Why is communicating climate change science hard?

This is quite an interesting, and detailed, post about science communication, focusing mainly on climate science. It makes some interesting points about the difficulties in communicating this complex and contentious topic. Probably understandably, it doesn’t really provide any clear answers as to how to communicate this topic more effectively, but I do agree with the message in the last paragraph – using humour, being more personable, and using clear and effective imagery will certainly help.

Bogology

Why is science communication hard? Why don’t people blindly accept what scientists tell them? In a time when 97% of climate scientists agree about human-caused climate change[1], why do some people still think that a single cold winter disproves global warming? Is it because scientists are stuffy academics, tight in their ivory tower? Because scientists aren’t very good at disseminating and knowledge and communicating information? Or because information is not available in an accessible, engaging format, with key data in pay-walled publications?

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Scientific consensus, public scepticism

Science communication has a long history[2], and the British Association for the Advancement of Science was established way back in 1831. Yet today, despite an abundance of scientific information being readily available, climate change remains a confusing subject for many[3]. While it appears that, in Britain, a majority of people believe…

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282 Responses to Why is communicating climate change science hard?

  1. AnOilMan says:

    I think communicating climate science is relatively easy.

    However there are many truth challenged individuals, running around and pretending there is some sort of controversy. I say truth challenged for many reasons, nay sayers seem to fit a variety of descriptions, from genuinely misguided and vocal to politically motivated, as often as not paid directly by oil and gas interests to express paid opinions.

    Many nay sayers seem to equate climate science to the image of radical environmentalists. This of course couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re talking about 15,000+ active scientists making up a rather large multidisciplinary effort to improve our understanding of the climate.

    I like to harp on the fact that this much of this science is old and often developed for applications different from climate change.

  2. Rachel says:

    I like Jonathan Rowson’s approach in A new agenda for climate change. He thinks we need to start reframing the problem from a technical, environmental one to an ethical one which carries as much financial risk as environmental risk. He also thinks we need to forget about those who are unconvinced about anthropogenic climate change and instead focus on the group he calls the unmoved. He give three reasons for their being unmoved:

    1) “I don’t feel uneasy about climate change”
    2) “My daily actions are not part of the climate change problem”
    3) “There is nothing I can do personally that will have any significant effect on limiting climate change”

  3. Mike McClory says:

    The only reason it’s difficult is because of the prevalence of main-stream-media (MSM) to prefer to report the ravings of the deluded few, Delinpole, Nova, Curry, Rose, Monckton, etc…

    We should be looking at why the owners of MSM outlets such as the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Murdoch press, etc have such a will-full purpose to misrepresent the science and the implications from it.

  4. Mike McClory says:

    Should read Delingpole, hate to give him a reason to whinge, he does that enough without my help…

  5. Perhaps the communication is difficult mainly because the issue is so difficult. The effects of climate change are not clearly observable to individuals, the detrimental effects build up very slowly. It’s still not certain that the damages will be large. Many other issues are of more immediate concern. Understanding the correct arguments for strong action requires understanding decision making under uncertain but potentially very large risks. That’s not where people are good.

    There have also been earlier environmental issues that have not developed in a fashion people were told, or think now that they were told.

    Is it to the least surprising that communicating on climate change is difficult?

    How could communicating on such matter be anything else than difficult?

    For most people the only understandable evidence is trust in authority. When that’s the only evidence they can judge at all, it’s not very difficult to shatter that trust, or at least make people to doubt it. Fighting against distrust under such conditions may very easily turn as counterproductive.

    Counting percentages of scientists who agree may convince some, but probably not very many. It has also been justified to ask, what is such wide agreement about. We know very well that they agree on basics, but not on everything very relevant. Thus telling the percentage does not really say much, unless it has been verified for a well specified set of statements, but I think that’s usually not the case, and when it is, the results are not any more so convincing.

  6. Steve Bloom says:

    Hmm, nothing in that lead paragraph about an orchestrated campaign by vested economic interests or the very damaging role of the media. These are the words of a person who misunderstands the problem on a fundamental level. So why bother reading on? Based on your summary, sure, communication technique matters, a point made in detail by hundreds of prior articles, but it’s not going to be a key factor in solving the problem.

    Even when people are faced with a quite direct and immediate conflict between their chosen lifestyle and the impacts of climate change, the persistence in sticking with the former is quite amazing. There are other examples, but here I’m thinking of coastal real estate development in Florida, which make no mistake is the basis of the local way of life, and the refusal to change in light of the imminent and by now entirely certain near-term impact of sea level rise. No amount of clear scientific communication is going to affect that situation. People there *know* about the problem, *know* that the only solution is planned coastal retreat, and simply refuse on a collective level to do anything meaningful about it. Easter Island, anyone?

    There’s also a trap in this sort of context-free focus on communications technique, which is to let the nature of the feedback be the gauge for communications success. *cough* Tamsin Edwards *cough* Sadly, the necessary message isn’t going to tend to make communicators popular or happy.

  7. Steve,

    Hmm, nothing in that lead paragraph about an orchestrated campaign by vested economic interests or the very damaging role of the media.

    To be fair, it is mentioned, if not given pride of place.

    Based on your summary, sure, communication technique matters, a point made in detail by hundreds of prior articles, but it’s not going to be a key factor in solving the problem.

    I agree that it’s not going to be a key factor. The problem is much more complex than a few amusing anecdotes and slightly more colourful figures.

    There’s also a trap in this sort of context-free focus on communications technique,

    Possibly, but I think the person who wrote this has a better grasp of the realities than many others.

  8. Steve Bloom says:

    Hmm, comment disappeared. Am I on moderation?

    There’s something interesting and possibly useful re communication technique in the Grauniad today. I can’t stand Upworthy myself, but its apparent success with the gen-Y demographic needs to be understood.

  9. Rachel says:

    Steve,

    Hmm, comment disappeared. Am I on moderation?

    Nope. It’s not in spam either. I’m not sure what happened, sorry.

  10. Steve Bloom says:

    Fortunately it was just one sentence. Paraphrasing:

    “Excessive” would have been a more accurate word choice than “context-free.”

  11. Steve,
    Okay, yes, I think I see what you now mean. Yes, I largely agree. There does seem to be an issue – in my view at least – in how people who are regarded as science communicators seem to be engaging in this topic. Often, it seems, criticising how scientists engage (especially when they do try to be more direct) rather than actually being particularly constructive.

  12. Why is science communication hard. Well, dear Bogology, if your third sentence and first fact are demonstrable nonsense, you should not be surprised that people do not “blindly accept” whatever you say. Nor should you in fact strive for that. Enlightenment and stuff.

  13. Richard,
    Demonstrably? I don’t think that’s strictly correct, however hard you’d like it to be true. Also, why don’t you put this comment on the original post, rather than here, as this is just a reblog.

  14. Rachel says:

    I’ve just had a read of the comments on this post at Bogology and they’re pretty funny just because they’re so predictable and it’s always the same characters. There’s Barry with his usual concerns and Paul Matthews with his short, snide remarks and then lastly ScottishSceptic with his “I am the victim and ought to be paid to do this” mentality.

  15. ATTP,
    I didn’t and want write what Richard Tol wrote, but his statement has much in common with the last sentences of my above comment:

    It has also been justified to ask, what is such wide agreement about. We know very well that they agree on basics, but not on everything very relevant. Thus telling the percentage does not really say much, unless it has been verified for a well specified set of statements, but I think that’s usually not the case, and when it is, the results are not any more so convincing.

  16. Yes, it was rather typical. You failed to mention my attempt at a dig at Paul Matthews that went unanswered 🙂

  17. Rachel says:

    Yes, I enjoyed your comment too and had a bit of chuckle when I read it.

  18. Pekka,
    Sure, I agree that the high level of agreement applies to the basics and that there is still much uncertainty/disagreement about the details. I do think that much of the criticism of the consensus project is largely pedantic and rather misses the point. Maybe I’m being too generous to the post I reblogged, but I certainly read those type of claims as referring to the basics, rather than to the details. There are still many who seem to think there is more disagreement than there actually is.

  19. One of the reasons that communicating climate science is so hard is that some people *cough* Steve Bloom *cough* seem to take against us when we (the scientists) don’t sign up to their political agenda.

  20. Richard,
    I was going to make a not dissimilar comment myself. Steve doesn’t think it’s worth reading the original post because there’s nothing in the first paragraph about an orchestrated campaign. Richard Tol thinks it’s nonsense because it mentions the 97% claim. So, this doesn’t quite illustrate the difficulty in communicating this topic, but it does illustrate how hard it is to get people to agree about how best to do it and what information should be presented.

  21. In the net discussion the communication has largely split to peaces. People who agree widely read each other and applaud comments that make the view very strongly. In that they make it sure that few who are not already in their camp pay much attention.

    Using ideas like this 97% is an example of that. I see that as somewhat disingenuous. The number was reached by using really weak criteria for agreement, and then used hoping and trusting that it’s interpreted as telling of more. Using this kind of tricks in communication may sometimes work, but it may also lead to total loss of trust.

  22. BBD says:

    If it is it any consolation, I never quantify the consensus in discussion, online or in face-to-face. I feel that “strong scientific consensus” is enough.

    As for Richard Betts’ jab at Steve above, WTF? There is a denial machine. Sometimes Tamsin gets it wrong etc.

    What the hell has this to do with SB supposed politics?

  23. Steve Bloom says:

    Perhaps ironically, my political agenda in this regard can be neatly summed up as “avoid dangerous climate change.” Far too radical for Richard, for sure. 🙂

  24. BBD

    Because if scientists have to think about not upsetting political sensitivities, in addition to the already-challenging task of communicating a complex technical topic, this makes it even harder.

    In addition to the push back against climate science from those who don’t think that climate change is a problem, there is also a push from the other direction – people who want scientists to say things a particular way, or who don’t like the uncertainties being discussed objectively, or who don’t like it when scientists call out exaggeration and misuse of the science for political ends. This means that scientists feel even more under pressure when trying to engage with the public.

    Scientists need to be free to talk about science, without worrying about being politically correct.

  25. BBD says:

    Of course they do, Richard. So the full force of their criticism needs to be directed at the deniers.

  26. BBD says:

    there is also a push from the other direction – people who want scientists to say things a particular way, or who don’t like the uncertainties being discussed objectively, or who don’t like it when scientists call out exaggeration and misuse of the science for political ends.

    This is so asymmetrical compared to the misrepresentations by the fake sceptics as to border on rhetoric, Richard.

  27. Steve Bloom says:

    Anders, first you say you think you agree with me, then you say you were going to write something similar to Richard? Umm…

    Maybe let’s look at that opener again:

    Why is science communication hard? Why don’t people blindly accept what scientists tell them? In a time when 97% of climate scientists agree about human-caused climate change[1], why do some people still think that a single cold winter disproves global warming? Is it because scientists are stuffy academics, tight in their ivory tower? Because scientists aren’t very good at disseminating and knowledge and communicating information? Or because information is not available in an accessible, engaging format, with key data in pay-walled publications?

    I suppose I can take the time to deconstruct this, but first can you confirm that you think it correctly lists the key elements of the problem? Are the three potential answers commensurate with the three questions?

  28. Yes, it is asymmetrical, but it doesn’t mean the push from the other side isn’t there. And oddly, whenever I highlight it, it gets bigger (like you are doing now).

  29. Pekka,

    In the net discussion the communication has largely split to peaces. People who agree widely read each other and applaud comments that make the view very strongly.

    Yes, I agree. It does become a bit of an echo chamber.

    Using ideas like this 97% is an example of that. I see that as somewhat disingenuous. The number was reached by using really weak criteria for agreement, and then used hoping and trusting that it’s interpreted as telling of more. Using this kind of tricks in communication may sometimes work, but it may also lead to total loss of trust.

    My personal view of the 97% paper is that – assuming we agree that it refers to the basics, rather than the details – it is broadly correct. Maybe it’s not 97%, maybe it 95 or 98, but that’s not really the point. Trying to show that it’s wrong (as Richard Tol has attempted) just seems silly (Richard Tol also appears to be going through another phase of pointing out on Twitter that I’m unenlightened, or something like that – I only get to see the responses – so I must be doing something right 🙂 ). The more interesting question – as you indicate – is whether or not a consensus project is worth doing (i.e., most fields wouldn’t bother) and whether or not it’s use is productive. I don’t really have strong views about these latter issues. I can see why it’s needed (to counter claims that such a consensus doesn’t exist). I can also see how it could help those who are uncertain, but I can also see how it can alienate others. Personally, I suspect it doesn’t actually make much difference – it won’t convince those who are convinced otherwise and those who already accept the evidence won’t be bothered by it.

  30. Steve,
    I was wondering if you would pick up on that 🙂 I should probably have been more careful in my response. Richard’s comment reminded me that I had been considering highlighting how you seem to criticise the post for not stressing – early on – something that you think is important. Tol criticises it for mentioning the 97% result. So all I was agreeing with is the idea that getting science communication right is hard because people have such different – and sometimes strong – views about how it should be done, which I think is highlighted in the comments here.

    To answer your question, no that probably doesn’t correctly list the key elements of the problem, but that wasn’t really what I was getting at. If you actually go to the post there are a couple of comments from Paul Price that I largely agree with. There is no real point – in my opinion – trying to engage with die-hard “pseudo-skeptics” as they are never going to be convinced to alter their views. Maybe never is too strong, but it’s close enough. Certainly the media doesn’t help and given how much exposure the GWPF gets in some UK media outlets, there is certainly some level of orchestration going on.

    My main reason for reblogging the post wasn’t because I fundamentally agree with what it says, it’s because I find science communication interesting and because I think communicating climate science is very difficult. The discussion we’re having is probably reasonable proof of that. I do think this post is better than many I’ve seen because I think it does highlight these various issues even if not as strongly as some would like.

    To be clear, I don’t really have a good answer as to how best to communicate this topic. I haven’t done a particularly good job myself. Broadly speaking I agree with you, especially with regards to the role of the media.

  31. Steve Bloom says:

    Maybe I should resort to an example in order to refute Richard’s rather poorly thought out attack on me. Let’s consider my politics versus Jim Hansen’s. Probably I can sum it up by just saying no watermelon he. The guy was a Republican until a few years ago, and I’m a founder of the California Green Party. In terms of solutions, I strongly disagree with his views on nukes and with the idea that a carbon tax will be able to manage the problem without command-and-control. But where we agree completely is on the nature of the problem and that emergency steps must be taken ASAP.

    So Richard, is it the case that you consider those points of agreement to be necessarily political in nature? Please do explain.

  32. To expand a bit more, a major reason why communicating climate science is so hard is because the majority of the audience don’t think it is communicating science – they think it’s communicating policy (or motivating behaviour change). This is entirely different to communicating science.

    I generally don’t like to put people in categories, but my perception as a scientist who communicates with non-scientists is that there are two broad groups:

    1. people who are genuinely interested in the science itself – what the conclusions are, how they were obtained, how reliable they are, and what they mean for the wider world. Discussing with these folks is relatively easy.

    2. people who are only really interested in the conclusions and what they mean for the wider world. Discussing with these folks is often harder, because the reason for their interest is very often their political concerns. NB. this in itself is not a bad thing – everyone has a right to their views – but it does add a further dimension to the communication challenge.

    NB. The above categories are independent of whether people think climate change is a problem or not. In my eyes, Steve Bloom and (say) Andrew Montford are in same group (2).

  33. “Why is communicating science hard?”

    Scientist: “I find it hard because….”

    Non-scientists: “No, no, you’re wrong, what do you know about why you find it hard to communicate science….?”

    😉

  34. BBD says:

    And oddly, whenever I highlight it, it gets bigger (like you are doing now).

    More rhetoric. You illustrate my point.

  35. @Wotts
    I did not write that you missed the Enlightenment. Bogology missed that.

    Science communication is hard if your aim is blind acceptance. It is hard if your third sentence antagonizes part of your audience.

    Communicating science isn’t hard, actually. Yesterday, the 10 o’clock news should a movie of the Big Bang (which apparently looked remarkably like fireworks).

    As Richard B notes, one problem with the communication of climate science is that many of the communicators are more interested in imposing a political view.

