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The Climate Scientists are Alright

Filed under: — group @ 22 January 2019

Guest commentary from Eric Guilyardi (IPSL) and Valérie Masson-Delmotte (IPSL/IPCC)

[This is a translation of an article in Le Monde (Jan 11).]

In recent weeks in France, there has been a profusion of articles about the “climate scientist blues” (Le Monde 21/Dec, JDD 9/Dec, France Info 26/Sep), which has apparently affecting them “scientifically”. This follows a spate of similar articles in the US and Australian media (Esquire, 2015; The Monthly, 2018; Sierra Club Magazine, 2018). But what is the point of knowing the mood of scientists, or whether so-and-so is optimistic or pessimistic?

Are epidemiologists asked if they are depressed when they anticipate an epidemic outbreak, or meteorologists polled about their anxiety because they predicted a storm or a heatwave? In these cases, society organizes to manage the risk related to these forecasts (orange or red alerts, weather watches and warnings) and does not care about the emotions of the scientists. The main reason most climate scientists come out of the lab and engage publicly is not to share their subjective emotions about the state of the world, but rather to discuss the results and consequences of our science.

On an individual basis, the scientists can sometimes be proud if their forecast has been useful for better managing the consequences of an event, or be upset that it wasn’t, but the quality and relevance of their expertise does not depend on their state of mind. But the principal role for climate scientists is to inform the public debate about the outcome of collective science efforts and the risks associated with the different trajectories of greenhouse gas emissions, not how they feel about it.

More broadly, climate change science also provides multiple insights into how to manage climate risks. It offers new opportunities for partnership between the scientific researchers and society as a whole to help make decisions in a context of uncertainty about the future evolution of the climate, especially at the local and regional scale. New knowledge is emerging on how to build ethical and just transitions, to maximize the synergies between climate action and the other aspects of sustainable development.

With more than 20,000 scientific publications each year with the key word “climate change”, the production of new knowledge is proceeding quickly. The challenge in interpreting this is not the state of mind of researchers, but the regular synthesis of this knowledge and how to share it with the whole of society in order to encourage solutions to manage climate risks, preserve biodiversity, and allow everyone to live with dignity by improving the well-being of all.

As the last IPCC special report on 1.5°C reminded us, the real issue is that we currently face three types of major risk. The first risk is related to each additional fraction of warming, with humanitarian, agricultural, environmental and migratory crises, increasingly challenging to manage. The second risk is the burden passed on to today’s younger generations, who would face the triple trouble of coping with the impacts of global warming; having to accelerate abruptly the transitions to a low-carbon economy if we delay in putting it in place; and lastly, to have to choose options that are potentially very risky for both biodiversity (for example through massive use of biomass energy) or global governance (for example, geo-engineering) in an attempt to contain global warming or its consequences. The third risk is rapid transition to the economy and the current global financial system through the ‘stranded assets’ of capital invested in the fossil fuel industry.

The real challenge is therefore the mobilization of collective intelligence and democratic debate on the choices of risk that we are willing to take. The Paris Agreement seems to indicate that nations who have ratified it want to avoid the first two risks and organize themselves to face the third.

What if the focus on the moods of climate scientists was a way to disengage emotionally from the choices of risk or solutions to global warming? Since the experts are worrying about it for us (it’s their daily life, isn’t it?), let’s continue our lives in peace. If feelings and expressing emotions – fear, anger, anguish, feelings of helplessness, guilt, depression – in the face of risks are legitimate, even necessary, to take action demands that we go beyond that. Catastrophism often leads to denial, a well-known psychic mechanism for protecting oneself from anxiety. Managing risk is part of our daily lives and supposes that we are not in such denial (active or passive) as it prevents clear and responsible action. Because we know that many hazards carry predictable risks, human societies have learned to anticipate and cope, for example, to limit the damage of storms or epidemics. The challenge of climate change is to build a strategy not in response to an acute and clearly identified risk, but in anticipation of a gradual, chronic increase in climate risks.

The climate scientists are alright (mostly), but that’s not the important question. The dispassionate management of climate risk will require that everyone – citizens, decision makers, teachers, intermediate bodies, companies, civil society, media, scientists – in their place and according to their means, take the time for a collective reflection, first of all through mutual listening. The news shows it every day: this process is hobbling along, too slowly for some, too fast for others. It will need to overcome emotional reactions, vested interests, and false information from the merchants of doubt. Those who are unable to review their strategy and have everything to lose from the exit from fossil-fuel based energies will use nit-picks, manipulation, short-termism, and promote binary and divisive visions, all of which undermine trust and pollute the debate. But despite that…

Every degree of warming matters, every year counts, every choice counts. The challenge is immense because of the nature and magnitude of the unprecedented risk. It requires doing everything to overcome indifference and fatalism.

83 Responses to “The Climate Scientists are Alright”

  1. 1
  2. 2
    Carrie says:

    “The third risk is rapid transition to the economy and the current global financial system through the ‘stranded assets’ of capital invested in the fossil fuel industry.”

    imho the above barely scratches the surface of looming “Risks” that are almost inevitable at this point moving forward:

    Risk 3.1 Stranded FF energy ‘stranded assets’ is a minor issue because they could all be made stranded from today progressively and the world could recover – the crunch will come when from ongoing “crises” the whole economic structures buckles under the strain of not having access to energy resources in order to keep running 24/7/365. When that 90% of the global economy gets “stressed” then a really serious risk evolves of ‘stranded assets’ across all sectors of business, agriculture, and industry.

    4th Consumption collapse
    5th Economic growth collapsing into Degrowth
    6th Trade wars and embargoes
    7th Immigration blockades
    8th Hot wars chasing resources by force (causes of WW2 revisited)
    9th Famine

  3. 3

    I agree with many of the views in this post but talking about the mental state of climate scientists is important both for the public and scientists themselves.

