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May 10, 2006

A Bizarro GCC and The Public Opinion Myth, Again


Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change

A story in today’s Wall Street Journal provides additional evidence of the fantasy world that is climate politics:

An educational group that former Vice President Al Gore is helping to launch intends to spend millions of dollars convincing Americans that global warming is an urgent problem.

The U.S. hasn't enacted mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, a situation many environmentalists attribute to slim public awareness of the consequences of rising temperatures.

The group, which yesterday adopted the name Alliance for Climate Protection, plans to use advertising and grass-roots organizing to try to raise awareness, particularly among labor groups, hunters, evangelicals and conservatives in general.

The effort, still in the planning stages, will look "like a political campaign," predicts Lee M. Thomas, who ran the Environmental Protection Agency during President Ronald Reagan's second term and has agreed to be a board member.

This is a wasted effort for a number of reasons. First, as we’ve documented here many times (e.g., here and here) while he public does not have a deep grasp of the technical details of global warming, it does have an overwhelming awareness of the issue. Not only is there awareness, but an overwhelming majority already favor action. Public education to achieve awareness and support for action that already exist will be efforts wasted on the convinced (e.g., here).

A second reason is that any effort to elevate the intensity of public opinion (not mentioned in the article, but necessary to elevate one issue over another in the public’s eye) will run a very real risk of making policy arguments that are misleading and perhaps simply incorrect. Assertions that future hurricane damages can be modulated via emissions policies are an example of this type of policy over-promising. The reason for this is that global warming is not an issue for which immediate action can lead to tangible short-term benefits (e.g., discussed here), so for many people it simply does not compare to the importance of other issues that do have short-term effects, like gas prices and hurricane reinforced roofs.

The Alliance for Climate Protection seems to me to simply be a Bizzaro version of the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition and I suspect that it will have much the same effectiveness on public opinion and ultimate fate..

Posted on May 10, 2006 07:03 AM

Comments

... and, to the extent that scientists are shoe-horned into this and similar campaigns, the role of science in policy debates will continue to shift toward advocacy and partisanship.

Kenneth Green (of AEI) had an interesting op-ed in the National Review Monday:

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MDAyN2Y4OWMzZjQ3ZjFlZDc4ZTAxMTIzZjYxNTUwN2I=

I disagree with his climate-conspiracy-theory fantasy, but some excerpts are telling. For example:

"In a trend that should be worrisome to those who believe the value of science lies in its authority, alarmist climate scientists are increasingly the object of derision by people with enough power to reach even the general public. Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, for example, has educated millions of readers about climate science. Parody sites such as The Onion and ecoenquirer.com are heaping scorn on scientists who are increasingly sounding like angry authoritarian oracles."

And ...

"Some establishment scientists seem to be getting the message that they may have overplayed their hands and become more parody than prophet. In just the last few weeks, two studies in major journals (Nature and Geophysical Research Letters) dump cold water on the high-end horror-story estimates coming out from modelers seeking ever higher-end scenarios to publicize. The articles, which cast a gimlet eye on climate-model predictions, show that more likely estimates for doubling of the world’s carbon-dioxide level (which many argue will never happen) would produce a warming between 1.5 – 4.5 degrees Celsius, with only a 15-percent chance of going higher than 4.5 degrees. Not a walk in the park, but not the stuff of Hollywood-disaster epics."

And ...

"The world needs more brave scientists to step up to the plate, disavow the hunt for ever-scarier scenarios, and join a meaningful discussion of what we might do to protect future generations from climate variability."

A couple of additional points:

1. It's interesting that when the climate science community "backs away" from 6-11 degC as a possible high end to "only" 4-5 degC, that is now good news to the AGW-is-not-a-problem camp. In other words, they're now basically accepting the TAR conclusions as considered and balanced results that suggest things are going to be fine, when just recently they were denying them as unsupported, agenda-driven catastrophism.

2. Do you think this is the first time the Onion was cited favorably in the National Review?

Posted by: Chris Weaver at May 10, 2006 07:45 AM


"Not only is there awareness, but an overwhelming majority already favor action."

What poll(s) are you basing this comment on? This one?

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=335

Any others?

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 10:19 AM


Hi Chris. You write,

"1. It's interesting that when the climate science community "backs away" from 6-11 degC as a possible high end to "only" 4-5 degC, that is now good news to the AGW-is-not-a-problem camp. In other words, they're now basically accepting the TAR conclusions as considered and balanced results that suggest things are going to be fine, when just recently they were denying them as unsupported, agenda-driven catastrophism."

