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Overheard in the newsroom

Filed under: — group @ 12 January 2011

Reporter doing a phone interview: “Please slow down, professor. You’ve been researching this topic for a decade. I’ve been researching it since lunchtime.”

From here (h/t Josh).

214 Responses to “Overheard in the newsroom”

  1. 101
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Pearce and Feedback,
    What you are ignoring is that I have done science journalism–albeit for a technical audience. I’d just like to know
    1)How hard is it to interview 3 mainstream scientists who are experts in the field on which they are reporting?
    2)How hard is it to ask them how the work fits into the context of the field in general?
    3)How hard is it to send the story to the principals you interveiewd to give them the chance to save you embarrassing yourself?

    If I had failed to do any of the above, I’d have been fired. Really, it’s gotten to the point where I just don’t read popularized accounts of science in the press. Their information content is usually less than zero. It was not always so. I used to be able to read popular accounts of science without danger of giving myself a concussion from a facepalm.

    The fact of the matter is that if you think you can get by in a democratic society without understanding scientific method, you are simply an ignorant fool.

  2. 102
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Furry Cat Herder,
    You cannot explain science to someone who doesn’t have at least a psssing acquaintance with the scientific method, because the scientific method is what differentiates scientific beliefs from religious, political or merely “common sense” beliefs.

    Without understanding the scientific method and why it works, you wind up with the sort of post-modernist crap that looks on science as merely “another way of knowing.”

  3. 103
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Flxible #99. So for lefties, frame the message in terms of the need to protect the planet, and for righties, frame it in terms of the investment opportunities.

  4. 104
    Hank Roberts says:

    Walter, don’t confuse what ‘feedback’ describes in para. 1 above:
    “… work like advocates in court. They don’t have to be right. Their job is to convice ….” (quite true, at least in the USA)
    with the advice that feedback gives further down — working with the interviewer to get the language in shape to pass those mythical beings, the fact checker, copy editor, and editor.

    The latter is good advice.

    More often though, in reality the person you’re trying to get the story past is the layout person whose job is to fit news into the space on the page that remains after the advertising has been sold and laid out.

    Same approach though — work with the writer, get the words as clear and simple as possible.

    Remember the US literacy level — half the readers read below 7th grade level, and that’s not the 7th grade you were in. It’s today’s 7th grade level. Abysmal.

  5. 105
    David B. Benson says:

    For those unfamiliar with the scientific method, possibly
    is a suitable starting point.

  6. 106
    Snapple says:

    On 1-13-11, the VERY DAY that the ridiculous article about “former CIA operative” Kent Klizbe’s pursuit of Dr. Michael Mann appeared in the Canada Free Press, The CIA’s Larry Kobayashi gave a briefing to the Pew Project on National Security, Energy & Climate in Washington D.C.

    Mr. Kobayashi is the director of the CIA’s Center on Climate Change and National Security.

    This speech was only for the media. So far, I haven’t seen any stories about this briefing, and the speech is not posted on their site yet.

    But the Canada Free Press (malignant denialist Tim Ball is one of their editors) was ready and ran with John O’Sullivan’s mendacious story about how “former CIA operative” Kent Clizbe is telling people they can get a financial bounty for denouncing Dr. Mann for fraud.

    It is all fake patriotism, when the real patriot is Dr. Mann.

    I don’t know how these press briefings work, but it seems to me that the CIA and the Pew Center should have posted the CIA official’s written text. They should have anticipated that the denialists would be ready with their own (per)version of the CIA line on global warming.

    This blogger-moron Clizbe beat them out of the gate.

    Maybe Real Climate could get permission to post Larry Kobayashi’s speech. I ALREADY asked permission, and if you don’t hurry, I may scoop you!!

    Clizbe will fool people who trust the CIA because they will believe that the CIA does not accept global warming. Clizbe will anger people who accept global warming because they will think the CIA is against global warming.

  7. 107
    Snapple says:

    Here is more about the John O’Sullivan who wrote the nauseating article for the Canada Free Press.