    A key difference between climate scientists who provide new evidence of major impacts from climate change and, to use the examples in this post, an epidemiologist who anticipates an epidemic outbreak or a meteorologist who predicts a storm or heatwave, is that, if the epidemiologist and meteorologist have strong evidence, they can expect to be taken seriously and action taken. That is usual for them but not for climate scientists.

    Climate change poses immense threats to the natural environment and society, yet the political and social response has largely been a collective shoulder shrug.

    Yes, the world has taken some action but nowhere near enough in the context of the dire impacts we expect.

    In what sane world would predictions from the leading scientific body that temperature increases of 1.5°C or 2°C will destroy coral reefs not lead to mass action to stop those impacts? But that’s exactly what the recent IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C says, yet the global community continues actions that will blow past even those levels.

    The authors of this reprinted post talk of “dispassionate management of climate risk” but that is not the world in which we live. If it was, we’d have taken much greater action a long time ago.

    A key challenge that climate scientists face is maintaining their personal mental health in the face of their evidence routinely being either ignored or downplayed. Depression is a normal emotion to feel.

    Recognising this and talking about it is important.

    —————

    POSTSCRIPT: I gave a keynote address to new researchers last year on the topic of “Building personal resilience for research on climate change”, where I spoke of the strategies I use to keep going (as an environmental lawyer working on climate litigation, where courts routinely downplay climate change).

    A summary of the strategies and a recording are available at: http://envlaw.com.au/building-personal-resilience-for-research-on-climate-change-and-biodiversity-loss/

  4. 4

    I am willing to believe that most climate scientists are trying to do a good job.

    However, it must be depressing to find that a large number of people don’t “trust” what climate scientists are saying.

    This is because global warming is a “toxic” issue. There is a lack of trust on both sides, and a high level of nastiness.

    Climate scientists need to continue doing a good job. But they need to work on building “trust”. Stopping calling people “deniers” is the first step.

    So an important question is, CAN climate scientists stop calling people “deniers”. If they can’t, then perhaps we are all doomed.

    [Response: Trust is based (or should be) on telling the truth. The existence of climate denial – the reflexive gain-saying of any scientific result that might indicate that we might need to do something about carbon emissions – is undeniable. By demanding that scientists ignore this, or refuse to name it, you are asking that they avoid the truth. I would suggest rather that if people don’t want to be rightly accused of climate denial, they don’t go around denying climate science. – gavin]

  5. 5
    t marvell says:

    The deniers are part and parcel of the religious and conservative right. They are “know nothings” – or at least the educated establishment considers them as such. They are probably “know nothings” because they resent being considered so. That is, they can one-up the establishment by voting against it, and thus get an emotional victory.

    In all this mess, I don’t see the educated establishment, or at least the Democratic part it, giving up. They don’t seem disheartened. They are fighting on. The climate scientists are in the same boat. They should not be disheartened either.

  6. 6
    nigelj says:

    Sheldon @4, and what name would you prefer? “Ideologically motivated or self interested people who mostly use misleading rhetoric to downplay the IPCC findings on the climate issue?” Easier to shorten it to the word denier. Maybe not all people in blatant denail of climate science fit my description, but in my experince most do, and plenty of reseach has been published finding much the same.

    As an aside, the fossil fuel industry and the think tanks like the Heartland Institute were spreading lies, doubt, and confusion, and individuals were threatening climate scientists well before the use of the term “deniers” became commonplace. Most of the real nastiness is coming from the deniers, and so its up to them to change their behaviour, and the public to start demanding scientists are treated with respect.

  7. 7
    Leif Knutsen says:

    The fossil industry and the Pollution Profiteers are quick to point out their “stranded assets’ with respect to environmental restraints.

    What about the real-time “Stranded Assets” lost by “We the People” from droughts and higher food prices? Property value loss due to storms, floods, and forest fires? Poisoned water supplies because of Fracking? Lost fishing from Ocean Acidification? Health because of air pollution? Increased insurance premiums? Property loses to Rising Sea Levels? The list is long.

    In addition, Corporations are “people” now and as such they have a fiduciary responsibility to Planetary Life Support Systems, as do we all but most seldom internalize it.

    Then, of course, we must not forget billions of dollars of tax revenue lost subsidizing the potential Planetary ecocide inherent in fossil consumption.

  8. 8
    DukeSnide says:

    Poor Shelly, over on Dr Roys blog he blamed his calling climate scientists ‘alarmists’ is only bc he is called a denier. Its all their fault, not his, he’s blameless. And you surely don’t wanna hear what he calls Tamino. Shel is blameless for that too.

  9. 9
    Mark McGuire says:

    No one denies ice ages.
    Keep up the good work.

  10. 10

    “Alright” isn’t a word. It’s “all right.”

    [Response: If people have to explain every reference it takes the fun away. – gavin]

  11. 11

    I think that scientists’ emotional (and behavioral) responses to the climate crisis are helpful and important to report on, for several reasons.

    1) They provide a human narrative that people can not only relate to, but identify with. That’s why I tried to do exactly that in my ‘life and times’ series on early climate science: while the facts that John Tyndall worked incredibly hard to become a scientist, beginning work as a surveyor for the rapidly expanding British railroad network; that he was a notable mountaineer; or that he had a touching love-late-in-life romance with his wife, Louisa, do not directly illuminate his scientific work, they do place it in the context of a life that is fascinating in its own right. And in doing so, they make it much more emotionally accessible.

    2) They dispel stereotypes and propaganda about scientists, such as the 50s ‘lab coat and clipboard’ image of beings so rational as to be completely emotionless, and so ‘objective’ as to be uncaring. Or, more latterly, faceless schemers who are alternatively socialists worshiping at shrines to the late Maurice Strong, or maybe ruthless entrepreneurs who will write anything that will increase their grant-writing chances. It’s hard to feel that way about a mother trying hard to figure out where the family should live in order to give her kid the best shot in life, and trying to use her scientific expertise in climate to do so! (And I think the picture of the worried mom is a much more plausible one, to boot.)

