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IPCC Communication handbook

Filed under: — gavin @ 31 January 2018

A new handbook on science communication came out from IPCC this week. Nominally it’s for climate science related communications, but it has a wider application as well. This arose mainly out of an “Expert meeting on Communication” that IPCC held in 2016.

6 principles to help IPCC scientists better communicate their work

There was a Guardian article on it as well.

The six principles are pretty straightforward:

  1. Be a confident communicator
  2. Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas
  3. Connect with what matters to your audience
  4. Tell a human story
  5. Lead with what you know
  6. Use the most effective visual communication

Each is supported with references to the relevant literature and with climate-related (“real world”) examples that are themselves confidently communicated with effective visuals.

But what do people think? Is this a useful addition to the literature on communication? Anything you think doesn’t work? or that perhaps surprises you?

PS. I’m perhaps a little biased because they use a Peter Essick photo for their cover art that was also in my book.

73 Responses to “IPCC Communication handbook”

  1. 1
    Tom says:

    Wouldn’t it be something if the news media took the same approach? I am so tired of stories about freezing winters being proof of global warming.

  2. 2
    paulina says:

    The teasers (“from theory to practice” and “talk about the real world, not abstract ideas,” and “putting the key MADE principles into practice”) made me very much want to see a real, full example of a scientist going from theory to practice in applying these principles when talking to her press office and to the media.

    I mean a real, comprehensive case study:

    >here’s the abstract, the intro, and the results and conclusion;

    >here’s how the scientist presented “that” in communication w/ press officer (annotated, in detail);

    >here’s how the principles were applied on the fly in a media interview.

    Love to see several detailed case studies, both paradigms and examples where it (applying the MADE principles) didn’t work out and why.

    Thanks.

  3. 3

    1 and 6 fail the “does the negative make sense” test.

    4 seems doomed to generate those stupid stories that focus on some bloke wot has seen see rise over his lifetime, oh yes, and have zero scientific content.

    2 seems a bit dubious; abstract ideas are valuable and powerful.

  4. 4
    Larry Gilman says:

    Very good, I think, due to its research grounding. Only a little puzzling that it frames itself as addressed to “IPCC scientists.” Why not simply to climate scientists?

    I’m not one. But there is a good perspective here for anyone who cares about the science and ever finds themselves called upon to communicate about it, which is a lot of us. On a personal note, I’ve found it essential to lead, in conversation, with my passionate _admiration_ for climate science — the amazing diversity of its convergent data, the beauty of its methods (GRACE satellites! 800,000 years of ice!), etc.

    I wonder about adding a Point 7 to the manual: Something like “Don’t get blindsided. Familiarize yourself with the most common Gotchas of climate denial, which often show up as points of honest confusion or concern for non-scientists, and know where you stand on them.” Climate communication inevitably has an element of handling doubt or aggression — Unless one assumes that science communication is one-way, scientist to an “audience” that doesn’t talk back.

    Maybe that’s for a whole different manual: one for climate dialogue, as opposed to “communication” (to audiences).

  5. 5
    Russell says:

    The President’s inaugural attempt to communicate climate policy in the State Of The Union address has met with widespread skepticism.

  6. 6
    Andy Gunther says:

    As somebody who has given over 70 presentations about climate change to public audiences over the last several years (and who shared lessons from this experience at AGU in 2015), I think these principles are excellent guidance.

    I would add only one thing. Adopting these principles for speaking to public audiences will not make you less of a scientist; it will make you more of a person. This is an essential component of being an effective communicator.

  7. 7
    nigelj says:

    Regarding “Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas, and Connect with what matters to your audience”. Climate Feedback did a review of the 25 most shared climate articles on social media.The most shared articles related to human interest / real world issues, and the least shared to more abstract issues and opinions of meteorologists, politicians, etcetera.

    This seems to substantiate the validity of the communications strategy presented in the article. The full article is below:

    https://climatefeedback.org/most-popular-climate-change-stories-2017-reviewed-scientists/

    However some people do connect with the abstract issues, so perhaps have a mixture of human interest, real world, and at least a few abstract issues.

    I have one other suggestion. Add the KISS principle. Keep it simple stupid. Reasons are well known. Of course it depends on the audience and subject, and sometimes detail is required.

  8. 8
    Susan Anderson says:

    Excellent! That would be the advice I’d give, from my semi-scientifically literate position. Local stories, stories that resonate with real people. No namecalling (nobody called an idiot will ever listen to you again; it’s annoying, but we need everyone, not those who already “get” it). Patience. Don’t be too careful with complex scientific backing, you can indicate uncertainties without it. Talk about the weather: trends, families, personal history. etc. etc.

    I *love* visuals!

  9. 9
    Alvin Stone says:

    In general this is quite a nice guide and one I will definitely share with my researchers.

    There are two additional things I would like to have seen.

    The importance of touching on emotions through an explanation of the information deficit model and why facts by themselves don’t work would be really useful in a discussion like this. It’s mentioned tangentially but it is actually a central and vital part of communication. It is partly picked up in point 3, Connect with what matters to your audience, but it probably needed to be more explicit.

    Secondly, it would have been useful to outline the fundamentals of preparing for communicating your message. Point 1 asks scientists to be confident communicators but doesn’t give them the fundamental preparation guide that would make them more confident. There are a few relatively simple preparation and interview techniques that would have been useful to outline here that I use with my researchers.

