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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.

144 Responses to “IPCC Communication handbook”

  1. 51
    Racetrack Playa says:

    To continue with the notion of using discrete, short talking points as the basis of communicating climate science to non-experts, politicians, the general public etc., here’s a brief history of the development of climate science over the past two centuries, based mainly on Spencer Weart’s “The Discovery of Global Warming” with some edits for brevity. Here’s the source:

    AIP Climate Science History
    Milestones in Climate Science, Spencer Weart

    1824 Fourier calculates that the Earth would be far colder if it lacked an atmosphere.

    1859 Tyndall discovers that some gases block infrared radiation. He suggests that changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases could bring climate change.

    1896 Arrhenius publishes the first calculation of global warming from human emissions of CO2.

    1930s A global warming trend since the late nineteenth century is reported. Milankovitch proposes orbital changes as the cause of ice ages.

    1938 Callendar argues that CO2 greenhouse global warming is under way, reviving interest in the question.

    1945 The U.S. Office of Naval Research begins generous funding of many fields of science, some of which happen to be useful for understanding climate change.

    1956 Phillips produces a somewhat realistic computer model of the global atmosphere. Plass calculates that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will have a significant effect on the radiation balance.

    1957 Revelle finds that CO2 produced by humans is not readily absorbed by the oceans.

    1958 Telescope studies show a greenhouse effect raises the temperature of the atmosphere of Venus far above the boiling point of water.

    1960 Keeling accurately measures CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere and detects an annual rise. The level is 315 ppm. The mean global temperature (a five-year average) is 13.9°C.

    1963 Calculations suggest that feedback with water vapor could make the climate acutely sensitive to changes in the CO2 level.

    1965 At a Boulder, Colo., meeting on the causes of climate change, Lorenz and others point out the chaotic nature of the climate system and the possiblity of sudden shifts.

    1966 Emiliani’s analysis of deep-sea cores shows the timing of ice ages was set by small orbital shifts, suggesting that the climate system is sensitive to small changes.

    1967 The International Global Atmospheric Research Program is established, mainly to gather data for better short-range weather prediction, but climate research is included.

    1968 Studies suggest a possiblity of collapse of Antarctic ice sheets, which would raise sea levels catastrophically.

    1969 Budyko and Sellers present models of catastrophic ice-albedo feedbacks. The Nimbus 3 satellite begins to provide comprehensive global atmospheric temperature measurements.

    1971 A conference of leading scientists (SMIC) reports a danger of rapid and serious global climate change caused by humans, and calls for an organized research effort.

    1972 Ice cores and other evidence shows big climate shifts in the past between relatively stable modes in the space of a thousand years or so.

    1974 Serious droughts since 1972 increase concern about climate; cooling from aerosols is suspected to be as likely as warming; journalists talk of a new ice age.

    1975 Manabe and his collaborators produce complex but plausible computer models that show a temperature rise of several degrees for doubled CO2.

    1976 Studies find that CFCs (1975) and methane and ozone (1976) can make a serious contribution to the greenhouse effect. Deep-sea cores show a dominating influence from 100,000-year Milankovitch orbital changes, which emphasizes the role of feedbacks.

    1977 Scientific opinion tends to converge on global warming as the biggest climate risk in the next century.

    1979 A U.S. National Academy of Sciences report finds it highly credible that doubling CO2 will bring about global warming of 1.5°C – 4.5°C.

    1981 Hansen and others show that sulfate aerosols can significantly cool the climate, a finding that raises confidence in models showing future greenhouse warming.

    1982 Greenland ice cores reveal dramatic temperature oscillations in the space of a century in the distant past. Stong global warming since mid-1970s is reported; 1981 was the warmest year on record.

    1985 Ramanathan and his collaborators announce that global warming may come twice as fast as expected, from a rise of methane and other trace greenhouse gases.

    1988 Ice-core and biology studies confirm that living ecosystems make climate feedback by way of methane, which could accelerate global warming. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is established.

    1989 Fossil-fuel and other U.S. industries form the Global Climate Coalition to tell politicians and the public that climate science is too uncertain to justify action. (*Exxon internal documents later show Exxon knew that global warming projections were robust science in 1978)

    1990 The first IPCC report says the world has been warming and future warming seems likely.

    1991 Mt. Pinatubo erupts; climate scientists predict a cooling pattern, which will validate (*by 1995) computer models of aerosol effects (*and of the water vapor feedback effect). Studies from 55 million years ago (PETM excursion) show a possiblity that the eruption of methane from the seabed could intensify enormous self-sustained warming.

    1992 The study of ancient climates reveals climate sensitivity in the same range as that predicted independently by computer models.

    1993 Greenland ice cores suggest that great climate changes (at least on a regional scale) can occur in the space of a single decade.

    1995 The second IPCC report detects a ‘signature’ of human-caused greenhouse-effect warming; it declares that serious warming is likely in the coming century. Reports of the breakup of Antarctic ice shelves and other signs of actual current warming in polar regions begin to affect public opinion.

    1998 A “Super El Niño” causes weather disasters and the warmest year on record (approximately matched by 2005 and 2007). Borehole data confirm an extraordinary warming trend. Qualms about arbitrariness in computer models diminish as teams model ice-age climate and dispense with special adjustments to reproduce current climate.

    2000 The Global Climate Coalition dissolves as many corporations grapple with the threat of warming, but the oil lobby convinces the U.S. administration to deny a problem exists.

    2001 Debate effectively ends among all but a few scientists. Warming is observed in ocean basins; the match with computer models gives a clear signature of greenhouse-effect warming.

    2003 Numerous observations raise concern that collapse of ice sheets (in West Antarctica and Greenland) can raise sea levels faster than most had believed. A deadly summer heat wave in Europe accelerates the divergence between European and U.S. public opinion.

    2007 The level of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 392 ppm. The mean global temperature a five-year average) is 14.5°C, the warmest in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.

