I came across this CBS news cast that like the Hansen et al (2012) links the recent extreme weather events experienced to climate change but here more specifically anthropogenic climate change.
Hi All - There was a piece on the Newshour last night by Spencer Michels that I thought would interest many of you, it really got my attention.
The piece, "Climate Change Skeptic No Longer Doubts Human Role in Global Warming," describes a recent study Richard Muller conducted at Berkeley that converted him from a vocal climate skeptic to a true believer (in part using Koch brother funding). His complete turn around is striking and definitely useful for countering the claims of the very small but very loud group of climate deniers. But one of the most troubling things I found in this piece is the reaction from the scientific community against Muller once he released his study and went on a media blitz. Scientists that had been working on this for years in obscurity felt sidelined and jealous that a denier-turned-believer, and relative newcomer, could garner all this publicity with a single study. They lashed out. In my mind that was a big mistake. Regardless of how reductive Muller's findings were, they support the broad scientific consensus, and more importantly challenge the false claims of the deniers from within their own movement! This is a teachable moment, and no degree of sour grapes from scientists should stop the spread of a message tailor made for a confused public: a prominent climate skeptic, funded by the oil industry, took time and care to examine the facts and concluded that man-made climate change is real. End of story, now let's move on to the solutions!
"Extreme weather and climate events, interacting with exposed and vulnerable human and natural systems, can lead to disasters. This Special Report explores the challenge of understanding and managing the risks of climate extremes to advance climate change adaptation. ... Some types of extreme weather and climate events have increased in frequency or magnitude, but populations and assets at risk have also increased, with consequences for disaster risk. ... Some strategies for effectively managing risks and adapting to climate change involve adjustments to current activities. Others require transformation or fundamental change." IPCC 2011 Special Report: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.
I think an IMAX movie would be a great way to appeal the climate change problem to the general public. - Kamila
Link to the report page is below.
With last week's discussion intensely focused on domestic policy, I thought everyone would like some international policy.
Some pacific island countries decided to try to see what their recourse could be in the event that the scientific consensus is correct, and climate change is both real and caused by recent human civilization. If their nations will cease to exist due to rising sea level, and if their combined military power is clearly insufficient to stop the major nations from continuing to emit excess greenhouse gases, what should or could the islanders do about it? Could they sue? A year ago, some of them started trying to convince the International Court of Justice to weigh in on the matter:
In the past year, President Toribiong from Palau has gained a little bit of support from other nations, keeping this idea very much alive. Any thoughts?
9.12.12 Climate Change: Communicating the Science
Last week, the discussion revolved around the national political commitment to climate change issues (especially within the current election). This week's presentation/discussion expanded on that theme, considering how to most effectively communicate the findings of climate scientists to the public.
We began class with Richard Alley's "Earth: The Operators Manual”, available from PBS (blurb below)
Join geologist Richard Alley as he travels the world and across the USA, sharing an accurate, understandable and upbeat report on the interlinked stories of humans and fossil fuels, Earth's climate history and our future energy options.
Introduction to our Guest Speaker
Our guest speaker (Bob) comes to us after many years as an investigative reporter, focusing first on natural disasters and more recently on Senate committees discussing climate change. The political arena during the beginning of the Obama administration demonstrated to him how “uncertainty” could be hijacked from scientific terminology and injected into the policy debate. This inspired his current project, which focuses on ways to clearly and convincingly communicate climate change to the general public.
As an example, Bob cites a piece in the NYTimes detailing the work of Benjamin Strauss, whose group Climate Central focuses on framing sea level rise in local terms.
Generally, In Bob's view, forecasts and predictive models were far less effective for motivating change than the ability to connect climate change to localized self-interest, such as extreme weather in one's own area.
A Few Discussion Highlights
Choosing extreme weather events as a theme
Sam: How did you decide to focus on extreme weather?
Bob: It's a way to frame it - whether we view this as a problem for the future as opposed to a problem that's happening right now. This isn't restricted to weather. Disaster response, emergency planning are other examples.