    3) It’s evidence of the sincerity of scientists’ assessments of the significance of their work. I’ve often heard denialati argue that scientists and/or climate advocates are insincere–that they don’t live in accordance with what they allegedly preach to ‘the rest of us.’ (Usually the ‘evidence’ for this assessment is limited to citations of Al Gore’s Malibu house, Leonardo Dicaprio’s private jet, and maybe the fact that people fly to COPPs.) So it’s good to have evidence that climate scientists by and large live pretty normal lives–except that they integrate climate concerns into them in significant ways. An important part of that is the emotion: if you knew, deep in your bones, that climate change was going to make life harder for your child, wouldn’t you be sad? Of course you would. (Maybe you are!) But for those who don’t have that ‘deep in the bones’ knowledge, that sadness provides compelling evidence for the reality of the sadness, and therefore of the knowledge provoking it.

    All of which is not to say that every climate scientist needs to live in high-visibility mode, of course. But for those who are willing to share something of the personal effects of the knowledge they have, I think it a helpful thing, and I thank them. Given that doing so frequently attracts highly negative responses–such as abuse, harassment and threats–it’s pretty gutsy, too.

  12. 12
    Timothy Havard says:

    Getting depressed wont keep the message out there – being right is not easy. But that’s what we are paid for -to tell the truth as we see it. it takes time for the message to be believed: And yes,if for no other reason that vast capital has been sunk into redundant industries. So vast resources will be spent to keep the old message alive. Just too easy in today’s Facebook world- false information.Today’s slogan/brand is jobs. For whom? The reaction time at present is very slow but accelerating. We really have to drop fossil fuels and get hydrogen out to all.I would suggest that the next half decent storm along with a good tidal surge that takes out a major city will push the rate of response up a gear. No body is scared enough yet and history records that strife is the great innovator.

  13. 13
    Russell says:

    nigelj writes of a time” well before the use of the term “deniers” became commonplace”,

    to what political era does he refer?

    “Denial” was introduced into politcal dscourse by 1980’s pop psychologist and famed authority on brainwashing Dr. Robert Jay Lifton whose Wellfleet Psychohistory Group, funded by the American Academy of Arts and Science, also intoduced the neologism ‘psychic numbing.’

    He explained both usages in his 1995 book, Hiroshima In America: 50 Years Of Denial Lifton’s writings on climate

    The ever expanding rhetorical and semiotic scope of the Anthropocene climate wars make it cautionary to re-read Lifton’s 1961 book,
    Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China. New York: Norton. 1961.

    Lifton’s term ‘totalism’ applies to styles of ideology that desire total control over human thought and behavior, but ( climate activists take note ) differs from totalitarianism in that it also apples to ideological groups that lack state power.

  14. 14
    Ric Merritt says:

    Sheldon Walker’s contribution was extremely weak. +100 to Gavin’s reply.

  15. 15
    William Rees says:

    “The real challenge is therefore the mobilization of collective intelligence and democratic debate on the choices of risk that we are willing to take.”

    This may be true, but contains the roots of failure.

    Scientists are gravely mistaken if they believe H.Sapiens is primarily a rational species. A casual reading of the daily news reveals a marked deficit of reasoned intelligence; most important political decisions have deeper emotional and instinctive roots. There can be no ‘mobilization of collective intelligence’ as long as the political process is driven primarily by irrational emotion and knee-jerk instincts.

    Mobilizing democratic debate is similarly compromised. Effective democracy requires an informed, politically engaged public and transparent decision processes. By contrast, the publics in so-called democratic countries are increasingly ill- or deliberately mis-informed even when they abandon social media long enough to engage in the opaque morass of contemporary politics. Those in less democratic states never had a chance.

    In the circumstances, I cannot believe that the world community will succeed in making the economic structural changes necessary to reduce carbon emissions at 6% per year for the foreseeable future (particulary in the absence of adequate substitutes for fossil fuels–wind and solar don’t yet cut it).

  16. 16
    Carbomontanus says:

    Hr. Schmidt & al:

    “I would suggest rather that if People don`t want to be rightly accused of climate denial, they don`t go around denying climate science!”

    My finding and formula, that can be recommended, is that due to too high wear on the biosphere, (as can be seen by the need for alternative and fossile fuels for instance,…believed to be “not sustainable”,….) a lot of People reallize that some kind of a paradigmatic shift is necessary, and allready going on.

    My wiew and opinion is that a shift of paradigma is necessary for our wiew and opinions about energetics, and further of economy and lifestyle. Personally I am able to accept that. Thus I am not so deeply scared and frustrated by what Research on the climate tells us.

    But other People feel scared and deeply threatened by that quite inevitable paradigmatic shift, that has to come along in any case.

    Somehow, they seem to be brought up With and worshiping flames out of the exhaust tubes, in order to to keep up With the Jones and With the Kardasians. They cannot resign on that special lifestyle, because that threatens and ruins their very Identity, existance, and lifestyle.

    Thus, they go for an alternative shift of paradigma and fight quite bitterly for it.

    That formula can explain the Republican war on science.

    They obviously fight quite eagerly and bitterly for a very basic, general shift of paradigma in science.

  17. 17
    Al Bundy says:

    Alright is a word-in-the-making at least, and probably an independent word.

    “The climate scientists are all right” has a completely different meaning than “The climate scientists are alright”.

    Writing well is about creative and value-adding exceptions to the rules.

  18. 18
    Mal Adapted says:

    Gavin, inline to Sheldon Walker:

    I would suggest rather that if people don’t want to be rightly accused of climate denial, they don’t go around denying climate science. – gavin

    Thank you, Gavin! I predict Mr. Walker will continue to deny climate science, however. Of course, I’d love to be proven wrong. It’s somewhat reassuring to learn there are fewer AGW-deniers in America now than at any time in the last ten years. Apparently some people can change their minds.