    2015 and 2016 are the warmest years on record. Atmospheric CO2 is now 410 ppm.

    Now, if there’s a single take-away from this summary, it would be that the science on the relationship between fossil fuel combustion, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide, and global warming and climate change was really settled by 1979. If someone challenges that statement, the above summary can be given to them; it’s short and concise enough for any audience.

  2. 52
    Radge Havers says:

    Nigelj @ ~ 49

    “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.”

    Well I wouldn’t necessarily expect him to be senile or whatever at college age. And you’re right, the evaluation did have a picture of a camel which he did indeed manage to identify as a camel… Other than that I tend to be a little skeptical of those kinds of reports.

    I don’t want to wander any further OT here, but do watch and listen to him closely. Something’s amiss, IMO.

  3. 53
    nigelj says:

    Radge Havers @52, it was a pretty standard test. But you are dead right, something is definitely hugely ‘amiss’ with Trump. I think its more an issue of deliberate stupidity, over simplified world view and huge psychological narcissism. However I don’t want to wander more ot either, so I will leave it there.

    Just in passing I like RP’s historical narrative approach. I learned something here, and it brings it home that we are not dealing with a modern climate conspiracy. A lot of people will relate to history easier than differential equations and ocean heat content. Although the red state crowd would need to be bribed with some alcohol to have a listen.

  4. 54
    Thomas says:

    #51 excellent timeline. thx. saved it.

  5. 55
    Dominik Lenné says:

    What’s increasing credibility is to minimize our own carbon footprint and communicate it. “If this guy is sacrificing something to curb climate change, then there is probably something real in it.” It’s working in the unconscious.

  6. 56
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dan Da Silva:

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

    LOL! Despite his evident lack of skill to evaluate the multiple lines of evidence accumulated by 2 centuries of climate science, DDS has made it clear he believes the lopsided consensus of working climate scientists is ‘alarmist’. Taking his point 1), I guess there’s no point in telling him he can solve his ‘most important problem’ by getting his climate information from peer-reviewed scientific sources, rather than from unnamed alarmists ;^).

  7. 57
    nigelj says:

    Dan De Silva says “People will not change their preconceived beliefs.”

    Well clearly Dan De Silva won’t. This has been amply demonstrated.

    But clearly some people do. Look at how things like gay marriage have gradually become accepted by more and more people. I’m not gay, but this is a current issue in several countries. And its very much an issue related to beliefs.

  8. 58
    Cody says:

    Digby @ # 11 (1/31/18; 8:41 PM) – We have no OPTION, of “ignoring” the Deniers. At least in the US, any notion that what went on in the Obama years, W/its Hail Marry Medical reforms say, ought instruct. Effective Long Term Policy simply must be based upon some minimal level of consensus, in a democracy.

    The Old Saw is: walk a mile in the moccasins, of your opponents. I’ve long held a warm spot for what Ghandi accomplished, so long ago, & his means and methods of attempting to get inside the minds of his opponents. W/AGW, in particular, there is a whole lot of just plain cant which has become intertwined in the ‘Big Green,’ version of things–and unfortunately what ought be done. The set backs which come with them, such as the ‘Denier/Minimalist’ electoral college victory last November, are entirely explicable to folks who LISTEN to the other side, and their most heart-felt, views. Religion especially.

    Just to try illustrating this point with a single example, and folks could correct my quotations of the Bible, a personal weak spot, certainly. One of the moving Psalms describes to the devout, God’s promise that the “Sheep will get the security of lying beside the ‘calm waters’.” (Sheep with their heavy wool coats are acutely endangered by flowing waters.) A huge number of very sincere and righteous Americans simply do not conceive it as a possibility, that their God & Creator would hand mankind so imperfect a World, as one which could go bat-shit insane–weather-wise–from what Dr. Archer has described, if consolidated by freezing say, 1 sixteenth of an inch of anthro-CO2.

    Yet, it appears, that IS the hill we must climb, to reach such folks.

  9. 59
    Mal Adapted says:


    A huge number of very sincere and righteous Americans simply do not conceive it as a possibility, that their God & Creator would hand mankind so imperfect a World, as one which could go bat-shit insane–weather-wise–from what Dr. Archer has described, if consolidated by freezing say, 1 sixteenth of an inch of anthro-CO2.

    IMHO those Americans are hardly righteous, even if they are sincere. They are happy to ascribe their material prosperity to divine provenance, bestowed on them wholly without hidden or deferred costs. IOW, their sincerity is founded on a transparently self-serving delusion of cosmic entitlement.

  10. 60
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Cody @58

    Of course there is also the thought that the whole story is becoming moot. Even if there were no deniers around, I can’t see humanity transforming our entire global civilization from one based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy sources — especially not in the required couple of decades. But then I’m an old man with no offspring to worry about, so I can afford to be cynical.

  11. 61
    Cody says:

    My 1st boss on The Ford Administration’s “Energy Policy Staff of the Executive Office of The President” (was how the R’s billed us, the authors, in the Year following the Crash publication of R. Nixon’s ‘PROJECT INDEPENDENCE REPORT’–a term the Senior folks thereabouts had come to hate, and so by the Ford years became: “The National Energy Review”), had A) the following, “Desiderata”* posted upon his office wall, including this bit:

    … ‘Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.’ …

    & B) had immediately prior to my meeting him, worked directly for a quite young for so High Up a staffer @ the Cost of Living Council–where a hand full of DC denizens set the prices for virtually all commodities in the US economy–by the name of Richard Cheyney. For my first month in the Capital I heard nothing at lunchtime except “Cheney Stories,” and then, of a sudden, presto! My Boss’s former Boss was the brand new Deputy White House Chief of Staff!



  12. 62

    The problem is that climate scientists are asking people to make a substantial economic sacrifice in the here and now, in exchange for some supposedly beneficial good in the sweet bye-and-bye. That’s a hard sell. Indeed, I think it’s an impossible sell, and you’ll never succeed.