    That said, this is a great start and long overview. It was also pleasing to see professional communicators involved in developing the booklet. We had one developed a few years back by a science organisation where all the authors were scientists who then proceeded to push the debunked information deficit model as a form of communication.

    The resources this opens up to the wider climate science community for communication are also really valuable. I really enjoyed seeing the And, But, Therefore model developed by Randy Olsen being explicitly employed. It is valuable in so many different circumstances.

    We have a conference next week AMOS-ISCHMO in Sydney (I believe Gavin will be there) where I will be running a comms panel discussion with a newspaper reporter, government policy advisor, social media guru and television reporter/producer, which will allow researchers to ask whatever questions they want of the people working at the comms coalface. It’s always useful hearing from the people who will spread your information far and wide.

    By itself, building relationships with reporters and communicators can take your science communication even further. Fortunately, most reporters are more than happy to talk to focused researchers over a coffee (so prepare well) and they like to build useful relationships with scientists. For the most part they don’t bite either, well, not that often. :-)

  10. 10
    J4Zonian says:

    We’ve been through a dozen or more of these “This is how to communicate climate change” things. (The Obama administration cautioned people against mentioning climate, for example.) Many people seem to think there’s a magical method that will break through to the masses, even the denying delayalists, and get everyone on board with rational responses to the crisis.

    There’s not. We’re trying to overcome thousands of years of unconscious and 50 years of conscious manipulation by the right. Then 20 years of massively funded climate-specific denial playing to the vulnerabilities created by those years of framing plus the constant childhood attachment problems linked inextricably with those frames means there’s no magic method. Just years of hard work education, and if we do it right, legal action against those who have committed fraud and other crimes.

    This handbook misses the point, too.A certain small core of people are too old, too conservative, too brainwashed and too unintelligent to change almost no matter what; they’ll die off and leave very few committed denial dupes. The best way to change people’s minds who are not completely susceptible to the lies but have been confused by the denial campaign is to educate them in a community setting (even an ad hoc community like a workshop) and deal right there with the emotions and thoughts brought up by the information. The best way to do that is with someone who knows both climate science and psychotherapy, or a team who can cover both.

    There’s nothing wrong with paying attention to insights like this, but expecting it to work miracles is a mistake. Just one example–most of the people victimized by climate change, in floods, droughts, heat waves, crop failures, etc. are poor people of color; even those who aren’t are almost all poor, or are a member of some other group easily scapegoated. Denialists may be quite happy to have such people suffer and die. Stories, which have been the center of most of versions of “How to talk about this” will usually fail because of this paradox. It pays to talk about climate catastrophe, simply and briefly, but most of rules people have come up with are useless.

  11. 11
    Digby Scorgie says:

    This handbook is fine for dealing with people who are open to accepting what scientists say about the climate. But are such people really the problem? Is it not the deniers who are the real problem?

    On the other hand, is it really necessary to persuade the deniers to accept reality or do we just ignore them? But if we really have to deal with the deniers, would it not be better to highlight how they’ve been deceived by Exxon and friends for the past three decades?

    Of course, it’s no use talking to the deceivers themselves. However, if their deceit is constantly highlighted, perhaps we’d achieve something.

  12. 12
    Killian says:

    Ummm,,,, I don’t think those are principles. Those are guidelines, I believe. For contrast, here are some principles of communication:

    There are four primary principles of communication:

    The message sent is not necessarily the message received.
    It is impossible to not communicate.
    Every message has both content and feeling.
    Nonverbal cues are more believable than verbal cues

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/some-assembly-required/201702/the-4-primary-principles-communication

  13. 13
    Racetrack Playa says:

    On #2, the concept of ‘abstract ideas’ vs ‘real world’ – I’ve found that one of the most satisfying and coherent ways of thinking about the Earth’s climate is to place in it the context of planetary sciences in general.

    To put it simply, there’s a coherent physical framework that can be applied to any rocky planet, be it Venus or Mars or Earth, or perhaps a SuperEarth (like Earth, 2X gravity, etc.) around some remote star, which allows one to understand how its climate functions, and what the average surface temperature should be. It’s something of an abstract concept, but with real world implications, and the universality of such physical models, based on things like radiative balance, atmospheric composition and density, distance from the local Sun, etc., is a very strong argument in favor of general acceptance of the results of climate models and observations on Earth. I think it goes a long way towards convincing the average person that modern climate science is robust.

    One other thing that’s not on that list – stick to one’s area of expertise and background, by which I mean, for a climate scientist to prescribe the best energy replacement pathway for fossil fuels doesn’t make a lot of sense. I wince when climate scientists rally for nuclear power, for example, or make statements about the validity of claims about ‘clean coal’ and ‘fossil carbon capture’ when they’ve never published or worked in those areas. It makes far more sense to advocate for funding to go to renewable energy science programs that have a good track record in terms of costs, efficiency, ease of adoption, etc. When climate scientists start acting as advocates for some specific technology, writing letters demanding the nuclear power plants stay open, when many other experts in the energy field have well-developed reasons for closing them and going with wind/solar/storage instead, it doesn’t do climate activism any good.