  19. 19
    Russell says:

    The Alrightness of climate scientists has been reconfirmed by no less a cultural authority that Dilbert:

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2019/01/when-dilbert-speaks-denialists-tremble.html

  20. 20
    Al Bundy says:

    William Rees: A casual reading of the daily news reveals a marked deficit of reasoned intelligence; most important political decisions have deeper emotional and instinctive roots. There can be no ‘mobilization of collective intelligence’ as long as…

    AB: physical manifestations of climate change don’t affect too many well-off folks. Yep, I’d say your concern is evaporating even as we type.

    ——

    “all right” is ambiguous. In a fantasy debate individual climate scientists were matched with and debated individual deniers about each scientist’s specialty. Well, who was right? The scientists are all right (and the deniers are all wrong).

    Or it could be about subjects. Just how right are the scientists?

    Writer’s must consider the audience. Deniers seeing “The scientists are all right” may see an egotistical insult, especially if they have internalized the new(?) word “alright” (which is a perfectly acceptable spelling of “all right”). I think “all right” will die with the stodgy old Grammar Police. Of course, there will be another generation of Grammar Police who will have plenty of other things to feel superior about.

    To me, “all right” needs context. Titles have none and their purpose is to draw readers. Therefore, many of the best titles dance on edges. When one adds clarity and twists in a popular reference ya gotta cheer, eh?

  21. 21
    Carrie says:

    The other main issue of concern I have about this article is that it was written by Climate Scientists and not highly qualified Psychologists, Cognitive Scientists or Philosophers…. and a few expert Risk Analaysis folks for insights.

    People should stick to their area of expertise and not assume they have the answers for everything on the sole basis “it sounds right to them” where they sit.

    article says: “If feelings and expressing emotions – fear, anger, anguish, feelings of helplessness, guilt, depression – in the face of risks are legitimate, even necessary, to take action demands that we go beyond that. Catastrophism often leads to denial, a well-known psychic mechanism for protecting oneself from anxiety. Managing risk is part of our daily lives and supposes that we are not in such denial (active or passive) as it prevents clear and responsible action.”

    What they are REALLY speaking about above is the emotional roller coaster of HUMAN GRIEF. The author s MISS this fact, and by failing to label it correctly they have missed a real opportunity here to discover what’s really going on. They are ASSUMING XYZ is the cause of the problems they see when really it is the DENIAL of our emotional reactrions being triggered by non-stop GRIEF at what we collectively have done to this plaent and LIfe upon it, and the genuiens FEARS being triggered.

    It’s the authors who are in denial here while falsely “projecting” their own psychological misstep upon OTHERS out there. Tsk tsk.

    Textbook Trauma: The Emotions of Climate Change
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Yi7QxnNvQk

    Grief is not a disorder. The ONLY cure for Grief is to Grieve!

    Understanding our emotional response and about appropriate responses. The basic premise of this talk is to tell the truth and ask us all to act accordingly and consistently with the information, including our understanding of what actually enables change to happen in the world.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2VkC4SnwY0

    Furthermore, actually “managing risk” is not a part of our daily lives. WE have NO EXPERIENCE – let alone Daily experience – in handling thinking about or managing anything like the systemic RISKS of CC. None!

    You’re exaggerating this beyond reality. Most collective social risks is actually managed by Government Departments, by Law and Regulations. That’s why we have zebra crossing everywhere. The SYSTEM is setup to minimize unacceptable ricks FOR US.

    It’s the very same SYSTEM that brings us increasing GHG emissions today – because THE System has not go tot he point of effecting RISK MINIMIZATION regarding global warming yet.

    There is next to nothing any individual can do unless and until Governments Universally CHANGE THE WHOLE SYSTEM CAUSING AGW/CC COMPLETELY … root and branch, from bottom to top.

    Next to imagine or even attempt to remove feelings and expressing emotions is a fools errand. Not only can;t it be done it should not even be attempted. Science may be dispassionate but HUMAN PEOPLE ARE NOT – Scientists need to STOP DENYING this scientific fact and embrace the reality and stop pretending to has to be removed like a cancer from the discussions.

    All LAWS are based upon MORALITY – all Morality is internally based upon EMOTIONAL CONTENT and PERSONAL BELIEFS & VALUES.

    eg “The dispassionate management of climate risk will require that everyone …. “

    NO, no, no, no, no …… the management of climate risks MUST be extremely PASSIONATE or nothing will ever get done! People have to PASSIONATELY CARE about the Biosphere and our children’s Future above ALL OTHER DESIRES, NEEDS AND CONCERNS!

    THEY, YOU AND ME, EVERYONE, THE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS TOO MUST GET VERY EMOTIONAL ABOUT IT … PASSIONATE AND OBSESSIVE AND MORALISTIC … then the Laws will come to fix the SYSTEM by Reforming it root and branch.

    “The challenge of climate change is to build a strategy not in response to an acute and clearly identified risk, but in anticipation of a gradual, chronic increase in climate risks.”

    Why? Who says? Where’s your evidence? Where’s your proofs this is true and the right approach?

    Can you show me any Historical examples where this “suggestion” was 1) implemented and 2) actually worked?

    “The challenge is immense because of the nature and magnitude of the unprecedented risk. It requires doing everything to overcome indifference and fatalism.”

    No one can overcome fatalism or indifference by being “cool, calm objective or dispassionate” nor by remaining in “scientific operation mode”. You gotta get HUMAN and EMOTIONAL first! And that has to be spread like a virus through society from one to another.

    ————————————
    Noam Chomsky has a very useful insight in how to look at these issues of risk and crisis:

    Q: “How do you view humanity’s present situation in terms of the climate crisis and our attempts to deal with it at the UN climate negotiations?”

    NOAM: Well, we face a very serious dilemma. A stark, cruel dilemma. On the one hand there is a severe, dire crisis. Dealing with it cannot be delayed. It’s the most important issue that has arisen in human history. This generation – in fact today’s leaders and people – will make a decision as to whether organized human society can survive in any decent livable form. It’s no less than that.

