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Communicating the science on climate change

With Hurricane Irene focusing some attention on climate change (at the New York Times website anyway), the post below looks at some of the issues surrounding communication of climate science.

A series has just kicked off at The Conversation that promises to “shine an inquisitive light onto specific instances of misrepresentation, distortion, or spin by the Australian media as they relate to climate change”.

In the first article in the series, Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, of the Cognitive Science Laboratories at the University of Western Australia, says the the Australian media have failed the public by creating a phoney debate about climate science that is largely absent from the peer-reviewed literature, where real scientific debates take place.

But perhaps the scientific community and others also need to be choosing their words more carefully, suggests Dr David King, a general practitioner and board member of Doctors for the Environment Australia.

He explains below why he doesn’t “believe” in climate change. (At the bottom of the post, you will find a series of links to some interesting climate change resources).

***

Climate change is about science – not belief

David King writes:

I don’t believe in climate change. However, I am convinced by the evidence that supports the theory of human induced climate change.

You may think this is pedantic, but the choice of words does matter. Words carry meaning, value and shared understanding, even when we are not aware of the ‘subtext’.

Critics of climate change understand this well. Or at least they use the opportunity that our choice of words provide. When we state that we believe in climate change, they can label this belief as ‘the new religion.

Yet climate change concerns arose from the scientific process, not from politics, economics or even environmentalism. In the scientific process there is little room for belief, the dispassionate scientist should be an objective observer and be willing to discard a theory not supported by the evidence. The reality is that no one can be entirely objective, so here is the role for true scepticism.

Climate change critics have misappropriated the word sceptic, but act like deniers rather than sceptics. They start with a set of beliefs, then selectively choose, distort or fabricate facts to support their starting point. They start with a set of beliefs such as economic growth is unlimited, that humans are outside and above the natural order, and that humans couldn’t possibly affect the climate. These are not testable scientific hypotheses.

The rise of ‘anti-scientism’ is most visible currently in the climate change arena, but is a generally worrying trend for health care as well.

When our media presents science as belief, then we can be as authoritative as any expert in any field. It is therefore easier to believe that vaccinations may be a conspiracy to weaken our immune systems for a corporate profit. It encourages us to take an individualistic approach to scientific information, and makes legislation for public versus individual good more difficult. It encourages conspiracy theories. It even encourages threats against scientists if they discover inconvenient truths.

Starting with belief rather than scientific evidence also encourages the use of pejorative terms.

Are scientists who warn about the dangers of a rapidly changing climate “alarmists”?

It is the evidence that is alarming, not the starting intent of those studying and applying climate science. We don’t hear doctors being labelled as alarmists for warning about the obesity and diabetes ‘epidemic’.

So now when I’m asked whether I believe in climate change, I make a point of saying no, it is not about belief but about consideration of the evidence. The evidence regarding climate change is more certain than in most cases of clinical medicine, where action is decided on the balance of risk and benefit.

The diagnosis is relatively easy – developing a suitable response is the challenging part.

Here the scientific process is less able to assist us. So I have to rely on extrapolating from other experiences in life. Some people don’t stop smoking until they have a heart attack, for some until it is too late.

Now I can talk about belief – I don’t believe that our current political and social structures will provide the necessary leadership to prevent more severe climate change. I hope that I am proved wrong.

***

Climate change communications

Some of the climate change sites that got a mention at the Banff science communications course that I’ve been attending for the past 15-days in Canada:

Skeptical Science not only counters climate change misinformation, but has an app.

Climate Debate Daily which aims to “provide a new way to understand disputes about global warming”, lists the opposing arguments under “calls to action” and “dissenting voices”, and also links to many other sites.

A somewhat more sophisticated analysis of the challenges in communicating climate science is provided at Understanding and Solving the Climate Change Problem, an initiative that aims to continue the work of the late Stanford University scientist Professor Stephen Schneider.

Meanwhile, one other thing I learnt at Banff is – never under-estimate the power of entertainment and humour as a means of communication.

On that note…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFTddFk6zb8[/youtube]

Comments 22

  1. Altakoi says:

    Climate change is not about belief. But any change in behaviour is very much about beliefs. Arguing the facts is important, but it assumes people rationally base their actions on facts. I spend some time trying to think of ways to make people less fat, less likely to smoke and generally less self destructive. The evidence in those areas isn’t even seriously contested by vested interests any more, and yet people still smoke.