    This was posted on

    but the author’s site is

    Sunday, January 3rd 2010, 4:43 PM EST Co2sceptic (Site Admin) Hi,

    I work for, a campaign website staffed by dedicated volunteers. We are looking to garner support from you and other like-minded sites in any way you see fit. We seek publicity or other such assistance that you and your readers may be able to give freely to support our latest initiative. We are offering a multi-million dollar legal and financial package as an incentive to whistleblowers from Penn State Uni. who are willing to come forward and give evidence to assist a prosecution of climatologist, Michael Mann.

    Please read our story for more details, it is already being run in the British national press (Climategate: Michael Mann’s very unhappy New Year by James Delingpole)

    Many thanks,

    John O’Sullivan

  8. 108

    Ray @ 102:

    Thanks for giving me my spaces :) I really should just sign my posts “Julie” so people aren’t wondering what my name is!

    The problem here is that this isn’t some kind of “technology” where only the “technically” savvy have to get on the band wagon. This is a global problem where even the people who don’t care about the science, and may even lack the intellectual skills to comprehend =anything= about the science are going to have to make life-changes.

    Either the people with the expertise figure out a way for everyone to understand why this is important or else we’re in serious trouble.

    — Julie.

  9. 109

    Re: #104. I don’t think I’m confused…Feedback can speak for him/herself, but what I took away from points 1 and 2 is don’t brink a knife to a gunfight — understand the nature of the arena you’re in and craft your communication accordingly.

    And, after 30 years in publishing and marketing, your “7th grade” rule is deeply ingrained in my head!

    Re: #101, Ray Ladbury, I share your frustration but why have the denialists have managed to make such progress — they face the same press we do, yes? As good propagandists, they cultivate journalists and understand the audiences they want to reach, while you only have the facts on your side. It’s not enough.

    For a hopeful sign and perhaps some lessons on how to start winning arguments, consider California voters’ November defeat of Proposition 23. Rather than curse voters’ ignorance, opponents got their messaging right and raised the money required to deliver it. That’s the world we live in.

  10. 110
    Magnus says:

    How about this:

    Reporter: OK, why are you calling me about ‘climate science’, do have anything to report?

    Climate scientist: Well, we have some statistics regarding the albedo effect. It could be that increased albedo in the Northern Hemisphere…

    Reporter: Sshhh, professor. This sounds very vague and not like something that is going to sell our tabloids. We’ll call the people working at CERN instead. Bye.

    Climate scientist: WAIT!!!! WAIT!!!

    Reporter: What now?

    Climate scientist: What if I told you to quote me on the following: “the sky is falling!”.

    Reporter: Now we’re talking. Care to give a precise estimate on exactly when this happens?

    Climate scientist: Let me just press ‘run’ on the model. I can make it happen as soon as 2050.

    Reporter: Niiiice round figure. You got yourself a first page, professor!

  11. 111

    What’s the usual symbol for CO2 climate sensitivity in an academic paper? I know it’s not β or λ, but I’ll be darned if I can remember what it is.

  12. 112

    Walter Pearce @ 109:

    I think there are several factors:

    1). CO2 is a trace gas and people say things like “there’s more water vapor in the atmosphere!”, forgetting that it only takes a small percentage increase to be a large amount of energy totalled.

    2). There are people who have religious beliefs that cause them to think we’re not capable of damaging the environment and that the only thing capable of such destruction is their favorite deity.

    3). The climate really =was= much warmer at times in the past, and the CO2 levels =were= much higher. It’s just that we didn’t live then and human beings never lived then.

    4). Despite protests in this forum to the contrary, there really was a “global cooling” scare in the 1970s. See “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf'” for how that worked out.

    And that seems to be it — “Even if that’s correct, it doesn’t matter because …”

    — Julie.

  13. 113
    Hank Roberts says:

    > there really was a “global cooling” scare
    Well, no, there were a few people talking about the possibility.
    I was there. Trust me, we had plenty to be scared of in that decade.
    That was barely a blip.