    That’s one horn of the dilemma. The other horn of the dilemma is that we have to face the reality of the world. We have to find ways of reacting that are not only justified, but are also feasible and effective.

    So, for example it would be entirely justified to send the most powerful person in the world, the President of the United States to The Hague for trial for severe crimes against humanity. And many lesser figures as well. That would be justified. (But) It’s not feasible, it’s not effective. To choose approaches that are feasible and effective, we have to recognize the reality of the situation we face and adjust our approaches accordingly. […]

    No one’s gonna brought to the Hague. But recognizing that it would be legitimate and justified is an important way of helping the people comprehend the enormity of what is happening before their eyes. We should always bear in mind the slogan that Antonio Gramsci made famous: “We should have pessimism of the intellect, but optimism of the will.” It has never been more important than it is now.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4KU5YQeWtQ

    ————————————————

    Climate scientists could do worse than to connect with people like these at the Sunrise Movement — YOU might just learn something REAL and PRACTICAL.

    So my case here depends partly on arguing that climate justice–which includes peace–is the master moral and political narrative of our times. But even more importantly, it depends on highlighting a potent newsmaking force for climate action–and latently for climate justice and peace–already on the ground: the Sunrise climate movement.

    https://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/12/03/peace-activists-best-hope-the-sunrise-climate-movement/

    Sunrise is a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.

    We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.

    We are ordinary young people who are scared about what the climate crisis means for the people and places we love. We are gathering in classrooms, living rooms, and worship halls across the country. Everyone has a role to play. Public opinion is already with us – if we unite by the millions we can turn this into political power and reclaim our democracy.

    https://www.sunrisemovement.org/who-we-are/

    The Extinction Rebellion
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byiWsQaKnQU

    Beware Dispassionate People — they are not fully wholly Human!

  22. 22
    Carrie says:

    Representing this short video lest it gets lost in the noise above.

    Textbook Trauma: The Emotions of Climate Change (It’s called GRIEF!)

    These two climate scientists GET IT RIGHT on the emotional toll of climate change.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Yi7QxnNvQk

    #1) 1.10 mins

    “So there are all these emotions that are almost unbidden when you learn about climate change and they’re really basal emotions.

    They’re like at the gut level fear anger shame, fearful of the future, fearful of the consequences, fearful that we can’t get this right.

    Shame, shame that I’m participating in this system that is degrading my son’s life in the future and the climate of the future. Shame that I can’t figure out how to buy a hybrid car right now and how to get off gasoline myself. Shame in my air-travel.

    Anger that there’s no other option for me to function in society and that we’re all baked into this problem and that the problem represents this sort of disregard for this planet being a beautiful living system that sustains us and how deeply we’re connected to the planet.”

    #2) 2.30 mins

    “… and she said:- ‘You know given what you just told me I feel completely helpless, completely helpless! What can i as an individual do given the magnitude of this?’

    #1)

    “When people experience these massive scales of information what happens is they experience a cognitive break, a dissonance.

    Because of the emotions that come into play it’s very natural that you would have a hard time when looking directly at the information in front of you.”

    #2)

    “…and once she opened up then lots of hands, you know men and women flew up in the air, and we spent the next 20 minutes just listening to one another talk about how we’re feeling given the news of this.

    “… certain feelings are constantly there anytime you give this talk, if you ask this question. Helplessness, hopelessness, anger, guilt and Disassociation. People spaced out. They’ll say ‘you know in the middle of what you were saying, I just I can’t even remember. After that you know I sort of spaced out.’

    So they dissociated they literally cannot hear you Of course we respond like that because shame anger guilt fear. All of those things are some of them the most difficult emotions that we experience as people. We shun away from them.

    If you go to any text book on trauma and you look at the effect of signatures of a trauma be it physical or psychological all of those reactions are there. OK? All of them – helplessness, hopelessness, dissociation, anger, a sense of guilt, it was my fault that this happened to me.”

    —————–

    The 5 stages of grief and loss are:
    1. Denial and isolation;
    2. Anger;
    3. Bargaining;
    4. Depression;
    5. Acceptance.

    People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.
    https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

    Please do stop denying and/or minimizing and dismissing your own emotions and those of others as somehow irrelevant or “less than” or as being a “problem getting in the way”.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    Symptoms of PTSD

    Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders

    Showing a persistence of two or more of the following:

    – inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events
    – persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world.
    – persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events.
    persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
    – markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
    feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
    persistent inability to experience positive emotions

    https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/

    With the exceptions of narcissists and psychopaths all Humans are Emotional Creatures. We are hard-wired emotional Beings. Don’t deny this scientific known proven reality – embrace it.

    If AGE / CC is going to be solved it is only going to be achieved by THE WILL WORDS AND ACTIONS OF REALLY PASSIONATE EMOTIONAL EMPATHETIC PEOPLE.

  23. 23
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    To at least get somewhat closer to reality, it is nescessary to abandon the phrase “Paris agreement”. Because in this “agreement” in fact there is effectively no agreement whatsoever, except for the usual suspects willingness to portray their business as extremely usual = endless postponement of any effective policy to constrain global warming even just a tiny bit, as if it was really a very huge effort to break with business as usual.

    We at least has to end this orwellian practice. Unless we do so, we will just help those immensely powerful global oiligarchs like the Koch brothers and their likes, their paid politicians from Clinton and Obama to Trump, in short all the republicrats, the EUrocrats, the putinocrats, the House of Saud, etc. to continue into the climate collapse they are so eager aiming for and has been since the first time anyone mentioned anything about the problems with burning fossil fuels and coal etc.

  24. 24
    Matt Fulkerson says:

    No worries, climate scientists. We should build as much wind and solar as possible so that we have an excess. Then it will make sense to build larger grids and invest in storage to even out intermittency. Piece of cake.