  14. 14

    As far as I can see what is suggested seems quite sensible/reasonable if you’re dealing with an audience that is receptive and you’re simply trying to find a ways to engage with them. Maybe my own view may be somewhat jaundiced, but I do think that a big issue is that we also have groups/people who actively try to undermine communication attempts. As WMC (#3) implies – I think – anecdotes might make good stories, but they’re easily countered by those who would like us not to engage effectively, because they have little in the way of robust scientific content.

    Maybe we should ignore those who try to undermine communication attempts, and maybe their impact is smaller than it seems to me. I’m, however, not yet convinced that the latter is the case. I think these attempts to provide advice as to how to communicate are well meaning, but I do sometimes get the sense that the suggestion is that the problem is simply that we’re not communicating effectively, and I do not think this is really the case. It’s a very difficult communication environment, and I think this needs to be recognised.

  15. 15
    Bjarte Foshaug says:

    Probably true, even though it shouldn’t be. My problem with these attempts to convince/influence people by appealing to something other than the actual science is that they tend to work equally well both ways, whereas sticking to the rules of science really does tend to favor the truth. We are in this mess in part because people are so eager to believe “confident communicators”, who talk about “what matters to them” (which is much more likely to mean ideology than science), tell “human stories” (a.k.a. anecdotes) etc. Anyway, that’s not to suggest that the strategies outlined in the handbook don’t actually work. Just venting some despair, I guess…

  16. 16
    Chris Shaw says:

    Dear Real Climate members

    As one of the report authors I just wanted to write a quick note to say thank you so much for taking the time to engage with the report and offer those insights and ideas. That is why I am so happy Real Climate shared the report – the quality of the commentary is the best on the web, as far as I can make out.

    I cannot do justice to the reflections offered here, but just to say we will go away and reflect on them, think how they can help us be more effective in what we do and hopefully write a follow up commentary on what we have learnt from the feedback received.

    Thanks again

    Chris

  17. 17
    Radge Havers says:

    WC @ ~ 3

    1 and 6 fail the “does the negative make sense” test.

    Huh? How so?

    Re: # 4
    Yeah, all kinds of pitfalls there. But impactful consequences and how, say, Pacific islanders are responding to them are worthy of note — you know; adaption, mitigation, costs and all that good stuff…

    Anyway I worry about systemic conditions, like how does political temperature affect the ksp of enlightenment? So to speak.

    And what about Trump, is he a black swan event? Maybe not.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Alastair B. McDonald says:

    Until we take on board what Stephen Schneider wrote then we are doomed to failure :-(

    ” On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

    Persuasion is the result of emotional conversion. No one has their minds changed with facts, because those can always be doubted.

    Instead of describing the most likely outcome with apprpriate error bars, people need to be warned about the worst case. It is the worst case that people protect themselves against when they take out insurance. We have a duty to describe the worst case scenarios when we warn about climate change.

  20. 20

    Haven’t gone through the video yet, so perhaps my concern is already addressed in the development of the ‘principle’–but I’d have said in #2:

    “Connect abstract ideas to the real world.”

    Science is inherently *about* abstraction, in that any sort of model–quantitative, analogic, whatever–is precisely an abstraction from reality. That’s the point: reality is messy, confusing and hard to manipulate or sometimes even to grasp. Abstractions allow us to handle reality usefully ‘at a remove’, and provide enormous benefit thereby. So ‘don’t talk about abstract ideas’ is, understood literally, really terrible advice.

    But of course, that’s not what the IPCC guideline writers actually mean. They mean (I presume) ‘don’t leave your abstractions uninterpreted.’

    Practically by definition, for a scientist in his or her field the relevant abstract models have become quasi-concrete, because working with them has become intuitive to a considerable degree; the models are manipulable at will, and implications and interactions involving them will be relatively self-evident, or at least discoverable. However, that ‘quasi-concreteness’ doesn’t exist for those outside that field–and empahtically not for those outside science completely. The whole business will, for them, be completely opaque and tedious, and will rapidly be ‘tuned out.’

    So the abstractions of the model must be connected to ‘real world’ consequences for understanding to occur. It works because, as with the scientist’s models, those ‘real world’ consequences are ‘quasi-concrete’* for most potential listeners: everyone actually functioning in the ‘real world’ knows quite a lot about it–again, practically by definition.

    But if the relevant abstractions of the models are left out of the discussion relatively completely, then what value has been added? We’ve nothing much more left than what people already knew coming in.

    *(Only “quasi-concrete?” Yes, because natural language is an abstraction, too! And actually, there are abstractions built into our very sensory organs–the visual ‘line’ results from neurological structuring in the eye, and the phenomenon of octave equivalence from that of the inner ear, to cite two examples. So our perceptions are already profoundly ‘abstracted’ before we even experience them consciously! But that’s a whole other subject.)

  21. 21
    Fred says:

    Good ideas I guess — sounds like solid advice for a used car salesman too.

  22. 22
    Dan DaSilva says:

    You want to know why the alarmist position is losing? It is not because of poor communication, it is because of poor science. That is the course of scientific discovery. Bad science is eventually dumped even if “97%” agree.

  23. 23
    Carbomontanus says:

    I agree With #14.

    If you really want to get unpopular and etnically rinsed out rather soon, then do it along With §§§§§§ 123456 in that IPCC handbook of science communication. Which is rather traditional and dignified academic behaviours.