  14. 114
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Pearce,
    Here’s irony for you. I think that one reason why the denialists have been effective in cultivating journalists is precisely because there are so few of them. Since most journalists seem to subscribe to the “middle-way” model of truth, they feel they must talk to a denialist any time they report on progress in climate science. That’s a pretty small rolodex. And when they try to broaden out, they add names like Monckton or “Micro”Watts, who wouldn’t know science if it were biting vital parts of their anatomy off.

    Part of the problem is that they have the wrong model of “balance” in climate science. It is not a matter of whether or not climate change is being driven by humans but of how bad it will be. Talking to Monckton is like finding a flat Earther every time there’s an advance in Geodesy.

    Julie (aka F C H), I agree that scientists need to become better communicators of science. That is always the case. However, there are plenty of good communicators of science if the public would just wise up and meet us half way. There isn’t much basis for discussion if the public views science as just “another opinion”.

    BTW, on the “global cooling” canard. There was never a consensus on that. The folks who thought CO2 sensitivity was low, were worried about aerosol induced cooling. Indeed, that is one of the factors believed to be responsible for the hiatus in warming from 1945-75. The fact that things did not cool more is actually one piece of evidence now in favor of a higher sensitivity for CO2.

  15. 115
    Hank Roberts says:

    And, I should add, in the mid’70s I first thought about buying property for the long term.

    I looked up the last ocean high stand and didn’t consider anything below about 400′ elevation.

    I wasn’t scared of cooling, I knew warming was happening by the mid’70s. I An ordinary kid with a little science in me.

    If you were “scared” of “global cooling” I can only suspect you got your science from something like, oh, Newsweek. Bad mistake that.

    Oh, what did I buy? Trees, still standing, turning CO2 into wildlife. Still trying to get good numbers, but I’ve been close to carbon neutral.

  16. 116
    Hank Roberts says:

    > multi-million dollar legal and financial package

    Someone should get their exact language in contract form they can’t wiggle away from and publish it. Could well be illegal to make such an offer.

    This is probably meant to sound like a well-financed harassment program (unless paying only on a final conviction after appeal, of course).

    The annoyance is likely what they want to fund, whether it “succeeds” in the legal sense or just uses the legal system to waste time and attention.

    More likely, it’s someone’s attempt to pretend they have money to spend as a threat.

  17. 117
    Nick O. says:

    #109 – Walter Pearce, your question to Ray Ladbury: “… why have the denialists … managed to make such progress — they face the same press we do, yes?”

    Without wishing to pre-empt Ray’s reply, I would say that for the two groups (scientists and denialists) the main purposes for engaging with the press are different, and the modes of rhetoric to which they appeal or on which they wish to draw are also different. I think this then leads to something approaching a double standard when assessing the impact of the two groups.

    The scientist or engineer wants to get across a fact, or at least our best estimate of the truth. That requires a type of argument that admits to uncertainties but also tries to put across as best as possible a complete overall view, with as much detail as is permitted in the time available. If time is allowed to discuss all the details, including any possibly contrary instances or phenomena conflicting with theory and how these should be considered given our best knowledge, so much the better, as this serves to form the most complete picture. The general aim is for clarity and openness.

    On the other hand, the ‘denialist’ – this is not a term I like to use, I must say, but there it is – is not after ‘the truth’, but rather any point of detail, no matter how minor, that can be used as an excuse to say that the scientist’s whole argument is not only wrong, but a pack of lies or misrepresentations. If he can go further and convince people that there is a conspiracy, so much the better, as conspiracies make such good news stories. On a broader note, however, his general aim is to confuse rather than to clarify, to unsettle rather than to synthesise, and to sow argument rather than to harvest facts. Moreover, since the media generally (but not in toto) comprise people who are rewarded for arguing, and who are encouraged to get other people to argue always and to have a damned good row whenever possible, this puts the scientist at a big disadvantage, on almost every occasion. It also isn’t helped if the scientist is given lots of air time to put across her/his argument more fully, as the cry then is that she/he has been given far more coverage than deserved, and an equally long programme needs to be aired by those holding a contrary view ‘for reasons of balance’, no matter how little serious evidence supports that view, and no matter how much cherry picking goes on to try to back it up. The aim here, then, is to be confusing rather than clear, and to be partial rather than open. Once the denialist has done that, she/he has achieved much: as the saying goes “Mud sticks …”.