You're conflating climate sensitivity with the (completely unscientific) "projections" in the IPCC TAR. (And you're spinning furiously, to boot.)

There are two separate questions:

1) What is the change in temperature that can be expected from a doubling of (effective) CO2 concentrations (i.e., what is the climate sensitivity)?

The National Review article to which you refer says that the response to a doubling of CO2 concentrations will be 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius, with an 85% chance of being less than 4.5 degrees Celsius (i.e., only a 15% chance of being over 4.5 degrees Celsius).

That leads to the second question...

2) What are the actual CO2 concentrations that are expected?

The CO2 concentration in 1990 was approximately 350 ppm. There is virtually *no chance* that the CO2 concentrations in 2100 will be 700 ppm...or double the 1990 value. That would require an AVERAGE increase of 3.2 ppm for the entire 110 years. Nobody who knows anything about the subject, and is honest, thinks there's even 1 chance in 5 of that happening.

The National Review article notes this, where it says, "The articles, which cast a gimlet eye on climate-model predictions, show that more likely estimates for doubling of the world’s carbon-dioxide level (WHICH MANY ARGUE WILL NEVER HAPPEN) would produce a warming between 1.5 – 4.5 degrees Celsius,..." (Capitalization added.)

The IPCC TAR projections ARE "unsupported, agenda-driven catastrophism." If the National Review now thinks otherwise, it is mistaken.

P.S. In fact, I wish the Skeptics Society would change the topic of their debate between Chris Mooney and Ron Bailey to: "Resolved: The IPCC TAR projections for atmospheric methane concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases are, 'unsupported, agenda-driven catastrophism.'" (Or "pseudoscientic nonsense.")

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 10:52 AM


Ah, the sweet smell of methane ...

Posted by: Chris Weaver at May 10, 2006 11:36 AM


Roger, again, the implication of your position is there simply *is* no valid way to raise the level of public concern about global warming. Any argument that might do so is scientifically suspect in your eyes.

Which, again, leads me to wonder: Why are *you* concerned about it? Why do you want to cut GHG emissions? What arguments convinced you?

Posted by: David Roberts at May 10, 2006 01:11 PM


Chris-

If we could harness the CH4 emissions just from the Prometheus blog we could solve the world's energy problems in one shot.

Roger-

You seem to assume that in order to raise the intensity of the issue, scientific distortion is required. I disagree with this. I think it's possible to make credible and serious arguments that are completely convincing on the issue. The key is to take a *risk* viewpoint, rather than trying to argue that "the case is closed."

Regards

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 10, 2006 01:20 PM


There is certainly great risk involved, but the public sees the whackos on both sides. The problem is determining what the greater overall detriment to the biosphere is - increasing CO2, or decreasing CO2 with increasing arable land degradation. Until we do that how can we know how to respond?

The potential risk is great either way, but the potential benefit is great with increased CO2 (aka food for the biosphere). Gore will no doubt myopically focus on CO2, as many here do.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 10, 2006 01:38 PM


Mark says

"The CO2 concentration in 1990 was approximately 350 ppm. There is virtually *no chance* that the CO2 concentrations in 2100 will be 700 ppm...or double the 1990 value."

One technical point. When people refer to x2 CO2, the are talking about since pre-industrial levels (280 ppmv as I seem to recall (?)), not since 1990 levels.

Posted by: Sean D at May 10, 2006 01:39 PM


David-

Thanks. But don't forget that I am a professor of environmental studies in Boulder, CO. Honestly, I was probably convinced before any argument was necessary. It is easy to be convinced of arguments when you are predisposed, but politics is about -- to paraphrase Walter Lippmann -- getting people who think differently to act alike, not as some would have it -- to get people who think differently to think alike.

I do think that experience shows quite unambiguously that general public concern on global warming cannot be elevated with an appeal to long-term, diffuse, and uncertain impacts with near-term, tangible, and certain costs. Hence every incentive is toward pushing claims of impact toward the immediate and concrete (as with hurricanes), and as a result by overpromising policy solutions.

Selling global warming policy requires disassebling it into components that can be effectively sold via other means. So long as emissions continue to rise unabated, I think I have a pretty strong case.

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 10, 2006 01:39 PM


Andrew-

Thanks. But when you write, "I think it's possible to make credible and serious arguments that are completely convincing on the issue," Didn't you try this experiment with Steve H. a short while back and we determined that reframing (and not simply from "case closed" to "risk") was the best was to reconcile your divergent views in the form of a shared commitment to ccertian actions?