  13. 63
    Russell says:

    It’s hard to distinguish many of this IPCC handbook’s precepts from those of John Podesta’s White House climate communications playbook

  14. 64

    DJ 62: The problem is that climate scientists are asking people to make a substantial economic sacrifice in the here and now,

    BPL: What sacrifice would that be? Living in mud huts and walking to work? As it turns out, that’s NOT what climate scientists are asking people to do.

    DJ: in exchange for some supposedly beneficial good in the sweet bye-and-bye. That’s a hard sell. Indeed, I think it’s an impossible sell, and you’ll never succeed.

    BPL: Then we’re all dead, and not too long from now, either.

  15. 65
    Thomas says:

    I had a chance to peak into who are the experts at the Climate Outreach “Think Tank”.

    At least one of them has a degree in Marketing and she actually worked as a Marketing Manager at one point in her career. Not so sure about the rest, though a cpl did have some academic psychology training knowledge. Then I wondered, how much did the IPCC pay this ‘think tank’ for their 6 point booklet? Obviously I don’t know but it was probably somewhere around a 6 or 7 figure sum.

    I can’t help thinking why didn’t the IPCC, way back in the 1990s and since, not hire a Roger Stone like character instead, or Lakoff or a Phillip Gould or Saatchi & Saatchi or Burson-Marsteller or Publicis Groupe and have David Attenborough doing the voice over on the 30 second ads at the Superbowl … and fronting the AIT movie?

    I’m pretty sure I have covered all those 6 points from multiple angles and provided the supporting refs many times over the years. But, whatever. Image matters more than substance. Don’t need to believe me, go ask The Donald and Hillary. C’est la vie. Horses and Water is the norm not the exception, unfortunately.

    It’s those well funded RW Think Tanks and Denier groups and WUWT that done gone and done it. Blame them. :-)

  16. 66
    Ray Menard says:

    Think it’s an excellent guide. I think we often forget to engage about things people care about, particularly failing to connect with those that live in rural areas, where at least in the US there’s huge and disproportionate politic power to change things. If I talk to a buddy on the East coast, I sometimes start talks about climate change by remembering a great time we had searching for trout in the mountains; on the West coast about the great times we used to have eating raw oysters off the beaches–things our children will never get the chance to experience.

  17. 67
    nigelj says:

    “The problem is that climate scientists are asking people to make a substantial economic sacrifice in the here and now,”

    Yes maybe a couple less lattes each week, a modest type of electric car, one less ensuite bathroom in the mansion. Crippling stuff.

  18. 68
    Mal Adapted says:

    Daniel Jelski:

    The problem is that climate scientists are asking people to make a substantial economic sacrifice in the here and now, in exchange for some supposedly beneficial good in the sweet bye-and-bye.

    I know of no working climate scientist who’s asking that. Who told you they were, Mr. Jelski? Why do you trust your sources, if you don’t trust scientists?

    Why do you say ‘a supposedly beneficial good in the sweet bye-and-bye’? Are you aware that AGW is already costing homes, livelihoods and lives around the world? Even in the US, economic damages from rising sea levels, more extreme rainfalls and more severe wildfires are increasing along with global temperatures. How many lives saved 10 years from now do you suppose is beneficial? What if one of them was yours?

  19. 69
    Adam Lea says:

    “”The problem is that climate scientists are asking people to make a substantial economic sacrifice in the here and now,””

    “Yes maybe a couple less lattes each week, a modest type of electric car, one less ensuite bathroom in the mansion. Crippling stuff.”

    Except it is far more than that. It is more like cutting right back on consumption, stop flying, cut meat intake right down, walk/cycle instead of drive, turn central heating down. In other words, cut right back on the things that (people believe) make life comfortable and enjoyable.

    Killin has it about right advocating a much simpler way of living, which, if I understand correctly, runs more along the lines of a circular system. How does this simpler way of living compare with how Western nations live now?

  20. 70
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Daniel Jelski: “That’s a hard sell. Indeed, I think it’s an impossible sell, and you’ll never succeed.”

    Nobody ever said the continued existence of human civilization is a requirement, did they? We only have to make the changes if we don’t want our grandchildren to be hunter gatherers.

  21. 71
    Thomas says:

    68 Mal Adapted says: “I know of no working climate scientist who’s asking that.”

    Well I guess one could claim that Hansen is no long “working”. But then again, one only needs to look at what he has been doing since “retirement” to see that he is in fact still working.

    Then there are his Papers and the names of all the other working climate scientists in the author list. Working Scientists like Gavin occasionally.

    So if MA does not “know” of any, then it probably a case of “a lack of evidence is not evidence of absence” … LOOK HARDER and CLOSER MA (smile)

    Then there is Professor James Anderson (is he retired or still working?) Australia is full to the brim with climate scientists telling us we need to do “just that” and to start doing it NOW!

    Then there’s stuff like this as well.

    The delusions of corporations and the high priests and wizards of the invisible hand of the market religion.

    Delusional to the extreme.

  22. 72
    Thomas says:

    And yes #69, Killian is also right! In spades! And Kevin Anderson, an engineer, but good enough to be considered a working climate scientist on the subject matter of WTF to do about it.

  23. 73
    nigelj says:

    Adam Lea @69

    I don’t think any climate scientists have actually said exactly that, so you would need to provide a link to someone.

    I’m also not sure whats wrong with cutting back meat consumption, flying less, and cycling where possible. None of this is the end of the world as I said. Cutting back on meat also increases lifespan and cycling is enjoyable and good for health.

    I don’t think anyone has said cut right back on heating and freezing to death. This is why its more important to promote renewable electricity as fast as possible.

    You don’t quite understand Killians view. He wants people to cut energy and technology consumption by 80 – 90%, so it is an extreme version of what you have just posted. That really does have impacts.

    I don’t know what is meant by circular system, but perhaps he simply means sustainable. This is separate sort of issue to climate change, although they overlap in some ways.