    Something like the above, anyway.

  18. 118

    On February 3rd, WWF and Ecofys will release The Energy Report. A report that will show that a planet run completely on renewable energy is something that could happen within the lifetime of many of us:

  19. 119
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, cr@p, such a lawsuit could count as an investment suitable for those who benefit from delay whether they “win” or “lose” on the facts:

    “… The business of lending to plaintiffs arose over the last decade, part of a trend in which banks, hedge funds and private investors are putting money into other people’s lawsuits. But the industry, which now lends plaintiffs more than $100 million a year, remains unregulated in most states ….”

    I guess it’s akin to suing to delay marketing a lucrative product until the patent protection period ticks away.

  20. 120
    Urban Leprechaun says:

    In my area I was always taught:

    Never over estimate what knowledge a reported brings with him, but never underestimate what knowledge a reporter will take away with him.

  21. 121
    Urban Leprechaun says:

    Hunt Janin

    “As a generalist, I’m writing an introductory book on sea level rise. Any advice on how to explain climate change to the educated general reader?”.

    I’m a Londoner. Sea level rise really meant nothing to me until I read a quite complicated (for me)description of sea level rise in relation to the Thames Estuary and the Thames Barrier. I know these places, and throughout the year, and over years. At the back of my mind I know the Barrier is raised occasionally. This is my home territory. Tell me about sea level rise in New York, and I am lost – for I have never seen the water there. I just can’t connect.

    Now you can’t write a book that covers every location in the world, but can you write a book where, if you go down to your local shore line or river bank, that the reader can then be guided to look at the things in their local area in light of sea level rise.

    (One thing I did read was why coastal people should fear a rise of say 150mm. That’s nothing! Until it was pointed out to me that cliffs are stabilised at the present maximum worst condition sea level – so then 150mm is important.)

  22. 122

    Reporters are always looking for the short story, you can’t print 10 years of research in one interview.

  23. 123
    Nick Gotts says:

    “We are offering a multi-million dollar legal and financial package as an incentive to whistleblowers from Penn State Uni. who are willing to come forward and give evidence to assist a prosecution of climatologist, Michael Mann.” – Snapple

    I think that should read:

    “We are offering a multi-million dollar bribe as an incentive to liars from Penn State Uni. who are willing to come forward and perjure themselves to assist a prosecution of climatologist, Michael Mann.”

  24. 124

    #122–Nothing like plain English, Nick. I should think you’ve nailed it.

    Brings back a good old Shakespearian term to my mind: “bought and sold.” But perhaps there will be a shortage of sellers.

  25. 125
    Snapple says:

    It is hard for ordinary people to sort out the authorities from the confidence men when they watch or read the news. I am smarter than the average bear, but it took me a while.

    We have to contend with fake “scientific” organizations that attempt to discredit the science of global warming and climate change. They are financed by the fossil-fuel industry.

    We even have fake “religious” organizations that try to discredit the science of global warming and climate change. They are appendages of the fake science organizations.

    And now, we have “former CIA operative” Kent Klizbe, who is trying to discredit the science of global warming and climate change. All these confidence men exploit our trust in science, religion, and government analysts to trick us, although Kent Clizbe really sucks at it.

    In their promotion of “former CIA operative” Kent Clizbe, The Canada Free Press (Ed. Tim Ball) manages to overlook the fact that many climate scientists work with the CIA to address the problem of climate change. In 1996, DCI John Deutch described a CIA program called MEDEA, which stands for “Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis.”

    Not surprisingly, nothing is mentioned in the DCI’s 1996 speech about passing out butterfly nets and capturing Nobel-winning climate scientists; instead, the CIA had passed out security clearances to climate scientists so they could study information retrieved from national reconnaissance systems that might be relevant to climate change.