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 10, 2006 01:42 PM


David- While you are here, I saw your interview with Al Gore:

http://grist.org/news/maindish/2006/05/09/roberts/index.html

What in the world do you think he meant by this answer:

"Q: There's a lot of debate right now over the best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated. Do you scare people or give them hope? What's the right mix?

Answer: I think the answer to that depends on where your audience's head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there's going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions."

What does he mean by "over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is"? Is he justififying the scare tactic you asked about?

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 10, 2006 02:24 PM


Hi Sean,

You write, "One technical point. When people refer to x2 CO2, they are talking about since pre-industrial levels (280 ppmv as I seem to recall (?)), not since 1990 levels."

You're right that the pre-industrial concentration was approximately 280 ppmv. But the question here is, "How valid are the projections in the IPCC TAR?"

(Ignoring the fact that they have no validity at all, since no probabilities are estimated for any of the scenarios...)

...The temperature projections deal with the period from 1990 to 2100; i.e., the IPCC "projects" a temperature increase of "1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius" from 1990 to 2100.

Therefore, it seems to me that the appropriate CO2 concentrations to use are from 1990 to 2100.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 03:25 PM


Gore's statement:

"I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is"

Sounds like another way of saying that:

"Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest"

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 10, 2006 03:49 PM


"I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis."

My take on the use of the phrase "over-representation" is that it refers to whether or not you present mostly stories and images about bad things that could happen (at least to some people) as opposed to mostly stories and images about some other aspect of the problem (e.g., good things that could happen to some people, interesting sociological aspects of the issue such as the scientization of politics or the perception of risk, or uplifting personal-interest stories about individuals involved with the issue in some way, etc. etc.).

Intellectual dishonesty can occur if the stories and images about bad things that could happen don't follow rationally from expert opinion and the state of the science. It can also occur if the frame is completely skewed (e.g., focusing on bad things that could happen if the potential positives actually outweigh the potential negatives, etc.).

Of course, I don't know if Gore actually meant it this way, but I suspect he did.

And yes, Mark, I understand that you are going to say that any message based on the findings of the IPCC is by definition irrational and dishonest, and yes, Steve, I understand that you are going to say that any message that ignores how the positives of CO2 fertilization will swamp any negative impacts of rising CO2 concentrations is by definition willfully misleading. I think you both are way overstating your own cases, but you have made those cases clearly and concisely a number of times, so let's respectfully agree to disagree.

Posted by: Chris Weaver at May 10, 2006 04:15 PM


Actually, Chris, I don't know if I'm "overstating" or "understating" my case.

The thing is, neither does anybody else.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 10, 2006 04:50 PM


Chris Weaver writes, "Ah, the sweet smell of methane ..."

I don't understand. Do you think my analysis--that you (blatantly) misrepresented what Kenneth Green of AEI was writing--was wrong?

If so, please explain how it was wrong.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 06:23 PM


When I see Roger posting about how bad the SEPP/Marshall Institute/AEI propaganda is, maybe I might take his protestations of whatever side he claims to be on seriously. As a matter of fact the most interesting thing about this blog is how the gang of four and friends get free rides and defended by Roger.

On the other hand it is shocking, I say shocking, that a politician and his policy associates want to present what they think is the most important implications of an issue in order to influence public attitudes. How can this be allowed. It is simply a perversion of science (not).

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 10, 2006 06:25 PM


[/ignore]

sigh...

"The thing is, neither does anybody else."

Wrong. Some only read things that make them feel good. In case any lurkers out there are not sure whether the current recycled argument is correct or not, the tout cannot stand:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-02/jaaj-cdf020504.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-08/du-sym080805.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-06/su-pdt061203.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-02/du-doe020904.php

These results, of course, are well known to most.

Best,

D

[ignore]


Posted by: Dano at May 10, 2006 06:27 PM


Eli-

Thanks. We don't spend much time here focused on advocacy groups of any sort, so in addition to the groups you mentioned we don't focus much attention on Sierra Club, FOE, Greenpeace, etc.

Scientists and politicians, however, are a central focus.

Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 10, 2006 06:31 PM


Roger Pielke Jr. wrote, "Not only is there awareness, but an overwhelming majority already favor action."

I asked, "What poll(s) are you basing this comment on? This one?

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=335

Any others?"

No response. So let's look at just that Harris Poll. It gives the headline, "Majorities Continue to Believe in Global Warming and Support Kyoto Treaty"

But is that headline an accurate assessment of the poll results? Not really.

First, they asked who had, "Seen, heard, or read" about global warming. 85% responded positively, 15% negatively.