  2. Andrew McIntosh says:

    When does it get to the point where one can say one does not “believe”, but one actually knows?

  3. Mark M says:

    It is the evidence that is alarming, not the starting intent of those studying
    and applying climate science.

    Completely agree with this. Here are the facts… you choose how to respond to them. Hopefully you will recognise that this is serious.

    Those who label the scientists as alarmists are those who fear the public response to the facts and make every attempt to confuse the public.

  4. yaybucky says:

    Yet another attempt to simplify the climate change debate and reduce it to a “it is real” versus “it is not real” discussion. The debate is far more complex than this.
    For a start, there are many types of denialists, ie:

    I do not believe the world is warming
    I believe the world is warming but it is a natural phenomena
    I believe the world is warming, and it is caused by human activity but I do not believe there is anything we can do to halt the process
    I believe the world is warming etc but do not agree with the proposals being tabled to address the problem.

    and there are many more variations

    All people holding any of the views listed above are labelled denialists yet the arguments involved are significantly different for each view.

    I personally feel that I do not need to decide on whether the science is right because I do not agree with the proposed actions for change.

    I am also uncomfortable with the arrogance of the human race in that we claim to have caused the warming but now believe we are smart enough to fix the problem by agreeing an optimal temperature setting for the planet. If you believe that climate change is a problem then it follows that you wish to stop the change and by implication this means that you have an optimal temperature setting in mind for the planet.

    Talk about playing god!!!

  5. GeorgeCrisp says:

    @yaybucky

    So by your reasoning, you would also refuse to act on deforestation, overfishing, industrial air pollution of stratospheric ozone depletion. These are all examples where human actions have had regional or global consequences. And by your reasoning, to take action is “playing God”.

    You really need to have a think about your logic.

  6. yaybucky says:

    Mr Crisp – another attempt to simplify what is a complex debate.

    The key difference between climate change and the other human negatives that you have listed is the degree of uncertainty.

    We can clearly see the affects of deforestation and overfishing, these impacts are easily measured and the action plans for rectification quite clear. If we are overfishing we fish less. If we are clearing too much forest we clear less.

    If the proposal for reducing deforestation and overfishing was to cut off the right arm of every fisherman and forest worker then I would resist this change and by the logic of todays climate change debate I would be considered a deforestation / overfishing denialist.

    In relative terms these other environmental issues are straight forward debates involving probably two key issues, ie is overfishing occurring and what is the best way to overcome over fishing. The climate change debate is significantly more complex with significantly more questions to be asked and debated.

    Is climate change happening? Is it the change simply part of the natural cycle? Is climate change (warming) actually harmful or potentially beneficial? Is climate change caused by man? Can we actually do anything meaningful to arrest climate change? Is it more economically beneficial to adapt to climate change? Has the climate change issue been hijacked by governments to push other taxation agendas?

    Of course when we make the decision to actively manage any component of nature we are playing god. I think this can be justified where there is clear evidence that harm is being done to the environment or to the human race and where we are confident that our rectification plan is sound and is the most economically viable when all key factors are taken into consideration.

    In the context of climate change the proof for harm is debateable, the rectification plan is a joke and the economic impact is potentially catastrophic.

    Our knowledge of climate to be frank is miniscual and to take major action based on the little that we do know is simply irresponsible – it is akin to releasing cane toads into the Australian cane fields.

    My last post would be better ended with the statement “Talk about playing uninformed, arrogant, delusional God” but I suppose these attributes are more human than godly which is why we can only “play” at the climate change game.

  7. Iain Hall says:

    yaybucky

    Thank you very much for posting such a well argued rebuttal of yet another shallow appeal to authority.

  8. Maelstrom says:

    @yaybucky

    I will not bother to answer your questions because the scientific literature is readily available and you could investigate these questions for yourself. I get the feeling that if I gave you answers that did not comply with your belief system you would not believe them anyway.
    Overall the logic of your argument is flawed in my opinion as it assumes that there is a risk that we will disrupt the earth`s climate if we take action to reduce our CO2 emissions. We don`t understand everything about the system but the risk to humanity is far greater if we continue to emit C02 at the rate we are now than if we take some action and manage to reduce emissions. If you can`t understand the drastic changes that would happen if the average earth temperature increased by 4 degrees to vegetation and the liveability of cities etc etc you are ignorant of basic biology. To get a picture of how much change seemingly `small` average temperatures can make think of last ice age when large ice sheets covered high latitudes of the northern hemisphere and the temperate forests of the world were mostly replaced by boreal forests.
    Your logic suggests that we should do nothing about any complex problem the world faces and is very unhelpful.

