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AGU Chapman Conference on Climate Science Communication

Filed under: — gavin @ 8 July 2013

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

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

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

Richard Alley: “State of the Climate System”

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

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

Lynda Williams: “Science eXposition”

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

  1. 1
    Russell says:

    I watched. It seemed a cultural enterprise at once oversubscrbed, under criticized, and oblivious to the moral hazards of casually presuming the legitimacy of social engineering in the service of scientism.

  2. 2
    patrick says:

    Thank you 10x-over for this post. When I saw that the whole conference had been live-streamed and I had missed it, I looked around to see if a virtual conference had been posted online (as per the 2012 Fall Meeting). So this is great. Deeply appreciated.

  3. 3
    patrick says:

    @1 You mean you were watching the back of your eyeballs. Quick put the disguise back on, you’ve blown your cover.

  4. 4
    patrick says:

    @1 Take the site link off your name and then one might discuss “oblivious,” “moral hazards,” “presuming,” “social engineering,” and “scientism.” One might even discuss “casual” and “legitimacy.”

    But one must see the material posted here first. One doesn’t want to get too distracted, because distraction alone is a chief tactic of your jamming.

    I was about to say of late–

    If the site you are tricking clicks for is in fact attempting satire, it would have to be funny at least some of the time.

    So don’t make me start tricking clicks for Alfred E. Neuman. He’s funnier than your stuff and a lot more informative.

    And if people get exposed to professional satire it might blow your cover.

    –But now I don’t have to.

  5. 5
    Russell says:

    3, 4
    The conference’s demographic framing problem has just spoken for itself .

  6. 6
    bill says:

    Re #s 1-4: Actually, Singer only says he submitted that editorial, not that they had actually published it. Bet they don’t!

    And Mr. Seitz’s satires are well-known is certain circles. Perhaps they are being undersubscribed and over-criticized?

    Back on track – thanks for posting this series of informative videos.

  7. 7
    patrick says:

    “Behind every equation there’s a picture–it’s almost like art…” –Jacob Barnett, 14-year-old autodidact physicist and reputed genius.

    The audio is at 11.26 here (Outlook, Raising a Child Genius):

    “…I want to become a physics researcher… I’ve always found the science fascinating, I’ve always found the pictures fascinating, and I just want to create new science with my life. …people are scared of math…so I want to maybe do something to fix that.”

  8. 8
    patrick says:

    The very current Australian ABC science video posted @46 on this month’s open thread is topical in any case, but especially here.

    In his comment MikeH cites the participation of these scientists:

    Dr Erich Fischer, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH,Dr Karl Braganza, Australian Bureau of Meteorology,Dr Lisa Alexander, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW,Dr Susan Wijffels, Marine and Atmospheric Research, CSIRO, and Professor Jennifer Francis, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University.

    I think the video is state-of-the art communication–except for for the tweaked audio on lightning and thunder. The producers may think it suggests the sort of meaning that inheres in the steroids analogy presented by Bob Henson (above on this thread)–which is brilliant and deserves more comment. But cranking the sky show makes it seem like a theme park.

    The steroids metaphor used by Henson is readily understandable and is applied precisely and expertly to explain notions of probability.

    Australian ABC might want to get together with Henson on a project.

    What’s in it for ABC is that instead of trying to evoke steroid responses, they would learn something better: for instance: the use of steroid metabolism as a key metaphor to understand attribution and probabalistic outcomes in climate science.

    Life without steroids is the new sobriety. If ABC’s audio level on the sky show is a sober choice, fine. Just take it down a notch. Because if I’m not on steroids myself, it’s hard to appreciate.

    It’s a great video otherwise in many ways–including an animation of the shifting of the curve of probabilities for extreme weather.

    The sequence of animations Henson and team have put together works fine. If anyone would like to upgrade, let that sequence be the story-board. Just add budget.

    It’s the concept that counts.

    “We’ve learned…that fear is not necessarily the best motivator, or even necessarily the best way for people to remember information.” –Bob Henson

  9. 9
    patrick says:

    @5 You missed #2.

  10. 10
    Hank Roberts says:

    Saw only Gavin’s so far; would love to see the typescript including what you skipped over, along with the slides, as a (gack, can’t believe I’m saying this) powerpoint file. (probably true for all of them, as I prefer having a copy of the text and images to reread after watching the videos.

    Why: I remember better that way a few days later — and this is true for most people beyond, um, a certain age: what’s seen or heard once briefly isn’t retained well enough to be recorded in longterm memory as effectively, but something on paper that can be looked at steadily for several minutes will be remembered.

  11. 11

    #10. I know what you mean. Sigh.

  12. 12
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Russell #1 — silly is still silly if wrapped in social-science jargon. Hmm, and what about the legitimacy of social engineering in the service of selling stuff — like, eyeballs and politicians?