  36. Richard Betts,
    Interesting comment, and maybe that explains something. I suspect that most people who comment here agree with you about the science. Maybe I’m wrong, but I assume that you broadly agree with the IPCC conclusions and most who comment here do too. So, by and large, there’s no real reason why you and I, for example, would spend a long time discussing the science as we’d probably agree quite quickly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly interesting discussions we could have, but I suspect we wouldn’t end up arguing about details.

    The interesting discussion then may be the implications of the science and what impact climate change will have in the future. So, you seem to then lump, for example, Steve Bloom and Andrew Montford together and I get the impression you feel the same about others (myself too possibly). My issue with that view is that, in my opinion, there’s a big difference between someone who broadly accepts the scientific evidence and would like to understand more about the impacts and maybe has quite strong views about the impacts, and someone who, broadly speaking, doesn’t accept the scientific evidence and mainly appears to want to diminish the significance of the possible impacts.

    So, I can see why you might lump Steve and Andrew Montford together. I can also see why Steve might not be too impressed by such a comparison.

  37. Richard Tol,
    So, I’ve found the tweet that someone else then responded to and it is

    You referring to me, or the author of the post that I reblogged? Anyway, it doesn’t really matter.

    Science communication is hard if your aim is blind acceptance. It is hard if your third sentence antagonizes part of your audience.

    Sure, if that’s the aim the it’s going to be hard. My view, for what it’s worth, is that those who are going to be antagonized by that sentence are not going to be convinced by any form of reasonable science communication. At least, that’s my experience.

    Communicating science isn’t hard, actually. Yesterday, the 10 o’clock news should a movie of the Big Bang (which apparently looked remarkably like fireworks).

    Indeed, when it’s something that isn’t contentious and it’s something that you can make colourful movies about, it is easy. I know, I do a fair amount and never have any real problems.

    As Richard B notes, one problem with the communication of climate science is that many of the communicators are more interested in imposing a political view.

    Sure, this is clearly a factor. I would suggest that the GWPF is a classic example of an organisation that’s trying to impose a political view. Do you agree?

  38. BBD says:

    Richard Betts

    Yes, it is asymmetrical, but it doesn’t mean the push from the other side isn’t there.

    It would be helpful if we had some comparative examples to consider. On the one had we have fake sceptics publicly and frequently trying to create uncertainty in order to paralyse public policy. On the other… what, exactly?

    Who from the “climate convinced” camp is inhibiting scientists from communicating science effectively? How are they doing it? Let’s anchor this with some real-world examples to avoid straying into rhetoric.

  39. The aim of the GWPF is to restore balance and trust to the climate debate.

  40. BBD says:

    Richard Tol

    As Richard B notes, one problem with the communication of climate science is that many of the communicators are more interested in imposing a political view.

    From the man who is on the advisory boards of both the GWPF and De Groener Rekenkamer.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, sometimes.

  41. BBD says:

    The aim of the GWPF is to restore balance and trust to the climate debate.

    Bollocks.

  42. BBD says:

    The same old lie. The science is “politicised” and only the fake sceptics are clear-eyed and objective apolitical honest brokers.

    Complete cobblers. Risible. Dishonest. What else can I say?

  43. Richard,

    The aim of the GWPF is to restore balance and trust to the climate debate.

    That doesn’t really answer my question.

  44. ATTP,
    One point that I wanted to make is that looking in one logical way, what Richard Tol wrote is totally true.

    It’s a fact and not pure speculation that the share of 97% has been used by high-ranking politicians implying much more wide reaching agreement than the analysis really tells about. It’s really difficult to make me believe that this was not exactly what the authors of that study wished to happen.

    You know that I have been following Climate Etc for long and commenting there. For quite a while I accepted what Judith Curry did as a genuine attempt to maintain a site that people of wide range of preconceptions may follow, and to to which they can contribute. On such a site it would be possible to influence at least a little also people with predominantly differing views. Gradually her own contributions have, however, moved too strongly to the skeptical direction. Whereas she once proposed an uncertainty that’s larger in both directions, she has recently been promoting lesser uncertainty on the upper end, and more on the lower end only. In my view, her arguments in support of that are really weak, essentially non-existent.

    Thus I have concluded that Climate Etc is nowadays too strongly one-sided to serve as a forum for discussion that can maintain a wide audience and promote properly critical thinking. That kind of forum would, however, be valuable, and one of the potential ways of communicating to an audience that could make some difference. No site, where modestly skeptic contributors get ridiculed by the regulars (not necessarily by the host) can help much in that. A good site in that spirit must be tolerant of views that are reasonable based on some common set of attitudes. It’s not necessary to tolerate comments that are effectively trolling (whether intentionally or due to a real lack of understanding, what others do understand), but genuine differences in point of view must be tolerated, and ridiculing them by regulars stopped.

    The point is not only one of tactics in getting a particular message true, but it’s also of learning. None of us should feel too self-righteous. Even people with very different views may have valuable points that we should learn to understand.

    Maintaining such a site is certainly difficult. One essential point seems to be that the host concentrates more in keeping the discussion going than in declaring, what’s correct and what’s not. She or he can put limits and use moderation to prevent trolling, and to cut off argumentation with a fool, when that argumentation is not any more of value to others.

    I don’t write this to say, that your site should attempt to be what I wrote above, but I’m happy whenever I see even little movement in that direction (rather that off as at Climate Etc.).

  45. Steve Bloom says:

    Richard, I do believe you just managed to insult me. You are a reasonably competent scientist, although you clearly have a very bad case of what Jim Hansen refers to as reticence, but even bearing in mind the sharp limitations placed on you by the nature of your employment, you just made it entirely clear that you’re doing more harm than good. Also you don’t know diddly about the extent of my interest in the science nor, note, did you even bother asking me about it before pronouncing judgement.

  46. Pekka,

    It’s a fact and not pure speculation that the share of 97% has been used by high-ranking politicians implying much more wide reaching agreement than the analysis really tells about. It’s really difficult to make me believe that this was not exactly what the authors of that study wished to happen.

    Yes, I probably agree but I don’t quite agree that this is what Richard Tol was suggesting (not that that matters). I think my response to you was roughly consistent with this. There’s a big difference between arguing that the result is wrong (i.e., there isn’t a strong agreement about the basics) and arguing about whether or not it’s been used appropriately.

  47. BBD says:

    Pekka

    It’s really difficult to make me believe that this was not exactly what the authors of that study wished to happen.

    Cook13 was a counter to the false claims by fake sceptics that there is substantial disagreement among scientists about the basics. Yet you have nothing to say about this essential genesis. False balance.

  48. Steve Bloom says:

    Anders, after a while it began to seem silly to keep discussing that opening paragraph without reading the body, so finally I broke down and did so. Yes, it’s much better than the opener, covering many more bases more coherently, but of course it contains nothing really new. It also contains a number of misapprehensions, which as It’s now very late for me I’ll have to wait to list until tomorrow (er, later today).

  49. BBD

    For one example in the public domain, see here.

    There was another example <a href="here, which was later removed after I pointed out to the author that it was factually incorrect and potentially harmful to my reputation.

    That one built on an article by Joe Romm which had a go at me – it’s cited here but again the original article was removed after I pointed out factual errors and reputational attack.

    Also don’t forget good old Aubrey Meyer of course – I’ve discussed him here before so no need to repeat his astonishing accusations against me and several other colleagues, including one of the founder members of the field of climate modelling.

    There’s also various examples on Twitter.

    It’s worth pointing out that I’ve had to take legal advice more often because of attacks on my reputation from among the “climate concerned” than from sceptics – but maybe the latter are more astute when it comes to avoiding actual defamation!

    Fortunately, not all such things get done in public. Nevertheless, having one’s colleagues cc’d in to emails complaining about what I say is still not very nice.

    I definitely perceive moves to keep me “on message”. If a scientist feels like this, it’s a *bad thing* for scientific objectivity.

    Luckily, as BBD says, this is only a minority. I’d regard it as background noise if it were not for the fafact that memes can spread.

  50. Richard,
    There seem to be some missing links in your comment.

    Also don’t forget good old Aubrey Meyer of course – I’ve discussed him here before so no need to repeat his astonishing accusations against me and several other colleagues, including one of the founder members of the field of climate modelling.

    I don’t remember you doing so before (although, that may be more my memory more than anything else) but I do seem to remember seeing a rather contentious exchange involving yourself and Aubrey Meyer on Twitter.

    Nevertheless, having one’s colleagues cc’d in to emails complaining about what I say is still not very nice.

    Indeed, it can’t be very nice. Possibly one advantage to being anonymous 🙂

  51. Steve

    Sorry you feel insulted. That wasn’t intended, although I was deliberately trying to be surprising in my choice of names I mentioned, in order to make the point about how I see the different groups in the climate conversation.

    If you’re genuinely interested in the science then that’s great. I can only speak from my own experience – whenever you and I have discussed a paper, you’ve only raised disagreements against papers that pointed in a certain direction (eg. Sheffield et al 2012 Nature paper on drought, which suggested there may be no trend in global drought after all).

    However, to be fair I should thank you for engaging with Meyer on Twitter over the weekend. He was misrepresenting Hansen, just as he has misrepresented me, and you called him (Meyer) out on that. Thank you.

  52. ATTP

    Please can you add a facility to check a post before it goes live (like Bishop Hill has!)

    🙂

  53. Richard,
    I can try, but I think that may require some financial investment on my part.

  54. [Reposting with links fixed]

    BBD

    For one example in the public domain, see here.

    There was another example here, which was later removed after I pointed out to the author that it was factually incorrect and potentially harmful to my reputation.

    That one built on an article by Joe Romm which had a go at me – it’s cited here but again the original article was removed after I pointed out factual errors and reputational attack.

    Also don’t forget good old Aubrey Meyer of course – I’ve discussed him here before so no need to repeat his astonishing accusations against me and several other colleagues, including one of the founder members of the field of climate modelling. [Edit – ATTP doesn’t remember, maybe I said it somewhere else, so here is one example.]

    There’s also various examples on Twitter.

    It’s worth pointing out that I’ve had to take legal advice more often because of attacks on my reputation from among the “climate concerned” than from sceptics – but maybe the latter are more astute when it comes to avoiding actual defamation!

    Fortunately, not all such things get done in public. Nevertheless, having one’s colleagues cc’d in to emails complaining about what I say is still not very nice.

    I definitely perceive moves to keep me “on message”. If a scientist feels like this, it’s a *bad thing* for scientific objectivity.

    Luckily, as BBD says, this is only a minority. I’d regard it as background noise if it were not for the fact that memes can spread.

  55. JustAnotherPoster says:

    Actual Science communication is easy when your theory is sound.

    Julia Slingo and the end of last winter did a interview with ITV claiming melting ice in the artic would lead to the cold dry winters we saw for two years.

    This year climate change was blamed for the Stormy and Flooding we had. Almost a 100% about face from last year.

    This is 100% “climate science” communications issue.

    This is a 100% diametrically opposed prediction, to most engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians this makes no sense at all.

    If melting artic loaded the dice towards drier colder winters as was proposed last year by Julia it can’t to most logical minds simultaneously loads the dice towards wetter ones as we have just had. It makes no logical sense.

    Thats why the general public in my opinion is cynical of climate science. Its based 100% on many years of failed predictions. Warmer, Mediterranean climate for the UK, Less Rain, More rain, Less Snow, More Snow.

    More hurricanes, Florida is currently without a major hurricane(3+) strike in recorded history.

    The general public is remembering ALL of climate science 100% failed predictions when newspapers and scientists report them to the media for publicity.

    Climate science failings is 100% down to climate scientists failed predictions.

  56. Richard Betts, do you feel like responding to the above comment? 🙂

  57. Marco says:

    Richard Betts, I fail to see how Bob Ward’s comment is any evidence of anything other than you two apparently not communicating quite well with each other. Or, perhaps I should even say, evidence of you two not liking each other (with you showing the most direct evidence of that towards Ward). I see little evidence of any push in his comment to shut down legitimate debate, as you accuse him of in your response. Perhaps you’ve had other experiences with him that make you react this way, but then be aware that the evidence you provide here is less than overwhelming, at least to me.

  58. ATTP

    So, you seem to then lump, for example, Steve Bloom and Andrew Montford together and I get the impression you feel the same about others (myself too possibly). My issue with that view is that, in my opinion, there’s a big difference between someone who broadly accepts the scientific evidence and would like to understand more about the impacts and maybe has quite strong views about the impacts, and someone who, broadly speaking, doesn’t accept the scientific evidence and mainly appears to want to diminish the significance of the possible impacts.

    Steve and Andrew both appear to me to take a biased view of the impacts of climate change (as does the GWPF).

    Steve (and Joe Romm, and others I could mention) seems to readily accept evidence pointing to very severe impacts but distrusts evidence that says it may not be so bad. Andrew and GWPF seem to be the opposite.

    At least, that’s my perception from being on the receiving end of their communications efforts. I’m more than happy to be pointed to evidence of greater objectivity than I have so far noticed.

    And yes, I broadly agree with the IPCC conclusions (after all, I helped formulate them). AR5 has of course moved on a bit since AR4, so I agree more with AR5. [Caveat – the WG2 SPM has not been finalised yet, and I have no further input on that now…..] Actually there were several bits of AR4 that I disagreed with, but that’s water under the bridge now.

  59. Marco

    Like I said, not everything happens in public.

    But I should point out that Bob and I had a few beers together after all that and cleared the air. I merely offer it as a example in response to BBD’s request for evidence.

  60. JustAnotherPoster

    No she didn’t. You’re believing what bloggers tell you.

  61. JustAnotherPoster says:

    Richard Betts. This is EXACTLY what she implied in this interview.

    http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-04-10/met-offices-urgent-inquiry-into-arctic-effect-on-uk-weather/

    In her own words.

  62. JustAnotherPoster says:

    The above sort of interview is EXACTLY climate sciences communications problem.

  63. BBD says:

    Richard Betts

    Perhaps things like allowing Bishop Hill (and consequently his audience) to promote your extremely contentious comment that 2C warming isn’t dangerous might explain why some people are critical of your approach?

    Nor does this incident inhibit the general communication of climate science by climate scientists. Your examples – what I can see of them – seem rather sparse. Reputational attacks are reprehensible, and I am glad to see you provide two examples of articles that have been removed as a consequence.

    By contrast, nothing ever gets retracted at Bishop Hill or WUWT etc despite constant demonstrations that what is written there is demonstrably misleading and in some cases attacks the professional competence and even professional integrity of scientists.

    As I said right at the outset, the problem is grossly asymmetrical.

  64. JustAnotherPoster says:

    The warming of the artic is leading to colder drier winters.

    And you wonder why climate science has a communication problem when almost a 100% directly opposite scenario occurred this winter.

    That above interview is why the general public is EXTREMELY cynical.

  65. JustAnotherPoster says:

    “Loading the dice towards dry cold winters”.

    An EXACT Quote.

    We then have the complete opposite a year later. A mild wet winter.

    Then you wonder why climate science has a communications problem ?

  66. Richard,

    And yes, I broadly agree with the IPCC conclusions

    Yes, I didn’t doubt that.

    Steve and Andrew both appear to me to take a biased view of the impacts of climate change (as does the GWPF).

    Steve (and Joe Romm, and others I could mention) seems to readily accept evidence pointing to very severe impacts but distrusts evidence that says it may not be so bad. Andrew and GWPF seem to be the opposite.

    Personally, as I think you agree, I think we should consider all the evidence. So, maybe you have a point that there are some who are biased low and others who are biased high. I find Steve quite challenging and has strong views, but generally well-informed and knowledgeable.

    But there is an issue I’ve been considering and which comes from something I saw Richard Alley present, and it’s that the risks are essentially bounded one side. In a sense things could be better than we expect (or, I guess, more correctly the low estimates could turn out to be right) or they could be worse than we expect (or, the high estimates could turn out to be right). One might regard this as symmetric, but it seems to me that the risks are not the same. The risks associated with things being better than we might expect seems different to the risks associated with things turning out worse than we expect. Hence I tend to have more sympathy with those who tend to be biased high, than with those who tend to be biased low. This is a bias of my own, of course, and – scientifically – might be incorrect, but it’s hard to avoid having such views. What is your view of this particular issue – in the sense of the relative risks associated with low versus high estimates?

  67. BBD

    I didn’t say 2C warming isn’t dangerous, I said it’s a matter of judgement whether it is or not.

    But anyway, this is exactly my point. People are always saying scientists should step up and make their views known – but it seems this is OK only for certain select views (real or perceived).