    I studied the problem in recent time and found out why that is so.

    If you enter a pub or a tavern With open doors and neon- lights to the street telling “Here everyone is invited to get happy” and order a sausseage and a cocacola at the desk to try them out. And get into talk With someone rather interested and happen to say: “The square root of the number of samples…”….

    Then strong men will soon come and carry you out.

    Because in that restaurant they play Hazard… which is forbidden in town.

    OK so you go to the Next restaurant. There you are unlucky to remark in the same way: “the tiny angle alpha between the axis of rotation and the vertical line, and the distance between the mass mean point and the rotation axis, in combination with the variable friction in the bottom bearing…”…

    Again , strong men will come and lift you out.

    Because in that environment they play Roulette, which is also forbidden. Thus they get very nervous if any Wheel- maker enters the door.

    Gordon Brown (former British PM) remarked rather angry to it: “They go against the very grain of science…they are not Gentlemen..”

    It is rather about Professional routine and lifestyle, that is vital to People , thus not so easily changed. If you do not beat them up or beat them in Poker, they will never understand. Politeness is seen as weakness.

  24. 24
    nigelj says:

    Then there’s physics @14

    I agree with you the suggestions in the article are mostly reasonable and sensible. I actually think most scientists do a pretty good job communicating, but not all. Its always possible to do better.

    Communications are definitely a learned skill, I know this as I totally lacked self confidence as a young guy and had to learn this aspect, and also how to pace myself and structure things. For others it maybe other sorts of challenges.

    I think the article was talking these sorts of basics of communication, more than how to deal with climate denialists specifically. But you are right, its a very difficult communications environment because of these groups. However quite a lot has been written about how to respond to climate denialists.

    In my opinion deal with climate denialists this way, especially in public forums where other people are watching.

    1) Always be polite, but strong,firm, and clear. Tell people their ideas are nonsense, but name calling etcetera will turn the public off.

    2) Recognise most of the denialist arguments are logical fallacies, cherrypicking, and misleading rhetoric, and highlight those.

    3) Regarding genuine scientific arguments / issues, identify the key issues, with just enough detail to nail them. Don’t get lost in vast lists of details, but obviously it depends on time availability and audience etc.

    4) Don’t assume the public are aware of what you think are obvious things.

    5) Use simple language and writing structure where possible. Long sentences and complex jargon sound impressive, and have their place sometimes, but the key issues sometimes get lost in this.

    For example, Donald Trump is is a good communicator by keeping it simple, and clever use of body language, and total self confidence. Yes complete hubris, but it convinced a lot of people. Of course his actual ideas are 99% nonsense.

    6) Stick to the key facts and be open if there are areas of doubt, and don’t spin things. Keep to the intellectual high ground, even when denialists are in the gutter.

  25. 25
    Thomas says:

    Here’s a couple of articles in the Columbia Journalism Review which intersect with this ‘communication handbook’ topic.

    Journalists and news media companies are still powerful and popular “gate-keepers” passing on agw/cc information to the public and their political/business operatives/masters.

    Peter Cox made the point here that while he did speak with and advise The Guardian journos, he had no control over how they published their “story” about his recent study on ECS.

    I recently checked in at Climate Feedback to see what’s up there, they had done a Review article about popular agw/cc stories:

    Many stories were written about climate science in 2017, but were the ones that “went viral” scientifically accurate? To find out, we compiled a list of articles with the most comments, shares, and likes on social networks using data from Buzzsumo*. From that list, we selected the articles containing verifiable assertions on the topic of climate science….
    https://climatefeedback.org/most-popular-climate-change-stories-2017-reviewed-scientists/

    Then I found this CJR article:
    At Climate Feedback, scientists encourage better science reporting. But who is listening?
    https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/climate-change-factcheck-science.php

    Which goes with this one:
    “If we accept that [climate change] is happening and that there are real local impacts,” says Hubbuch, “then it’s a fair question to ask, What are we doing about those impacts?”
    https://www.cjr.org/special_report/wisconsin-climate-change.php

    Laying out the short and long term impacts of agw/cc and discussing those at a local, regional, national level seems to me to be the crux of this “communications” issue.

    Dr. James Hansen very recently pointed out the bleeding obvious, despite what the science says: “Humanity needs Energy.”

    So True. Humanity also needs clean air, food and water, shelter and clothing and jobs too.

    But what comes with all that today are very serious AGW/CC ‘Impacts’. AGW/CC science and Policy is not simply about not using Coal anymore. It’s simply not that simple.

    So, imho, Communicating those ‘Impacts’ clearly and repeatedly is what the public needs to be hearing.

    The total loss of summer sea ice is not the kind of impact that matters. People need to know what will be the immediate, the short and medium term ‘Impacts’ in people’s lives as a result of that Arctic Sea Ice Loss – including the specific types of likely ‘Impacts’ in the region in which those people actually live and work.

    Given the historical track record, I am far from being hopeful.

  26. 26
    Dave2042 says:

    My 2 cents as a physicist turned evil financial engineer.

    I’ve always felt there is a much deeper issue to all this, which is that a lot of non-scientists feel that science is something that scientists do in labs wearing lab coats, and doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘real’ world. This makes it very easy for them to decide to reject any particular bit of science they don’t like. Sometimes that means quantum mechanics – who cares. Sometimes it’s vaccination or climate science – more serious.