  24. 74
    Patrick Meyfroidt says:

    Sorry, I may be too much of an old-school here, but what worries me about these guidelines is that they can as well completely apply to whatever content (denialist, whatever) people put in.
    I just want to return to Plato’s dialogues, take Gorgias as perhaps the best example.
    The advice seems to be: Forget about Socrates doing the dirty groundwork to actually build doubt, shake convictions and lead people to the truth, and just be Gorgias who’s mastering the skills of convincing people, whatever is what we’re convincing people about.
    Bottom line: I fully understand the need to “communicate” but I just want to remind people that if we want people to make rational assessments and come to a rational understanding of situations, and thereby make solid decisions, we cannot just follow “communicators” guidelines because these are not about rationality.
    In my view the first and foremost guideline should still be something like: “be though, do what you can to pull your audience upwards in the reason ladder, and do not bend knees to cheap and quick communication tricks that could as quickly be reversed by the next person who even better master communication skills but wants to push forward contrarian opinions”.

  25. 75
    Adam Lea says:

    73: Maybe not the climate scientists directly, but such advocation is put forward as suggestions to lower ones personal carbon footprint, the advocation of lowering the carbon footprint coming from the results of the climate scientists.

    “I’m also not sure whats wrong with cutting back meat consumption, flying less, and cycling where possible. None of this is the end of the world as I said. Cutting back on meat also increases lifespan and cycling is enjoyable and good for health.”

    Nothing wrong in a moral sense, but it is not just about morality. Someone won’t cut back on meat consumption if the enjoyment they get from eating meat is greater than the nice moral feeling from cutting their carbon footprint. Same with flying abroad on holiday, having their house heated to 24C in the winter, and driving instead of cycling. Cycling is enjoyable, to some people, not everyone. There are people who wouldn’t contemplate cycling in the UK because of the (flawed) perception it is too dangerous, perception trumps fact here. Even when it is not dangerous it can be unpleasant (I speak from years of experience). The problem with advocating the benefits of increasing lifespan is that this is not a tangible benefit. There is no way of saying with certainty whether someone lived to the age they did because of past lifestyle choices, the best you can do is say that certain choices are more likely to extend or cut life expectancy. This is similar to trying to link extreme weather events to climate change.

    “I don’t think anyone has said cut right back on heating and freezing to death. This is why its more important to promote renewable electricity as fast as possible.”

    I don’t know why you mention “freezing to death” because I certainly didn’t. I was thinking more on turn the heating down by a few degrees and compensate by wearing another layer of clothing. This works for me, I have my home thermostat set to 13C and this is about the lowest limit I can tolerate whilst sedentary at home.

    Thanks for clarifying Killians view. I had a hunch it was going down those lines, and he may well be correct in that being the only solid solution in the long term, if we assume the really destructive consequences are yet to come. If that is the only solution, I can’t visualise how that solution can be transitioned too with the will of the people, because it sounds like it means giving up all the creature comforts of a modern wealthy life, how do you sell that on a global scale?

    What I meant by a circular system is a closed loop economy. Whatwe have at the moment is a linear system where resources are extracted, converted into goods using energy, then disposed of. This is not suistainable, because resources are finite, and so is the planets ability to absorb our waste without major consequences. A closed loop economy is where a resource is used which can be regenerated, and/or where system A uses a renewable resource, from which waste is used to sustain system B, from which waste is used to sustain system C, from which waste goes back into system A. Something like that anyway.

  26. 76
    nigelj says:

    Adam Lea @75

    I do agree some people wont like cutting some forms of consumption, but of course solving problems always needs some sacrifices. I personally think we could deal with the climate issue without hugely uncomfortable sacrifices. Changing to renewable electricity costs about 1.5% of gdp, which is considerably less than governments spend on old age pensions. Other issues will be more challenging I admit.

    I’m not sure what your real point is. Its sort of giving me mixed messages as to whether you are acknowledging the challenges, or being sceptical that humanity can do anything and thus you are playing the climate issue down.

    I agree its not possible to prove what caused someone to live to a specific age. And yes by analogy we can’t say a specific weather event is caused by climate change (although I think this is changing, and one or two have been for example flooding in the UK recently I think)

    But isn’t this more to the point? Recent research has found a good association with low meat consumption and longer life, no guarantee but it increases the chances. In a similar way the IPCC have found a warming climate increases the intensity of some weather events, and the numbers of others.

    I agree with your comments on Killians simple life views. Some form of this appears inevitable to me, but I don’t see many people voluntarily doing it and I think his cuts look to steep to me. Thanks for defining a closed loop economy, it looks eminently sensible I will look more into this.

  27. 77
    zebra says:

    Patric Meyfroidt #74,

    Have you ever read anything on the Authoritarian Personality? It is not some inevitable genetic programming; it is a potential in everyone that is developed in the family structure and early experience. It is “passed on” by AP parents to their children, and if my recollection serves, there may well be some difference in brain function that is established.

    A large proportion (perhaps the majority) of the population, depending on the societal norms (particularly in education), is going to exhibit some degree of these traits.

    In simple terms: You have to work with the reality of the population you are trying to influence. For Authoritarian individuals, the “Socratic Method” is pointless; we have lots of recent studies that show stated opinions on climate change are correlated primarily with political (tribal) identification.

    So, yes, in my experience, if you get someone of around college age, and you have time to work with them, you have a chance to get them engaged with science and scientific (rational) thinking, even if they haven’t shown much promise previously. But beyond that point, maturing and changing established behaviors is really difficult, given the demands of ordinary life.

    So, you have to decide if the goal (preventing future harm) is important enough, and find ways to influence the outcome. Certainly, the “other side” is not restrained in using whatever means necessary to maintain their position.

  28. 78
    Mal Adapted says:


    68 Mal Adapted says: “I know of no working climate scientist who’s asking that.”

    Well I guess one could claim that Hansen is no long “working”.