  9. Charlie Ritchie says:

    As someone with little more than a high school education, I have to appeal to, or at least rely on authority in many matters. (That’s why I usually go to the doctor – as opposed to trying to cure myself). In the case of climate change I read that the great majority of the world’s scientists and scientific organisations are of the opinion that man made climate change is occurring. And on the strength of that I ‘believe’ that they’re very probably right.
    As to the question ‘what is going to happen, and what are we going to do about it?’ the authorities seem less certain. Though to be fair I have read that the predictive models for the effects of climate change have been largely correct up until now. But obviously opinions vary widely as to the second half of the question. As yaybucky pointed out it is a very complex issue with a variety of stand points. Consensus on how we should or shouldn’t handle this, even from the seemingly better informed, doesn’t look likely. Its hard, if not impossible (for me at least) to say who might be ‘probably right’ in this situation. I think this is also a problem faced by our trusty leaders. And i suspect that as a result governments will (in general) try to sit on the fence and do as little as they possibly can get away with doing, and that we will be left to deal with whatever remaining effects climate change might have.

  10. Hally says:

    @yaybucky
    The scientific data is solid, the consensus climate models are proving to be conservative.
    The side effects of industrialization have already ‘played god’ with the planet, the idea is to reign it in. Here’s some scientific data, please read it.
    http://www.csiro.au/greenhouse-gases/

  11. yaybucky says:

    Thanks Hally

    At least you are willing to engage in some debate and you are also willing to provide some data to back your position. This is a rareish attribute in a changeist.

    That the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising would appear to be the only fact that changeists and denialists broadly agree on.

    What I now need to see is your evidence for the following:

    1 That the rise in CO2 since the 1850s is attributable to man. Although the link is probable it is not certain and even the CSIRO concede as much on the page you have referenced. CO2 content has varied significantly throughout the earth’s natural history which suggests that natural causes could be at play. Possibly the rapidity of the rise in recent years excludes a natural cause. I would also have thought that the rise in CO2 would be cumulative and accelerating – the level of industrial output now dwarves that of say the 1850s.

    2 That a rise in CO2 actually causes a rise in global temperature
    3 That global temperature is actually rising
    4 That this rise is extraordinary in the context of earth’s natural history
    5 If the temperature is rising how fast is this occurring and how long will it take for the average global temperature to exceed levels not seen in say the last ten thousand years of human history (ie if we have survived higher temperatures in the past then it is likely we will survive such temperatures again)
    6 That rises in global temperature will actually be harmful
    7 That plans to phase out CO2 producing energy sources are realistic when the only proven substitute we have at this juncture is nuclear power.
    8 That the cost to adapt to global warming is not cheaper and simply more viable that reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

    and there are many more similar questions.

    It is my view that in any community, whether it be local or global, we need for independent and qualified scientists to do the research to support a particular policy position. Once that work has been done it is then also the role of science to dumb down and summarise the findings in order to convince the majority that a particular policy course should be pursued.

    If the scientific community is not capable of this last step then it has not done its job.

    Remember that most scientific study in the climate arena is government funded which means that my taxpayer dollars are making it all happen. I therefore feel it is reasonable to insist that the science and related policy recommendations be explained and justified to me.

    I am yet to read a document that effectively addresses the key issues raised in my list above in a succinct, logical and overarching manner. Sure there are plenty of scientific documents supposedly proving or disproving aspects of the science but I am yet to read a book or paper that sells me the “big picture” changeist position.

    Maybe such a document exists and if someone can recommend such a document I will be more than happy to absorb it in an open minded manner.

    In the meantime, I will remain sceptical, for 50 years of living in human communities has taught me that “if a position cannot be explained it also cannot be sustained”.

    Cheers

  12. ConnorJ says:

    yaybucky; The author of the original article gave links to sites that amply answer your questions

    1. The increase in Co2 is demonstrably man-maded as Co2 from burnt fossil fuels has a different chemical signature than natural Co2 sources. You can read ll about it on Skeptical Science – do a search for “empirical evidence” and you woill find the relavant article.

