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AGU Chapman Conference on Climate Science Communication

Filed under: — gavin @ 8 July 2013

A couple of weeks ago, there was a small conference on Climate Science communication run by the AGU. Both Mike and I attended, but it was very notable that it wasn’t just scientists attending – there were also entertainers, psychologists, film-makers and historians. There were a lot of quite diverse perspectives and many discussions about the what’s, why’s and how’s of climate science communication.

There were a couple of notable features: the conference had a lively twitter hashtag (#climatechapman), and almost the entire proceedings were webcast live (schedule). The video from this has now been posted on YouTube in more bite-sized chunks.

While our own presentations (Mike here and Gavin here) are available, it is worth watching the presentations from people you might not have heard of, as well as a few from more established people. We’ll embed a few here, but please point out some of the other ones of interest in the comments.

Richard Alley: “State of the Climate System”

Karen Raucher: “Applying the Science of Risk Communication to Climate Science Communication”

Bob Henson: “Doping the Atmosphere, and Other Metaphors That Stick”

Lynda Williams: “Science eXposition”

127 Responses to “AGU Chapman Conference on Climate Science Communication”

  1. 51
    Student says:

    Hank #49, YouTube has a character limit.
    -5663 characters remaining
    Hank #1-50, if you are a real person, do you emerge in daylight, and if so, where, specifically, can you be found?

  2. 52
    patrick says:

    @29 Harmen: Thank you very much for the link to “A Song of Our Warming Planet” from Ensia, by Daniel and team:

    The subject for me is communication, and in Bob Henson’s presentation the subject is images, specifically: metaphors.

    The dynamic image by Daniel and Team is brilliant because it is readily understandable but conceptually original, because the graphic sequence and the audio image map each other dynamically, and because of the the direct aesthetic and hormonal appeal of the tonality.

    The personal nature of the expression matters, and how it suits the talents of the performer and the team. The performance is deeply felt and deeply communicated.

    The audio is not just any recording. The room is great. (It’s a box I’d like to be in.) The team is great.

    The acoustic interpretation moves me–but it doesn’t mean that in another case I would mind it other-wise. Electric and electronic is alright, though maybe less expressive. It’s the concept that counts.

    Like its own tonality, the whole image is satisfying, complex, and accurate. Everything about it enhances the validity of the data.

  3. 53
    Susan Anderson says:

    Patrick, you quibble, as did I. I find Russell to be largely sound, but note your complaint is also reasonable. I’m just more tolerant, and enjoy his over the topness enough to cut slack if he transgresses the PC police. I’m nobody important; you seem a little insistent. I also like to think I can believe six impossible things before breakfast but that’s probably not true.

  4. 54
    Susan Anderson says:

    Student: Try clicking on his name. It always helps to check what you can find.

  5. 55
    patrick says:

    Daniel Crawford team and peers: here’s a fine piece of inspiration. I know you have the ears:

    Hope you get good response to the invitation you made under your “A Song for a Warming Planet” posted on Vimeo (linked by Harmen #29 on this thread, and by me #52): “Thanks for the comments! We’d love to hear this with more instruments.The sheet music is available here if interested:”

    Thanks for posting the audio file and the code to embed it too, at ensia.

    Maybe it’s the birth of a genre. If you get ideas on deeper time, great. Maybe you know this video:

    Just saw this NOAA video for the first time lately. Yes it’s for CO2 rather than global mean temperature. But guess what? It seemed starkly silent to me as it began to play. That’s how it should be. But silence seemed unusual–only because I had experienced your piece in the meantime. My mind’s ear did its autonomous best to begin to recall your piece, as the the data track of the instrumental record began to play.

    There’s a precipitous fall going into the backward expansion–down into the baseline. This is like a cladistics perspective (backwards from the tip).Some precipitous falls are more relevant than others now. You might find musical-time ways to cover the CO2 data for the whole period, from the beginning or otherwise. You might do temp and CO2 simultaneously for the recent past.

    Not to bend the twig too much but only for my interest in watching it grow–check the works of Robert A. Rohde, if you haven’t, from micro things like isotope and pollen counts, to macro things like geo-time history of CO2 in the Phanerozoic Eon. I’m sure you’ve got the point:

    Whatever musical solutions you find are sure to be relevant and meaningful–in whatever piece or period of climate science you choose. Thanks for the performance. Take it higher. Thanks for the composition. Take it higher or, uhm, lower as the case may be.

    Send your video to the guy who’s bowing flat-out on the floor to Meryl Streep (at the top). You won’t know if he wants to collaborate until you ask him. Ditto, R.A. Rohde. You may want to update “A Song” in successive periods, inviting a series of guest cellists to participate, so go big at the top.