    Which is exactly why this is a difficult communication problem for scientists!

    You’ve done a really excellent job at proving my point – thanks 😉

  68. BBD says:

    JustAnotherPoster

    Loaded dice toward dry cold winters does not mean that all winters will be dry and cold. Just more of them. If the public read the words and considered what they actually say for a few seconds, then there would be no communications problem at all.

  69. BBD says:

    Richard

    You’ve done a really excellent job at proving my point – thanks 😉

    No, I haven’t. But thanks for saying so 😉

  70. JustAnotherPoster,

    This is EXACTLY what she implied in this interview.

    Julia Slingo was extremely careful in what she said in that interview. Why don’t you listen to it again and try to listen to what Julia Slingo actually said, rather than what you think she said or what you think she was implying?

  71. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @BBD I know however, that’s the implication of the communication from Julia Slingo. Following on from cold dry winter, we should expect more cold dry winters.

    The met office based on that predicted a cold dry winter.

    We got the complete opposite.

    Its VERY carefully worded but the implication of the communication and interview is to based the cold dry winter of 12/13 on climate change and to expect more

    The same as the interview post flooding, we should expect more flooding post flooding….

    This is why climate science has a communications problem its 100% self inflicted.

  72. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics

    The implication of Julia Sligo language was explicitly VERY carefully worded. Following that interview there were massive media headlines of “UK to face colder drier winters”. I know exactly what she said, and how she worded the interview. But that interview, is 100% climate sciences issue.

    That interview is climate sciences communications problem. The nod and a wink that the cold winter was caused by climate change, but with the language carefully worded to say we didn’t mean that really when the opposite occurs.

  73. JustAnotherPoster,
    The interview was in June 2013. We’ve had on winter since then. There is a difference between weather and climate.

    The same as the interview post flooding, we should expect more flooding post flooding….

    No, the message post flooding was that warmer air holds more water vapour and hence we might expect extreme precipitation events to be even more extreme in the future. Also, we have rising sea levels. Both of these could contribute to more flooding in the future.

    I assume that you’re implying an inconsistency here. I don’t believe that that is correct. We can still have a tendency for cold dry winters, with extreme precipitation events happening more often in the future than in the past.

    Of course, Richard B is the climate impact expert, so he’s welcome to correct me if my interpretation is incorrect.

  74. JustAnotherPoster,
    I disagree. Julia Slingo was extremely careful in what she said. You want 100% accuracy in a field that is unable to provide that. If you don’t like the message, that’s your right. You also possibly have the right to expect 100% accuracy. That would, however, imply a serious lack of understanding about how complex science works and about uncertainties.

  75. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics Think about what your saying…. we should expect colder drier winters… which by definition should hold less moisture in the air as its its colder…. Which technically should lead to less extreme rainfall events. Based on a colder than average atmosphere, however if were warming there should be more not less precipitation events.

    Physics should dictate that if were going to have colder drier winters, there should be less rainfall events based on a colder airmass.

    Again both predictions seem diametrically opposed to each other. Physically and logically. If the prediction is for cold, the physics should logically follower less rainfall and drier winters. But If more winters are going to be like the last one.

    it seems a logical fallacy that we can have colder on average winters, but more rainfall events.

    Again this is climate science tying its self 100% in knots.

  76. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics you seem to misunderstand me, I’m not the person complaining about accuracy and “Does climate science have a communications problem”.

    I’m giving a clear example of WHY climate science has a communications problem.

    It would have been much better for the Met Office to come out and say, we don’t know what caused the cold dry winter to be honest, our understanding of the climate is limited.

    Rather that the implication it was based on climate change.

  77. JustAnotherPoster,

    Again this is climate science tying its self 100% in knots.

    No, I think it’s you misunderstanding the difference between weather and climate.

    To be honest, I’m not really interested in discussing this much further especially as your extensive use of “100%” rather indicates that you’ve made up your mind. You’re entitled to do so but it’s clear that nothing I or anyone else says will change it one iota. So, let’s not waste any more of each other’s time.

  78. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Thenthere is physics. Again another example of this from the USA.

    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/record-high-temperatures-united-states-17889346

    The Polar Vortex and cold recent and snowy winter in the states now being blamed on climate change by the media.

    Compared with the following

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/experts-quiet-climate-change-skeptics-warming-leads-to-longer-cold-snaps-1.1727176

    This again is a clear example of WHY climate science has a major communications problem.

    Its completely self inflicted.

  79. > Well, dear Bogology, if your third sentence and first fact are demonstrable nonsense, you should not be surprised that people do not “blindly accept” whatever you say.

    Spot the ad hom. Hint:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/climate-denialism/#comment-17462

  80. Spoiler:

    > This is a perfect example of the Why Should We Take You Seriously game. You said nonsense here; you said nonsense there; with this understatement, I will question everything you claim.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/climate-denialism/#comment-17464

  81. andrew adams says:

    I’m giving a clear example of WHY climate science has a communications problem.

    Yes you are, but not in the way you think.

  82. > Steve (and Joe Romm, and others I could mention) seems to readily accept evidence pointing to very severe impacts but distrusts evidence that says it may not be so bad. Andrew and GWPF seem to be the opposite.

    By “Andrew and GWPF”, do you mean our beloved Bishop and Richard Tol, Richard?

    Somehow, comparing specific persons with abstract entities sounds strange to me.

  83. andrew adams says:

    Richard Betts,

    I didn’t say 2C warming isn’t dangerous, I said it’s a matter of judgement whether it is or not.

    Yes, but certain people interpreted it as you saying 2C warming isn’t dangerous. Barry Woods was going around for ages afterwards claiming exactly that. I do agree that some criticism you’ve received from the “concerned” side has been unfair but in this case I think you could have anticipated how your remarks would be received in certain quarters and been a bit clearer. As we’re on the subject I would partly disagree with the substance of your remark in any case – yes “dangerous” is a value judgement but there are certain values which are pretty universal and can be invoked without too much controversy. It wouldn’t be considered unreasonable to talk about earthquakes or flu epidemics being dangerous. And the fact that there uncertainties about the impacts of AGW involved doesn’t mean that the word is inappropriate either – “danger” implies a risk of adverse consequences, not certainty they will occur. Whether a 2C target is useful as a political tool is a different question and I think you have a better argument on that question.

  84. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Andrew Adams and @thentheresphysics s I’ve given clear examples of why I think climate science has a serious communications problem with the general public.

    @thenthereisphysics you have just given a great example of another climate science issue. “Weather isn’t climate” But weather IS climate when climate scientists want to link events such as hurricanes or flooding or snow to climate change.

    This is exactly another fantastic example of why climate science has a massive communications problem. Weather events such as heatwaves, cold snaps, flooding and droughts are all given as examples of climate change. But when you mention a warm wet winter was just weather and not climate because it didn’t follow previous climate science predictions, it makes the climate scientists look daft.

    Its as though your saying weather isn’t climate, but it is when we say it is, such as the recent SW UK floods. Again this leads to a massive credibility problem in climate science.

    Climate scientists would do them selves a massive favour, by NOT linking any weather events to climate change, because as soon as they do this, the opposite occurs and they look a bunch of idiots.

    Climate scientists only have themselves to blame when sceptics point to failed predictions by the climate science community.

  85. JustAnotherPoster,
    You really should listen much more closely to what people actually say when they discuss the relationship between weather events and climate change. Rarely do they actually directly associate an individual event with climate change, and those that do would be wrong – in my opinion – to do so. They do, however, discuss the relationship between extreme events and climate change and, in that context, may refer to actual events. I will echo what Andrew has said, though. Your perception of what is actually said may well indicate an issue with science communication.

  86. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics ” Rarely do they actually directly associate an individual event with climate change” “They do, however, discuss the relationship between extreme events and climate change”. Doublespeak was invented for the above statements.

    Again its not my “perception” of what climate scientists are indicating its their explicit language which is again a massive issue with the failure of climate science communications, exemplified by the interview by Julia Slingo.

    Its just enough to give a nod and a wink to generate media headlines. that cold winters should be what we expect, with enough caveats so when the opposite happens people can claim that people should listen more carefully to her interviews.

    Again Look at the examples from the USA.

    Indications are that these sorts of events MAY be what should be occurring, but with enough caveats to cover their position if something completely different happens.

    Last year spring was mild and early in North America, climate scientists said expect more mild springs, this year climate scientists are blaming the polar vortex on climate change.

    Again, you will probably tell me to listen VERY closely to what they are exactly saying, and i get that, however the language climate scientist use is DIRECTLY to blame for the communications issue, again climate change can simultaneously cause both mild and extremely cold winters in the USA.

    Its the insinuation and the language used by climate scientists that causes their communications problems and why some people think its a horrific joke as a science.

    Exemplified by the interview given By Julia Slingo. “We should expect colder drier winters”. I know explicitly that she didn’t say all winters would be dry and cold, but the language used indicated to anyone watching who didn’t listen very carefully would lead them to think ALL winters would be dry and cold.

    Again climate scientists are their own worst enemies.

  87. andrew adams says:

    Communication is a two way process and meaningful communication can only be achieved if the person on the receiving end is willing to consider the information in good faith and try to put aside their own preconceptions. Of course it’s right to be suitably critical but if the information you receive appears on the surface to be counter-intuitive or possibly to contradict what you’ve heard from other sources then before dismissing it out of hand or making claims of poor communication it doesn’t hurt to consider that maybe the problem is your own (lack of) understanding of the subject. Or maybe it could be a combination of both, but either way asking for clarification is better than assuming the fault is entirely down to the other party.

  88. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Andrew Adams ” Of course it’s right to be suitably critical but if the information you receive appears on the surface to be counter-intuitive or possibly to contradict what you’ve heard from other sources”

    You seem to be almost agreeing with me but can’t quite bring yourself to do it 🙂

    Again the information i’ve presented here are seemingly contradictory quotes and references from climates scientists.

    Again is the caveats and language used by climate scientists that gets them into trouble.

    We think x is going to happen, but just in case it doesn’t, as were not sure, y might happen as well, but we think x is much more likely than y. So when y occurs, the language used by climate scientists leaves them wide open.

    It would be better to just come out and say we don’t know.

    From Richard Betts

    Cringeworthy coverage of leaked IPCC AR5 WG2 report

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/official-prophecy-of-doom-global-warming-will-cause-widespread-conflict-displace-millions-of-people-and-devastate-the-global-
    economy-9198171.html … Cherry-picked, ignoring adaptation & non-climate influences

    A fantastic example of why Climate Science has a massive communications issue.

  89. JustAnotherPoster,

    It would be better to just come out and say we don’t know.

    No it wouldn’t. That what uncertainties intervals are for.

    A fantastic example of why Climate Science has a massive communications issue.

    I think you’re confusing the manner in which the media chooses to present this information with the actual process of communicating science. There’s only so much that scientists can do to make sure the media presents the information as best it can.

    I think you should consider that you just don’t like the picture that climate scientists are presenting, rather than they have a massive communications issue.

  90. It’s been quite rightly brought to my attention (not by the author of the original post, I should add) that my reblog of this post has had many more comments than the original post. I should probably have closed comments on this or encouraged people to comment there instead. Mea Culpa.

  91. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics, I’m trying to give you specific examples of why i think climate scientists are finding it hard to communicate to the general public.

    And in my opinion the language used by climate scientists exemplified by the Julia Slingo interview and other examples of climate science “predictions” is demonstratively what the issue is.

    People aren’t ignoring the message their listening but due to the language used over the last decades in trying to communicate climate science, aren’t bothered, or are listening, but hearing seemingly completely contradictory messages and just not taking the prophets of doom seriously any more.

    I could always get the old David Viner quote out an a perfect example of this.

  92. OPatrick says:

    Richard Betts:

    Yes, it is asymmetrical, but it doesn’t mean the push from the other side isn’t there. And oddly, whenever I highlight it, it gets bigger (like you are doing now).

    I find this almost shocking, it seems such an obvious catch-22. You appear to be suggesting that anyone questioning your claim is thereby justifying it.

    I also echo (’tis a chamber, after all) previous commenters who have queried the strength of your examples of ‘push-back’ from the ‘consensus’ side of the argument. These seem at most to be people expressing disagreement at your position, with some possible miscommunication thrown in to the mix. This seems very far removed from the accusations of misconduct that seem common from the other side.

  93. JustAnotherPoster,
    Well, maybe you’re making a more coherent argument than I at first thought. The problem I have with it, though, is that scientists have some moral obligation to present information that is consistent with the evidence. If they aren’t certain about what will happen, they should say so. That’s not the same as not knowing what will happen though. You seem to want them to present some kind of united picture. It doesn’t work like that, though. It’s complex and sometimes things will appear contradictory. It’s also contentious and so anything apparently contradictory will be attacked by those who, for whatever reason, don’t like the message or don’t want it to get out. That’s why it’s so difficult. As I’ve said before, if people want to ignore it, they’re quite entitled to. That isn’t going to change what will happen, though.

  94. BBD says:

    O’Patrick

    I find this almost shocking, it seems such an obvious catch-22.

    I did mention that Richard has embraced rhetoric a little too tightly here.

  95. BBD says:

    JustAnotherPoster

    I repeat what I said earlier because it seems to have bounced off:

    Loading the climate dice in a particular direction does not mean that everything changes forever.

    This can be applied to dry, cold winters vs the recent flooding, or to snow vs Dr Viner. Trends, generalities, preponderances and exceptions are words to consider.

    You are applying dogmatist thinking to a complex and partially unpredictable problem and you are coming up short then projecting your comprehension failure onto others, eg. climate science communicators and the public.

    The strong claims you make about the public are arguments from assertion, nothing more. Just rhetoric and self-serving rhetoric at that.

  96. Ian Forrester says:

    JustAnotherPoster, what fraction of the Earth’s surface is covered by the UK? Not very much by my calculations. So do you see the silliness of your arguments when you get upset because a very, very small section of the Earth does not have the weather, over a very short time span, that climate science predicts will happen when averaged over the whole globe?

    If we look at global coverage we see that what climate scientists are predicting, i.e. more floods, extreme weather droughts etc is in fact happening.

    See here:

    http://www.preventionweb.net/files/20120613_ClimateDisaster1980-2011.pdf

    If you live in such a small world that your back yard is all you see then you will miss the big picture.

  97. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics “. You seem to want them to present some kind of united picture. It doesn’t work like that, though. It’s complex and sometimes things will appear contradictory”

    *having fun argument time*

    the 97% statistic and the science is settled quotes etc from certain climate scientists really don’t help in the understanding of actual climate science though, as it makes the explanation of uncertainty impossible as the “science is settled”.

    Again climate scientists are their own worst enemy. I’ve seen Michel Mann have arguments on twitter with people who want a sane discussion with him and have actual question being wrongly labled climate deniers etc.

    Climate scientists want the world to take them at absolutes, but then start using language such as “climate denier” etc. “the science is settled” when it blatently isn’t, not by a long way.

    Another perfect example of climate scientists shooting themselves in the foot.

    I could real off numerous quotes by climate scientists, all seemingly contradicting each other, in an area known as settled science, that has a 97% consensus and calls people “deniers” who question it.

    Thats your climate science communications problem imho.

  98. JustAnotherPoster,

    *having fun argument time*

    No, not particularly.

  99. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Thenthereisphysics. Having fun aside, this is in my opinion why climate science has major problems.

    “I could real off numerous quotes by climate scientists, all seemingly contradicting each other, in an area known as settled science, that has a 97% consensus and calls people “deniers” who question it.”

  100. OPatrick says:

    I could real off numerous quotes by climate scientists, all seemingly contradicting each other, in an area known as settled science, that has a 97% consensus and calls people “deniers” who question it.

    I am highly sceptical that you can.

  101. JustAnotherPoster says:

    OPatrick

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/climate/impact/flooding.shtml

    Although it is impossible to say this flooding was a result of climate change, some computer predictions say that we can expect to see more extreme weather events such as flooding in the future.

    Followed by this

    http://www.water.ox.ac.uk/more-severe-and-widespread-uk-droughts-expected-with-climate-change

    Can you not see why the general public has a massive issue with climate science communications ?

    I could go on, and on and on.

  102. BBD says:

    This is getting exceedingly tedious.

  103. BBD says:

    JustAnother

    You have ignored ATTP (our host).

    You have ignored Ian Forrester.