    As far as I can determine, Canada Free Press blogger John O’Sullivan’s bounty-hunting sidekick, Kent Clizbe, only has Raybans, a rich fantasy life, a butterfly net, and a blog.

    Unless some secret technology is wired into his Raybans (a distinct impossibility), Kooky Kent Clizbe lacks access to information from the national reconnissance systems that scientists with security clearances have access to.

  26. 126
    Bibasir says:

    re multi-million dollar legal and financial package as an incentive to whistleblowers

    Presumably, the financial package in addition to the legal help means one gets some pocket money. What will it mean if no one comes forward?

  27. 127
    Snapple says:

    I know! I know! Let me tell!

    Ex-CIA operative Kent Clizbe will announce in the Canada Free Press blog that the evil Dr. Mann targeted those heroic whistleblowers with “secret climate weapons” and the TRUTH about the HOAX of global warming, the biggest scientific HOAX of the CENTURY went up in a puff of smoke.

    After all, the Russian government’s Novosti Press Agency—famously cited by Attorney General Cuccinelli in his EPA suit as proof that scientists are lying—also published an article by Andrei Areshev, Ph.D., who claimed that those cunning climate scientists were CAUSING global warming by targeting certain countries with “secret climate weapons.”

    Duh! Don’t you know ANYTHING?!

  28. 128

    Re: #117. Nick O., I think you’re spot on regarding the objectives and methods for each group.

    However…How are those meticulous explanations working? Seeing a lot of hearts and minds getting changed in the right direction?

    All I’m saying is, if scientists need to carry a bigger portion of the job (and it’s clear the big failure here is on the part of politicians and other civic leaders in this effort), then scientists need to tailor the messages better, not rely on “good” journalism.

  29. 129

    In Re, Global Cooling —

    And here is where “Was not!” / “Was too!” works against getting people to change —

    The more people trivialize what was written in the popular press, the more it sounds like someone is trying to hide something.

    I spent a lot of time in the early 80’s debunking real environmentalist extremists and “was not!” / “was too!” arguments don’t work on me. More to the point, some of the things that were leading to concerns about “global cooling” were =bad= things (particulate matter and aerosols) that needed to be gotten rid of. As the atmosphere has become cleaner, the underlying “warmer forcings” have been able to take hold — and I hope people here can agree with that.

    So rather than “Was not!”, I think an approach that says “Yes, there were factors at work that caused some amount of concern. Those factors needed to be corrected for XYZ reasons, and now we need to correct the things that are driving the climate to a more energetic state.”

    It’s a PR problem, not a science problem. And I think that is what is being missed, especially in the “Was not!” kinds of claims.

  30. 130
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Julie (FCH), What was written in the “popular press” is irrelevant to the science. Newsweek (or Newsweak, as I call them) is in the business of selling magazines. They’ve never been known for their science reporting. It is simply not correct to say the scientific community “cried wolf”.

  31. 131

    I am inclined to view comments on how scientists should better inform journalists, help them get the key issues, etc. as rather kind. Does a business reporter expect to be told how the markets work? Would a crime reporter expect a briefing from organised crime on their jargon? The fact that there is a very obvious anti-science campaign is not hard to fathom. I picked up the very obvious similarities between the anti climate science campaign and other science denial campaigns I’ve fought including tobacco and AIDS denial, long before I read Monbiot’s Heat or Oreskes’s Merchants of Doubt, both of which contain hard evidence linking anti-science campaigns.

    Recognising the denial campaign as a Gish Gallop doesn’t require deep understanding of the science.

    The real PR problem is exposing the lazy incompetence of our mainstream media, even “quality” outlets, who have been suckered into false balance, giving cranks equal time or more. Scientists directly involved in the field can’t easily take that on, but the rest of us can.

  32. 132
    bob says:

    Snapple you don’t have to go over to WUTWT and comment you can do it right here.

    [Response: Yeah, if you keep posting enough, you can probably sneak one through for a few minutes. Nice try. RC is not a forum for denialist stupidity and lies… that’s what Watts’ blog is for.–Jim]

  33. 133
    Donald Oats says:

    As an example of how a denialist agenda can be snuck through the journalist/editorial process, look no further than the Australian’s “Imre Salusinszky”, with this gem, titled: Global Warming is dead, let’s move on.