  6. 56
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Student says: … if you are a real person ….
    I’m at least as real as you are — cite me

  7. 57
    Student says:

    which bar?

  8. 58
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Student: Try clicking on his name.
    Attach your contact info to your name.

  9. 59
    Student says:

    54, et al
    oh god. completely clueless. elevator not running to the top today. sorry.

  10. 60
    patrick says:

    HJ (John) Schellnhuber uses body temperature as a metaphor for global mean temperature, to focus on the importance of small changes in the mean:

    ALI MOORE: So what does a…four degree hotter world look like?

    HANS JOACHIM SCHELLNHUBER: I mean, people often say, well, I have fluctuations of temperatures between say Queensland and Melbourne and whatever, much higher levels – why should we care about it?

    You have to compare it to body temperature. Our body temperature is about 37 degrees. If you increase it by two degrees, 39, you have fever. If you have add four degrees, it is 41 – you are dead, more or less.

    And you have to think about the body temperature of our planet, which has been brought about through many, many processes over many, many millions of years.

    Aussie ABC transcript (plus):


    “In terms of apt metaphors…there are surprisingly few I think that capture the essence of the climate system.” –Bob Henson (Chapman Conference, 2nd video posted)

    The metaphor that Bob Henson and team came up with is biological and systemic, but adds the element of a forcing process that is anthropogenic and well known: doping. This metaphor focuses on the forcing process.

    “So what I like about this analogy is–again, it’s probabalistic.

    “An especially strong point is it talks about a component of the system that’s natural: we have steroid chemicals in our bodies.

    “We’re injecting ourselves with them–that makes us behave in a way that’s not normal or not natural.

    “So likewise if you inject the climate system with CO2, which is a natural ingredient, you make it behave strangely.” –Bob Henson

    The control-knob metaphor is virtually present too. The more one knows about hormones, the more apt the analogy to the power of miniscule amounts becomes, because the substance in question connects to every aspect of the control function.

    “We scientists use metaphor too–we just don’t want you to think that we do.” –Nobel laureate Roald Hoffman

  11. 61
    patrick says:

    “The Climate Cycle _is_ the Hydrologic Cycle.” Peter Gleick, thanks for a great talk.

    You were no doubt rushing for good reason but please-please use a different example for “Data Errors or Misuse.” The population signboard for Snowmass Village is actually very funny. It says we punch above our weight. The implication is our pop. is only 1822, but give us one equally weighted point for every foot of elevation and and one for every year C.E. we haven’t been here (we’re newish) and we weigh in at 12,157 total (points). Better to use example of error or misuse that is a joke but doesn’t know it.

    Humor among mountaineers is a little like the humor among climate scientists. Risk, you know. Some mountaineer humor may have run off down to Snowmass. The 1822 number is from 2000.

  12. 62

    I watched Gavin’s presentation with interest, and agreed with most of it. Gavin remarked that presentations usually (always?) involve advocacy, and you should be aware of what is being advocated. I think that it is important that we advocate honesty and science is the most honest area of intellectual endeavor I know. Honesty involves more than not telling lies. It means being clear about how you approach a subject – in science this means defined terms, use of logic and appropriate mathematics, use of well-established scientific laws, etc. Anything which purports to be science but fails to meet these criteria is pseudo-science.
    As an example, a friend recently gave me a document which purported to give scientific proof that CO2 was not causing global warming (“Ten things you should know about global warming and CO2”,Don J. Easterbrook, Dept. of Geology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA). On one page the document states that “Atmospheric CO2 has increased only 0.008% since human emissions began to rise sharply after 1945. There is so little CO2 in the atmosphere and it has such a small effect that a rise of 0.008% cannot possibly cause the 10 degrees F of warming predicted by computer models”. But in the period 1945 to 2010 the CO2 level changed from 310 ppm to 387 ppm, a 25% rise by the usual computation. Easterbrook apparently subtracted the % atmospheric CO2 in 1945 from that in 2010, not the usual procedure. Also, the computer models predict about a 1 deg. F. rise in temperature, not 10 deg. F. Easterbrook’s use of the phrase “so little” is meaningless. The rest of the document is no better. It is possible that Easterbrook is totally confused, but in this case confusion disguised as certainty is dishonesty.
    I disagree with Gavin on one point (possibly I misunderstood him). Gavin seemed to say that we should avoid graphs and prefer pictures of, for example, disappearing glaciers. I think it is a bit too easy for the pseudo-skeptics to write off individual examples as non-typical. My preference would be (apologies to W.S. Gilbert) to use pictures as corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise boring but accurate scientific narrative. For example, start with a graph superimposing the rise in CO2 with the temperature rise for 1900 -2000. Point out that the trend gives a ~.7 deg C rise with fluctuations of order .1 deg. due to natural events (El Nino, Pinatubo…). Show a picture of Pinatubo with an arrow to the temperature drop it caused. Mention that with business as usual we can expect an additional 1.4 deg C. sometime around 2060. Then remark that among the effects of this temperature rise is a reduction in the length of glaciers. Give several pictures of retreating glaciers from different parts of the globe. Finish with a quick reference to (say) Oerlemans’ paper in Science (29 April 2005, p.675) which reported the retreat of 142 glaciers out of 144 studied.
    If I understood Gavin correctly, his remark is a sad commentary on the state of scientific literacy in the USA, and also of the Educational System.