THEN, they asked only those 85% if they had, "SEEN, HEARD OR READ ABOUT KYOTO/BONN INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS"

Only ***52% of the 85%*** (0.52 x 0.85 = 0.44), or 44%, of the total population responded that they had seen, heard about, or read about Kyoto/Bonn.

THEN, they asked ONLY that group (i.e. 44% of the population) if they approved of Kyoto/Bonn. 73% approved. But that represents only 0.73 x 0.44 = 32 PERCENT of the population that are known to actually support the Kyoto/Bonn agreements.

And even THAT ignores the fact that only 54% of the 44 percent of the population...or only 24 PERCENT of the population who said that the U.S. was wrong not to sign Kyoto/Bonn. (In other words, only 24 percent of the population is known to actually favor the U.S. taking actions to meet Kyoto.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 07:57 PM


Mark- Actually, if you follow the links within my post you'll come across a bunch of polls. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 10, 2006 08:11 PM


"Actually, if you follow the links within my post you'll come across a bunch of polls."

Roger- You wrote of the "public" that, "Not only is there awareness, but an overwhelming majority already favor action."

Now, ONE of the polls you referenced does NOT show that "an overwhelming majority already favor action," if it is properly interpreted. (In fact, only 24 percent of those polled can be said to clearly support U.S. action like Kyoto.)

ANOTHER poll you referenced is not of members of the public at all...it's of members of Congress.

Now, perhaps you'd like to comb through the polls you referenced to actually find evidence that clearly supports your assertion. Until you do, I'd say the evidence--even the evidence that you provided--doesn't support your assertion.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 08:47 PM


Hmm, if there are only posts here about scientists and politicans (leaving alone whether advocacy organizations house both) why is the last paragraph of your essay a put down of the Alliance for Climate Protection and the Global Climate Coalitionhow or how about this Greenpeace looked foolish comment http://tinyurl.com/lg9ue or...., but I could go on. OTOH

Since posts on scientists do appear here, I await Roger's future comments on those such as Singer and Seitz, Baliunas, Michaels et al. who have used their credentials to push (actually to push to do nothing) policies associated with, climate, CFCs, second hand smoke and other issues. Perhaps we will see Roger's posts here complete with searing comments like:

-In advancing an explicitly political agenda from a very influential position, they are making claims for particular policy actions that won't work as advertised

Or how about

-These professional skeptics are Johnny-come-lately to exploiting science for political advantage.

Or how about

- I suppose one could make the convoluted case that they are [just bad writers/only talking about statistics/dumbing-down the science/anticipating inevitable future research results]

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 10, 2006 09:32 PM


Eli- Thanks for your comments. Readership here is completely voluntary, and if you don't like what you read, then there are 30 million other blogs from which you might find a few that are perhaps more ideologically compatible. Meantime, I'll assume that your daily presence here speaks to the fact that you think that there is something of value to be found here ;-)

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 10, 2006 09:59 PM


Mark- Thanks for your comments. You are correct that not every opinion poll shows exactly the same thing, especially over time and when questions are framed differently. I am comfortable that the available polling information related to the American public and climate change indicates (a) a very high level of awareness of the issue, (b) belief that humans affect the climate, and (c) support for action. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 10, 2006 10:03 PM


Thank you for your telling response Roger. As clearly as anything it establishes where you are on climate and science policy issues. You have adopted the policy studies equivalent of Ali's rope-a-dope, saying that you are on one side while attacking everything that those on that side do or say, while remaining publically neutral or positive to those on the other side. This is very confusing to most scientists who assume a direct statement of position from colleagues.

For anyone who did not google, the comments at the end of my post were some of the nicer things that Roger has said about Donald Kennedy.

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 10, 2006 10:23 PM


Eli -

That's pretty humorous, and indeed gives a good clue where *you* are coming from.

Let me clarify. You said:
"This is very confusing to most scientists who assume a direct statement of position from colleagues."

Which means:
"Get up here on this bandwagon with the rest of us pseudoscientists because there's safety in numbers and we can jeer anyone who thinks for themselves."

Nothing new from you though...

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 11, 2006 03:02 AM


Eli-

My views on climate policy have been expressed in writing in many venues for more than a decade.

I am of course flattered that you want to talk about me, and I will simply take it as an indication that the substance of my post on which you are raising these off-topic issues must contain some pretty air-tight arguments.

When you would wlike to return to substantive discussions, you are of course welcome to do so here. Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 11, 2006 06:19 AM


Hi Mark,

I will bite, only because this will allow me to get back to the original subject of the post.

You write:

"Chris Weaver writes, 'Ah, the sweet smell of methane ...'