Admitting prediction/model error
Gerry: Predictions on climate and weather are dicey. It starts to look like every weather pattern justifies climate change. (which means that none of them do)
Bob: I admit that this is an issue... As an example, sea ice is something that is both truly frightening and extremely difficult for people to connect to. Using tangible metaphors that make sense to the average public is a better track.
Cap And Trade
Eric: Is there still a focus on cap and trade?
Bob: Other groups are largely taking this conversation over; my own group isn't prepared to go that far. Even the carbon tax was argued significantly, despite being a Republican idea.
The tangibility of scientific precision
Marco: As an example, the effects of sea ice loss on surface temperature was equivalent of 20 yrs of CO2 being pumped into the air (according to Peter Waldman's statements to BBC). Can you (the students) conceptualize this? Even those of you who work with this data...is this something that the lay person can actually connect to?
Gerry: Echoes the conclusion that the average person simply doesn't connect to the science.
The tangibility of a communication strategy
Dan: How do you measure the success of your organization?
Bob: I get asked this question all the time. It's difficult, but we tend to view “success” as when we've gotten out message across.
Sources of Scientific Authority, Part I: Peer Review/Scientific Consensus
Marco: <Directed at the class at large>How much do you trust scientists? For example: I tell you that melting in Greenland will effect your food prices.. this is a consensus we (scientists) arrive at with the help of economists. Do you just trust us? And if so, why?
Patrick: I have to see the links ( the logical connection) between what your saying and what I perceive in the world independently.
Sam: We know there's going to be uncertainty; how do we represent that?
Marco: Let's use smoking as an example: I've proven its dangers to you (say you accept this as fact), but then someone that you meet casually over a beer tells you that I'm full of it. Does this change your mind? Why?
Kamila: It's an issue of credibility. What are your sources?
<some discussion about how to communicate uncertainty in the scientific community>
Gerry: It's going to depend on the audience. If I'm speaking to lay people, I will state more confidence in the science than I would in front of a scientist.
Sources of Scientific Authority, Part II: Esteemed Geophysicist deems “Spiderman's Uncle” a perfectly valid citation
Marco: How many people here have read Hanson's paper on extreme events?... I'm going to ask the class to write a half-page paper in the format of a press release advertising Hanson's paper. I think it's important for us to exercise our ability to communicate particularly influential findings in the sciences to the general public....”With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”...pretty sure that was Spiderman's uncle, right?
< aside: this quote can actually be attributed to Voltaire, although admittedly, Uncle Ben has a certain gravitas >
Climate Change and the Election Cycle
Patrick: Why do you think public opinion has changed so much in the past couple of years about climate change?
Bob : Inconvenient Truth had a huge impact , from 05 to Obama's election, we just saw a growing consciousness in the population. Then there was a concerted effort against it by the fossil-fuel industry (and the Tea Party) and a new melding of political interests to fight it.
Sam: What did you think about Romney's quote essentially saying “Obama's worried about oceans rising, but I'm helping your family”..
Bob: He was throwing a bomb at Obama for overstating his power. (targeting him for grandiosity, which is sometimes a fair criticism). It's basically red meat to the hard-core climate deniers. It works because Obama's vulnerable in terms of appearing grandiose, but Obama's team is (rather intelligently) fighting this attack by connecting large-scale changes to local concerns, such as forest fires for Iowa voters.
Bob: As a reporter, I've seen The Republican Party move hard right. It's been amazing.
Caitlin: I'm reminded of 14 science-based questions <to be posted on the blog>. that a group is asking politicians to answer. Romney's answer acknowledged that climate change was happening, but denied anthropogenic causes (which I thought was interesting). Are you able to articulate that kind nuance when you go out and connect to people?
Bob: It's hard, but we try not to alter the message too much.
Caitlin: This threatens a lot of people's ideologies. What do we do?