    [Response: Thanks. My larger point was that there is a higher cognitive load involved in showing graphs. Obviously I do show graphs all the time, but to have general audiences take in the points I want to make from any particular example takes a long time. If you can communicate that same point more viscerally, it will be more effective. I see a lot of people rushing through complex graphs making a couple of small points at a time and not realising that 90% of their audience just doesn’t have much practice at reading them and so much of the power of their narrative is lost. I would be great if people were better at reading graphs (or reading Chinese, or French or vector algebra) but that isn’t the case, and presenters need to be aware of that. – gavin]

    [Response: I guess I’ll weigh in on this because I see both your point and Gavin’s, and both have merit IMO. I can tell you that even as a scientist, say at a conference for example, I’m not all that excited about another graph being thrown up on the screen. Why? Because I hardly even have time to digest what the axes represent, what the data points and lines are trying to tell me, etc., let alone exactly how those results were generated, methodologically. Pictures do not have those same weaknesses, but, since a picture is typically a view of some single scene/event, you have to really think about whether what you’re presenting really reflects some larger truth or not.–Jim]

  13. 63
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dave Griffiths:

    As an example, a friend recently gave me a document which purported to give scientific proof that CO2 was not causing global warming (“Ten things you should know about global warming and CO2”,Don J. Easterbrook, Dept. of Geology, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA). On one page the document states that “Atmospheric CO2 has increased only 0.008% since human emissions began to rise sharply after 1945. There is so little CO2 in the atmosphere and it has such a small effect that a rise of 0.008% cannot possibly cause the 10 degrees F of warming predicted by computer models”.

    Holy crap, that’s one of the dumbest things a trained scientist could say! Is Don Easterbrook one of those people who congenitally cannot be embarrassed? Oh, wait — never mind, I just looked him up on desmogblog.

  14. 64

    #63–For a little ‘innocent merriment’ (h/t Gilbert and Sullivan), check out the PDF to which the desmogblog piece links. Can’t link it here, as the spam filter objects to it, even in an HTML tag.

    But you’ve got to love a forecast of global cooling from 2007 +/- 5 years, especially when it bangs on about the “IPPC Global Warming Forecaast.” (We know what “IPCC” stands for, but “IPPC?”)

    And “~dbunny,” really?

  15. 65
    sidd says:

    Mr. Griffiths refers to denialist screed from Prof. Easterbrook sent to him by a friend. I have encountered these myself. My response varies, depending on the person involved. In a physics department, I would probably mutter sumpn about rot-vib bands and direct toward the literature. (Fortunately the physicists i know are can do the math.) In a pub, I might grin and ask about the woodlot on my interlocutor’s back forty and the insect invasion therein, or how the tractor crossing was doing after the third hundred year flood in the last five.

    Horses for courses.

    In both cases I would mention a solar project or a tree planting effort, and entice them to participate with offers of beer.


  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Horses for courses.

    Good advice from sidd there.

    On my little hobby restoration project, I talk with the hunters during deer season — they’re 98 percent old guys like me, quite pleasant, been hunting the mountain longer than I’ve owned my little bit of it, mostly they’ve met me before. Each time we talk about how the mountain’s recovering from its huge forest fire in the 1980s (what started me on restoration). And they’ve started taking seed collected locally along with them, and kicking a little into any eroding patch of exposed soil — and they remember and look the next year to see if it’s growing.

    And they’ve seen how a little hand work clearing brush and removing fire ladders on my little piece has made it burn gracefully and recover, through several lightning fires — while the unmanaged property all around has had too much brush accumulate between fires, so each fire kills more trees, and it continues to degrade into more open brushy hillside.

    So I’m making soil — and deer habitat. They like that. So do I.