    Imre may claim to be a satirist, humourist, whatever, but he is also a journalist. His piece is highly irritating for its use of fictoids (factoids sans fact) to convey the improbable message of the title. Opinion pieces, including satire, are the way in which the Australian pushs a barrage of one way view of the world, and any notions on how people are part of modern global warming is always to be diminished, contradicted, smothered, lampooned.

    I find some level of sympathy for journalists who have yet to find their feet on a new domain for them – science, and climate science in particular, must be hard slog to get on top of. As the blog joke makes clear. On the other hand, there have been some very good journalists–and still are some very good journalists—who can make a decent effort at conveying scientific ideas with flair, imagination, but above all, accuracy. Imagination comes into it at the point, for example, where a technical term needs general public explanation, and the professor’s attempts just won’t do. Analogy with clear writing still has to get past the editorial process, so whatever trick works must be compelling. News media owe it to themselves and their readership to ensure that newbies have the means necessary for becoming such good journalists in scientific areas.

    Finally, I only just stumbled across this, although it is no doubt already old to the regulars here…as a South Australian living a few hundred metres from the Murray River, I am wondering just how big that big end of the funnel is, and just how narrow the tube (that being the part of river downstream from the floods) is. This whole weather event is reminiscent of the meteorological/climate system explanations of the 1956 floods in South Australia, but with a possibly larger deluge upstream. I wonder if a (preferably South Australian) journalist is interested in getting to the bottom of that…?

  34. 134
    Donald Oats says:

    Oh, Bottom. My previous post missed the link. Should have been:
    “Finally, I only just stumbled across this, although…”

  35. 135
    Snapple says:

    If you google Cuccinelli Mann under “news” there are quite a few stories about some politicians who are trying to limit Cuccinelli’s fishing expedition.

    These politicians are lawyers, and they have had enough of him. They said Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave.

    You all might want to add in your opionions because the article says Cuccinelli criticizes Mann’s statistics. I believe that Cuccinelli is using the tainted Wegman Report to make this point. This WP reporter does a good job of explaining what is going on. She follows this story all the time.

  36. 136
    John Mashey says:

    re: #131
    Robert Ferguson is a ~one-man show with a website, maybe with a little clerical help, a little funding, most likely from ExxonMobil or Monckton, and the usual cast of “advisors.”
    It’s not even clear that he has a real office.

    But if Bob wants to quote him as President of an Institute…

    See SPPI mentions in CCC, there are plenty.

    Personal opinion: quotes of Ferguson –> Bore Hole.

    [Response: Well it’s interesting in that regard that this “bob” has sent in comments from at least 7 different addresses over the last couple weeks. Update: make that 8.–Jim]

  37. 137
    Snapple says:

    I went over to see Robert/Bobby/Bob Ferguson’s SPPI in Virginia. It’s nothing but a mailbox in a parcel post at a strip mall.

    Usually science institutes are not housed in mailboxes. The strip mall had a delicious Chinese reasturant and a cute gift store; so, the trip was not a total waste.

    I believe that the Washington “office” of the notorious Robert/Bobby/Bob Thompson— the Florida man who is accused of using a fake Navy charity to steal money from patriotic people and give it to Cuccinelli—is also housed in a mailbox in a parcel post store.

    I will post anywhere I want to. You never know when someone hears something that makes him question his assumptions and realize that he has been lied to.

    I have a degree in Soviet Studies. I appreciate how difficult it is for people to sort out the BIG LIE from the facts.

    The Canada Free Press (ed. denialist Tim Ball) is promoting the alleged former CIA operations officer Kent Clizbe because he knows that many people will assume that the CIA doesn’t accept the evidence of global warming. This is what happens when you read blogs instead of the NYT, Washington Post, and government websites.

    At the same time, this sort of propaganda enrages people who are suspicious of the CIA.

    This newspaper claims to be pro-American, but they are about as pro-American as 5th columnists.