    But if that’s a driver, you are wasting your time simply explaining the thing they’ve rejected.

    My view is that the best way to address this is through the idea that the validation of science is technology, as they are really the same thing just put to different uses. And that science/technology is not just a random collection of facts, but a connected set of theories. So rejecting science means you are claiming that technology doesn’t work – except that it clearly does.

    So quantum mechanics and relativity (science) are the same thing as your mobile phone and GPS (technology). If the science is just made up, how come the technology works?

    And the thermodynamics / electromagnetism / chemistry of AGW (science) is the same thing as your fridge. If AGW is just made up, how come your fridge works?

    Of course, my proposal involves decades of education, starting in primary school, to turn things around. Which I understand is less attractive than a glossy explaining how to give a great presentation.

  27. 27
    Night-Gaunt49 says:

    Knowing the psychology of human beings is also a good thing. How the deniers work and why it is against their nature to accept it because it means their “conservatism” is wrong. They frame it in ways that preserve their out look. Like that humans are too small and incapable of affecting our huge Earth. (We know humanity is the only species that can and have on a very large scale.)

    The best we can do is to educate those who are still open minded enough to want to learn. But it is something humanity has never done before. Worked together for our species and our world. The fear of such a thing frightens those who do not see a united Earth to be good unless it is based on their version of religion and capitalism of the Austrian School of economics.

    This is an excellent start to be sure. One has to interest those who have little interest in science and do not see why they should change how things have been done for over a century. Face it there will be a hard core minority that may have power outside of their numbers to interfere.

    It may take us a century to halt it and reverse it during the worst times of it when we are living in a very harsh world not too different from the 3 million year time between the Great Dying of the Permian and the beginning of the Triassic where life in the sea was on a razor’s edge and there was only one major tetrapod on land much further north. No matter what we do it will be precarious for us as a species and a new Great Dying will happen including humans by the billions. Humanity has already started it. Nature will finish it.

    There will be no deus ex machina to rescue us despite what the Bible says.

  28. 28
    CCHolley says:

    I believe in order to be an effective communicator of climate change and its risks we need to first understand the public perceptions. For those that don’t know, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is an excellent source.

    Per their surveys, in the United States, hardcore deniers only represent approximately 10% of the population. It perhaps seems larger to many of us because they are very vocal. On the other hand, 69% believe global warming is happening, but unfortunately only 52% believe it is mostly human caused. Only 56% are worried about it.

    As for the scientific community, 70% of the public trusts scientists on global warming. The disconnect is that only 48% think that scientists agree that global warming is happening. The misinformation campaigns have clearly been effective. Of course if the vast majority of the public trusts the scientific community, then to offset the misinformation, it is important that scientists speak up publicly and emphasize the consensus. IMHO scientists need to be much more vocal. Much more.

    All forms of communication are important. 67% of the population claim they NEVER discuss global warming. Because of the very vocal denier minority it has become so divisive that people are reluctant to speak up in social situations. This needs to change. Many on this site are likely vocal, but everyone and I mean everyone that is knowledgable and concerned needs to step up and discuss global warming at every opportunity and in any environment. Not just formal speaking engagements. People need to know that their are many people that understand that it is real and that they are extremely concerned. Talking about it needs to become accepted and the norm.

    There is hope. Perhaps surprisingly, 82% of the people believe that the government should fund research on renewable energy. And far more surprisingly, a whopping 74% believe that CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant. Why? Who knows, but perhaps deep down people recognize there is a problem and that AGW just might be true.

    Let’s talk about it and let them know that, yes, it is.

  29. 29
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Having already demonstrated repeatedly that he doesn’t comprehend even the most basic aspects of climate science, Dan DaSilva is just absolutely certain that it’s poor science.

    How absolutely frickin’ adorable!

  30. 30
    CCHolley says:

    Dan DaSilva @22

    You want to know why the alarmist position is losing? It is not because of poor communication, it is because of poor science. That is the course of scientific discovery. Bad science is eventually dumped even if “97%” agree.

    So Dan, tell me what do you know that the 97% does not know that makes you believe that the science behind AGW is poor science? What makes you so brilliant? What are your qualifications to make such a judgement?

    Is it the greenhouse effect that is poor science? If so, please explain what is wrong with our knowledge of quantum mechanics and the properties of atmospheric gases. Are our understanding of heat transfer and thermodynamics somehow incorrect? Is the Stefan-Boltzmann Law incorrect? Or Planck’s Law? Or Wien’s Displacement Law? How do you explain the measured changes in the radiation profile TOA that are in accordance to predictions based on Greenhouse gas theory?

    Or do you think that the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are not real? If so what is wrong with the methodology used to track CO2 levels? Please explain. Or perhaps that the rise is not anthropogenic? If so where are the emissions going while both the oceans and atmosphere are gaining in CO2? Please provide evidence for you claims.

    Perhaps you believe that estimates of sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 are too high? If so please explain why calculations based on the physics showing that the direct sensitivity attributed to CO2 is about one degree C is not correct and that the water vapor feedback is not at least another one degree. Or please explain the mechanism that would result in a negative feedback that would off-set these changes in forcing. Also please explain why measurements at TOA show a radiative imbalance as predicted. And while you are at it, please explain why the ice core records show a past climate sensitivity of about 3 degrees C.