    And I’ve shown them how to kick the accumulated leaf litter pile off the uphill side of any tree that they think worth saving — because I’ve been able to show them how the extra heat from that pile, when a fire burns through, scorches the cambium if it’s left there, during these years when there’s too much underbrush, and how the trees protected that little extra bit during the intermittent lightning fires don’t get the big “cat’s mouth” scars exposing them to later worse damage.

    I don’t hunt myself — I tell them I’m grateful they’re keeping the damn deer in check, as we don’t have nearly enough mountain lions these days.

    They think I’m crazy, maybe, but crazy in a good way.

    That’s the idea.

    And in another 200 years, we might get a foot of topsoil back on the mountain.

    Plant just one tree. Protect just one tree. Do your part.

  17. 67

    #66–I like it, a lot.

  18. 68
    sidd says:

    Mr. Roberts writes:

    “Plant just one tree. Protect just one tree. Do your part.”

    Ya man! as my reggae friends say. One tree, planted with thought and care for the future. At a time.

    I am glad to say I am, personally, at three zeroes and counting up more than down as I see most grow, but some do expire. And I have helped in planting perhaps four zeroes. I will add that I have switched to planting trees and shrubs that will resist drought since that seems to be harsher on them than the floods, which are also becoming frequent. I confess I sometimes like to go back, if I am in the vicinity and admire them, after all, All is Vanity, as Ecclesiastes said, but he also said there is a time to fight.

    Choose the tree carefully. Consider the plant zones moving north and the succession invasions expected of plants and diseases and insects and animals. Do the best you can. Help is near, especially at the university extension programs in the USA, and more and more on the internet.

    A billion people (say the top income earners in the world) thoughtfully planting one tree each a year will mitigate peak fossil carbon in the atmosphere by large amount, and delay the peak.


  19. 69
    Jim Eaton says:

    Great comments, Hank and sidd. The nonprofit with which I volunteer, Tuleyome, has purchased biologically significant land in Solano, Yolo, and Lake counties here in Northern California. We have hunters who watch over some of the land (including the largest sugar pine I’ve ever seen), and we have some ranchers who lease one parcel to raise organic grass-fed beef. Although our political views are quite at odds, their true concern for protecting the land and seeing the physical changes over the years gives us common ground. They are more than willing to work with us to restore these lands where needed. A hopeful sign in an otherwise depressing subject.

  20. 70
    Hank Roberts says:


    How this organization escaped my notice for ten years, I have no idea.

    I’d wondered what happened with the Goat Mtn. site after John Olmstead died. We shared training local workers between our sites, and shared a lot of ideas about our fire restoration projects. Thank you. I’ll get in touch.

    Hm. One is never quite as alone as one imagines, in doing this work.

  21. 71
    flxible says:

    “One is never quite as alone as one imagines, in doing this work.”

    There are a lot of us quietly healing the scars “civilization” has wrought.

    even CAPTCHA sees “condition artizens” :)

  22. 72
    Hank Roberts says:

    Y’all are still looking through the videos, right? Lots there. I’m appreciating Alley’s history thanks to a recommendation from Gareth over at Hot Topic.