    You have ignored me.

    You aren’t listening; simply making a noise, which is tedious.

  104. JustAnotherPoster,

    I could go on, and on and on.

    I know you could. I’d really rather you didn’t. We could spend all eternity exchanging examples of bad practice and contradictory statements. It’s all rather pointless, although it is illustrating the difficulty in communicating this topic.

    BBD,
    Indeed.

  105. andrew adams says:

    JustAnotherPoster,

    You chopped off half the sentence of mine which you quoted. If you read the whole thing I’m not agreeing with you. You say

    Again the information I’ve presented here are seemingly contradictory quotes and references from climates scientists.

    But my point is that just because something seems contradictory at first glance it doesn’t necessarily mean that there really is a contradiction. For example if it were to be established that climate changed caused a change in the behaviour of the jet stream and polar vortex I can see how this could result in both extreme warm and extreme cold weather in different places at the same time (or at different times in the same place).

    The fact is that understanding complex stuff sometimes requires a bit of effort. If something doesn’t seem to make sense it might be because it hadn’t been communicated well but it could be that you haven’t made much of an effort to make sense of it.

  106. JustAnotherPoster says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/02/22/uk-weather-floods-climate-change_n_4837812.html

    Again its the language used including the caveats. The massive problem is that people take the 1st sentence climate change will lead to more droughts & floods. Ignore the caveats.

    Making climate scientists look a bit daft.

    Again whilst you can dissemble the exact quotations its the language used in both example that’s misleading and counter production.

    To a non scientists More flooding = More flooding, More droughts = More droughts.

    People generally ignore the caveats when reading the articles above and pick out the headings. Climate change = More floods ( but not really)

    Climate change = More droughts

    Then you wonder why you get very high criticism from the general public with “seemingly” completely contradictory headlines such as the above.

  107. OPatrick says:

    Can you not see why the general public has a massive issue with climate science communications ?

    Not from your examples, no. They don’t contradict each other, they are not about an area of science considered settled and there is no mention of ‘deniers’.

    Other than that, well done.

  108. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @AndrewA But my point is that just because something seems contradictory at first glance it doesn’t necessarily mean that there really is a contradiction. People have jobs, lives and other things to do with their time rather than investigate if two “seemingly contradictory” statements are actually contradictory statements or not.

    Climate change = less snowy winters, we get more snowy winters, climate scienctits run round squaring the circle to a public reading the initial headlines and then getting on with their lives whilst laughing at the climate scientists…..

  109. JustAnotherPoster,
    I’ve got to say that you’re doing a fantastic job of illustrating how difficult it is to communicate this complex topic, because I no longer really have a clue as to what you’re actually trying to say.

  110. BBD says:

    There is no contradiction, seeming or otherwise. This has now been explained to you several times. Increased frequency of event x does not mean disappearance of events y and z.

    If you cannot grasp this after the help you have now had, you should stop commenting before disgracing yourself further in public.

  111. BBD says:

    ATTP

    JustAnother believes he speaks for the public, although it has already been pointed out that this is nothing more than a self-serving logical fallacy. He ignored this corrective, along with everything else. As I said: tedious.

  112. andrew adams says:

    People generally ignore the caveats when reading the articles above and pick out the headings.

    Then people can’t blame others if they misunderstand what the articles are saying.

  113. Steve Bloom says:

    For various reasons, after having experimented with publicizing seasonal climate projections a few years and then deciding that it was best not to do so since there’s too much inherent uncertainty based on the present state of the science, the Met Office finds itself dragged back into the fray. Another example of why not to do that was Julia’s comment in early 2012 that we probably wouldn’t be seeing a further sharp reduction in Arctic sea ice cover in the near future. Even projections made confidentially to government will eventually see the light of day when busted, as we saw with this winter. (NOAA perhaps doesn’t have this problem since the US has multiple climate zones and media who, whatever their numerous other failings, for the most part avoid the boffin-bashing that seems to be a casual sport in most UK news rooms.)

    But actually I think the video statement was very good, JAP’s inability to comprehend it notwithstanding, although IIRC more recently the Met Office has ascribed this winter’s odd jet behavior to increased warm pool precipitation (although more broadly I don’t think that means the Arctic explanation is wrong, since the jet is necessarily subject to both influences). I like in particular that Julia took a cue from John Holdren and used “disruption.”

    But this is a great example of why I tend to view climate science the way I do. If one looks at the arc of development of our understanding of the climate system, the watch phrase seems to be “expect the unexpected.” Ten years ago, the idea that the Arctic might warm so sharply and the tropics expand as they have, resulting in the erratic jet behavior we’re now seeing, would have been the utterest of speculation. Similarly, at that time ice sheets were still thought to be relatively stable, by no means subject to the sort of melt rate currently observed. These and other big surprises are very important to our collective future, and IMO there is every reason to expect we haven’t seen the last of them. Behaving as if we have, as Richard seems to, is a pretty horrible disservice to the public.

    So when I see something like Tamsin’s article expressing great confidence that effect X definitely won’t be a problem, even though there were contradictory papers published between the time hers was submitted and when she wrote the post, I tend to want to push back. I mentioned this again just now because of the news about the surprising news out of NE Greenland. Surprising, yes, couldn’t have predicted it, everyone totally shocked, yes, yes, yes. Um. Before Richard points it out, I’m well aware that the “Zwally Effect” Tamsin wrote about has no known connection to what’s going on in NE Greenland, but I think the excessive enthusiasm with which she did so, again while ignoring contradictory material, amounted to something of a dog whistle to those who would prefer to believe there’s nothing at all to worry about in Greenland. But now they trust her more, so that’s all good, right?

    Back on the general case for “expect the unexpected,” as Richard knows I have rather a lot of scientific company, Jim Hansen and Kevin Anderson just to start with. (And Montford has… ?) That stance may make Richard uncomfortable, but focusing on the likes of me for expressing it is a little sad.

    I need to refresh my memory on the drought example Richard gave, so more on that later, and on his strange public questioning of whether 2C is dangerous.

  114. BG says:

    My recollection from many years ago as a graduate student is that many (most?) faculty scientists had difficulty communicating science to a bunch of wannabe scientists, let alone a bunch of non-scientist undergraduates. Why should I expect them now to suddenly be skillful in explaining science to a bunch of lay people?

  115. BBD says:

    @ willard and @ BG

    🙂

  116. Water evaporates faster in a warmer world. Faster evaporation over oceans has increased atmospheric water vapor by ~4% since 1970, which allows for more intense precipitation events.

    Faster evaporation over land leads to droughts between those more intense precipitation events. That’s why scientists say that both floods and droughts become more common in a warmer world.

    Just because science is often counter-intuitive doesn’t mean that the scientific community is daft. But that depressingly common assumption seems like the biggest reason why communicating climate change science is hard.

  117. Steve Bloom says:

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), probably the most influential body of its kind, conveniently (well, for me in this thread) weighs in with a new climate change statement that doubtless would send Richard screaming for the exits had he a run-screaming-for-the-exits personality. Highlight:

    But we consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.

    In the larger picture this statement is no more than part of a good start, but it’s great to see the AAAS finally taking off the gloves and hitting the right tone. Do read the whole thing.

  118. Steve,
    I don’t know about Richard, but Pielke Sr is already criticising the AAS statement and is encouraging people to contrast it with his AGU minority statement.

  119. DumbSci,
    What you write is presently considered likely in warmer parts of the world, but probably not at high latitudes where evaporation is not an equally important factor, but then droughts are usually not a problem at high latitudes.

    Sherwood and Fu have an overview article A Drier Future? on these expectations in the latest issue of Science. They conclude

    As the above considerations show, focusing on changes in precipitation, as typical in high-profile climate reports ( 2), does not tell the whole story—or perhaps even the main story—of hydrological change. In particular, it obscures the fact that in a warmer climate, more rain is needed. Many regions will get more rain, but it appears that few will get enough to keep pace with the growing evaporative demand.

  120. Steve Bloom says:

    Absolutely, DS, but we should add that in the NH mid-latitudes especially the pattern of those droughts and floods will be greatly conditioned by jet stream behavior and longer-term by the inexorable northward creep (actually more of a dead run as these things go) of the dry sub-tropics.

  121. Steve Bloom says:

    RP Sr. against the world, once again. Remind me who cares.

  122. Remind me who cares.

    I was hoping maybe you’d tell me 🙂

  123. Steve Bloom says:

    Inconveniently, most of the food we eat is not grown at those high latitudes.

    Right now in California, a major food-growing region, push is starting to come to shove in terms of agricultural impacts. The winter rains, what little we got, are pretty much over, and it’s going to be a long, tough summer here. I wouldn’t say it’s quite at the level of being a real disaster (although IIRC one has been formally declared for at least some areas), but a third very dry year or maybe even just dryish year (on top of a larger ~15-year drying trend, note) will do the job.

    I’m sure DS already knows about this, but do have a look, Pekka.

    Even at far northern latitudes, continued warming will tend to dry out the tundra while melting the permafrost. In the past, that seems to have had consequences of the sort we would find less than pleasant. We have somewhat less permafrost carbon now and CO2 levels aren’t (yet) anywhere close to the postulated 900 ppm trigger level, but our permafrost is on average at lower latitudes and so probably more vulnerable to this effect. Something to look forward to!

  124. Steve Bloom says:

    Hmm, let’s see… RP Jr.? Mrs. Pielke Sr.? Not even for sure, I suppose.

  125. Thanks to Pekka for Sherwood and Fu 2014 (PDF) and Steve Bloom. This is an ideal example of science communication in response to an implication that predictions of increased droughts and floods are somehow contradictory. The first order approximation is briefly described, showing that there’s no actual contradiction. Others add more details, allowing interested readers to deal with additional complexity in easily digestible chunks.

    All science communication is approximate, like virtually all science except maybe Planck-scale lattice QCD. I used the approximate soundbite “wet regions will probably get wetter while dry regions get drier” and a NOAA link to try to convey a bit of Steve’s points in a crash course intended for high school students. I also tried to condense the jet stream point into a tweet:

    I made mistakes throughout (as the comments on that crash course show) but this is inevitable, which is why admitting mistakes is a crucial scientific skill. Judging by WUWT and similar comments, that skill could be communicated better.

  126. Insert belated appreciation here for the absent Oxford comma which could’ve avoided giving the impression that I was thanking Pekka for somehow giving me Steve Bloom. 😉

  127. Another thing that makes climate science communication difficult is people claiming you’ve said things that you haven’t. See for example Steve Bloom at March 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm on the subject of whether we’ve seen the last of big surprises. Of course we haven’t – I’ve actually published on this, and the abstract begins:

    The Earth system shows the tendency to change in nonlinear and sometimes abrupt ways; small changes in external forcing can lead to large and perhaps irreversible changes in outcome. The prospect of crossing important ‘tipping points’ and realizing their impacts poses unique challenges to decision makers within society, hoping to avoid damaging anthropogenic influence on Earth systems.

    So I’ve no idea what ground he has for his insinuations.

    But this further reinforces my view that he treats this as a political discussion not a scientific one.

    In fact this whole conversation totally proves my earlier point about there being a push from the “climate concerned” side which also makes climate science communication difficult. Steve talks about my “strange public questioning of whether 2C is dangerous.”, but what’s strange about it? As a scientist who is paid to assess the impacts of climate change, I have every right to question this. In fact I’d be failing in my job and my duty if I didn’t. We do not know what a 2 degree world will look like, and indeed I’m leading a major multi-million Euro research project which is assessing the impacts of warming above 2 degrees. Raising concerns about me discussing the issue is political behaviour, and makes it harder for me to focus objectively on the science.

    Oh and by the way Steve, the two reasons I initially “focussed on you” were simply that (a) you’re here in the conversation and (b) neither of the others you mention have ever niggled me about what I should and shouldn’t say, but you have done so repeatedly.

  128. Steve Bloom

    Again at March 18, 2014 at 9:24 pm you are completely fabricating ideas about my reaction to the AAS report. The paragraph you quote from that doesn’t seem so different from the abstract of the paper by my colleagues and me which I quoted above, so there is absolutely no grounds for you to say these things – you are completely making them up.

    Building a false narrative about someone in an attempt to discredit them is a tactic that some on the sceptic side seem to use a lot. This is why I see you as the same as them.

  129. Rachel says:

    Richard Betts,

    If Steve Bloom thinks that 2C is dangerous then my guess is he’s basing this conclusion on the published literature and not on a political cause. Because he no-doubt thinks his conclusion is justified, he’s well within his rights to question yours. You demand – and rightly so – the freedom to ask questions and yet you are indignant when others question those questions.

    Here in this thread we have attempts by one commenter to undermine the credibility of the MetOffice and climate scientists in general. You are at liberty to communicate the science to this commenter and to others reading along. In fact, you have been gently encouraged by AndThen to respond to this person and instead of communicating the science, you are engaged in a silly tiff with Steve Bloom. Why, oh why? I don’t expect scientists to have the time to respond to all the silly comments out there but you’re here and you’ve got the time to defend yourself personally against Steve but not to communicate the science?

  130. Ian Forrester says:

    I agree heartily with Steve Bloom. Richard Betts should be wary of the old saying:

    qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent

    or its more recent translation:

    You should be cautious of the company you keep. Associating with those of low reputation may not only lower your own but also lead you astray by the faulty assumptions, premises and data of the unscrupulous

  131. Rachel says:

    An article in The Conversation from last week – Facts won’t beat the climate deniers – had this to say about communicating the problem to the public:

    There’s no profit in trying to change the position of deniers. Their values and motivations are fundamentally different to those of us who listen to what the weight of scientific evidence tell us. So forget them.

    Forget the Moncktonites, disregard the Boltists, and snub the Abbottsians. Ignore them, step around them, or walk over them. Drown them not just with sensible conversations, but with useful actions. Flood the airwaves and apply tactics advertisers have successfully used for years.

    What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means. We actually need more opinions, appearing more often and expressed more noisily than ever before.

    The biggest impediment to climate action these days is not because of the human frailties that science is hell-bent on resisting – those alleged failings of opinion, belief and emotion. Ironically, it’s exactly because we are still trying to suppress them that we are now stalled.

  132. Eli Rabett says:

    If we do not know what a 2 degree world will look like, should we be anxious to experience it?

  133. Eli Rabett says:

    More to the point, we have almost certainly blown past the chance of limiting the global temperature anomaly to 2C. Thinking about what a 2C world would be is a rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem, of course, is what would a 4C or 6C world be and the answers are too dire to contemplate.

  134. MikeH says:

    We are living in the golden age of science communication.

    Unfortunately we are also living in the golden age of the corporation and its neo-liberal fanbois.

  135. OPatrick says:

    Richard Betts:

    Another thing that makes climate science communication difficult is people claiming you’ve said things that you haven’t. See for example Steve Bloom at March 18, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    But what Steve Bloom said was (my bold):

    These and other big surprises are very important to our collective future, and IMO there is every reason to expect we haven’t seen the last of them. Behaving as if we have, as Richard seems to, is a pretty horrible disservice to the public.

    I believe the point Steve is making is that your mode of engagement, or at least the way in which your engagement is perceived by many people from both sides of the debate, seems to be at odds with the science, including the science you have directly contributed to.

  136. OPatrick says:

    Richard Betts:

    The paragraph you quote from that doesn’t seem so different from the abstract of the paper by my colleagues and me which I quoted above, so there is absolutely no grounds for you to say these things – you are completely making them up.

    The one comes from a public position statement on climate change entitled “What we know: the reality, risks and response to climate change”, the other is from an article in a peer reviewed science journal, unlikely to be widely read by the public. Doesn’t this rather reinforce Steve’s point than undermine it?

  137. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Rachel. That’s a great example of the issue with climate science communications.

    “There’s no profit in trying to change the position of deniers. Their values and motivations are fundamentally different to those of us who listen to what the weight of scientific evidence tell us. So forget them”

    “What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means. We actually need more opinions, appearing more often and expressed more noisily than ever before”

    Two paragraphs and sentences that contradict each other. And the sentence “What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the mean” is really quite frightening in a historical context…….

    If you exclude one position you can’t simultaneously have “more opinions”.

    Debate with “Climate Deniers”, “Skeptics”, beat them on the arguments and data in open debate.