    You got me, you sly virtual fella 8^). I need better, or at least more, scoping qualifiers. I should have appended “, at least in their peer-reviewed scientific output” to that sentence. A scientist writing a mass-meejuh OpEd has more latitude than scholarly publishing discipline allows. Presumably you’ll agree that in the public sphere, Hansen’s been pretty frank about his advocacy. And you’ve no doubt noticed the push-back some of Anderson’s more emphatic views have gotten from colleagues well within the 97%, on RC and elsewhere.

    The point is that some degree of scientific meta-literacy is called for on the self-styled skeptic’s part. Pseudo-skeptics won’t know what I’m talking about, sadly.

  29. 79
    nigelj says:

    Authoritarian personality. I suggest people read “Moral Foundations Theory” on wikipedia.

    People do have deeply ingrained genetic behavioural tendencies, and strong tribal affiliations. But people are not all completely ruled by these. Some people change their views, and here Jerry Taylor, a libertarian / conservative agw scpetic has completely changed sides as follows.

    Of course some people are never going to change their underlying values and beliefs. All one can do is influence their behaviour, and I think the profitability of wind and solar power will be key things that drive conservatives and climate denialists to accept renewable energy.

    It’s certainly easier to influence people when they are younger.

    But there’s another issue. Older people are often sceptical of climate change for various reasons, and part of it is they just don’t read anything on climate science, even just a basic popular book. They just go with crap in the media or within echo chamber websites. I have read of numerous accounts of people changing their minds once they read a book. or attend a lecture etcetera. Its only really going to change substantially as younger people are taught about climate change at school.

  30. 80
    Thomas says:

    78 Mal Adapted says: “I need better, or at least more, scoping qualifiers. I should have appended “, at least in their peer-reviewed scientific output” to that sentence. A scientist writing a mass-meejuh OpEd has more latitude than scholarly publishing discipline allows.

    That’s true MA, except for one important point. I was specifically only referring to Hansen et al’s “scholarly publishing discipline”, and not his OpEds. As well as other climate related scientists “scholarly publishing discipline”, but I didn’t want to bury you in referenced quotes.

    Now I have no intention of being critical nor offensive but my simple point here is I am thinking that perhaps you and many many others have failed to “parse” what these scholarly publishing discipline presents in the Climate Science Papers, including the detailed analysis of the 5 IPCC Reports to date.

    One simple example to consider is this 2016 Paper: see 6.9 Practical implications on pages 3800-3801 / 40-41 in the pdf doc.
    “We conclude that the message our climate science delivers to society, policymakers, and the public alike is this: we have a global emergency. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions should be reduced as rapidly as practical.

    The author list of PhDs who said that and everything else in that one example paper are as follows:
    James Hansen
    , Makiko Sato
    , Paul Hearty
    , Reto Ruedy
    , Maxwell Kelley
    , Valerie Masson-Delmotte
    Gary Russell
    , George Tselioudis
    , Junji Cao
    , Eric Rignot
    , Isabella Velicogna
    , Blair Tormey
    , Bailey Donovan
    Evgeniya Kandiano
    , Karina von Schuckmann
    , Pushker Kharecha
    , Allegra N. Legrande
    , Michael Bauer
    and Kwok-Wai Lo

    The question then is: “What does that mean exactly?”

    People walk away with quite different take away messages from such conclusions. One may also balance that entire paper with comments by Prof James Anderson, who based on the science he is aware of suggests that rapidly means between now in 2018 out to 5 years. One could then balance that with the massive data showing current net positive GHG projected emissions from energy use and LUC out to 2040.

    But there are many other peer reviewed “scholarly publishing discipline” Papers by Hansen and others that go further than that. This one example is a 52 pages – the “story” it tells cannot be summarised in a single sentence at the end. One needs to read and parse all of it, in toto. Then balance that against other equally relevant Papers and public comments by the AUTHORS as they speak whilst relying upon their and others Published Papers. Mann, Schimdt, other RC scientists and Hansen included.

    I have long suspected that many supporters of agw/cc action have failed to accurately comprehend the full import of what has already been said for decades now. iow they often fail to “parse” what was said and precisely what it meant. IPCC reports included.

    For another example from the same Paper: “Dangerous” is not further defined by the UNFCCC. Our present paper has several implications with regard to the concerns that the UNFCCC is meant to address.
    First, our conclusions suggest that a target of limiting global warming to 2◦C, which has sometimes been discussed, does not provide safety.


    We conclude that, in the common meaning of the word danger, 2◦C global warming is dangerous.

    [Note that: the planet is already at +1C with at least 0.5C (?) in the pipeline from past/current high GHG emissions which science has already told us all is going to impact the planetary energy balance…]


    It has been shown that the dominant climate forcing, CO2, must be reduced to no more than 350 ppm to restore planetary energy balance (Hansen et al., 2008) and keep climate near the Holocene level, if other forcings remain unchanged. Rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions is the crucial need, because of the millennial timescale of this carbon in the climate system.

    And due check the list of 11 PAGES of internal refs in Hansen’s paper being quoted that were also in the “scholarly publishing discipline” ilk. This is how “science works” right? Or am I again going to be considered wrong as usual? A sly virtual irrelevancy perhaps?

    Sure, one could argue what does “rapid” and “practical” and “emergency” mean in the context of this agw/cc paper and the rest of them.

    We could “argue endlessly” about that, or you and others could actually write to James Hansen et al and ask him what does he mean by those words.

    When I am unsure that’s what I do. If so motivated then I do suggest a better approach is to write to the staff in his “dept” at Columbia U rather than his personal email, as he is a busy man. Works for me. ;-)

    If you or anyone else would like further refs by Hansen feel free to ask nicely.

    But if one has not read in full NOR properly comprehended the meaning of WORDS used by Hansen above or in this other 40 page Paper, well, you should not be trying to speak on his behalf publicly and putting words in his and everyone elses mouth who Publish Papers on the subject.

    I try not to myself, but still may be far from perfect. Nevertheless, one would be wise to actually read my many REFS in full before assuming anything about my good self.