    If you believe that it is not warming then please explain the melting of glaciers, loss of sea ice, longer growing seasons, migration of species, increased humidity, and sea level rise.

    If you believe the warming is natural, first please explain why the increases in CO2 isn’t having the effect our knowledge of physics tells us it will have. Then tell us what the mechanism or change in forcing is that is driving this *natural* warming. Please provide evidence. Note that unforced temperature variations are caused by a redistribution of the heat within the planetary climate system. If you believe unforced variation is the cause, please explain why both the oceans and surface temperatures are rising.

    Please let us know where exactly the science is *bad* with evidence.

    Good luck with believing the science will be dumped anytime soon.

  31. 31

    “You want to know why the alarmist position is losing?”

    I don’t think evidence shows anything of the kind:

    http://news.gallup.com/poll/190010/concern-global-warming-eight-year-high.aspx

    So the real question is “Why do you think the ‘alarmist position’ is losing?”

    And I’m guessing that the answer is that you live in a contrafactual echo chamber most of the time.

  32. 32
    William Connolley says:

    > 17: Radge Havers says: WC @ ~ 3: 1 and 6 fail the “does the negative make sense” test: Huh? How so?

    Try their negative:

    not-1: Be an unconfident communicator
    not-6: Use the least effective visual communication

    These make no sense. Which is a hint that the “positive” or original versions are largely vacuous.

    [Response: I don’t think you are being fair here. It’s clear that a lot of information is conveyed in an ‘unconfident’ manner regardless of the confidence in the underlying science. Similarly, there are a lot of bad visuals being used. The two points recognize that on those spectrums that being more appropriately confident and using better visuals are both worth aspiring to. – gavin]

  33. 33
    Dan DaSilva says:

    If we could just communicate better people would understand.

    Two problems:
    1) People will not change their preconceived beliefs.
    2) The most important problem is the alarmist facts are fake.

    A tough row to hoe. Keep the hoe sharp and your back straight.

  34. 34
    nigelj says:

    Dan DaSilva @2

    “You want to know why the alarmist position is losing? It is not because of poor communication, it is because of poor science. That is the course of scientific discovery. Bad science is eventually dumped even if “97%” agree.”

    Wrong. Polls by Pew Research show the vast majority of people (70 – 80%) in most countries accept climate science and want more to be done to reduce emissions.

    America is an outlier, with only about 50 – 60% acceptance of the science. Curiously about 70% of people want more renewable energy despite this, which shows they might actually accept the science more than they admit in that particular poll. I would suggest the scepticism about the science in America is due to a combination of religious, cultural and political reasons, a strong adeherence to the motor vehicle, and a particularly powerful climate denialist network

    So this leaves the question of why more isn’t done to reduce emissions in a global sense? I suggest a few reasons as follows:

    1) The climate denialist people like the Heartland Institute have done enough to obscure the science to leave plenty of people in doubt.

    2) Politicians are reluctant to do anything that risks losing even a few votes

    3) Politicians are captive to industry lobby groups, and are funded by these groups.

    4) The leaked (actually stolen) email issue in the UK created an unfortunate impression even although they were cleared of wrongdoing by numerous enquiries.

    5) People are slow to change their lifestyles.

    All these things add up. However nothing is fixed, and because renewable energy has fallen so much in price, and because of the recent record setting temperatures ,the views of the public and politicians are likely near a major tipping point of change.

  35. 35
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Dan DaSilva

    Ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

  36. 36
    Thomas says:

    re Indiana agw/cc issue — Climate change bringing changes to Region’s ecosystem — is a good example of:
    2. Talk about the real world, not abstract ideas and 3. Connect with what matters to your audience

    [… and talk about ‘real world’ impacts at a local/regional level which people can understand easily? ]

    Through their studies, she said, they have found spring is coming earlier each year to the Region, temperatures are rising and the climate is getting wetter.

    A model by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center in West Lafayette forecasts, by 2050, the full growing seasons will expand by one month; there will be 33 to 45 more days with temperatures above 90 degrees; an increase in precipitation between 14 percent and 22 percent; and 24 days to 36 days less snow cover.

    This causes a life cycle mismatch, affecting the life cycle triggers of birds, insects and vegetation, Powell said, adding that the interruption in the life cycles of native species will boost the growth of invasive species in the Indiana dunes
    http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/climate-change-bringing-changes-to-region-s-ecosystem/article_99aaeb25-fcb9-558d-9bda-d50c9cafd40e.html

  37. 37
    patrick says:

    @18 Russell: Beavis and Butt-Head eternally aspire to the kind of cleverness this comment displays (combining latent racism, willful ignorance, and cheap shot at the UN climate process).

    Or is it the other way around?

  38. 38
    Radge Havers says:

    Know your audience.

    3. Connect with what matters to your audience

    Also connect with problem areas and things that may seem counterintuitive or unimaginable to people’s lived experience — like scales for instance: of time, of large magnitudes and finiteness, of how seemingly small percentages of compounds or changes in temperature can have large impacts. Context connects seemingly disembodied and abstruse science with the world as people think they know it…

  39. 39
    CCHolley says:

    Dan DaSilva @33

    The most important problem is the alarmist facts are fake.