  23. 73

    Many thanks to Gavin and Jim for their responses. It occurs to me that nowadays there is far more communication via the web than via conferences. Consequently the quality of available websites is a key factor. Ideally they would give coherent and well supported information. Taking the example of my friend and Easterbrook’s pseudo-skeptical document, I would be very happy if I could direct my friend to sites that would clarify the issues for him. Up to now I haven’t found one that meets the needs, though some come close.
    Based on my experience the required web-site should cover the following items (specific values may need some correction):
    a. Since 1750 (beginning of the industrial revolution) the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm to 398 ppm, and the level is now increasing by ~ 2 ppm/year. For the previous 400, 000 years it varied between 180 ppm and 280 ppm, so since 1750 we have seen a bigger change than occurred in the previous 400, 000 years (appropriate graph). The average global temperature has varied by 6 to 10 deg. C between ice-ages and interglacial periods.
    b. The increase in CO2 is strongly correlated to human activity (mainly the use of fossil fuels). For every 100 molecules of CO2 entering the atmosphere, about 41 remain for very long periods (graph showing CO2 increase and 41% of cumulative emissions of CO2 given as ppm). { Note: I think this is simpler and more obvious than discussing the implication of carbon isotope ratios}
    The CO2 dissolved in the oceans is increasing rapidly (graphic).
    c. CO2 is a green-house gas (graphic), and tends to increase the global average temperature. The effect of doubling CO2 levels has roughly the same effect as increasing the energy from the sun by 1%.
    d. Average global temperature has increased by approximately .7 deg C. This correlates well with the CO2 increase (graph of with temperature increase and CO2 increase superimposed). However, other effects such as El Nino’s and volcanic reuptions cause fluctuations of about +-.1 deg C (picture of Pinatubo with arrow to temperature drop on graph).
    e. A rise in average temperature has long term and obvious visible results, such as the melting of glaciers (picture) and reduction in arctic summer sea ice (picture of Boerge Ousland and crew circling the North Pole in his trimaran, September 2010), NSIDC graphs.
    e. Other greenhouse gases such as methane also have important effects, but they usually go away quickly while CO2 stays around. Also some other short lived pollutants die out quickly. Computer models can handle these effects quite well e.g. “Climate simulations for 1880–2003 with GISS modelE”, Hansen et Al, 2007, figure 6)
    f. If we “extrapolate” the above data (.7 deg C. temperature increase for 30% CO2 increase), or if we use computer models, we expect doubling the CO2 level to increase the global temperature by about 2 deg. C. (graphic)
    g. Rising global temperatures will cause many problems including rising sea levels (graphs and graphics). Increasing dissolved CO2 in the oceans is likely to cause problems for sea life.
    Links should be provided to sites providing more information on each topic. Also required is a FAQ section to deal with confusion, both legitimate and pseudo-skeptic.
    I checked the sites referenced on the “Read This First” tab, but none of them quite fits the bill. The best site I found was the (apparently new) NASA site Their text-graphs-graphics mix is excellent but a few things are still required, specifically (b: correlation of emissions and CO2 rise, d : correlation of temperature rise with CO2 rise, e: accuracy of models). It would be good to add this site to your list (I’d put it at the top).
    How could we apply this to, for example, the egregious Humlum et. Al. (2012) paper. Ideally the response should be as simple as possible and clearly linked to well known facts. Advanced math such as lagged correlation should be a last resort! My suggested response would be :
    – Given that the increase in atmospheric CO2 correlates so strongly with human originated emissions, we are very certain that the increase is due to human emissions (item b)
    – Given that CO2 dissolved in the ocean is increasing the ocean cannot be a net source (item b)
    – Applying Humlum’s logic to the ice-age cycles we get an approximate ocean emission effect of ~ 15 ppm/deg.C. (item a), an order of magnitude too small to explain the increase since 1750 (items a and b)
    Humlum seems to have forgotten the basics of science, particularly Newton’s rules for reasoning, particularly the 4th:
    “In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phaenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phaenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.
    This rule we must follow, that the argument of induction may not be evaded by hypotheses.”
    The Sceptical Science site is pretty good at dealing with questions from the confused and nonsense from the pseudo-sceptics, but it would be even more useful if questions could be indexed according to the items above e.g. Is the rise in CO2 is due to human activity – see b.
    I agree that planting trees is a good idea, just be careful you have adequate diversity and appropriate size. When I first arrived in the USA (1964) the Chicago suburb streets were lined with elms – now all gone. When I retired to Ann Arbor, a city of trees if ever there was one, many streets were lined with green ash. My front yard had a beautiful example. Now they are all gone, the only reminder being the trunks used to support the roof of one of our local libraries. So I replaced my ash with a sweet-gum which is not common in these parts. The previous owners of my house had planted a dawn red-wood close to the house. Boy does it grow fast. The city foresters have actually put some dawn red-woods in street-planters downtown. Not a good idea for the long run, but dawn red-woods certainly soak up the CO2 and give a very pleasant shade.

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Dave Griffiths, coincidentally, many of your questions are answered in the Alley video I linked in the post immediately before you asked — the one on what we know now.

  25. 75
    Hank Roberts says:

    but I’d add, for Dave Griffiths — notice how you list what you know, but not how you know it.

    You wish someone would provide the documentation to support it.

    You’re asking someone to do a whole lot of work that’s not maintainable.

    Citation for almost any of this information is a moving target.

    John N-G wrote, I think, an excellent response to this sort of request:
    Scientific Meta-Literacy

  26. 76
    James Cross says:


    “So I replaced my ash with a sweet-gum which is not common in these parts.”

    Are you crazy? The sweet-gum balls are over my yard in the South and I would love to take them all down. Wikipedia describes the fruit as “a woody multiple capsule 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.6 in) in diameter (popularly called a “gumball”), containing numerous seeds and covered in numerous prickly, woody armatures, possibly to attach to fur of animals.” They make walking in the yard barefoot impossible and they shoot out like projectiles from the lawn mower.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of trees.

    Have you grow black gum? Similar but much prettier and without the spiny “fruit”.