I don't understand. Do you think my analysis--that you (blatantly) misrepresented what Kenneth Green of AEI was writing--was wrong?

If so, please explain how it was wrong."

Yes, I think you are wrong when you say that I blatantly misrepresented what Kenneth Green was writing.

The sole focus of my post was the public perceptions of climate science and climate scientists. I have nothing to say here about the science itself. Let me clarify the three points I was trying to make:

1. I am agreeing with Green when he says that it is a problem when scientists take intentionally misleading positions on the science to score political points. I might disagree with him as to the degree that it is happening in climate science (he would say nearly all climate scientists do it, I would say only a few), but I certainly agree with the sentiment.

2. I am noting as interesting how Green cites the new published evidence in favor of the "old" 1.5-4.5 degC range for a doubling of CO2 (old compared to noises from some groups about how climate sensitivity might be much higher) with something like approval, as a considered product of reasonable, moderate scientists who are backing away from climate alarmism. To quote Green:

"The articles, which cast a gimlet eye on climate-model predictions, show that more likely estimates for doubling of the world’s carbon-dioxide level (which many argue will never happen) would produce a warming between 1.5 – 4.5 degrees Celsius, with only a 15-percent chance of going higher than 4.5 degrees. Not a walk in the park, but not the stuff of Hollywood-disaster epics."

I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that, in earlier times, a value of 4.5 degC for climate sensitivity would have been characterized as blatant alarmism rather than a sober high-end.

3. The Onion is sweet.

Please feel free to agree or disagree with my assertion that 1.5-4.5 degC for climate sensitivity used to be alarmism and now is sober. That's my opinion there, and I would be interested in different takes on that.

My intention was not to address the likelihood of a doubling of CO2 ever happening, on which you spent most of your response. I probably erred when I said, "they're now basically accepting the TAR conclusions as considered and balanced results." The part of the TAR to which I was referring was the climate sensitivity range, not the emissions scenarios. I could have easily said instead "the published climate sensitivity values that existed at the time of the TAR." I apologize for putting you down that road by accident ...

... but, since you went down it, I will only say this:

"The CO2 concentration in 1990 was approximately 350 ppm. There is virtually *no chance* that the CO2 concentrations in 2100 will be 700 ppm...or double the 1990 value. That would require an AVERAGE increase of 3.2 ppm for the entire 110 years. Nobody who knows anything about the subject, and is honest, thinks there's even 1 chance in 5 of that happening."

Setting aside the "nobody who knows anything about the subject, and is honest" part as a normative judgment from within your own particular frame of reference, I would not equate a 1 in 5 chance (or even 1 in 10) with "virtually *no chance*." I would still be worried about it.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by: Chris Weaver at May 11, 2006 08:32 AM


Dave Roberts answers the over-representation question here:

http://gristmill.grist.org/comments/2006/5/9/123040/2285/3#3

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 11, 2006 03:02 PM


Hi Chris,

You write, "I probably erred when I said, 'they're now basically accepting the TAR conclusions as considered and balanced results.'"

Yes, that was my point exactly. I thought that statement was a (blatant) misrepresentation of Kenneth Green's piece.

Regarding your response to my comment that:

"The CO2 concentration in 1990 was approximately 350 ppm. There is virtually *no chance* that the CO2 concentrations in 2100 will be 700 ppm...or double the 1990 value. That would require an AVERAGE increase of 3.2 ppm for the entire 110 years. Nobody who knows anything about the subject, and is honest, thinks there's even 1 chance in 5 of that happening."

...I apologize for the confusion caused by my mixing of estimated probabilities.

*My own* estimate of the probability that CO2 concentations will hit 700 ppm by 2100 is less than 1 in 20. See Table 2 at this location:

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2006/04/complete_set_of.html

But I was conceding that there may be some knowledgeable and honest people who would put the possibility of 700 ppm as high as 1 in 5.

So a better set of statements would have been (changes capitalized):

"IN MY OPINION, there is virtually *no chance* (LESS THAN 1 IN 20) that the CO2 concentrations in 2100 will be 700 ppm...or double the 1990 value. That would require an average increase of 3.2 ppm for the entire 110 years. HOWEVER, I CONCEDE THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO KNOW about the subject, and are honest, MIGHT ESTIMATE THE CHANCE AS HIGH AS 1 in 5."

But there's another point here:

If the chance is only 1 in 5 that the CO2 concentration will hit 700 ppm, and only a 15% chance that the 700 ppm will produce a temperature increase of 4.5 degrees Celsius or more, that means the combined probability is less than 3% that the warming will be 4.5 degrees Celsius or more by 2100.