    Get Michael Mann to stop hiding behind FOI requests, its just temperature data and tree rings he shouldn’t have anything to hide at all on a professional e-mail account, he should just stop fighting FOIs and publish the e-mails, and the data. Let people check his maths, if there is nothing wrong with his methodology, people won’t find fault with it

    What you might find interesting is that the Data is unfortunately on the “Skeptics side”

    The IPCC model runs and predictions are far warmer than observed temperatures.

    “The pause” wasn’t really predicted.

    Florida is now in its longest period without a Cat 3 hurricane ever i think.

    etc. etc. etc.

    Again the problem with climate science communication often is that the data doesn’t back up the headlines. Or is open to interpenetration.

    Again climate scientists are asking for absolute trust from people. Unfortunately in my opinion over the last decade or two they haven’t really been endearing themselves and earning it.

    Publish ALL temperature data, raw data and model code openly on git hub or a similar open source repository. Similar to the physics experiments at CERN when they couldn’t understand the results so openly asked people to investigate the data.

    Then we have the shoddy “Hiding the decline” of switching tree ring data with thermometer data.

    Climate Scientists ask the public for absolute trust. The action of serious researchers are seriously being undermined by the actions of a minority, reflecting poorly on the community as a whole.

  138. @Eli Rabett

    More to the point, we have almost certainly blown past the chance of limiting the global temperature anomaly to 2C. Thinking about what a 2C world would be is a rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The problem, of course, is what would a 4C or 6C world be …..

    Indeed – hence our big research project HELIX
    ….
    Don’t know yet whether the answers are dire or not – we’ll keep you posted. Follow us on Twitter: @helixclimate 😉

  139. BBD says:

    Giddyup!

  140. BBD says:

    Hells teeth. No posts since 12:52pm and then at the exact second I post… I crossed with Richard.

    Sorry RB. Happens to me *all the time* on this blog. It’s become a running joke.

    My response was to the splendid gallop preceding your reply to Eli.

  141. jsam says:

    Anyone interested? https://www.iopconferences.org/iop/frontend/reg/thome.csp?pageID=249728&eventID=547&eventID=547

    (Why is the repetitive anti-science of justanothertroll still standing? 🙂

  142. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Eli Rabett and @Richard betts “More to the point, we have almost certainly blown past the chance of limiting the global temperature anomaly to 2C”

    Can i ask what’s the evidence for this statement ?

    GISS was 0.45C in February this year

    UAH was only 0.17.

    RSS is down as well

    All the global temperature index’s are falling.

    Again the actual observed temperature changes don’t back up the climate scientists statements “Were heading towards 2 Degrees of dangerous warming”

    The data doesn’t seem to support that statement…

  143. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @RichardBetts@Eli Rabett

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1997/plot/hadcrut4gl/from:1997/trend

    Not even 0.1 Degrees of warming since 1997 using hadcrut

    Actually falling temperatures using RSS.

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1997/plot/rss/from:1997/trend

    Again the evidence doesn’t backup climate scientists statements.

    There is not a single piece of measured temperature data that indicates we are even close to 2 degrees of “Dangerous” warming.

  144. JustAnotherPoster,
    This has all been covered in numerous places, here and elsewhere. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with it at the moment. I’ll leave your comments in case others wish to attempt an answer, but I’d appreciate if you avoided bombing the thread.

  145. BBD says:

    JAP

    The troposphere isn’t the climate system. It’s only a tiny bit of it. The climate system is mostly ocean. The rate of tropospheric warming is modulated by the rate of ocean heat uptake, which, it turns out, is influenced by zonal windspeeds in the equatorial Pacific (England et al. 2014).

    When we look at the rate of increase in ocean heat content, it is clear that there has been no pause or hiatus or even slowdown in the rate at which energy is accumulating in the climate system as a whole.

    OHC 0 – 2000m

    Hyperfocus on transient variability in the rate of tropospheric warming is a red-herring. With AGW, the centennial trend is the key issue, which is why deniers and contrarians go crazy trying to distract from it.

    As ATTP says, this has been examined in great detail elsewhere. Here is neither the time nor the place.

  146. Gish Gallops like the above are also a big reason why communicating climate science is hard. Scientists typically ask questions if they want to understand the answer, while contrarians simply gallop through “questions” without the slightest interest in understanding the answers.

    Perhaps the biggest mistake I’ve made was to assume that contrarians are actually interested in the answers to their “questions”. If a scientist implied that simultaneously increased droughts and floods were somehow contradictory and then received a clear explanation that this isn’t the case, a scientist would acknowledge this correction and correct her future statements.

    Contrarians simply ignore the offered explanation and gallop to the next talking point. Repeat ad nauseum until civilization is paralyzed by anti-scientific misinformation. What could go wrong?

  147. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @andthentheresphysics again its another example of the failure of climate science communications in my opinion.

    Were heading towards two degrees of dangerous warming, and maybe even 4-6 degrees of warming is the headlines

    Looks at the data behind the statement. Doesn’t back it up, even the MetOffices own data doesn’t support this.

    I’m sure at some point your going to accuse me of cheery picking the data. Data is just that, its open to interpretative though the use of start point, end points and statistical analysis.

    Temperature data is about the easiest sort of data you can play with.

    The problem of climate science failure to communicate again is entirely of its own making.

  148. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @BBD Again I’m fully aware of the explanation for the pause. But again this gives ammunition to the skeptics again.

    Why wasn’t Ocean heat uptake predicted BEFORE the flat lining of temperatures or the pause ?

    Climate science predicted an increased rate of warming of the temperature index’s. The rate that this has occurred has been nowhere near IPCC predictions.

    Again climate science is shooting its self in the foot. “We know the planet is accumulating energy as a whole, the temperature isn’t increasing, the only place it logicall can be increasing is the oceans.”

    The problem is for climate science the explanations after the event.

    If anyone can give me a link to a paper “predicting” the pause based on ocean uptake of the total climate energy i’ll shut up.

    The explanation for the pause based on accumulation of energy in the oceans system came AFTER the event of the slowing down of the increase in temperatures.

    Climate science wants its communication to be taken much much more seriously, don’t run around blaming record cold on AGW or other such nonsense. Don’t after a 15 year flat-lining of global temperatures run around searching for an explanation and come up with its hiding in the oceans, because the logical response from skepttic is why didn’t you predict this in the first place.

    Climate scientists are their own worst enemies at wanting to be taken seriously.

  149. When a scientist wonders if surface warming had “paused” at some point then she calculates trends and their very important 95% confidence intervals for equal timespans before and after that point. Do their confidence intervals overlap? If so, it seems like there hasn’t been a statistically significant change in the surface warming rate.

    When a contrarian wants to spread misinformation, he doesn’t bother to calculate the very important 95% confidence intervals. The first time this happens might be due to innocent ignorance of how important uncertainty estimates are in science. But the next time, it’s just deliberate misinformation.

    A scientist’s answer to this comment would include the calculated trends and uncertainties that could either support or not support the notion of a “pause”. A contrarian’s answer wouldn’t.

  150. JustAnotherPoster says:

    Dumb Scientist (@DumbSci) I’m just using publicly available data sources, unless your stating that the metoffices own data is inaccurate ?

    The Metoffice don’t publish confidence intervals and most other data sets using global temperature don’t use confidence intervals either.

    I don’t see how using a well know data analysis website can be known as spreading “misinformation”

    Again its not my own data.

    Have you actually ever seen the temperature trends since 1997 ?

  151. A scientist could examine the trends and uncertainties to see if they support the notion of a “pause” after 1997.

    1997-2014: 0.078 ± 0.119 °C/decade
    1980-1997: 0.100 ± 0.134 °C/decade

    A contrarian wouldn’t bother.

  152. (Those trends and uncertainties are from GISTEMP. Anyone who’s interested might want to repeat that experiment using the HADCRUT4 hybrid dataset.)

  153. DS,
    The following may appear nitpicking, but I think that what I discuss below is a source or real confusion. Therefore this comment.

    The kind of calculation you describe is not necessarily meaningful.

    What we have is a temperature time series (I neglect the existence of several parallel time series). That time series tells about a history that’s factual up to the accuracy of determining the data points. If there’s a period with no temperature increase we have a “pause” in that way of determining the temperature.

    Another question is trying to study some underlying warming process. If we assume that the real temperatures are linear combinations of that underlying change and variability that follows some specified random process like AR(1), we can test the null hypothesis that the underlying change involves no linear trend. Such a test may tell that the null hypothesis is rejected at some level meaning that there’s an underlying trend. We may furthermore determine confidence limits for the strength of the underlying linear trend over various periods. Then we can check whether we can conclude that the underlying trend has changed.

    When we go through all those steps of defining both the underlying warming model and the noise process and selecting periods in a way that does not bias the results, we can talk meaningfully about statistical significance.

    While meaningful statements on the statistical significance requires all that, it’s also possible to discuss just the data and to tell whether there has been a pause or perhaps o period of cooling in the data. These statements are meaningful in their own way, but tell little about the relevance of that observation on the scientific understanding of the warming.

    It may also be difficult to conclude, whether the statistical certainty of variability in the underlying trend, as discussed above, tells much about the validity of some specific models or ideas on the climate change. Every model and every idea can be used to determine, how the data can be used to test its validity most significantly. It’s virtually certain that going through the calculation of trends doesn’t lead to best tests.

    Some people have devised direct comparisons of the data with model results, but even these attempts have been deficient as statistical tests, because they are set up in a way that is guaranteed to introduce some bias.

  154. Eli Rabett says:

    Having read this interchange, it occurs to Eli that Richard Betts is engaged in saying one thing one place and another another place then pointing to the one place when challenged on the one place. Oh yes, a bit of hippie punching.

  155. BBD says:

    Eli

    I get something of that sense myself.

  156. JustAnotherPoster says:

    Dumb Scientist (@DumbSci) says:
    March 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm
    A scientist could examine the trends and uncertainties to see if they support the notion of a “pause” after 1997.

    1997-2014: 0.078 ± 0.119 °C/decade
    1980-1997: 0.100 ± 0.134 °C/decade <—– a trend of 0.1 +- 0.134

    When the error bar is larger than the trend you have to worry.

    Again

    1997-2014: 0.078 ± 0.119 <——- the error bar is larger than the trend

    In both cases the error bars are larger than the trend.

    If you showed a global temperature graph using error bars, as described by your good self above

    There would be basically zero temperature change as the error bars are larger than the trend.

    Your OWN figures illustrate this point. A trend of 0.078 with a error bar of 0.119 is saying in effect we can't measure any change.

    Climate science communications issue again.

  157. jsam says:

    I wonder how much effort, and how much true scepticism, JustAnother[Mod: snipped] has put into questioning his *data*? So far the evidence is “none”.

  158. jsam says:

    This thread is about communicating climate change, as in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l44s0jWHBdU from Yale.

  159. A scientist would notice that the error bars from both timespans overlap, showing that there’s been no statistically significant change in the surface warming rate.

    Contrarians just complain about the large error bars, which are actually due to the too-short timespan chosen by the contrarian. Contrarians wouldn’t calculate the trends and uncertainties for the combined timespan (1980-2014) because that would reveal the statistically significant surface warming trend.

  160. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @jsam. This is explicitly what i’m talking about. Climate science communications problem is entirely down to climate science it’s self, the climate science research and the self generating media headlines. Climate science communications problem is entirely self inflicted, I’m making the argument that in a massive attempt to rubbish anyone that disagrees with them, has a valid counter view point, the science isn’t as settled as though. Deep serious technical arguments about the science, the failed temperature IPCC models.,

    All of this is completely self inflicted. Every single piece of data, resource, paper or headline has been used by climate scientis that I’ve referenced.

    The graphs of the pause are valid IPCC data sets. One of them is the met office

    Richard betts is talking about two degrees of serious warming. Based on the last 15 years of data were nowhere even one degree, let alone two.

    Then. Limate scientist get defensive when people question the data and headlines.

    All completely self inflicted.

    And don’t even get me started Lewdanski papers trying to link serious climate discussions and skeptics to conspiracy nuts.

    You think that sort of ‘research’ helps or does more damage than its worth

  161. jsam says:

    I think JustAnother[Mod: snipped] is threadbombing his worn out denialism – attempting to communicate his anti-science nonsense. And he’s getting away with it. 😦

  162. Rachel says:

    Yes, jsam. There’s been a crisis on the other thread and so I haven’t fully caught up with this. JustAnother is on moderation now.

  163. Pekka, I just noticed your comment. It’s true that a rigorous analysis requires many extra steps that I left out of my brief explanation. I’ve shared R code that allows the user to specify the model (linear, linear + annual, etc.) and the autocorrelation (AR(1), MA(1), ARMA(1,1), etc.). This code then automatically generates a plot of the trends and uncertainties over different timespans (see page 2).

    While meaningful statements on the statistical significance requires all that, it’s also possible to discuss just the data and to tell whether there has been a pause or perhaps o period of cooling in the data. These statements are meaningful in their own way, but tell little about the relevance of that observation on the scientific understanding of the warming.

    The problem is that there’s a “pause” and a “period of cooling” every year called “winter”. Scientists know that these yearly “warming pauses” are irrelevant to the climate, but few in the general public appear to appreciate that fact. Hence my demonstration.

    It may also be difficult to conclude, whether the statistical certainty of variability in the underlying trend, as discussed above, tells much about the validity of some specific models or ideas on the climate change. Every model and every idea can be used to determine, how the data can be used to test its validity most significantly. It’s virtually certain that going through the calculation of trends doesn’t lead to best tests.

    It doesn’t lead to the best test, but anyone claiming a “pause” in the climate (which requires statistical significance to distinguish it from weather) should at the very least be able to show that the trend before their proposed “pause” is statistically different than the trend after that date. Otherwise said “pause” is no different than “winter”.

    I’ve tried to explain that skipping this step would lead to absurd errors. Briefly, if you fill up a measuring cup with water but your hands are shaking, there will be brief “pauses” in the measured water level as the water sloshes around. Using a too-short timespan could lead one to mistakenly conclude that the amount of water in the cup is decreasing even as the tap pours water into it. That’s very similar to what’s happening here. I think calculating the statistical significance of the trend over different timespans is the best way to show someone that the water level in the cup is actually increasing despite the short-term noise.

    But obviously I’ve failed to communicate this point over and over and over, so I’m curious to see if Pekka has a better approach in mind?

  164. jsam says:

    Hi, Rachel, slack cut. 🙂

    Why JustAnother[Self: snipped] doesn’t bother reading the debunkings of his trivia at the likes of http://www.skepticalscience.com/ eludes me? I wonder why he thinks all those scientists are intentionally misleading the public and him?

  165. JustAnotherPoster says:

    I’d like to respond to @jsam comment about why I just don’t read skeptical science ? As I’m on moderation, I hope this come though.

    I perfectly well understand both sides of the argument. I’ve read skeptical science, ‘Steve Goddards’ site, watts up with that, climate audit and many other souces of information.

    In my ‘day job’ over the last few years I’ve had to research solutions, which have multiple possibilities, come up with strategies, project plans based on my research and have a well defined yes or no result based on my research, execution of a plan, based on my recommendations and the successful conclusion of that plan.

    Let’s put it this way. If I screwed up, I’d make headlines. And you would read about it in the press.

    All I’m asking for is one paper which predicted the pause and predicted the oceans taking up the excess heat and predicted the flatlining of temperature rises.

  166. All I’m asking for is one paper which predicted the pause and predicted the oceans taking up the excess heat and predicted the flatlining of temperature rises.

    Assuming you mean one that satisfies your exacting standards, that would seem to imply that we need to invent a time machine before you would be willing to accept mainstream climate science.

  167. JustAnotherPoster says:

    It’s a simple request isn”t it ?

    Please find one academic climate science paper which predicted the pause and predicted the oceans would take up the incoming heat, thus reducing the rate of AGW

    All I’m asking

    Your job for the evening.

    One single academic paper that predicted the pause.

    Just one.

    Now go do some real research 😉

  168. JustAnotherPoster,
    Ahh, you think my goal is to spend my time convincing the unconvincable. If so, you’d be wrong 🙂

  169. JustAnotherPoster says:

    Convinced about what precisely ? Go do some work. Find me a academic peer reviewed paper that predicted the pause and predicted the oceans taking up the slack from AGW. Physicist predict stuff, do experiment confirm their predictions based on experiments. All is good in physics academia.

    Now please fine just one single academic paper that predicted the pause and flatlining of temperatures before it happened. Just one single paper predicting the pause

    Just one.