  27. 77
    Jim Larsen says:

    76 James C:

    I suggest you plant the trees you want in 10 years. (Personally I like oaks) Then in 10 years take down the sweet gums.

  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

    Come to think of it — Alley’s “What we know now” video, if transcribed, would give the cites for most of the questions Dave G. asks above. Of course next year “what we know now” will be somewhat different with different cites. But there’s how the info does get pulled together.

  29. 79
    Ed Sears says:

    Last year, I posted a blog entry on the state of the planet on a website of which I am a trustee (Plants For A Future – an online database of 7000+ edible and useful plants which grow in temperate climates):

    It is now the most-viewed blog entry on the site, although the counter doesn’t register all views of the blog. Overall site traffic is around 450,000 pageviews per month (how does that compare to Realclimate?).

    I chose to use a sequence of easily-understood images, with minimal explanatory text. I did include graphs but share other commenters’ caution about overloading people with complex information they won’t have time to absorb. I will revisit this again, and plan to include some other images – you may have seen the maps of global flight paths thanks to Michael Markieta (, and also earlier work showing all the world’s shipping lanes.

    Another example of scientific data in a format that people will readily appreciate is the following Met Office map of soil moisture deficits in the UK for March and December 2012:
    (scroll down – March 2012 shows widepread dryness with drought conditions in East Anglia, December 2012 shows the entire country without exception completely soaked!). The extremes of rainfall last year, followed by extremes of cold this spring and now heat this summer are doing great things for the vegetation – I have travelled across England and the trees and fields are blooming away. Hey, didn’t somebody say we could expect more weather extremes?

  30. 80
    Martin Vermeer says:

    > Plant just one tree. Protect just one tree. Do your part.

    Or, metaphorically, help one person grasp one key understanding.

    ‘A sower went out to sow his seed’

  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    > doing great things for the vegetation

    That’s something Alley illustrates in the talk — the mild increase in plant growth through the first few decades of warming, to around 2050, during which we expect to see (for values of “we” younger than “me”) both benefits and damage from warming. He points out that around 2050, the yields for corn and soybeans drop and continue to drop drastically.

    I wonder what happens to trees that make nuts and seeds? Anything insect-pollinated will have trouble with timing coordination with its ecosystem, I know. Wind-pollinated, hm, dunno.

    I still have a lot of video to catch up on. Is that mentioned anywhere?

    Also, is there anything on plankton in the videos? Bill Calvin’s idea for an emergency carbon sink continues to strike me as really quite hopeful, in our current situation.

  32. 82
    flxible says:

    “Anything insect-pollinated will have trouble with timing coordination with its ecosystem.”

    Hank, that’s been noticeably ongoing for some years already, the Orchard Mason bees spring hatch is no longer well co-ordinated with the bloom periods, fruit set declines, bees do poorly at foraging to create next years bees …. the bees are “blamed”.

  33. 83
    Hank Roberts says:

    flxible, I’m aware of that, and I know there will be some adjustments over a few generations — the pollinators will have some genetic variations conserved at a low level because they were favorable sometime in the past. Those that start maturing earlier, for example, will reproduce better when the target flowering plants mature earlier; in hot conditions, those flying earlier and later but not during the hottest part of the day, will reproduce better.

    If orchardists are smart they’ll adjust -their- mowing and spraying to favor the few Orchard Mason bees that do hatch early, that do match the blooming time change. The genes for variations like this don’t wait on some cosmic ray mutation — they’ll be available, conserved at some low level from those ancestors that survived some past excursion. They’ll manage, at least for a while. If we get smart soon enough we won’t push those ecologies into crashing.

  34. 84

    Hank, I disagree with most of your points.

    I think that the website problem is one of organization not work. The data is there but the connections are not being made. This leads to a lot of wasted time and effort. Good organization leads to clarity and reduces work. Watch the end of Spencer Weart’s presentation, his wiring chart is a wonderful illustration of the need for organization.

    Consider the time and effort that Rasmus put into debunking Humlum et Al. This paper should have been dismissed simply by reference to a few uncontroversial facts, in particular : Given that the increase in atmospheric CO2 correlates so strongly with human originated emissions, we are very certain that the increase is due to human emissions; dissolved CO2 in the ocean is increasing and therefore cannot be producing an increase in the atmosphere!

    With reference to CO2 increase – CDIAC has a nice web site. They show the Keeling curve and monthly CO2 emissions. Surely it would not take much effort to add an overlay of cumulative emissions with CO2 increase from 1750. They have all the data, and they’ve processed it. All the hard work has been done! The NASA site I referenced ( could simply copy it. Similarly, the NASA site shows the temperature increase and the CO2 increase – all they have to do is overlay them.