    So in other words, you cannot answer the questions as to why the science is *bad* other than to assert without evidence that the *facts* are fake. Which just makes you a conspiracy theory nutter. Of course, conspiracy theorists can never be reached with reason so communicating to them is a waste of everyone’s time. Fortunately, you are part of a very small minority well out of the mainstream. Enjoy your delusion.

  40. 40
    Pekka Kostamo says:

    As to the confusion, please see the Copernicus website. Copernicus is the ECMWF operated information site on climate change, and as such among the most respectable.
    https://climate.copernicus.eu/resources/data-analysis/average-surface-air-temperature-analysis

    Open it, and you see some nice diagrams. Unfortunately they leave the first impression that average change is about zero. You take a second look and it shows that there are some variations between -0,3 and +0,5 degC.

    Digging deeper you may notice the frame of reference “average over years 1981 – 2010”. Of course this is the reference recommended by the WMO, used by mosts national weather services. It is based on a WMO decision back in 1934. Climate statistics are computed over periods of 30 years, the period to be stepped forward when another 10 year perid is completed. This is to avoid distortion due long term climate change, which was thought to be irrelevant to farmers when making yearly choices of which plants and varieties to cultivate.

    Flip down a further two pages, and you can find a chapter giving the usual collection of “they say / they say” (with caveats) concerning global warming since pre-industrial time. Range is 1,1 – 1,3 degC, and there appears to be no agreement within the climate science.

    You may check the NOAA climate site. It says +0,8 degC, this time above 20th century average. So, you may choose the number you like.

    The target is 1,5 degC above pre-industrial, written into the major international agreements signed and approved by 199 countries’ governments as well as all relevant scientific societies.

    How close are we to the target? Try to figure that out.

    Standards were invented to improve communication. It is beyond me why the climatologists actively refuse to implement this standard, already unversally accepted.

    The “Handbook” addresses a problem of little confidence in the climate science community. The real problem is little confidence in the measured values, mostly due to inconsistent reporting.

  41. 41
    Radge Havers says:

    nigelj @ ~ 24

    I disagree about Trump being a good communicator. He is an agitator and manipulator whose disturbed gut simply resonates with the disturbed guts of others and amplifies their discomfort. The “technique” is simple, feed your pets red meat and entertain yourself by poking at them — total lack of self awareness, empathy for his audience, or even anything more than a rudimentary sense of bestial consciousness as far as I can see. He’s a communicator only in the sense that a malignant solipsist or a deranged toddler communicates.

    Stupid sent to college and since gone simple-minded, his elevation is not a pretty picture of America’s dysfunction I’m afraid.

    If you want to communicate, don’t go down that path, IMO.

  42. 42

    DDS 33: The most important problem is the alarmist facts are fake.

    BPL: The facts are fake? Are you clear on what a “fact” is?

  43. 43
    nigelj says:

    Radge Havers @41, I agree with your categorisation of Trump as far as it goes. I’m no fan of Trump, and I agree he manipulates emotions. He is also a verbal bully.
    However I never advocated that approach to communication.

    However Trump he is quite good at keeping the message simple and concise, where Hilary Clinton became lost in policy details at times, to the extent that it was hard to get a simple picture of her 5 main prioities, something for people to grab hold of.

    Obama and Reagon were good communicators overall, despite different political ideologies. Good balance of skills.

  44. 44
    Racetrack Playa says:

    There’s a public relations strategy used in the late 1990s by the fossil fuel industry to get their talking points across (they were all bogus talking points, but it was a fairly effective strategy). What they did was to craft a set of talking points on all the issues they wanted to promote, and then presented them in three formats, which could be used to connect with people depending on how much time they had, what their level of interest was, etc.

    (1) One-liners, what we’d today call tweets. For example,
    “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the main control over Earth’s thermostat, and this is based on 160 years of solid scientific research.”

    (2) Paragraphs, fairly succinct statements bookended by a introduction and a conclusion. For example,
    “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, along with a handful of other gases, plays a central role in determining the average surface temperature of our planet. This is due to the fact that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation – the heat energy that would otherwise escape to space is captured by carbon dioxide, and the overall effect is to warm the planet’s surface. In fact, without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the planet would be 33 degrees Celcius cooler – about 60 degrees in Farenheit. So it makes sense that doubling the amount of carbon dioxide would have a significant effect on the planet’s surface temperature. We’ve been adding carbon dioxide from fossil fuels to the atmosphere at increasing rates since the dawn of the Industrial Era, and the result has been a steady warming of the planet’s surface. Over 160 years of detailed scientific work, addressing a wide variety of issues, such as the supporting role of water vapor in the atmosphere, has confirmed this as fact.”

    (3) Pages, the full development – but just handing these out to people who don’t have the time or inclination to wade through them doesn’t work. Most of the communication would be done using (1) or (2) when talking to the general public, politicians, etc. Here’s the full page on CO2 that I based the above on, nicely done by Gavin Schmidt:
    Taking the Measure of the Greenhouse Effect, By Gavin Schmidt, October 2010

  45. 45
    Thomas says:

    40 Pekka Kostamo “… mostly due to inconsistent reporting.”

    Good point. Extends to MtOe, GtC, GtCO2, PjC, PgC, billion tons of Carbon Dioxide, etc. A little more standardisation and consistency would be helpful, and/or a handy ‘climate science and energy use’ unit converter. :-)

    Hansen provides a 1880-1920 Base Period (equivalent to Pre-Industrial) for Temps here showing 2016 at +1.1C to 1.2C anaomaly (?) see graph at top.
    http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Temperature/
    and here
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2016/20160926_BetterGraph.pdf

    “BTW, this graph also switches to 1880-1920 as a base period, because of the widespread interest in the magnitude of warming relative to pre-industrial time.