It would be nice if the IPCC had the honesty to acknowledge that. Refusing to acknowledge that gives some members of the public the impression that the IPCC is misleading the public, because...well, the IPCC *is* misleading the public.

Mark

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 11, 2006 03:15 PM


No Steve, what I said is quite clear and not at all what you received on your tin foil antennae. Take off them deely bobbers, stop talking to yourself and join the conversation.

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 11, 2006 07:57 PM


The comment that Roger points to directly opposes his original statment that in the US, a. the public is very aware of climate change and b. it already favors action.

Clearly what we have here is a major disagreement between Pielke and Gore. Perhaps we can decide which is right by asking what actions are being taken. If there are no significant ones, then clearly Gore is right. If we have major changes in behavior then Pielke is right.

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 11, 2006 08:02 PM


Yeah, well, that's what I get for stumbling over to the computer in the middle of the night. Still, in terms of dogma vs. information, this is a quote you alarmists might want to consider:

"If the facts change, I'll change my opinion.
What do you do, Sir" (John Maynard Keynes)

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 11, 2006 09:00 PM


In the long run we are all dead - John Maynard Keynes

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 11, 2006 09:53 PM


Depends. Is the egg the tool of the chicken, or is the chicken the tool of the egg? Nothing gets out alive, except our DNA.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 11, 2006 10:45 PM


"What does he mean by "over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is"? Is he justififying the scare tactic you asked about?"

I've heard that line before from James Hansen.

Posted by: Paul at May 12, 2006 05:02 AM


Paul,

despite your apparent concern, the phrase does not mean 'over-represent the FACTS'. If that's what the person meant, they would have said that. The phrase means what it says.

Sadly, the phrase is such that folks can mendacicize it to their ends and tar all with the same brush.

HTH,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 12, 2006 09:43 AM


Dano,

No, this means what it says. Vis. deliver to the public a disproportionately high number of fact-based presentations that detail "how dangerous it is".

As an example, shall I give an "over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it (water) is" ?

Let's see.

Letting water through you mouth can be fatal.
Water is the primary breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitos
Water is the cause of X thousand road fatalities pevery year.

and so on and so forth.

If you knew nothing about water, would such an "over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is" leave you with a true and accurate understanding of the nature, posible hazards and potential benefits of water? No, you end up in a disproportionately alarmed state. It would certainly leave you more open to someone suggesting that we need to rid the world of water.

Posted by: Paul at May 12, 2006 12:49 PM


PS.

I wans't tarring anyone with anything.

I recall reading a James Hansen quote advocating the same thing.

Posted by: Paul at May 12, 2006 12:51 PM


I'm not sure how your example is cogent or relevant, Paul.

Do you want an equal amount of presentations showing, say, a nice spring day with a field of grass in the background, cute bunnies hopping happily about, chased by little girls in summer dresses?

Will this show how not-dangerous climate is? "Oh, climate change may have negative implications, but right now in this picture, cute bunnies are hopping about in nice weather!" What's the point of showing a not-dangerous depiction of weather?

Roger's point in this thread is that over-depicting won't lead to any additional public awareness or action, not that the coverage should be balanced with bunnies or the benefits of water.

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 12, 2006 02:23 PM


"I recall reading a James Hansen quote advocating the same thing."

This quote?

"Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue, and energy sources such as “synfuels,” shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions."

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 12, 2006 08:22 PM


On "over-representing the facts" after some thought I think that Gore is not calling for a misrepresentation of science, thus I agree with Dave Roberts.

But I do think that Gore is commiting a fundamental logical fallacy, along the lines often discussed here by Andrew Dessler, and that is the conflation of the positive and the normative. Gore seems to think you can get an ought from an is, and that is a big part of the problem in the climate debate.

If anything, calls to action need to be supported by an over-representation of appeals to values, not facts.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 14, 2006 08:07 AM


Roger - you said:

"calls to action need to be supported by an over-representation of appeals to values, not facts."

Isn't that religion and not science?

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 14, 2006 10:53 AM


Steve- No, appeals to values are a central part of political behavior. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 14, 2006 11:30 AM


Roger -

Science is what it is. It is facts, truth. Prejudice is not involved. "Over-representation" is biasing the information. That leads to prejudice by the layperson, which involves "belief" as opposed to facts. Therefore, it's religion (aka belief).

There are scientists on this list who "believe" in global warming. They know, deep down, that they should be acting scientifically. However, they have memes deeply imbedded to forego the facts (or lack thereof). So, they become bitter and insulting as a defense mechanism.