    As far as documentation is concerned, the CDIAC site has downloadable data, graphics etc. and the site provides all the needed documentation. This is typical; almost all of what’s needed is on web sites and is documented. All that’s needed is a little extra (as above) and some organization.

    Also note that there is a lot of overlap between reliable sites, but at the same time a few key items are missing. I have not been able to find an overlay of emitted CO2 and CO2 rise anywhere (except for my personal computation). You won’t find it in Spencer Weart’s book, for example. You won’t find it in Broecker and Kunzig’s “Fixing Climate” even though you will find a graph of falling oxygen levels (at first sight a scary graphic, but at a rate of about 10 ppm/year you won’t suffocate soon).

    John N-G raises a number of interesting points, I’ll touch on two. I agree with him that scientific education in the USA is terrible. The general emphasis is on memorizing facts and ignoring principles. So I agree that improving web sites will not solve this problem. Science education needs a drastic fix.

    John N-G wonders how the public can be educated to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. I think the issue is a little more complicated. When it comes to raw data, such as the Keeling curve, there is relatively little dispute, so a source such as CDIAC is usually treated as reliable. Humlum, for example, does not dispute the standard data. And his analysis isn’t totally wrong, in fact (as Rasmus notes) Keeling and Revelle found the same sort of effect much earlier. Humlum just doesn’t take the next step of realizing that CO2 emission due to ocean warming is an order of magnitude too small to explain the current increase. Nor does he recognize that the increasing CO2 level is highly correlated to emitted CO2. This type of problem can, I think, be fixed by something like the Skeptical Science “Most Used Climate Myths” section. But this section would work better if it had an index. I suppose Humlum would come under Carbon Cycle.

    In his presentation Michael Mann points out that the “iconic” hockey stick curve is not a very important part of the climate change discussion. Mike thinks the curve is attacked mainly is because it is iconic. But I think another reason is that the analysis of tree ring data is quite complicated relative to, for example, a comparison of the rise of atmospheric CO2 to emitted CO2. Consequently it is an area where Humlum’s data analysis games are relatively effective. Of course, as additional research supports the original conclusions the opposition slowly dies.

    At my age I don’t go barefoot in the garden, and I’ll soon be hiring someone else to mow. So the sweetgum is no problem!

  35. 85
  36. 86
    Hank Roberts says:

    (note the origin of that picture, New Scientist attributes it: IPCC 2007)

  37. 87

    Hank (at 85,86), the New Scientist Graphic falls short of what I want. What I want is a graphic which in itself proves that the increasing level of CO2 is due to human activity.

    This graphic would be quite simple. Overlay plots of (a) CO2 levels from 1850 and (b) 40.4% of the cumulative emitted CO2 from 1850 plus the 1850 level. The quantities (a) and (b) are almost identical (Rsq=.99). This, I think, provides simple and conclusive evidence that the increase in CO2 is due to human emissions. Units should be ppm.

    The reason that I want this graph is that, from what I have seen, the most important pseudo-skeptic strategy is to avoid the obvious facts. If you look at some of the pseudo-skeptic responses generated by your search, you will see that they suggest that natural sinks for CO2 are increasing, and so we won’t have a long term problem. My suggested graphic clearly shows the error of that line of thought.

    It’s typical that the pseudo-skeptics avoid showing the graphs that destroy their case. For example, Singer and Avery’s “Unstoppable Global Warming” does not include the Keeling curve (or even a reference to Keeling). They have Name Index which is six pages long (two columns), but no reference to Keeling. The obvious idea is to make you think they have covered all the science,but a quick check shows they have missed the most important stuff. They even give graphs without units! The book claims that Singer is a “Distinguished Research Professor” at George Mason University!

    The movie “Thank You for Smoking” gives an amusing and accurate analysis of the pseudo-skeptics methods.

    Professor Huth tells us, in this Sunday’s NYT review, that when 23 Harvard faculty, alumni and graduating seniors were asked why it is warmer in the summer, 21 said that it is warmer because the earth is closer to the sun! It could make you wonder if there is any point in improving communication.

  38. 88

    #84–“At my age I don’t go barefoot in the garden, and I’ll soon be hiring someone else to mow. So the sweetgum is no problem!”

    No offence, Dave, but I suspect you’ll also be paying someone to root out sweetgum seedlings. I hope I’m wrong–maybe they won’t reproduce as well in your climate or something–but if not, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

  39. 89
    sidd says:

    Mr. Dave Griffiths wants

    ” … a graphic which in itself proves that the increasing level of CO2 is due to human activity.”