    Crowd source it. Ask EVERY single climate scientist in the entire world to help you.

    Just one single paper that predicted the pause.

    Please convince me. One paper for me to end it all, one paper that ruled them all….

    Just one paper that predicted the pause. Please, just pretty please. The entire academic climate science community wil help you. E-mail everyone.

    Just one single peer reviewed paper that predicted the pause.

    That’s it.

    Impress me.

  170. All I’m asking for is one paper which predicted the pause and predicted the oceans taking up the excess heat and predicted the flatlining of temperature rises.

    No, go and do your own work.

    Impress me.

    ????????????

  171. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @jasm. Even the metoffice admit the pause. That is possibly the most disingenuous, poorly written, confusing we post ever by tamino. It didn’t predict it either. Let’s be honest. Even GISS admit the pause

    There is a pause. And I dare ANY single climate scientists anywhere in the world to find any paper that predicted it. Explanations after the fact are all well and good. But useless for planning. Will we have another ten years of the pause or not ?

    Just one single peer review paper that predicted the pause.

    Just one.

    Beer in it for anyone that finds a paper with a prediction of the pause. From the non skeptics side.

  172. Just one single peer review paper that predicted the pause.

    Just one.

    And if there isn’t one and it turns out the the explanations for the “pause” are correct, what then?

    You do realise that unexpected things happening is part and parcel of doing science.

  173. jsam says:

    I look forward to you defining “pause” in a meaningful way. What shade of blue will I turn whilst I wait? Papa Smurf?

  174. Scientists have warned about noisy surface temperatures since at least the 1990 IPCC AR1 WG1 report which said in the Executive Summary that “The rise will not be steady because of the influence of other factors.”

  175. jsam says:

    What type of beer do you drink, DS? JAP is buying all ’round. I’m partial to the odd pint of Pride myself. Or Young’s Kew. Local, innit?

  176. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @dumb the rise will not be steady isn’t exactly saying there will be 15 years of flat temperatures is it ? It’s saying the rise will continue at different rates. Let’s be honest about these things.

    It’s not saying expect a ‘pause’ is it. Where the oceans will absorb the heat

    Next

  177. Since even after given several chances the poster has demonstrated no intrinsic abilities for research, after a minute or so of searching I found this :

    The effect of ocean heat capacity upon global warming due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, Cess, Robert D.; Goldenberg, Steven D., Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, Volume 86, Issue C1, pp. 498-502 (1981)

    here

    Pretty old, so the predictions are not quite accurate, but still ahead of the curve.

  178. I’m chillin’ with my Coors Light, because scientists roll around in grants like Scrooge McDuck.

  179. BBD says:

    Can we turn this around? JAP, can you find any papers where warming is predicted to be monotonic and natural variability predicted to cease? That, after all, is what you appear to believe to be the mainstream scientific position, but as far as I know, it is not and you are mistaken.

    My understanding is that scientists expect natural variability in surface temperatures to be imposed on the long-term forced trend. So there’s nothing really unexpected about a slow-down in the rate of surface warming.

    To me, it seems that would-be contrarians make far more fuss about this than it actually merits from an objective view of the climate system as a whole, which of course is mostly ocean.

  180. Since the link is unborkable, perhaps the person requesting this can demonstrate some basic cut and paste research skills.

    Time-dependent global warming due to increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been estimated by employing an ocean-land global climate model. Ocean heat capacity is incorporated by means of a global ocean model having a 70 m deep mixed layer, with heat being transported from the mixed layer to deeper waters by eddy diffusion. The time-dependent increase in atmospheric CO2, from 1860 to 2025, is taken from carbon-cycle models. The model results suggest that ocean heat capacity will produce a lag in CO2-induced global warming of about 2 decades. For example, without inclusion of ocean heat capacity the model predicts that an increase in global surface temperature of 1°C, relative to 1860, will occur by 1988. But when ocean heat capacity is included, the 1°C warming is delayed until 2006-2012, this range of times corresponding to no land-ocean advective coupling (2006) and complete land-ocean coupling (2012). By 2025, when the assumed atmospheric CO2 content is twice the 1860 value, the model predicts global warming of 1.5°-1.8°C, in contrast to 3.1°C when ocean heat capacity is neglected.

    This was published in 1981!

  181. BBD says:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz

    There are some parallels with the famous “Charney Report” too. Again, old hat – from way back in 1979 – but a fundamental appreciation of the issue of tropospheric temperature modulated by the rate of ocean heat uptake is there.

    Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment (1979) Charney et al. Report to the Climate Research Board, Assembly of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, National Research Council:

    One of the major uncertainties has to do with the transfer of the increased heat into the oceans. It is well known that the oceans are a thermal regulator, warming the air in winter and cooling it in summer. The standard assumption has been that, while heat is transferred rapidly into a relatively thin, well-mixed surface layer of the ocean (averaging about 70 m in depth), the transfer into the deeper waters is so slow that the atmospheric temperature reaches effective equilibrium with the mixed layer in a decade or so. It seems to us quite possible that the capacity of the deeper oceans to absorb heat has been seriously underestimated, especially that of the intermediate waters of the subtropical gyres lying below the mixed layer and above the main thermocline. If this is so, warming will proceed at a slower rate until these intermediate waters are brought to a temperature at which they can no longer absorb heat.

    Our estimates of the rates of vertical exchange of mass between the mixed and intermediate layers and the volumes of water involved give a delay of the order of decades in the time at which thermal equilibrium will be reached. This delay implies that the actual warming at any given time will be appreciably less than that calculated on the assumption that thermal equilibrium is reached quickly. One consequence may be that perceptible temperature changes may not become apparent nearly so soon as has been anticipated. We may not be given a warning until the CO2 loading is such that an appreciable climate change is inevitable. The equilibrium warming will eventually occur; it will merely have been postponed.

  182. Thomas,
    unborkable – I’ve fixed the link, I can fix this too if you like 🙂

  183. BBD says:

    Let’s put it this way. If I screwed up, I’d make headlines. And you would read about it in the press.

    Oh, I very much doubt that. People with real responsibility almost never crow about it.

  184. That’s ok, it will eventually make its way into the urban dictionary. It could be a while before the majors pick it up, though.

  185. BBD says:

    You have me there Thomas.

    My understanding is that “borked” is geek-speak for broken. So “unborked” for a broken link is a puzzler.

  186. BBD says:

    Where’s JAP gone? I want references demonstrating that those climate scientists have been going round claiming that natural variability has stopped and warming will be monotonic.

  187. AnOilMan says:

    JAP, The ‘pause in surface temperatures’ is in all of the projections, always has been, and everyone knows this.

    The projections are averages of many many simulations. Many simulations also showed declines in actual surface temperatures. That has not occurred, but is included in the many many simulations that are run never the less.

    The reality is that global warming has been going steadily. The bulk of the heat is in the oceans.

  188. Sorry, I was just a little overly enthusiastic about doing a quick search on a four keyword subject. When I see that many dots in a url I immediately give up. BTW there is also some good stuff on sawtooth warming and cooling of some lakes in Switzerland which is a different set of physics but some of it is similar, on a much smaller scale. D. M. Livingstone et al. if you care to look.

    So yes, this problem has been around for a long time now. It was January 1980 that did it for me, but we had been watching the snow line recede for a while before that. I think every local yocal has known for a long time about the warming, but only lately the scope and magnitude of the problem has become overwhelming considering how it ties in with all the other problems.

  189. Two issues seem to get mixed in the above discussion.

    1) The scientific correctness of various past statements.

    2) The correctness of the impression that those past statements created in public.

    Many people defend those statements based on the first point, but this thread is about communicating climate science. Therefore the second point is the more relevant one. While I don’t agree on everything (or even most) with JAP, I think that his comments presented some valid observations related to the point (2).

    Communicating on climate science is difficult, because it’s difficult to build correct public understanding that keeps its value irrespectively of the way the weather happens to behave over the next couple of years.

    Trying to use the recent events as support – or only as examples of what’s to be expected – is a risky approach, because the next years may turn out to be very different.

  190. AnOilMan says:

    Pekka is correct… I’m really just keen to get a free Bodingtons….

  191. jsam says:

    Speaking of Boddingtons, is this ATTP and Rachel? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEEU1nQeGNA? Inquiring minds want to know.

  192. Rachel says:

    jsam,

    I’m the runner, right? Then that would make AndThen….oh wait!

    But seriously, I’m just a lowly minion:

  193. Eli Rabett

    I wonder if it will also occur to Eli that he should pay closer attention to what people are saying in different places, in order to avoid misunderstanding and mistakenly thinking there’s something fishy going on….. 😉

  194. JustAnotherPoster

    Of course the pause (in global mean surface temperature) was not specifically predicted – forecasting natural internal variability is still very much in its infancy. The first paper to attempt a decadal forecast was Smith et al 2007, and the pause has already started by then.

    Forecasting internal variability (timescale of years) is a very different challenge to estimating the long-term response to external forcing (timescale of decades). It’s like the difference between knowing that the tide is coming in and being able to say which individual waves will lap higher up the beach – the first is easy with some basic knowledge of how things work, the second is much harder because it’s more strongly affected by complex and even random processes.

  195. As far as communicating this to the general public, all I can do is relate what I know happened over the last fifty years, from the perspective of ‘smart kids interested in science’. We all knew about Keeling in the 60s and by 1970 or so it was generally understood that the ice ages weren’t coming back, and that we should probably be looking for some evidence of warming in the near term. By the mid 70’s there was a general sense, mostly among avid snowmobilers, that yeah, something was happening, and by January of 1980 it was pretty clear it was definitely warming. There were hard winters here and there but the average snowmobile season doesn’t lie. Playing basketball outside in northern latitudes in January, 1980, that was totally unheard of at the time. As the 80’s progressed it just became clearer and clear that with the exception of hard winters here and there it was a generally warming trend, culminating in the 1988 drought, heat wave and congressional hearings. Now add two and a half more decades onto that and here we are today.

    This was totally predictable, and indeed, predicted, and observed. Farmers are not stupid.

  196. JAP

    Another analogy is the game of Pooh Sticks. This game works because it has both predictable and unpredictable elements. The predictable part is that all sticks will move downstream (because gravity makes the river flow downhill), and the unpredictable part is which stick will move downstream fastest (because that depends on the details of flow in the river, with all its swirls and differences in depth, etc).

    The gravity-driven downhill flow of the river is like long-term warming of the climate system in response to a change in the energy balance, and the race between the sticks is like the natural internal climate variability, subject to complexity and chaos and hence much harder to predict.

    If Christopher Robin is particularly astute, he might gain the upper hand in Pooh Sticks by studying the details of the river flow and trying to see which part has slightly faster-moving water and hence predicting where he should drop his stick to get the best chance of winning. This is of course much harder than simply predicting that the river will generally flow downhill.

    Similarly, forecasting internal variability is much harder than estimating long-term responses to external forcing.

    Anyway, hope you enjoyed the bedtime story – with that, I’ll say goodnight! 🙂

  197. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @Richard Betts

    “Of course the pause (in global mean surface temperature) was not specifically predicted – forecasting natural internal variability is still very much in its infancy. The first paper to attempt a decadal forecast was Smith et al 2007, and the pause has already started by then.”

    Do you not see why climate science has a communications problem ?

    The science is “settled” “there is a 97% consensus”

    We just didn’t predict the pause.

    A cracking example of why climate science has a comms problem.

    P.S. Nice paper @Thomas “But when ocean heat capacity is included, the 1°C warming is delayed until 2006-2012, this range of times corresponding to no land-ocean advective coupling (2006) and complete land-ocean coupling (2012”

    Not really scary or alarmist mind.

    Were now in 2014.

    Giss in Feb was only 0.47. Were not even close to one degree of warming let alone two.

  198. JAP,
    I was going to trash your comment as this is getting tedious. You’ve made your point, you’ve clearly made up your mind, and nothing we say is going to change that. Repeating this over and over again is not productive.

    However, you say

    Giss in Feb was only 0.47. Were not even close to one degree of warming let alone two.

    You do realise, firstly, that there is a great deal of variability in this data (quite naturally). Also, you do realise that this is relative to a 1951-1980 baseline. Hence to determine the amount of warming since the mid-1800s, one needs to compare the anomalies today with the anomalies then (which are negative) not the anomalies today with respect to the 1951-1980 baseline.

  199. JustAnotherPoster says:

    andthentheresphysics so were now saying human induced warming i.e. AGW started from 1800 ?

    I’m making the argument that “Communicating Climate Science is hard due to climate science’s own failings”, and giving clear examples of why this is the case.

    I’ve not at any point used “my” data “Skeptics” data. I’ve used clear examples from the Met Office and other sources which i think why Climate Science has a major credibility problem.

    The pause and Julio Slingo interviews being two classic examples of this issue almost many other clear examples.

    Its as though you can’t bring yourself to accept that the failings of climate science, in my opinion are a direct result of the statements by climate scientists. Linking certain weather even to climate scince, but not others, linking heat waves when its hot and flooding when its raining.

    This is in my opinion why climate science has a massive credibility gap.

    Its completely and utterly self inflicted.

  200. MikeH says:

    JAP
    “climate science has a communications problem” No. Climate cranks have a science problem.

  201. JAP,

    andthentheresphysics so were now saying human induced warming i.e. AGW started from 1800 ?

    No, but the difference between the temperature today and the temperature in the mid-1800s is mainly anthropogenic. The Solar effect is small (i.e., the insolation went up and then went back down again) and internal variability should largely average out over such timescales, although it can be contributing to some amount of our current warming, depending on where we are in a variability cycle (although, it could also have contributed to some amount of cooling).

    Its as though you can’t bring yourself to accept that the failings of climate science, in my opinion are a direct result of the statements by climate scientists. Linking certain weather even to climate scince, but not others, linking heat waves when its hot and flooding when its raining.

    Then you misunderstand me. Communicating climate science is clearly difficult. That’s kind of the point of the post. It’s not always done well and clearly people have made and will make mistakes. What I’m unwilling to accept is that it is 100% the fault of climate scientists, especially as that appears to be coming from someone who is 100% certain about everything they’ve said. In my experience, such people are often much more mistaken than they are ever willing to accept.

  202. We just didn’t predict the pause.

    Who is this ‘we’ you keep referring to? What was the state of ‘your’ global land ocean climate model in 1980? Clearly ‘their’ model, as primitive as it was in 1980, correctly predicted a lag in ocean heat uptake and content. Dana N. posted another even better prediction from 1972, although not on the subject of ocean capacity. You just can stand the idea of being wrong.

    And wrong you are. That’s your problem, not mine. I’ve given you all I’m going to give here.

  203. jsam says:

    JAP’s beer is as elusive as his pause. Oh well. I’ll just have to buy my own.

    In the meantime, consider buying a pint for http://profmandia.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/climate-science-legal-defense-fund-needs-your-help/.

  204. Eli Rabett says:

    JAP,
    so were now saying human induced warming i.e. AGW started from 1800 ?

    Well yes, but then it was mostly land use which changed the albedo of the surface and affected the carbon cycle. This is sometimes called the pioneer effect for what happened in Eastern Russia, the Americas and Australia. The difference in the annual cycle between a stable forest or steppe and farms is huge.

  205. BBD says:

    And then there’s the Ruddiman Hypothesis…

  206. JAP

    Sure, I don’t have a problem with agreeing that climate scientists could and should have been much clearer about the fact that we knew that natural variability could easily dominate over the gradual trend from external forcing in the short term. Since the focus of communication of future projections was on the long-term trend, it was natural for some people in the audience to incorrectly assume that the near-term changes would essentially be an interpolation of this. We should have been clearer about this (although as some posters have mentioned above, it’s not that this was not mentioned at all – it was highlighted in the IPCC 1st assessment report amongst other things. However this message didn’t get into the mainstream media or the public consciousness.

  207. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @ Richard Betts

    interestingly some sensible scientists from the University of Manchester seem to be making a similar argument to me, just released in the press over the last day or so. And Published Last Night.

    “Trying to link all extreme weather to man-made global warming ‘has been a social and policy disaster’, they said”

    Are they going to be called Climate Deniers and Trolls for making basically the same argument i’ve been trying to make here. ?

