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Just the facts?

In the wake of the appalling mass shootings last weekend, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the pre-eminent scientist/communicator in the US) tweeted some facts that were, let’s just say, not well received (and for which he kind of apologised). At least one of the facts he tweeted about was incorrect (deaths by medical errors are far smaller). However, even if it had been correct, the overall response would have been the same, because the reaction was not driven by the specifics of what was said, but rather by the implied message of the context in which it was said. This is a key feature (or bug) of communications in a politicized environment, and one that continues to trip up people who are experienced enough to know better.

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Absence and Evidence

Guest commentary by Michael Tobis, a retired climate scientist. He is a software developer and science writer living in Ottawa, Ontario.

A recent opinion piece by economist Ross McKitrick in the Financial Post, which attracted considerable attention in Canada, carried the provocative headline “This scientist proved climate change isn’t causing extreme weather – so politicians attacked”.

In fact, the scientist referenced in the headline, Roger Pielke Jr., proved no such thing. He examined some data, but he did not find compelling evidence regarding whether or not human influence is causing or influencing extreme events.

Should such a commonplace failure be broadly promoted as a decisive result that merits public interest?

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Koonin’s case for yet another review of climate science

We watch long YouTube videos so you don’t have to.

In the seemingly endless deliberations on whether there should be a ‘red team’ exercise to review various climate science reports, Scott Waldman reported last week that the original architect of the idea, Steve Koonin, had given a talk on touching on the topic at Purdue University in Indiana last month. Since the talk is online, I thought it might be worth a viewing.

[Spoiler alert. It wasn’t].

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The best case for worst case scenarios

The “end of the world” or “good for you” are the two least likely among the spectrum of potential outcomes.

Stephen Schneider

Beware the worst case scenario

Scientists have been looking at best, middling and worst case scenarios for anthropogenic climate change for decades. For instance, Stephen Schneider himself took a turn back in 2009. And others have postulated both far more rosy and far more catastrophic possibilities as well (with somewhat variable evidentiary bases).

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References

  1. S. Schneider, "The worst-case scenario", Nature, vol. 458, pp. 1104-1105, 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/4581104a

Decluttering

Filed under: — gavin @ 21 January 2019

Given some unexpected down time this month (and maybe next month too!), I’ve been trying to go through key old posts on this site. The basic idea is to update links to other sites, references and figures that over the years have died (site domains that were abandoned, site redesigns, deliberate deletions etc.). Most notably, the IPCC website recently broke all the existing links to elements of the reports which we had referenced in hundreds of places. Thanks guys!

Some folk have been notifying us of issues they found (thanks Marcus!) and I’ve been fixing those as they come up, but obviously there are more. Links to old blog posts from Deltoid, Scienceblogs, Pielke Sr. or Prometheus generally don’t work anymore though they can sometimes be found on the wayback machine. It turns out a lot has changed since 2004 and many hotlinked images in particular have disappeared.

It’s obviously not worth finding replacements for every dead link, but digital uncluttering and fixing up is useful. So, please use this thread to notify us of any useful fixes we can make (and if you have an updated link,, that’d be perfect). Additionally, please let us know if any of the old content is still useful or interesting to you. We know there is still substantial traffic to the back catalog, so maybe it should be highlighted in some way?

To those of you who might ask whether blogging still brings me joy… of course it does!

Let’s check your temperature

The underlying mission of my job is to safeguard lives and property through climate change adaptation based on science. In other words, to help society to prepare itself for risks connected with more extreme rainfall and temperatures.

For many people, “climate” may seem to be an abstract concept. I have had many conversations about climate, and then realised that people often have different interpretations. In my mind, climate is the same as weather statistics (which I realise can be quite abstract to many).

To avoid miscommunication, I want to make sure that we are on the same page when I discuss climate. Maybe it helps if I talk about more familiar and specific aspects, such as the temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind?

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4th National Climate Assessment report

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 November 2018

In possibly the biggest “Friday night news dump” in climate report history, the long awaited 4th National Climate Assessment (#NCA4) was released today (roughly two weeks earlier than everyone had been expecting).

The summaries and FAQ (pdf) are good, and the ClimateNexus briefing is worth reading too. The basic picture is utterly unsurprising, but the real interest in the NCA is the detailed work on vulnerabilities and sectorial impacts in 10 specific regions of the US. The writing teams for those sections include a whole raft of scientists and local stakeholders and so if you think climate reports are the same old, same old, it’s where you should go to read things you might not have seen before.

Obviously, since the report was only released at 2pm today without any serious embargo, most takes you will read today or tomorrow will be pretty superficial, but there should be more considered discussions over the next few days. Feel free to ask specific questions or bring up topics below.

Cracking the Climate Change Case

I have an op-ed in the New York Times this week:

How Scientists Cracked the Climate Change Case
The biggest crime scene on the planet is the planet. We know the earth is warming, but who or what is causing it?
Emilia Miękisz

Many of you will recognise the metaphor from previous Realclimate pieces (this is earliest one I think, from 2007), and indeed, the working title was “CSI: Planet Earth”. The process description and conclusions are drawn from multiple sources on the attribution of recent climate trends (here, here etc.), as well the data visualization for surface temperature trends at Bloomberg News.

There have been many comments about this on Twitter – most appreciative, some expected, and a few interesting. The expected criticisms come from people who mostly appear not to have read the piece at all (“Climate has changed before!” – a claim that no-one disputes), and a lot of pointless counter-arguments by assertion. Of the more interesting comment threads, was one started by Ted Nordhaus who asked

My response is basically that it might be old hat for him (and maybe many readers here), but I am constantly surprised at the number of people – even those concerned about climate – who are unaware of how we do attribution and how solid the science behind the IPCC statements is. And judging by many of the comments, it certainly isn’t the case that these pieces are only read by the already convinced. But asking how many people are helped to be persuaded by articles like this is a valid question, and I don’t really know the answer. Anyone?

Climate without Borders: putting changing climate into a new perspective

Filed under: — rasmus @ 14 October 2018

Guest post by Mike Favetta

The goal of “Climate without Borders” (CwB) is to unite TV weather presenters from all over the world and bring scientific knowledge to a broader public. This, in turn, creates climate awareness and creates support for the urgent climate action needed. Although the name suggests a kind of connection with Doctors without Borders, members of Climate without Borders won’t be traveling to island nations about to be submerged, like Tuvalu, or areas sub and physically volunteering in the refugee efforts. Rather, Climate without Borders is a network of TV weathercasters around the world who aim to communicate the science, and impact of climate change, and give warnings to their local viewing populations. This makes the organization unique in the world. TV weathercasters are trusted sources of information, and they know the nuances of their audience’s cultures to make messages more understandable. Exploiting this relationship is an effective way of sharing climate information that people will listen to and comprehend.

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European climate services take an important leap forward 

An important milestone was passed during the second general assembly of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which took place in Berlin on Sept 24-28 (twitter hashtag '#C3SGA18'). The European climate service has become operational, hosted by the European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts (ECMWF).


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