  13. 13
    Richard Whiteford says:

    This is my 2 1/2 minute communication message about climate change:

  14. 14
    SecularAnimist says:

    Russell wrote: “It seemed a cultural enterprise at once oversubscrbed, under criticized, and oblivious to the moral hazards of casually presuming the legitimacy of social engineering in the service of scientism.”


    Did a random word generator write that? Or did you plagiarize it from Professor Irwin Corey?

  15. 15
    Hank Roberts says:

    Be nice to Russell. His opinions were entirely mainstream when he formed them, and not all that much has changed in the intervening years. There are still plenty of nitwits who’d claim “Science” is the reason for doing what they want. Same idea, just different Books involved for different groups.

  16. 16

    Thanks for the update! I didn’t know about the conference beforehand but am glad the videos are available… speaking of available videos, I run an independent series of short videos called Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something! it’s climate change with humor, aimed at the general public. So if, for instance, you want to watch climate science, Gangnam Style, check us out here:

    We are, of course, always looking for the most effective ways to talk about this stuff with people. Especially found Laurel Whitney’s presentation interesting. Thanks for all you do to get real information out there.

  17. 17
    Hank Roberts says:

    I would like to hear Russell’s ‘elevator talk’ on climate change — if trapped briefly in the elevator with our political leaders, one at a time, so they pay attention — what choices, facts, options, decisions would you like to convince our political establishment(s) to trust you about, take your word for it, do as you suggest, in 3 minutes?

  18. 18
    Hank Roberts says:

    also, Scientism is what again?
    It’d be well worth some (other) blog taking on that discussion and attracting the readers here to it, for climate specifically I think; s/he who has the blog to blog, let ‘m blog.

  19. 19
    patrick says:

    Richard Whiteford #13 Thanks for the link to your video. If God comes and tells me he’s so angry he wants to incinerate the place, I’m going to say, “But you can’t: there’s one honest man.”

  20. 20
    patrick says:

    #16 Joyette Portlock. Don’t tell me, you must be “the independents.” Episode 14 is great.

  21. 21
    Chris says:

    On reading about this meeting I became both excited and disappointed. Excited because it seems scientists and public communicators spent some time in the same room and hopefully found out about each other. Then I saw the delegate list and got deeply disappointed. Because (1) I saw very few on-the-ground organizations represented like CCAFS, START, CDKN, etc who are not only communicating climate science already but facilitating it’s implementation in many governance sectors. These groups have been doing this for going on decades now, their experiential knowledge is invaluable but this meeting failed to capitalize here. Secondly, I could not see an African in the participants list (it’s that small country just south of Europe) and only one person from the Southern hemisphere (Australia). Perhaps the focus of the conference was by design narrow, climate science communication in the developed world (whatever developed means), in which case it did not need a global perspective, which would be quite concerning. Lastly, I asked a few people I work with if they had heard about the meeting, none had….great communication, right? Full disclosure: I’m an African climatologist working in an African research group involved in both climate science research and (with groups like those listed above) stakeholder engagement at international, national and sub-national scales. So I’m sure the meeting was very successful in what it hope to achieve, however, I think it aimed way too low. Thanks for reading.

  22. 22
    Russell says:

    As Gavin points out, it was ” very notable that it wasn’t just scientists attending – there were also entertainers, psychologists, film-makers… ” and I found many of their presentations, and some by modelers as well, both tendentious and politically laden.

    Though one man’s chataqua is another’s revival meeting, the proceedings did afford insight into the very different meanings of ‘vulgarisation scientifique’ in France and Quebec, and in contrast to the efforts of some to evangelize the audience, the more scientifically focused presentations were downright edifying- Glieck MacCracken, and Mann’s for example.

    As to Hanks request for an elevator talk, i consider Readers Digest Condensed Science to be more of a bug than a feature, and I’d rather take the stairs than see some here react to the mere fact that the lapse rate recapitulates the warmng of the 20th century every time an elevator descends 30 floors.

    How long before Mayor Bloomberg posts notices warning of this existential threat, and Bob Ward offers to assemble a focus group to redesign them ?

  23. 23
  24. 24
    patrick says:

    Chris @21 Just a note–on behalf of nobody but myself: bring the excitement anytime. I read the blog, plus more. “Significance is not relevance.” Seems to be an idea whose time has come.

  25. 25
    patrick says:

    Joylette @16 Speaking for myself you’ve got a lock on the Climy for Best Concept in a Satire.

    Plus, for Most Notable Style, and Best Eleven-Word Lyric: “Teach pseudoscience to our kids, in the hopes they’ll be dumber.”

    And I bet you’re a probable nominee for Most Common Sense in 5 Minutes–for your production #05.

    For starters.

    I wonder if being independent has something to do with being so perfectly upbeat. That’s big.

  26. 26
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sorry if that was a bad link, Patrick; this seems to work:

  27. 27
    Hank Roberts says:

    Russell, what have you got against oversimplification?

    (wry grin).