That's the way I see it.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 14, 2006 10:04 PM


"However, they have memes deeply imbedded to forego the facts (or lack thereof). So, they become bitter and insulting as a defense mechanism."

Evidence plz.

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 15, 2006 11:20 AM


LOL. Half your posts.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 15, 2006 02:42 PM


I'm not a climate scientist.

Your statement was that climate scientists forego the facts

["There are scientists...who "believe" in global warming. They know...they should be acting scientifically. However, they have memes deeply imbedded to forego the facts"]

Evidence, plz.

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 15, 2006 06:47 PM


Dano,

My analogy was a stretch, but you seemed to have difficulty understanding what I believe is an easy to understand sentence.

"over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is"

Over-represent the dangers, opposed to delivery factual presentations as they fall. That doesn't mean a balanced (50/50) representation, but a fair representation. To state the you believe in "over-representing" certain facts is a clear statement that you explicitly support the dissemination of some information over other information based on a subjective selection. That is a political/personal/policy not scientific decision.

I have no problem with advocacy group "over-representing" certain types of facts (e.g. about the dangers of something), because their role and objective is clear.

I have an issue about scientists doing it under a veil of "scientific objectivity" - something that is Roger's bug-bear.

Gore can "over-represent factual presentations about the dangers of climate change" to his heart's content. However, he leaves the field of honest brokers and enters the field of campaigners when he does so. But that is OK, because he is a politician.

A scientist who values their reputation for objectivity should think a bit more carefully before they do the same.

Posted by: Paul at May 16, 2006 05:05 AM


Steve Hemphill

Thanks,

That was the one. An advocate of over-representing a certain type of information - the selection being determined by a desired policy outcome.

A lot of people here seem to be ambivalent to this attitude. I feel very strongly about it.

I don't want scientists filtering information to me or my legislative represantives who formulate policy on my behalf.

I am happy for advocacy groups or campaigners to do so (I am a strong believer in free speech), but take exception to them claiming that the are giving a fair rather than partisan representation of information. Gore falls into this camp.

Posted by: Paul at May 16, 2006 05:14 AM


No, I did not say "climate scientist" Dano. You are again twisting my words. To be fair, I understand that is part of your paradigm - but your limited understanding of the potential interplay of the sciences is no reason for anyone else to change their behavior.

Define climate scientist. There is no such thing as a real climate scientist who ignores the effects of increased FOOD on flora. Someone who ignores the reaction of the biosphere to an altered environment, which further alters the biosphere, ad nauseam, is just playing. They are not addressing reality.

I meant any scientist. There are all kinds of scientists involved in the interdisciplinary study of climate. Some are just too focused on their own field to understand how other inputs and feedbacks affect the big picture. Some have very loud mouths and are overeducated for their intelligence. You know the type. Or do you?

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 16, 2006 06:41 AM


"No, I did not say "climate scientist" Dano. You are again twisting my words. To be fair, I understand that is part of your paradigm - but your limited understanding of the potential interplay of the sciences is no reason for anyone else to change their behavior. "

Sigh.

Lookit all the hand-waving and dissembling. And the misdirection and unattributed claims.

Silly me.

[ignore]

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 16, 2006 11:33 AM


Paul:

you wrote: "I have an issue about scientists doing it under a veil of "scientific objectivity" - something that is Roger's bug-bear."

Yes. Good comment.

You have identifided the theme of Roger's blog: whether Platonic and Cartesian subject-object relationships are adequate for decision-making; he thinks they are and is working through the practical application of the delivery of scientific information to policy-makers. Generally the discussion on this comment board is, fundamentally, whether the proscriptions he gives are workable or adequate.

Your attribution of ambivalence to this attitude is dependent upon whether or not your implied premise [that the Platonic relationship is adequate for societal decision-making] is correct. As we don't know (and perhaps can never know) if the Platonic relationship is adequate for society's needs, all we can do is what we are doing now.

Several subdisciplines have arisen trying to work out this idea. I, personally, don't pretend to have the answer, but thank you for your patience in reading my reply.

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 16, 2006 11:48 AM


Greetings -

Just thought I'd straighten up a few things regarding my article on NRO.

First, to set the record straight on my views on GCC:

In the time that I've written about climate change, I've rarely disagreed with the IPCC WG1 summation of empirical findings regarding climate change, particularly when they're presented with a faithful representation of the caveats from within the body of the document. (Which is rarely the case with the Summary for Policymakers, and rarely the case in the public pronouncements of the involved parties, IMHO). Thus, I accept the general validity of the surface temperature record (with appropriate caveats), and was never one to put much credence on the satellite record. There are valid arguments about how the surface temperature record has been patched and spliced and such, and the extent to which UHI has been properly handled, but, at least theres real data there to play with.

