presenting wonderfully education material and perspectives and do so on a regular basis. Ad homs are prone to offense but most here do attack the argument… sometimes mud fights happen. So, point taken, but there are many roads that lead to Rome, Paris, or better understanding.

  42. 192
    Chris S. says:

    #189. I’ll answer your question with one of my own – Why do so many Brits get their news (& views) from the likes of the Daily mail & the Sun?

    The difference between a troll & a naive “sot” is that one knows what it’s doing & the other (by definition) doesn’t. There are many reason denialist sites appeal to the “sot” – particularly the less educated – but I’ll throw three out there: 1) They are easy to read. 2) They are reassuring. 3) They appeal to the political leanings of a certain brand of individual (i.e. it’s all a pinko plot!)

    Can I draw people’s attention to tamino’s Open Thread 16 and the differing approaches to the question raised by KenM? On the one hand we have some commentators giving a civil answer to the question thus advancing the discussion, on the other we have “I smell a troll”. Which looks better to an outsider?

    I think I’ve strayed far enough OT and will attempt to leave further comment on the “Communicating Science” thread which seems much more germane to this discussion.

  43. 193

    John, the “hug” thing was mostly joking, further to Hank’s response. I’m sorry you took it so earnestly! The core that I’d stand by is that, for a hardened troll, non-response is the only tactic that reliably works. (In the Antaeus metaphor, the body-slam to Earth stands in for a forceful verbal “put-down.” Suspension stands in for response.) I can think of a deliberate troll attack on this very site in the last couple of months; in the end you just have to stop rising to the bait. (Perhaps you can think of the incident I have in mind, too.)

    I like what Chris S. has to say. In my (on-going) interactions with denialists I mostly try to resist the temptation to insult. (Rhetorical gotchas, I don’t mind so much, providing that there’s logical substance as well as rhetoric.) And I’m certainly not shy to say “With all due respect, you are wrong about. . .” if that is indeed the case.

    The key, IMO, is that you are really writing for the third-person reader–you’re not going to convince a hardened denialist–so you want to appear (and really be, for that matter) more reasonable, specific and well-informed than he/she is. This goes along with Hank’s recurring point–don’t rehash the crud, but do give good information, including cites.

    Finally, I certainly agree with you that the levels of vitriol here are much lower than at typical denialist sites. That’s the biggest reason that I can rarely stomach visiting sites such as WUWT. Well, that and the smugness.

  44. 194

    On a separate topic, it looks as though we may have hit the sea ice minimum extent for 2009. It’s too early to say for sure, of course–a further decline is still a possibility–but as of today we are about 10% or so up from the value on the 13th, which was about 5.24 million km2.

    I regret it from the political/rhetorical point of view, as it is “spinnable” from the denialist point of view as a “recovery”–something I’d hoped not to have to deal with in the run-up to Copenhagen. (Have to hope the participants there are too “grown-up” to be overly influenced by such nonsense from the denialosphere.)

  45. 195
    CM says:

    Chris S., your points are well taken.

    Barton PL (re #153 to “don”), I have to confess I couldn’t write down the equation from memory with or without a gun to my head, and right now Wikipedia isn’t sure it can, either — it’s labeled “dubious”. Maybe you are setting the required knowledge bar a mite high and a more elementary challenge would do.

    Which brings me to a survival tip from Scandinavian folklore for encounters with trolls: quickly ask the troll how old it is, then quietly saunter away while the troll (often quite old and invariably *very* dim) ponders the question.

  46. 196

    Oops, #193 erratum–“suspension stands in for non-response.”

  47. 197

    #193 Kevin McKinney, Chris S

    To the degrees applicable, I stand corrected. Furthermore, apologies may be in order to you and Chris S, though I believe my general point still stands. We will need many types of communication to achieve the goal of better understanding. No matter the path clarity and context will help. Decorum is applicable to the extent relevant to circumstance.

    Yes, there have been a few troll attacks as far as I can tell. Some of the folks in here are much better at certain types of argument than I, and I am always learning from their ability. I try, and I’m sure others try, to keep third party listeners in mind in responses.

    I sometimes get quite frustrated because wasted time means larger costs. In Geneva, at the WCC-3 I saw some evidence that when combined with other things I am aware of have pushed me to move more aggressively. The time factor is critical and we need to get past the phantoms. I’m heading back to Geneva to see if I can make some more progress.

    One of the most interesting things I heard at the conference came from a lunch conversation. We were discussing the problem of delay and a minister from Africa said, “If the lion is eating the lamb, why should the goat worry.” He made his point very well. Somehow, we are going to need to figure out how to work together, or end up on tomorrows menu, so to speak.

  48. 198

    In response to Reisman (#174,186,187) — you have almost totally misunderstood my original remarks. I may have written unclearly; I will try again

    The issue is simple; will uncivil replies to ANYBODY (including yours to me) advance the cause of persuading people that AGW is real?

    I contend that it will not — that it is counterproductive. It is clear that you think otherwise, and on that we must simply agree to disagree.

    But I do recommend to you (and others) the book CIVILITY, by Stephen Carter. It explains in more detail why incivility is, in the end, way to lose ground.

    I appreciate the other arguments here, particularly by Chris.


  49. 199

    #198 John (Burgy) Burgeson

    There are many ways to explain things John and civility is one way of achieving things, but it is not the only way.

    Sometimes if you want to make a point, you have to turn over a few tables. Other times you might want to be more civil.

    I’m sure Stephen Carter explains it all quite well, but I don’t think civility works in all situations, though it certainly has its place and its advantages.

    As to my post to you, I don’t think it was so uncivil. It was merely a response. What is civil may be a matter of interpretation though. Was it actually inadequate in courtesy and politeness?

    I illustrated my point, but I don’t think it was uncivil. I think it is discourteous and impolite of many to delay the argument regarding AGW as it impacts policy. That is uncivil. Especially when weighed in the context of the future impacts.

    I do understand what you are trying to say though and again the catching flies with honey thing is sometimes appropriate, but sometimes a fly swatter can come in quite handy.

    I’m not encouraging being uncivil in discourse but rather that, all things considered, even a discourse, veiled, or sincerely steeped in civility can be the most uncivil of things when weighed in context. There is a lot to consider here.

  50. 200

    John Reisman: Thanks for your response.

    You post, in part: “As to my post to you, I don’t think it was so uncivil. It was merely a response. What is civil may be a matter of interpretation though. Was it actually inadequate in courtesy and politeness?

    I took it as such, when you said:

    “Also, just because you speak with what appears to be a civil tongue, does not mean that you are speaking in a civil manner (short and long term considered).
    In other words, your post #156 can be interpreted as a retort and an admonition without meaningful substance in perspective of the problem of AGW. You have freedom of speech yes, but putting perfume on a pile of garbage does not change the character of the garbage, but merely the superficial impression to the nasally aware and visually impaired.”

    Perhaps I was being over-sensitive. But later you posted: “Your pointing it out is actually, in my view, an immature attempt to paint yourself as ‘mature’ while painting others with a label ‘childish and mean’ that when weighed in context of what we hear from the other side of the debate (the denialists) is actually quite immature (on your part), or interpreted could be considered ‘childish and mean’, when extrapolated to its logical conclusion given the context.”

    In general, I appreciate your posts; I learn from them. I look forward to continued posts from you and the others here.