    2. Again, the same article. It’s a logical sequence of reasoning. we know Co2 traps heat, we know human activites have caused a sharp rise in Co2. Models back this up by being able to replicate accurately the early 20th cntury climatic conditions and when applying only natural forcings then they show that, without the sudden spike in Co2, that temperatures should have fallen, but instead they spiked after 1975. This divergence is clear evidence that the observations fit the theory.

    3. If you don’t believe that global temperatures have risen, well, all I can say is that you need to familiarise with the evidence.

    4. No, it’s not extraordinary is Earth’s history but it IS extraordinary in human history, which is, after all, all we are really concerned about. Any dramatic climatic shif outside of the Holocene Optimum in which the entirety of human civilisation evolved will undoubtedly make future human civilisation a lo more testing. There SI however, very good evidence that the rapid rise in Co2 (nearly 40% in under 200 years) is unprecedented and the planet has never gone through such a rapid change in atmospheric composition. It too literally hundreds of thousands of years of tectonic activity to take the planets temperatures to the giddy height it experienced during the Jurrassic and that was associated with some pretty significant extinction events.

    5. See above. It is already likely as warm if not warmer than at any point during the Holocene.

    6. Again, you should familiarise yourself with the evidence of the likely changes a 4 degree shift in temperature is likely to cause to land use and biodiversity. There is no boubt that it will cause serious disruption to human civilization as we curently know it.

    7. Thta’s not at all “realistic”, in some areas nuclear is the only viable option but certainly not somewhwere like Australia where things like solar-thermal is quite competetive against expensive nuclear and will become increasingly competeive to cheap coal as cost reduce.

    8. Define “adapt”? How do we adapt when, say, rainfall patterns shift away from our food-bowl in the Murray Darling basin and starts dumping ithe water in tropical QLD? By ‘adapt” do you emna n adopt bannanas as our staple crop?

  13. Maelstrom says:

    yaybucky,

    It is remarkable to me that you continue to make such big statements such as `If the scientific community is not capable of this last step then it has not done its job` when it obvious that you know very little about the current state of the science of climate change and the resources available to the public concerning all the issues you have raised. Why don`t you start with some of the major work done by the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Freely available reports can be accessed here http://search.nap.edu/ by searching for the term climate change.
    Your comments on this blog have done nothing more than make the impression that there is great uncertainty in the science to people who do not know better when the real problem is your lack of knowledge!

    Some apt quotes for you.
    “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer
    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Confucius

  14. yaybucky says:

    Way to go Maelstrom

    I take it you are also one of these devout Christians who argue that “god exists” – just go look in the Bible and and I will find his existence proven there.

    My challenge to you changeists remains a simple one – just point me to a book or paper that provides a succinct case for action on climate change addressing all (or most of) the key questions raised above.

    The questions raised by me are not complex and are commonly posed by denialists everywhere. I would have thought that if changeists were genuine in their commitment to prove or at least argue their position that a book or paper would exist that addresses these issues.

    I can certainly point you to similar publications that set out the denialist position (ie read Ian Plimers Heaven and Earth). It is certainly not a balanced publication but at least it sets out the denialist position pretty succinctly.

    Al Gore’s pitiful effort remains the only mainstream attempt to take the climate change science and put a case to ordinary people for action. Surely there is something more compelling out there than Mr Gore

    I would claim to know more in respect to this topic than most politicians and lay persons generally. If I do have a deficiency in knowledge re the changesist position this is attributable to a lack of engagement by the scientific changeist community.

    There is uncertainty in respect to every topic in my head until my fellow humans set out a succinct and logical position to the contrary. I am not obliged to simply follow the majority view. The vast majority of my fellow humans have an invisible friend called God. The vast majority also believe that tribals peoples from five thousand years ago, who had not even mastered a flushing toilet, had all the answers to the world’s big questions

    I again remain in waiting – hit me with your best tome my changeist friends

    Cheers

  15. Maelstrom says:

    @yaybacky,

    Such a paper probably does not exist. Unfortunately what you have to do is do some hard yakka research for yourself. Only then will you be able to give an informed opinion. At the present your inability to answer such fundamental questions about the science of climate change is cause for a legitimate indictment of your ignorance. Your comments simply work to exacerbate scientists as you are so far behind the science. Why don`t you do some research, and I mean a real thorough examination of the available literature? You probably won`t though because you are probably not interested. Goodbye.