  25. 25
    nigelj says:

    “The real challenge is therefore the mobilization of collective intelligence and democratic debate on the choices of risk that we are willing to take.”

    It is, but how do we overcome this problem? “Humans Wired to Respond to Short-Term Problems”

    https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5530483

  26. 26
    Carrie says:

    “The Climate Scientists are Alright”

    Are you certain about that?

    How many have been “tested” to find out if they really are ‘alright’?

    “It’s not binary. It’s not ‘F’d’ or ‘Not F’d’. It’s a matter of how F’d!!!”
    Michael Mann

    Guy McPherson – Soul Crushing Climate Despair
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K63iqvv1VZ0

    Like we know already it is going to be hotter globally and regionally in 10 years from now than it was through 2018. Right? You can actually be scientifically certain about that.

    It’s going to be hotter in ten years from now than it was when all these fires ravaged Sweden, Norway, Greece and California in 2018. Right? We know that already. You can be certain of it. Why deny it and why be dismissive of anyone who tells such known truths. It’s not rocket science.

    What’s not to fear?

    I think all Climate scientists should be tested regularly for psychological affects as a normal part of their employment conditions and workplace safety requirements.

    Because one of the first things that arises as a Symptom from PTSD is ‘denial’ that you even have a problem. I kid you not.

  27. 27

    [Response: If people have to explain every reference it takes the fun away. – gavin]

    And there may even be additional layers of fun.

  28. 28
    MA Rodger says:

    Here is something worthwhile for the skyrocketeers to start bleating about. Carbon Brief have coverage of a paper Green et al (2019) ‘Large influence of soil moisture on long-term terrestrial carbon uptake.’ which finds that by 2060 (or before) under RCP8.5 the biological CO2 sink will globally begin to falter due to reduced terrestrial moisture & increasing temperature.

  29. 29
    gavin says:

    I apologise if my response to #4 might have given anyone the impression that I have any interest in personally adjudicating any or all situations where people have been called climate deniers by other people wholly unconnected with me, RC or the authors of this post. It should have gone without saying but I had no interest in doing this then, I have no interest in doing this now, and it is extremely likely that in the future, I will still have no interest in doing this. Thanks!

  30. 30
    Canman says:

    Those who are unable to review their strategy and have everything to lose from the exit from fossil-fuel based energies will use nit-picks, manipulation, short-termism, and promote binary and divisive visions, all of which undermine trust and pollute the debate. But despite that

    Promote binary and divisive visions? When’s the last time you guys promoted a moderate position. When’s the last time you were inclusive of Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Shellenberger, the Ecomodernist Manifesto, the Breakthrough Institute, …?

  31. 31
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Canman,
    So, let me get this straight–your idea of a moderate position is an average between truth and lies?

  32. 32
    James says:

    #30. Hmm. Yeah, and Astronomy should stop being so snobbish and embrace astrology, evolutionary biology/creationism and NASA/ flat earthism, etc. They’re all equally valid!

  33. 33

    Karsten, #23–

    Because in this [Paris] “agreement” in fact there is effectively no agreement whatsoever…

    Er, no. There are multiple agreements.

    In a nutshell (and probably incomplete):

    –Agreement that climate is changing
    –Agreement that humans are causing it
    –Agreement that continued warming will be highly deleterious
    –Agreement that action by all parties is warranted
    –Agreement that that such actions are best determined at the national level, in consultation with the Conference of Parties
    –Agreement to be transparent and timely in submitting plans for action
    –Agreement on metrics and processes for reviewing and evaluating such plans in relation to the stated goals
    –Agreement on the need for increasing the ambition of said plans, and the intention to act accordingly
    –Agreement on an ongoing process to implement all the foregoing.

    Paris isn’t perfect, but it’s the best thing we have going to date–far better than Kyoto.

    I think there are a lot of folks who apply the misguided notion that people are mostly motivated by fear. A few may be, but most of us are not, and especially in the relationships we choose to maintain. Provided they are not abusive, we stay in them much more because we think we are better off staying in them on the intrinsic rewards–not because we fear external penalties for leaving.

    The question I like to ask in this regard is this:

    What potential penalty could be applied to potential Paris defaulters that would be more aversive than the consequences of a failure to mitigate carbon emissions?

  34. 34
    Russell says:

    Canman, it would be a real breakthrough if any of the above went beyond academic TED talks. They are by and large cheerleaders without a team on the field.

  35. 35

    #30–

    When’s the last time you guys promoted a moderate position. When’s the last time you were inclusive of Bjorn Lomborg, Michael Shellenberger, the Ecomodernist Manifesto, the Breakthrough Institute, …?

    Probably the last time they said something in good faith.

  36. 36
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    There is no reason to be inclusive to any hypotheses in science which deny obvious facts,recognized by almost all other scientists working on the subject in case.

  37. 37
    Ron R. says:

    A good post. It is about psychology. But maybe the way we have been approaching it is backwards. Up till now it’s been, ‘If you want to avoid this awful negative, you’d better do this!’, which emphasizes the undesirable. Perhaps a better way would be to emphasize the positive. ‘If we can accomplish such-and-such, a beautiful and happy world will await us’. Kind of like an overly strict parent who yells at her bratty kid, “STOP IT, or you’re going to get you a beating you’ll never forget” vs “Johnny, help me with the dishes and then we’ll go out for a bike ride” (or make a cake, or what have you).

    One possible positive future: https://midmiocene.wordpress.com/2017/11/22/the-last-option/

    “The dispassionate management of climate risk will require that everyone – citizens, decision makers, teachers, intermediate bodies, companies, civil society, media, scientists – in their place and according to their means, take the time for a collective reflection, first of all through mutual listening.”