    I suggest a carbon isotope graf. The signature of fossil fuel burn is clear and compelling.


  40. 90
    patrick says:

    Dave Griffiths: Thanks for Newton’s 4th rule of reasoning (at 73). Easterbrook’s stuff in the video on DeSmogBlog (linked by Mal Adapted at 64) is all what-if and zero hypothesis.

    The best CO2 time series graphic so far is this NOAA (3:36 min) data animation:

    “Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 800,000 years before present until January, 2012. Recommend full screen/HD to read titles.” (with link to the NOAA CarbonTracker page)

    You can see Dr. James Butler of NOAA talking about it here:

    You may be interested in this history, including on how Keeling used isotope ratios:

  41. 91
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dave Griffiths,
    I don’t think that this gets much attention for the simple reason that it is utterly absurd to contend that the CO2 is not anthropogenic. Nonetheless, it is an argument we hear even from some very smart people (among them Freeman Dyson and Roy Spencer).

    IMHO, the most convincing evidence (sorry, you want proof, ask a mathematician or a theologian) arises from the changes in isotopic composition of carbon in the atmosphere. Due the the Seuss effect, carbon from living–or once-living–things is depleted in C-13 versus C-12. Of course, the hardcore denialist will try to come up with an argument that the biosphere is decaying and emitting C-13, and then in the same breath they’ll say CO2 is greening the planet.

    If these people could be persuaded by evidence, there wouldn’t be an argument.

  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dave, you’re asking for wiggles.
    Look at the analysis needed for anything like what you want.
    Charts aren’t convincing to a statistician.
    Science bloggers won’t put up pictures like and claim they’re evidence.

    People excel at finding patterns, even when they don’t exist.

    ReCaptcha says at this point:

    “stsworke all”

    Yep, stats work all — charts alone don’t.

  43. 93
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “If these people could be persuaded by evidence, there wouldn’t be an argument.”

    And yet, scientists keep right on arguing with the deniers, as though the deniers were other scientists arguing in good faith about what the evidence shows — rather than the deliberately dishonest propagandists they are.

  44. 94
    Jim Larsen says:

    88 Kevin M,

    And one must consider resale value. A yard full of nuisance trees can cost thousands. Plant something that will last hundreds of years – a living tree is the perfect carbon sequesterer. When the oaks (or whatever you like) get big enough, cut down the nuisance trees and smile about your contribution to the solution.

  45. 95
    Mal Adapted says:

    Ray Ladbury:

    If these people could be persuaded by evidence, there wouldn’t be an argument.

    Jonathan Swift:

    It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place.

    Great minds think alike 8^D!

  46. 96

    #94–OT, I know, but: “…cut down the nuisance trees…” doesn’t do it for sweet gums! They just send up an army of sucker shoots from the root.

    I’ve wondered if boring a vertical hole in the stump and pouring salt in there would be effective? At present, I’m still just cutting down seedlings every few months.

  47. 97
    James Cross says:


    You might try growing mushrooms on the stumps.

    Sweet gums logs in my yard have sprouted without inoculation Oyster mushrooms.

  48. 98
    flxible says:

    Kevin, kill stump roots by drilling 1/2 dozen holes, pack with epsom salt or copper sulphate, top holes with wax

  49. 99
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tried just black plastic bagging the stump for a season? Might well suffice.

    Else, the local greengrocer (a very wise man) tells me the non-organic small farmers, being very economical, sometimes use Roundup but diluted to a tenth -or less- the strength recommended on the label, and that more effectively than the recommended application — because the stuff has time to propagate to the end of the root system before it finally kills the target plant. They also apply that homeopathic dilution only to the leaves of the individual target plant, doing that with a brush or sponge, not a spray. So they don’t select for resistance among surrounding plants. Even the devil may be useful, tightly controlled.

    For stump sprouts, train up one sprout for a while on a post, cutting back all the others; then treat that single one’s leaves.

    Don’t buy it. Get an ounce from a neighbor; that will last a long time. Dilute with distilled water.

    Don’t use the ‘fast kill’ stuff, it’s mixed with something meant to make the plants look like they’re dying quickly to satisfy the impatient urban gardener, so it doesn’t reach the root systems.

  50. 100
    Susan Anderson says:

    A bit late, but Jeff Masters’ presentation was enjoyable. He seems to have that rare kind of mind that can tolerate a rich soup that is almost chaotic – a great way to promote progress. His history was fascinating (did you know he got out alive from a hurricane hunter flight with one engine dead?). He seems to be a great encourager of creative use of the means available.

    (I’m seeing something similar, I think, at Neven’s – tolerance and knowledge conjoined.)