  16. bluey says:

    There are a growing number of papers being published in main-stream journals that throw doubt on model projections. The main issues are their degree of sensitivity to CO2 (which seems too high) and their inadequacy in dealing with cloud feedbacks (which seem too low). Thus they attribute more ‘warming’ to CO2, and emphatically blame human emissions.

    Because the CO2 cycle is not static (ie. it cannot be ‘photographed’ in a moment of time) the issue with fossil fuel signature is complex. Essentially, we need to think of C-cycling as a re-supply problem – the stuff that moves off the shelf quickly, is replaced quickly – it cycles more quickly; thus its ‘signature’ remains in greater motion than stuff that sits on the shelf for years on-end. The signature does not mean there is more of it; it means there is more of it shifting about.

    The bit of CO2 that accumulates is very small relative to the warehouse of stuff that is ever shuffling to and fro. It is tiny; it is also inflated by the ‘unit’ factor (unit being parts per million by volume (ppmv).

    To put it into perspective, think of a house bought in 1958 for $100,000. In relative ‘carbon’ terms its value today would have increased by a lousy $7.40. With the decimal point shifted one-place left, that’s exactly the same number as as the increase of 74 PPMV that all the excitement is about.

    There exist several well referenced works that explore the warming issue in more detail than would be possible here. These are not written by instant-climatologists, who are mainly physicists and mathematicians, but people who have spent their entire careers studying climate and related issues. See for instance: http://people.iarc.uaf.edu/~sakasofu/climate.php. There is a well-referenced rebuttal review also http://www.co2science.org/education/reports/prudentpath/prudentpath.php containing some 600 references, mostly published papers.

    Unfortunately “climate science” in Australia has become belief-based. Any number of recent papers start off with a stated “warming” belief, rather than an open hypothesis. They then grab some modeled scenario compare it with some data, and hey-presto, we have warming, and what is more it is due to humans. Many such papers are produced with a press-release designed to groom the public’s belief. As an ex-scientist I’m appalled by the trivial nature and the mind-numbing volume of modeled climate related papers being pushed out by all the Federally-funded climate change institutes that have popped up at just about every Australian University. The climate-change-warming-greenhouse trough has become a slush-fund, and selling the message is a prerequisite to imbibing.

    So we have bias in the science; non-nonsensical messaging; backed up by biased funding arrangements. It’s a complete package.

    Nevertheless, as the climate cools, hopefully so will the package. There is also dissent; there are also some very sensible and well argued views being expressed that will ultimately push their way forward. Once it unshackles itself from the trough, we might see less but better science; more acute and accurate words; sensible debate; and less fervor and beliefism (and hopefully fewer professors!).

    Cheers

  17. yaybucky says:

    Thanks Bluey

    A very articulate summation

    The more interesting question that begs exploring is why there exists such divided opinion on this issue when we are all looking at the same pool of facts.

    The changeists love to assert that anyone with even the slightest denialist mindset is either on the payroll of big oil or on the verge of internment into a mental institution. I do not fall into either of these categories – ie I am just an average guy, with average intelligence with nothing to gain from adopting a denialist mindset.

    I am sure that it is equally true that not all changeists are tree hugging greenies or banking bags of money by doing government research at their local climate institute.

    So why this massive divide in belief?

    I can’t help but think that human genetics plays a big part here. I often shake my head at how easily humans can be manipulated to follow a particular cause. It is the greatest human wonder that tens of thousands of near adult men can be made to run across a battlefield, risking their lives for an often dubious cause. That millions more can bow before imaginery gods or believe their local stockbroker when he insists that the market will always go up.

    The vast majority of people simply want to belong to a tribe or a movement and this part of their genetic make-up is stronger than their instinct for logic, rationality and good sense.

    Is the climate change movement good intentioned? For most changeists the answer would definately be “yes”. Unfortunately all such movements start out with good intentions but ultimately fall into the hands of the extremists within the ranks. Similar to religion or socialism, good intentions are eventually swallowed by power, egos, self interest and propaganda.

    I personally do not think that climate changism is going to disappear as a movement any time soon. The mark of any great belief based movement is that there exists sufficient flexibility in its mantra to adapt to any rational challenge. We are already starting to see a shift in changeist rhetoric to adjust for the fact that parlous predictions regarding drought or other extreme weather events have simply not come true.