  31. 81
    Thomas says:

    This ref relates specifically to my prior post and therefore is supportive of what I said re “with at least 0.5C (?) in the pipeline from past/current high GHG emissions”.

    Hansen et al 2013:
    “Humanity, so far, has burned only a small portion (purple area in figure 6) of total fossil fuel reserves and resources. Yet deleterious effects of warming are apparent (IPCC 2007), even though only about half of the warming due to gases now in the air has appeared, the remainder still ‘in the pipeline’ due to the inertia of the climate system (Hansen et al 2011). Already it seems difficult to avoid passing the ‘guardrail’ of no more than 2 °C global warming that was agreed in the Copenhagen Accord of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC 2010). ”

    Hansen et al also use the words “our Faustian bargain” I recommended a dictionary and etymology search for what that actually means. or juts default to wiki

    So, and this is important, do not lose sight of the original comment made that was in question here.

    62 Daniel Jelski says:
    15 Feb 2018 at 11:56 AM
    The problem is that climate scientists are asking people to make a substantial economic sacrifice in the here and now, in exchange for some supposedly beneficial good in the sweet bye-and-bye. That’s a hard sell. Indeed, I think it’s an impossible sell, and you’ll never succeed.

    Now do tell, is there substantial economic profit (to obtain wealth or other benefits) to be had in FF extraction and use or not?

    Is anyone keeping up here? It’s generally known as Philosophy but rarely practiced or used well.. But, luckily, one will find Philosophy in every “scholarly publishing discipline”.

    You’re very welcome. ;-)

  32. 82
    Mal Adapted says:


    Now I have no intention of being critical nor offensive but my simple point here is I am thinking that perhaps you and many many others have failed to “parse” what these scholarly publishing discipline presents in the Climate Science Papers, including the detailed analysis of the 5 IPCC Reports to date.

    Thomas, I’ll reserve judgment about your intentions. Happily, what you are thinking isn’t my problem. My simple point is that I and many many others don’t say everything we know in every comment we make on RC.

    Now, what I’m thinking is that your presumption of our failure to “parse” peer-reviewed climate science, on the evidence of our occasional poor word choices, is an argument from ignorance at best and sheer narcissistic conceit at worst.

    Of course, what I’m thinking isn’t your problem either. FWIW nonetheless, ‘within confidence limits’ (quote marks indicate figurative use), I don’t think you’re in denial of anything that’s substantive (look it up) on RC. I trust my intentions are clear.

  33. 83
    Mal Adapted says:

    Also FWIW, the treatment Peter Wadhams is presently getting on aTTP is germane. Steven Mosher (who is demonstrably a genuine skeptic) summarizes:

    His public predictions are at variance with his published ones.

  34. 84
    Thomas says:

    Mmmm, I can ignore your silliness, sophistry, and passive aggressive defensiveness until hell freezes over Mal. Changing the subject is a logical fallacy so please stop doing that. :-)

    eg “My simple point is that I and many many others don’t say everything we know in every comment we make on RC.”

    Well blow me down with a feather Mal. Do count me in on that score — like DOH~! But maybe, just maybe you should say much more about what you “know” and spend less time downplaying what others say and criticizing them presuming you already “know” better all the time? No?

    I put refs from Hansen and you retort with a Wadhams gut feel prediciton about when the ASI would be gone? You can’t be serious, but sadly, I bet you are.

    So let’s get back to the science. Maybe someone else would like to deal with what I presented for consideration in the two posts above?

    So to keep it simple (KISS principle) first Hansen et al repeatedly uses the words RAPID/RAPIDLY in the published papers.

    OK so lets define (and agree upon) that numerically Mal et al (whoever they are) …. Using those very published papers of “scholarly publishing discipline” …

    How much is “rapid”?

    Would you put a number on it please using Hansen’s papers?

    I already “know” the answer, but am curious if you or any others do? It’s important because it will determine the precise nature of any “sacrifice” required.

    I think using the best science available to establish one’s opinions is useful. I hope you do too Mal.

    [ note: My prediction is that this where Mal et al decide to just ignore the question asked – maybe because he already believes he knows so much more than I do about everything. I don’t know. Let’s see what gives here. Is a mature non-sophistry discussion possible on what the science of “scholarly publishing discipline” actually does say about the “sacrifice” required by people in solving the dangerous AGW/CC crisis. And finally see PhDs and scientists on this forum call a spade a spade instead of dancing around the elephant in the room with idle useless rhetoric. ]

  35. 85
    Thomas says:

    Please note, I repeat to ensure this is understood specifically, in case it was inadvertently overlooked:

    “I was specifically only referring to Hansen et al’s “scholarly publishing discipline”, and not his OpEds.”

  36. 86
    scott nudds says:

    This discussion explains perfectly why the Scientific Community has failed.

    Essential listening. The new IPCC communication strategies are doomed to fail.

  37. 87

    The teaser footage of this video is from

    Everybody should consider to contribute content to this site, since it would help video producers to more effectively communicate climate science, when sharing extreme weather footage, or other related media to the site under public domain principles.

  38. 88

    Consider that up to 90 percent of climate denial on the Internet is manufactured. Thus, moderation is key when preventing this kind of fake news interfering. At YouTube you can effectively set video comments to only be published after being approved, same for every other comment system.

  39. 89
    Adam Lea says:


    I certainly acknowledge the problem, and I recognise that where I live in the UK we will probably get off relatively lightly, at least initially, as far as consequences of climate change are concerned. It is those who live in parts of the world which have currently have climates marginal for human habitation which will suffer first, i.e. the hot countries and countries where human habitation is strongly dependant on seasonal rainfall, where perturbations to the climate may/will cause crop failure and famine. I am skeptical that citizens in the wealthy countries will collectively take enough action in time to make a significant difference. Governments in democratic countries will do little other than lip service until their voting population demands it, and that voting population will vote them out if they don’t take meaningful action. I see precious little evidence that this is happening in my home country. Here in the UK it is pretty much a two party democracy, and each party is pretty much a different flavour of neo-liberal capitalism. The Green party are the only party that have a decent environmental agenda yet they have less than 5% of the vote. I doubt it is any different in other wealthy western countries.