    The denialists must be pretty desperate if all they can come up with is a fake science “institute” housed in an itsy-bitsy mailbox, fake “Evangelical” organizations where the minister claims to have a degree in physics, and a lunatic who announces he is a CIA case officer on the Internet.

    I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. This guy is either a total fake or he was not exactly CIA case officer material.
    Anyone can say he is CIA because the CIA doesn’t usually comment on such things.

    If people want to know what the CIA thinks about global warming, they can read the CIA site and the NYT. The CIA and Pentagon study how to prepare for climate change.

    The head of that CIA guy who heads the office that studies how to deal with global warming is named Larry Kobayashi, not Kent Clizbe. Mr. Kobayashi just gave a briefing to the media at the Pew Charitable Trusts (which is not housed in a mailbox).

    Somehow Kooky Kent Clizbe missed the memo about the CIA and global warming, or he is dishonestly exploits the CIA cache’ to fool people into believing that Dr. Mann should be stalked by CIA operatives.

    In fact, many climate scientists have CIA clearances and study data the CIA records from our national reconnissance means.

    The denialists are so desperate that they posted their goofy story about Kooky Kent on Canada Free Press the very day that an authoritative CIA expert on global warming–Larry Kobayashi–was speaking in D.C.

    Sounds to me like the denialists are scared, and the only “secret climate weapon” at their disposal was was Kooky Kent.

    The CIA briefing was for the policy community and journalists. How come the Canada Free Press “journalists” didn’t attend and report what the CIA said? How come all they have is Kooky Kent?

  38. 138
    Brian Carter says:

    For the benefit of those who rubbish the idea that there was a “Global Cooling” scare in the 70’s: I still have on my bookshelf “The Weather Machine”, a glossy BBC book based on a “Horizon” special program. The subtitle of the book was “The Threat of Ice” and I can tell you that it was pretty scary stuff, and a lot of scientifically literate people swallowed it!

    This “Global Cooling” meme may have been a minority view amongst the people working in the field at that time, but it was very strongly presented, quite convincing, and for perhaps as much as a decade the idea that we were heading into a new Ice Age was almost taken for granted.

  39. 139
    Brian Dodge says:

    I happened across an example of bad communication of good science on CNN

    A woman asks “My neighbor used to eat tofu at least three times a week before she got breast cancer. Is there a link between soy and breast cancer? Is there a potential that I will get breast cancer because I used to eat edamame?”

    The good Dr. Otis Brawley rambles on about the scientific background for 5 paragraphs before finally answering “is there a link” (in the LAST sentence), with a qualified “The Asian diet is high in soy and this is one of the theories as to why the Asian population has low rates of breast, endometrial, and prostate cancer.”

    After three more paragraphs, he finally gets around to a third person passive “It is very reasonable for a person at average risk of breast cancer to eat a moderate amount of soy products, such as tofu, soy butter, soy nuts, and soy burgers, as part of an overall well-rounded healthy diet.”

    I would have answered her starting with the last and likely most important question first –

    “No, you won’t get breast cancer because you used to eat edamame, or because you consume soy and other plant products that contain phytoestrogens. In fact, studies show that Asians, who eat diets high in soy products have lower rates of breast cancer, and lower rates of endometrial and prostate cancer as well. Eating a well rounded, healthy diet which includes a moderate amount of soy products, such as tofu, soy butter, soy nuts, and soy burgers, will not increase your risk, and may help you control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for breast cancer, and unlike genetic factors, is something you can control. If you do have other risk factors, keep in mind that most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease – see”

    Then go on to the more detailed explanations of what phytoestrogens do, where they occur in the diet, and why her neighbor’s intake of them was reduced.

  40. 140
  41. 141
    CM says:

    BPL #111,

    don’t they usually use something like \Delta T_{2 \times CO_2}?

  42. 142
    dhogaza says:

    This “Global Cooling” meme may have been a minority view amongst the people working in the field at that time, but it was very strongly presented, quite convincing, and for perhaps as much as a decade the idea that we were heading into a new Ice Age was almost taken for granted.