    It is beyond dispute that those who preach forthcoming armageddon are one day going to be proven correct – natural history shows that no life form will last forever. The human sheep will however forget that the doomsdayists incorrectly predicted our demise a million other times in the past and will put the idiots on top of a pyramid just before that final meteor strikes.

    Climate change is just one in a long line of armageddon theories but it still does merit respect. I respect it in the same was as I respect John Edwards (the one who talks to the dead), Ron L Hubbard, the Las Vegas Casino industry or the investment banking / financial planning industry.

    Any person or group of persons who can manipulate millions of people to believe something that on obvious face value is prepostorous is indeed demanding of respect.
    I respect them for their blind faith, gall, greed for power or whatever it is that motivates such people.

    I have little respect however for the blind followers and will no doubt ponder to my death bed why the light will simply just not come on for these poor souls.

  18. bluey says:

    This could lead to an interesting discussion yaybucky; I’m trying to resist but…
    We are actually not all looking at the same pool of facts, nor are we looking through the same sets of eyes. Despite all the noise, as far as I can make out, there are no facts as such; they are not even predictions.
    Scientifically speaking, predictions are made with levels of confidence. For example, I predict with certainty (99.9% confidence) tomorrow’s maximum temperature will be the hottest on record since tonight. There is a small risk that this won’t be the case; but I’ve expressed a measure of my confidence – a bet if you like, on being right.
    Climate change “facts” are projections or forecasts. They are never presented with a measure of confidence. Instead they come with a degree of “uncertainty”, which is a totally different concept.
    “Uncertainty” often has to do with the process by which projections are arrived at, not the projections themselves. Uncertainty could be expressed as boldly as a number; or it could be arrived at by a show of hands by an expert panel. If you want to be confused, there are papers written on this.
    Scientific literature about climate change includes boringly detailed papers filled with maths and statistical approaches that few mortals could understand.
    Also, reconstructions of the past mostly focused on showing that the present is ‘worse’ by some considerable degree, than it has ever been before. (The hockey-stick graph for example.) Many of such “fact” papers ignore the considerable haze that envelops far-ago data. Thus they are basically “backwards” projections” and they are almost universally expressed with “uncertainty” rather than with confidence.
    Then there are “messaging” papers. The first usually proposes a theory to cover a finding; the second, expounds on the first; the third, refers back to the first two, slowly turning the theory into a “fact” by association, messaging and referencing.
    On top of this “science” there are the grey-literature, so-called “new-reports” and green-fluff. Green-fluff is pamphlet-like political single pagers poked in letter boxes.
    “New-reports” are oxygenated by press releases that hit the e-stands and ABC news late on Friday or over a weekend, in time for Monday morning’s news vacuum. They further cement “messages” and often they are funded by interest groups such as WWF etc etc. These doccos are invariably prefaced with a legal disclaimer to their accuracy, purpose and use (etc).
    (This disclaimer is copied directly from the most recent “State of the Climate Report” -: CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology use scientific modelling based on the laws of physics and thoroughly tested against recorded observations. Models make assumptions about future events such as CO2 emissions, and are designed to paint a picture of a series of possible future states based on known facts. Because models are representations of the future based on a range of emission scenarios, they tend to produce a range of results, as opposed to observations which are accurate measures of an event that has already occurred. Models are based on an understanding of fundamental science and increased computer capacity allows us to make projections with increased accuracy 🙂
    (This disclaimer is essentially about “certainty/uncertainty”. It contains no hint that the report itself is intended to be “accurate”.)
    CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology; Ross Garanut, the Wentworth Group, and many others have produced truck-loads of grey-literature. Their purpose is to cement messages and lobby. They an integral part of “pass the belief” routine. The Government (or someone) pays for the “research”, the report goes to the Government, who says it has received “expert” or “independent” advice; and onwards the truck rolls.
    Another form of messaging is “branding”. Until it was scientifically challenged, first there was “greenhouse”. As the last ElNino started to bite in about 2000 an opportunity presented to change “greenhouse” into “warming”. When the warming stopped, the brand was changed to “climate change”. The next one is sure to be “adaption”.
    Most of what I’m hinting at is encapsulated in the following parody:
    What did Garanut say in 2011?
    The headline said: Cyclones, floods to get worse as warming increases (ABC News Feb 03, 2011).
    According to the ABC report:
    What Garanut said was: “floods and cyclones like those experienced this summer will get more extreme as global warming increases”
    What he said next was: that climate change cannot be directly blamed for the recent flooding, or for Cyclone Yasi.
    Then he went on to say: “scientific evidence shows such extreme events are associated with the warming of the environment”.
    What he was careful not to say was that there was direct and unambiguous link between warming and anything at all.
    What would Garanut have possibly said in 1974?
    He would remember that 1974 was the end of the cooling trend evident in Australian temperature data; it was the year of record floods in Brisbane, Cyclone Tracy in Darwin, high to extreme rainfalls in most other places and major flooding across the Murray-Darling Basin.
    The headline could read: Cyclones, floods to get worse as cooling increases.
    Followed by: “floods and cyclones like those experienced this summer will get more extreme as global cooling increases”
    Then the policy-speak disclaimer: that climate change cannot be directly blamed for the recent flooding, or for Cyclone Tracy.
    Then he would probably go on to say something like: that scientific evidence shows such extreme events are associated with the cooling of the environment.
    Such are the manipulations of climate beliefism!