Bob: I'm reminded of the notion of the “Six Americas”. There is a section of the country who you can convince, and a section of the country that you can't...we find those who are open to having their minds changed.
[This post is from Caitlin
Here is the link to the 14 Science Questions answered by Obama and Romney: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=obama-romney-science-debate
The climate change question is #2. It's interesting that Obama takes for granted an acceptance of anthropogenic climate change, while Romney highlights a supposed lack of scientific consensus on the human contribution climate change (but then later points the finger at China for emitting more greenhouse gases).
I also stumbled across this article on strategy to convey sea level rise to the public http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-seek-strategy-to-convey-seriousness-of-sea-level-rise
Check this report and the relative executive summary ....
Here's a summary of what we talked about in our class last Wednesday:
A bit long, but probablworth repeating.
We began with a discussion stemming from Sam's earlier post about the Naomi Klein article.
Sam had indicated the importance of communicating climate change to the public, but Tri was skeptical that climate change could be communicated -- she argued that the issues were too complex for the public to understand.
This developed into a discussion about why people don't believe in climate change. Gerry noted that changes in the climate are taking place over decades/ generations. People don't think on these time scales. Christine suggested that its a question of belief -- people follow the opinions of those they look up to. Gerry pointed out that its much easier for people to believe that there is nothing wrong, because then they don't have to take any action. When it doesn't hit people in the face, said Chad, they're not going to worry about it. We need large events like intense hurricanes to get people worried. But when that happens, its too late.
Marco shifted the discussion to politics. Naomi Klein's article mentioned that the people who have recently stopped believing in climate change are mostly republicans. Does addressing climate change have to do with a hidden agenda by the left to introduce a "new socialism"?
Sam: Its kind of a psychological issue: when all the changes that need to be made conflict with your world view, you stick to your world view. One of the key issues has to do with humans' relationship to nature. We're at the point where pollution isn't limitless. The idea of "man's dominion over nature", stemming from the enlightenment, is meeting a limit: there needs to be a philosophical change.
Tri: But I can still say I have dominion over nature and still make a change!
Sam: Yes...the idea comes from the Bible. I see it more as an idea of stewardship, not dominion over nature.
Marco: What do you think about the idea that there was a non-homogenous abuse of resources. There are lifestyles where people don't use iphones, they are not constantly checking their email. Its still a relatively small proportion of humans who are using these things. All of this mess, according to what we know, is happening because of the burning of fossil fuels which drove major economies.
Sam and Tri agreed -- rich countries could not have gotten rich without the burning of fossil fuels. They have more responsibility.
Eric: But its also human nature to take advantage. I lived overseas..the islanders ripped up magrove forests to build docks -- one of the favorite pastimes was to sit in the car with the a/c blasting and the windows open. Even though the major powers may be more responsible, no one is guiltless and will overuse resources if they don't have to pay.
We turned to the visibility of the issue:
Gerry: It has to do with visibility: according to Paul Falkowski, if our cars went around pooping carbon we'd notice there was a problem.
Marco mentioned a presentation by an artist who linked air pollution meters to a laser display and a car that with a bubble around it that filled up with gas so you could see how much was produced -- these made the pollution visible.
Gerry: Our part of the world will not change as much as other areas. Even if we were right in there with nature, its very difficult to see.
Tri: This is why we should transfer more power to the executive branch. This should be a national defense issue.
Sam mentioned Romney's convention speech and his line about climate change:
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family."
Sam thought it was interesting that he was apparently implicitly acknowledging that Climate Change was happening.
Dan suggested that the message was that climate change is happening but a refusal to believe that we are the cause.
Gerry: There's always another argument about why we don't have to do anything. We have to get to the point where someone says change is happening and we have to do something about it.
In one book about climate change the author had to spend a whole chapter explaining why the evidence shows that climate change is real. This doesn't happen for physics. The only other instance is in the case of evolution, where there are also political implications.
Will they succeed in a first-of-a-kind experiment to force the power of the ocean to our needs ?
From the NYT on September 3rd ... interesting !