    Since it’s used in attempts to discredit science, obviously only the view of those working in the field at the time matters.

    But having been in university at the time, I don’t concede your point. I certainly don’t remember it “being taken for granted”. Not even close.

  43. 143
    Hank Roberts says: finds that mentioned in “The myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus” (TC Peterson, WM Connolley):

    “… landsberg (1976) also took Calder’s book, The Weather Machine, to task, stating that ‘he quotes his favorite scientists at length, and then covers himself by a sentence at the end that there are others with diverging opinions’ ….”

  44. 144
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Brian Carter,
    Was it peer reviewed?

  45. 145
    Hank Roberts says:

    Then there’s this:
    “Calder’s Updates …. He checks predictions of the past half-century, to see how they worked out. And his hand is on the brow of frenzied climatology, as a co-author of The Chilling Stars: A Cosmic View of Climate Change.”

  46. 146
    flxible says:

    I’m suprised the more science-literate here don’t pointed out the basics about ice ages and global glaciation when folks get scared of the “threat of ice”. Particularly wrt the geologic time scales involved.

    Why would “scientifically literate people” get excited about the possibility that we’re on the downhill side of a cycle that may take thousands of years to cause problems for human civilization, but not over the [as/more likely] possibility we might not yet have reached the “peak” of interglacial warmth?

    My [illiterate] understanding is we are always in an “ice age”, currently the Holocene interglacial period or [probably] a glacial near-minimum, which will be followed by another period of glaciation [sans AGW permenently perturbing the cycle!], which is not expected for maybe 50 thousand years. I’d think even the remote possibility that we might get a whole lot warmer in just a hundred years or so would be much scarier.

  47. 147


    “. . .those who rubbish the idea that there was a “Global Cooling” scare in the 70′s. . .”

    I don’t think the existence of something you could call a “scare” is in question; rather, it’s the nature of the scare. Yes, some media jumped on it; yes, there was some traction for the scientifically literate layman. (Speaking for myself, I recall thinking “Oh, so maybe the warming Aldous Huxley wrote about in the 50s is off, then.”)

    What is incorrect is the idea of a consensus of climate researchers that a new glaciation was imminent. Some like to promote this idea in order to suggest that all is faddish (and, of course, erroneous) inconstancy in climate science; others (including many here) resent the unjustified slur!

  48. 148
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Why would “scientifically literate people” get excited
    > about the possibility that we’re on the downhill side of a cycle …

    That wasn’t the concern. In those decades, anthropogenic cooling — caused, it turned out, by sulfates from burning fossil fuels — was surprisingly fast.

    Remedy: Clean Air Act: low-sulfur coal and oil; scrubbers on coal plants; catalytic converters on vehicles.

    July 1978: “Popular Mechanics – Vol. 150, No. 1 “… Also proven unfounded was the fear that catalytic converters were filling the air with sulfate and sulfuric acid…. ”

    Hartman, Cummins, Given – 1992 – Technology & Engineering “… catalytic converters…. 5 to 90% of the fuel sulfur is oxidized to sulfate ….”

    Did anyone calculate a climate sensitivity to a given change in sulfate aerosols? That should be doable from volcano events as well as from burning sulfur as a side effect of burning fossil fuel, right?

  49. 149
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, to be very clear — the reason for controlling sulfates was acid rain, which had become widespread far downwind as collateral damage from the first attempt to make the problem go away by raising the height and ejection speed of smokestacks.

    I don’t recall a connection being made at the time between sulfates and cooling.

    The fossil fuel companies objected to the Clean Air Act anyhow.

    Did anyone notice that the climate system was responding in a twitchy way to the increase in sulfate aerosols at the time?

  50. 150
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Brian Carter #138 Who do we find as one of the authors of this dramatisation? Nigel Calder, professional Canutist. I’m looking for the whole thing, when I do, I expect to find the above excerpt was cherry-picked to omit opposing viewpoints, but given the author they may have ended up on the cutting room floor already. Still, as evidence of scientists trying to scare people that’s a big fail: Calder is a screenwriter.