    Cheers

  19. hjtrob says:

    Bluey says “Scientific literature about climate change includes boringly detailed papers filled with maths and statistical approaches that few mortals could understand.”
    However that’s where the evidence is. The troubling lack of thoughtful informed discussion in recent media when people comment on scientific issues relates to this type of dismissive attitude.
    If you’re unwilling or unable to learn enough to understand the scientific language (and that often includes maths), you’ll have to rely on secondary sources and be very careful how you establish which ones are reliable.

  20. bluey says:

    Not true at all hjtrob.

    The issue is communication. If they have a message, responsibility rests with the physicists and statisticians to communicate with the rest of the world, not just within their club.

    Such a complex web has been weaved that it is virtually impossible to follow the thread of what has become “the science”. Recently I looked for a primal paper that established beyond reasonable doubt that the claims being related to the public are based in reality.

    You’d think after all this time and all the money that’s been spent that such a paper, containing a simple bunch of data, facts and figures; simply tested hypothesis; simply understood statistical inferences, and a good evenly balanced discussion would exist. I’m an agronomist, and there are any number of simple easily grasped papers that have tested and explained all the breakthroughs in my science. But in climate science – no, an emphatic no. In fact most of “the science” papers start off with assumptions about climate change and go on to one-sidely verify that assumption.

    To many papers are based on a bunch of maths built around data that’s been massaged; stuff that has been re-analysed 2, 3 or more times; there are versions of most of the primary datasets. Papers written 3 or 4 years ago or even less, are redundant today because the data were apparently shaky. It’s not good enough to say “trust me I’m a professor or doctor”.

    Maths and modeling is also where the lack of evidence can be hidden; and as in all science, we need to be very careful of a Type II error (acceptance of an hypothesis when in fact it is false)!

    Some climate scientists are good communicators and they invoke trust and believability and many of these prefer a moderate rather than alarmist view.

    So what are the primary measured indicators. Obviously there is a timeseries of CO2: that could be accumulation data; showing the rise; it could be the year-to-year differenced data; showing the CO2 change/yr, which varies up and down around an average; it could be the double-differenced data showing the “acceleration” in the annual rate, which is flat to slightly negative. From the 1 data set, we get 3 pictures; but usually only the first one is highlighted.

    We have several versions of global temperature which keep getting re-analysed; we have satellite data that is at variance to the other temperature datasets, and some people using their maths to argue about that. Some measured ocean temperature data that has also been reanalysed; the ARGO ocean data, reanalysed last year (2010) which now shows ocean cooling.

    Some of these data and just about all the rest are modeled, guessed at, tuned-up or down, including of course emissions data. On to pf that there are multitudes of climate models. The infamous hockey-stick graph falls within these modeled data, and I seem to recall that its basis came unstuck.

    It is appalling that the scientists, physicists, statisticians close to “the science” cannot explain to people of moderate intelligence the ins and outs of what they do and why they do it. It is my view, that often they resort to maths when they don’t actually need to. Had Mann been less secretive, more transparent in how he presented his stuff, than the hockey game may have been self-extinguishing.

    How hard can it be to start off with a testable hypothesis instead of an assumption; to add a sentence here and there to justify with logical reasoning what the the scientists, physicists, statisticians are about; and provide a balanced discussion.

    Cheers,

    Bluey.

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