    Alternatively, one might argue for an earlier base period, say 1700-1800, but the data are much poorer then and the difference in global mean is only about +0.1°C ± 0.1°C —- (1880-1920 slightly warmer than 1700-1800), so it is of no practical importance.”
    Cheers

  46. 46
    Thomas says:

    sorry, goes to 2017.

  47. 47
    Radge Havers says:

    nigelj @ ~ 43

    I agree about Clinton, and I agree about keeping it simple to the extent that it doesn’t cause to much distortion. I guess where I differ is on the notion that Trump is a good communicator. What he represents is weaponized senility. His messaging is too simple, and the response to what he says is pretty mindless and sometimes nihilistic if not painfully Machiavellian. I think the reason for that is due more to systemic failings than it is to Trump’s artless bullsh*tting, though I admit I’m still sorting that out.

    Put another way, correlation of what comes out of his mouth to causation of “success” doesn’t necessarily explain his perpetual upward failing. On the other hand, some people think paintings of Elvis on black velvet are great stuff, so what do I know?

  48. 48
    Thomas says:

    41 Radge Havers says: “He’s a communicator only in the sense that a malignant solipsist or a deranged toddler communicates.”

    Clearly it works. Best not confuse simple speaking with being a simpleton.

    Would Trump become an AGW/CC activist for Urgent Action, would anyone be telling him to shut up?

    Best SOTU address ever imho. Best not confuse skill with content. Obama got people to feel better about everything especially themselves. Trump gets people to act. Big difference.

  49. 49
    nigelj says:

    Radge Havers @47, my labeling of Trump as a “good communicator” was really just a blog post simplification just to make the point that he gets part of the communication equation right. I was trying to think of a less contentious well known example of a person good at effective simplified messaging, but just couldn’t.

    I do agree Trump does horribly over simplify. The best approach is definitely somewhere in the middle. It might also depend on the target audience.

    But in an age of television and quick “media sound bites” people who waffle on and gets lost in complexity, will not connect with the public. I have seen many politicians fail because they are poor communicators (in a variety of different ways), even when they have good policies. We have just seen a political leader win an election in NZ, and its possibly no accident that she has a degree in communications. Perhaps this is all a sad commentary on an age dominated by people getting all their political information on television with its shallow quick media interviews, but its the reality. You have to know how to work this environment.

    I don’t know if Trump is weaponised senility. I used to think he was, but he seems to have passed his psychological evaluation test ok, and seems to have managed to get a university degree (god only knows how). I would categorise him as a textbook example of willful ignorance, and irrational thinking, right at the most extreme end of the scale.I think this relates to his huge ego and self preening tendencies, always dominating so he subsrcibes to stupid things if they serve his purpose of the moment, and appease his “voter base”. It’s also like the typical behaviour of the macho leader of a gang. Or maybe Trump’s a simpleton, picking up on Thomas comments, but street smart.

    “I think the reason for that is due more to systemic failings than it is to Trump’s artless bullsh*tting, though I admit I’m still sorting that out.”

    Me too. There are a lot of dynamics flowing both ways. It’s said we are in an age of alternative facts and post truth, and it seems we are sadly to say. This world horrifies me. Someone made an interesting point that its not just the lies and dumb mistakes, but the way people tolerate the lies these days. Trump bull****s and gets things wrong by the hundreds, and the RC tolerate it, but Hilary Clinton also “misspoke” several times, and it just astounds me they thought she was even a viable candidate with all that. It was on pretty significant and clearly proven things, not the sort of white lies people can legitimately dismiss as trivial. Although Clintons policies made reasonable sense on the whole, and seemed to me the wiser choice.

    Nobody expects politicians to be saints of course, none of us are, but you expect a certain basic decent standard of integrity, or we used to. Yet those were the final two final candidates, and in addition to their dubious claims both were also surrounded by scandals, and I don’t think I will ever understand how they ended up the final candidates. It must reflect a lot on the public, and political process as well.

  50. 50
    Radge Havers says:

    I agree that simple speaking =/= simpleton… necessarily. I think his view of the world is nevertheless simplistic and that he’s basically a solipsist. And as I pointed out, it’s not clear what it is that is “working.”

    If you’ve noticed people being criticized here for speaking rashly, then you’ve encountered people who would be perfectly willing to tell him to shut up. Hell, he can’t even stay on message.

    Trump’s state of the union is already bygone news having been stepped on and shoved into the background by his own (and Republican’s) yammering over the Nunes memo. It’s all just noise and people read into it what they will — with the help of professional prevaricators like Fox news to create fantasies, to reinterpret, to spin and to puff the mess he’s made and to constantly stoke a thought-stopping fog of resentment.

    I won’t belabor this except to say that good communication means more signal, less noise. And damn, aren’t we getting a lot of noise (and some truly wierd word salad)!

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