  208. JAP,

    “Trying to link all extreme weather to man-made global warming ‘has been a social and policy disaster’, they said”

    I don’t think many here would disagree with that. My issue with what you’re presenting is not that it has no merit at all, it’s that you’re claiming that you are 100% correct and that the communication issues are 100% the fault of climate scientists. This is dispute.

    Also, even though it is fairly clear that linking extreme weather to man-made global warming has been a disaster, that does not immediately imply that they were scientifically incorrect to do so. If you read much of what is written, objectively, you’ll likely discover that few will link, directly, an event to AGW. What they typically do is discuss how these types of events may become more common, or how there are hints of a link. That doesn’t stop people, however, from jumping up and down and complaining (as you’ve been doing here). It’s all just ClimateballTM and, personally, I find it incredibly disingenuous.

  209. Deciding on the right balance between clarity in telling about the long term trend and emphasizing variability and uncertainties is a real problem. People have differing views on the best compromise. Even, when the goal is chosen it’s difficult to formulate the message so that it’s interpreted in the way the purpose is.

    The interpretation of the original formulation varies widely. When the message is presented further by the media, it gets distorted again. Trying to correct the distortions may be even more difficult, and the media may also be unwilling to publish the corrections.

    People learn from the message only parts that feel interesting at the moment the see the message. Some other parts of it may be essential, and they might be understood at a later time, but then it’s already too late. People say “why were we not told” in cases where they were told, but they didn’t pay attention to that at the time.

    The full and correct message is genuinely difficult to communicate. In retrospect we seem how it failed, but even in retrospect we do not necessarily know, how much better some other approach had succeeded. By that I don’t mean that it clear improvements had not been possible, but experience from other controversial and complex issues (like health and nutrition as examples) tell that no easy solutions exist.

  210. JustAnotherPoster says:

    “Also, even though it is fairly clear that linking extreme weather to man-made global warming has been a disaster, that does not immediately imply that they were scientifically incorrect to do so.”

    Oh come one. This ridiculously disingenuous.

    Of course the fault of climate scientists.

    If they didn’t give quote to the media linking weather events to climate change and AGW with a nod and a wink and a maybe, we wouldn’t have a climate science communications issue.

    Julia Slingo being the absolute perfect example of this.

    Do you want me to do some historical climate research and list the numerous storms and floods in the UK that’s occurred before 1800 ?

    Trying to Link in storms, flooding and drought to AGW has stopped and held back serious climate research for 10-20 years imho.

    We have this sort of weather for 100’s of years, historical records prove that. That climate science has spent the last 20 years linking them to AGW has severely damaged its credibility in my opinion. It will take years to recover.

    Its the biggest made by the climate science community over the last 20 years.

    Propagated by the “Inconvenient Truth” film…….

  211. JAP,

    Oh come one. This ridiculously disingenuous.

    No it’s not. There is evidence to link extreme weather events with AGW. Some stronger than others. You’re suggesting that this must never be mentioned. That, in my view, is disingenuous. I”m simply suggesting that such discussions should be allowed. Just because you don’t understand the subtleties doesn’t mean that they should not.

    Of course the fault of climate scientists.

    There you go again with your absolute certainty. You’ve even had Richard Betts acknowledge, here, that climate scientists could have done better, and you don’t even have the decency to respond politely to his acknowledgement.

    We have this sort of weather for 100′s of years, historical records prove that. That climate science has spent the last 20 years linking them to AGW has severely damaged its credibility in my opinion. It will take years to recover.

    It may take years to recover, largely because of people like yourself who keep harping on about this. Of course we’ve had these types of events before. Noone is suggesting that AGW will produce events that we’ve never seen the like-of before. The suggestion is that it could change the intensity and frequency of such events. Refusing to even consider this, or investigate this, is remarkably medieval.

  212. OPatrick says:

    Also, even though it is fairly clear that linking extreme weather to man-made global warming has been a disaster

    I don’t agree this is clear. There have no doubt been genuine examples where people have overplayed the link and these are damaging, but they are rare I believe and the damage exaggerated. But to establish as a whole that it is a damaging strategy it has to be compared to the alternative. I’ve argued that there has been disproportionate emphasis on climate change during the floods in the UK, but the problem is not that people have made too much of the links between extreme weather and climate change , it’s that they haven’t been making the case for the risks of climate change at other times.

  213. OPatrick,
    I agree that it has been, but mainly because of the response to such articles, not because they’ve necessarily said anything that is demonstrably incorrect. Some have, but many are quite careful about what they say. That doesn’t, typically, stop the criticism.

  214. jsam says:

    JAP – where and when do we collect our beer?

  215. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @RichardBetts

    Cheers for the response, appreciated

    “Sure, I don’t have a problem with agreeing that climate scientists could and should have been much clearer about the fact that we knew that natural variability could easily dominate over the gradual trend from external forcing in the short term”

    Is not really the communications MEME being sent to politicians and the government though is it ?

    @BBD
    Doesn’t really link with the expect more droughts papers from one year ago ?

    http://www.water.ox.ac.uk/more-severe-and-widespread-uk-droughts-expected-with-climate-change/

    Based on the above paper would the UK be wise to spend Hundreds of Millions on desalination plants to mitigate the effect of droughts ?

    Or based on the recent new flooding theory, protect against floods ?

    We have had record rainfall since….

    What would have been the reaction based on serious science if the UK had decided to build expensive desalination plants based on a forecast of more droughts, when the new theory seems to be more flooding ?

    You would have public enquiries in the HoC. Based on the oxford paper, presented in that way, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for a politician to decide to invest in expensive desalination plants to mitigate the risk and provide clean reliable drinking water.

    Our reservoirs are currently full and overflowing, we have VERY expensive plants that are standing idle. What went wrong ?

    Wouldn’t be that far a fetched scenario ?

  216. There’s evidence that links the frequency and severity of extreme weather events to climate change. Most of that comes from models and theoretical arguments, but some also from observations.

    Both the theoretical and the observational evidence have some serious problems that makes it difficult to tell, how strong the evidence is. I don’t say that these problems invalidate the evidence. I do believe that some real evidence exists, but the problems must be taken into account, when the evidence is considered.

    One of the problems is that it’s very likely that more effort has been put in the research in the search of the evidence than in the analysis of the weak points of these methods, or in the search of opposite signals. If such an asymmetry exists, all the statistical indicators lose part of their power, and it’s impossible to tell, how much thy lose.

    Concerning the empirical data extreme events are by definition rare. They have also very many forms. Most it not all studies that have been done to find empirical evidence for changes in extreme events have been formulated with some knowledge on what has occurred. It’s likely that also some experimentation has been done searching for most powerful indicators. Unfortunately this approach means that the standard statistical tests are not valid anymore as there’s some badly specified bias from the selection of the test.

    This kind of issues are one central reason for the fact that the IPCC special report on extreme events (SREX) and also AR5 present very weak conclusions on the extreme events. Individual research papers are not in all cases as careful as these overviews.

    We have here again the problem that reliable detection is so difficult that rather large changes can develop and have an actual effect before proper scientific methods can tell that the effect has a real causal connection to climate change. We are not safe of rather severe detrimental effects as long as the evidence remains inconclusive. The damage may come first and the evidence much later.

  217. JustAnotherPoster says:

    @jsam I hope this one gets though moderation.

    “Of course the pause (in global mean surface temperature) was not specifically predicted – forecasting natural internal variability is still very much in its infancy.”

    “Richard Betts”

    My beer is safe 🙂

  218. > Both the theoretical and the observational evidence have some serious problems that makes it difficult to tell, how strong the evidence is. I don’t say that these problems invalidate the evidence. I do believe that some real evidence exists, but the problems must be taken into account, when the evidence is considered.

    We should always add disclaimers like we see in car ads or financial advices. Here’s a good example:

    This information is intended to assist investors. The information does not constitute investment advice or an offer to invest or to provide management services and is subject to correction, completion and amendment without notice. Any such offer, if made, will only be made by means of a confidential prospectus or offering memorandum or management agreement. It it not our intention to state, indicate or imply in any manner that current or past results, when stated, are indicative of future results or expectations. A prospective investor should consult with its own investment, accounting, legal and tax advisers to evaluate independently the risks, consequences and suitability of that investment.

    Cautionary Language Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

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  219. There’s something to learn in that legalese. Either as an example or as a warning example.

  220. jsam says:

    JAP lost his bet, with evidence – and hides behind a quote.

  221. Yes, Pekka, but it also provides evidence that some part of the population is used to the legalese behind “forward-looking” statements, which undermines a bit the usual yapping about how badly scientists mislead Da Public.

    That forward-looking statements rely on models is a human (and a Humean) predicament.

  222. BBD says:

    JAP

    @BBD
    Doesn’t really link with the expect more droughts papers from one year ago ?

    Naughty. Dumb Scientist dealt with your confusion upthread.

    As far as I am concerned, resurrecting a point that has been addressed is trolling.

  223. BBD says:

    Mods

    No apologies for the T-word. That is what is going on here and it once again needs saying clearly. I dislike having the p*** taken like this. Please do something about this.

  224. BBD says:

    Sorry ATTP – posted in the heat of the moment. Should have let it go.

  225. Eli Rabett says:

    The question has been asked whether we are headed for a 4C world, Kevin Anderson has an answer, it is yes, if we are lucky and pay attention. The question has also been asked if that is a bad thing. The answer is yes, assuming that that does not start a large scale nuclear war first.

  226. Eli Rabett says:

    Above Richard Betts defends forum shopping. Indeed, that is a popular sport.

  227. Eli,
    Yes, I saw your posts with Kevin Anderson’s videos. Haven’t really had a chance to watch them yet. I’ve also been following your exchange, with Stoat, about Pielke Jr with interest. It seems to be one of those cases where you both may – in some sense – be right.

  228. Steve Bloom says:

    Anders, as does Stoat you have the privilege of living in a place on the planet less prone than most to extreme disasters, so you don’t have the opportunity to see what I see close up, living as I do in a place (California) prone to three sorts, i.e. drought, atmospheric river-induced floods, and earthquakes. It’s instructive to look at the policy response to these in light of the historical record showing that truly catastrophic events are not only possible but inevitable, the only real arguments being over return period and, for the first two, the degree to which their likelihood and severity may be influenced by AGW. I could go into all the details, but instead hopefully you’ll take my word for it when I summarize the adequacy of the policy response to all three relative to the scale of the threat: Crap. This, note, is in what is (by reputation anyway) the most forward-looking place on the planet.

    But why is that? Basically human nature: It’s not happening now (well, the drought may be, but it’s still early days on that one), so we feel a reduced urgency, even though this isn’t a matter of might be sorry; we *will* be sorry. (There’s also the conflict between the needed mitigation and our state religion, aka real estate development and speculation, but that’s another story.)

    Similarly, while California is probably doing more in response to climate change than anywhere else in the U.S., relative to the future threat it’s still crap, for the same reason I described above but also because there are no past consequences to be pointed to.

    This brings me to RP Jr. Essentially what he does is to examine normalized damages from disasters that are influenced (or potentially so) by climate change at a sufficiently early stage in the process that the difference between near-linear and exponential growth in them is hard to distinguish. While he oversells various details, the fundamental point he’s making (hardly original with him, note) *can’t* be wrong. But as with California and our future catastrophes, one is put in mind of the reply of “so far, so good” from the guy falling past an upper floor after having leapt off a tall building in order to enjoy a breeze on a hot day..

    RP Jr. caters not just to those who would prefer to blithely ignore the future threat, but more importantly to those who want to believe that actively adding to the damage is of little or no consequence (thus his role as a star witness for Republican climate deniers in Congress). We have a very limited time in which to mitigate before we are overwhelmed by the need for adaptation, and people like RP Jr. who seek to distract policy makers and the public from that are playing a destructive role. It’s a great career niche for a political scientist (plenty of room there, noting Lomborg and others), but scientifically it’s malpractice and morally, I would submit, criminal.

  229. Steve,

    Essentially what he does is to examine normalized damages from disasters that are influenced (or potentially so) by climate change at a sufficiently early stage in the process that the difference between near-linear and exponential growth in them is hard to distinguish. While he oversells various details, the fundamental point he’s making (hardly original with him, note) *can’t* be wrong.

    Yes, I agree. That’s why I suggested that both Eli and Stoat are right. What Pielke Jr. presents probably isn’t wrong. I haven’t checked it in any detail, so I can’t say for certain, but I have no reason to think that what he presents is wrong. However, in my opinion, what people conclude from what he says/presents is likely not consistent with the best evidence available. I think that’s – roughly speaking – the two positions that Eli and Stoat hold – although it may well be more nuanced than how I’ve presented it. So, my comment wasn’t meant to imply that I agree with Pielke Jr or with how he conducts himself, simply that one can believe that what he present is ultimately misleading, but how does one prove that if what he actual presents is, strictly speaking, correct?

    It’s a great career niche for a political scientist (plenty of room there, noting Lomborg and others), but scientifically it’s malpractice and morally, I would submit, criminal.

    Well, this is the interesting issue. Scientifically, I do have an issue with someone who responds to criticisms of their interpretation, with challenges to prove them wrong. Good scientists should, in my opinion, be able to discuss the interpretation of their analysis without simply challenging others to find errors in what they’ve done. I would also argue, that good scientists would rarely conclude that they are 100% correct and that the other person is completely wrong. Also, there may be no errors in what they’ve done, however others may disagree about the interpretation or may disagree about whether or not that analysis is sufficient to draw the conclusions that have been drawn. Is it malpractice? Probably not, but it’s not a good way to conduct science, in my view at least.

    As to whether or not it’s morally questionable. I would agree with you that what Pielke Jr, Lomborg, and others are doing is morally questionable. The problem, of course, is how one defines this or proves it. We can’t, and since – in the case of Pielke Jr at least – it’s possible that nothing that he presents is factually incorrect, how does one deal with such situations. I don’t know the answer and it just seems, to me at least, to be a high level form of ClimateballTM.

  230. Rachel says:

    I’ve been thinking about the topic for this post – why communicating climate change science is so hard? – and comparing it to post-earthquake Christchurch communication from geologists which was excellent. They were in the paper almost daily, on the radio, the news, twitter, they held public lectures, were available on email and each week we were given an update of the risk we faced of a mag. 7, mag 6, mag 5 and so on. In many ways climate scientists are doing just as much just as often. The problem is that the general public is not interested because they don’t feel the danger as we in Christchurch did. There is also the mammoth effort on the part of contrarians to confuse and deny.

    If I was going to make any suggestions to climate scientists it would be to keep it up! Communicate using every channel available and do it daily if possible. The public needs to be bombarded with this stuff in order for the message to get through. It needs repetition and lots of it.

  231. Rachel,
    I agree, but I suspect the difference is that you’d just had an earthquake and everyone wanted to know, from the experts, what to expect. With climate change, we want climate scientists to talk about what we might expect and that, I suspect, is a message that many don’t really want to hear.

  232. Rachel,
    You seem to have reached rather similar conclusions with what I wrote above in this comment.

  233. Rachel says:

    AndThen,

    Yes, we wanted to listen because we were afraid. That’s why the climate scientists need to bombard every channel possible so that people cannot avoid hearing it as some point. I also quite liked the approach the geologists in New Zealand took with uncertainties. Every Monday we’d hear the risks and they’d go something like this:

    25% of another mag. 6
    65% of another mag. 5

    These risks would change weekly so every week they’d update them and tell us. Climate scientists could do something similar. So for instance, the risk of reaching 4C by end of century, or the risk that the Arctic will be ice-free by 2030 or the risk that we’ll see 1m sea level rise by end of century or the risk that coral reefs will not survive etc. These are short statements that are meaningful to all of us.

  234. Rachel says:

    Pekka,
    Yes, I agree with what you’ve said. Finding the right balance is tricky and I don’t think there’s a one size fits all. Different people will respond to different things and so I think having more scientists communicating this the better as they will each have their own style and so hopefully reach as many people as possible.

  235. Steve Bloom says:

    Rachel, was that earthquake anticipated to any degree (in terms of size and imminence)? Was there anything like it in the historical record? I’m curious since experience here with similar-scale quakes in recent times (~40 years ago in L.A. and ~20 years ago in S.F.) is that so many were greatly surprised despite clear evidence and warnings that quakes of that scale are common (“common” meaning approximately as frequent as a human lifetime), and that the memory of them (and the willingness to pay attention to geologists) tends to fade rather quickly.