    Exactly! We need everyone, not just climate scientists, but every other scientific discipline to be impacted by CC discussing CC. Politicos, evangelicals, media, etc, in all nations, top to bottom, discussing it. By the same token, we need climate scientists discussing all of the other peripheral issues as well. Sky rocketing population growth. Mass extinction. Relentless habitat destruction and over-development. Deforestation. Mountaintop mining and removal. The cutting off of migration routes. Extreme hunting pressure. Ocean depletion. Vast areas of land, sea and air, now polluted almost beyond remediation with PCBs, oil, radiation and other toxins. The GPGP, etc. All legitimate sciences need to be on the same page and supporting each other. For too long it’s been like medical science where each area is so specialized that individually they are ignorant, and even uninterested, in what’s happening with the others. Perhaps that will require educating the educators. Ok then.

  38. 38
    Mark McGuire says:

    Worst apocalypse. Ever.
    Undeniably.

  39. 39
    Hank Roberts says:

    Russell, thanks for the link to the Scott Adams video.
    Let’s hope the audience that needs to understand watches it.

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2019/01/when-dilbert-speaks-denialists-tremble.html

  40. 40
    Hank Roberts says:

    So I’d hope some of the climate scientists reach out to Scott Adams. Late in his video he lists the questions to which he doesn’t feel he knows good answers.

    Around 38:00 in the Scott Adams video, going on to the end, he lists the questions he hasn’t understood the answers to yet:

    Transcribing and quoting:

    Is it true that our current rate of temperature increase has precedent earlier in this century? Lindzen.
    Could be it’s not the rate — could be earlier in the century we had the same rate of rise but it didn’t last long.

    Can you really measure the temperature of the ocean in an average way? Do you think science can really get some kind of reading of the average temperature of an ocean? … I haven’t heard anyone who’s really close to how it’s done ….

    How do you measure the temperature millions of years ago to the level of precision that can be useful? I understand about tree rings, ice cores …. how accurate? which is the best proxy?

    Temperature adjustments — were they all in the same direction? heard most of the land ones were in one direction but most of the ocean ones were in the other direction.

    Doesn’t it only matter what the ocean is doing, shouldn’t we throw away all the land measurements?

    The belief is there are thousands of climate scientists … most of you would agree it’s the majority all on the same page. How many of them were actually part of the measurement gathering measuring things … gotta think it’s only a handful, maybe … 5 people who were close enough to all the good measuring methods. So “thousands of people trust 5 people?” “Chain of custody” for evidence, “does science have something like that …. and without that knowledge …. it sounds like they may have gotten all of the important information from …. 5 …. people who are close to the data.

    Two versions of reality — one is the claim that Michael Mann has data about temperature that he’s not showing anybody. “Most of the skeptics believe that’s true.” The other version is that he hasn’t disclosed how his model works. “But you can also look at the letter ….” Both of those can’t be true. Which story sounds normal and which sounds batshit crazy?

    “The Tony Heller point” about land data adjustments, heat islands, reasons for adjustments. “What did they calibrate their adjustments to? This is the dumb non-scientist question … if you have something that’s a better measurement … you can use as your standard for adjusting …. what would the trend look like for just the measurement devices … that didn’t need any adjustment?”

    If measurments taken in the United States show cooling on unadjusted “most dependable and have never been adjusted” because if it turns out the United States is not getting warmer that might adjust my thinking about what is real….”

    “I’m undecided … skeptics have already decided …. I’m not one of them … the majority of what the skeptics sayis just ridiculous but …. stuff the climate scientists say doesn’t pass the sniff test …. it might be true …”

  41. 41
    Michael Hammer says:

    I am a scientist with 42 years of very successful industrial research experience in the field of spectroscopy, the branch of science covering interactions between matter and electromagnetic radiation (ie: action of green house gases).

    I have one very simple question. The theory of AGW states that rising CO2 acts as a blanket reducing Earth’s energy loss to space (which it undoubtedly does) and that this CO2 induced reduction in outgoing long wave radiation is the dominant cause of Earth’s warming. How is this compatible with NCEP’s experimental data showing OLR has been rising not falling since 1950? Also the more recent NASA data showing the same thing.

    Yes I realise that as Earth warms OLR would rise but the claimed warming is <=1C and Earth's sensitivity is claimed to be 3 watts/sqM/C so even if there was no impact due to rising CO2 it would only explain a 3 watts/sqM rise yet the NCEP data shows far more than this.

    [Response: Not sure what NCEP data you refer to, but if it’s the reanalysis, there are all sorts of issues with the trends in that – changes to observing systems over time, uncorrected instrument biases that vary through time (particularly the radiosondes) etc. Nonetheless, the most recent assessment of the satellite data does show increases in total outgoing OLR at the same rate that you expect for a warming planet https://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/10/10/1539. Figure 4 is the key one:

    – gavin]

  42. 42
    Hank Roberts says:

    Michael Hammer says:
    24 Jan 2019 at 5:05 PM

    rising CO2 acts as a blanket reducing Earth’s energy loss to space (which it undoubtedly does) and that this CO2 induced reduction in outgoing long wave radiation is the dominant cause of Earth’s warming.

    I”m not the kind of expert Mr. Hammer says he is, but I think he got that wrong. Sounds like he thinks CO2 just somehow captures heat and turns it into middle age spread, so more CO2 would capture more energy and less would escape to space.

    I think not.

    CO2 re-emits energy in random directions; in the upper atmosphere roughly half would go “down” toward Earth’s atmosphere and roughly half would go “up” to outer space.

    So adding CO2 adds additional molecules to the upper atmosphere — which would increase both energy lost out to space and the energy returned back toward Earth.

  43. 43
    Mal Adapted says:

    Russell:

    Canman, it would be a real breakthrough if any of the above went beyond academic TED talks. They are by and large cheerleaders without a team on the field.

    “Cheerleaders without a team on the field” – outstanding coinage, Russell (I looked it up) 8^D! IMHO you’re one of the smarter RC regulars, even if you are a deontological libertarian.