    Thank you. Good summary, I appreciate your distinction between the edifying presentations and the rest, and hope the presenters listen to you carefully. I’d be inclined not to be as critical of them. And I think that’d be my error.

    “Opposition is true friendship” (Blake, Proverbs of Hell)

  28. 28
    patrick says:

    @26 Sorry to hear it, Hank. You disprove your own case, you are judged by your own judgement, or something.

  29. 29
    Harmen says:

    An orignal and interesting way to communicate about our Climate..

    A Song of Our Warming Planet
    from Ensia
    When faced with the challenge of sharing the latest climate change discoveries, scientists often rely on data graphics and technical illustrations. University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford came up with a completely different approach.

  30. 30
    Russell says:

    29: I can hardly wait for his double bass rendering of the Younger Dryas.

  31. 31
    patrick says:

    Stunning performance. Brilliant composition. Brilliant image. Thrilling experience. Perfect concept. Apt and indelible sight note:

    “This additional warming [1.8 C] would produce a series of notes beyond the range of human hearing.”

    From comments at Vimeo 2 days ago: Thanks for the comments! We’d love to hear this with more instruments. The sheet music is available here if interested:

    Now we’re getting somewhere.

    Your “tool box” mention resonates with Wittgenstein and your project resonates with Leonardo’s–when he brought the dead letter of Vitruvius to life.

    “Crawford used an approach called data sonification to convert global temperature records into a series of musical notes.” (see ensia link)

  32. 32
    Hank Roberts says:

    > You disprove your own case

    Thank you, I try.

  33. 33
    patrick says:

    Thank you Harmen for the comment. Thank you Daniel Crawford for your direct
    and disarming ingenuity.

  34. 34
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Scientism is what again?”

    Different people use the word “scientism” to mean different things.

    Alan Watts once said “Buddhism is a method, not a doctrine”.

    I would suggest that science is a method, and that mistaking science for a doctrine is scientism.

  35. 35

    #30–“I can hardly wait for his double bass rendering of the Younger Dryas.”

    Since he’s a ‘cellist, I’m very much afraid you’ve a while to wait.

  36. 36
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “Since he’s a ‘cellist, I’m very much afraid you’ve a while to wait.”

    Well, Jack Bruce started out as a classically trained cellist. So perhaps one day we’ll get to hear the Younger Dryas rendered on a Gibson EB-3 through a couple of Marshall stacks.

  37. 37
    Russell says:

    Hence the change of instrument suggested – the Younger Dryas decline is octaves deep and looks less like a glissando than a cliff.

  38. 38
    Russell says:

    Why didn’t the organizer’s invite the foremost climate communicators of the day, the Hollywood producers of this unsurpassed exercise in vulgarisation scientifique?

  39. 39

    #37–A rationale worth reading, to be sure.

  40. 40

    #38–I am *not* clicking on another link to “Sharknado!”

  41. 41
    Hank Roberts says:

    > change of instrument

    The last screen of text in the video says the projected 1.8C increase will require notes above the range of human hearing.

    So to add past and future temperatures will require something like a slow-slip earthquake for the low range, and a strangling bat for the hot time to come.

    Good thing we’re such an inventive species. I’m sure technology will advance.

  42. 42
    Susan Anderson says:

    Hats off to Richard Whiteford, Joylette Portlock and Chris from South Africa, useful site:

    I’m not sure proving scientifically that people are more influenced by media moguls and lowest common denominator marketing and entertainment values than carefully assembled facts is getting us anywhere. I always enjoy Russell’s snark, and make allowances for the irony and uberliterary atmospherics. Taking it literally is just silly; his facts are largely bang on.

  43. 43
  44. 44
    Student says:

    So – is there a wiki where people can put up notes from the talks, anyplace? Should all conferences set such a thing up? Could some entity please make a practice of funding conferences that agree to set one up?
    (Given that presumably it would enhance a conference’s impact, why would this not already be standard practice?)

    (Maybe this is addressed above, & in skimming I missed it. I searched for notes, transcript, report & writeup to no avail.)

  45. 45
    Jim Larsen says:

    Since Denialists only have ~20hz-20khz hearing, obviously the total silence they hear for temps much different than today’s means the past and future are unknown and more research is needed…

  46. 46
    patrick says:

    @37 Well, DUH!

  47. 47
    patrick says:

    @42 >Taking it literally is just silly; his facts are largely bang on.

    Make up your mind. You can’t have it both ways.

  48. 48
    patrick says:

    @44 Thank you very much. Just use the third text link in the second paragraph of the post by Gavin at the top of this thread.

    There are now at least 375 AGU videos available, if I am not mistaken.


  49. 49
    Hank Roberts says:

    > notes from the talks, anyplace?
    Well, there’s YouTube comments under each one.

  50. 50
    Hank Roberts says:

    Good pointer, Susan, thank you.

    “We’re not making anything up. We’re getting different people to tell them the reality.” — Richard Alley,