    The renewable energy solution is not as easy as you think to tackle. It looks easy from an engineering point of view, yes the technology is there, there is space to deploy it, and it could be done at feasible monetary cost, but again, you have the problem of public opposition. As an example, people in the UK hate wind farms due to the visual intrusion on the landscape, yet the UK is ideally suited for wind energy being the windiest country in Europe. The logical place to put windfarms is on the western hills and mountains, but if you installed enough wind farms to make a difference across Dartmor, the Pennines, the Lake District, the Scottish highlands and offshore there would be uproar. People here just don’t get it, and have been fed BS by trashy right wing tabloids like the Daily Mail which have framed renewable energy as an expensive non-solution which will cost people money. I don’t know how we can get around this. I suspect the situation in the US is worse.

    What I would like to see is not enghineering solutions for transitioning ton renewable energy, I would like to see input from the social scientists as to how to frame the transition in a way that the population will embrace it, not oppose it. Only then will I have confidence that we can turn the ship away from the iceberg and towards the tranquil waters of a sustainable future.

  40. 90
    CCHolley says:

    Climate State @88

    Consider that up to 90 percent of climate denial on the Internet is manufactured.

    Is there anyway to confirm this? No doubt much of it is, but I would like to know the actual evidence. It would be quite helpful to know.

  41. 91
    Thomas says:

    90 CCHolley

    Was that a genuine question?

    to invent fictitiously; fabricate; concoct:
    to manufacture an account of the incident.

    Um, isn’t it obvious? Simply open your eyes and look. No peer reviewed paper is required to know this, even so there are hundreds already written.

    Or are you simply stuck (tripped up) because someone mentioned a “number” and then by default aka Bad Habits, “I must be a skeptical Doubting Thomas of all numbers, for they must be proven correct via Math or else it never happened?”

    RE: “It would be quite helpful to know.”

    Why would it be helpful?

    You should already know this fact … the % is moot, irrelevant, studying it is a waste of time and resources, as would speaking about such ‘idle self-indulgent, self-serving’ research/analysis be a waste of time and energy.

    Yet another distraction from the “main game”.

  42. 92
    nigelj says:

    KM and Thomas, J Hansen does seem to have published peer reviewed science that we are facing a global emergency, and rapid climate change. I didn’t know this. I thought he only said this in a few public discussions.

    But where does this get us? I think the larger point around this is the media don’t really report this sort of research, or that over 90% of climate scientists think we are causing climate change, because they would rather keep a manufactured pretend controversy going to attract more readers interest. Isn’t that the main thing here?

  43. 93
    nigelj says:

    Adam Lea @89

    I agree with your first paragraph on climate change and societies responses. However its kind of stating well known problems, when it would be great to hear solutions to how to shift opinion, even if they are just rough ideas.

    And for strongly related material listen Vendar Decarions interview link on unforced variations its a bit long but definitely worth listening to.

    Agree largely with your second paragraph, however isn’t the UK building offshore wind farms more now?

    I know offshore wind is also dropping fast in price.

    You say “I would like to see input from the social scientists as to how to frame the transition in a way that the population will embrace it, not oppose it.”

    Can’t argue with this, but there’s more to it than just how the debate is framed. Again have a listen to Vendars interview link. Its well worth it. It starts slowly, don’t worry about that.

  44. 94
    nigelj says:

    CC Holey

    “Consider that up to 90 percent of climate denial on the Internet is manufactured.” “Is there anyway to confirm this? No doubt much of it is, but I would like to know the actual evidence. It would be quite helpful to know.”

    This depends on what is meant by manufactured. One definition would be nonsense and misleading rubbish and spam from certain think tanks, lobby groups, and political party activists. I would say 90% is probably roughly right. I’m personally satisfied a hell of a lot is anyway.

    The problem is proving it accurately would be hard. You cant just look at what people write, and decide whether its the view of a normal member of the public, or mass produced in some way from a lobby group. You could at best make a rough inference. I’m satisfied on this basis that a lot is.

    You would need to get information from internet companies or websites as to who is submitting things, and that wont be easy. And even then, it would only be email addresses and wouldn’t reveal much. I would however love to know.

  45. 95
    Thomas says:

    92 nigelj, great comment N. Thank you and well done for that.

    Before I reply though, would you mind restating your second paragraph as to me it’s a little confusing as it’s written, thanks Thomas

  46. 96
    nigelj says:

    Thomas @95, I’m also a bit confused by what your ultimate point is about Hansens paper.

    However the way I see it, the media are reluctant by my observation in NZ to highlight things like Hansens paper (and even his more public utterances on the danger of rapid climate change). I think this is because the media are scared of upsetting their corporate advertisers. Once the public realise how worried Hansen and others are and how deep it goes, it wont go well for the fossil fuel industry.

    The NZ media have also never to my knowledge reported on the consensus that 90% plus climate scientists think humans are warming the climate. I think this is because the media would rather pretend theres a huge debate because this keeps readers interested. Its most annoying.

  47. 97
    scott nudds says:

    What I took away from the interview was basically a well stated encapsulation of what I have come to understand after a long… long… long… period of personal disbelief.

    First, denialists, who are principally conservative are tribal rather than rational thinkers. They reason with ideas that are chosen to best advance their tribe and their tribe’s ideology. This not only explains denialism itself, but also explains the constant shifting of denialist arguments that are often incoherent, or self contradictory over a period of hours or days.

    This tribalism extends beyond denial, to all other forms of conservative reasoning.

    Trump is excused for all manner of behavior that they would bludgeon the opposition for doing. He is a womanizer, and so was Clinton. But Clinton is the devil. Trump doesn’t have to be perfect to do God’s work. He gets a mulligan for sexually assaulting women.