I also don't have much problem with what I'd call the first-order deductive theory of climate change, namely, the relationship between GHG's and global heat-retention. Hence, I haven't quibbled much with the most commonly discussed sensitivity range for CO2 doubling, 1.5-4.5 degC. I do, however, agree with what I've read suggesting that the sensitivity is more likely to be at the low end of that range than the high. And of course, there could well be offsetting feedbacks that negate some or all of that
CO2 warming. And, as I mentioned in the article, theres good reason to suspect well never hit a doubling of CO2 anyway.

I am, however, highly dubious of models, and I put little stock in most long-term temperature reconstructions, and less stock in all forecast models other than the most conservative extrapolations from observed temperature trends. (hence, continuing the 0.1 degC/decade observed in TAR, you get an additional 1 degC warming by 2100).

Im even more dubious about the potential for international GHG control regimes to either work, or provide benefits anywhere near the costs theyd impose.

To sum it up, Im not a climate skeptic (more than anyone trained in science should inherently be), but Im very much a climate policy skeptic.

Now, to the article on NRO: My main point in that NRO article was simply to point out that I believe some of the "establishment" scientists who have previously allowed extremist climate speculation to run rampant without validation studies are now growing worried about losing credibility, and are beginning to check some of the high-end estimates out, and highlight their improbability. In addition, more of those scientists are emphasizing adaptation more than mitigation, which is a sharp reversal of focus compared to previous years. I think both of those trends are good for the debate and good for the institution of science in general.

And Mark, I wasnt invoking a climate-conspiracy-theory fantasy, the idea of spontaneous coalitions is quite well established. Check out "Baptists and Bootleggers" by Bruce Yandle if youre unfamiliar with the concept. As the saying goes, it doesn't take a conspiracy to get all the lemmings off the cliff.

Best,

Ken Green

Posted by: KenGreen [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 23, 2006 11:15 AM


Ken Green writes, "And Mark, I wasnt invoking a climate-conspiracy-theory fantasy, the idea of spontaneous coalitions is quite well established.”

Ken, I don't know why you'd call the "projections" in the IPCC TAR a "climate-conspiracy-theory fantasy."

As I've written many times, the IPCC TAR “projections” for atmospheric methane concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases constitute the greatest fraud in the history of environmental science. Considering that I do environmental and technological analyses for a living, I think it’s pretty safe to say I know what I’m talking about. It’s not a “conspiracy-theory fantasy”…the IPCC TAR “projections” are pseudoscientific rubbish. They are no more valid than the “projections” in the Limits to Growth series of books.

Furthermore, it’s not like it’s a big secret that the IPCC TAR projections are pseudoscientific rubbish, intended mainly to scare the public.

Here's what Jesse Ausubel's (11-year member of the National Academy of Sciences, and 5-year Program Manager for the National Academy of Engineering) website says:

"The IPCC's 2001 Third Assessment Report uses 40 scenarios which show decarbonization and carbonization going in all different directions with no probabilities attached. Failing to provide probabilities is unscientific and reveals the political bias of the results, said Ausubel."

In fact, even James Hansen has basically admitted the IPCC TAR scenarios are lies, designed to scare the public and politicians:

"Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate...scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions."

There is no "climate-conspiracy-theory fantasy." There's only a climate conspiracy fact.

Posted by: Mark Bahner [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 24, 2006 08:30 PM


Mark -

You seem to be missing half of what I say. I completely agree that the SRES are rubbish, and that IPCC modeling efforts are useless for public policy development. I've written about that often.

Again, for the record:

1. I cautiously accept the findings of recent warming, though don't accept historical reconstructions as being solid enough to tell us if the warming we've observed is normal variation or abnormal / anthropogenic warming.

2. I cautiously accept the theory that greenhouse gases can trap heat in the atmosphere (the caution is that feedbacks might cancel that out).

3. I cautiously accept the idea of extrapolating from recent warming over reasonable periods, like, a few decades. So, if we've seen 0.14 degC/decade, for the last three decades, we might see it continue at that rate for a few more.

4. I reject the utility of the SRES/modeling approach entirely, and particularly when it comes to making policy.

5. My research suggests that adaptation is the answer now, and, if we ever do firm up the idea that we must pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, sequestration is likely to be less expensive than mitigation.

Ken Green

Posted by: KenGreen [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 29, 2006 01:06 PM




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