  236. The situations of extreme weather are important for the communication, because people are more interested of climate at those moments. What’s said, must, however, be formulated very carefully to avoid the risk of getting ridiculed for turning everything to evidence about global warming.

    In many (but not all) cases it’s true that
    – the changes in climate up to now have probably too little influence on the frequency and severity of such events to say much on that basis
    – the event is representative of what’s expected to get more frequent and severe.

    This kind of situation allows for communication with people, who are receptive, but that opportunity must not be spoiled with badly worded message, and more importantly it’s better to leave the second point untold, when it’s not really true (i.e., when there’s no real basis for claiming that the frequency is expected to increase).

  237. Steve Bloom says:

    “These are short statements that are meaningful to all of us.”

    Rachel, this neglects the discounting that humans do (referring here to the natural human tendency, not the formalized economic version). Threats this week get little or no discounting whereas discounting of threats beyond current lifetimes approaches 100%. It’s the sea that RP Jr. swims in.

  238. Pekka,

    What’s said, must, however, be formulated very carefully to avoid the risk of getting ridiculed for turning everything to evidence about global warming.

    I agree, but the impression I have is that there is no way to formulate such discussions without getting criticised for being alarmist, or for making claims that are not correct. However careful some people try to be, they still get attacked for associating an event with GW, even if that is not what they’ve actually done.

  239. Rachel says:

    Steve,

    No, they were not anticipated at all, at least, not by the general public. Geologists however had written (in academic papers) about the possibility of large faults beneath the Canterbury plains and this is where the first earthquake struck, a mag. 7.1 about 40km west of Christchurch. But nothing had ever happened there before. Everyone started listening to geologists after that earthquake and we were told to expect an aftershock of size mag. 6. It took 6 months for that to appear (and we ended up with three mag. 6 aftershocks) and this is the one that killed people. This fault was also unknown and completely unexpected and from what I understand unprecedented too. The ground acceleration was one of the highest ever recorded for an earthquake at 2.2g.

    It’s true that memories are quick to fade and that has happened in New Zealand too, especially in places like Wellington that have seen mag. 8 and above earthquakes. Although geologists knew of the possible existence of that first fault to rupture, they did not try to communicate it to the public as far as I’m aware. Of course, they may have tried and simply been ignored but I think not as I would not have ignored something like that, even before the earthquake.

  240. BBD says:

    Pekka

    I’m surprised to hear you say that there’s no real basis for the claim that the frequency and severity of extreme weather events to increase if warming increases. I thought that this was more-or-less unavoidable with an accelerated hydrological cycle. Certainly as far as droughts and intensified precipitation are concerned.

  241. ATTP,
    We should not worry about every criticism, but we should behave in a way that defending our views is not too difficult.

    The false arguments and the problems in showing their falsehood to audience that may have an attitude that favors accepting those arguments may be frustrating, but we must not fall into the trap of giving up full honesty and replacing that by something that we hope to have a stronger effect trough exaggeration or questionable simplification. The principal strength of correct information is that it’s correct.

  242. Steve Bloom says:

    “I don’t know the answer and it just seems, to me at least, to be a high level form of ClimateballTM.”

    Let me suggest the thought experiment of imagining how someone reading that conclusion in a +6C world a century from now would respond to it.

  243. BBD,
    I didn’t say that.

    What I meant is that
    1) the warming up to now has not been so strong that it’s effect is large in comparison to the natural variability, which is very large for extreme events, much larger than for climate averages.
    2) not all types of extreme events will get more frequent, and speculating on those for which no such evidence exists may be counterproductive.

    It’s certainly possible that the effect of warming is already significant for heat waves, but even that’s still not certain.

  244. OPatrick says:

    If I was going to make any suggestions to climate scientists it would be to keep it up! Communicate using every channel available and do it daily if possible.

    Absolutely. And not just when it’s easy to get the message out, as after the recent floods here. It’s important that the message is consistent if they aren’t going to be open to accusations of opportunism. Of course the problem is that most channels simply aren’t open to them except in the wake of extreme weather events. So what’s perhaps needed is for them to be sending in comment unsolicited all the time even if it’s not being listened to, or doesn’t get published, and keep a record of having done so. At least then they could point to this when they face the opportunism accusations.

  245. Steve Bloom says:

    And let’s not forget the heatwaves, BBD.

  246. Steve Bloom says:

    Oh, Pekka already mentioned heatwaves.

    “It’s certainly possible that the effect of warming is already significant for heat waves, but even that’s still not certain.”

    Ah, certainty. Sort of like a mathematical limit, isn’t it? The difficulty is that in waiting to reach that standard we will already be looking at some (more) quite nasty impacts in the rear view mirror.

  247. Basically I do think that with warming of the order of 1 C we are in a linear range where also heat waves are about 1 C hotter than before. That’s not insignificant, but that’s not very much for a heat wave.

    Something comparable has probably changed in evaporation and precipitation, although that’s largely masked by AMO, PDO etc. which makes interpreting the changes difficult.

    Isaac Held has written recently something on the linearity as well.

  248. Steve,

    Let me suggest the thought experiment of imagining how someone reading that conclusion in a +6C world a century from now would respond to it.

    Sure, I may have made it sound like I see it as a game, but that wasn’t quite what I meant. I would much rather that it was all open and honest and that one didn’t have to think of tactics when dealing with certain people. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the case. Accuse Pielke of being dishonest/immoral and you’ll end up on the defensive with him claiming that he’s the honest broker. While he’s saying things that are, technically, correct and are what some people want to hear, how does one deal with that without appearing to be attacking the “honest broker”? It would be nice if one could say : “yes, but you do realise that the evidence suggests that such events will increase in frequency and intensity, even though we can’t detect that today” and he would respond by saying “true, next time I appear in front of a senate committee, I’ll remember to point that out”. Of course, the chance of a such a discussion going like that seems remarkably unlikely.

  249. Steve Bloom says:

    I’d call this report from over 20 years ago full warning, Rachel. Note especially this recipe for disaster: “It should be noted that even the period 1840-1989 is much shorter than the return period for major earthquakes on many faults near Christchurch and, while being the maximum record available, this time span is still relatively short.” Also, they nailed the soft sediment magnification problem for Christchurch.

    As Californians keep rediscovering, living in the fracture zone of a plate boundary fault is an unsafe proposition even if you are somewhat distant from the fault itself.

    Speaking of the plate boundary, apparently a great earthquake on the Alpine Fault (which I notice has one of the highest slippage rates of anywhere on the planet) is now overdue. Has that been getting much attention?

  250. Steve Bloom says:

    “Basically I do think that with warming of the order of 1 C we are in a linear range where also heat waves are about 1 C hotter than before. That’s not insignificant, but that’s not very much for a heat wave.”

    No, it’s a lot for a heatwave, although persistence is more important. And IIRC you’re incorrect about the linear relationship, although I’ve exhausted my googling time for the moment.

  251. Rachel says:

    Steve,

    Yes, ok, that’s a good report. In my defence though, I wasn’t living in Christchurch 20 years ago. I moved there from Brisbane in 2005 and always feared a possible earthquake so had it ever come up in the news, I would have noticed. There was a Government campaign to be prepared though and to get people to have their survival packs but this was and still is directed to the entire country. I did take notice of that and we had a survival pack – although I really had to work hard to convince my husband that we needed one. Many other people ignored this advice – and much of the rest of the country still ignores it, not Cantabrians anymore though – which is not hopeful for climate change communicators. It suggests that people won’t take notice until it’s too late. But we can’t let that happen.

    The Alpine Fault is a different matter and that does feature in the news intermittently both before and after the Christchurch quakes and that is the reason we left the city. When I discovered the alpine fault earthquake will feel similar to the Christchurch one (because although it will be bigger it’s also further away) I decided it was time to go.

  252. BBD says:

    Pekka

    BBD,
    I didn’t say that.

    My apologies for misreading your comment. I agree with the restatements of your (1) and (2):

    1) the warming up to now has not been so strong that it’s effect is large in comparison to the natural variability, which is very large for extreme events, much larger than for climate averages.

    2) not all types of extreme events will get more frequent, and speculating on those for which no such evidence exists may be counterproductive.

  253. Steve Bloom says:

    I suppose the fact that the likes of RP Jr. continues to get attention for his ideas is proof, if anyone needed more, that public discourse is honestly broken.

    Somewhat apropos to this, a couple of weeks ago Bud Ward, a highly respected environment/science journalist who founded the Society for Environmental Journalism -20 years ago, commented that every media editor out there would love nothing more than to get their hands on a credible, well-sourced story refuting climate science. I can’t blame them for that especially, although I can and do blame them for thinking it’s actually a possibility. Look at how the Guardian blew up the “Climategate” non-scandal out of any proportion to the evidence. Monbiot at least apologized for getting that wrong, but the editors never did. But I suppose we have the media we deserve.

  254. Rachel says:

    Pekka,

    Basically I do think that with warming of the order of 1 C we are in a linear range where also heat waves are about 1 C hotter than before. That’s not insignificant, but that’s not very much for a heat wave.

    I agree with Steve on this. I’ve noticed that people who live in cold climates underestimate the impact of small temperature increases in hot places. I grew up in Brisbane, Australia and we never had air-conditioning. I can remember taking a wet towel to bed at night to keep cool in summer. Now everyone in Brisbane shuttles between air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned homes. I never want to live there again and this is just a sub-tropical climate, so there are hotter places on Earth.

  255. “A lot” is highly relative. Thus may well both maintain our view.

    Concerning the linearity, I have seen papers discussing it. The best known of Hansen, Sato and Ruedy, got the result from a technically false analysis (and very likely only from the error), while the others have not been convincing.

    This is fully to be expected and in no way contradictory with expectations of larger effects in the future.

    The paper of Isaac Held that I mentioned is this recent paper in Science, where he writes

    Climate models paint an analogous picture for the evolution of climate over decades to centuries: a superposition of internal variability and an externally forced component containing a natural part (solar variations and volcanoes) and a part due to human activities that, to first approximation, is a linear superposition of responses to different forcing agents such as CO2, methane, and aerosols.

    It’s not exactly the same issue, but linearity as discussed by Held is related to linearity mentioned by me.

  256. Rachel,
    Was 1 C a major factor in that discomfort?

    The difference between normal and a heat wave is several degrees. 1 C is not much in comparison.

    I know that it much more noticeable than the difference between -20 C and – 21 C, but still I don’t think 1 C is much.

  257. Ian Forrester says:

    I don’t understand how any one can say that there is no signal in extreme weather events when this graph is readily accessible:

    http://www.preventionweb.net/files/20120613_ClimateDisaster1980-2011.pdf

  258. Ian,
    I don’t know much about that particular graph, but I suspect there are some who will find reasons to argue that it still doesn’t prove attribution.

  259. For some reason the authors of IPCC SREX and AR5 concluded that the evidence is not there.

  260. OPatrick says:

    Pekka, I don’t think it’s quite correct to say the SREX concluded that the evidence wasn’t there.

  261. OPatrick says:

    e.g.

    There is evidence that some extremes have changed as a result of anthropogenic influences, including increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. It is likely that anthropogenic influences have led to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures at the global scale. There is medium confidence that anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation at the global scale. It is likely that there has been an anthropogenic influence on increasing extreme coastal high water due to an increase in mean sea level. The uncertainties in the historical tropical cyclone records, the incomplete understanding of the physical mechanisms linking tropical cyclone metrics to climate change, and the degree of tropical cyclone variability provide only low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences. Attribution of single extreme events to anthropogenic climate change is challenging.

  262. More specifically SREX tells that there is evidence with a higher level than “likely”, which is a weak level for:

    Since 1950, it is very likely that there has been an overall decrease in the number of unusually cold days and nights and an overall increase in the number of unusually warm days and nights on a global scale for land areas for which data are available. it is .. very likely that it applies in Australia.

    In addition it has been stated likely that heavy precipitation has increased in more regions than it has decreased.

    Those are the main points on empirical evidence.

    SREX does state that there’s high confidence on more serious changes in the future, but I wasn’t discussing that.

    My comment was a response to the data linked by Ian Forrester. I don’t know for sure, but probably that data is not considered reliable enough. Perhaps the data collection methods are suspect to change in coverage or classification criteria over time.

  263. jsam says:

    1C may not mean much to “civilised” mankind. It may mean much more to crops and wildlife. “Only” 2C may not be very noticeable either. Or 3C even. But it;s just an average. 1C globally represents a lot of energy.

    I note the assertion of a “technically false” analysis. You wouldn’t happen to have a reputable citation to support that supposition, would you?

  264. Steve Bloom says:

    Pekka, one of things I’ve learned about climate scientists working in fields where things are moving fairly quickly is that they know not to place too much weight on IPCC pubs since, as regards those fields, they are out of date before the ink is dry. You need to consider them in light of more recent results, of which there is by now a considerable body as regards the subject under discussion.

  265. OPatrick says:

    Pekka, just making sure that our concerns for correct information aren’t one-tailed. It presumably doesn’t matter what the comment was in response to, we need to be careful to communicate the facts as clearly as possible.

    Note: please don’t think I am having a dig at you, I don’t mean this to be snarky in any way. But I do think it illustrates how easy it is to understate when you are responding to something you perceive as an overstatement (or overstate in response to an understatement).

  266. Steve,
    We must be wary of the fact that IPCC publications may be outdated, but we must also recognize that as a general rule we must not trust any single new scientific paper until it’s conclusions have been scrutinized by many, and preferably confirmed by other independent studies.

    We have also observed that AR5 presents very small changes to what AR4 presented. Thus six years changed little. Individual papers have proposed larger changes, but those larger changes have not been adopted by the climate change community.

    I would like to see a new form for the IPCC type activity, not based on reports every six years or so but on a continuous updating process where new results are soon included with a weight that corresponds to the level of confirmation their results have from the climate science community.

  267. Ian Forrester says:

    Pekka, the data I presented were collected by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).:

    The Global Assessment Reports are developed on the basis of a large body of original research contributed to UNISDR by a wide range of independent scientific institutions, think tanks, UN agencies, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. This includes original data, case studies, analysis and survey results – all available online.

  268. OPatrick,

    I agree that I wrote a too blunt comment on the state of empirical evidence.

  269. Ian,
    I know, but you should ask, why those curves have not led to different conclusions in the major assessments.

  270. Steve Bloom says:

    Pekka, in the areas I follow closely there were some oddities in the AR5 WG1 report. The strangest example was in the section on the Pliocene, where about 10 meters got chopped off the SLR range from the recent PRISM group paper (which was based in part on extensive physical highstand evidence), apparently in order to get it into some degree of agreement with ice sheet model results. This is far from the only instance of lowballing to make models look not too far out of whack. My impression is that paleos more or less just ignore this stuff since it matters much more to the modelers than to them. I assume you’re aware of why Pliocene SLR has major implications for our near future.

  271. Steve,
    My understanding paleo is fragmentary (as it’s on many other issues as well).

    Was the point you make discussed in the comments? I would expect that the scientists from PRISM have raised the issue in their comments.

  272. Eli Rabett says:

    Pekka, when you say It’s certainly possible that the effect of warming is already significant for heat waves, but even that’s still not certain, you are placing a very strong condition, much stronger than the conditions you set yourself in life to take action, and indeed that is a large part of the issue of communication.

  273. Steve Bloom says:

    Don’t know, Pekka. They may have been content to let the modelers cover their butts. There’s a good argument for doing so.

  274. Steve Bloom says:

    Also, “fragmentary”? Less and less so.

  275. JustAnotherPoster says:

    Climate science tying its self in knots to explain things…

    http://planetark.org/wen/71272

    “Many scientists suspect that the “missing heat” from a build-up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is going into the deep oceans as part of natural variations in the climate”

    “But, because water expands as it warms, that theory had been hard to reconcile with the apparent slowdown in sea level rise”

    Climate science doesn’t have a communications problem its has a data problem. The data doesn’t match the theory.

    Thus as the expansion of sea levels hasn’t occurred, as one would expect if the heat is being absorbed by the oceans, as basic physics states warmer water expands…, then logically it must mean that the theory of the missing heat going into the oceans is wrong ?

    So what’s causing the slowdown in global temperatures ?

  276. BBD says:

    JAP

    Once again, insufficient background reading lets you down. How about taking a break from commenting and working through a couple of textbooks.

  277. Pingback: State of the blog discussion thread | Climate Etc.

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