  44. 44
    Ric Merritt says:

    I’m not going to bother watching the Scott Adams video, but based on HR’s excerpts it’s a hash of questions that Scott could much better answer by reading this blog from the beginning. (skipping or skimming comments OK, indeed encouraged)

    I mean, temperature adjustments “all in the same direction”? Maybe 5 people who really know how measurements are made? C’mon, Scott. Ignoring land temperatures? (depends on which question you want to answer, doesn’t it!)

    Scott, if you take my suggestion, report back, and sound reasonable, I’ll be glad to watch your video, even though it will be mostly superseded by what you’ve found out from RealClimate.

  45. 45
    nigelj says:

    Carrie posts some good links and summaries of issues, but I take issue with this “Please do stop denying and/or minimizing and dismissing your own emotions and those of others as somehow irrelevant or “less than” or as being a “problem getting in the way”.

    The article just doesn’t do this , and neither do scientists I have listened to . The message I got was the article simply pointed out don’t let personal emotions and catastrophising overwhelm you, and lead to denial that the problem exists and / or can be confronted and solved. This is basic psychology anyway. It doesn’t mean emotions are being denied or seen as a ‘problem’, its more something we need to learn how to manage.

    Being ‘passionate’ about the problems, the science and mitigation is desirable I think, but seems like a different issue to me. Most scientists do seem passionate when speaking in public. I think some could be more passionate, and share their personal perspective more. Obviously its a fine line, because breaking down crying in public, or becoming very shouty would probably be counter productive. I’m a technical / design person and I don’t enjoy media interviews etc, but its something that has to be done in this day and age, and we need to put in 100% and be passionate and try to connect with people.

    I agree with Carrie that governments provide many of the frameworks to fix the climate issue but politicians obviously wont do much if they let their own feelings about climate change overwhelm them such that they go into denail of some sort.

  46. 46
    Michael Hammer says:

    Gavin, thank you most sincerely for your reply. I note the graph you supplied shows an increase of about 2 watts/sqM in OLR. I checked a number of claimed temperature trend sites including NASA and Berkely Earth and the consensus seems to be about 0.4C rise between 1985 and now. So if the sensitivity of Earth is really 3 watts/sqM/C (it can’t be more than 5.4 since that is the black body sensitivity at 288K and GHG reduce that sensitivity which is of course why they cause warming) that would justify 1.2 watts/sqM which appears to be about 60% of the actual rise. OK the figures are inevitably a bit rubbery so maybe 2 watts/sqM is consistent.

    [Response: One wrinkle is that global OLR is not just SB applied to the global mean temperature anomaly. – gavin]

    However that still leaves me with a problem. According to AGW the rising CO2 should be reducing OLR so the net change in OLR should be the rise due to rising temperature less the fall due to rising CO2. But according to the data you supplied, OLR seems to be rising as fast if not faster than predicted from rising temperature alone. That would imply no attenuation of OLR due to rising CO2. Yet we know GHG reduce energy loss. As CO2 conc increases one would expect the 14.7 micron absorption band to widen giving some reduction in OLR. Does this not mean there must be another mechanism at play and that mechanism must be at least similar in magnitude to the AGW effect? If OLR is simply rising to match the temperature then what is maintaining the energy imbalance that is causing earth to continue warming?

    [Response: A lot of the issues here are based on statements that assume nothing else is changing. The real balance is in net energy (not just LW). So for instance, the OLR at equilibrium after an increase in CO2 could be higher or lower depending on the SW feedbacks. For instance, if there were more low clouds (a negative cloud feedback) you’d get higher reflected SW which would mean that OLR at equilibrium would be less. If we assume nothing else changes, an increase in surface temperature will lead to an increase in OLR. But of course, everything is changing at once. Instantaneously after an increase in CO2, you have lower OLR (by ~4 W/m2 for 2xCO2), and in the absence of SW feedbacks, you’d see that coming back up over time. But again, that isn’t what is happening since 1990. For that period we have increases in temperature (because of historical forcings) (=> OLR up), and additional increases in GHG forcings (=> OLR down) and complicated SW effects (=> OLR up or down). So my guess is that the expected trend in OLR in the GCMs is a bit all over the place as a function of the transient climate sensitivity and sign of the cloud feedbacks. (There are some results here from CMIP3 that you can play with). – gavin]

  47. 47
    Al Bundy says:

    Hank,

    Yeah. The problem is that it’s friggin easy to come up with garbage gotchas that that morons (capitalists and conservatives) can understand, but you’d have to be batshit crazy to think that said self-made-and-proud morons would expend the effort to even translate the pressure differences in their ears into mango lush (gotta leave that)

    Yep, the Zombie apacolypse is at hand. But strangely, the zombies do their damage by eating their own brains.

  48. 48
    Jon Kirwan says:

    The Power of Story in Social Movements” (as preserved by the internet wayback machine) may be worth a moment. It makes this point early on: “Story telling is how we learn to exercise agency to deal with new challenges, mindful of the past, yet conscious of alternative futures.”

    While I do gather up and accept the dichotomy presented by the guest authors, I also well-understand how it is that powerful personal stories motivate us to care and act as few other things may. Presenting the stories that result from field work by researchers may be some of the better ways to motivate us. But only when infused with both the majesty and awe as well as the pain and loss felt by those researchers. Subtract that and you subtract the inside story itself, leaving only the lifeless husk.

    So I see the horns of a dilemma. Do field researchers just do years of field work, left only to summarize the distilled bits after they’ve satisfied themselves and others of what they can safely and securely prove? Or do they also present the fuller, larger, and vastly more vibrant story they’ve lived and felt?

    I think both are important.

    And who better to do so? A true story must come from those who have lived it to have any power.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    Nick says:

    There’s a thin line between being seen as a doomsday prophet whose fire and brimstone allows us to detach ourselves from the situation and being seen as a cold, sterile clinician whose antiseptic graphs and charts don’t seem to translate to ‘real life’ impact.

    When the plane ride gets bumpy, I still study the faces of the flight attendants for signs of concern.