    Trump publicly admits to committing acts of sexual assault. Oh that was just locker room talk.

    He pays off the women who accuse him and they just ignore it, but again Clinton has an out of court settlement and he is the devil incarnate.

    On and on it goes, with pizzagate and bengahzi, the emails, and all the other nonsense that the Republican tribe dishonestly fabricates.

    Their reasoning is to advance their tribe, and if that means inventing conspiracy or believing in conspiracy or just manufacturing false news, then that is logical to them, because supporting their tribe is the basis of their logic.

    The response of Dr. John Cook, the behavioral scientist is also quite instructive. He comes from academia, surrounded by reasonable, thinking people and rejects this concept of argument based on tribal logic.

    He believes that that people are fundamentally rational, logical thinkers, just like the people he encounters at his university every day. He does not experience the Republican tribe, and when he does occasionally see it, he misidentifies Tribal logic for simple ignorance. His view is that if only they were more educated then they wouldn’t act irrationally. Their view is that I am acting rationally by supporting my tribe.

    Dr. John Cook’s stated belief – his inoculation theory – is that if you just provide people with the evidence in the right way they will begin to believe the science.

    In his view it is just a matter of putting the words together in the right order and magically the masses will be convinced.

    This isn’t working, and hasn’t worked for the last 40 years.

    For the last 20 years they have been actively and openly looking for ways to package their message to convince the disbelievers, under the failed assumption that their target audience is fundamentally rational, when this is not the case.

    Dave Roberts goes on to explain why attempts to convince are counter productive and a waste of time.

    The idea is that a strong consensus among the public must be reached and then action taken.

    His point is that the opposite should occur – and I agree totally.

    The opposition should be driven to the polar opposite, and then crushed by the revelation that they were wrong. They should be pummeled with this failure at every opportunity and driven into the wilderness and snuffed out entirely if possible.

    Science will eventually win, so politically there should be no shrinking away from support for the science. Those opposing it should be vilified, slapped down, labeled, marginalized, humiliated, and driven out of the political arena. This is how you achieve lasting victory.

    When you are on the winning side, there is no reason to be weak, flaccid or accommodating to the enemy.

    That is why Climate Scientists have failed in public discourse, why evolutionary scientists have failed, etc, and why the Democrats have largely failed politically.

    There are other great points made in this interview as well.

    People substitute tribal support largely because of time constraints. Tribal policy is used in place of reasoning.

    This also explains why Republican talking points are so effective. Their party members just regurgitate them in place of thinking because that is how they think and simple ideas appeal to people without the time or expertise to think for themselves.

    What was quite interesting to me occurs after the interview. Dr John Cook immediately reverts to defending and promoting his “inoculation” paradigm, showing that he has heard but he has not understood what he has been told.

    He can’t conceive that people would think in the manner just described to him, even though it is plainly obvious that after 40 years of failed communication this must be the case.

    His lab research says otherwise, no doubt based on the responses of semi-rational undergrad students to his well meaning tests.

    LOL The real world operates differently.

    I mean no personal denigration but he is a wonderful example of why science communication has failed.

  48. 98
    scott nudds says:

    From Unforced variations

    Re: 233 “I think the inoculation theory idea about exposing rhetorical trickery and logical fallacies should be tried.”

    It has been tried. It has been tried for the last 30 years, with little success, and the reason for the failure is obvious. The target audience isn’t composed of rational thinkers. It is composed of people who think in terms of what is good for their tribe, and they are being told what is good for their tribe by members of their own tribe who are engaging in their own campaign of “social inoculation”.

    “I just suggest 99% of climate denialist arguments are based on nothing more than cherry picking,”

    Ya. So what?

    It’s good for my tribe.

    The world is cooling so it is good for my tribe to make it warmer.

    “misleading tosh, strawmen, red herrings, fake experts etcetra,”

    Ya… So what?

    It is good for my tribe.

    My tribe needs more stuff because more stuff means improved life and that comes from oil, so we need to consume more oil.

    “Of course they tell lies as well”

    Ya. So what?

    Lying is good for my tribe.

    Lying brings my tribe wealth and power, and influence. Lying brings my tribe cohesion and commonality, allows us to rally to defeat our enemies, and provides a comforting narrative.

    scott nudds says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    26 Feb 2018 at 3:24 AM
    Re 221: “the main reason for political tribalism in america is probably social values”

    That can’t be the case.

    Clinton was vilified for getting a BJ from a young women who told her friends she was taking her presidential knee pads with her to the WH. The Republican tribe tried to crucify him for that.

    Trump on the other hand has openly boasted about sexually assaulting women, and there are 20 or so women who now claim to have been so assaulted by him, and the same tribe excuses those real crimes.

    Where are the social values there.

    On abortion the Republican tribe is in strict opposition, but strongly supports murdering non-American children if they get in the way, and strongly supports withdrawing health care and nutrition programs from children once they are born.

    Where are the social values there.

    You can compile a huge list of these contradictions, and people have done so, you can easily find them on line, where the Republican tribe holds two contradictory views at the same time.

    There are no social values there. Just Tribalism. Do or say whatever is needed to support the tribe, it keeps the tribe coherent, and the membership apes pulling in the same direction. Which direction doesn’t matter, as long as the tribe stays strong.

  49. 99

    #90 CCHolley

    Is there anyway to confirm this?

    First compare the arguments people make to you, when talking about the climate. How much do these align with the ones made available online? And how do people offline respond to arguments made? Estimates are based on my own experience over the years, and based on YouTube’s analytics data, including commenting patterns, timing, content.

    Climate denial online is a sophisticated organized streamlined process, tweaked and directed with generous resources.

    The Koch intelligence agency

  50. 100
    Mal Adapted says:

    Well dang, Thomas, I thought I was being pretty actively aggressive 8^D! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you’d correctly interpret my intentions. I’m sorry, but I can’t make them any clearer. Uglier, maybe, but not clearer.